How much longer until retirement?

A teacher blogs about reading, writing, knitting, and classroom life.

Reader’s Theater April 19, 2009

Filed under: Teaching — Stephanie @ Finances & Fatigues @ 5:04 pm
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I’m trying to inspire my students in Social Studies, especially the 6th graders who are currently studying Ancient India.  It’s really hard for the students to “get into it” because they’re so unfamiliar with the culture, much less the difficult-to-graspe concept that it all happened thousands of years ago.

How does one deal with this?

Why, with this great FREE resource of reader’s theater:

6th graders are going to start the one on Ancient India tomorrow, 5th graders are going to do Tall Tales.

On a funny note, we make fun of my neighbor for looking like  a lumberjack.  He wears flannels and has crazy red hair and a beard and just has that look.  I asked him to come into my class as Paul Bunyan.  He said he’d love to come in and talk about the market evolution of blah blah blah (history grad student blabber) so I felt I had to uninvite him.  Too bad.


Spring Break 2009: Peru April 14, 2009

Filed under: Life,Teaching — Stephanie @ Finances & Fatigues @ 5:54 pm
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I had an awesome Spring Break.

My roomate S1 (both my roommates are S’s, incidentally) and S1’s mother and I went to Peru for 8 or 9 days.  I loved it.  I loved speaking Spanish again, I loved the people (mostly), I loved the sites, I just loved it.  Except I didn’t really love the agency we went though, we had too much traveling.  Too much planes, trains, and sitting on buses.  But once we got to the sites I loved it.

I also bought a car over Spring Break.  I had still been driving the same junker from high school and was sort of half heartedly looking and then I saw a good deal and I took it!  So I now drive a Volvo S40, 2006 but under 10k miles on it.

Anyways, back to the whole Peru thing.  At school, I only speak Spanish to tell the colors and numbers and months.  I love teaching Spanish, but the amount I use doesn’t push my skill.  I was so excited to be able to practice so much in Peru and it got me all pumped up and rejuvenated to teach Spanish when I got back.  My students were soooo excited to hear about my trip.  They keep asking me questions, some oddball, but some really thoughtful, and they were excited to see the coins I brought back.

I also got a lot of reading done in Peru, again an effect of the whole plane-train-bus issue.  Then I realized that I haven’t updated my books read in a long time, so I went ahead and did that.  My count right now is 21.  I know I read mostly young adult and juvenile books, but it still seems like a high count.


Thoughts on physical space March 1, 2009

Filed under: Teaching — Stephanie @ Finances & Fatigues @ 8:41 am
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I give a lot of thought to the physical space of a classroom, mostly because mine is a pain.  I alluded to this in my last post, so now I’m going to go into the story of my problematic classroom in more detail.

In the beginning of the year, just like any other starry eyed teacher, my classroom was immaculate and cutesy.  There was a place for everything and everything was in its place.  But my class grew from 14 students to 20 students which meant adding a table (more on that to come).  I was having a lot of behavioral problems because my room was way too small for that many kids, especially kids that size (5th and 6th graders can be as big as adults).  They kept bumping into each other, which lead to several spats, which was driving me crazy.  So a board member had the idea to knock out the wall next door and give me a double room.  This was a great idea in theory, except there are some problems with the electric panel and rather than knock down the wall, they knocked down a 6 foot section in the middle.  It’s more like an extended entry way than anything.

So basically my classroom is two separate rooms that are linked together by this 6 foot entry way.  After the wall was knocked down, I tried to reassemble my room.  I moved all the “extras” such as the classroom library and the computers to the new room and left all the tables in the old room.  This worked well because I could see everybody and they could see me and hear me.
However, the principal wanted me to separated the 5th and 6th graders because she thought it would alleviate some behavior problems.  She helped me to completely rearrange everything (if you’re keeping count, this is the fourth time) and spread out some of the tables into the new room.   By this time I’ve rearranged my room so many times that I give up and I stop trying to make my room look nice and cutesy.  I’m just plain worn out of putting things up and moving furniture over and over again.  The principal expresses concerns about the way my room looks, but not to me.  Instead she tells some other teachers, including Ellen.  Ellen assumes I already know when she comes to talk to me, but of course I don’t.  This further fans Ellen’s fire of disapproval that the principal is a poor leader and communicator.

So now I teach half of the students through a 6 foot hole in the wall.  Does this sound strange? Well it should because it is.  I really think the physical space of the classroom is a contributing factor toward behavior problems.  For one thing, it’s impossible to see everybody so people easily goof off and hide things from me.  Second, the kids are at big round tables,that seat four instead of desks.  This makes it hard to see and makes “stuff” an issue.  They have center baskets for holding things, but then they fight about somebody’s stuff getting on to their side or putting too much stuff into the center basket.  Plus transitions are more difficult because they have to get up to go to their caddy to get their personal things instead of reaching inside a desk.

So that’s the story of my classroom and fills in some of the blanks in my last post about why Ellen had to help me with my room.


Missing my mentor February 27, 2009

Filed under: Teaching — Stephanie @ Finances & Fatigues @ 5:50 pm
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Today was a half day, 12:00 dismissal, and I still managed to be at school until 5 in the evening.  But in the evening my former mentor (we’ll call her Ellen) came in and talked a bit.  I guess I shouldn’t call her former, as she continues to be a huge help to me.  I’ve said some things in the past about her resignation, but basically she and the principal had a falling out and she decided she’d rather resign now than risk getting fired before the end of the year.  Ellen’s position has been filled by a great lady (we’ll call her Darlene) who I really like and seems to be a good teacher.  But it’s just not the same without Ellen.    So I compiled a list of all the ways that Ellen has helped me:

1. She helped me pull my classroom together. My classroom was… well… a bit of a mess.  But I think I will write about the physical space of my classroom tomorrow.  Anyways, on the day she was officially assigned to be my mentor she stayed until 6:30 and helped me pull things together.

2.  She tells me things straight, but in a nice way. Ellen will tell me the truth, but in a way that I don’t feel bad.

3.  She has excellent behavioral management. Anyone will tell you that behavior management is hard, but Ellen does a great job with it.  She is stern and holds the kids to a high standard, but she never acts like a drill sergeant or embarrasses the kids the way that other teachers at my school do.

4.  She is generous. Ellen has so much stuff it’s unbelievable.  Her classroom library rivals the school library.  Not only does she have it all, she’s generous with it.  She has given me tons and tons and tons of resources from class sets of books to teacher resources.

5.  She never stops learning. While I consider Ellen to be an experienced and great teacher, she doesn’t see herself that way.  She’s always telling me about new things she’s seen and learned and how she can’t wait to try them.

All in all, she really is a great person and I miss her very much.  I hope that we continue to keep in touch and that our paths continue to cross.


I heart Valentine’s Day February 13, 2009

Filed under: Teaching — Stephanie @ Finances & Fatigues @ 7:49 pm
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At least from a teaching point of view.  I got so many cute little cards saying how I am the “world’s greatest teacher”.  But what took the cake (pun intended) was a small, heart shaped cheesecake that a student brought me.   It was so delicious!  I just love the feeling of knowing that my students care about me just as much as I care about them.


Happy Birthday to me! February 6, 2009

Filed under: Life,Teaching — Stephanie @ Finances & Fatigues @ 4:57 pm
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My birthday is on Tuesday and I’m treating myself to Monday and Tuesday off work!  Yay!  The catch?  I got confused and asked for the wrong days off so I don’t have a sub for Monday.  But I’m sure throughout the whole weekend I’ll be able to find somebody to sub, I have a lot of buddies from my credentialing program so I’m sure something will come through.  If not, the principal said they’d find a way to cover me, she’s pretty good about that.

So how am I celebrating my birthday?  On Saturday night G and I are having a “Happy Birthday to Steph and G, good-bye to G and D” party.  (G’s birthday is Valentine’s Day, on March 3rd he’s leaving to study in Germany,  D is leaving on Sunday to study in China) If it’s not raining, I want to go to the zoo on Monday (I have a pass.)  If it raining, I think I might go to the museum of contemporary art, it’s free to people under 25, and honstly G (my boyfriend) won’t be under 25 much longer!  So might as well use it.

What about Tuesday?  I’m going to… Disneyland!!!  I have a pass and I go all the time, usually with my roommates/best friends who also have passes.  This time though I’m taking my mom as a late Christmas present.  I’m actually really excited to go with her, it’s just nostalgic because all of my childhood memories of Disneyland were of course with her.  Plus since it’s my birthday I’m allowed to eat lots of ice cream and goodies. 🙂  Disneyland has a deal right now that you get in free for your birthday, but since I have a  pass I get that amount in the form of a gift card.

Overall, I’m just really excited for a long weekend and to de-stress and enjoy my special day.

Update: As I wrote this, J text me that she can sub for my class.  That’ll be awesome because she was just there and all the kids loved her.


Apples and Friends February 3, 2009

Filed under: Life,Teaching — Stephanie @ Finances & Fatigues @ 4:28 pm

My friend J came to observe my class today.  I’ve known J since 2nd grade and recently went to her wedding, so she’s definately a close friend.  She called me over the weekend and said that as part of her student teaching she has to observe various classrooms.  She thought it would be a worthwhile experience to observe a first year teacher so she asked to come observe my classroom.  I gave the kids a big talk about it yesterday and they were so excited to meet her today!

Overall, it was really fun to have J today, although I probably scared her a little bit.  It’s so different observing a really great experienced teacher and then watching a first year teacher, but it’s also probably a reality check.

So why is the word “apples” in this post title? Well, I’ll tell you that little diddy.  As kids, J always teased me about my “fifteen minute apple”.  Basically, I’d eat an apple every day at lunch and it would take me fifteen minutes to eat it, hence she teased me about it.  Well today I pulled an apple out of my lunch bag at snack time and the kids started commenting, “You always have an apple!”  “Why do you like apples so much?”  “Do you like apples because you’re a teacher?”  I looked at J and she burst out laughing, remembering me and my apples.  I guess some things never change.