Stop. Fairy Time.

Let’s be honest with ourselves here for a moment, shall we? Sometimes it is hard to psych yourself up for a new class at the begining of the year. Last year, it was definitely not love at first sight for me. I remember being all, “I’m so excited to start the year with you!! We are going to do so many fun things together!! Second grade rules!” And, as I wiped sweat from my brow, they were all *blank stares*. But whatever, we got over that initial little hump, bonded and were totally obsessed with each other by the end of the year. I try to think of the whole thing as a process…

Keeping in the spirit of it being a PROCESS and reminding ourselves that the first few days of school can be very exciting but also INTENSELY PAINFUL AND ANXIETY INDUCING, I thought it best to dwell in a place I call Happy Memories of Successful Teaching Past.


You see, earlier this week I had lunch with a very special friend of mine. This person volunteered in my classroom for three years (I know, she totally deserves a trophy…Most Tolerant Person Ever) and saved my behind on many occasions. She filed, she conferenced, she corrected…she ROCKED. (I’m not sure why I haven’t blogged about her more often, but you can read more about her here. I HEART her.) We were chatting and reminiscing about all of our past faves and funny stories from our time together. It reminded me how every year a new batch of students goes from being a sea of blank stares to super cute friends…it just takes awhile.

She reminded me of the story of the Math Fairy.

One of my favorite things about my friends is their tendency to believe anything that comes out of my mouth. Seriously, by the middle of the year they not only sound like me (Imagine kids looking at each other’s latest piece of writing and exclaiming, “That is FAB!” or saying, “I totally heart this book” when in the library. Yeah, maybe I DO take it too far…) but they also hang on my every word. It’s quite the power trip (Bwahh haha ha haaaa!) yet is an ability that I never want to abuse. (No matter how tempting it is to force them to believe that the Golden Girls is classic television from which one can learn many life lessons or that I really DO have eyes on the back of my head.) However, sometimes I say things in passing and don’t even realize what an impact they have on my little friends.

Get this. So, all the kids in my class have Finish Folders. These folders are not only TOTAL GENIUS, they are an F’ING LIFESAVER when it comes to digging up last minute sub work or dealing with that group of friends who take 45 FREAKING MINUTES just to get their name on the paper and therefore never complete anything. I stole the idea of the Finish Folder from one of my ultra-amazing Super Colleagues and never looked back. You see, if we are working on a page in our math journals, or practicing a word sort or whatever, I’ll walk around and see how everyone is doing. Once I get a sense of things, I usually will call my friends back to the carpet to debrief. Many times, it really isn’t imperative that they finish each and every problem, rather it is more important that I determine who has got it and who needs more help. (Um, were you so just totally impressed that I used “rather” in that last sentence, because I was…) In the interest of time, it’s more important that we move on and so my friends either turn in their work or lovingly tuck it into their Finish Folders to work on at a later time when they have a free moment (read: a sub is in the room because I am called to a last minute meeting or I just found out that I lost my prep and there is no coverage…again).

A side note on these Finish Folders, in case you try to implement them in your classroom (which you should because they are BRILLIANT and you’re CRAZY if you don’t, but that’s just my opinion). Watch out, because you will have an occasional friend or two who allows so much work to be placed into their Finish Folder, that it quickly grows to be two, two and a half inches thick. This happens very quickly and often will float under your radar. Let me pose a quick and simple solution to this dilemma which worked wonders in my classroom. I noticed that one little friend’s folder was bulging with incomplete work – now keep in mind that none of this work is absolutely essential…if it was something I used for formal assessing, it HAD to get done and never went in the Finish Folder – these papers were more of the pencil-to-paper-keep-you-busy-when-you-walk-in-the-room-and-unpack variety. But still, COME ON! Do something! Take some responsibility! So, I sauntered over to said friend the day before our spring vacation and said, “Hey. I see you have a lot of work in there, huh? I was thinking it would be perfect fuel for your brain on vacation.” And BAM! I stapled a note to his parents on his folder so quickly that he never saw it coming. The note explained the purpose of the folder and also included exactly how many pages their child had lovingly stuffed in there. (Yes, I counted them.) Problem. Solved. When word of that little incident spread, friends started to miraculously turn in previously incomplete work and folders began to shrink like Biggest Losers. (Another note: I quickly learned the need to occasionally check the garbage/recycling to see if any crafty little devil had decided to suddenly purge their Finish Folder in a not-so-responsible fashion. ) (If they still got away with getting rid of incomplete work after all that, I say Bravo! Good for you and your problem solving mind!)

(Don’t worry, I’m getting to the Math Fairy part.) (Geez.)

Every once in awhile, I would notice that so-and-so’s Finish Folder was getting low, so I would sometimes put additional practice in there, you know, as a little surprise. Enter My Rockstar Volunteer and Partner in Crime who would most often be the one to tear out unused pages from their math workbooks for this very purpose.

The next morning, the following scene would inevitably take place:

Friend: HEY! There’s new stuff in my Finish Folder! How did that get there?
Me: Oh, it must have been the Math Fairy. Sometimes she visits our class at night.
Friend: (Giving me that I-Don’t-Know-If-I-Believe-You-Or-Not stare and in the interest of not looking like a douche in front of their friends simply responds) Cool.

And we go on with our day.

I never thought my references to the Math Fairy got noticed. It was really just some flippant thing I said before I finished my usual travel mug of coffee. I didn’t realize that My Rockstar Volunteer and Partner In Crime had overheard me and began to leave notes from The Math Fairy on future pages. Evidently she thought to herself, “Duh! They’ll know right away it’s really me and it’s just a little joke” when really she should have been thinking, “Perhaps they won’t know it’s a joke because they won’t recongnize my handwriting since Mrs. Mimi is too anal retentitve to let anyone else letter anything in her classroom.” Because THAT’S the truth.

We discovered the damage we had done one Monday morning, as we went around our meeting circle and shared tidbits from our weekends.

Friend: I spent all weekend dreaming that the Math Fairy would visit me on Monday and she did! (beaming smile)
Me: Uh, what?
Friend: The Math Fairy came and now my folder is full! She wants me to practice counting coins and I agree! (blinding smile)

Sigh. Kids are cute.

(Visited 20 times, 1 visits today)
  • That is adorable.

    And I'm totally stealing the Finish Folder idea. Thanks!

    August 20, 2009 at 9:48 pm
  • This almost makes we want to quit HS teaching and take up with the little people!

    August 20, 2009 at 10:40 pm
  • I teach kinder, but I am totally stealing BOTH ideas!!!!! You are brilliant! And now I have a use for those stupid extra folders the school keeps ordering us, and I keep chucking/donating/using to scrape up dead bugs!!!!

    August 20, 2009 at 11:18 pm
  • I love everything about this and am totally stealing it!

    I heart the kiddos – so freakin' cute!

    August 21, 2009 at 2:30 am
  • Love it!!
    You are so right- they do believe everything we say and start using our phrases!

    Last year's class (which I plan on doing with this year's) we had a "desk fairy" who would visit and check to make sure their desks were clean and leave a little treat (classroom cash or a small candy). The best part was there was a special little "jingle bell" that only I could hear and that told me the desk fairy was going to visit, and then the munckins would start frantically cleaning their desks.

    I've also contemplated getting an email account for the desk fairy and typing up emails to print off for the kids to read.

    This year, we have the "forgetting bug." The forgetting bug attacks when a student raises their hand and immediately forgets what they were going to say. It was REALLY bad the first day!!

    Using the teacher's language… wow!! I never realized how many little sayings I have until the beginning of the new year and I'm trying to remember them!

    One of the 3rd grade teachers was telling her class how they weren't allowed to shout out "I'm done! I'm done!" and one of my kiddos from last year said, "Yeah, Miss C says we can't say that because we're not turkeys!" (Like Thanksgiving!) 🙂

    August 21, 2009 at 2:42 am
  • Hmmm… a Finish folder. This could work!

    August 21, 2009 at 2:58 am
  • I am totally finding a way to work finish folders into my half-day pre-k class! I hear you about your students starting to talk like you. I had a student do a pull out activity with the Deaf/Hard of Hearing teacher and she came back in raving about his expanded vocab. When she asked about a short list of words that she doesn't usually hear a 4 year old use, I chuckled a little and explained them in the context he heard them in in our classroom. I didn't think he listened to me, but I guess he did!

    August 21, 2009 at 6:11 am
  • My school started with the kids on Wednesday. So far it has been hectic, exhausting and sometimes funny! I was helping out on the bus landing on the first afternoon waiting with some kids for the shuttle bus to take them to their parents who teach at the 2 other schools on our campus. All lined up nicely in the hot sun, 96 degree afternoon and the shuttle passed us by twice. It finally picked up its cargo on the third pass. 30 minutes later. We had sought shade by that point.

    I am so ready for the weekend.

    August 21, 2009 at 11:03 am
  • I LOVE IT! Finish Folders are going to take the world by STORM!

    Smiling Teacher – I almost snorted my coffee when I read the "I'm done! I'm Done!" "But you're not a turkey" thing. HILARIOUS.

    August 21, 2009 at 12:41 pm
  • I now heart the math fairy!

    August 21, 2009 at 7:22 pm
  • I try to think of the whole thing as a process…
    That is really nice..


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    August 24, 2009 at 11:44 am
  • You're Hilarious!!

    August 31, 2009 at 7:40 pm
  • i love the math fairy! i want to be the math fairy.

    September 1, 2009 at 3:00 am
  • So the Grade 1 teacher and I hatched a plan to put a little magic in our kids' lives. I dressed as a witch, and locked her in the storeroom just off her classroom. Unbeknownst to the kids, we'd secreted a large green tree frog in there. She climbed out the window, leaving it squatting in her red high heels.

    I said some magic words and threw open the door. The kids gasped. Someone sobbed. I swung round to face a lynch mob! To this day I don't know what would have happened if she hadn't strolled in the door.

    Love your blog!

    September 5, 2009 at 6:18 am
  • I teach middle school now, but when I taught 1st grade, one of those "they believe everything you say" moments was when we were going out to recess after it had rained, and there were puddles. I told the kiddos I could tell if they were even THINKING of going in the puddles! Of course, they believed me!

    September 5, 2009 at 12:23 pm
  • I heart your blog!

    It actually made me laugh out loud. Can't wait for your next post!

    September 5, 2009 at 1:38 pm
  • I don't think my Grade 5 students will buy the "Math Fairy" but they learn that I am absolutely nuts pretty early on in the year so I might use it anyways.

    My kids always have a duo tang with work to do if they have finished but I never thought of putting unfinished work in there! DUH! That just makes sense!!! Thanks for the idea.

    September 5, 2009 at 3:52 pm
  • You're right. Students do pick up your 'language.' That's why it's important that teachers not speak like valley girls "I'm totally stealing…" and using the word "like" after every third or fourth word as a filler. It's unprofessional, people. And annoying. And you sound uneducated. Remember how influential you are.

    September 5, 2009 at 4:14 pm
  • I am a literacy coach and will be sharing both ideas with my teachers. Thank you and have a great school year!

    September 5, 2009 at 7:01 pm
  • My "finished folders" are called "catch-up work" folders. It's a great way to keep unfinished work. I teach second grade and these kiddos really need to learn time management. So, we have a "study hall" every Thursday afternoon. The kids that are finished with all of their work can go outside and play and the ones that are not, stay in to finish their "catch-up work". If they finish, they can join us outside. Otherwise, the rest of the work goes home for "weekend homework" (due on Monday). Of course, there is usually the same 2-3 kids in there every week for the entire year, but as for the others, they learn very quickly! I love it!

    September 5, 2009 at 10:07 pm
  • My "finished folders" are called "catch-up work" folders. It's a great way to keep unfinished work. I teach second grade and these kiddos really need to learn time management. So, we have a "study hall" every Thursday afternoon. The kids that are finished with all of their work can go outside and play and the ones that are not, stay in to finish their "catch-up work". If they finish, they can join us outside. Otherwise, the rest of the work goes home for "weekend homework" (due on Monday). Of course, there is usually the same 2-3 kids in there every week for the entire year, but as for the others, they learn very quickly! I love it!

    September 5, 2009 at 10:08 pm
  • My folders are called "Work in Progress" files. As often as not, it's me who hasn't let the kids finish something, and in it goes. But it's also the kids who don't finish stuff. Thanks for the idea of sending it home.

    September 6, 2009 at 4:16 am
  • I am laughing so freaking hard right now I can't even stand it. That is the funniest thing I've heard all day. Thank you for sharing!

    Oh, I am totally stealing the Finish Folder idea! AWESOME!

    January 15, 2010 at 10:01 pm
  • I love your blog! You sound like someone that would totally get me! I feel misunderstood alot of times where I work. I'm a bit of a minority. And I have lots of tattoos. But I wear a sweater! Thanks so much for keepin' it real. I love how you talk about the things that bug you but your tone is so upbeat. You've really helped me to embrace the suck! Keep rockin!

    October 16, 2012 at 12:45 am
  • I am so excited that I found your blog! You sound like someone I would love to be friends with! There are only two people in the entire building at the school where I work that I feel really get me, and they are in a differnt grade and I don't get to see them often. You have some great ideas. And while you do talk about things that suck, your tone is upbeat and helps me to embrace the suck! Thats! Keep rockin'!

    October 16, 2012 at 12:45 am
  • I am so glad I stumbled upon this blog! I love that you are a real person and talk like someone I would totally hang out with! I love the finish folder idea! I have one big finish folder and nothing ever gets done out of there. Their very own personal folder would be much better and more effective I think. Love your posts! Thanks!

    October 16, 2012 at 12:45 am

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