A "cool" teacher

There's less than a week of school left and the students in my classes have been working (surprisingly) hard on their independent science presentations. Most of the class knows what they should be working on and what to do next, so it gives me time to check-in with each student throughout the block.

Today, I checked in with a student whose topic is space stations and the impact they've had on scientific research and space exploration. After conferencing with him on what he was working on and some places where he could improve, I started to leave to move onto the next student. As I began to walk away, the student next to him says it.

"You're a cool teacher."

I really don't like hearing this from students. I really don't. It bothers me. A huge part of me does not want to be known as a cool teacher and would rather simply be known as a great teacher.

The student stared me down and obviously wanted me to respond. Unfortunately, I couldn't think fast enough to reply any other way. I said what was on my mind.

"I'd rather be a great teacher."

We engaged in a little discussion of what I felt the difference was and he tried to understand. I did my best to explain that even though I'm glad he enjoys my class and thinks the activities and lessons we do are fun and says it's his least boring class, I would rather him leave my room having grown as a learner, creator, thinker and individual.

Blank stare...

And then I was floored.

"You mean like how we don't ask you questions that we can answer ourselves?"

Oh, happy day.

Linda & John

The students were asked to generate questions they had while listening to The Giver being read out loud. They were challenged to craft questions about things they were wondering about in the text, and that might be answered in future readings.

Student #1: "What are Jonas' parents names?"

Student #2: "We already know their names. It's Linda and John. Next question, Mr. A."

Fraction Statements

In math today, the students were asked to sketch six people and accessorize them with hats, glasses, jewelry, etc. They could sketch them in any height, weight, hair color, etc. The main task was for them to write five factual statements about the group of six people, using fractions.

Here is what one student wrote about his sketch.

2 out of the 6 people are tall.
3 out of the 6 people have dark hair.
3 out of the 6 people want to play baseball.
1 out of the 6 people is a girl.
6 out of the 6 people are ugly.

At least he followed the directions.

This kid always makes me smile.

Show and tell for fifth graders

One of my students, who I am so incredibly proud of, is on the Loveland Titans football team of the Pop Warner League. This past weekend, his team played a quarterfinal qualifying game in Texas and won!

They drove over from Loveland to Tyler, Texas riding on a bus, with the trip lasting almost 20 hours each way. He shared about his weekend with the class and brought in a few artifacts to share.


He talked about the normal things a fifth grade boy would cover:
- The bus hitting a deer at midnight on their way to Texas
- Getting sick on the bus ride
- Winning the game
- The possibility of playing at Mile High Stadium for their next game
- Finding a hobo

The usual. Anyway, I thought he explained it quite well and then he took questions from his classmates. I wasn't expecting many questions, but I was surprised.

"Was the bus air conditioned?"
"Did you eat at restaurants?"
"Did you get to explore Tyler?"
"Was it hot over there?"
"Would you go back?"
"When is your next game?"
"How come your team got to go to Texas to play and (all the other boys who play football for the local league)'s team didn't get to go?"
"What is the difference between Pop Warner and LYAA?"

Even though it took almost fifteen minutes of sharing, it was worth it. I realized that my entire class was completely engaged in the sharing of one student's experience. They wanted to hear about everything he encountered on this trip so they could better understand his weekend.

Considering I have a significant group of ELA students who have limited vocabularies, this was a great opportunity for them to interact with their peers, interpret events and information orally and respond with their own questions.

Perhaps I should pencil in a little more show-and-tell time with my fifth graders.

How do you use Show-and-Tell in your classroom?

Is there an age where it stops being useful?

Better Days

I've been having some truly great days recently. I can't seem to make any connection as to why all of a sudden the upswing of things. Here are the Facebook status updates that I had posted:

from Tuesday, November 1, 2011:

Had a great day today! Started with choir (we did "All These Things I've Done" by The Killers), executed a great writing lesson, book group time, switched 5th grade classes for Social Studies, had lunch with grown-ups today, introduced complicated volume problems, started a new read-aloud (the great "When You Reach Me" by Rebecca Stead), wrapped up a history chapter with my class, hung out with Mr. Zickrick and his boys, went to Odyssey of the Mind practice with five great students and then drove home on 287 at 20 mph in the crazy snow. Now time to catch up on TV!

from Thursday, November 3, 2011

Today was one of the best days of the school year! Drove through crazy spooky fog to get to work on time, let my kids in early so they wouldn't freeze, did a reading inventory for the whole class, progress monitored all of my kids (except two), reestablished our reading goals and incentives for 2nd quarter, introduced a new prewriting organizer, taught Mr. N's class about "encore", found one of my kids using his organic fruit lunch as a weapon, practiced order of operations, held book groups, introduced european routes of exploration, experienced "first come first served" with halloween candy, redid a bulletin board, picked up Zickrick to get some fuel, school paperwork, hanging with friends, X Factor, and hopefully I'll get to start reading "A Wrinkle in Time" since I am racing a student who is already forty pages in.

I do want to rehash a few more specific things from today. I assigned a writing prompt today, "Why I Like This School", and had my class develop this piece independently, to assess their writing procedures. I didn't give them any other direction or instruction.

After about fifteen minutes, one of my boys (DM) raises his hand to ask "Is this good?" like he always does. I try to not give him false praise, but rather focus on the effort that he has put into it. I tend to respond, "I don't know, what do you think?" But today I didn't. He wanted me to read it right away, and since he was one of the first ones to complete it, I decided I could entertain him and read it.

I skimmed it and I found that I was listed as one of the things he likes about school. I love this kid. He's also a normal boy, and he included playing football at recess and his friends among his other reasons.

Fast forward to the end of the day, I'm releasing all of the kids to go home. Most of the kids get picked up by their parents and a few ride the bus. Normally, it's a mad rush to get out of the classroom and leave the school, but today, after excusing everyone, DM didn't leave. He usually meets his first grade brother outside my class, but said that since it was cold today (it was pretty cold today) that he would wait for him inside.

Well, he's messing around inside with another one of my students, and I tell him he better hurry up because his little bro is probably waiting outside in the cold. DM disagrees with me and insists that he's not there yet.

So I open the door, completely expecting him to be standing right beside my door, shivering in the cold. DM was right. No one was there. But I could see him on the approach. Once his brother gets to my room, I let him in since DM is still inside, not leaving.

And now I've got both of them, the two brothers in my room with a few other students still cleaning up to go home. Now DM's mom picks him up to go home and she's always on time, waiting in their car along the pick=up/drop-off curb. So now that his little brother is here, I'm insisting they get going because now their mom will be waiting.

Dom doesn't get up to leave. In fact, he says, "I don't want to leave. I want to stay with you."

This kid is ridiculous. Sweet, but ridiculous. So I tell him, "Um, no. Your mom's waiting for you guys!"

So then I open the door to walk them out and guess who's waiting outside my door? It's their mom! =) Man, did those boys move fast.

Now, even though mom probably was wondering what was taking them so long, it does give me that much needed affirmation that I'm creating a classroom where my students feel safe and comfortable and happy.

The first quarter of the year is now two weeks past, and most of those days ended with me frustrated and disappointed with myself. During this second quarter, instead of staying up all night thinking about all the negative things and failed lessons from that day, I am trying to focus on any successes and any positive instances from my day.

This has been in my mind all day, and it has been good.

Comment Guide, revised

Last year, I posted the comment guide that we would use with my students when we blog. Looking back on it, I think it's pretty good, but we'll add a few things to improve upon it.

Before we start doing that, we will have to revisit our expectations for leaving a comment. Hopefully they will recall our classroom discussions around leaving comments. We talked a lot about how sometimes our comments are the only way we are known on a blog or on the internet. We need to think about what kind of impression we are making when we leave comments.

Commenting Guide

Pertinent It should connect to the original post, or original comment.
Positive You want to encourage the author.
Purposeful Only leave a comment when you have something to say.
Professional Use your best writing conventions - capitalization, punctuation, spelling, etc.


In addition to this, I've added another point:
Personal Greet your blogger! "Dear Mr. Arakaki," or "Dear Billy Bob".

My original post drew ideas from Mrs. Yollis' Classroom Blog: How to Compose a Quality Comment.