Monday, September 30, 2013

Can I go to the Bathroom? (and other annoying questions...)

It never ceases to amaze me that as soon as I really get into a lesson someone has to go to the bathroom. I always fall for it too: I think the frantic waving hand in the back of the room is a signal for “hey, I have a really great question!”, so I get a bit excited….but alas, not so. He just wants to know if he can go to the bathroom. It’s so frustrating! At the beginning of the year I implemented a bathroom sign out sheet — I have the roster for each class taped to the corresponding class cabinet along with 4 slots for the date. Each time a student needs to go to the bathroom during instruction time, they have to write the date. When all four slots are used they can’t go until the following nine weeks. 

I took to highlighting “used” passes at the end of the day when I noticed that some students were being a bit sneaky by erasing the date and re-writing a new one rather than using a new pass. 

This method seems to work pretty well because I told my students on day one that I wouldn’t extend passes, meaning “when you’re done, you’re done!” How do you handle bathroom issues? Do you let students go at will or do you have a system? Do you think that 4 per nine weeks is too many or too few? I’d love to hear from you!

And now a list of other seriously irritating questions (and answers): 

What time is this class finished? 

Seriously? The schedule is posted on the wall. But, because I know you’re lazy: it’s over at the same time it was yesterday and the day before and everyday for the last eight weeks. So sorry I’m boring you….

Can I go to my locker?

No. You may not roam the halls under the guise of needing a pencil from your locker. Borrow mine. Don’t chew on it. 

We had homework?

Fingernails on a chalkboard. Irresponsibility bothers me. So much. 

It’s Monday so we can only go up from here, right?! :)


Friday, September 6, 2013

Welcome to the Circus!

Middle school is exactly like a circus. There is no difference. There are funky outfits (think neon spandex and blue hair), daring acrobatics (a.k.a leaping over desks and cartwheeling in the hallway between classes), and clowns (class clowns, that is…) And, if all of that isn’t enough, there are real live animals! This little guy sneaked into my room via lunch box for a visit recently:

Shadow the turtle. 

Seriously though, my seventh graders are crazy nuts! I love them and their nuttiness, but am oh so thankful that it’s Friday because this ringmaster needs a break! 

I stayed after school for a while today in order to rearrange my classroom for next weeks introduction to writer’s workshop. My students have been working on crafting a personal narrative — they have just finished up rough drafts and will be starting peer editing and revising on Wednesday of next week. 

It was a tough call but I went ahead and moved my desks from rows that faced each other to clusters of 4 and 5. I was hesitant because did I mention that my classes are crazy? They love love love to talk and I have one class in particular that is extra nutty — they’re a hot mess, actually. I have about 5 students that all want to be the class clown so they vie for the imaginary Emmy award every day. Redirection usually works but I’m not sure
that putting students in closer proximity to each other is a good thing right now because we are still working on appropriate classroom behavior during instruction time.  It has to be done in order for the workshop to be successful, but I’m afraid that, especially for my crazy class, the new seating arrangement is going to be too much for them to handle. I guess we’ll see how it goes…

Old seating arrangement -- rows 
Old seating arrangement -- rows
New seating arrangement -- clusters

How do you handle group work? What should I do to make sure that this is a good experience for all involved? Any specific rules I should lay out in advance? 

In other news, I’m pretty excited about a few new cutesy things I found at School Tools while visiting my parents over Labor Day weekend: 

Charlie Brown stickers for my
Peanuts obsession


Hope you all have a fabulous weekend away from your own circus!


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

September Currently

Two days in a row -- I'm on a blogging roll! I love Farley's "Currently" linky, so I try not to miss it -- hope you'll link up and share!  Here is mine for the month of September: 

1. Listening: 

I got a new car last month and it has Pandora radio... thanks to that I have found a ton of great new bands/musicians that I am loving. I'm a little behind since it's been out for a while, but I have been jamming to The Cab's latest album, Symphony Soldier all week. Good stuff. 

2. Loving: 

I'm a coffee fein. If such a thing existed (and I didn't hate needles), I'd be first in line for a coffee IV. I haven't had a chance to grab a Starbuck's PSL yet, but I have been loving my Gingerbread and Pumpkin K-Cups (that I may or may not have stolen from my mom's cupboard when I was visiting....) because they're delicious and they mean that Fall is just around the corner -- it's my favorite season :)

3. Thinking: 

I just finished up day two of TIP training -- my county's induction program for new teachers. Today I got a lot of great information on differentiated instruction and implementing it in my classroom. Ever since I left this afternoon I've been trying to figure out how to differentiate my vocabulary lessons for the rest of the week. And, I've been thinking about handball. After lunch every day our seventh grade students participate in intramural sports -- they are grouped by their 8th period class and even the teacher participates. We are currently playing "handball" (basically baseball with no bats), and so far my team is still in the bracket! Wish us luck tomorrow ;-)

4. Wanting:

I have really been missing swimming lately. I swam competitively in high school but since have had two shoulder surgeries. I love being in the water but I'm always a bit hesitant about re-injuring myself, so I don't swim as often as I'd like to. I'm wanting to make time to stop by the rec center this weekend for some laps.

5. Needing: 

A kiss from my Lucy -- she's my mom's dog and her kisses are the sweetest. 

6. Happiness: 

This month it would make me quite happy to get back in the water, to finally finish the John Green book I've been trying to read for the last month (Paper Towns -- what I've read is pretty good so far!), and to make time to enjoy the changing weather in the park. In college one of my favorite things to do was escape for a park walk between classes -- I'm already missing the freedom to do that during the day, but hoping to make time for it in the evenings as it gets cooler. 

Happy Wednesday, everybody -- now go enjoy some pumpkin coffee! :)


Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Just Call the System: My First Substitute Experience

Oh my wow. It is so hard to believe that it’s been nearly a month since the first day of school!! Today was the 18th time I walked to my very own classroom and flipped on the lights, wrote my learning target on my very own whiteboard, and greeted bus students during my morning duty. It was the 18th time I took morning attendance, walked my students to the cafeteria, and sipped gulped my coffee during morning announcements. 

It’s also the 18th time I’ve walked out of the building feeling like a complete and total failure. Seriously. At least twice a day I remind myself to smile just a little bigger in order to compensate for the fact that I have absolutely no.idea.what.I’m.doing. True story.

It's okay though because day by day I’m starting to feel more settled and confident in my surroundings. My most recent victory was figuring out how to schedule my own substitute. Now, I know this sounds like chump change to you "seasoned" teachers, but no so for us newbies. 

My county requires that new teachers attend 8 days of training their first year teaching, the first of which was scheduled for today. I was told about the training about two weeks ago, so I had plenty of time to schedule a substitute and figured it couldn’t be that hard, but needed a bit of guidance. So I started asking around. It went something like this: 

Day 1.

Me: Hey, how should I go about scheduling my substitute for TIP training…?
Teacher A: Just call the system. 
Me: Oh….um...ok. [Not wanting to look completely ridiculous, I pretended that I knew precisely what she was talking about and figured I’d save my question for the secretary who might be able to answer it in more detail…]

Day 2.

Me: Hey, I was just wondering what I need to do to ensure that I have a sub for next week.
Secretary: Oh you just need to call the system. 
Me: Oh. Well, how do I do that?
Secretary: You know, just call and enter you ID number and it should be simple from there. 
Me: Right. Ok. [Still completely in the dark about ‘the system’, I figured I’d spread my ignorance around … third time is the charm, right?!]

Day 3.

Me: I need help scheduling a substitute (I reasoned that if I worded it differently I might sound more pathetic and therefore more worthy of sub-scheduling assistance...)
Teacher B: No big deal, just call the system. 
Me: Ok, well not to sound completely stupid, but what exactly IS the system.
Teacher 2: The substitute system. You know. The system. Just call it. 

At that point I felt a bit like Buckwheat from The Little Rascals when he asks Spanky if he knows the number for 911.

I cried. Then I laughed. Then I cornered my principal until he gave me some inside scoop about the secret system. Then I felt like Nicolas Cage guarding the Declaration of Independence when he gave me a sticky note with the all important sub-system-number written on it. The angels sang. And then I scheduled my sub. 

Because my training didn't start until 8:30 this morning (and school starts at 7:30), I stopped by for homeroom. I met the substitute, and spent 20 minutes blabbering about the rules, lesson plans, and helpful students. I felt like a nervous mom using a 15 year old babysitter for the first time. I couldn't quite make myself leave my babies! Finally she cut me off and said "Honey, I've been teaching for 30 years...I think I can handle it. Bye." ...And she kicked me out. I'm glad she did or I might have stayed all day. I restrained myself from calling to check on them at lunch (no need to embarrass myself more I reasoned...), and made myself drive straight home after PD. 

Thankfully I have the same fabulous substitute for my second day of development tomorrow, but I really can't wait to be back with my little people on Thursday. How do you feel when you have to leave your class with a substitute? Anything you do to ensure a smooth day for students and sub alike? I want to know!

Hope you all had a fun filled Labor Day weekend and a spectacular Tuesday.