Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Random Notes on a Roster

Been a long time since I have blogged....sigh...Facebook has taken over my internet life!

School starts on Tuesday. Right now I should be setting up my classroom. Instead, I am studying my class roster. I can learn a great many things from this simple list. I classify the notes into good news, possibly challenging news and "hmm". Here are some of those things:

Good news:
1) I have 20 students. This is great because i will start out with a full class. If I am lucky, I will keep the same 20 throughout the year.

2) 9 girls, 11 boys. Pretty even.

3) 18 out of my 20 are 7 or 8 yrs old. WOO HOO! 2 are still 6. What a difference it makes to have kids start second grade at 7 yrs. I am already exhaling. YES!

4) Only one of my students has a "behavior record."

5) 4 of my new students are siblings of former students. I think I have held them all as babies when they were born. How many teachers can say that about their students? How cool is that? I love working at a school for a long period of time. You get to know the familes, form relationships with them and watch the children grow and flourish. Very, very rewarding!

Possible Challenges:
1) 13 English Learners. 7 of those at the intermediate level, 4 at beginning or early intermediate and one ad early advanced. a little bit of a spread but for the most part close together in english proficiency. This year i have 7 English Only kids. This is the largest group I have ever had. They are the biggest challenge. Despite the fact that they are labeled English Only, you can never assume that they are truly proficient in English. These kids are usually the ones who are low readers or are really English Learners but their parents have not identified them as such, so legally, they don't get the specialized services.

2) One student has a chronic lice problem. Aside from the health issues, lice problems = attendance problems. I will have to handle that right away. Educate the parents.

3) One of my students has a behavior record. LOTS of hitting and kicking and toilet flooding. I will have to take care of that one RIGHT AWAY!

1) I have a Sabina in my class. She will probably be my first and last Sabina ever!

I think this will be a good year. Three cheers for the 2009/2010 school year!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Last Day Thoughts

Yesterday was the last day of school. Here are some thoughts on the day.

1) Sick Child: A, one of my angels, has been sick. She didn't make it to school on Thursday because she was running a fever. Yesterday, when I took attendance, she was not there. I was so sad to miss seeing her on the last day. Ten minutes later, she showed up at the door with her mom, crying. Her mom asked me for help with A. She said that A was still running a slight fever but that she was begging her to come to school since it was the last day. I told the mom that I would keep A for a bit and if we needed to, we would call her to pick A up. A gave me a big germy hug and took a seat. Another 30 minutes later, I saw tears welling up in A's eyes. I came over to check in on her and this is what she said :"Ms.V., I no feel good. My tummick (stomach) hurts." I told her that I was so happy to see her but that it was time for her to go home. I sent her off to the nurse's office with a hug and a few party goodies in a bag. She started to walk away but then turned around and ran back to give me a hug and a big kiss on the cheek. She said "I lub you Ms.V. I will miss you!" That girl just melts my heart!!!

2) JUNK food : Once again, the food vs. academic achievement test produced the same results. The higher the class is academically, the smaller the feast. When the class is overall lower in academic acheivement, we have a plethora of junk food. Yesterday's feast was disgustingly large. I think we had 10 bags of chips, 2 cakes, 3 bags of cookies, 3 bottles of juice, 4 boxes of juice boxes and more. I sent most of it home. Just looking at it made me gain a few pounds! I love those kids but I think we needed to work on nutrition a little more than we did.

3) Confession: One of my boys, A, has ADHD. There is talk of him possibly having Asperger's as well. He is a very bright young man but is challenged behaviorally. He takes no medicine and sees no specialist for his challenges. This makes life tough for him. I try my best to make accomodations for him because I know that the problems that arise as a result of his issues are totally out of his control. It makes my work exhausting but it is necessary for him to be successful. I am always redirecting him and trying to find something positive and motivating to say to him to keep him on track. Yesterday, on our way back from lunch, he was a mess in the lunch line. Jumping up and down, flying around in circles kicking the air... yikes! So, I did my usual routine of walking up to him and pretending to completely ignore the behavior and ask him if he could escort me to the classroom because I wasn't sure how to get there. (This is my little game that I play with him to redirect his behavior and to help him save face in front of his peers)
A snapped out of it and took my arm and began his tour guide routine to escort me to the room. He walked very nicely to class and was quite the gentleman. When we got to the class, he waited outside as everyone filed inside. Then, when we were alone outside, he said "Ms. V. I am sorry. I just can't calm myself down sometimes. I will try to do better." I gave him the biggest hug ever. I told him that it was no problem and that I would be happy to walk him to class next year if he needed help calming down. He melts my heart too!

4) English!!!: J, is a newcomer from Mexico. He has been here for 2 months. He has learned a substantial amount of English in the short time he has been here but would rather speak in Spanish. In academic situations, I pushed the English but for social situations, I let him use Spanish. These last two weeks though, I tried pushing the English with him for everything. Basically, he would ask me in Spanish and then I would translate in English and have him repeat it to me. The most common phrase was, of course, the bathroom request. Right before school let out yesterday, J came rushing up to me with an urgency in his eyes that told me what he needed to do before he even asked. He started to ask in Spanish and then with a sparkle in his eye and a heavy accent said "May I go to the bathroom please?" Love it! Never too late!!!

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

My First Invitation

Every year that I have been teaching, I have always talked up the importance of going to school, working hard and going to college. Additionally, I ask my students to invite me to their high school and college graduations. I have been teaching for 14 years now and not once have I had a student take me up on that until this year.

E was in the first class that I taught in public school. He was a stocky little guy, good kid, a bit shy and timid. He was a hard working student academically and had a good foundation at home to keep him straight.

I haven't seen E in years. 10, to be exact. During Open House, a few weeks ago, he popped in to say hi. He looked great! He is in great shape, is well spoken, seems very self assured and happy. He asked how I was doing and also asked about my daughter. E shared his after high school plans with me. He will be attending UC Merced and then hopes to transfer to Cal in two years. I was so excited for him and I gave him a great big hug.

E came by with his parents. They thanked me for helping him the year that he was with me. They also thanked me for helping them to work with him. They knew very little English and were not sure if they would be able to give him the support that he needed. E is living proof that they could and that they did.

Then came the best surprise of all. E and his parents asked me if I would come to his high school graduation. YAY! I got a bit weepy and of course said "YES!"

Friday night is the last day of school. On the last day of school I like to run home and begin my long vacation right away. This year, I will hold out for a few hours. I will stay in town and proudly watch one of my former students make his walk across the stage to receive his diploma. I am so proud of him.

I don't think anything can top this except, of course, if he invites me to his college graduation!

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Fan Mail

One of the things I love about my job are the sweet letters I get from my students. I call them my fan mail. Depending on the group, I can get several of them a week. This year, I have two girls in particular who like to write to me. One is very clever with the method of delivery. She strategically places them in spots where I am sure to find them.

I, of course, have to turn this into a teachable moment. She has mastered the 2nd grade friendly letter format so I am working on building vocabulary with her. As an English learner, she can use the help with descriptive language. I told her that we could turn her letter writing into a game of hide and seek. She is to hide the letter and then give me descriptive clues to find it. We are having lots of fun with it and she is learning at the same time.

Typed below is today’s fan mail installment. I typed it just as it was written, spelling mistakes and all. It is a keeper. It will be added to my bulging envelope of similarly sweet letters from students from years past.


Dear, Mrs. V,

How have you been? You are the best teacher in the world! You are nice with us. You are funny! You are good at arts and crafts. I love the movies you put. I relly like Arthur movies. Could we see them all this week or before we end school? I hope we could see ech other when I’m in 3rd grade. You are cute.


Saturday, March 21, 2009

Clothes That Fit

This week I cleaned out Sabi's drawers and closet. I took out all of the clothing that was too small and took inventory of what she would need for the summer. Due to the fact that she grows like a weed, I had a HUGE stack of clothing to get rid of. Two big bags full to be exact.

I usually give my clothing to Goodwill. With Sabi's clothes, I like to give them to friends of hers or to my students. This time I decided to give them to one of my students. Now Sabi is a 5th grader and I teach 2nd graders. Sabi is also a very tall girl. That being said, I have one student who is very stocky who I thought might be able to use the clothing. I was actually afraid the clothing might be too small but I thought I would give it a shot anyway.

The girl I wanted to give the clothing to, N, never wears clothing that fits. As I mentioned, she is stocky and short. There is nothing her size in the girls department. Everything she wears is at least 10 times too small. The waist is always very low, exposing her backside and her tummy hangs over everything. The poor thing looks like her clothes are painted on sometimes. This being said, I have never met a child so happy with themselves and with such a great self image.

The clothes I wanted to give away were girls plus clothes. (Did you know they make those?) They have been a blessing for Sabi. She is so tall and is cursed with my hips and smaller waist. The problem with the plus size pants for Sabi is that the waist/tummy section is too big. They fit in the hips though so I make them fit on her by tucking them in on the sides and make her use a belt. It isn't perfect, but it is comfy! I was hoping that these clothes would be a good match for N. I knew that she had never had anything fit her before and hopefully, these would not be too tight for her.

I gave the clothes to N on Tuesday. On Wednesday, she came to school in one of the shorts I gave her. She told me that the clothes were too big for her but that she could grow into them. She was pleased as punch to have them on and told everyone that I gave them to her. I watched her walk around the room to see how they fit. They were a perfect fit! I talked to her about the clothes and she told me again how they were too big. It was then that I realized that she doesn't know what a perfect fit is. She is so used to being hugged and squeezed into tight clothing that she doesn't know the difference! Poor baby! She is all of 7 years old and thinks that is how clothing is supposed to fit.

N wore more of the hand me downs for the remainder of the week. She was happy to be in them and I was happy to see her happy. Other teachers told me that something was different with N, that she looked different but they weren't sure what it was. I just smiled.

I am glad Sabi's clothes went to a good home.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

A Ray of Sunshine

This school year is quite stressful. I have so many things that I could blog (rant) about. I won't though. It is depressing enough to have to live though it. Why relive it in this blog. Instead I will write about my ray of sunshine in my class.

A is a doll. I was really worried about her at the beginning of the school year. We had an IEP on her within the first few weeks of school starting. Her scores were SO low but die to the fact that she had no discrepancy, she remained in my room. I was quite angry about that because I thought it wasa huge disservice to her. However, I kept my happy face on and worked hard with A. She worked even harder. She amazed us all by making great gains academically. Since August, she has jumped from being a non reader to reading at almost a 2nd grade level. Wow!

Math is much harder for her. She has never quite understood what we were doing. I work with here every day to try and help out but she is always many steps behind. Never once has she given up or complained though. I admire her so much for this. Right now, we are working on one the hardest concepts of the entire year, 3 digit addition with regrouping. She brought me her page to check it. I was amazed because it was complete. I was even more shocked to find that all of the answers were correct. I asked her who helped her with it. She told me that she did it on her own. I told her that I wanted to watch her do it myself. I didn't believe her. So then, A smiles up at me, knowing that I don't believe her and says, "ok Ms. V., watch me!" I did and was blown away. SHE GETS IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I hugged her, apologized and did the happy dance with her.

A has so many issues that the rest of the kids don't have to deal with. That being said, A is not going to let any of her issues stand in her way for success. She proves to herself, to me, her parents and the rest of our class that she is a hard worker and part of the group. I wish that the rest of the class had her drive.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Favorite Concert

Wow! It has been over a month since I last blogged. I have to admit, I have been playing on Facebook and have neglected this site. Sorry folks!

So...Question of the Week:
What is the best concert that you have been to?

Aside from the great jams I am privileged to hear in my living room when my aunt, uncle and Sabi play, the best concert I have experienced was a Oscar D'Leon and Celia Cruz. It was my first time seeing both performers. I went to the concert in SF and wasn't sure what to expect. There was seating around tables but mainly there was open floor for dancing. I was at the very front and had a great view of everything. Oscar D'Leon and his group played for over 2 hours I think. They were amazing. Celia Cruz's flight was delayed so she didn't arrive until sometime after 11. She was hot! Celia performed for over an hour. I was so amazed at her too. The music was great, the people in the audience were fabulous and spirits were high. It was an unforgettable night.

Sunday, February 15, 2009


What is your favorite vacation spot? Why do you like it?

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

On a Happier Note

Today I got a new student. She is wonderful. This young lady can read at grade level, is polite, kind, friendly and most importantly, a risk taker. What is even better is that I can tell that this is not "honeymoon" behavior. What a great addition to the classroom. Yay!

Monday, February 02, 2009

What is New?

School: I have gained and lost several students in the past month. It has been very troubling.

Child #1:
I have been fighting for testing since the first day of school. We finally had the SST, I advocated strongly for testing and the team decided to go ahead and test. The next day, he moved! The poor child is bouncing his way through the system and can't read, or write his name to save his life. I HOPE he gets someone who will keep fighting for him.

Child #2: Lots of ups and downs with this one. He started off with behavioral problems but we then worked them out with behavior mod. He started slipping Mid December. He has not been at school for the past 3 weeks. I have an emergency SST for him this week. I am not sure what will happen with him but I can only hope for the best.

Child #3: I had this one for one week and then he was gone. There was apparently a custody battle going on with the parents. I just received notice that he would be back tomorrow. Now, the parents are back together. In the meantime, this child has been bouncing around between schools for about 3 months. he isn't a child who can afford to miss even 1 day of school. Due to the fact that school is a challenge for him, he is easily distracted and enjoys playing the class clown. Fun!

Child #4: This one was gone for 4 weeks. She made her First Communion in Mexico and was there for Christmas. She had a wonderful time with her family but she definitely could not afford to miss out on classwork. She is now back but struggling. It is going to take a long time to get her back on track.

I have 15 more kids that all come with their own baggage. This job is really challenging sometimes.

Monday, January 12, 2009

What they don't have in Hawaii

I just finished watching my novela and it brought me back to something that happened to me when we were in Hawaii last month.

One night I was in the hotel room flipping through the channels and trying to find something to watch. I found nothing but kept flipping through the channels as if something I wanted to watch would miraculously appear on the screen. I did find several channels in Japanese. That was interesting for a few minutes but after the novelty wore off, I turned off the tv.

The next night I did the same thing. I flipped through the channels again. I knew that I was missing something and then it hit me...there were no stations in Spanish! I am so used to (dependent upon) my Spanish channels. I like to watch the evening news on Univision, I like to watch Despierta America in the morning. I like to watch old novelas on Telefutura. I enjoy picking up stray novelas on other channels like TV Azteca and Galavision. None of these channels were in the lineup in Hawaii. AAUGH!!!

As it turns out, I did survive without Spanish tv. Hawaii has many wonderful things to offer. It was just interesting to see how different it was.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Newest Addition to My Blogroll

Today, after receiving an e-mail from Jewish Voice for Peace, I added Rabbi Brant's blog to my blogroll. Check it out: Shalom Rav

Have a good week everyone!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

iPod vs. CD's

I am considering taking my iPod to school to use there permanently. I have had so many problems in the past few years with orgainzing all of my CD's or having them skip. I also have CD player problems. The machines that the school buys don't seem to last very long.

My thought is that I could bring in my iPOd and load all of the CD's that I need for work on there. I wouldn't have to worry about finding CD's, they would all be there.

This if course means that I would need to get a new iPod for myself. :-)

If you are a teacher reading this post, what do you do???

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

God's Gang

The school I work at is on the West side of town. It is in the poorest section of town. There is also a higher incidence of crime and gang activity in the neighborhood.

There is a faith based organization within a few blocks of the school. The organization has a lot of activities going on at their site for families and children. Most of the kids at the school know of this organization. I have some issues with the way the organization operates but it does do many good things for the community. Most recently, they organized coat drive and everyone who needed a coat in the neighborhood got one.

The FB organization has an after school club for kids. I don't know the exact extent of activities that they offer to the children but I do know that they offer homework assistance, there are computers available for use, day care and snacks. What bothers me about this service is their logo, "God's Gang." Many of our kids come to school in t-shirts and sweatshirts with this logo on it. I think it is just irresponsible for them to use this as their logo. I take issue with the phrase God's Gang. It is catchy but what is it trying to say? I especially take issue with the fact that they would use this as the logo in our Gang infested neighborhood. I am sure that the people running the program would tell me that the kids are already familiar with gangs and that they are trying to use familiar language to help them see a more positive light. My thought is that kids should be taught that gangs are bad period. We have sure a bad problem with gangs in our neighborhood that all 5th and 6th grade students receive gang awareness instruction built into the regular school day.

I would love to be able to express my opinion to the organization but I have a feeling that my thoughts would fall on deaf ears.

Sunday, January 04, 2009


I don't have any resolutions this year. I hate making them only to break them. I will just try to do a better job of being a better mother, daughter, sister, teacher, co-worker and human being.

Yeah I will try to eat better and exercise more too.

The end!

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Today I went to a memorial service of a longtime family friend of my grandparents who passed away last week. I was never close with Mr. H but from what I knew of him, he was a great man.

Mr. H and his wife lived in the same senior complex that my grandmother lives in. A few months ago I heard that he was not doing well and had some health problems. Recently I heard that he took a turn for the worse. He had hospice care coming to his home to help out and was basically waiting to die. Despite all of his pain and problems, we was still in good spirits and was fighting the best he could. Before he died my grandmother stopped by to visit. Mr. H told my grandmother something that really stuck with me. I can't remember exactly how he phrased it but it was something to the effect that he felt so blessed to know that he was dying because it gave him the opportunity to personally say his goodbyes to his friends and family. When my grandmother told me that it kind of stuck with me. I was impressed with how he managed to face his end so positively and try to live the time he had left to the fullest.

Today, at the service, one of his sons mentioned this same thought to us when he spoke. He said that one of Mr. H's many relatives kept a bedside watch by him every night these past few weeks while he slept. Most of the time spent at his bedside was spent reading while Mr. H slept but sometime through the night Mr. H would wake up because he remembered one more thing that he wanted to tell the person spending time with him before he died. Mr. H. had so much to share and he really took advantage of the time he had left to do it.

Rest in peace Mr. H. You will be missed by many people.

Friday, January 02, 2009

School Girls

Today I went to school to get some work done in my classroom. I was accompanied by Sabi and her friend M. The girls had a blast hanging out with each other. They spent the day entertaining themselves playing games online, teaching each other art that they learned in school, playing board games and doing test prep. (yes, test prep...they are crazy like that!) They also helped me here and there with little projects around the room. As I was working I got to hear little tidbits of their conversations. Most of it centered around school. They talked a lot about college and even went so far as to create their own colleges on the computer designing a flag and mascot! From college talk they moved to junior high and high school thoughts. They were talking about which jr. high and hs they will attend. Sabi told M that she needs to go to Modesto High beacause her grandma works there and also because there is an IB program there. M asked what IB was. I tried to explain it to her very simplistically and said "well, it is a program that is competitive and accelerated in academics.." M, who is a high achiever, cut me off and with huge eyes and a big smile said "that is the one for me. You had me at competitive!" I am still cracking up over that!

Thursday, January 01, 2009

New Year's Update

My poor blog. I have pretty much abandoned this site for the past several months. I have been busy with a hectic year. It doesn't help that I discovered Facebook. Much of my free computer time is spent there playing games!

What have I been up to?

1) School: Every so often I get a rough year. This is one of those years. I am being challenged in many ways. I could go on and on about how rough life has been for me but I won't. i think that I have gotten over the depression of the year and have grown thicker skin. For the second half of the year I am going to view the year as a challenge that I will overcome. It will make me a stronger and better teacher. The end!

2) Health: I have been off health wise since April of 08. I have seen a slew of specialists, had several tests taken and been on different meds here and there. I think most of my problems have leveled off. I found that I have mild carpal tunnel syndrome as well as Reynaud's Phenomenon. In a short time I took care of the carpal tunnel with a hand brace. The Reynaud's is mild but I am learning to handle that too. I am doing ok now.

3) Family: My dad came to visit from Panama this month. Two days after he arrived my entire family jumped on a plane and went on a trip to Hawaii. We haven't had a family trip in over 20 years. It was great. We went to Oahu and had a blast. One highlight of the trip was snorkeling in Hanauma Bay. Too cool! We had a whole week together. I don't know when we will do something like this again but I really hope we won't wait another 20 years to do it.

Happy New Year!