Monday, November 2, 2009

Goodbye Harrison!

Dear Harrison,

You were the best car. You really really were. You were the first car that belonged totally to me. The first time I saw you I fell in love with your sleek red sides and short fat butt of a trunk. You weren't to short and you weren't too long. (This is important, more important than you might think for short girls who aren't so great at backing up.) You had so much room on your back bumper for all the bumper stickers I could ever want to put on you.

My first tags gave you your name: 24 HF 12. I loved those tags. They pleased each of my OCD tendencies; even numbers, a good number letter pattern, easy division problem and the initials of the best actor in the history of the world. Harrison Ford. I'll never forget anxiously waiting in line at the DMV for your tags, wondering what number and letter sequence you would be. When they plopped down the tags in front of me, I couldn't believe it. We were meant to be.

I remember the time Dad and to replace a bunch of parts on you and I came home to find you all taken apart on the shop floor! Dad did such a great job of putting you back together and keeping you running well for all those MA VT years!

You took me back and forth from MA to VT. You spent entire summers on the Cape. During one, you drove me all the way into the heart of Maine and back again, same day. We made lots of trips back and forth to the Cape (first serious boyfriend) and later back and forth from Bennington to North Adams (second serious boyfriend.)

Harrison, you drove me from my old life in MA to my new life in NM. You were the wheels for the best rode trip ever. (All of you reading, if you ever get the chance to drive across the country with your Mum and your plant, do it. You will never regret it.) You took us across the border with Canada (numerous times, not a lot of good signage.) Past the wine groves in PA, past the Brooks and Dunn gear bus in Ohio, across the border between IL and Mo (again numerous times, because for one state the border is the river and the for the other it was a random line on the road.) Down across OK and Texas where we encountered the biggest cross (in the world?) Finally, into NM and to La Pasa. Once you got here, I didn't have to drive you much. It was nice to work and live in the same area. Out here we went all the way to Arizona and all the way to Wyoming.

Throughout these years, you have jump started all sort of cars that were bigger (Ford Explorer) and more expensive (Mercedes.) Remember that time we used the tow cables that Dad bought us that we thought we would never use to pull a two wheel drive truck out of a muddy ditch?! The best part was that I did all the hooking up and directing in a mini skirt and heels! The New Mexican boys that didn't know how do this (or drive a stick!) were very impressed with the little white girl from the Northeast!

You've always taken good care of me and all the friends and family you've encountered along the way. I was sad when the first car dealership offered only 500 for you, sadder when the second didn't even say what they would give us and even sadder when the third (and final! more on that later) dealership offered 250. I knew that you were worth far more, but we worried that because you had a selvage title, no one else would be able to see that.

Craigslist proved us wrong. Tonight you were sold to a very nice guy that is a student by day and a pest control person by night for way more than the amounts mentioned previously. He wanted you because you would get better gas mileage than his Jeep. As I did the last minute check to make sure all my personal things were taken out of you, I took one long last look. You were a great car.

Love,

Ms. Knitter!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Bad Halloween Costume

Dear Man Dressed Up as a Gestapo Officer,

What is your problem? How is your costume ok? Are you one of those people that does things just to get a negative reaction out of the people around you? Was it just some sick social experiment? As I was sitting there watching you smoke a hand rolled cigarette outside one of my favorite local brew pubs, I realized that many people use Halloween to dress up as something they would like to be. Do you fantasize about being a murderer? Torturer? Bigot? Rapist? Terrorist?

It was really really eerie to see you standing there smoking and laughing with a guy that was wearing normal clothes as if there was nothing off about you standing there with an olive green uniform, gun holster, German patches and the distinctive red band around your arm.

Do you really know no one that was affected by your fellow officers back in time? Do you really no one whose family was wrenched apart?

You disgust me.

Ms. Knitter

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Adderall

I got a new fourth grader on Wednesday, Peter. Like when Gram joined my class last year, I noticed something was off right away. He couldn't sit still, he refused to follow the simplest direction, he shouted and said things like, "I don't know what a book is, how does it work?" (Which wasn't true because we found out later that he's reading at grade level.) Suffice to say, it was a hard day. I had to be constantly near him, keeping him from putting his hand on other kids.

Come to find out he doesn't like women in general and as ADD. I spoke to his mother after school and asked her what works for her at home when he doesn't follow any directions. She said, "Nothing, nothing works, I wish I could help." She went on to say that she took him off of his adderall over summer because he wasn't in school and was bringing him the doctor the next afternoon to have the prescription renewed. Thursday was another hard day with him and I started to get really nervous about how I was going to make the class work with Kismet and Peter, two really high needs kids and still have time to teach.

On Friday, I was anxious to see how he was, that being the first day he was back on his meds. He was like a zombie. It was weird. He was quiet and honestly, looked kind of high. I mean, it was much easier. For the most part, he did what I told him to do and worked well with the other kids. But by the end of the day he looked so whigged out I sort of wished for the first Peter I met.

I'm not sure what I think about putting kids on these kinds of meds this young. I know one person about my age who has been on ritalin since he was in grade school and this kids is so scattered, hard to talk to and nuts now that I wonder if it did and is continuing to do serious damage. Obviously, helps Peter cope in school, but to what cost? We're the adults, shouldn't we be the ones manipulating the environment to suit his needs? I know there is therapy out there that can teach kids the skills they need to harness ADD and ADHD without meds but perhaps for parents that's the harder choice because of the time and money. Or perhaps, the doctors aren't explaining this to the parents. It just doesn't seem right. But I don't know what the answer is.

The Year So Far...

I began this year feeling very confident in my teaching skills. I have grown a lot as a educator since that first class I had in 2007. So I thought I would write a little about how the year as gone so far.

Most of the other teachers are intimidated by this year's third grade class. They are a handful. I think this has mostly to do with the fact that the class is top heavy with boys. There are also a lot of kids with IEPs. Last year, these kids didn't have the best teacher. She gave them a lot of free time and during what teaching time there was, there wasn't much structure or very many expectations of them. In fact, last year's third grade teacher asked not be put back into the third grade because she knew that these were the kids she would receive.

There are also some things that set this class apart in a good way. This class is the first class of the school, they were the first kindergarten class. Not all of them returned of course, but there are a handful of kids that continue to come back each year. Because they are the first class, they are also the most bilingual, or should be. They've had the bilingual education from day one. It wasn't perfect. We the teachers, are still learning the best way to make this work in our classrooms, but we're getting better at it each year as well.

When I was asked to take on the third grade I was really excited. As I have mentioned before, I had a lot of these kids when they were in Kindergarten. I liked the idea of having them again. I knew walking in that it was going to be a challenge.

I spent the first two weeks talking over them to get their attention. At the end of the third week, I realized that that definitely wasn't going to work the whole year because by Thursday, I was having trouble talking normally and my voice was hoarse. So I decided to borrow yet another page from Sophia.

When I need their attention and they are talking or laughing or running around, I put my arm up in the air with five fingers up. Counting in my head, I scan the room for about seven seconds. When the children see me with my hand up that is their signal to stop talking, laughing or running around, they put their hand in the air. If everyone is looking at me, I'm able to give directions or whatever it was I needed their attention for. If I get to seven in my head and I still don't have everyone's attention, I begin counting down the fingers on my hand. They know that if I get all the way down to zero fingers, they get a mark on the board. If by the end of the morning or afternoon (whichever part of the day I happen to have them that week) they have five or less marks on the board, they get extra recess, 6 or more less recess.

So far I've been amazed at how this has worked. There are days when they gain recess and days when they lose it. When they get to the point where they are having extra recess everyday, I'll make it four or less and so on and so forth. This way the bar is always moving, yet they still know exactly what is expected of them. I like that I was able to come with a system that rewards as well as punishes. They know that they have to work together as a team to get the extra recess and so even the timid ones who rarely talk out of turn have begun turning to their classmates and encouraging them to follow the rules.

One day, perhaps four days or so into the new system, Mr. Rama came in to talk to me about a student in my other class with an I.E.P. I had to stop what I was doing in order to speak to him. (Which is fine, frustrating for me when it happens numerous times throughout the day, but fine.) As we talked the noise in the classroom became louder and louder and as I was about to interrupt Mr. Rama to put my hand up, the children did it on their own! It was awesome! I erased one their marks on the board and told them if they continued to monitor themselves successfully I would be willing to erase one of their marks! I was so impressed!

This method is not working as well with the fourth graders. I'm not exactly sure why, but I'm going to keep using with them in the hopes that it'll snap one of these days.

Perhaps the most frustrating part of my day is the bathroom break we have to take mid morning. Last year, it always took what I felt to be a bigger than necessary chunk out of my teaching time in the mornings. This was because of the usual things, getting the kids lined up and ready to go, getting them to walk quietly in the hallway, keeping them from fooling around in the bathroom. These along with the unusual thing, our bathrooms aren't in the school, they are across the driveway in the cafeteria.

This year, I was determined to make this process work with a bit more ease. I made a deal with the kids if they get could line up quickly and quietly, walk quietly in a line, behave in the bathroom as well as get back in line afterwards I would let them run races on the playground for a few minutes. Even with the extra few minutes for the races, which I think are good for them anyway as it gets them moving, I think we're saving time.

This, thankfully, has been working for both grades, though they aren't earning the races everyday, they are trying and they like the reward.

I think the best part about this year so far is that I have been actively thinking about being positive all the time. This is indeed another page from Sophia's book. I was always impressed at how positive she was, even when things were particularly difficult.

After teaching the sixth grade for the last half of last year, anything was going to be better. I didn't like my job at the end of last year at all, which made me sad and more likely to be negative. I was stressed out about everything, all the time. As the year was ending, I took solace in the fact that I had a job, as I was hearing about people around me and back home were losing theirs. I am happy to say that I'm back to enjoying my job this year, I'm taking things in stride and walking in each morning with a smile on my face. It feels good.

Wine Festival

Last weekend The Boy and I went to the Wine Festival in Bernalillo, New Mexico. This was the second time we've gone. Last time we went with a bunch of friends and it was a lot more fun. It's so hot out in the sun and the festival was in a big field. I also feel like there were way more people there, every wine stall had a long line and standing in the sun got old fast. We do love the carne seca and the chile dulce we get there though and honestly, that's what I was looking forward to the most. Not the wine.

In the interest of staying as cool as humanly possible, I wore a white shirt. In the second of our 15 minute waits to taste wine, The Boy was trying to pour water into my glass to swish it out. I fumbled a bit and water almost went all over my white shirt. (Which incidentally would have been fine, it's so hot and dry here that the shirt would have been dry after waiting in the next line.) After witnessing my fumble perhaps 45 year old wine man stared at my breastal area and said, "Wow, it was almost a white tee shirt contest!" He preceded to serve Ben wine and then held his bottle out to my glass and said, "Ma'am?"

I ask you, how can he make a bad joke about a white tee shirt contest and then refer to me as Ma'am?

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Obama; You're the Man.

"We did not come to fear the future. We came here to shape it."

This is why I became a teacher.

For Shiz.

PS. Still rocking the third graders.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Obama Speech!

I was so excited when I heard that Obama was giving a speech specifically written for children. What a novel idea! I got goosebumps.

I excitedly told Sr. Callejo about this speech and how I hoped that the whole school could gather in my classroom (as it is the only one with cable) that morning sans interruptions so that we could have a group campfire experience. He thought it was a fine idea and let everyone know in a MEMO.

Then, the next week while at the gym, I saw a CNN bit on how parents were boycotting the speech because it was going to be "too political." Many schools were sending home permission slips for parents to sign. This struck me as odd, but as NPR wasn't saying anything and so I didn't take it too seriously. As I heard more and more about parents refusing to let their kids see this speech at school the more incensed I became. Seriously? (channeling Grey's Anatomy here) Then the White House (in a very smart move) released the text of the speech early, so as to prove that it was not too political. Even this didn't calm people enough. Seriously? I didn't read the text because I felt like a kid on Christmas and I didn't want the surprise to be ruined, (also, I didn't believe that Obama was trying to create an army of socialist minions.)

This morning a few of the non teaching staff asked me if I was "really going to show it after all the hubbub in the media." My answer was as follows; "Look, if George Bush (the second) had ever bothered to give this kind of speech, about staying in school, to the nation's students I would have been just as gung ho about showing it the entire school. These parents who aren't (as well as the parents that are) letting their children see the speech at school are also letting their kids get their world views from Low Rider, Fitty (sp?) Cent, and so on and so forth, why can't the President of these United States speak to them as well?" Everyone agreed with me.

So, everyone came to my classroom this morning to watch it. It want really well, everyone basically fit and the teachers were all there as well, which meant that afterward, adults from all sides of the classroom were talking to the kids about what they had just seen and why it was important. Politics didn't enter any part of the discussion. It was centered on staying in school and working well with your teacher and classmates and the idea that he (Barack Obama) could get them all the school supplies, books, computers and school buildings they could stand and still nothing would change until kids step up to the plate.

There were a few moments when he mentioned that kids who give up on themselves are not only giving up on themselves, but on their country as well. I think I get that feeling of negativity because of September 11 and the huge surge in National Guard and Army Recruit numbers and the proud way that George Bush spoke about it. (Not that wanting to serve your country that way is a bad thing, its more that he made it sound like that was the only way.) FDR encouraged young people in his fireside chats to leave their families and work on one of the numerous New Deal Projects, JFK; "ask not what your country can do for you, but what you for your country." Neither of these statements are military-centric and people loved them for it.

I also have to say that I loved that Obama reminded kids to wash their hands, much like Jimmy Carter used to reminded not to speed and to keep our thermostats at energy efficient levels.

I loved that speech. It brought me to tears.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

More Co-Teacher Drama

Hehe.

The other morning I was doing my "duty" outside where all the cars come in, Sr. Callejo brought his son (who is in Kinder and totally adorable) to the cafeteria and then came back and exchanged pleasantries with me for a few moments. As he was walking away Ellie and Fiona's mum came up to talk to him. Whenever I see one of my parents talking to my principal I'm always nervous that they are saying mean things about me since that was all that was ever said about me to my principal that first year of teaching. She walked away and he meandered back to me. He explained that she was thinking about pulling Ellie out of the school because Ms. Jenson (co-teacher) says mean things to her. Example; "Ellie, your handwriting is ugly." This is the first time we've heard the same comment from parents, so now we knew that really is what she was saying and not the kids putting words in her mouth.

He asked me to tell her before we started classes that morning that she should really try to be more positive with the kids and less negative because we can't loose kids at this point, especially because of something like that. He couldn't because he had to leave for a day long meeting. I balked at this a bit. If it had been Sophia, it might have been a little awkward, the conversation would have been casual enough that the awkwardness would have blown over pretty quickly. This I feared would not be the case with Ms. Jenson. I said as much and he said that he really appreciated me sending on the message. I reluctantly agreed to pass on the message. Which pretty much went over exactly the way I predicted, with Ms. Jenson saying things like, "Why would he tell you and not me, hum...hum" (fake dramatic confused look.)

This morning the third graders were in my classroom for the first hour (as per our implementation of reading recovery) and I realized that Ellie, wasn't in class. The girls are rarely late and absent less than they are late. I wondered if I had inadvertently left her in the cafeteria. I asked the other kids if they had seen her that morning and they all answered in the negative. Then little Molly (Callie's little sister) piped up and said, "She's not coming to the this school anymore, my sister told me." I was so surprised. Then it hit me. If Ellie was gone, that probably meant that Fiona, my most favorite student ever was gone too.

I opened the door to my classroom when I saw the seventh graders coming through the hallway. I was relieved to see that Fiona was in the line. I asked their teacher if I could borrow Fiona for a moment. She followed me to my classroom and explained that their Mum didn't like the way that Ms. Jenson spoke to the kids. I asked her if she was leaving and she said that her Mum hadn't decided yet. I explained that I really didn't want to lose touch with her. So I gave her my email address and my cell phone number and made her promise to keep in touch if she had to leave the school. She promised and gave me a hug. I really hope she keeps her promise.

I hate that we're losing kids because of this...other things I can understand. But this? Come on. Especially that family. They have been with us from the beginning and it's just too bad.

There was a staff meeting today and Sr. Callejo explained to the whole staff we needed to keep "positive reinforcement" in mind. He also said that the PTA President wanted all complaints like this to come to her so that she can speak to the family and give them a tour of school, so that parents have the chance to see all the good things we are doing. I think this is a great step, something I wish I had thought of. So many parents never come into the classroom. These sorts of things make our school more community oriented.

By the way. I think I have the third graders licked. Licked I tell you. More on that later.

Want a great kid's book? Try Esperanza Rising by Pam Munoz Ryan. I just finished reading it out loud to them today. They loved it.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Three Day Weekends...

are seeming especially long this year.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Ted Kennedy

That was sad news to wake up to the other day.

However, I was very pleased to see that NPR spent far more time talking about him than they did talking about Micheal Jackson.

Way to go NPR.

More Lesson Planning

I can't wait until my schedule at school irons itself out...Lesson planning all weekend is getting old.

Watching episodes of Grey's Anatomy helps.

Friday, August 28, 2009

I love my job.

I do. It's true.

The year that I was teaching the fourth and fifth grade, my first year with my own classroom. I wasn't an E.A. and I wasn't a student teacher. It was my first whole class. I was a young, white teacher in a 98 percent hispanic school. I am a strict teacher and this definitely came out that year, not that the students didn't deserve it. However, the parents didn't enjoy it and told the principal so. I was young and white, easy prey.

Here is why I love my principal, Sr. Callejo. In the face of all the parents complaining about me that year, and believe me there were more than a few, he backed me up. Every single time. Not once did he let the parents believe that he was going to reprimand me. He always backed me up. Even when faced with the prospect of losing students (which for our tiny charter school is a big deal.) He understood that the kids needed the strictness that I was providing to the point that last year he moved me out of my successful fourth grade partnership to the awfulness that was the sixth grade.

This summer, Sr. Callejo hired a new teacher to take my place in the middle school slot that I practically got down on my knees and begged to get out of. This teacher, Ms. Wheat is African-American which I mention because I feel that she and I are kindred spirits as neither of us are Hispanic or literate in the culture that we have been thrown into. She has the pleasure of teaching the fifth, sixth and seventh graders (my sixth graders from last year.) I told her that any time she needed to vent, she should talk to me, because I've been there and I know EXACTLY how she feels.

She has been having a world of trouble. Parents have been complaining like crazy to me, to Ms. Tenny, to Sr. Callejo, everyone. I feel for her. She's an outsider in same way that I am. She's going through exactly what I was. She goes home and freaks out in the same way that I did.

When I was going through it, I had no one at school to talk to who took me seriously. She availed herself of that invitation yesterday and HELLO did she. When she asked how I put up with it, all I could say was that every morning, I went in with the goal of getting one thing done in Mathematics and one thing done in Literacy. If I was able to accomplish that, I felt successful. How awful is that?! Finally, someone understood. Ms. Wheat, she understood.

She was saying that the only way she could deal with the seventh graders was to put herself in one room and her husband in another when she got home. I didn't have that ability. I needed The Boy. When I couldn't sleep and would spend most of my nights in tears, he was the one that got me through. There was no one at school that understood. No one that could. When the year was over, I realized that without him, not only would I not have made it, but I literally would not have made it.

Anyway. It's nice to not be the scape goat anymore. It's nice that parents are complaining about someone else. Sr. Callejo even admitted that when he asked the seventh graders they thought he should do to improve the situation, they said that he should, "just bring Ms. Knitter back." So in the end. I must have done something right. Man, do I feel for her.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Monsoon Season

So I mentioned in my last "Nature" post that it was monsoon season. In La Pasa, the storms tend to move in and out relatively quickly. What they bring and what they leave behind is just astounding. Every time there's a storm and I stand there while marveling at the sky, The Boy says something like, "Welcome to the West." He grew up here (well, north of here) and to him the pictures that the sky makes out here are sort of old hat. I can't over it. This is what happens when you grow up in a place where you rarely see a huge chunk of sky.

These pictures are so amazing. I had to share.




Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Top Chef...

I'm so glad you are back. Padma, I have missed you so. That little waif that was on in your place for Top Chef Masters has a lot to learn from you! Weird chauvanistic dude; I really hope you leave next week.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Kids really do say the darnedest things.

Oh Bill Cosby.

Alright, so the fourth graders have been working on Geometry, angles, rays, lines, line segments that sort of thing. Today, to get in a little review, I passed out the geoboards and rubber bands. When I was a kids, they were wooden with real nails pounded in, but someone must have decided that that wasn't safe (rightly so I suppose) because now kids have these plastic ones:

Clever right? It's a great way to do review and have kids still using their hands for more than drawing. Tactile learning. Love it.

Moment that Mattered: I passed out everything and had the kids just play around with them for awhile. That's always easier than jumping right into the lesson because all they want to do is play. This way, they get it out of the their system and after about ten minutes we can get down to business.

As I was admiring one kid's creation another boy, Robbie said, "Rubbers, I need more rubbers." I quickly looked up wondering why a kid would be talking about condoms in my class (and for that matter the fourth grade) and saw him searching around his desk and on the floor. I cracked up. Then Fred, (whom I think had the same reaction I did) another fourth grader (with older brothers) said, "Robbie, you mean rubber BANDS." Robbie answered, "I know, that's what I said, I need more rubbers." Hysterical. The best part is that Mr. Rama is his dad! So after school, I went and found him and told him the story and he cracked up too.

Next funny thing. My students were in Performing Arts and I was running around doing stuff. Ms. Tenny stepped out of her classroom to do something, so I stepped in, happy to see my old sixth graders (now seventh graders.) We starting talking about my clases de espanol because they were so excited about it. I told them that I got all A's and that I was really looking forward to class starting again, which was tonight. Lucia said, "Hablame" (Talk to me, I think that's how it's spelled.) So I said, "Sobre que?" (About what?) and she said, "What does that mean!?" It was pretty funny.

However. This class. This professor. Hard. I think I understood about half of what he said. I think I'm in for it.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Nature is Beautiful

We have been getting up early in the morning (5:30) in order to go the gym. This means we get to see the beautiful sunrises here in the southwest. Each one sort of rolls into the next, but this morning was different. The monsoon season has begun. It rained last night and continued on our way to the gym. When I finished my workout and meandered toward the stairs, I saw the mountains to the east bathed in bright pink, the next patch of sky was a melon orange and then a lilac purple and then a deep blue. It was breath taking. I didn't remember I had a camera on my phone until I was downstairs and I didn't want to miss it by running back upstairs and so you can't see the mountains, but the picture is still really pretty.

A Chair Moment

Alright, as you have read before on this here blog, the third graders are a little rambunctious (or "squirrely" as my co - teacher as termed it. (Personally, I think this is a little unfair to squirrels because when they are flying around at warp speed they are; hunting for food, mating or running for their lives, all practical actions. Third graders, not so practical.

Moment that Mattered from today. I have a rolling chair that I use for reading out loud to the kids. Sometimes it "rolls away on its own" (otherwise known as the kids moving it around.) So when we gather for read alouds, there's always a commotion about who is going to get the chair in the right place, no matter how many times I ask them to let me do it because of how many fingers are splayed out on the floor just waiting to be crushed.

Well today I didn't get there in time and turned around to see four kids sitting up against the wall where the chair usually goes and Saul trying to shove it in between them. I was afraid the chair was being shoved into the head of the one of the kids because Saul didn't know they were there (his body is shorter and three times as wide as the chair) so I grabbed Saul and pulled him away from the chair. I felt awful! I've never grabbed a kid before. I apologized profusely to Saul and we had a class discussion about why I'm the only one that can move the chair.

I spoke to his mother after school and explained what happened. She laughed and said, "Oh. Worse than that happens at football!" Thank
goodness.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Whew!

I spend all of today working on lesson plans.

I love Mad Men. It has kept me company.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Reading Recovery Revisited

We have figured out what to do with the third graders. All but two of the 17 students are a grade behind in their reading. What to do.

We have decided that the third graders will have English Reading every morning for an hour, whether or not they have English first thing that morning. They have been broken up into four groups according to their reading levels. Mr. Dido will have the Special Ed group, Ms. Cally the first grade group, I'll have the second grade and the on level groups and we'll go from there and see how hard we can push these kids.

It's going to mess up the scheduling a little bit, but its for the best.


Friday, August 21, 2009

Spike Lee's shooting down the street!

Haha! Well at least Haha for all of you that get the "Rent" shoutout.

Seriously folks. La Pasa has become quite the Hollywood (it's even been dubbed "Tamalewood") since Governor Richardson began giving so many tax breaks to those who would like to shoot movies here. It gave a lot of New Mexicans jobs as well as the city and the state much needed revenue.

Today on the walk home from Kelly's (all of 200 feet away from our house.) The Boy and I saw a huge spotlight on the horizon, which in the Duke City could mean only one thing...something was shooting. So we decided to walk over and see how close we could get.

We ended up getting really close. We realized pretty quickly that it wasn't "Batman Begins," "In the Valley of Ellah," or "Terminator Salvation" because, well...we were able to walk right up. We asked a guy getting stuff out of a big truck what was shoot and it was "MacGruber" a spoof on "MacGuyver." I'll definitely have to fill my brother in on that!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Hurricane Bill

After watching the weather report on the local news which showed Hurricane Bill heading back out to sea from the East Coast, The Boy said, "Do you think it will head back toward Europe?"

Haha!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Oh Special Ed

So I mentioned in this post that I had yet to see the behavioral plan or the I.E.P. for my one of my students, Kismet. At the beginning of the year, I asked both special education teachers as well as Sr. Callejo during orientation for permission to go through both of these documents. (There are lots of laws about them, so there is some red tape, which is why I asked early.) The special education teachers, Mr. Dido and Mr. Rama said that, of course I would have the chance to go through those documents before school started.

Well, a week in, after asking both of them twice with no actual seeing of the documents, I used my weekly "teacher journal" (Sr. Callejo's way of finding out what we need) to tell the principal that after asking twice, I hadn't heard from either man about when I could get a look at these documents. Three more days went by and I still heard nothing.

From what I have been able to piece together about this Kismet is that he was seriously hard time as a little person and so missed a lot of the developmental hurdles that most children master. Thank goodness he and his two younger brothers were adopted by a very generous couple that has devoted their lives to these three boys. In fact, the mother spends her mornings in the classroom with Kismet in the fourth grade class.

Because he has this terrible past, there are many moments in the classroom where he just can't cope the way that my other students can. I met this little boy when he was in the first grade, while I was the E.A. in the Kindergarten room. There were times that he would lash out to the point that he needed to be restrained. I witnessed this one morning when we were called one day to help control him. It was necessary because he has a habit of throwing things like textbooks hard enough to hurt (having been on the receiving end) and climbing so that he can't be followed.

Thank goodness that Kismet has come so far since his first grade year, his previous teachers have been devoted and caring, his parents very supportive and helpful. He hasn't had any break downs this year and he and I have gotten on really well so far.

For all of these reasons, it was really important for me to know at the very beginning what to expect from him behaviorally as well as academically. All of these systems have been put in place by the special education team and by law they need to be followed. I couldn't understand why Mr. Dido and Mr. Rama were not falling all over themselves in their effort to give me the information. Mr. Dido did say to me at some point that I should treat him like any other student. (Which, because these systems were in place, I knew wasn't true.)

Kismet does his best in the morning and so I didn't have him in the afternoon until this week. I have been concentrating on staying upbeat and positive throughout the day. (My homage to Sophia.) And the three times that we have been at odds, I've called Mr. Rama, while staying calm yet stern with him. Thankfully, each of these times, Mr. Dido and Mr. Rama have backed me up and Kismet is learning that he has to listen to me. However, I was still a bit miffed that after asked three different people, I still didn't have access to the information that needed to work with him.

So today after being at odds with Kismet, I called Mr. Rama to explain what had happened and that that was the last time I was going to "wing it." I told him that I needed to sit down with that paperwork. We met after school and I have a good idea of how to work with him behaviorally, thankfully, I was already doing the right thing for the most part. But that isn't the point, because I did learn a lot. I have yet to see the I.E.P.

Moments that Mattered: Yesterday, Cosmo, a sixth grader from last year gave me a copy of his football game schedule so that I could go to one of his games. I don't think he asked any of his other teachers. Raul, my budding artist from last year is hoping that I will buy one of his sketches. He's going to bring it finished soon for me to see. I think I shall buy. I think they have realized that as hard as last year was for them, I was in it for them, for their successes. That matters to me.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Reading Recovery

I gave the DRA test (English reading test) to the third graders today. Whoa momma have we got some work to do. I had most of these kids in Kindergarten and I was surprised to learn today that the kids that I had in the "advanced" reading group in Kindergarten were in title one last year. Now, I have to assume that it was last years English teacher that dropped the ball because I know the their first grade teacher and she's first rate :) Now. The weird thing is that when I got their scores from the end of last year almost all of them were recorded as reading on or just below grade level. Yes, kids drop off over the summer, but two whole grade levels. I don't think so.

I talked to the title one reading teacher when I realized that there were only four kids left to test (I think one might test at grade level.) Usually she works with the four or five kids that aren't reading at grade level in small group in another classroom while I teach on grade level to the rest of the kids in class. Because it's looking like the whole class (except one) isn't on grade level, we might have Reading Recovery with the whole class for at least the first half of the year.

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Best of times for me because I'll have the opportunity to work side by side with the best reading teacher (in the world) and really learn from her. Ms. Cally been teaching for over fifty years, she was one of the first ever trained in the state for title one. Kids gain mad grade levels when they work with her. Worst of times because somehow the teacher before (in second grade) really let them down. Seven or eight kids, alright, I can see that, the entire class (minus 1 perhaps) at least one grade below level. Not so good.

Moment that Mattered from today: Brent proved to me that he really knows the difference between a line and a line segment (we are studying Geometry in math.) Very nicely, after I asked them to get in a line, he said, "Ms. Knitter, you should ask us to get into a line segment, because that end, but a line never does and we don't go on forever." Love it. I love it. He really learned the difference.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Routine

School is beginning to become a routine again. Yay!

So remember how I wondered what would happen when Ms. Jenson and I couldn't communicate about what was being taught in the classroom. Well. It happened.

So. We are a bilingual school, which means that the students have half of their day in English and half of their day in Spanish. We have to find a way to do this without "translating," which means that I can't teach on lesson in English and then that afternoon another teacher (in this case Ms. Jenson) teach the same lesson in Spanish. The two lessons need to build on each other in some way. This is easy to figure out for most subjects. We both teach Language Arts in each language, I teach science in English and she teaches Social Studies in Spanish. Math sort of throws a wrench in this finely tuned machine.

Because of the way that "Everyday Mathematics" is set up as a spiraling curriculum, we can't do every other chapter on our own the way we do with the reading curriculum. We have to know what each other taught yesterday, so that both of us know what to teach today and tomorrow. This, at least at the beginning involves a lot of planning. Sophia and I figured it out together last year and it took us a few weeks to get used to how it worked. We worked so well together, that eventually we didn't need to sit down and plan together because we got into a groove. I don't foresee this happening with Ms. Jenson.

Before school started I sat down and explained how we use the math curriculum in a bilingual school. She seemed amenable to this at first and the first two days of teaching this way went alright. On Thursday, I asked her how far she had gotten with the third graders that morning so I knew what I needed to work on with them that afternoon. It was then that she told me that she didn't think that she was going to be able to to do it the way we talked about. Rather, no matter what part of the day, she said that I should teach the introductory lesson (the lessons are mostly broken up into two main parts with smaller third part) and she should do the follow up. She said that kids just don't know any Spanish at all and that she was going to start teaching them SSL (Spanish as a Second Language.)

Now. It could have been worse. She could have suggested the translating method. This was a step or two above that, which is good. But this is the one thing that Sr. Callejo was clear about, this is how we were teach math to give the kids the best chance of having a bilingual vocabulary in the subject of Mathematics. So very carefully, very politely I said that if she really thought that was the best plan because she didn't think the kids could succeed the way we were doing it, she should bring it up with Sr. Callejo so that he knows that we will be switching it up a bit.

Well. That went over like a lead balloon. She went off about how she left public school because she was sick of being told how and what to teach. And that she couldn't believe that this was happening to her in a charter school and how she was just going to have to learn how to deal with it again and finally that she just couldn't believe that I was suggesting she get permission to change the way she was teaching. Which of course was not my intention, or in fact, what I said at all.

Now. Honestly. We have it really good at ALDR. We are not handed our schedules, our lesson plans, we get to use the curriculum (other than this relatively loose method with the math curriculum) in any way we wish as long as we address the standards set down by the state. We are not micromanaged at all. At all. The rules and procedures we do follow and set down we do to follow the laws set down by the state.

Nutter. This lady is at least part nutter. I spoke to Sr. Callejo about it and he talked her down from the ledge today at lunch.

Mondays are going to be my saving grace because the third graders have performing arts at the same time as the fourth graders have physical education and then vice versa. This means that Ms. Jenson and I get to plan together for a whole hour and a half. So today we sat down to talk through what we were going to teach for math (just math mind you) for the next five days. It took us over an hour to get through FIVE (five people) days. Crazy.

HaHa! Funny story from today. Fred came back today, I was expecting him last week but he didn't show up until today. I was helping him with some Geometry today when he looked at me and said, "Ms. Knitter, you've got stuff right here." He pointed to the part of his eye nearest his nose. I realized that he thought my eye brightener looked like "stuff." From the mouths of babe eh?

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Burnout

I found this really great article from the Washington Post on another one of the blogs I read.

Food for thought. My generation has a lot of work to do.

Sundays

I love Sundays now. The Boy and I have sort of started this diet, where we count the calories that we eat. Sundays are the days we don't do it, because your body is supposed to have one day off a week so that it doesn't feel like it's hoarding food.

So. Today, we ate homemade oatmeal for breakfast, munchies for lunch, gellato as an afternoon snack and homemade french fries with cheese curds and gravy on top. Yum. Total yum.

And now to finish the reorganization. The last thing in my life that really needs organizing is my computer. After all the stuff was put back on after the loss of my hard drive, all the documents are out of order. It will be much easier to search for all my interesting lessons at school, if there is some sort of order.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

I take it back...

Dexter is a thought provoking show.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Closer

My classroom is closer to being completely put together. I did more laminating, but could not find more velcro to put every up. Sad.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Dexter

is a really weird show.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Banishment!

I'm not sure if I've really explained before that my school has a four day week. We have school Monday through Thursday from 8:00 to 3:00 (3:30 for seventh graders.) I love this schedule. I'm not sure what's going to happen when we have to go back to a five day schedule for whatever reason. When we went to this schedule, one of the biggest worries was planning time, since we would be losing a whole day of after school planning time. So we picked one day a week to stay until four thirty and one afternoon a month that hour would be a staff meeting.

Good plan right? Well, it didn't exactly turn out that way. We ended up having a staff every week. After a few weeks of this I realized that it was because people weren't reading their memos! We would go to the meeting and 90% of the time was spent on regurgitating the memo! I mentioned this to Sr. Callejo once and he told me that the rest of the staff wasn't reading the memo and couldn't be trusted to follow through with things the way I did, simply because they read written instructions. He laughed it off, but in my mind I was saying, "then hire better people you crazy man!"

Anyway, we had our first staff meeting this afternoon. We were given a folder of information that we had to sort and some of it needed to be returned. Instructions had to be given four times. Which wasted time.

And then came the title of this post. My classroom is the largest. I love it. It's got a great heater and a great air conditioner, the computers are out of the way, and I have enough space to store things. However, there are four doors. There is one door that leads out into the school parking lot, a straight line from the school to the cafeteria. Another door leads to the small office of the school business manager, another to the other classrooms and admin offices and the last leads to the second and third grade classrooms.

Now, there are many times during the day when people have to come through these doors. Second and third graders need to be able to get to their title one reading and special education classes, admin staff need to be able to get the business office and to the second and third grade classrooms as well as my own. I get it. I'm fine with that. The kids are trained to do it quietly and a month into school, it won't bother my students at all. What drives me nuts is the interior/exterior door that leads straight to the cafeteria.

On the first day, Ms. Jenson thought (and rightly so, she's brand new and we've been using my interior/exterior door during orientation) that that door was how her kids were to go to the bathroom, so twice during the morning and once during the afternoon. So before the second morning, I took her aside and explained that she could use her own interior/exterior door. She was upset. Not sure why.

At the end of the day today, I ran into the third grade classroom where my fourth graders were having Spanish, to pass out some things. I reminded the students to put their pencil boxes back on our classroom library bookcase for the next day. Ms. Jenson looked at me and said, "Well we'll have to go through your classroom then." And I said, "Oh yes, of course you can go through at the end of the day." She said, very sarcastically, "Oh yay!" I walked back into my classroom very confused, because when I asked her not to use my door, I was only talking about the whole class bathroom trips in the middle of classes.

There's one teacher, Ms. Gana that I had to beg last year not to use my door during the school year. She's started back up this year. (Even thought this year, she has her own door on the same side of the building as me!) Last year she was upset that I asked her not use my door. This year after Ms. Gana and a few others have taken to using it during the school day again, I decided to bring it up at the staff meeting. Very politely, I explained that we needed to not use that interior/exterior door during the school day. After I was finished, Ms. Jenson said to everyone, "Yes, she's already BANISHED me from using that door." I was so surprised, I couldn't really defend myself.

I really hope our relationship improves. It's going to be a hard year if my co-teacher is like this about things that have nothing to do with what's being taught...

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Third Graders

Today I found out that third graders are really big second graders. And while this may have made perfect sense to everyone else, it was proven to me today. This group is so interesting. The only thing that makes it bearable is that I only have them for half of the day. (It's the fourth grade that makes me tick!) I think their behavior problems stem from the fact that the boys have always out numbered the girls by a large margin. These boys are rambunctious and have extra strong personalities. They make me laugh and want to scream at the same time. Their attention span is short, they like to horseplay and my "look" doesn't work on them. I'm trying to look forward to the challenge.

Good moment from today: I introduced the kids to their classroom library (which has grown quite a bit with the addition books that The Boy's Mum rescued from the Casper Library discard!) They were especially excited about the fact that I have "Where the Wild Things Are" in both Japanese and Spanish. When I gave the third graders some reading time on their own, Principe and Craig pulled down both copies. They sat next to each other and Craig said, "Hey, I can read Spanish, so we can translate!" The two spent the next fifteen minutes going phrase by phrase through both books. Hearing their made up Japanese was pretty funny, but they were so into it.

Moment that Mattered (there are times that I miss Bennington so bad, it's palpable) from today: I was putting the third graders into groups to do some math facts practice with flash cards. There are seventeen students, so one group would be of three. Principe started shouting that he needed to be in the group of three. I didn't really respond because I don't respond when children yell at me. So I started at the other end of the class, making groups and passing out cards. When I got to him, I put him with one of the five girls Camille. He was visably upset, but wandered off to work with her. That group was the best behaved and got the most done. Every time I looked over in their direction, they were working really well together. So, I gave him a "Walking Tall" slip (sort of like a referral because he did something great without being asked) and used it teaching moment for the whole class. He was so surprised and pleased and the kids were impressed. I'm going to kill these third graders with kind strictness. Let's see where it gets me.

I now have 11 kids in my fourth grade. So far, only one new student to the school, but he's sweet, quite and aims to please. The kid that I worry about is ____________. (I haven't come up with the best alias yet.) He's got some serious personal problems and has a lot of help from the Special Ed department, though no matter how many times I ask, I havn't had a meeting about him or been able to see his I.E.P. Which is really frustrating because I haven't worked with him in two years and no idea what I should expect from him as a student. He has a bad habit of wrestling with other kids and doesn't seem to know his strength, but because I haven't seen (or had explained to me) his behavorial plan, I don't know how to discipline him. Very frustrating.

Monday, August 10, 2009

First Day of School + New Car

First Day of School was great! I only had eight fourth graders, so my morning was awesome! I'm sure that number will go up as the public school gets going, we started a little early so our families may not know that first day was today.

My third graders are a different story. There's 16 of them (though at times it feels like 40) and only 2 girls in the group. These are the kids I had in Kindergarten and they were a tough crew even then. The whole coming full circle theme came to mind but when I asked one of them, Saul if he remembered having me as a Kinder teacher, his comeback was, "I've had you as a teacher before?!" So perhaps not so full circle at all.

It was really really good to see my sixth grade girls. I feel like I have a real bond with them, especially Fiona, Cassie and Lucia. All three were upset when they found out that I wasn't going to the be their teacher, since it was assumed that I would be at the end of last year. Hopefully, though I shall still see them everyday and be at least a part of their lives.

On top of first day of school, today was also First Day of Car Shopping in Earnest now that The Boy is home. I was also offered another job opportunity with Moonlight Consulting, one that pays big buck but is also so far away that it's an overnight. It's in the middle of September and I would much rather have a new car rather than depend on the not so dependable Harrison. We went back to the Subaru Dealership and The Boy got to test drive the same car that I drove and he liked it just as much as me, but still wants to drive other things. So poop. A few more days of driving around in the Hot Harrison (as there is no AC) and getting in and out of other HOT cars that have been sitting around in the sun all day.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

RED SOX are on TV!

One of the too bad things about living in New Mexico is that we don't get ANY Red Sox games. Tonight, ESPN is following the Red Sox vs. Yankee game! Yay! The only thing that could make it better would be if Jerry Remi was calling the game...can't have everything I guess.

Tomorrow is first day of school!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Edge of Reason

Obvisously, I need a new copy of Bridget Jones; Edge of Reason. There has been so much skipping I can't see the end. :(

Ho Hum

The Boy's bachelor party was last night and continues today, he spent the day playing golf and shooting guns with his college friends, two of whom will be married next year. Tonight is a fancy dinner with a cell phone moratorium (at least on calls from "the womanfolk" as we girlfriends have been termed) for the rest of the evening. I love it. I love that they have put so much thought in to the planning and flawless execution of this weekend. Like my best college girlfriends, they rarely get to see each other

Meanwhile, I have decided that today is a movie marathon with...myself! I got up later than usual and began with the three Shrek movies. After that I put in Bridget Jones, will watch the sequel after that and then begin the Pirates movies. I also gave myself a manicure; green nail polish with little pink dots.

Also must clean house.

Friday, August 7, 2009

A+

I got an A+ in Spanish. I've also noticed that I'm more able to speak spanish without having to think carefully about it. It's coming easier. This is good.

I think I finally got some answers on how I'm going to get my bilingual endorsement. It's going to take a few years, but I think it will be worth it. The names of the classes sound really interesting. I think what I will do is take the Spanish class this fall like I planned and take a Spanish class and another class in the spring.

Though, I have all weekend to change my mind!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Classroom Pretty Much Ready!

Yes. It's here. First day of School! Monday! Yesterday and today was registration, so I saw some of my kids! This year, the third graders that I'll be teaching half of the day, I taught in Kindergarten!

My classroom is pretty much set up. There are still some boxes I haven't unpacked yet. But that's the great thing about not teaching the little kids; they can help me unpack and pass out books. By next weekend it should be completely finished and in good order. I'm trying something new with the desks. Usually I have the kids in rows or small groups (though in the latter they usually just spend most of the time kicking each other) but this time I put the desks in a horse shoe shape.

Right now I only have 16 kids in the fourth grade and the third grade is even smaller! So that's great. Counting down 'til Monday!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

More about smells.

You know that tradition of teachers getting apples on the first day of school? Well, the first day of school doesn't make me think of apples anymore. Last year and this year, as I take the street that brings me to ADLR with my windows open (because it's already in the 80's in the morning here) I smell someone roasting green chile! It smells so good.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Orientation Day Two

Second Day. Still not given any time to work in our classrooms as a staff. I stole moments here and there and stayed until after seven but it's so frustrating to sit in meetings all antsy because of the mountain of unpacking and organizing you have to do. I think all together, we're only given four hours and that includes planning time! Ridiculous. I feel even worse for the new teachers, because this all must seem very confusing.

This year we have a student-administrator, I'm going to call him Sr. Santiago. I think he is FANTASTIC. He gave a great presentation this morning about academic language and how to integrate it into our lesson plans. This is something I definitely intend to focus on this year and after I've had a chance to digest it and really think about it, I'll write about it and tell you all more. It was a great presentation.

Our parent-involvement presentation today was all fluff...a lot of; you should do this and you could do that, but no plan was put into place and didn't explain how one was to do the shoulds and coulds; definitely one of my biggest pet peeves when it comes to presentations. He also talked a lot about God and spirituality, which is my second biggest pet peeve when it comes to presentations. I can't stand how people here assume you are one thing religiously simply because the majority are one thing.

Despite all of this, my classroom is coming together and I have 14 students enrolled in the fourth grade class. So exciting!

All the things I velcroed to the wall are still up! Score 1 for me!

Monday, August 3, 2009

Velco: I love you.

Orientation went well this morning at ADLR. It was the regular run of the mill stuff. Going over the handbooks, standards, other policies and such. The new people seem eager and excited, which is always nice. Johanna was one of the speakers, she went over the Needs Assessment she did for us at the end of last school year and I'm pleased to say that are kids really are improving. This is heartening. Our hard work is starting to show in their test scores.

During one of the insurance presentations (that is most certainly a scam and that I've seen three times already) I started to put my classroom back together. I put up my new calendar system and I got the cursive letters up above the white boards. I love newly laminated things. There's a sense of satisfaction with newly laminated things. It was really just those two things I got done, which doesn't sound like a lot for two hours, but I'm using velcro this year!

The walls of school are cement painted over, which means that tacks don't work, but as the cement isn't smooth tape (of any kind) doesn't work either. Last year, I was coming to school early to re stick things up that had fallen during the night. I figured there had to be a better way and I found it! While I was at Target getting some other things I came across velcro! So after everything was laminated I started putting velcro on everything. All the numbers stick to the calender with velcro, all the candles stick to the birthday cakes with velcro and so on and so forth. At first I was just going to use velcro for those sorts of things, but today while I was sorting things out in the classroom, I realized that I could use it actually put the calendar system up! Light Bulb! It was a fantastic moment.

So here's what I did; I peeling the backing off of the fuzzy side of the velcro and adhered it to the thing that was going on the wall. Then I peeled the backing off of the rough side of the velcro and stuck that onto the fuzzy side. Then I could walk up to the wall and slap it on. Perfection. A little time consuming, but will probably save time in the end because I won't have to constantly re-tape stuff to the walls. Genius. Genius I say.

Here's hoping that all the stuff I put up today will still be hanging tomorrow.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

I'm sick of children's books being turned into movies!

Alright. So as I mentioned yesterday, I went to see Ice Age 3 by myself in the movie theater today. It was lovely. Not as good as the first two, but nice. Didn't even drive my car. Took the bus, using my free bus pass because I'm going to the U.

I can't believe all the childrens' books that are being turned into movies these days. Really. In 1996, they turned "Matilda" into a movie and ruined it. Ruined it. I read that book over and over. It was fantastic. Roald Dahl is a fantastic writer. As a kid, it was always his books that made me use my imagination the most. The movie was terrible. They destroyed the script. Done. Finished.

They made a movie out of "Horton Hears a Who." When I found out, I couldn't believe it. )Now, they had already made one movie out of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" and the one with Jim Carrey was a redo so that didn't upset me as much, though the first was much truer to the book.)
Horton, ruined. They messed with the story line, added characters and plot points. Really. How could they do that. My students haven't been interested in the book since the movie. Sad. Very sad.

"Where the Wild Things Are" is going to be a movie. I've seen some of the previews. I can't believe it. That's a classic. Should be untouchable by anyone but "Reading Rainbow." The previews that I've seen have totally added to the script. It's not the book. The Boy thinks that this movie is made more for adults than for children, but let's face it. Kids are going to see it and probably before they have read the book. The Boy says that the book teachs kids that sure you can escape everyonce in awhile but you always have to return to reality. That's not how I saw the story as a kid, I saw a kid who didn't want to listen to his parents and so was sent to his room. That was the beautiful thing about the book, you got to think whatever you wanted about the story. The movie (at least from what I can glean from the previews) doesn't give you that choice.

And for the last straw; "Partly Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" is going to be a movie. Really people. I just saw a preview for it today. They have added gobbs to the story line. Turned it into a 3D extravaganza. It's one of the best childrens' books ever. Ever.

All I can say, I guess is that my children aren't going to be seeing any of these movies until they have read and loved the books. Period.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Over One Hundred Feet of Laminated Material

In preparation for the beginning of the school year, I went out and bought a new calendar and letters for above the chalkboard, stuff for a birthday and a helper bulletin board. I had all this stuff last year but during the move I lost a bunch of it. On Thursday, I took it all to the district's low cost laminating center and laminated over one hundred feet of materials. For my last birthday my mother sent me the flashcards that my brother and I used. The Christmas before last my parents bought me a great set of jumbo playing cards and I laminated those as well. I ended up with over one hundred feet of laminated material.

I also bought some new plastic tubs for all my books and other materials. I went though all of the stuff that has been stored in the garage for the summer. I went though, trashed stuff and reorganized what I decided to keep. Since The Boy was out of town and some of the tubs were too heavy for me to lift one of our very best friends helped me get them into my car and then Sr. Callejo helped me get them into my classroom. I was very excited to learn that I was going to get my old classroom from fourth grade last year! Yay! It's the best classroom! It's big, comfy, square, two magnetic dry erase boards that are kid height (because I made them rehang them last year) and it has an interior/exterior door! Now let's just hope I get to keep it all year long.

The Boy is out of town until August 9th and so I'm alone. And bored. Out of my mind. West Wing only takes you so far. (I have one and a half episodes left.) So tomorrow I have decided to take the bus downtown and catch Ice Age 3 before it leaves the theaters. Also a pedicure. I report to school on Monday and I'm ready.

Friday, July 31, 2009

What I Learned in Summer School

At the beginning of the summer I was so psyched about my summer classes. I got an A in the first one and I took my final in for the second one and I think I got an A in that one too. So, I should be happy right? Well. Yes. I am happy with my grades. I'm not exactly happy with how much espanol aprendio (I've learned.)

About the time I received my A en espanol uno I realized I had stopped focusing on what I was learning and was back to focusing on what grade I ended up with.

Bennington College was my first experience with a grading system that did not focus on an average of all the grades I receivced but rather a demonstation of how I could use what I had learned in the class. This was a whole new world for me after high school where all of your grades were averaged into one score that showed what you knew (and got you into college). I didn't do very well in high school. I didn't do badly, but I didn't do well. Often times it took me longer than my classmates to grasp certain things and so my grades at the beginning of a semester were not as good as my grades at the end. To my high school teachers, it never mattered if at the end I grasped the concept, it only mattered how all of my scores averaged out. I never thought to question this grading system until I entered Bennington. My first year at Bennington, I took a range of classes in different subject areas (as per "The Plan.") I remember two of them distinctly.

One was an environmental chemistry class. During class we learned mathematical ways of solving chemical equations, the ins and outs of running a real experiement (well, to me it was real, my high school didn't really have a lab setting at all, actually, it did, but you had to get the grades to get into one) and how chemistry is used in the environment. I was not good at solving the chemical equations. I was constantly in the professor's office for extra help. I took me a few turns before I felt comfortable in the lab and it took a while to get used to reading the amount that needed to be read and understood before each class. But I had a syllabus and I knew where I needed to be at the end of the course. It wasn't a final written test. As a final project, in pairs we were to come up with, perfom and critique an experiment that included each of the main ideas from the course.

My history class that semester was equally as challenging and equally as creative. It was called: Journey 1: The Year 1000. In this class, we broke up into groups and travelled the world. Our textbooks were novels and ancient atlases. Using our team members we were choose a place in the world to start and travel all over the world, while doing research about how the people from our part of the world traveled, what they wore, what they ate and how they related to other cultures. Each group chose a different place in the world to start and during each class, each group made a presentation on where they had been the last week and what they had learned. Our final project from that term was to take everything we had learned from our own groups and other and turn it into a comparitive paper at least 15 pages long. It was an amazing course. I didn't learn as much in four years in high school as I did in those 16 weeks. I loved that course so much I took Journey 2: The World Between the Wars, a course about what the world was like in between World War I and World War II.

It hit me. For once in my life, I was going to be graded mostly on what I knew at the end of the course. It wasn't going to matter that on the first problem set of chemical equations I had gotten them all wrong because I could show in my final experiement that I could do them. It wasn't going to matter that our group didn't really get the hang of what we needed to be doing until the third week. I was finally getting ascessed on what I could prove I knew. The rest of my classes at Bennington were set up this way as well. No tests, no finals because at the end of each class the professor said, "Show me what you learned." And we did.

I succeeded in college, a heck of a lot more so than I did in all my years of public schooling. I'm pretty sure that if my school had has a Dean's List I would have been on it every semester. College was where I blossomed. As I was finishing and getting ready to do my year of student teaching, I was a little nervous about getting back into the public school system and being forced to average out each grade that a student received in order to show their parents what they knew.

I'm happy to say that I never had to. Not once have done that. I was lucky enough to do my student teaching at a school that had been chosen as one of the schools to be in a pilot program for standardized report cards. A handful of schools from around the state of Vermont were chosen to take part and report back to the state on how it had gone and decide whether or not it would continue.

Here is the standardized report card grading system in a nutshell, if I haven't described it before, if you already understand it, you may skip to the next paragraph. Each state has a set of standards for each subject that has been agreed on. It is the job of all the teachers in each state to teach those specific standards. If students can perform those particular standards at their grade level, they recieve a 3 on their report card. If they are almost there and perform those particular standards with help, they recieve a 2, if they can not perform those particular standards, they recieve a 1. Students for the first three quarters of the year are aiming for a two or a three. They don't need to be able to perform all of the standards right away because they have the entire year to learn how to do it. The best example is this; a fourth grader is working at memorizing their muliplication tables. They take a quiz once or twice a week in order to gauge how much they know. They fail the first ten because they haven't gotten the hang of it. They take the next ten and know half, the next ten and they know them all. Why should I take all of those grades and average them out to an A, B, C, D or F. The kid got it. At the end, he knows his multiplication tables. I don't care that he failed the first ten times he tried. He got it in the end. He'll get a three because he can perform that skill at grade level.

I had the same fear when I moved to La Pasa, I hated the idea of moving away from my standardized grading system. I needn't have worried. The charter school that hired me also used a standardized grading system. I've been happy ever since. Because everything I teach is directly tied to the state standards and my students have been accessed accordingly, they have a better shot at the state standardized test. I believe my students are far better for it.

This summer was interesting for me. I had to go back to the "normal" grading system. It freaked me out at the beginning. I remember how frightening it was to take that first test (and then I found out that it was the fake one.) I hadn't taken a test in a class since my geometry final in high school. But I got through it all with an A and probably an A in the second class as well. But at the same time, I'm not really sure how much I have actually "learned."

Thank you Bennington for teaching me to question my education.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

WRX

I love that car. Love it. So very much.

I went to the dealership to suss one out today and got to test drive one. It was RAD.

So totally want one.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Harrison Update

Oh Harrison. What a good car you were.

So, the last time I blogged about Harrison, we were hoping that there were only minor problems.

I was so very wrong. The timing belt indeed was broken and because of it, the water pump and the starter motor locked up. (I'm not sure of the exact order of events, but those are the three parts that were dead.)

So, before deciding on whether or not to spend the money to fix these problems, while thinking about the huge chunk of money we put into the front and back struts, brakes, calipers and air conditioning at the beginning of the summer, we had a few choices;

1. Put more money into the car (which would definitely deplete my savings and that of The Boy) and fix it so that we would be able to continue driving it, while wondering when the next part would go.

2. Put more money into the car (again with the depleting of the savings) and fix it so that we can put it on Craigslist for a bit (but we'll set a due date so it won't be on Craigslist forever!) and if it didn't sell, we'll trade it in for a NEW car.

After careful consideration and discussion with multiple family members from both sides (Thanks everyone!) we have decided that number 2 is the best option. It really came down the fact that I need to be able to fully depend on my car, especially for the out of state driving I do by myself. I really don't like the idea of ending up on the side of the road in the middle of the night trying to get to a workshop or home from one in the desert. Hands down, I think we made the right decision. It will definitly curb some of the things that I spend "fun" money on but I think it's the best thing to do. Harrison now fixed, will provide some high school or college kid will really enjoy him. He's a subaru and at 114,000 miles, he's got lots of time. We're just ready for something better.

And for the something better! I've promised The Boy that I will stay opened minded and consider different vehicles. The thing is I really love my subaru and the all wheel drive that it provides me. This car is going to have to last us a long time and therefore I think, will need the all weather driving that Harrison had, because we are both hoping to move some place much colder with more snow than here. Subaru is the only company that does that well across the board. Other things I will take into account; it must have four doors (for the kids that are lightyears away) and it must be a manual (because I like to be in control of my engine.) So, yes, I will look at and drive other cars and have seen models I like the look of from Mitzubishi, BMW, VW, Acura and Mazda but my heart is set on this baby!


A 2009 Subaru WRX sedan. It fulfills all of my most important critera. Best of all; it's a rally car! A racer! Everything I wanted when my bro taught me how to stunt drive in high school (you know, because there was nothing else to do in our rural mountain town.) It has a high performance engine (eeeeeee!) and great resale value. I'll be so cool. Fast and the Furious cool! (Though I maintain that I could take Paul Walker anyday!)

Soooo, by the end of August I'll have a new car!

Minnesota!

I just got back from a trip to Minnesota to surprise one of The Boy's best friends from college. He and his wife had a baby in January so we got meet her and boy is she a looker, totally cute.

His wife set up the surprise for his birthday and we were invited to fly up and spend the weekend camping and hanging with them and their new daughter. This was why I couldn't mention it until now...because my blog in on facebook and the person we were to surprise is my friend on facebook and so I didn't want to give away. It was really really great. We had such a nice time.

The Boy is staying because he and his friend that we surprised are going to a bachelors' party (yes, it's a party where there is more than one bachelor.) They have all sort of exciting things planned and it's really nice that they all get to be together, like me and my college friends, since they're out they see very little of each other. The boy will be back in two weeks. The night before school starts.

The alarm system is now connected to a security company. And so commences the two weeks of sleeping by myself.

Oh and cooking for myself, which should be really interesting.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Think Good Thoughts for Harrison!

Harrison, as in my car. Named after Harrison Ford, only the best actor ever.

Today, when The Boy tried to take it to the store (to buy a part needed to keep the air conditioner in the car running) it turned over and then made an awful sound. After much research and speaking to both The Boy's father and my father, we are left with two possible problems. 1. The timing belt broke and therefore the timing is off for all the mechanisms. Cost to fix: 250 - 350 dollars. 2. Catastrophic Failure meaning basically death for Harrison. Cost to fix: too much to think about.

So tomorrow, AAA is towing the car to our garage to have it checked. We will be following along on the motorcycle. All positive thoughts are appreciated!

And My New Co-Teacher Is...

Introducing: Ms. Jenson.

The other day Sr. Callejo called and asked if I wanted to be in on the interview for my co-teacher. I replied in the affirmative of course. And then realized...that meant for sure that was going to be teaching fourth grade (well at least for half the time)! There was awhile when it was thought that I would have to repeat my stint in the middle school grades.

So here's how its going to work: I'll be the homeroom teacher for the fourth graders and have them for half the day. The other half of the day I'll be teaching the third graders. Ms. Jenson will be teaching the kids when I don't have them.

We interviewed two teachers today and I didn't LOVE either of them. But I realized that's because I was comparing them to Sophia...and no one can top her. I learned so much from working with her and she was such a great role model.

Ms. Jenson is much older than me...perhaps in her sixties, anglo and bilingual. She's taught all grade levels, in inner cities as well in refugee camps in Costa Rica. She's got some serious experience. I hope to be able to learn as much from her as I did from Sophia. I really hope that she wants to work together for the both classes, rather than us planning seperately for both.

It was good to go back to ADLR. For awhile we thought we were going to move back to where our school was orginally situated, this was the reason for all the hurried packing at the end of last year. At the last moment, Sr. Callejo decided that it was better to stay where we were rather than make the move, which means that the packing was a mute point. It was nice to be back in the classrooms, everyone coming back from break, seeing the old faces. Report day is August 3. I'm ready.

Monday, July 20, 2009

On Meeting the Higher Ups

I love Johanna, the woman who owns and runs Moonlight consulting. I want to be exactly where she is when I'm her age. Did I tell you that she gave me a "Moonlight Consulting" mug at the beginning of term and pronounced me, "part of the team." (I'm drinking out of it right now!)

A few weeks ago she called me with a really neat request. She wanted me to accompany her to a meeting with some of the higher up in the state department of education to present all of the standards based materials we put together. I was so excited.

The day came and I wore a great outfit. The Boy got out of work in order to bring me to the rest stop where I was meeting Johanna and we drove up to Santa Fe together. On the way up, we talked about the presentation and I got to see the first hard copy of what I created a month ago and that its pretty damn cool (of course, there are already things about it I want to make better.)

This might be the time to explain that I have always sort of idolized the people that work for the NMPED in a West-Wing-Aaron-Sorkin-does-the-state-department-of-education sort of way. I imagine them working for teachers and students, putting their all into it...you know, like Josh Lyman, CJ Criag and Toby Zeigler do in the best TV show ever. I like to think, in the end not only do I work for my own students, fellow teachers, parents and my principal, but also for these people. These people that are also supposed to be working for me. I always thought that working for a state public education department would be fab, top of the line, the best I could do kind of job, the place where the changes really happen. Well. Maybe it still would be, but from what I saw that day, it wouldn't be for the state of New Mexico.

We got there in good time. Introduced ourselves to the staff assistent and waited outside the offices. The building itself was a letdown in and of itself. It's shabby and falling apart. The inside is prettier, but still...just sad that that particular department is in such disrepair. Johanna told me that she wasn't going to take the elevator because ten or so years before she had gotten stuck in it for over and hour.

We were led into the offices of these people and began our presentation. I have to say, I was really disappointed. New Mexico is pretty low on the list of states with schools performing at or above AYP (yearly adequate progress) and so I imagined these people ready to embrace anything that would help the kids improve. They were not enthusiatic at all. They don't even have a list of resources that schools can go to in order to find help in upping their chances of meeting AYP. Bascially, they are just sitting up there making lists of schools that are not making AYP, not turning in certain forms and not helping schools do either.

Now I don't expect them to get all excited about every idea that people come in with. I'll admit I'm a little biased about ours because it's...well...it's amazing. It can help students and teachers at every level, including bilingual, special ed, gifted, native and ELL populations. We even have data to back it up. We didn't even get a "Wow, that sounds like an interesting program" or "hmm...I wonder if so and so would be intersted in hearing more about this." We got bland expressions and finally they offered to send someone to one of the presentations to further gauge their interest, but that was only after we pestered them for any kind of response and it was more like, "well...I suppose we could do that."

We got back in the car and Johanna said that she hoped they didn't send the one of the woman we were talking to, to a presentation that she (Johanna) was giving. I said, "No way, send her to mine, she won't know what hit her." I meant it.

I was disappointed by the whole thing. This meeting taught me that I'm not wrong to want vouchers for the kids that are in low proforming schools.

Friday, July 17, 2009

A Moment When I Felt Like An Adult

I just had one of those moments when I felt like a real adult. It went like this:

I was inside cleaning the kitchen and The Boy came home from buying lumber. He's going to extend the fence on one side of the house because he thinks that's how the bad guys got in. It's at least 95 degrees out. I make him a big "thing" of gatorade and bring out to him.

Just like my Mum used to do when my Dad was cutting firewood, fixing cars, weed wacking and all the other things he did outside to make our lives better.

Keep it right here for before and after pictures!

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Your House Gets Broken Into When You Move Out Of The Student Ghetto

On Monday I came home (like you do), put my bike in the garage and stopped at the keypad to turn off the alarm. It was flashing some numbers I didn't understand, I memorized them so that I could tell The Boy about it later. I came in and sat down at the kitchen table to check my email. That's when I looked up and saw that the French door was wide open.

I certainly didn't leave it open and that's when I realized that someone else entirely had because The Boy had left before me that morning.

That's when I realized that because the garage door is so loud that someone could still be in the house.

So I squatted. It's been pointed out to me by more than one person now that when I'm afraid, I have a tendency to squat. It's as if there is something in my brain telling me that if I squat no one will see me.

After a split second of squatting, I grabbed my phone and my keys and ran out the door. Once outside, I called The Boy who convinced me to call the police. I waited in our neighbors' driveway because I had visions of gunman running out with my antique sewing machine and computer and I didn't want to be in their way. The Boy came home shortly and we waited together. A very nice policeman showed up and we explained what was going on and my fear that someone might still in the house. He asked if there were any guns, other weapons or dogs in the house. We answered in the negative.

This policeman radioed for backup and we waited some more. Sirens blared and with that the other policeman showed up. The second man was more gruff and straight forward. After the first policeman explained they were going to go in to make sure no one was in the house, the second policeman said, "If we are going to declare an all clear, I'd like to get my long gun." The first man nodded and the second man went back to his car and came back with what looked like an AK-47. We watched them walk into our house with their guns out, just like in Law and Order (en espanol, Ley y Orden!) it was pretty scary.

Out on the sidewalk we could hear them yelling things like, "This is the police, if there is anyone in the house, make your presence known now," and other such things. We were relieved to see them walk out by themselves. The second policeman left and the first stayed to fill out the report and to make sure nothing was missing. There wasn't. Thank goodness. This is what the door looked like:

This is the footprint of the man (I'm assuming man, because it is so large) that kicked in the door:

Now, I'm not new to that particular sense of loss you feel when someone breaks into your house. My house was broken into back in MA when I was in high school. That was awful. It took months to feel like the house was home again. It was weird to imagine people that weren't supposed to be there in the house, going through and taking our stuff. It was sad to lose that.

It was different this time. I wasn't as scared, the audible alarm had scared them off and we still had all our stuff. We were only short one french door. This however meant that The Boy had to leave work and buy a new door and install it same day. (Thank goodness he's handy like that.) I had stay in the house while he went to buy one because the house was now not at all secure.

The Boy suggested that I set the alarm while I was inside while he was gone. We usually only set it while we are sleeping. So we set it and he left. That was when the scariest thing happened.

About an hour after he left, the alarm went off.

I squatted with my heart pounding. Repeating over and over to myself the statistic that The Boy talked about before he left that showed that it was really unlikely that they would come back, even less so on the same day.

Eventually, I got up. I called The Boy thinking that perhaps he had been trying to get in and something weird had happened with the alarm because we had never used it that way. He was in fact, not trying to get in. So I shut it off and listened. Nothing. That was the scariest. The Boy got home and discovered that it was just a window upstairs that hadn't been shut all the way. Thank goodness.

The Boy spent the next four and half hours making sure the door he bought was installed and could be locked properly. It doesn't match because it's not stained. It is also not permanent. The Boy did a great job and I'm totally impressed:

Tomorrow a contractor is coming to install a new door that should be stronger. We also set up a contract with a local alarm company made up of retired cops. They station their officers throughout the city and the part we live in usually has at least four. So this is good. We also got an awesome yard sign and stickers for the windows.

The new door and the alarm company makes me feel really good because The Boy won't be here for two weeks in the near future. I will only have to sleep here for one night alone before everything is set up with the alarm company.

Yum. FRENCH Wine!

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Gym

The Boy and I have been going to the gym for the past month, early in the morning and every other day. In that time I have gained and lost 4 pounds three times. That's twelve pounds people! What is the deal!

I got an A in the first Spanish class!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

To the Media on Michael Jackson:

I can't believe the media hocus that has been going on about Michael Jackson. (BTW, I thought MJ was Michael Jordon...buh?) Seriously folks. The circus has been on the TV for over a week now.

Don't get me wrong. He was a fabulous entertainer. The man could dance. There was no one who could dance like him. But for me at least, that's where it ends. I like his music, but there's a lot out there that I like more.

I have one story about Michael Jackson that is intersting. When I was six or seven my father woke my brother and I out of a sound sleep, brought us downstairs, plopped us on the couch and turned on the TV. He wanted us to watch the music video "Thriller." This was sometime in the late eighties or early nineties. Until last week, I thought he had gotten us up so that we could watch it debut, but from what I have found on the internet, it debuted before I was born. So it must have been some anniversary showing. My father was in awe of the amount of money spent on the video, the costumes, the dancing and just plain how great it looked. As the video started, he looked at my brother and I and said, "Now you watch this, someday you will thank me for waking you up." I love the memory. I love that my dad was watching TV, saw that it was going to be on and though that far ahead. So in the end, I think this memory says more to me about my dad than it does about Michael Jackson.

Anyway. CNN, Headline News, Local News, the papers, even Slate.com, my proverbial port in the storm for telling it like it is, were slathered with Michael Jackson for over a week. There were far more important things going on in the world. Take these following examples; North Korea decided to test more long range missiles and South Korea was convinced for some reason or another that they would hit Hawaii, a serial killer was on the lose in South Carolina, Sarah Palin resigned, oh and there was an actual COUP in Honduras. I'm not saying these things weren't covered, because they certainly were, but not to the extent that they should have been. (Except for Sarah Palin, who I'm sure will continue to covered...well...forever...if only because sometimes the press doesn't even know what to say about her but they still continue to talk.) I was impressed with NPR though, they did their usual obituary speil and played some of his music as a transistion interlude.

I can home today and turned on the TV, it was already on one of the channels that was playing the Michael Jackson public memorial. Out came Reverand Al Sharpton who said something about Michael Jackson breaking down the color barrier. I stopped dead. Awesome dancer, great enterainer, child-genius, (and then there's that other thing relating to children) lover of the environment, these things I can go with. But come on. He did not single handedly break down the color barrier. Al Sharpton said something about how without Michael Jackson, Tiger Woods wouldn't be playing golf today. Pleeeease. Jackie Robinson and others did more in the world of sports and I would venture to guess that the Surpremes and Stevie Wonder (who was part of the memorial service and had played just before Sharpton spoke) did more for the entertainment world.

So please, can we be done now?