Monday, December 7, 2009

A new challenge...

Tonight I successfully taught my first basic computer class for adults (at least, I think I was successful :-)) Thanks to some very helpful stimulus funding, we have been able to implement a so-called "Parent University" at our school, which enables us to offer free courses to interested parents and community members. We originally had offered classes in parenting, infant care, English, computers, consumer math, and algebra, but had such great demand that we are currently basically offering several sections of English and computers. So tonight, another teacher and I divided up the adults and took about 20 each.

After talking with kids all day, it's a bit unnerving to be teaching adults. I wrote my name on the board, and was shocked to realize that people were taking notes! Without being asked! :-) The other added "bonus" to the class (other than that most have never touched a computer) is that the vast majority of the students don't speak English (or at least not fluently). Hence, there was a lot of me holding up components and going, "KEYBOARD. Say it with me-"keyboard."" So, that added an extra challenge. In reality though, a truly basic computer class like this one is 50% teaching people a different language anyway. So today, our vocabulary was:
  • keyboard
  • mouse
  • monitor
  • CPU
  • cursor
  • click
  • double-click
  • shift
  • return
  • delete
So, for an hour on Mondays and Wednesdays, we're going back to the basics. It was actually kind of fun (outside all the running around to different computers to make sure everyone's looking at the right thing...) On top of that, it turns out that adults are much more engaged in learning :-) (I know, big surprise) So, we had a good time. Hopefully it continues as well as it started!

Sunday, November 29, 2009

The uncut version?

I just finished approving a bunch of my students' blog postings and faced the same dilemma I always come up against. Do I proofread their postings or not? I have no issues correcting simple mistakes in which words are skipped, repeated, etc. If they got a chance to read it again, they'd catch it. Those aren't mistakes kids tend to learn from. However, other mistakes--spelling mistakes, grammar mistakes, phrasing--all of these things are mistakes from which kids can learn lessons for the next time around, and which they won't learn unless someone TELLS them they're wrong. Also, I hate to put my kids' writing out onto the great, big, public internet without looking perfect (because it makes BOTH of us look bad).

On the other hand, if I put it out there WITH the mistakes, maybe it's teaching them a lesson to proofread their own work closer before submitting it, and/or that they should have someone else read it before submission.

Teachers tend to have strong (and very opposite) opinions on this topic, so it's bit pointless to discuss this with them, unfortunately. This posting is an attempt to get some valuable outsider opinions about this topic :-) Let me know your thoughts. Now that I think about it, for an even broader perspective, I'm going to see what my kids think. I'll post this as a blog posting for them to respond to and we'll see if they can form some relevant opinions on the topic (and maybe even use the persuasive techniques we've been talking about).

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Out of desks

It is Thanksgiving and my desks runneth over. I got student #31 on Tuesday, and I am now officially out of student desks. This one has a seat, but the next one won't. I told our curriculum specialist this and she responded, "No problem, we've got more desks in room 59." Dang it, that wasn't the point!

This last new student is a doozy though. He is about to be 14 and got moved to my 7th grade class from 6th grade. Yes, you read that correctly. He was held back twice for varying reasons, and they realized this year that if he completes 6th grade this year, goes into 7th grade next year, he'd be 16 while in 8th grade, and we're not legally allowed to have 16 year olds on our PreK-8 campus. Hence (or thus, as my students would say), he'd have to go straight to 9th grade after 7th. (Can you start to hear the splintering of the system going on here?) So, the new genius plan is to put him in 7th grade for the rest of this year (effectively skipping 6th grade), and then he'll be on track. However, he's already falling far behind 6th grade standards, so how in the world is he going to survive 7th grade standards, and jumping into them in the middle, to boot!

At lunch, I mentioned that I got this student, and the 5th and 6th grade teachers all got this slack-jawed look of fear in their eyes, and said, "You got HIM??? Good luck...." Then stories came pouring out explaining how terrible this kid is for every teacher he's with. Needless to say, a feeling of dread soaked through me at that point. After day 1, he did ok, but I don't know... On an acadmic level, I don't know how it will every work. On a behavioral level, if I can keep him scared stiff of the 7th graders (which he currently is), it might work. I know, I know, that's not a good strategy. I'm mainly just hoping that his behavior issues were a function of being stuck with age-inappropriate peers. Time will tell...

And thus...

Whew, it's been an adventurous week in the classroom! (And by that, I mean disastrous!) Due to my PREVIOUSLY excellently-behaved classroom, their horrible behavior this week was a shocker! I don't know if it's due to my sudden influx of new students or the holidays, but needless to say, it requires a bunch more work on my part.

Either way, (luckily) they still do not cease to be entertaining. As of late, we've been discussing the Civil War in History. Wars in history are completely unknown to these kids. As far as they knew, the Civil War involved someone handing out guns on both sides and people running around shooting anything that moved for four years straight, non-stop. So, we had to put that notion to bed. Needless to say, the fact that armies would line up, and then start running at each other with guns was a completely foreign concept (and quite distressing, as well!) After a discussion of the surprising violent Battle of Bull Run, one particularly innocent student looks up at me and says, "Mrs. Shetler, how come they didn't just use pillows instead of guns? It would have been so much safer!" Bless his heart...

Then, the next day as we were continuing this discussion about Civil War battles, a student asks me, "Mrs. Shetler, who were we?" As in, which side were we on? Another kid pipes up, "Yeah, did we win?" I was literally speechless. How does one answer this? Technically, Arizona wasn't a state (and wouldn't be for another 50 years) so the residents had no "side." I couldn't tell him that "we" (as in the US) won, because I'm sure that's not how Civil War history is taught in South. They're so used to it being "us against them" in all other wars in history, as well as in every video game they play. I ended up telling them some adaptation of what I described above, but this was just very difficult for them to understand :-) If nothing else, I just had to laugh at how much this question stumped me!

On an unrelated note, my students randomly get excited about using new words (even down to making up words just for the sake of using new words). A while ago, we were reading a poem that used the word "shall" and I mentioned in passing that it was a more formal, fancy way of saying "will." Next thing I knew, I had a girl who was telling me, "I shall try inverse operations, but I'm not sure about it..." Then this week, I had another student randomly start using the word Thus. So now, I had 13 year olds running around saying, "I lost my voice, and thus I shouldn't talk today." "...and thus, Arturo rode his bike over my foot." "Thus the water moves the sediment down the river," etc. It's hilarious :-) I tell them to keep using those words, because it'll guarantee them a great score on their state writing tests, because it is so unexpected!

The following video is basically unrelated, but a great excuse to combine Jack Black and school :-)

Monday, October 19, 2009

A New Experiment

I love it when teaching and learning intersect!

When I got my Activboard last year, I was not informed I needed or even might want to consider any training. Additionally, there are very strict requirements as to who gets these boards, and I was never informed what I did to deserve it. Don't get me wrong, I ADORE it, and have been begging for one for years. It's just that, as with many other tech integration ideas, I was given the technology and then was expected to take the initiative and figure it out myself (in my vast amount of spare time). Unfortunately, this is why millions of dollars worth of technology goes unused in schools every day. In fact, I have seen the exact same thing happen in the past two weeks as people walk in to their classrooms in the morning to discover and Activboard there, with no knowledge of how to even turn it on.

Because of my interest in technology, I did take it upon myself to take all the training I could find, and then experiment with it. However, like I said, too many others don't. I'm very glad I took the training, but even so, while it did a great job explaining how to use the actual software, it didn't do such a good job of showing how it could be used effectively to help students learn more in the classroom. Hence, ever since this summer, I've been designing a better course in the back of my head.

Here comes the intersection of my teaching and what I've been learning in my ed tech master's program at NAU. This semester and next, my major (and final) project is to create a project that supports professional development in educational technology. How perfect! What I'm learning is something that is directly necessary at the school level! For this reason, I've spent nearly the entire first day of my fall break planning a 4-week online course in Beginning Use of Activboard Software. For once, it's been exciting working on a school project! (Actually, that's been true of much of my Master's program.) Now, I actually create the online course shell and then wait to see how it actually plays out in the coming months... Here's hoping for the best :-) Have any of you (my vast world of readers) ever taken an online course? Was your experience positive or negative? Why?

Monday, September 28, 2009

Finally Making Progress...

Wow! Talk about a long time coming! Today my students and I were finally able to blog, but it took us 7 weeks of school to get there.

I'm using the Edublogs site, which forces all posts and comments to go through me before they are published (which is very helpful). After deciding to use blogs with the kids (and do it right!) I located an extremely helpful blog posting (fitting) which had 5 lessons for introducing kids to blogging. We started out talking about what blogs were by looking at a number, then we looked at a few PSA videos about safe posting online and cyberbullying (made a BIG impression on the kids!), and finally discussed what made meaningful posts as well as helpful comments.

After getting all this done, I started our class blog. Through Edublogs, you can either set up student blogs individually or set up one class blog in which students have individual logins and categories. To be on the safe side, I started with one class blog. If students can prove they are posting high quality posts and meaningful comments, they will be able to get their own blog.

The only issue that came up for this was finding email addresses to use with the kids. Since many of my students don't have computers/internet at home, many don't have email addresses, which is required to sign up for many online things. In most cases, the point of what we are doing is not that they have an email address, but that they can be verified through the address. Hence, (again from the same helpful blog post) I discovered that I can actually create 20 sub-emails under my own gmail account, which was really helpful. Using my teacher gmail, I added all the students who didn't have email already (around 18) and then all account information was automatically sent to me. (Way simpler for me to keep track of than irresponsible 12 year olds!)

After much ado, and much playing around with Edublogs, I finally fixed all the glitches with accounts, passwords, invitations, etc, and was prepared for today. Of course, before we could even log on to our class blog, we spent the requisite 15 minutes waiting to get a consistent internet signal. (This has been the norm with the laptops this year. After about 15 minutes of the wireless signal dropping in and out, we're good to go the rest of the time.) My kids were extremely patient as they waited through a ridiculous internet connection, and 27 other kids to catch up to them. But when it finally all came together, it worked like a charm!

While I could have forced kids to perfect their posts before I allowed them to be published (and probably will enforce this next time), I decided that for the first time out, I'll let them see what their writing (and commenting) looks like to the rest of the world. This worked like a charm. A number immediately realized mistakes they had made (but couldn't unless I did it for them). For their first post, I had everyone just post general information about themselves (family, hobbies, etc.) One girl described her best friend, and immediately regretted publishing it, as 3 other girls then approached her and asked why they hadn't been listed. Tough lessons, but I think the point was made.

So overall, it was a good experience and I think it can only get better! Good luck to my class! Please come comment on the blogs too, the kids will love it!

Thursday, August 27, 2009


So, a new year has begun. I have new faces and old faces in my 7th grade classroom. About 5 of my 30 kids were in my class last year, much to my chagrin. They're great kids, but I just REALLY like starting my year fresh. Oh well. I have the gifted "cluster" of students, which means I have 3 or 4 gifted kids and the rest are about middle ground. After my first day, my only real opinion was, "At least I didn't have a kid come in that was aiming to be trouble from the second he stepped foot in the door." And so far, that has proved to be true. The more I think about it though, the more of a good omen it seems.

Although things are still not perfect, every year gets a little better, and I get a little bit more confident. Overall, I feel like I have a pretty decent class, near as I can tell. At one point today (Day 9), it occurred to me how well they all seem to get along, and how rare that is! Last week all the specials teachers said the class was good, but that means nothing the first week because all the kids are good. However, I give the compliment to the kids anyway. A compliment is a compliment, right? The first time I did this, my 6th graders didn't know what a compliment is, but now every kid knows what it is and is listening intently for it. The reason for the intense desire for compliments is because we have a compliment paper chain started in the classroom, so that every time they get a compliment from another teacher, they get another link. When it gets to the specified length (around 40 or 50), they get a pizza party. (I know, I know Mom, I shouldn't reward them with food...After a while with 13 year olds though, you do what works.)

Anyway, to say the least, now the kids listen very keenly for compliments. So today, they had 2 specials (don't ask me why), and it's not uncommon for the teachers to tell me as the kids are leaving if they did well. However, the kids claimed that both teachers had given them compliments which I didn't hear (it's also not uncommon for kids to make up compliments :-)) so I said I'd talk to those teachers later. However, BOTH of those teachers tracked ME down later in the day to tell me how much they enjoyed working with my class today, how good they are, and how they all participate and get along! Yay!!

Part of me feels like this is a bit too good to be true and/or that maybe I'm jinxing this, but I guess time will tell...

Friday, August 7, 2009

Boxes, Boxes, and MORE BOXES!!!

I don't get paid to go back to work until Tuesday (8/10). Hence, one would think I would go back to work on Tuesday. Not true. I am a teacher, which means I do MUCH work without pay. I spent the past week in my classroom going through box after box after box. After box. Part of the reason I went back early, was because after 4 1/2 years of teaching, I know it takes longer to unpack a classroom than it does to unpack a house. I don't know why, it just does. Again, one would think I wouldn't have to pack up every single item in the room since I stayed in the same room, but I did. Such is life. At my school, it's usually better to not ask questions. So, I knew I had a ton of boxes to unpack, and when I walked in Monday morning, a new realization came crashing down on me. I had tons more boxes in my room than I ended the year with because all of the 7th grade curriculum was now in my room. This is what I saw when I walked in.

I would say there were a minimum of 60 boxes in my room. This may be skewed logic, but I decided that given the circumstances, I'd start with the furniture, and then I'd be able to put the contents of the boxes in their assigned locations. This was a great idea, but in order to do that, I had to move the boxes to move the furniture. So once the furniture was in place, I had to move and open the boxes again. Oh well, good exercise, right? So, I moved all the student desks into groups, moved my desk to it's place, and the bookshelves to their place. Doing this along with all the boxes was a bit like doing one of those tile puzzles where there's a square container with tiles, minus one and you have to get them all into the correct place, moving one at a time. Either way, it got done.

Then, I started opening boxes. Now, it's one thing to unpack boxes that you packed. It's another to unpack boxes with things you are not familiar with. The first thing I discovered was that I seemed to have an immense number of boxes of science materials. I would say at least 30 of the boxes are science materials (test tube racks, beakers, goggles, chemicals, rocks, microscopes, etc.) That was a sad discovery that I'm going to have to house all that business, I don't know where. Next, I discovered that I inherited an inordinate amount of textbooks. I took all the ones I needed and still had about 15 extra boxes in the back of my room. I had 70 extra dictionaries, 160 extra history workbooks, 40 extra science books, and the list goes on. It was crazy! (And it wasn't like the other 7th grade teachers needed them, they're just extra. So that's a bit of a mystery.) Finally, I discovered that I acquired every single item out of a person's
classroom who retired. Every item, right down to ancient textbooks, old software, erasers and
paper clips. Among other things, I discovered a clipboard from the 1984 Democratic National Convention, a set of 1961 Encyclopedias, and 11 boxes of manila folders!! Crazy talk (and a little bit irritating).

So, I buckled down and starting finding places for as much as I could. By the end of Day 1 of De-Boxing, I had 3 out of 4 of the required textbooks in the students' desks, my classroom library of reading books on the shelf, and many of the peripheral reference books we use in class on the shelf, in addition to the furniture being arranged. There were still at least 2/3 of the boxes still full, but I had at least opened most of the boxes to find out what was in them and arranged them in appropriate locations around the room. The entire east wall was covered in Science materials (still is). The south wall had the boxes and boxes of extra, unneeded materials that
showed up. The west wall had all of my own boxes. Still a lot of boxes, but I at least knew what
was in them. In the center of the room were all the empty boxes, where I tossed them with great relish.

5 days later, many of the boxes are still there, but they are at least contained in a bit more orderly fashion. :-) Now, all boxes are either unpacked or touching a wall, my desk is functional, all computers are functioning, laptops are updating as we speak, no boxes remain on desks, and posters are up. Now, I just need to figure out what I'm going to teach in said classroom!!

Monday, June 8, 2009

An End of the Year Smile :-)

First of all, this was probably the best last week of the school year I've ever had. No one did something stupid enough to ruin my entire memory of the year or make me cry, and it wasn't totally insane with getting things done. This is partially due to the fact that the school actually gave us 2 days in which we could pack, with students there. Because we had to be out of school basically the same minute the students were on Friday, so the school could begin renovations, everything had to be packed before then, so Monday and Tuesday while the kids watched endless movies, I packed. I think this helped make it better because I wasn't mad at kids for being terrible packers. Also, we went on an awesome trip to the pool (see photo). Kids never seriously misbehave at the pool because they're so happy to be in the water :-) Best fieldtrip ever. (In my words and a student's :-)). An additional bonus is that I get a Smartboard next year, but more on that later. 

But my favorite thing was this note I received from a student on Thursday. It reads as follows: 

Thank you so much Mrs. Shetler for being there when I needed you. I thank you a lot for trying your best to help me get good grades. If you were my teacher until I was done with school I would be so happy because you would know what my name is and everything about me. And, I'm not trying to be a goody good, I'm just trying to be a nice student and trying to be myself. And, now that I had you for a teacher, I think I will respect a lot of people and care for them. I will make sure that I go to school and never forget all the stuff you taught me. I will also remember that you told me not to quit and to keep on doing good in school. Thank you Mrs. Shetler for doing a lot of stuff for me. I appreciate it so much. 

Monday, May 25, 2009

You Have a WHAT?

This week was our last week of testing (finally!! yeah!!) For various reasons relating to testing, the kids had a different schedule all week. Usually, we don't allow them to go to the restrooms (other than complete emergencies) except before school and at lunch. In the morning, this is never a problem because they start class at 8:30 and leave at 10:45 for lunch.  However, during testing week, their lunch gets pushed back almost two hours, so they have to wait a lot longer to use the restroom. (I'm going somewhere with this, don't worry.) 

So, one day, as our late lunch is finally approaching, a kid tells me he has a msrlglkskakgkskkga. (This is what I heard). After about the third mumbling time, I finally make out that he's telling me he thinks he has a mrmsgmslrl infection. I finally said, "You have WHAT kind of an infection?" To which he frustratedly responds, "I think I have a flabber infection!!" I looked at him (knowing full well he really needed to use the restroom) and said, "You mean, you think you have a BLADDER infection?" He and the whole rest of the class crack up, but he must save face, so he goes on proclaiming he has a flabber :-)  That was definitely the comic relief necessary after a stressful day of testing :-)

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Easy work

This week, I had a number of experiences with the word "easy" that were "good teacher" moments. First, one of my students who is notorious for turning in nothing (last quarter: 41 missing assignments), is actually putting effort into his work. He's actually quite brilliant, but only wants to do things HE wants to do and tends to get easily overwhelmed. He finally started working after a meeting with his parents in which he got the impression he was going to fail 6th grade if he didn't get his act together. (In reality, I would have had to start the paperwork process for this in September if I actually had intentions of doing this. Needless to say, that didn't happen. I told his parents this when they left the room, and they said I should let him think he was going to fail, if it was motivating him. :-)) So, either way, after 2 days straight of keeping up with (almost) all of his daily assignments, he looks at me and says, "Mrs. Shetler, it's easy to do my work." My jaw just about dropped. If it's so easy, why was this lesson so long in coming?!?!? Either way, good deal for him. :-) 

Then, on Thursday, I was determined to use the laptops, as I hadn't done so in a couple of days, so I decided to have the kids research swine flu (I know, I know, H1N1) since there seemed to be rampant misinformation. Actual quote from student: "Is it true you can die from swine flu in 48 minutes?" So I had them research a bunch of questions about symptoms, how you get it, where it started, etc. I didn't tell them how or where to research it, just to see what turned up and what they decided to read. I did, however, tell them to look at the address or source and make sure it was something they had heard of before; i.e., news station, newspaper, etc. 

First of all, the connection to "easy" is that this lesson was super easy, as is often the case with technology use. When I say easy, I mean "easy" in that all behavior problems almost entirely cease and the kids are almost entirely engaged. To me, that is an easy lesson, because behavior is what makes my day crazy. To be sure, I still spend a lot of time working on tech issues, but all that I do is essentially educational, which is what I'm there for (not to scream at kids). 

Anyway, after about 10 minutes of near silent searching (bliss!), a (Mexican) girl came up to me and said in a pouty voice, "Mrs. Shetler, it says that swine flu started in Mexico because Mexicans are dirty and don't clean themselves!" She said this with a hurt look of, "I know this isn't true, but it's on the internet. Does that make it true?" So I said, "Well, does that sound like something that is a fact or an opinion?" With eyebrows still raised in consternation, she said, "Opinion..." So I replied, "So do you think you should trust that source?" "Nope!" she said and went back to searching. Lesson learned. :-) That was my "good teacher" moment of the week. 

That's the kind of easy lesson I wish I could teach everyday.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Heads Up

I am not a superstitious person. At all. However, this morning, I happened to find a penny in the hallway (which I always pick up, not because I'm superstitious, but because I'm cheap) and it was heads up. I thought for approximately 1 second about the purported "luckyness" of found heads up pennies, and went on with my day. 

Then this afternoon, 2 colleagues came to the door with good news. The penny must have done it's work. In order to understand how much I appreciated this item, you have to understand the prior situation. I've known since January that I wanted to apply for a different job out of the district for a million reasons (see all previous posts), and had applied for several. Didn't hear back from any place for various reasons and had to turn in my contract to my current district last week. I was very bummed because I was not excited about the way my current job was going to change next year, AND my partner in teaching succeeded in getting a different job. 

In the midst of all that frustration, 3 7th grade teachers who I have high respect for came and asked if I'd be interested in teaching 7th grade with them. I told them I would love to, not because it was 7th grade, but because I'd love to teach with them. (I was actually very flattered that they chose to ask me.) So, I went and talked to the principal about it, but evidently it was too late because the position was already filled. More frustration and hoping for miracles. Today I got my answer :-) The person who was going to take the other 7th grade position decided to take an 8th grade position! 

So, short of a job out of the district, this is probably the best solution for me for next year. I'll get to teach with great people, I get to stay in the same room (another lucky thing!!), and I "get" to learn another grade level. We shall see how it turns out, but it has to be better than this year! Yay for lucky pennies!!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Am I Crazy?

There's been a quote that's been running through my head lately: "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result." By this definition, I have completely gone off the deep end. Because every day, I go in, hoping that I might get just a modicum of respect and care for their education. But every day, I get nothing. No, let me rephrase, I get blatant disrespect, defiance, and things thrown at me. Clearly, I am far too tolerant, which I know, and I spend every day trying to alleviate this, some days with more success than others. For the last week though, I've felt completely useless. Like, I may as well just prop up a dummy in front of the class and they'd learn just as much.

I was definitely questioning my chosen profession today. Maybe I need a desk job where I can relate to reasonable adults on a daily basis. Or, maybe I should pursue the technology thing and try to get a job in a computer lab. Or maybe I should be a campground host and hang out in my RV.

To be fair, I'm also in a bad mood because my co-worker got another job in a different district, and I did not. Not even a response. My contract is due Thursday, and the places I applied at have hardly even started posting jobs for next year. The one job that sounded appealing at my own school, I was turned down from because I waited too long (on the other jobs I had applied for).


Definitely not a good teacher yet....

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Word play with 6th graders

It's really funny listening to kids figure out how/why certain words and phrases work the way they do. We're in the middle of a series of tobacco lessons, and today we were talking about why peer pressure affects kids and one girl came to a revelation. "Hey! I get it! Peers are people like you and they put pressure on you! Peer pressure! I get that now!" Lights going on...

Then, out of the blue, a different kid comes up to me today and informed me what "Jewish" means. Before I could answer, he says "It means when people are half Jewish, you know, like sort of Jewish. That's why they're called Jew-ish." :-) Gotta love 6th grade word play :-) 

Friday, April 3, 2009

AIMS Reflections

A reflection on Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) standardized test. I'm not generally a big poet, but I didn't think this one turned out too bad...


Bubbling, bubbling, bubbling
Soft, nervous scribbling
A yawn, a stretch, a silent groan, a sigh
Got it!---wait! Nope, this is it… whew, that was close

Perfect bubbles, heavy and dark

Wheels turning, pondering, thinking, considering, wavering, confused

Hushed whispers=reading silently, lips move

Intent, must do well

A sea of sloppy bubbles

Eenie, meenie, miney, moe, C if you don’t know

Figuring, counting, calculating

Pages flipping

Bubbling, bubbling, endless bubbling…

-D. Shetler, April 2007

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Do or Die

Well, it is AIMS week here in Arizona (our state standardized test). The kids are doing their best, and I'm proctoring with the best of them. Actually, I take that back. The best of them would walk around and monitor the entire 3 hour testing block. I walk around every half hour or so and give anyone the evil eye who dares make any sound outside of breathing, writing, erasing or thinking. It's effective for most kids. 

I have learned a few things about these tests in my past 4 years of teaching. 1): Bribe them, when necessary. Since I'm required by law to read the exact same test directions for all 8 sections of the test, the kids get tired of hearing me say it and I get tired of hearing me say it. However, I get even MORE tired of hearing them say, "Why do you have to read it again?? We know what it says! Just let us start!" So, I told them that whoever could go the whole week without saying this got candy. :-) I know, Mom, I shouldn't reward with candy, but I can only give out so many free homework passes :-) It's saving my sanity, and by proxy, their lives, so it's all good in my mind. 

2) Get as much done as is physically possible during the first 30 minutes of each test, because that's when the kids are most focused (i.e., no one's done yet.) After that, it's hit or miss, between getting up to get someone something, checking to see who's done, telling someone in a nearly silent whisper that they are not the only person in the room and they need to shut their mouths, etc. So today, I set up 15 laptops with Google Earth during the first hour. After that, I started collecting notes that got passed, paper airplanes, etc. 

3) Remind them that it is important to their teachers, parents, and should be important to themselves that they do the best they can on it. I learned this last year in one of my master's classes, when I read about a study where that was the only difference between 2 groups of kids, that the teachers reiterated the importance of this topic before they took the test. The group that was reminded did better. That's an easy enough strategy to implement :-) 

4) Tests are NOT allowed on the floor. If they are on the floor, the teacher collecting them MIGHT step on part of it while picking it up and rip it and then have to re-bubble/re-write half your test for you and that is NOT what the teacher wants to do!!!!!! 

Today was Day 4 of testing and the kids are starting to wear down. Yesterday they flew through both parts of the test, which makes me very nervous, so I told them to take their time today. (They don't realize how lucky they are to have an un-timed test.) They all burst out, "But it was easy!! It was easier than the Galileo! We just knew all the things because you taught it to us!!" Yay!!!!!! Warm fuzzy for me :-) Even though I hate to teach to the test, I really, really, really don't want my kids to get to this super-big test and not have a clue what they're looking at or how to solve problems. So, I'm not sure if that makes me a good teacher, but at least my kids don't feel too bad about the test, so far. We'll see how that applies to their test scores though... 

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Another edition of, "Seriously?!?"

And welcome to another edition of "Seriously?!?" (I'm not sure why my life is starting to feel like a game show, but it's distressing how many of my postings are taking that form!! And yes, this is vaguely reminiscent of Seth Myers and Amy Poehler's version of "Really?!?" on SNL.) A student comes in from lunch last week and asks if he can go to the restroom to wash his hands (given that there is no soap provided in the classrooms, and they stopped giving us our monthly ration of paper towels in December--hello budget cuts...). He said he needed to go wash the fish smell off of his hands. 

Naturally, I asked why his hands smelled like fish. "Me and Carlos were playing Fish Tag." You were playing WHAT?? I was then informed that Fish Tag meant picking up a dead fish (from the canal the school backs up to) and throwing it at your friend.  You've got to be kidding me. I was so mad at them, I really wanted to make them sit and suffer with their fish smell, but I knew that would make ME sit and suffer with their fish smell (and I have a policy against punishing kids AND myself in the process). So, I wrote them both detention and told them to go wash their hands. I was in such a state of disbelief when they explained, innocently of course, what they were doing. I did feel a little better after I reamed them both out for having even considered taking a DEAD fish off the ground and throwing it at each other... Unbelievable.

Stay tuned for next week's edition of "Seriously?!?" in which I catch a 6th grader eating part of his AIMS test. (This hasn't happened yet, but it wouldn't even surprise me at this point.) 

Friday, March 27, 2009

A bittersweet congratulations...

In our staff development meeting yesterday, we had a surprise visit from the superintendent to congratulate us on higher test scores, and let us know how impressed the district higher-ups were with the school, given that we've previously tended to be bottom of the barrel. So there were lots of warm fuzzies and applause. 

I definitely appreciate the recognition we're finally getting from the district for our hard work, however, there was a distinct bittersweet feel to this congratulations, in my opinion. While I'm thrilled that our test scores are going up, it doesn't do a whole lot of good, given that the school will be completely restructuring next year with at least 50% new teachers, if not more; new name and everything. Only about 20% of the students will remain, and most will be replaced by elementary students, since it will be a K-8 school next year. So, that's a weird feeling.

Also, it felt bittersweet given that we've basically been required to totally abandon what we know to be good teacher pedagogy for essentially teaching to the test. The students have been tested to death and are sick of doing worksheets and memorizing discrete skills. It's nearly impossible to teach in a constructivist, project-based manner when you are required to be teaching the exact same thing with the same materials on the exact same day as all 11 other teachers. So, like I said, I'm glad our test scores are going up, but I feel like I am a worse teacher than I was before...

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Applications in!

Well, all my applications are in at other districts (finally)! Now I just wait and see... Wish me luck :-)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Getting told by 6th Graders

Welcome to another rousing episode of "Getting Told By 6th Graders." 

It goes like this. My kids inform me of something they THINK I have no idea about. For instance, when they say things like, "My pencil got jacked! (That means someone stole it, Mrs. Shetler.)" Seriously guys. I'm not that old. 

Well, the Friday before Spring Break (Friday the 13th) when we are 5 school days away from our standardized testing, another episode of "Getting Told By 6th Graders" was sprung on me. I was trying to get through the content we needed to cover that day (we're too close to testing to spend the day before spring break watching movies or having a party). The Literature book passage we were reading was about genes and chromosomes, and the kids were not interested in reading (neither was I for that matter). 

However, they WERE interested in talking about it. So we had several discussions about cloning, if twins have the same DNA, etc., etc. Then someone asked about how the woman had 8 babies at once. So I said, "Well, when they make a baby in a lab with an egg and sperm--" and they were gone. You can't just launch into talk of those things without preface, which I did unthinkingly. Eventually I did manage to get through the discussion, but not before several other topics came up along this line, and finally one girl pipes up with this winner: 

"Mrs. Shetler, did you know that in high school they have a whole class about this stuff?? It's called Sex Ed."

And BAM, so ends another episode of "Getting Told By 6th Graders" :-) 

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Crime and Punishment

Here's a "you've got to be kidding me!!!" moment. The same student who threw a pencil at another kid's eye (see Feb post) told another kid "I'm going to f*** your mom." So, needless to say, I kicked him out of the room. This was about 12:30 in the afternoon. He didn't get to the office until 1:00 (it's a 2 minute walk at most). He told the secretary he didn't get there sooner because he "had something to do." Like what???? Go buy some hot cheetos at El Super down the street?? Anyway, this was also added to the referral that was written. 

His punishment? A detention. (One!)

You've got to be kidding me... At least in this case, I know I did the "good teacher" thing by not letting him get away with it in the classroom... 

What would I do?

So, I had it all figured out, where I wanted to teach next year (Alhambra district), what I was going to do if I didn't get a job there (go to a different school in Cartwright), etc. Why I think I'll be able to get a job anywhere outside the district in an economy like this, I don't know, but hey, I'm a glass half-full kind of person. Then, someone had to thrown in a third idea that threw me all off. The best laid plans, right?

At church, someone tells me that the school her daughter goes to a school for the arts (part of the name), and that they are expanding their 6th grade to add 2 classes and adding 4 fifth grade classes next year. First of all, the major plus is that they are hiring. Who's doing that nowadays? No one. (The amount of teachers being laid off per district around here is in the hundreds, some as many as 700!!!) So, that's already a good thing. Not only that, but this is a free, art-focused school. So, I decided to take a little look-see. The school is incredible. The kids do all their core classes in a long morning session, then in the afternoon all middle school kids are required to take piano and an instrument or dance. The application says they are looking for constructivist, project-based teachers, which is exactly what I'm all about. For those of you that don't know, that means a person who does NOT give 15 tests a week as I'm required to do (not quite that many, but close), but does fun things that actually require kids to learn about things they choose to do and are interested in. Not only that, but it's right downtown and I could ride the light rail to work!! So basically, the more and more I look at this school, the more I realize that if I could hand-pick a teaching job, this is it.

So what's the catch, you ask? You may recall that the school I teach at is low-income, high free/reduced lunch, etc. This is not by accident. I enjoy working with this population, and for all practical purposes feel called to work with them, since no one else is beating down the doors to do it. Schools in upper-class districts will never hurt for good teachers. I like to go where I'm needed :-) This other "dream job" school that I'm looking at though, while still free, does have a lottery waiting list, and tends to serve kids from a bunch of the middle-upper class areas nearby. (And plus, parents that aren't working 2 night jobs and have 5 other kids at home, plus 2 grandkids at home are more likely to be involved in this sort of endeavor.) These are probably also parents who are more likely to be watching their child's teacher very closely, which I have had the luxury of not dealing with yet in my teaching career. 

So, this is a bit of a moral dilemma (though totally premature, since I haven't even gotten applications to both places yet). The school sounds awesome, but the population might be...a big challenge, and I'd be far less needed. But, it would have a lot of fantastic peripheral benefits, I'm more likely to get a job there, and there would be lots of kids involved in music. The first district I am looking at though, has a far greater emphasis on technology and entails working with a population I'm familiar with, and has a much better track record with the given population. So, I don't know. What will most likely happen is I won't get a job anywhere and I'll hopefully at least be in another school in my current district. We'll just see. At least I know that if worst comes to worst and I have to stay at the school I'm at, I'm still slotted to teach 6th grade, which is better than over half the other current 6th grade teachers can say. 

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Testing, testing...Is this thing on??

All year long, I've busted my butt to get my kids to learn fractions, poetry terms, how to draw conclusions, etc., and I know they're learning things. But then, when it came to the district's quarterly tests, it was like nothing had ever entered their heads. Same scores, every time. This time, for whatever reason, they actually made small measures of progress as a class (2%, 6%, etc.) 

However, when they were taking the next day's test, I sat down and analyzed the kids' individual results, and these were the results: 
-18 of 29 kids improved
-9 kids improved by double digits
-Gained a total of 253 percentage points (adding up each individual's gain) 

My biggest excitement was when I realized that my two kids who never try or always give up got the following scores: 
-the first went from a 26 to an 80%
-the second went from a 12 to a 74%
I was thrilled!! I knew both those kids were smart enough to do it, but never tried. Needless to say, I called both their parents and was finally able to give them GOOD news for a change :-) 

The one student just decided to try on the test, for no apparent reason. However, the second one is my giver-upper. He literally refused to learn fractions. Just refused to take in new information!! He just gets SUPER easily overwhelmed and gave up as soon as he got 5 seconds in. This was the reason he ended the quarter with 41 missing assignments. He'd see how much missing work he had and, you guessed it, give up. My mantra to him for the last 3 months has been DON'T GIVE UP. YOU HAVE TO TRY. And periodically, I could get him to learn just one tiny little step here and there, and eventually he got the whole thing, amazingly. Hence, when he came to the test, he actually had a modicum of knowledge and confidence, and did well!! I was so proud.

I've also been really proud of him this week because he's finally attempting to make up his work. If he does it a little at a time, he can focus, not get overwhelmed and get it done. You should have seen his face when he saw his grades at the end of the week and realized he WASN'T failing every subject, for the first time this year! He was thrilled, which thrilled me, because he finally cared! 

It definitely felt like a "good teacher" moment. :-)  


Check out this cool site called PicLits that's kind of a visual version of magnetic poetry. I'm sure I can find out some way to use this in the classroom :-) (Unlike which is still super cool, but I can't figure out a single way to use it in class :-)) Until then, it just looks cool! See what you think-

Friday, February 13, 2009


I was just re-reading some of my previous posts and remembered the one I posted about a student who had made a point of telling other kids not to call names because "we don't do that in here," which is what I always say. It made me sad to remember that, because even though that kid wasn't perfect at that point, now he is a total disaster. 

He has a major anger management thing going on due to an estranged, jailed father (and who knows what else), and at least 3 times a day, I look up to see or hear him threatening someone or calling them horrible, horrible names. It's really awful. (On top of the fact that I have 2 other kids that have their own major issues, but that's a whole nother story.) For instance, today (a half day after conferences before a three day weekend) I gave him some missing work he had to make up, which his mom had requested. He gave me this totally insulted look, like how could I possibly consider making him do work over the long weekend (I told him he should've done them in class in the first place), and then he said that it wasn't his fault that I didn't see his papers when I graded them because they stuck to the other papers. (I told him that doesn't happen with 15 assignments). He took several of the papers and walked away while I went to get another one. I turn around less than a minute later to see him with another kid in a headlock, and didn't let go until I forced him to. I asked the other kid what he had said to set the other kid off and he replied that he hadn't said a thing (which I believe, he's my smartest kid who knows better than to get mixed up with this one). I'm pretty sure he was just mad at me, and took it out on the other kid. I felt bad about that one. 

Another example of the extreme anger and hatefulness inside of him was when I asked him to call his mother about something he was doing wrong after another kid had just used the phone (whom he dislikes). I handed him the phone and he refused to use it until I had "wiped it off" (The first kid to use it has known hygiene issues). He refused several times until he thought I was calling his mom for him. (I wasn't, I was calling the principal.) THEN, he dials and another kid hits his pocket and pipes up, "Hey! Why are you calling me!" So he got caught on that one. He dials again, and this time I take the phone to make sure he's calling mom, and who's voice mail picks up? His own. 

Another time, he was talking about a couple of girls who came in late, and referred to one of them as "that thing." Needless to say, I could go on with the stories. The hatefulness in his voice and disregard (and lack of safety) for others is really disturbing to me. He and his mom wanted him moved out of my class this week, but when mom saw his grades, she realized that that wouldn't solve any problems (which I fully agreed with. I know that if he switched classes, he'd start the same thing all over again. It's not me or the class that is the problem, it's his own issues that are the problem.) So anyway, I definitely have NOT made progress with this one. I know it's an extreme case, but it really does make for very difficult days for me. Hopefully, somewhere down the road, I'll be a better teacher because of this, but right now, it sure doesn't feel like I'm able to help this one be successful...

100% !!!!!

Yay!!!!!! For the first time EVER (in 4 years) I had 100% of my parents show up for parent-teacher conferences!! (including a couple phone conferences). Seriously, in the past, I felt good if I got more than half the parents to come to mid-year conferences. The fall conferences are usually closer to 70% attendance, but 100% is fairly unheard of in our district. I brought home my sign-in sheet and put it on the fridge, this is how proud I am. :-)

I'm fairly certain that two things helped make the difference. The first thing is the student-led conference format. We've been talking about conferences coming up for the last week or two and prepared folders of work they're proud of, work they're not so proud of, grades, self-evaluation, teacher evaluation, test results, and goals for the next quarter. They wrote letters persuading their parents to come, as well as practiced what they would do during conferences, since the kids have to be there as well. And, since they're student-led, it means that the parent and student come in, and the student immediately sits down with the parent and begins their conference. About 10 minutes later, I walk over and look over the goal paper that the student should have completed. (The students write 2 goals in class, and then during the conference the parent and student write a third goal together.) I make sure the goal is useful and offer any sage wisdom I can come up with to support that goal, ask if they have any questions (which they usually don't since the kids have gone through all of the information in their folders) and send them on their way! :-) My favorite thing is that it involves very little work on my part. One of my colleagues whom I love dearly said her agenda for each conference was as follows: 1) Academic talk, 2) Behavior talk, 3) Make them cry, 4) Happy cry, 5) Go home. I don't have the energy for that kind of intensity. She's a redhead though, she can take it. 

And the other thing that helped make conferences successful for me was the brownies (see previous posts). The kids had so much fun making the brownies and were so proud of them, they really WANTED their parents to come to conference (another first). It was so cute watching them point out to their parents which ones they made, and what they did to make them. (The pictures I displayed on the TV of the kids baking brought lots of smiles, too :-)) I had several parents who didn't show up at first, so I called them, and at least twice, the parents said that their child was very upset with them for not getting to their conference on time, after all the work they had gone to. Those parents were very relieved to hear that they could come at a different time. :-) 

So all in all, conferences went really well this time around. Actually, I usually enjoy conferences (except for the fact that I have to work two 12 hour days in a row) because I get to talk to adults and have rational conversations and see kids actually look repentant for once. Like I said, it can be nice, it's just very draining. This time, I didn't feel stressed at all. I was mainly making sure little brothers and sisters didn't tear the place apart, or eat 14 brownies, and the like. :-) So, maybe I'm developing one small area of expertise in this crazy job of teaching :-) Yay!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Chemical Reactions in the Kitchen

Well, parent teacher conferences are coming around again, so in the tradition established by my fall conferences this year, I decided to have the kids make food for conferences. (Hey, it got 93% of my parents there last time, which was a first!) We made decided to make brownies, the kind that DON'T come from a box. (Half the kids didn't know that was possible!) (Disregard my gratuitous use of parentheses.) I was planning on making them in the room, and then having seeing if I could bake them in the home ec room. When I asked the teacher if that was possible, she asked if we just wanted to make them there in the home ec room. This was a total gift and worked SO much better than every other time I've attempted to make food in my own, non-kitchen classroom. 

So, today was brownie day and the kids were thrilled. I foolishly told my co-worker that I expected the kids to have better behavior than usual, because they'd be so excited to be somewhere new and doing something different. (This is actually what happens with the laptops, so I wasn't speaking without good reason to believe that). This morning was crazy and I spent half the morning lecturing the kids about behavior which I DESPISE doing, and am pretty sure I'm no good at doing. 

Anyway, right after lunch, we went over to the home ec room, got everyone set up and ready to go. There were definitely some hiccups, as far as set-up goes, that was my fault. For instance, I didn't realize till this morning that there were only 3 available kitchen set-ups to use, and I had 7 groups making brownies. So, I had to find something else for the others to do while the first half was working, so I had them write a paragraph summarizing the recipe which they'd already read, and then a paragraph about their opinion of how it went. (These are actually skills they need to be able to do on writing assessments--summarize key ideas and justify an opinion with facts.) This worked surprisingly well, and after they finished writing, they (mostly) waited patiently for the others to finish! 

Overall, I was super impressed with the kids. Luckily enough, I did not have to eat my words about their behavior being better (or at least decent) in the kitchen. The home ec teacher was great and had stuff setting out and ready to go for the kids, including aprons and bandanas! The kids were so cute! I was so surprised at how well they worked together in their groups, as well as how they helped out. I had a kid that just started sweeping, without being asked, another who volunteered to help another group with dishes, and another assisting other groups in making sure they were doing things right. 
The only thing I did not anticipate, was how much different it is to have kids mis-measuring when chemical reactions need to take place in order for the whole thing to work! So, I had to be watching like a hawk to make sure that 2 t. of vanilla went in (not 2 Tablespoons) or that they didn't use the 1/3 c. instead of 1/4 c. because they couldn't find the other. The biggest thing I didn't anticipate was when I had one group have an extremely dry batter. They knew it wasn't right and I knew it wasn't right, but we couldn't figure out what they did wrong. Then, I turned around for a second and when I came back, they were trying to figure out how they were going to use the little container of salt to measure of half cup of it!!! I said "No, no, no, no, no!!! You need 1/2 TEASPOON of salt! Wait a minute-is that how you measured the baking powder?" Sure enough, they had put in 1/2 cup of baking powder!!!! Needless to say, that pan just didn't turn out. :-) It was a learning experience right? I felt bad for the kids, because they tried so hard, and were one of my best, smartest groups. Minor misunderstandings can lead to big problems! Oh well, for a first time, 6 out of 7 turned out, so that's not too bad right? :-) The kids had a ball, and even though it was crazy busy for me, it ended up working really well. :-) I'll post some more pix tomorrow. 

It's rarely as bad as I think...

So, today I (finally) had my post-observation meeting with the principal, in which we discuss the observation and go over the formal evaluation form together. I've been too busy to think terribly much about what the whole "pencil in the eye" affair (see previous post), but it has definitely been in the back of my head. I had personally felt like I didn't handle it correctly (that I should have stopped class, wrote him up, and sent him to the office immediately). However, when I mentioned being unsure of how I should have dealt with it in my meeting today, the principal says, "Oh no, I thought you dealt with that beautifully! You had him into the time-out room immediately, and you didn't make a big scene out of it. Half of the kids didn't even know it happened, you kept going with the lesson, and almost no one's learning was disrupted. You did a great job handling that!" I can't even tell you how relieved I was to hear that. On top of that, it's that time of year where I generally begin to feel like a total failure as a teacher, so I really needed to hear that :-) 

And then, bless her heart, she went on to say how I do a wonderful job as a general rule, and that Borman will be lucky if they get to keep me next year and how I'll have a long, successful career as a good teacher :-) (I'm not trying to brag, just trying to make up for all my postings regarding the bad things that happen :-) She actually said these things!) So, that definitely was a high point of my day. It reminds me that no matter how bad I think things are going, its probably not as bad as I originally thought. Maybe I do have some "good teacher" in me yet :-) 

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Are You Kidding Me??

This was definitely an "are you KIDDING me??" moment. Every year, teachers have to be observed by principals once or twice a year, and Thursday was my day. I had told my kids that the principal was coming in to watch me and that they should behave, etc. Evidently, I've had one too many people come through my room this year (this happens when they're thinking about closing you're school), because it no longer encourages better behavior in my students.

So here I am, having a wonderful discussion on Greek democracy vs. American democracy with my students with the principal observing my amazing teach ability :-) All of a sudden, to what should my wondering eyes appear, but a student cry of pain which continued on to my ear. "Mrs. Shetler!" he cries, "Chris just hit me in the eye with a pencil!!"

ARE YOU KIDDING ME????? I didn't say this, but I was in total disbelief. Sure enough, one student threw a pencil at another student facing him (as in, their desks touch), and hit him in the eye. Since I didn't actually see this happen, I have to assume this was intentional. (Luckily the pencil didn't stick in his eye, more of a glancing blow...) So, I sent the thrower to principal, sent the kid with the red eye to the nurse, got the other kids started on something democratic and proceeded to write out the referral form.

The rest of the observation went fine, but I just could not get over how unbelievable this kid is. (To be fair, every single day he does something that amazes me, but still.) Anyone else have an "are you kidding me?????" moment this week?

Monday, January 19, 2009

Class Olympics

Last week, we studied the Ancient Greek Olympics all week, which then culminated in creating our own class Olympics on Friday. It was great fun and encouraging. Since the kids were interested, they did better work, and since I was more interest I put more work into it. (The opposite of a vicious cycle- what would you call that?) Anyway, early in the week, I had them read some descriptions of the characteristics of various city-states in Greece (this came from a great 6th grade social studies website), including the Spartans with whom they are already familiar with through the movie. (I know, I know, why are 6th graders watching stuff like that???) They had to choose which group of people they were most like and explain why and they did an awesome job! They listed their choice and gave several supported reasons why they were most similar to that group. I think their writing is improving because I make them do it all the time :-) (No-brainer, right?) So that made me feel good. 

Throughout the week, we read more about the Ancient Olympics and compared it to what we already knew about the modern Olympics and what had and hadn't changed. (Perfect opportunity for a Venn diagram.) In addition, we chose 7 "sports" to include in our class
 Olympics, wrote the rules for them (functional writing), created record-keeping forms, and chose which ones to participate in.  On Friday afternoon, we began the festivities, which included the following sports: running, paper basketball (throwing wadded up paper into the trash can), arm wrestling, 

thumb wrestling, hitting a volleyball (how many times you could hit it with
out dropping it), twister and musical chairs. (Again, these were all chosen by the kids.)
 Everything went great (if not a little noisy). The kids loved it. I took pictures the whole time, and we even had a medal ceremony in which bronze, silver and gold medal winners got their medals and got their pictures taken :-) A good time was had by all!

I think that definitely qualifies as a "good teacher" moment :-) 

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Yesterday, my kids were being tested for something, and so they had to wait in the hallway and read their books. I look over and one kid has his book upside down. I told him to flip it over, figuring he was just being a dork. He looks at me with a smile and says, "I'm just trying to challenge myself!" 

That was my smile of the day :-)

A few minor successes

It's been a while! I've been crazy busy with testing (reading scores went up, math went down), Christmas events (a barely successful attempt at making Chex Mix with the kids in not enough time), and coming back to school without being overwhelmed by life. However, I've been meaning to blog for a while about a few things that have gone right. 

First of all, in December, I was gone for a day at a workshop, and when I returned, a student (who is very respectful, but totally out of seat, talking, etc.) had a note for me. It reads as follows: 
"I will try my best not to give up. Thank you for believing in me, and that I can have a really good success in my life. Instead of giving up, I will try a lot harder. PS: You are the best teacher ever!" :-) Yay, that was nice! This kid still drives me up the wall every day, but bless his heart anyway, right :-)

Then yesterday, earlier in class we had discussed the meaning of the word "opaque" and "transparent." Then later in the day, one of my favorite kids (who never does his work, but listens and participates in discussion) is looking at a page protector that something had come in. He holds it up to his face, attempts to look through, and says, "Hey, this is opaque, right?" Yes! You got it! Somebody is learning something!!

On Monday, the same kid and I were finally sitting down and hammering out some more work on fractions (if I never see another fraction again, it will be too soon!) and he did some good work. This was encouraging. However, then later on, we happened to be in lockdown for two hours and man were the kids bored. So, he finally comes up to me and asks me to write down fraction problems for him because he wanted to keep working!!!! Yay!!! 

So, among all the craziness, good things are still happening, I just have to look for them. And I am.  I recently came across an old journal that was a list of one good thing that happened each day during my first year of teaching. That was probably a life saver. So, I decided to take up the habit again, and it is such a good thing. It reminds me to actually look for good things, which is a great habit! Give it a shot! :-)