Floating down the Delaware

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Sep 09 2009

year 2, day 1

well I survived.

just barely, but I made it.
so where to start? how about the beginning.

6:15 came waaaaay too early this morning. I was up pretty much every hour from like 3 on. Excitement, nerves, you know the drill. Thankfully I showered last night because getting up any earlier than I did would have been downright painful and not possible. Packed my lunch (which I never ate, more on that later), made some coffee – AAAAAAND I managed not to spill it on my white pants :), packed my teacher bag in no particular order, and headed out the door. Got to the school around 7:10, walked in and saw my little baby from last year sitting on the couch waiting for school to start. Ran into the office to swipe in and then started throwing my bag and lunchbox and coffee on the ground to get the biggest hug in the world from my baby from last year. Seeing her smile and excitement over seeing me by far made my day. AND she has glasses now and looks adorable and I definitely started to tear up a little as I said goodbye to her and headed up the stairs to the first grade wing. I threw my stuff down on the chair and immediately had to write out the nametags for my tables – I left it to last minute because I needed to mull the seating arrangement over a little bit before I taped anyone’s name down. Around 7:30 we all had to go outside and wait for our kiddies. Why 7:30 I do not know, especially when we told parents not to show up until 8:30, but surprise, surprise there were children waiting for us to collect them at 7:45. My first student, we’ll call him Little Johnny, is definitely going to be my special child this year. He needs a lot of firm discipline, which as you know is not my style, but more on that later. So Lil’ Johnny and I stood together waiting for the rest of the class to show up, pushing every button I had in like the first 5 minutes of the day. Great, just great. soooo 8:30 finally rolled around – after standing outside with 6 year olds for almost an hour in a straight line, try it sometime and see if you don’t go crazy – we walked inside and got settled in our classroom. I had the kids grab breakfast and eat while they unpacked their bags and gave me all of the supplies they brought in for the year. Annnnnnd that’s when the day started to unravel.

So our bathroom time is 9:45, and for some reason today when I looked at the clock at 8:45 I was convinced it said 9:45 and even told my kids the clock said 9:45 and lined up for the bathroom. Got all the way down to the bathroom and my principal walked through the hallway halfway through my kids using the bathroom and looked at me and said, “Did you switch your bathroom time?” I looked at her quizzically, started at my DIGITAL watch, and went “OOOOOOOH CRAP” and she started to laugh and was like, do we need to go over how to read an analog clock? At that EXACT moment I started to get frantic and everything I had planned for the day went out of my head and it turned into “one of thooose days”. So back we walked hip and lip to the classroom, after apologizing a million times and hurrying my children through the bathroom process. Got back to my classroom, finished eating breakfast and started our morning meeting. To say I was frazzled is saying the least. Don’t really remember what we did but forgot to explain the rules, consequences, and basically everything that we were suppose to do during the morning meeting so yeah, it didn’t go over as well as I have planned in my head. So I guess tomorrow will be spent doing what we were suppose to be doing today, but hey, it’s all a learning process.

So after a screwed up morning meeting, complete with Lil’ Johnny acting up and throwing temper tantrums while being threatened with changing his light when he acted up, we started Language Arts. Language Arts actually went pretty well. We read “Twas the Night Before First Grade” and then talked about what we wanted to learn this year in First Grade. I wrote everyone’s ideas on the board and then explained that we were going to write a sentence about what we were going to learn/do this year. WHOOOOAH boy was that rocky and rough. First of all, last names – yeah, apparently knowing how to spell them was never gone over in Kindergarten – thankfully I have both their first and last names on their desk nametags but it was definitely a rough process. Writing just their name and the date for some of them took a good 10 minutes. Others were done in like 2. So 40 minutes and one sentence later, Language Arts was over, Art was starting, and I finally had a second to breathe and pretend that Ms. Smith didn’t exist. Looking back on Language Arts there were some positives – 1. My kids did a good job at staying in their seats and raising their hands when they needed help. 2. Most of my students know how to write their letters so that’s one less thing I have to worry about teaching. There are some who struggle but that should be easily fixed by putting a paper with the alphabet on their desk or in their seat sack.

So Art happened and I sat in the office and covered some plastic cups to make a place value chart so to keep track of the days we’ve been in school so far, exciting I know, and talked with Ms. B about what to do about my friend Lil’ Johnny. See the thing with Lil’ Johnny is that he has problems sometimes controlling his impulses and so sometimes when he acts out he does it because he doesn’t know any other way to control his behavior, and other times he’s doing it to be defiant and so the hard part is differentiating between the two. Lil’ Johnny responds well to the traffic light but has little breakdowns each time you move his light. He’ll yell NO!, or say I’m sorry a million times and when that doesn’t work he throws a little temper tantrum. After reminding him to make a good choice so his light can be changed, he fixes his behavior for like 5 seconds and expects his light to be changed. Well aww-hell-to-the-no, not gonna happen that quickly, and since he wants it to happen that quickly and it doesn’t, you can just imagine the tantrum that occurs. So yeah, basically Ms. B told me to stick to my guns and not let him run the classroom and keep him on whatever color he’s on until he deserves to move. Bracing myself for the challenge that faced me in math, I relieved the Art teacher and fed my crazy children snack.

Math was after snack and it was pretty much the worst part of the day, for sure. Started to call the kiddos over to the carpet and cue Johnny kicking is feet against the top of the table because I asked him to sit properly so he could come over to the carpet. Refusing to let him over to the carpet until he fixed his behavior he started kicking more frequently until he finally stopped after realizing that he wanted to be part of the group and didn’t want to be by himself at a table. Let him join the carpet, etc, etc and praise him for sitting nicely on the carpet until he started calling out and refused to sit the right way so I gave him a warning, moved him to the “watch-out warning” pocket on the stop light and moved on. Yeah, if only it was that easy. Stopped for like 2 minutes and then BAM! started up all over again, so his light got changed to yellow…and that’s pretty much when I lost control of my class. Johnny started to throw a temper tantrum, rolling around on the carpet, kicking his feet and all that jazz. Meanwhile, one of my students with ADHD was slowly starting to come off his medicine and got this look in his eye like he was going to try to pull the same crap. THANK GOODNESS it was 11:15 and it was time to go to the bathroom because all hell was slowly breaking loose. Lined them all up for the door – trying to get them to stand as quiet as possible which was pretty much near impossible with the chaos happening around us. B saw me in the hallway, asked how Johnny was going and I filled her in real quick and she pretty much lost it on him and got all in his face and just let him have it. (Backstory, Lil’ Johnny was in her office at least once a day last year and eventually had to have his class changed, so this year Ms. B and his mom are not messing around and are tolerating no BS) The tears started flowing and a sigh of relief was heard all around. B told me that while she loved how calm and patient I was with the children, with Lil’ Johnny I needed to maybe be firm and the complete opposite – great, that goes against my very nature but I guess it’s what he needs, so it’s what I gotta do. Lil’ Johnny started to act out in line again and I got in his face, let him have it, made him cry a little and then didn’t have a problem with him for the rest of math – phew.

Lunch was utter choas, mainly because we combine classes for lunch so I had my class and half of another 1st grade class AND they weren’t that hungry so they didn’t really eat all of their lunch (french toast sticks and hash browns) so they finished in like 15 minutes. Thankfully they love to be read to so we read Goldilocks and the Three Bears (with some vocabulary and content modification – really, does the hunter really have to kill the wolf?) and then it was time for recess.

That’s suppose to be my prep time but I had a million and a half things to do so needless to say my lunch did not get eaten.

After the crazys came back from recess it was time for the 100 book challenge which is basically when they read independently and silently. The first day though you have to level them all and figure out where they are. They’re suppose to be silent but on the first day it’s just not possible – hopefully tomorrow will go a little smoother. Social Studies was community building so I gave them all scraps of colored paper and said – “Here, glue, have fun!” and then we talked about how our pictures all look different, and we all look different, but that’s what makes us special and part of our family. Cheesy, I know but hey, they got the message. The last 20 minutes of the day were spent packing them up and getting ready to go outside to give them all back to their parents. Spoke to Johnny’s mom at pickup, and watched how she interacted with him and realized that I need to be firm and give him lots of tough love – I can do it…I think. 40 minutes later all of them were returned to their parental units, and that’s when I collapsed on the carpet.

So tomorrow’s a brand new day and it’s going to be a lot more like boot camp. I made the mistake of powering through even if there was some misbehavior and realized that I can’t do that tomorrow so I’m saying screw academics, it’s more important to get our routines and rules down. Gonna be a long day of walking back and forth from our tables to our carpets and then practicing raising our hands and such, but I’m taking no prisoners. I also have to assign spots on the carpet and in line, because giving them the independence to sit and stand wherever is just not a good idea right now.

deep breaths and we will get through this

One Response

  1. Staci

    So babe, in the words of my esteemed mother “This too shall pass”…from the less esteemed – You GO Girl! Hang in there and give ‘em hell!

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The few, the proud, the Camden Corps

Greater Philadelphia
Elementary School
Elementary Education

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