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!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Differences in Professions

"Let us pretend that physicians of all specialties were held to similar measures of accountability and enveloped with the same kinds of discourses that we see in education reform debates. What might that look like, and how would the general public, in addition to doctors, feel about that?"

I found What if We Treated Doctors the Way We Treated Teachers? to be an interesting editorial on the challenges of teaching related to both political and societal expectations. Enjoy!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Changing My Classroom Culture.

My classroom culture sucks. There is pushing, yelling, tattling, and a disregard for personal space, personal property and shared materials. It is frustrating and it does not bring out the best in me. I spent the past two weeks or so in a very apathetic mood: nothing I was trying was working, so I am just not going to bother and wait for a new bunch of kids next year. If you know me at all, you know that this feeling could not last long. So I am trying something different.

I completely revamped my schedule and beginning next week will be rolling out a 6 week culture building/ character development plan. We will spend 30 minutes a day on our culture building program (the name is still in the works) and as much extra time as I can find during the day to supplement the plan with trade books and writing. This 30 minutes of time will be an non-negotiable time in my schedule because while academics are important, my students need to learn social behaviors to be successful in school. Social development, in my opinion, is a critical part of early childhood education and one of the reasons I am so passionate about early childhood development. I cannot justify just teaching academics to my students. They are missing out on so much  from their education. I did not become an educator to force content into my children. I became an educator to teach children to become learners and citizens. For me, this is where it begins.

Below is my tentative unit plan. I drafted it after collaborating with our school's literacy coach, EL coach and my TFA MTLD. Click here for more information on the Social Star program used. I am pulling most lessons from books 2 and 3.  Any feedback/ suggestions on my  would be more than appreciated!

I do not know if this is going to be the magic solution I am hoping for, but I do think it will help, and it definitely cannot hurt!

We are problem solvers
(1)Kick-off: make puppets, talk about how we are all unique and how each of us are the same and different
Literature Connection: Amazing Grace
(2) What is a problem?
               A problem is something that hurts your body, feelings, learning. Sort problems
(3) Is this a problem?
               Sort things that are problems and things that are not problems.
(4) How we stop someone who is causing a problem.  
Teach sentence frame: __________. You are hurting my ___________ because _______.  Please_________.
(5) Use puppets to respond to mock problems.
Literature connection: Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Really Bad Day (have students use puppets and respond to Alexander’s problems)
Appropriate touch
(1) Stop hitting me! Sort: good touch/ bad touch
(2) Defining types of touch: hit, bump, poke, tap
      Sorting appropriate touch:
(3) Please stop touching me!
 “_________stop ___________ because _______. Please_____.”
(4) Physical Space: Define your own space.
“You are hurting my learning because________. Please______”
(5) How we get someone’s attention.
puppet scenarios: if someone is on the other side of the room, if someone’s back is facing us, if someone is asleep, if someone is working with a grown up.
Respect: We respect others
(1) Kind actions—sort kind and unkind actions
Literature Connection: Read the Kindness Quilt
Writing Connection: Create a block on our class kindness quilt
(2) What is a friend? (Being a Friend, Social Star lesson A p195)
(3) Friend v. not friend (Being a Friend, Social Star lesson C p208)
Literature Connection: The Recess Queen
(4) How we can be a friend (Being a Friend, Social Star Lesson D p213), Blast off to friendship game
(5) We like Compliments! (Giving and Receiving Compliments, Social Star Lesson A p234)
Literature Connection: Have you filled a bucket today?
(6) Inside and Outside Compliments (Giving and Receiving Compliments, Social Star Lesson B p238)
(7) Receiving Compliments: practice giving and receiving compliments in partners
Tattling or Reporting
(1) Read “don’t squeal if it isn’t a big deal” and identify what a “tattle” is
(2) Sort: tattling v. reporting
Practice reporting with puppets
(3)  Get it out! What to do if we need to tattle.
Introduce the “tattle box”
Owning your Feelings
(1) Labeling Feelings (Social Star, Taking Charge of Feelings, p97)
Literature Connection: How are you Peeling?
(2) I am in charge of my feelings (social Star, Taking Charge of Feelings p101)
(3) Use puppets to respond to situations, “I feel _____ because _____”
(4) I statements: “ I feel____when____. I need _____”
Use puppets with “I statements” to respond to scenarios on SS p. 143
Taking Charge of Anger
(1) What is anger? Good anger v. bad anger (Taking Charge of Anger, Social Star p. 191)
(2) Anger Shrinkers: Strategies for dealing with angers (days 2-5)
(Taking Charge of Anger, Social Star p.196)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Weekly Behavior Chart

Here is the link to a block-by-block behavior tracker I use with two of my students.  It was recommended by my school's literacy/ instructional coach and has made a huge difference in the behavior of the students I use it with.

These are both students who are very bright, but have a difficult time with my class-wide behavior system. They need more reminders to stay on track and this gives them a fresh-start several times a day. It also gives them the opportunity to earn daily and weekly rewards (neither student had been very successful at earning my weekly treasure chest reward).

The students keep their chart on a clipboard and after each lesson of the day take it out and record a "happy face" which means I needed 1-2 warnings or a "sad face" which means 3 or more warnings. A lot of times I will ask them how they think they did as a way to start a conversation about behavior.

The students each chose their own reward. Both chose a technology reward of 5 minutes on the computer and/or ipad at the end of the day.

The good, the bad, and the ugly

Ignore the awful cliche in the title, but I am too tired to be original. As I move farther from January I am trying to stay committed to my new year's resolutions (1. Make my bed every day, 2. Find a balance between work and the rest of my life, 3. become a more active blogger) which means forcing myself to blog in my unmade bed.

So here it goes:

The Good:
I have created a block-by-block behavior tracker that is working really well with some of my students. It gives them a fresh start at each block and both an immediate and weekly goal to work towards. It did not work well with my lower students, but has given some extra motivation to two of my bright, but difficult students.  It is available for download here: Weekly Behavior Chart.

The Bad:
Tomorrow during what will likely be a very intense parent-teacher conference I have to explain to a very traditional Muslim family what "the finger" means and why we can't give it in school. This is to the same family that came in distraught that their daughter had written that she "loved" a boy in her journal.

The Ugly:
My students made my sub cry on Friday. They misbehaved to the point that a 30 year veteran teacher and regular sub in our building was so upset that my principal had to come down to speak to my students on Friday afternoon. Today we wrote apology notes "I am sorry I _______. Next time I will do ______" instead of going to recess.

We also had a behavior meeting in which we discussed our rules for the 100 millionth time and created a consequence bubble map of consequences that can happen as a result of bad choices. Did it work? Maybe for 10 minutes! I am trying to stay optimistic and give my best every day, but the reality is that the conduct in my classroom (including my own) is not where I want it to be. My classroom environment is not conducive to the academic and social-emotional gains that I came into this year expecting to make. The reality is that I don't know what else to do other keep a mild chaos from turning into a down right destructive environment. I have done my best to apply what I learned in school, from TFA, from COMP training, and what I have read in my classroom management books. Right now I am looking into purchasing materials from the Love and Logic Institute which was recommended to me by my MTLD. Hopefully you will see and update about the wonderful results I am seeing!

The thing I should be mad about, but honestly find really funny.

Last week at lunch one of my students was sent to the office for "pleasuring" himself with a corn dog. The office didn't find it nearly as funny as I did.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Why School Reform Can't Ignore Poverty

A voice of reason! http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/answer-sheet/post/why-school-reform-cant-ignore-povertys-toll/2011/10/07/gIQAYPHMUL_blog.html

This article also adds fuel to the fire for why I went to school for EARLY CHILDHOOD, not elementary education. Lately I have been encouraged to look into teaching the "upper grades" aka 3rd or 4th grade. I am not really sure how I feel about it. In some ways it is a perfect fit, but in other ways it takes me even farther from helping students to acquire the foundational skills they need for their rest of schooling. It has been on my mind a lot lately and to be honest you will get a different answer each time you talk to me.

Here are some of my "ah-ha" and "yes, I totally agree with that" statements from the article:

"Research has shown that high-quality, intensive early education helps prepare students intellectually and socially, and seems to improve academic success, reduce dropout rates, and reduce the need for special education programs and grade repetition. Such programs also can increase the likelihood that students will pursue higher education or training, which translates into reduced delinquency, arrests, teen pregnancy, and welfare reliance. The gains have been particularly noticeable in students from disadvantaged backgrounds who enter such programs by age two."

"Through the 18th birthday, the average child will spend less than 9 percent of life in school. That leaves most education occurring outside the schoolhouse."

"studies show that the best early childhood programs are staffed by teachers with college degrees and early education certification, offer developmentally appropriate education, include a focus on language development and comprehensive services such as meals and health and developmental screenings and encourage parental involvement."

"But the dozens of Memphis public school teachers I have met over the past several years are serious, dedicated teachers who care about their students, take too much work home, and spent money out of their own pockets on teaching supplies"

So I have pretty much quoted the entire article at this point...