Raindrops on Roses

Today was wonderful. I don't know what happened when I was out, but something miraculous changed the whole demeanor of my class, and today was heaven-sent. I didn't raise my voice once. I talked practically in a whisper, and if someone couldn't hear me, my students asked the others to "please listen, Ms. G is talking". They followed the hand signal, the rules, and they were respectful to me. Jerry told me that he missed me, Tay hugged me and said "welcome back", and Tyler wrote me a note over the weekend from the Bad Wolves to let me know that they were happy I was coming back. My teacher face worked today, in the same way I remember it working when my teachers used to use it on me. Bad Wolves worked together today, and tried to use all the language of a 'team' that I have been drilling them with all year.

Apparantly Thur and Fri were hell. I can only immagine. Ms. Baker (aide) is one to downplay incidents to me, so when she told me that Friday was a madhouse, I knew she wasn't kidding. The interesting thing is that even Ms. Baker, as much as she complained about how awful it was on Thur and Fri, admitted to me that it was probably one of the best things to happen to the classroom because it gave her the perspective of what I am up against. She told me that she undertsnads now how hard it is to move on with a lesson when the other aide is in the back doing he rown thing, and then today she came out from behind the table she usually stays at and helped with a shared reading group that we had formed.

Last week was a strange week for us... it looked like this:
Mon- full day
Tues- Half day
Wed- No School
Thur- No Ms. G (substitute and aides in the classroom)
Fri- No Ms. G (no substitute available, aides only (aka: extremely illegal) Weeks that are different always affect my students, but this time it was more than the average change because then I wasn't there for 2 days.

The other major issue that was affecting the level of respect that was exhibited today revolved around events that occurred in the area around our school on Sunday. If you look in the Newark Star Ledger, you can read that there were 3 drive-by shootings yesterday within 4 blocks of the school. These incidents left a 14 year-old dead, and 2 young boys in the ICU. The boys were shot literally outside the school.

My kids cling to the poeple they love when they fear it might be taken from them, and as much as my students don't recognize this as a direct correlation to the shootings, I really believe that it makes all the difference in the world to have people there that are looking out for you.

In the past my kids get pissed when I miss school, and then treat me awful for a few days until I can get tem back into the swing of things, but this time, they embraced my return. I got hugs, I was respected, and generally i think that my students learned a lot today-- which means that by the time they went home they were able to make a difference in their own lives.

I didn't yell once. I was excited and energetic. I felt respect.

Can i say again that today was a good day?

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Finally, the weekend!

A well deserved break.... it was a long week for the Bad Wolves. We seem to be in our first major lull of the year, and I know that we need to get out of it before things get bad in the classroom.

I have been able to attribute most of the behaviors that are creeping up to 2 very specific changes in the class:

1) The busses have not been coming on time. For the last week, "quiet fire" is the first bus to school, always earlier than all the others, even the walkers, and the 2 students of mine that are on it have a LOT of down time waiting for the school day to begin. So when school begins at 8:25, I have only 2 students. As you may be able to immagine, they are antsy and anxious because they have been waiting, but the other buses are still not there yet. Then, at about 8:30 the "pizza" bus arrives. I have 3 students that ride "pizza" but they aren't necessarily friends, so they don't come up to the classroom together, they show up one at a time from 8:30-8:40ish. This not only is frustrating, but it is hard to have a clear start to the day. Finally, at about 8:45, when breakfast is supposed to be OVER, morning announcements are done, and our Math Message for the day should be started and almost finished, the last bus, "hot dog" arrives with the rest of my students. Before this bus dilemma, when they all came ontime, we always walked upstairs together, taking short "morning meetings" in an empty classroom when needed to get our days off to a good start together-- but now SO much time is being wasted... I can't wait until 8:45 to begin the school day.

2) We have a new aide in te classroom. She is young, and attractive, and she doesn't have a lot of experience with kids, so she doesn't know how to interact with them appropriately always. I really feel for her, because I can tell that she is trying really hard to be helpful-- which is more than I can say for most aides in the school-- but she just doesn't know how to balance between helping and befriending the kids. Seeing as my class is dominated by hormonal boys, they are all infatuated with her-- and the fact that she wore pink polka-dotted underwear with green trip-- and the fact that I KNOW THAT-- hasn't been helping keep my students in the mind-set of "respecting everyone." They are all over her! So, we have daily talks about what it means to show respect for the adults in the classroom, and each and every one of them can say that they wouldn't want anyone talking to or about their mom like that, but then I still have Jerry asking her, while his arm is across her shoulders, "I like the tattoo you have on your back, where are all of your other tattoos?" He's 11 years old, and she answered him.

Needless to say, my classroom is not going as well as it was before these changes. I am worried for obvious reasons, and specifically because respect takes a long time to develop, and with my students not respecting the new classroom aide, and seeing her only as a fantasy in the flesh, I don't know what I can do to make that situation much better. Then, there is the bus thing, and I think that the only solution for that is to be creative, and complain a lot to the administration in hopes that they will do something, like TALK to the bus company about it.

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Observations galore

As it turns out, I got 3 seperate reviews returned from different observations I have had returned to me today...

Unfortunately, the one I care about the most was the one that I am most dissapointed in.
--This was the observation done by my vice principal- who, in my opinion ruined my observation himself. He maked me proficient overall (the options are unsatisfactory, basic, proficient, and distinguished). I don't mind the overall rating-- it is the facty that thi is possibly the worst observation I have ever had returned to me-- yet this is most certainly the best and most productive chunk of time in whih I have had as a teacher thus far. This, to me is concerning. He marked me "basic" in a few specific areas:

"Designing coherent instruction"- this one really makes me mad ecause this is where HE interferred. He didnt stay out of MY lesson. When my students were working in cooperative groups, he was working with them and instructing the-- when it was meant to be a lesson of discovery for the students. I was using all of the fancy strategies that I learn at the workshops THEY send me to... he just apparantly missed the memo on that one!

"using questioning and discussion techniques"- First-- my kids were asked to relate themselves to a folk-tale that they read by recalling a time that they told a lie that was meant to protect someone, then they were asked to write an alternate ending to the folktale and projecting how it might've turned out if the lie had not been told-- pretty frickin higher order if you ask me!! Relating yourself to the world in context of text is high on Blooms, or am I wrong? Second-- my kids were working in cooperative learning groups! If you have kids working with one another to discuss a story, i think that is pretty intense discussion going on, because it is meaningful and STUDENT generated. Isn't that where they're supposed to be as 4th-6th graders??

There was also one about not being responsive-- ad that one just pisses me off... I am in a BD class. If I weren't responsive and able to react, i wouldn't be here to complain about this-- and my students wouldn't either.

That's all-- everyhthing else was marked proficient, but some of it shouldn't have been-- mainly the one about submitting paperwork ontime... Like I said, overall he still marked me proficient-- but I still think that it was a pretty unfair assessment!

-- Okay, the next thing I got tday was a TFA observation-- basically all it said was that I am patient, and my calmness sets a good atmosphere for my classroom-- that was a good one I guess... really it just sounded SO TFA.

-- Last there was the CMCD observation-- it is the program that my school has adopte school-wide to make sure that we have "Cooperative Management and Consistancy Development." I had all of my artifacts in place, and my class was running really smoothly this morning, so I got 100% (yea, they give you a percent-- weird, I know!) Anyway, I guess that's all good... but I'm still upset about the REAL observation.

It just doesn't feel fair to me that my classroom is running better than EVER, and EVERYONE says and talks about the significant changes they have seem in my students from last year to this year, yet I am getting the worst observation review returned to me that I have ever had. I don't understand where they think these changes are coming from if they don't think that I am doing anything better this year. At the end of last year I was getting "distinguished" marks on my observations. This year things are otably different, and I am getting "basic" on some of the areas that I think are going best!

Oh, frustration....

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The updates...

This year is moving fast! On Friday the school year will be 1/8 of the way over-- scary!

Anyway, today I got a big surprise... I am getting a new student and he is in 3RD GRADE! Up 'til now I have been the 4-6 BD teacher in the school, but apparently they are going to make me the 3-6 teacher. I am not happy about this at all. Compared to 6th graders (middle schoolers) 3rd graders are babies. I don't think it is a good idea to put even younger kids in my room, and I am going to do whatever I have to to try to make sure that they can find a better placement for this new student. My kids will eat him alive-- it will make a 5 year age gap for my students. I am not a one-room school house, and I don't know how to have a class that is. I feel like if they really move this new student into my class they are treating me more like a babysitter than a teacher-- and that's not fair to ANY of the students in my class.

I am going to file an official complaint against the case manager for my students with the Department of Special Education in my district. I think that it will be a good first start... I know that it sounds a bit harsh, but I have only MET her once and as I mentioned, the year is 1/8th over. My students are very high-needs, and it is just not acceptable for me to have a case-manager that is only in the school a day or two a week. According to my students' needs, my case manager is supposed to counsel with each one for at least 30 min weekly... this has NOT been happening, and I struggled with this all last year with my old case manager. It is so unfortunate, because as a teacher there is still only so much that I can do to help some of these situations. Also, if I had a case manager that was on top of her game, I would think that she would do something about making sure that the age gap in my class doesn't span 4 grade levels... especially during such hormonal years for the young adolescents in my classroom.

The good news that I got today is that I am getting another aide for my class... I am hoping that this will be a good thing-- sometimes it seems impossible to know if it will cause more of less chaos, but I am excited for it. This will help to make my class a little more in compliance with IEPs.

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