Sunday, October 26, 2008

Pumpkin Patch

We went to a Pumpkin Patch yesterday and selected 2 nice pumpkins. Yes, it's the week before Halloween, so things were somewhat picked over. However this is the first Saturday DH has had off in a while. It was a nice family outing. I missed the pumpkin patch we went to last year---complete with Hay Ride, corn maze, etc. But it is an hour drive, Emma has a bad cold, and DH and I didn't feel up to going back this year. So the "pumpkin patch" we went to was the front lawn of a church. Luckily, Em was excited about it...and that's what the outing meant for.

Em and I made a jack-o-lantern yesterday with one pumpkin, and she and Aaron will create one with the other pumpkin today. It was my first experience using jack-o-lantern stencils---I was pleasantly surprised at how easy they are to use. I was really pleased with the way our jack-o-lantern turned out. I am NOT artistic...and the stencils were easy to use and worked well. And by the way---the brand new stencil kits and pumpkin carving utensils were left in my classroom by the prior teacher. Hahahaha. My labor this summer cleaning her crap is paying off in free Halloween decor. :) I'll try to get pics tonight and post them one of these days...

Fall is finally here. We've had the A.C. off and windows open for a few weeks now, but it sure is grand to have nice crisp weather outside. I love this time of year! It's not COLD...I detest the cold. But it is cool enough for long sleeves/pants and no sweltering heat. Love the colored leaves. Love the smell of fireplaces. Love the Halloween and Thanksgiving decor. Love the cooking smells...Em and I made cinnamon muffins this morning and DH has chili cooking on the stove now. Yummy autumn aromas!

School is still the same...I'm unhappy with the Read180/ELA combination. I attended a committee meeting on Friday in which several teachers and I complained that 30 minutes/day of language arts is NOT adequate. Basically we were met with, "nothing can be done this year, but we're noting your demands so things can be different next school year." Not very promising seeing as we just finished 1st quarter. Sighs.

On a positive note---DH only worked a 1/2 day last Saturday. He and Em then went on an outing the rest of the day so I could work, work, work. I finished my 20+ page paper for my Comp 6 class! It's not due until December. This was a huge load off my shoulders. Now I just have to video tape my 5 lessons and write a "video reflection" for each one and then I will be done. My goal is to be finished before Thanksgiving...I'd like to be "free" during the 4-day weekend. God knows I need some down time!

Two recent Emmaisms:
10/13/08 While looking at one of DH's hockey jersey's "C-C-M. That spells hockey!" CCM Sports is the company who makes hockey jerseys. :)

10/22/08 At MyGym last week, the kiddos were asked what their favorite candy to get for trick-or-treating is. Emma responded, "Tic Tacs." LOL! I'm not sure what made her say this...but I know that my little chocolate lover would choose chocolate candy before TicTacs any day of the week.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Struggles and Shout-Outs

First---Some recent pics
Two weekends ago Em and I went to the Jacksonville Zoo. There is a rope ladder in the play yard that I'm guessing is about 8-10 feet high. Previously, I would not allow Em to climb higher than I can reach. This time I gave in, and allowed her to climb to the top. Which she did again, and again and of 5 times. I was SOOO paranoid about her falling. Em is a pretty good climber, but there were other kids who would come into the rope ladder and sway it back and forth while she was climbing...scary! It was one of those moments as a Mom where I knew it was important to give Em her independence...even though it hurt ME a little bit on the inside. :)

Just under the halfway point

At the top, climbing off the rope and onto the platform.

They have also added a new sandbox area with a tarp, so that it is completely shaded. Em had a blast. I'm going to have to speak to Santa...once our fence is installed (Nov. 20th is our install date!) I'm thinking a swingset and small sandbox would be nice backyard additions.

Last weekend Em and I picnicked at the Ft. Caroline/Timucuan Preserve site and then walked the nature trail.

View of a barge we saw across the river

Ft. Caorline

"Take a picture of me with the 4 sign, 'cause I'm 4."
(The nature trail had numbered signs throughout the trail from 1-20 or so.)
(By the way...Emma's expression in this peek-a-boo picture SO reminds me of my sister Laurel.)

Sign hugger

A stump on the nature trail.

Hut replica of the Timucuan homes.

Some recent struggles:

In sad news I learned that one of my former students was killed last week. He was shot in the face in a robbery attempt. Sadly, police found a gun in his belt/waistband as well. Thomas was 16. When I taught him 2 years ago he was frequently in trouble at school...and actually quite a jerk to most teachers (myself included.) He also bullied other students. We tried to have meetings with parents, but didn't feel support from the home. Well...maybe that's not fair. Mom attended the meetings and I do think she tried. This was truly a kid who did what he wanted when he wanted...with little regard for anyone else. Eventually, he left my old school due to being placed in an "alternative school" setting (school for students with multiple behavior offenses.) Thomas has been on my mind a lot this week. It is a conundrum that may never be answered: Did the "system" fail him? Or was he unwilling to partake in the services available to him? Still, I wouldn't wish his fate on anyone.

Along with my lesson-plans-are-time-consuming- struggles, I've also been learning about co-teaching. This is my first year with inclusion teachers working with me in my classroom. They are WONDERFUL! I have been grateful for their help and support. The inclusion teachers at my school travel with a particular class and are with the students all day, as the students are integrated into "regular" classes. Thus, at least 50% of both of my Read180/ELA classes are comprised of ESE students. The inclusion teachers enable me to have more differentiated instruction because I am able to divide the class into sub-groups to focus on specific learning skills. However, my difficulty is in orchestrating what occurs in my classroom. At times there are 4 adults in the room: myself, the inclusion instructor, an ESOL teacher to help my non-English speaking student, and a language arts teacher who was asked to help our class to ensure that our Read180/ELA kids are having similar lessons as non-reading-student ELA kids. Yikes! Everyone is kind and helpful, but it is sometimes a pain to determine who-does-what. When I used to teach ESE, I had a paraprofessional in my room 1 or 2 periods a day. But it has been years since I was the only adult in the room. So again, while my colleagues are great...there are times I wish I could run a solo or duet ship, instead of a quartet...not because I don't want the help...but because it takes a long time to figure out what everyone will be facilitating!

My prior school hours were 7:35 - 2:35. My new/current school hours are 9:15 - 4:15. Last year I would stay after school for 2-3 hours each day. It was wonderful because I would get lots of school work done. I did not allow myself to bring school-work home, except on rare occasions. Sighs! Though my schedule this year is much better for Emma (she is no longer cranky and crying in the a.m. Now she is wide awake and waving at the window when I leave,) it is SO hard for me to get work done. I have been getting to school early and staying a little late. But with Em's daycare schedule, I have to leave work by 5:30 at the latest. Thus the problem is time. The 3 hours a day after school last year outnumber the 1 hour before and 1 hour after school I am getting this year. I have had work to do at home nearly every weekend thus far this school year. YUCK!

On a positive note, some "Shout Outs" for people/things I've appreciated recently:

Emma received a Halloween card in the mail this week. It had 3 Disney princesses dressed up with glitter/sparkles on their dresses. Em rubbed her fingers across the glitter and said, "It doesn't just look beautiful, it feels beautiful too!" Thanks, Beckstrom family!

I received a snail-mail handmade thank you card from my friend, Shannon Kay. Thanks, Shan for the lovely card. And you're most welcome for the turtle. :) (Thanks, Lal for delivering it, as well!)

Shout out to my friend Stacye, for researching and finding the location of a MyGym and class times for Em and Adrian to attend. They are both enjoying it very much. And Adrian's birthday party will be there next month. Should be a great time! :)

Shout out to my Mom---months ago she sent Emma rebus books. Em finally really grasps the concept and LOVES the books. I think they help her to feel that she is part of the book reading. She especially enjoys the Scooby-Doo Meets Big Foot rebus book. (Seeing as Scooby has been my favorite cartoon character for years, this book is right up my alley too!)

DH's Dad/Emma's Papa---THANK YOU! He has been babysitting Emma on the nights I have my class. In the past when he babysat Em, I would pick Em up from school/daycare and take her to his house. My new school schedule does not allow me to do this, so Papa has been picking her up AND babysitting AND feeding her dinner before DH or I pick her up. THANK YOU, PAPA!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Overbooked and Underpaid

Whew! I'm feeling overbooked...

...and underpaid, but such is the life of all teachers. :)

--I've started "Competency 6." The LAST course I need to obtain the Reading Endorsement on my Teaching Certificate. As the "finale" for the course, I have to: Create a "Case Study" of 3 students wherein I use reading assessments to determine their specific reading needs, and then create lesson plans to meet these needs. After developing these lesson plans, I have to video tape myself teaching 5 mini-lessons. ACK! The portfolio is due just before winter break.

--A funny: In my class today someone's pager started going off. I do not own a pager, so I started looking around annoyed at whatever classmate I have who was disrupting the class. Then I discovered that it was ME! I had the digital timer I use in my classroom in my pocket and it started going off. OOPS! Lol.

--I have 3 lesson plan preps this semester. I'm teaching reading, language arts and critical thinking (Steven Covey's "7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens.) It is SOOOO time consuming and tedious to create lesson plans for 3 classes each day. I can't wait until next semester when my 7Habits class is over and I"ll be down to only 2 preps.

--A duty that I was not required to do at my old school as department head, but that I am required to do at my current school is to teach the faculty a "reading strategy of the month" they can use in their own classrooms if they wish to. I have been taking the easy way out and using the same "reading strategy of the month" that the Florida Online Reading Professional Development website uses. It is less work, (no research on my part----the "rational" and execution of the strategy are both posted on their website) but part of me feels like it is a cop-out.

--I was drafted into being one of the teacher coaches for our schools' International Night. I am helping with a Reader's Theater presentation. And of course, the event will take place in December the same week my Comp 6 portfolio is due. Ugh! Did I mention I can't wait for next semester?

--I am also on a committee that will meet for the first time next week. We are going to discuss the pros/cons of the way our county has required Read180 teachers to also teach language arts this year. Most of us who are doing this feel "stuck" and that it isn't working. We have the lowest quartile level of readers in our schools yet only 30 minutes a day of language arts time. The idea behind it is that only 30 minutes is needed because language arts strategies are integrated within the reading curriculum. NOT working in my opinion. Yes, the language arts strategies are integrated...but 30 minutes is NOT enough time to focus purely on writing, grammar, sentence structure, story elements, etc. These are issues that we do discuss in reading but do not always have time to elaborate on. I am very frustrated. Last year my school was one of the top 6 schools in the county for reading gains. I think mixing Read180 with language arts is doing 2 things: 1. It is messing with the integrity of the Read180 program. By not having ample time to "introduce" and "wrap up" topics, (this time is now devoted to lang arts) it is difficult to monitor student understanding. 2. It is not providing ample times for students to learn needed skills in both reading and language arts. As mentioned at the beginning of the year, I am very concerned about my students not making gains on this year's FCAT test. I have wonderful books and online resources. But resources can't be squeezed in when there are only 30 minutes of language arts time. Okay....I'll get off my soapbox now.

--To my friends: I haven't forgotten you! I am just really overbooked right now. Tea with Anna, email with Mary-Ann, catch-up time with MaryEllen, etc. My class is 2 nights a week and Emma's is one...I'm just stressing. After next week the class part of my Comp 6 is over and we have the next 2 months to work on our portfolios... And to the single parents of the world, I applaud you! Though I have a really crowded schedule, at least I have supportive DH who is helpful and does half of the load (especially with Emma stuff) at home!

--Speaking of which, Emma had her 4 year old shots and check up this morning. She is "perfect" and healthy and doing well. DH took her to the appointment. Thank you, Daddy! She is 34 1/2 pounds and 35 inches tall. She had to get 4 shots---2 in each arm, and also a pricked finger for some type of blood test. Aaron said she was in a great mood, enjoying the checkup...and then it all was ruined at shot time. When they left, Em said, "Daddy, I never want to go there again!"

Poor baby!

--We just signed Emma up for her first "extra curricular" class. She is now enrolled for classes every Wednesday night at MyGym. Some of my gal pals this summer were raving about it. It is only $5/month more than the "PlayBall," "Kindermusik" and "Movement" classes they were offering weekly at her school. I like the facility and I like that she is involved in something with teachers and students that differ from her school. Em's friend Adrian is in the class too. It is nice because each class starts with everyone working together (my teacher term: "Whole Group.") They then break into 3 small groups and rotate around the gym. For example, last week they had: balance beam, trampoline, and rope ladder as the 3 areas all children go to. So while she and Adrian can play together for part of the class, the instructors also made the point of separating the 2 of them during the time the children were rotating. Meanwhile, Adrian's Mom Stacye and I can watch and have girltalk during the whole class. It's a win-win situation! And most importantly, Em loves it.

--I took a personal day on Monday to get caught up on lesson plans, grading, etc. Sighs. I accomplished a lot, but am still behind. Report cards are due next week. I MUST get my grading done.

--2 companies measured our yard for fence estimates this week. I don't know if she cut me a deal or not, but one of the "project managers" is the mother of one of Emma's classmates. Her rate was $500 less than the other estimate. BINGO! I call her back today. Hope they can install within the next 2 weeks and we will finally have a fence.

--Aaron twisted his knee. To the point that he went to doctor and had x-rays and received an rx for pain killers. Aaron is the typical male who rarely goes to the doctor...thus I know it must really be hurting him. He was told not to run for 2 weeks. This past weekend was the end of week 1. He tried to take a short walk and said it was killing him. Thus, his new goal of the 1/2 marathon at the end of November is now not going to happen. Poor guy! He is really going nuts not being able to run. I just hope he waits until his knee is healed properly so that he doesn't do permanent damage.

--Some quick Emmaisms:
9/24/08: Em came to me whiny and upset because she had broken the strap on her binoculars.
Me: "What could you do about that instead of whining?"
Em: "Ask for help from a Higglytown Hero!"

9/29/08 When asked to help clean up the living room:
"You're treating me like a servant!"

10/4/08 On helping me decorate the house with Halloween and autumn decor:
"This can be the centerpiece!" (Wow! Who says "centerpiece?" That is not a word I often use. Found out from Em she learned it from Ruby on the "Max & Ruby" TV show.)

10/6/08 Em has been putting princess stickers all over the place. We finally had a discussion about how she should ONLY put stickers on paper. We went a few days with a sticker-free (other than paper) house. DH then pointed out the Snow White "You did it!" sticker Em had stuck on top of the toilet lid. We left it there...found it humorous.

10/8/08 Random conversation while driving in the car...
Em: "How do fish get home from the store, anyways?"
Me: "In a bag with water so that they can swim until someone puts them in a fish tank at their house."
Em: "Or they cook them!"

10/9/08 To Aaron after reading fairytales before bed: "Have you ever lived in a house as big as a castle?"