Saturday, October 27, 2007

What Would Freud Think of This?

There are many phrases I thought I would never say as a teacher but, "J. quit touching your penis," definitely tops them all.

I had just sat down in my fabulous teacher chair to share one of the greatest Halloween stories with my class: The Little Old Lady Who Wasn't Afraid of Anything. All my students are gathered on the rug, anxiously waiting to hear the story. Most of them are looking up at me with their hands in their lap, sitting criss cross, and quiet. I scan the room to make sure we're ready to begin and that's when I notice that while J's hands are in his lap, they're up his shorts.

Its been so warm in NC this fall. This month has felt more like June than the crisp Octobers I remember. The warmer weather has allowed for my students to continue wearing shorts, flip flops, short sleeves, etc. It was the weather's fault that J. had such easy access to his little boy parts. I've noticed him exploring around down there, not just once or twice before, but consistently. This is the ultimate ick. Those little hands that are touching "himself" are the same hands that then go and touch the shared pencils and crayons. I can't handle this.

All classrooms are germy... E. picks her nose, C. sucks her thumb, and now J. fondles himself on a regular basis. After many previous reminders, "J. let's make sure our hands are folded on our lap." and "J. that's not appropriate," I had exhausted all the friendly and teacherly ways to stop the groping. In front of all my students, with all their eyes on me, ready to relax and listen to a story, I opened my mouth to speak and out came, "J. quit touching your penis!"


Sunday, October 21, 2007

Our Wishes

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A parent volunteer in a first grade class at JY Joyner Elementary in Raleigh, NC, asked the first graders, "If you had one wish for the world, your family or yourself, what would it be?” She made a poster of their wishes and then posted this video on YouTube. Its so inspiring and touching I just had to share it.

I'd Rather Not be Appreciated

I fell for it again. The doughnuts in the basement. At least once or twice a week someone brings doughnuts, bagels, cookies, Starbucks...something for the teachers, and places their baked good in the teacher's lounge. An e.mail is sent out to the staff saying, "The PTA Hospitality Committee has brought doughnuts to show their appreciation for all you do. ENJOY!" The rest of the day I am battling the voice in my head, that every 30 seconds or so says, "Doughnut."

My willpower is weak. I won't go to the store and buy doughnuts....not ever... but when they are right in front of me I will not say no. Plus, I deserve a tasty treat right? At least the Hospitality Committee thinks so.

I have a theory that secretly the Hospitality Committee has a strong desire to make me fat. I don't know why this committee wishes this upon me, but they are succeeding in all their attempts. For that matter, I think a lot of my own colleagues and students have this same mission.

No one wants to gain weight, but everyone wants that damn doughnut in the basement... at least I do and I might even eat two.

Saturday, October 20, 2007

Teacher Meme

1. I am a good teacher because... I try to relate to each student and I make strong connections with them. I love being responsible for teaching students at such an early age and giving them a positive feeling about school. I love teaching them not only how to read and write, but how to be passionate about reading and writing and how to see themselves (at 6 yrs old) as readers and writers.

2. If I weren't a teacher, I would be... I ask myself this all the time and have come up with very little. I'm often envious of my friends "cool" jobs but I know nothing about what they do and have little faith I could do it myself. I've thought about child psychology before. I always have a hard time answering this question 'cause really all I've wanted to do is teach since I was in kindergarten...lame I know.

3. My teaching style is... interactive, passionate, less me and more of them, fun, collaborative.

4. My classroom is... open, homey, cozy, small, packed full of too much stuff, blue and yellow, attached to two other classrooms.

5. My lesson plans... fit neatly in a 2x2 box in my plan book. They're flexible and often I do my best without a plan.

6. One of my teaching goals is… Currently: Get my national boards. That has consumed me this year. Long term: for my students to love school. Last year: To get through the year without getting fired for child abuse.

7. The toughest part of teaching is... meeting every one's needs: the below grade level kids, the above grade level kids, and everyone in between... oh, and the parent's needs too.

8. The thing I love most about teaching is... the relationship I build with my students and seeing my impact on their lives.

9. A common misconception about teaching is... "What do you do all day? color?" My response, "Spend one day with me."

10. The most important thing I've learned since I started teaching... to not take things personally, to ask for help, to work together, and to stay positive.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

You Know You're a Teacher When...

by Jeff Foxworthy

1. You can hear 25 voices behind you and know exactly which one belongs to the child out of line.
2. You get a secret thrill out of laminating something.
3. You walk into a store and hear the words "It's Ms/Mr.> _________" and know you have been spotted.
4. You have 25 people that accidentally call you Mom/Dad at one time or another.
5. You can eat a multi-course meal in under twenty minutes.
6. You've trained yourself to go to the bathroom at two distinct times of the day: lunch and planning period.
7. You start saving other people's trash, because most likely, you can use that toilet paper tube or plastic butter tub for something in the classroom.
8. You believe the teachers' lounge should be equipped with a margarita machine.
9. You want to slap the next person who says "Must be nice to work 8 to 3 and have summers off."
10. You believe chocolate is a food group.
11. You can tell if it's a full moon without ever looking outside.
12. You believe that unspeakable evils will befall you if anyone says "Boy, the kids sure are mellow today."
13. You feel the urge to talk to strange children and correct their behavior when you are out in public.
14. You believe in aerial spraying of Ritalin.
15. You think caffeine should be available in intravenous form.
16. You spend more money on school stuff than you do on your own needs.
17. You can't pass the school supply aisle without getting at least five items!
18. You ask your friends if the left hand turn he just made was a "good choice or a bad choice."
19. You find true beauty in a can full of perfectly sharpened pencils
20. You are secretly addicted to hand sanitizer and finally,
21. You understand instantaneously why a child behaves a certain way after meeting his or her parents.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Ace Bandage Run

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On Saturday I participated in the Ribbon Run for Autism. I have found myself fascinated with Autism and I can't seem to read enough about it. I'm even tempted... only tempted... to read Jenny McCarthy's book on the subject. I haven't been this obsessed with something since 1991, when I too, tried to prove the "Magic Bullet" theory just didn't hold up in JFK's assassination. I had just seen Oliver Stone's movie JFK and I seriously became mesmerized by the possibility there was a little bit more to JFK's death than we knew.

Similarly, I am convinced there is more to Autism than we actually know and I am determined to figure this all out. This Spectrum Disorder covers so many many tendencies. Its been interesting to observe the differences in children with this disease in my own classroom. Some of my students stim, walk on their toes, yell out, are effected by loud noises, draw detailed pictures and maps, play alone, prefer writing center to Lego center, etc. This list could go on, but what appeals to me is that not one student with Autism is the same. Its my job to learn all that I can about this disease and find the commonalities to become a better teacher. Autism Spectrum Disorder is the second most common developmental disability and affects 1 of every 166 children born today.

And so... to show my support, my love, and my infatuation with Autism I decided to run on Saturday. What you don't know about me is that I don't run. I have a gym membership, but its basically just another bill. I am so far from athletic it hurts. I spend most of my time sedentary (hence why I started this blog) except when I walk my dog...and that's only 'cause she makes me. However, I was up and ready to go Saturday morning. I woke up at 7:30 and put on the sports bra (from college, which no longer does its job) and dug through the drawer to find sneaker socks. I proudly put on my Ribbon Run t-shirt and black "work-out" pants (aka "I'm not leaving the house today, lounge pants"). I filled my water bottle (they gave me one when I registered, otherwise I wouldn't of had one) and headed out to show my support.

At 9:00 we lined up at the starting line and somewhere off in the distance someone yelled, "GO!" and I was trampled. I found myself in a sea of real runners and I was at the back of the herd. I pushed myself to run and I made it one block (it was a 5k) before I seriously began thinking, "I could cheat. If I just turn here I could cut everyone off and everyone would think I was way ahead." Instead, I decided to run a block and walk a block and not worry about how silly I looked or how out of shape I am, and I reminded myself why I was there in the first place. Maybe it was those thoughts that got me to the finish line, or maybe it was knowing that there were bananas and bagels at the end that got me there...either way, I made it.

After crossing the finish line I began to search for the people who I originally came to the run with. They had all finished ahead of me. I was walking around the park over mulch and thick grass and just as I saw my colleagues, my right ankle twisted and I was in pain. It wasn't the run/walk that injured me. The race was over. My injury came only from my own klutziness, my nonathletic self.

Today, I am no longer an Autism activist. I am now racing for the cure for the twisted ankle. Meet me downtown this weekend for the "Ace Bandage Run." You'll get a bagel when its over.
(by the way, I'm number 458 in the pic above)

Book reccommendation: Look Me In the Eye
by: John Elder Robison

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Monday, October 15, 2007


I was out for drinks with my "Corporate American" friends last week. These friends get an hour for lunch and they can actually leave their office to eat. They talk to adults all day and have adult conversations. They can go to Starbucks before work and have time to drink their coffee there and read more than the front page headline of the N&O. These friends go out for happy hour after work. They work in "the park" and drive on 40 with traffic. They send important e.mails about company decisions. These "Corporate Friends" each have a 401 K and their company matches their contributions. Not to mention, their company pays for most of their gym membership. Some of them have their MBA. They go on business trips to Chicago, NYC, LA, etc. Their company was on the front page of the business section on Saturday. These friends have financial advisors and own stocks. They wear suits to work and high heel shoes. We were all sitting outside last Thursday and sharing stories about our day, while sipping our martinis, and I could barely keep up with their conversation... all the acronyms and number talk?!? After they held the majority of the conversation for nearly 45 minutes, one of them turns to me and asks, "I'm sorry B. How was your day?" I replied, "Jack shit his pants today." Oh how our worlds are vastly different!

I Don't Know How You Do It

After a much needed Fall Break, a two week track out, we're back in the swing of things. Year round school is a blessing. The students need the breaks from me just as much as I need the breaks from them. We track out in October, December, and March and I am so thankful for the time away, but transitioning back is always hard...especially for T.

Track out is when I remind myself why I decided to be a teacher. Its when I get to plan everything, make copies, organize, clean, sharpen pencils, replace old crayons, scrape up the old contact paper holding down the letters on their tables and put new table letters on, etc. Anyone who is a teacher knows that this is the geeky truth about what we do. We're list makers, controllers, and have a file, usually color coordinated with the theme we're teaching (ie: orange for October, green for December)... but this is what we thrive on. That and putting it all into action. When we're tracked out I can actually think again about my lessons and make them engaging and I'm always so full of passion about the exciting things we have planned and then THEY come back and everything goes in a different direction.

I was in the middle of my great lesson this morning... the many lessons we teach about "small moment stories." I almost forgot that my audience was 18 6-7 year old children, and I was furiously teaching away about the love of writing...and then just as I was about to reiterate my teaching point and send them all on their way, thinking that everyone was inspired and ready to write, K. raises her hand and says, "T. is rolling on the floor again." I look over and see him...not with the group, but behind a table, rolling, like a rolling pin over dough for homemade biscuits, on the floor. When asked to stop, the rolling became more vigorous and obvious. He rolled away from the table and closer to the rest of us sitting, criss cross, on the "carpet area," and he was testing me. Pushing boundaries... Daring me with his, "What are you going to do now Ms. H?" look. Again, I ask him to stop rolling, but this time I move over to him, get down to his level, like all great teaching strategy books tell you to do, and use a direct and firm tone, "T. I need you to stop rolling and join the rest of us on the rug." Still...nothing. So I move on and I ignore and continue with my lesson, but this time feeling deflated, until 15 minutes later when T. has decided he wants to be apart of the group. I walk over to him to see what he is working on and this is what I read:

i luv my techr ms. h bekus she luvs me

Is it a "small moment story?" No, but his writing was his way of saying "I'm sorry. I'm having a hard time transitioning back to school after my two week break because my home life is inconsistent. Please be understanding of me."

This is how I do it.