Sunday, April 16, 2017

Some Changes

Before Spring Break, the students in my class had kind of lost their minds.  Between some new students starting with us in mid January (which takes up a lot of my time) and new administration (who doesn't seem to have the same behavior management philosophy as the previous admin did), small behavior problems kept creeping up and the procedures I had in place were no longer working.  As it got closer to spring break (and report cards and parent teacher conferences) I didn't have the time or the energy to change the situation as I was merely crawling to the Spring Break finish line at that point.  I knew, however, that over break I needed to figure out some new procedures and gimmicks to solve some of these small behavior issues in order to make it until the end of the school year.
Both new students arrived in mid January, bringing a lot of baggage and drama with them.  It's impossible to wrap one's mind around how a seven year old can bring baggage and drama to a second grade classroom, but it happened, times two, and my class of sweet kiddos had turned into bratty teenagers before my eyes.  Fortunately for us, one of the student's family issues caused them to move again (sadly, for the third time this school year), which has helped some, but one thing we've worked on since returning to school last week is some classroom community building.  The tattling and blaming and not taking responsibility for one's actions had gotten out of control and coming together as a class to work on this was a must.  We spent the week learning about being a "Bucket Filler" and not a "Bucket Dipper", which are cute ways of reminding everyone to be kind.  We've also started a community circle each afternoon which is a time when we get a chance to share positive thoughts about each other.  It's amazing the change that has made in the room, even after just one week!
The other behavior issue I've been struggling with it the shouting out and talking during instruction.  In my relatively short (17 years) teaching career, this is a behavior that has been getting worse and worse each new school year.  Kids, by nature, are self-centered and impatient.  It's our job to teach them to wait their turn and learn how to be respectful when they aren't the center of attention.  In my observations, many kids aren't required to do that anymore at home.  Their parents cater to their child's whim, rather than the other way around.  And rather than a child be made to sit quietly and be patient, so often they are handed an electronic device to keep them busy, and quiet.  In my opinion, this has done a disservice to kids.  They no longer know how to just "be" and also do not know how to wait their turn.  In addition, with the change in curriculum to the Common Core and the need for student discourse, kids are talking all the time.  My group this year is mostly quite bright and very excited about learning.  Unfortunately, because of that, they think that they can talk out or with others anytime they feel like it.  I've struggled this year with not wanting to stifle this excitement for learning and not having multiple students shouting out at me at any given time.  After some research on some of the teacher blogs and using children's literature, I came up with a plan that I enacted last Monday morning.
The kids listened to the story My Mouth is a Volcano, which is about a boy who can not keep his thoughts to himself and interrupts everyone in his life.  Then one day some other students interrupt him when he's talking to the class, and he doesn't like it one bit.  Then we did some role playing where during discussions I interrupted whoever was speaking.  No one liked that very much, which was powerful.  The kids also did some writing on how they were going to keep their volcano mouth under control.  Lastly, I introduced "Blurt Beans".
Each student starts the day with 3 beans.  Anytime they blurt out/interrupt while someone else is talking or turn and talk to a neighbor during instruction, they have to return a bean to the blurt bean container.  At the end of the day, anyone who still has beans left (one, two, or all three) get to put them in the reward jar.  When the beans reach a certain level, they earn that reward.  It's been in place for about a week now, and so far the results have been favorable.  There are still the repeat offenders who just "can't help it", but after losing one bean (and the rest of the class being disappointed) they are able to keep things under control.  Using peer pressure for good is always quite helpful!  
I am a huge proponent of classroom management and feel that if kids aren't behaving, learning is going to be a challenge for them, as well as their classmates.  I spend a large portion of the new school year on classroom management, trying to invest in it heavily early on in order to reap the benefits of it for the rest of the year.  That usually is the case.  Sometimes though, there is a need to change things up,  As hard as it can be, I'm more than willing to give up some academic instruction time to nip poor behavior in the bud.  Everyone is always happier in the long run, especially the teacher!

Thursday, April 6, 2017

"Super" Bloom

Even though Southern California is essentially a desert, wildflowers typically bloom beautifully in the spring.  For the last 3 or 4 years however, springtime blooms have mostly eluded us.  The yearly poppy (and other flower) viewing visits have been planned but not carried out because the spring bloom has been fleeting, at best.  Due to all the rain we (finally) had this winter, this year's spring bloom has been newsworthy.
My mom came into town for a few days at the start of my spring break, and we took a drive to see what was blooming.  We first headed to Lebec/Fort Tejon.  The drive itself up the 5 freeway through the Grapevine and the Tejon Pass was worth the trip alone.  It's been so long since we've seen anything green growing on our mountains, so the scenery was spectacular.  The shades of green might even give Ireland a run for its money.  Unfortunately, the elevation in Lebec is about 3,500 feet and as we got closer to the areas with blooms reported we were socked in with fog and mist.  The flowers were all closed for business.  After waiting about an hour to see if it would burn off, it didn't we headed back down the mountain and took a little detour into Gorman which was just beginning to flower.
 It was quite pretty, but I'm sure by now the entire hillsides have exploded.  We were just a tad early.
After that. we continued to head south until we hit the 138/Lancaster Freeway and cut across to the Antelope Valley which is where the Poppy Reserve is, our next stop.  Both my mom and I like to take pictures so the quick drive was slower because we kept pulling off to the side of the road for photo ops.
The Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve is a state protected reserve which highlights our state flower.  Although we were again a tad early to see them in all their glory, what we did see was beautiful.
 On a side note, with the publicizing that has been done on the news and social media about the "Super Bloom", people are coming in droves to see them.  That is a good thing, but it has led to some poor behavior.  This was a section adjacent to the reserve.  I'm not sure if it's part of their property or not, but it's made very clear all over the grounds to stay on the trail, the poppies are protected, no dogs, and rattlesnakes live in the poppies.  In this section however, people were sitting in them, walking on them, one car even drove through the area.  There were two dogs playing in them.  Being such a rule follower, I had to walk away because the whole scene irritated the heck out of me.
There have been news reports of this poor behavior - destroyed flowers, rattlesnake bites, and altercations with rangers.  Gah!!!!  I had planned on going back up the Tejon Pass this past week, but then heard that due to this, the Fort has closed off viewing times and visitors can only come in by appointment only.