Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Notes of encouragement from my students

Today was a long, but actually really good day. Library got cancelled, which meant I was with my students for 5 1/2 hours. However, they listened to me today and I feel like they are really starting to understand my expectations. At recess a few of my students wrote me notes of encouragement on the board. They made my day! Knowing that my kids like me helps motivate me to keep working with them and pushing them to their full potentials.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Outside of school

Happy Monday everyone!
This post shockingly is not about school, but about life and especially about life on the weekends. In August I moved up to Massachusetts. Yes, I went to school up here, but "going home" was always talking about NJ. I still have not made the full transition to calling MA my home and I sometimes still refer to going home as to NJ, but I am so happy to be living in Massachusetts. It is approaching winter up here, but it has been a beautiful fall:

This past weekend I was able to visit with some family at the Harvard v. Princeton football game. It was fun to meet up with them and watch Princeton defeat Harvard in a triple overtime (when I was little I wanted to go to Princeton). I also noticed some similarities between my dad and his brothers which I had not noticed before. 

I also have been to DC a few times to visit a few of my favorite people, and boy was it weird during the government shut out. Totally deserted.

I've also taken on some alternate personas at the youth group I help at every week. I love being able to just hang out with teenagers and not have to worry about disciplining them but just getting to know them. We had a fun youth leaders dinner a few weeks ago where we just enjoyed the company of other adults with a common mission: to love kids and show them who God is.

I have also gone on a few walks to catch up with friends, gone out with new friends from work, gone to the gym to release stress, watched a few movies, and eaten lots of pizza. Monday nights there is this place down the street that has "beat the clock" prices meaning if you call at 4:10 your large cheese pizza is $4.10. BEST DEAL EVER! Monday night is pizza night in our apartment. It is fun to have dinner with my two apartment mates, who I am enjoying getting to know. We have had many deep conversations and funny conversations over food. It's great!

Overall, I can't complain. I have a great support system up here among my friends, church family, co workers, and even through the long phone calls I have with my family and Wes. This week has been hard, but I know that God is always with me and I have people who love and care about me. 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Please Pray

Today I was awoken at 5:30am by a phone call. It said "School will be closed today for an ongoing police investigation." I was very confused, but glad for a day off I suppose. A few hours later, I came to find out that school was cancelled because a teacher at the high school in my district was murdered yesterday at the high school (the number one suspect is a 14 year old boy). When something like this or like Newtown happens, people think "That would never happen here." Sure enough, it does. We live in a broken world full of sin, tragedies, anger, and unnecessary deaths. Please pray for the Danvers School District and the family of Colleen Ritzer.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Bells, Timers, Books, and Geography

I had to cave and buy a bell for my room to get the students' attention. They still really like to talk, so I thought an instrument sound would be better than me raising my voice. Today was day 1 of using it. Some kids thought it was hilarious that our class is so loud that I needed to buy a bell and others were like "oh man! we are really too loud. she had to buy a BELL to get our attention." Some students find it irritating and some want to test my musical abilities to play Jingle Bells on the bell (I got the "jingle bells, jingle bells" part down). We'll see if they respond to it tomorrow.

I also have gotten a timer. I now time the students when they are in transition or they start getting rowdy. I time them for each subject to see how quickly they can quiet down. This actually has worked some. They like the competition of "beating the clock." My students see me look at the clock and say, "Guys, she's timing us!" We're on day 2 of that strategy.

The noise meter has not been super successful. If you don't know what I'm talking about see entry entitled "Friendly Competition." Most days we stay on the 3rd level (chatty), so no one gets stickers. Keeping the noise level down so we can actually get work done remains to be the hardest thing about being a first year teacher.

However, I really like the girls in my class. They are wonderful! They draw me pictures and say "hi" to me when they see me outside of class (like when I pick them up after lunch). They also listen (for the most part).

Now for the books. I LOVE 5th grade books. I have started reading some of the books my students are reading: Hoot, Chasing Vermeer, The Penderwicks, Out of my Mind, and now The Lightning Thief. Each week my students write journal entries to me about the books they're reading. I love seeing what books they choose. I do have a problem getting them ALL to write to me though. In addition to their free choice book, we have started a class book, From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. This was a book I enjoyed when I was about that age. However, even though it is at a 4.7 reading level (so students in the 7th month of 4th grade should be able to read it), I was informed that it probably is too hard for some of my students. Part of my students' responsibility is choosing "just right" books, which apparently I need to work on too (choosing just right books for them). Figuring out how to differentiate lessons and tasks is another thing I am figuring out and have a long ways to go.

One more thing: I showed this video today and my kids asked me if the guy was on drugs/drinking and driving...

Thank you for reading. I'll try to get pictures or something up soon. Pray for continued patience and perseverance for me.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Some samples of student writing

My students just finished a project in which they wrote memoirs. Some of them came out really well! I was very impressed. Others could have tried harder and focused more. The hardest part of writing for the students is revision because once they finish typing their work, they think that spell check is the only thing they need to do in order to edit and revise.

Here are some lines from the really good memoirs:
"I was overlooking the stunning panorama of red and brown volcanic rocks, glistening pools, and crystal clear waterfalls."
"People in ragged clothes were sitting on large granite slabs"
"I threw my Reeboks on and off we went"
"He took a picture of me holding the chubby, slimy, disgusting, and humongous fish"

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

New Bulletin Board

I put up a new bulletin board for writing. Currently my students are finishing their memoirs (writing in lots of details about a specific memory) and starting a creative project in which they are writing their own tall tale (having a hero with exaggerated features save the day). I love reading what my students come up with because many times their ideas are great and funny!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

List of Thoughts

-I've been in school over a month! My students are starting to realize that they need to be quiet: YAY!

-Many people over the past month have assumed I want to go by Beth. Sorry, that is my mom. I would like to be known as Bethany (or Bot in casual settings) :-)

-We had a meeting on students who struggled to meet the fall benchmarks. The majority of my class are slightly struggling readers. I also have a good amount of students who are getting extra services for math

-I now have help, which I complained about not having before. Now that everyone has the data and their schedules work out, I have the special ed teachers in 3 times a week, the Title I math teachers in 2-3 times a week, the reading specialist in a couple times, and the ESL teacher in a few times a week. It is hard to keep track of.

-I love working with the other 2 5th grade teachers. We spend more time laughing than actually planning

-My students, although talkative and not great listeners, make me laugh every day. Usually something I say sets them off into a stream of jokes. For example, the other day I said "crumb" instead of "crime," so now bread crumbs are criminals and deserve to go to jail. Also, I have a rule that when I pick partners, the students have to have straight faces (so they don't make their partner feel bad if they don't actually want to work with that person). This has turned into a student announcing to have straight faces while walking down the hall. Not sure how that interpretation happened.

-Even though I am exhausted by the weekend, I enjoy going to school and am starting to roll with the punches more
I am especially excited for this coming weekend because it's a 3 day weekend and I'm going to visit some great people in D.C. :-)

-Tonight is back to school/open house night. Pray that it goes well.

Thursday, October 3, 2013


Trends seem to hit hard. A few years ago it was the silly bands. When I was little it was Tomogachis. These days, there are three trends: rainbow loom bracelets, which are rubber band bracelets that you can make using a pick and "loom." They increasingly become a distraction to the kids as they make more and more of them. They have all sorts of patterns. Here is an article on them if you are interested:

The second trend is singing, "What does the fox say?" song. Here is a youtube link to that: Throughout the day I hear students going "ring ding ding da da ding ding ding..."

The third trend is reading "graphic novels" that are novels written like comics. I really don't like these because I feel like they are confusing and not "good writing." However, my kids like them and can follow the plot more easily than I can. I just want them to read more and love reading!  (*Some other popular series are the Percy Jackson series and the Warriors series)

My students are amazed when I know what these things are. I think this is hilarious because they think I don't know anything about their culture (even though I'm only 12 years older) because I'm a teacher.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Friendly competition

So it has been an interesting week in 5th grade. In the past week I have gotten a new student, a student has had to leave the room (he threw a fit so the principal intervened), a student in my class got suspended, and I have found a plan that works for keeping my class quiet! The secret? A little friendly competition and stickers. Each of the 5 table groups has a clothes pin. On the board there is a chart that monitors noise level: "Good working level" "Focused with a little buzz" "Chatty" "Noisy" and "Way too noisy." If the group is able to keep their clothes pin in the top two levels, they get a sticker at the end of the day. It's the little things that count. So far, mornings are great under this plan, but usually things unravel the last hour of the day. Regardless, my mornings are productive (and in terms of preparing students for the MCAS test in the spring, the morning is more important). I can't complain this week! Now I just have to pray that this plan continues to work.