Friday, January 20, 2017

Inauguration Day

A parent had the great idea we should watch President Trump's inauguration at school, so Mr. E and I joined forces late morning so we could do just that.  He found a live-stream video on YouTube and had it projected on the wall.  This is the first swearing in I've ever watched before.  Mr. E said the same (and so did all the kids too).  I'm glad we did it!  It was very interesting, and led to some really good discussion with the 5th and 6th graders and 7th and 8th graders too.  Plus it gave my kiddos a chance to get caught up on their work that had to be turned in before the end of the quarter.  As of 3:00, everything was turned in from the 5th and 6th graders (the 7th and 8th graders too).

The other interesting thing from today was the student who had a dentist appointment.  She is TERRIFIED of the dentist, so her mom never tells her until right before she has to leave.  I happened to check my phone sometime this morning and saw a text from her mom letting me know she was coming to pick up her student to go to the dentist to fix a cracked tooth.  Yikes.  She said, "Don't tell her unless absolutely necessary." Because her daughter freaks out so much just hearing she has to go there.  I was reading aloud to the class when her mom came in and whispered in her daughter's ear.  I just kept reading, but no one was paying any attention to me (actually, I wasn't paying much attention either because I was watching her).  The student immediately stiffened and looked like she was fighting back tears as she frogmarched her way to the coatroom and closed the door behind her.  A few moments later, her mom came back in to collect the student's work just in case she wouldn't be back in school later.  Thankfully, it was a false alarm and her tooth wasn't actually cracked.  So she was back by lunchtime no worse for the wear.  

Thursday, January 19, 2017

The End is Near

The end of the quarter is tomorrow. And there are a ton of assignments due.  My kids haven't been freaking out as much as I hoped they would... Well, I don't actually want them to freak out, but I do want them to get their butts in gear to get their homework done.  So much of the time it seems like they are all, "la di da, I have all the time in the world to get this finished... [Friday comes] HOLY COW I HAVE SO MUCH TO DO I'M NEVER GOING TO GET IT ALL DONE!"  I was hoping to avoid that this time.  We had another work day this afternoon, so a large quantity of assignments were handed in. Blah, lots of correcting tonight.  But there are still a bunch not handed in yet.

I had an oopsie moment in bells today... Our bells only go up to C7. On the music I usually mark the letter names of the bells each student is playing.  But I wrote the wrong note names after G6; I skipped straight from G6 to C7 instead of doing G6, A6, B6, C7.  I thought we were in trouble because I had assigned those notes to students, and they already highlighted their parts, but we didn't have those bells for them to play.  It turns out we do! I just wrote the wrong note names on the parts.  Of course I didn't realize that until after school when I had Miss S take a look at the music.  During practice I had those students use tone chimes instead of bells.  Thankfully, we won't have to do that any more!  ...I wonder how many other songs I've done that on...

Well, I'm going to keep this short today.  My sore throat has moved on to bigger and better things in my nose and throat, so it's still kicking my butt and I need to rest.  So if this post doesn't make sense at times, that's why!  I've been very scatterbrained lately.  I've also been blowing my nose nonstop all day; my students teased me that it's going to fall off pretty soon.  I'd sure like to cut it off right about now!  From what I hear, the cold/cough that's going around lasts about 3-4 weeks, two if you're lucky, four if you're not lucky.  I have a bad feeling I'm going to be in the unlucky group...

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Busy Bees

Another busy day today. We finished all the Fast Testing today.  Their reading fluency has really gone up! Most made improvements of at least 20-30 words per minute! A few students even went higher than that.  And there were a few who scored lower too.  I think they tried to strategize too much. One girl said later that she read slower on purpose so she wouldn't make any mistakes and she still got a low score. The first time we did it she tried to read fast (and then made a bunch of mistakes) and she got a lower score.  So no strategy she's trying is working.  I told her next time she should probably not try to strategize and just focus on reading.  I think she must be a 'how' person.

One of the articles I proofread for my UpWork client (freelance writing I do on the side) was an interview with a guy who specializes in coaching in a gym. One of his theories/philosophies is that there are three kinds of people: Who, What, and How.  You need to figure out who you are and who they are so you can coach them in the manner that will benefit them the most.  For example, a What person just wants the facts. They want you to tell them what to do and they'll do it.  But a 'Why' person wants to know the reasoning behind something before doing it.  So if you give a 'why' person instructions without an explanation, he/she won't do it, or won't buy into it until it's explained.  A 'how' person wants to know how it's done or how it fits in the grand scheme of things. Or how they relate to other people around them.  I am definitely a 'why' person.  I'm always looking for the explanation behind something.  But after hearing that interview, I realized that I should probably be more conscious of other people's styles and try to cater to them more... so I did a survey with my class.  Most of them said they considered themselves 'what' people.  One person said she was a 'how' person, but later told me she meant to raise her hand for 'what'.  It seems kind of odd that they'd all be the same, but I suppose it could happen!  Maybe they're all 'what' people in school and have more variance in different circumstances.  I suppose that means I don't have to explain myself quite so much!  But for me, being a 'why' person, I work better if I have an explanation.  I asked my class if it ever annoys them for me to explain so much.  They said only if I repeat the explanation more than once (ahem, like for science labs).  Since they've said that, I'm going to try to be better about keeping my explanations to a minimum.  I wonder what the 7th and 8th graders are? I haven't asked them yet, but I plan to.

One of the 5th graders said she's done using the exercise balls.  So far the rest of the class is still gungho about them.  When we first started using exercise balls as seating, my mom told me about her experiences with them from the classroom she works in (they use exercise balls too).  She said generally the students love them for about a month, then they get tired of them and go back to regular seats.  And sometimes after another month, they'll want to try the balls again.  It's the novelty of the thing, she said.  Well, it's been longer than a month, but if this 5th grader is ready for a chair again, I wonder how many more will follow suit?

There's a boy whose parents haven't bought into the exercise ball chair phenomenon; they're very skeptical.  But they bought their son a ball anyway. He's the one who needs it the most! He's always wiggly, doing acrobatics on his chair, although I guess the ball isn't much different.  He's gotten it taken away a few times.  Yesterday it was because he was lounging. Today it was because he was kicking another student's ball.  His brother is an 8th grader and asked me how many times the ball has been taken away.  He also said his parents will take it home if this kid gets it taken away too many times.  Hmm, what to do?  This 5th grader doesn't stay in any kind of seat, but at least with the ball, no one trips over the legs.  There was one day I had him sit on a stool (after he got both his ball and his chair removed). He wasn't too bad on the stool.  Maybe that's what he needs to try... I'll have to keep thinking on that.

On the other end of the spectrum, one 6th grader told me he's going to be bringing a ball chair in sometime soon.  Someone from his mom's office isn't going to work in the office anymore and won't need the ball chair, so his mom is going to buy it for him to use at school.  From what I can tell, it's a chair that has an exercise ball instead of a seat.  That should be interesting!

My sickness is still hanging on.  My sore throat is about 80% better, still lingering a bit.  It was hard to talk today; I could still do it, but it hurt after a while.  I had to change some lesson plans around a little so I wouldn't have to talk as much.  I made it through the day!  Now my ears are pluggy and my sinuses are feeling more clogged up.  Lovely. I'm sure that's more information than you wanted to know!  I heard on the radio this morning that this particular cold is pretty much everywhere (the radio guy had it, and so did pretty much everyone he's talked to too). He said it's a virus so you just have to wait for it to run its course, which happens to be a long one.  Most of my class has been battling it, so it's no wonder I got it too!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

2 hours late

School was two hours late today. Hooray! I had all these big plans for my two extra hours at home... read a book, do dishes, correct papers... yeah, none of those things happened. I slept in.  But I'm still feeling kinda crummy, so I probably needed it.

The delay made our whole day speed by. We did get the FAST reading test in like I wanted to, but no more students presented their powerpoints. Their scores were pretty good. I'm not entirely sure what is 'good' compared to 'bad' score-wise, but 80 % of the class improved, some more than I was expecting!  The two that had a decrease in score were students who are good readers and scored well in the Fall, so I'm not sure what happened there.  There are lots of graphs to look at and compare; I'm not sure where to start! I've played around with them a little bit.  Sometime in February, the teacher from Nicollet who helped us get started with FAST will visit again and give us some tips on using the FAST data.

Our 5/6th grade science lab today involved mixing polymers (liquid starch and glue). Mixing them together caused a change in their properties resulting in something that acted kind of like a bouncy ball!  They said it was their favorite lab so far!  The next lab in the book will probably be their least favorite... the saliva-chewing-bread lab.  Last time we did it, a few kids got so grossed out they almost puked! I'm thinking I'll send it home for extra credit if anyone wants to do it, and not have it be a lab we do in class...

Monday, January 16, 2017

Struggling

Whew, this day is kicking my butt.  Last week, Friday, I had a sore throat but it went away Friday night.  By Saturday night it was back again.  Then it went mostly away Sunday but was back in full force this morning.  If I weren't a teacher, I probably would've stayed home from work today.  But it's easier to power through than it is to be gone, so here I am.

It's been kind of a crazy day.  This morning I saw that registration was open for the Young Writers and Artists Conference, so I quickly updated last year's permission form so students could register right away and get in to all the cool classes.  Most other years we register at the last minute and all the exciting classes are filled.  This year, everyone got every class they wanted to be in!  The most popular classes are the canvas painting class, pottery class, and 3D drawing class.

Before school started, one of the 6th grade girls handed me a permission slip I never remembered handing out.  I recognized it; it was on the colored paper I typically use for permission forms.  It was for a guest speaker on the Fur Trade at MLHS.  When I looked closer, I saw that it was a form from last year! She had dug it out of her backpack, and her mom signed it thinking it needed to be handed in ASAP (the field trip last year was on January 26th).  Apparently, last year she had misplaced this form and her mom printed a new one from the website.  Well, the lost has been found!

Another funny story about misplacing things... First of all, the bell performance yesterday was wonderful.  I didn't hear a single mistake!  After church, some boys were helping me put things away and one of them asked where I parked so they could put the cases right in there.  When I told him, he said, "Oh good, that's easy to find.  Last time we put them in someone else's car at first."  Another boy chimed in, "Yeah, it looked like your car, but we couldn't get the trunk open. And then when we did get it open and put the bells in, we realized it wasn't yours! So we had to quick change it over."  Another boy chimed in, "Oh I always know which one's yours; it's the one that's dirty!" True, very true.  Well, this time, they ended up in the right car.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Stress Balls

Earlier this week, one of my students and I had a conversation about stress balls. I'm not sure how it went exactly, but the result was that if she brought flour to school, we could make stress balls in art on Friday.  She remembered!  So I dug the balloons out of a cupboard, found some spoons and water bottle funnels, and the fun began.  We only made a bit of a mess, mostly dribbling flour on the lab table (and a little on my shoes).  Some of the balloons were bigger than others, but there weren't as many colors to choose from.  The bigger ones worked the best.  One girl used a small balloon because she liked the color better.  It was super tiny!  She was disappointed with it; since she brought the flour I said she could make a second one with a big balloon.  Still, the small one was cute.  One of her classmates said to me later, "It's pocket-sized so she can take it literally anywhere!" She was so excited about this feature. :)

After everyone finished, we went out for recess. Most of them brought their stress balls along and played catch/basketball/throw-at-stuff with them. One boy got his stuck high up on the wall; it had landed between some pipes and the wall.  But he got it down with the help of a step stool.  They sure had fun!  A lot of them said they're going to make more when they get home.  One boy (the same one who popped his exercise ball) accidentally got a hole in his ball.  He tried regular tape, but again, it didn't work.  He was going to try duct tape once he got home.  I wonder if that will work...

At the end of the day I told the class they'd be allowed to use them during class as a fidget tool, but if it became a distraction, it would go in my desk.  If they threw them at something/someone, it would go in my desk.  They might have a hard time with that one...

Thursday, January 12, 2017

InCoWriMo

Oh I'm so excited for February! Miss F (preschool) told me about this month long event in February called International Correspondence Writing Month, InCoWriMo for short, inspired by NaNoWriMo.  Participants pledge to "hand-write and mail/deliver one letter, card, note or postcard every day during the month of February."  It can be to anyone as long as it is hand written... the same people over and over again, different people, strangers, etc.  There's a message board where people can post their addresses so others can write to them.  People participate from all over the world!  And they're all people who love the written word (and quite a few who love calligraphy and pens).  Here's the website if you want to check it out: http://incowrimo.org/. I might try to incorporate it with my class somehow... I'm still mulling that over... but I am definitely participating.  Let me know if you'd like a note from me!

The 5th and 6th graders started a project for MN history today that involves mapping out a town.  We just finished learning about sodbusters and land speculators, so they're pretending to be a speculator while mapping a section of land, plotting a town, and making a poster to entice people to settle in their town. A lot of them said it was fun!  And some of them even worked on it in the gym during recess!

I'm glad the day ended on a high note; I got pretty crabby during bell practice today.  The 7th and 8th graders had been so good in class! We watched some interviews of people who'd been in North Korea (a journalist from South Korea who'd taught English there and a native-born North Korean who'd escaped and helped her family escape).  The students were riveted.  One of the videos went a bit long, so I sent the 6th graders over to church to get started setting up since we play bells on Sunday.  By the time the rest of us got over there, nothing had been done.  I had dropped off the bell cases in the morning, but they were still sitting right where I'd left them.  The tables and foam and covers were still in their places in the little room where they'd been stored.  Okay, not the end of the world, but it didn't put me in the best mood.  Once I got everyone started setting up, I realized no one had grabbed the crate of music folders or bell gloves.  I had asked someone to do it before leaving school, and I thought for sure someone had said 'I got it!'  So I had to make a special trip back to school to get those few things.  One boy had taken too long to get his coat and hadn't been around to hitch a ride over with me (there hadn't been room for him anyway), and as I pulled in to the school parking lot I saw him in the school cook's car.  She was about to leave school for the day but was going to give him a ride over.  Since it was out of her way and I was headed that way again, he hopped in my car and she took off.  So I got the music and tried not to be crabby about the extra trip and wasted time.

Back at church, I found the tables/foam/covers set up, but the bell cases were still exactly where I left them! AUGH! Kids were lounging all over the place, not paying any attention.  One boy commented loudly, "I hate bells, no one likes to play. It's a waste of time; why do we even do it?" Grrr... Finally we got everyone where they needed to be.  And we practiced.  But by that point I was very crabby.  They knew it. I knew it.  They whispered about it.  Which only irritated me more.

However, practice went all right.  The songs are not perfect, but I think they'll be okay for Sunday.  When I got back to school, I told my 5th and 6th graders that I was not in the best mood after bell practice, but I was going to try my best to snap out of it and if they could help me by paying attention and being 'bucket fillers' I'd really appreciate it.  Maybe that's why they were so, "wow, this project is really fun!' But I do think they enjoyed doing it, even without trying to cheer me up again.  And FYI, I did snap out of my yucky mood.

My garage door behaved last night and this morning, closing without any extra help/adjusting from me.  I hope they got it fixed! I guess I'll find out soon.  I had hoped to get out of school at a decent hour today since the PTL meeting went long last night.  Although I didn't make my goal today, I guess it's not too late yet.  My plans for tonight are to do the dishes piled up on my counter (I've been waiting to do them until my cut finger was healed more... they're really starting to annoy me...) and probably correct the mound of papers I've accumulated this week.  Or maybe I'll just save that stuff for another day and read a book instead!