Sunday, January 7, 2007

Fire Marshall visits and Severe Weather

Whew! What a week! We only had a three day week at school, but it was a doozy! The children were fantastic. I love my class! They are such good kids! But as I find often in education, when I've had a rough week, it has nothing to do with teaching or children. It's often all the junk we have to do in addition to the teaching and working with children that makes the day difficult! Most teachers I know became teachers because they love children and wanted to impact kids' lives in a positive way. I wish that were what we were mostly allowed to do. Too often rules, procedures, policies, laws, and other things interfere with teaching and learning.

Warning! Some ranting and raving follows!

This week our school had a visit from the Fire Marshall. This was a pre-visit. It was to inform us of all the ways our school is breaking fire codes BEFORE the real visit. Now, our principal is a real stickler for following rules. We leave our fire doors closed, we don't use extension cords, we don't have appliances in our classrooms, etc. She knows the rules and makes sure we follow them. We didn't think this visit would be a very big deal. Well, to say we were wrong is an understatement! Apparently there are brand-spanking new fire codes, and we are extremely out of compliance! We have 2 weeks to correct our errors before the official visit. (An added pressure is that we've heard that news crews are following the Fire Marshall to document schools who don't meet codes.) Our beautiful elementary school with gorgeous displays in the hall has been turned upside-down. There are two new rules that have flustered us the most. The big one for me is that no more than 20% of a wall can be covered with anything. If you've been in an elementary school lately, you know we post everything! The walls of my suite (trailer classroom) are covered with the alphabet, numbers and number words, our 175 sight words, word family posters, maps, writing stage samples, student work, etc. Probably 90% of my walls are covered. Our bulletin boards themselves cover more than 20% of the walls they are on. The Fire Marshall's response to this was that the fire department didn't put up the bulletin boards. Don't post things on them. So, I (along with every other teacher in our school) spent Friday morning hastily trying to remove 70% of the items we had posted on our walls - both inside our classrooms and outside as hallway displays. We had to take the cloth of the bulletin boards - that's what most of us use as backgrounds to our displays. So, the entire bulletin boards have to be taken down and put back up with NO background - just the beautiful, brown cork-board. I'm in the process of trying to make reference notebooks the kids can use to find our sight words or word families or punctuation marks instead of looking at posters on the walls. These are first graders - they are not yet highly efficient at using reference materials. We are working on these notebooks, clearing our rooms, and completely reorganizing our classrooms and materials while teaching and working with children.

The second rule that really frustrated us all is that there can be NOTHING posted within 5 feet of every doorway! That rule is for people in the building. In the trailers, we have to have a 10 feet clearance. 10 feet! Barely 10 feet of trailer space even exists inside the doorways! I understand they are trying to keep our school safe. I understand they have a job to do. I appreciate the fact that they "have our best interests" in mind. But, boy it makes for a tough job to comply with these rules and still be able to have needed materials to teach a class!

The other interesting thing that happened this week was beyond everyone's control. We had severe weather predicted on Friday. Tornadoes touched down in a couple of counties near us. So, all the trailer classrooms were brought into the building. This needed to be done. I know that and do not in any way object to that. I was in the middle of disassembling my classroom while my students were working on group projects at 10:30 when our principal dropped by our 30 or so trailers to tell each of us to "pack up for the day and come in the building." We had to gather everything we'd need for 20 students for the remainder of the day and come inside. I don't know about you, but I can't carry that much stuff. No one would be allowed back in the suites. We had classes meeting in the halls, the lobby, computer labs, 2 classes per classroom, etc. Another class and mine occupied a resource classroom. The other class had a substitute that spoke rough English. It made for an interesting day. It was fine, the kids handled the situation well, but we weren't able to accomplish what we needed to accomplish academically because we didn't have the supplies and books we needed. And, I kept thinking about the colossal mess I'd left my classroom in while trying to clear the walls. All in all the day went fine. We survived. We learned - even though we didn't learn the things outlined in my lesson plans, we still did some worthwhile activities.

There are no worries, though. Our principal graciously (Please note the sound of sarcasm in my voice.) offered to open the building Saturday - and every Saturday this month so that we can we can re-do our classrooms. I appreciate the opportunity to work six days a week this month. I can feel the released tension from the Christmas break quickly returning to my neck and shoulders. I bought a brand new bottle of Excedrin Tension Headache relief after I left my classroom Saturday afternoon. I have my one day today to relax, and with Excedrin bottle in hand, I shall return to work tomorrow for a full 6- day week. June's coming. :-)

I thank the Lord for my good class. They are why I can return to work tomorrow.


Joan said...

And you didn't even mention that Friday was also report card day -- so report cards had to be filled out and ready to distribute at the end of the day!

Terrell said...

I'm sorry but I just have a hard time believing that the charts, posters, and student work on a modern school's walls are a significant fire risk if any semblance of code is met otherwise. I sure hope that's not gonna spread to our county!

I hope this week is better for you!!

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