What I Wish My Students Knew…

The other day I took a tip from trending topics and asked my 5th graders to write their final journal entry over “What I Wish My Teacher Knew.” It was heart wrenching. Some of the students wanted to tell me about home things, sick family members that are being hush/hush, bullying in the neighborhood, worries about moving up to Middle School, or even missing parents. Some wanted me to know that although they’re good students, they HATE school. They don’t like studying, they hate having to answer questions, and they only want to hang out and play sports.

In every class, they asked me what I wanted them to know. I responded, of course, that I am proud of them all and that they have been through a lot as a grade this year and everyone made it through admirably. Needless to say, we had an emotional day.

Now I want to let them know what I REALLY want them to know:

What I wish my students knew:

1) Ms. Tyree (and every teacher you’ve had) cares more about you and your future than you will ever know. We worry over you long after you’ve left our class and will remember you long after you forget who you had for 5th grade writing.

2) Sometimes, even though we really do care about you, we just need time to finish whatever it is we’re doing…even if all we’re doing is taking a deep breath!

3) There is never a good reason to insult people, even if you’re playing and it’s your friend…adults have a hard time with this as well.

4) I know you feel pushed around and talking back is a way to take some of that power you crave…get over it. There will ALWAYS be someone in charge of at least one aspect of your life. Bosses, spouses, parents, teachers, law makers, etc. will all have a say in what you do and how you do it. Fight for things that are worth it, but talking back just to hear your voice is not one of those things.

5) YOU (YES YOU!) are SMART. So maybe you don’t have the best grades and maybe sometimes you don’t understand everything the first or even fiftieth time….that’s ok. Everyone learns differently and everyone has things that are more difficult to learn. You CAN and WILL get it as long as you keep at it.

6) Stay Creative! The spark inside that makes you who you are, and that sends you twirling through the classroom on a whim, is an amazing gift. Never lose it. However, channel that creativity into art, mechanics, robotics, music, dance…anything that excites you and stop hopping like a frog in my classroom!

7) You are an Author….You Are a Scientist…and You ARE Amazing. I am very proud to have the honor of being in your lives.

First Day Jitters

The professor stood in front of his class, nervously adjusting his lucky bow tie as he surveyed the new crop of creative wanna-be’s that were taking up space in the drafty room. The mixed races and species were all making themselves as comfortable as possible, pulling out their quills, paper, chisels, and whatever other supplies they had brought with them in anticipation of the first day.

Each and everyone one of them had one thing in common, they were expecting him to teach them something. Taking a deep breath and gripping a large piece of chalky limestone in his claw, opened his mouth to call role.

“Welcome to day one of Myths, Legends, and Beliefs of the ‘so-calle’ human world! I am Dr. Delonious D. Dragonsfire, you may refer to me as Professor Dragon. I recognize some of you from my Creative Barding course. This is where you’ll discover the basis of our barding. Now, can someone tell me what they know about the mortal world?”

Calling on a random centaur student from the back of the class, Professor Dragon turned to make notes on the large, smooth stone board, letting out the last of the breath he’d been holding on a sigh of relief. He had done it, there was no turning back now. Class was going, students were making notes, there was discussion, and he hadn’t burped any acid balls onto the furniture. All in all, the choice to stop teaching younger school children and move up into the continuing education arena was looking like a smart one. After all, the creatures were paying to learn from him!

Presenting: Highland Park

Today I am going to post for you a very special book review…it is not for any book that I have received (yet), it is not for a friend of a friend who happens to be an author, and it is not for Tyree Tomes (though we did edit and publish it). This review is for my students. My 80 awesome fifth graders who worked hard, pushed through, and wrote.

That’s right, we are finished! As of today Highland Park Presents is available in both paperback and Kindle edition.

I wish I could tell you that this is the best compilation of short stories that you could ever possibly read. As their teacher I want to brag on my students and let you know that they worked SO HARD for this. If you could see the excitement on their faces today as I showed them the amazon.com pages for their book…well I have no words to explain it. I will, hopefully, remember those moments forever.

However, they are still fifth graders with a lot to learn about writing. Every student is on a different level and some of them are in a different world…but they have done their best and overcome a lot of self doubt to get this put together.

I hope that you will take a few minutes to click the link and see what their had work brought about. Any royalties received from the sale of these books will go to our school PTO for our grade level, so if you like what you see please go ahead and order a copy. We tried to keep the price as low as possible! Whether or not you get one, please share this with your friends. I want the kids to see that people in other counties, states, and countries have the chance to read their words.

The kids also want to send a special shout out and thanks to Dr. Wilson Jay Tyree, my father and Tyree Tomes partner, for his part in the final edits of the book. We couldn’t have done it without you Daddy!

May you all have a blessed and wonderful day!

Creativity is just Intelligence having fun ~ Albert Einstein

Poppin’ Lesson

Have you ever written something that keeps giving you enjoyment or teaching you long after you’re done? Something that you LOVE but that you just know will not provide the same level of enjoyment or knowledge to anyone else? I had one such moment yesterday as I set up my classroom for our Friday Experiment. I waited all week with excitement, tried the experiment three times at home (just to be SURE that it really works!), and was almost completely prepared by the time I got to school Friday morning…if you forgive the few minutes of panic as I raced through the hallway asking fellow teachers for balloons.

Though I knew what the experiments outcome would be, I waited with baited breath to find out what my student teams a) came up with for their hypothesis and b) how they would react to the outcome.

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I set up our center ‘activity’ table (a new addition for the new year) with a box of Baking Soda, a bottle half filled (about 8 oz) of Vinegar, a balloon, a set of measuring spoons, and a funnel along the left side. On the right hand side of the  table I laid out a bottle of Sprite with a little off the top, a funnel, a balloon, and a packet of Pop Rocks (strawberry, but I don’t think the flavor matters). I had students break into two teams. Each student was to draw out the ‘ingredients’ however they saw fit, then discuss with their team to come up with a timeline and hypothesis for the experiment. One team was to focus on the  left side, the other on the right.

We had an astonishing (at least to me) amount of spot on, or almost so, guesses at to what I would do and what would happen. Then we had a few incredibly interesting but not very close to truth hypothesis…that make me want to try out what they suggest!

After about ten minutes of group talk and hypothesis writing, everyone turned to the center of the room and watched me perform the experiment.

1) use funnel to place a tablespoon of baking soda in a balloon, use other funnel to place pop rocks in second balloon.

2) open bottle and place mouth of balloon CAREFULLY over mouth of respective bottles.

3) raise balloon and release dry ingredient into the liquid below.

If all goes correctly, Sprite and Pop Rocks or Vinegar and Baking Soda will react together to release the gas and blow up their balloon. In the second class, a student requested a bottle of EVERYTHING (i.e. vinegar, sprite, pop rocks, and baking soda). Surprisingly, this set up yielded a pretty awesome result as well.

Sprite and Pop Rocks blew up a balloon with more length than width, and only a small amount of length (around 5 centimeters for 3/4 of the classes. Last class had a larger balloon at almost a full inch and a half in length).

Vinegar and Baking Soda has a more violent reaction that the Pop Rocks and Sprite, so that the balloon stretches in width, as well as height, and is several inches in size. According to my students, it tries to ‘boom’ but just ‘blows up’. (I love their love of creative sentence structure!)

Finally, the all in bottle creates a reaction somewhere between the other two, filling up its balloon with a beginning reaction that is violent and slows down to a delightful lava lamp effect as you watch the pop rocks jump around within the liquid. The balloon fills up to approximately 3 – 5 inches in length and 1.5 inch in width…though my last class of the day lucked out because I finally hit it just right..that balloon actually filled out to be slightly larger than the vinegar and baking soda one!

Some students wanted to measure the different sizes of the balloons. One suggested we try the experiment with every color of balloon available to us…or re-do the experiment using all the same colors of balloon…just in case. And a few wanted to drink the sprite mixture (I didn’t let them 😦 ) But amazingly enough, almost all of my 80 students could actually EXPLAIN the reaction and WHY it happens! Not only that, but they made the connection between solid (bottle), liquid (yup), and Gas all having volume and mass…and explained to me how the air displaces as we moved (CAREFULLY) the bottle and poured liquid into, and then out of, the balloon (still attached to the bottle’s mouth).

To call me a proud teacher is a bit of an understatement at this point. To top it off, my principal came in and observed the final installment of our day and got to see a class who is usually a bit slow and behind the others (due to behavior issues and a need to change my teaching style for them, ick!) excel and ask do to do more work to figure out exactly what was going on! (and I only had to get on to two students while she was there, a new record!)

Ok, you know you want to try this out so my one suggestion is that you choose something a bit more carbonated than Sprite. Coke worked well during my home tests. If you try it out with something else, let me know! I loved this so much, I think we’ll do it again next year!

How did December get here?

I looked at the calendar earlier and it told me that today is December 1st but I’m not sure how that happened. I have pages of handwritten notes that testify to me and they say I still have half of NaNo to go…plenty of time to write and get it typed up. I guess I lost those two weeks (and their short stories…oops) because here we are, December. The month of hyperactivity, bludgeoning over good sales, and my mother screaming “LIGHTS” as we drive down the road.

We have 3 full weeks until Christmas break, 1 week before my friends’ Harry Potter wedding shower (I’ll post pictures if their presents from us afterwards…they’re awesome!), 1 week and 1 day before the Bible Chair Christmas party, and various mind melting, class and work interrupting activities to keep us busy in the mean time. At least I can torture my students with a mixture of Christmas and Halloween instrumental rock so they never know what’s coming next. *insert maniacal laughter here.

What are you all up to? Did you win NaNo and, as a winner, are you now basking in the afterglow? Did you somehow lose weeks as I did, so that you have no idea how many words you wrote? Are you caught in the vicious Christmas cycle and therefore have no time for such things as books or word counts? I want to know!

Leave a message and have a Marvelous Monday!

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On another note…our ClassroomCalendar seems to have been a last minute participant in No Shave November…look at that beard!

What Are YOU Reading?

Here we are, mired in another middle of the week. They never seem to stop coming around do they? The good news is that mid-week means a reading Wednesday break! (Yaaay)

Right now I have a few books on my plate and not much time to do anything about it. I’m reading My Teacher is an Alien by Bruce Coville to my students…it doesn’t go quickly for us but they seem to enjoy the mini writing lessons and whole class discussions. Of course, I just want to tell them to go work so I can read on!

I am also starting Blue Balliett’s Chasing Vermeer, which I hope to incorporate into small group lessons soon AND I am rereading my battered Key Trilogy by Nora Roberts….just for funsies.

So that’s me…what about you? Have you found something so gorgeously written that you just can’t bear to put it down?

Whatever it is..PLEASE SHARE! And remember to let your imagination, faith, and creativity take you where you are meant to be.

One Of THOSE…

 

I was mortified as I walked in to the building this morning. I couldn’t help but turn a little red and hurry a little faster into the safety of my room. It was hard to believe that she had really pointed me out that way, right in front of students and co-workers. It just isn’t right! 

You see, I’ve never seen myself as one of “Those” people. You know the ones…totally left brained anal-retentive rule keepers who never color outside of the lines and who couldn’t possibly fathom putting a neon purple streak in their ferret’s hair (Mostly because they only own those little miniature rat things that squeak instead of bark but would never have colored fur). NO SIRREE! I AM A REBEL! I AM A WRITER AND WRITERS ARE BOHEMIAN ARTIST TYPES! I AM WEIRD! FORGET THE NORMIES AND COME FROLIK! And then day 2 of students being in school rolls around. As I’m walking into the school to open up my room, a fellow teacher calls out to a couple of boys nearby. “Boys! We want you to walk on the sidewalk instead of on the grass…you see how Our teachers are doing it? See Ms. Tyree there? We want you to walk like her, on the sidewalk and not killing our grass!”

 

I could feel my street cred flying away from me. Knife to the heart, wrenching stomach pains, pounding headache…Ms. Tyree is a side walker, a joiner, a follower…my toes screamed out “No, we love the grass! Don’t point to us!!” but it was too late, the damage was done. I was labeled.

 

*Though this is a true account, I have exaggerated a little here and there (mostly right there to your upper right hand side). I didn’t realize until halfway through, however, that I was doing so for a purpose. You see, I have students who have been spoken about, applauded, and/or ignored for the better part of their existence. As 5th graders, they know who is different or if they are the different ones. But I don’t want to know more than I absolutely have to. Do I have to know who has autism and who is ADHD with meds to take? YES! I need to know for everyone’s safety and, more importantly, to give them their best chance at growth this year. But I don’t need another teacher to tell me how my student used to lay down on the floor and bellow like a goat in the second grade…I’m fairly certain that I used to swing by myself, singing made up songs in four part harmony when I was in second grade. I had mostly grown out of that by the time I hit 5th grade.

More than that…writing does not only belong to the ‘gifted’ program kids, or to the ‘normies.’ In fact, most of those people won’t understand the real truth in writing, because writing is a very adaptive art. My ‘specials’ on the other hand, have learned from experience the need to learn and adapt. Who do you think would do better? I’m betting on my specials!

 

Thank you all for your continued support. I will (hopefully) be able to spend a little more time with the blog by next week. I know we are sorely in need of some new posts! (I also just remembered that today is Wednesday so….no Reading Wednesday this week).

 

May you all be blessed and peaceful this week, and may you never be a “Normie!”