Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Good bye January. Hello 29 days of February!

The last few days of January weren't very fun at all. The President of our executive board, the person without whom we would really have no school, passed away last Friday. He was a good man, a kind man, and one who really wanted to ensure the Greek culture would continue to live on in the lives of the new generation of Greek American kids. Classes were cancelled on Tuesday so we could all attend the funeral. Personally I don't speak Greek. Never has the phrase, "It's Greek to me!" meant more. I wasn't able to go to the wake but I did drive all the way up to the Greek Monastery in Pleasant Prairie, WI for the funeral mass. Unlike Greek Orthodox masses that are three hours long - with no singing (or chanting) - the funeral mass was only an hour. The nuns from the monastery lent their voices in a call-answer kind of way that was very soothing - almost, but didn't, put me to sleep. I'm sure it was beautiful but I truly didn't understand anything they were saying. I found out later that I wasn't the only one and that those who did catch anything said it was a discussion St. Peter was having with the newly deceased at the gates of heaven. We walked to the cemetery and then to the community center where we were treated to a feast of salmon, oregano potatoes, pastichio (made with tuna), beans (huge and delicious), homemade bread and kiropita, let's just say, if you left hungry you were a fool! After lunch people stood up and gave speeches. Again I could only understand half of the speeches, but they were read with emotion and I could tell the ones I didn't understand were very good and important.

The end of January was host to the science fair and a field trip to the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church. My kids, along with the first graders and the upper grades, sang beautifully. I was very proud of them - and their ability to sit still for two hours of service. I treated them to recess outdoors.

So I enter February with a new energy (though I physically don't feel it today) and a renewed drive to make sure to live up to the goal that our former President of the executive board had for our kids. I will do all that I can within my power to ensure that my students live up to the Axios pledge and continue to live up to their heritage.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Substitute Teacher

All year long (since August) I have been trying my best NOT to have to call in a substitute teacher. Why? Well, first of all, despite their insanities and quirks, I do, in fact, love my students. Secondly, while I do love my students I also don't want to have to explain why they behave the way they do...despite what seems to be a million attempts at making sure they stop acting like first graders and start acting like second graders so that I can send them on to third grade in good conscience.

That being said, today, January 23, 2012, I am taking one of five personal days to attend parent teacher conferences for my own kid and leaving my students in the hands of a substitute teacher - and let me tell you, the road to here and now as I sit and type was LONG!

First there's asking permission. This wasn't so bad. The principal had just said that with enough advance notice I would never have to miss anything important with regards to my son. Sure enough, I got a green light.

Then there was the responsibility of finding a sub. The principal of the schools (almost like the superintendent of the district) has a daughter who is a substitute teacher. I asked her if she could sub for me today and she said yes. Great

Now I had to plan out today. The thing is, even though I've only had my own class since the end of August, my plans take no longer than ten minutes to write down. We pretty much do the same thing each week and it is almost like a science. However, the sub doesn't know that and doesn't know our routines so I had to write out notes based on times and scheduling, anticipating what may not get done if my kids behave the way they normally do.

Four pages, and much research on the Chinese New Year, later, I had a cohesive set of lesson plans complete with attendance sheet, worksheets they need to do, a picture book called My First Chinese New Year by Karen Katz and a Bill Nye the Science Guy DVD about Dinosaurs (our next chapter in science), and fun things they can do to fill time if they get done early like reading about their Chinese Zodiac - don't worry, I made it age appropriate!

And then I thought, do I really do all of THIS?!?!? I mean it. Every day. Do I do this every day? Because I'm telling you now, I spent a great portion of my weekend making sure these lesson plans were simple enough for a new teacher to do but filling enough where my kids won't be sitting around going, "what should we do next?"

I typed out the spelling lists for the week. I e-mailed parents with the changes of the week. I edited the homework binder sheets for my first and second graders. I
I sent the lesson plans to the administrative assistant. I dropped off the bag of books, the DVD, and the plans at my friend, the famous Greek teacher's house. I headed off to church with Daniel.

While at church I was talking to my co-singers in the choir about how I was feeling very anxious about tomorrow (today). They said to relax and leave it to God's hands. Okay, I thought, I could try that...have you MET ME!?!? I was panicked. And then after mass I saw an e-mail saying my sub had to cancel!!!!! AUGH!!!!

I've been e-mailing with the administrative assistant all morning. She said the sub is in my room. That she made the copies, and to have a great day.

I'm taking Daniel downtown to the Adler to explore. I don't remember every going and if I did it was ages ago. We're having "Mommy School" today after parent teacher conferences.

I can feel my heart beating but I'm just going to have to let it go. From what I hear, and hope, my kids will love me more when I return...Let's see if THAT comes true!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Happy New Year!

I can't believe it's been a month since my last post!

Here's a re-cap of what happened at the end of December - Post Nutcracker...

We were one of those "fortunate" schools that got to stay on until the 22nd of December entitling us to one heck of a long winter break - we didn't have to go back until the 9th of January!!! In that last week of school I had been warned not to schedule anything as the week would be taken over with rehearsals. As if by sheer coincidence (not) my plan book was virtually empty for that last week of school. Don't get me wrong, I had a million things I wanted my kids to do, I just didn't have anything written in concrete (pen) or even in sand (pencil) since, let's face it, I have had enough of the arrows pointing to all different places of the plan book because things don't always go as planned at my school!

The music teacher informed me that she was really happy I knew how to sing and could read music (to conduct) because she was blessed with the daunting task of making sure 150 students could sing Greek Christmas GREEK! Mornings were filled with rehearsals for the Greek songs followed by a ten minute (or less) time slot for my kids to walk up, get on stage, sing their tunes (a Capella) and get off stage. The first day I may not have planned anything in the morning but my afternoon was very full with math tests and science tests - both which I allotted time to review as a class - only to be asked (read - TOLD) to lead my class to the auditorium for more Greek song practice. 'But my kids NEED this review!' I thought. But remember dear fans, I am but a novice teacher. Of course I brought my kids to the auditorium for practice. And they were actually very good about getting on and off stage - despite complaints of having to stand all read right, they complained about having to stand on their feet!

Tuesday's rehearsals went better (and were shorter) so I filled the time making the parent gifts (will talk about this in next blog) and cards which were sabotaged by aftercare (accidentally)when someone spilled their water on the cards. All the hard work, down the drain...

Wednesday was THE day...My kids got to finally hear a live piano and flute for their song, "Somewhere in my Memory" - yes, the one from Home Alone 2. They were a bit taken aback because it really did sound lovely. I forgot to bring my cello the day before (I didn't know where I was going to store it safely since I was spending the night in the city) so I was relieved when the music teacher said she would play her flute so I could conduct my kids. Rehearsals in the morning finally allowed the kids to watch each other perform. This was both a good and bad idea. Good because, let's face it, they weren't going to get to watch the show anyway; and bad because, let's face it, my kids can't just be a willing audience - except, apparently, at the Nutcracker. The thought the first graders were cute with their "two front teeth" song and they were mesmerized by the fourth graders who danced (I can't believe their teacher had the energy to choreograph a number!) to Madonna's Holiday. Of course, it was the dancing that got my kids riled up and I had to whisk them back to our classroom.

Horrible teacher that I am I made my kids take their science test on Wednesday (to calm their nerves) - I knew they studied for it so I wasn't worried. We practiced our songs one more time before I sent them home for two hours only to come back and be ready to wait until it was our turn to walk to the hallway leading to the doors to the stage.

Daniel came by after school thanks to my mom. He got to hang out with the kids who couldn't be dragged out of school because they all adore him. He was bombarded with questions upon his arrival - Did you know about the new planets they think they discovered? Do you remember when we drew tornadoes on the board? How many planets are there again? What are you reading about now? He took it all in stride though and answered the questions patiently while trying to draw on the board.

I sent Daniel off with a mom who was going to watch the show - after I changed him into nicer clothes - let's just say he matched my kids, and could very well have gone up there to sing the Christmas Alphabet because he's as tall as some of them! Meanwhile I fed my kids doughnut holes and gave them bottles of water to keep them hydrated while waiting our turn. I played games with them while we were in line to keep them silent - which failed. I don't understand how "Silence in the Court or the monkey will talk" works so well with my nephews and nieces - no one wants to actually be the monkey - but how it didn't work. At. ALL! with my students because each one thought it was COOL to be the monkey!

The show went off without a hitch! Woo hoo! Novice teacher scored again! The parents had never heard the "Christmas Alphabet" until their kids began to take the music home to practice - thankfully it's like catching an ear worm and the kids were singing it endlessly. They were impressed by how well "Somewhere in my Memory" went - it's a pretty complex song if you do the parts, which we didn't - and more importantly, how beautiful and melodic it sounded coming from their little angels.

It seemed anti-climactic but the kids had to come to school the next day. I was down 2 kids whose parents thought it was ridiculous - and exhausting - to come to school for a few hours. We had a long-ish church service and a low key "party" where we colored pictures of trees and Santa, played Christmas hang man, and listened to the Nutcracker songs as well as whatever Christmas tunes the kids liked while I played DJ and the kids noshed on treats and hot chocolate. We took the stockings down one by one and the kids got to go home to enjoy their Christmas break. I on the other hand stayed to clean my room because there was actually NIGHT school!

I'm exhausted just reading this! Tune in next time for first day back antics!
The Novice Teacher