miércoles, marzo 30, 2005



here's my version of ginny's geeklist:

  • i got glasses in first grade: bigass light purple frames with little flecks of silver glitter. when my students get new glasses, i declare certain days as "día de lentes" so we can all wear our glasses and be proud of them.

  • i was an only child and would often moan and groan about my constant boredom, so my mom would tell me to read the dictionary. and i actually would! a sadder part of my childhood involves my parents buying me board games but not playing them with me, so it would be right hand vs. left hand at hungry hungry hippos, chess, and monopoly. fun, fun, fun.

  • as a child, i organized all my books alphabetically by genre. i created my own little pockets on the inside covers so my friends and family could check out books, and i also taped labels on the spine of each book based on the first three letters of the author's last name and part of the ISBN number. i'm much less anal in my old age: my books are organized by language, then genre, then alphabetically. books by the same author are ordered by date of publication. see? i've gotten much cooler.

  • i do the same damned thing with my CDs.

  • in middle school, i joined the chess club. and i was one of the top three players in the Queens (beginner) division.

  • also in middle school, i rocked UIL competitions. my strongest subject: spelling. my first and second place trophies are up there with all my 7th and 10th place ribbons from track and field. you can't be good at everything.

  • i was on my high school's academic decathlon team. for two years. gold medalist both years. boo yeah. and for la raza that read this: my award-winning speech junior year included a paragraph about selena.

  • i met my first boyfriend on the academic decathlon team. my second boyfriend i met on the school newspaper staff.

  • i have a bachelor degree in linguistics. i spent two and a half years writing an undergradute linguistics honors thesis on spanish academic language proficiency. you really can't get much geekier than that.



    i got suckered into attending a meeting held by the local teachers union. dues alone are close to $500 annually. holy christ. i was also informed that there's a bill on either the house or senate floor (sorry, my memory is horrendous) pushing english-only education by transitioning kids to english via 1.5 hours daily of some sort of computer program, effectively eliminating the need for bilingual teachers. that is so feasible considering the pathetic numbers of computers that a) are in individual classrooms and b) actually work consistently. nevermind the notion that an actual person might be slightly more effective at differentiating learning than a computer. i thought bilingual ed was safe here in texas, but these days nothing seems to be certain in the wild world of education.


    le mando le mando le mando a la niña

    yesterday i called a kid guey. force of habit. but i think i covered it up pretty well.

    today i had my kids sing happy birthday to my mom. they got super excited and wanted to know what her first name is. althought it really isn't all that similar, they kept thinking i was saying "cruz". despite my insistence, they started chanting "cruz", which naturally turned into "cruz azul", to which i had no choice but to respond "ay que no, ¡viva los tiburrrrrones!" ironically (because the climax guys happen to be from veracruz and actually say that in the final verse of the song) my kids later got in a singing mood and busted into "mesa que más aplauda", followed by "gasolina"--replete with interpretive dance moves! gotta love kids that listen to mexican radio, wo-oh.

    lunes, marzo 28, 2005


    yes, i'm a dork

    i think part of my appeal is the fact that all kinds of stupid things entertain me (and that would be appealing because my laugh is ENTRANCING and my smile DISARMING, just ask around). for example, i am getting the BIGGEST kick out of this book ordering thing. i have a bilingual book catalog in front of me and i think i've used like thirty post-its so far. cause i'm being picky. i've got another 75 pages to go. in the relatively unlikely event that anyone knows these names i'm fixin' to drop, perhaps you'll be just as amused as me:

  • Popol Vuh is available in a children's version. It's recommended for grades 5-8 but I think it would be hysterical to freak out my handful of religious fanatics.

  • If these moments of weakness continue, I may have to get a book called Antón y los dragones: Un libro sobre Gaudí. la Pinoteca Diego Rivera en Xalapa tuvo una exhibición de Gaudí el verano pasado y su obra es bien chingón. Si no me crees, ¡googlelo!

  • there's a children's book about Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz. bet they leave her blood-written retraction of her life's beliefs out. good thing i know what Texas library has that confession in its collection so i can plan a field trip to set the record straight.

  • hmm. when a principal tells you to submit something ASAP, does that mean the next day or before week's end?


    small blessings

  • Por Dios: ¡Qué lindo! A student's big sister left him in my charge early this morning, but not before giving him the sign of the cross. I love it! As I instructed my students about our project for the school-wide word celebration, I used the verb "celebrar". My Jehovah's Witness freaked out and started his usual "Pero maestra yo no puedo celebrar..." schpiel. In my head all I could think was "Dude, the Lord has NO PROBLEM with you celebrating WORDS." Luckily some of his compas reassured him before I could think of a teacherly way to express my thoughts.

  • Por allí: I understand we all skim blogs, but for those of you that might have missed it (coughemecough), one of my kids PISSED on a TREE on the playground in front of the ENTIRE FIRST GRADE. today he was super hyperactive so he spent 95% of recess writing about appropriate playground behavior. i need to figure out other busy work for him to last the rest of the week. suggestions are welcome... the more tedious and painful, the better! If the misbehavior continues before noon tomorrow, the VP is gonna call Mom and break it down. Part of me is secretly hoping he has a bad morning so someone can finally put the fear of God in him.

  • Por fin: The reading specialist mentioned my severe lack of grade-appropriate texts to the principal and I suddenly have a $500 book order budget. Sweeeeet!!!

  • domingo, marzo 27, 2005


    unos enlaces interesantes

    La Cucaracha goes national.

    This is funny not because I know anything about Cruz Bustamante, but because of the references to MEChA.

    Paris Hilton makes me want to vomit. And have you-know-who piss on her.

    Apparently British parents are pretty whacked out toward teachers, too. Wait until you get to the part about the axe!


    back on task

    "I don't think you should try to pull the wool over teachers' eyes unless you want to tell the world you think you have a bunch of stupid teachers"
    -Rodolfo Reyna, retired math teacher from Del Rio, during a rally at the Capitol to push the Senate to overhaul the House education bill

    Here are a few of the bill's major provisions as outlined by the Texas Classroom Teachers Association. I'm particularly tickled by the provisions for superintendent pay and funding formulas for bilingual ed.

    House Bill 2 calls for sweeping reform

    HB 2 is described as including more than $3 billion in new funding for public schools, but some experts estimate that the actual number could be lower.

    The proposal would reduce the cap on local property taxes from the current $1.50 to $1, but would allow districts to raise taxes above that level locally, with voter approval, by no more than 2 cents per year to a total of 10 cents above the $1.

    The bill does not provide a funding source for the increases in education funding. The expectation of House leadership is that HB 3 (the revenue-raising bill) will raise money for the property tax relief, and that the new funds needed for HB 2 would come from cuts in the state budget.


    As it passed out of the House Public Education Committee, the bill did not include an across-the-board pay raise. An amendment on the House floor provided some sort of pay raise, although the language is confusing and the implications are unclear. Essentially it would dedicate a percentage of new money received by districts to those subject to the state minimum salary schedule (teachers, registered nurses, counselors and librarians). It is funded using the existing money in HB 2.

    While described in the media as a $3,000 pay raise, the amendment as written would not guarantee $3,000 for all teachers. Instead, it would require districts to use a portion of new state and local revenue (every district is assured of at least a 3 percent increase) for increased teacher compensation, up to $3,000. It should be noted that the exemptions for exemplary schools included in HB 2 (described on page 3) also would exempt exemplary schools and districts from complying with any requirement for a teacher pay raise.

    The bill also deletes the mechanism for automatically raising the state minimum salary schedule as districts have access to additional funding. Failure to have such a “salary driver” is likely to result in Texas teachers falling farther below the national average over time.

    Each step of the state minimum salary schedule is increased by $1,000, and the $500 health insurance supplement is eliminated. This is nominally a conversion of the full $1,000 from a health insurance supplement to salary for teachers and others on the salary schedule, but may not apply to teachers in districts that use a “mid-point” salary structure rather than a traditional salary schedule. The supplement is structured to be on top of 2004-05 compensation, but there is no assurance it will be a “pass through” beyond the 2005-06 school year. The supplement would be eliminated completely for any employee not on the salary schedule, including paraprofessionals, support staff, etc.

    A nonbinding statement of intent is added to law to reflect the Legislature’s policy that teachers can and should be compensated above the minimum salary schedule if they substantially contribute to improvements in student achievement.


    “Value-added” is a new term of art being used by policymakers nationwide; yet relatively little is known about it, both because it has not been used widely or long enough to accurately gauge results, and because the few models that exist are not easily obtainable.

    Basically, “value-added” is a way to use test scores to gain information about the impact of teaching and the levels of student learning.

    The value-added approach purportedly is able to separate student effects (ethnicity, family background, socioeconomic status) from school effects (teachers, administrators, programs) since it examines test scores to determine if students are making anticipated academic gains each year. Measured on the basis of their progress from the previous year, students, in a sense, act as their own statistical control. Value-added programs calculate a projected test score for a student in a given grade or subject based on his/her previous academic achievement. The difference between the actual score and the projected score is the value added.

    HB 2 includes value-added provisions in several sections, including those relating to local incentive plans, and the statement of intent that teachers be rewarded for improving student performance.

    In addition, HB 2 provides that no later than Sept. 1, 2006, the commissioner must adopt a measure for value-added student performance by tracking changes in a student’s performance from one school year to the next on an assessment instrument. The performance of the student on the assessment instrument would be compared to the student’s results on any assessment instrument for that subject the student took during the previous school year. TEA would maintain a record of the comparison each year, and provide the record to the school the student attends and to each teacher of a student in an assessed subject.

    A measure of value-added student performance is added to the indicators upon which school accountability ratings are based.


    The incentive provisions in HB 2 are somewhat confusing. The commissioner of education is required to establish an educator excellence incentive program under which districts will develop local plans (approved by the commissioner) to provide incentive payments to employees who “demonstrate superior success in adding value to student achievement.” Districts must use at least 1 percent of their total state and local expenditures (not including bond debt) to provide incentives, which may be in the form of stipends to teachers at high-need campuses, stipends to mentor teachers, or other payments to “further the goals of any other locally designed performance incentive program intended to improve student achievement.”

    This does not require individual bonuses based on student achievement, and districts could choose to use a local plan to pay individual teachers or all personnel on a campus (or other combination of employees, such as grade levels or academic departments, which must at least include teachers). However, the local plan must be based on objective measures of student achievement, rewarding either high levels of achievement, growth in achievement, or both. The local plan also can consider other indicators of employee performance, such as evaluations by principals or parents. The comments of classroom teachers must be considered in the development of the local plan.

    To summarize, it appears that a district could choose to spend its 1 percent on mentoring and/or high-needs campus stipends, and must develop a local plan based on student performance, but that the district does not necessarily have to implement the local plan and provide performance-based bonuses.

    One concern is that a decision by a school board or administrator regarding the provision of a stipend is not appealable, which means that a fairly earned stipend could be denied with no recourse available to the employee.

    Another incentive program is based at the state level, designed by the commissioner, and intended to reward growth in student achievement for campuses with at least 50 percent educationally disadvantaged students, an accreditation rating of acceptable or better, and demonstrating superior growth in performance of the schools’ educationally disadvantaged students. Grants would be awarded to campuses meeting the criteria, and at least 75 percent of the grant money must be used for additional teacher compensation at the campus level; the commissioner’s rules would include providing individual rewards of at least $7,500 to each teacher on a campus receiving an award.

    Districts paying into Social Security

    A new provision was added on the House floor to assist districts that are currently (as of Jan. 1, 2005) contributing to Social Security for some or all of their employees. The new provision would require the state to cover 50 percent of the cost of those contributions.

    Superintendent pay

    A provision added on the House floor limits superintendent salaries to no more than four times the salary of the highest paid classroom teacher in the district. It does not restrict nonsalary benefits such as housing or car allowances, expense accounts, etc.

    Funding formulas

    Funding for special education and bilingual programs was increased, but was revised to reflect dollar amounts rather than percentages of funding. Other allotments also were revised to dollar amounts. This means that, rather than increasing naturally as education funding increases, the Legislature will have to specifically adopt new funding amounts each time an increase is needed.

    viernes, marzo 25, 2005


    while i'm digressing...

    more random thoughts:
  • this is absolutely ridiculous... what would jesus eat? give me a fucking break. could we PLEASE stop commercializing the lord, his son, and all other related things? of course jesus wouldn't eat foods with trans fatty acids, but it's not like they had flaming hot cheetos back in his day to begin with.

  • there's an issue at school that i was thinking about today... i have one little boy who has pretty flaming behavior at times. before i go any further, i have no problem with homosexuality, i have always had lots of gay and lesbian friends, etc. so with that disclaimer, i have no idea how to handle his lovey-dovey comments to other boys given that all my little mexican students have been raised in their very machismo culture. last week, the same kid that pissed on the tree called another boy a joto because he hugged his friend. he got a firm talking-to from me, but i know for a fact that i don't treat the kid who actually exhibits more stereotypically gay behavior in a way that necessarily defends him. for example, one day another male student helped him with something and he responded "gracias, mi amor!" all the boys in the class freaked out. another time, he was ALL OVER a student in another class and kept gushing about how much he loved him. perhaps the solution is easier than i think, but it's hard to always make the right choice in dealing with these things when i've got kids waiting in line to talk to me and i can only allot a minute or two to gets things resolved.

  • ladybugs are good luck, right? so if a ladybug is on your windshield, that should be a good thing. but what if you start driving and it flies off (supposedly to its death) while you're speeding on the highway?


    laundry list

    rather than heading to school early to plan, i'm puttering around the house writing bills, contemplating breakfast tacos, and blogging. i've decide to mix things up a bit on here with a few non-school-related anecdotes (i have a personal blog to separate my teaching life from everything else... i'm pretty sure y'all don't wanna hear about my man problems and painting, but if you do, leave me your email and i'll getcha linked up). a few things that have been sloshing around my head:

  • a fellow maestra and i hit up a local club's latin night yesterday. we've heard about it for months on the latin pop radio station (which we listen to religiously, no shame!), but since the club is pretty sketchy and frequented by a lot of minors, we haven't been too interested. moreover, latin night falls on a thursday, and we only go out in the middle of the week for special events. however, you give us a friday off and we're willing to do relatively stupid things to entertain ourselves. that said, after realizing a couple of my dance partners/propositioners were at least FOUR YEARS YOUNGER THAN ME, i decided that dos xx is a good dance partner too and should not be ignored. the guy to girl ratio at this place was like 8 to 1, it was utter insanity. you couldn't walk to the bar without being hit on at least three times... i liked it for its novelty but if i was around it too much i'm sure the desperation would start to worry me.

  • high heels are a bitch

  • if any of these situations applies to you, you are NOT attractive and i do NOT want to talk/dance with you:
    1) you are dressed like a pirate
    2) you seriously get down to "mesa que más aplauda"
    3) you have anything, no matter how big or small, in a zebra print
    4) after unsuccessfully hitting on me for ten minutes, you tell me you're going to talk to another girl.. but if she doesn't want to dance with you either, i had better change my mind when you come back

  • strangely, some of the guys last night addressed me as usted. what the hell is that about? half of my kids don't even address me as usted. is that normal?

  • i'm trying to brainstorm some really enriching ways to get my higher-level kids to write more and better. i want to have at least three writing boxes ready by april: dinosaurs, pandas (we did a thematic unit on them in january), and then something for my girly girls. i plan on having a variety of fiction and nonfiction texts (though lord help me find such things in spanish), die cuts, markers, photos, and even puzzles, toys, and other theme-related activities to help spark their imagination. if you've got any suggestions, please comment!

  • in response to a recent comment, i have to admit that my kids crack me up all the time. i have no problem laughing at their jokes or comments in front of the entire class, and rather enjoy getting into those endless "¡Ay que no! ¡Ay que sí! ¡Ay que no! ¡Ay que sí!" traps. more than anything though, i can't help but snicker to myself in two circumstances:
    1) two kids get in a stupid fight that temporarily ends their friendship. one child comes up to me sobbing, and when i ask what happened they say: "M-M-M-Maaa-SOB-esss-HICCUP-tra, Car-SOB HICCUP-men SOB no SOB SOB quie-HICCUP-re SOB ser SOB mi HICCUP HICCUP SOB HICCUP a-SOB-miiiiiii-SOB-gaaaaaaa...". translation: "teacher, carmen doesn't want to be my friend" interrupted at each syllable with the painful, wracking sobs that come when a six-year-old's world collapses before their eyes. i tend to start hugging from the get-go, but the sobbing and hiccuping i just can't take seriously, and while i'm patting their back or whatever i'm often stifling a giggle and smiling over their poor damp head.
    2) my kids forget how to walk in line, are playing in line, or are talking in line. i will not tolerate them making me look like a shitty first-year teacher (because really, this is all about me), so when their line behavior is less than stellar, we have to walk all the way around campus and exhibit excellent line behavior before returning to class and going to recess. i become very serious and dramatic when i "realize" that we have to "practice", often sighing loudly or muttering things like "no lo creo", "qué vergüenza" or "¿qué pasó? ¿por qué de repente tengo una clase de bebitos?". then i select a few students to tell me what good line behavior looks like, then send them on their way. a friend of mine saw pictures of a "good line" and told me they looked like they were in jail. since that comment, watching them get super serious with arms stiffly behind them and eyes suspiciously monitoring the 1-3 kids that always ruin it for everyone else makes me crack up every time. i usually have to cover my mouth or get it out while i'm locking the door. we also read this book about animal mothers that taught us baby hedgehogs walk in a perfectly straight little line while wild boars walk in a big clump. when my kids get crazy in line, i often declare that they look like a bunch of wild boars. that's pretty funny, too. although i think that sounds kinda harsh in english so i've since looked up the word in spanish and use that instead. fyi, a hedgehog is an erizo and a wild boar is a jabalí.

  • wow, that was way longer than i intended it to be. taco time!

    *UPDATE: the team leader is doing okay, but no one really knows what happened. i did a little shopping and now have several fun things for the dinosaur and insect writing boxes... stickers, puzzles, woodcuts and even those cool little pill-looking foam things you drop in water and watch grow right before your very eyes.

    jueves, marzo 24, 2005


    christ almighty, indeed

    i half-assed my morning plans with wildly successful results. good day right up until noon, when all hell broke loose.

    the 1st grade team leader collapsed in the office during lunch, complaining of chest pains and numbness in one arm. she's 27 and very thin, so we're all very disturbed and worried. the other 1st grade teacher suggested that as soon as my kids were back from lunch we take all the first graders out for recess so we could come up with an afternoon plan. we had just sat down to powwow when several of my boys ran up and told me that one of my students pissed on a tree. on the playground. in front of the ENTIRE first grade. it made me wish for the olden days when you could smack a kid with a ruler. fucking ridiculous. adding insult to injury, as i was filling out the discipline referral i asked if he had a reason for doing it. he couldn't hold it, he claimed, and he didn't think i'd let him go to the bathroom. my bathroom policy during recess is totally lax... i figure if a kid wants to waste their play time on a toilet, that's their right. but to try to pin the piss blame on me? downright fucking LOW. then, at the end of the day when i had my kids plus half of the team leader's class, i realized that my sweet friend that helped out yesterday put the wrong report card copies in the folders and i had to rush and replace EVERYTHING. fuck. and the report cards i managed to send out yesterday all have the master copies that should NOT be anywhere but in my files. double fuck.

    hopefully i'll find out more about the team leader's condition tomorrow when i go in to school to get some work done. good friday better be WAY better than this lousy thursday.

    miércoles, marzo 23, 2005


    no mames

    after all this report card craziness, GUESS WHO is a dumbass and forgot to pass them out at the end of the day...

    i finally remembered when i had two kids left after school, then i ran into a mother and someone's sister, so i managed to get five of them out there. but damn, i'm an idiot.

    today was another strange, hazy day. yesterday i blew out the bulb on my overhead projector and i keep forgetting to ask where to get a replacement, so my usual last-minute morning assignments were not an option. i was supposed to have a team meeting AND parent conference during my 45-minute planning period, but the parent cancelled (this would be my third cancellation from her, isn't that swell?) and the team meeting turned into a team trip to the asst. principal to "express our concerns" about the special area teachers' grades... or rather, the lack thereof or presence of students who no longer attend our school. the extra time after our team trip let me make some handy last-minute Texas packets for social studies, which kept my kids surprisingly engaged ALL MORNING LONG. it was a little spooky. adding to the surrealism of my day, a good friend of mine who usually subs called to see if i wanted any help today. just cause she was bored. let me shout it out for you non-teacher readers: if you help out a teacher friend in their classroom with no strings attached, you are giving the greatest gift on EARTH. she helped with all kinds of tedious and time-consuming work that i haven't gotten around to in weeks, made copies, laminated, fielded questions from my kids, and gave me some much-needed adult company during recess. and if all that weren't fabulous enough, she even BROUGHT ME LUNCH. if she weren't already married, she could have easily gotten a proposal out of me by the end of the day.

    after school, i had a novice teacher meeting. we spent most of our time coloring. professional development is weird.

    martes, marzo 22, 2005



    these last two days have been dizzying. first of all, i didn't do any actual planning, and secondly, i had a TON of testing and paperwork to do in very little time (and thanks to the lack of planning, very little busy work for my kids). all but one of my kids have been retested for reading, this time i did the higher guys, and the results were astounding. i have six students reading at a second grade level and one reading at an end of third grade level. zowie. the other ones are all right on target for the year if not a little more advanced. AND 16 of 'em turned in their gigantic spring break homework packet. we celebrated today with brownies and rice krispie treats, sometimes nothing makes kids happier than sugar and i can break my own rules once in a while (i'm a big child nutrition freak... check out the latest thing that pisses me off).

    in other news, i have won over nightmare mom. it's official... she apparently chatted with the assistant principal today and raved about me. as it should be, of course. after my cake and peanuts on parent conference day, i've received several big red apples from her son so it seemed like things were getting better... add that to the fact that today i got to tell her in person that her son's reading is absolutely astounding, and really, who wouldn't love me? scratch what i've said before, if i can make this woman do a total 360, i MUST be a miracle worker!

    to top it all off, report cards are DONE... although i have to say, if you're a special area teacher the LEAST you can do is give me grades for all my students. it makes you look pretty stupid if you forget four of them and then submit grades for a student who withdrew in january. and for now, my laptop is working again. we'll see how long that lasts.

    lunes, marzo 21, 2005


    god is the best excuse

    a fellow 1st grade teacher had a parent tell her that her child gave up learning for lent. that's the best excuse ever given, i think.

    i'm currently in report card hell. i lost the music and p.e. grades i was given before spring break and writing comments in spanish is a big pain in my ass that is taking way longer than i'd like it to. luckily i have a handy little book that i can pick and choose one-liners from, but i'll still be spending a few hours at home getting it done. that said, i have now officially been at school for ten hours since i had morning duty and then a faculty training. i'm breaking my personal rule of never blogging from school since my computer died on me yesterday... my iBook's screen is now perpetually blue, perhaps the blue screen of death? send positive computer and report card vibes my way. adding to the hectic pace of this week, i've got reading tests to do on half my class (although i did knock out 6 of them today) and at our training i was notified of an english proficiency evaluation i have to do with all TWENTY of my students. due date? this thursday. FANTASTIC.

    sábado, marzo 19, 2005


    spring cleaning

    no posts this week thanks to an absolutely glorious spring break. i have seen over a dozen musicians/bands in the last five days and have not gone to bed before 1:30 since last wednesday. yup, i'm a badass. and i've got 36 hours left. today, i've got a movie planned followed by the morales vs. pacquiao fight. tomorrow, another set of shows and dinner with an old friend. hmm, wonder when i'm gonna get around to those pesky report cards...

    on a geeky note, i've updated the sidebar with new links and a raza section... more political and cultural than the other links i've had up, but by this point i think y'all know how i feel about bilingual ed and its intrinsic ties to culture. i think i was so busy prepping for spring break that i forgot to talk about our quasi-racist and wholly-ignorant speech therapist. ah well, leisure trumps blogging at the moment. enjoy your weekend!

    martes, marzo 15, 2005



    ayúdenme, porfas... ¿pueden ver todos los signos/acentos/etc o no? a ver... niño, ¡tu tía no está! i can't tell if my accent problem is based on my coding or on individual browsers/settings, so please let me know what you're seeing in the comments.

    spring break is in full effect. i actually got it started early by going out of town thursday afternoon. sad thing is, i still have report cards to do, so i may be stopping by my classroom soon to take care of business. ah well, things are quite different when the mocosos aren't around... let's see how long i can go before i start to miss them. i already feel weird not speaking in spanish all day long, but damn, it feels good staying up until ONE THIRTY IN THE MORNING with NO consequences! i was telling a friend earlier today that that's the worst setback of staying up late during the week as a teacher... the LAST place you want to be hungover is a room full of kids (of any age) for eight straight hours. god bless vacations!

    martes, marzo 08, 2005


    the numbers are freaking me out

    so yes, i'm starting to get a little cocky. but hear me out: i know i've talked about reading levels a million times, but that's our focus, dammit, and i just want to make sure that this is clear. Reading level goals for the school year are as follows: September - 3; January - 10; May - 16. In second grade they go from a 18 in september to 24 in may, just to show you how intense first grade is in terms of expectations. THAT SAID...

    in january, the reading specialist did me a huge favor and tested all of my students. the spread went like so: level 3 - 3 students, level 4 - 2 students, level 6 - 3 students, level 10 - 2 students, level 12 - 1 student, level 14 - 1 student, level 16 - 6 students, and level 24 - 1 student. so i had half of my students at or below the minimum level for january, and half that are exactly where they should be if not significantly higher. thus, the last two months i've been freaking out about getting that bottom group higher, or else half of my class would be retained. today, it was all butter. i did partial tests on all but one of my low kids, and everyone performed with 96% accuracy or higher on the level 8 book. several have even been able to read at an instructional level (90-95% accuracy) on the level 12 book... MEANING... no one will be retained and now everyone's where they should be (so far, i could always make them stupider in april). some of these kids started on a level A or 0 in september, so they've made gigantic strides. i'm ecstatic. i'm astounded. and i'm feeling pretty damned competent these days.

    lunes, marzo 07, 2005


    kickin' ass and takin' names!

    today was parent conference day. out of 20 students, 14 had their parents show up and 2 flaked out. another mother came by and scheduled a conference for tomorrow. that's double the other two first grade teachers. score for the newbie!

    out of my 14 kiddos that came (and i'm actually referring to the FOLKS of kiddos here), 4 discussed the possibility of retention. i promised them i'd retest their kids by wednesday's reading circle before i make them sign any paperwork. everyone seems grateful but worried. ójala que todo salga bien.

    one of the mothers that complained to the asst. principal about me fucking loves me now. nightmare mom even brought me a bag of spicy peanuts and a bigass piece of cake. she also wasted half of her son's conference bitching about her daughter's teacher, but in a moment of weakness i just let her do it. i think subconsciously i just wanted more cake. speaking of which, it's calling my name as i type. three more days, and california here i come!

    sábado, marzo 05, 2005



    i do an after-school reading group with ten students. why ten? because in january, all were below or barely at the suggested mid-year first-grade reading level. yes, that's half my class. we have one official class left next wednesday and then it's up to me whether i continue to do it.

    one of my kids doesn't need it anymore. he's finally become confident enough in his reading that he's easily jumped two levels to exactly where he needs to be. another girl is right on target, too, she just lacks self-confidence. i'll probably do more one-on-one with her in class. but of course, my main concern are the other eight who are in danger of being retained. at parent conferences on monday, i have to make their parents sign the paperwork informing them of this possibility.

    to watch my own back as well as to assess my and my students' progress, i decided to retest several of them on friday (i was out wed and thurs for trainings). the results made me want to cry. my absolute lowest reader in january has jumped four levels. she could probably read at the next level but i ran out of time. this means i don't even need to talk about retention. praise the lord. another child near her level in january has jumped three levels. i'm not saying i'm a miracle worker, i've still got a couple that haven't made as much progress as i'd like and i'll probably have to whip out all the paperwork for them, but it is so rewarding to see their improvement. sometimes i feel like a slave-driver, other times i feel like a slacker. i don't do guided reading every day, sometimes i don't even manage every other day. i don't give my highest readers a lot of one-on-one attention. i pawn a lot of my lowest readers on tutors and mentors and hope they take my lessons and instructions to heart. but i am very demanding with the quality of their work, they have at least one homework assignment EVERY DAY (regular spelling assignments Mon-Thurs, math homework Tues and Thurs, and science Wed), we do shared reading weekly, and we do word study like it's going out of style.

    i think i've decided i'm staying in first grade. at the risk of being ridiculously touchy-feely, may i find greater balance in the next year and become the best teacher i can be.

    jueves, marzo 03, 2005



    as you know, i have a wee bit more parent contact than i need. that said, you should also know that the fact that i'm first grade PTA representative is a big pain in my ass. i don't know whose bright idea it was to say that not only should parents and teachers associate outside of school, but that they should do it regularly, require dues, and subject everyone to boring presentations that no one cares about. i give it an emphatic thumbs DOWN.

    miércoles, marzo 02, 2005


    chilanga banda

    you know your spanish is a work-in-progress when you listen to a song and the only word you understand is "chela" (for my gringo readers, that's beer).

    it's just sad, folks.

    despite my sudden allergies/sinus pain, school has been surprisingly tolerable. no recent parent complaints, not a lot of contact with the administration (brace yourselves, i think i can actually say that's one GOOD thing about the TAKS!), and my kids have finally found their groove. therefore... this post is boring. sorry!

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