Team Building Time at the OK Corral

We’re three days into the new school year at the OK Corral.  We’re taking just-out-of-kindergarten-ers and turning them into lean, mean, running-with-the-big-dogs first graders.  The first week or so of any school year is spent teaching procedures and rules, outlining expectations, and creating a cohesive family for the next 180 days.  We’ve read many of the usual first-day-of-school read alouds like First Day Jitters, The Kissing Hand, and one of my personal favorites, It’s Time for School, Stinkyface.

wpid-20150819_094646.jpgToday, we read another great book, The Crayon Box That Talked.  In the story, a little girl overhears a box of crayons arguing about how they don’t like one another.  She buys the box, takes it home, and shows the crayons how they work together to create a beautiful picture.  Not unlike a rag tag bunch of former kindergartners, coming together to form a terrific first grade class.

After reading the story, we worked on creating our own crayon dudes with which to decorate the OK Corral.  Check it out.

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It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

wpid-img_20150506_071941-1.jpgRead it and weep.  It’s the official flier for the End of the Year Luncheon.

Don’t let its innocuous appearance fool you.  It’s not merely an informational communique whereby we’re told the location of the luncheon along with the cost and the menu.

Nay, verily, I say unto thee ’tis the light at the end of the tunnel.

For after lunch has been consumed, songs have been sung, and prizes have been awarded, we shall all sail off into the bliss of summer vacation.

This little piece of paper will get me through the next twenty school days.  But who’s counting?  Oh, that would be me.

Lunch in Crazy Town

Friday I had lunch in Crazy Town. I realize that it was Halloween.  But still.

Normally, my first grade team and I work through lunch on Friday, then eat together in someone’s room during our Fine Arts period.  Our schedule is such that some of us finish lunch before the rest of us even get there.  Friday is our day to eat together and catch up on the latest in everyone’s lives.

This week was off, though.  One of us is out on maternity leave until after the holidays.  Witty was away on a cruise, but we don’t hate her.  Much.  Miz O Postrophe had to get her class ready for the costume parade.  As so it was that the rest of us roughed it for the day.

Our school was built in the sixties when someone’s idea of educational utopia was the open classroom, wherein walls were flexible and allowed classrooms to expand, the better to expand young minds. I’d imagine that vinyl accordion walls were cheaper to build than cinder block ones so it probably saved someone a butt-load of money, too.

Our ‘Teachers’ Dining Room’ is but a former classroom located off to the side of the cafeteria.  It shares a flexible wall with one of our three EBD units.  That’s Emotional/Behavioral Disorder.  Imagine the sounds that travel through the wall between that classroom and the TDR, that gastronomic oasis for instructional warriors.  Rare is the day I don’t think to myself, upon hearing all the ruckus, There is not enough money in this blue-eyed world…  

On Friday, it wasn’t merely the feral screams and moans from the Classroom Beyond the Wall (suddenly I’m hearing the theme music from Game of Thrones), there was mayhem within the room as well.  Lunchtime usually brings together people from various departments who might not otherwise have reason or opportunity to interact.  Often when I arrive at lunch, there is a woman finishing her own meal and chatting on the phone.  And by chatting, I mean talking very loudly.  This is not a new phenomenon.  But for whatever reason, on Friday her conversation was unusually loud.  Enter another colleague or two and we all engage in conversation.  The woman on the phone gets louder.  In order to continue our conversation, we have to talk louder and suddenly Chatty Cathy is practically shouting into her phone.

As annoying as it was, we didn’t have much time to address it because at that moment a strange man came stumbling out of the closet that connects the TDR with the Classroom Beyond the Wall.  I assumed that he was a substitute of some sort.  He was very tall, very thin, and apparently very old.  He came shuffling into the room not unlike the walking dead, carrying what appeared to be his lunch.  I stared in amazement, figuring that with his general gait, it would take him about three days to make his way across the room to the microwave.  He wanted to know if the microwave was industrial.  Is that a thing?

I took the opportunity to make my escape back to my class, more stressed out than I had been before lunch.  No more Crazy Town for me, thank you very much.

You see?  This is why the first grade team normally skips lunch on Friday.

Zero and 50

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Zero the Hero returned to the OK Corral yesterday to celebrate Day 50. He left us fifty stickers along with a big 50 design to cut out.

According to the e-mailed instructions, we were to count the stickers by ones, twos, fives, and tens. Next, we were to decorate the giant 50 using the fifty stickers.wpid-20141030_094613.jpg

I was amazed at how many of my friends tried to get away with only using some of their stickers. I mean, the whole point of the activity is that there are fifty, right? Sigh.

Finally, we wrote about the whole experience in our Zero the Hero Journals. I imagine our pal Zero will be back for Day 60.  If he isn’t too jaded over the whole thing.

Batting A Thousand

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Teaching, in my opinion, is more art than science. Don’t get me wrong. Obviously you have to know your content and be skilled in best practices.

But you also have to have game. You have to have almost a sixth sense, reading body language, understanding your kids’ currency.

Engineering a unique classroom culture is vital to team building, and to effective classroom management. To that end, there are quite a few traditions I’ve built into my bag of tricks. 

Friday always brings highly anticipated festivities. One of them is the celebration of the Table Points winners. The seating arrangement for my firsties is two eight-top tables and one row of six. Each table has a name that they chose. All week, tables compete for points by exhibiting good choices, being ready, treating each other kindly, etc. The table with the most points by a certain time on Friday wins. Rather than giving a treat or prize, I like to have a special activity which only that table gets to do.

Today, the Ariel table (aka Isolation Row) came out on top. For their reward, they did a little Halloween art project. It was a simple cut and paste bat, but you would have thought they won the lottery.

It’s good to hang out with little dudes. They remind you that often, less is more.