Saturday, September 21, 2013

Whhheeeeeeeeeewwwwwwwww! The Year is Underway!

Okay... I admit: I'm not sure how to spell that sound that a tired teacher makes at the end of the first three weeks. I think the fractional equivalent is one-fourth excitement and three-fourths exhaustion.

At least I am doing better than last year! My woes at the beginning of the previous year were such that I had to disappear from cyber-space for almost two months just to catch my breath. Perhaps I have finally become immune to drama...

We are required to post our numbers on the board so that the principal can submit the numbers to the central office to allow them to redistribute staff as necessary. My enrollment seemed to change almost daily. One student changed classrooms on the second day, another moved after five days, another student arrived and departed within two days, and, starting Monday, another of my students has transferred to a private school! I think I will have thirty-three sixth graders this years. Or thirty-two. Or thirty-four...

Add to that a student who went on vacation for a week, followed by a sore throat virus and a fast case of stomach flu that moved from table group to table group sending them home (or at least to the office) in a steady stream. My most commonly used sentence frame seems to be "Is that the day you weren't here?" I spend a lot of time trying to picture the calendar in my head!

All that aside, things have gone gone fairly well.  Most of our routines are in place, Much of schedule has been cemented, and the kids seems to know when to be where and what to do when they get there!

This group is incredibly diverse. "Differentiation" will be the key word as I try to plan this year, and I keep wishing I could tutor every day after school for those who are so far below grade level. I am formulating a plan to support my strugglers, knowing in my heart that I am just one person and that there will never be enough time or materials. At times like this, I have to remind myself to delight in all progress, no matter how small...

The week ahead is filled with... adventures! 

In California, we have a yearly visit to show that we are in compliance with the Williams Act which ensures that all students have the textbooks they need and that they are being educated in a safe environment. At this very moment, all of my students have ALL of their textbooks on their desks ready for the "people with clipboards" who will arrive Monday morning. I have already coached them on the lack of personal space that they will experience as the auditors "lean in" to count their books. That sort of "closeness" makes students uncomfortable and I am hopeful that all of the thoughts in their heads will be shared AFTER the officials leave. Thankfully, my books are all numbered, so I think I have made it fairly easy for the visitors to get an accurate count--and move on to the next room!

On Wednesday, our school is participating in the K to College program. Students will be receiving school supplies and dental health kits and participating in an assembly focusing on career choices. Students are supposed to dress up to show the career they want to pursue. Honestly, I am not expecting much participation. Recently the additional suggestion was offered to dress in the colors of the college students hope to attend which did broaden the options. Still, sixth graders just aren't used to looking that far into the future. And many of them are already CERTAIN they have careers in professional sports or the music industry...

That same evening we have Back-to-School Night. It's a good thing this event falls after the first three weeks... I think I finally know which students are actually in my class! My sixth graders will be selling hot dogs for half an hour (which is not enough time!) before the PTA meeting. Guiding twelve kids (and hopefully a few willing parents) to sell two hundred hot dog plates in thirty minutes will be like an out-of-control event in Minute to Win It!

Barbecue graphics from Marie Truelove HERE on Etsy
 Then we have two rounds of forty-five minute presentations in our classroom during which we spell out our grade level programs. I have my fingers crossed that my technology will work. Talking through an invisible PowerPoint presentation is never fun!

On Friday, we will have more folks with clipboards as we welcome some observers who will be watching for the way in which we use "scaffolds" in our classroom to help support learning. Hopefully, by then, we will have the textbooks back on shelves and the Back-to-School barbecue materials out of sight! I think there will be three rounds of visitors. While I don't relish having people watching me teach, I know it is a part of the learning process (for them and for me). The hardest part is not knowing exactly WHEN they will arrive. There are some messy transitions as we move from whole group to small group and from small group to the next small group. I think we'll have to practice this a few times before Friday!

California has (almost) decided to suspend our state standardized testing this year in favor of assessments that approximate the "new learning" (and evaluation) of Common Core. This decision will save me from the two-part thinking that was plaguing me as I tried to organize for Common Core learning while, at the same time, preparing the students for tests which focused on the sunsetting state standards. I am thankful for the reprieve.

Okay, BlogBuddies, I think you are caught up on all that is happening in our sixth grade world. I hope that you are enjoying a wonderful new school year as well and that you are excited about the learning that is happening in your classroom! And I am so glad we can be cheerleaders for each other...

Cheerleader clip art by Joy of Kindergarten HERE on TpT
I found a new (to me) Linky Party HERE. I am linking this post to Mrs. Laffin's Laughings' Peek at My Week. I'm off to take a peek there as well!

Monday, September 2, 2013

Day 2...The Night Before...

After all of these years, I am still nervous the night before the first day of school! I am worrying that I will forget something. Or forget to do something. Or forget how to do something...
Butterflies by Fancy Dog Studio HERE on TpT
 Yep... Those butterflies are starting to flutter in my stomach...

Already I am starting the day at a disadvantage... My Promethean Board won't "power up." I was lunging at it from every direction with the remote... but to no avail. So it's chart paper and lots of demonstrations for us tomorrow.

I spent far too much time this evening trying to come up with 35 jobs. In my room, we take that "work together" concept seriously. Everyone has a job and it takes all of us doing our part to make things run smoothly.

Here's what I have so far. I always take suggestions from the kids and revise the list to include those jobs for which they can provide reasonable rationale. Jobs take place throughout the day, but we have a "job time" at the end of the day and everyone completes jobs left unfinished and signs out to show that they have completed the task for which they are responsible. On days when we run short on time, the students are always anxious to do their job and sign out. Quite often, they are more determined than I am to be finished and accountable! (Don't you just love that about kids?!)

It's close to midnight and I still have seven things on my To Do list, so I will wish all of the School-Starts-the-Day-After-Labor-Day folks a happy First Day. And to those who have been back for a while... Happy 4-Day Week!

I have butterflies in my stomach and a serious case of The Eve of the First Day Jitters...

Tomorrow is the First Day of School!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Day 3... Currently... It's September!

WOW. What happened to the end of August? September is here... and my whole world changes with the flip of a calendar page!

No more staying up until long past midnight. No more naps at ten in the morning. No more daytime TV. No more unlimited restroom use. Time to get this new school year underway!

All in all, I'm ready. Of course, there are always a hundred (or more!) other things I could do to my room. And I didn't do as much reading, planning and learning as I had hoped. And I haven't had my Common Core questions answered. But I am looking forward to KIDS!

We have several new-to-our-school students in sixth grade this year. I always love watching kids "adjust" their friendship circles so that everyone has a place. It takes time, but it always happens. And it still makes my heart happy as I marvel at kids' ability to be inclusive.

Like most Septembers, the weather has been hot. I know it's been hot everywhere, and I am trying to be welcoming, but I'm fearful of melting! A small room, without air conditioning, with 35 big kids is just a bit too warm for my liking...

I love that Farley urged us to take care of ourselves this September. I must admit, that is rarely on my To Do list. I need to eat better (Cocoa Puffs is not an entree?!) and get more sleep. Meeting both of those goals will be even more difficult as the new year unfolds, but I want to, at least, give it a try. And, finally, I need to look for the GOOD in every situation, in every child, and in everyone else. I am so much happier when I can see things in a positive light... and having a positive attitude makes it possible for me to be more forgiving, more encouraging, and more willing to see the issues from all sides. If I expect my students to demonstrate those characteristics, I know I need to model them as well.

Wishing you a September full of good things and nice surprises... Now it's your turn to add your Currently to the mix... and then hop back to Farley's and leave some love...