Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Tattle Box

Today, I was checking out how my readers are finding me, because it seems I have quite a few new followers and I found out that the key word search "Tattle Box" has driven quite a few people to Dalai Mama.  I felt maybe I should re-post my Tattle Box post from a few years ago. It just so happens that I had to get the Tattle Box back out not so long ago. So here it goes.

Quite some time ago, I created a Tattle Box for my room, which seems to work just great. I don't always have it out, but when the need arises, I get out the Tattle Box and we have a lesson about Tattling vs. Reporting.  Let me debrief you on this tactic.

For a long time I have noticed that the same students seem to tattle on each other all the time. They were usually petty things like "He keeps putting his paper on my desk" or "She's humming too much".

I decorated a fancy shoebox that I had to have the last time I was at TJ Maxx, with a label "THE TATTLE BOX". I explained to the kids that sometimes we aren't telling the teacher about something because someone is hurt or hurting you but just to get someone in trouble. Sometimes, teachers are busy and can't respond to a humming neighbor right away. Or sometimes teachers get tired of you being a know it all and trying to get people in trouble. Well, I didn't really say that last one, but you get the idea.

The Tattle Box is for the moments when someone really isn't in immediate danger or hurting anyone else...maybe just being annoying. I cut up pieces of paper and put them next to the Tattle Box. We talked about sometimes at a business they have a comment box and the Tattle Box is kind of like that. I explained that the tattler can not use a person's name because we wouldn't want someone to get embarrassed and they didn't need to write their name on the tattle. This was something that was strictly confidential and I would be the only reading the Tattle. Actually, my words were that if anyone opened the box to read the tattles, they would loose recess for a week. GASP!! Ok, Mrs. T we won't touch it!

Two days later, I realized that the Tattle Box was overflowing with tattles. After school it was my mission to read some of them. I thought I could pick a few and we could discuss how we could handle the tattling situation. (Teachable moments, people. Teachable moments.) The following were some of the tattles:

  • Someone keeps bothering me. (Probably 20 of these.)
  • Someone said I don't like their drawing when I really do.
  • Someone keeps humming real loud.
  • Someone sneezed on me.
  • A girl keeps calling me mustard. (This was in the tattle box twice.)
  • My neighbor keeps talking during writing time when I am trying to do my work.
  • At recess someone kicked me.
  • At PE someone through the ball and it hit me in the face.
The last three were great teachable moments. We talked about how things that happen at recess and PE need to be reported to the proper authorities, especially if someone is hurting you. (Let the PE teacher and recess monitors take care of there own tattling problems, I found the solution to mine.) We also talked about bothering other people when we're supposed to be working. We also talked about what is really important to tell someone about. i.e. Does it really matter that much if your neighbor thinks you don't like their drawing when you really do?

I absolutely love the Tattle Box! It's my new best friend and I think I might take it out to lunch for accepting so many complaints in so little time.

I just have to say that I love my job and my students. Things like the Tattle Box remind me of the innocence of being little, what is important or not and in the grand scheme of things, sometimes if I write it down, I immediately feel better. Case closed.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Procrastinator's Remorse

I did it again.  I spent too much time on the couch yesterday and not enough time doing the things that I shoulda/coulda/woulda done.  I do this almost every Saturday these days.  I get so excited about the fact that I have no plans that I, indeed, do nothing the whole entire day!  Well shoot, I started out with good intentions.  I did do one whole load of laundry after all.  I drank a couple cups of coffee and spent most of the day surfing Pinterest and blogging.  If I did accomplish anything, it's that I wrote a few blog posts about things from the classroom this week.  Silver linings, people.

I have a uber-important meeting at work with an administrator on Monday and I have this very tedious reflection thing to write and I know it's been hanging over my head for weeks now.  Do you think I even looked at it yesterday, when I had absolutely nothing else to do? If you said no, you were right.  I waited and waited and waited some more, until I was in utter panic mode about it today.  But hey, that's just how I roll, I guess.

Instead of cleaning, interacting with my family and working on the important reflection, I blogged, surfed other blogs, read and Facebooked.  Then I fell asleep on the couch and woke up to Jake asking what was for 5:30.  Crap! Since I was being a worthless slug, my knight in shining armor ordered pizza.  We ate and watched a re-run of SNL and that's when the procrastinator's remorse kicked in. 

It was almost bedtime for the kids and I suddenly realized that I hadn't done anything with them.  I take that back, Luci and I read some books together and Ivan and I laughed at some funny pictures on Pinterest together, but it was not the Mom-of-the-Year quality time that they deserved.  As I tucked them in, I felt like a total jerk.  What have I done!?  Not only had I professionally avoided the writing of the reflection, but I had also completely wasted a day with my kids.  I'm sure that this is more of a mommy guilt thing than it is a horrible mom story.  I'm sure they weren't phased by my lack of motivation for the day. 

As I got ready for bed, I started to feel down and a little depressed about the whole thing.  And that never happens, people!  I felt like a total jerk for being selfish.  Then I had to snap myself out of my pity party.  I vowed to myself before I fell asleep that there would be no wasted time on Sunday!  So as I drifted off to sleep, I made a mental list of all the things that I needed to accomplish to make up for my Saturday slothness.

This morning, I sprang out of bed at 7:30, poured coffee, loaded the laundry, and started some blueberry muffins.  All of this before 8:00!  Redemption!  I made a grocery list, wrapped my nephew's birthday present, got the kids supplies to make a card for nephew's party and showered.  Then I worked on finishing up a blog post and dressed both kids.  We were out the door for the nephew's party by 10:45 to go to lunch.  We let the kids pick, because I still felt guilty from yesterday's shenanigans.  After the nephew's party we took the kids to a St. Patrick's Day parade for too much candy and public drunkenness.  The kids didn't get drunk, I mean, other people were drunk.  Boy, St. Patrick's Day is a way different experience with kids!

This afternoon we went to the store, we made dinner and I finally, finally finished the reflection.  Phew!  I think I redeemed myself for my selfish stupidity from yesterday. 

I think that the lesson learned from all of this it that everything is okay in moderation.  I think I "over lounged" yesterday and paid the price for it.  I suffered the guilt and made a plan to not beat myself up over it.  I redeemed myself in my own mind today and learned that even if we make mistakes, we are human.  No need on dwelling on it, just do what you need to do to change.

St. Patrick's Day Fun

Leprechaun Trap with pulley system
This week was a whirlwind of activities in my second grade classroom. With a writer's celebration, St. Patrick's Day and science activities, I was about crafted out by Friday. But alas, we had one grand finale to tend to... Leprechaun Traps.

Indeed, I am a little wacky but this takes the cake as being the wackiest of ideas when it comes to trying to keep your sanity when teaching. I can't take all the credit for the idea of Leprechaun traps since they are all over the Internet and Pinterest. But I do however, take a fair amount of pride in the amount of family involvement that I require for this project. I require this project in place of the normal, weekly homework assignment. Information is sent home weeks in advance and we talk about it quite a bit leading up to the big day. Many may ask, why should a second grader have to make a Leprechaun Trap as a homework assignment? Well, let me tell you why.

When creating their Leprechaun Trap students have to become scientists, in a sense, because they have to figure out the mechanics of simple machines.  They have to make decisions about what type of trap they will be making. Will it be the old box with a stick and string trick?  Could it have a trap door?  Could it be much more complex and have a system of pulleys and trip lines?  I have seen them all.  I have seen the more elaborate trip lines and pulleys and the simplest box with a stick.  But the bottom line is, they had to think about it.  They had to use logic and reasoning to construct something that would trap a wee, magical creature that is sneakier than a sly fox.  They had to try out ideas that didn't work and reevaluate the system.  They had to use trial and error to find the right combination that works. 
A large trap with lots of shiny things. 
Leprechauns are drawn to shiny things!

Additionally, they probably needed help.  This is were I get a bit tricky myself.  I'll just be really honest when I say that chances are some of my students don't spend much quality time with an adult at home.  Chances are that they spend most of their time in front of a TV or video game.  In creating teh trap, they are forced to seek out help.  The Leprechaun Trap becomes a source of common ground for parents and students alike.  The parents rave about this project and admit how much fun it was making the trap.  Sometimes, I think the parents are more excited about it than the kids!  It provides a family project that adults and children can work on together. 

So, Friday was the day that we decided we would celebrate St. Patrick's Day, since it was technically on Sunday.  Friday came and I was elated to see that ALL the students brought a trap!  They were so pleased with their creations and couldn't wait to try them out.

When they arrived in the classroom, I had a message waiting on the Smartboard for them from my new favorite website www.voki.comThis was the message and they were thrilled! We did our normal Reader's Workshop time and then it was time for the traps!  They each came up with their trap and demonstrated how they work, what they used to make it, and who helped them make it.  I was totally suprised at how many had a full team of family members helping them make them!  The audience of students was able to ask questions about the trap and I was amazed at their thought processes involved in creating the traps.
After they all got a chance to present their trap, we put them on the desks and they were able to go around and look at all the traps up close.  But NO TOUCHING!!

One student shows another student how his trap works.

This trap has batteries added to the top for weight.

Notice the sign: Leprechaun's will do exactly the OPPOSITE of
what you want them to do!

This is a trap door trap in which the leprechaun can get in
but can't get back out.
This is a Pinterest favorite.  It's a trap door trap with a false top.  The leprechaun is enticed
to the top by a shiny coin and falls into the hole.

This is a very glittery and shiny trap.  Definitely will attract a leprechaun.
A standard Hot N Ready trap.  The old box with a stick (or marker) trick!  That is glue with sprinkles on the inside.

 We set the traps before lunch in anticipation that the Leprechaun would visit our classroom during recess and lunch. The students spent a lot of time and energy making sure that their trap was set and baited with shiny coins.
A grouping of traps, set and ready to go.

At last, the Leprechaun came to our room and made a giant mess!  He flipped over chairs, threw papers all over and left us a few messages.  The "emailed" this message for us to hear.  (The kids went wild!)  

The leprechaun visited our class during lunch and left chocolate coins and a glitter trail everywhere!
Glitter everywhere!
He made a total mess too!

We had a great time and the kids learned some very important lessons in mechanics. Hopefully they will remember their crazy teacher that made them make a Leprechaun Trap and how she trashed her own room to prove that leprechauns are real!

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Saturday, March 16, 2013

Writer's celebration

Leprechaun shakes and Lucky trail mix
This week was a busy week in second grade! We finished up our Persuasive Writing Unit and celebrated in style with a St. Patrick's Day theme. As always, we had snacks, sharing and fun activities.  My awesome student teacher came up with the Lucky Trail Mix idea. (I think she found it on Pinterest.)  Basically, it was pretzels, M&M's, popcorn, drizzled with melted almond bark. Delish!
The Leprechaun Shake was my idea.  It was a spin off of what I call "baby shower punch."  You know, the kind of punch they serve at baby showers: Ginger ale, pineapple juice and sherbet ice cream?  I mixed one large container of pineapple juice and one two-liter of ginger all in a gallon jug.  I bought a small container of lime sherbet and scooped about a 1/2 cup of ice cream into the bottom of a cup and filled up with the pineapple juice/ginger ale mix.  Then we topped it with whipped cream.  Yummo! The kids loved it and it was cheap and easy.  You know me, cheap and easy.  Wait a minute, that came out wrong.

Our message on the Smartboard for our Writer's Celebration.
I made a message to display on the Smartboard with clip art and fun colors.  To start the celebration, we talked about how writer's use 'juicy' words to describe things.  We made a list on the Smartboard of different words that could describe someone's writing.  Then we handed back their published persuasive letters with a paper that said "Your writing is...." for their friends to leave them compliments on with post it notes.  Each student left their persuasive letter and compliment paper on their desk and then they started reading each other's writing.  They were armed with a few post it notes so that after they read their classmate's writing they could leave a compliment on the "Your writing is...." paper.  I made sure to tell them to write their name on the post it, so their friends would know who wrote the compliment. 
The kids love this activity and look forward to our Writer's Celebrations every month or so.  I try to change up what we do for each celebration, but this seems to be their favorite.  They love reading their friends' writing and getting compliments.

After they were done reading others' writing, they went back to their own desk and got to read the compliments.  They oh'd and ah'd over their own work and compliments and then we had our snack.

Students read their classmate's published pieces and leaves feedback on a post-it, stuck to
a paper that reads "Your writing is...."
I think it's always a good idea to celebrate such hard work.  They spend so much time working on their writing and I think it's important to celebrate their writing!  And let's just be really honest, who it's looking for a reason to have some snacks and a shake in the middle of the school day!
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Sunday, March 10, 2013

Parenthood Is Like Being a Flight Attendant

Several weeks ago, while navigating and orchestrating a particularly hectic morning, I found myself saying the words, "Please turn off all electronic devices and remain seated in your room until I tell you it's okay to come out."  Now, these words were not spoken in anger or frustration, rather they were delivered in a calm, direct and to-the-point manner.  They were words that needed to be spoken so that the arguing and bickering would cease at 7:20am and I could salvage what was left of my sanity. 

After the words came forth from my mouth, I thought "Oh, God, I sounded like a flight attendant."  Well, of course, being the Dalai Mama that I am, that's all I have been thinking about since then.  See, when an idea pops into my head, it's all I can think obsess about.  I have been rolling this idea that parenthood is like being a flight attendant around in my head for the last two weeks and quite frankly, I need to get it out onto the blog so I can move on with my life. 

So here it is:  Parenthood is like being a flight attendant.

1.)  Before anyone boards the plane you must take care to prepare the plane for guests.  You spend loads of time prepping, cleaning, and stocking the plane for take off.  You stock the plane with extra pillows, blankets and barf bags. 

This is akin to prepping your home for the little bundle that will soon be arriving at your home.  If you are a first-timer you spend hours agonizing over the crib sheets, butt wipe warmers and changing tables.  You may even partake in birthing classes and breathing technique seminars.  You stock up on diapers, bottles and laundry detergent patiently awaiting the arrival of your precious bundle.

2.)  The guests arrive and you smile politely and welcome them to the plane.  You show them to their seat, ask if they are comfortable, and if they need an extra pillow or blanket.  The guest smiles politely back and gets settled into their seat. 

The day finally comes!  Your sweet, precious baby that you have waited for so long is finally here.  You bring them home for the first time, tuck them into their new bassinet and fuss over which blanket to use to cover them as they sweetly sleep most of the day.  That innocent face as they silently sleep ensures you that life is grand and all is well with the world.  You are on cloud nine.

3.)  As all the guests settle in their seats, they get a little more comfortable, turning on their electronic devices, phones and iPads.  You let this continue but you know in the back of your mind that, at some point, you will have to put your foot down.  Just not yet.  You'll let them have a little more fun before you trample their good time. 

As your new baby gets comfortable in their new home, things start to change.  Your little angel doesn't seem to sleep as well as those first days.  In fact, your angel baby seems to have been replaced with some demon spawn that refuses to eat, sleep or be put down for more than 5 seconds.  You decide to be courteous and not loose your shit just yet.  It's just a phase. Right? 

4.)  As the pilot prepares for take off you make one last trip down the isle assisting guests.  You take your position at the front of the plane to go over the emergency procedures and rules for the flight.  "No smoking. No electronic devices.  No getting up until I say so. Here's your emergency door. This is what you do if the plane goes down. Yada Yada Yada."  The guests grumble a little at the rules but most comply and turn off their devices and buckle up.  You take your seat at the front of the plane and prepare for take off.

Your little darling reaches the ripe age of two, or three for some, and things drastically change.  Finally, one day, you stand up and say "NO! You can not play on the iPad!  You sit down until I tell you to get up!"  Your toddler grumbles a little but stays put in the naughty chair for the designated amount of time.

As you prepare your toddler for take off into life, you teach them the rules of the flight: share, take turns, don't yell, be a good citizen, don't be a butt head and be a good friend. You sit back and monitor the situations as they arise.

5.)  As the plane reaches it's cruising altitude, you announce that seat belts can be removed and guests are now free to move about the cabin.  You start the in-flight movie and prepare the snack cart.  You have carefully prepared nutritious snacks and beverages ahead of time.  You proceed to each guest to see if they would be interested in a snack or drink.  Undoubtedly, the guests pass up the nutritious snacks and beverages and go straight for the soda and chips.  Defeated, you serve what they are requesting.

As your toddler reaches the age of 4 or 5, you carefully meal plan.  You spend hours perusing cookbooks, Pinterest and family recipes for healthy, nutritious, and exciting meals.  As you spend hours preparing the said meals, without a doubt, they refuse to eat healthy foods and declare that cereal is obviously the best option.  Defeated, you serve them what they are requesting. 

6.)  During the distribution of the snacks, you notice a scuffle in row 13 seat 2 and 3.  You approach the guests to find out what is the matter.  Apparently, the guest in seat 2 is taking up the armrest, half of seat 3 and is playing his music too loudly for the guest in seat 3.  You diffuse the problem by offering both guests a complimentary snack and extra drink.  Both parties are agreeable and the problem is solved.

About this time, maybe you have two or three children by now.  The older ones have figured out how to manipulate the younger ones and fighting breaks out almost on a daily or hourly basis.  You diffuse the situation with stern discipline and offer solutions to the problem.  With the problem solved, you fist bump yourself for being so awesome.

7. )  As the flight approaches it's desired destination, the plane hits a bit of turbulence.  You calm the guests by announcing that they need to remain calm and stay seated.  You reassure them by stating that the turbulence was expected and is completely normal.  They relax in knowing that your expertise will guide them.  The turbulence seems to be short lived and all is well again.

The teenage years have arrived and the turbulence is plentiful.  It is usually short lived but can seem very scary at the time.  You provide guidance and understanding.  You provide words of encouragement and support.  Those teenage years can be rough with broken hearts, peer pressure and fitting in.  You offer your wisdom to your children to be who they are and be damned with fitting in.  They laugh at you because, of course, you are old and don't know anything.  Then they realize you were right. 

8.) As the flight comes to a close, you announce that again, guests need to return to their seats and turn off electronic devices.  They grumble at the thought of the next twenty minutes being disconnected from their online games, friends and Facebook.  But, they comply.  As the plane approaches its final descent, you feel those butterflies creeping up in your stomach, preparing for the wheels to hit the ground.  Alas, you are on the ground safely and then you get on the speaker again. You thank them for a pleasant flight, remind them to grab all their belongings and welcome to (city of choice). 

As the teenage years come and go, you remind them of the rules and hope that everyone arrives to their destination safely.  You offer final words of encouragement and hope.  While the butterflies are in both of your stomachs, you will get through this together.  As you help them prepare their things to send them off to college, you help to carefully fold, organize and pack their belongings.  You remind them, once again, that it has been a wonderful time seeing them turn into young adults and send them on their way.  You hope that they have a great time at (life direction of choice). 

So, when you are in the throes of raising children, remember that it is, in fact, a very short flight and to make the best of it as it happens.  Remain calm, provide direction and be there for support when needed.  As we watch over them, provide for them and make the turbulence less scary, we are providing them with life skills that will make life easier in the long run.  As you wave good bye and hope they have fun and be safe, remember that you did your job.  You were the best flight attendant that a kid could have asked for!