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First Year, Twenty Third Week: Teaching Edition

Tabitha Helms

This week was a doozy. We had no school on Monday, so I spent the day in Orange County saying good-bye to a friend who's about to go teach in Chile. Another one bites the dust. I don't know what it is with all of you people wanting to leave! I think Oceanside is a very nice place to live. Haha. I am excited for her though; she's been wanting to study abroad and learn Spanish for years, so I'm glad she finally has the opportunity to do so.

Due to the long weekend and the short week, my kids were crazy. They could not sit still, they forgot how to be quiet, and we had a few 'heads down on your desks' moments.

On Tuesday I had my review with my boss. This was her notes on observing me teaching on four different occasions. The grading scale was a 1-3 and we were aiming for 1's. On everything she observed I got a "1" with the exception of 'following lesson plans.' I got a "1" for the second day she observed and a '2' for the first day she observed. It was three weeks ago that this happened, so I don't remember what time it was that she came in, though I'm sure I had somewhere on my lesson plans that we were going to work on short "i" CVC words sometime that day. Whatever. Though I had battled back and forth about which two things I needed to work on from the list she gave me prior to our meeting, I finally picked 'tone of voice' and 'classroom management.' She seemed surprised, but she said as a previous kindergarten teacher herself she could understand what I was talking about with management during transitions. She said they were easy fixes and offered some suggestions I could use too. The only question she had for me this time was how comfortable I am teaching Bible lessons, since she didn't have time to view that. I told her I loved it, and got to share my "listening to God" activity that I've done with them. She loved hearing that and encouraged me to keep doing that once a month at least. She asked if I ever used the picture story cards that are in the office for Bible stories. I told her I've used them a couple times--just to have a better picture of things like Noah's ark and Solomon's temple. But I felt confined when I use them while storytelling. I told her she had more of a gift for storytelling than I do. She said she would love to come in and tell a story to the kids sometime if I'd like. I thought that was a great idea, and made a point to schedule a day with her in a couple weeks.

On Wednesday we had an unexpected lockdown drill. I say unexpected, because they didn't tell the teachers about this one. My kids behaved excellently, and were very quiet and obedient--remembering exactly where to go sit while I made sure my door was locked and the lights were off. I remembered there was something I didn't do last time we had a drill that I needed to remember this time, and luckily thought of it within a couple minutes of the drill. I'm supposed to text the office manager whether or not I have all my kids. It was a really long drill this time. And we had one 'false alarm' all-clear message. While I was sitting with the kids, waiting for the drill to be over, I pulled out my Big Book of Almost Everything to check the procedure for lockdowns--just to make sure I had the correct codes remembered. I did. The false all-clear message was given, and I made sure my kids didn't move a muscle. But then we heard the kinder class next door erupt with noise and the lights went back on. My kids were looking at my like I was crazy because I was still telling them not to get up. I re-checked my Big Book and confirmed that I was right, and stuck my head into their class to tell her it wasn't over yet. She quick turned the lights off again and told the kids to put their heads down. Then we had the real all-clear and we went back to work. I looked at my phone to see the secretary had called. That confused me because I was sure I was supposed to text the office manager--not her. And if I had answered her call during the lockdown, then I would be talking, which I'm not supposed to do. I asked in the office, and apparently they had some miscommunication. They said I should get the best teacher award for doing everything correctly so quickly. Apparently there were a couple other classes who had thought the drill was over at the false all-clear message too. I was just glad I remembered correctly. It was such a long lockdown drill that one of my students fell asleep sitting up. It was really funny to see him still sitting there criss-cross-applesauce after all the other kids had gotten up and gone back to their tables. It was really hard to wake him up too! Haha.

Thursday and Friday were half days. The kids were doubly crazy, and I was glad to be rid of them. Lol. But I forgot how draining parent teacher conferences are! I didn't have many on Thursday, but two of them went about 45 minutes long--one was an initial SST meeting (where you look at test scores of a student who may have a special need that needs additional help for success), and one was a parent whose wife has had some crazy medical things going on whom I was asking a lot of questions of to check in on how they were doing. It was also the parent of one of my advanced students that they are concerned she's going to be too bored. I'm frustrated about that in general. I've done so much searching for extra things for her to do, but 1) she is only on task half the time and 2) my teaching program always said, "Just because they're advanced, doesn't mean you should just give them extra work or assign them to help other kids that aren't getting it. You should assign special projects to them." The problem is: I teach kindergarten. I can find NOTHING online about extra projects. We don't even have computers or books that stuff can be looked up on in the class for student use. No project that I can think of is something she could be doing during classtime--it would all be stuff she extended at home, but she can't always get her homework done at home because of the medical stuff going on with her family. It's a no-win situation.

The SST meeting was interesting because I had no idea what to expect. I didn't know how an SST really worked or what my role was. I only sat in on one during my teaching program, and it wasn't the initial meeting so the teacher just brought a couple pieces of work and commented on them before leaving early to go back to class. I was sprung for a surprise when I was put on the spot to answer the question--what strategies are you using in the classroom to help this student. The whole reason I asked for him to be tested was because I'm out of ideas and I don't know what specifically I need to do to help him based on what his need is exactly. I paused to answer that because I had to replay the 'movie' back in my head of times I've helped him with things. They told me it wasn't to judge what I was doing in my classroom. That's awkward. I wasn't scrambling to come up with something, I just had to think about it. This is why I never contribute to discussion groups. I have to really think about things before I answer, and we're usually onto another topic by the time I've paused to do that. I came up with a couple things I'd done and they were nodding their heads like those were good strategies.

Other than those two lengthy meetings, they were pretty good conferences this time I was a lot less nervous than I was the first time around, and it was an exciting time to show the parents all the wonderful progress their child was making since the beginning of the year. We've all come so far! It was great to see and experience with the parents. I think everyone went away feeling good about the class and their child's work, so I believe I did my job well. There was just one parent who may have left a little dissatisfied because I couldn't necessarily give a straight answer about whether or not her son would be mature enough to go on to first grade next year. We still have half the school year to go and the summer before first grade. Every kid matures at a different rate, and you can't really predict it. I didn't really know what to tell her. It's kind of a toss up.

I got an email from my boss on Friday morning about Dr. Seuss' birthday. It was sent to all the teachers asking if we thought Dr. Seuss should be celebrated at school, and did it really promote reading. I was horrified. I've been planning and planning and planning for this day. All week I have center activities, food tasting, story comparisons, and reading time completely centered around Dr. Seuss. I have a million books by him, and had already been telling parents in conferences about our celebration. I wrote a reply hoping to argue my case, but didn't get a response. Now I'm at a loss of what to do about Friday. I don't think the center time and extra lessons matter as much to her. But I'm taking time to have a class party for Dr. Seuss on Friday. I got a Dr. Seuss hat, and feather boa, and was planning to draw cat whiskers on my face. I told all the kids to wear red and white. I'm hesitant to dress up now if none of the other teachers would be doing anything. *Sigh. I was so very excited about it too. Today I'm doing a test run of oobleck for Bartholomew and the Oobleck, and making green deviled eggs and green ham for Green Eggs and Ham, and making blue jello with Swedish Fish for One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. We'll see how I'm feeling by the end of the week.