Monday, May 28, 2012

Criss-cross applesauce all day

I've got this itchy feeling to get outside. I have not left my post from my chair all day, other than giving the kitchen a "deep clean" and hard-boiling some eggs. I've been lost in IQ84, the t.v. playing Crooklyn in the background, and a surreality has enveloped me. I cried in Crooklyn, then buried myself back in 1Q84 and as a result feel emotionally drained. I need to get up out of this spot and DO SOMETHING. I often tell CMF (He tells me not to forget the F when I write his initials...I can imagine him reading this blog post [perfectly, of course] and being impressed that I remembered the hyphenated second part of his last name) I'm going to take my invisible glue and put it on his chair so he doesn't fall out of it or sit in it unsafely. He laughs every I think some of that glue is stuck on my butt. I'm SO LAZY.
I had a lovely weekend camping at an overpopulated, RV filled campland (there was a gourmet espresso shop within walking distance and instructions on how to set up take camping with a grain of salt), but it was so very relaxing and great to be around friends. We cooked on camping stoves, made s'mores, were those "old people" who asked the other people around us to please be quiet when they were making noise after (and before) hours. We had a grand time floating in the lake, drinking beer (and lots of coffee) and reading. It was a sneak peek into summer, which I am anxiously awaiting. Three weeks left! This is our last "real week" of instruction--then the last two weeks of school are minimum days, which I'm hoping to pack with tons of fun activities that will end the year on a lively, joyous note.
Now I'm going to attempt a run--I have been too dormant all day. My knees are sore from sitting criss cross applesauce in my chair all day--wow.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


I love coffee. Therefore, my students love coffee. On a regular basis, multiple kids will ask to try my coffee throughout the day, point out the smell of coffee on my breath, or tiptoe to my coffee cup and pretend to drink it. It's a typical part of our day, to talk about Ms. Estrada's coffee. It's funny what builds community in the classroom...I think most of my students will remember coffee about first grade. We've made How-Tos about coffee, discussed what makes me feel happy, smelled it, and EC brings a coffee mug filled with tea each day to pretend she has coffee with her.
These are the things I will miss about this class...the silly way JB ALWAYS stays on the rug when I've excused everyone to their desks and undoubtedly will ask "What are we supposed to do?"and I try my hardest not to get extraordinarily exasperated with his absent-mindedness. I'll miss holding his hand as we walk to his desk and I tell him he needs to ask his friend sitting next to him because I've already gone over the directions twice. I'll miss (never thought I'd say this) EC minding everyone's business and touching all my things and being a busy-body, simply because she is who she is and will always be this way and I love her for it. I will miss AC's crumbling tears because her dad came to pick her up early from school, and RD's pouty looks and then trying to disguise them when I furrow my brows at her. I'll miss EMM's excitement at EVERYTHING "I LOVE THIS!!!" and ZK's backward S's.
My classroom is in chaos at this moment, but I love these children so much. I did more testing today and found that my lowest student at the beginning of the year is now reading a Level I (!) and that right now we need to just enjoy eachother's presence. I'm going to have a big talk with my class tomorrow about kindness (again) with the idea that we only have three short weeks left together and then we may not see eachother as much.
YAY SUMMER, BUT BOO to saying goodbye to a truly special, sweet, somewhat dysfunctional class. :)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Private School--WHAT?

This weekend has been busy with graduations galore, but I have a sense of calm as I head into this week. Last week was the hardest I've had in a long while, what with a student throwing a chair across the floor and another student threatening to cut her fingers because she didn't want me to call her grandpa when she was being defiant...oh, dear. It felt like complete and utter chaos. (This was Tuesday). I got a little break the rest of the week when quite a few kids were absent (I know that sounds awful, but it made things feel more manageable) and we were able to end the week on a good note. 17 more days!
AC told me she doesn't want summer because then school won't be here anymore. My heart grew when she told me this (though she may be the only one who feels this way in my room at this point..;) Amidst lots of disorder at times, some students are still having fun and enjoying learning and maturing SO MUCH. Their ability to perspective take is really growing and I'm very proud of the progress they've made. I've been a bit lazy in pulling small groups and I feel that is going to be detrimental to my students who are ALMOST to their reading goal (I!), but overall I feel happy with what we were able to accomplish together this year.
I went to a job interview at a private summer school, and the interviewer (who was quite wonderful and complimentary, actually) told me at her school it's pretty certain that the Kindergarten class would function much like my first grade class in an urban area. This may be true, but it was assumed that the students in my community aren't academically doing the same things as at the private school. (The school is in a more suburban area.) Having taught in impoverished communities herself, I knew she understood to an extent the realities of teaching all ELLs, etc...however, I felt myself bristling a bit. I didn't show it and smiled, but the more I think about it, the more I wish she would have taken into consideration the rigor of what we do at my school and been more open to the idea that it's possible for ALL children to succeed at high levels. I'm probably overreacting, and I DO feel there are some differences when it comes to teaching ELLS--there is more of a vocabulary piece and sometimes even explicit English instruction, but I do know that my students are capable of the same brilliance that kids in the suburbs achieve. They might not have all the same resources, or stable home lives, but there sure is lots of love going on at their homes (for the most part), and they are achieving greatness at school. I'm a new teacher, so I'm still working at this, but I am confident that in the next few years I will have ALL my students reading at Level I by the end of the year--except perhaps those with IEPs or special plans, but I have confidence that I am the one who needs to rise to the challenge--the students are already doing it. Half of my class is reading at Level I or beyond at this point--and many are very, very close. My lowest readers are reading at Level E (Which is mid/beginning of year for first grade at my school), but every single student has grown and every single student is reading to some capacity. With guided reading, guided math, GLAD strategies, FOSS, Lucy Calkins Writer's Workshop, and explicit phonics instruction, I believe our first graders are getting a variety of rich experiences and do incredibly well for ANY circumstances, and are doing amazingly for the circumstances they endure.
I'm still very interested to see what it will be like at a private school if I get this job. I never thought I'd be teaching at a private school--we'll see what happens. I grew up going to public school, never have experienced what a private school might be like--this should be interesting. ALL children deserve a wonderful education, but I have this tugging feeling that children who have the resources to go to private school are going to be successful no matter their teachers--that may be totally false, good teachers affect ALL students, but I just feel a dedication to serving and staying in a community that NEEDS people who WANT to be teachers and are willing to work on themselves and their own biases to deconstruct stereotypes, racism, classism, and be surrounded by students who most likely did not grow up in the same circumstances as them, all while being serious about staying in the community and giving students what so many kids in suburban areas experience--consistency! That was a horrid run-on sentence, and there I go stepping on my soapbox again--but that just scratches the surface of how I feel about teaching, and why I am where I am. BIG PROPS to all the teachers who teach in more affluent environments--there are challenges EVERYWHERE and you do work to serve children, which is admirable and wonderful. My personal preference is teaching where many do not want to teach--and here I am, applying for a summer job at a private school. I feel like my family is smirking and thinking "I told you so!" I already told the interviewer I would only be interested JUST for the summer---my heart is with all those cuties in East Oaktown who speak in a beautiful mix of Spanish and English and compare shades of brown skin and have seen things they shouldn't in their short six years.
In other news, there is laundry sitting all over my floor, the new flowers sitting on the kitchen table are dead because I forgot to water them, and there are empty beer bottles decorating David's and my apartment. The last thing I want to do is clean. I look at all these uber-organized teaching blogs and I laugh at myself---I am the world's largest slob.
Good night!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Teacher Appreciation Week (?)

At my school, Teacher Appreciation is not a big deal or even really celebrated, at least amongst the families. I have no doubt they would go out of their way to shower us with stuffed animals and coffee cups and hugs and kisses; there is an abundance of love in our community. However, with little financial means, we as a staff do not want to put pressure on the families of our students to spend money on us or feel obligated to do something fancy (trust me, the families at our school know how to throw a good party..I'm amazed by the themes and cakes...the most common question during sharing about birthdays is "What kind of cake will there be? Spiderman? Tres leches?") Anyway, the point here is teaching at my school means not a lot of English speakers, which means not a lot of confidence in volunteering in the classroom (I have some parents who do not read or write in their native language or English), which means perhaps not the same relationship with teachers. There is the utmost respect, but not every teacher speaks Spanish or Mum and can communicate in the same way with parents that other schools that are all one language (like the one I attended growing up) can. (Of course, I find this variety and diversity rich and invaluable...I'd rather not work anywhere else. Oakland is where my heart is.)
I am dedicated to this incredible community, obviously, and my wonderful school and my coworkers. I feel the need to make this post an ode to my coworkers...I don't need the coffee gift cards or extra little stuff--what I need and get to enjoy daily are the fantastic people I work with. My grade level team, Kinder team, and everyone who knows everything about everyone's business and takes an active role in making it better warms my heart everyday. We cry, we laugh, we analyze student work and make each other workstations and run around jabbering about racism and the suffocating system in which we work....our hilariously brilliant (though often troubled) students, and the trials we ourselves go through each day. I am incredibly lucky to be surrounded by these lovely people--so to the teachers at our unique small school in the heart of East Oakland...I deeply, completely, appreciate you and am inspired by you. Thanks for keeping me going each day, when I continue to make missteps and am still figuring out this whole managing behavior thing. You are what teacher appreciation is all about, so I thank you!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Cinco de Mayo and other things

I think a lot about how to introduce holidays in my room. I LOVE celebrating and learning about different traditions and sharing those with my students. On the other hand, I don't want to err on the side of Heroes and Holidays and inundate my students with stereotypical images. I also don't want to limit the importance of, say, Black History Month to only one month. Students should be seeing images of African Americans and hearing stories about African Americans and other brown and black people ALL YEAR LONG. I want to do this better next year--to have more texts reflecting the racial and cultural makeup of my classroom throughout the year. I try to do this, but could do much better at it.
So, Cinco de Mayo is a tricky one for me. I didn't even address it with my class this year, though I will most likely talk about it tomorrow. Cinco de Mayo is fun and a way to celebrate Mexican/Latino culture, and is important for my students to know about and recognize, but I don't want to stereotype their own heritage for them. I hope that makes sense... Cinco de Mayo is a holiday largely celebrated in the United States (NOT in most of Mexico) and I feel that though the premise of it is quite important (kind of a si se puede! idea...May 5th, 1982, the Mexicans defeated the French in what is now known as The Day of The Battle of Puebla. It is significant because the French army was double the size of the Mexican army, but still they prevailed. ANYWAY, I say all this because it seems this has gotten lost in the parading around wearing sombreros, eating burritos, and drinking gallons of Mexican beer to celebrate. I realize I have perhaps drank a little too much haterade, but when it comes to teaching my students, I want to be sure they get the whole picture and understand what each holiday is about and that I expose them to many holidays without giving them a stereotypical vision of any group of people.
WHEW, it's tricky!
P.S. I did celebrate Cinco de Mayo by drinking beer and eating tacos and tamales and all things Mexican---but really, how is that different than any other Saturday? ;) Pues, hasta luego..

Wednesday, May 2, 2012


I have clearly been having a very difficult time in my classroom. I was surprised with a brand new student on Monday who has had really terrible things happen to her at both her old school and in her home. I felt completely unprepared for a new student in my class on Monday (NO ONE told e-mail, no questioning, no nothing.) I think it was just a lack of time and everyone being spread too thin at my school right now, what with us going charter and a huge turnover happening, but I do hope this does not happen again. I am not easily ruffled by these sorts of things--things happen--but in order to serve the children, I need to be prepared for them with materials and at least a few minutes notice to prepare myself to do some community-building activities with the group. The day was rough. Yesterday was rougher. My new student was shouting at everyone, constantly in her backpack, stomping around, refusing to come to the rug, etc. She bopped someone with a pencil, got sent out of the room 2 times, and I was in tears on my lunch break. I felt at a complete loss-- how could I better support her? How come things were falling apart?
My patience has been worn thin and I've been listening so much to what other people tell me--be meaner, do this, do that, but really what I needed to do was calm myself down, go back to what I believe in about children, and bring my sense of humor and silliness back to the class. This is not to say I'm not a strict teacher--oh my, I have high expectations for these children. If they so much as turn their back while I'm teaching, I'm on them. I interrupt myself to do this constantly, but I expect 100% attention. If you're worried about the person's shoe behind you, you're not learning. End of story. However, I give lots of reminders and need to get back to an immediate logical consequence for negative behaviors. Anyway, I did enjoy teaching today and watched as my students quietly enjoyed workshop time (which I threatened to take away since so many people were looking at the computers, wandering around, etc.) I've been changing workstations, making them more engaging, etc, etc, but the procedures and routines have just gotten too loose. I used to revel in workstation time...but these past two weeks I've been hanging my head and not able to pull any groups because I have children coming up to me left and right, hanging out by the computers, etc. NO MORE, PEOPLE.
Again, this turned into a rant. Bottom line, this can be done. I do love these kids, and they do know what to do in school. If one more kid slides across that floor though, I am going to exploooodeeeeeee.