Archives For Fifth Grade Art

Some Kind of a Day

October 25, 2013 — Leave a comment

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I started off the day wowing my students with my amazing ability to type without looking at either the keyboard or the screen. Then I told a story about an ancient device called a typewriter, before getting them psyched up to practice their not-so-great typing skills. All those important assessments that are coming our way are going to be typed on a computer, so they have to get cracking now if they want to say everything they want to say in the prescribed time limit.

Walked ’em down to the computer lab only to be turned away. My Favorite Fundraiser had taken over without telling anyone. So it was back upstairs…and I told a quick story instead and then we started Math.

Copier was down so I didn’t have the stuff ready I wanted, so we had an all-class chess lesson instead. (I’m further along in the curriculum than I need to be, so we could afford the Friday Fun Day.) Robbie got the rare chance to play Mr. Fauth in chess, but I had to cut my game short in order to talk to a student about motivation and being-in-the-world. ‘Nuff said on that one.

Three boys volunteered to stay in during lunch and we sorted the huge bin of chess pieces. 15 years’ worth of chess sets have gotten all mingled together, so we did the yearly sort ‘n bag. I was very happy to see one student in particular really engaged with what was going on in the class, joking with the other guys, and generally happy to be there. It wasn’t quite that way back in August, so he’s come a long way.

Then, during recess, while playing football he tripped over his own feet, smashed right into the side of the school, and (most likely) broke his arm.

Everyone stayed cool, and he was the veritable “trouper” and dealt with the pain like a man, until we could get him into the office. His dad rushed right over and took him to the hospital. I called later to check up on him, but all I heard was that he was heading in for x-rays.

I was down to the last 15 pages of my read-aloud book (which is the BEST part of the job, by the way), and Meggie had just read out The Shadow. J (the student with the busted arm) often moves his seat up close to me so he can listen properly, without distraction. The kids had earned a double session of Read Aloud today (and it’s Friday, so they can draw!), so I was going to finish the book. Instead, when we got back from recess, I told the kids we’d wait until Monday so J wouldn’t have to miss the ending of the book.

Despite all of THAT, today was a pretty good day, actually. Kids were in a really good mood, had some time to have a little fun and be creative*, and got to leave without any homework over the weekend.

It’s after 9:00 on a Friday night and I’ve been to Naperville and back twice tonight, amidst laundry and dinner and trying to get the house picked up. Having the folks over for Mom’s birthday on Sunday. Grades are due first thing Monday morning and I’ve barely entered anything into the computer, a system that I’m learning for the first time this year. AND I just figured out that my heater is turning itself up to 70 degrees at odd times, even though I reset it the other day. So that’s Saturday, apparently.

Time for a relaxing beverage and a bit of a read. And then to bed and then to bed!

 

*I like to feature some of their artwork on here, and one of the unique things this class likes to do is create “cards” that get passed around the room. There’s the Fox Card in honor of this obsession, two Mr. Fauth cards, one of which is designated as The One That Someone Threw In The Garbage. So far I’ve created the Huzzah! card, which means when you get it, you have to yell “Huzzah!” before passing it on to the next person. (Duh.) Today I created the Mark of Shame card, where the perennial mock-shame punishment I give kids has become sentient and is traveling from desk to desk, inflicting his own personal brand of classroom shaming onto the unsuspecting students.

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Seriously, we do actually get work done in my class. For real.

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The Queen is Dead.

Long Live the Queen.

There’s a new sheriff in town.

Meet the new boss/Same as the old boss.

Garbage in/Garbage out.

Out of the frying pan and into the fire.

And other cliches…

Those old chestnuts rattle around in my head a lot when I think about the state of things at my workplace. We’ve gone through a period of enormous change over the past year or so, a lot of which I’m still getting used to. From what I hear, last year was the year that everyone freaked out about the lack of direction, when the old bosses left and the new ones were yet to be hired. All policies were put under review, so it became a free-for-all. Everyone just did what they wanted. Some stayed “on model” to the old ways, some experimented, some freaked out.

I started the year trying to stick with what I knew, but I told parents that they should expect changes. And it looks like they’re on their way. When I was first hired, it was the expectation that fifth graders should have at least 45 minutes of homework per night. Now the new bosses are talking about an end to homework. I can’t critique that, because I’ve never been a fan of it, really. Grades used to be about doing whatever it took to make sure that child succeeded as best as they could, even if it meant modifying the assessments to best fit their needs. Now, it’s all about giving a truer (and harsher) portrait of how they’re doing.

I’m happy to hear about some of these changes, but of course I’ve got something sticking in my craw about all of it. I come out of most staff meetings just frustrated and angry, and I think it’s usually down to that feeling of utter powerlessness. I think I’m doing something the right way, and that it’s working for my students, and then suddenly I’m made to feel like I’ve been doing it all wrong. We’re told by the powers that be that It Must Be Done This Way. And we do it like that for a few years. And then New Powers That Be come along, and declaim, “No, That Old Way Was Wrong. THIS Is The Way It Now Must Be Done.” And then they talk about data and spreadsheets and assessment goals and everything becomes so cold and clinical and at that point I tune out and have no idea what I’m supposed to do anymore.

And I know that I don’t speak for everyone, and I know that I can be a prickly pear when it comes to all this. I just don’t think I’m designed for the type of teaching that seems to be coming. I’m too loosey-goosey about being “on model” all the time and haven’t warmed to some of the latest strategies and policies like others have. I tell too many stories and let them play chess more than they really should. I take extra recesses on Friday and can’t be bothered to spend more than five minutes looking at “data,” but by golly I’ll spend an hour drawing cartoons on their six-page Science test just to make it a little more fun. I know that change is good and that there are a lot of excellent new teachers out there doing amazing things; I’ve got one right next door to me. But man, I’m quickly becoming that old guy that didn’t keep up with the latest changes, and pretty soon the new teachers will sigh and shake their heads and wonder why I don’t teach Writing like them.

But my year off kind of solidified certain things in me, which is a lot different than atrophy. There is the simple relationship that a good teacher develops with his students, one based on mutual respect and trust and yes, even love. I’m a conductor and they are my orchestra, and if we’re lucky, we can create a gorgeous symphony from time to time. And the data might show me that I have a student who is struggling in Reading, and now needs to get pulled out of class for several hours per week, but ask that same kid to talk about how he spent last Saturday taking apart an engine with his dad. He probably has more practical knowledge and life skills than any of the kids scoring in the 99th percentile in my class. Kid’ll probably invent a space car or something.

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Personal Matters

October 18, 2013 — Leave a comment

This week wrapped up two rather stressful events at school. One was our fundraiser, and the other was the annual “puberty” talk for the fifth graders. Both necessary evils, and both get the kids all wound up and distracted. I am very, very glad this week is done.

We actually have two puberty-themed events. The first was held earlier in the week, where representatives from the Robert Crown Health Center come and give a presentation about how life begins. Boys and girls together, and while it’s informative, its certainly a bit embarrassing for the kids as they process all this new information. We normally have this happen later in the year, but due to costs going up we scheduled it for October. Fifth grade teachers sometimes see the Robert Crown talk as a watershed moment. There’s how your kids act Before The Talk, and there’s how your kids act After The Talk.

Today was the day where the boys go in one room, and the girls go in another, and they watch a video, and they get a chance to ask questions about personal matters. And there’s no need to go into the details, as this is a student-friendly site, but we’ve all been there, and as a teacher who’s done this around a dozen times or so, I thought I had heard every question that could be asked by a fifth grade boy.

Except today.

After the video, kids could put questions into a bucket, anonymously, and then our presenter would read and answer them. Questions like, “When will my voice start changing?” “When do I start getting taller than the girls?” And so forth. But here’s a new one:

“Um, when do I start shaving my chest?”

The Manscaping Era has come to elementary school, folks.

*   *   *

Now the weekend is here, and I’ve stuffed my belly full of bad frozen pizza, and I shall read for a bit before firing up the TV. I’ve just discovered seven seasons’ worth of Rick Steves’ Europe on Hulu, and that’s all I’m able to watch right now. He’s my favorite nerd ever.

On closing, I present some fresh fifth grade art, which is the second best part of my job. We’ll discuss the best part another day.

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Part One is located here, in case you missed it.


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Here’s a wide view of the room. I’ve been in this one for six years straight, as opposed to my time at East View, where I had three different rooms in the same span of time.

I have 30 students, plus a few 4th graders that come in for Math every day. It can be fairly crowded at times. Right now the seats are supposed to evoke a Viking mead hall, but I haven’t been able to get my annual Viking Day off the ground yet. It should have been today, as I always try and have it the Friday before Columbus Day weekend. We have new restrictions concerning food in school, which has really taken half the fun out of Viking Day. Because we do things like this:

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We’ll see if I can get an exemption.

Here’s one more look at my bulletin board area. I have a student who has been giving me pictures of different animals with human names like Bill and Sam:

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When the school was built, interior windows were in vogue, so we could monitor activity in the hallway. Now we cover them up to provide a “safer, more secure” environment in case of a lockdown.

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Traveling back in time to the East View days again, one year a fast food restaurant had Halloween Simpsons toys, based on episodes of their annual Treehouse of Horror episodes (back when they were good.) Students brought them in and gave them to me. I had a Bart one, but one year my sister and my niece were visiting and she took a liking to him.

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One student has decided it is her job to mark off the lunch calendar at the end of every day. And to occasionally leave me secret messages behind the screen.


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Zooming in on the library, we see some rather worn copies of C.S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia, and a pre-film edition of The Return of the King. (I really need to update my classroom editions of  The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. That might be all that’s left of them.)

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My library could use some work, to be honest. I should be grouping them by genre, labeling them with reading level stickers and whatnot, but it’s a lot of work and I just don’t have the time.

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My old Choose Your Own Adventure books made their way into my class library. Who Killed Harlowe Thrombey? was my favorite one to read over and over again.


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Peanuts isn’t as popular now with kids as it was back in the day, but they’re still a presence in my classroom. Snoopy on his doghouse was made by my mother a long, long time ago. The beanie toys were a gift from…Kaitlin S, I think.

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Nibbles is a creepy rat who occasionally shows up in students’ desks. Today someone made him a bed during Read Aloud.

This week was a long one, for many reasons, and I had to have a few chats with some of my boys who really don’t know how to make good choices. Forgotten homework, a tendency to goof around and talk at the wrong times, and a general disinterest in school. I have dubbed them “The Lost Boys.”

After we packed up and marched downstairs, and after the goodbyes and high fives, I walked back to my room, exhausted and frustrated yet again with how the year is going. This was waiting for me on my desk.

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I’ll address the missing capital “R” in “rings” on Tuesday. We just took a quiz today on proper nouns. They should know better!  🙂