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First Year, Fourth Week: Teaching Edition

Tabitha Helms

Just when I breathed a sigh of relief that Back to School Night was over, it was time to start preparations for Parent Teacher Conferences. Yikes! Next week, we have conferences. The idea of having them so early is we want to talk with the parents at progress report time to make sure there are no surprises when report cards come out. Makes sense, but sheesh! I'm worn out trying to get a handle on just plain, old teaching! Enough with all the extras! I have to evaluate assessments, finish additional assessments, change the art and written work on the walls, write notes about what each kid does well, cute things they've said, what parents can be helping them with at home, etc. etc. etc. I'm also trying to incorporate new routines every week like class jobs and daily journal writing. And I'm trying to get a schedule of parents to help in the class. This is a little more overwhelming to me because I'm having a hard time finding time during my day to put aside prep work for my aides. I usually am not able to figure out what I need done until the school day is over and I have time to look at all my piles and sort through what needs to stay and what needs to come home with me. I've had a lot of parents tell me to send prep home with their kid and they'll complete and return it, but I can't figure out what I want done until the kids have been gone for a good hour! What I think I need to do is make a list and get some stuff together at the beginning of the week so I can remember what kinds of things need doing. When an aide pops in unexpectedly now, I'm thrown off and I don't always know what to have them do even though at the end of the day when I sit at my desk I'm constantly adding to my sticky note what I have to remember to complete. So frustrating!

Some sweet goodness of the week: The aide in my class on Monday (also a parent of one of my kids and a teacher in previous years): "In case no one's told you today, you're amazing. It's hard as someone who's been a teacher to sit back and not jump in, but it's given me a chance to watch the kids and how they respond, and you are just perfect. What you're doing is working. You're a wonderful teacher."

We were working on nouns. The kids were writing and drawing their favorite people, places, and things. Several of them showed me their papers pointing, "this is you!" "My favorite my teacher???" Papers with scrawled kindergarten writing, "Mis Nel." Adorable.

I got my first kid-drawn picture Tuesday from one of my students. I have wall space behind my desk where I can hang them. I never get tired of being drawn pictures. I just love it. :)

I have kids that run up to me when they see me walking across the playground. They drop everything they're doing during their valuable recess time just to give me a hug. "Miss Neal!!!!!" they exclaim as they race toward me with a big hug. I've had several tell me "I love you, Miss Neal." It melts my heart every time. It's so humbling to receive the love of a child. They are so willing to love. It makes me wonder at what point does a person stop having that unhindered love for others? Sometimes I get grouchy. Sometimes I threaten them that they'll not get to have center time if they don't stop talking and listen to my instructions or participate in calendar time. (They sharpen up real quick!) And yet they still love me.

Outside my door at recess time I heard a little girl's voice, "Okay, now I'm going to be the teacher. I'm Miss Neal. 'Ding, ding, ding, time to line up!'" Lol love it.

Weekly happenings: We practiced what to do in a fire drill and an earthquake on Tuesday in preparation for an actual fire drill on Wednesday. I found a library book about it and asked for volunteers to tell me about other fire drills they've been in and what they remembered about them. They kept talking about firefighters climbing on ladders to get cats down from trees. (Side firefighters even do that? Don't they have more important things to do? I've never seen a fireman in a tree before.) Then I talked to them about why we have fire drills and the steps that we take when there is a fire drill.

Step 1: Stop what you're doing. Step 2: Drop everything. Step 3: Cover your ears. Step 4: Walk to get in line. Step 5: Quiet voices.

We talked about why each of these rules was important. I said we were going to practice until we did it perfectly. I said it could happen at anytime, but today I was going to repeatedly blow my whistle so it was like a fire alarm and they needed to follow the steps we just talked about. We only had to do it three times before everyone did it correctly and without talking. I also talked to them about earthquakes and what they're supposed to do. I said at anytime I might say, "Earthquake Drill" and they would have to get under their tables quickly and put their hand on the table leg and their hand on their head/neck. They liked that one. Lol. One time while they were under the table I blew my whistle for the fire drill. Most of them figured out what to do.

On Wednesday we had a real fire drill. We all jumped, but the kids did what they were supposed to. I did have some asking loud questions, and I got told that I wasn't supposed to bring my line to where I brought them. I had asked the other kindergarten teacher, and that was where she said to go. I also had one boy who burst into loud crying. I don't know why but I have several loud criers in my class. It's like they're yelling while they're crying. Slightly ridiculous. I thought it was interesting that this kid's dad is a fireman. Of course amidst the commotion I have kids saying, "__________'s crying." 1. Like I couldn't tell. 2. You're not supposed to be talking. 3. Leave the poor kid alone.

This week my suspended student returned. She's been pretty obedient, but I forgot how exhausting it is to have her in my class. I'm constantly having to tell her what she should be doing, to go sit down, to please not touch that, to not eat her crayons, to hush her the gazillion times she interrupted me while I was teaching. I was exhausted! At rest time I was planning to do my lesson planning for 45 minutes. I didn't get very far because every 2 minutes I had to tell her to stop doing something--tying her shoelaces to the table leg, banging her feet on my file cabinet, shoving her books under the closet door, touching stuff on my desk, talking, etc, etc, etc. It was ridiculous. I was trying to think of what to do to help her follow directions the first time so I wouldn't have to keep repeating myself. I came up with a special marble game that we tried out today. I told her the two of us were going to play a game to help her earn extra marbles. The game was that if she did what I asked the first time, then she would earn a marble. If she didn't and I had to repeat myself, she would lose a marble. She was excited about the game, and did pretty well with it. I think I'll keep it up. She needs some extra help earning marbles anyway, and is the type of student that needs extra motivation to do things. When she didn't want to do a worksheet that she missed while taking a trip to the restroom, I exuberantly said, "Do you want me to time you and see how fast you can finish it!?!?!" She was excited and complied. Trying to be creative with this one....

Biggest problem of the week: Kids having accidents. I may have the new record: 5 times. One kid was responsible for 3 of them. They keep extra clothes in their cubbies so it's not a huge deal, but I don't have carpet cleaner. Nor is it really my job to be cleaning up pee while I'm teaching math. Maintenance had to take my color carpet and clean it, which was a bit of a hassle because I had to take off all the masking tape names that were on their squares since I just changed their seating chart and put it on the bottom carpet instead. I was supposed to get it back the next day so I had to take up the tape off the bottom carpet to return to the top carpet. But I didn't get it back that day, they said it would be the next day. But they didn't bring it in until later that morning, and I had had to keep the tape on the floor so we could use it first thing in the morning, which meant that they put my color carpet on top of the tape names so during PE when I should have been prepping, I was on my hands and knees rolling back the huge carpet, taking up tape, rolling it back, sticking the tape on top, and repeating. Ugh. The secretary finally told the mom of the one who's continuing to have problems that she needed to start sending her child to school in pull-ups because this couldn't keep happening. If it did continue, then the mom was going to have to start paying to have the carpet cleaned.

Good news for me: I have discovered a new diet that really works. After years of trying to hit 125 lbs, I finally did it this week. Want to know the steps you need to take to get to your goal weight???

Step 1: Become a teacher. Step 2: Wake up so early that you're really nauseous. This keeps you from eating too much at breakfast. Every morning I swallow down 1 cup of hot tea and 1/4 cup of FiberOne cereal (aka bird food). Step 3: Get so busy cleaning tables, pulling big books out of your closet, setting up the next CD you need to use, and writing your schedule on the board that you don't have time to eat at snack time. Step 4: Get so busy entering in Scholastic orders, Lysol-ing your entire room, rereading the teacher edition game rules for next class period, making copies of next week's seatwork, entering grades, stapling papers, and making the longest "to-do" list known to man, that by the time you remember you're supposed to be eating lunch, lunchtime is over and you have to choose between going pee or eating a sandwich in the two minutes remaining. (Pee wins every time.) Step 5: Go home so exhausted you can barely move and therefore do not exercise. Step 6: Eat a small, healthy dinner. Due to the lack of eating the rest of the day, your stomach has now shrunk and you can't eat much in one sitting. Snacking is the new way of life for you, and you have arrived. Your goal weight has finally been obtained. Step 7: Note the sarcasm in all previous statements and try to figure out a better way to lose weight.

Oh the joys of teaching.