Sunday, November 13, 2011

"He ate my cupcake!"

In Kindergarten, we take our cupcakes very seriously.

Birthdays are a cause for celebration, especially when you've only had five or six of them. We had a birthday celebration for a little girl in my class last Wednesday. For birthday celebrations, we give the children a birthday hat to wear and a birthday card and pencil. Then, if parents want to come in and bring in a snack, they can come for the last half hour of the day. I'm glad our school still allows sweet birthday treats. While I'm all on board for making schools healthier, I can't say I'm a fan of limiting birthday treats to granola bars, fresh fruit, or muffins. When I was a child, my mom always brought in freshly baked funfetti cupcakes that we'd iced together the night before when it was my birthday and I loved it!

There are seventeen children in my class and the birthday girl's little brother came in to celebrate with her. That's eighteen children. There were eighteen cupcakes. One for everyone. Perfect!

Well, perfect until I look up from where I'm passing out baby wipes to wipe off sticky icing-covered fingers to see one of my students jump up out of his seat, fists clinched and shaking. Then he started screaming. Total, complete meltdown. And extremely worrysome because I have a number of students who have a difficult time controlling their anger and many of them, including this boy, have a tendency to be very violent.

I rush over, tell him to sit down and take a big breath and tell me what the problem is. Tears are streaming out of this child's eyes and he is shaking because he is so furious. He takes a big breath and then points to the little boy across the table and screams at the top of his lungs, "He ate my cupcake!"

I said, "Excuse me?" My co-teacher said, "Who did?" The little boy screams the name of the boy sitting across from him, his fists still shaking.

Sure enough, the little boy had licked the icing off of his cupcake, then gone to get a squirt of hand sanitizer and when he returned there was no cupcake on his desk. And the little boy sittings across from him was literally licking his lips after devouring another child's cupcake in one, swift bite.

My co-teacher escorted the cupcake-eater out of the classroom across the hall to complete a think sheet - where he draws a picture of what he did wrong, then discusses his behavior with an adult in another classroom and comes to a conclusion about what he should do next time, and then draws a picture of how he could have better handled the situation.

I do think the boy should have been removed from the "party" because of his behavior and that taking a moment to refocus was necessary but I don't feel like it really remedied the situation. This was a classroom management situation that had no truly successful outcome and no solution. Yes, the boy who stole the cupcake was punished. Would he do it again? Absolutely (this is the same child who bit me and drew on my pants with sharpie after all.)

Most importantly, though, the cupcake was gone. The other little boy never did get to eat a cupcake. There were no extras, not even one for me and my co-teacher that we could have given him. I offered him a leftover bite sized snickers bar from our Halloween celebration and that did seem to help a little and at least he got a treat with everyone else. But it was no cupcake. And in Kindergarten, we take our cupcakes very seriously.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween Costume Parade & Quote of the Day

Oh how I wish I could post pictures of the costumes my Kindergarteners wore yesterday. Our school hosted a parade of costumes for the students. Since the community that serves our students is ummm...not the safest, our school hosted a safe Halloween event during the school day. Students in the lower school were able to change into their costumes after lunch and recess. They had a parade of costumes for the upper school, faculty, and some parents who were able to make it into school then went back to class for pumpkin painting and a Halloween party.

For privacy reasons, I will never post pictures of my actual students but I searched Google images high and low for photos of a couple of the cutest costumes from class.
Ladybug Princess

Lady skeleton

 Child pimp

I kid you not, one of my children came to school dressed as a pimp. Gold chains, hat, and all. I couldn't help but laugh out loud. I asked him what his costume was to see what he would tell me and all he could do was giggle. I wish I could share the actual picture I took - hilarious!

Quote of the day - I was signing in at the office when I got to school on Monday, loaded up with Halloween goodies and freshly baked cookies. One of the other teachers told me to expect some of my students to be out all week. I asked why - apparently it is gang initiation week in our community and some of the kids will be home with their parents doing those sorts of activities. I was also told not to stay late working at school this week. Sometimes I feel like I must be pretty naiive and like I have so much to learn about the "real world."

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Top 5 Most Memorable Moments of the School Year (thus far)

It is only late October so I'm sure I'll have many more memorable moments with my Kindergarteners but I'd like to take this opportunity to write down a few. These aren't necessarily the fun, happy moments that come along with teaching five year olds but they were definitely moments I want to remember.

I'll start out by saying that I love my class. I love them because they are my students and I spend all day every day with them and we do lots of fun things together. However, they are a challenge. They are the biggest challenge I've ever had when working in a classroom setting.

5. When one of my five year olds told another to "Shut the f* up!" after a disagreement over a crayon and a miniature cat fight ensued. Our little girls are so tough. Honestly, I think I could use a lesson or two from them sometimes. Pink crayons in our classroom are in high demand for some reason and two little girls were arguing over using the pink crayon at their table. This escalated to one of the girls making a comment about the others' hair, which caused the other girl to stand up, break the pink crayon in half, and yell, "Who cares? You just shut the f* up!"
4. When we went outside for a special program that emphasizes the importance of play and one of my little boys lost his pants. They literally fell down and he was running around in his spongebob underpants. Now, these type things happen in Kindergarten. They just do. What made it so funny is that my class has a couple "runners." These are kids that don't come when you call them, run the other direction, and basically always think you're playing a game of tag with them. And this little boy is one of my runners so he was running around for almost five minutes in his underpants trying to make sure none of the teachers or students tried to catch him! What makes in ever more hilarious is that this is an urban school in the middle of a city so there are passersby the play area all the time and everyone who walked by saw a five year old darting around the field with three teachers calling him to put his pants back on!

3. When a student drew a red line down the seat of my pants. In Sharpie. Honestly, this isn't that big of a deal. Clothes get ruined when you work with small children. But I will definitely remember this day. The little boy is generally up out of his seat doing something he's not supposed to. On this day, he was sitting in his seat because the children were doing a math activity where they could use the dry erase boards and they love those! This little boy didn't want to complete the activity so he drew with his marker on the table, on the person sitting next to him's forehead, on the computer screen. Finally, my co-teacher took away his dry erase marker. She literally pried it from his hands. This really upset him so he went over to the desk, found a red sharpie, and waited until I was squatting down talking with another group and until my co-teacher was out of the classroom trying to find one of our runners. Then, he came up behind me and quickly drew a red mark right down the center of my pants. On my butt! By the way, to my knowledge Sharpie does not come out of the khaki editor pant by Express. If you know a remedy, please leave it in a comment. Lessons learned: be more aware of what's going on behind me (I seriously need six sets of eyes so that I can provide individualized instruction to the kids who need it but also monitor the classroom for potential Sharpie marker attacks.
2. The time a little boy cut a little girl's braid off. This was a very big problem. We were creating a fall craft in response to the fall unit and writing sample we'd just completed. The kids were so into this and loving it and the lesson was going so well! Both my co-teacher and I were busy working with the different groups in our classroom. I had just left the group where the little boy was sitting. He wasn't exactly following directions but he was basically on-task and giving it a good effort. The next thing I know he is chasing another little boy around the room with scissors. This little boy has a history of some pretty violent behavior so this is a serious problem. Both my co teacher and I immediately try to intervene and get the scissors from him before he stabs someone but before we do, he makes a quick snip and a braid falls to the floor. He smiles and sits the scissors down immediately and the little girls is, understandably, in tears.
1. The most memorable day of my job happened during my first week. It was also the same day my iPhone got stolen and destroyed and when I had a flat tire and waited for two and a half hours for AAA to come. Perhaps the little incident that started my day wouldn't be so memorable if it hadn't been a catastrophic day all around. We'd just had a classroom management workshop the evening before to learn some new techniques specific to urban school environments. What was memorable about that workshop was a.) when the instructor told us we just had to face the fact that some of our students were meant to go to jail and b.) ignoring problem behaviors and praising positive ones yields results. Afterwards, we were encouraged to start using the "ignoring" strategy with one specific student in our class who often caused disruption, and usually for attention seeking puposes. The next morning my co-teacher is teaching literacy and I am preparing for my own lessons and checking homework and parent communication folders. The student was not participating in literacy. He was walking around the room, pretending to call people on the phone, playing on the teachers' computer, dumping math manipulatives on the floor. Basically anything that would usually get him attention and disrupt our who group mini lesson. It was so difficult to ignore these behaviors because I really wanted to redirect him to make a better choice, however I was trying to take the advice of the management specialist. The child climbed under the table where I was working. He reached for children's books in their bins and starting bending the pages. He tried to climb into my lab but my legs were already crossed. None of these things were getting him any attention but he kept trying. About that time I thought maybe, as skeptical as I was, ignoring all these behaviors might be the right thing to do. Maybe it really was learned behavior for the purpose of attention seeking. Then, the little boy bit me!

While things are getting a little more stable in the classroom and we're starting to learn strategies that help  specific students, we still don't have the management down. I've never worked in a classroom that was so difficult to manage. Luckily my co-teacher is phenomenal and she has all kinds of strategies from urban school workshops and seminars that vary slightly from what I learned in school and what has worked for my previous classes. Its a journey and we're still working everything out but it is a struggle at times. Teachers - what are your best classroom management strategies?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Meet the Teacher

Hi there! I am Elizabeth and I am a Kindergarten teacher working in an urban school in New Jersey. You may know me from here: Life with Elizabeth.

I am originally from South Carolina and relocated to New Jersey just a few months ago. I attended college in a beautiful part of South Carolina and student taught in a fabulous school district. While working on my master's degree, I taught first grade at a Title 1 school. It was a great experience and I definitely have some fun stories from my time teaching first grade. I also had some heart breaking moments and sleepless nights worrying about whether several of my students were getting anything to eat over the weekend. I learned a lot about classroom management and there were moments when I wanted to pull my hair out (like when one of my seven year olds made a bomb threat!). Being on my own in a classroom for the first time since graduation was fabulous and I was able to put into practice so many of the strategies I'd learned during college. It was an opportunity for me to grow as a teacher and a great learning experience. My first class will always hold a very special place in my heart.

I faced a number of classroom management challenges while teaching first grade (more than I ever expected with such a young group of students) and faced many surprises in my classroom however nothing prepared me for my next job as a Kindergarten teacher in an extremely urban charter school in New Jersey. Every day when I come home from work, I have at least one (usually more) exciting stories to share with my friends and fiance. Some of them make me laugh because they're so ridiculous and others make me cry. Regardless, I want to remember this year, document the challenges, capture the funny moments, and have a record of how far I've come with my class by the end of the year. I also love reading blogs by other teachers and finding fun ideas or routines to try with my class. I hope this blog will help me reach out to other teachers.

Lipstick, Lattes, and Lesson Plans is my attempt to document the adventures I'm having while teaching Kindergarten. Teaching doesn't have much to do with lipstick and lattes (except that I couldn't get through the day without my coffee!) but those are two things I love! I'm looking forward to sharing some of the lessons I'm teaching in my classroom but also the lessons the kids are teaching me!