Monday, November 27, 2006

First Day Back and a Dumb T-shirt

My first day back was pretty good. Our track on days are always minimum days. Even though I planned for a shorter day, everything just flew by today. My student teacher had to stop me from teaching today because had she not stopped me I would have taught all the way through lunch! The kids were amazing today too. They were amazingly quiet and well behaved today. Even more impressive was their recall of two digit addition with regrouping. We only did about 4 days of this concept before we tracked off. Today, all but one student remembered it and remembered it well - wow!!! The other student sat back with me and figured it out before the day was through. I am looking forward to going back tomorrow and teaching a full day - yay!

Even though we are a uniform school, we still have a good handful of kids who don't wear uniforms. Instead of the beautiful uniform they opt for either Raider or BRATZ gear or stupid slogan t-shirts. Today, I saw a t-shirt that said "Be glad I'm not your kid!" Why in the HECK would someone by this for their kids much less allow them to wear it? Come on!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Back to Work

Tomorrow I go back on track. The good thing is that December usually flies by very quickly and we get two more weeks off. The bad thing is that in December, it is hard to get kids to focus on schoolwork, especially during the last week of school. Usually, I try to combine all of the December holidays with second grade standards to try and jazz up interest in school. This year though I will not be doing that because I have a J.W. student who can not do the work. That is ok though... I will just have to get creative and figure out another way to teach and entertain the kiddos through this month.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

My Mom and Grandmother would be so proud!

Your Language Arts Grade: 100%

Way to go! You know not to trust the MS Grammar Check and you know "no" from "know." Now, go forth and spread the good word (or at least, the proper use of apostrophes).

Are You Gooder at Grammar?
Make a Quiz

Fall Play In

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Happy Thanksgiving!

Originally uploaded by msabcmom.
This Thanksgiving seems as if it is a bit more relaxed than usual. My mom and I did some prep work before hand and there is really not much left to do today. Yeah! We are heading out for a long walk now to help take care of the extra goodies we will eat today because as the saying goes "No gobble til' you wobble!" (we will probably do this after the meal too!)

May you all have a wonderful day filled with food, family and love! Enjoy the day.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Slumber Party

Growing up, my dad was very protective of me. There were a lot of things I couldn't do that all of my other friends could do. One of those things was go to slumber parties. I was always allowed to have slumber parties but it was rare for me to get to go to a slumber party unless it was to the house of friends (and their parents) that my parents knew well and trusted. I remember telling myself that when I was older and had children that I would let them spend the night at their friends' houses.

I was wrong. I TOTALLY understand why I was so carefully protected. I had the slumber party discussion with a friend of mine a few months ago and she too does not let her girls go to other homes for sleepovers. She told me many things during our discussion but the one thing that stuck with me is this question "Kelly, are you willing to sit down with these parents and have a serious talk about your child's safety? Are you willing to ask them if they have weapons or handguns in the home? If they say no, that they don't have weapons or handguns, will you believe it? " I didn't know what to say...

For now, I have made the decision to not allow Sabi to sleep over anyhwhere except with famiily. She isn't all that happy about it but I think she understands, to a degree, why I am making this decision.
Last night I came home to find a message from the mom of one of Sabina's friends on our machine. The mom called to tell me who she was and beg me to let Sabina attend her daughter's slumber party. Among the many things that this mom mentioned on the message were:
1) Sabina is only one of 4 girls that is invited.
2) She would let me come over to meet her and we could have coffee.
3) It is very important to her daughter that Sabina come.

My thoughts last night on this were:
1) Am I supposed to feel the pressure to let Sabina go because she is in this elite group of 4 kids?
2) What kind of parent does this lady think I am if she thinks that a quick visit to her house for coffee, (a complete stranger to me!) would make me change my mind and let Sabina stay the night. How can she possibly think that I can feel comfortable enough with only meeting her for a short while to entrust her with my most precious of all things in the world?
3) Just because it is important to her daughter, I am supposed sacrifice what I think is best?
4) I had not even seen an invitation. How was I supposed to even think about what to do without haveing any details?

Sabina came to me very excited this afternoon when I picked her up. She pulled out her invitation from her friend that she just received today. As she was giving it to me she told me how embarrassing it was to receive it because it was given to her in front of another friend of hers who wasn't invited. (darn kid parties!) Before I looked at it I reminded her that she was not allowed to sleep over but that I might let her go to the party. We then looked at it and I told her to look at the date. She looked at it and realized pretty quickly that it was a bad date. It is on a Friday night during the time that we go to services at the synagogue. Even worse though was that it is on the first night of Hanukkah. She didn't even ask if she couild attend the party because she knew the answer.

Luckily, this situation kind of worked itself out on its own. I called her friend's mom and said that we would not be able to make it due to the fact that it is on the first night. No big problem there. Sabina was ok with my decision because she wants to celebrate Hanukkah with us. (thank goodness!)

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Charlotte's Web Event!

Who: Charlotte's Web fans and other children's book lovers!

What: Read - In

When: Wednesday, December 13th; 12:00 pm EST

Where: Anywhere!

Why: To share this wonderful book and to set a new world record.

More information on this event here

What she wants for Hanukkah

Sabi is dying for an American Girl doll for Hanukkah. She wants a Just Like You Doll. The doll on this post is the doll that looks the most like her. It really isn't just like her though. There are many different doll choices but they really aren't all that different. It is essentially the same doll in different skin tones. The hair on all of the dolls is straight except for the doll pictured here.
How much does this "not really Just Like You doll" cost? $87!!! That is WAY more than I planned on spending. After you purchase the doll, you still have to buy all kinds of clothes and accessories. What a money pit! Poor Sabi keeps dropping hints to me about how much she would like this doll. I keep dropping hints about how much this doll doesn't look like her. (I also mention that she is much prettier than the doll!)
Will I get this doll for her. No. I just can't see spending that much money on the doll. What I will probably get her though are some of the Historical fiction related pieces for Josefina, one of my favorite American Girls.
Presents can be fun as well as interesting and educational, right???

Monday, November 20, 2006

I better brush up on my California Trivia!

Thanks Jenn!

You're totally like 63% California!
Hmmm... you have some definite memories of this place... maybe you were born here but moved away as a child. Or you live in Fontana. Whatever. Come back someday!

How California are You?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

You Go Boy!

The graduate
Originally uploaded by msabcmom.
First, he graduated. On Friday, he passed the Bar Exam.

Congratulations Lil' Lobo!

Friday, November 17, 2006

What's For Dinner?

A splash of color

What is your family cooking for Thanksgiving dinner? Do you eat a traditional Thanksgiving Day meal? Do you eat something else? Please comment on your Turkey Day menu and whether or not you will be preparing your meal or dining at someone else's house this year.

Dressing or Stuffing - What do you call it?

Our family gathers here for Thanksgiving. We eat Turkey that has either been BBQ'd or oven baked. (sometimes both!) We also dine on my mom's cornbread stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, cranberry sauce, Margie's excellent cranberry relish, salad and some type of cooked green veggie, usually peas. The sweets include pumpkin pie for most of the famiily and mince meat or a raisin and nut pie for Margie and myself! (ok...we share this pie with eveyone, we just don't touch the pumpkin pie!) We also have plenty of cranberry bread to go around.

Walnut Pie

Don't forget to comment on your Thanksgiving Day meals. Enquiring minds want to know...

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

A Celebrity in the Family

This is my cousin! You can click here for English. Ok...he is actually a third cousin or something like that. We are still related though! Thanks S.B for the tip!

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Pure Madness!!!!!!!!

Today we ran over to Best Buy to look at dishwashers. (ours conked out on us and we need a new one...but that is another story!) As we were walking into the store we noticed about 20 people or so hanging out on the side of the front entrance to the store. The people had fold up chairs, sleeping bags and backpacks. My first thought was that the entrance to Best Buy is a really weird place to wait for the bus to pick you up to go on a camping trip. My next thought was that this group of 18-20-something year olds looked too old to be going on a group camping trip.

Then it clicked! These people were camping out in front of the store waiting for the release of something. As we walked through the doors, I asked the clerk at the entrance what the item is that is coming out tomorrow that these fools were waiting for. She rolled her eyes and said that it is the new Playstation 3 and that it is not coming out tomorrow, it is coming out on Friday!!!!!!! She also added that they have been there for 2 days already.

Playstation 3

Here is Amazon's info on the product:
It's the news you've all been waiting for!
Sony's long-awaited new console, the PlayStation 3, is now confirmed to ship November 17 of this year in two flavors. The core model will retail for $499 and contain a 20GB upgradeable hard drive, Blu-ray drive, HDMI port for high definition visuals, and Bluetooth wireless controllers. The premium model will retail for $599 and in addition to the features of the core model contains flash card readers, WiFi wireless networking, and silver exterior trim.
Aside from Hearts, Free Cell and Pinball, which came with our computers, we don't play video games. Even if I did though, I would never sit outside for 5 days to be rewarded the luxury of paying a minimum of $500 to waste my day away. Can you imagine the amount of books I could buy for $500?

Heck! I could buy that dishwasher that we need for that much money!

Friday, November 10, 2006

FLICKR Creepiness

I post most of the pictures I take on FLICKR. I really like the fact that I can access my pictures anywhere that I can get internet access. I usually make all of my pictures available to anyone who happens by the site. Some of the pictures of my students or family I have given limited access to because I want to keep those pictures confidential.

Two days ago, I had a FLICKR notice telling me that one of my pictures was tagged as a favorite of someone else. The picture was of a kindergarten Sabi on her first day of school in her uniform. I went to view that person and there was no profile or picture album available. That kind of creeped me out. I then went on to view this person's "Favorites Pictures file" and found another little girl in a uniform and the rest of the pictures, about 15 or so were of kids around the world going to the bathroom. Some of the kids were completely naked and two were of a teenage girl on the toilet. I was officially creeped out at this point. I immediately went to the picture of Sabi and flagged it so that only I had access to it. This took it off of the creepy stranger's "Favorites."

Since this incident, I am felling a little weirded out about posting pictures. I am not sure what to do. I like posting the pictures online and don't want to have to block all of my pictures. I am going to have to explore FLICKR a bit more and see what other options I have.

Any ideas?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

It doesn't feel like a vacation

I know that I have been talking about being on vacation in several of my recent posts but it really doesn't seem like I am on vacation because I have been working at another site. Today, I didn't go to work because I had a Coaches Meeting at the County Office of Ed. The meeting was over earlier than I expected so I decided to go shopping at Target before I picked Sabi up from school. I was shopping during what would be considered school hours if I were at work. The entire 20-30 minutes that I was shopping I was constantly looking over my shoulder. I kept feeling guilty for shopping like it was wrong to be there. I forgot that I was on vacation!

The sad part about this all is that vacation is over for me as soon as Thanksgiving weekend is over. It is quickly slipping away from me....

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Testing Woes

As I mentioned before, I am working at another school this week administering primary language testing in Spanish. When a child is enrolled in a school here in California, their parents have to fill out a Home Language Survey. If the parent notes that the child either speaks Spanish or was spoken to in Spanish, the child needs to be tested in Spanish to assess primary language proficiency. The school that I am working at has a handful of newcomers from El Salvador and Mexico this year. They also have quite a few kids who have been there for several years but were never tested in Spanish. We are playing catch up with these kids.

For the most part, this job is great. I can set my hours, the work is easy and the kids are super. There are two things about this job though that make me sad.

1) Loss of Spanish:
A great number of students that I have tested have lost their Spanish. They have lost a lot of common words from their vocabulary. One girl that we tested today said that she comes from a home where both parents are Spanish speakers. She said that her mom knows just a little bit of English. This girl could barely communicate in Spanish. She has learned to adapt to the "American" way of life and use only English. (not very good English either) She has been on my mind since we tested her earlier today. How does she communicate at home with her parents? What is it like for her every day at school? Another boy that I tested lost almost all of his Spanish. He began speaking in Spanish and only started speaking English in Kindergarten. (he is a 4th grader now) He had to retell a story to me in one portion of the test. In addition to his sentences being extremely fragmented he made up words. He made up lloranding for crying and dreamianding for dreaming and dormer for dormir. (he had to act this one out for me because he could see that I had no clue as to what he was saying!)

2) The second thing that makes me sad, and bothers me the most, is the fact that the Spanish speakers at this school have to, to some degree, lose their identity. There are no teachers at this school who are Spanish speakers. I walked into many different rooms asking for kids pronouncing their names the way they should be pronounced. In one room, I asked for Sarai. (Sa-rah-ee) The teacher looked at me like I was crazy and then said..." Oh, you mean Suh-Rye" Then all of the kids started to giggle and they continued with the Suh-Rye business. I then went to pick up a little boy named Lervi. (Ler-vee) A different teacher said "who? Lur-vy?" This happened on several more occasions.

I know that it is hard for non Spanish speakers to correctly pronounce some sounds in Spanish but that is no excuse for trying to make an effort to correctly pronounce a student's name. I had to wonder if the teachers I mentioned even thought to ask what the correct pronunciation is. It also took me by surpriuse that when I came in and correctly said the name, the teachers tried to correct me!

When I was with the students one on one, I asked them how they say their names. They told me the same thing that I said. I asked them how they are called at home. They again said the same thing that I said. When I asked them how they feel about how they are addressed at school, they got kind of quiet. I dropped the discussion at this point. They obviously don't want to make waves and are just trying to blend in.

On a more positive note...

I have only been testing now for 4 days and today as I walked around campus, I had many of my new "friends" run up to me and give me hugs or yell out "Hi Spanish Teacher!" That was WAY cool!

I also ran into a former student of mine that I ADORED. She moved away suddenly towards the end of school two years ago. It was so wonderful to see her and talk with her teacher. As I left the school today I heard a girl yell "Bye Ms. V.!" I turned around and there was my precious friend waving frantically from the bus at me. That definitely made my day!

Voting Day

This morning I did something I have never done before. I went to vote early. I voted on my way to work. I will NEVER do this again.

There are two different precincts that vote at my polling place. I was bounced back and forth between the two precinct tables because they could not figure out which one I should have been voting at. When they finally figured that all out, it took about 5-10 minutes for me to check in and get my ballot. Did I mention that no one else was ahead of me? The FOUR ladies that were helping me were all confused. There were no booths available for me to vote privately in so I just sat on a chair with a clipboard next to the confused 4 and tried to vote in peace.

Voting today was WAY to stressful. I will never vote in the morning again. I will stick to the afternoon when the polling volunteers have figured out their system and I can come and do my civic duty in peace!

Monday, November 06, 2006

Celebrity Phone Calls

We are so popular!

Every day, for the last two weeks or so, we have received all kinds of phone calls from local big wigs as well as famous celebrities informing us of their endorsements for tomorrow's election. The phone has literally been ringing off the hook. In the time that it is taking me to write this post, we have received two calls! Thank goodness that I have a cordless phone because I might get a LITTLE bit upset if I had to run to where the phone is every few minutes!!!

I wonder if our new celebrity friends will remember us and call to chat after the election.....

Sunday, November 05, 2006

What A Feeling!

Usually, I hate waking up on Sundays. Sunday mornings, to me, are usually the beginning of the end of my weekend. I have to rush out to teach Sunday School and then come home and worry about lesson planning and whatever other prep I need to do for the coming week at school.
This morning when I woke up I was immediately depressed about the fact that it was Sunday and I was back to my regular routine. About 5 minutes into my morning routine, I remembered that I am OFF TRACK! Woo-Hoo!!! The rest of the day has just gotten better and better since then. I have truly enjoyed today. Hooray for Sundays and Hooray for vacation!

Friday, November 03, 2006

A different kind of work

I am working at another school site for the first 6 days of my vacation. I am administering the Pre-LAS and LAS test to new students in Spanish to test their proficiency in their primary language. I am loving this work. It is very nice to have a relaxed and flexible schedule.

This morning I woke up and went through my morning routine but without the rush. (HOW NICE!) I enjoyed my coffee, reading the newspaper and I even got to watch almost all of Angela this morning before I left!

So far I have only worked with kindergarteners and first graders. They are adorable. They are so surprised to hear me speak to them in Spanish. It is hilarious. At first they have all been very shy with me. I start out by speaking to them in English. As soon as we exit their classrooms, I ask them "¿Cuantos años tienes?" (how old are you) and they have all given me the most surprised expressions. I think that at this school there is only one person who speaks Spanish, an aide. Many of them at this point start to talk like crazy in Spanish to me. They want to tell me their whole life stories. They are so cute! A few of them are worried because they really do not speak any Spanish at all. One student, a sweet little boy, was really shy on our walk to the testing room. He was my 15th kid of the day so I just went on about my routine and didn't really pay attention to his body language. When I looked at him and asked him the first test question, I realized that he was fighting back tears. Poor baby! He was afraid of me, a stranger! I then told him that I was a teacher and assured him that if he didn't want to stay he could leave. The tears fell but he wanted to stay. Within 5 minutes though he was laughing. The first test activity is to play Simon Says and he thought that was too funny!

The best part of the testing day was meeting Carlos. Carlos is a first grader from El Salvador. He was so bright eyed, happy and polite. He grabbed my hand when I picked him up and wanted to talk. Out of all the kids I tested to day, his Spanish was absolutely the best. It was amazing. What a smart boy! He told me that he has only been in the US for 2 months. His English was pretty good too for only having been here for 2 months. When I returned him to his classroom, I had to make sure that the teacher knew what a gem she had in Carlos. She just smiled and said that he is one of her best.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Panama's Independence Day: November 3, 2006


Viva Panamá


Panama Viejo

The other view


Do you you test for fluency? I don't. I have never liked fluency testing. I feel that as long as the child can read and understand what they read, it is fine. I understand the theories behind fluency but I personally opt to not push it in my classroom.

I have been forced to revisit the subject of fluency. Last year, my daughter started fluency testing in school. She was given kudos on her report card last year for being able to read 196 words per minute. 196 - that is just too many words! It just doesn't sound normal to me. It actually worries me. This year, fluency is also a big deal. Sabi just finished practicing her fluency passage with me. She had to try and beat her time of 149 wpm in 5 tries. Listening to her read was horrible. It was a race to her. The words were all strung together and it did not sound like natural speech. Surprisingly, she retained comprehension on the passage. Thankfully she does not transfer this method of reading in any other area except for when she is practicing her fluency passages.

Tell me teachers: What do you think about this topic???

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Track Off Day

It was definitely not a smart idea to track off of school on the day after Halloween. All of the students were either overly tired or extra hyped up today. It didn't help matters much that we had our Fall Carnival today after school. I was SO glad when I jumped in my car this afternoon. I need a BREAK!

I am looking forward to being off track. I will spend the next 8 days working at another school in Turlock doing primary language testing in Spanish. Fun! I will also try and spend time in Sabi's class volunteering. Other than that, my biggest plan is to rest. I can't wait!!!