Wednesday, October 19, 2011

My first field trip...

Tomorrow I go where most novice teachers shouldn't boldly go on their first field trip. I heard through the grape vine that the upper grade students were heading to the Museum of Science and Industry to partake in some lectures. I was looking for something to take my students on this fall and looked forward in my book to find that space and technology were two topics that wouldn't come into our plans until the end of the year (if we were lucky). I couldn't do that to my kids! I even heard from my three third graders that they didn't even get to study space last year as second graders! How sad! Since Daniel is in such a space kick I figured I should probably take advantage of the vast amount of knowledge I have gained in the last few months (since the end of July) about our solar system and space in general, ask permission (from the teacher who coordinated the trip as well as my principal), skip ten chapters and then go back after I'm done.

So now, here I am, the night before my field trip and I'm a nervous wreck. See, one of the things I brought in with me when I first interviewed at this school was my itinerary from a field trip my mentor teacher had me organize under her supervision...a five class, 125 (roughly) student, two day, three location trip around historical Glen Ellyn. Yeah, I was really proud of that accomplishment...and still am. But I had help. A guide. A previous itinerary upon which to lean on in the event my plans went awry. I mean, really, what if my kids misbehave? What if I lose one? What if we don't make it back to the bus in time? What if I kill my kids? I am hoping they are on their best behavior but this hasn't been an easy bunch so why would they make it easy on me? I mean, I only have four of their parents coming to play referee and to see if I am either A) under paid, I mean, some of the issues I have had so far this year are unbelievable or B) a complete liar, how can I say there have been problems with immaculately behaved cherubs? And so here I am - with 18 students and four parent chaperones thinking - I should be able to do this.

I'm going over pictures of the places within the MSI I have taken Daniel to. I'm mapping out the best places to go and best times (based on the time we get there and the time we have to leave). My head hurts...

If I post again it won't be until Sunday. I will hopefully have recovered by then. Stay tuned...

Saturday, October 8, 2011

My Inheritance

As you may recall, I got this job fairly last minute due to a teacher from last year informing the school she was not coming back this fall. So here I am in her old classroom, making it my own. It feels good, you know, having something that's mine. I've decorated it the way I wanted to, moved the furniture around just so, and inherited a whole lot of stuff from teachers manuals to junk.

Inheritance is a weird thing. Some stuff you get "willed" or left to you is extremely useful. And other stuff you wonder don't wonder necessarily why they left it, just how they could have left it in the state it is in.

My leveled readers for example...I have six boxes of them (I teach both 2nd and 3rd grade language arts after all). Sam was kind enough to put the books together one afternoon so that I have (hopefully) five books per lesson per set. But we didn't organize them further than that. What did I do? Yesterday was catch up day so I had my third graders and one second grader help me organize the book. What I heard from them was, "How could anyone leave such a mess?" and "I will never complain about my teachers having to get ready for our classes!" The good news is we got all that organized. Now I have to deal with my classroom library!

During this three day weekend I took the opportunity to take home a lot of things which need to be cleaned up and that I can do here at home. I brought home transparencies that need to be organized, papers that need to be graded, CDs and DVDs that need to be listened to or viewed in order to see how useful they will be to my future lessons and posters that need to be written.

So what did I do last night while watching a movie with Daniel and Sam? Organized the third grade transparancies in a binder...I'm missing some pages but hopefully they are the ones I found somewhere else and already started using. On to the second grade batch, to grading, and to planning for this week and the next...But first, breakfast with my two loves, a friend's birthday party this afternoon, and dinner with great friends we haven't seen in a while later this evening.

Despite the crazy, I would chalk this up to a win. Life is good my friends...even for the novice teacher.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Fun in Science

Our first chapter in science was called ALL ABOUT PLANTS. It talked about woodlands, prairies, marshes, deserts, what plants lived there, how plants have adapted to their environments and what kind of things plants do to survive. One of the experiments was placing stalks of celery in water to see if it needed roots to absorb water. I had a mason jar, the celery, and as a tip from my MIL I also had food coloring. We chose red.

The kids drew their predictions for what would happen. On the first day I was just putting the celery in the jar without any water. Just as they thought, the celery wilted.

I put water in on day 2 (like the experiment said to do) and added the selected red food coloring. I had them predict what would happen. They were right. The celery turned red (in the leaves and some parts of the ribs).

The kids enjoyed seeing the celery turn red so we kept it going. Then they asked if we could put other food coloring in. I thought, sure. Why not? Well, this is why - after ten days of a successful celery stalk changing color we added blue food coloring to turn the fresh water purple...and over the weekend the celery melted into the water so I had to toss it out.

I can only hope our experiments with space, seasons, gravity and the phases of the moon go better. Much better. At least the kids were able to work on some scientific processes!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Paper Trail...

I'm sure you are wondering why I haven't posted anything lately. The truth of the matter is that I am swamped by a two inch thick pile of papers that are just waiting to be graded! That's what I get for giving my kids brain warm-ups in the morning and in the afternoon! A friend told me that giving them something to do in the morning establishes a routine while getting the kids ready for the day or the afternoon. I can't agree more PLUS it's really awesome when they get something, you know, that proverbial light bulb...but the paperwork...UGH! Even with a quick plus, check or minus, I'm already behind by a week! Don't get me wrong, when Friday rolls around the kids have a heap of stuff to take home in their folders!

Which leads me to wonder when I became the teacher who uses paper (and a LOT of it) to get her kids to do stuff?!?!? I'm not that teacher am I? I'm the fun one. The one who does fun (while still learning) activities. Music plays during group project time so the kids sway to the beat as they put together posters or puzzles. We're out of our seats. We're talking with a partner or two and sharing ideas. We're brainstorming...I mean, the kids have about a zillion things on their "What kids need to know in 2nd grade" lists, it's not like they are coloring all the time, they are, indeed, learning something or twenty...still, the paper trail is driving me nuts!

Speaking of paper trail...Have I mentioned I do after care? Well, three days a week I watch anywhere from 15-30+ children ranging in ages from 2-10 years old...and the first few weeks were chaos. Seriously. I was completely outnumbered - and I still am. And frankly my room is not safe for kids under 6! I have games with a gazillion parts to them! But alas here is where the whole paper thing comes into play. I have found that a successful (read: less messy) Mrs. Bell's room with a five minute clean-up merely requires 100 pieces of paper with photocopies of favorite things...HITS: anything Disney princess or animals; MISSES: Sesame Street characters. Who knew? So I have the coloring station with three buckets of crayons (supplied by me and any kids who decided they didn't care to get their crayons back last year); the play with Legos and Jenga blocks station; room on my carpet for a read-aloud or to play games; an area to do homework (study hall is for an hour and only for 4th grade and up); a snack station; and on Mondays I don't even have to do this in my classroom! I simply have the boys pick a movie one week, the girls another, and life goes on.

So off I go to bed so that I can wake up in the morning and grade papers...because by golly those Friday folders will have mail in them so help me!!!