Friday, October 29, 2010

Halloween Week Hilarity

1. Several of my students came to school today with crazy hair for Red ribbon week. Among my favorites was one of my girl students who came in with completely dyed-blue bangs, bright orange hair on her head, and a fully green ponytail. She told me she wanted to make her hair my favorite colors (green and orange) but that the bangs needed something extra.

2. One of my students had a loose tooth today, and if you know me, you know I do NOT do blood/loose teeth. It is among one of my many cardinal rules...others being "Miss Leiss never wants to hear about the line" and "Miss Leiss never wants to hear a tattle." The third rule is "Miss Leiss never wants to see you sitting there with a bloody kleenex wiggling your tooth unless it is dangling by a thread and about to come out." (A long cardinal rule, I know, but my kids know it.) However, this student REFUSED to let me or the nurse pull it out. It was seriously dangling there and he would cry but wouldn't do anything about it.

At recess a student from another class ran up to me.

"Miss Leiss, your student is playing on the slide."
"Well, yes, that's what a slide is for honey."
"No, Miss Leiss, he is throwing his tooth up the slide and letting it slide back down."

I seriously laughed out loud, snorting around students, at the mere fact that my student was throwing his tooth up the slide...hahahaha, seriously, this is my life. My name is Miss Leiss and I teach 1st grade and deal with situations like teeth sliding down the slides at recess.

3. On our phonics test, instead of spelling the word "chug", one little friend wrote the word "thug." He complained when I told him it was incorrect.

4. Assessing my students' knowledge of wants and needs in social studies, today we had to cut pictures out of newspapers and magazines and post 3 on one side of a piece of manila paper for needs, and 3 for wants. One male student cut out a picture of a woman in silk pajamas and boxer underwear and pasted it onto his "wants" side, telling me "Well, Miss Leiss, I really don't need those guess this picture goes on the want side."

5. When explaining to my students about name calling and how we don't call each other names, one of my boisterous boy students raised his hand and had a story to share.
"Miss Leiss, I know exactly what you're talking about with name calling."
"You do?"
"Yes. The other day on the bus, there were these 5th graders calling me Samantha. And that is NOT my name."
"Oh. Well...that's not exactly what I'm talking about. But I'm glad you made a connection."

6. "I love you so much, Miss Leiss." Greatest words I could ever hear, and one of my small African-American students today told me this with the biggest hug around my knees I have ever felt. So. Awesome.

7. We watched James and the Giant Peach today...which, come on, movies in class are killer. We just finished reading the chapter book as a class and it is so cool to see my students discussing the differences between the book and the movie. So cool!

All glory to God in the highest, He is so good, He is mighty to save.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Miss Leiss...what IS a drug, even...?

This week is Red Ribbon Week: Be Drug Free. Most flavorful class discussion to date. I wish I had tape recorded the whole thing. I will give you bits and pieces of what some of my little first grade friends had to contribute to the conversation.

"Miss Leiss, why are we wearing these red ribbons anyway?"

Me: "Well, let's talk about that for a little bit. This week at school we are celebrating being Drug Free. That means we are deciding not to use drugs."

"Miss Leiss...what IS a drug, even...?"
"My mom smokes."
"MY BROTHER HAS DRUGS...IN HIS ROOM...MAYBE...?" (<-- this student's brother is maybe 5 years old, at most. so I didn't take it seriously.)
"Aren't drugs good? Like medicine?" (<--- innocent student)

Me: "Yes, some drugs are good things, like medicine. But, even medicine when it isn't used in a good way, can be bad for you. If you take too much of it, it's bad for you. Or if you take medicine that isn't yours, it's very bad for your body. It can be harmful to your body and your health. Remember when we talked about harmful last week when we talked about heat?"

"I didn't know medicine could be bad for you. Too much of it! Never thought of that!" (<--- GT student)
"Miss Leiss, once my dad drank some drugs, and he drove, and he got pulled over by the cops. I think."

Me: "Ohh. Well, that's the law."

"What's the law?"
"Are drugs against the law, Miss Leiss?"

Me: "Some drugs are against the law, yes. It can depend on how old you are, but some drugs are just off limits all the time." (<--- trying to be as vague about kinds of drugs as fervently possible, but truthful)

"What happens if you eat those drugs?"

Me: "Well, you could get in a lot of trouble. You could get tickets from the police or even go to jail." (<--- getting uncomfortable)

"Yeah you guys, it's called JUBY."
"Yeah, juby!"

Me (trying to wrap up where the conversation might go): "Okay, so we know that drugs are things that are harmful to our bodies and they can harm our families too. Miss Leiss has been drug free her whole life so it's possible. There are ways to be drug free."

"You HAVE?!?"
"Just say no! Right?"

Sunday, October 24, 2010

I Never Want to Miss a Day of School Again.

I never want to miss a day of school again.

Oh wait...I'm out on Tuesday for math training.

Oh wait...I'm out next Wednesday for First Year Teacher Academy.

Oh...wait...I'm catching every single sickness that my children might even remotely carry in their tiny little bodies!

Sigh. I just hate missing school. Even in college, I never, if rarely, missed class. It was like a bone in my body that existed mainly to make me go to class. I never missed. Only if I was deathly ill.

I was out this past Friday and when I'm out, I feel like the world is crashing down. I luckily had a superb sub this time around, unlike the last time where the earth crumbled and all broke loose, and I feel like my kids did a great job with her. I got a really nice note from her. A few things were unkempt around the room but not too much. Not like the last time...thank heavens.

But still, I REALLLLY hate missing school. I hate being away from my students, and I hate feeling like I have to catch up. I feel like that's what most of this year has been so far for me-- starting from scratch, having to basically catch up constantly as more and more things are thrown at me. I feel like I've been doing a good job and I'm not drowning by any means, but the ice is getting thinner. I know I'm a first year teacher and it's not supposed to be perfect, and it's not even contended to be a "good year"-- but I want to be good! I want to defy the odds. I want to prove wrong the theories and common conceptions that first year teachers suck.

I also feel like I really need to be here for my kids. I need to be consistent in their lives. I can't disappear or run out on them, I need to be here, and I hate when I'm not. I need to have more grace on myself, but my grace is running low. God is always sufficient, I need to keep reminding myself.

Things just aren't the same when you miss a day of school. You have to pick up the pieces and start all over, it seems. I just hope tomorrow is a good day. Like my kids and I sing every morning, "I'm gonna make today a great day!"

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Our Class Learns Economics

This week we started a new unit in social studies: economics. The past two days we were politely discussing wants, needs, jobs, money, and all of that shebang when I had a seemingly brilliant idea: let's make our classroom its OWN economy.

I already give out "Good Choice Sticks" to students who make good choices and they are able to redeem 10 of them for a trip to the beloved treasure box, where they can pick out a super cool pencil or tub of playdough or, recently added, a new silly band. (Oh, silly bands. The pogs of this generation.)

But instead, I decided to make a real-life economy in our classroom and use the sticks somewhat like money. I created classroom jobs and each student was going to get a job. Every day if they did their job well and diligently, they get paid 1 stick. They can also earn bonuses (extra sticks) if they are seen making extra efforts or extremely good choices.

Then I created things that the students could buy with their sticks when they save them up. These things include: Pillow Use for a whole day (5 sticks), No Shoes in the Classroom (8 sticks), Powerpoint Helper (8 sticks), iPod Touch Time (10 sticks), Computer Time (10 sticks), and Treasure Box (12 sticks).

I thought, oh my gosh this is going to be so GREAT! My kids are going to LOVE THIS!

I forgot, though, that I probably have THE most sensitive class in the entire world. And? It's the BOYS that are sensitive!

It was the biggest ordeal of the entire year. I almost started crying, I was SO frustrated. The first round I decided to draw kids' names out of a hat and let them choose their job. This took FOREVER because nobody could decide so I decided to instead draw for the JOBS the kids' names and assign them. Oh. My. Gosh. Tears. Terential fits and upset children. Kids were crying because they didn't get the job they wanted. Some wandered into corners to pout. It was like an outbreak. I was completely at a loss. So for the THIRD go-around, I decided to put the JOBS in a cup and let the kids draw one out. "You get what you get and you don't throw a fit." Right? It just turned into utter confusion because now the kids had changed classroom jobs 3 times and...I just felt like a terrible teacher. I had the whole thing planned out SO well! Powerpoint slides to help me teach it and everything! We were going to discuss needs, wants, how to make choices with our stick money...

Some days I just really don't know what to expect. I think the day is going to go so so well, I over-plan and get super excited for what is to come. And then it doesn't always go that way. I'm just trying to continue to roll with the punches. AND I also hope that this Class Economy thing is going to really work. I can't wait to see all my students settle into their jobs and do them with ease, earn their money, save and make choices to buy's GOING to be good. I know it will. Just...the first day was a bit rough.

Something I told them today, though, was: You don't always get the things you want. And this is the real world...this is real life. You don't always have the JOB you want, either. Some people do...and they love it. Others don't...

It really got me thinking. How beyond blessed am I that even with meltdowns and outbreaks and crazy jungle animal students, I still have grace and mercy on them because of the one who lives inside of me... How beyond blessed am I to do what I absolutely love?

I hope they learn. Most of all though I hope they learn to love.

Friday, October 15, 2010

My Life Could Be Reality TV

Starting with Monday: We had an all-day teacher inservice on Columbus day, where I first felt that I was sick and that something was wrong. I went to bed that evening unsettled and not feeling well, but knowing that I had a day of staff development the following day so all my sub plans and activities for the next day were already ready, set out for the sub, and I would be good to go no matter what.

Tuesday: Turns out I was sick. I woke up in the morning hardly able to move or speak. There was no way I was going to make it to math training. I went to the doctor that day and he told me I just had a regular cold and just to take medicine, rest, and that I should be able to go back to school on Wednesday.

Wednesday: I enter my classroom and it is a disaster zone. War zone. Tornado eruption. I found pencils, crayons, papers all over the desks and under chairs; I found my Daily Calendar completely messed with and things stuck all over my chalkboard; I found my Lunch Count clips all over the floor and under tables. The substitute left me NO note. That tells me one thing: He was ready to get the HECK out of there at the end of the day. Which leaves me thinking: What happened...?

I try to clean up as much as possible before the kids got there Wednesday while I'm still sniffling and blowing my nose and dizzy from my head cold. I am not happy with them and the way the classroom was left and, it also seemed, that they really didn't do much of anything that I left the sub to do with them. It really did seem like his fault. So our day was already off to a not so great start, and I could barely speak or sing because of my loss of voice and accumulation of phlegm going in and out of my nasal cavity.

But here is where the week gets interesting. Wednesday after lunch I'm running Daily 5 stations with my kids when all of a sudden my nose starts bleeding profusely. I mean, not just your run-of-the-mill nose bleed. It's running hardcore, dripping down my face and falling onto the carpet. I catch my nosebleed with my hands and run and get tissues, flinging open the door and shouting to my teacher-neighbor to watch my kids while I run to the nurse. I go to the nurse and try to get the bleeding to stop for about 10 minutes. It finally subsides and I return to the classroom.

The beautiful icing-on-the-cake part about my week this week was that it was my first group of 18 Parent/Teacher Conferences. 6 per day, Wednesday-Thursday-Friday. I had absolutely no down time in between activities, and my usual planning period was spent with parents, who I adore and was so glad to have come to school and speak with me, but I sounded (and probably looked) like a wreck. Many of them even commented on my stuffiness and asked if I was feeling okay. I mean, great first impressions were given by yours truly.

But then, after school my nose starts bleeding profusely again. This time it won't stop for about 30 minutes. And I am not kidding! I promise! It's like, shooting out of my nose, like a fountain or something. I can barely keep up with it, I'm going through boxes of Kleenex at a time. It's ridiculous. I can't get any work done and my teacher friends ask if they can drive me home, etc. because they are worried. I finally got the bleeding to stop and said, no, I'll be okay. Only to have it start spurting out blood again in the car on the way home.

By now I'm getting kind of flustered and worried myself. Why is my nose some sort of blood gun. I was so irritated but also scared. It happened again when I was at home later that evening. I slept with a towel on my pillow; what could happen when I was asleep?

Thursday: I awoke the next morning and was in a huge hurry. I had woken up late and had a Parent/Teacher conference at 7:30 and I really needed to get dressed and go. I felt stuffy, so absent-mindedly I blew my nose. This caused the Nile River of Blood to once again flow out of my nose. I could not get it to stop for 20 minutes, sitting there putting pressure on my nose and pinching it tilting downwards. I know the right things to do! I had done this before! But nothing was working. Of course, it caused me to be late (about 2 minutes, but STILL) to my conference that morning.

But not to fear, because we had a field trip on Thursday. To make my week even crazier! We as a first grade walked down the street to our city fire station. It was exciting and I felt really cool about taking my very first class on their very first field trip. All was well as we were learning about the size of the hoses on a firetruck when my nose starts shooting blood AGAINNNNNNNN by this time I am just annoyed. I rush into the fire station and, not seeming to be able to find the women's bathroom, burst into the men's and grab paper towels to stop the bleeding. There were definitely some awkwarded-out firemen that came in and saw me and got me ice, I mean at least they helped me, but I definitely weirded them out and they really didn't believe I was a teacher until they later saw me in action with my class.

Thursday day and afternoon I had 6 more Parent/Teacher conferences, one being particularly intense. I was really upset afterwards and debating what to do next when suddenly, I sneezed. I had to go blow my nose and as this is happening, blood starts bursting from my left nostril for yet another time. It's flowing for about 45 minutes, and I mean, it's not stopping. It's like a stream of constant blood. I began to feel really dizzy and light-headed. I had been losing way too much blood and I was beginning to get really scared.

I called my teacher friend Vicki and she came and picked me up and took me to CareNow, which turned out to be Care...Not? I was sent away with really no answers and nothing to walk away with to help me understand why I was bleeding so much out of my nose. The doctor said that if it happened again, to apply direct pressure for at least 10 minutes without letting go, and if it didn't stop after that, to go to the ER.

Friday: So I go through my whole day today just fine. I thought it was going to be a heck of a day, and felt very unprepared since I hadn't gotten any work done after school the day before, but it actually was a great day. Especially for a Friday, my kids were amazing and I felt like I was on top of my A game again. And, I got through the whole school day and parent/teacher conferences successfully! No nosebleeds, nothing.

But, about 1 minute after my last parent teacher conference... I sneezed.


It bled for an hour. An HOUR

Vicki rushed me to the ER. And the doctor sent me away with nothing, again, because the bleeding had stopped. I told him, well, let me sneeze or blow my nose and I can make it bleed for you. He didn't seem to understand my concern.

So. Frustrated and with way too much money out of my pocket due to this dumb nose, I decided to park it here at my house for the evening, get a pizza, watch How To Lose A Guy in 10 Days and get way too emotional over it, spray my nose 4 times an hour with saline solution, and hang my hat on this tornado of a week.

Things that made it all better:

I had a student draw 3 things in his writer's notebook today that were quite questionably male body parts. And I, alert, asked him, "!!! What are those??!"

"They're, you know, those masks? With the two eyes and the long nose sticking out the bottom. That's what they are, those funny masks, Miss Leiss."

"...Oh...Yeah, I...see it." Trust me, I handle these situations with the utmost respect and class.

Or, when I asked this question on a comprehension test:
What did the Bad Guy want to make Bill into?
Real Answer: Suitcase
Child's Paper Answer: Suck

I mean, he tried.

It's the little things in life. And this, is the life of a teacher. You are there everyday, you are 100% there for the kids and their parents, you don't miss a beat, you are on top of things, you HAVE to be. It doesn't matter if you have been to the ER because of lots of blood loss and you can barely function and you're getting no sleep at night-- you are there at 7:30 am because a parent wants to conference with you and by golly you better be there. On time. Looking perfect. All files, papers, necessary discussion items in hand, ready to go. Because that's what's expected. The expectations for the teaching profession are the highest out of any profession, and anyone who wants to argue with that, I'd like to whip you into reality.

But... I LOVE it. I had a student write in their writer's notebook: "Miss Leiss, I love you a whole lot. I want to hug you forever." And that's all that matters.

Friday, October 8, 2010

My Kids' Thoughts on Giving

As a school district, Birdville ISD supports United Way. We have been collecting coins in a coin drive as well as having days like Dollar Hat Day to raise money for United Way. Yesterday was Wear you Sunglasses Day and my kids began having their own little discussion about it.

"Why are we bringing money to school for this stuff?"
"You guys, you guys. It's to raise money for the HOMELY."
"Yeah, the homely!"
"Like, people that don't even have any food."
"Are we feeding the ho-bos?"

At least they're concerned, right?


One of my little friends during one of our lessons began walking around and celebrating. It sounded like he was saying, "DA CHAIN!" and doing a fist pumping action. Here is our conversation.

"The...chain? Is that what you're saying?"
"Is that what you all say now? Like, off-the-chain?"
"NO! Cha- CHING, Miss Leiss!" (precedes to walk around the room doing the cash-register-esque arm motion)

Oh. Right. Cha-ching...

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Deep Thought: God Hurts

Today was the first day that I think I hurt one of my student's feelings. Through my discipline and classroom management, plus my best efforts to try and manage time and my run of our daily activities, I let it slip somewhere to be thoughtful and still give each of my students my undivided attention. When reflecting on my day, it occurred to me that the reason my student was sad at the end of the day was because I had done this to him all day...I had been harder on him than usual about his work habits and behavior, and had failed to recognize when he did things well or exceptionally. I also realized that I failed to call on him for ideas, didn't take a picture of his work when he requested me to, and really just...didn't love him well today.

And I am hurting so much because of this. I feel terrible that I have hurt him and have caused that pain in him. He is only 6 years old...where was the loving Father that lives inside of me? Where were my good intentions?

And then, in the midst of my sadness for causing him to hurt, I realized something huge. If I am this sad about hurting my student, I wonder how sad God is when he sees us hurting? I bet God really hurts and is sad when we hurt. I bet He feels terrible when He has to challenge us, push us, cause us pain. But, the difference between me and God is that He does it with the best of intentions. He does it lovingly, to stretch and mold us, to allow us to gain endurance, perseverance, strength. He allows us to go through trials in order for us to be more like Jesus. He loves us more than we can fathom, so much that He gave up his most prized and beloved Son to save us from ourselves and reconcile us back to I know that He must meet us where we are when we are hurting and be that strong tower for us.

It just blew my mind. I feel like God must feel when he hurts for his hurting children. But not even close to how he must hurt is just a breath compared.

Thanks, God, for allowing us to know and love you.

Monday, October 4, 2010

The Darndest Things My Students Say...or Do

1. The smallest student in our class is a little boy with a really funny personality. He often moonwalks down the hall pretending to be Michael Jackson-- the King of Pop with another student who worships Michael Jackson in every form possible. This little boy often has revelations in class, suddenly and sparsely throughout each day, during the most inopportune times for such revelations, such as in the middle of a story I'm reading or a math lesson. A few such revelations are:

"Miss Leiss Miss Leiss!!!!!!!!" (in the middle of reading There Was An Old Lady who Swallowed a Chick)
"I FREWED UP IN KINDERGARTEN!!!!!" (huge grin on his face)
"Well, I'm glad you are so proud of that."

(in the middle of reading James and the Giant Peach, another student sitting nearby sneezes loudly and thickly on him)
"Baby, just go get some hand sanitizer..."
(precedes to go over to the hand sanitizer)
After a minute or so, the smell permeates the entire room. I look over to find him BATHING his arms, hands, and face in hand sanitizer.
"(my gasp of surprise)!! What are you doing? I think you have enough."
"Ok, Miss Leiss."

And, the last of this little boy's stories for now, we were making maps of the classroom in social studies last week. We were learning about map keys and how we make a map key to let people know what the things in our map are or stand for. I look over and he is snappin' his fingers, rolling his head side to side and rapping: "I made a map key, *snap snap* I made a keyyy *snap snap*" and dancing in his chair.


2. During TPRI testing, the students have to read a story out loud to me while the rest of the class is silently doing other activities. One of my boy students who speaks at an exceptionally loud and voracious volume, is supposed to read the following sentence.

First, Pam and Dad went to look for seats.

He reads: FIRST, PAM AND DAD WENT TO LOOK FOR SH*TS. (continues reading as if nothing was wrong)

I kid you not. The air got tight in the room in that moment.


3. Recently learning about the letter Digraph "ck", we were using letter tiles and magnetic letters to make new words using our new phonics. One of my rather blunt students loudly asks me:

"Miss Leiss, I want to spell cock now."
"Um. Well, why?"
"Because. I know how to spell clock. And now I want to spell cock. But I need another o, Miss Leiss."
"Why don't we just stick to the words on our spelling and sight word lists?"
"Ok. Well, I still want to spell cock. What is a cock, Miss Leiss?"
".............Like, you know, a male rooster. I think. You know, how they say Cock-a-doodle-doo?"
"Oh, right. Okay. Cock."


More to come as the year progresses. I do need to mention here, and in every post I blog, how much I adore, love, and treasure each one of my students. They are blessings...and quite entertaining.