My First PledgeCents

I’ve created my first PledgeCents cause. PledgeCents is similar to gofundme and donorschoose. It’s a way to raise money for my classroom so that I can buy them the necessary materials that we need. This particular one is so that I can afford science equipment so that I can engage my students in the sciences.

Help out my children and donate whatever you can as well as share the link.

https://www.pledgecents.com/cause/svhzjs/building-the-s-in-stem

Any amount helps because it all adds up!

Thank you!

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From the mouths of babes…

This conversation started today when I was talking about how we should respect the flag / our soldiers (right before we were to recite the pledge of allegiance). I was just trying to get the kids to understand why we stand still during the pledge and how we should act etc.:

Me – “…now class we should respect our soldiers no matter our beliefs because they are only trying to protect our rights and…”

“But they be sinnin’… They be sinners.” – JW

“Excuse me?” – Me

“They killin’ people. They usin’ guns. Why they gotta use guns? That ain’t right. They should use their mouths.” – JW

I don’t know how to respond at this point, but I don’t have to as the others in the class continue….

“Yeah why do they use guns? They shouldn’t be violent. They don’t need to kill people! Just breathe people!” -AD

“How do wars start?” – NF

“Yeah yeah why don’t they jus’ talk things out?” -JS 

“Why do wars start? But how? But why?” – NF

At this point the class is breaking out into questions and exclamations about war and violence, and I honestly didn’t know how to respond to a class full of 8 year olds who wanted to know why people still killed each other in this day and age… That’s a conversation you’d expect in a college philosophy class, not a third grade classroom. How do you explain to eight year olds why and how wars start and why people are still killing one another when you still have the same questions yourself?

These kids, these kids who are just statistics to the government because of their races and their families’ incomes and education levels, these kids who are below the poverty line, these kids who are failing academically, these kids are smarter than they will ever know and they have more smarts and heart than they’ll ever be given credit for….please don’t let them ever stop questioning the system. 

Whew!

So, here I am sitting at my dining room table writing this blog. Tomorrow starts the second week (first full week) at my new school back in America. This past week was beyond exhausting for numerous reasons.

  • No rest the weekend before as I and many other teachers came in on the weekend to decorate our classrooms as we had no other time to do so because of nonstop meetings and training for the previous two weeks.
  • A trip to Orlando for a summit meeting on Monday which meant that we had to be at the school at 6 am which meant a very early waking time of 4:45 am for me.
  • Open House the following day. Of course, the first grades scheduled to have parents were kindergarten and third grade. Since third grade is my grade, I again was there bright and early. After, I continued to decorate my classroom.
  • The next day was the first day of school. I woke up again at the crack of down and was at school by 6:15-6:20 am to put the finishing touches in the classroom. The other 3rd grade teachers and I waited until about 830 to close our doors as the students slowly kept trickling in (normally everyone should be accounted for by 8 and attendance should be in by 8:30. Being that it was the first day of school, this is not how it happened. There were about twenty-seven students on my roster, and about twenty-one of them showed up. This week more may show or some may go. They never know – this is mostly because the school that I am teaching at has a very high population of children coming from families falling below the poverty line.
    • That day in itself was very tiring. Getting to know the children and also getting them to behave in a somewhat appropriate manner took a lot of my energy. To be fair, most of them were fairly decent.
    • Easily the most tiring part of the day was dismissal. Getting the children home or simply out of the building started at 3. It didn’t end until nearly 5:30. Then we had a meeting and then some extra talking amongst one another. I didn’t get home til around 7:30 that night and I am supposed to be home around 4 on a normal night.
  • The following day was pretty much the same. I was (and am) still getting to know the children. I’m still trying to teach them expectations in the classroom and assess where they are academically (many are far below where they should be).
    • Dismissal this day also was pretty much the same. Disorganized and it took forever.
  • Friday (TGIF) came and the kids felt it. They’re getting to the point where they already don’T want to be in school (still in summer mode) and some feel comfortable enough to challenge my authority indirectly. So, I put my foot down, because these kids will eat you alive if they sense any hesitation.
    • This day also came with me learning about some of the children’s back stories. My god just stick a knife through my heart. The tragedies and lives that these children have witnessed or experienced is enough to make anyone want to curl themselves up in a ball and cry endlessly. How do I look at these babies knowing what they have been through? My heart breaks every day for them.
    • Friday’s dismissal was interesting. We started at 2 with a “mock dismissal” and the children all got into place by 2:15. We thought we would head back to our classrooms then, but nope. The poor kids (and teachers) had to wait in the cafeteria (or wherever they were supposed to be) until the actual dismissal at 3:15. What is more is that they had to wait silently and could not do anything. Now can you imagine 100s of students from K-4 (higher grades in different areas) waiting silently for that long? Neither can I. Poor babies. They were so antsy. Some kids, especially the kindergarteners, fell asleep, others continuously asked to go to the bathroom, all of them fidgeted impatiently in their seats, and many kept trying to speak to those near them. Many of the teachers were just as fed up as the children, but could only do their best to bite their tongues and grumble under their breath.
      • The problems with dismissal seem to be because of a new system that is in place, lack of understanding between the parents and the school, impatience from the parents, over-enrollment (more kids = more time that is needed to get them out of the school safely). Hopefully thing run a bit more smoothly this upcoming week.
  • I will be doing my best this week to continue teaching expectations this week as well as to learn more about each individual child – their needs, where they fall academically, etc.

Wish me luck! Coffee is my blood at this point. Sleep does not exist. Only preparations for the classroom and lesson planning exist. Preparing children for impossible assessments as well. Ahhhh!

A New Year, A New School, A New Start

Don’t worry, I’ll get to writing my year in review with 2A a little bit later. As I’ve just moved back to the USA from Turkey, I am quite the busy bee over here.

I wanted to let you all know that I have a new position as a 3rd grade homeroom teacher in Florida, and I will be teaching at a charter school. The children that I will be teaching come from diverse backgrounds. Most of the children that I will be teaching also come from very low-income families and do not have the resources at home for a proper education. I know I will have many students who will not be able to afford the basics. So, as a teacher in the US, you know where those basics will be coming from. Yep, that’s right, my own pocket. I want to make sure that my students have the proper resources at home and in their classroom. Since they come from diverse backgrounds, I also want them to have resources that represent them as well. I want them to have the resources to fuel their imaginations and creativity. I want them to want to learn and always question why and how and try to figure it out for themselves.

I’ve made a wishlist on Amazon for my classroom. If you could help out at all I would be very appreciative. The wishlist includes things like basic classroom supplies such as pencils and paper. It also includes many multicultural and thought provoking books as well as many science experiment kids. I want my children to have the resources they need and that will help them grow. Many of these kids have a high likely hood of never graduating high school let alone alone getting into college. I want to be the teacher that pushes them forward. I don’t want them to end up being just another statistic.

Thank you for any and all help.

I’ll be updating more soon.

My heart is heavy…

I’m sick of this. I’m sick of living in fear every day. I’m sick of the growing panic. I’m sick of my fears coming to life every passing day as something else happens. I’m sick of the media here keeping everything hushed. I’m sick of the media in the rest of the world not saying enough. I’m sick of the lack of compassion or care for this country…. in this country. I’m sick of being restricted. I’m sick of being told what I can or cannot wear, where I can or cannot go, when I should or should not go. I’m sick of being told that I should not speak English in public for fear of being attacked simply because I’m American (thanks Trump for making that even worse and for making the situation even more dangerous for Americans abroad!)

Turkey is not getting the recognition that it needs because it is a country stuck in the middle. It is in between progressive Europe and the conservative Middle East yet most of the world just throws it into the Middle Eastern category. Why? Because the majority of the country follows Islam? Because most people couldn’t point out Turkey on a map? Because most people think Turks still wear fezzes and ride around on camels in the desert because that is how it’s been represented in the past in cartoons and the like? Nobody knows much about Turkey except for the fact that its name is the same as the bird that they eat or just maybe if they stayed awake for that one week in history class the Ottomans kind of ring a bell. So why should they care? It’s just another one of those desert countries over there that is always fighting, right? The world isn’t properly educated on these matters. But these matters matter. A car bomb here, a suicide bomb there, another here, another there, just another day… the more it happens the more jaded people become. They think it’s just a normal occurrence. The world media covers it less and less, and the fact that the government is controlling (censoring) the media makes it even harder for news to get out. People fail to realize though that cities like Ankara and Istanbul are not just some desert  cities in the middle of nowhere. They are constantly busy, overpopulated, traffic burdened, work driven, family oriented cities just like NYC, Paris, London, San Francisco, Miami, and the like. People get up every morning, brush their teeth, kiss their families goodbye, rush out to work, sit in traffic, slouch in their desks at work, grumble through their days, live on coffee and tea, have a quick lunch break, get back to work, try not to fall asleep, finish the work day, and try their best to make it home. But Sunday, that didn’t happen for everyone. Sunday, near a bus station filled with hundreds people, men, women, children, teens, the elderly, a car bomb exploded ending the lives of at least 37 individuals and injuring over 100. Countless families’ lives were destroyed on Sunday and the world hardly flinched.The night went on, the morning came, people went to work, children went to school, and aside from a brief moment of silence held in some schools, it was as if nothing had happened the night before. If this had happened in any of the aforementioned cities, the world would have come to a halt, changed their profile pictures to mach the country’s flag, and sworn solidarity with that city. Even if it happened time and time again. But here? Apparently, it was just another day…and that’s all it ever will be until the world wakes up. I know that I’m just another blog post in the wind, yet another voice and cry for help that will go mostly unheard, but if I can educate at least one person out there, then I’ve been at least somewhat successful.

On a side note, I must say though that I am privileged. I am American, and I can leave at any time. I’ve got my passport, and if I feel unsafe, I can hope on a plane and go home to a land that has rarely felt the pain that this country goes through constantly (and when we have, we unite with the utmost passion). My fiance, my students (my children), and millions of other do not have that privilege. They are stuck here. They cannot just hope on planes. They need to go through a long and costly visa process, and that’s just for the tourist visa!  We Americans do not realize how spoiled and privileged we are.

Not teaching related…

Listening to Lou Monte makes me feel an overload of emotions. Nostalgia…happiness…sadness… This music reminds me of my childhood growing up with my grandmother, so therefore it makes me happy, but thinking of my grandmother makes me very sad to say the least. The same happens with Christmas music. Or with certain smells. Sensory memories are the strongest. They can be great at times, but right now it’s just frustrating because I just want to listen to my music and enjoy it. It’s hard enough being away from home and family, especially around the holidays. When you add in these sensory memories, and it’s even harder. Not to mention it’s that time of year when it gets grey, dreary,rainy, and depressing in İstanbul.

Who wants to fill up my coffee?

Well, the first month is done. It’s been a whirlwind of a month. Getting to know the students and teachers and constantly changing schedules takes a lot out of you. I’m tired, I need a lot more coffee, but I enjoy the classroom teacher position. It’s nice to just focus on just one class and on just fourteen students as opposed to six classes and over a hundred students like I had last year at the same school. It’s also been a bit of a make-shift beginning of the year, because as per usual here the books came very late and some did not come at all. So, I’ve had to make do with the resources that I have at the school and online resources. For English resources, I have an endless supply because the office has to have thousands of books. I photocopy what I need for the day or week and that’s that. For the other subjects though such as social sciences and math, I’ve had to work a bit harder. Pinterest is a teacher’s best friend for sure; it not only offers crafting ideas, but there are also lesson plans, worksheets, and pretty much anything I could ever need. Teachers are very creative people are love to share with one another. Another great resource that I’m utilizing more is education.com which has some amazing workbooks that go over exactly what we’re doing in our classes. Learning about place value? There’s a workbook for that. Learning about the world, maps, and directions? There’s a workbook for that. Trying to teach about rhymes and sentence structure? There are books for that as well. Absolutely wonderful resource. There are also some games and videos on the site that I need to look through that could be very useful. I’ve found some interactive math sites which are also amazing for my children because they can’t understand everything that I am saying so having something that they can touch and visualize helps immensely.

Behaviorally, of course, there are a few problems, but there will always be problems especially in a school and culture where any sort of discipline / consequence is frowned upon. Even setting up simple routines can be hard to do because of this. Take for example morning reading hour, when the students are supposed to come into the room, put their stuff away, pick out a book, and read silently until breakfast time. Every day we go over the routine, we ask and we tell the children to please get a book, stop fooling around, stop talking, and please read. It doesn’t matter which language it is said in, they have yet to once be able to do this successfully. Then, when all the children actually are quiet and reading, another student comes into the room and the talking starts again. It’s not like we don’t give the children time to talk. We give them plenty of time to talk. Breakfast time is free reign and they can talk as much as they’d like. Their break times between each lesson they are allowed to talk, play, run around, dance, and do pretty much whatever their little hearts want to do.It is something that my co-teacher and I will have to talk about again because I think reading hour is actually very important building both their Turkish skills and their English comprehension. Parent-Teacher meeting is next Sunday I believe, and if the parents ask, I will tell. I do not and have never sugarcoated things and lied to the parents. Ask and you shall receive 🙂 Some may get angry, but the truth is the truth. If the child does not respect his or her friends or teachers, how do you think that they will act when they grow up? I do as much as I can to teach manners and respect in the classroom, but there is only so much a teacher can do. The rest is up to the parents at home because they are their children’s first and forever teachers. I’m not saying all of my children are disrespectful, I’m just saying this as a general statement.

For the most part, the children pay attention and love to participate, though, I do have to encourage some more than others to participate or pay attention. I involve them all and try to be fair to all. I try to liven things up a bit and do some activities because I understand that 2nd grade isn’t easy for them. Now that they finally know how to read and write, the workload is harder and more intense. English especially is hard right now too because it’s time to focus on proper pronunciations and spelling. They get away easy in Turkish because Turkish is a very phonetic language and what they hear is how it is spelled. As we all know, English is not like that at all. So, yes, there is a lot of writing this year in English which I know the children tire of after some time. This is when I try to liven things up a bit with activities or songs or dances or even simple fill in the blanks where they don’t realize that they’re practicing their spelling or sentence structuring. On the subject of gateway activities, my students love to dance. I’m surprised because my class is made of mostly boys, but when the music comes on or the dance video come up the boys are actually in the front row and the first to dance. They’ve certainly got some moves (and a huge surplus of energy that I wish they’d transfer to me)!

All in all, though, I got lucky this year. I have the smallest class in the school, I have students whose English comprehension is pretty decent, I have a wonderful co-teacher who I love, and I have parents who are very involved. I could be in the position of others at the school which would not be fun.There has been a lot of chaos this year in the English department and, well, everywhere else. I won’t go into detail here though. Perhaps at a later date. I just have to think positive thoughts for now.

This upcoming week should be a fun week because even though Halloween was this past weekend, we will be having our Halloween party on Thursday. I, of course, will be doing a few activities and songs throughout the week. If I can, I’ll try to set up a few extra special activities, but that depends if I have the time and can find the resources. The children have been asking me about the Halloween party since the first day of school! They are super excited for it. I think it’s because it’s something unfamiliar to them because it’s not normally celebrated in their culture. It’s fun and the kids get to get dressed up and play games. Who wouldn’t find that fun? It’s the one day a year where you can be anyone or anything that you want. Plus, getting free candy is always awesome as well. I cannot wait until the next big holiday… 😉