Saturday, September 30, 2006

Saturday Update

The weekend is here! Finally!

I made it through Back to School Night on Wednesday unscathed. Most of the parents seemed excited to be there and interested in what I had to say.

Both of my presentations went really well, I thought. However, there was one father who interupted me three times, and I thought that was really rude. The other parents were rolling their eyes every time he interrupted. He was very gruff and unfriendly, but I held my own. It wasn't enough for him that I had a blog for them to check homework assignments. No, he wanted a rundown on the blog of which chapters we were studying and more notice of upcoming tests. I told him to ask his daughter what she was learning in class. Actually, I said, "I recommend you maintain a dialogue with your daughter about the things she's learning at school, and ask her to bring her textbooks home to show you what she's read in class." After my presentation, he came up and thanked me for holding his daughter accountable when she didn't have her homework the other day, and told me one of her greatest faults was her lack of organization. He was a real hard@#% and I feel badly for his daughter. I don't think she will ever live up to his expectations for her.

Another mother needled me about using email, after I'd already told everyone that the blog wouldn't accept comments or email. I don't think she understood that I didn't want to bring my job home with me. I just was trying to make things a little easier for them by posting assignments on the blog, something I've never done before and something that most teachers don't do. Some people are never satisfied. A few other parents thought the evening was an opportunity for them to address issues their children were having. They wanted a little mini-conference, if you will. Back to School Night isn't the time to do that. It's not fair to monopolize the teacher's time asking questions about your child's particular issues.

Thank goodness that's over for another year.

In other news, I am going to my twenty year high school reunion after all. I didn't think I'd be going because none of my friends from high school were wanting to go, but Teresa has changed her mind and so I'll be going too. It's three weeks from tonight. The ticket is ridiculously overpriced, but it might be fun to see everybody. I did have a sense that I was missing out on something by not going, so I'm glad that the plan has changed.

And, lastly, I'm a bit discouraged again by the most recent post on the RQ site. I think I'd be fine with anything in the 12-18 month range from LID to referral, but this talk of 24+ months is just awful.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Out of the Mouths of Babes

After school on Monday, a woman and her daughter stopped by my classroom. I had heard of them both before, and had tried to get in touch with them as I had been told by the school secretary that the mother had two daughters from China. I was so happy that Eileen and her daughter Kimi stopped by to see me, and we had a really nice little visit. Kimi is in kindergarten this year at my school, and she is just a delight. Meeting them was the highlight of my day. Eileen gets together with several other adoptive moms in the area and said she would include me in the future.

So, what does this have to do with the title of my post?

I decide to share this happy encounter with my students the next morning. They know I'm adopting from China and we've got a little system for counting the months since LID going. So, I thought I'd tell them how great it was for me to meet Kimi and her mom.

The responses that followed were interesting.

One little girl asked if Kimi and her sister were real sisters.

Another little girl said that she knew a girl at her old school who was adopted. She went on to say that her real parents didn't want her and that this little girl was very angry about everything.

So, this led to a discussion about adoption. It was a "teachable moment".

I explained that while Kimi and her sister did not have the same birth parents, they were most certainly sisters. They have the same forever mom and they love each other (and probably squabble with each other) just like biological sisters do.

I also told my class that adoption is something that happened to you. It isn't something that you are.

As for the little girl who was angry, I said that sometimes things happen in our lives that are confusing to us. When we have a hard time understanding them we might feel angry.

I realized that the comments the kids made are ones that some adults make to those of us who have adopted or who are waiting to adopt. We oftentimes get angry with them for their ignorance or insensitivity. I'm sure many adults who say things like this are ignorant or insensitive, but my students weren't either of those things. They were just kids with a limited understanding of a sensitive issue. They are innocent and naive. Their comments showed me that they were seeking to understand something that hadn't touched their lives yet.

I followed up this morning by reading them "Families Are Forever". My secret pal had sent that to me last week. (Yes, I said thank you to her - we have a blog for that.) And I think I'll share more books along those lines with them throughout the year to help them better understand adoption. Last year's class hadn't raised these issues. They asked questions, of course, but they seemed to have a different level of understanding. Just goes to show you that everybody is different.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

September Referrals

America World is pleased to announce the receipt of 26 healthy female
referrals today! Families receiving referrals were logged into the
China Center of Adoption Affairs on July 28th and August 8th of 2005
(groups 224 and 225). The little girls are currently located in the
Guangdong, Jiangxi, and Guangxi provinces and ranged in age from 8 to
22 months. Please join us in congratulating these families, and in
praying for them as they prepare to travel.

Congratulations to all!

Monday, September 25, 2006

It's a Girl!

Congratulations to Tamara and Alexis on their new baby girl, Miya. She is so beautiful!

I can hardly wait to see more referral pictures.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Dumb Parents

They're back! Dumb parents! Ack!

This morning I was approached by a parent who wished to conference with me "right after school" about his son's low grades. This was, of course, right as the bell rang and I was lining up my students before entering the classroom. I agreed to meet him "right after school".

Well, right after school this parent was nowhere to be found. I waited for twenty five minutes before giving up and leaving. In the meantime, I was stuck there with the student's grandmother, the student, and his little brother who was running roughshod all over my classroom. I finally told him that going into another teacher's classroom was like visiting another person's house, and that you don't make yourself at home there right away.

After twenty minutes of this delightful waiting, making small talk with Grandma, and watching the little brother run all over the place, I gave Grandma a quick rundown on what I percieve the student's problem to be, made some suggestions for things they could start doing at home to help him, and sent them on their way.

Parents everywhere, asking your child's teacher for a conference because you're concerned about their progress does not make you a good parent. Showing up for the conference on time, listening to the teacher's input, thanking the teacher for her time, then going home and having a serious discussion with your child about your expectations for their behavior and their grades makes you a good parent.

Enough said!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Feeling Hopeful

The rumors this week from our dear RQ have made me feel more hopeful about receiving my referral next year instead of sometime during the next decade. I was also encouraged by Brian Stuy's most recent analysis of wait times.

So, IF wait times stay in the range of 14-15 months, I could be looking at a September or October referral next year. It would be wonderful to celebrate Christmas 2007 with Jillian in my arms.

It was about time. I needed some positive news.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Check It Out!

I've decided to put my blogging skills and the wonders of technology to use on behalf of my students and their parents. So, I've started a homework blog for them. It's got the clever title of Miss McKee's Homework Blog. How's that for creativity?

I'm not allowing comments or email through that blog, and it's not linked to my personal blog either. I can just imagine the sort of emails and comments I'd get, and I really don't want to correspond with needy parents via email at home. So, the new blog is purely infomational. If there's confusion about what I've assigned for the night, they can confirm it with the homework blog.

This has been something I've been considering for a while, but after two boys did three pages of math problems last night instead of one, and after a little girl did flashcards for 25 spelling words instead of six vocabulary words last week, I felt it was necessary. Kids seem to have a hard time getting things straight at the beginning of the school year - even with a Student Planner!

Sunday, September 17, 2006


The WB is breathing its dying breaths by running the original pilot of Buffy the Vampire Slayer tonight. I was a huge fan of that show - I named my yellow Lab after Buffy. I had/have a huge crush on David Boreanaz, who played Angel. Oh, he's so dreamy! But, I'm having a real hard time getting into his new show Bones. I'll give it another season...

Anyway, I just loved the whole good vs. evil theme of BTVS. The dialogue was hilarious and the character development was really good. It was campy most of the time, and occasionally profound. I still miss Tuesday nights with Buffy and Angel.

Disneyland Half Marathon

I got up early this morning to meet my friends Teresa and Toby at the finishline of the Disneyland Half-Marathon. They were running to raise money for the San Fransisco AIDS Foundation. Toby is a marathon runner and running coach, but this was Teresa's first race. I'm so proud of her for all the time and effort she spent training and fundraising for this event.

Way to go, Teresa!


If your blog was/is upgraded to the new beta system, I cannot leave comments for you. I'm still reading, though, and I hope Blogger gets everything squared away soon so that I can let you know I stopped by.

Saturday, September 16, 2006


I'm sitting here with my morning cup of joe, and I'm trying to find some fodder to blog about. I'm not coming up with much.

This tub holds some of the things I didn't throw out of my new classroom when I was purging it of its previous holdings. T. had a large collection of Disney videos that I don't think were appropriate for fourth graders, but will be perfect for Jillian. So, I packed them up and brought the home. We've got every Sing Along Songs video here ever known to man. I'll split the booty with Grammy and she can keep some at her house. My nieces LOVED Disney Sing Along Songs. I'm sure Jillian will too. I also took home some early readers from his vast collection of books that weren't grade level appropriate. They'll be right at home in Jillian's library.

Other things of note:

* All the fourth grade teachers at my school have begun implementing the writing program that I was led to through the research for my thesis. This is the formal implementation phase of my thesis. I'm getting positive feedback from them that they like the 6+1 Traits of Writing methods. My principal is having the Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction come out next month to observe one of my lessons. They are looking for a program for the entire school district to adopt. Writing is one of the most difficult things to teach. The assistent superintendent happens to be a former principal of mine and we have a great appreciation for one another, so I'm totally comfortable with her observing me. She has always been really supportive of me, and had paraded me and some of my reading strategies before the previous superintendent several years ago.

* I had a good week with my students, and I'm feeling like I'm getting in the groove again.

* We have two new teachers at the 4/5 level and they are a delight to be around. They've brought a lot of energy to our team.

* We celebrated a coworker's birthday last night at the Cheesecake Factory. A GOOD TIME was had by all!

* The weatherman says we may have our first Santa Ana wind condition of the season this week. I'm not liking the prospect of that AT ALL!

Have a lovely weekend, everybody!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Ah, that feels better!

I had a massage after school today. My shoulders have been so tight and I was very uncomfortable after work yesterday. To make matters worse, my pesky eyelid twitch has returned since I went back to work. My eye doctor says that is totally stress related. I'm not unhappy at all, but the stress of getting back to work has taken a physical toll on my body. So, I looked at today's massage as mostly therapeutic, rather than indulgent.

However, it was a little weird.

When I walked in the day spa, I was greeted by my masseuse who promptly recognized me. He said I looked familiar, and even though he didn't look immediately familiar to me, I said, "Did you used to work at Disneyland?" He had and that's where we knew each other from, but we're talking nearly twenty years ago. It made me a little uneasy, but my shoulders were screaming, so I let the massage proceed. He was very professional and I must say that I'm feeling really good right now. So, it was worth it, but next time I'll request someone else, because he knows what I look like in a polyester pant suit and steel-toed shoes.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Yeah, That's Me

I saw this personality test referred to on another blog and I had to take it. I really enjoy taking personality tests. What does that say about me?

Anyway, this personality test identifies different levels at which one may be in regards to the personality descriptors. So, one may be at a high or healthy level in which the best characteristics are revealed, or one may be at an average level, or low (unhealthy) level in which more negative attributes are revealed. I'd say I'm at a healthy level most days, unless I have PMS - then all bets are off! ;-)

According to the Enneagram test, my key motivations include: Want to be right, to strive higher and improve everything, to be consistent with their ideals, to justify themselves, to be beyond criticism so as not to be condemned by anyone.

So true, so true!

What Enneagram type are you?

Saturday, September 09, 2006

I remember getting ready for work that morning and, as usual I had the television in my room on to the local NBC station. I like to listen to the news while I get ready for work. At some point in the broadcast they began reporting about an airplane that hit the World Trade Center in New York City. The earliest broadcasts that morning didn't refer to any terrorism, but I remember thinking that I was grateful that none of my loved ones were traveling that day. In a matter of minutes, though, it was apparent that this wasn't an accident.

It was only the second week of school and as upset as I was, I knew I had to get to work. The most difficult thing about that day was being calm and reassuring to my students when I felt confused and worried myself. Our principal told us not to turn on the news with any students in the room - we didn't want to increase their anxieties. But every recess break, we'd gather in one teacher's room to watch the news. I watched a lot of news over the next few days and cried many tears.

I felt especially bad for one little boy in my class. September 11th was (is) his birthday. At the end of the day he was astute enough to say, "Great, now my birthday will always be remembered for this!" What can you say to that?

I had a little girl in my class that year who was Muslim. I loved her from the first day of school because she was super affectionate and had the best attitude about school. I made an effort all year long to reach out to her and show her good favor, because I didn't want the other students to act out any prejudices towards her because of her religion. I knew if I showed how much I liked her, they would too. Kids are like that.

After a while, things got back to normal, although it wasn't the normal we'd known before. In my memory, aside from that horrible day, it was a typical school year.

This Monday morning, all the teachers and students at my school will gather at the flag pole to say the pledge and sing a patriotic song. The adults will be able to remember the events and the losses of that late summer day five years ago, but many of the students are too young to remember it at all.

So, we'll teach them about it.

Quilt Squares, Anyone?

I know I still owe Jen a quilt square. Sorry, it's taking so long, Jen.

I might as well send out a batch of quilt squares and wishes instead of just one. So, if you're in need of a square, email me your address and I will get one out to you soon.

In return, I ask that you consider sending me a wish to add to Jillian's Good Wishes Book. Thanks!

Friday, September 08, 2006

I Think I Need This Book

Okay, I am so tired! I guess I'm out of practice. The sad thing is that I was too tired to make it to my pilates class last night at 7:45. I've got to find a way to stay alert into the evening twice a week to make my pilates classes. I have to!

Why? Because it's good for me!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Suburban Coyote

I had the dreaded crosswalk duty this morning. It's dreaded because the parents drive like maniacs! I'm certain some teacher on duty, or some child making their way to school will be hit by some parent dropping their kid off at school someday. They make u-turns illegally, speed, park in the crosswalk, double park, and drive up on to the campus grounds adjacent to the playground in desperate measures to get their kids on campus. It's insane.

Anyway, this morning's crosswalk duty was even more exciting and dangerous because there was a coyote roaming the neighborhood. That might be commonplace where you live, but this is Huntington Beach! Around these parts crows, possums, and outdoor cats are considered wildlife. I personally did not see the coyote, but heard all about him from concerned students and their parents while I was trying to get them across the street to safety. I hope he's found his way out of that neighborhood and back to someplace more rural before I have crosswalk duty again.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

First Day of School

Today was the first day of my eleventh year of teaching. My first fourth graders from the 1996/1997 school year are now college sophomores! I can't believe how quickly the time has passed.

This year's class seems very likeable. I have several more boys than girls, which is never a good thing, but it will take some time to get a better feel for the dynamics of the group. I do know that D. and G. will require a lot of attention from me. Already I was asking D. to stop talking when I'm talking and to put his feet on the floor. G.'s dad called right after school to talk about homework - there was no homework and won't be until next week. Some parents are very high-maintenance.

But on the positive side, I received flowers from two students, a bag of fruit and cookies from another, and yet another sent a large bag of cleaning supplies and paper for the classroom. I was delighted with their thoughtfulness.

Even though it was a minimum day and the kids were dismissed at 12:20 p.m., I'm exhausted. It's going to be a very low-key evening and an early bedtime tonight.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Two Little Ladybugs...

...because tomorrow is my two month LID anniversary. I'm blogging about it today because with this being the first week of school, I was afraid I might forget all about it once I get back to work.

Two months have passed easily. Going back to work and starting another master's class next month will surely help to pass the time.

I'm thinking I might implement a visual way to keep track of the months I've waited in my classroom. I could add a ladybug to a spot on the wall for each month that has passed. I think my students would like that, too. I'll let you know what I come up with. Looks like I'll be going to the teacher supply store today. They usually have bug themed cut outs for bulletin boards...

Sunday, September 03, 2006

From Trash to Treasure

After six days of back-breaking work my new classroom is finally ready. I have to thank my mom, my sister, my youngest niece, and my dad for all they did to help me pull this together. My mom and my sister spent two days up on ladders hanging butcher paper all the way to the ceiling, and trimming the butcher paper with border. Sarah numbered student supplies and fetched items for us, and Dad was a big help with furniture placement. My mom has sewn a curtain for the back window (which we will hang next week) and she's making a new seat and back for my director's chair.

This is the corner of the room where the classroom library is. The round table is used to work with students in small groups. I usually have parents volunteer to help during math to support those students who need their math efforts "micro-managed" in order to be accurate. Since I've been utilizing parent volunteers in that way, most kids who really struggle with math have made greater improvements throughout the year.

Here you can see our computer stations. I have three new computers this year. In my old classroom, I had the same computers for eight years! Do you think they worked? It was ridiculous. Fortunately, that room now has all new computers. I'm not very good at incorporating technology into the curriculum. A lot of that has to do with the fact that our technology hasn't been reliable enough, but my last class in this master's program is about technology. So, maybe I'll pick up some strategies for making better use of my computers in that class. I am hoping to have a Smart Board installed this year or next. That's technology that I can get excited about!

This is the back of the room. This building I'm in is circular and has six classrooms in it. We call these buildings "pods". The middle of the building is a room shaped like a hexagon - it is a room shared by the teachers for storage and we usually eat lunch in our own pod rooms. Since I'm in a pod with third grade teachers, I'll still go over to the 4/5 pod for lunch. Each classroom is shaped like a giant piece of pie. Because the rooms are shaped like that, it does make it difficult to place furniture and optimize the space, but I think we've done a good job. That's my desk back there in front of the window. I have a smaller desk at the front of the room from where I teach and have all the day's materials.

Last picture - leaky sink, television and VCR player, and cabinets that are now meticulously organized! I love Mary Engelbriet, so I have two sets of her posters displayed in the room. I also have a nice set of Virtues posters. We have a virtue of the month schoolwide. We want the kids to think about responsibility, compassion, self-discipline, cooperation, etc., throughout the year. My favorite little board is back by my desk. It's titled "The Joys of Teaching" and on it are group pictures of each class I've had since 1996. I'm just going to keep adding pictures until I retire. Understand, some of them are more cause for joy than others, but you know what I mean!

I try to create a classroom environment that is moderately stimulating and calming at the same time. I use vibrant but cool colors to set the mood. The feel of a classroom is very important and can impact student achievement. I don't like being in classrooms that are dated looking because the teacher has the same posters up since 1979, and I don't like classrooms that have too much decor in them, either. I think kids probably feel the same way whether they can articulate that, or not.

Anyway, I hope you've enjoyed the tour of my home away from home!