Sunday, October 30, 2016

#11 -- An Amazing Week in 4th Grade

If someone sentenced me to teaching 4th grade for the rest of my life, I have to admit, I wouldn't hate it. I'm really enjoying this grade level. And it comes as a surprise to me, actually, because when I started out my degree, I didn't picture myself in a general education classroom, leave alone 4th grade. I mean, 4th grade is so, well, middle, and un-glamorous. But I love it here!

One of my favorite things we taught this past week was purple words. Students were taught to look for descriptive words in menus. After they collected a descriptive vocabulary, they either created their own imaginary food to describe, or a real food. They wrote great descriptors. And I thoroughly enjoy teaching language skills.

I was given a few more responsibilities in the classroom including reading groups and daily math. Next week I'll be given a few more. On Monday I'll be evaluated for the fourth time for my degree.

Chief Little Turtle, Miami Indian of Indiana
I'm super excited that my supervising teacher has approved a unit study for me to teach on Indiana's First Peoples. Anyone who knows me knows that I love history. (See my websites, and I introduced the students to Woodland Indians. I'm surprised how little they know. I expected 4th graders to be more aware of history, but maybe that's because I'm a homeschooling parent and we talked history constantly in my house when my kids were growing up. (Plus, being an author of historic narratives makes me a little more, er, historic? than most folks...)

I know I won the lottery landing this student teaching gig with this classroom and teacher. First, the students are much more cooperative than I expected. Even though there are the random ornery ones, they aren't mean-spirited. They are just kids being kids. One little boy is such a stinker but he has the cutest freckles, sparkling eyes and grin. I can't get mad at him! Or any of them, for that matter. But my classroom management skills are improving.

Second reason I won the lottery, this teacher's philosophy is similar to mine. Project-based learning is important. Really important. And she's as passionate about it as I am. It keeps the students much more engaged and helps them invest in their own learning. She also enjoys using technology as much as possible. As I've written before, the role of teachers is changing. We are more facilitators of students' learning than actual direct instructors. I love that.

Another thing I'm doing is reading all the students' blogs and helping them with grammar. I made each student a checklist to follow to help them with the simple things: capitals, periods, etc. I'm not sure they even get that they are to refer to it to check over their work. And when I do comment on their blogs, some actually correct their blogs (I comment privately). Others ignore it. I'm still looking for a better way to help them and also to keep track of corrected blogs. 24 students times ten blogs? That's a lot of checking and keeping track!

Probably my favorite time of the week was when I read the BFG chapter: "Frobscottle and Whizzpoppers." Oh mylanta. We all laughed so hard. I wish I'd written that chapter!

Frobscottle is a drink the giant drinks that makes him pass gass. He calls these emissions Whizzpoppers. Here's my favorite quote from the main character, Sophie:

Kings and Queens are whizzpopping. Presidents are whizzpopping. Glamorous film stars are whizzpopping. Little babies are whizzpopping. But where I come from, it is not polite to talk about it.
And what the giant says:

Us giants is making whizzpoppers all the time! Whizzpopping is a sign of happiness. It is music to our ears!
Makes me wish I'd written the book. So clever, engaging and fun. I love it when school is fun, don't you?

Speaking of which, on Friday the students and teachers were allowed to dress up as book characters.They held a contest and I was embarrassed to have to stand in front of the entire school. I didn't win, of course, because students don't know who I am and couldn't figure out who I was because I dressed as one of my own book characters. That is, a character whose books I'm currently writing. Funny, eh?

I dressed as Grandma Betty Biddle from my Airship Chronicles trilogy. Can you see me? I'm in the back on the left.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Week 10 - 4th Grade Fun

Honeywell Center, Wabash, Indiana
This week went by really fast! Between a field trip, several special presentations and parent-teacher conferences, the days just zoomed by. Week 10 was here and gone before I knew it. 

On Monday morning we worked on our blogs for the reading challenge. I helped a student write one of her blogs. Then we put together a latin roots prefixes notebook. That was pretty time-consuming, but I thought the kids did pretty well. We'll add Greek prefixes next week.

After reading and writing time, we went to the Honeywell Center in Wabash, Indiana to see the play, Frindle. I thought it was okay, and the kids seemed to enjoy it. The entire Intermediate school went. It was fun to see everyone out and about for the afternoon.

The premise of the story, Frindle, is very good, I think, for promoting literacy, reading and language. But I'm not sure it's a play-worthy story. However, I recognize that a lot of these theater companies do things that will help schools meet state standards. And in turn, this allows people to do theater. So while it was no bring-down-the-house performance, it was a nice diversion from the regular pace of school.  And it also exposed students to a live performance, which I think is extremely important these days.

On Tuesday morning a teacher from the Honeywell Center came and did an observation writing lesson using art. It was fascinating listening to the students' observations about various forms of art. The things they saw and interpreted were interesting. One student said one of the paintings reminded them of a foster home. Sort of tells us where these kids are coming from.

I also got to lead three reading groups and started teaching a little bit of Math by leading the daily math exercises. I am dire need of reviewing my academic language in math. I plan to do that this weekend. It's just one of those things that if you don't bathe yourself in the vocabulary on a regular basis, you definitely forget it.

For writing the teacher asked me to talk to the students about being a writer and the writing process. I was to focus on how writing involves a ton of re-writing. Today I found this awesome quote by Dahl I can't wait to share with the students on Monday. (We're reading his book, BFG, as a class.)

I was thrilled to get to share my books with the students. Some of them were very excited about knowing a "real writer." Others weren't a bit impressed, which is great. One of them wants to take my book home, but I think I'm going to give them each a copy of my Canada book as a good-bye gift when I leave in six weeks.

Wednesday was more of the same except that we had Junior Achievement again. It was a great week for having tons of special things going on and made the week go super-fast.

Wednesday night I stayed for parent-teacher conferences. I also went for awhile on Thursday. Friday was fall break. Yay!

This coming week I'll have more responsibility and will be introducing our unit on the Native Americans. I have tons of homework and am feeling overwhelmed and run-down. It's been difficult to get anything done at home with this crazy schedule. But I'm trying to breathe and take it a day at a time, a job at a time, 100 square feet at a time <grin>.

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Week 9 - In Which I Go to 4th Grade
This was my first week in 4th grade and I gotta say, it's so much calmer than the high school. The day just drags compared to what I went through at the high school!

But it's a really nice change of pace, and I have tons to learn here. My supervising teacher and I have a lot in common. We both hate worksheets and believe strongly in project-based learning. We believe in being facilitators more than teachers. She even already has the kids blogging on

There are two students that I'm working intensively with who have IEPs. I am frustrated for one of them because I know there's a disability someone hasn't identified yet. I know there's got to be more going on than just a learning disability. Something just isn't adding up and I'm suspecting something like autism. But I'm not a doctor and I'm not qualified to diagnose anyone, so I have to keep my mouth shut. I do think I'm going to try and find out when she was last evaluated to see if she qualifies for a new evaluation.

As a class we are reading the book, Frindle by Clements. The students will attend  a play on Monday based upon this book. I'm curious to see how they manage to act it out. 

I'm reading BFG by Dahl aloud. The kids love it and I am having a blast making the giant voice and speaking in the protaganist's English accent.

Other teacher-type things I was able to do this week included grading papers and helping students as needed. I do like the attitude and team-spirit of the 4th grade teachers. It seems that everyone gets along and just want to do their jobs well. I didn't sense any of the drama that I sensed at the high school. But it's only my first week, so we'll see.

All in all, I think I'd like having a 4th grade classroom someday. Not that we ever get to choose. But 4th graders are clever enough to do a lot of neat projects with but they haven't yet slid into puberty so the drama is much less. It's a much calmer atmosphere than the high school, for sure. 

I did get some attitude from a couple of students because I asked them to do something they didn't want to (such as stopping sharpening colored pencils in order to get to their next class on time). But, I think that's just the way kids are now. Not many kids have respect for teachers or parents or anyone in authority. And it starts way younger than it used to. 

In the meantime, I'm just trying to build relationships and get to know the kids. There are 25? in the class, and it's not easy remembering all those little faces! And I'm looking forward to learning how the two students with IEPs learn best. After next week I'll be taking over more. I'm a little nervous about doing things the way the supervising teacher wants me to do them. She's the strong silent type, but she has her ways of doing things and I hope I can tow her line correctly.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Week Eight -- My last week at the high school

Good-bye gifts for my students and teachers: "Owl Miss You!"
I did it! I survived my eight-week stint at the high school. And what a week it was.

I'm still confused regarding how I was treated by some of the staff. It makes no sense to me. The only thing I can think of is that this is a small town and people gossip a lot. Maybe something was said about my age. Maybe something was said about my kids. Who knows? All I know is that I did my job there the best I could. I made connections with students. And since that's the reason I'm doing this -- for kids and their parents -- then, that's really all that matters.

My supervising teacher was extremely generous by having a party on my last day. The Life Skills class made food all morning and we munched the rest of the day. Everything was delicious. I didn't get a picture of the delicious buffalo chicken dip she made. Trust me, it was amazing.

My supervising teacher knows my favorite color is purple and she went the extra mile to do it up in my favorite hue! This was totally and completely unexpected. I was really touched. 

I made the above candy bar wrappers using a graphic you can find here: Teachers Pay Teachers

I made these gift bags using an upside down heart for the tummy and adding text. I got the rest of the adorable owl from this printable freebie: Can I Get a Hoot, Hoot?

The biggest surprise was the gynormous gift I was given by my teacher and the Special Education department.I was blown away. This crate is chock full of teaching supplies. I am so excited to use them someday!

Successes this week included advocating for a student who has been labeled as lazy. Knowing I only had a few more days with him, and convinced it wasn't laziness, I finally got him to let me get close enough to him to help him email his teachers. Come to find out, he didn't even know how to. Not only that, he couldn't navigate Google Classroom, either. I get so frustrated for kids and that's a weakness of mine. There simply isn't enough time in the day and not enough teachers to really meet these kids' needs.

I know writing that won't make me popular and I'll probably have to delete this statement when I'm applying for jobs, but it's the truth. The one population that should have the most consistency doesn't. They are taught by paras who hop in and out helping as many kids as they can. In the meantime, the teacher of record simply can't be there for them because she's called out of the room all of the time to put out fires other kids with behavior challenges start in general ed. classes.

But, for two kids this week, I was able to help them make connections with other staff who will look out for and help them. The trouble for these two particular kids is that they have built huge walls around them and are afraid to trust anyone. I will be praying they'll open a gate and let someone in.

I will say this. My supervising teacher is my hero. She has been for a long time because she was my twins' teacher for five years. She just got her dream camper purchased for next summer and her retirement years so I gave her a throw pillow for her camper and a cute camper mug.

I gave the students boxes of Bit-o-Honey, in memory of the honey unit we did (my first evaluated lesson) and a photo memory book of photos from our eight weeks. The best part of them opening the gifts was the genuine response from the student with autism who was always calling me names, "Awwww," he looked at it and thumbed through it and looked at me with the biggest smile, "I'm going to treasure this forever!"

He didn't say it using a robotic voice or cartoon voice. It was genuine appreciation. The teacher and I looked at each other round-eyed and so proud! Later I said to her, "See? He is able to function appropriately! I knew it!" (This is the same student who called me a grouch the day before for asking him to do his work and who called me an Old Goose last week. Hee hee. Love it.)

Here are the first and last pages of the photo book:

And here is the newsletter I created to summarize our September where I included my good-bye letter (click to enlarge):

I am going to miss those kids. There's no doubt about that. 

Now, I'm headed to the Intermediate school to see what that's all about. I'll be there eight weeks. In eight weeks I'll be able to apply for my teacher's license. Seems so far away. And yet, I'm sure these eight weeks will fly by just as quickly as these did. I have no idea what to expect in terms of school community or difficulty. This first week will be easy because I'm mostly observing. But in a few weeks I'll be up to my elbows in studying Indiana Native Americans and fractions. 

I can hardly wait. 

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Week Seven of Student Teaching: In Which I Get Called an Old Goose.

This week was "College Go" week at our school. I was the only "staff" at the school who attended an online college. I think those of us who learn online don't get the respect we deserve. I think people look at us as having a sub-par education but that's far from being true.  If anything, we work harder than those who sit in a classroom. We have to be self-starting, self-motivated, and practice a ton of research skills.

I can honestly say I'm really proud of my college and my accomplishments through them. I'm not in the least bit embarrassed because I know how hard I've worked. I know how demanding the coursework has been and still is. I don't know of any other teacher's college that is as vigorous as mine in terms of expectations and evaluations. 

Out of 2400 Teachers College programs, my online college is #1 in secondary education and #16 in elementary education. That's nothing to sneeze at. I'm really proud of that, too.

It could be my imagination and insecurity, of course, but I honestly don't think some of the professionals at my placement believe I'm a legitimate, high-quality, well-qualified candidate for future employment. Heck, I'm not even sure they believe I'm a high-quality human being, but that's a post for another blog on another day. (And trust me, I'm definitely going to be blogging about a few things once I put some distance between me and this student teaching thing...)

This week was another difficult week for our special education students due to there being an interruption in our third period Life Skills class (again). The first day we didn't really understand what was going on and where we were all supposed to go afterwards. But it was a super cool thing they did, and I can't complain for myself. I was super pleased with how it turned out! Check out the video below and see for yourself!

Isn't that awesome?

During the first thirty minutes of every third period this week, all students reported to home rooms by grade. This was to help them with taking surveys and learning about going to college. We had the ninth graders in our room. Since I didn't have a teaching degree yet (even though I have other degrees), my supervising teacher led Tuesday's activity of talking about her degree and how she obtained it. 

On Wednesday, I led the students in taking an interest survey. They seemed to enjoy it, and I had fun learning what careers the students were interested in. On Thursday they took a college-type survey to learn what types of colleges they might want to pursue. I enjoy interacting with the students, especially if I can forget I'm being watched by other teachers and staff. That's the really difficult part of student teaching. I feel like I'm under the microscope every second. The one time I may do something sub-par will the very second someone important walks in <sigh>.

The highlight of our week in Life Skills was making donuts on Friday. We used canned biscuits, cut a hole in the middle of them and fried them. We made icings and added sprinkles. I have to admit they turned out really yummy!

Next week will be my mid-term evaluation. I'll be evaluated on teaching a social skills lesson. I hope it goes well. I feel myself losing a little enthusiasm for this high school placement. Not because of teaching and not because of the students. Not at all. Because of other things. But it's probably just fatigue talking. I need some sleep. And some good veggie juice de-tox from eating those donuts!

I'm curious about how I'll feel about my last day there. Maybe life is making it easy for me to say goodbye there. I don't know. I just know that graduation day for me is going to be a super, duper happy day. Where I go from there, time will tell!

One of the funny things that happened this week was when a student with autism was upset with me and called me an Old Goose. I found it humorous, but of course, I had to correct him gently for being disrespectful. I understood the sentiment because he had to do homework he'd missed instead of watching a movie on Friday. I've been called much worse things! Old Goose I can handle.

I spent most of my evening tonight making a gift album for my students. Now I'm wondering if I should make them a video or not. Or if a three-dimensional hard-copy gift is better. I just don't know. Maybe I'll do both. It depends on what kind of time I have. 

One more week to go in high school! And then, I'll be doing eight weeks at the middle school. Whose idea was it again to get a K-12 license??? Oh yeah. That'd be me.

Is it December 2 yet??

Can you guess my new mascot?

As soon as I get my badge, I'll announce my new school and position. So excited!!