The Next Page: Beth’s Journal–Ms. Page fritzes out

The Next Page: Beth’s Journal–Ms. Page fritzes out

notebook pageSo, I could have written this on my own at home last night, but I just *had to* save it up for my classroom journal. 

***

Ms. Page went a little zooey yesterday after school.

I was coming out the front doors and there she was marching past me and straight to the office. 

When she came back out, she was putting on one of the yard duty’s yellow vests and she had a whistle hanging out of her mouth and she was heavy-duty glaring straight ahead.

She stepped right in front of a big blue SUV, turned and faced it with her hand held up, and blew her whistle.

mean traffic copThen she waved kids toward her. They were frozen. She told them to move along, that it was safe. I kind of think the kids would rather have stepped in front of the SUV than to disobey her, so across they went, including a couple of kids who didn’t even plan to cross.

This went on for ten straight minutes. 

One of the moms actually honked her horn at Ms. Page. I wanted to cover my eyes, but I just couldn’t. 

Ms. Page blew the whistle even louder and raised her arm even higher. I saw the mom cover her face and look downward.

Ms. Page yelled, “Put your phone down and pay attention!” at another parent. 

And I heard her saying something to herself about ‘not part of the solution…part of the problem’.

It was all over in about ten minutes.

When the last car pulled away…slowly!…the few remaining moms and dads walking their kids home applauded Ms. Page, who by that time looked a little bedraggled [one of our vocab words of the week!] and embarrassed on her way back to the office.

Best. Show. Ever.

The Next Page Entry 31: Good lady, that Mrs. Helm

The Next Page Entry 31: Good lady, that Mrs. Helm

chocolate-chip cookies
Staff meeting. Interesting. I sat down and the two colleagues at the table found reason to move elsewhere. I kept my head down in the Austin Kleon book I was reading and busied myself by taking out my wheel book.

Then our librarian, Sally Helm, sat down by me. I didn’t expect her to be staying for the meeting, but figured she had some quick announcement for the staff. I pulled out my Joy of Cooking chocolate chip drop cookies [hold the extra tablespoon of flour, thank you very much] and, after pulling out a couple for Mr. Taylor, plopped them between us. I shot her a glance and a smile, then nodded toward the cookies. She dove in.

A few minutes later, we both eyed the last cookie. I nudged it toward her. She chuckled and, with her notebook, slid it back toward me. Kate Smalley leaned forward and hissed [that’s really the only word that fits here], “Would one of you two eat it?” I scooped up the cookie and napkin and underhanded it to her table.

Was happy Mrs. Nix hadn’t shown up yet. It would have been just like her to pull the ol’ “And Ms. Page, did you bring enough for everybody?’ line.

After the meeting ended, it hit me. Shirley was not on the meeting agenda, but there she still was.

“Did you sit here just for the cookies?” I asked her.

“I can’t think of a better reason,” she said.

But it hit me…when she sat by me, there was no hint of chocolate chip drop cookies.

A highlight of my day, that lady was.

The Next Page Entry 30: Journal-sharing

The Next Page Entry 30: Journal-sharing

crowd with hands raised
Okay, a slight exaggeration… Photo by Alex Bracken on Unsplash

Added a new twist to journal time. We go around the room and ask for a favorite sentence they wrote during that session. Kids can pass on the opportunity, but most are anxious to share. Unfortunately, after one annoying incident, I had to add—and require them to copy down—the following guideline:

If I include a living, breathing person in my selected sentence, it must be in a positive way. If it might be embarrassing to that person, I will not read it to the class.

The Next Page Entry 29: Thanks, Mrs. Nix

The Next Page Entry 29: Thanks, Mrs. Nix

thank you sign in multicolored lettersThanks, Mrs. Nix, for spurring me to continue to give kids choices in what they want to read.

Seems that the more you insist on the value of what some offshore publisher recommends for my kids, well, that just doesn’t wash with me.

But, to appease leadership, for ten minutes a day, we’ll open the book about tarantulas and the scientists who study them. We’ll break down a page of text for any possible value—vocabulary, favorite phrases, valuable information— and then move on to our other language arts resources, such as, ‘ourselves as writers, ‘ourselves as readers’ and the materials we value. We’ve had some very interesting discussions centered around ‘What I’m reading’ and ‘What I’m writing’.

The Next Page Entry 27: Another Chat with Mrs. Nix

The Next Page Entry 27: Another Chat with Mrs. Nix

Mrs. Nix: When do you have reading?

Ms. Page: The time varies, but our daily minutes allotment surpasses the district expectation.

Mrs. Nix: But our schedule dictates that everyone reads at the same time.

Ms. Page: I figured that since we’re out here on our own, if we vary our schedule, it won’t disrupt others. And I’m making some judgment calls on when the students are more primed for reading.

Mrs. Nix: Judgment calls? Interesting.

Ms. Page: That time right after lunch, at least in September, isn’t always the best for them. It’s the warmest part of the day and I see the kids kind of sag, especially when I try to teach subskills.

Mrs. Nix: I see. So, you’re using morning for that?

Ms. Page: Very often, yes.

Mrs. Nix: Which book are you reading right now?

Ms. Page: Well, we started with the publisher’s suggested non-fiction book about scientists studying tarantulas, but, even with differentiation, the kids weren’t showing a lot of interest in it. And as I saw them struggle, I confess I was losing interest in it.

Mrs. Nix: So, you’re telling me what?

Ms. Page: I changed things up. They needed something lighter, something they would enjoy as they eased back into the school routines.

Mrs. Nix: Soooo?

Ms. Page: So, for the rest of September, they will be reading self-selected books. Most of them chose fiction, I noticed.

Mrs. Nix: Are you thinking you’re smarter than the publishers?

Ms. Page: I’m thinking I know my students better than the publishers do.

Mrs. Nix: It’s looking like we will need to continue this meeting.

Ms. Page: That seems fair. Do I need to bring anything?

Mrs. Nix: Just your attention and a willingness to be a team player. And we’ll be talking about your leaving Jeremy at school during your jaunt to the park.

Ms. Page: Just let me know the time, Mrs. Nix…

The Next Page Entry 23: Overheard in the staff room

The Next Page Entry 23: Overheard in the staff room

“It’s a beautiful day! One filled with sunshine…a temptation to escape to the beach.”

“Ah yes, the ‘other’ white meat…cafeteria hot dogs.”

“The best way to teach angles? Take aerial photos of us walking in from lunch after I’ve asked them to form a straight line.”

“I know I’m off by about four months, but I could really go for a box of Thin Mints from the Girl Scouts.”

The Next Page Entry 22: Cooling Off Room 36

The Next Page Entry 22: Cooling Off Room 36

Mr. Taylor: Ms. Page, what’s with the fridge tucked away in the corner?

Ms. Page: Is it that obvious? 

Mr. Taylor: I’d say draping a rainbow-colored towel over the thing doesn’t exactly hide it.

Ms. Page: Yeah, I guess I should go for funeral-gray, shouldn’t I?

Mr. Taylor: So, a fridge?

Ms. Page: Here’s the deal. Last week, Max came in after lunch recess with a nasty bump on his elbow. He was in pain and you could almost hear the fluid and white blood cells rushing to the bump.

Mr. Taylor: Well, as long as you’re not exaggerating…

Ms. Page: Okay, okay. But it was swelling up and I sent him to the office with Jeremy and, like I said, he was in pain. And 15 minutes later, he came back with the typical sandwich bag of ice. And I figured, we’re so far away from the office, why don’t I just keep my own ice blocks ready for something like this? So I wheeled one in over the weekend.

Mr. Taylor: Whoa, whoa, I’m still stuck on your sending Jeremy with Max. Wasn’t Max already in enough pain?

Ms. Page: Just an experiment. I’m thinking Jeremy just needs a few responsibilities to distract him from his bullying.

Mr. Taylor: Orrrr, you’re opening up another opportunity for him to torment a kid.

Ms. Page: Just give me time. Besides, I thought you were interested in the fridge.

Mr. Taylor: Okay, back to the fridge. Can I keep some stuff in it?

Ms. Page: Of course, but it’ll cost you.

Mr. Taylor: No way! 

Ms. Page: Just kidding, but I did send the district $50 to pay for Frieda’s estimated electricity costs.

Mr. Taylor: Frieda? You named your fridge?

Ms. Page: What can I say? I’m already attached to it. Besides, I have a whole ‘states of matter’ science unit planned where the fridge will be really helpful.

Mr. Taylor: So you sent the cash straight to the district office. Aren’t you going over the boss’s head a little bit?

Ms. Page: You know how that goes…better to ask forgiveness than permission, right? And I’m not sure it will reflect well on her if I ask the district office for my money back because my administrator wants the fridge removed.

Mr. Taylor: You’re just evil. 

Ms. Page: I prefer the word ‘resourceful’, thank you. And, if you’re interested, there might be some juice bars available after school on Friday.

Mr. Taylor: Okay, now you’re not even playing fair.


For the first 20 entries to this writing project, click here.

The Next Page Entry 21: 10-Minute Field Trips

The Next Page Entry 21: 10-Minute Field Trips

boy with cameraSo, here I sit at the end of a Monday.

New policy: Do something entirely new each Monday so I have something to look forward to on what used to be my least favorite day of the work week. Today, we took a 10-minute field trip.

Mrs. Nix is gone through Wednesday so I’m taking liberties with the schedule. It’s entirely possible she has a staff member [or three] keeping an eye out for scofflaws like me. Or am I just being paranoid?

No matter.

So, 10-minute field trips. Striking a blow for actual science experiences, as opposed to the current approach of ‘Hey, if what you’re reading for language arts mentions spiders or planets or the ocean, that counts as science!’.

We fanned out with our journals, rulers, and cameras and aimed to complete three mini-tasks:

  1. Find a ‘plant population’ within an area of three square feet.
  2. List five different colors in nature.
  3. Sketch one of the plants.

Goal: Build up their observational skills. Get them to sketch.

And so…I should have confined their ventures a bit. A fair amount of craziness. Decibel level higher than I’d expected, but we were out on the frontier, so not too worried. Got my exercise for the day. Haven’t seen the photos yet. Mr. Taylor and his kids took a break to watch us. A decent first step toward our trip to the park.


For the first 20 entries to this writing project, click here.

The Next Page Entry 20: Learning Elsewhere?

The Next Page Entry 20: Learning Elsewhere?

I like the way the kids are handling the outside time. They’re not perfect, of course, and ‘sources’ tell me bullying is rearing its ugly head, but I think overall this is a group that can handle learning beyond the school grounds.

Mrs. Nix will be gone a few days next week [thank you, Mr. Taylor, for that nugget], so it might be a good time to get some off-campus science going without immediate interrogation.

Next steps: 10-minute field trips at the school and parent permission slips for visits to the park.