21 August 2015

Reflecting on the first full week of school

Wow, I survived! I'm tired, and have been working 11-12 hour days, but I'm starting to feel like I might be able to get back into my study this weekend. After a short week last week, the five days this week felt a bit like a marathon, but it was pretty good. This morning, as I got a bit grumpy and short with my students first thing this morning, I knew I was tired. Thankfully I managed to get control of my mood and we ended up having a pretty good day, although those students who totally missed Fun Friday because they didn't do their homework probably didn't think so.

For the most part the week went well. Tuesday did not go at all to plan. When setting up my computer ready for the maths lesson I had planned, it kept telling me that my PowerPoint software was unlicensed, and throwing me out of the program. I tried doing a system restore, and that didn't work so I ended up having to refresh the system, which basically uninstalled everything back to a bare basic Windows set up. That meant I had to reinstall everything, including Microsoft Office and Adobe Reader. I got Adobe Reader installed, but couldn't get the computer to talk to the projector. One of the ICT teachers came down in the afternoon and tried to help, but he couldn't solve it either. Eventually I got onto the Acer website and downloaded the driver for the VGA card, and happily that solved the problem. I've still got some software that needs to be reinstalled, but at least the computer is functional again. It was a frustrating day, as I use the computer and projector for almost every Mathematics and English lesson, but I did  get through the day. I thank God that He has helped me to become more flexible, and that enabled me to adapt to the unforeseen challenges.

Once again, I was reminded that I need to show as well as tell the children exactly what they have to do, especially with things that I want done in a particular way. The prime example was homework. A few students got it from my "telling" but quite a few didn't. When I used the work of one of the students who did get it to show those who didn't get it what was required I got much better results. Part of the problem was that the document camera which I usually use for "showing" has developed a crack in one of the joints, and won't stay in position. I'm hopeful I can get a replacement for it, but also will be looking to see how I can repair/modify it so it is usable.

One thing I did manage to achieve this week was take some photos of the classroom on Monday afternoon, so you can see it now it's getting closer to being completely set up. I'd still love at least one more power outlet, preferably behind my desk, but for the time being I'm managing.

Classroom library, CAFE menu board, posters starting to go up, and storage.
This could still be a bit tidier, but most of my good boxes are now hidden away.

I love having space to walk around the mats.
With only 20 students there's one mat each, and if I get more students then there's room to add more mats!
I project onto the whiteboard, lowering the blind over the window darkens the room just enough.

I made a couple of adjustments to this area, moving my desk and turning the small shelf around,
and now it's working really well.
This is the other end of the classroom. My special needs student likes using the table in the corner, which I was going to use for the student computer, so I may need to come up with another plan for that, but at the moment it's working well. The noodles are for swimming lessons, and live in my room or they would quickly become damaged and unusable.

Weekly homework, daily timetable, and a small area for teaching above student storage.
We use the folders when I'm testing students to discourage copying.
The last five years has seen slow growth in my collection of games and puzzles to the good collection you see here.

The rest of the student storage areas, trays for books and work to be handed in,
classroom rules and management system, and the classroom jobs display.

This was one of my treats to myself this summer. These are fairly cheap in the USA but in Australia they are pretty expensive, so I make selections carefully. This year I bought this set for class jobs, and a matching set for birthdays, which I'll put up in the next week or two, once I get the information from the office (they've been crazy busy down there).
Well, that's it for this post. I hope you enjoyed this glimpse of the bright, spacious, new Grade 4K classroom. I'm loving it, and I think the children are too.

16 August 2015

Reflecting on the first week

Amazingly the first day of school went fairly smoothly. We divided the fourth grade students into the two classes and headed into the building to get the day underway. I ended up with 18 students the first day, 19 on the second, and my full complement of 20 on the third day. I deliberately didn't plan to start core teaching on the first few days, but rather did some assessments (Mathematics number facts), getting to know you activities, and a couple of foundation lessons for beginning the Daily 5. There was plenty of read-a-loud time, and a good review of basic grammar, ready to start Write Rights next week (tomorrow).

My classroom wasn't completely set up on the first day, and I still haven't taken any photos of the classroom since 8th August, but here are a few that I took on the 8th, so you can see I was almost ready to get going on planning.

This wall is on the left as you walk into the room.

Starting to look more organized.

Yes, all the table tops were clear except for stuff to go to other places, and my backpack and lunchbox. Yay!

One of the two shelves behind my desk loaded with teacher resources.

This is the other shelf behind my desk. I love this one.
Those divided shelves make it much easier to keep folders upright.
I'll take some more photos in the next day or two showing what it looks like now the boards are up, and we've started using the room.

I have had one major challenge. A couple of days before school started, my new assistant decided that she didn't think she could work with me. I'm not going into reasons here, but it is partly my own fault for showing frustration when she didn't get something. A new assistant has been found, but is not going to be starting straight away, so for the next 3-4 weeks, I'm going to be managing on my own. I'm fortunate that my special needs student has her own assistant, and that young lady has been very helpful with a few things like escorting the students to and from lunch and recess. Others have also helped out in various ways, but there are limits. The other fourth grade assistant is going to be having very big Khmer classes until the new assistant comes, so I need to be very appreciative of her as well. I know that in Australia, having a full-time teaching assistant is probably unheard of, so I'm not complaining too much, but it is going to stretch me. At this point in time I've very glad I only have 20 students this year.

Now I've still got a few jobs to do before I can go to bed in order to be really ready for the coming week. so I'd better post this and get on with those jobs.

05 August 2015

Making Progress

Hello again. After my stressed out post last week I thought I'd share just how much progress has actually been made in my classroom. Yes, progress has definitely been made.

By Monday morning they had almost finished the wall, except for a couple of strips that needed painting and grouting between the tiles. That was huge. By lunchtime Monday, when I had completely finished sorting out all the school supplies, the painting was done. My assistant and I then started work on cleaning the room. Yes, the cleaning staff have been working hard, so I felt that it wouldn't hurt to give them a hand, so I spent much of Monday afternoon on my hands and knees scrubbing an incredible grotty floor. My assistant very cheerfully did the same. We finished the afternoon by mopping it, and by the time I left I was happy for things to be moved in.

After a few hiccups on Tuesday, eventually the move happened, and it was almost complete by the time I went home to have lunch and work on university stuff for the rest of the afternoon. I sent my assistant home at the same time and told her to take one last day off before our official start day tomorrow. Sometimes it's actually easier to work on stuff alone while you are trying to work out what is where. All that stuff, plus trying to help my assistant be helpful would have been too much.

Wednesday morning, with the help of one of the other teaching assistants who had come in to work on her own room I brought across the last few boxes (they were pretty light). Then it was time to start unpacking and sorting stuff out. Thankfully I had labelled the boxes fairly well, so I wasn't completely digging into the unknown. By the end of the day I'd unpacked all the boxes, plus my old suitcase (taken in when I'd run out of boxes), sorted quite a bit of stuff, some stuff is even in the correct places, and I'm hopeful that by the end of tomorrow (if we don't have too long in meetings) I'll be mostly set up. Here are some photos of what my room looked like at the end of the day.
The main area of the room from the door.
The other side of the room from the door.
These are most of the boxes I unpacked. There were a few more photocopy paper boxes and some that were just not worth saving, but these ones are going to be hidden. They are behind my locked teacher storage cupboard but I'm thinking I might just find an old vinyl tablecloth to put over them to help keep the dust out and to make them more invisible.
The blue table in this picture will eventually go out into the hallway
where the girls will put their bags on top, and the boys will put theirs underneath.
These two photos show the teachers work area. Buried under all that stuff are two desks and two bookshelves.
Another of tomorrow's jobs is getting that space sorted out and everything put away tidily.

These are the top two drawers of my filing cabinet. Since I packed carefully, it was a fairly quick job to file everything.
Some of the files in the top drawer are not in the correct order  yet, because I haven't created the labels for the new students, but it's all in there and secure, so I'm happy about that.

Looking across the room from near the blue table.
These two bookshelves will house the classroom library. The books are sorted into levels or "unlevelled"
 so it should be a fairly easy process tomorrow to put them on the shelves.

Some more boxes I emptied, and some things that are waiting for homes.
Jigsaws in boxes on the top shelf, along with some games. This shelf still needs some work, but there are a few more things to be added which are currently at home, so I didn't spend too much time on it today. All those books in stacks are for the classroom library, sorted out ready to go.
 Yes, there's still quite a long way to go. Whiteboards and bulletin boards need to be installed, as do window blinds, and I need to work out how to get electricity from the door to my desk (I'll be going in search of a very long extension lead tomorrow afternoon I think.), but it is definitely taking shape. I'm looking forward to working in this room, with space to move between the children when they are working at the tables, and a bigger floor seating space. Exciting!

02 August 2015

Feeling stressed

August is here, and school starts on Wednesday 12th August. My classroom is still packed up in the old building, and my new classroom is not finished. It was almost finished when I had a look on Friday lunchtime, but absolutely nothing has happened since then. I was hoping to get stuff moved across tomorrow afternoon so I could start getting things set up on Tuesday, but that's not going to happen.
There is one wall that it not yet finished. It looks a bit like the one above, with a little big more patching over joins in the sheeting. It needs two coats of paint (primer & top coat) to finish it. I suspect it's only going to get one, but hopefully I'm wrong.

There's also a window grill (like the one in the photo above) that needs to be put back in, blinds need to be installed, and all the stuff that it is in it (construction workers living there) has to be moved out.

Once all that is done, the room has to be cleaned (it's disgusting at the moment).
After that's done all my stuff will need to be moved from the 4th floor in the old building, down to the first floor of the old building, out a window, across the first floor of the connecting building, and up to the fourth floor of the new building. This photo from two years ago will give you a bit of an idea of just how much stuff that is!

I've also got to work out how I'm going to deal with the fact that there is only one powerpoint in the whole room, and that is beside the door in the light switch! All the furniture has to be put into position, and all the boxes unpacked and everything set up ready for school to start. Please pray for me. Pray for patience. Pray for endurance. Pray for serenity. I think I need to print a big copy of the serenity prayer and post it where I can see it often:

God grant me 

the Serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the Courage to change the things I can,
and the Wisdom to know the difference.