Saturday, September 5, 2009

Are you in a teachable place?

This year's motivational theme at school and our school goal, revolves around this statement; "Are you on a teachable place?". Several years ago we had a motivational speaker, Kirk Weisler, come and talk to our faculty and staff. At our preplanning, this 09' school year, Kirk returned to speak about being in a teachable place. A phase his wife coined. The idea is that as we make mistakes, poor choices, feel the need to change, and/or face the task of needing to learn something new, are we then open to the feedback and learning required to make a change.

While I was in my teachable place a number of unusual things happened prior to the start of school. I have to preface this by saying that we have very little student turn over at our school. Since families have to apply and we take students from all over the area most stay til they finish 8th grade and then head to high school. This year, in part because of the economy, we were informed in August that a number of students would not be returning to our school. We are probably talking about eight to ten students across the K-8 school.

My class list had 18 students at preplanning on August 13th. I knew that we'd probably get two more students before classes began on Monday. During preplanning my teaching assistant and I were working on all the type of items that that kindergarten children need their name on. We were making name labels for two sets of cubbies, class lists for record keeping, nametags, leader lists, attendance cards, etc. Some of them we laminate so we have another step to complete before they are ready to be used in the classroom.

At lunch my assistant told me that I had been misspelling one child's name. His name ends with a "k" not a "c" which is the more traditional spelling. She tells me she knew the spelling because she check it in our school database, Skyward. I just looked at her. You know the look and said yes, so did I but obviously it didn't help. So off we go changing all the things that are misspelled. This is not just a simple task. For some of the items I use certain colors of card stock. Some have cute stickers or cute paper backgrounds. Rarely is anything just plain copy paper. These items many times are often in limited supply as I am using up leftovers from previous years.

We get young Mr. C corrected, laminated, and posted in the correct locations. Now I have fixed the typing error in our 11x14 class list that is mounted on construction paper and laminated. I've tossed out the hard copies of my record keeping spreadsheets and corrected the misspelling in the document and printed five copies of this new document. I want everything perfect as I embark on my new school year. I'm quite anal at this point.

Literally right as we finish, my lovely Dean of Students stops by to tell me that one of two of my newest additions is not going to attend school with us. So now I have names for a child who is not coming. I asked that if we get another child could he have the same name, thus saving us some work, paper, ink, and laminating film. My dean of students laughs.

On Friday afternoon as I get ready to walk out the door and head home. I make one last quick survey of the room hoping that I don't have to spend the weekend at school getting ready for Monday morning. As I glance at the bulletin board right by my classroom door I see all the puzzle pieces with our students names on their own puzzle piece. I'm reading off the names, picturing some of the kids in my head as I already know some of them. Thinking about who is related to siblings I've had in the past and then wham! I see the name of a student whose brother was in my class a couple of years ago. I know she does not use her given name but a nickname. I've been typing Lizzie. I knew that it was an "L nickname for Elizabeth. Her nickname is Libby and once again my assistant has been using the correct name and spelling. So once again all the name documents I worked on are wrong.

Over the weekend I get an e-mail from our secretary that my newest student, replacing the one that is not coming, is named Andre. So I decided to get his name things made and at the same time I can fix Lizzie/Libby. I'm still in my we can salvage the year and be perfect mode. Off I go to school to get my last 1/2 sheet of green cardstock, smiley face dice cuts, etc. and make more name labels. I run the ones that need laminating over to Kinkos and take care of that too. I return home and check my e-mail. My Dean of Students has e-mailed and says she doesn't know if I got the message or not but my new student is Andrew. I immediately e-mail her back and say you have got to be kidding. I received an e-mail yesterday that my new student was Andre and I have just finished redoing my third set of class documents. After my Dean of Students has that oh no moment she call the principal and secretary. Sure enough the child's name is Andrew not Andre. I tell the Dean I am fast moving from that teachable place.

School beings and all the children are as lovely as their names. unfortunately one is absent. No one has heard from the family as to why the child has not been coming to school. By Wednesday I call the Dean of Students and tell her about this child's absences. She goes off to contact the family and ends up leaving messages for them. They return her call and inform her that they were planning on withdrawing this students but hadn't done it yet. Now my class lists are wrong again and I have sets of name items for yet another student who isn't coming.

On Thursday of the first week of school my final class addition arrived. The child is lovely and we waited till Friday afternoon when we had her parents spelling of her name before we plastered her name all over the room. Sometimes it doesn't pay to be efficient.

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