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.

1 comment:

Kelsie said...

The kids used to call me Hitler when I was subbing because I didn't let them talk..."Don't you have work to do?...Get busy!"...That was always followed by the "stink eye". I like your manipulation efforts...whatever it takes to get those squirrels to do what you want. Keep up the good work!!