Friday, February 10, 2006

Blah, blah, minutes

At my school, the situation is ridiculous.

We "voted" to have the time after school instead of before.

What this means logistically: our homeroom classes (which, by the way, everyone refuses to actually call a homeroom for some idiotic political reason) are now dismissed en masse by a handful of teachers. One teacher takes down five or six classes. The mandated students stay in the homeroom classroom for a few minutes. Then, they report to their tutoring classroom (since they aren't necessarily the same).

For teachers with both a homeroom class and a tutoring group, this means that we cannot leave our room. Not even to the bathroom.

On Wednesdays, I teach the last three periods in a row. This tutoring nonsense so far means that chronologically, I teach four periods in a row. I am doing instruction for the near-equivalent of four periods. I cannot leave my room between 12.38 and 2.57.

This should be illegal. Know why it's not?

The union, god bless their ignorance, still insists that this "small-group tutoring" is not instruction.

This was a big issue around the NYC teacher blogs, but around my school, no one seemed to notice all the bad things that were on the table with this contract. They only saw the money, not the givebacks (we should call them whiplashes instead of givebacks, don't you think?). I know the city wants to pretend it's not actually teaching, but teachers should know better.

Silly me: I figured that the union for teachers would know better as well.

If you don't think I'm actually "instructing," just keep reading.

Instead of getting to do individualized tutoring, or clubs, or anything remotely fun and/or useful, ALL the 1s and 2s in my school (remember, this is only according to last spring's city test, which is now obsolete) are mandated to stay for tutoring, and everyone gets math until the exam.

I have ten students. Well, one I've never met. Of the nine that have shown up this week, two of them are 3s in math (obviously not in ELA). Do they get excused from the math "tutoring"? Do they get help in what they need help in? Nope.

Our math department put together a schedule of things to cover. This is based on using pages in a skills book that the school ordered. The math teachers recently gave them out to the students who got 1s and 2s on last year's test.

Along with the student who lost his book already, I therefore have THREE of nine students who do not have a book.

Oh, the stupidity does not end there.

We do not have copies of the book. Not the student version, not the teacher version.

Let me repeat that.

I am supposed to tutor low-level math students in math. Without any kind of resource. Not having done this kind of thing since perhaps 1994. Each day, I borrow one of the student's books, open it to the specified page, and cross my fingers that I understand what's on it.

Does this entire thing sound ridiculous yet?

So far, I'm relieved that many things are not too unfamiliar. (Other than the idea of sixth-graders having to deal with geometry and algebra; they can hardly spell their names and were never made to even memorize the times tables!) I never had trouble doing math, I just never liked it or got super-great at it. In middle school I got A's, and in high school I got B's. Though again, we only had one topic at a time. And algebra came after all kinds of other math, and geometry the next year after that, and so on.

Yesterday, the pages had to deal with fractions. (Oh right: the schedule, as far as I know, does not necessarily follow regular math instructional curriculum. So it's random, and different every day [just like their regular math curriculum, in that sense].) I quickly remembered--on the spot--at least I'm not a total dummy--how to find the common denominator in order to add and subtract fractions. When it came to the problems featuring multiplication and division of fractions, however, I had to confirm my slightly-fuzzy skill-memory with the students.

Ahem. Ridiculous? I think so.

I know it's pointless to complain and whine, because nothing is going to change. But holy crap, I just wish that:
A) our school's administration of the time MADE SENSE
B) the students would benefit as individuals, according to their needs and not the state exam schedule
C) the non-math teachers would have some fucking resources and options
D) we got to do some fun and enriching activities instead of skill-drudgery (when am I going to fit in P#nny H*rvest meetings?!)
E) instead of piling it up after school, we could really use the extra minutes spread to each class period
F) we could still have professional development (I'm very much in favor of colleagues getting to work together...our department has not actually experienced that, but that doesn't mean I want to get rid of the entire thing)

and most of all,
G) that this whole thing was just a bad dream and no one had to deal with this nonsense.


17 more years said...

At least your school does it before classes, not after when both teachers and kids are totally fried. I don't quite understand the logic of doing the small group instruction after home room though- wouldn't it have made more sense to have the kids come in who are required to before homeroom, THEN start the school day? (oh wait- "made sense"-forgot for a second what we're dealing with).

Between the kids who cut out every afternoon (sneaking out at dismissal has become their new pasttime) and the teachers who are assigned to patrol the halls, I leave infuriated every afternoon. The NYC DOE could have kept their money.

ms. frizzle said...

Just a suggestion - have the kids keep the books in your classroom. They can't lose them and you'll be able to look at the problems ahead of time. And let the kids with threes (and any other kids who choose to try) do the last five problems on that day's worksheet; if they get them right, then they know the material and can work on homework instead. You've covered your *ss because you can prove that they don't need the practice if they can do the hardest problems on the page. Fewer kids for you to help, and they will (probably) be less resistant. None of this solves the overall problem, but it may help your day-to-day survival.

your math teacher said...

If you need help with the math stuff for your 37.5 minute tutoring gig, let me know!

Ms. H said...

What do you mean? It is a bad dream, right?

*sticks fingers in ears* La la la, la la la, la la la la la la!