Thursday, June 30, 2005


From myself:
This year was, to be sure, difficult. Crazy. Busy. Just plain tough and insane, really.

I started with nothing, less than nothing. No behavior plan, no experience, no class rosters, no curriculum, NADA.

But you know what? By the time this year ended, I had a modicum of control and classroom management. It wasn't really that effective, but the kids knew that when I counted to five or put two fingers up, they needed to do the same and be quiet.

At the beginning of the year, I had problem students literally everywhere I turned. Almost all were boys who did no work, who called out, who had an attitude, who hit, who threw things, who refused to listen or cooperate.

At the end of the year, there were still some of those students, for sure. But some of them had come over to "my side", who wanted to do their work, who wanted to succeed, who changed their attitude and their motivation. I think I will take that as my biggest victory, that I came across as a teacher who cared about their success, and encouraged their intelligence, to be shown through their work and persistence.

I also changed, by occasionally taking aside those "problem students" and speaking to them quietly about how I wanted them to succeed and participate. When I did that, they would nod quietly and sit patiently, mostly doing their work. If I had figured out how to keep that up and not lose my temper and challenge them, they might have been that "good kid" more often that the "bad kid."

I definitely got a lot tougher. As I have said multiple times, walking into a nonwhite, urban classroom as a young, white, West Coast, female, first year teacher means that I had FIVE huge cards stacked against me. Other first-year female teachers who are tough black women had it much easier than I did in gaining students' respect right off the bat. But my voice got louder, it got meaner, I got the teacher face and Teacher Death Glare pretty much down, and I could sometimes intimidate the students. (Yes, that IS a good thing, in this kind of environment.) But when I allowed students to hang out in my room at lunch, when I selected students to help me out by cleaning or writing on the board, when I participated in the field trips, I got to be a calm, real person with them. We got to chat easily and let go of the "teacher" and "student" roles. So they got to see that I am a reasonable, mostly nice person who just wants to help them do their best.

I still really need to work on lesson planning and unit planning. But hey, I did this shit by the seat of my pants. I had no clue what I was doing. Next year should be easier because our department actually mapped out lesson ideas (things to teach, not how to teach them), activities and goals for most of the units. Also, because I will remember what things worked and what didn't, and will have more ideas about fun/interesting/worthwhile things to do.

Obviously behavior management is a HUGE deal for me. The biggest, really. Still not sure how I will tackle it all. Linked with that is rituals and routines, which is really the basis for a well-managed classroom.

Another thing I need to work on is matching my speech and assignments better with the students' level. From the beginning of the year, I've had to scale down my vocabulary, and it's still sometimes above their level.

So, one of my goals, which I only did a little this year, is to help the students increase their vocabularies. It will definitely be easier this year, by the way, because my Donors Choose request got funded just last week: 35 dictionaries AND 35 thesauri for my classroom! Woohoo! Words are one way to explore the world around you and expand your imagination. Words make better readers and writers, and I believe better professionals.

From my students:
I gave an evaluation with eight questions. I have typed up all the responses. (Because I'm a bit anal like that.) Here are some of the responses. I think you will find them as entertaining and thought-provoking as I did.

2. What do you still need to learn?
--Onomonopia because it is kinda hard.
--I still need to learn how to talk French
--I still need to learn is really nothing.
--I not show.
--the intermediate of everything she taught us (when I’ll probably learn in 8th grade or something)
--I still need to learn many things. Things I don’t ever know existed.
--I still need to learn more about poetry
--I think I am supposed to learn more how to write good storys and how to publish them
--I need to learn plenty of figurative language
--I do not need to learn any thing else more
--I need to learn about homophones, I didn’t quite get that this year
--how to listen rather than to talk
--how to behave
--I do not need to learn any thing this year because we coverd everything
--script writing or good hand writing
--how to perfect my writing and poetry and many other things
--nothing really
--Nothing because, I have learned enough and I feel soooooooo smart
--how to write more neater
--I think I need to learn a lot more but I don’t know what it is yet
--I still need to understand SNOT [Show and NOt Tell]
--I have to learn how to rhyme
--Nothing for now
--focusing on my reading
--How to speak different languages

3. What's the best thing we've done all year?
--the plays were a lot of fun
--The best thing that we’ve done all year is when we play Apples to Apples and Apples to Oranges
--to do a play but in different groups
--story writing and Greek mythology
--Poetry I think that was really fun
--the plays, games and getting a good teacher
--the best thing was apples to oranges and apples to apples
--have free days and no homework
--the best thing we done this year is when we had to write 15 poems and did it on Spongebob
--the projects
--the best was when we wrote some play [and act] it out
--nothing, everything was learn, learn, learn
--We did no work and just had fun. And we met Mrs C’s mama.
--I think the best thing we’ve done all year was the challenges to test our brains and us learning new words

4. What grade would you give to your teacher and why? [A lot of the kids use the 1-4 scale because that's what the teachers/tests use. So 3s and 4s are actually good. :) Some also used 1-10]
--4 because Ms C trys her best to teach use every day and make shure you do good. [This is from my most problematic student in Class B!]
--I would give her a 9-10 because she was too nice.
--I will my teacher a 4 because she teached us very good and well
--I would give my teacher a 4 because she did what you suppose to do. She helps me and try to put things into fun things.
--I will give my teacher the higher grade because she teach so much to us I just want to thank her 10
--3 because although she is a good teacher she blows the whistle too much.
--I would give Mrs C a 9+ because she tried her best to teach even though are class is really bad but she has to work on her yelling.
--4 because she’s a hardworking teacher
--I give you a 2+ because sometimes you got on my nerves and you was mean to [me]
--a 100% for pushing us
--I would give you a 3 because you lost your cool sometimes but found a way to make us learn
--a +3 because she never gave up on me!
--I give Miss C a 4 because she is nice and a hardworking teacher
--6 because their have been times that I was extremely pissed off at her but I have managed to get over it
--9/10 because she really helped me but screamed too much
--out of 1-4 I gave you a 2+ because I was kind of bad all year but when I was good you was nice to me
--9+ because when the class some wrong she doesn’t have to punish the whole class only the bad students
--4 because you are a good teacher
--A+++++, because even though I got fresh and rude with her she always told me that I was such a smart girl that need to try harder.
--85% because you have taught us a lot
--I would give her a 10, she really explains stuff and makes things look easier
--I would give her an 8 because she yells too much
--I would give her a 2 because she dose not hold a class
-- 3
--9+ she’s sometimes nice. And kinda yells a lot
--I would give a b because she try hers best to teach but can be punishing
--8 because she screams to much
--a 10 because she helped a LOT
--a 55, U, 3/10 because she is mean (peace jean grey, just kidding)
--I give the teacher a 9 out of 10 because she lets us do fun things
--9-she has been a good teacher and helped a lot
--I would give a 8 because she helps and teaches us a lot and sometimes she doesn’t listen to us
--I would give her a 80/100 because she’s a good teacher but need to be stricer
--A 4+ because she showed us ho to do our work
--4-because sometimes she yells for reson but she stell pushed me to be the best
--a 4 because she is smart [From my worst student of Class A!]
--I give my teacher a 10 because she teach us good writing skills that I never [knew], things I did notice in books
--8/10 because shes good even though she’s mean sometimes because we’re bad I learned a lot with her
--she has good ideas 2+ because she is not that organized about some things any that she needs to understand to be patient
--4 because she is teaching us things that we need to know in 7th grade
--I would give my teacher a 3 because she’s done all she can to make us be smart
--A 4 because she can be nice but she has reasons to yell all the time. Plus she works as hard as she can
--A 90 because she’s smart
--3, she is determined to make us do our best
--I don’t now because sometimes I don’t do my homework
--105% because she explains some things when we don’t get it
--I would give her a 4 because she tries her best to make learning easy
--8 because she is too patient. But she’s smart and taught me things I didn’t know
--I would give my teacher a 10 because she has taught me so much she has done her best to set me for the 7th - 12th grade. I thank my teacher.
--7 because….mmm…that the first number that came up in my head. I can’t explain why.
--I would give you a 4 because you made the lessons fun
--I give my teacher a 4+ because my teacher help every body and go over stuff and sometime have fun
--I gave her a 7 because she is a good teacher but sometimes she is mean

6. If you could re-live this school year, what would you do differently?
--Do better on my citywide test
--Not chew gum and make jokes
--Try my hardest from the beginning of the school year.
--Change the homework into fun homework that is easy to do
--pay more attion.
--I would do my work more efficiently; I would do a lot more homework than I actually did.
--the way I act I would pay attention more and listen and do all my homework

7. How have you changed as a result of this class?
--I don’t know.
--I have gotten a larger range of vocabulary. I understand things that I never knew before.
--I’ve payed attention more tried not to talk so much and listen.
--I think I have changed a lot with my attitude
--I changed my ways of making ELA fun
--I learned to pick my friends
--I changed to be good
--I have become smarter
--better skill of ela
--I have changed a lot
--I have tried harder to stop talking
--My reading ability
--I don’t think I have changed because I think I just improved a little
--I can express myself through poetry

8. If you had a brother/sister or cousin coming into this class, what advice would you give them?
This cracks me up. Bwa ha ha!

--I would give him warnings of what to watch out for and stay out of trouble. Mostly have a fun year
--I don’t know.
--Don’t get on Ms C’s bad side. Do all your work (and homework) Have fun! But not too much
--No talking, pay attention, hand in your homework, and DON’T MAKE MRS C MAD!!
--Not to slack around like I did
--I would tell them to be very very good
--to always obey the teacher and do your work and don’t give miss c any thing to yell at you
--Be themself have fun but know when to be serious
--do the work then the teacher will give you treats
--pay attention
--follow direction and do all your work and don’t get in trouble
--Keep your mouth close!!! Why? She put your grade low
--Don’t mess with Miss C!!
--To keep your head up and try your hardest
--do good
--don’t get in trouble!
--less talk more learn
--Don’t be like anyone. Be yourself and try and be a good student
--To do their work and they’re hw and listen
--work harder
--Do a lot of work and work as hard as you can
--pay attention and do your work and don’t get on her nerves
--Don’t mess with Ms C
--Be nice and do all your work.
--do not slack and always give effort
--do homework, listen, and do projects
--Do your work!!
--To do good because these teachers don’t play games
--Don’t get on Ms C’s bad side
--to do homework and work because if you don’t you will have a 0

Though I'm in education more for the love of knowledge and learning than, "oh my god, I just love children", I came to enjoy most of my kids. They were good, sweet kids that wanted to please and help out their teachers. I will miss them next year and look forward to watching their progress as they get older. I hope that I have helped them see that they are intelligent and can be very successful when they put their minds to it.

Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Some pictures

Planes still fly right over the city of DC, which I find rather strange. But anyway, so we were driving over the Potomac when a 747 roared overhead. I quickly lifted my camera to try and capture its underbelly, but all I got was sky.

Isn't it a gorgeous shot, though?

A candid, awkward shot of me waiting for a group photo in front of the Maison Blanche.

Rrr! You're afraid of the claw! Death Squint for anyone who dares test it!

"Congestion 2 miles ahead"

Those cars are moving at about 2 mph.

Gee, thanks for the heads up, NJTransit.

A student took a picture of me while my camera was hooked to my teacher whistle/key chain/necklace thingy. Thus the lack of distance. It's pretty cool in a funky, extreme-nose-close-up way.

Oh. My. God.

It's all over. I am no longer a first-year teacher. The year is over. I have survived 180 days of twelve-year-olds. Holy shit. It's summer!

Clearly, I can't yet truly believe it. My life has only been teaching for the last twelve months (yep, remember I moved out here last June to start the Fellows?), and all of a sudden it's over.

I am thrilled and excited and also, slightly exhausted.

The last day was mostly a whirlwind, and a sweaty one at that. The heat isn't oppressive anymore, but the humidity sure as hell is.

For most of first period, Class B helped distribute a month's worth of homework to each other. Then we all had an assembly and talent show. The auditorium is not air-conditioned and not well-ventilated, so it seemed to be interminable. Out of all the honor certificates given out, a mere handful of my students were represented. Interesting, no? The talent show was all girls and five of the acts were the same four girls. As a grand finale, a few of us teachers got up there and shook our groove things to Beyonce's Crazy in Love. Yes, I was up there too. I felt dumb a little, but I figured what the hey, let the kids see us all make a fool of ourselves just this once. :)

The kids left at 10.30, then one of my teacher/Fellow friends and I rented a car. We walked to the nearby Enterprise and were severely underwhelmed and unimpressed at the experience. Enterpunishment, more like.

Because they didn't have their shit together, the compact or economy that I had reserved online (because it said they had them available) was not there. They wanted us to wait while they got one from the airport. Yeah, right. We were like, no, we need it right now. So they gave us the only one they had, which was a silver Sebring convertible.

We rushed back to school to distribute the report cards. That was boring. I sat there with Class B's report cards for more than an hour, and only seven students/parents came. Dullsville for sure.

I stole one of my students who was milling around aimlessly, and in half an hour we had my room cleared and my things brought downstairs. So much stuff!

Then the real fun began. We had a list to get checked off by various supervisors and secretaries, and checks to pick up, and another form to fill out for next took forever and I was sweating like a pig. Another student helped me bring the things out to the car, and we got my friend's stuff, and left school at 3. By four we had dropped off my things and her things.

We were so excited about all the options open to us with a car to drive. The first thing we did was a drive-thru Wendy's. And we traveled between school and home in fifteen minutes instead of one hour. We finally put the top down in the evening, when it had cooled a bit. It was fantastic. We had to keep reminding ourselves that we were done with school, too. Very exciting altogether.

In the evening I went out with four of my colleagues. One drove us into the city and the Village, where we ate dinner, talking and laughing about school stuff. I had two giant strawberry margaritas and some fries (I'd had pizza earlier), but they seemed pretty tame. But then we went to the club next door and after about ten minutes, those margaritas, and the stress of the last two days, hit me like a ton of bricks. I could not keep my eyes open. The house band was playing great music, and it was a fun atmosphere, but I kept dozing off. My eyes drooped, I nodded off, for a minute or five, opened my eyes, looked around, and then the cycle began again. It was pretty pathetic, but I just couldn't help it.

They dropped me off at about 1am, when I crashed and dreamed an anxious dream about the first day of school next year. My first night of freedom and I'm already stressing out about September!

This morning we took our rental car to make a Costco trip, and I got all kinds of things, like pistachios and walnuts, cookie dough, photo ink and paper, and BrainQuest cards. Sweet!

It doesn't feel like my first day of summer vacation, it just feels like a Saturday or something. Like I said, it really hasn't hit that I'm "free." I am very happy and very relieved, though. Duh.

Monday, June 27, 2005


Okay, before I get to the exciting stuff, let's chat about the last week.

The field trip was a success. We went to our nation's capital! It got off to a very slow start due to money and paperwork, but eventually we got to the city. The bus/tour operator took us on a "rolling tour", where our first stop was to see the White House. We took lots of pictures of the kids. They were interested in the woman who's been camping out across the street for 24 years, protesting nuclear arms. They were shocked at the pictures of nuclear fallout and effect. This one girl, one of my kids in Class B, was like, "I wish I could tell the president to stop all of that! But I'm just a kid." I said, "But you can tell him. You still have a voice, even if you're a kid. Find a cause and a project and make yourself heard!" She nodded thoughtfully. Let's hope we see some political awareness and activism from these kids!

Our next stop was the group of memorials--Lincoln, Vietnam, Korea, nurses--in the central part of the city. The tour lady did the briefest of brief skimmings about the wars, never mentioning WHEN they happened, or WHERE these places are. At one point I asked her to mention it, and she brushed me off (!), saying, 'Oh I don't need to get into all that.' BS--these kids couldn't point to Korea on a map, let alone identify when and why the "peace conflict" occurred. So that bothered me--here is this big field trip for the kids and they are given NO context or background information. They can't make sense of it if they just walk through it, and they won't learn anything from the experience.

Anyway. Eventually we went to "dinner" at a restaurant across from the Pentagon--but no one mentioned ANYTHING about that building, what it means, nothing. The dinner was dumb, but afterwards the kids got to play. There was some frisbee throwing, and some volleyball playing, officiated by me and Mr CT. (Hee!) The kids needed some help with serving and staying in "formation", but they had fun. I think the boys won by one point.

After dinner, we visited the FDR memorial. I'd never been there before, and enjoyed it. It was rather large, with a big square for each of his four terms.

There were also many of his quotes etched in the stonework of the memorial. I really liked this one, because it rang so true for me.

"I propse to create a civilian conservation corps to be used in simple work...more important, however, than the material gains will be the moral and spiritual value of such work."

As some of you may know, AmeriCorps NCCC (National Civilian Community Corps, the program I did in 2002) was based on FDR's CCC. And this quote captures perfectly the whole point of national service. It's not about the money--it's about what gets done, and how it affects the entire community. Awesome. Good job, Frankie!

The hotel was our next adventure. It was way out of the city; I swear we were practically in Baltimore. We hustled the kids into their rooms and then finally got to take a breath.

The kids all stayed up late having fun, but we were all up and out by 7 for breakfast. We did pretty well staying on schedule at first, but then we hit a snag at the stupid Capita! bldg. Though there were a lot of cute college interns, the line was too bloody long. So we left, in order to make it to the Sm!thson!ian A!r and Space. At first the kids loved it, all the hands-on exhibits and activities. It was great to see the girls so interested in math and science stuff.

But of course, soon enough, we all got tired and hungry. I love museums, but I always get tired quickly. We took a rest and as soon as the boys were done, we got out of there.

It took a really long time to get back to New York. Traffic galore. Ugh. At least we stopped for a whole hour for late lunch/early dinner. But it was full night when arrived home, and my awesome friend N gave me a ride home.

Like I said, it was a successful trip. Our group got lots of compliments on behavior and comportment while out and about. I'm proud of our kids and proud of all us adults, too. We all did well.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005


I will do that very soon. Mm, sleep.

Tomorrow morning we leave on the overnight field trip! I am so excited. I think I've said that before. Sorry.

Today was a joke. "Field day" just meant letting the kids do nothing outside for the entire morning. Us teachers sold some goodies to fundraise for the trip. That was it. Ridiculous.

So I'll see y'all later.

Our year is REALLY down to the wire now--there's nothing really left! Sweet!

Tuesday, June 21, 2005


I gave the final to all three of my classes today, and no one got to perform their play. Yesterday Class B did one, and Class C did two. They will be able to finish up tomorrow. Class A has once again gotten the shaft; they were stuck in the auditorium all morning yesterday and tomorrow there's Field Day. So maybe they can go next Monday?

After each student finished the final, I gave them an evaluation to complete. It was open-ended questions that I got from the FellowForum. The answers are pretty cool. I'm indulging my nerdy/anal side by typing up all the responses to each question. I will post them in the next day or two.

Just so you don't worry about me, I feel pretty validated about the year after reading them. It's a big relief and it's pretty funny.

The final, however, seemed to stump a lot of kids. And I thought it was pretty easy! (Because we covered those things multiple times, throughout the year.) Oops.

Monday, June 20, 2005

Eee!! (for lots of reasons)

1. One week remaining. ONE WEEK!! (And Fred, you bet your ass I'm coasting to the end of the year! That's the only way that I can survive with any sanity :)

2. Last Thursday was my official one-year-in-New-York anniversary. Holy shit.

3. Mr CT must be fucking with me; he winked at me twice today. If you're here, Mr CT, identify yourself!

4. The overnight field trip is very soon. I'm really excited to hang out with the kids and my colleagues. We're bringing games and talking of a "teachers gone wild" scenario. Whee!

5. I'm thinking about setting up a multiple-classroom "monetary" reward system for next year. Last night I made a template, and it's so cute! I talked to Ms B, the math teacher who has the same classes this year. She seemed amenable to the idea.

6. Dar Williams concert on Wednesday night!

7. Possibly camp this weekend. Fun!

8. Soreness is finally diminishing from my Saturday morning workout that I almost decided against. I shall *try* to go tomorrow after school, maybe. It's gonna be a busy week. I should buy or 'bake' something for the bake sale on Wednesday at school.

9. On B/Q Day, I wrote a long letter to my friend who is in Africa with the Pea&e Corp$. It has been a really long time since I sent her anything. I think about a year, actually. So naturally, it seems that I have LOST the goddamn letter. Nice.

Remember that hope we had for real writerliness? Apparently it ain't happening here. I left a few verbose comments on other blogs in response to their posts, but I can't be bothered to author my own thoughts. Blurgh.


Sunday, June 19, 2005

Summer lovin'

I just bought a plane ticket!

It's nothing too exciting. Well, actually I suppose that's not true. I shall fly back to Seattle in early August, and it's only a one-way ticket. Thus I am now OFFICIALLY committed to my road trip back to NY. Hurrah!

Someone asked about my summer plans. In July, I have to take two college classes, but they only meet the three middle days of the week. You know what that means--four-day weekends for the whole month. Sweet! I am looking forward to Shakespeare in the Park, free concerts, walking tours, touristy stuff, everything.

August will be visiting home: seeing friends and family, driving around/afternoon road trips, packing, just chillin'. Then, sometime near the end of the second week, I will be driving across the country. With luck and permission, I will stop and see teammates/friends/family on the way. Can't wait!

Friday, June 17, 2005

Can you pass a sixth-grade EL@ final?

FINAL EXAM--50 Points

Name and define six types of figurative language.

Write a sentence that uses TWO different types of figurative language.

What does “narcissism” mean?

One of our projects was to write a proposal, which is a type of persuasive writing. What does “persuasive” mean?

What goes in the center of a four-square?

How many sentences should be in a paragraph?

Punctuate this sentence correctly:
hello how are you today he asked

In a library, what are three TYPES of resources that you can use for research?

Name four TYPES of poetry and describe them/give characteristics.

Books are divided into chapters. What are plays divided into?

Name and define the elements of plot.

What kind of LEAD is this?
It was a dark and stormy night. The wind howled through the trees. The full moon cast shadows on the windows. Somewhere below me I heard a thud. But I was alone in the house…..
This is a/an ______________ lead.

What are homophones?

Write two pairs (four) homophones.

Write a sentence that uses two of the homophones correctly.

What is a playwright?

Thursday, June 16, 2005


I get to go on the overnight field trip next week! I am thrilled for several reasons:

--field trip!
--two fewer days to teach!
--get to hang out with students without the rigors/expectations of real school
--hang out with teacher friends N, Ms B, and Mr CT (CuteTeacher)
--visit a new city
--museums and sights
--did I mention Mr CT will be there? (Yeah, he's got a girlfriend. Don't they all? A girl can dream, right?)
--no school/work clothes--woohoo for shorts or jeans or whatever!
--by the way, I know this won't be an actual vacation for me/us teachers. We will have to stay vigilant and eagle-eyed to keep track of the kids and keep them in order. But I'm quite sure we'll find a way to get in a bit of fun, or at least some giggles here and there.

People, this is for real. Six more "teaching" days!!!! Good lord.

My students should be wrapping up their rehearsals tomorrow. I may give them Monday too, depending on the schedule next day. Then they'll perform the plays, somewhere in Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. Again depending on the schedule, I may give a final exam Wednesdayish. After that, my real week will be over. Trip time!

One more full day. Either a final exam (I'm afraid the kids won't sit for it) or...what, games? The last plays? The last day is only a half day, so that's definitely games.

I can't believe how close to the end it's getting. I also can't believe that I keep talking about. For that, I apologize. I can't turn off my one-track mind, which is chanting, "Summer! So close! Almost the end! Summer!" etc etc.

Thank the good Mother Nature, the weather has broken a bit. Yesterday was warm, but breezy and fresh. Fantastic! This morning was downright chilled. Don't worry, it stayed humid and stuffy in my room. In the afternoon it nicened up a bit, but then poured. As it does. What a wonderful life to not stifle in the very air one is attempting to breathe, to not stick to all clothing and other surfaces, and to just feel comfortable again.

Sorry for the boring post. Maybe I'll feel more writerly this weekend.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

How does the glass look to you?

Though only 35% of my students passed (got 3 or 4 on) the city exam, 57% of them improved their scores (raw and scale score).

So, fifty-seven percent. That's 48 of my 84 kids. Is it good that more than half improved? Because it sure sounds better than only one-third passed. But then again, only half the kids improved. The other half's grades either stayed the same or, god forbid, went down.

Blah. Blurgh.

We were warned that the administration, but especially the city/DoE, will only be looking at the levels. And also that the city (our "beloved" mayor who is "fighting for the kids") is pushing really hard to evaluate/keep/discard teachers based solely on their students' test scores. So thus, we were told to know our improvement as a way to defend ourselves, just in case.

Ain't that dandy?

So what do you think? For the teachers whose 90-95% of students improve or pass, do we give the teacher sole credit? It sure seems like it. I know the MAYOR wants to take sole credit for it. But this isn't about him. Well, actually in a way it is, but that's not what I want to focus on.

How much credit does the teacher need or deserve? Does it mean that I am a bad teacher because two-thirds of my students did not pass the test? Does it mean that I'm a not-very-good-teacher because half of my students did not improve their scores in the last year? Does "good" or "bad" teaching only get reflected in student test scores? Well, then why do we do anything OTHER than take the goddamn test? Or do we place the blame/credit solely on the shoulders of the students themselves?

Half full or half empty? I'm torn. What do you think?

Sunday, June 12, 2005

Nature Musings

I went out for a walk today. Yes, I too was shocked. I brought a book to finish, but kept getting distracted by the incredible houses in my neighborhood.

I meandered over to Forest Park, which is quite large. I sat and finished my book, and then off I went, wandering through the forest. I was the only one on the actual paths winding through the trees; everyone else was on the road. Odd. Why would you choose asphalt over a small dirt path? Possibly because the paths were not well-maintained. Often I had to duck or turn to avoid overhanging trees and bushes. But that just makes things more interesting, if you ask me.

I found myself wishing I had someone to wander with me. To hold my hand and stroll together through the trees, getting lost and just enjoying the soft breeze through the green space.

Oh well. I still enjoyed the walk, the nature, the clearing of the mind. I did find myself thinking about other forests I've walked in...

--Going for a walk reminded me of my daily walks while at the mortgage company. Remember, I'd been working out and was in fairly fantastic shape. Then my knees stopped working. I had to sit for two months of summer, and I gained weight and lost muscle. I decided to do something to get moving again and to help heal, and one day I headed out of the office to see what I could find. Lo and behold, a well-maintained creeekside trail awaited me. Perfect! The creek was all brown and slow-moving, but there were some trees, and also some wild blackberry bushes. There was shade and some sun, a breeze, and the scent of ripening berries. The traffic sounds were easily muted and/or ignored, and I could just lose myself in the nature. Soon I explored more of the area and found more, longer trails to walk. Quickly I was walking for my entire lunch hour. A whole hour, every day. It was the best part of my day, by far. My mind was clear, my body felt good, sunshine warmed my shoulders, and I occasionally sampled the big fat blackberries hanging on the branches. I think those walks are all that kept me going for the last six months of my employment there.

--Today I went up a little rise covered with a root system, which quickly called to mind the state park that two of my teammates and I worked in in New Jersey. We had to shovel wet bark into wheelbarrows, then wheel them uphill and quickly spread the bark over the ground at a few ropes courses. It was hard work, but we still had a great time. Even if it was just the free lunch (including yummy cookies!) that came after a few hours. --We can't forget the forest that we all lived in for two months, in New Jersey. The trees and plants protected us from the weather too much; the sun didn't beat down mercilessly, and the rain didn't flood everything. The forest just took care of it, like it's supposed to. It was so harsh to return to the 'civilized' world where we are prey to all that Mother Nature pours down upon us, whether it be sun or rain. My favorite part, though, was the quiet. Waking up in the hogan, with just sounds of birds chirping, squirrels moving through the underbrush, it sounds cliche, but oh, it was so peaceful. You can't help having a quiet, serene mindset in that environment. Waking up can't be a pain in the ass, because it's just too wonderful.

--The paths and quiet trees reminded me of the hike that D and I did in 2003, up a mountain on the Olympic Peninsula. That was a really tough hike, it was 2 or 3 miles of straight up switchbacks, and oh, it was murder. We had a less-than-ful 2 liter bottle of water to share, and no food. It was the hardest physical thing I'd done in a really long time. The payoff at the end, after we tottered through the narrow path next to eighty-degree drop-offs, then clambered up a rope and on to a rock outcropping, was incredible. It felt like we were on the top of the world. Crescent Lake lay before us, light playing in the fine mist. The surrounding mountains were pure evergreen. Beyond that, the Strait of Juan de Fuca sparkled.

--The forest-ness reminded me, of course, of home. My dad lives again right at the forest on top of a little mountain. The whole thing used to be raw forest, but now some houses have been built in there. Behind the house, though, is still deep forest. You can't just walk through a Cascade forest cavalierly, like you can on the East Coast. Where I'm from, the ferns and small bushes take up the whole forest floor. The pine trees tower overhead, occasionally you'll run into a crystal-clear babbling stream. It's absolutely gorgeous.

Wherever you are, friends, go for a walk in the woods. It will be worth it.

Music....Makes the People...DANCE!

Thanks to Mz Smlph for inspiration. Except I can't alphabetize my iPod; I'm ghetto and used my media player tracks. Long Live the Discman! No iPods for me (but only 'cause I can't afford one yet)!

x-1000 Oceans--Tori Amos
A-About a Girl--Nirvana
B-Baba--Alanis Morissette
C-California Dreamin'-Mamas and the Papas
E-Eagle and the Hawk--John Denver
F-Facade--Jekyll and Hyde soundtrack
G-Garden--Pearl Jam
H-Hakuna Matata--Lion King/Disney
I-I Can Wait Forever--Air Supply
J-Jackie's Strength--Tori Amos
K-Kathy's Song--Simon and Garfunkel
L-Lady Marmalade--Moulin Rouge soundtrack
M-Mad World--Gary Jules
N-Narcissus--Alanis Morissette
O-The Ocean--Dar Williams
Q-Que Sera Sera--Pink Martini
R-Race Car Ya-Yas--Cake
S-Sad Songs and Waltzes--Cake
T-Tabs--Deborah Falconer
U-The Ugly Bug Ball--Disney
W-Wait--Sarah McLachlan
Y-Years--Rhys Fulber/Conjure One

Well, well, well. Very interesting and eclectic mix, huh? Several artists repeated. Now you know that I own Disney collection CDs and also Air Supply (it's a fantastic group to do unbridled car singing, in case you need something fun and mindless; try them out!). Glad my Seattle roots show up in there too. And I like me some oldies and classics; who doesn't? Altogether, clearly I am not very hardcore or hip to the music scene. My Eminem album is not uploaded on my computer; that's the hardest-core music that I own. The only rappish thing I have in my computer collection is a hilariously catchy French song called "Sexy pour moi" by Tragedie. Check it out.

Friday, June 10, 2005

School Politics

No, no ranting today about The Dastardly Dumb Duo of the Big Apple.

Instead, I want to share something awesome:
My little sister is gonna be president! Of her school, anyway. I can't believe the Baby Shrimp Girl is going to be in eighth grade next year and will be President of the student body! Hurrah and congratulations for baby girl!

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Neener Neener

Tomorrow is Brooklyn-Queens Day, which means that all of us suckers that teach in the outer boroughs have this singular opportunity to gloat over our good fortune. Whee! A free day off for no real reason!! I love it.

My drama unit got off to a sticky start this morning with Class A. We were stuck in a different classroom, one that had no a/c. So we all sweated our way through the lesson. The only thing I have a class set of, in my entire classroom, is a little blue book called, "Plays to Enjoy." I had them read the introduction and answer a couple questions I'd prepared. Then we talked about the answers. That was reading workshop. Nice!

Writing workshop, I gave them terms and definitions for drama. Then I handed out a choral reading script of the Grasshopper and the Ants. It took some practice to attempt voices in unison, but they seemed to really enjoy it. Hell, who wouldn't? It's not really work! Whoever decided to do drama as the last unit of the year, I want to kiss them. It's genius!

With luck and the copies, they'll get to start planning their own play on Friday. I'll give them all next week to work on it, then perform the last full week of school. I can't wait to see how they do!

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 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?

Monday, June 06, 2005

"Perfect" Timing, or, Yes, Please Do Come Rain On My Parade

"Perfect" Timing
Originally uploaded by susiejulie.
Right as I got out of the subway station at my stop, I felt a few drops of drizzle. The day had been muggy and hot, and now the sky was heavy and gray.

I stopped at the bagel shop to get a sesame with butter, one of my newest loves. As I exited the door, paper bag clutched in hand, figuring I'd have a nice, buttery snack when I got home, the rain started to come down. As I crossed Austin, the drops really got
big. Like, you could clearly see each and every fat drop come straight down from the sky.

Within three minutes (of my eight-minute walk), I was drenched. Completely soaked. My shoes squished right away. My sleeveless tunic-like tank top at first stayed dry under my bag strap, but then that was soaked too. My clingy yet swingy black skirt was utterly waterlogged. Definitely more clingy and less swingy. My undergarments were also drenched. Naturally, the paper bag quickly fell apart, crashing my special treat onto the unforgiving pavement.

I had left my bag in the teacher center during the day, and it was locked after school. I had worn no coat, since it was so warm and sticky. Thus I had no protection whatsoever from this random storm.

This was the perfect ending to my day, because in a short "PD" (professional development) we finally received the test scores for our students. Now remember, our school overall--with the three grades together--increased ELA scores by 11%.

The verdict on my students?

Two level 3 students went up to level 4. My two students who'd been 4s went down to 3s. Six level 2s went up to level 3. Two level 1s went up to 2s. (4=exceeding standards; 3=meeting standards; 2=approaching standards; 1=far below standards. Remember, it's all about the standards nowadays, right?)

A total of fourteen students raised their scores.

TWENTY students' scores went DOWN.

29 of my students met or exceeded the standards (eg, 3 and 4). I only have 84 students. That is 35%. From last year's (fifth grade) scores, 41% met or exceeded standards.

Just over one-third of my students PASSED THE FUCKING TEST.

A full one-QUARTER of them DECREASED their scores!

I was at least a little bit devastated. I was disappointed in them--especially the smart kids who went from 3s to 2s. I was bummed for the two brilliant girls who lost their 4s. I was quite thrilled for the two boys who went from 1s to 2s.

Mostly, I was utterly dismayed with myself. Yes, I cried. Only a little bit, out of disappointment in myself. I was rather upset at my own perceived failure.

Now, two or three kids had fluke 3s and this year went to their more natural 2s, so that's not a big deal. And I know that I can't hold myself to this standard, that IN THEORY their scores don't reflect anything on my part. After all, I can only do so much as a teacher; they're the ones with the fucking number 2 pencil in hand.

But you know what? I really wanted them to succeed. I really wanted them to learn something this year and to be better students and better people. And sure, I wanted the validation to know that I actually helped my kids.

And with this result, I really don't know. This kind of shook me to my foundations. See, I do suck and I don't know what I'm doing. Fire my ass now before I drag down any more unsuspecting twelve-year-olds.

Somewhere I could probably find something positive or some nice spin on all this, some way to rationalize away my feeling, but I don't want to look.

Sunday, June 05, 2005

Time Flying

Last June, one year ago, I was still working at a temp job. Two, actually. One at a coffeeshop, the one I'd sworn up and down, on Hell and Earth, and more, to never return to. But when I was desperate, how quickly the pride, she does dissipate. The other was for an office, answering phones and filing. It was boring but decent money.

I gave myself the last week off, to plan, to pack, to worry, to say goodbye, all kinds of random things. I was worried about what I was getting into. I was excited about being in New Year. I was anxious about this new teaching thing.

But then I got just plain freaked out.

What the hell was I doing? Why was I moving three thousand miles away? I didn't know anyone! I didn't know anything! Certainly nothing about teaching! What if it was too hard? What if I hated it? What if I wanted to quit? What if I never found "my place" in the city? What if the whole thing was a stupid, idealistic move brought on by my seemingly-neverending quarterlife crisis? Surely taking this chance was better than staying at home, working two stupid jobs and being busy and a little bored? Which, truthfully, I considered for about two minutes. Because if I didn't do this "teaching" gig, what the hell else would I do? Will I never be a happy, well-adjusted, well-paid adult?

Guess what.

Twelve months later, I still have ALL those questions bouncing around in my head. Go figure.

--I really don't know why I moved three thousand miles away. I kept saying I wanted an adventure, something new. Well, fuck a duck, this has sure as hell been something new. Quite the damn adventure, definitely.

--I have definitely wanted to quit. It is to my own credit that only a few times has it really been a credible idea.

--I still know almost nothing about teaching, but amazingly, when I consider it objectively, I have improved muchly. I have helped a handful of students turn themselves around academically and a bit socially. (A few more have either escaped my encouraged, or actually regresssed, but I won't think about that.) I have made it almost entirely through one year of teaching. I have never (oh god, it's not over yet! Cross my fingers!) cried in front of my students. My classroom management, while still pretty minimal, is at least existent. I am thrilled about that!

--When people, including my own students, ask me if I like teaching, I roll my eyes and say dryly, ask me in a year. I don't think I hate the whole endeavor. God (and this blog) knows that I have hated a good number of individual days. The entire career/path/whatever, I really haven't decided if it's for me. I think that's because of the situation. I'm at a tough school, with very limited resources, albeit a nicely supportive administration behind me. I haven't found my inner "best teacher" yet, and I rather doubt that I will at this school. That is why all of my fantasies involve schools with nice, behaving students, computers in the classrooms, multiple copy machines, more teacher's choice funding, etc.

--I still have not found "my place" in the city. However, I am also thrilled that I have made at least two friends at my school. I was beginning to wonder if I would be lonely and alone forever. While I am still alone almost all the time, I do see those women every day and we hang out occasionally outside of school. There are three or four more women who I've seen "on the outside" at least once at social functions, which is pretty cool.

--Was this an idealistic, youth-inspired path? You bet your ass it was. Education appeals to me. It's important to me and my life, and should be to all people, young and old. I love learning new things and I also love imparting knowledge. (Perhaps that's why my social life has always struggled; I'm a helpless know-it-all. At least in this capacity it's useful and even encouraged!) I never wanted to be a teacher because I loved children or really related to them very well. For that reason, I'm glad that I ended up in middle school. I don't have to talk baby talk or significantly dumb down my vocabulary. (Although, I have REALLY had to dumb down my vocabulary this year. I get such a thrill when I can talk to an adult with a complex lexicon.)

--Will I be a lifelong teacher? Almost certainly not. Will I teach for more than two years? Not sure yet. Somewhere between two and thirty years. Will I ever be a super, fantastic teacher that singlehandedly increases the scores of ninety percent of her students? I certainly hope so. I think that will take time, obviously, and resources of various types. Can I stick it out? Who the hell knows.

FridayForum questions...cause I'm not a very creative writer

1. What are your favorite summertime tunes? What about your favorite summertime foods?

The Fresh Prince's "Summertime" will always mean, well, summertime. It brings to mind weather, aromas, and the relaxed mindset. It is awesome.

Food? I do love Italian ice and freezie pops. Yummy frozen sugar.

2. What is the best part about summer, in your opinion? Is it your favorite season? What are your plans for this summer?

Don't know about the best part of summer; here in New York the weather is pretty yucky, whereas Seattle is just gorgeous and perfect. I like sunshine and green grass.

Obviously, we all love the feeling of not having to do anything. Of relaxing, playing, traveling, going to the beach, or any combination of those things. Can't overlook the appeal of late nights walking around, or late nights in an outdoor bar or restaurant, that kind of thing.

This summer I have to take classes in July, but only three days a week in the afternoon/evenings. That leaves the rest of the time to sleep in, actually do some homework, play in the city, and hopefully see friends. Whee!

In August, I will visit Seattle for a week or two, then (cross your fingers) drive my Saturn out here to New York.

As they say, the schedule/vacation for teachers makes it all seem worthwhile. No real work for two whole months! Sweet!

3. Do you tan easily, or do you tend to burn badly? What's the worst sunburn that you've ever had? Do you go to a tanning booth in order to prepare for the summer season?

I have lame fair skin. It's not pretty/creamy smooth like Nicole Kidman, but pasty and blah. I tan for about five seconds before I burn. With SPF 30 in Las Vegas, I only got a little sun irritation, and a little 'tan.'

When I went to Kauai at nine years old, my whole body got burned, both sides. Even my eyelids were burned. I couldn't sleep, I couldn't swim, I couldn't do anything. It was terrible.

The next worst one was my first trip to Mazatlan at thirteen. The tops of my feet got burned, really badly. I couldn't walk properly for two days. Oh, the pain.

4. If you could spend this summer absolutely any way that you wanted, with money being no object, what would you do and why?

What a silly question! Go to Paris, of course!

5. What are your favorite summer clothes to wear?

Swingy skirts or dresses and my comfortable flip-flops. They're actually my mom's old ones, and I believe they're almost as old as I am. But oh so comfy.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Summer days!

Be excited for me--I actually went out on a Friday night--AND in the city! I met up with two other teachers who also happened to be teacher/bloggers. We had a couple drinks and chatted about life and teaching and boys, not necessarily in that order. I had a great time and am so glad I went.

I was supposed to go help out at camp this weekend again, but late last night I got an email saying it was supposed to rain all weekend. So just to be safe, I got up at seven a.m. and had to leave a voice mail. I decided not to chance it. When it's raining, not much work can get done in the smallcamps, and that's what they need help with. So I'll have to make it up there another time.

From 7.30 to 9.30, a JACKHAMMER made unbelievably loud noise right across the street. I actually looked up the city's noise ordinances, and found that it is indeed illegal to do any construction work except between 10am and 4pm on weekends. Fuck you, illegal jackhammerers! I hate you!

I spent the morning just sitting and watching silly television. The good kids' shows were not on today for some reason, so I had to settle for half-watching the bad ones. I love Even Stevens, but Raven and Lizzie McGuire need to shut the hell up. Phil of the Future is adorable, so he can stay.

I took a shower and then got productive. I made a pilgrimage to the library and found a few books to keep my mind otherwise engaged for the next week or two. Sweet! Have I touted the beauteousness that is the public library system? I heart libraries, because I heart free books!

From there, I took a bus to Marshalls. Though I hated spending the money, I was happy to find some cute things to summer-ize my wardrobe, so to speak. I bought my first two pairs of capris, one an olive green (a shade that's really growing on me) and one black. They are really more of pedal-pushers; capris, cropped pants, and the other kind of non-regulation pants look stupid on everyone, in my humble and un-PC opinion. Either wear pants or wear shorts, or wear trousers that go to the knee. Why the highwaters? Blech. Anyway, I liked these capris.

I also found two adorable skirts, one black and a bit swirly in the cut, and the other a bright fuschia and white floral print that is swingy and happy. I found some cute sandals that matched the skirt and didn't feel too bad on my feet. We'll see if I actually try to wear them ever. I hate uncomfortable shoes, to the point of not wearing shoes that I have bought but seem like they might be uncomfortable. I am weird.

I walked from that shopping center north about eight blocks to the mall. Bought some food and little things at Target, narrowly deciding against buying Scrubs on DVD. I reasoned that when I get a check from the workshop training, that will be my treat to myself.

When I got home, I picked up the clothes on my floor, and changed over my 'closet.' I took out the heaviest pants and long-sleeved/heavy shirts and sweaters. Then I hung up my tank tops and new clothes I got last weekend (tops) and this (bottoms). Hurrah! I resolve to look at least a little cute for the next few months.

Did I stop at the closet? Oh, no. I started laundry and tidied the rest of my room. I shaved and painted my toenails a nice mauvey color. Organized my random pile of mail and crap. Ate some corn on the cob. Watched the rest of Spanglish, which I liked. And I just finished flipping through the FOOT-HIGH pile of newspapers that I've saved since September. I pick up a Metro every morning on the way to the train, and at first I saved each one. I wanted to do the crosswords, but I never got around to it. Plus, there would be interesting pictures or articles that I figured later on, I'd cut out. So I cut out things that were interesting, which turned out to be few and far between. No more hoarding for me. God yes, I am weird.

Play with your face!
Good, healthy, narcissistic internet crack. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 02, 2005

What a quick week. Thank goodness!

Today was, I suppose, a rather momentous day. The NYC ELA scores came out (in the papers at least; us teachers haven't seen the numbers yet), and they improved. Our school is number ONE in the district for all three grades. Wow! I can't wait to see how my students did.

Also, it was the "Report Card Rally" for the NYC teachers' union, held at Madison Square Garden. I caught a ride with three of my colleagues; we got the LIRR from the island. It was my inaugural trip to MSG, and it was not bad. We were quite high up, waving our tiny banners and cheering. One of the loudest people ever was behind me: this woman who, at every opportune time, roared "YEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHH!!!!!", drowning out whoever was speaking. Not only that, but her damn cell phone kept ringing, and she kept answering it! Naturally, her speaking voice was also loud and quite disruptive. Use your powers for good, woman! Not for irritating your neighbors!

The rally had some political figures, besides the union pres Randi W.: the mayoral candidates opposing Bloomberg (BOO! DOWN WITH BLOOMBERG!) and the president of the Hispanic Federation; there were some other types there too: a parent or two, and a very eloquent senior from SI Tech. Not only that, several musical acts performed. Have you ever heard of Richie Havens? Me neither. He was pretty cool though. During his first number, a slower folky number, the entire stadium waved their lit-up cell phone screens. Gotta love the 21st century!

The final "act" was a series of teachers/staff giving the final "grades" that the New York City teachers gave the "Children First" initiative and the Bloomberg/Klein administration. Two D's and then six or seven F's!

It was pretty inspiring to feel a part of something so huge and so necessary as a city-full of teachers. We filled a good part of the arena. All teachers! We had such great spirit and support from community members and each other. I felt humbled and also proud to be part of a diverse and powerful group. This was the first time that I've been able to be outside of the Fellows program and/or just my school, and part of the community of New York City teachers. We all work our asses off every day, doing endless, thankless work. Our peers only a few miles away make 15% more, AND have more resources at their disposal, not to mention better demands for student behavior and accountability.

What is not so inspiring is the lack of honesty coming from the mayor's office. The UFT has been very loud and vocal about the need for a new contract, SINCE IT'S BEEN TWO DAMN YEARS, but a big fat nothing from the head honcho. Now, naturally, he's taking credit for the test score increase (which, come on, who knows how representative they are? Everyone knows that the fourth-grade scores jumped because the lowest-level third-graders were kept back, which nullified the concept of a fair and representative score). Any notions of REWARDING the people directly responsible for the work that led to whatever success he can claim. Still so focused on that fucking stadium, instead of making sure that the future of New York City is well-educated.

I did not know before tonight that under Bloomberg, the city has amassed a three billion dollar surplus. Holy shit! I have four words in response to that, mister mayor:

Show us the money!

Show the teachers you care, show the children that you want them to grow up safe and smart, decrease class sizes and increase funding for schools (WHICH YOU PROMISED TO DO), and show the entire city that you can do the right thing!

"Translations" for very vulgar language

This shit cracks me the hell up!

From wikipedia:

"Fck you!" or "Go fck yourself!" (I don't like you; leave me alone.)
"He's a dumb fck." (He's an idiot.)
"Sorry, I fcked up your computer." (Sorry, I damaged or crashed your computer.)
"He's pretty fcked up." (He's mentally or emotionally unstable.)
"I fcked up on this test." (I did poorly on this test.)
"Let's fck around for a couple hours." (Let's waste a couple of hours.)
"I'm fcked." (Consequence.)
"What the fck!" (What on earth just happened?)
"Shut the fck up!" (Stop Talking.)
"I'm so fcked up right now." (I am extremely drunk or high on drugs/generally confused or "messed up"..)
"You fckface!"(Dumb person)
"None of your fcking business!"
"Un-fcking-believable!" (Very unbelievable)
"I'm so fcking tired."
"Shut the fck up!"
"Oh, Fck!" (Something unpleasant happened.)
"He's a great fcker!" (He's a great fellow, not he's sexually competent.)

Gotta save the best for last.

"Fcking fck those fcking fckers!" ("Forget about those very disliked people.")
"Fcking fcker's fcking fcked!" ("It is broken.")

Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Holy Crap!

Today is JUNE, people. How did that happen? Don't get me wrong, I am thrilled about it. But goodness me, didn't I just get here? Didn't I just start this whole adventure? Damn. In fifteen days will be the one-year anniversary of my big move to the Big Apple.

With the first of June comes the real countdowns, baby. Twenty-seven days until the end of school. Even better, SIXTEEN days of teaching left! (Technically there should be eighteen, but I'm still counting on the overnight field trip that last 'full' week.) I hear that at least two of them are half-days, which is freakin' awesome. I wonder when they'll give us a schedule for that?

Again with eeeeevil Class B on Wednesday afternoons. The worst three boys in class were NOT there, but still, very little control. Chatty bums.

I introduced the project that we're going to end the poetry unit with. (okay, "with which we're going to end.") That took the time away from an actual reading workshop with Classes A and B, which is awesome, cause I hate reading workshops. I'm pretty sure the kids do, too. Actually, they tend to listen fine during the mini-lesson part, but they can't sit and read and focus quietly. Grr.

I have anecdotes to share:

After our career day, I got to take some time to talk to Class C about careers, futures, etc. I asked the kids to free write a bit about what they want to do in their lives. One girl wrote, "I want to be a teacher like Miss C." AWW! How cute is that?!

Eager R fancies himself a teacher too, talking about how he likes to help me so that he can practice, and all that. He said he'll come back next year to make sure the students are listening to me, and tell them, "You better not mess with Ms C!"

One day, in Class C again, I was discussing homework and I said something off the cuff, some fact or definition or whatever. And this girl goes, all wide-eyed and incredulous, "Dang Ms C, do you know everything?!" And I solemnly nodded my head. Heh. And then yesterday, out of the blue at the end of class, she told me about a book she was reading. "It's got, like, EVERYTHING in it. Questions and answers about all kinds of things. Everything. And it reminded me of you!"

The kids in my grade have to wear ties, boys and girls. The administrators get all over them if they don't wear them, or don't wear them properly. Well, yesterday, I noticed this boy's "tie" in Class C. He had found a calendar or something with a picture of a yellow tie on it. And he tore out the page, folded it up, and taped or pinned it to his shirt. The boy was wearing a piece of paper as a tie! I didn't really notice until I was just about to start a rant about their incessant chattiness. I hid my face behind my gradebook, but the kids saw me anyway and knew I was laughing. A paper tie!