Monday, November 5, 2012

Near normalcy...except for 5 assessments and an election

Thank goodness for (near) normalcy. It's no longer Halloween week, no more candy induced locura, but we have 5 assessments to dole out this week. (Groannn). A digraph CFA (Common Formative Assessment for those who don't speak teacher lingo), some new ELA benchmark business, a math assessment, the PWA, and I guess I exaggerated because that's only 4. Still, people. I just want to have time to actually pull groups and meet the needs of my students..but instead I'm assessing them on things I haven't even been able to address in small groups very much yet because I've been busy assessing! Ahhhh.
Tomorrow is election day. I just had a long talk with my mom about how to engage in productive discussions about politics, especially with people who are just as passionate from the other side. I thoroughly believe in meeting people where they're at and being respectful, but I often struggle with pushing aside emotional responses to have productive discussions. I end up just avoiding the issue or taking the conversation personally. This is something I need to work on. All that aside, I hope that all reading this will vote for what you believe is best for our country-- and encourage those around you to do the same. We all deserve a voice-- young or old, educated or not, rich or poor, to make this a true democracy.
As for tonight, time to head off to my new favorite Monday activity...TRIVIA NIGHT! Bring on the election questions, David and I have memorized the propositions prior to this so hopefully that will help us out.
I will leave you with a lovely story from today...
My wonderful Kindergarten teacher colleague came in to share exciting news during Writing time today. One of her students who is repeating Kindergarten, who knew nearly no sounds at the beginning of the year, knows 24 of 26 sounds! We all celebrated and I nearly cried. How wonderful it is to see progress in our babies... It makes this job sustainable even when it's not. ;)

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Would you like to have a tea party?

Halloween is over. Now, I love Halloween, but THANK GOODNESS. Our Fall Festival parade went swimmingly, thanks to the fourth graders holding my adorable first graders' hands and leading them around the block in their beautifully homemade flower costumes. I got to stroll next to them, enjoying the sunshine and all the handmade costumes the Art teacher at our school helped our students create. It was the calmest, most enjoyable Halloween yet. At our school, we don't allow any added sugar, so leftover candy was a big no-no the day after Halloween. But of course the kids were hyped up Thursday and Friday, two of my hardest days this year thus far. Wiggles galore, lots of crying, and one frazzled Ms. Estrada. In addition to the locura, though, were some downright gems of quotes.

"Ms. Estrada, your dad is brown. And you are white." My dad came in a couple days before Halloween with an Elephant and Piggie-carved pumpkin. I think my students died of excitement. And MR noticed the difference between my dad's rich cocoa skin and my more milky blend of tan and white. We discussed my mom's skin, my dad's skin, and my skin. I loved every moment of it. I think discussing race and facilitating a classroom where students feel safe to share their observations and to talk about them critically is extraordinarily important. In first grade, skin color is a great place to start.

"Ms. Estrada... I was just thinking about what would happen if my brain got up and walked into a sleeping body and that person started acting like me. What if our brains all switched?" So smart.

"Ms. Estrada it just emptied my heart when he wasn't listening to your words." "Yeah, my heart just exploded into itty bitty tiny baby pieces. They're on the floor. Want to pick them up Ms. E?" Oh, lord. I don't even have words. This quote and the last are by the same lovely little pixie. 

After having NS hold my coffee as we walked in line, he smells it, looks at me, and says "Teacher, this be decaf?" I die, then tell him "No, I want my coffee to wake me up!"

Same student, different day, as I'm reading Horrible Harry and describing what a bun is since Harry loves when Song Lee wears a bun in her hair, NS shouts out "Ms. Estrada, I know what a bun is! Sock buns are the best. They're prettyyyy." What 7 year old boy knows about a sock bun?

Annnd my personal favorite...yesterday we began Mindfulness, where a trained facilitator of Mindfulness in the Classroom comes in and helps students find their anchor point and practice calming their body, using a bell and various techniques. It was incredible! After sitting and listening to the quiet and noticing the sounds around us and inside us, DD raises her hand to tell the instructor she heard something inside her body. "I heard 'Would you like to have a tea party?'" And he just nods calmly and says, straight-faced "Sometimes we hear thoughts in our head." I was sitting still with the kids, but had to walk away from the rug and turn away to laugh as quietly as I could to myself. SO good.

It's nice to remember the good things going on. I have a couple students who have been through extreme and traumatic circumstances in their lives, and as a result, really struggle in the classroom. I am doing all I can to support their needs, in constant contact with their families, trying new strategies each day to keep one from throwing pencils all over the room or destroy our things, and the other from shouting at the top of his lungs. Thare are tiny triumphs and often horrible failures, where I can't help but wonder if these students would flourish in someone else's class who has better management, better engagement, better everything. I know that these are students with needs that I am not necessarily trained to deal with, but I feel awful knowing I am misserving them and that this environment is not the least restrictive one for them. It is endlessly frustrating when I feel my classroom is floating away from me--I see the other students trying hard to stay with me, but it's hard when children are shouting at us to shut up and stop doing too much while we are trying to blend words, or students who snatch pencils and throw them and turn the computer up full volume in the middle of a mini-lesson to turn the attention away from what we're doing to them. I'm trying to remain positive, but I am exhausted and flabbergasted. I'm amazed that my students are coping as well as they are, but I feel like I should be doing so much more...

Outside of school, Halloween happened which was lovely. Two parties and a cookie-decorating gathering (which may or may not have involved rum-infused cider on a WEDNESDAY...), and a themed Trivia night made for a great week outside of school. 

October is over, now on to November... already planning how I will be addressing Thanksgiving in my classroom. Last year I told the "true" story of Thanksgiving, focusing on the experience of the Native Americans. This year I think I will go more into the lives of the Native Americans and their importance in helping the pilgrims acclimate to the new environment. 

With that, off to drink fall-ish beer, eat something hearty, in far-too-warm temperatures for November 3rd.