Tuesday, November 30, 2004
At the example (see post) "tears fell down her cheeks like rain," at least one student in each class recognized that as a simile. No prompting or anything. Good god, they (well, some of them) learned something! From me! Dang!
Also, in Class C when I read the chapter in FmF and got to the little rhyme song, I asked if anyone knew what it was. Several said, "a poem," "a rhyme scheme," and then a kid said, "a limerick." Yes!!
So last night I crashed before 10.30 and slept pretty heavily all through the night. Praise heaven! All day I was just worn out (see post about not eating anything but some junk food...) and I am hoping to go to bed before 9.30.
Oh, and I wanted to thank the MTA gods, who were with me today. For all those buses and trains that I took on my afternoon sojourn, my total wait time was about fifteen minutes. Most of that was only for one bus; the others arrived right when I did.
The mysterious, long-coming package was the bra I ordered awhile back. It's exactly the kind I was hoping for, but...alas, it's a little small. Figures, right? I'm hoping it will stretch out, like all the others do.
Class B started off the day; they did very nicely first period. Second got a bit rowdy.
Class A was just one period; they were rowdy.
All of them, once I got through my lesson on SNOT (Show and Not Tell), and had them start working on practicing, I circulated and saw some good work.
My examples of boring vs SNOT:
Tears fell down her cheeks like rain.
I walked to school.
I floated all the way to school.
He hates his sister.
He ripped all his sister's toys to shreds and stomped on them.
(a student actually came up with that one)
I left school at 3.00. I got home at 6.15. In between, I took three buses (an hour and a half) to get to UPS, a bus and train to get back to Forest Hills, then stopped at the grocery store before walking home. I have actually been losing weight; those tan cords are a size eight and fit just right. I don't think I've bought anything in an 8 in years. But it's just because I hardly eat during the day and then, even though I think I eat a lot when I get home, I get full easily.
It's already 7.20. I need to shower, watch some tv, try to get some work done on my own homework, and fine-tune my plans for tomorrow.
In discussion with another first-year teacher/kindred spirit, I decided to do the next project as a biography. BUT, it will be a biography of a fictional person that the students will create, in the time of Ancient Egypt. That's what they've been studying in Social Studies, and it includes lots of intelligences.
Tomorrow is my synonym lesson. It may go on through Thursday, we'll see how it goes.
Fantastic Mr Fox is going over well. I'm using that for activating prior knowledge (about foxes and about farmers) and then for making predictions. Each short chapter is perfect for predicting the next event.
Okay, I will try to get some work done. Also, I have some new pics to share with you! Hurrah!
Monday, November 29, 2004
Ugh. I've had a headache all day, and I'm very tired.
ONCE AGAIN, my brain was in overdrive, thinking and planning about my students and class. Could not fall asleep. Then, I had a terribly stressful dream that I got reassigned. To a new school. Even though this one was supposed to be permanent. So naturally, I was all confused and disoriented. This new school was bricky and had weird hallway mazes and I think wrought-iron spiral staircases? There was some kind of admin lady who was kind.
Class A was a bit rowdy. The good, miraculous news is that two more disruptive students will be transferring out of there sometime this week! "Trouble" is one of them. HURRAH!!!
I wore my new purple sweater and tan cords today, with my normal black shoes. At the beginning of 2nd period, "Trouble" goes, all scornful-like, why are you wearing purple and tan and black? I said, because I am. He turns to the other kids at the table and points out my fashion faux pas. "Wearing purple, then tan, and black. Psh." I have no idea.
At the end of 3rd, I was standing in my doorway, facing in the room. Some arms wrapped around me from behind. I figure it's one of the "good student" girls, but I turn, and it's the disruptive boy from Class A that's now in Class B. He gives this big smile and said something. I'm pretty sure I looked at him like he was crazy. Raised an eyebrow and said, "Can I help you?" and "I'll see you next period." Very weird.
I got all the classes started on the bulletin board thing, what they will for winter break. I read them Fantastic Mr Fox for read aloud, activating prior knowledge. Tomorrow we will basically do the same stuff. I think I'm introducing SNOT to them: Show and Not Tell. Wish me luck.
Classes tonight were blah. My head hurts. Some tablemates made comments about my behavior, so, appropriately humbled, I tried my best to stay quiet and not in anyone's way. Then it looks (and sort of feels) like I'm sulking or something, which probably is not any better than being rude or bitchy. God, I can't win. It's difficult going from stern bitch to pleasant, enthusiastic student. I've never been a very good student. Decent, gets by, but never a model pupil. I'd hoped to do things differently, but oh well. Not nearly enough time to all of everything, so my own schoolwork tends to suffer.
I've really got to step it up this week though; next week (Monday) I have a test in science, plus turn in another lesson plan, plus turn in a MATH lesson (don't ask me how the fuck I'm supposed to do that as an English teacher), plus help prepare a moon project thing.
My head hurts. G'night.
Sunday, November 28, 2004
When I was about halfway through with it, the program shut down. For some reason, I had not yet saved my work. Dammit! I had to start over! I NEVER do that! I ALWAYS save my work a lot!
Once I started over, you can bet I hit control S every four seconds.
Saturday, November 27, 2004
Things I am Grateful For, in no particular order:
-Living in a heated house.
-My parents, for talking to me, through tough days with kids, lack of social life, or just because.
-Ms F, the teacher center person, and my unofficial mentor.
-Not having entire classes made up of kids like Big D and "Trouble."
-Being able to laugh with some of my students and so far they still respect me.
-The fact that again it looks like I'm on the road to financial independence.
-These awesome, soft, though slightly ugly, cozy-ass, salmon-colored sweatpants.
-The fact that my old teammates still talk to me. :)
-Being able to see some of my old teammates. I hope to see the rest sometime in the not-too-distant future!
-The friendly folks in my Fellows class.
-The fact that I have survived in New York for five months already!
And a very special "I'm grateful for" goes out to those nice people who leave comments! Thank you! I so appreciate even the littlest acknowledgement or compliment. :)
What about teaching? I am not even sure how I feel about it. Is it something that I love to do? Do I hate it? I really don't know.
I'm pretty sure that I don't hate it. Though most days I can't wait for the end of the day. And sometimes I get really tired, frustrated, or irritated.
This year I don't think I will love it. But a colleague once said something about having passion for education. And you know, I think that I do still have that. I get caught up in the lessons and I am so excited when the students listen and appear to learn. I love the way that I can try to teach them new words, concepts and writing techniques. I LOVE it when they surprise me with good writing or a mature answer. So maybe I'm on my way.
You Know You're From Seattle When...
You have a very strong opinion about where your coffee beans are grown, and you can taste the difference between Sumatran and Ethiopian
You feel guilty throwing an aluminum can in the trash.
You use the words "sun break" and know what it means.
You know more than 10 words to describe a cup of coffee.
You know what a dry cappachino is.
You obey all traffic laws EXCEPT "keep right except to pass."
You know at least eight people who work for either Microsoft or Boeing.
You invite twice as many people as you really want to a party since only half will actually show up.
You know what Lutefiske is.
You personally know someone from Alaska.
You consider floating bridges a pain in the butt, not an engineering marvel.
You know how to pronounce "Sequim", "Puyallup" and "Issaquah."
You have roots in Oregon, Idaho or Montana, but wanted a high paying job.
You've tried to get a job in Alaska, especially a summer job only.
You think skiing always means being covered from head to toe, on snow or water.
You know at least three Microsoft burnouts, of which two are millionaires.
You use more than 5 words to order a cup of coffee. "I want to order an unleaded, double, short, skinny, wet cappuccino with a shot of Amaretto please."
A "designer" wardrobe comes from REI, Eddie Bauer, Lands End, and Birkenstock.
You consider it a sunny day if the sun is visible at some point of the day.
You've been "snow" skiing in the RAIN more than in the snow.
When you're discussing rainforests and volcanoes, you're NOT talking about Hawaii.
You Remember the Kingdome
You have tried to forget about WTO
You know how BLUE the skies are here compared to Eastern Washington
The guy at 8:30 am at Starbucks wearing the baseball cap and sunglasses who looks like Phyllis Diller is really a trans named Eva Destruction that used to play with Hole.
Your car insurance costs more because your neighbors don't have any!
Your mayor is straight, 1/2 your friends are gay, the man who delivers your mail has a bumper sticker that reads "when they pry it from my cold dead fingers....", and your Burger World drive thru order taker was a computer millionaire last week.
You actually get these jokes and pass them on to other friends from Seattle.
You know you're a true exbarista when you recognize misspellings of words like "cappuccino."
This was an email that circulated my first years of college (who knows, maybe even before that). They were new and witty then, and they're still a little witty now, especially for me now that I live three thousand miles from Seattle.
So I finally truly slept in. Went to bed about 11.30, slept until about 10.30. DIVINE.
From 11am until just now, 2pm, I have been working. I have a checklist of all the things that I have to finish by tomorrow. The list is not long, but each task is a lengthy one. Here they are, in no particular order:
--Plan lessons! (For week, and also plan generally for the month)
--Print out grades
--Do progress reports
--Finish Chapter 3 outline for math class
--Alley Pond follow up questions for science class
--Lesson plan for science class
--Fill out timesheet for AmeriCorps
And in these three hours, I have at least started all of these except the chapter outline (which I started two weeks ago and have not bothered to finish)! Hurrah for me!
I finished checking homework and printing grades. I'm nearly done with Alley Pond and the timesheet. I made a progress report template, just need to make copies and then fill it in. I'm about halfway done on the science lesson. It's part of a group unit plan; we decided to do animal adaptations. I will do one on the senses.
Planning for my week and month will take some time. I think I will have them do a brochure writing piece, since the report of information was supposed to be in a brochure but I didn't notice that until too late. All the students either did a country profile or "biography." For this one, they will all do the same thing. I'm leaning toward a biography of someone they admire (a different person than their report). Will that be boring?
I also need to come up with the bulletin board theme for December. I have all next week to get it done, and I would much rather take my time and start on Monday. I suppose I can do one more holiday-themed one. It's a little boring and cliche, but hey, I've got to get something up. Might as well as take advantage of the time of year. To make it not religion-specific, I can have them write about the things they will do over winter break. Oh, and we can start by brainstorming a list as a class. Things like, open presents, play in the snow, sleep in, play with friends, watch tv, go on vacation, gather with family, count down the New Year. Then they can pick and choose, or add their own.
So that means I can put off the other writing piece for a week. That means that this week I can continue reviewing the writing process, 4-square format, and writing clear sentences and paragraphs. I could do that synonym lesson I found a month ago, to help the kids use more interesting words than "good," "bad," and "nice."
So now it's a little past 2pm, and I certainly need a break. Maybe I'll read or something. I won't leave the house today, since yesterday was so crazy and I spent so much damn money. I'm sure I'll get more work done before the day is out. And definitely a lot of work for tomorrow.
Friday, November 26, 2004
I dined on extra-cheesy macaroni, 'kids champagne' (sparkling apple cider), and a tripe-chocolate ice cream. I had a nice long talk with my mom, about school, teaching, family, education, etc. I played a whole bunch of Spider. Went to bed at 1.30, woke up at 9.30.
In one dream, I was in an auditorium with some other people, and I kept forgetting where my locker was and what the combo was. My locker was #366. They were yellow half-size lockers, all in banks pushed together on one side of this big room. I had a piece of paper with me that had the combination it. I don't think that I ever actually got around to getting into the damn thing. Just off this large room, I must have had a dorm room or something, because I went away and then came back quickly with two purple dresses. One was the hippie-looking one that I got when I was about 14, with a filmy overskirt thing. I don't know what the other dress was.
In another dream, I was hanging out with the Habitat gang, but they were trying to pack or something. I was not exactly in the way, but it wasn't a good time. They were game about it, but I knew that I probably shouldn't have been there.
Once I woke up and got showered, I set out to town. Dropped books and movie at the library and then decided to just get a cab to UPS. This is at least the second package I haven't been able to receive, since of course I'm never home during the day. So I figured that today would be a good day to head out there and pick it up. By public transportation I would have had to take three buses, and probably an hour, so, since Yahoo told me that it was only 5 miles from here, I figured a cab would be okay.
The cabbie was not unpleasant, but the fare was $18.90, because he had no idea where to go. I had brought printed directions and my atlas book, but he was still all confused. When I gave him a $20, he heaved this big sigh. But excuse me, it's not my fault it took so long to find the stupid place. That is actually his job, to know how to get places.
You know that quote from Pulp Fiction that goes, "Assumptions make an ASS out of U and MPTION"? Yeah, it's totally true. I finally got to the UPS center, and the damn place is closed. I was utterly shocked and dismayed. Dammit! Twenty bucks right out the window! A fruitless waste (huh?) of at least twenty minutes. Ten minutes freezing my not-bundled-up-enough butt off in the clear but chilly and windy air. DAMMIT!
This has taught me a two-part lesson that I had really hoped I'd already learned: DON'T ASSUME ANYTHING and ALWAYS CALL TO MAKE SURE. Don't let my dumbassedness go to waste people; please take this lesson to heart for yourselves.
A bus came in a bit, and I then got a train into the city. I went to Herald Square, ate a quick lunch at Wendy's, popped into H&M. So cheap! So fun! I got cozy and cheap black knit stretch gloves, pink fleecy hat and red cowlneck sweater. Then I braved Macy's. Holy crap. TONS of people. I got much bolder than I normally am, just pushing past people. There's no time to dither behind slow pokes and/or people who are standing just in your way.
I spent awhile in there, on several floors. I ended up spending $188!! I got a pair of tan corduroys, a so-soft-and-cuddly pair of pink Polo sweatpants, a rich purple sweater, a white knit turtleneck with those buttons down the collar, one half-price bra mostly the kind I've been trying to find for six months, and a full-price bra that is similar but a different brand. Whew!
Got the F home, and completely dozed off between Roosevelt and 71st. Guess I really am tired.
I feel all weird, because I haven't done any work. But that's because I still have two full days off!
Thursday, November 25, 2004
Last night I had another odd dream. Someone that I knew wanted a drink. It was an iced decaf triple tall nonfat one-raw-sugar something or other. And there was a stack of tall iced cups, but every single one already had writing on it. See, in the dream, I wasn't actually supposed to be a barista. It was like I was doing a favor for this person, who then got all snippy and huffy because I couldn't make the stupid drink. And I couldn't make it if it wasn't written on a cup! And for some reason, writing over the other writing on all the cups was unacceptable to me.
I really want a nap. Sleepy sleepy me.
I was really excited to watch the first disc of Felicity Season 2. Lo and behold, it was cracked and didn't play. Bugger all. So I watched Happenstance, a French film with the most awesome Audrey Tautou. It was enjoyable. It got a little too meta with "everything/nothing happens for a reason" and "every action has a reaction" or whatever. But it wasn't all cutesy-wutesy like the American Serendipity. It was actually kind of dark, featuring an adulterer, a chronic liar, a thief, a muckraker, a sugary syrupy mistress, etc. I liked it.
Now I've just finished watching the first disc of Popular. It's okay; I think the humor came in more later in the season. Really, once Mary Cherry was featured more often, along with the regular high school tertiary characters, it got much more entertaining.
In the late morning, it was a beautiful, blue-skied day. Then early in the afternoon, suddenly it was all dreary, stormy and rainy. And now the sky is that strange pink/golden/gray color with light coming from nowhere.
Wednesday went okay. One disruptive boy in Class A was back, and he was in fine form. Distracted the entire class several times; they were actually all quiet and reading like they were supposed to, and he just takes it upon himself to start talking. Loudly. But during the work time, at least three tables stayed on task the entire time. One table wrote five limericks.
Class B had a bunch of interpersonal issues. Someone took someone else's papers or something, and then some boy started exchanging words with several other boys. All of them used profanity, one right in my face. The AP was right outside the door not for that time, but for another one. Other than that, the rest of the class did pretty well with working on limericks.
Class C was fine. We had just one period and I did the first limerick lesson. We didn't get all the way through it, of course. But they sort of seemed to get it.
Last night Ms F took me out with her friends on the island. It was fun, we all had some drinks and talked about teaching. The rest of the group were mostly teachers. In talking to them, they seemed to be great people, with a firm grasp of their classes' behavior.
I'm definitely feeling a little bit more than mild melancholy right now. Because after talking to them, and thinking about how my classes act in my classroom versus what (albeit little) I've seen them do in other classrooms, I have come to the conclusion that I suck. That I really do have very little control and have been altogether too soft.
For all my mom's great advice about greeting them by name and looking them in the eye and stuff, I think that some of the kids really appreciate it. But it's completely inappropriate in a city school. Other teachers do not do things like that, they are really strict and harsh and thus, the kids behave. I'm a stupid soft white girl, of course they don't give a shit when I talk.
God, see, look at me exaggerating. At least half the students in each class are honestly good kids and make a great effort in class. They do listen, they do quiet right up when I give the two-finger signal. It's just the select few that choose to act out and be loud and disrespectful to me or other students. And some of them really truly don't give a shit. At all. About what I do or say.
So here's some things I'm thinking about after advice/ideas from the other teachers I met last night. Give out homework passes as rewards for consistent homework/classwork/behavior. Give the loud ones jobs. One in Class A seems to enjoy going around the room tidying. Then, end the mad chaos that happens at the beginning of class. When they go into math, they are sitting, completely silent and calm. When they come into ELA, they are wild, talkative, standing up and walking around. That must stop. So I'll make them go outside, line up, and come in again until they do it right. The good children will just have to deal with it. All the classes are too noisy at the beginning of class, and it needs to stop.
I had thought I was making some real progress. And sure, I'm not nearly as soft and quiet as the beginning of the year. I do believe my voice is actually getting a bit louder, and I have a great clap. Nice, sharp and loud clapping signals.
Once again, I am vowing to myself to go visit other classrooms. I should do that at least once a day, since I have three free periods. I need to get ideas and see things in action.
Alrighty. So now it's Thanksgiving. I have the entire day free to do nothing. WHEEE!!!! I think I shall start with some DVDs, and then do some reading in bed. I'll call family folks in the afternoon to chat.
Tuesday, November 23, 2004
Today, actually, went well. Started off with Class B, who, as I've said before, are very tame and quiet at the beginning of the day. Exploit the tired children for all it's worth, I say! The seemed to enjoy the limerick stuff. They came up with a bunch of rhymes for the example rhyme maps, and then we made up a limerick, line by line. Here was one:
There once was a boy named Jake
Who got bit by a venomous snake.
He did not feel well
So then he fell
With a big splash into a lake.
I gave the first line and added the "with a big splash," but the rest was all them.
Class A was in for just one period. "Trouble" was gone, and so was another very disruptive/rude boy And oh man, they were so awesome. Ms F was there for the middle section, so that helped, but even before and after she was there, they did really well. Every single table was on task, talking about rules for limericks.
So you know what I'm talking about, here was the lesson. I read them a limerick that was written on the board. Then we read it out loud all together. I said, now it's time for you to investigate. If you know that this is a limerick, what rules can you make about how to write a limerick, or what a limerick is? They actually got all of them, which were: The rhyme scheme is AABBA; the syllable pattern is 8-8-5-5-8, AND they got the beat thing (three accented beats in lines one, two and five); it has five lines; and it's funny. Then a student raised his hand and said, "They have a conflict." I was all, wow! Yes, you're right, and I didn't have that on my list, but I'm adding it. That's some great critical thinking." I was very impressed.
I showed them a meta-limerick; that is, a limerick about what a limerick is. Then I explained that it's easy to write limericks, you just need lots of rhyming words. So I demonstrated rhyme maps; they're just rhyming word webs. Class A had Mark, Queens, and Mall. They came up with words that rhymed with each of those. We didn't have a chance to actually come up with a limerick with them, but we will tomorrow.
The homework was to do rhyme maps for a person's name, a place name, and an action/event (like fell, shop, etc). Then they'll use those tomorrow in groups, and come up with as many limericks as they can.
Class C is my inclusion class (forty percent of them are special ed, and they have an extra teacher that travels with them; what a blessing to have another adult in the room every day). The special ed kids all went on a field trip today, so the class was down to fifteen or so kids. I didn't want to start limericks with only half the class. So we started with 20 minutes of reading, a quick response, and then did games. Whee!
First we played some rounds of Apples to Apples. [If you've never played it, ooh it's fun. Just some cards, but so much fun.] Instead of playing as individuals, I split them into groups of three, and they had to decide together which of their cards to play. (Group cooperation! Word study! See, it's educational!) I drew one that said, "Trustworthy." The cards they submitted were "Mustard," "The President," and "Gas Stations," plus two more I can't remember. I let them know that in my opinion the President is not trustworthy, and then chose "Gas Stations." Oh, the fun.
I rotated the judgeship to the groups so they could have the power, too.
Then we did a round of MadLibs. It took some extra prompting and "teachable moments," when students gave words like "puppies" or "Angelo" for the prompt "noun." Noun=/=plural noun=/=proper noun!
They seemed to really enjoy themselves. Education be damned, stick with the fun!
So yeah, parent issues from yesterday. I'll cover it quickly because I try to be all, "Each day is a new day! Lalala!" But I have another one to add for today too.
So yesterday morning, I'm crossing the street. It's like 7.20am, and this girl's dad waves me over. (He's a parent volunteer in the school.) These parents are of the over-zealous type that my peers in the suburbs are probably inundated with. Obsessed with their child's progress, every stinking detail, and why isn't my kid getting an A?? Anyway, the issue was his daughter kicking a student last Friday in class. She said he kicked her first, but I told her (like I've told MANY students this year), I only saw you kick, and that means you did the wrong thing.
So this father goes, "I have instructed my children to retaliate, and swiftly, if anyone lays a hand on them." I said, "I understand what you're saying, but that is unacceptable in the classroom. That is not acceptable." And he got all huffy, "I won't have anyone stepping all over my children, they are to retaliate, and swiftly. I will take responsibility, but they are to retaliate, and swiftly." I just said, "Okay," and continued inside, because jesus christ, I'm not in the fucking building yet and already some parent is trying to preach to me. Excuse me, but if all the students behaved like that, "retaliating swiftly" all the time, riots and full-scale brawls would erupt in a matter of seconds. That's just unacceptable, dangerous, irresponsible, etc. And what the fuck, RETALIATING DOES NOT PREVENT ANYTHING. It's strictly a reaction. No one wins. I want my students to learn to be the bigger person; don't get sucked into someone's self-important ranting, don't take the bait of someone name calling or talking about your mother or a stupid dare, just do the right thing. Jesus.
Then during seventh period, I got a phone call from the AP. He had me leave the room--I was literally midsentence in my reading mini-lesson when the phone rang--to talk to a parent he had in his office. It was the lady from last week's conference all upset about the homework two-minute policy thing. I probably should have explained myself more and defended myself, but I didn't want to seem difficult or reactionary to my supervisor. So he told me, in front of her, that he would talk to me about changing my homework acceptance policy, and that I would have to take the child's homework that he did not turn in on time. Totally undermined my authority and gave the mother the satisfaction that she can just bully all of us into doing what she wants.
She also had the gall to fight me on the fact that her kid never turned in his report. Utter bullshit. I would have accepted it late the next day, just as we talked about on the phone, but he never turned it in. And the typing thing; I told her that that was part of the requirements. It was on the information sheet that I sent home with the kids at the beginning of the project. She was all, "I don't recall reading that." I just repeated, "I sent it home with the students as homework." Implying, "NOT MY FAULT YOUR KID DIDN'T REMEMBER TO SHOW IT TO YOU! I DID MY PART! MAKE YOUR CHILD ACCOUNTABLE HERE!!!!"
I talked to the other teacher when I got back to class. She totally agreed with me on the homework thing. It's been my policy the entire time; as I told the AP, I have seen kids trying to dash off homework to turn in, even with such a short time frame. If a kid doesn't get his homework in one time, you can bet he will learn soon enough he'd better get it in sooner! That is how you teach responsibility and being accountable for your actions. Creating an academically challenging environment, people, is very important. I have high expectations (sort of), and that is meant to push the children to become better. Complacence never made anyone any smarter.
I think I should put that on a t-shirt.
Anyway, the one for today was less direct but no less inappropriate. This one girl, who is smart but is often distracted, talking or just plain not on task, has a conduct sheet so that her teachers and her mother can see her progress. Well, on the back of this week's conduct sheet, this girl's mother wrote this bully note about "this is the last damn time I hear about my daughter" having this or that happen to her. "Expect to see me at 7.30 sharp on Wednesday to talk to all of her teachers, and if this isn't resolved, be assured I will talk to the district personnel." The math teacher called me when she saw it, and felt the same way I did, namely, "What the fuck? Where did this come from, and where does she get off trying to order us around like we have nothing else to do?" I asked the girl about whatever happened in the note, and she goes, "oh, it was in science class. [Another girl] pulled my hair." (So we're all glad that her mother bothered to differientiate between her classes and teachers.) I said, okay, so nothing's happening in here? She said no. I reminded her that if anything did, she should let me know. She said okay. So again: what the fuck? Where did that come from? I'll let you know.
Deep breath. One more day. Today was a good day. One more day of teaching, and then four days of nothing scheduled but sleeping in, watching DVDs, and relaxed planning.
Monday, November 22, 2004
I could not sleep again last night. I thought I would sleep very soundly, since I was still exhausted from being out late on Saturday, but nope, just thinking thinking thinking. There were some weird dreams though, I was riding a horse for part of it. And/or driving/turning a car.
I had some frustrating parent issues today. I'll talk about that tomorrow because it's already late tonight.
Today the classes finished up their poems.
Class A was first thing in the morning. "Trouble" was in school today, dammit. But he said they're leaving tomorrow. He was in battle mode today, and just didn't quit talking. He tried making fun of the size of my nose? That was just silly and I ignored him. But it was sort of a worthless day, lesson/learning-wise. The principal stopped in for a minute to look at the room, and hoo boy, they were perfect angels. Once he stepped out of the room, of course, there went the noise levels again. GRRR. Most of the groups did finish their poems, though.
Class B went pretty okay, actually. Perhaps my standards aren't that high. But most of the kids worked and even finished.
Class C did too much talking, and we don't have time to keep working on them tomorrow.
Tomorrow we do limericks! I think it will be fun. I hope they like it.
Classes tonight weren't too bad. For science, we had a field trip to Queens Botanical Gardens. We listened to a Gardens Education dude. He strongly reminded me of that crazy teacher from Daria, the one with the loud voice, strong accent, and crazy eyeball. This guy talked like a fish hook was pulling up one side of his mouth, in a loud, very exaggerated accent. But it ended up being an interesting time; we learned about how plants were involved with the development of civilization etc, and where various food plants come from. We got things to plant: loquat, taro, jerusalem artichoke, and ginger. I want to put those in my classroom, and just hope that I don't forget to water them occasionally.
Anyway, so only two more days left!!!!! I hope I can sleep tonight!!!
Sunday, November 21, 2004
Dar Williams is playing at the Bowery Ballroom in two weeks. I am hoping to make that show, even though it's kind of a lot of money, $30. I am such a cheapskate!
Before the show started, I sat around in another bar around the corner. At first it was nearly empty; the few patrons just watched the closed-captioned Comedy Central on tv. Then these two people on either side of me started talking and possibly flirting. One was this arrogant guy with gelled-spiky hair and a big silver ring on one hand, drinking beer out of a goblet-type glass, and the other was this mousy, slightly desperate woman drinking Corona with lime. They both went to NYU; he went there for a Master's in Video Archiving or something. She did undergrad there for drama. Can we all say Cliche!!
She started the flirting by asking if he wanted a tarot card reading, or some numerology. He was intrigued by the tarot cards, but never got numerology. He offered a beer in exchange for one of them. She quickly said, "Oh, I'll do both for a beer." Anyway, soon enough she took down his name to decipher the numerology. He went off about how he was going to be called Stanislaus, and how he'd be nicknamed 'Staush' and that just didn't fit him at all. She said it was a good thing he wasn't named that; there were a bunch of "ones" in that name, which meant that he would have been really egotistical. Specifically, "potential asshole" and "Donald Trump's ego."
After the show, I couldn't keep my eyes open on the train ride home and crashed really hard when I got home, around 2.15. Holy crap I was tired.
So getting up at 10.00 was actually difficult. I didn't shower last night or this morning, so that I can get back on a night-shower track. But that means I'm all gross today. Blech.
So I forced myself to get up at 10am in order to watch a cartoon. It was homework. No, seriously; we were supposed to watch Cyberchase on PBS for math class. It's a cartoon that has math concepts in the story. Today's concept was doubling. They doubled things like gold, stairs, lilypads, and grains of rice.
After the show, I watched some more tv and put in homework grades in my gradebooks and then into my grading program on the computer. How I do love that program. So easy and effortless and smart. But then I started messing around with this site and other links and stuff. There are some great bloggers out there; I wish I felt that I could compete with them. I'm sure I could be way more interesting and more witty too; sadly, that kind of thing doesn't come very naturally to me, so you get short or long, rambling posts about weird little things that are dumb.
I have three parent calls to make, for students that are still not making any improvements. The admin has been notified; time for individual conferences. These three are failing academically and are consistently disruptive in class. I just hate making calls. Once I force myself to begin, I can get through it. But working up that teacher energy just sucks on the weekends.
As for the bulletin boards, I can put that off until the week after Thanksgiving. Since they are due the 6th, which is a Monday, we can work on them the whole week of Nov 29-Dec 3. So next week I can put together ideas and check on the requirements. I think I talked about this the other day. Sorry to repeat myself. At least I'm consistent, right?
For next week, the reading workshops will all be procedural lessons. Writing workshops will stay poems for Monday and Tuesday. I'm thinking about having a fun activity for writing workshop on Wednesday. Perhaps Apples to Apples and/or MadLibs. The students would love it and it would be fun for me too. And then if they're too rowdy, I'll stop the game and give them a worksheet to do or something.
You Are a Life Blogger!
Your blog is the story of your life - a living diary.
If it happens, you blog it. And make it as entertaining as possible.
|You are 60% Scorpio
I'm not sure about this one; my answers to some questions could go either way. From all that I've read, I fit pretty well into the Scorpio mold: fiery, passionate, intense, flirty. Not that those things have ever gotten me good places, or any place at all.
Saturday, November 20, 2004
I watched the rest of the Felicity episodes, because I love the show and am too lazy to get right to work on my first day off. After that, I dutifully began organizing my short week's worth of lesson plans.
Guess what? By next week I need to come up with a plan for the bulletin board. Again, already. Yeesh, how time does fly. I am already so bored with the fucking four square. I wonder if putting poems would be okay. I better check next week with the AP to find out exactly what my parameters are.
This morning I ended up finding a blog that has my site in the links section! My mouth hung open, in utter surprise. I felt so loved. Two perfect strangers have read my blog. That blogger is a Canadian teacher, and had a bunch of teacher blogs linked. I visited some of them, and they are awesome. Even found one for another NYC Teaching Fellow, though she sounds more intelligent and more fed up than I. But it's so relieving to read about the same frustrations that I experience, from teachers all over the place, at different grade levels and experience levels.
I went out for some errands. I began with my cell phone; I've been an AT&T customer for three years and now that Cingular has taken over, I want to get a better service plan. To do that I need a new phone. I still use my Nokia from three years ago, with the dark pink cover. One night in 2002 at a Bradford, NH a pizza place, I dropped my phone onto the concrete steps and a friend accidentally stepped on it. It still bears the scars of that night. I love that, and I love the unusual color, and I'm very accustomed to the way my phone works. I'm not excited about getting a new, silver-colored, flip-open phone, one that looks like all the other phones out there. My old one sticks out like a sore, pink thumb. The new one I'm getting will blend in. Because I am keeping my out-of-state phone number (because I've had it for three years, and because my family and friends can call me locally), I couldn't do the changeover thing in the store. The new phone will arrive next week. That will be fun to play with, I suppose.
Next I went to the library and got a few fun books to read, plus a French film called "Happenstance." Stopped in a dollar store, Staples, and Duane Reade. Walked home in the drizzle. It's already dark. Crazy winter.
Oh man am I excited for this short week. I hope the kids aren't insane.
Ooh! Did I mention the great news that I learned yesterday? I mean other than the fact that "Trouble" is in the process of transferring out of Class A? (Classmates cheered, hurrahed, and hallelujahed at his announcement of that after a return from the dean; privately, so did I.) He left last night for a vacation and will be gone all next week. Hurrah! It's like a birthday present! So maybe next week won't be so bad, or at least not as bad, in Class A.
I think I will have a baked potato for dinner. And some pepper jack cheese. Last night I had some (canned) green beans in butter.
I'm pretty sure I'm losing weight. Strange because I eat a lot of junk. But not that strange because I don't eat very much during the day, if at all. Sometimes I eat quite a lot in the late afternoon/evening, and on weekends. But I drink water and pure juice, and maybe the ten-minute walk to and from the subway helps too. But it's frustrating because all my pants ride low. The two most recent trouser purchases were especially because all my others are too big. One of the pairs was nice and comfortably snug when I bought them, and now are a bit loose. Gah! I want to have clothes that actually fit!
1. Try out for plays and musicals.
2. Drop everything and go travel indefinitely.
2) What's the sexiest piece of clothing that you own? [Let's exclude lingerie.] How do you feel when you put it on? Where do you usually wear this clothing?
I really like a couple pairs of jeans that I own. They are comfortable, loose in the right ways, and make my ass look awesome. They make me feel confident.
3) What is your opinion of reality TV shows? Do you watch any of them? If you could create your own reality TV show, what would it be and why? Would you ever want to be a contestant on a reality TV show?
In general and in principal, I detest reality television. However, I do love The Amazing Race. It's so fun to watch for the traveling and adventures. Not so much the intra/inter-team drama. I also watch The Apprentice, because their tasks are so unusual and unlike anything I would ever do.
4) What words in the English language do you think are completely overused? Do you find yourself saying any of them? If you could ban particular words from the English language, would you? Why? What words would you choose?
"Like" and "um" are far too constant. I am quite guilty of using them also. I'm sure there are tons of words I hate, but I can't think of them right now. That sounds like a good thing.
5) It's cold and flu season, unfortunately. What things have always helped you feel better when you're under the weather? What remedies do you remember being given when you were a child?
I never get really sick. I had the chicken pox when I was in kindergarten, that's really the biggest illness I remember. I never got any remedies for things, partly because I don't eat chicken or soup, and my mom, as a health teacher, didn't believe in giving lots of medecine.
Friday, November 19, 2004
There is a special place in my glad heart
Turn away from everyday woes
Turn away from that false, ugly pose
That beats just for going, traveling
There are so many places I can go
Take some time to enjoy something new
Take pictures and memories not few
That let me build on a new status quo.
But back to the subject of friendship. The homework assignment last night for my students was to write a page on what friendship means to you. Here, appropriately, is my own attempt.
This week, one of our teammates, surprisingly one that I'd pegged as fairly non-sentimental, sent out an email about the two-year anniversary. Two years ago today (or possibly yesterday), our AmeriCorps term ended in a very early wake up call and last house inspection, a very tearful graduation ceremony, and long flights home; altogether a hectic, intense and extremely emotional day. I remember it vividly...possibly because I have three rolls of film of it. But seriously, it was heart-wrenching to know that Fire 4 was coming to an end and would never be together again. That our adventure was finished and we were trying to face the reality of returning home. Up until then, we'd been tired, exhausted, ready to return to family and friends, our lives of comfort and relative luxury. But that last day, it seemed like we finally understood the grandness of the past ten months: how much we'd gotten accomplished, how much we'd grown as individuals, and how much we'd come to appreciate one another. It was devastating to go home and just be me, alone. Through the ups and many downs, all of us were still there (unless it was during disaster relief, then it was most of us), together. That year was the first time that I truly felt like part of a family.
Even if I never saw my teammates again (which better not happen), I still can hear each of their voices. They are a part of me forever. That sounds all dramatic and over-serious, but it's the honest truth.
That's what friendship boils down to, for me. People who accept you when you're at your worst, and who can appreciate you at your best, no matter how quirky or odd that may be. Acceptance.
I was just talking to my mom, and realized that each class's worst student did really well today, staying on task and fairly quiet. Wow, what miracle! I figure it was a good day; I wouldn't for a second think that I had anything to do with it. But holy cow, talk about the stars aligning in my favor. All three of those kids behaved well for at least half an hour. I'm cool with baby steps.
The day was far from easy; test prep is always a weird duck. It's a different routine than every day, although they're getting used to the Friday thing now. In two classes, when there was a group finished early enough, I took those (good) students aside and told them they could play MadLibs while waiting. I thought they would be all excited and stuff, but some of them had never played before. Imagine! Eleven years old and unaware of the joyful, silly time that is MadLibs. They seemed to have a good time, though.
I still did not sleep through the night, just kept turning and thinking stuff. Seems like each night, I check the clock and it's always 2.30. I let out a frustrated cry of "Noooo!!" because goddamn, it sucks not being asleep.
I have no idea what next week will be. At some point, we better get the next ten-week plan. I need some guidance on what to do and how to plan for a longer time than just a single week. Since next week is a short one, I will probably just continue doing poetry stuff. I'll let them finish the Friendship-template poems, and then walk them through a couple poetry-writing exercises that we did over the summer at QC. Thank you, Debbie Davis!! I must get them started on literature circles. This weekend I must prepare some procedural lessons so that after Thanksgiving we can begin forming groups and getting some reading done.
Some of the presents I bought myself arrived today, that is exciting. Happy really late birthday, me. I am so excited about finally getting the Popular first season DVDs. Can't wait for a Mary Cherry fix!
Thursday, November 18, 2004
Hoo boy. I had a backlog at my door, and felt like a doctor's office receptionist, calling out the next name on the list. I saw 44 parents in two and a half hours. It was insane. The AP actually had to come in and tell me to time it for two minutes with each parent. Yikes.
A few parents were upset at my timing policy for turning in homework. I just agreeably said, "okay," when they told me they had a problem with it. I stand firm on it, because the students need to learn the responsibility to not only do the work, but make sure to turn it in on time. Every single day they know they must get it in. Often I don't actually refuse homework, but I did today. Because you know what? The line must be drawn. I can't keep accepting things, because then it's not fair. Kids still try to dash off something in class and turn that in. If I give them more than five minutes, it's too easy to pretend they did it when they didn't.
However, almost all the parents were "easy." I just showed them the grade grid, and how many homeworks their child had or had not done this quarter, and they turned to their kid and asked them why they hadn't done it. The kids, of course, had nothing to say, so they just stood there, looking a bit ashamed.
I am tired. But I am proud of myself, I got through it pretty smoothly. I did not panic, and I did not engage the upset parents, and I was pleasant and professional (I think so, anyway!).
Classes today were quite good, actually. We finally got to the poem writing. They only had time to start it though; we'll continue tomorrow. Class A was a completely different class than yesterday. Ms F was there too, which obviously is a big help, but not an indicator of my own skill at managing them. Also, Mr AP/supervisor visited my room for the first time. That was the first time anyone was officially in my room during my teaching. I don't know when I'll get feedback about it. Ms F said that he said it was pretty good.
Class B was okay. Class C was fine. Except for this girl that got up and stalked out of the room, out of the blue, without permission. The whole class was like, what the hell? Very odd.
Anyway, it's 10pm, I caught the end of the Apprentice--two firings!! And oh man, is it time for bed. All week I've been plagued by too much thinking and not enough relaxing while trying to sleep. The next present I'm getting myself is a professional massage. My neck is tensing up something fierce, and I just plain need to relax.
Have a happy Friday tomorrow, y'all.
Wednesday, November 17, 2004
The other, we'll call him "Trouble," One is...I don't know. To call him "disruptive" is a disservice to him and to me. Oh. My. God. He did not once stop talking and making noise and whatever. He is actually capable of stopping the class, single-handedly. He complained very loudly about the new seating arrangement yesterday, because I put him front and center, right in front of me. He's always saying things like, "I hate this class... and you." Which, and maybe I should tell him this, totally delights me. You're not a real teacher until a bad student hates you. It's pretty hilarious, actually. He hates my class because I tell him to sit down and close his mouth and get to work. Of course he can't stand me!
The crazy thing is that this "Trouble" is the most honest one you'll meet. I confiscated a rubber band from another one, and "Trouble" was like, well, I've got one too. So I took that one too. Then he's like, well, actually I have five. What the hell?! When I kept him after school a few weeks ago, I asked him what's going on with him. And he launched into five minutes of "I was late, and I was talking and throwing paper, and I had gum and candy too, and then I hit someone, and then I was talking some more, and shooting paper," and just kept going. And that was all from just that morning. So he knows exactly what he does wrong, has no problem admitting it, just doesn't bother to try and change anything. Stymied, that's me.
I sent him and one of the other problem boys to the Dean's office, and it did no good once they came back to class. The entire fucking class was on its way to being a complete loss, for them and for me. So, fed up with trying to get control and make myself heard over the constant din, I told the class that the A students were to move up to the front of the room. More than half the class tried to fit up front. The five or six boys that stayed in the back, the C/failing students, were so fucking loud that I could barely hear myself, let alone the kids hearing me. I told them to do their best, and I got in a bit of lesson.
After class, two of the not-worst-but-still-disruptive boys hung around for a minute. One wanted to make sure that I took home the note they wrote for me. I gave notes home to three students, and a bit later, someone gave me a note to bring home and have my parents sign. Tee hee. But anyway, so this one kid (who is really smart and does really well in other classes, but does little homework for me and gets off track sort of easily) was like, what do you expect when there are thirty kids screaming in your ear? Trying to get sympathy. And I was like, "What do you think I go through?" He shook his head and said, "You must go home every night with a big headache." I agreed with him. I like this kid, he's got a great sarcastic wit, and he can do great work, when he does the work. He actually stopped me in the hall to try and talk to me about if he is failing. I asked him to come chat after school, since we both had to get to class, but he didn't.
I had a coverage of seventh-graders, and they were the same class that I had for my first coverage, back in early October. I was pretty mean and harsh. It worked for the beginning of the period, but then there was a constant noise. It stopped when I told them that I wouldn't dismiss them for lunch until there were three minutes' worth of complete silence. Buggers. But it's good practice for my own classes. If only I'd been able to have a nastier start with my classes. Damn me and my softy side.
Class B came in after lunch, and they were chatty, but not all that bad. Ms F came in for the second part of it, and so she helped too. Her extra questions really helped guide me to help the kids understand the poem we were working with. They got the rhyme scheme thing easily. Actually, all the classes did. That was my writing workshop lesson today.
Class C did well with the rhyme scheme. I only had them one period. I'm always relieved when it's time for me to teach them. They are so much more easily managed. God help us when that troubled child from Class A gets there. But actually, I think he will really benefit from more help and more individual attention.
Tomorrow night is the "real" parent-teacher conference. It's gonna be a long night.
Next Thursday cannot come fast enough.
Tuesday, November 16, 2004
The Amazing Race season 6 premieres tonight! That is exciting. But Scrubs is on, too! Why the quandary, networks?
So today was not bad, actually. The students got a new seating chart.
Class B is much easier to deal with when I have them first thing in the morning. Thank god for small favors. I introduced poetry to them with a poem from the book of the month, called Brown Angels. (You know, that is very easily mistyped as Grown Angles. Totally different concept. Hee.) For writing workshop, on the spot I asked them to discuss in groups the patterns they found. (I had planned to gloss over them quickly and briefly.) They all did. Ms F was in the room with me, and that might have helped keep more of them on task, but every single table was talking about patterns. That was a first. The students found a lot of patterns, and had a few that I didn't even notice. That was a great example of teaching through inquiry, and they reacted to it very well. Hurrah! I was so proud of them, and impressed, too. I'm glad that the lesson worked out that way, so that they could explore the poem and get excited about it.
When I talked about rhyme scheme (this one goes A, B, B, A, C, D, D, C), though, they got confused. That's okay, it's a pretty abstract jump. They understood that the first line rhymed with the fourth line and the second with the third, so that's what counts.
Tomorrow will be a writing workshop to use this poem as a template (all the patterns they found will be part of the template). God, I hope it works. I have an example that I wrote, to show them. It shouldn't be too bad. Some of the kids seemed excited about poetry, and some exhibited interpretive thinking. That gives me hope.
Also, Ms F said that she really liked the lesson, it was interesting and the kids were engaged. It would make a great observation lesson. Too bad no one was in my room today.
Well, I had Class A right after lunch and thank god no one saw that. They were all talky and whiny about the seats, but I didn't take any of their crap. I only had them for one period, so I wanted to do the reading and writing sort of together. It took like half an hour for everyone to get the stupid heading and poem written down. I read the poem to them. And quite possibly, that was it. Let's all hope that tomorrow is better. I have them 2nd and 3rd periods.
Ooh, this is interesting. For some reason, they chose today to move kids around between classes. So one of my worst kids in Class A got transferred to Class B, and three new kids arrived in Class C. The kid in Class A, we'll call him T, was in Class B near the end of the period, seeming kind of embarassed and unsure. Like five minutes later, he decided that he didn't like the whole thing, got up, and walked out of the room. He said he was going to talk to the Dean. He was already gone and so I couldn't do anything but note it in my anecdotal book. I'll have to find out what that was all about.
Sadly, Class A isn't really any different without him. There remain two extremely disruptive boys still there, and three regularly very disruptive boys. God help us all. But the Dean gave me some anecdotal/progress sheets about problem students. I'm gonna fill out a bunch, and hopefully something will change for the better. There are too many kids that are great students getting completely shafted because their classmates are out of control. It's starting to bother me a lot, how those kids aren't doing anything, aren't being pushed to improve and increase their skills. It's time for what they call differentiated instruction! Ay.
Class C was a little bigger, and still chatty. I come down hard on them, and they totally look all guilty and remorseful (unlike A and B, who mostly just sulk). But they are still my easiest class. And sometimes I actually really smile or laugh in that class. I just can't help it; it's the end of the day, and the kids are actually really sweet.
I left at 2.45, and was home just after 3.30. So much afternoon left! I had nachos (mm, pepper jack cheese is the greatest!) and some fresh green beans (they were called string beans at the store) boiled and lightly smothered in butter. Yummm.
On Sunday I gave myself an online shopping spree on Amazon.com. Since I got a little money for my birthday, and my bills won't be as nasty, I decided to give myself a break and get some stuff for me. Um, since I didn't just buy myself a digital camera. Yeah. But really, I have been so frugal with stuff just for me, and jesus, it was my 25th birthday! I deserve it all.
Monday, November 15, 2004
Although I hardly slept (I tossed and turned and went over lists and classroom stuff til like 2am), today wasn't too horrible. Well, actually, the beginning of it wasn't pretty. Getting up really sucked; I'd fallen hard asleep. The schedule this morning was 1st, 2nd and 3rd periods. Last week we were told that 1st period would be the 6th grade assembly, but today they switched all of them so that the 6th graders would go 3rd. So I had first period to get organized, then I taught Class A 2nd period, and it was horrid. Not cool at all. Then, after ten minutes dithering in the hallway, we made our way to the assembly. During that I talked to other teachers and a mentor, too.
The hour and a half between the kids leaving and parents arriving went all too quickly. I had to finish the bulletin board, set up the hallway "waiting area," set out the snacks/juice I bought, arrange the kids' stuff and my printouts of grades and anecdotals. Not even any time for lunch. A few bites of cereal, that's it. Well, and a few cookies, too, naturally.
Turns out I really made the right decision to come in on Saturday, even for an hour and a half.
For the three and a half hours we were "open," I saw parents/guardians/relatives of 17 students. Not bad at all. Not crazy, but definitely useful. I talked to a couple problem kids' parents, but none of the really bad ones. Cross your fingers they show up on Thursday night.
During the lulls, I rearranged the seating chart for Class A and B, and then rearranged their notebooks too. That part really sucks. Please, let this reincarnation work. They were so out of control today. Perhaps it was the short day, but of course I blame myself and lack of classroom management. I think I actually did a good job of being nasty today, it's just that some of the kids didn't give a shit.
We didn't have professional development today, and so I had even more time to organize before leaving for QC. Classes tonight weren't too bad. The math class is really frustrating for me, though, on several levels. The big one is that the class is totally useless for me, at least for this year. Next, though, is the stuff we do in class. Sometimes the teacher gives us problems to work on, and they are tricky. She says that fourth or fifth graders are supposed to be able to do them, but a good half of us don't get it. Grown, educated people. Who don't get tricky math, like me. I still get frustrated and give up.
Fuck, it's late. I'm sure there's more, but it can, and will, wait. 'Night.
Sunday, November 14, 2004
I did do two homework assignments for QC. I'll do one more at school tomorrow. There are several more that I should have done, but blurgh, I just don't want to. I really should have gotten some of it done on Thursday. Oh well, I learned my lesson, I suppose. I did more stuff with the lessons, just made a letter to give to parents tomorrow, and that's about it.
I had to do some organizing. I'm going to be carting my full backpack, rolling another one, carrying my Fellows tote bag, and my own heavy purse. Ach, what a nice day tomorrow will be. I do believe we still have professional development (although, if the parents can come until 3.15, and I have to be QC at 5.30, meaning leave at 4.15, that's not much time. Maybe they'll put it off or do an abbreviated version. Then there will be two everlasting classes. I will do my science lesson this week, having traded with someone who wanted to go last week. It's a pretty easy one, but not at all technical. Even so, wish me luck. I wish I could do something actually worthwhile for me at the moment. Don't worry, I'm not whining. I'll be doing plenty of that tomorrow.
I'm scared and nervous and jittery already, about tomorrow. I can only hope that they don't do any focus walking during the morning classes. Send me good thoughts so I can get through the day.
Anyway, so then I was late for my classes. My classroom was totally different--all white and tables and clean. I was not dressed though. I had a set of lingerie (with a camisole leotard type thing) but no real clothes, and the kids were coming in. I pulled on some jeans and then worried that that was unprofessional. The kids coming in were eighth-graders in addition to my sixth-graders, for some reason. They were all demanding and rude. I had absolutely no lesson plan. I was really scared, trying to do three things at once and figure out what to do with these kids. Then Mr Principal came in to check on something but thank god he didn't notice my attire or complete lack of teaching.
Somehow the first group of kids left and another group came in, and with those ones I just said we were going to play a game. They were excited but it took some time to get organized.
There were more freaky things that I don't quite remember, but it rattled me a lot. So I'm sitting right down and getting to work on the week's lesson plan. This is the week that the administrators are doing their "focus walks," looking for specific things in classrooms. There's at least two things I haven't done yet and will try to implement this week, so I'm a little nervous. However, since no one's been in my room/classes officially, I'm looking forward to some feedback. I feel like I should begin proving myself here.
I'm still nervous about tomorrow afternoon's conferences. I hope that parents show up, but not too many of them. I hope that I don't get flustered. I hope I remember to bring some snacks for the parents. I hope the parents don't hate me. Thursday night will be the evening conferences, and that will be a zoo. God, what a week this is going to be!
Saturday, November 13, 2004
God, five months?! That sounds like a lot, or at least, not short. If something's been happening for five months, it's clearly not new anymore. Should be sort of old hand.
What is New York to me? Hm, it's weird. I honestly don't feel like I live in New York. I have so rarely been in the city that I really could be living in any suburb. I'm sure I should take advantage of all that Manhattan has to offer, and it is my sincere hope that I'll get to that point someday. That I'll have friends to hang out with, in the city.
Regarding payday: I think that my financial situation will become much better with this paycheck. I have now paid off the huge security deposit and so from now on, my rent check will be smaller than my paycheck, rather than larger. Excellent. I'm still being very good about not needing to use the credit cards, so I can start focusing on paying them all down and soon/eventually all the way. But I would also like to start being less frugal. Now that the required, huge expenses of moving and starting as a new teacher are done with, I can spend some money to increase my well-being.
The book I just added to my list, C'est la Vie, talks about that a lot. The French consider le bien-etre to be as vital as food and shelter. One must have spiritual and bodily peace and harmony to fully enjoy life. They work fewer hours and spend more quality time with friends and family. I want that.
I'm starting to get a bit worried about Thanksgiving. Four days with no one to talk to; everyone I know will be somewhere else. I hate turkey and really hope neither of my roommates cooks a smelly meal of any sort. The break will be an excellent time to get a lot of planning and studying done, but I predict I won't be very productive. I'll be too busy being lonely to get much done.
Happy five months, New York. You're still surprising me. I wonder what the future holds for the two of us together?
Anyway, I stayed up late last night, it being Friday and I could. But I was up at 8.00 this morning, which is pretty decent. Or was it 9.00? Hm. Anyway, I had been planning to go into school. Then I decided not to, because maybe I didn't have that much to do and could do it on Monday. Later, though, I decided to go after all; that would give me less to do before the parents began showing up. There may be a couple hours in between the kids leaving and parents arriving, and I know I will be running around like crazy, finishing up the bulletin board, organizing and tidying the room, setting out notes, letters, and student work, and just generally freaking out.
So I went to school and spent about an hour and a half in my room. I took down the old work on the bulletin board, and put up the few examples of four-squares and essays I got on Friday. I'll put the rest up on Monday, along with a new objective and rubric. Shit, don't let me forget that.
Okay, I just made my rubric, put it in nice fall colors, and printed it out. One thing done.
Anyway, I left school and went to Woodhaven for shopping. First I went to Target for some little things. Or they were supposed to be little things; I spent fifty bucks. But I bought some food things, too. Then I braved the Macy's for their Veteran's Day sale. I bought a pair of (size 9!) trousers and two simple tops (one blue and one pink). I tried to find a bra or two, but man, it's impossible. Nothing fits me. I need support but not padding, and one side is more like a B cup, the other a C. Nice, right? (Sorry if TMI.) I'm sure I can't be the only one who has this sort of experience, but days like this make me curse all small- and perky-breasted women. Grr.
Laden with a backpack and shopping bag, I made my way home. I walked behind a woman with this mass of hair--it looked just like mine except copper-colored, much longer, and not frizzy. (Exactly like my hair, except totally different. ha!) There was a lot of it and it had the same wave as my hair, that's what I mean. I think that in high school my hair got really long, but I didn't know it. Ever since then it's been various lengths of short to medium. Maybe I should grow it out. But I'd have to use something in it to make it not frizz all over the place. It does some awesome curls when I let it alone, it would be fun to have more of that. I need it cut at some point soon, though. My home trim was back in May or June, I believe.
At home, I sort of did some work, but not really. I read some and possibly watched some tv. I'm formulating my plan for next week. Just printed out my anecdotals, that's a big deal. Don't let me forget to bring those to school on Monday!!
And now it's 8pm on a Saturday. Ho hum. I don't want to do any more work today. That just means I have an entire shitload to do tomorrow; I'm so far behind on my own homework.
Friday, November 12, 2004
I had a horrible day that day. Because of the bulletin board hullaballoo, I did an extended writing workshop with my two double period classes. That means an hour and a half of just writing, doing the same thing. It did not go very well. Class A wasn't too bad at first, because Ms F came up and helped regulate and circulate. With us looming, vulturelike, the students actually did quite well. My biggest behavior problem student made a visible effort to stay on task, and my second worst problem student did his work really quickly, with all the pieces. That was awesome. However, then Ms F took eight or nine of the best writers down to her room on the first floor, and I was left with the rest, and it quickly turned to bedlam. Sigh.
Class B was a lot of bedlam. The same six or seven students remained patiently and quietly on task--thank god for them. Three of them actually finished their papers and got them ready for display. Hurrah for the A students! The rest of them pretended to be on task, or were on task one minute out of every ten, and talking, playing around, throwing things the other nine. Grr.
Class C was only a single period on Wednesday and so it just was quick and not completely productive.
I had a big old headache going before day's end. I kept about six boys in Class B after school, because they would not shut up in class. Most of them denied any issues from class, diverting it onto other students. (Apparently a group of girls broke some ballpoint pens and threw the ink all over the room and other students. Good lord.) One of the boys broke down; he's a very motivated student. Not the smartest in class, but always works really hard and loves to participate. He raises his hand all the time and answers using full and run-on sentences. He's a sweet kid. And he was really upset that I had his name on the board for talking. Before I let them all go, he sort of burst into tears, wailing "I don't want to be an A student; it's not worth it. Whatever I do isn't good enough for my parents!" Oh goodness, the poor thing.
So I let the others go and talked to him one on one. He said that he's under a lot of pressure to succeed and he works hard but his parents just want more. God, he's eleven, for pete's sake, should any sixth grader need to feel that? But he agreed with my assessment that he likes working hard and doing well. I suggested that he have someone to talk to, to sort out his thoughts and stuff. Also that he take an extra notebook and keep a journal, to help work off the stress. I told him to do things that make him feel better, so that he'll stay happy.
In passing this morning, when that class was entering my room, he came back to me for a sec and said that that talk the other day really helped him, to take some of the stress off.
I think that's the most profound "teacher moment" I've had, possibly, in fact, the only one. I've been feeling like I haven't taught any of the students anything, because the lower-level students are lost and unmotivated, and the higher-level students are bored and impatient. I've mentioned this, and both the literacy coach and Ms F have pointed out that some of the kids, at least, have a really good grasp of the four square writing method, and that I have single handedly taught them alliteration. It's strange to think that I should really be responsible for teaching brand new things; I never really articulated that before. ELA in particular should pretty much build on previous material, right? Hm, well, I guess there are a lot of strategies and specialized skills involved in good writing, so those have to be specifically taught. Not that I know how to do that.
Anyway, at the end of the year, I suppose we'll see how successful I've been in guiding them learning all this stuff. God, I hope they don't all fail everything.
Just one more thing, and then I'll shut up. Today it hit me like a ton of bricks that my kids have no basic knowledge of grammar and spelling. I have some fairly good spellers, but no great ones. Even the intelligent, good students misspell easy words on a regular basis. They don't know anything about grammar. They wouldn't know an indirect object if it hit them on the head. They don't know what 'tense' means! Good lord, how can anyone be expected to be a good writer without the most basic building blocks of writing? No one learns to write words before learning letters and their sounds, right? You can't write a good sentence, let alone a good essay, without knowing how to use different parts of speech. Balanced literacy is missing an awfully huge foundation chunk to be called "balanced." That is truly depressing and more daunting than I can tell you.
Yesterday we had the day off. Sadly, the internet connection was down, which helped de-motivate me. I had planned to get all my homework done, since I'm behind. But instead, I sat at home, in sweats, watching tv/dvds/reading. Around 5 or 6, I tried to start planning for next week, but I didn't do much. Altogether, it was a pretty pathetic day, though relaxing.
This morning I paged through the Metro, as I do every day. My horoscope for today read, "Through no fault of your own, today will be frustrating." Nice. Much as I'd like to believe in free will and that horoscopes are all hooey, it was indeed a frustrating day. Actually, though, when I think about it, every day at school is frustrating.
Monday afternoon there are parent teacher conferences. You would think that the staff/teachers would know well ahead of time what the day's schedule will be, right? You'd be wrong. We got no information whatsoever, not even today, at what I thought to be the last minute. I hope to hell they tell us on Monday. We, I suppose I should say I, don't know which classes I'll be teaching, what time the kids leave, what time we should be here for the parents, NOTHING. Apparently it's a pattern.
I had thought about doing a poetry thing next week, and have the students begin work on a poetry book. But the literacy coach told me that there will be a real poetry unit in the spring, so I should save the big stuff until then. So what kind of final product should I have then? Or should I just do one week of poetry? What the hell?
Ooh, maybe I could work on an autobiographical theme. Do a crostic poem, and collect their collages, and do a couple other activities, and then each student would have a sort of "self portfolio." Gah, that sounds kind of dumb.
I just need one or two weeks of plan. Next week I must get around to introducing the book of the month, and begin prepping the kids for the literature circles that start after Thanksgiving. Shit. There is not enough time to do a big plan with persuasive essays or anything. Fuck.
The Teaching Fellows sent another cheerleading email. This one said that not to worry; November is a hellish month but soon the "winter holiday" break will be here, and that once it's January, things suddenly get easier. I really don't want to get my hopes up, but what a miracle that would be. Mom pointed out that one-quarter of the year is over already; I pointed out that if the last three-quarters of the year are anything vaguely similar to the first quarter, I will surely be frazzled to death by June.
Tuesday, November 09, 2004
The homophone thing actually didn't get finished in Class A and B; here I'd thought it would be too quick. But once again, I talked too long. However, cheers to me shutting up in the reading workshop so that the students actually got 15 full minutes of reading time. Class C got reading time and finished the homophones.
I had meetings during two of my preps. Ms F checked with the AP about my bulletin board, and he confirmed that I have to take it down. I also asked Ms J, the literacy coach, and she thought it was just fine. Since my lesson objective was to write a paragraph, not an essay, she argued, there was no need for a four square. That's what I thought! She also suggested I talk to the AP myself and let him know my side. I'm a little scared though, because I feel like every time I talk to a supervisor, I might sound whiny and woe-is-me, since I have no materials and no advance notice of anything at all. Argh.
Ho hum, let's see. Oh, yes. My failed bulletin board. So I'll take out my fun game tomorrow and have them do perhaps an extended writing workshop, so that I can get some material for the thing. I have until Monday (hey, that's the day parent-teacher conferences start--what a coincidence!). I'll just have them do a four square about fall, and make sure they use alliteration in the details. Then they'll write it out into essay form. Dude, that sounds boring. Poor sixth graders.
I'm still working on using positive reinforcement. Last week, or was it this week? who knows, I started using two fingers up for quiet after the clapping thing or just whenever there was noise. If only one or two do it, all I say is, "thank you, so and so," and most of the rest shoot right up. Whee! Fun with students. I must work on doing that more often so that I can train them to shut the hell up. As if my lessons aren't lame enough, now they will be interrupted even more. Blurgh.
I went grocery shopping on the way home. Spent less than $20, somehow. By the way, it's really freaking cold all the time. Seriously chilly. I like to read during the walk to and from the subway/bus or whatever, but this week it's really so fucking cold that I lose feeling in my hands. So I put on my trusty smiley-face gloves and have to just walk like a normal automaton.
Is there anything else? My brain isn't working very strongly at the moment. I came home and didn't do too much of anything. I filled in new grade books, and that's always a little exciting for a school supply nerd like me.
Okay, so I'll go now. Yay, Scrubs is on!
Monday, November 08, 2004
You know what else builds character? Knowing how to spell. Just sayin'.
Today was a rather shit day. First thing, my AP told me that I had to take my bulletin board down. It doesn't have the four-square method in it, so it's no good. I talked before about how proud I was, of the kids' work, of my own preparedness and organization, etc. I felt really good about the whole thing. Figures that it would come back to bite me in the ass. Anyway, after I found out, I didn't want to just rip it down, because it seems like a blank bulletin board is a lot worse than a bad one. And then I went to talk to Ms F, the teacher center lady and my great helper. She was on my side, and told me not to do anything until she double-checked the situation, and said she can try to help me figure out what to do to put up there on such short notice. Argh. Wish me luck and patience.
Today was the day that all the negative reinforcement, so to speak, started to get to me. I feel like people are constantly telling me things I need to change or do better or do, period. And I don't mean that they shouldn't be telling me those things; I will be the first to tell you that I don't know what I'm doing and totally need ideas and suggestions. But you know, I'm human. I need to hear things that I'm doing correctly, things that I'm making progress on, something positive to keep me motivated. So I actually asked my mentors to tell me those things today.
I had the week all figured out, and I felt pretty good about that. There's something to be said for simply being prepared. As a lifelong procrastinator, it's not a feeling I'm on intimate terms with. I'm working on it, though, obviously. But anyway, perhaps my week won't be going as smoothly as I'd thought. Wednesday I was excited to do a game with them; maybe I'll have to make that the day I redo the bulletin board thing. Or I could do that tomorrow and push tomorrow's lesson to Wednesday.
The lessons today went alright, actually. The context clue thing seemed to go over pretty easily with the students. They had to copy sentences from the board before they could go to work, and that's a nice way to keep them quiet for a bit. Sounds manipulative and unfeeling, but it's true. They've been trained to copy, not to think for themselves. (So it's no wonder they all score so terribly in critical analysis, right?)
With some tweaks from a suggestion by my mom, I introduced classwork points today, in terms with Students A, B, and C. You know, who wants to be here to learn and succeed, who's just here because they have to be, who doesn't give a shit and fails. So I equated that with the amount of work that the students do in class. And I walked around putting C, B, or A on the pages in their notebooks they were working on. I actually didn't put any Cs down, because everyone was there at first. Everyone got a B, and then I looked for those who were doing accountable talk and participating in the group discussion, and they got As. They all wanted As. Some of them were like, I'm normally a B person, but I'm trying to be an A person. It seems like that will be an effective tool, both for classroom management and for easier grading for me.
I met with the QC mentor during a prep today. It was pretty nice, to get things off my chest. It was our first actual conversation, so he asked me background things about the beginning of the year and whether I had materials, a buddy teacher, or any kind of orientation. NOPE! He was all, wow, you've done a great job surviving, then. And he complimented me on my energy, that I was still upbeat about things. (That's an act! Or I just try to be a duck and let things roll off me and keep on truckin'.) He even said I was improving on classroom management, with a modicum of control. Woohoo! I'll take a modicum! That means I may have something to build on and so in February they might shut up and get to work.
Holy shit, it got late! Classes tonight at QC were horribly long; it was interminable. God, it was boring and useless. Mondays are just so stressful all around! So, I'm off to bed. Whew, deep breath, relax. I need to sleep, not fret.
Sunday, November 07, 2004
I need more of that. Hanging out with peers and just having a nice, easy time. No hard core clubbing, no loud bad music (there was some loudish music, but it was decent stuff at least), and good people.
It hit me early yesterday evening that my birthday had come and gone without a single celebratory event. Not a thing. That hit me really hard, really depressed me. It made me feel even more alone and lonely. So I truly needed a night out; I actually felt like a pretty normal person. Not a teacher, just a girl who needs to go out more.
Nice/Normal people defend their friends against assholes. Nice/Normal people know that it isn't done to snap judge and name call people. Nice/Normal people would rather have a discussion that a one-sided tirade.
A bad-speller Asshole posted here yesterday. I reacted to it. I tried to defend myself. A Nice/Normal person also defended me. I was grateful. The Asshole tried to have the last word with both of us. But I took a deep breath and let it go. I am not going to get into a flame war on my own fucking website. It needs to be acknowledged, though, so here is this post.
Let's get something clear, folks. If I want to rant here about being sad, being happy, or being high on crack, that is is my prerogative. It is neither conceited nor a power trip to state that this website, as with all blogs, is about me (or whoever is the author).
This is a forum for me to discuss what I see in my world. It helps me process things that I'm going through, things I'm learning, loving, and hating. Certainly I am a privileged person in a privileged country. I am highly aware of that, believe you me; Women Studies gave me all kinds of perspective. However, though I know things could be harder for me, my life right now is not easy. The amount of mental work required to be a new teacher is astonishing, and I'm not sure that I'm cut out for it all. That's what writing in this space is helping me figure out. But I also share positive things like books I love, and websites that are funny, informative, or interesting.
So imagine my shock and dismay when a perfect stranger reads it, and trashes not the site (which wouldn't be a shock, though still rude), but me. That is not cool. That is the work of an Asshole.
Please. Friends don't let friends be assholes.
Saturday, November 06, 2004
I was up at 8.30 this morning. I worked on my lesson plans, writing them out and stuff. I watched some tv or something, and walked up to the library. Then I came back home, and put on the television again. Just finished watching Love Actually on DVD.
I am cold. I am a little bored, and also lonely. I found a simple lesson for science on Monday. I still have homework to do. I have lots of parent calls that I should have made today that I'll just put off til tomorrow. Grr. I hate those.
Last week I somehow found the time to watch the first disc of Felicity. I loved it, of course. I can't wait for the other discs to arrive next week. I need a break from Alias.
I am feeling sorry for myself. What a loser I am.
Friday, November 05, 2004
Today is Friday. It was okay, actually.
Fridays are test prep. So, the classes end up being pretty manageable, because they have to shut up and do the test questions. I felt pretty inspired about what to do after that, though.
I finally opened up the creative writing toys I got--two spinners, one that says 'who and what,' another says 'where and when.' So the kids spun and then wrote a story that included those elements. A few kids shared what they wrote, and honestly, I was really impressed. They were really creative and interesting. Class A had to combine a child moving, an adult who finds a treasure map, and a rock cave on the side of a mountain at noon. Class C had to combine a baseball player who lost a lucky mitt, a king who lost all his riches, and a stadium in the evening. Lots of fun. I think I'll do this every Friday for writer's workshop. There's no real other time for straight creative writing. That way, as I teach more strategies about writing, their stories should get more interesting.
I finished getting my bulletin board up. It didn't seem like a big deal. I think that's because I had a pretty solid plan well ahead of time and implemented it fairly well also. It doesn't look too fascinating (not that it's as plain as last time), but I'm really proud of the kids' work. I can't wait for my colleagues and superiors to read it.
I got my next week figured out, at least for writer's workshops. Monday: context clues, Tuesday: homophone (should I pronounce that like 'homonym' or like 'homophobe'?) sentence study, Wednesday: um...oh, right, a game: Apples to Apples (need to work on making that an actual "lesson" though). Thursday we're off school, wahoo! And Friday will be test prep. For reader's workshop, I might start doing procedural lessons for literature circles that will start in three weeks. Possibly this week will be just more literary devices, while I get the literature circle stuff together. Gotta make copies and get more materials.
This weekend will be busy. I'd like to be a little social, but I'm starting to just have trouble reaching out. Perhaps I am better off staying in this little nest of messy loser life.
You know what bugs me? Watching America's Next Top Model (yeah, I know, shut up--I have no life, remember? Nothing else is on Wednesday nights), where these girls whine about haaard it is to pose for a good picture. Boo fucking hoo. Poor, poor, pretty girls, with your terribly hard lives. Not even like what I'm doing now is the hardest thing in the universe, but jesus, talk about a tough time. Trying to keep sixth graders in line, entertained, and educated? God, this year seems like it will never, ever end. Who will I be in June? Will my students all have passed the sixth grade, or failed? Will any of them have improved at all? Will I be insane and embittered?