Sunday, August 29, 2010

Year 4...already...WOW!

I've just completed the third week of school marking the beginning of my 4th year of teaching. I am amazed at how quickly time has flown by. I remember my first day of teaching and being scared sh**less - literally. Petrified that something horrible would happen...and now here I am four years later a much more confident and able teacher who has grown so much! My passion for teaching is still on fire and I feel so much better about who I am as a teacher, mentor, pseudo-parent, confidante, counselor and friend. My students from these years have changed my life in so many wonderful and humbling ways. They have taught me patience and grace, humility and love. They have reinforced the power of a single word, for better or worse. They have made me laugh and cry both happy and sad tears. They have touched my heart in ways they'll never fully understand. I am honored and blessed to be a part of such an amazing profession.

Each year presents its own set of challenges, whether it's a new lesson plan format, new training, new time constraints, observations, and student issues. Each challenge, I've found, has only helped me to grow as a teacher. To learn from my mistakes (and hopefully the mistakes of others), and to learn more about the politics and bureaucracy that partner with this profession. I am amazed at how much more I still have to learn.

This year I only have 18 students in my classroom, thus far. While the "number" is low, the behavior issues are high - which tends to even things out. I almost would rather have a large class size with NO behavior issues, than a small one with lots of issues. My challenge this year is five years old with blue eyes and blonde hair. Our most recent challenge was 4 full-on tantrums in one day. By tantrums I mean wall-paper peeling pitched screaming, shoe throwing, kicking, hitting and punching episodes. That day left me pretty well speechless and firmly convinced that those days are far better forms of birth control than the pill could ever be. ;) He can be a wonderfully sweet little boy until he's not. He is a smart student, which is wonderful. Now we just have to find out the key to his behavior puzzle...which I am absolutely driven to do. I WILL figure out and solve these issues. :)

The rest of my class is filled with students who face their own set of challenges, but are brilliant all the same. They are ALL (including my tantrum student) cute, smart and funny and I look forward to all the things they get to teach me this year.

I hope to blog on a regular basis now that school has started and will be using this avenue more than Facebook to communicate classroom stories.

Thanks for reading!!

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Ugh...dealing with the pain of abuse...

Over the three years of teaching I've had to deal with two cases of parent/guardian abuse. It is, by far, the hardest thing I've ever dealt with as a teacher. It breaks my heart to see these little babies, really, come to school bruised and battered. My most recent case (which I can't really talk about yet due to legal issues) hit me out of the blue. I would never have suspected the guardians of abusing my student. As a teacher, you do all you can to protect these students who spend their day with you. You work hard to provide a loving, caring, SAFE environment for them and you hope and pray that they have that same SAFE environment at home. When you find out they don't, it shatters your faith in people and makes you realize that your job is infinitely more important than it was before you found out...because that safe place you provide at school, as it turns out, might be the ONLY safe place they have to go.

My poor little student...I hope he/she is safe this weekend.


If you want to see the latest shots of my sweet students, check out my SCHOOL website. I've uploaded some shots from varying points in our school year. The latest is our foray into the world of solids/liquids/gas. We made "Oobleck" a non-Newtonian substance that is both a solid (when under pressure) and a liquid (when the pressures is released). The students had a GREAT time getting messy and learning about matter.

Conversation Buddies...

So, I've just started a non-verbal conversation buddy project in my class. You may think "non-verbal conversation"??? How does that work? Well, I've partnered my students up and given them a notebook and clipboard. Every day for 20 minutes they partner up and have a "written conversation" via their notebook. They have to "talk" via paper. It's been pretty funny thus far as students are getting used to writing down their conversations versus having them verbally. My plan is to collect their notebooks each week and read through them - to see how their spelling, punctuation and so forth are going. Additionally, I want to see what they're saying to each other. This gives me a peek into their unaware first grade psyche. So far I've seen lots of "love" notes about different students in the class, but here is my favorite from this past week. I'm still trying to digest it, to be honest. There's a lot going on here.

This is a boy/girl partnership. Let's call them "Abby" and "Ben". I've put the name of the responder in parentheses so you can keep track. Additionally, all other students' names have been changed.

Day #1:
"Do you have a boyfriend?" (asked Ben).

"NO!!! I am only seven, Ben! Why? Do you have a girlfriend, Ben?" (replies Abby)

"Heck no! What's wrong with you? Um, I dare you to go to the restroom on top of the slide, then play on the playground, then run home." (dares Ben)

"NO! I will get in trouble. No way! Ben - I dare you to kiss Jamie." (replies Abby)

"No!...YOU kiss Jamie. Go lick the white board." (replies Ben)

"No, why don't you??" (asks Abby) "And go kiss Princess NOW Ben."

"I will kick your monkey butt!" (says Ben).

Day #2:
"Abby, go steal one of Mrs. Eklund's slinkies (sp), if you do I will buy you a slushie, I promise." (dares Ben).

"Ben, kiss Jennie, please Ben! I will be your friend, I will buy you a slushie, I promise."

"Abby, why don't you go get one of Mrs. Eklund's whiteboard markers and rub it all over your little mouth? I DARE you!" (says Ben)

"NO WAY! That would be mean. You love Emma. I'm going to tell her. Emma loves you, Ben, go kiss her." (threatens Abby).

"You go lick Emma's lips." (says Ben).


And so it goes on and on and on... ;) Very interesting conversations thus far. It looks like I have some talking to do with these two kiddos. I'm surprised at some of their comments and after reading the rest of the classrooms notebooks, these two are by far my most verbal. The rest of the class had comments about their favorite books and colors and animals and movies and etc. Nothing as provocative or outright flirtatious as these two. The rest of their notebook, to date, is filled with this contentious back and forth flirtation. These two clearly "like like" each other. It's pretty funny. Ben actually makes the comment later that he's sick of Abby talking about other people..."we should just talk about each other." Oh man. Love in first grade?? These parents are in for it!!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

"Do You Believe in Me?"....a powerful message for all teachers...

My favorite video....when I need to be reminded of why I teach, when the bureaucracy gets too much...I watch this video. :) Enjoy!!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Ahhh...Spring Break

I am LOVING this time off. While I adore my little ones, I am excited for this time to recharge and spend time with my husband. We just got back from our 4 day jaunt to LA where we spent time with friends. It was great to get out of Phoenix for a few days and to breathe in some ocean air. The cold Pacific and the sand between my toes was exactly what I was looking for! :) Additionally, we got an amazing and unexpected tour of the Goodyear Blimp (Thanks Bob @ Goodyear!!). I'll post pics soon. I also have a GREAT idea for a science unit about flight! Think paper airplanes, helium, mylar balloons and one very cool inflatable Goodyear Blimp!

Outside of that, I will spend at least tomorrow at school working on my career ladder binder. This project is tedious!! Thankfully, I'll get to spend time with a fellow teacher. We'll crank up the music and sit with our laptops as we type away!! I hope we can get everything completed, because I'm quite honestly sick of working on it....and it's a HUGE stressor right now. Once it's done, I can concentrate on 4th quarter and moving my students even further along than they are right now!

Monday, March 8, 2010

Where is the time going?

I am in utter amazement at how quickly this year has flown by. Here I stand on the cusp of spring break shaking my head at how little time I have left with my babies!! They came in to my classroom so little, so young, and now they're on the verge of heading off to 2nd grade. I am so proud of their accomplishments. While I have a couple of kiddos who continue to struggle, I am blessed that the majority of my students are thriving and exceeding expectations. I am reminded daily why I love this job.

As I sit and reflect on all the crap happening in Arizona right now regarding education and even the stuff happening within our district, I find myself searching for the spark that keeps me coming back each day. I am exhausted...the 70 extra minutes are exhausting. My brain is fried by the end of each day and I'm trying to recharge throughout the day, but it gets harder and harder as the term and year pass by. Then I think of my very first class of kiddos...they are in 3rd grade now. One student in particular has stolen my heart...he's thoughtful and kind...and he remembers what I taught him about being a good student and friend. He's a huge Duck fan, still :) and he puts a smile on my face very single day. HE recharges me...he reminds me why I love to teach and when I seriously look around me and my school, I see a school filled with kiddos reminding me why I teach. From my current class of wee ones, to the 8th graders who've served time in my room on ISS (in school suspension) and have returned to their classrooms having a different perspective on their place at school...I do have those reminders, I just have to look a little closer some days to find them.

Today I was offsite doing principal interviews for the new principal at Squaw Peak. It's hard to say what will happen, but things will not be the same without Arnie. I was proud to be a part of this process and can only hope that our school site gets the person the SP team feels will be the best fit. We'll know by this coming Friday.

I'm hoping to post more and probably need to write myself a reminder note to do so!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Time is fleeting...IMPACT

I can't believe we're in 3Q already. My kiddos this past week drove me was an every other day sort of thing. One day they were near perfect, the next day I had 22 little eye-bulging, mouth foaming, wiggle-worming, volcano-mouthing, 6 year old monsters in my class. Then they'd be perfect, then nutso again. I can't keep up with that kind of change, I'm too old! lol So, Friday at 4:35pm I did what any nearly driven insane teacher would do, hit Lola's for some adult beverages (aka Sangria - thank you Leslie for my new FAVORITE drink) and good conversation. I may have to make that an every payday sort of thing.

No reallllly funny stories this week, I mean there were little ones, but unless I had an audio recording system in my classroom running all day long, I would NEVER remember all the little, funny things they say. Occasionally, I'm able to write them down throughout the day, but this wasn't one of those weeks. The funniest thing that I remember was said by a boy named "W"...he said, "Ms. Eklund, you're so funny, you make me want to slap my knee (and he slaps his knee)." hahahaha

Other than that, I'm really tired, moreso this year than last year at this same time in the school year. The extra 70 minutes a day our school board implemented is killing teachers spirits, energy as well as the same for our students. My fear is that at the end of this school year, the growth they so desperately wanted these extra 70 minutes to achieve, will not be there. Who knows what they'll do then?? I teach all the core subjects in the morning, because if I had ANY in the late afternoon, my students would fail miserably. They're tired and cranky and restless and want to go home. I was actually asked this week if I wanted to teach extended day (as in an additional 60 minutes on top of the 70)...I laughed in the person's face, literally thinking she was kidding, then quickly apologized when I saw that she wasn't. I explained myself, that I thought she was joking, and we both laughed about it. My answer was "No." But you probably guessed that already. Now we have a three day weekend and I would LOVE three day weekends every weekend. If the extra 70 minutes per day would have meant three day weekends every week, I'd love it. =) My kids would be stoked beyond measure as least we'd have something positive to look forward to and I might actually get a 2 day weekend instead of a one day weekend, knowing that my entire Sunday is spent lesson planning and grading anyway.

So - my goal this weekend is to rest, relax and go into next week with a more positive attitude about things. =) I had a pleasant conversation with my HR person this week which helped me realize that I am at least appreciated and valued. I hope all the teachers in our district feel this way...but I doubt it. I think I have it better than most. I have a principal I love (and who goes above and beyond to help insulate my school and teachers from a lot of district "stuff", which she probably gets the flack for doing), a school I adore and three years worth of kiddos I've taught that I absolutely, without question, lovvvve to pieces. When I see their bright, shining faces every day, they are what reaffirms me, what keeps me going, and what fills my heart with joy and love for my job. When they walk by me and give me the sign language sign for "I love you" that I teach all my classes, I know that I made an impact. When they jump out of line, at the risk of getting in trouble, to come give me a hug and share some new nugget of learning with me, I know I made an impact. THEY are the reason and when I remember this...when I remember the TRUE reason I'm a teacher, the rest of this bullsh** fades away and I'm able to teach again with the passion that I started with.

Sounds like I'm already recharging...ahhhhhh