Thursday, March 31, 2005

Hell must have got a bit chilly

Because today, I had a coverage of an eighth-grade class, and it went well. They were excited and mostly attentive for BrainQuest (god, that is up there for the best five bucks ever spent this year!). There were some very bright kids in the class, too, which was neat to see. I get all bitter about the 'old days' when we actually knew stuff. Most of the kids are not quite that sharp or quick, but a select few were right on the ball. It was cool. I taught them about E Pluribus Unum, reviewed states of matter, and reminded them about Eastern Hemisphere geography.

Let's see. In test prep review, we did context clues, which meant I got to teach them a whole bunch of new words: flourished (I showed them the Latin etymology--and I DO use the word 'etymology'--meaning 'to flower or bloom'), thrive, vigor (those two because they were in the definition of 'flourish': to grow or develop vigorously; to thrive), opaque, translucent (because it's the antonym), elated, outlandish, and reversible. I think that was all.

Classes B and C got to have a writing workshop, where they just worked on their drafts. In Class B, one table's worth got to peer edit and review, two tables had to start their damn drafts already, and the other kids worked on their first or second drafts.

In Class C, I am continuing to see some fantastic improvement in a few of the lower-level students. The higher-level students are coming up with excellent dialogue and action words. Yay! Praise be, they are LEARNING!

It was a very hectic day, even though Thursdays are usually pretty calm. I teach first, second, third periods, then I have fourth, fifth and sixth off, and teach seventh and eighth. Well. Not that simple today.

Fourth period I took a small group from each class to work on test review (of course, I had to use another teacher's room, since seventh-graders are in my room every lunch period except Wednesdays; that leaves me TWO PERIODS A WEEK--TOTAL--in which I can be in my own classroom without a class in it. Ahem.). They all did very well; I had some of them in yesterday too, so they knew to look for clue words in the passages. I think most, if not all, the kids got all the questions correct. They like doing the worksheets because I put them in sheet protectors and hand out whiteboard/overhead pens for them to write on the page with. They think that is fun and cool, as do I.

Fifth period I had the prep. Again, praise be, it went well. Miracle of miracles.

Sixth period I would have been able to sit down and take a breath, but Class C was throwing a surprise party for another teacher who's taking a leave of absence. There was pizza, soda, chips, ho-hos, and candy. I helped pass everything out and got to have some snacks, too. Yum.

After school, I got to chat with CuteTeacher and help explain some computer things like the nerd I am. Oh well, Cute is Cute. A friendly teacher gave me a ride to the train station. That was awesome. Thank you, Friendly Teacher! That gave me plenty of time to chill for a bit, and then go work out. It was fun but tough, of course. I know I will be sore, but I will relish it. It makes me want to stretch, which I should do more of anyway.

Back to lunchtime:
I am relieved to be making progress with my test help, because Mr Principal will be coming around to find out what we are doing to 'move' the lower-level kids so they will pass the big test coming up. In my department, we are expected to have an individualized plan for EVERY STUDENT, and how we will help with their deficiencies, and what exactly we will do to do that. Other departments are not expected to do that for all students, only a handful in each class. That is manageable. Ninety kids? Totally unrealistic.

For me to work with ANY kids individually requires me to give up my lunch period. Does that tell you how well this system is working?

It's not only me; there's just not enough time or student motivation to differentiate or scaffold in an everyday class. We have other shit to do! A LOT of it!

This might be a good time to discuss the fact that, according to one particular teacher, HALF the staff is talking about or actually applying for jobs outside the classroom, or on the island.

This huge amount of paperwork and extra time is just overwhelming and ridiculous. I'm not the only one who thinks so, either. Why would anyone want to put up with this kind of stuff when there are jobs like school librarian out there? Why do people think that teachers are leaving the city and there are so few good teachers out there? Because ALL teachers are being worked to death. Paperworked to death, more precisely. This level of work and stress is just unreasonable. I cannot for the life of me imagine having this life for another thirty years, let alone five. I'm sure I'll be out of the city school system just as soon as I can. Another statistic. But jesus, teachers are people too, not robots.

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