Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Another Newbie Story

From the Star

So with the holidays getting near, things are getting super hectic. If it wasn’t crazy with the students being off their rockers because they are so excited about not only Christmas and getting a break from “so much work”, we have to try to balance Invention Convention, holiday activities, our everyday lessons and the dreadful FAIR. Wow, and some say teachers have a cake job. If only they knew!

We have been working on the Expository writing in Writers' Workshop for the last 3 weeks and, of course, all children work at their own pace. So I have some students who have been done since week one and then others who haven’t even finished their final drafts and begun to publish. So the question is what do you do with my accelerated writers. I asked the other teachers for ideas on what they do. They told me that they just have them write another piece, which would usually be a pretty easy task, but with the holidays around the corner getting them to finish the one piece and do it correctly has been a task. So I decided to let my students get into groups of 3 or 4 and create either a expository skit explaining something that they enjoy or a narrative skit. I thought it was a great idea because it gave the students a chance to work on their writing skills as well as work as collaborating. In the planning stage I figured the kids would get ideas of how other kids planned and they would enjoy the work at the same time. Now that's a novel idea - work and fun at the same time!

For the past week the students have been working on their skits and the day came for them to share what they had been doing with me. Well, as I am sure I have told you before, the assistant principal likes to pop in 2-3 times a week just to see what I am doing. When she walked in this time I had the students putting on a skit about the basics of soccer, so they were kicking a ball around as they explained the details of how to do each specific move. Let me just tell you the look on her face when she walked in was priceless. She had that look of “What the **** is going on!” So when the boys finished their play I had them explain to her what they were doing and what the purpose was. Of course I had a moment of panic at what they might say but they actually did a great job explaining the activity and how it helped with learning how to explain something. Well if that wasn’t enough for a day, not two seconds after she walked out the Principal came by to see our skits. Now let me just tell you she rarely comes in, so, of course, I was thinking, “Oh boy!” She stayed for the whole skit that was being performed so once the girls finished, they talked with the principal. She read the skit and they talked about the activity and, as usual, she just left the classroom without saying a word to me. So now I am stuck thinking to myself, did they both come in because they thought that it was a great way of learning or did they both come in to see what I was doing because they thought it was a horrible idea? Unless someone tells me differently, I thought that the skits were good. The students seemed to really enjoy it while learning all at the same time. It's hard to get better at your craft if you don't get any feedback. It's always nice to hear good stuff but actually, even if it's hard to hear, you really learn the most from honest feedback. Teachers, and administrators, seem to have a difficult time with that... Can't wait for the break - from the confused stressed out newbie

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Teaming is Hard Work!

From the Apple
You bring up so many feeling that I think new teachers have - trying to fit in even when you are new and trying to be a part of a team. Not an easy task!

Unfortunately principals don't have a crystal ball when they put teams together. Sometimes they put people together that just don't meld. Sometimes they put people together because they know that they really need each other but... teaming really takes work! Being the new person on a team is always hard because the other members sometimes have relationships - very deep relationships. They have found a way to work together and adding a new person means that everything changes. Teachers can be pretty famous for not wanting to change!

First of all, I would suggest that you really try to LISTEN. The people on your team really do know things that you don't. They have had several years to figure things out and you really could learn from their experiences. You may not always agree, but you should listen.

Second, I would continue to engage your teammates. Ask questions respectfully when you don't understand decisions. Ask if something has been tried before and why it did or didn't work. Get as much information as you can before you make a judgement. When you do make suggestions, don't worry that they get changed. It is amazing what you can accomplish when you quit caring about who gets the credit. It doesn't really matter whose idea it is. It matters what is best for kids. The rest, believe me, will take care of itself.

Lastly, some teams are simply dysfunctional. You may be on one of them. If that's the case, seek out other people in the school that you can trust and collaborate with. How is the Reading Coach or another beginning teachers or another teacher that teaches on your grade level or the Media Specialist? In every school there are people who naturally find each other and really enjoy working together. Just one "friend" can make all the difference. Just don't burn any bridges with your own team. You certainly don't want to be known as the "Drama Queen!"

When all else fails, keep your eye on the kids. That's why you wanted to be a teacher and that's what you will take with you this first year - memories of the children, your first class. Remember that you are on an adventure and you will learn a million lessons this year that will make you a better teacher next year. On a bad day, just remember to count your blessings!


From the Seed:

While teaching is a very collaborative profession I seem to be finding a little bit of trouble feeling this way as a new teacher. While I know that many of the teachers that I work with are experienced and often do have great ideas I find that my ideas seem to slip through the cracks. As I bring up new ideas to my pod I find that they often just ignore them or try to trump me with a better idea. I have also realized that when I do come up with an idea that they like that they will use it but change it in some way so that it is now different and no longer my idea. While the teachers that I work with may not even know that they are doing this, I am finding it very frustrating to even try to collaborate and plan with them. What I find to be the most frustrating about it all is the fact that my principal keeps telling me that I need to give more input and give all my great ideas. What she doesn’t know is that I have and I just keep getting shut down. For most this may be frustrating enough to want to quit giving advice, but as a new enthusiastic teacher I am determined to make my opinions known and promote collaboration between me and the teachers in my pod that will make the learning and environment the most successful for each child.

Any suggestions on how to share my new, maybe too enthusiastic, ideas with seasoned teachers? Any suggestions on not taking it personally when I seem to be ignored?

Friday, November 20, 2009


From the Apple

Today we celebrated Pow Wow at my school. I've been doing Pow Wow since 1990 when Courtney and I started our first year at Alimacani Elementary School together. The school opened the year that Courtney started her school career and I returned to teaching from several years of mommy leave. I had taken several years off after Courtney was born. Finances were tight and I really needed to return to work. It was hard at first but Alimacani was the perfect place for both of us. I got reacquainted with all the reasons I had fallen in love with teaching in the first place and Courtney had a string of talented and dedicated teachers who loved her and nurtured her. Pow Wow was started as a tribute to Chief Alimacani of the Timucuan tribe - a tribe that had the roamed the land where the new school was built. The school was named for the Chief.

Back in those days we prepared our brown dyed pillowcases and our grocery bag head bands with feathers. We dyed over sized macaroni noodles to string, and war paint was added to every child's face! Back then I didn't know that this was insulting to Native Americans and trivialized their history.

Things have changed a lot. At my school now each kindergarten class represents a different tribe from a different part of the country and the clothing is so much more authentic and different depending on the tribe and part of the country. There is a real effort to respect the native ways and the native life. We learn native songs and dances and listen to native music. Our fifth graders even get involved by studying the same tribes and working on a presentation for the kinder kids. All of that is different from those early days.

What has stayed the same, however, is our goal behind the event. It's hard work teaching all those songs and dances, getting little ones ready for a performance and trying to do it in an honorable way, making costumes, and teaching facts about a people that are so foreign to many of our children. But... it's so worth it. Courtney remembers Pow Wow as one of the high points of her elementary years. She may not remember the countless worksheets she completed or the many assessments that she took or the incredible books she read, but Pow Wow always brings a smile to her face. And so, I keep a picture of Courtney on my desk throughout this season to remind me that it all really is worth it. I even wear a medallion every single year in her honor that she made from bread dough that first year. Each year I get it out I expect it to be molded, cracked or broken, but every year it looks good as new! What I know for sure is that while we are learning to respect our diversity, we are also making memories and that makes it all worth it.

Friday, November 6, 2009

My First Surprise Observation

From the Star

So let me tell you about my day on Monday. I get to class and my team decides that we are going to have a read-a-thon. For those of you who don’t know what this is, it is a time where the kids read for about 30-45 minutes and then you meet and talk about what they have read. I have also noticed that it also seems to be a "I need to catch up" time for the teachers. I wouldn't say this would be something the school leadership would see as strong instruction because it feels more like a "keep them busy while I get something done" kind of lesson. So my kids get comfortable and they are sitting on the carpet reading their books, and guess who walks in? Oh I am sure you guessed it - the Principal! Oh and boy was it my lucky day. She was not just coming to walk through but decided to do an observation that day. Oh yes, she was there to observe my lesson. OH CR@P!! I was not prepared for this one at all. So what did I do? As quickly as I could I chose a book that we had already read and reviewed with the class the main idea and setting - skills we had been studying. As the principal sat through my lesson she took notes and stayed for about 15 minutes. She left as my lesson ended. While the class had performed adequately, it certainly was not my BEST effort. I felt guilty that I let my team suggest a plan that I knew wasn't really my best effort or something my kids really needed that day. On a side note, when the Principal came in, the rest of the teachers quickly abandoned their read-a-thons and started teaching! I was angry with myself and worried about what the Principal might be thinking. When she left my room she didn’t say a word. Maybe she didn’t want to interrupt my lesson (on a hopeful note...). Maybe she’ll just give me some tips later when I see her (still on a hopeful note) Well, I did see her three of four times that day and she said NOTHING. I was horrified - stressed out about what she was thinking. She probably didn't give it another thought but I had a pit in my stomach for the rest of the day. The truth of the matter is, I would probably have had that same pit in my stomach even if I thought I had done a fantastic job! I really want to do well and I want my Principal to feel good about what I am doing. It really does made me nervous to have someone sitting in the back of my evaluating my work - especially when it's someone I care about.

Finally, on Wednesday the Principal called me into her office. Oh boy- this was the defining moment. I was thinking to myself - she is absolutely going to tear me to pieces because I was so unprepared. I was wrong. She started by telling me how she understands how stressful it is to be a new teacher, but that she really feels that I am working through it all okay. Then she went on to talk about all the resources that I have available to me at the school and how much more training will be available to me as the year moves along. She said she would love to see me implement more next time she comes after I finish my trainings. At that moment I was thinking how much training is offered during the first year and how hard it is to go through the year knowing that other people get it, but you are still waiting on training in a certain area. I did use the "excuse" to help myself feel better that if I had been trained in all the parts, I would probably have known more about what she was looking for. You know, just another one of those moments as a new teacher where you feel alone and lost, even when lots of people are offering you support. She ended by telling me to have a great day and if I have any questions that I can come anytime.

All I can say is that I am glad that the first observation is over. It is just so intimidating to have your principal watch you teach. As a student, it didn't bother me near as much but I think I was always better prepared for what the expectation in the class was. As a teacher, your boss is expecting you to know it all! I do wish I had been better prepared. That is a good lesson for me! I still have two more observations and two more meetings with the principal, but at least next time I get to choose the date and I will know she is coming so that I can be better prepared. For now I am going to take in what she said and work on it. I am looking forward to the next training and feeling more confident with what I am doing! Maybe I'll even learn to look forward to the observations... maybe not!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Tips for Successful Conferences

From the Apple

When I think about conferences, I think of them as a teacher but I always try to put myself into my shoes as the parent and give to parents what I wanted from the teachers that my own children had. That helps me stay focused and patient and especially understanding.

Here are my down and dirty tips for a successful conference:

1. Remember that the parent has sent you their most precious gift. It's not like they are keeping all the good kids at home!

2. ALWAYS, open with a positive note. Be sincere. There really is something wonderful about every child!

3. If the parent asked for the conference let them talk. Let them get out whatever brought them to the conference. It won't matter what you say until they deal with whatever is bothering them.

4. Don't get defensive. Listen. Try to make sure you understand what they are saying by saying things like, "I think I hear you saying..."

5. Forget the education jargon. They don't need to be impressed with how smart you are. They need to understand what you are saying.

6. Develop a plan of action. Tell the parents specifically how you are going to address the problem.

7. Don't tell the parent what THEY need to do (unless they ask), but stress collaborating.

8. Let the parent know that you really care about their child. The child's progress is very important to you and you will leave no stone unturned to make sure that their child has the best education possible.

9. As the conference comes to an end, summarize what you and the parent have agreed to do.

10. End of a positive note.

I think you get better at conferences with experience. You begin to look forward to this dialog with parents so that together you can help the child move forward. That nervousness and feeling of dread leaves and is replaced by a very satisfying feeling. Good luck, Star. Your adventure has just begun!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Conference Night

From the Star

So... conference night, what a night! Who would have thought I could talk to 15 parents all in one night and not go crazy? Well I can tell you I can’t even believe it myself. The goal was to talk to each parent for 15 minutes and answer all the 1,ooo questions that they have in that allotted amount of time while giving them all the answers that they want to hear and having them leave happy! Can you feel my pain? I started my conferences at 4:15 and did not walk out of my classroom door until 8:45. And, did I mention that my last conference was supposed to end at 8?

I had all my conferences set up back to back from 4:15 till 8. This is how I thought it would go; The parents would come in and I would tell them, for the most part, that their child was on level and they would nod their heads and say, “Great thanks for letting me know.” And then they would be on their way. Let’s just say, that's not exactly how it worked. Every parent, including the ones that had students with straight A’s, needed to know every detail about what there child was doing and how well they were doing it. They also wanted to know everything that we had planned for the year, which would have been great to tell parents except for the fact that we have not even begun planning for what we are getting into after Christmas! Don’t these parents know that I have enough stress without thinking that far in advance? No offense to any of you lovely parents, of course.

All in all the conferences went well, except for the fact that they sent the ESE coach in to monitor all of my conferences - adding a little extra nerves and stress. I hated being able to see the faces of the parents waiting - looking at me while I was finishing one conference and knowing that I was running into their time. I could see them checking their watching and sighing in frustration. Parents don't wait well.

Overall, I guess I was impressed with how well the conferences went and all of the good things that the parents said their children had to say about me. It really did make me feel good and help me to remember why I took this job. I guess with all my whining about the conferences, the truth is that I am loving every minute of it, even the crazy moments.

Friday, October 16, 2009

"The conference"

From the Apple

I have told you all about my experience with my first conference and I really appreciate all of the advice that I received. It is a good thing that I read all of the advice before my last conference, because it was an experience that I never could have imagined. The conference was scheduled for 5:00 in the afternoon and, of course, the mom was late, 15 minutes. So, as I waited for her to show up I was in the other room talking to some of the other teachers and the principal when the dad walks in and says “Hello?” I ran over to the room and greeted the parents only to find that it was just the father. It just caught me off guard a little bit since the mom was the one that had called me three times to voice her concerns and made the appointment. Let me just mention that before this conference began I was informed that the dad had very strong opinions and was very out spoken. So, you can just imagine how nervous I was when he walked in instead of the mom.

I started the conference by telling the father all of his daughter's strengths (thanks for the advice!) and what a joy she is in the classroom, which is really true. The mom might not have been there herself but she was there in spirit. She had given the father a list of her concerns for him to bring up at the conference! As the conference continued his main concern seemed to be that the state's new “F.A.I.R.” test showed his daughter only at a 10% probability of success rate. The assessments showed her below where she needed to be in reading. The dad had gotten advice from someone in the family who is a teacher who said that they had heard his child read and that there was no way that she was struggling in reading.

About 10 minutes go by and I am finally getting him to understand that we are concerned and that putting her in an extra intervention program for reading comprehension does not mean that she is going to be labeled as ESE. Since that really seemed to be his main worry, he finally started to listen and work with me on the idea of the intervention. Just as I start to get comfortable, guess who walks in? If you guessed the principal, you are absolutely correct! WOWZERS! Now I am right back to the beginning of being nervous. When she came in, of course, the dad directed the same questions to her that we had just gone over, and, lucky for me, all the answers were exact. I think that gave the dad confidence in me that I was not yanking his chain and that I really did care about his daughter and was trying to do everything possible to help her. Once the conference was over (and boy was I glad it was over), the dad thanked me and the principal gave me a wink (which I took to mean she was pleased with my performance)! It made me feel phenomenal! So thanks to all of you who gave me advice about conferences!! I needed it all! I used it all!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

First Conference

From the Star

So the time has come for me to begin my teacher conferences and you can just imagined how nervous I am. What will the parents want to know? Will I be able to answer all of the questions that they have? Will I have enough information that they are satisfied with the decisions that I have made. Well today I found out and I do have to say that the conference went extremely well for my first conference.

It all started when the parents came in for their child’s PMP conference (PMP's are required by the state when a child is falling below the expectation). I already knew the mom was a little upset and confused about me wanting to put her son on a PMP in reading since he got satisfactory on his progress report in reading. Many of you may be thinking, "Why would you have given him successful on the progress report in reading if he was not working on level?" Well I do have an answer for this. When progress reports went out, we only had one grade for reading and we had not yet received the results for the FAIR and SRI training and this child did not have a PMP in reading last year. So, I thought that he would be on level. However, after seeing the results of his assessments and looking over some of his work I realized that he really needed a PMP.

The parents arrived with a million questions and I don’t blame them. I probably would have just as many questions if I were the parent. So I started off by telling them what a delight there child was to have in my class, which is the truth. He really is a good kid! Once I started talking to the parents and explaining why they were seeing the differences between the progress report and the results now, I could see them take a big breath of relief. Oh and yes, you guessed it, I breathed a sign of relief too. After the tough part of telling them that I was putting their child on a reading PMP, I began with the interventions and assistance that the school and I would be giving their son. Once the parents heard about all the help that he was going to be receiving, they were relieved. I can say that I was very surprised and excited to see how well the parents and I worked together. The parents that I met with today were great and they were all about giving their child the best education that is being offered.

So... I can say that my first conference went very well and I know that all my conferences aren’t going to be so easy. I do feel much more prepared. I want all of my parents to leave my room feeling comfortable and confident with the decisions that are made during our conference. I am going to do my best to make sure that each and every parent is informed and prepared.

Anyone have any suggestions for making sure that my conference go the best they can?

Monday, September 28, 2009

First Year Stress

From the Apple

I think Courtney is feeling the kind of stress that every new teacher feels. She will spend the year in "survival mode." She's right. There is so-o-o-o much to learn. The truth of the matter is that she really can't learn it all in the first year. For the rest of her career she will continue to learn - adding depth to her knowledge base. Actually the greatest thing she can bring to her profession is being a lifelong learner.

Of course, just saying that it's hard and that you can't learn it all in the first few weeks, doesn't help you get through. My advice is to search out the people at your school that are willing to help. Every new teacher is assigned a mentor, but even a mentor has limited time. They have their own students and responsibilities. You may need more than one teacher, even two or three teacher friends who are willing to give you some time, and ask questions. If you ask and you still don't understand, find someone else to ask until you feel like you have a handle on the situation. And don't play the "oh yes I know how to do that" because you are worried about what others will think, when you don't have any idea how to do it. Just admit when you're not sure about something. This especially is the year you can get away with it!

Also remember that veteran teachers sometimes forget to tell you things. It's not personal, they just forget. They may not know that nobody has explained to you where certain materials are kept or how certain traditions work. You just need to remember how it feels not to know so that you can use those feelings to help the next first year teacher!

Also know that your co-workers and your Principal really understand that you are a first year teacher and while you may have enthusiasm, you don't have experience under your belt. They all have their own first year stories. Believe it or not, they didn't look so calm and confident in their first year either!
Courtney's first "teacher" picture.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Being a New Teacher

From the Star

So being a new teacher is a little bit more difficult than I thought it would be. While it is tons of fun, it is also a lot of work, and yes, a lot of stress. A lot of people say that teaching is a cake job, but let me tell you something, if they could just spend one week in my shoes, they would absolutely change their minds. If this job wasn’t so rewarding and my kids were not so awesome, I think that I might just loose my mind!!! There are a lot of things that they forget to tell you as a new teacher.

While many of my coworkers are very helpful and informative, they themselves only have so much time that they can give. I have been teaching now for 5 weeks and already feel I am so far behind. Don’t get me wrong. I really am learning a lot but I still have so much more to learn.

I have had many trainings already but still it seems that I have so many more. For instance, we just finished F.A.I.R. testing and I have 20 trainings scheduled to learn how to interpret the results! They can’t come soon enough. I have been teaching Readers' and Writers Workshop now for three weeks and have not had one single training on the materials. CRAZY, I know. I have read the Teacher's Guides over and over again, but I still feel as though I am not getting the full gist. While I am hanging in there and I do think my students are really learning, I can’t help but think that there is so much more that I could be teaching them if only I had been trained in the materials. I so wish more of this had been included in my college education! I plan to continue to give my students my all but can’t wait until I am fully trained.

This weekend, one of the things that has been stressful is the LFS lesson plans and lessons. For those of you who are not familiar, this is Learning Focused Strategies and the lesson plans are pretty detailed with specific activities. Well guess what - if you guessed that I have not been trained, you are correct - and I don’t get trained for another month. So while I am doing my best to meet the requirements of the LFS I really feel lost. Of course, I had training in writing lessons plans in my college prep, but it was woefully inadequate for what I am doing now. Although my Principal certainly understands that I have not been trained, I imagine her looking at my lesson plans and saying, WHAT is she thinking? I also wonder how much more I could be doing for the children in my class if I understood this better. I really want to be really good at this.

I know that every new teacher has her own struggles but I just thought that I would share some of mine. The truth of the matter, however, is that even with the uncertainty and stress, I am so excited to be teaching. Have I told you recently that I truly do love my job!

Friday, September 18, 2009

Is F.A.I.R. a four letter word?

From the Apple

I would be interested in other Florida teachers' experiences with the F.A.I.R. Our 3rd-5th graders, like Courtney's and like others across the state, are taking the this new assessment on the computer, usually in a computer lab. When the technology works, it is a wonderful thing, but when it doesn't, it is so very frustrating. While things have gone pretty smoothly in our computer lab, today was one of those frustrating days. Not one child that was scheduled in the lab was able to get on to take the test. The system seemed to be down, and no - nobody let us know. That meant lost teaching time for both teachers and children. In k-2 the teacher actually inputs the scores as she administers the assessment individually to her students and our experience has been up and down. Some days it is exciting to have the information instantly available and others frustrating. Sometimes you can't get into the system, sometimes the computer kicks you off in the middle of working with a child and at other times, the test that you just gave does not save. After giving the same test to a kindergartner three times (how does that effect the results?) and it not saving, I closed the computer and quit for the day. In kindergarten you are grabbing little bits of time all through the day to get the assessment done and to have a test not save is a very, very BIG thing. I know it is a huge undertaking to implement a computer-based assessment statewide, but, oh my, the glitches (whether they be county or state) are about to overshadow what looks like a pretty incredible assessment!

Having said all that about the FAIR (and there is much more professional development coming about this Florida experiment) assessment is a very big beginning teacher topic. The truth of the matter is it takes years to read assessments and to see through the numbers to individual students. It's easy to get buried in the mountain of data that we get these days. However, these results early in the year can help to form a pacing guide and provide an overarching big picture of a class. The results can be used to help a teacher know what to teach a class next. Data can be used to help a teacher form groups for small group instruction and to set goals for instruction. teacher can learn to drill down to see what to teach each student next. Beginning teachers really need time to sit down with their assessments and go through what each row or column of numbers mean with a veteran teacher or coach. They need the time to see each student as a whole. This support can give a beginning teacher confidence. They can walk away from such a session understanding why they are assessing students and understanding the individual strengths and challenges of the students in their class. This type of guidance with assessment early in a teacher's career can provide the depth that will make a difference in instruction for years to come!

Thursday, September 17, 2009


From the Star

So today was my day for the FAIR. Yes, the FAIR. No, not the kind with the ferris wheel -the new FCAT predictor for Florida. I’m sure that you all know all about it, or do you? If you are like me, you had a very short little training that explained a little about what the FAIR really is. All I learned is that it determines the success of my students passing the FCAT and gives the students their yearly LEXILE scores. I can say that I hope it really is the predictor for passing the FCAT because if that is the case then I feel that my 3rd, 4th and 5th graders are in good shape. After hearing from other teachers and their horror stories about this computer-based test and how their students started taking the test and then all of a sudden the test kicking them out and the students having to retake the whole test, you could say that I was a little nervous about my students taking the test. When we arrived at the computer lab to take the test the computers were already having problems and I thought, “Oh great, this is not going to be good.” But, I can say that I was truly impressed once the computers started working and my students got to work. At first I was feeling a little nervous because a lot of my students were looking at the test and sighing. This made me believe that the test was difficult and that my students were struggling. I’m not even a student and I was ready to get out of that computer room, but once we got back to the classroom and I had a chance to hear the feedback from my students, I was very excited. They all seemed to think that the test was pretty easy. The only complaint that I had was that the test was super long and that my students were tired. I couldn’t wait until the students went home so that I could look at the scores and see where my students stood in relation to our state test, the FCAT.

So, the students left and I was on my computer checking my class results and I was stoked the second that I saw them. I could not believe how well my students performed. I was looking over the results and found that I only had 5 students out of 22 under 75% and of those 5 students only 2 students had fallen into the "red zone." I had 15 students that scored in the green - WOWZERS! J I will say that I was very surprised with some of my scores when I saw some of the LEXILE scores. Almost all of my students jumped up between 200 and 300 LEXILE points from last year and I had one student that actually jumped up 595 points on his LEXILE going from a 400 to a 995. I couldn’t believe it. I was so excited. I guess I can't take credit for the gains and what they have learned from me in my first three weeks?! The thing that I found to be the most interesting is that when I asked the students that had gone up over 200 points if they had read over the summer, 4 out of 5 told me no that they had done little to no reading over the summer. My thought, I’m sure like yours, is how can that possibly be? I guess there is still lots to learn about this new Florida assessment. I can't wait!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Positive Postcards

From the Apple

One of the things that make any new teacher's job easier is learning how to communicate with parents. Beginning teachers are often a little afraid of parents - maybe because they are afraid of being asked something they can't answer. The truth is that parents are sending the best that they have to school - it's not like they are keeping the good kids at home and just sending the problems to school. They want to know that someone understands and cares about their child - especially the parents who have problem children. For those parents for all of their child's school career, when the teacher calls, it means trouble.
The easiest way to turn that around is to make sure that the contact you have with each family includes some positive. Our principal suggests calling every parent before the end of the first week of school. Calling every parent the first week of school is difficult for some teachers, but it pays off in the end. Some teachers I know call before the parent gets home from work so they can leave a message instead of actually talking to a live person, but it still says, "I care about your child." Other teachers send out postcards before the children even come the first day to welcome them to the class or during the first week of school.

At my school we send "Positive Postcards" all year long. a "Good News from School" postcard appears stamped and in our box every Wednesday and the idea is to send at least one card every week. The postcard goes into the Principal's box by the end of the day so she can keep up with all the good things that are going on school wide and she mails the postcards. By the end of the year the goal is to have sent at least one postcard to every student in your class letting the child and their parents know that you are proud of something that the child has done. Teachers also send good news postcards to parent volunteers and others that help in their classroom. I can't begin to tell you how often a child has come in to tell me that he received my postcard and how excited he is. I also can't begin to tell you how often a parent has stopped me to say thank you. The picture below is twins who both received a postcard. They were so excited that their mom took this picture and sent it to me! So... Courtney, when you come home next weekend, you can expect to receive your own stack of stamped postcards that you can use to send to the children in your class. Let me know how it works out! I'll bet you'll be glad you took the time to write, "Great job!"

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

I'm rich too!

From the Apple

For the past six years I have wondered if Courtney just thought that money grows on trees. It seems that her years in college were just one expense after another. The fact that she actually has a job now and will be paying her own bills is almost too good to believe. No more bi-weekly allowance. No more rent and electricity. No more car payment and insurance. No more paying her medical, vision, dental (which means mine is "free" since I no longer have to claim "family" to cover her). No more tuition and books. That's not to say that Courtney didn't work on all of her vacations while she was going to school to buy Christmas presents or to pay for extras, but it meant that she has been totally dependent on her parents during her college years for the basics. Since she is the last of our two children, I realize that there really is a light at the end of this very long tunnel (we have had twelve consecutive years of college expenses). I am excited that Courtney feels rich (don't tell her how fleeting that feeling will be!) It's a good feeling to know that no matter what happens your daughter is equipped to take care of herself. A college education is something that can never be taken away. It really is a good feeling. I think I'm the one that is really rich!


From the Star

Today I received my first paycheck and “WOWZERS” - I’M RICH!!! I’ve never seen this much money at one time in my life. I can’t even imagine having this much money at one time, although I guess I can now, because there it is in my bank account! Now what to do with all this money? Maybe I'll go on vacation, take the girls out, be nice and take the boyfriend out - HMMM! Oh yeah, that’s right - with the big paycheck comes real life - paying all these bills that I have never had to pay before. Sorry girls. Sorry Jordan. I guess my vacation will just have to wait. By the way who knew that having a car could be so expensive?! Do you know how much insurance costs? Whew! But, I’m not worried I’m rich, rich, rich. I’m not sure that I have even made this much money in a whole month before. I don’t know what to do with myself. I guess I’ll just think about all of the money that I can save for that great vacation over spring break. Yep, that is what I am going to do because now you can just call me money bags ! I can pay all my big girl bills and save money all at the same time. I love payday!

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Open House

From the Star

Open House is a great time for students and parents to mingle with and get to know their child's teachers. What they don’t tell you is that it’s really a chance for parents to have a mini conference. Although the principal talks about it not being a mini conference night, it absolutely is! Open House is suppose to last from 6-7 pm but I left the building at 7:45 thanks to the mini conferences that are not suppose to take place.

I learned the day of Open House right after school that I was going to have to speak in front of the parents. Our Open House is done as a pod with all four teachers together. When I was told that I had to speak I was okay. How bad could it be? Little did I know that they were going to give me the two sections that I know nothing about - school celebrations and parent conference night. I was nervous, stressed, overwhelmed. I was still getting the run down 15 minutes before Open House began. But I did my best from what I could remember from our 15 minute conversation and my pod-mates told me that I did a great job. They may have just been making me feel better since I was so nervous, but it worked.

Let’s move to the positives and more interesting aspects of the night. The first parent that I talked to said, "I hope you don’t take offense to this but you look just like one of your students. You are just so adorable." I guess I could have taken this offensively but I decided that I would just hear the "you're so cute and adorable" part. I had three parents tell me that they were so glad that their child was in my class because they come home energetic and excited about school. That made me feel good. Since I have always assumed I was meant to be with little kids, it made me feel like I just might be a match for this older age group. I was also told by two parents how excited their child was to be in my math class. This really made me feel good because as a new teacher I did not expect to hear good things - especially after "meet the teacher day" when all of the parents told me how young I looked. I remembered their faces at the thought that I was not only new to the school but new to the teaching profession. Overall the Open House was a great learning experience and I feel that I really got to know some of the parents. Meeting them helps me understand my students even better. However, I do have to admit that I am really glad it's over!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Preparing for Open House

From the Apple

"You don't get a second chance to make a good first impression!"

Open House leaves most beginning teachers nervous, if not quaking in their shoes. It even leaves some veterans with a few butterflies. These are some of the things that we suggest to our teachers.

Getting ready

  • Put an attractive sign in and pens close to the door or right outside the door for parents to sign in. Afterwards you may want to know how many of your parents attended and you might need to match a parent's comment with their name
  • Write an agenda of what you are going to cover. Write it on the board or provide a hand-out. This will also remind you of what you want to cover!
  • Your classroom and your office should be neat and clean - well organized.
  • Post a daily schedule.
  • Post school wide Behavioral Standards/ Classroom Covenants/ Class Promise.
  • Make sure your classroom libraries are organized with books labeled by genre, author, theme, level, etc.
  • Put a "Giving Tree" on sticky notes of things that you would like to have donated for the classroom. Parents can easily just take a sticky note.
  • To stop from having mini-conferences have a paper for parents to sign up for a conference. When the parent says they want to know how their child is doing, just tell them you would love to discuss their child's progress and ask them to sign up for a conference.

Things to cover:

  • Behavior
  • Standards
  • Readers' Workshop, Writers' Workshop, Math Workshop, Science Workshop
  • Homework expectations
  • Grading
  • Planner (Home to school communication)
  • Your Newsletter/ Blog/ Website

We have found lots of different and successful ways to present to the parents

  • a PowerPoint with lots of student photographs
  • a demonstration lesson where you actually teach a lesson to the students while the parents watch
  • student led agenda where you have a list or flow chart of what the students go around and show and discuss with their parents - this is very stress free for the teacher, but you need to practice with the students beforehand
  • video such as "A Life in the Day of a Third Grader" - another low stress presentation
  • activity based Open House where you set up activities/ lessons for the students to complete with their parents as examples of the things you do in class
  • teacher led presentation where the teacher(s) talk through the points to be covered (often the most stressful.

One of the things that our Principal always does so parents don't stay for hours on end is to come over the Intercom and thank parents for coming at the ending hour so that they know that the Open House is officially over. She then stands at the door and says good-by to each parent and child personally. I'm sure she gets her fair share of mini-conferences but she also says that she would love to discuss the issue so she asks them to please call her tomorrow so they can discuss the issue at length.

Open House is really a wonderful time to get insight into your students. Sometimes meeting the parent explains everything! Try to enjoy this experience and use it as a time of celebration of the work you have done with your class!


What to Say on Parent/ Teacher Night
Way to Help Your Child Develop a Love for Reading and Writing

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Behavior Management

From the Star

No matter how many years of college and preparation that you have, no one can really prepare you for what you encounter in your first year of teaching - especially when it comes to behavior problems. When I was in college I had lots of practicum work. I would go in, take baseline data, do interventions on a specific child and then take data on the results. I always choose the child that the teacher seemed to be struggling with and each time my interventions would succeed. As I saw these differences I wondered why the teachers always had such a problem with the child. However, now I realize that it is not that easy. The truth is that it is hard when you have 23 kids in a class of varying ages. It's hard to find the time to take data and continuously work one on one with a specific intervention with a specific child while you are managing all the other students. I feel like a juggler with too many balls in the air.

Being a Special Education major I thought that there was nothing that I hadn’t seen or couldn’t fix - especially in a “regular” education classroom. I think I had even become a little overconfident in my behavior management ability (remember I had been working with children one-on-one in my practicums!) By the second day of school there was one child that was jumping out at me. I had a third grader that just didn’t have any desire to do any work. At first I was not sure if the work was too hard or if it was a behavior problem. I found out very quickly that the work was not too hard. It was an issue of defiance, somewhat passive aggressive, not because he did not like me or despised the work but simply because he did not feel like doing it. In only two weeks I felt as though I have tried everything!

Let me start at the beginning. First I tried moving the student to a seat at the front of the classroom - proximity control - so that I could keep my eye on him, not to mention that I moved him to a seat that was near students who were more motivated - what other teachers call the "high" students. When this did not work, I tried to move him to a seat at a table where he could work independently. When this did not work, I started to get a little concerned because no matter where I moved him he seemed to get distracted and did not do his work. No matter what I did he would just sit there and look around the room - anything that involved him not doing his work. After all of my attempts I decided to take it to the next level. I called my mother!

After explaining the child and his behaviors she told me that I needed to get him to "want" to work for me. I had to use myself as the "external reinforcer until he could internalize the feeling and feel good about doing the work inside himself" (her words- not mine). After hanging up I thought, "Yeah right! I'd checked and he hadn’t ever done work for his teachers before. I had even talked to his mom. He wouldn’t do work for his own mother, so why would he ever decide that he wanted to do the work for me?" As I began to think deeper about what my mom said I thought “Hey that might really work” and besides I didn't really have any other ideas. So I began to think about all the ways that I could build a close relationship with him. I figured that the best way to build this relationship was to tap into his interests and use positive reinforcement. To my surprise this has turned the child completely around. He has now begun to finish activities and assignments. I also figured out that letting him work with one of his 4th grade buddies as a mentor has really helped.

So... this is what I have learned. When you have a child that is not motivated, you have to turn that around. You start by working on building a relationship with the child, using lots of positive reinforcement for what the child is doing right. It's easy to look at all that he is doing wrong. You have to work at finding things he is doing right! For some children, hearing all that good stuff makes them feel a little better about themselves and motivates them a little to give the work a try. Finding the right "friend" to buddy them up with can also make the situation better. I'm not sure this will work for every child and in every situation but it worked this time!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

A Sense of Belonging

From the Apple

I have just finished reading Jennifer Allen's A Sense of Belonging. In this new book Jennifer chronicles the activities that have been successful in helping sustain and retain new teachers in her school in Maine. There are so many opportunities for teachers that it makes me think I should pack Courtney up and send her to Maine for her first 5 years of teaching! Jennifer starts with the terrifying statistics that we have all heard so many times before: "17% of educators leave after the first year, 30% after two years, 40% after three years, and almost half after five years." However, we know that with comprehensive, coherent and sustained support that beginning teachers begin to fill their buckets with the confidence and pride that translates into effectiveness. Jennifer's program includes a range of support including monthly new-teacher group meetings, support administering and analyzing district assessments, in-class support for Readers' and Writers' Workshop, peer observation including observing the coach, using student work to guide instruction, curriculum planning, study groups and the use of mentors! This type of frequent, intensive, individualized support would provide any newbie with the scaffolding that is needed to work through the survival of the first year and achieve that sense of belonging.

As I reflect on what I will be offering Denise who I am mentoring this year, I feel sad for her that she will not be receiving the intensive support that Jennifer's beginning teachers are getting. How can I make up for the lack of an intentional support system available to Allen's teachers in Maine? It will be a challenge but reading about Jennifer's well-planned program I feel like I have many additional ideas for support. This week Denise will be observing me early in this kindergarten year so that she can see how we deal with behavior issues from the beginning of the year. Jennifer reminds us that early in a teacher's first year she has to get behavior management under her belt before she can move on.

That leads me to Courtney and behavior issues that she may be dealing with in her first year. So Court, what is your biggest behavior challenge?

Monday, September 7, 2009

What some like to call "Professional Dress"

From the Star
So I got the job, but that was only step one. As I began my first week I realized that I didn’t really have clothes that were appropriate for an intermediate classroom. I am used to being in preschool classrooms where you wear Capri's because you go outside every day and everyone knows you can’t wear long pants in Florida - the heat is brutal. I am also used to wearing what you may call "comfy" clothes and flats because you are up and down with the students all day. As I looked in my closet to see what I was going to wear, I was doomed - no clothes and no money to buy clothes. “What am I going to do?” Well like all smart daughters, I called my mom. She was here in a heartbeat. This is when the tough part started because everyone knows that my mother is the NAZI of professional dress. She has lots of rules - NO BUTT CRACK showing, NO CLEAVAGE, and NO JEANS. Now I understand the no butt crack rule, but I am not going to lie - some shirts seem a lot shorter when you bend over than they did when you were standing up straight. However, now I do try to check before buying! Then there’s that no cleavage rule but what the Queen doesn’t understand is that when you’re my age and you have boobs, it is hard not to buy shirts that show some cleavage when you bend over. Let’s just say that the “Teacher” clothes in the ladies department are for ladies and they make ladies my age look about 40. No offense to anyone who is older because I mean 60 is the new 30 but I am trying to look young as long as possible and dressing like an “old” lady does not help - once again, no offense intended. Not only that but I look about 18 in the face. Of course you may be thinking, "So then what’s wrong with the older lady clothes?" Let me put it this way - when I wear them I look like I am 5 again playing dress up in my mother's closet! Oh and the last rule - my favorite - no jeans. WHAT? Is she crazy? I have pairs of jeans that look nicer and more flattering than half of my professional pants. And one more thing, Mom - those jeans with the holes are definitely in style. I thought working with all those young teachers at Chets Creek would keep you up to date with this generation's trends.

Now - about that "unwritten" dress code. That is true. When I started I was unclear about the dress code at my new school, but as I began to talk to some of the teachers I started figuring it out. Rule #1: You can wear your hair up (like in a ponytail), but only once a week. If you forget the rule too often, you will probably get the, "You know your hair looks a lot better down. Why don’t you try that tomorrow?" from the Principal. Frankly I love to wear my hair up and I think it looks nice, so we'll see... Then we come to the shoes. Rule #2: Heels. Let's just say she likes heels. You can wear sandals but wear them more than once or twice a week and you'll probably get the, "Oh, I didn’t know that we were going to the beach today." And yes, I did pick out the 5 inch heels and my mom did give me a hard time (because she thought my feet would hurt by the end of the day) but when you've been short your whole life, you've had lots of experience wearing heels.

My mom really thinks you should look like you're going on an interview every day. She wants teachers to look crisp and sharp and she probably will tell you about it if you get too far away from "professional." And probably the next day you’ll have that more professional look. I guess her point is well taken in that she doesn't think what you wear should interfere with a child's education. While we agree on the point, I guess we'll have to disagree around some of the edges.

Mom and I did buy clothes that we both liked and I have been approved by the principal so far, but who knows? As the year goes by I may slip up and end up on the show "What Not to Wear." Overall I am extremely happy with my new school clothes. They do look great, stylish, and might even be called “professional”. Now, time to teach!

Friday, September 4, 2009

What to wear?

From the Apple

One of my jobs, as the "Queen" of Chets Creek (which just means I'm lots older than everyone else) is to remind new teachers when they unintentionally veer away from our unwritten dress code. At every school there are unwritten rules about what to wear and what not to wear when you are a teacher.

The butt crack. Because this younger generation of teachers grew up wearing their pants below their belly button with short tops, they sometimes don't realize (or maybe they do!) that when they bend down or over, you can sometimes see their butt crack or just as offensive, their barely-there thong or bikini underwear. While this might have been perfectly okay (not for me, of course!) when they are in high school and college, it is certainly not okay when you are trying to project the image of a professional, so I have taken to telling our young teachers at my school when they need a 3-way mirror to check their back side. Being old enough to be their mother helps!

Cleavage. Another thing that seems to be more acceptable to the younger generation is showing cleavage. Yes, I know I am old fashioned, but fifth grade boys and young Dads (or maybe Dads of any age) still have a difficult time hearing what you say when they are looking at your chest!

Unwritten rules. Every school has a dress code whether it's actually published or not so my advice when you are new at a school is to look around and observe what the veteran teachers are wearing. At my school, because we are in Florida, sandals are perfectly okay. In other schools where I have taught, sandals are not okay. they are considered flip flops and are considered a hazard, especially going up and down stairs. Jeans are another interesting subject. When I came to Chets ten years ago there was an unwritten rule that jeans were not acceptable - not in a skirt, not in a jacket, not even in a teacher jumper! No jeans. Period. However, when a younger Principal came, a more dressed-down fashion look also came with her and now many young teachers wear jeans on Friday with the school tee-shirt but also jeans can be found on any day of the week. Personally I don't think jeans, especially with holes and tears, are very professional, but now at my school, they seem to be quite fashionable. As my daughter-in-law reminds me - she probably spends more on her jeans than on any pants she wears! Nobody has ever said that the "jeans rule" has changed at our school, but it is an unwritten rule that jeans are now okay. Each school has its own rules.

Before the first week of school, I took Courtney shopping for school clothes, for probably the very last time! I thought about that often as I sat with her in the dressing room. Over the years she has been to "Mama's School of Dressing Professionally." She almost always chooses clothes for work that I think are appropriate (at least when I'm paying!) and she did look very professional dressed for success in her teacher clothes (said her mother!) She glowed! The only thing we disagreed about were shoes. She chose 4-5 inch heels (she's short and she wanted to be taller than the students) but I thought her feet would hurt by the end of the day. Then I thought of Michelle at my school and Randi, my daughter-in-law, who both teach in heels - HIGH heels! I guess Courtney will just have to find out for herself what works for her and what doesn't...

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

My first day!

From the Star

So today was the day - my first day with my new 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders. How exciting - and oh so frightening. Just think about it, a Special Education major with an endorsement in Early Intervention and I have been placed in the "BIG Kids" class! And did I mention that I am 5'1" and half the students are bigger than I am!

To add to the pressure, for anyone that doesn't know, I am the daughter of Dayle Timmons - yes, THAT Dayle Timmons, the phenomenal Florida Teacher of the Year! Talk about living up to the family name and reputation! At least, I'm in another county.

My classroom is one of four in a pod with a shared space in the middle, so I sort of share my space with three other teachers. Good thing we get along. I do love my other teachers. They have gone out of their way to make me comfortable and have given me so much help and advice. I give them lots of credit for getting this "newbie" through the first day.

When the parents first came I noticed that they didn't even look at my classroom (after all that work!) They were much more focused on "oh my gosh - my kid got stuck with the new teacher." They didn't really say it but I could just see it in their faces. So... my goal this year is to show the parents and the students that I am here for them and I am going to make a difference in each and every child's success in my class!

I thought I learned a lot in school but they forgot to mention a lot when it comes to your first day of teaching. I mean I forgot to pick up my children from PE on the first day - probably not a real good start. When the students got back to the classroom one of them said, "Ohhhh, the PE coaches are really mad at you!" Oh great - making mistakes and my day isn't even half over. And then I forgot to bring the students' ID numbers to lunch. We don't eat until 1:05 so at least the kids didn't mind waiting. R-i-g-h-t!

I have a multi-age classroom with 3rd-4th-5th all in the same classroom. That was new to me and you're probably thinking the same thing I was thinking - how does that work? After just this first day, it really does seem to work. I will let you know more about how it works as the year goes on and I really fully understand how it all works! Lots to learn!

All in all, I had a wonderful day with my children. I was worried. Kids this age don't have the best reputation - I had even had a few nightmares. However, I was totally delighted to find out how wonderful and respectful my students were on our first day. I know we are going to to have a great year! Until next time...

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Getting your room ready

From the Apple

At my school many teachers have been working for several weeks over the summer to get their rooms ready and some of them are ready to go on the very first day of pre-planning! They do that because they know that the first week is filled with meetings and they don't want to be stressed getting everything ready. I am lucky enough to teach with my daughter-in-law, Randi, and she takes the summer as her time to spend with her family so she comes to her room on that first day of pre-planning and then works 24/7 to make sure she is ready. I'm probably the "go early" type, but I have learned from Randi that you really can do it in the time allotted. Knowing that helped me know that Courtney would have enough time too. I called to let her know she could put $100 on my credit card to begin to get things I knew she needed. After all, she, like so many first year teachers, has not been paid yet and she really didn't have any extra money to buy material to cover her bulletin boards (it doesn't fade) and bulletin board border or to buy any of the other things she needed. When Courtney called after she had seen her room, she was excited but a little worried about how sparse everything was. She wanted some ideas for how to decorate her room. I asked Courtney if she could Skype me from her room so I could see her space, but she wasn't sure if Skype was unblocked. Then I suggested that she take some pictures of the room and e-mail them to me until she reminded me that her camera had been stolen. So I decided to take pictures at my school to give her some ideas. Even after looking at all the ideas, she decided on a beach theme for her room.

The weekend after pre-planning I made a trip to Courtney's school. I didn't need to worry because even though I had the car packed with stuff for her, she already had things ready to go. Over the years she's spent lots of time in my classroom putting up bulletin boards, cutting shapes and letters, but now she was on her own and as I looked around - I realized she was doing quite well - without my help!

Of course, the truth of the matter is that your room looking well only gets you so far because on Monday morning it comes down to how well you relate to the children that will cross that threshold. but for now - courtney's room looks just fine!

Sunday, August 16, 2009

The wait is on....

From the Star
My internship ended. Summer started. I was so excited. It was finally time to start looking for a real job... or so I thought. I turned in lots of resumes and just chilled - lived the life of not working while waiting for one of the schools to call me and offer me a job! Of course, "living the life" is very short lived when you run out of money. Little did I know that seven schools in my county had closed and they had to place the 200 teachers who had lost their jobs before they could consider new hires for interviews. Lucky me! I just happened to be one of those new hires. Not only were they placing all those teachers first but there had been so many budget cuts that no teachers were leaving and the jobs just weren’t opening. I was devastated, stressed and on the verge of being a crazy lady. I’m pretty sure that I called my mom every day and asked, "So what am I supposed to do now? I have applied for every job imaginable and No ONE IS CALLING ME." My mom, of course, the calm lady just said, “Relax - it'll all work out.” And I kept saying, “Yeah sure. Whatever you say, but you’re not going to be happy when you are still supporting me!” and she would just repeat “It will all work out.”
As the days went by and still no calls I started to get desperate I started to apply for jobs that I didn’t really want and jobs that were over an hour drive. Finally an interview came and I nailed it (with all the good advice of my mother) and I got the job. This is when everything got super stressful. Not only was this job an hour away from my house but, I was not sure that I could handle this as my first teaching assignment - not to mention, my dad is saying, "TAKE THE JOB!" and my boyfriend is saying, "TAKE THE JOB!" My mom was saying that the job was not a good first year job because there was not enough support. I felt like one of those cartoon characters where the devil is on one side and the angel is on the other side and you’re suppose to make a choice that could change your life forever. I was so undecided so I took a night to think about it and I prayed. I prayed that I would wake up and know exactly what to do. Sure enough that is exactly what happened. I woke up and knew that the job was not the right fit for me. To my amazement the next day I got two calls for interviews - with only 2 days before teachers were supposed to start. Just imagine how I was feeling!

My first interview that next day was at 8:00am. I woke up, felt confident and walked into the interview. The Principal and Vice Principal that were interviewing me were delightful and gave me the chance to really be myself. I had not felt this way in any other interviews. Before I had felt more like I was a college student in a Master’s Comprehension exam being quizzed on everything that I had ever learned. I don’t know about you, but for me, it is kind of hard to be myself when I feel like I am under pressure and about to throw up. But at this interview I knew that this was where I wanted to be. I loved the Principals and I loved the school, so I didn’t even care about what grade I was teaching. As I left I was pretty confident that I had gotten the job and I was so deliriously happy! That afternoon I got a call telling me that I had the job. I even forgot to ask what grade I was teaching. This is where the stress of getting a job ended and the journey of being a teacher began.