Thursday, January 19, 2012

Occupational hazard: Pencil Stabbings

Who would have thought these were so dangerous?

Sometimes Kindergarten teachers get black eyes. Or one black eye. One very painful black eye. Or at least that was the case for me yesterday after I was stabbed in the eye with a pencil. Before you get too worried, I'd like to take a moment to clarify. This was not an actual stabbing per se - more of an extremely hard accidental poke.

Rewinding to yesterday morning about ten o'clock. Our literacy block curriculum is structured so that there is a mini lesson then the students either complete partner centers related to literacy skills or they work in a guided practice group, then after 20 minutes the groups switch. Both my co-teacher and I lead a guided practice group simultaneously. Yesterday, my group was practicing vocabulary words by reading a story, discussing their meaning and how they were used in a story, and then copying this week's words onto small index cards. The cards are bound by a ring and allow the students to have a "pocket resource" of words they need to know in Kindergarten.

While we were completing the activity, I was also taking time to work individually with each child. I am attentively listening to the child sitting next to me on my right as she shows me that she knows all of the words on her ring. Then, things got interesting.

I have a student who has some unusual tendencies. For example, he is extremely large for his age and very clumsy. His social development is not quite where we'd like to see it - he is extremely clingy with teachers but aggressive with other students, and cries anytime he is touched by anything (even if someone accidentally bumps him with their jacket sleeve as they're putting their coat on.) He also has a tendency to flap his arms and has an extremely difficult time controlling his body.

While I am working with the student on my right, this other student is sitting on my left writing down his Word Wall Words. Then, he flapped his arms. For whatever reason, his pencil was upside down so the point was sticking up. Well...he flapped his arms so that the hand with the upside down pencil struck me right below my eye.

Graphically put, he hit me so hard that the skin at the corner of my eye was bleeding and the pencil actually pushed inward, damaging the lower and rear of my eye. This caused immediate significant pain.

Had I been anywhere else I probably would have cried like a baby. But because I am in charge of eighteen five year olds, I was able to give my group instructions on how to finish the activity and get a worksheet for them to start. Thank goodness for my co-teacher because I was able to leave the room in under five minutes of the incident and run to the school nurse's room. She was able to give me gauze to stop the bleeding and an ice pack and I was able to take some time to rest for a few minutes.

My class was ready for lunch when I returned and after recess, they go to special. While they were gone, I put my head down on a desk and closed my eyes for a few minutes. My principal checked on me to make sure I was ok and we laughed about the incident. Not all Kindergarteners are ready for pencils!

I taught math when my students returned from their special. I'd had a headache but I noticed when trying to read a math riddle from our math big book that I was having trouble focusing on the words and reading them. They were super blurry and this is a big book - you know the special teacher books that are like a foot a half by two feet so the words are pretty large.

Corey was off work yesterday because he was sick so I texted him and asked if he could take the train to the city where I work so he could drive the car back. Luckily he was running a little early because while I was serving snack, I started to feel horrible. I had severe pressure on my eye and I was getting dizzy because everything I saw out of the right eye was normal and everything I saw out of the left was completely blurry. We have a special social skill building program on Wednesdays so another teacher comes into my class for the last hour of the day. It was only about thirty minutes until that time, so my co-teacher offered to lead the social studies activity I had planned and get the students packed up if I would run back up to check in with the nurse (we were out of band-aids in our classroom anyway and Kindergarteners love band-aids and need them for everything).

I hadn't looked in the mirror for a couple hours so I didn't know what my eye looked like. It was swollen and had already turned black underneath. My principal stopped in and told me I needed to leave and go see a doctor right then. Luckily, at this point Corey was only minutes away.

We called a couple optometrists who couldn't see me so late in the day even for an emergency but were able to get in right away at an urgent care center my principal recommended. I failed the vision test on my left eye (both are normally 20/20).  I have a scratch on my actual eyeball in addition to the cut on the skin below it. My vision should improve as the scratch heals and as the swelling decreases. A piece of carbon was removed from the skin below my eye and I'm taking antibiotic eyedrops.

I guess I'm lucky the point struck below my eye and didn't scratch my cornea or anything serious. A pencil in the eye is something that you imagine would be very painful but in reality, seems highly unlikely that you'll ever have to experience. I was in complete shock for probably ten seconds after it happened. Its still pretty painful and pretty swollen and very black but my vision is starting to improve. Having student taught in third grade, interned in fifth, and then taught first grade my students have usually been pretty proficient in using pencils and other writing utensils. They've even all been capable of using scissors in a safe manner. I definitely wasn't expecting to be struck by a pencil this year. But honestly it makes sense. I have quite a few students who still don't hold them the right way and a few others who have serious problems controlling their bodies. I guess I know some basic skills our class needs to work on - with an emphasis on safety!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Let's Play Catch Up

I have a couple half-finished posts in my queue dating all the way back to what my class did to celebrate Thanksgiving, which was super cute by the way. I'll have to make it my goal to finish and post these soon. On that note, does anyone know an online program that would make it easy for me to blur my students' faces in photos to post on the blog? I have some super cute photos from our Holiday unit but I also think its important to maintain my students' privacy.
Here's a photo of our class tree, books for our book exchange, and stockings to hold you over!

I have the cutest video of them from our Holiday celebration. Toys for Tots and a faculty fundraiser combined provided enough toys so that every single student in our school had a present on the last day before the holiday break. "Santa" came to our school, carrying his sack, and ringing a bell, and strolled down the halls to wish all of our students a Happy Holiday. Then when he left, he left 700 presents in the gym to be distributed to our students.
Blurry because Santa was on the move to get back to the North Pole and prepare for Christmas Eve ;)

Or that's how it seemed for my Kindergartners. They felt so honored that Santa came to our school and brought us presents a day early. In reality, a lot of hard work went in to making that happen (I was on the wrapping committee so I can attest to this) but it was well worth it. I videoed my kids with my iPhone and their reactions were priceless. Many of my students come from lower income houses and even those that don't, almost all of them are growing up in one of the most densely populated gang communities in America. They deserve something special. We had a book exchange where students brought in wrapped books to swap and a generous parent volunteer donated extras to make sure everyone got one. There were squeals of joy when they opened their books and Toys for Tots packages (a princess floor puzzle for the girls and Hess trucks for the boys) and one little boy looked right into the camera and said "This is everything I've dreamed of." It was SO cute.

On another note, we've had some changes in administration lately. Our curriculum director resigned unexpectedly due to family illness and it was effective immediately. With that came a lot of changes. Kindergarten has been restructured and the classes have even changed slightly. This is rare for the middle of the year, but was much needed. And I have fewer migraines and spend significantly less money without the necessary afternoon coffee run. We've been allowed to incorporate some play into our curriculum like most other Kindergarten classes. We added dramatic play centers, blocks, and a movement and life skill building block to the day. On Fridays we now do free choice centers, which include paint, sand table, puppet show, etc. This is much appreciated because our kids are only 5 and 6 years old and are in school without a break from 7:30 am until 4:15 and need more play than a 20 minute recess! We also added fifteen minutes of silent reading and quiet time after recess, which we substitute for silly Dr. Jean songs on Fridays.

I still have lots of fun and crazy stories to tell from my classroom. But things have definitely calmed down a bit. I haven't been stabbed with a pencil or bitten in over a month!