Welcome to My Blog!

Welcome to my blog! I use my blog as a way to reflect, share, organize, and re-conceptualize my views as an educator. Enjoy and feel free to comment, post, disagree, and share your opinion. The more perspectives, the better!

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Ten Alternative Tips for New Teacher

"Expect to make hideous mistakes. Expect to have crushing disappointments. Expect to feel like quitting, at least a dozen times. Expect to anticipate vacations with pathetic longing. And know that veteran teachers also experience these things--just ask them."

Some awesome first-year tips...


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Jumping up and down, stomping feet in frustration!

Doesn't this sound like the temper tantrum of the century? Welcome to my Friday. We were in our 3rd test of the day and my students would NOT be quiet. I narrated. I reminded. I changed stars. I turned of the lights. I rang my bell. I stood on my chair.I counted. Nothing was working.

So what did I do?

Went to the back of my classroom and jumped up and down as hard as I could so I would not "go off" on them. It surprisingly worked. My classroom was still not silent, but my frustration was back to a normal level. Sometimes even the teacher needs a break.

This teacher definitely needed a break. She also needs a more effective management system.

I have some tricks up my sleeve for Monday so we will see what happens. Good night!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

3 WEEKS!?!?!? Classroom Management in the real world.

I have been a real-life teacher for three weeks now! Three weeks! Things have been crazy. I spend most days in a sleep-school-eat-work at home-sleep-school-eat-work at home routine. There is usually a lot more school and work at home than sleeping and eating, but things are slowing down.

Do I love it? Yes

Do I hate it? Yes

Do I want to be doing anything else? absolutely not.

I definitely had a rough start to my school year. I quickly became aware of what veteran teachers call the "honeymoon" phase and have been dealing with a lot of management and discipline problems. During my student teaching, I thought I had developed pretty good classroom management skills, but there is nothing like doing it when you are on your own. Week 2 was really rough, especially the day after we had a substitute ( my team had a mandatory professional development day to attend). Monday of Week 3 was absolutely miserable, but the rest of the week has slowly gotten better.

What were my major problems:
-- Bathroom Breaks--we had three days in week 2 that our bathroom break after lunch took over half an hour. (This doesn't include the day I had a student throw-up all over the bathroom). This was teacher-torture for me. I slowly made some improvements to increase our time. We started sitting in the hallway, I banned the students from the sinks (we use hand sanitizer), figured out which students cannot go into the bathroom together, and I now wear a clock to the bathroom...just call me Flavor-Flav. I mark with a whiteboard marker on the clock how long it should take us to go to the restroom and I told my students that if we could get to 10 minutes we could have an extra recess (and it would be well worth it). My clock also makes a handy dry-erase board to record student behavior and do review problems on.

--TALKING! My students are little chatter boxes which, when talking with some of the other EL teachers, seems to be common among EL students. So I got rid of my tables and we now have rows. I have have also gotten a LOT stricter and BMC like crazy when I am trying to get my students to listen. This is definitely a work in process.

 I also put a lot of effort into our noise level system and used a suggestion from my MTLD to talk about listening with our whole bodies. This helps students to realize that talking is not only disrespectful, but hurts the speaker's feeling.

Our 7 minutes of lost recess on Friday also seemed to help (all of my students except two talked for 7 straight minutes while at the bathroom on Thursday so on Friday they sat and watched other children play at recess for 7 minutes to know what it felt like for me to wait 7 minutes). I am normally not a fan of taking away recess (and I still gave them the same amount of time to play), but it really seemed to help at our future bathroom breaks.

I also do group drinks at the end which for some reason takes less time then each student doing it on their own after they get out of the restroom. Like I said, it is a work in progress, but I am working on it.

--Bullying: I have a bully in my classroom. Surprisingly, it is a girl and she NEVER does anything in front of me, but enough students have told on her/ I have heard enough things when my back is turned to realize something is wrong. This has thrown me for a loop and I have started to re-think my "work it out yourself" strategy I have been telling my students. I have a new game plan for Tuesday and hopefully it will create some positive results.

--Pushing/ physical touch: A lot of my students push and hit. It is becoming quite a problem. I really think that the root of the problem is an inability to verbally communicate their feelings. This is something I really need to work on with my students. I have talked to the guidance counselor about addressing it in guidance class (my students go once a week as a special) and I am going to try this Peace Maker Activity from First Grade Parade to emphasize how we can be nice to each other and how we work out our problems.

I also noticed that a lot of our pushing occurs in line so I moved my line up fish (fish taped onto the floor with student numbers) farther apart. My line now stretches and zig zags all of the way across the room, but my students now will no longer be as close to each other. I made this change on Friday before I left for the weekend so we will see what happens!

My teaching is getting better, my management is getting better...or I am getting more tolerant. Hopefully things will continue to change for the better. I signed up for two different observations from TFA over the next month and will probably have my teacher environmental evaluation next week. I signed up as extra self-motivation and hopefully my students will be on their very BEST behavior!

My Classroom Management Inspirations. All he needs is a dry-erase marker.

Morning Meeting and H3

I have been working hard to build a community with my 20 first graders. This has been especially difficult because of language barriers between the students who speak Spanish and those who do not speak Spanish and the constant change of students ( I gained 3 students from another class in week 2, switched 3 with another teacher in week 3, and had 2 students stop coming since the first day). There are two essential pieces of our day that without a fail all of the children get along and are kind to each other, thus they are my two favorite parts of my day!

Morning Meeting: While I have not yet had time to read THE Morning Meeting book, I have established a morning meeting routine that my students seem to really enjoy. Each morning after morning work and announcements, we form a circle around the carpet. Before I join the circle I read our morning message... something along the lines of

"Dear Rainbow Fish, What is your favorite color? Today we will do our journals, talk about characters in reading, and practice our numbers in math. After lunch we will practice our short -a words. At the end of the day we will go to P.E. We need to really work hard on our noise level today so we have more time to learn. Let's make it a great day! Love, Miss Prinzo"

After I read the message I sit down in the circle to start are morning handshake. I turn to the student on the left and say "Good morning_____." and shake their hand. They reply with, "Good morning Miss Prinzo" and then turn to their neighbor and repeat the process. Once the handshake gets back to my other side we say our morning chant (stolen from OASC ML mornings)

"G-O-O-D-M-O-R-N-I-N-G Good morning! Hey! Hey! Good morning! Whooo!"

Next we answer our morning question which sometimes has to do with academics and sometimes is more "get to know you" style. Right now I am trying to help my students use complete sentences (a Common Core Speaking and Listening standard that is particularly difficult for EL studnets). We use a big squishy  ball similar to this one (mine is purple).

We pass the ball in either clockwise circle (if I am in a bad mood or my students are not acting appropriately) or back and forth across the circle (if I am in a good mood and my students are behaving). When we pass it back and forth the procedure is that your hands go on your knees if you still need the ball or in your lap if you have already had a turn to answer the question.

After the morning question I give an overview of our daily schedule and then we do a transition to face the white board so I can teach my first lesson of the day.

H3: Hug, Handshake, or High Five
At the end of the day when we line up to leave the room for the last time, we have H3. My students LOVE this! One of my favorite professors suggested this to us during our Stories of Teaching Class as a way to ensure that every student has a positive end to his or her day. I like it as much as the students do! It is nice to know that no matter HOW MUCH they drive me crazy during our afternoons, we will end our day on good terms. H3 is super simple. I have this sign posted on my door:

Here is the download for it: H3

As the children leave they tell me if they want a hug, high five or handshake. This is a SERIOUS decision. Many of my students choose something different each day (although a few never change).