Friday, September 28, 2012

Riding the Roller Coaster

Have to admit my gut twists into knots when I know the 8th graders will be walking through my door. They are certainly a presence. Big bodies, big attitudes, big voices. Yesterday went better than the week before with them. They came in, I quickly gave my directions and lesson and they were off to work on the computers. I am teaching them to use MS Word (wish it was Google Docs but that's another story). The lesson was simple AND I learned from the previous week to have some step by step directions for them so I wasn't repeating myself 30 times. I used a Flow Map from the Thinking Maps program with screen shots of the steps.  What a smart move if I do say so myself. Even the 3rd graders were able to use them. (note to self- make directions like that for all tasks).
What I've observed with these students is they don't all know HOW to learn. Some are well below grade level so of course when they are asked to do some of the tasks they shut down and become disruptive because it IS simply too hard. I am trying to set clear expectations, be consistent, be fair. I at least have them to where they venture down from the 3rd floor to the basement and somewhat line up outside the door to hear directions. This is important rather than having them just filter into the room sporadicly on their own time. Then I've moved from having them sit on the rugs on the floor to letting them sit in chairs. I try to make my time with them listening to me short, sweet and to the point. Routines, routines, routines.... hard to create when I only see each class once a week. The 8th grade yesterday was the best I've seen them. I paced the room walking behind the students reminding them to use the gold direction page for their next step. Their task when they finished mine was to play cool math games. Apparently in previous years this was some they did and enjoyed. I don't see how their favorite games had anything to do with math but at least they completed my task and were happy, quiet and calm. I enjoyed chatting with some of the students about the games. I know if I can build relationships with them my job will be not necessarily easier but less gut wrenching.
On a side note, the day wasn't completely good. Walking in the hall back to my room during my lunch time, I had to restrain a girl who was face to face with another getting ready to fight. WOW! Girls are mean!!!!!! I've said for many years there needs to be a program for girls where they learn at a young age how to survive. I see it start at such a young age where girls lose confidence, don't know how to make friends, how to be friends, how to let "silly" girl stuff roll off their backs. For some reason boys do these things easier (most of the time). Guys make each other mad, but they generally don't let it fester and ruin a friendship. Hmmm.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Small Successes

One of the 7th grade groups was in my class yesterday learning some word processing skills. The last time they were in, I had two particularly 'spirited' boys that were quite disruptive. Yesterday I started class chatted with one trying to set the class up differently.  I reinforced how I wanted him to act and said I knew he could do it.  The other boy I had to move to a different computer station because his usual one wasn't working. He grumbled and griped but I chatted quietly with him as well.  Well, my quiet chat strategy worked! Both boys were less disrupted and actually worked. What I have known for many years is that building relationships will trump all when it comes to the classroom. I sat in a training yesterday for No Nonsense Nurturing and was again reminded of this important element to a classroom. I am hoping that the connections I'm making with some of the 7th and 8th graders during their elective time at the end of the day will start to filter into the times they come to the class with their other classmates.  The group I have is only 15 or so kids who are exploring some various tech tools. Yesterday while chatting with a few of them, I had the aha idea of having them do some learning about things they're interested in and then somehow teach me or the class.  For example one student was looking up Otter Box cases and talking to his friends about how they work. Another was looking up info on a new gaming system he wants. These are the things I need to build from and hopefully build a relationship with.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Go Slow to Go Fast

What a week! Monday was a great day this past week. I commented to my AP after the day was over how nice it was to see teachers (talking mostly about middle school ones) cracking a bit of a smile at days end. Come to find out the reason was a few of the more "spirited" students were absent which dramatically changed the whole dynamic and vibe of the classes. Sad that a small few infect the whole lot of them and create an overall toxic environment.

My schedule is different every day of the week which makes me a bit frazzled at times. The essentialists (music, art, PE and tech) get classes back to back without any kind of break between so when one class runs late or the teacher doesn't come pick them up on time it makes for a bit more chaos. The class that is sending everyone over the edge a bit is the 1st grade due to the size.  37 little people is complete madness in a computer lab. The challenge with them is that we pick them up from the cafeteria and get to lead the group down the hall to our classroom. Talk about the longest line ever! Then of course we have the revolving door of bathroom goers. When we finally get in the room and are a tiny bit settled on the rug for some instruction, it's like looking out at a sea of roly-pollies. This week they had the first time on the computers. As the previous pictures show, my room is like a dancehall.  So all but 3 computers were in use. Thank goodness one of the APs was witness to the kitten herding and roly-poly madness and was able to offer a few bits of advice. The principal also popped in and wondered where the para professional helper was .... "GOOD QUESTION," I replied. She had one in the room within five minutes to help. Whew!!
The week had simple moments that I have to look for a lot more. Empowered a seventh grader to get up and show the rest of the electives group how to do a few things in Garageband. Most students don't call me Ms. DeSelm, they just say Miss. Part of this is due to the fact they've had so many teachers in and out the doors of this school that they have no trust or connection. However, a few smaller kiddos said hi to me using my name. Made me feel good. An eighth grade student stood by me during one of my recess duties and just chatted with me. He was really surprised to learn my mom grew up in the neighborhood and actually went to the school. His comment, "Really? How old are you?" I said I was really old- his great response "You don't look old at all!!"
Then the roller coaster week took a big swoop down when the second 8th grade class walked in my room. There are 30 of them in the first place and then add about five that are ultra "spirited" and make their presence felt times ten. Tried to teach and instruct while the handful threw out snarky comments, and threw paper. One boy I walked over to and quietly asked to move away from the group he was with because he kept talking over me flat out refused. Not much I can do with that when I have the whole group up for the lesson. The lesson I was in the midst of was around getting the students to think about their name and stories related to it. I read an excerpt from a book and shared my own stories via a circle map. The second part of the assignment will be getting them into MS Word for some word processing skills but thought doing it with an interesting assignment would be good. One kid who is another 'spirit' in the class sat there and wasn't working so I tried to ask some prompting questions to get him going. He said "what do you care about my name?" Again showing that these 8th graders don't trust the new teachers and have been bobbled around almost their whole academic career. Why would or should they trust? I wouldn't either. Have to say every time this group comes in my room I have to fake my confidence and put on my poker face. Can't let them smell my fear or I will be eaten alive.
I keep telling myself I need to go slow to go fast. It's important to take a breath and look for the small moments of success. I question a lot whether moving from the suburbs and safety net was the right thing to do. My answer EVERY time is YES. The work is hard~ really, really hard. No place I'd rather be right now.
Now I'm off to reset, refresh and relax in one of my most favorite places on Earth. Salida. Gonna put my feet in the river and just breathe.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Learning to Breathe Water

Learning to Breathe Water

I'm not gonna sugar coat or lie about my first two weeks of school. I know I'm not the only one to ever feel this way but wow.
This is not very well written but at o'dark thirty I needed to spill to a friend why I'd not returned her texts this week and why as I write this I am teary (I'm a softy at heart and when I'm overwhelmed the tears fall like rain).

"Not ignoring you my dear friend.  I've just had another 'awesome' week.  
Have worked 11 hours at school each day, not home before 6, had an 8th grade student look me in the face and say "ya know you don't belong at this school",  have caught a lovely cold from a germ factory, still do not have my computer lab dialed in because having MACs means they are not networked and all has to be done manually by hand (like setting up user groups because they don't use active directory, adding printers, desktop shortcuts to all user groups that have been created...), then am the site tech rep that now has upcoming trainings the next few Tues/Thurs from 4:30-6:30 so I can be pulled like stretch armstrong around the building to problem solve issues during the time I DON'T have, the two first grade classes have 35 students and are a management nightmare, had an ece girl get really mad at me because I was trying to move her away from a girl she was pushing in line- she told me she didn't like me and was going to tell her mother, have 650 names I need to learn and many are baffling... not sure when it's an h or a j and what is silent and what is pronounced- had one girl mumble under her breath on the second time she came to class and I was calling role- "jeez, learn my name would ya"... even after I prefaced with the fact I was learning a lot of names and it was the second time they'd come to class, I only see each group once a week so that doesn't lend itself for learning too many names nor does it lend itself to working on multi-day projects, yesterday after the 8th graders came back from lunch I was up in their hallway to chat with a student who'd messed with the settings on his computer and.... let me tell you-- it was one of the scariest moments I've had.  The students were upset because the admins split up the two 8th grade classes for lunch because they were being AWFUL together. So their answer was to start pushing in the hall and making loud noises and whistles.... come to find out it was fake and they were doing it to intimidate the adults (which they did)-- they had the principal, two APs, the security guard, and about 7 other adults in the area trying to manage and get them to class, then we are doing 7/8th grade electives the last 30 minutes of the day and so the students got to choose one- art, music, tech, drama, college readiness. Well some were moved into an elective they didn't even select because they wanted to minimize the number of difficult students in each section... therefore I had 3/20 REALLY not wanting to be in my room--- which makes it so not awesome for the rest but yet, what am I supposed to do with them? They didn't want to be in my class yet they were placed there--- I get they are crabby, my back, body and feet have been exhausted and in pain every night because I am on my feet on a tile floor all day (need to invest in better shoes with money I don't have)-- I have yet to sit down and eat my lunch- it's been done standing and walking around the room working...

On the positive side:
  • had a couple 7th graders do something great with Taxgedo and really liked what we did for electives class yesterday-- one girl was in there REALLY quick, energetic and was my helper because she finished so quickly!
  • had the ece-spanish group come in and this one girl who'd cried the first 3 times I've seen her actually smile and wave goodbye to me as they left.
  • Jorge in 3rd grade shared that his hamster had babies. 
  • the 5th graders are awesome
  • Today is Friday"
Pretty sure I need to escape this weekend to reset, reenergize and renew. I have just the place.