I need a do over!

Oh My Word!! I cannot begin to tell you the angst I am feeling right now. I had my observation today and, for the first time ever, I had to ask my principal for another chance because it was HORRIBLE. Actually, I can't emphasize that enough - HORRIBLE.

It started off badly - with my old principal if the observation was scheduled for 10:10 she would show up at about 10:25. My new principal showed up at 10:08 - as I was trying to get our lunch count straight. For some reason we had to take the lunch count 3 TIMES today because students kept changing their choices, voting twice and/or not mentioning that they had home lunch.  Our cafeteria manager was standing in the doorway laughing as I finally had my class physically get up and stand in groups according to their lunch choice.

So my principal walks in to the chaos of lunch choices and asks if I want her to come back since I'm not ready. I assure her that we will be starting in just a moment and to come sit down. She immediately comments about the heat in my room - and friends, it was warm. But, in my defense, some genius decided to place an outside air vent in the cabinet my heater is in. So, if my heater is not actively blowing hot air, the cold wind comes in from outside, aimed right at our carpet area in front of the Smartboard. Seriously, it can be roasting in the room and the kids still have jackets on at carpet because of the draft. In deference to my principal I started adjusting my heat controls, which of course froze up on me so it takes forever to get the heat turned off.

But it's all good because once I get the lesson going it's going to rock, right? Nope!  I'm not sure if it was just that they were uncomfortable being observed by our principal, or maybe they're still feeling the effects of our recent Oklahoma earthquakes, but for whatever reason, they suddenly acted like it was day 1 of school and I had never taught them anything before! Actually, even the earthquake doesn't explain it. It has to be something even more extraordinary. In fact, this is what I imagine happened in my students' bedrooms last night:
De underjordiske by Theodore Kittelsen (trolls stealing human children)

Yes, I think I must have had changelings in my class today - my regular students were kidnapped by trolls! For example, I asked one of my (usually!) very bright boys to come up to the Smartboard to write an addition sentence. He proceeded to try to write WITH HIS FINGER on the Smartboard.. I gently remind him that he needs to use the marker. At which point he tries to get a DRY ERASE MARKER out! Yep - like he had never used our Smartboard before, even though we use it DAILY!

I should have stopped the observation at that point because it just went even more downhill from there (I'm talking subterranean!). During our Doubles Rap song about 6 of my boys went mute - even though they're gung-ho singers every other day. When I divvied up my students for our small groups I realized that due to absences, a student being unexpectedly pulled for Speech,and a student being pulled for Reading Recovery, one of my groups is down to only 2 kiddos. And, of course, they're the two kiddos that really can't function in a group by themselves. But, at this point it's too late to change our groups (I can just imagine the chaos that would have ensued had I tried!) so I plunge into small group time.

I expected the principal to come and observe my small group so I could show off my super cool small group lesson. Instead she zeroes in on my weakest links - the two students in a group by themselves. She starts quizzing them about the worksheet that they were doing. My one sweetheart, who needs about a 30 second wait time for questions (she's on an IEP and she struggles, but if you give her time to think she can do it) gets so flustered that she completely shuts down and won't answer any more questions. At this point I abandon my small group to run damage control!

I gently guide my principal to where the students are working on their math journals. One of my boys has just glued his prompt to the page and she asks him what his problem is. He looks at her blankly. She asks him why he's not writing his problem. He again stares blankly and gives me a deer in the headlights look. I finally deduce that he is so used to me saying "addition sentence" that he thinks she is scolding him for having a "problem" when she's actually talking about math! I try to clear up the confusion and quickly take her to another table.

At this table everything is going great as they play a dice game - they double the number and place a chip on the answer on their sheet. Except that one of the boys encounters a wonky chip - it apparently came out of the machine wrong because it resembles an 8 rather than a circle. He gets completely thrown by the wonky chip and can't answer the question the principal asks because he's so busy trying to comprehend this bizarre chip. My principal turns her attention to another student who can't tell her what 8 plus 1 is. I think my draw dropped. I looked around the room for the hidden cameras because, really, this little darling is one of my strongest in math and now she's drawing a blank when it comes to 8+1?!

At this point, out of the corner of my eye I see that my student has come back from Speech and rather than jumping into his group he is hiding in our reading corner, trying to pick out a book! As I steer him to his table my prinicpal goes to observe another group. At this table, one of my darlings is using her fingers to count on. My prinicpal is aghast and wants to know why I haven't provided manipulatives. I explain that we are trying to memorize our facts and that we have used manipualtives in the past lessons, but at this point we are trying to develop automaticity so I don't want the whole class using blocks to add 6+6. This student is one of my lower ones, who was supposed to be retained in kindergarten, but because of an office mix up, ended up being enrolled in 1st grade at which point her mother decided to keep her in my class and potentially retain her in 1st, rather than send her to a kindergarten class. She is also ELL with a father who is out of town for work, a younger brother with a physical disability and a mama who speaks no English - she's not getting as much support in memorizing her facts as some of the other kids.

This turned into a philosophical debate about whether to allow students to use their fingers to add and subtract. My position is that they will always have their fingers - so if they can figure out a problem on their fingers at least that is a strategy they will always be able to use. Of course I expect them to memorize their facts by the end of the year, but at this point, especially for my low students, I see no harm in using fingers. My principal believes that students should have manipualtives even into high school, and finger counting is apparently a big no-no in her opinion. I am going to open this can of worms here - what do you think about finger counting versus using unifix cubes?

My principal had been in the room for 50 minutes by this time and I thankfully looked at the clock and announced that we had to clean up and come back to carpet to wrap up so we could switch to writing. She slipped out the door as I was starting our wrap up and it was like a light switch had been turned on. During wrap up everyone suddenly seemed to understand doubles plus one was all about! The students who couldn't answer the simplest questions where suddenly spouting off doubles plus one facts like it was nothing. I actually skipped writing to continue with our wrap up because they were all clicking along so well!

I ended up seeking out my principal at the end of the day and asking for another observation because I did not want today to go on my record lol!  She's coming back next week - now I have a week to obsess and plan and try to figure out a lesson that will let my students shine - even if the trolls try to take them again!

If you have any ideas for a foolproof lesson, or an opinion on the finger counting debate, please leave a comment! Oh, and the giveaway for a Donorschoose gift card ends tomorrow, so go enter asap!

12 Rustle Up A Response!:

tmarie said... Reply to comment

Your blog name explains it all! It truly is like herding cats! Hope your next one goes better!
Spotlight on Kindergarten

Mrs. L said... Reply to comment

You will blow her away next time. Teaching near doubles is just difficult. Believe me. I had my own struggles with it today. :)
Life with Mrs. L

Jennifer said... Reply to comment

O.M.G. That sounds AWFUL! I'm so sorry!

I agree with you 100% that students should NOT always have manipulatives. In fact, I've told my students that I don't want them relying on unifix cubes. I have said, "It's OK to use the cubes if you are ABSOLUTELY stuck on a CONCEPT, not one math problem." I don't mind counting on fingers. How can I? Like you said, they will always have their fingers.

PS: Love you honey, but there's no such thing as a foolproof lesson, But there are such things as prizes. (So awful- but if that makes them behave while the principal is there then so be it!)

Rowdy in First Grade

Erika said... Reply to comment

Yikes! I hate it when twilight zone things like that happen. I would hope that your principal sees a lot of wonderful things happening in your room informally and will recognize that we all have off days. Yes kids need manipulatives even in high school, but fingers are a manipulative (probably the original one) and a strategy. And why didn't she bring that up during your time to go over your evaluation instead of during class. Sounds like she needs to be stopping in more often for a peek and then maybe the kids wouldn't be so freaked as well. Life is all about do-overs :)

2B Honey Bunch

Tina said... Reply to comment

Oh Jennifer, I am so sorry that you are feeling so down about your day:( This whole evaluation process sounds very scary to me! I don't think that we have that system here in Australia. You know that saying...never work with children or animals ...;) I hope that once you have a good night's sleep, you will feel a little more positive. I am sure that your Principal knows that things don't always go to plan...come to think of it, do they ever in a classroom? Wishing you (and your sweeties) the best for next week ~ xx
Good Morning Mrs Rubie

Holly said... Reply to comment

You know we all have days like that and your happened to be when you were being observed...yikes! I hate formal observations - they just give a glimpse,a small, small glimmer of time...and you really cant' base anything off of that. It's like judging a book by its cover. And I could care less if the kids use their fingers...I mean, I team them many strategies to hopefully avoid doing that, but I still use them for my own adding!!!!!! (and I think I'm pretty succesful in spite of it) At this time of year, they truly are just firming up the CONCEPTS of addition and subtraction and are *just* working toward automaticity.


Crisscross Applesauce in First Grade

Anonymous said... Reply to comment

1. it is obvious the administrator doesn't have a relationship with the students that they feel uncomfortable when he or she comes it. SO SAD!! Kindergarten students is like a group of cats and you never know when one will "sping!" or quietly go in a corner. Yep.. I'd possibly talk prize.. but not WHAT or some sweet child will say... do I get my MM's now? Grin grin..

2. Jennifer, this IS life in the K classroom. Please don't beat yourself up. It is real and authentic. We make a million decisions in a second's notice and manage it all. Just like lunch count.. you are doing real life- solving problems. Always relate it to real life because that is what it is. Each day we get another chance! So when you talk w your administrator.. talk about what you take from that.. and how you use that information to guide your next lesson. Of course you rock girl! You ARE a K teacher!!
As for the fingers.. well to me ANY way you can get a kid to learn is the key. Some need the physical touch to drill it in their mind.. that is HOW they memorize some don't-visual and auditory and they memorize it. All depends on the learner! It is our job to meet each learner and help them learn.
Best wishes and watch out for trolls.. they always goof stuff up. imafarmgirl who teaches K!

Marlana said... Reply to comment

Bless your heart! I have to be honest, I have nightmares about being observed and things like this happening. I feel so bad for you! I'm sure it makes you feel better to know that your Principal is letting you do it again. I think that shows that you accept that things didn't go the way you anticipated and you deserve to be given the opportunity to at least have another day to compare this one to. :)

I will pray for you observation next week. The whole troll thing cracks me up. I think that happens every time I have a sub. The next day I come back and it's like aliens have replaced my students with Energizer bunnies that have no regard to rules. Scary! I had a sub yesterday and had to be observed today by a teacher trainer. I was nervous all day about how the kids would behave and hardly had time to worry about what I was actually going to be doing.

I hope the rest of your week gets better!
Lil' Country Kindergarten

Susan said... Reply to comment

Sounds like the barometric pressure did a number on your little kiddos, too! I have to admit I lit into mine today, too. I told them that they were acting just like it was the first day of school! But we started the week with a field trip, then had a big Farm Breakfast yesterday and a veteran guest today...but they just couldn't follow any procedure. But, some of these little apples haven't fallen too far from their trees....

Susan said... Reply to comment

Oh my gosh...my brain has turned to mush after this week. How many "buts" did I put in my previous comment? What does that say about my state of mind. I'm starting to sound like my kids!

Chrissy said... Reply to comment

I think the full moon can be blamed for the strange behavior, lol! The picture made me laugh--I'm sorry, I feel for you, observations are nerve-wracking.

I teach in a private school and I have potential families dropping in on my classroom at unexpected moments. Maybe someday this won't bother me, but it is not an easy situation. I have visitors coming in the morning. Hopefully, my kinders will be kept safe from trolls tonight!

PS: Do you teach K or 1st? :-)

Anonymous said... Reply to comment

I just read you post on your observation and had to laugh and cry for you. I totally feel your pain. My first year teaching every time I got observed something went wrong. I had a student throw up in front of my principal, an irate parent need handling so my principal had to leave, and then to top those a pipe burst open the day before christmas break in my room while I was teaching. The kids all started scream that water was coming into the room. Needless to say that observation was cute short as I had to get all the students out of the room and across the hall, and the principal and janitor had to shut the schools water supply off. But they are things to laugh at now.

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