Wednesday, April 28

“My ADHD pill went down the drain.”

When one of my students arrived this morning, I knew something was wrong.  We have a set routine for removing coats, storing backpacks, and turning in homework.  The time we spent learning the routines in September pretty much guarantees a smooth start to the day.  As I moved to the front of the room, my eye was drawn to K. and the mess that was his area. 

He still had his coat on, his backpack was on his chair and books and papers were falling to the floor.  I learned long ago not to react without first getting the facts along with remembering to look at a student’s face.  Something wasn’t right today.
For a moment or two, I just stood and watched.  Then, K. looked up and said, “My pill went down the drain and it was the last one.  I didn’t take my medicine.”  The look on his face was so concerned and so fretful, that I wanted to wrap him up in a great big hug.  I tucked away my mommy instinct, and reassured him in my teacher tone that we would take it a step at a time. 

I helped him organize his belongings and we started our day.  Throughout the morning, he struggled more and more.  When I met with him one-on-one, he was becoming frustrated.  I told him I knew how hard he was trying and we would get through it.  The types of errors he was making were unusual and atypical.  I varied his tasks and made sure he had time to move.  (It was staggering the number of times he sharpened his pencil.) As the morning drew to a close, he brought me the good copy of his writing assignment.  He showed me his paper and said, “I need to re-do this.  It doesn’t even look like my handwriting.”  I reassured him we would have plenty of time tomorrow.
I shared that I knew how hard the morning was for him.  I asked him to use a word to describe it and he said, “cloudy.” 

I am grateful this happened.  It was an invaluable opportunity for me to show a student I was on his side and I would always support his best effort.  Furthermore, if gave me a chance to modify my  “plan” for the day and go with the flow of the day.  I’m proud that I was flexible.  (By the way, it was only a half day as we had “Grandparents’ Day in the afternoon and we weren’t in the classroom.)

Today was a good day. 

P.S. For the record, I support a parents’ right to choose/decide what is best for their child regarding ADHD medicine.  Each student needs to be evaluated individually.

Sunday, April 25

A Teacher's Ego (Yep, I've got one!)

As the end of year draws closer, time passes too quickly for most teachers.  We are frantically trying to meet curriculum goals and making sure we prepare our students for the next school year.  Although some teachers may not want to admit it, I want my students to shine for their next teacher, and I like when it reflects back on me.  Yep, I’ve got an ego and I’m proud of the work I do.  I also like feedback.  Call me greedy!

On Saturday, I met one of my former students, E and her mom for breakfast at a local diner.  After hugs and recovering from seeing the increase in height – she is almost as tall as me – we slid into our booth, ordered pancakes, French toast, and omelets. (Love diner food!) Then, I received my gift!  Mom handed me E’s report card, which admittedly, I practically grabbed out of her hands.

Through looping, I was E’s teacher for three years.  I knew from the start that she had extraordinary ability hidden behind shyness and beautiful blue eyes.  She was a bit younger than the other students and building her confidence was one of my goals.  During fourth grade, our last year together, I moved her to fifth grade math in order to challenge her gifted math ability.  She met every challenge.

We are a small private school, and almost all of my students transitioned into much larger settings.  E was accepted into a very large and prestigious private school that is known for its academic excellence.  I was confident that she would do well, but couldn’t wait for the “official” report.

As expected, she is successful.  She is excelling in all areas and she made a smooth transition.  From the incredibly detailed written report, it appears as if all of E’s teachers recognize and embrace her gifts. 

While all of this is the part of the reflection I spoke of earlier, the best gift and validation came from E’s Mom who said, “You are the one who really prepared her for fifth grade.”  Ahhh… feels so good!

You’re never too old for positive reinforcement; it really strokes the ego.  Don’t we all like to be validated?

Thursday, April 22

A Magical Moment on Earth Day

Today I read to my students a beautiful book for Earth Day called Brother Eagle, Sister Sky, by Susan Jeffers. The illustrations are so beautiful that they take your break away.  The message is just as powerful.

My third graders and I had a deep and meaningful discussion about the message of the book and everyone voted that it was “respect.”  We brainstormed ways to protect and save the earth.  I was so proud of how seriously they took the lesson and the way in which they eagerly shared their thoughts and ideas.

Suddenly, my student who rarely participates and struggles with shyness raised her hand.  When I called on her she said, “Shouldn’t every day be Earth Day?”

Another magical moment in a teachers’ day.

Tuesday, April 20

The Fight: Reading Workshop vs. The Basal

In this corner… the basal! The heavy weight tradition, weighing in at 2 lbs per teacher's manual, dressed in shiny orange spirals along with a sparkly cover to hold it all together.  Nourished by weekly multiple-choice tests. Glitz and glamour and a cloak that states, “I followed the prescription!  Nothing is my fault.”  Endorsed and backed by the biggest publishing companies.

In the other corner… the underdog, Reading Workshop.  No fancy packaging, but basket after basket of books of every genre.  Some are torn and worn from so much use.  No weekly test, no worksheets and typically noisy with lots of chatter and talk.  Fueled by passion and joy for reading.

Lately, it seems as if I’m in a boxing match and I’m the underdog!  Today a teacher came into my classroom while I was editing an “End of Book Letter” with one of my third graders.  She was amazed by the intensity of the one-on-one meeting we were having.  Moreover, she was in awe of the amount of work it takes to read, edit and meet with each student. 

I’m the only teacher at my school that uses Reading Workshop and all of the others use the basal series.  On this day, when the opportunity presented itself, I came out ready to pummel.  I enthusiastically thought I had my opponent on the ropes and I was ready with my offense. I came out fighting, and blow-by-blow, I extolled the benefits, rewards, and virtues of Reading Workshop.  Before I knew it, she tried to sucker punch me.  She said, “Sounds good, but it is too much work.”  

Although I may not have persuaded her, I’m still certain that I won the fight! I only had to look at the faces of my students as they read the novels they chose.

Saturday, April 17

Boundaries and the Anonymity of Social Media

When my own children were younger and were upset or worried, I am encouraged them to write in a journal to help them sort out their feelings and organize their thoughts. I've been upset this week about something at my school, so I've been taking my own advice and writing about it. Once I finished and re-read, I concluded that it was too personal and I would cross a boundary if I posted it on my blog. Everyone who knows me is aware of my technology passion and that I am on Twitter as well as many on-line teacher groups. If someone from my school discovered and read my blog, well, suffice it to say, the fallout would be unpleasant at best.

So I’ve been wondering about boundaries. I am a very private person and it is easy to embrace the anonymity of social media. There aren’t face-to-face meetings or conversations and we can hide behind our laptops, keyboards and smart phones. It is easy to be a little-bit-better version of yourself. No one checks facts, so you can embellish. You can even act more assertively as you respond to tweets or comments on blogs.

When I re-read my lengthy blog about teachers who cross boundaries when the make psychological diagnoses (ADD, ADHD, ODD, OCD), I realized I was crossing a boundary, too. I needed to get off my own high-horse and not report anonymously to the world my opinion. I sounded judgmental and preachy, and in all honesty, really annoying.

The old adage of not putting anything in writing that you wouldn’t want the rest of the world to see is no longer hyperbole, but accurate. The tweets, blogs, and comments we write need boundaries. I’m glad there is a delete button.