Thursday, November 29, 2012

Quick Update

I've wanted to blog, and have attempted to several times over Thanksgiving break.  Unfortunately, I've reached my picture quota and never like blogging without pictures.  Apparently I can upload pictures on to PhotoBucket first and then on the blog, but that's more steps than I have time for at the moment.  Here are some random updates on life:

Jesse and I took Jackson to daycare last Wednesday even though we both had the day off.  We went shopping and saw Lincoln.  It was really good.  We ordered a large popcorn, and got a refill just because we could.  (Gluttony, I know.)  Jesse stayed to watch Skyfall while I picked Jackson up and fought the crowds at Sam's. 

We were able to celebrate Thanksgiving twice this year.  Thursday we binged on food at my sister's house, played with the kids, and had our share of laughs (though there were no board games).  Friday we met up at my in-laws house for a second round of fun.  Normally we visit both families on Thursday, but we enjoyed two days.  This also gave us a change to regain our appetites.

Black Friday started on Thursday for Jesse as he braved the chaos at Wal Mart.  He purchased Jackson a play kitchen for Christmas.  Our whole family went out on Friday to Target, Wal Mart, A.C. Moore, and the mall.  As my tradition, I purchased gifts for all nieces and nephews and wrapped them on Friday while Jesse put up Christmas decorations.  Jackson helped hang ornaments on the tree the next day.

I finally started working on my National Boards.  I spent all of Sunday writing rough drafts for my accomplishments entry and analyzing writing samples for the first entry.  I also created lessons and arranged to be filmed for the second and third entries. 

The week at work has been especially busy.  My teammate is out-of-state with her very ill father.  I've taken care of all lesson plans, SmartBoard files, and copies for her for the whole week, in addition to my plans and copies.  This is on top of taping for National Boards three days this week.  We just found out she'll be out next week as well and we're working on a unit that is new to our curriculum.  My to-do list keeps lengthening.

Jackson's sleep patterns have suddenly changed for no apparent reason in the past week.  He wakes up earlier, but is crying.  (He always wakes up happy.)  He fights going to bed and Jesse has to rock him in the recliner for him to calm down.

We changed Jackson's carseat to forward facing.  I guess that's a milestone.  Technically we should have waited another four months, but his little legs were folded against the back seat.

That's all for now.  Pictures will come soon...

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Splish Splash!

Jackson is too funny in the bath now.  He must have gills as much as he slips, slides, and swims. 

He finally understands how to fill his bath toys with water, but he likes plain ol' splashing around better.

He mimics every action I do and loves to wash his hair by himself.  He proudly lifts his foot or hand when prompted and laughs hysterically when I clean under his arms.

Even when all the water drains out, he's still knocking all the shampoo off and sliding around.  It's hard to actually get him out of the bath.

Big Boy Table and Chairs

Our latest Ikea purchase includes a toddler-size table and chairs for $20.  I stopped by Lowe's to buy some chalk paint.  Jesse applied numerous coats on the slick surface throughout the week, before assembling the table yesterday.  Naturally, Jackson had Clifford sit in one of the chairs while he sat in the other and played with blocks. 

All was well and cute until Jackson realized how portable the chairs are.  In less than an hour Jackson had discovered he could climb the rungs of the chair to access the counter and sink. 

Nothing is safe in this house! 

Monday, November 12, 2012

"Developmentally Delayed"

After sharing concerns regarding Jackson's speech at his 18 month well check, our pediatrician referred us to our county's Children's Developmental Services for an evaluation.  A team of three people spent two hours at our home this morning evaluating him.  They interacted with Jackson and asked Jesse and I numerous questions.

We weren't surprised to learn that Jackson has a significant delay in speech and qualifies for services.  He has the communication skills of a 12-14 month old.  One evaluator commented that she noticed Jackson breathes through his mouth and doesn't move his tongue appropriately.  This might explain why he says most vowel sounds and open consonant sounds, but struggles with closed sounds.  Our team created an IFSP (Individualized Family Service Plan). 

We were surprised to discover that he also has emotional/social delays.  Apparently, it is abnormal for a 19 month old not to interact with other children.  Jackson has always entertained himself.  He is curious and playful and likes to explore on his own.  When around other children, Jackson plays in the same space as them, but he does not interact with them.  If his peer takes a toy from him, he gets a new one and keeps playing.  He does not toss a ball or roll a car back and forth with others.  I always assumed that was his personality and he was just a laid-back kid.  Unfortunately, this indicates enough of a delay for Jackson to have a social goal on his IFSP. 

Our speech goal is to incorporate as much sign language as possible and to practice language skills before Jackson reaches a frustration level.  (That is much easier said than done!)  He'll receive a speech evaluation next week and we'll set up a plan for frequency of services after we complete financial services.

Our social/emotional goal is to play with Jackson by mimicking his actions, rather than redirecting or teaching him a new game.  The evaluator explained that Jackson doesn't want me to change the rules of the game, so he disengages in me when I try to play.  The teacher in me wants to constantly explain and redirect Jackson to properly sort shapes and play with toys the "right" way.  I forget that he's 19 months old and it's okay to just explore and play.  I am supposed to repeat what he does and follow his cues until he (hopefully) interacts with me.

I have mixed emotions and am trying to process everything.  I don't like the labels and the thoughts that Jackson already qualifies for special education services.  On the other hand, I'm optimistic that we'll see improvements and Jackson will finally be able to verbally communicate his wants and needs.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Concert Wish List

Jesse has been on a lucky streak all year for winning concert tickets from local radio stations. Most of the concerts I pass up on, but I was excited about going to see The Who in Greensboro this past Friday. My oldest sister picked up Jackson so he could spend the night with them. Despite traffic jams and exhaustion after a long week, we had a lot of fun at the concert. It was a smaller venue and we had seats right in the center on the lower level. Quadrophenia, the album they played, was lesser known, but The Who ended the night with their more popular hits. It's always fun to sing lyrics of your favorite songs with 10,000 other people. I didn't bring my camera, so I snagged this picture of Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend from the web.  I was really impressed with their looks, voice, and energy level.

Before falling asleep on the ride back, I made a mental list of artists I would actually be willing to pay to see.  Here's my short list of concerts I'd do most anything to attend:
  1. Fleetwood Mac
  2. Ben Folds Five
  3. Adele
  4. Fun.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

I Quit!

I haven't said it yet, but my administration keeps pushing me dangerously closer to saying those two words.  I truly am not sure how much more I can put up with.  There is no accountability, communication, or consistency in my school building.  Students are pulled so often without any teacher notification that it becomes a guessing game trying to locate students.  I don't know if a student is absent because of suspension, counseling, playing in the bathroom, being tested, etc.  Misbehaved students run the show.  (Literally, they run the morning announcements camera, make copies, etc!). Negative consequences are applied unfairly and inconsistently, and administration is nowhere to be found.  Here are some emails and conversations that have taken place over the past two days:

Background: Student Z, who is a severe behavior problem, was missing after lunch.  He missed writing instruction.  I took the kids to specials and found Student Z in the office banging a book on a chair.  When asked what he was doing, he shrugged his shoulders.  Nobody in the office could tell me what was going on.  Student Z didn't return for science (a subject which he is failing).  I tried to find administration after school with no luck.  I found out from an assistant that he had cussed out another adult and was running the halls.  Another teacher stopped to ask me why Student Z was in the principal's office eating cake.  This happens all the time!  Out of frustration, I sent the following e-mail:

I am still confused and frustrated why [Student Z] was pulled today and spent the whole afternoon in the office. He missed science and has no knowledge of the water cycle. He has been out the last three afternoons and he is failing science. Another teacher stopped to ask why he was eating cake in the office.

The principal responded at 8:30 p.m. with one sentence:

You need to see me at 7:15 a.m. tomorrow morning in my office.

This sent me in a panic.  When I arrived the following morning she made me sit down, close the door, and tore me a new one (all while smiling, of course).  She kept asking, "Do you really think that was appropriate?"  and kept saying how disrespectful I was.  She more or less said it wasn't my business and to trust that she's doing her job.  She also admitted to giving him cake (despite the fact that he was in trouble) because she's "a nice person".

I bit my tongue so I wouldn't say anything else or cry in front of her.  The second I left was a different story.  Deciding to be professional and not burn any bridges, I sent a follow up email later that afternoon:

Thank you for meeting with me this morning. I once again want to state that it was not my intention to offend or upset you. My frustration is not regarding what [Student Z] was doing in the office, but more why I wasn't notified. It is my goal to put my students first. Therefore, my frustration and concern comes from his chronic absence from class along with other students which directly impacts their academics. In the future, can teachers please be notified when students will be missing class? I feel like this is a safety issue as well as an academic issue. Thanks in advance for your support.
I look forward to meeting with you for the post observation.

Today the principal approached me at lunch, thanked me for my follow up, and asked if I could meet her along with the 5th grade team and vice principal during planning for a few minutes.  Despite the suffocating levels of tension in the room, the meeting started off positive.  We agreed that from now on homeroom teachers would be called when a student is sent to the office.  (Students are frequently pulled during specials, lunch, or in other classes without our knowledge.)  Administration would send a follow up email with any necessary explanations after school.  Also, due to frequent incidents of boys ganging up on other boys in the bathroom, the vice principal agreed to create a bathroom schedule time for morning and afternoon for each class.  Students are not allowed in the restroom at any other time unless it's an emergency.  My teammate said it sounded like a good plan, as long as it was consistent.  The administrators questioned what has been inconsistent in the past (ummm....everything?) and my teammate provided a specific example.  Without skipping a beat, the vice principal snapped back, "Well you can take a look in the mirror.  If you want to talk about being inconsistent, I'm still waiting on your field trip forms."   (This statement was clearly directed towards my colleague.  The assistant principal was referencing something that I had no participation in whatsoever.  I challenge an administrator to find anything that I haven't completed that I should have.)   She had such a nasty tone, volume, and body language.  Then she walked out!  My teammate started crying and said to the principal, "How is that okay for her to talk to me like that?", to which the principal replied, "Obviously you need to have a crucial conversation with her.  When [my name] disrespected me, I had her come in for a crucial conversation".  My teammate said she was ready to walk out the door and the principal said, "Get your keys."  (She stayed.)  Twice more I was reprimanded in front of my team for "being disrespectful" with the email. 

Things keep escalating and are becoming increasingly more unbearable.  We aren't treated with any professionalism.  The kids aren't put first. 

The only lesson any of us have learned is to keep our mouths shut!

How the hell am I supposed to make it 'til June???

Saturday, November 3, 2012

We ♥ Social Studies

This is my fifth year teaching fifth grade, but my first year teaching social studies as a regular part of the curriculum.  I have always taught literacy, math, and science because those subjects are tested.  I've tried to throw in social studies articles during guided reading, but it's never a logical progression of American history.  This year there will be a field test for social studies in May, so we have a 45 minute block each day to teach "content literacy".  

A typical unit lasts 2-3 weeks and includes a video and guided notes, reading the textbook and/or supplemental text, participating in a guided extension activity (scavenger hunt, debate, speech, research), and finally sharing learning through an assessment and rubric-based project.

Our first unit was on geography, map skills, latitude, and longitude.  We then completed a unit on Native Americans (how they got to America and how they adapted to the land).  Students worked in small groups to research a cultural region and present information on the climate, food, clothing, shelter, and tribes.  Here are some of their projects:

Our next unit was on European explorers of the New World.  I found awesome resources for this unit and also created a project that I will definitely do in subsequent years.  We became archaeologists and "found" maps, flags, an astrolabe, a compass, potatoes, cotton, etc.  (Jesse passes cotton fields on his way to work so he snagged a twig of cotton for me to show the kids.)  Students had to go on a scavenger hunt and use the text to determine why the object was significant to either the explorer or Native American.  We read and compared famous explorers. 
The final project required groups of 3-4 students to select an explorer to research.  They had to create a life size poster that displayed their explorer, the route they took on a map, the country for which they claimed land, what they would have been thinking, and the results of their voyage.  The kids only had three days to complete their project.  Many of them opted to work on it during recess.  They were so proud of their final products!
This also happened to be the lesson that my principal observed (along with part of a guided reading and reading conference).  She loved it and gave a shout out in our weekly staff newsletter.  Our next topic is colonization and we'll cover the American Revolution right before winter break.  I think I'm going to organize a field trip to a historic plantation and then have students debate (Loyalists vs. Patriots).  I hope to include it as one of my entries for National Boards.  I'm so excited!

Our Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day!

Jesse had an out-of-town workshop this week.  He stayed at a hotel Tuesday night and came home late Wednesday night.  I was looking forward to a date night with Jackson.  My big plans included leaving right after school to pick him up from daycare, going shopping, having dinner at Boston Market, going to the park, and having a bath and story before bed.  The next day was Halloween, which meant Dress Like Your Favorite Book Character Day at school, lots of fun pictures, trick-or-treating, and the great candy swap and dinner with my family in Gastonia.

Yeah, right.  Here's what really happened:

I got tied up with parent conferences that showed up without notice and was later than planned picking Jackson up.

Jackson was clingy, but fine.  We went to Target to pick up two pairs of adult size pink footie pajamas.  (My fifth grade team coordinated to dress like the three little pigs.  I had already cut out pink felt ears and hot glued them onto a cheap headband.  My teammate bought the nose.)

I ordered my meal at Boston Market and an extra side of mac-n-cheese for Jackson.  As the lady was dipping our food, Jackson puked EVERYWHERE.  It was an ungodly quantity that literally drenched both of us.  The Boston Market worker handed me a roll of paper towels and I was on my hands and knees scooping up vomit, while it dripped down my sleeve and skirt.  Poor Jackson was sobbing and still convulsing and throwing up more while I kept cleaning.

Needless to say, dinner and our trip to the park was canceled.  I drove home naked with the windows down.  Of course there was traffic and my gas light was on.  Jackson fell asleep in the car.  Once home, we stripped down and bathed.  I prayed Jackson had everything out of his system and put him to bed.

Jackson woke himself up puking throughout the night.  It became routine to get up every few hours, re-line his crib with clean towels, change his clothes, and start another load of laundry.  I was an emotional mess dealing with everything by myself.  I ended up having multiple panic attacks and took my emergency medication.

Against good judgement, I took Jackson to daycare, knowing that it would only be for a few hours.  He hadn't thrown up in 5 hours and he ate a graham cracker before we left.  He also never had a fever.  I told his teacher that he wasn't feeling well and I would have my cell on and ready to pick him up ASAP, but I had to get things ready at work. 

I arrived at work five minutes before kids entered the classroom.  I hurriedly gave my teammates their pig costumes.  I prepared everything for school and talked to my principal to tell her I wasn't going to be able to stay the whole day.  I wasn't feeling well myself after having restless sleep and not eating.  I got the call from the daycare by 11 saying Jackson had thrown up multiple times.  (I know, I know...Mother of the Year Award, please.)

Wearing my hot pink onesie, I stopped by Harris Teeter to pick up some Pedialyte before picking my sick boy up.  He drank some when we got home and immediately threw up all over the rug and my lap.  Another shower for everyone and we settled in for another nap. 

We repeated this process throughout the day.  I used Lysol and bleached everything, steam mopped, shampooed the rug, did laundry, etc.  We obviously didn't get to celebrate Halloween or go anywhere. 

Jesse came home that evening. My principal emailed me to let me know she was going to do a formal observation on me the following morning.  Jesse agreed to take off work since Jackson couldn't return to daycare. 

And that's how our mommy-son bonding and Halloween festivities took place!