Monday, October 30, 2006
Hate: The 8th grade class I had for a coverage, a class I taught as sixth-graders. It was worse than any day of my first year teaching; like being in hell; awful; terrible; horrible, etc etc. Yuck.
Love: Not taking it personally! Hurrah for maturing as a teacher and being able to shake it off, after being mad, of course.
Hate: Then dealing with my slower afternoon classes with an even shorter fuse than usual.
Love: My morning/high-level class in general, for being on task and working hard and getting it. Specifically, we practiced finding adjectives while reading today, and they rocked!
Hate: That though a new copy machine has been sitting in the lounge for at least a week, it has yet to be programmed and is therefore still unusable!
Love: My eighth-grade after-school kids, most of them anyway. We started grammar review on Friday, using Schoolhouse Rock and grammar texts. I've kicked out the disruptive kids (because hello? Optional program! I surely will not put up with noisy kids who distract the entire room and who clearly don't care about trying, and who have been warned multiple times by me AND by APs!), and the last two times have had about ten kids. It's a perfect size because I can see easily who's getting it, and everyone is starting to participate, and do well. Good job, kids!
Hate: The fact that one or more of my classes may not deserve to have a party for my birthday, because they are too loud/distracted/behind.
Love: Getting some early birthday cards from family and friends! Yay! Don't worry, I won't open them til Wednesday.
Hate: That I'm too old to go trolling for free candy tomorrow. :(
Love: Giant Potatoes, Caesar dressing, and Bunny Tracks ice cream. Not all mixed together, of course! That would be yucky.
Hate: Being hungry all the time at school, because there's no time to eat while teaching, and correcting, and entering data, and being in the book room, and generally running around, etc etc.
Love: Getting my report cards done tonight, and they're not due until Wednesday morning! Hurrah for not procrastinating!
Hate: That yesterday was the LONGEST. DAY. EVER.
Love: That I actually worked on my scrapbook from last Christmas's Barcelona/Paris trip! For a long time and my back hurt from slouching on the floor, but still, good to be productive!
One last love: The show Heroes! Oh man, it is SO GOOD. It's the best thing about Mondays, hands down. Woohoo!
Saturday, October 28, 2006
In the entry hall on one side (pictures from Paris on the right and Italy on the left):
For "fal*ling action", the definition I gave them was "the story/plots are wrapping up." So on his paper, one student wrote the following: "rap!ng up the h0le plot."
For "resolution" (which almost none of them can spell), our definition was "out*come of conflict and cli*max". That same student wrote this: "resoultions: all that rap!ng up the cl!max."
I giggled in horror for a good five minutes. Oh, god.
More choice past participles:
On the last section, they had to read the sentence and write the complete verb--including any helping verbs. They all did moderately well on this, perhaps because we did them as a warm-up the day before. Let's hope. Anyway, one sentence was "Ken will be starring in the play." One student wrote this as the verb: will be staring. That also made me giggle, because that one 'r' completely changes the meaning of the sentence: "Ken will be staring in the play." Heh.
Wednesday, October 25, 2006
--I am just a kid. I don't know what the heck I'm doing, do I?
--Have they figured out I'm faking it?
--Grown-ups are all mature and shit.
--My bedtime is pretty lamely early, even on the weekends.
--I choose footwear based on comfort, not cuteness. Judge away, but my feet don't hurt!
--I get upset at loud music and obnoxious people. 'Cause I'm old.
--My legs and other body parts ache when it's cold. Seriously. Talk about old.
--I am financially independent!
--I have my own apartment! And it's pretty!
--I put away my clothes right away,
--and I'm keeping crap off the floor, for the first time since...ever.
--I have a real job!
--I'm pretty good at my job, though I don't always like it that much (like this week, because I'm so freaking tired)
--Which means I get real money on a regular basis!
--Which lets me buy stuff if I want to,
--Like DVR and new DVD players, and those are AWESOME.
--Also money for traveling: trips last December, February, April, August, and this February.
--And because I am such a travel whore, I just...
Bought a ticket to Amsterdam for Christmas! It was only $483, which is a really good deal for this time of year, if you recall my recent post.
Whee! I am excited. This means I'll get to visit a new city and travel even sooner than February! Hurrah! I can't wait!
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
Account manager: So I sent you that new job applicant. Have fun.
Recruiter: I just opened it up. Wow, she completely misspelled 'Delaware State.'
Account manager: Oh, it gets worse.
Recruiter: 'Seven years,' with an apostrophe 's!' And she spelled 'with' wrong!
Recruiter: 'Seven years,' with an '-s!' And she spelled 'with' wrong!
Account manager: Yep, and she's a detail-oriented professional.
Overheard by: Rhymes with Banana
via Overheard in the Office, Oct 24, 2006
Monday, October 23, 2006
The wee spud on the left was purchased at a rather ghetto neighborhood store. The Costco bag is mostly full of healthy, large potatoes like the middle that are big enough to make the microwave plate list to one side. There are also a couple Shaq-like giants, on the right. Look, it's bigger than the spoon!
And dude, the big potatoes are SO good! A million times better than the three-bite babies. Remember that I mentioned my dead DVD player? Well, I figured I could ask for a new one for my birthday (just over a week away), but I wasn't sure whom to ask, and I wasn't thrilled about the lag time. So when I saw this Toshiba for $45, I figured why not. The shitty no-name one was forty bucks at Target, so this was definitely worth a shot. It's very slick and shiny, and I love it! Plus, Boyfriend discovered that it plays DivX, which are data discs you can record tv and movies on. I've got a pile of them I can now watch on the tv instead of the little computer screen. Sweet!
Yesterday, I was very productive. I watched some tv and relaxed for awhile, because I was sleepy. But eventually I got up off my ass: I swept the floors, cleaned the bathroom, and worked out! I'm really proud of myself, because I have so far kept the schedule for working out that I planned: Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Good job, me!
Sunday, October 22, 2006
Pretty soon the room was clear enough to get more people inside and pulling things from shelves. And within an hour, the floor was as clear as it was going to get, because all this junk was lining the hallway (the room we were clearing is that doorway all the way down on the left):
Unfortunately, the 'after' is not so great. After lunch, things were being cleaned up and there wasn't enough cleared storage for all the things we'd moved out. So a lot of it had to be moved BACK into the room. We were all disappointed because it felt like moving backwards, but we tried to console ourselves that the old books had been moved out, the novel-type books (above) had been put together and sorted (by me, because I'm anal like that), the floor had been swept of dust and mouse droppings, and the stuff was organized. The AP was really happy with everything, so we had to be too.She also assured us that it was a temporary storage situation; they will soon be removing the white bags (full of workbooks, many BRAND NEW!) and the rest of the books on shelves.
There was painting going on on another floor, but it was already three when this room was done, so they didn't need extra hands getting in the way of the painting. So we took off.
It was a really fun day. It's been awhile since I volunteered (outside of my own building, of course), and it was extra satisfying to help rejuvenate a school (though I couldn't escape all my teacher thoughts, like being outraged at seeing piles of new chart paper buried in a dusty room). The other volunteers were all friendly and hard-working. I had a great time. I hope to see even more folks out there at upcoming big volunteer events!
--On an email forward: "This is to cute not to send!"
--On a sign: "No refunds on seasonal merchandize"
--On another email forward: "39 Things I've Learnt So Far in Life" You know one of the things I've learned so far? How to spell LEARNED.
WHY are people so stupid?! These are adults! Know how to speak and how to spell, people; otherwise people will think you somewhat inferior.
EDIT: The email mistakes are within the body of the email, written or copied by somebody way back. I am NOT judging the person who sent it on to me, rather I am judging the person who first wrote it, back who knows when. And they are both FORWARDS, not personal emails. Jeez.
I judge people on things like intelligence (as well as compassion and openmindedness and drive, etc). Frankly, I feel better about that than say, judging people on what brand of clothing they wear or what kind of shoes, or what hairstyle they have (well, except mullets; I think we all judge those). I'm sure we all agree that insides are more important than outsides. I've been judged often based on appearance or clothing, and I would much rather have someone critique something I said, wrote, or learned than how I looked. And I make sure that I try to prevent any of those former critiques by coming across as intelligent and put-together as possible. Maybe it's wrong, but I want others to do the same. I'd rather focus on the content instead of appearance of the message, but if there are errors, I'm one of those who does get distracted from the content.
I have updated my profile at right to include the self-descriptive phrase "Spelling Stickler," so everyone is now fairly warned about my evil self.
Friday, October 20, 2006
Though I was out way past my bedtime, I was thrilled to see one of my favorite singers perform live, in a small and intimate setting. It's really novel to be a real person during the week, and to take advantage of living in the Big Apple.
Moral of the story: Go listen to Haley, and get out on the town!
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Back in Philly this summer, Boyfriend and I found a mojito kit at a department store. So now whenever he's over here on the weekends, we buy lime and mint and club soda and mix up some strong but tasty mojitos. This past weekend he remembered an idea we'd previously discussed--adding flavored syrup. I'd bought some cherry snow-cone syrup at Target, for making Italian sodas. They gave me a headache with all their sugary goodness, though, so the bottle has been sitting forgotten.Well, we added some to the mojitos, and boy were they even tastier than ever! Prettier, too:
You know the Columbus Circle roundabout? It's been under construction, right? I think I've only seen it that way. Well, it's done now. Very pretty fountains at night!
Sunday, October 15, 2006
Well. They do not mesh well, these two ideas. I have some stuff to share. But wait on that a bit.
Once again I've had a nice Sunday experience. I was awake about 7.15, but got up around 8.15, just because. I worked out right away, which helped me get warm in the still-chilly apartment air. I think I shall try to do this every Sunday and Tuesday and Thursday, since those weekdays I get home sooner and at least on Tuesday there's no good tv on to distract me.
There, I have made a pledge to the world that I will try to stick to a routine for working out. Therefore I must stick to it! Ha, we'll see.
Then I set about continuing to clean up. I've got my shag rugs piled in the hallway for the yoga and for the floor sweeping. I cleaned up the random stuff littered on the floor, and did a pass with the swiffer vac.
But I did not stop there, ho no.
--I moved the AC unit and my three fans into the linen closet (I LOVE ALL MY CLOSET SPACE!).
--You know those wire shelf things that you build together to make cubes and stuff? I've got several two-story cubes around, holding various things. One was in my closet holding socks and stuff. So I took them out, organized the socks (dark for work and white for summer and free time) and put them in the fabric drawers in my big white storage shelf/entertainment unit. Hurrah!
--Next, I moved the wire cube to the wall under the window previously occupied by the AC. In it I put the extra piles of books that were accumulating on my other 'bookshelf.' I had another cube under the other window, and I moved it over next to the other one, so they are sitting together, holding some random things.
--I finished and paid for the certification application. I had tried a month ago but the page didn't go through. My ATS-W scores are supposed to be ready at the end of the month, and so hopefully the certification process will proceed very quickly after that.
--I sorted through the piles of mail and bills and bill-related items that I just throw in a couple spots. I went through them all and tossed anything I could, and put the rest together in neat little piles, which I then put in either file folders (for pay stubs and grad school stuff) or an expando-file for monthly accounts like credit cards, cell phone and energy. I feel much better with that done. Hurrah!
--Boyfriend called to tell me that my girl Haley is playing in the East Village this week! It's on Thursday night at 10pm, but I don't care. I'm totally going to go. I didn't really see her play last time. She opened for Mason Jennings at a show two years ago at the Mercury Lounge, but I missed most of her and only saw her do one song with him. I really love both of her albums, and I'd been afraid she wouldn't come back out here again.
He bought us tickets and I'm going to drive in to the city at nine. I figure it'll be faster and easier than dealing with late-night trains and whatnot. I won't get home til way past my bedtime, but it will be worth it.
--And now, back to the lying and self-deception!
In the first four months of this year (if you count the last week of December, which, close enough, I say), I traveled to three countries and another region of the US: Barcelona and Paris in December, Prague in February, New Orleans in April. Plus Seattle in the summer.
Waiting until February to travel again? No way!
So just now I sat down with my friend Kayak.com and a list of big cities in Europe, (I marked the ones that I haven't been to). I looked with flexible dates between the 24th and 31st of December. Here is what I found, in cost order:
According to Kayak's fare trend graphs, the prices have been dropping or staying steady at fairly low prices. Woohoo!
So, HOLY COW. These prices are not too bad at all. I think my February 2006 Prague trip cost $485. For a Christmas time trip, around $500 is really not bad at all. Actually, our Barcelona-Paris trip was a special steal at $475, bought six months ahead of time, so these really aren't too shabby.
It looks like Germany is a good place to go! I've wanted to visit the Black Forest area, which I believe Munich is in. And it's all new to me, which is great.
The other thing to remember is the incredible rail system in Europe. Part of me just wants to get there as cheaply as possible, and then take a train somewhere else if I want. Or more than one somewhere else. Ooh-ee!
In theory, I really should not do this. I can't afford it right now.
BUT! Here's the thing. Travel is one of, if not the most important things in my life. Judge if you like, but if you've traveled at all yourself that you probably agree with me. If you've traveled and don't agree...well then, you have some thinking and reprioritizing to do. I am young, no family, no outstanding debt, the world is my oyster!
And let's not forget the magic of credit cards. Charge it now but pay it next month or the one after, when you CAN afford it. And then you've paid for it well before the trip and you can save up to actually spend a little while there.
So clearly, I have to go!
Any recommendations for which gorgeous city to visit this December?
Saturday, October 14, 2006
--Boyfriend and I walked 1.5 miles to the nearby cute main street, had lunch and browsed a bookstore. The crisp and chill fall air felt fantastic, and I loved walking in it. Sadly, my energy wilted significantly on the walk home and I slowed down. When I got home, I flopped on the bed, worn out with achy legs. Big old wimp, that's me.
--We had lunch at a restaurant named after a day of the week. Talk about getting old and grumpy--there was TECHNO thumping loudly, at two in the afternoon on a Saturday! I was really irritated. The waitress did not offer a drink right away, and the 'need a couple minutes?' turned into at least ten, so we sat for like fifteen with nothing. Plus she had stupid two-colored hair. These kids with their silly fads nowadays!
--I finally finished watching SNL from last weekend. I had never heard of the musical guest, Corinne Bailey Rae, so I was wary. Have you heard of her? But at first glance I was so charmed. This girl had adorable short curly hair, and wore this fantastic tulle-like strapless black dress, with a thin gold belt at the waist. (Can I please tell you how I LOATHE this belting fad? Huge belts over the widest body part? Are you kidding? Even thin women look fatter if they have a chunky belt OVER their too-long shirts! Shut up, you stupid fashion!) AND Ms Rae could SING! And looked to be having such a great time.
I loved the songs she sang and I actually bought the CD today. I listened to it once already and I really like it. Her sound is a mix of Norah Jones and India Arie, very mellow and tuneful and thoroughly enjoyable. Apparently she's huge in her native UK, but I have never heard of her before. Perhaps I'm out of the loop; actually, I know that I am. Either way, you should listen to her. Good stuff.
--We are planning to attend a compline service tomorrow evening! I'm so excited. I am not at all a religious person, but the experience and sound of chant is unparalleled. I so loved the service at St Marks in Seattle, and really hope that this one is also good.
--It is really fall weather, at long last. This is the first time that I've actually been cold in my apartment, and it kind of sucks. I took the AC unit out of the window, since it was letting in a draft. But it hasn't warmed up. I've got candles burning and my multi lights; they seem to make the room hotter when the weather is warm. I'm wearing thermals AND my fleece grape penguin suit, plus plush socks. Taking a hot shower was the only thing that warmed up my poor hands, and my feet are still chilly, even in the fuzzy socks. I may have to resort to gloves indoors.
I wanted to work out tonight, but first it was too cold and now it's too late. I hope that the sun will bring some warmth to my apartment tomorrow, and that the heat is turned on in the building. Do I need to call someone or something?
--My DVD player has totally broken. The power light comes on but nothing happens. The 'door' doesn't even open. Completely dead. Boo!! I haven't had time to watch any Netflix movies lately, and I also had to order some DVDs for the stupid movie club, so I have a LOT of DVDs that I should be watching. I can still watch on my computer and turn the screen around on my desk, but the screen is a lot smaller and it's not as comfy to watch.
--I am tired of some of the new tv shows already. I totally called the Studio 60 arrogance before I got halfway through the pilot. Thank god other people are finally agreeing with me. Vanished was just stupid and I didn't watch more than 20 minutes. I tried to watch The Nine, but it was too confusing and I didn't really know who was whom. If Ugly Betty doesn't get some better storylines, the adorable America Ferrera won't be able to keep it afloat.
--Some of the old shows have been meh, too. I've been getting annoyed at all the stupid nonsense on Grey's Anatomy, mainly Meredith's nondilemmas. I only forced myself to watch it tonight, and liked it in spite of myself. Possibly because Meredith got to be much more entertaining and funny while on morphine. Also, McSteamy's continued return doesn't hurt.
Prison Break has actually started to bug--every single episode they hit a huge brick wall. Then somehow they manage to get past the unsolvable problem. Only to get stopped by another huge issue. I like some suspense and mystery, I suppose, but this has gotten to be too much, I say. I don't even care that it's on hiatus. Big change from last year.
--It's been almost a month since the DoE got my application for the salary step. I hope that in the next month everything will go through and I'll start seeing increased takehome pay. I've been losing money and I want to get back on top of things. I really want to put more away in my IRA each month, and I'd like to add to my savings account instead of dipping in to save myself at least once a month.
--Speaking of money, I have eight books lying on the floor right now that I have either not finished or not started. But this afternoon I bought not only that CD, but also a book. My rationale was that I really like the author, from her blog and from her other book, so I felt like I was supporting an almost-friend rather than spending too much on a frivolity. Plus I have that educator's 20% discount!
--But seriously, I'm not shopping anymore! Quit it, me!
Friday, October 13, 2006
Also, it is the birthday of this funny and talented new-Seattleite blogger, Jen. Happy Birthday!
In other exciting news, my baby sister is the popular, friendly extravert I always wanted to be--she got voted for the Homecoming Royalty. So she gets to ride in the car at the game and have a special dance at the dance. Fun! Break a leg, baby. Or a corsage. Or something. Have a good time!
Finally, I am psyched that it is FRIDAY. Even though this was another four-day week, I am very relieved to have a couple days to chill out a bit and rest up.
Thursday, October 12, 2006
--Cinderella still doesn't say much, but at least she's clever, outwitting the dumb males who try to track her down.
--The prince puts tar on the steps to catch her. Other than that, he's a little dim. See below.
--There's no fairy godmother; instead, a little white bird flies to the hazel tree over her mother's grave (which she watered with her very tears!) and tosses down whatever she wishes.
--Lots of violence! It comes in at the end, when the kids are good and entranced (reading aloud is like hypnosis, it's amazing). The evil stepmother tells each of her daughters in turn to cut off part of their foot in order to fit into the golden slipper. They go out with the shoe on, and the prince rides away with each as his bride. Um, hello? Little birdies have to sing to him that since the girls' feet are bleeding, he doesn't have the right daughter. Durr.
Then, at the end, Cindy's bird friends peck both eyes from the evil stepsisters, to punish them for their wickedness and malice.
The kids get all grossed out and they LOVE it. And I love it too.
Anyway, so I put a lot of stuff together with the reading of this story. First, note-taking during a listening selection. Since they're familiar with the Disneyfied version of this story, they also complete a Venn diagram comparing and contrasting the two versions.
I also prepared a chart about graphic organizer questions, and then gave eight of those questions. They could use their notes to answer them. I went around the room and actually marked on their papers if students got correct, partial, or incorrect. That way they could figure out what they did wrong, and hopefully fix it for next time.
THEN, I'm having them build a compare/contrast essay. First though, is the four square, which I'm finally trying to really teach. I've already had them use the basic format and shape to help organize their ideas, which should in theory ease the transition.
Wow, a lot of stuff. But I'm really proud of myself for incorporating test skills into the regular things I'm teaching. Yay me! I just hope that the kids get it and transfer it to the day of the test.
At common planning someone brought that up, that the kids DON'T transfer the skills and strategies. I suggested keeping a list in their notebooks, and frequently adding to it and reviewing it so that it sticks more in their heads.
Tomorrow I am going back to verbs one last time, but with the grammar book. I'm doing too much with them, and getting too complicated. If I stay with the exercises in the book, they seem to get that. I need to reinforce the things we already covered, and do auxiliary verbs and linking verbs too.
Next week I'm going to start assigning homework to drill and study notes and grammar and spelling and vocabulary. Got to keep it simple so that ALL the students really learn and understand everything.
Next week I hope to start adjectives, but apparently Monday will be interrupted a lot and so will Friday, for the first school assessment. And I need to cover short responses and more myths and plot structure and...
I got a definitive answer about this month's project: compare and contrast essay, using myths and/or stories. So we are NOT actually doing a story-writing unit. This relieves me, because A) a short story unit takes at LEAST eight weeks, and B) there's no way I can figure out to combine studying myths and writing them, AND studying and writing fiction stories.
Oh, that reminds me, I need to do a follow-up refresher lesson/activity about genre. The kids are still clueless about that. I devised a fun test, but maybe I should do it as a group activity first. Hm, that could be fun.
Oh! Something else that I found today. You may remember that I like to read Echo and Narcissus, if nothing else for vocabulary (narcissism and shun, primarily). I've been pushing that back for three days already, and will possibly push it back again to next week. Anyway, I finally cracked open one of the books I bought this summer. It cost five bucks and contains one hundred ten-minute read aloud selections. Whole bunches of the book are myths, fables, and folktales! Whee!
I turned to the myth section and found one on Apollo and Daphne, where Cupid shoots them with opposite arrows and one gets shunned. So I'm totally going to have the kids read and compare/contrast Echo & Narcissus with Apollo & Daphne. Cool! This will improve their knowledge of botany, as Narcissus turns into the narcissus flower and Daphne turns into a laurel tree.
I'm excited about this, though I don't know how well the kids will be able to compare two different stories. Since we started with two versions of the same story, then this is scaffolded instruction. Look at that!
See? I'm a good teacher. So there. :p
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
These children are not smart.
Okay, no, not every single one. A couple are. But too many aren't!
I have a really hard time figuring out and then accepting the level these kids are on. This year my "high-level" class is about on grade level. Their homework and quiz scores and class performance show that. The other two classes do significantly worse and are significantly slower. They have trouble with the fifth-grade vocabulary and so must be operating on roughly a fourth-grade level--in sixth grade. The class, as a whole, not a select few.
Some things I make myself remember that it's not their fault. Things like grammar and spelling have been shunned in school during their lifetime. (The people who made that decision really ARE stupid. I hope they're happy when we have a nation of adults who can't read, write or spell effectively or efficiently. Grr. Get off my porch, you young whippersnappers with your rock and roll!) So the fact that they have no foundation and basic knowledge in these areas is not their fault. It's the system which has failed them (on purpose, but whatever, I suppose one could argue that's a matter of opinion).
And I'm not talking about the ones who have real issues, or even the ones that are behind. Even the low level ones are paying close attention and really trying to do well. That's something else. I'm talking about the kids who have no sense and who just don't pay attention.
Anyway, so when they are trying to learn these new things, and I do my best to connect it to things they already know, and show them step by step, and they just do stupid things.
That fantastic worksheet with irregular verb families--that was my tool today to learn the patterns for present-past-participle forms. For each first one, I had the kids supply the form and the pattern. See? Words they already knew, and patterns that were easy and made sense. Participation, ownership, confidence, etc.
Then they were to fill in the chart with the rest of the verbs in that same pattern. Most very good! Lots of praise to the kiddies.
For the pattern like "awake-awoke-awoken" I saw answers that sounded German and Dutch.
(that I will very grudgingly forgive--for now!--because many of them are so low level they don't know about doubling consonants. Yet. But they better start fixing it and paying some freaking attention to their spelling.)
(Um, no. Just, no. What is the correct word? You know this already, I promise!)
and the best (except worst) that was ALL TOO COMMON?!
What the f*ck?!
For pete's sake, look at your paper! Read the word! PAY ATTENTION!!
Every single child in the room has been in a grocery store. Grocery stores have food in a freezer. IT IS NOT A FROOZEN FOOD SECTION!!
When I burst out with this particular sentence during my last class, they all got the giggles. Hee hee! Froozen food! Tee hee!
Me, in my head, rolling my eyes: What in the world am I dealing with here?
I don't think there is enough patience in the world for this. Instead, I think I have to make myself just forget and ignore things, and try to move on.
And FINE, none of them are actually stupid or dumb. Gah, I know I can't say that and that I'm going to hell for even thinking it. I don't really believe they're idiots. Senseless goofs, some of them, yes. LOTS of them are really low level and that makes me very nervous, because I really don't know if anything I do helps.
This year I think I'm getting better at finding those lower-level ones and targeting them for improvement. Right now that only entails a couple extra worksheets to reinforce things, and repeated desk visits during work periods to check on and review basics. Actually, I think I am seeing some improvement from at least a couple of them. I just worry because there's so much they don't know. I need to keep taking one step at a time and keeping an eye on their work.
Another thing I want to try is Experts. I noticed in the homework I graded this weekend that literally only a handful of kids really grasped and mastered the verb tense and usage. So besides full-class reinforcement, I was thinking about moving the Master Verb kids around the tables to help the others. Doesn't that sound fun?
Along with that, I think I'm going to have to go back to once-weekly skill grouping. Gah, too much to think about when we don't have a copier at our disposal. (I heard that a new one is coming soon. I just hope it happens. And I don't see why the old one can't get moved so we can have TWO working copiers. Gosh, what a concept!)
Moral of this post:
- NO, I'm not a bitter commie monster (ooh, great name for a blog!) who hates children or calls names;
- YES, I'm a human being who gets frustrated;
- ALSO YES, I'm a teacher who CARES about what the students are learning and who wants them to actually LEARN something, which requires them to pay attention, and me to work hard to monitor their progress.
Monday, October 09, 2006
The past tense they've got down. They know it so well that they try to use it for other tenses, in fact!
The future tense they mostly have, except they don't seem to know that the "will" in "will run" is still part of the verb phrase.
The present tense they do NOT have all the way, either. They either use the present perfect or future or past tense. "Today I will run." Or "Today I won the game." ?!
For the past hour and a half, I have looked for materials to reinforce this. I found a bunch of different resources. One great thing I will certainly use is a table with irregular verb families and a corresponding quiz. The BBC Skillswise has some great worksheets that seem to clearly explain the different types of present and past tenses--simple present and continuous present (present perfect?) (the difference between "I dance" and "I am dancing") and simple past and continuous past ("I drove" versus "I was driving").
Many kids use the totally wrong tense in the past. Like this: "Last month I had written three poems." Or "This summer my grandma had die." It's so wrong! But to explain it is kind of complicated. I'm going to use these resources as a tool to attempt to make them see why it's wrong. If it's done and completed, then it's simple past. If it shows something that started in the past but continued, then it's past participle. If it started in the past and continued into the present when something else happened, then it's continuous past. Argh! I hope they get it.
I found a bunch of quizzes and worksheets to practice and check different tenses. I'll use those with the whole class later this week, and use some other ones as individual extra practice.
Wish me luck! More than that, wish me patience!
Sunday, October 08, 2006
I bought the green corduroy skirt above and the purple sweater below at H&M back in August. Very cute! I got the adorable blue patterned skirt and the black pants below at Marshall's a couple weeks ago. The pants are another size 6, so they fit, which is excellent.
This weekend Boyfriend and I drove up to the outlet mall. It took a long time and almost too much patience, but it was a good thing. I got a bunch of underthings, like thermals, and a waffle shirt, below. At the Ann Taylor outlet, I bought three pairs of pants! Ninety-five bucks altogether, but that averages out pretty nicely, right? All three pants are size 6, and they all fit me perfectly. I've long been tired of having loose pants, so as much as I hate spending money, I think it will be worth it.
There was a huge, golden, full moon in a clear sky on our way home. Lovely!
Friday, October 06, 2006
We began the day with four sentences, in which they had to identify the verb and its tense. Sentence two: "She will do her homework tonight." Many kids only got "will" or "do." A lot had random, serious mistakes, like "jump" as past tense (from "Fish always jump out of water."). WTF?! As I walked around and saw a couple who got them all wrong, I knelt at their desk and helped them review the notes and remember the patterns (future tense always has what in front of it? "will" and past tense usually has a what? "-ed" Past participle always has what in front of it? "have or has").
Definitely more review is needed. Plus linking and helping verbs. Next week will be fun! At least I've got resources at my disposal.
For reading, we again reviewed the character organizer that we went over yesterday. I read them the story "Princess Smartypants" and they were to fill it in while listening. They did okay, if their character traits were a little off; things like "spoiled" or "smart." I tried to direct them to being more specific than "mean" or "smart". When we shared, a couple kids had things like "tricky" or "sneaky" or even "devious". Not bad! I made sure, as always, to stress that anything we say, we must back up with EVIDENCE from the story. So when they shared a trait, they had to explain why they said so.
For writing...what did we do? Ah yes, we went back to that fable packet. The first page of questions is all detail questions, so I had them write this down: Recalling Facts and Details: The information to answer the question is right in the story. You don't have to think; you just have to find it! ALWAYS GO BACK TO THE STORY!"
I had them read the first question and then find the answer and point to it. Then someone read that sentence and wham, bam, very easy, right?
One class got to move on to the next page, which are inference/conclusion questions. We talked about putting clues together with your own knowledge and reading between the lines.
Next week we'll continue doing at least those questions, because this is great for introducing and using test skills without being "Test prep! Test prep!" crazy. And we'll continue with all the stuff we did today: character analysis (they'll take it back to their own books and see how they do) and verb reinforcement.
We'll also do some compare/contrast of fairy tale versions, and characters from myths, and other stuff. I will try to introduce plot, using Sisyphus. Narcissus and Echo will prompt vocabulary discussion. Soon after that we'll move into fiction stories, because it will be easier to teach writing that way. Or who knows. It's very confusing for me.
Today was the second day of after-school. At least four more showed up this time. They continued the intro test. Two boys finished, and I corrected them, and they got just about every single thing wrong. Hoo boy.
During that time, an AP brought around a new teacher who is going to take over the departed teacher's program. She is brand-new and seems very nice and happy. I hope she's got some grit; she's gonna need it! I assured her that our grade is all very nice and we like to talk and compare, and there are lots of resources in the [stupid] bookroom. That seemed reassuring to her. But the AP introduced me as "one of our premier teachers!"
This seems to be a pattern. Apparently "they" talk about me a lot, like talking me up and how great my notebook or my teaching is or whatever. It's weird, because I feel like somewhere along the line, I managed to dupe the uppers into thinking I'm some kind of expert. In reality, I'm very knowledgeable in the content, and also stubborn, and creative, and I try to stay organized (definitely doing better with piles this year!)(my notebook organization is, in my opinion, what makes it so "exemplary"), and I like to collaborate with fellow teachers to share ideas, and I like to create some interesting twists on things (like my famous-to-me song/introduction lesson). And my management has gotten good, impressive because it sucked at first. But isn't that just what all teachers should do?
One of my students told me today that I was "one of [their] funnest teachers, because we learn stuff but it's still fun." I was like, "Well, that's great, but you are learning, right?" She said, "Oh, yes." Aw!
I guess I will take those two things, along with a nice hug from a former student, as good 'props' and ego boosts to end my week and have a relaxing break. [And I certainly don't want anyone to think I'm full of conceit or anything like that. I'm still frenzied all day long, not getting enough done, not meeting with enough students individually, talking too much at the front of the room, not finishing correcting papers, they've had literally two days this month to read silently...I could go on.]
Thursday, October 05, 2006
We did another period of verbs. This time we worked on verb tense. I made a little chart with infinitive on the top, and below it in sort of a timeline, from left to right: past participle, past, present future. I wrote sentence prompts to help them connect: This year so far, I have...; Yesterday, I...; Today, I... or Every day, I...; and Tomorrow, I will....
Then we practiced with a couple verbs, at least one regular (to play) and one irregular (to eat). I prompted them to complete the sentences. They seemed to have the toughest time with present tense and conjugating using third person singular (he/she). Grr!
Then we went to the grammar textbooks for some individual practice. (Do you know, they all went straight to work? For all the times I get irritated at some chatter or noise, nearly every single child at least attempts to work. I do like and appreciate that.) The first exercise involved writing the underlined verb and identifying its tense. Then we went over it quickly, all together, and I think nearly all the kids got them all correct. Next was putting a verb into a specific tense. That was tougher for some of them; I went around and prompting them to look at our notes and chart to figure out what the future tense always has, or whatever.
Then, because I never do reading workshop, because I am a terrible teacher, we briefly mentioned elements of fiction, and I said that today they would be reading and analyzing character. I gave them a graphic organizer (four square)(a fellow teacher came up with this, and I really like it): in the middle was the main character's name; top left was physical traits (no one knew what that meant!!!); top right was personality traits (I pulled out my character trait chart and we discussed how we all have them, many of them, and our behavior or actions 'prove' them); bottom left was friends and family (describe one of each with one physical and one personality trait); bottom right was that character's secret, problem, or conflict (we reviewed some of Harry Potter's problems).
So then they were to begin reading and filling in their organizers about their book's main character. It went only so-so. Serious problems with following the directions of the thing! I'll have to read a short story to them and model filling it in. I thought about doing that today, but it would take too damn long.
Tomorrow they will begin with a quick exercise to review what they've learned about verbs so far, but nothing new. We'll do helping verbs and linking verbs next week, I guess. Then we'll do some more character stuff for reading. For writing, they will work on a fable packet that I found on abcteach. It's got three fables, and then six pages of Bloom's taxonomy/increasing questions, including vocabulary/context clues. Sweet!
I stayed after school to get my bulletin board up. Normally I work on that stuff at lunch, but this week, like I mentioned, I've got library stuff going on, not to mention the book room.
Once that was all up, I decided to correct the homework, since it was about verbs. They were supposed to write about their day and underline the verbs. It was bad, very bad. We'll have to redistribute and revise them; I think their comprehension level has already increased a little.
So that took until 4.45! Holy cow.
Now it's seven pm, and I'm watching recorded episodes of Designing Women. Julia Sugarbaker is my heroine, with her fabulous accent and articulate temper.
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
I'm ready to tear my hair out. They seem to have zero remorse or regret. Everyday during homework collection: "I don't have it." or the student excuse/lie: "I forgot it." "Zero!" is my response.
The two worst ones are getting on my nerves even more because I can't get ahold of a parent. I've tried three times in the last two days, and nada.
I've left three voicemails for one over the last two weeks, and of course I haven't gotten a call or seen any improvement. At least that student is a helpful and polite boy (and he apparently works really hard in math!), always joining the lunch crews with projects helping me.
The other one I just can't stand. Which makes me a terrible person. Because he really has a blank look on his face about homework and failing. I pulled him aside last week to tell him about his current status of failing, and talked to him about setting aside time to work on it. He nodded, and of course nothing came of it.
My patience with this bullshit has waned during the years, and it's about gone with some of this year's group. I'm about to give up on them!
I was trying to figure out why it makes me angry that they are failing themselves. I suppose because part of me feels like I'm failing too, or something. But when they have an opportunity to succeed every day in class, and every night for homework, and they repeatedly shun that opportunity, there's only so much I can do.
So I think for my sanity I have to just stop, and ignore it, and be sad for them. I feel like taking the contact issue to the dean or something, because nothing frustrates me more than not even getting to talk to a parent. Maybe I can have her send a letter or something? I don't know.
This afternoon was the first session of the after-school tutoring that I decided to do (hurrah for the prospect of breaking even/saving each month!). They asked me to do eighth-grade, since no 8th grade teachers volunteered for it. I agreed, but now I'm groaning. Because of course many of them (I think ten or eleven showed up) pulled some kind of attitude, or did nothing. A half-hour into the 1 1/2 hour session, we got the workbooks that we'll be using. (Double hurrah for a scripted curriculum book!) FOUR students didn't do a damn thing, and two of them were leaning over and doodling at each other. I actually kicked them out.
Then I remembered that we are responsible for them until the end of the session, and so I called the AP. She came down and gave them a stern chat about shape up or go home. Which I had said several times already to the whole group.
Because holy shit, I'm not going to baby-sit them, and I'm not going to put up with attitude or laziness. It's an optional program, so be here if you want help and want to work and do something. Otherwise, get out! Argh!
I'm not as pissy today as this makes me sound. Those are just the issues that ended my day, so they're still bubbling away near the surface.
Today was a very busy day, which always leaves me frazzled anyway. I had a coverage, but it was for one of my own classes, and the one that I should have only seen one period. Plus my room happened to be empty that period, so I brought them in and we did the lesson and it was fine.
But then it was lunch--after three classes in a row--and a bunch of kids were in there, hanging around and following me around like ducklings wanting something to do. Don't get me wrong, I love student helpers, and I really need them. But I'm crazy enough on my own with my lists of things needing to be done. At lunchtime things get even crazier with all the kids.
One girl was entering book titles and authors into Excel. Two other girls were starting off the class newsletter. Both had to get started on the computer.
Then a bunch of kids were helping fill out library cards for all my books. I'd thought they were getting close to the end, but then I saw five more bins. Wow, I have a ton of books. Sweet.
One thing that's annoying is that they all are totally helpless--they can't figure out anything on their own. So they just sit there, making noise (which REALLY irritates me when it's supposed to be my lunch period and free time from the noise!), waiting around to be told what to do. Argh!
Then two other students--who are both really needy--the ones actually trailing me around--wanted to do something else. They 'helped' me unpack the two boxes of book orders that just came in. I got some really great stuff, I am so excited. So are the children, of course.
Anyway, so I tried to set them up with labeling/categorizing the books, and when I asked about a book and its genre, they were both completely off. There was no way I could sit there and wait or even be patient. We talked about genre AT LENGTH the other day, it's in their books, the things are still up on the wall, and they just have NO.FUCKING.CLUE about anything!
I just cannot deal with that!
So THEN, I had to teach three more classes!
I was going to go a little loco by the time the bell finally rang. Thankfully, last period I had off, and had my room to myself. I got a chance to mark some homework, and continue marking the crest projects.
I liked what we did today. We did verbs and also an intro to folktales.
For verbs, before we actually talked about verbs, I made them write and repeatedly recite the speech sentence (pr#tty a*rdvarks n#ver vote in cr#mbling p!nk arenas). Then we reviewed what part of speech each stood for.
Then we quickly defined verbs, and I showed them infinitive and conjugation. I told them that it won't really make sense yet, but it will. I left it at that.
Next I told them to come up with as many verbs at their table in one minute. They shared a list of ten or so. They were things like, walk, play, jump, run, kick, swim, eat, dance.
So I had a great idea while we were there. I said, okay, NOW, come up with some synonym verbs--other verbs meaning about the same thing.
And they did great! They came up with things like slither (for crawl), shove, creep, devour, boogie. When we had at least one for each, I said, wow, look at THESE verbs! Aren't these much more vivid? Can't you get a clear picture in your mind of what this looks like or feels like? They agreed. I said to keep this in mind, because we're going to use vivid verbs like this in our writing.
Then we went into a grammar textbook (hurrah! it's okay to do that without being all furtive!) to practice identifying verbs. They did well. I also talked them through finding the subject too. I think most of them understood. A couple really did not, though. Guess I need to find extra stuff to help them.
Anyway, that was that and we moved on to folktale.
I started by reading The Tortoise and the Hare, complete with "the moral of this story is slow and steady wins the race."
I asked if anyone knew what kind of story it was, and some kids had already heard of fables. Others tried to answer my question of "what kind of story is this?" with things like "fiction" or "fantasy." I'd already showed them and told them that we were doing folktale, which is a separate thing from regular fiction. There are even different displays for the genre board! PAY ATTENTION!!
They understood the purpose and characteristics of fables: short stories that teach a lesson, using animals as characters.
Then I read them the story of Demeter and Persephone. You know, Hades kidnaps Persephone and Demeter (her mother) is distraught, looking for her and mourning, and ignoring her earth-growing-goddess duties. Eventually Hades agrees to "share" Persephone, so the time she's with him, Dememter is sad and nothing grows--it's winter. When Persephone is back on Earth with her mom, things are green and fruitful--spring and summer. Ta-da!
Soon they got that it was a myth (NOT historical fiction, you ninnies! What did I tell you about PAYING ATTENTION?) and that it explains how something came to be.
Then I showed them a couple other books to get them to define fairy tales, tall tales, and legends. Hoo boy, like pulling teeth with these ones. I can't take it. I really make an effort to make things clear and slow so everyone can proceed together, but even that doesn't seem to matter. ARGH!
Anyway, so we had a little time for an activity. I cut up three fables and distributed them among tables. They had to read the fable, and with their partner decide what the moral is.
After a few minutes, I had a student read the fable aloud, and we had a discussion about the morals and why they thought them. It was meh at best.
And that is the end, because I am winding myself up and it's almost 9.30, which means my day is only another hour longer. I really need to be calming down and relaxing, so that I'm not tossing with school-mares and student anxiety all night.
Happy thoughts, lalala.
I think I'm going to Australia this summer with that student travel program. Woohoo! I haven't been there before, and I'm just really excited that it seems to be working out so quickly already. I'm not even sure if it's final or real or anything yet. But cool nonetheless. Something fun to think about and imagine and all that good stuff.
Plus, London and Paris in February! Whee! We agreed with the commenters that trains will be a better option, for time and efficiency. And also the adventure factor, which I totally agree with, and hadn't quite put into words yet. Good job.
Wednesdays are when all the travel emails come out, so I always spend some time looking around to see if anything is interesting and cheap enough. Usually not, but I do love to think about it and fantasize about it, if only for a minute or two.
Okay really, SHUT UP, me! God!
Monday, October 02, 2006
So anyway, back to this weekend. On Saturday evening, we got dinner in Chelsea and then were going to go somewhere else, except that I got a bad case of worn-out-ness at EIGHT, like the loser I am. So Sunday was a bit more fun. We started with a couple errands, and then an impromptu brunch in the East Village. We walked down a few blocks to this awesome establishment:
I randomly watched a special on Food Network about French Fries, and they visited this shop, Pommes Frites. They make authentic Belgian fries, in a paper cone like you see on the giant model in front there. And that's it! There are a ton of sauces you can get to dip the delicious, freshly-fried potatoes. We got cheese and curry ketchup:
We had heard that it was supposed to be rainy and yucky all day, so it was a very pleasant surprise when the afternoon developed sunny, with a few fluffy clouds, and quite warm at times. It was decided to do a New York-y thing that we've talked about, visiting one of the viewpoints. So we traveled up to Rockefeller Center, and got tickets for the Top of the Rock:
Here we are, smiling for one of the strangers we had to ask to take our picture:
Here we are in front of another familiar skyline:
Just ONE of the reasons that he's the best boyfriend ever: He looked around for a month until he tracked down banana chocolate. at a little Czech shop here in New York!
Happy six months, Boyfriend! Can't wait for more!
I was up around 7.15 (having gone to bed at 11.15pm, which means I'm finally normalizing again). It is now 12.15. (Well, it was when I wrote this dang thing the first time).
--Done my laundry;
--Sewn over two feet of trim back on my favorite blanket (I'm a grown-up, I swear!)(I'm not really a sew-er, so the stitches are uneven and all over the place, but I did it! Very proud);
--Remade the bed with fresh sheets (pain in the ass but so satisfying when it's done);
--Watched three DVR'd shows from the last three days;
--Finished grading the vocabulary quizzes (not too pleased with all of them, though);
--Input those grades into the computer; and
--Done the dishes.
Wow! Fabulous! Incredibly productive!
Now I am tres hungry and must make some nachos before I faint.
I still have plenty of things I should/could do, like sweep, take out the trash, call parents, work out, make a trip to the post office, walk to the library, finish cleaning the bathroom, etc etc.
But right now I'm going to bask in the glow of morning productivity. Also, nachos.
I just returned from completing three more tasks--no, four:
My apartment is located roughly equidistant between the library and the post office; each is a little less than a ten minute walk away. So I took the trash and recycling to the basement, and then turned south to the library. I browsed but resisted getting anything new; I still have five books from my last trip. Then I walked back north, past my building and on to the post office. I need stamps but did not want to stand in line, as I had forgotten to bring a book. So I returned home. Altogether it must have been at least a 25 minute walk, which counts as exercise, and I got some vitamin D to boot!
Sunday, October 01, 2006
We're going to be in London for SEVEN nights in February. So I went a-looking on Mr Google, and found that we could fly from London to Paris for a mere $88 roundtrip! How I do love the easyJet, and all the easyCompanies.
Taking the Eurostar roundtrip would be $158, which sounds like way more. Which it is, but you also have to take into account that flying involves going to airports an hour away and costing at least ten dollars (more in London), and more time, both to actually get there, and to wait around at the airport. The train goes from Waterloo to Gare du Nord, both stations in-city, which is terribly convenient.
Boyfriend has never been out of North America, and he's always wanted to visit London. I'm really excited for him to see it. But I can't help thinking that being there for a week and NOT seeing Paris for a day or two would be just criminal. And also perhaps I'm biased, but there you go. For the record, London was my first favorite, back in 93. It wasn't until 2000, when I stayed in Paris for a month, and it was all clean and sparkly, that I fell in love with the City of Light. (PS, If you go to Paris and don't fall in love with it, then you aren't my friend, because you must be minus a heart.) I always want to show people the things and places I love, and especially when it's something they can love also.
Anyway, these options are very tempting, both of them! Cast your vote: stay in London the whole week? fly to Paris? train to Paris?
WHY is it still four months away??