Wednesday, December 10, 2008


In the words of Eddie Vedder, I'm still alive.

I honestly cannot wrap my head around the fact that it's been almost two months since I updated. Stephen Hawking himself would have a hard time figuring out the space-time continuum malfunction that is currently operating in Charlotte, North Carolina. Since when is it December?? Wasn't I just graduating the other day??

Anyway, there's not time for a real post now, but hopefully I'll be able to cobble together some sort of "semester in review" while I'm at home for break--a MUCH needed break...

Until then, let out that big breath you've been holding and don't forget to take a new one. Ms. Collie's still here, she's just trying to remember to breathe.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Good golly, Ms. Collie

Greetings after another extended absence. Just thought I'd check in and let you all know that it's status quo here in Charlotte.

School has become routine. The kids are finally learning what to expect day to day, and while they're still incredibly talkative and prone to being CRAZY, I think we're making some progress. We've been working on a class story about Heritage (it being the first theme in our reading program) and they are really into it. I'm letting them write everything--literally every word--so we get some pretty creative sentence constructions. I think our final paragraph goes something like, "Thank you for reading our story today, our story about heritage from all over the world. From Africa to South America to Antarctica, our story about traditions and heritage passed down through generations. Thank you for getting to the end of our story, and if you just skipped to the end, go back and read the whole thing because it is awesome. Peace out." Budding Hemingways, all... Also, they are *fascinated* by how fast I type. I'm a pretty good typist--Mavis Beacon and I spent a lot of quality time together when I was young--and these kids are just so impressed. They make me close my eyes and then they dictate and watch as I type their words as they say them. It's so funny to watch. Oh, you went to Harvard? Big whoop. WAIT, you can type 100 wpm??? Ms. Collie, that's so cool!!!

You're perhaps wondering now who this Ms. Collie person is. That would be me. Apparently that "Mc" is just too hard to handle, so a significant portion of my students have dropped it altogether. Oh well. It's kind of cute, and I like it better than them pronouncing McCallie wrong (Mick-Caaaaallie, that would be).

Let's see... There are plenty of negative things I could write about. I wrote my first office referral the other day, for instance, and I have at least one student that I have absolutely no idea what to do with, but I really like to leave all those problems in my trailer, and that's probably good for all of us. Instead, I'll tell you that I went to see James Taylor for free today. Wow! He's doing a mini-tour in five North Carolina cities stumping for Barack Obama. It was an incredible show--short, but packed with his greatest hits. And he did some rallying/commentary in between the songs, so I now know that James Taylor is a) passionate about Barack Obama, and b) a little bit crazy. But so funny. It would be awesome to be his friend.

I'm sitting here now watching Game 7 of the ACLS, finding myself amazed that the Sox are here. What the heck! Don't they ever get tired of incredible comebacks? I mean, it's great, but stil... way to mess with our nerves. Also, as I typed "Game 7 of the ACLS," the commentator said the exact same thing. Creepy. Watching the game and realizing that it's 9 pm and we're only in the third inning makes me remember one of the things I don't like about teaching: there's no way I will be able to stay up to watch this whole game. I've come to feel like 10:30 pm is waaaay past my bedtime, which is so sad. But I guess when you're waking up at 5:30 am, it's pretty foolish to stay up too late, even if it is to see your team (hopefully) make it to the World Series...

Well, I've zoned out and it's 9:10 now, so we're getting dangerously close to bedtime, and I still have some spelling tests to grade. So I'll sign off now. But, just because it's been awhile, I'll leave you with some gnfabs: Conspicuous Indicator of Silence, The Meat Thieves, and Static Cling.

Go Sox,
--Ms. M. Or Ms. C, depending on who you are...

Friday, October 3, 2008

Sick Day

Well, I'm home sick today with vaguely flu-like symptoms. All yesterday I was feeling nauseous--I even threatened to throw up on my kids if they didn't behave. Too much? Probably. But it made them laugh (little did they know I was serious). Anyway, as soon as school ended, I felt like, in the words of Miranda Priestly, "an incubus of viral plague." So I figured out the substitute system, called in a sick day, and am now at home recuperating.

I felt really bad calling in sick. It just really makes me realize how high the stakes are in this job. OK, I'm working a nine-to-five and I get sick; what's the worst that could happen? I miss a meeting and someone fills me in about it the next day. With teaching, if I call in sick, my kids basically miss a day of instruction, because there's only so much a sub can do. Thankfully Friday is test day, so a good chunk of the day is pretty easy for the sub to implement, but I had such bigger things to do with the kids today which just won't get done. Plus, if my kids are monsters to the sub (a definite possibility), it reflects very badly on me. AND it's picture day, so I guess I'm out of the yearbook. Sad panda. Oh well. It had to be done.

So sick days aside, how's it going? Well... it has its ups and downs, like anything. Sometimes I feel like it's a world full of downs, but then the kids will do something that just cracks me up, and anytime they hug me, my anger just completely dissipates. Damn manipulative children...

I don't really know what to say. My weeks are pretty much identical--the nature of this reading program is that we do the same thing every Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, etc., just with a different story each week. We're about to wrap up our "Heritage" theme and move on to "Energy at Work." I can't decide if that's going to be better or worse. It's really amazing, though, how little my kids know about the world. I've had so many comments like, "So is Asia next to North Carolina?" and "They wanted to leave Alaska and go to America." They don't know the difference between a country, a city, a state, a region. They think that African is a language and that Chinese and Japanese people are the same. They understand racism and get really fired up over the civil rights movement, but then don't get why I'm upset at them for saying that all Chinese people talk like "Ching chong ding dong." It's just kind of mind-boggling, and I can't figure out how much of this ignorance is just because they're in fifth grade and how much is brought on by the complete failure of their schooling up to now. Meanwhile, I have very little time to actually correct these misapprehensions, as all our waking minutes are supposed to be used prepping them for the End of Grade tests (EOGs), something I feel I am not doing a very good job at so far...

The good news (?) is that I think we're all pretty much in the same boat. I mean all the TFA people. Sure, some people are doing better and some are definitely doing worse, but overall, we're united in our seeming incompetence. But I think it's getting better, day by day. So, we'll see.

As usual, I'm sure there's more to say and more you want to know about, but I'm at a loss for words. My bed is calling me, so there I shall return.

Hope all is well with all of you...

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Still Employed

No need to worry, folks: your kind wishes must have done the trick, as I am still employed. And the kids didn't have school today, so we got some much-needed time in the classroom.

A longer post is coming soon, I promise. And this time, I'm really serious...

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

End Radio Silence


Not a full post (sorry), just checking in to say that I am alive and well, or as well as can be expected. I told Courtney today that I'm actually starting to really like my kids; however, there have been some *definite* bumps along the road, and there will be plenty of incredibly frustrating memories to choose from when I do a real update.

I will say this, though: our principal told us today that he's going to have to let one teacher go by the end of the week. Apparently, the order comes from the school district. He didn't say who, he didn't say which grade level, he basically didn't say anything. Will it be me? I don't know. There are arguments to convince myself it will be and assure myself it won't, so needless to say I'm a little on edge until Friday. Best case scenario: No one on the fifth grade team is fired. Worst case scenario: I'm transferred to another school in the district. Or fired outright. I can't decide which would actually be worse.

In better news, there's a dance on Friday. Let's hope I'm in good spirits and able to attend as a staff member...

Will keep you posted. Until then, happy thoughts!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


Well, I guess it's official: I am a teacher in an inner city school. Yes, that's right. I broke up my first fight today. Wow, kids! 2.5 weeks in and you're already at each other's throats.

I don't even know how it happened. Some silly issue just escalated SO fast, and before I knew it, I was pulling two kids apart (with the help of three or four other kids, so you know--fifth grade boys are strong!). Also, can I just say that it's mildly ridiculous that we're not supposed to get physically involved in "altercations" like this? What am I supposed to do, let the kids wrestle each other to the ground and wait patiently for an administrator to make it all the way out to the trailers? That seems... silly, I guess is the word.

Whatever. It's over. I unleashed the fury of a thousand suns on the whole class (honestly, I have never seen such terror on kids' faces), pulled the boys into "the hall" (aka outside), yelled at them, and made the boys apologize to each other. They seemed to mean it, so that's good. And it won't happen again.


The serious upside to my week is that ESL (English as a Second Language) classes are *finally* going to start "soon" (of course we don't know when "soon" really is). That means that my two refugee children will be pulled from my class for significant amounts of time so they can, you know, actually learn that pesky language that I keep babbling to them.

That's it for now. More when I can find the energy.

Monday, September 1, 2008

"Frequently" Asked Questions

Well. Week One is done, Weekend One is almost done, and what do I have to show for it? A lot. The best news first: I got paid! The paltry salary actually gets paid. Whoo! The real world officially began upon receipt of my first real world paycheck. Aaaand the real world will officially be sad again once I spend all that hard-earned cash on stuff for my classroom, which is probably what will happen. Oh, and I'll probably get a couple Chipotle burritos, too. And maybe pay my rent?

OK, now to the other stuff. I'm going to write this in a FAQ format, even though the only person so far to ask these questions is Dad, which hardly makes them of the Frequent variety. Here goes, anyway:

How was your first week?
If I had to choose between good, OK, and bad, I would say good. It certainly wasn't bad, and I think it was more than OK.

How are your kids?
Again, I would say good. The biggest problem I had was that they are SO talkative. I wanted to be the "nice" teacher this week, so I let them pick their seats. Big mistake. By Friday, I had had enough, and at one point near the end of the day, I turned around from the board and just went, "Why? Why, why, why, why, why are you talking?" I reminded myself of the mom from Center Stage: "Why, why, why in God's name, WHY?" Anyway, I think they were scared, because they shut up for a whole 2 minutes. Assigned seats starting on Tuesday, I'm afraid. And I know they're not talking because they're bad kids, they're talking because they're kids! That's what kids do! I'm sure I talked that much in fifth grade, too. So I have to remind myself to be patient with them. Be firm and keep order in my class, but not be a Nazi.

The funny thing is, they LOVE to play the Silent Game. They were being particularly chatty one day, so I turned to them and said--dripping with sarcasm--that I would be amazed if they could keep silent for five whole seconds. They eagerly agreed to my challenge, and after three false starts, they managed to remain silent for five seconds. Almost immediately upon the conclusion of five seconds, they all clamored for me to extend the Time of Silence, so we tried it for a minute. They won that, too! By Friday afternoon, we were up to five whole minutes of silence, and then they were calling for ten. So we'll see what this week brings.

Basically, if you ever want anything out of a kid, just present it to him in game/competition format. When I was younger and lazier (if that's possible?), I would make Cam go get me stuff by telling him the "last kid" did it in X amount of seconds. "Cam, go get me some water." "I don't want to!" "Well, the last kid did it in thirty seconds--I bet you can't beat him." Sure enough, twenty-five seconds later, I would have a glass of water. Yes, I was manipulative--maybe I should have considered a career in teaching way back then! I tried that strategy the other week when Cam was visiting me here on his way to Duke, and I'm happy/sad to say that it no longer works. So, sorry, Cam. Thanks for all the stuff you got me, and I just talked to the "last kid"--he finally concedes defeat.

Anyway, on Wednesday I started this thing called the "lunch challenge," where I promised them one raffle ticket (winners of the weekly raffle get to choose candy/small toys from my "treasure box"--it's a high honor, to be sure) if they could all keep absolutely silent and in a straight line on the way to lunch. And by God, were they SILENT. I seriously thought I was going crazy because for the first time in a few days, I could hear myself think. I told them this as they walked like ghosts through the hall, but got not a peep in response. It was amazing. I was so proud of them, I extended the "lunch challenge" for the rest of the week. I wonder how long the lure of tickets will last...

OK, great. You're bribing your kids to keep silent. What about actual school stuff? You know, content knowledge?
Yeah, yeah. That stuff happened this week, too. It was a little bit difficult, since we didn't know if we were team teaching or not. I didn't want to start teaching math if I wasn't going to teach math for the rest of the year. Plus, I didn't have any textbooks, which makes teaching surprisingly hard. So we did a lot of projects this week. We made our frames to hang in the Hall of Frame (for showcasing student work), we wrote "I Am" poems about ourselves, etc. One kid said in his poem that he was taller than two of the smallest boys put together, then asked if we could stack them to prove his point. I successfully avoided a child-stacking scandal, much to everyone's dismay.

So, are you team teaching, or what?
Yes. It seems like we've finally got all the kinks ironed out, and if this week goes as planned, my schedule will look something like this:
  • 620-645ish: Anna arrives.
  • 645ish-700: Anna does last minute stuff and savors her final moments of sanity.
  • 700-730: Kids arrive. Start morning work.
  • 730-745: Go over morning work. Do Accelerated Math/Reader stuff (this has yet to be explained to me)
  • 745-830: Workshop (this has to do with the reading curriculum that many schools in the district use)
  • 830-1015: Teach my kids reading and writing.
  • 1015-1045: Recess! (Or SPA time, as we call it, since "recess" is taboo. SPA stands for Structured Physical Activity)
  • 1045-1125: Specials (art, music, computers, etc.)
  • 1125-1140: Awkward fifteen minutes of transition between specials, bathrooms, trailer, and lunch. Can't wait to maximize this time for learning... Or not.
  • 1140-1205: Lunch and transition.
  • 1205-135: Switch with Mr. Henry. I will teach his kids reading and writing as he teaches my kids math and science. The quick-minded among you will now make the correct assumption that his kids are getting math and science in the morning while mine are doing reading with me. Gold stars for you all!
  • 135-145: Pack up and dismissal. This is the time of day where my kids go crazy and damage my expensive dry erase markers by doodling on the board. Good times.
So, that's about it. We fit Social Studies in wherever we can, including the days when we don't have a special (at least once a week). This is sad to me, because Social Studies is my favorite subject (what up, NELC??). However, there is no Social Studies End of Grade test, which means that nobody cares because it doesn't affect No Child Left Behind (glory and wonder that it is), so... yeah. But whatever: I'm still making my kids look at maps whenever I can. At this point, they don't know the difference between a continent, a country, and a state, so at the very least, I will straighten out these severe misapprehensions.

Well, what do you do after school? Is planning hard?
I made a deal with myself to never stay at school later than 330 (except in the case of long-winded staff meetings). So far, so good. Planning hasn't been too bad--I'm extremely blessed to have another TFA girl on the 5th grade team with me. We call each other every night at 8 and discuss how our lives are in shambles. We call ourselves the mayor and judge of Shambleville. It would be hilarious if it weren't so depressing. Nahhhh, it's not that depressing. Ask me again about planning at the end of this week, when I should have it more under control.

Wow, you must be a) exhausted, and b) the best teacher in the whole world.
True on both counts, to be sure.

Well, I'm out of questions.
OK. Thanks for your concern. As a side note, this weekend was wonderful and totally relaxing, and I'm not even dreading tomorrow, because the Shambleville Town Council meeting/planning session was extremely productive.

And, since I know you've been eagerly anticipating them, here are this week's gnfabs: Grammatical Watchdoggery, Terminal Groin Chafing, Retired Chimp Astronauts, and Ischial Tuberosity. Yes, these are all phrases that came up during normal (?) conversations.

I realize that this post was a little bit lacking in hilarious classroom anecdotes. I wanted to include some more, but I'm struggling with the whole "disguising a child's identity" thing. I think it's pretty lame when people say "I have this child, let's call him B..." So, I'll keep thinking, and try to get some funny stories into the next post.

Until then, I should probably go do some work. Hope everyone had a fantastic Labor Day weekend!

P.S: I just reread this, and it would be easy to surmise that my kids hate me. Rest assured that they do NOT hate me (I don't think, at least), and I even think they might like me. So... that's good.