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First Day of School Nerves

This happens every year. In fact I think I write about it every year, and I may even choose the same words. I’m not looking back, because I really don’t care if I repeat myself. It bears repeating. School is starting tomorrow and I’m a bundle of nerves.

I know it’s going to go well.keep-calm-and-act-like-you-know-what-youre-doing.jpg

I know the children are going to be terrific.

I know I’m planned and have my materials ready.

But what if…

What if everything that’s planned falls flat? What if the children won’t listen to me? What if they’re mean to each other? What if I forget how to teach? What if there’s a big storm tomorrow morning and it’s chaos? What if I mess up the schedule? What if I can’t remember any of their names? What if, what if, what if…

O.K. Big breath. Now that I’ve spewed out all of those highly unlikely scenarios (well, except for maybe mixing up the schedule a little and forgetting a name here or there) I actually feel better.

I won’t forget how to teach.

The children will be excited to be back in school and in the fourth grade for the first time.

They will be pleasant and work hard.

We’ll have a fun and productive day getting to know each other and learning how to be fourth graders.

It’s going to be a great year, I just know it. Still, I won’t sleep tonight, but that’s to be expected too.


A Visit to the Fisherman’s Dwarfs

Postcard1aThe other day the fourth graders took a test to show what they knew about various types of writing prompts and how to approach them. There was a multiple choice section, where they had to circle the type of prompt given: a) imaginative narrative; b) non-fiction narrative; c) expository; or d) persuasive. Then they had to underline the “clue” words in the prompt, such as “convince.”

We have been working on reading and evaluating various writing prompts, and most of the students did well on this task. Then they were to choose one of the prompts and create two organizers to assist them with writing.

Again, we’ve been working on this, and we’ve had lots of discussion about what should be included and why. The students have practiced each of the types of writing mentioned above several times this past school year. They ought to know what to do. In most cases, they do.

Correcting these tests was fairly gratifying, because the vast majority of the students did very well. The students with identified learning disabilities and the two who I am working hard to get services, did not do well at all. They just don’t have it yet. I wasn’t surprised. Those kids need many more exposures to concepts than most of their peers. They learn new concepts, just not as quickly as other kids. If we give up trying to teach them, they won’t get it because they won’t have had enough exposures to the concept.

As I said, though, most of the kids did well. They especially liked that they got to select their own prompt to develop. This one broke up the monotony of grading papers and made me smile.10987358_10205254580878121_8815476533235966703_n

What is she telling me? Lots. For starters, she has a wonderful family that not only took her on vacation but filled the time with lots of interesting things to do. It also tells me that those experiences made a difference. She remembers what she saw and did in San Francisco. This work also shows me that she needs some additional instruction on capitalization. She’s not sure when to use it appropriately. She does, however, know how to brainstorm and then select the topics she wishes to develop further.

The last thing it shows me, however, is the best one of all. She showed me that she has a misconception about Fisherman’s Wharf. She made my afternoon with her inclusion of “fisherman’s dwarfs.” Oh sweet girl, how will I break it to you? Or maybe I’ll let your parents do that. After all, they’re the ones that took you there.



I’m Practically Famous (Again) – Thoughts on Student Engagement

We-have-all-been-thereA while back the Education Week blog put out a call for writers. I applied, and was given an assignment to write about student engagement.
I was to explain what it meant to me and how to achieve it, all in 300 words or less. Yikes!

If’ you’ve read BulgingButtons for any length of time, or even just glanced through it, you know that most of the posts are quite a bit longer than that. Usually they run closer to 1,000 words, but for topics related to teaching they can be significantly longer than that. A 300 word limit was a challenge for me, but I did it!

I submitted my piece and that was that. I didn’t hear anything else about it. Not until today, anyway, when I received a tweet with the quote from the article and a link. Cool.

So if you’re here from Education Week, welcome. I hope you stick around and find something else on the blog that interests you. If you’re a regular BulgingButtons reader, I hope you click over to Education Week to see what student engagement is all about. I did notice that the other contributing educators didn’t seem to stick to the 300 word limit, but then again, maybe they had a slightly different assignment. Mine is the short piece at the bottom of the page. Either way, I’m glad you’re here sharing these fifteen minutes of almost fame with me.

Posts that may be of interest to educators:

Ten Essential Back to School Supplies that Money Can’t Buy

A New Way of Looking at Old History

An Open Apology to Fourth Graders

The Gift of Time