Thursday, September 25, 2008

Guidance for guided reading

Yesterday was like a black hole of a day. I was so busy every second and so discombobulated that at the end of the day I realized I couldn't remember a single thing I had taught. So is it any wonder the kids can't either?

Today I learned that I am doing a lot of things wrong. And it's not because I'm a bad teacher or an unintelligent person; it's because the procedures for teaching reading at my school are so arcane and so intricate that I feel like I need a second master's degree in how to fill out all the paperwork I'm expected to maintain. One of the things we have to do when meeting with a guided reading group is set out a "purpose for reading." We tell the kids that before they begin to read the book independently, they should keep in mind X or think about Y while they are reading.

(Quick tutorial for those of you who don't teach elementary reading: In a guided reading group, you pull all your kids who are reading at a certain level, and you read a book with them that's one level higher than their "just right" level. You sit down with them and preview the book, give them the gist of the story, show them some of the tricky words they'll encounter, and then you coach them and "guide" them as they read independently or out loud to you. Then you wrap it up with a teaching point you want them to remember. And then on the third day of a guided reading group, you do some kind of word work or word study activity based on the text.)

My students are all reading fairly low level books, and they finish them pretty quickly. So on the first day of a guided reading group I've usually made the "purpose for reading" some kind of comprehension question or a "pick your favorite page" thing. But then on the second and third day, since my kids have such big issues with fluency, I've asked them to think about reading in a smoother voice or pay attention to the rhyming words they hear.

Apparently this is a no-no, which is kind of a bummer for me, because it was going really well. During literacy coaching today our coach told me that the kids should not be reading the whole book on the first day of guided reading, but honestly, how do you split a 6-page book with one sentence on each page into three days of guided reading?

I think I am really doing my best to stay on top of things. I read all my memos and discuss them thoughtfully with my colleagues. When they started pulling out huge chunks of my AIS group during reading this week, so that I only had 3 kids there instead of my usual 10, I re-arranged my guided reading groups and strategy lessons so that I wouldn't be caught unexpectedly with nothing planned for the kids I had remaining. When we somehow ended up three teaching points short for the month of September, I planned my own mini lessons based on what I thought my kids needed to learn.

But unfortunately, all I ever hear about at my school is covering myself -- making sure I have enough labels on each kid once they come looking at my binders, making sure I'm planning my strategy lessons based off our reading checklist so that I can show evidence of why I decided to teach the lesson in the first place, making sure I'm checking everything off and filling everything out the right way. It makes me feel a little under-valued as a professional, like I can't be trusted to plan anything using my own discretion and judgement about what my students need. It's frustrating because in order to fit everything in (a mini lesson, guided reading, a strategy lesson and a share), I feel like by the end of the period I'm talking so fast and everything devolves into a half-assed, rushed lesson, even when I notice things that I really want to address. In fact, I find myself not really caring whether the kids actually got it or not, as long as I have something to write down on my checklist and labels! And some days I feel like a trained monkey could reel off the Teachers College mini lesson script as well as I can: "Readers, we have been learning that good readers ____. Today I want to teach you that good readers _____. Watch me as I show you how good readers _____. Did you notice how I showed you how good readers _____? Now it's your turn to try it. Take out one book from your book baggie and practice _____. Readers, I noticed how some of you ____. Today and every day I want you to remember that good readers _____. Off you go!" In fact, funny story: Today I sat down to guided reading with one of my beginner ELLs who's reading at a level B. With our beginner ELLs, we're doing a modified guided reading where we read the text aloud to them. So I read him the book, and then he grabbed it from me and said: "Now I will try!" because he's probably heard that "Now it's your turn to try it!" line so many times.

Even though I'm still having a much better time of it this year than last year, I will say this: Last year I had a lot more freedom to be creative, and that showed in my lessons. This year I'm starting to race through everything in order to follow the script, and my lessons are suffering for it.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Easel of doom: remix!

Miraculously, this morning the janitor brought one of my co-workers a new easel on wheels, which means that I got to take her old easel on wheels. Her easel is inferior to an actual working easel on wheels in that it takes an enormous amount of effort to wheel in a straight line, but it is vastly superior to my old easel on wheels in that none of its wheels fall off.

Clearly there is some sort of easel hierarchy at work here and I am at the bottom of the totem pole, but at least it's a pole with four working wheels.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Easel of doom

Last year, I served 19 classes on all four floors of our school plus the annex one block away. Somehow I did all this without any kind of mobile classroom device whatsoever. I just loaded up an extra large Carol School Supply bag and a smaller tote and dumped all my supplies into them, carrying around all my charts, papers, markers, pencils, rewards, stickers, books and junk from place to place. I never requested a cart because (1) I didn't have an elevator key anyway, so therefore I had no way of moving my hypothetical cart between floors; (2) I wouldn't have been able to roll my hypothetical cart down the block to the annex, where five of my classes were located and (3) I figured I wouldn't get one anyway.

This year, though, things were going to be different. I was going to get my very own easel on wheels.

I had big plans for my easel on wheels. I bought two behavior pocket charts to hang on one side of my easel on wheels, with enough pockets for each of my students. I bought tickets to give out to students for good behavior, and envelopes to deposit the tickets in (when you earn a ticket, you put it in your class envelope, and every Friday I pull a ticket and the lucky winner earns a special reward!). I bought a little magnetic pencil holder for the other side of my easel on wheels, labeled it "Miss Brave's Supplies," and loaded it up with dry erase markers, regular old markers, and pencils that say "Teacher's Pencil -- Return to Teacher" on them. In the first few days of school, when I was still doing running records and not conducting mini lessons, I merrily spent every minute lovingly fixing up my easel on wheels. Everyone who passed us by in the hallways complimented me on my hyper-organization and cuteness.

At last, everything I needed would be on my easel on wheels. I would never show up to a classroom without vital supplies again!

I didn't count on one tiny but inevitable misstep: Naturally, my easel on wheels has a broken wheel.

I first discovered the sad truth about my easel on wheels on the first day of school, when I noticed that the easel I had inherited from my predecessor was missing a wheel. One of my APs tried to rectify the situation by strapping the broken wheel back on. So for a few days, my easel on wheels had one wheel that didn't roll, which I figured was fine as long as the easel stayed intact and could be moved from place to place. That is, until I actually started trying to move the easel on wheels from place to place. Because when I try to move the easel on wheels from place to place, the wheel falls off. A lot. In inopportune places like the elevator (and did I mention that the elevator doors have no sensor, so that they slam shut directly on my easel as I'm trying to drag it in and out?). Frequently I am wheeling my easel on wheels down the hall (and in my case, "wheeling" looks a lot more like "dragging a heavy object that seems to have a mind of its own"), trying to avoid hitting groups of children with it, when the wheel falls off. Usually when this happens, a child in the hall will pick up the wheel, run after me with it, and shout something like, "Miss Brave, you forgot your wheel!" As if I just happened to misplace the wheel and tried to leave without it.

My easel on wheels is huge and unwieldy. It seems to have the exact same dimensions as our classroom doorways, so wheeling it in and out of classrooms is kind of like those 007 scenarios where you have to fit through the laser beams without setting off the sensor. My easel on wheels is also much taller and broader than I am, so that I can't see around it. I like to tell my colleagues that I need sideview mirrors if I am to avoid hitting someone in the hallways (also because my easel on wheels doesn't wheel too well, it tends to veer off without my direction). Today, I was mortified when my AP came to visit a classroom and had to squeeze herself past my easel, which was taking up the entire doorway. (She did compliment me on my tickets, though.)

I have discovered that the most effective way to wheel my easel on wheels is to pull it along while walking backwards, which is not exactly my ideal way to traverse the halls. As I was doing this today, getting my usual cardio/strength workout, a teacher commented that it was a shame that the easels on wheels keep breaking (mine is not the only one), because they had been purchased from Lakeshore and were allegedly high quality and expensive.

I had never before considered how much my easel on wheels might have cost, and so this evening when my fiance suggested that I might bite the bullet and bring in my own easel, I decided to look it up. Sure enough, my easel on wheels is an "All Purpose Mobile Teaching Easel" that Lakeshore claims you can "roll anywhere!" (Although apparently not onto elevators with doors of death. Or into classrooms. Or down school hallways.) And it costs (drumroll please)...$299!

Holy expensive school supplies, Batman. It looks like my broken easel on wheels and I will have to learn to get along.

Friday, September 19, 2008

The crying game

Confession time! For the past few weeks, I've been reading online about other teachers who are already feeling over-worked and over-stressed. Several of them have mentioned experiencing their "first cry" of the school year, and when I've read about that first cry -- something with which I am all too unfortunately familiar -- I have, I admit, congratulated myself on avoiding it. Ha ha, I may have even thought. I am no longer a first-year teacher! I know exactly what I am doing now! I am immune to the first cry!

OK, you know what comes next, right? And the worst part is that my first cry came over the stupidest little issue. I mean, last year I had first graders threatening to stab me with scissors and fifth graders who wrote on the walls -- those were incidents worth crying over.

This particular incident probably isn't even worth the time and energy it'll take trying to explain it, but here goes: This year, during 50 minutes, I was assigned to the art room, where my students will be working on a computer program. I was psyched about it because (1) I have experience working with the program and think it's really helpful for our students and (2) they are totally independent while working, and I wouldn't have to do the ridiculous backflips I did last year trying to come up with a plan for 50 minutes. (See, technically teachers are not supposed to "plan" for 50 minutes, but you can't exactly show up for 50 minutes totally empty-handed, but it's at the end of the day and you're likely to be completely fried by that point, and so are the kids, so 50 minutes is pretty excrutiating. In my opinion.)

Anyway, of course there have been tons of problems so far, starting with the fact that because we're not in the computer room, we have to set up 16 laptops every afternoon, and they're Macs, which we're not so familiar with, so picture two teachers racing around from laptop to laptop, barking at the kids to stop touching buttons, while other kids whine about how they haven't gotten to play with the computers yet. Half of the laptops won't turn on, the other half won't connect to the Internet, all of them require us to enter two separate passwords before the kids can actually get started...I'm so glad the Quality Review wants us to focus on our use of educational technology!

Meanwhile, all along the art teacher has been semi-reprimanding me every day because she feels that our students are too loud in the hallway while they're waiting to be let inside. Our 16 students are coming from 3 separate classrooms on 2 different floors, and sometimes they get there before I do (my co-teacher is coming from our annex down the block, so she's always 10 minutes late anyway). The art teacher has been bugging me to start picking the kids up at their classroom instead of letting them walk in a group by themselves, so I finally acquiesced, even though it means traveling around the building and making us even later for the Great Laptop Setup Debacle.

One classroom sends us only two kids, so I decided those two kids couldn't possibly make such a ruckus in the hallway as to cause the art teacher to object. But yesterday when I arrived with my merry band of 14 students (making zero noise in the hallway, I might add), one of those two students was waiting for me alone in the hall. Well, not alone, because the art teacher was with her, informing me that I would need to pick up that student as well (from a third classroom on a different floor), because she "can't be up here alone." Even though I explained that normally she would be traveling with a partner (who happened to be absent), the art teacher claimed that the two of them couldn't wait in the hallway alone...even though this is what all students do when they, for example, go to the bathroom together. She suggested I tell those two students to wait for me in one of the other classrooms from which I'd be picking up students...which I think basically translates to "It's OK to inconvenience another teacher to send two students to their room to wait, but not OK to inconvenience me by having these two students wait in the hallway outside my classroom."

So, OK, fine, I tell her I'll take care of it. Wait, the crying part is still to come! So at the back of the art room is a small workroom. The art teacher has been bringing her 50 minutes group into that room, even though her assignment is in a classroom, because I guess she feels that it's all part of her work space and she can bring her kids in there because it's quieter than the classroom. But, that workroom is slowly but surely being transformed into a room that will be used during the regular school day exclusively for the same computer program that my kids are working on during 50 minutes. Yesterday I noticed that the laptop cart had been moved into that room and tables had been set up. I know that room is designated to be the computer program room. So I tentatively mention to the art teacher that maybe I will bring my 50 minutes kids in there, because, well, clearly that's the room that's meant to be used for this program, and (this part I didn't say out loud), her 50 minutes assignment isn't even in the vicinity and she's just having her kids read silently anyway, which they can do virtually anywhere in the building.

And in the same imperious tone she used to inform me of my pickup duties, she completely dismissed my suggestion, all "I'm bringing my kids in there."

"Well," I said carefully, "it just seems silly to move the laptop cart in and out of that room when it looks like it's set up to be in there during the day."

"That's not my thing, I don't know what to tell you," she said with a wave of her hand. (That's right, it's not your thing. Because it's not your room anymore! It's the computer program room! I'm sorry you lost your space, because goodness knows that no teacher in this whole school has enough of it, but you have an entire huge art room here and we only need your teeny tiny workroom space and you're not even supposed to be in here during 50 minutes anyway!) And then she walked away.

Ahem. That's when the tears, ridiculously enough, started. I was just so frustrated and fed up with trying to get this program off the ground day after day for our kids, when it hasn't been working, when I think it could really help them, and all I was asking for was one tiny thing that would make my job easier, like can't you find another place in this whole school to take your five students to do silent reading that they can do anywhere? I literally stood in the hallway (because I still hadn't let my kids into the room yet since I didn't know where to put them) in front of these 15 kids while my eyes welled up. I think the majority of teachers at my school are great, but there are some who are so embittered and possessive of their own stuff and space and materials and interests that it's really frustrating. I mean, it's not like I wanted to send 16 kids to the art room to cause a ruckus; I'm just trying to do my job here.

So I took a deep, shaky breath, put my hand on the door handle, and said to the kids, "You just have to give me a minute to think." I went inside to pull the laptop cart out of the workroom, and surprise! With the addition of the tables in there, it's really not meant to be moved in and out; the cart was crashing into tables as I tried to maneuver. I pointed this out to the art teacher, who was already parading in with her group, and she gave me the same "I don't know what to tell you, it's not my thing" line (that's right, it's not your "thing," so why are you in here?).

Fast forward 50 minutes to after my co-teacher has arrived (I had to explain, "I'm having a moment" when she showed up and I was still near tears) and we've spent 50 minutes racing around the library like mad trying to make sure everyone's laptop will turn on (no) and log onto the Internet (no), everyone's Macromedia Flash player is compatible with the program (no), everyone is logged in under the correct name (no), everyone can maneuver the touchpad because the laptops don't come with mice (no) and Julianne goes downstairs before her bus arrives (also no). Finally, when we are both exhausted and sweaty, it's time to put the laptops away. That's when the paraprofessional who's going to work with the program during the day arrives to tell us that our AP says we should just leave the laptop cart in the workroom and let the kids work in there.

Seriously, you should have seen the glare of death I got from the art teacher. It was the first and only time I've ever felt like there was a genuine beef between me and another teacher at my school, and it was all because of this stupid 50 minutes program assignment that I didn't choose. I magnanimously tried to patch things up by suggesting that we switch places (i.e., take your kids out into that giant room behind us! Look around and marvel at all the room you'll have out there while no one has to maneuver a giant heavy cart in and out of a tiny room for no good reason other than you for some reason want to be in there with your tiny group!), but there was totally an awkward vibe in the air that I'm still puzzling over.

And that, my friends, is how Miss Brave cried her first cry of the school year (in front of her students, mind you, although none of them noticed). Let me tell you, there is nothing like an inagural cry to remind you who you're working for! (The correct answer: Not the art teacher!)

Small group instruction (or not)

The other evening at Meet the Teacher night, I introduced myself to parents by explaining that I would be providing Academic Intervention Services in literacy to their children, who would benefit from small-group instruction. Except that the part about the small-group instruction was kind of a lie.

AIS providers are supposed to service at-risk students who are reading below grade level. In our school, unfortunately, that's a lot of students. At our AIS meeting, I learned that our groups can be as large as 15 students (above the 10 I had previously thought). In other grades, where the classes have as many as 30 students, this means that the AIS teacher and the classroom teacher have an even split. But in second grade, with class sizes mercifully hovering around 22 students, it can mean that if I take everyone who's reading below grade level, my group is larger than the classroom teacher's.

Most of my teachers have agreed that this is ridiculous. In one of my ELL (English Language Learner) classes, we capped my group at 10 students even though it means that there are F readers in the classroom teacher's group (remember: at this point in the year our kids should be reading at level I). But in two of my classes, my group is larger than the teacher's. In one class, I have 13 students and the teacher has 8. Of my 13 students, four of them are non-English speakers. I'm talking no English at all. Five of them, though, are on level H, and they are the kind of attention-sucking students that will steal all the focus from the ELLs who could really, really benefit from focused, small-group instruction. This is the class that burns me the most, because with the inclusion of those five H students I have five different levels and thus five different guided reading groups.

Rather than the rule being "AIS providers can take up to 15 students," I think the rule should be "AIS providers can take up to half the number of students in the class." But what do I know? I just work here.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

School is starting to heat up

How ironic that after I wrote about running records, running record disaster struck! Our friends at Teachers College decided that now, when most of us are 95% finished with our running records (meaning that our students are almost all leveled and grouped), would be a good time to inform us that the books we use to do our running records (they are called Bebop books; I have no idea why) are actually leveled wrong themselves.

One of the I books is actually a J. One of the J books is actually a K. One of the K books is actually a P (are you kidding me?!). You can't make this stuff up. Anyway, we got this memo from our literacy coach today that included that dreaded word: Retest. Argh! Today I stayed after school (for the first time, so I absolutely cannot complain) to get myself organized. With all the data I'm trying to collect and manage, I think my 5 classes this year might be harder to keep track of than my 19 classes last year.

Other minor annoyances: I had my schedule all beautifully color-coded and now of course it's changed, so I had to use white-out and now it's ugly; the suspension room schedule was released and my name is indeed on it; and they keep adding kids to my 50 minutes roster without telling me and without providing me with the headphones the kids need to use the computers they're supposing to be using during 50 minutes.

And, it's only Tuesday. But if there's one thing I've learned from last year, it's this: I can handle it!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Alphabet of woe

The other day I saw one of my (mildly annoying) students from last year. "Miss Brave," she said with interest, "are you a teacher now?"

"Am I a teacher now?" I repeated, slightly put out. "I was a teacher last year, too, my friend!"

"No, not a writing teacher," she replied with exasperation, "like a teacher teacher."

"I'm a reading teacher this year," I said.

"Oh," she responded, "so you turned into a reading teacher?"

Poof! Like magic, I've turned into a reading teacher! And I really enjoy it, too. Even though all I've done so far is running records (if I have to hear one more kid butcher his way through Fancy Dance -- in which the lines "They wear beadwork and bells. They wear feathers and fringe" frequently get mangled into "They were badwork and bells. They wear fathers and fingers" -- I might scream), I think I'm getting into the groove and gearing up for what's ahead. So far, that entails writing everything down in multiple places (I swear I am going to start dreaming of lists of kids' names that have letters of the alphabet -- representing their reading levels -- next to them) and color coding everything. I'm fully prepared for the fact that my administration is going to count all the labels in my binder to make sure I'm seeing my students enough times a week and that they're going to grill me when my kids don't move up on their running records.

Today we had an Academic Intervention Services meeting in which we discussed how many kids each of us could expect to have in our groups. I thought AIS groups were supposed to have no more than ten, hence the phrase "small group instruction," but it turns out we can go up to 15. Theoretically, we are supposed to be servicing the kids who are below grade level, but in some classes this can be up to three-quarters of the kids in the class. In one of my classes, 16 of the 22 kids are below grade level. So I asked, am I supposed to take 15 kids and leave 7 with the classroom teacher? We all agreed that this did not make sense.

Just to give those of you out there who are not reading teachers an idea of how this works: In reading, kids are assigned reading levels that correspond to a letter of the alphabet. Theoretically, kids should come into first grade at a level C and leave at a level I. (If you think that sounds like a big jump, you're right -- first grade is widely considered the most crucial year for reading progress. I've heard it said that if kids aren't reading on grade level by the time they leave first grade, they'll never catch up to grade level.) In second grade, they should enter at a level I and leave at a level M. The kids I will service in AIS range from A to H.

In order to find out what a kid's level is, you do something called a "running record." When you do a running record, a kid reads a book out loud to you while you sit there with a teacher's copy of the same text and record all his or her mistakes (or "miscues," as the running record calls them). (My favorite miscue so far has been "mother" for "mouth," so that a sentence about someone trying to whistle became "She puts two fingers in her mother and blows.") A handy little chart at the bottom of the running record converts the number of miscues to the percentage of words the child read correctly. Then you ask them some comprehension questions. In order to achieve a certain level, the child has to read with 96% or above accuracy and answer three out of four comprehension questions correctly.

We do running records five times a year, in September, November, January, March and May. Unfortunately, right now a lot of our kids are experiencing what we call "summer slump" or "summer slide," in which they don't read over the summer and forget how. I've had a lot of kids take dramatic tumbles from H all the way back down to E. On the one hand, this is disappointing, but on the other hand it probably means that they'll jump right back up pretty quickly (I hope).

The other day, a sweet boy for whom English is obviously not a first language said to me, "Miss Brave, when are you going to use me?"

Trying not to laugh, I asked, "What do you mean?"

"I've already read all these H books from Ms. C's class," he said, indicating his book baggie, "and I am ready to be an I!"

Awwww! Let's hope so!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

What a difference a year makes

This time last year, my teaching life was a mess. I was crying in the staff bathroom, searching job sites and waiting for my health benefits to kick in so I could score some anxiety medication.

Which makes it even more gratifying to report that one year later, the school year is going swimmingly. Of course, I can say that now because I haven't really started teaching anything yet. But I am one hundred times more relaxed and confident than I was last year. And I am actually excited to pull my groups and start teaching reading!

It's true what they say: You really do have to come back for a second year. And, the craziness of my position last year is paying off this year, because I already know all of the school's first, second and third graders. Which makes it easier to yell at them in the hallways when it's my turn to sweep the floors at dismissal.

So, first-year teachers, take heart: Your life will improve!

On another note, a neighborhood blog I read got into a discussion about teaching. A teacher posted a little joke about teachers being underpaid. Someone else responded: "Underpaid? I don't think so. Perhaps if you worked 12 months out of the year, and got only 2 weeks vacation instead of 2 months. Perhaps if you worked an 8 hour day, like the 9-to-5'ers do, instead of only less than 7 hours....Sure you have to deal with rotten kids from rotten homes. So do the police, only they get paid less, and put their life on the line. Teachers have the easiest and best compensated job of all in my opinion."

OY! I didn't even know where to begin. I put on my argument face and started gearing up for a fight when my fiance noted, "These people don't know what they're talking about. There's no reasoning with them." Still, it burns. I think because most people have been in school and had teachers at some point in their lives, they assume they know exactly what teaching entails and how easy it must be because teachers get all that time off. I wouldn't walk into an operating room or a courtroom and presume I could take the place of the nurse or the judge, but everyone thinks they can be a teacher. Plus, good teaching looks effortless, which makes observers think it can't be that hard.

Anyway -- tomorrow is the first Friday of the school year. Enjoy it! I know I will.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

I can ride my bike with no handlebars

In the midst of the chaos that is the first day of school, an announcement on the loudspeaker called all the AIS teachers down to the office. Dutifully down to the office I went, where I was met by the principal, who looked at me and said, "You're still AIS? Not classroom?"

Readers, I almost had a heart attack -- I was sure my job was about to be changed -- but fortunately it was just a mix-up.

All in all, I had a good first day! Except for the debacle that was 50 minutes, which of course is what I'm going to write about first because debacles are such juicy fun to read. Here's how it went down:

Our regular school day ends at 2:20 pm. But, we have a program that we call "50 minutes" (some schools have "37.5 minutes," but they do theirs four days a week and ours is only three days a week) until 3:10 pm for kids who need extra academic help. As a result, some students leave for the day at 2:20, and others stay until 3:10. Some stay in their own classrooms, some go to other classrooms, and some go to places like the library and the computer lab where out-of-classroom teachers like me work with them.

I got a roster of my 50 minutes kids in my mailbox this morning. I knew who they were and I had even told some of them they'd be coming to my group at the end of the day. (One of them responded with "Cool!") Then a classroom teacher happened to say to me, "I got a list of the kids who stay in my room for 50 minutes, but what about my kids who go to other classrooms? How do I know who is supposed to go where?"

That, my friends, is an excellent question!

At 2:20 today, I was waiting for my group of 50 minutes kids. At 2:35, I was still waiting. That's odd, I thought. I know it's the first day, but they're all coming from different rooms, so some of them should have been here by now. I figured their teachers probably hadn't gotten a list of which kids went where and just kept them in their own rooms, so I decided to take a little walk around to the classrooms and see if I could pick them up.

But alas, it was just as I suspected (and feared): My classroom teachers called the administrator in charge of 50 minutes and posed her the same question that teacher asked me: How do I know where to send my students who leave the room for 50 minutes? And the administrator answered by telling them: You don't have any students who go to other rooms for 50 minutes. They either stay with you, or they go home.

She sent my 50 minutes kids home! Only they couldn't go home, because I'm sure nobody was there to pick them up, because they all received letters informing them that they would stay for 50 minutes. They probably sat in the auditorium from 2:20 to 3:10, and then their parents tried to pick them up in their regular dismissal spots at 3:10, only they weren't there because they were in the auditorium.

Angry parents + missing children + screwy attendance forms = stressed-out school.

Other than that, my first day was fine. I practiced putting my teacher voice back on ("I don't know why I hear talking," "I really like the way Iris is following directions," you know the drill) and I am ready to go (famous last words)!