Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Half-Day Heaven

This morning, while Class C was lining up after lockers, I pulled aside a girl. This girl had transferred into Class C somewhere around midyear. She had been kept back already and she definitely came with that extra attitude. She sat there and did nothing, talking sometimes, but only to her neighbors, not to participate in class.

Within the last two months or two, she has, to use a cheesy term, blossomed. It started when I noticed that she was always a 3 or 4 in class--meaning always or mostly on task. And I also noticed that she started turning in her homework. Not necessarily level 4 work all the time, but clearly making an effort. She consistently raises her hand, participates, concentrates, does her work. I have been so pleased.

So this morning I took her aside, put my arm around her shoulder (side hug!), and showed her the score she earned on the citywide ELA test-- a THREE! She put her hands to her mouth, excitedly saying, "Oh my god..." I told her what a great job she's been doing and how proud I was of her. It was a quick moment, since right away she had to go to her first class, but she seemed rather thrilled and shocked, in a quiet way.

And this afternoon I found out that she earned a three on the math test, too. Again, I am so proud of her! I don't want to take credit for this, exactly, but I am very thrilled and excited for her, and for me.


When I was in school, three thousand miles, any time we had an extraneous event, like a snow day, assembly, or half day, the schedule adjusted to fit it. We would shorten the class periods and still attend all of them. That meant that we had the extra thing, whatever it was, but still saw each of our teachers.

Here in New York, that is a strange and mystical idea. Apparently it makes far too much sense. Ha.

What happens when we have an assembly, snow day, or half day? Why, we just "lose" those periods of classtime.

The human part of me loves that, because, let's face it, I am a lazy bum and would rather not subject myself to a roomful of hormonal preteens. The teacher part of me gets irritated because those days become a waste. You can't teach something new or do any actual lessons on those days, since you'd just have to redo it with your other classes the next day. But then the human part of me kicks in again and says, woohoo! a free day!

So today was most definitely a WOOHOO! kind of day. I saw Class B for two periods and then had common planning. Sweet deal.

For Class B's half day, do you think I let them just sit around and talk and throw things? No siree. We did our do-now word activity, and I chose a different, much more complicated one. That way it took more time and made them think more. Excellent! They had to unscramble a list of words that were all musical instruments. Then some of those words had circled letters. Those circled letters were to be rearranged to form a 'mystery' word. Then, they had to see how many words they could make out of that mystery word. (This, and the other word activity do-nows, come from a fantastic book. The only one that I have bought and actually get use out of. All the other ones that I buy end up languishing on a shelf or in a drawer.)

The mystery word was 'concert' and we found at least twenty-two words! I got to teach them the words "roe" and "rote." Well, explain them briefly. I'm sure they won't remember them tomorrow. But anyway.

That successfully took all of first period, and while it wasn't silent by any means, just about all the students were engaged.

Second period I took out the old, tattered cards for Apples to Apples. They were very excited and made sure to behave if I had to sit and wait for quiet. They were very attentive when I was talking about and making my judgments.

[For those who have never played this terribly easy and yet awesomely fun game, there are two decks of cards: one red (with nouns), and one green (with adjectives or adverbs). (They're not labeled that way, but it's pretty clear.) The judge draws a green card (for example, 'cuddly' and each participant (in my case, an entire table of students) must choose the best red card from their hand that could be described as, or matches, 'cuddly.' You end up getting cards like, 'the ocean' 'roses' 'toasted marshmallows' and random shit like that. It's hilarious. The judge has to pick which one wins. Usually a brief monologue ensues while they explicate their choices.]

So, they sat stone still, all eyes on me, completely silent, while I discussed my thoughts on these things. At one point, I explained how 'getting lost' was not 'awful' for me because while it happens all the time, I consider it an adventure. Many moments in that game, I feel like I get to be more of a regular person around the kids instead of a nasty teacher, and of course we all like that.

For the green card 'honest,' I ended up choosing 'water.' (Believe me, the other choices were just as random). When I drew out my decision ("And I think....my choice has to be.....WATER!"), you should have heard the huge cheer that erupted from the previously-scoreless table five. They positively whooped.

I gave out jellybeans first to the winning table, then to all the students. What a great morning! How I wish that days like that were rules instead of few-and-far-between exceptions. Sigh.

Lest you think that us teachers got to escape after a mere three hours of school, I shall tell you that we had a brief meeting in the auditorium. Then we got an hour break for lunch (an excursion to a nearby diner with six of my fun female colleagues), after which we came back for grade meetings and file-sticker-applying. Very tough, excruciating work.

Why isn't it Friday today?

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