31 August 2009

Who Are You, and What Did You Do With My Teacher?

Do you remember being in school and walking into your classroom only to find a stranger standing where your "real" teacher usually stands?  I do.  The first thoughts weaving themselves immediately through my youthful mind were:

"Cool!  A free day!"
Will this stranger know what time recess and lunch are?
How much mischief can I get away with?

Now that I'm on the teacher end of the substitute situation, my thoughts are much different.  Now I worry about:

Will she love my kids like I do?
Will she be able to handle my difficult children?  (those are my favorite actually)
Will the kids forget me?
Will the kids love her more than they love me??
How much of the lesson plans will she cover and, subsequently, how much will I need to re-teach.
When I'm not able to go to school, I think about my class all day long.  So, last last Friday I had to leave my darling little class with a substitute teacher while I had some foot surgery.

Here I am recuperating from the surgery.  I'm even correcting papers.

For the past eight years, I've had the additional assignment of being the Literacy Coordinator at my school.  Usually I share my classroom with another teacher to free me up half a day to help and coach the teachers with reading and writing.  Because of severe budget cuts, I am back in the classroom full-time (which I LOVE).  I will be released  2 1/2 days per month...usually Wednesday.

Why am I mentioning this?  Well, I just wanted to shout it out how lucky I am to have a very special substitute teacher who will take my class on the days when I am working with teachers in my building.  Her name is Mrs. LeAnn Arnold.  I have total confidence in her.  She is loving and kind.  She is an excellent teacher and familiar with our curriculum.  

Remember my list of worries earlier in this post?  I don't worry about any of them with LeAnn.  She is amazing.
Here's a photo of LeAnn, Me, and Caleb on the bus coming home from the 1st Grade field
 trip to the zoo last year.  

My class will be in good hands and I can relax with full confidence in Mrs. Arnold.

28 August 2009

Tristan's cute T-shirt

I love this little Tristan.  Her smile and laugh are so true and joyful.
I just have to giggle out loud whenever she laughs.

I'm not the best rule follower!
She told me that she wore this "NO PICTURES PLEASE" t-shirt because she
I'd want to take her picture.

These first graders have me figured out!

25 August 2009

Perceptions of me

For the first month or so of school (depending on how many students I have that year) we have a "special friend" for the day.  It's a formulaic, fill-in-blank page.

This is _____________.  
________(he/she) likes to _____________.

Then, we interview the child who comes to the chart paper.  Fills it in.  Then all the children copy it onto their own page.  Draw a picture.  Then I bind it into a book for the "special friend" to take home.  It's a great tradition.  I love it.  I know the children feel special and cherish their little book. 

So we started out with me.  Here's how it went:

This is Mrs. Anderson.
She likes to sew quilts.

Now...look at this adorable drawing:

Sewing machine.  Patchwork quilt.  Chair.  One eye.  Gray hair (really??).  Smiling teacher.
Most of the other pages were similar

Apparently Zack sees me a bit differently than the rest:

Horns.  Sword.  Spikes.
Just call me Xena.

24 August 2009

A Couple of Firsts for the First Graders...

(clocwise starting with blue shirt:  Ethan, Kyara, Zack, Melaney,?, Eden)
Imagine, if you will, a class of 24 first graders being introduced to 24 laptop computers for the first time.  To be honest, I was SCARED TO DEATH!  What if they dropped them?  What if they got pencil on them?  What if they pulled off the keys?  What if.....?  What if....?  What if....?

I thought about maybe waiting until October when the students were a little more familiar with the way things work.  Then, I thought..."What the heck?  These are smarties!  We will jump in with both feet and get them learning."  Guess what?  I was right (one of those rare times I have to admit).  They did AMAZING!  Thanks to an awesome computer lab specialist...Mrs. Janett Roberts.  She knew just how to explain about holding the computers like a "precious baby".  Look at these smart little children...

I just knew they could do it.
(clockwise starting with blue shirt:  James, Ashley, Jon, Tristan, Silver, and Cloe)

Another first:

We did the first page out of our Math books.  Pretty great.  Although, I have no idea why the publishers decided to use the number "words" rather than the "symbols" for the first page.  I guess they know what they're doing.  At least I hope they do.

Sometimes I long for the day when life was a simple as coloring six stars.
Don't you?

21 August 2009

I fell in love for the 24th time today...

...with 24 first graders!  HOLY COW what a darling group of little children.

I love the first day of a new school year.   Everything is new.  Pencils, paper, scissors, rulers, backpacks, clothes, SHOES, shoes with shoelaces that I have to tie about a hundred times each day.  (Velcro is my friend!) But wow!  Just wow!  I'm the luckiest human being alive to get to re-live this feeling every year.  Re-live it for the 24th time.  

Do you realize what this means?  It means that today was the 24th time I have waited outside for my students to be dropped off by smiling parents.
This is a three generation photo.  I taught Jessica when she was in third grade...now
I'm teaching her son Zack.

 My 24th time to hug each of those students and reassure them that everything will be okay and that their siblings who are leaving with their moms will not be going out for ice cream or cookies but will, indeed be going straight home to watch PBS. 

 It's the 24th time I get to give a tour of the classroom and the school. 

Our classroom...notice the personal space tape!

The 24th time to explain that glue sticks do NOT make good lipgloss and that scissors are only for paper.  That each student has his/her own personal space marked off by two pieces of yellow tape people.  Don't pick at the tape OR draw on it! The 24th time I get to write the rules with the class.  (number one rule of course is "No Whining").   Also, no tattling...oh my!  I just KNOW that is why I have dimples in my thighs from students poking me and saying "teacher, teacher, teacher" followed by a riveting tale about a classmate using the wrong pencil.

 The 24th time I "get" to teach them how to pick up a lunch tray, fill it with at least three items, get a napkin a fork/spoon/spork, stop at the separation bar ("No you can't keep going down the line to pick up more cookies"), AND to remember their lunch number, to stop at the blue line until the lunch lady says it's ok to go sit down, how to sit down, how to take the tray and leftovers to the magic window where it all disappears, and finally, which door to head out to recess.  My 24th time to reassure them that I WILL be back to pick them up after lunch recess.  "But where do you go?"  "I need to eat too my dear!"  "Oh!"

Memorizing lunch numbers.

My 24th time to try to explain the proper use of playground equipment through demonstration.  One year a first grader said "Sister Anderson, I can see your unda-weah when you swing like that!"  Ya, now I pretty much pick someone as my "special helper" after that one.
No sliding face first.   No pushing.  No running up the slide.  No clogging the slide.  No throwing wood chips.  Be friends with everyone.

Chloe correctly using the playground.

My 24th year to tell children how to care for a space in their mouths where a tooth used to be.  And, how lucky was Katja to lose a tooth on the very first day of school?
I don't think I've ever seen a child jump up and down so high after losing a tooth.


Just thinking about it being my 24th first day of school makes me feel old.  At an average of 24 student per year (some years I've had 35 and last year I had 18) that makes approximately 576 children who have crossed my path.  Wow!  Now that's humbling.  I hope I made a difference.  Even if it was just to remember the part about the glue sticks!

20 August 2009


One of the banes of teaching is the "t" word...testing.  We give all kinds of tests. Reading tests, Math tests, Writing tests, district office tests, state tests, national tests all of them useless except for one thing, I get to know my students academically a little bit more than before the test.  In some cases, even personally.  But all this testing for any other reason is a bunch of wasted energy, time, and resources...thank you George W. Bush.  (But, I will refrain from "going there" and talking about that)

So, the Wednesday and Thursday after Back-to School night, I had arranged for each of my students to drop by for some one-on-one testing.  Here's how
 it all went down:

1. Student arrives with parent.
2.    Parent (along with younger siblings in some cases) sit outside the door and fill out volunteer sheets, student information sheets, donation checks etc.

When Ethan's younger sibling didn't want to leave him with me, Ethan said,
"He loves me!  He looks up to me!"
Oh, that we could all have someone in our life like that.

3.   First grader writes his/her name in his/her best manuscript printing.  Some are definitely better than others.

3. Then, the first grader counts as high as he/she can count.  Usually I stop him/her around 50.  I can tell what they do and do not know by then...usually by 20.  However, occasionally, a child loves to rattle off all the way to 100, so I let them.
5. Next, write the numbers.  One number in each box to 100.  This is a difficult skill for most first graders coming in from Kinder.  I was pleasantly surprised that so many of them could make it to 20.  I would have them count by 10's.  Most could.  Then by 5's.  Most couldn't.

Eden had it going on!!

6. Then comes my favorite part, READING!  I am a reading guru.  I think I could teach just about anyone to read.  I love to listen to these little six year old children trying to read little books.  This year I had quite the range.  I have some students who were still struggling with the alphabet...even letters in their own name!  Then I had students  (at least four of them) who were reading at a third grade level...

What to do?  What to do?

That, my friends, is what being a teacher is all about.  My job is to make sure that each and every child progresses beyond what they came to me knowing.  Those students who are already reading and are labeled as "brilliant" are just as important as those who need to learn letters and sounds.  They all need something.  I get to give it to them.

Fun eh?

After this testing, I let them pick out a book to keep.  Then I take their picture in front of the bulletin board.  At the end of the school year, I take it again in the same spot.  That way, they can see how much they have grown physically.  And, yup...you guessed it...they'll have more tests to see how much they have grown intellectually.  
If they are as lucky as Tristan, Principal Cox just might be walking by
and want to be in the picture too!

I love my job.

19 August 2009

And so it begins!

Thanks to my friend Ariel, Ariel, Ariel, I have a very
catchy phrase for my class this year.
This is the bulletin board outside of my classroom.

At Amelia Earhart, my school, we have a back-to-school night right before school starts.  This year is cut it close and took place on the evening before school started.  Not great timing but we made it.  I got to meet my new little students along with their parents.  I got to pay my PTA membership fee for the year, and I got to get all nervous to start a new year.  

I hope you will enjoy the journey with me as I blog about my school experience.  I love children and they really DO say the darndest things.  Here are some snapshots of the evening.