There Will Be Rum

Today was a pisser.  No, really.

Yesterday, I received a new student.  Well, new to me.  He came from the class next door where for the first 10 days of school, he wreaked havoc, screaming “No!” at his teacher and often running out of the room and rampaging around campus.

It was decided by the powers that be, in their infinite wisdom, that it was the combination of an inexperienced teacher and other strong personalities in the class that made it wise to move him to a new classroom.  When the AP told me about it the day before the move, she admitted to me that he’d run away from her office before she’d sent him home for the day.  I said that I didn’t know what I could for him do if administration clearly couldn’t control him either.

But Little Hellraiser E1’d in my room yesterday.  It wasn’t exactly smooth but it was tolerable.  Fast-forward to today.  He started out fine, adhering to our ‘First Things First’ tasks, completing his Morning Work and even reading for a few minutes.

But it was during my iii block about 15 minutes into the instructional day that he began to go downhill.  The schedule is so tight and I was trying to get the iii lesson done but I had to keep stopping to redirect my new friend.  I finally had him sit beside me while I finished the lesson.

Following iii, we began our Morning Meeting.  When he refused to join the rest of the class on the carpet, I chose to continue with what we were doing and put him on ‘Ignore’ as he roamed around the room.  That’s when the shit hit the fan.  As we continued to ignore him, he began to escalate his behavior, eventually scooting a 6′ tall rack of journals toward the center of the room and pushing it over onto the carpet, causing kids to scramble out of the way.

Before we could do anything else, he’d grabbed a chair, carried it toward a cluster of kids cowering by the wall, and proceeded to throw the chair at the kids.  (All of this I have on video on my phone.)  I pushed the call button and told them a student was throwing chairs while I had the kids line up at the door.  We then went out onto the sidewalk and waited for the BIC to come.

While we were outside the room, he absolutely trashed my classroom.  Mind you, he wasn’t screaming, he wasn’t angry, he was simply destroying everything in sight.  When the BIC arrived, he and the AP had the kid clean up his mess while I took the rest of the class to the playground.  The photos are from after it was ‘cleaned up’.

Little Hellraiser was apparently sent home for the rest of the day.  According to the Principal, whom I saw later, he won’t be back tomorrow, either.  I’ll be honest with you.  I don’t want him back in my room.  The truth is, he poses a danger to other students, both physically and academically.  I can’t do my job properly if I’m constantly worried he’s going to hurt someone.

And another fact:  I am a highly qualified professional educator.  I’m hell at teaching kids to read and to write and to perform first grade mathematical functions.  I am NOT a psychiatric nurse.  I am NOT a social worker.  I am NOT trained in dealing with mentally disturbed children.  And it’s not what I want to do with my life.  I can go through the union to refuse to have the kid in my class.  I’m hoping it doesn’t come to that.

wpid-20150902_165350-1.jpgThis is happening tonight.

I’m not Miss Beadle.

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Oh Happy Day!

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In a previous post, I introduced you to Bob Marley, the copier so named for its enormous propensity for jamming. I walked into the copy room this morning to find Miz O-postrophe and another teacher bowing to Xerox, the god of duplication.

How is it possible for both machines to break down in stereo?! These ladies spent a good fifteen minutes just trying to get their copies finished. Here’s the thing–our degrees are in education, not engineering.

Instead of utilizing before school prep time designing effective and innovative instruction, we wasted time wrestling with these temperamental behemoths.

Your tax dollars at work. And, you’re welcome.

I’m not Miss Beadle.

Because Geniuses Run the World

Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past few years, you have heard of the Common Core State Standards.  For the uninitiated, they are the instructional standards for kindergarten through grade twelve, the core math and language arts content that students should have mastered by the time they graduate from high school.

Initially, Common Core was adopted by most of the fifty states, including the great state of Florida.  As with anything new, it was greeted with huge controversy and there was a lot of loud protest against the Common Core.

I had no problem with Common Core, per se.  I mean, doesn’t it seem reasonable to say that first graders in Maine, Oregon, Iowa, and Texas should all be learning the same thing?  If only so that if Johnny moves from Freeport, ME to Portland, OR in the middle of the year, he’ll be up to speed?

I think the visceral negative reaction was more due to the fact that once again, standards were tied to big, high-stakes, standardized testing.  I prefer to think of these tests as “Gotcha!” assessments.  If Johnny has a head cold and didn’t get the right amount of sleep the night before, or, heaven forbid, he’s just not feeling it on a given day, Gotcha!  You, the student, fail, and you, the teacher, are incompetent.

At any rate, mucho dinero  and ridiculous amounts of time were spent in the pursuit of retraining teachers and administrators on the Common Core State Standards.  Whereas previously, Florida teachers were required to teach to the Florida’s Comprehensive Assessment Test (FCAT), now we were being required to teach to the the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC).  I know what you’re thinking.  Six one, half-dozen the other, right?  That’s where you’d be wrong.

You see, FCAT is owned by Pearson, and they have been getting millions of dollars for years for administering and scoring the test.  Ironically enough, they also get millions of dollars for selling intervention materials for students who score poorly on the test.  Well, that’s convenient.

PARCC, however, is a consortium of participating states, and according to the website, not affiliated with a publishing company.  The process of developing the test is described in this way:  The Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC) is a group of states working together to develop a set of assessments that measure whether students are on track to be successful in college and their careers.

But alas, none of that matters, because despite having spent the last three years gearing up for the inaugural launch of the PARCC this coming spring, the great state of Florida decided, in its infinite wisdom, to opt out of Common Core State Standards.  We were informed of this mid-May of last year.  We will, instead, be teaching the Language Arts Florida Standards (LAFS) and Mathematics Florida Standards (MaFS).  I shit you not.  And, obviously, there will have to be a new standardized high-stakes test.  Do you suppose someone’s brother-in-law will get the bid for administering and scoring it?

And oh, by the way, said the powers that be, here’s a list of concepts you haven’t covered yet, but you need to cover them by the end of the year so that next year’s second graders will be up to speed.  I’m sorry.  Your emergency is not my emergency.

Which brings us back around to the the present.  We’re being asked to revamp our math block.  Must prepare for the new test.  Which my first graders won’t take for another two years.  Or at all, if the powers that be change their minds again.

We’ll need to add math centers.  Which we used to do, then were told we couldn’t do them, now we’ve gotta again.  Sigh.  I wanted to share a picture of a manipulative my girl Miz O Postrophe made.  She gives credit to Teacher Tipster for the idea, but it’s a really good thing.

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Ten frame made by Miz O Postrophe, from an idea by Teacher Tipster

You’re looking at a Dollar Tree baking sheet, painter’s tape, and two-color counters with magnetic tape on the back of them.  Boom!  You’ve got a ten frame.

Here’s what I think.  Regardless of which standards we use or what standardized high-stakes test we are expected to teach to, the truth is the truth.  At the first grade level, we’re teaching the nuts-and-bolts foundational skills of reading, writing, addition, and subtraction.  All the rest is smoke and mirrors.

More About Mountain Math

I have written recently about a new program we’ve been informed that we have to incorporate into our first grade math curriculum called Mountain Math. Some have asked about what it is and truthfully, I’ve been hard pressed to explain. Initially what I understood about Mountain Math is that someone tossed me a large packet of card stock, rather resembling 9×12 construction paper, and told me, “We’re doing this now.  Laminate and cut it out.”  And said packet was grotesquely sparse in terms of directions.  I’m a reasonably intelligent instructional warrior.  I’m hell at reading and following instructions.  Alas, there were few.

Mountain MathMy knowledge grew to understand that it’s a system of twenty-four math concepts.  One way to utilize the material is to set up a twenty-four section bulletin board to display the concepts all at once, the idea being that after you use the specific problems, you replace them with new ones.

Well that ain’t happening, I said to myself.  A twenty-four section bulletin board?  With my literacy word wall, math word wall, science word wall, social studies word wall, anchor charts, procedural charts, oh, and alphabet and number line, my walls are pretty much used up.

Some other grade levels were militant about getting this crap up asap, before they even knew how to use it, which I thought was pretty dumb.  Just because someone says you have to do something, it doesn’t mean that you do.  So, investigating the wee instructions, I discovered that there were options to creating a huge bulletin board that looks like Walt Disney threw up.  You can also display a few of the twenty-four concepts at a time on a pocket chart, which I thought was much more feasible.  I have space for one more pocket chart.  Also, a sweet colleague from fifth grade shared a YouTube video from Teacher Tipster which was a HUGE help.  God bless Teacher Tipster!

Don’t get me wrong.  It’s not that I hate the program.  It’s probably going to be useful, once I understand the most efficient way to utilize it.  It’s that I hate being told by people who have no idea what I already do that I have to do something different.  Can I get an amen?

When the Name of the Game is Improvise and Overcome

wpid-20140918_063950-1.jpgMeet Bob Marley.  He’s a necessary evil in my daily work life.  As advertised on the sign written by a witty colleague, the thing is a master at jamming.  Here’s what the photo doesn’t show.  This printer, which is connected to my computer, is located three buildings away from my classroom.

So picture this–you want to print a report to show a parent, an alternate running record form, or any other document.  You have to choose ‘Store Print’ from Preferences, choose a user name, name the document, give it a four-digit code, send it to the printer, leave your room and walk three buildings away through rain, sleet, or hail (just kidding, we don’t get sleet), and hope that it was actually sent and that no one else happens to be on the machine at that time.

Do you suppose the Superintendent of Schools has to do this?  When I first started at my school in 2004, I actually had a printer in my classroom.  But a couple of years later, when my toner cartridge ran out, I was told to throw the machine away.  The District was no longer providing printers or toner for classrooms.  So I was hooked up to Bob Marley.

Well, not actually Bob Marley.  He was new last year, replacing an equally unreliable behemoth.  One day last year, I received an email about a flash sale held by a national office supply company.  For a mere $89 I could have my very own laser printer/scanner/copier in my classroom.  I jumped on it, refusing to ask the question, In which other profession would someone even contemplate purchasing office equipment out of their own pocket?  Obviously, I wouldn’t use it for entire class sets of papers, but for single documents that I then take down to Bob Marley, it’s perfect.

One thousand pages later, my toner ran out.  I discovered that the replacement toner cartridge is about $120.  Seriously?!  Then someone turned me on to buying toner and ink on eBay.  I was able to get two replacement cartridges for about $50.

Oh yeah!  Happy dance!  Come on, District!  Hit me again!

Zero at 20

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Yesterday was Day 20.  Zero the Hero made another visit, bringing us each twenty pretzels.  He sent us an ‘e-mail’ exhorting us to count them by ones, twos, fives, and tens.  As we wrote about our twenty pretzels in our Zero the Hero Journals we took the time to enjoy our pretzels.  Zero the Hero should make his next appearance on Day 30.

Delivered to my room today was a huge packet of materials called Mountain Math.  Apparently, someone has decided that instead of/in addition to the usual calendar math we do every morning and the pattern work we do as we celebrate Zero the Hero, we need to do this other system.  It’s going to take me hours to laminate all the pieces and cut them out.  No word on where I’ll keep the eleventy-billion kibbles and bits.

Oh, and I need to designate a bulletin board for this whole thing.  Would that be the actual bulletin board where our calendar math is now?  Or the faux one I made by putting fabric on the opposite side of the dry erase board to make the thing symmetrical?

Sorry, Zero the Hero.  It looks as though your skill set may longer be needed as we enter a new streamlining phase vis a vis talking about number patterns.  Good luck in your new venture.