Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Sorry for the neglect

I am sorry I have not posted anything in a couple of years. I hope to change this and will attempt to post more often.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Anti-Aging Cream

Teacher appreciation week was celebrated the second week of May this year. I teach in an elementary school and it seems we do get some creative gifts. The week started off business as usual and I thought I might make it through without having to smile and say “thank you so much” for a bizarre gift given with love from one of my students.

Wednesday, I saw my odd gift in the eyes of my student as he walked excitedly down the hall. Similar to the pace of my toddler anxiously walk-running to the bathroom, I knew he had something he was terribly excited about. I put on my best game face in anticipation of the inevitable “best teacher” gift.

“Teacher Toad! I have a present for you!” And gently he removed the gift from his tattered backpack and with open hands presented his gift, as if presenting me with the key to a city. It was in a pink box wrapped with a single pink ribbon and through the clear plastic window in the box I could see it contained a cosmetic product sample. Upon closer examination I determined the box contained an eyelash curler, small bottle of make-up remover, and a tiny tube of anti-aging eye cream. I put on my best smile and gave my student a big hug. “Thank-you soooooo much! This is exactly what I needed.”

Now, let me fill you in on a little information about myself. Wrinkles are not really on my list of concerns. When I look in the mirror I am not sure I have ever really thought, “wow, I really need to do something about those wrinkles…” As a matter of fact, I don’t even wear make-up. But I guess when the wrinkles do begin to set in, and as a teacher I am assuming that will be sooner rather than later, I will be prepared. Who knows, maybe they already have. Maybe the anti-aging cream was actually a hint.

My gift though amusing did not compare to the gift a fellow teacher friend of mine received this year. She is an ESOL teacher who works specifically with students who have limited English proficiencies. One of her students gave her a beautiful card and a basket of candy. The card said “I am sorry for your loss. In your time of grieving, my thoughts and prayers are with you.” The student asked her to read it in front of the class. Not wanting to embarrass the child, she quickly made something up.

Proving once and for all, we as teachers must be ready to improvise at all times.

Teaching Myths

This is not so much a story, but a formal apology and explanation for those of you who visit my blog regularly. (Hi Mom) I must apologize for the delay in posting additional stories to my site. It has been a very busy couple of months both as a teacher and parent of three hoodlums myself. Let me just clear one thing up. For those of you who are not teachers but may be thinking about joining the ranks one day here are some myths you may encounter.

Myth #1: The hours are great! Monday through Friday, six-hour days! Summers off, plus vacations in December and April!

We as teachers spend a great deal of our time not only at school and in the classroom, but also at home late nights and weekends. Yes it is true, I do get the same vacations for the most part as my children, give or take the occasional teacher work day, but I bring a lot of work home. I do most of my lesson planning, and paper grading in the comfort of my own home. I do this so I can at least be with my own kids, instead of them being at daycare late while I work in my classroom.

Myth # 2: The pay is great! You only work 180 days a year and you make 30k + per year.

This kind of ties to the working more hours than you realize. Yes we do get summers off, but I will spend a great deal of that time preparing for the up-coming school year, so I really am still working. As for the 30k + per year, that sum is generous for some areas. I am fortunate to work in an area that pays their teachers well, but if I moved to another state or county, I would be looking at a significant pay cut. The school district I work in starts their teachers off around 35k per year for a certified teacher with a bachelor’s degree. I actually have my master’s so I started off a little higher, however as I look at school districts in neighboring states, I would have to take a significant pay cut to move. In addition to the pay, we spend a great deal of money on our classrooms and our students. You can only write off $250 per year on your taxes, and I have spent a great deal more than that this year. Take for example the twenty t-shirts I bought to tie-dye for field day next week. And yes, I spent two hours last night dying them, plus an hour or so last week rubber-banding them up in preparation. My point is, it does add up.

Myth # 3: It is so rewarding!

This one is not so much a myth because it is a rewarding profession. But as with any rewarding career, there are also stressful encounters. We as teachers spend so much time and energy trying to ensure our students have every chance to succeed. We provide our students with opportunities to enhance the way they learn. We give them lots of encouragement. And in the course of a school year we fall in love with each and every personality in our classroom, because without them, our classroom would not be the same. But, there are things that happen with our students that tear us apart. For example, another first grade teacher I work with had a saddening event this year. She has been teaching for many years. This year she found out one of her previous students had been sentence to life in prison. So no the job is not always rewarding. It can also tear us apart.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

The Wood Bee Ballet

It is spring here and the wood bees abound. For those of you unfamiliar with this giant nuisance, I will give you a brief lesson. Here in the South they seem to be prevalent. They look remarkable similar to bumble bees, but they rarely sting. They are also called carpenter bees and drill almost perfect holes approximately half an inch in diameter on the underside of wood surfaces. I know this because the brand new deck we built last summer has several of these burrows. It seems impossible to step outside without seeing these bees buzzing around this time of year and during a field day excursion outside my students became familiar with them too.

It was a beautiful day for career day at our school. The day entailed a trip outside to meet and speak with different members of our community. The bees seemed to take center stage with some of my students though. There were a few of my students, one boy in particular, who took to dodging the bees as if a part of some elaborate ballet. When the squeals of terror began to drown out the voices of the guest speakers I pulled all of my students aside and explained to the nature of the wood bees.

“Students, the bees you see buzzing around today will not bother you. They are wood bees in search of wood. They do not sting, and in fact the male bees don’t even have a stinger. Don’t worry about them, they will not bother you.”

My students listened attentively and seemed less concerned after the short lesson and began to settle down. All except my ballet dancer who continued to leap, prance, dodge and weave around every close encounter with the bees. It was quite comical to see the effects a harmless insect had on my otherwise strong confident student. The remainder of our time outside that day was spent with him pulled close to my side trying to redirect his attention to the speaker in an effort to calm him each time a bee came near.

A few days later on our way outside for recess, my first grade class and a fifth grade class were walking down to the playground. I glanced over and once again witnessed the wood bee ballet but this time it was not my student who took center stage. Three girls from the accompanying fifth grade class were all in a tizzy as a wood bee buzzed around. The noise caught the attention of my students who all watched as the girls raced wildly around the sidewalk.

My ballet dancer, as if he could not fathom what all the fuss was about, stepped up and in his most confident voice shouted, “They are just wood bees! They won’t hurt you.”

I smiled at him, and he grinned. Apparently my message did get through to him the day of the Wood Bee Ballet.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

My Chatter-Box

As most teachers do, I too have one student who does not know the meaning of the word quiet. He is a very bright boy, and extremely nice, but he can’t stop talking.

This has become an issue in my classroom, as you as teachers know if one starts talking, it spreads like a plague. In a matter of moments my classroom goes from a calm productive learning environment to what sounds like the penguin exhibit at the zoo during feeding time. Unfortunately the majority of my day is spent in a zoo.

To address this ongoing issue, a behavior contract has been put in place to try to keep my chatter-box in check. After a particularly rough day, I pulled the student aside and tried to explain how his talking disrupts the whole class. Although he may be capable of picking up topic quickly, it is not that easy for everyone in the class, and when he continually generates conversations not related to lessons, the rest of the class is getting distracted from what they are supposed to be learning.

My question to him was, “Why do you talk so much in class?”

After pondering the question for a moment he looked at me with genuine concern. “Teacher Toad, there just isn't enough time in the day for me to talk.”

Friday, March 24, 2006

Notes from a Teaching Colleague

(Names are changed to protect the innocent.)

Jackie pointed out the fact that I had a tattoo on my back. Like always, my response was "It's not a real one." She proceeded to tell me that her "auntie" had a real one. "She got it when she got drunk." I tell parents the first day...if they don't want me to know, they better not tell them!

While testing William on punctuation this morning, I was flipping over flashcards with large printed punctuation marks. The question mark just got a blank look out of him, the period was a dot, and then we got to the comma...I knew he wouldn't get it, so I pointed to it and told him it was a comma. The next were quotation marks. "What are these?" I asked. "Four commas." was his answer.

My most perceptive student, I'll just call him "God's son"...walks up to me this morning and says, "What's wrong Ms. S.? You don't sleep?" I think this kid could read me if he was blind.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

The Junk Drawer

On an average day, not particularly close to a holiday or special event one of my students came in with a gift for me. When she walked through the door she sheepishly stood by the coat racks hiding one hand behind her back.

Seeing this behavior I reminded her of my policy on toys in the classroom and suggested to her that if she had a toy behind her back and she wanted to keep it, she should put it back in her backpack.

She grinned and I went about my business giving her the chance to put away what I was sure was a toy or something she should not have brought to school. As the morning progressed, the grin on my student’s face remained and she kept a close eye on me, waiting patiently for something I was not aware of. After morning announcements when my student could no longer contain her excitement she came over to me and asked, “Teacher Toad, have you been to your desk lately?” knowing full well I had not.

She took me by the hand and led me back to my desk and there I found a faux leopard fur glasses case. I asked her if it was hers and she said, “I brought it for you.” and her eyes sparkled as her grin expanded across her face. I unzipped the glasses case and there I found an assortment of treasures one might find in the junk drawer we all have somewhere in our houses. Mine is in my kitchen.

In the case there were several small orange beads, an up orange high lighter, a stretched blue hair band, and a stripped drywall screw coated with that white cream colored paint that covered the walls in every apartment I every lived in.

She pulled out the beads and said, “See Teacher Toad., you can use these to count with, and you can color with this!” as she popped the cap off the highlighter and scribbled a mark on a scrap piece of paper.

I held up the hair band and said, “I suppose this is for my hair?” She nodded still grinning.

Perplexed I picked up the drywall screw and asked her what it was for. She sweetly tipped her head to the side and replied, “You never know.”

Monday, March 20, 2006

Starting Point Discussion - Online Education

I received my Master's in Education from University of Phoenix last spring. My husband received his Master's in Laws in International Taxation from St Thomas University School of Law in 2003.

I previously had earned my Bachelor's of Fine Arts from the Savannah College of Art & Design.