Wednesday, February 28, 2007


I decided to let myself have a mental health day.

This is the first day I've taken off all year, and I think I really need it. An afternoon crying at school is definitely a sign not to be ignored. Plus my body is still exhausted. My limbs still feel shaky and half numb. I slept quite well, but didn't feel awake at all in the morning, meaning I still need more rest.

Plus I figured that today I could sort of re-program myself for school, to steel myself for the rest of the year. I need to do some thinking and some planning. I need to start actually putting forth some real effort for this teaching thing.

And I need to let myself look for other jobs.

The good news is that I've started uploading pictures to flickr. I hope to write about the trip here with pictures as well, so look out for those.

Dude. Tired. Must lay down some more.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Lord, Help Me.

I am still deep in jetlag recovery, evidenced by the earlier and earlier times that I begin to feel heavily sleepy--9.30, 8.00, 7.30. I've gone to bed at 9.30 the last two nights and have gotten up very early (wide awake by 6 am today), but in the afternoon, I just drag. I feel like I will fall down.

Yesterday's return to school wasn't bad, mostly because of the snow. (By the way, what a disappointment!) I had first and second off, a coverage third, fourth and fifth off, and then taught sixth, seventh, eighth. We did our language warm up and worked on a four square.

Today, though, I had myself a not-good day. I'm sure it's my fault. But that middle class was once again a bunch of rude, obnoxious assholes. At times I have no control, and they literally laugh rudely at my tactics. I feel completely ineffective and just plain pissed off. There are so many kids who willfully do nothing, in class or at home, and purposefully don't control their desire to distract people around them. My calls home, my talks with them, my individual progress sheets--they don't care, they don't change, nothing matters, who cares? I feel like I want to just be done with it, I can't handle it anymore.

And then the afternoon class were also rude and disrespectful. With the jetlag probably intensifying things, but also some thinking about my future, this shit got to me. I made the kids just sit and read for a good hour, and they did, to their credit. But I just sat there, thinking and drifting and tearing up. Why am I doing this? Why do I keep fighting them when it doesn't work? They don't care and it just bothers me. What's the point? I think I don't like my job. I think I need to leave.

This evening, I put on some music on alpha play, like always. Fiona Apple, genius that I love, her song "Get Gone" was playing, and the lyrics just completely fit my day today. Observe, with my adjustments:

Cuz I do know what's good for me-
And I've done what I could for you
But you're not benefiting, and yet I'm sitting
[Tiring] again, [try], [whine] again
How can I deal with this, if [they] won't get with this
[How]'m'I gonna heal from this; [they] won't admit to it
Nothing to figure out; I gotta get [them] out
It's time the truth was out that [they] don't give a
Shit about me
How many times can it escalate
Till it elevates to a place I can't breathe?
And I must decide, if you must deride
That I'm much obliged to up and go
I'll idealize, then realize that it's no
Sacrifice, because the price is paid, and
There's nothing left to grieve
Fuckin go-
Cuz I've done what I could for you, and I do know what's
Good for me and I'm not benefiting,
instead I'm sitting [whining] again, [tiring] again, [done] again

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Sneak Peak!!

The Mouse Man Chronicles

I am Back.

We returned from our London/Paris trip this afternoon; it took about three hours to get home to Queens, but I'm here. I've uploaded all one thousand forty-one pictures (yeep!), looked all my email, opened the pile of snail mail (an afterschool paycheck and a phone jury summons were the only exciting things), watched one of many recorded tv shows from the past week, and made some "I'm home" phone calls. Somehow I'm still awake, but I need to shower and get to rest.

Today was a long and very uncomfortable journey. The plane seat was the absolute worst I've ever experienced (more awful and painful than the Northwest flight to Amsterdam a couple months ago), and at the end of the flight, a massive migraine suddenly descended upon me like a Parisian summer rain. I'm still recovering from that now.

After a week of sleeping in small, strange beds, and only using two mini towels, tonight will indeed feel like a luxury.

Later, I will have much to share. And many, many pictures. And a whole separate adventure/blog as well.

More soon!

And Camit (? Cami T?), you are correct! Good job, you win the contest!

Saturday, February 17, 2007

There was a Mighty Duel!

[A cookie (or perhaps a European postcard) for those who get the lame reference.]

Last winter I bought a shovel and a straight ice hoe-type implement. I keep them in my car when it's likely to snow or whatever. Friday morning, after the car had been sitting for over a day and a half, I went into battle with my chosen weapon, the ice tool. I vowed victory.

Over the next thirty minutes, I alternated between attacking the ice and frozen snow, and getting in the car to see if I could get out.

Plows leave a ridge of snow that end up blocking cars' exits. Since it's stayed so cold, that pile of snow had frozen, over the layer of ice on the pavement. So each time I bashed the icy snow apart, the car got a little further over the ridge.

Each time, my wheels spun, and I smelled burning rubber. I growled and grunted, trying to will the wheels more power.

I kept grabbing the ice tool and using all my might to break apart the mass that blocked me. Only a few minutes in, I worked up a sweat and took off hat, gloves and scarf. My arms worked overtime to overcome my wintery obstacle.

Thirty minutes into battle, the wheels made it over the icy ridge, swerved on the ice, found purchase on the cleared pavement, and I screamed in animal triumph. Victory was mine!

The battle took its toll, oh yes it did. At first it was just my left arm yesterday, but this morning, both arms, shoulders and back are very sore indeed. Totally worth it, though.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

A Long Day

It all began this morning, as days often do.

But I suppose I should actually back up to yesterday.

It snowed. And it iced. I began the morning by uncovering my car of its cold snow, all the while pelted by frozen raindrops. As I drove to school, it sounded like driving through piles of crinkling plastic wrappers. Also, no plows had come through anywhere, which seemed unusual. So everyone was driving very slowly and very carefully. I experienced a couple very small, inconsequential fishtails, but I made it to school unscathed.

The freezing stuff continued throughout the day. When I left school, the streets were covered in four inches of snow the consistency of sand (or margaritas, as one witty shoveler was quoted in the NY Times today), and the sidewalks had a couple inches of icy snow.

My car was filmed with almost a half-inch of pure ice, and another inch or so of snow on top of that. I chipped, hacked, and hacked for twenty full minutes to clean off the car.

And then my wheels did not want to get me forward. Oh boy. But I backed up and turned the wheel, and they finally found purchase. And I drove home, again very slowly and very carefully. Happily, I lucked out with a parking spot not requiring parallel parking.

This morning, I got out of bed a few minutes earlier than usual, in anticipation of more weather fun. The car was still clean of snow and ice, which was a pleasant sight.

After shoveling some plowed ice/snow out of the way, I turned the wheel and hit the gas. The wheels spun and whirred, to no avail. The car rocked a little, stuck in the nefarious grasp of the icy street. Shit.

I'd been thinking about bus routes last night, because three buses stop at my corner. So I hopped on the one that went toward school (it pulled up right as I was coming up, how awesome!). I was pretty sure that it met up with another bus I was familiar with, but I didn't know what stop to take. So I guessed.

Out in the cold, walking entirely around the block, seeing plenty of buses and signs for buses, but not mine, I finally went into the train station. Intending just for a map, but seeing no helpful attendant attending me, I just got on the damn train. One stop. The bus I wanted was right there, which was again pleasant.

I rode that bus for probably forty minutes, disembarking as near my school as possible. There is another bus that goes almost right past school, but I didn't want to wait. So I walked, ten to twelve minutes in the cold. My toes were long numb, along with the front of my legs.

I arrived at school five minutes before first period ended. An hour and a half after I left my cozy apartment. Sigh.

I should have stayed home and gone back to bed.

Once I dethawed my lower extremities, I had to jump immediately into Teacher land, which was a bit abrupt for my taste, but not difficult, interestingly.

After school, I was trapped, because of conferences later on. So I sat in my classroom for two and a half hours, reading. I could have re-marked some old tests, but I didn't want to.

Happily, the conferences went well, and I didn't get too busy. The two parents I was most desperate to see both showed up, and listened and agreed with what I had to say, so that was excellent. No crazies gave me attitude, and I saw plenty of good kids and got to tell their parents positive things.

It took an hour to get back home, with walking, bus, train, and more walking, but this time I took the route I already knew from my pre-car days.

I hopped in the shower and then jumped on the computer to pay bills. My throat hurts, my stomach will not be sated with the bowl of cheerios and cheese and crackers, but too bad. And now it's already ten-thirty, dangit.

Thank god our impending departure was changed to Saturday. I'm nowhere near ready to go. Think good, warm thoughts for me and my wheels tomorrow morning!

Monday, February 12, 2007

Weird Children

Last Friday, someone in my afternoon class found a note. It said, "Ms -- has a myspace" Someone read it out loud and the class erupted into "oohs" and "do you really?" I looked at them askance, shook my head, and told them they all needed brain transplants.

Then today, a girl picked up a piece of her old homework, and someone had written, "I love Ms -- she is sexy" Oh, please, eye roll.

Still later today, the same girl found yet another note. I pocketed it and didn't read it until after the class. It said, "ms -- is gangster she got a myspace and she is mad fine". I had to giggle, because now they're just fucking with me. It's pretty funny, though. I suppose it's better than saying I'm ugly and a shitty teacher. Ha.

Oh, and in addition to that, I had a good laugh reading the homework. They were supposed to write a letter to Dr King, telling him whether or not his dream had been achieved. One girl wrote, "We should work for peace on earth, and anxiety." Ha! I'm not sure what word she was going for, but this made it quite funny.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

One week left. Oh, man.

Mid-winter break and the London trip are only a week away! We leave next Saturday, in the early evening. Whee! Must get out the suitcase and begin getting prepared. Very exciting indeed!

That also means only one more week of school. At least a part of every day leaves me feeling irritable, impatient, grumpy, old and tired. That one class continues to be a problem, and they continue to do well when it's time to do a simple, structured but boring task like exercises in the grammar book. At this point, I need to do whatever works for all of us.

My last class is in the process of getting smaller: one kid I've had issues with (him and his mother do absolutely nothing) has been switched to another class, and that horrible other kid I mentioned recently will be having a hearing soon. When I heard that, I was excited and relieved, but also a little nervous, because now what's stopping him from truly hurting someone or distracting the class every minute? Surprisingly, he's been fairly calm, for him anyway.

And last week I submitted a list of students I have concerns about, both academically and behaviorally. Thursday, the guidance counselor gave me some pre-referral reports to fill out. And I diligently got them all finished and turned in by lunch Friday. I hope things move ahead, because one kid in particular from my middle class is just out there. He can't focus, he has random outbursts of noise and/or movement, and his comprehension is little to none. I didn't realize what a distraction he is until the other day, when he was not there for half an hour--so much quieter and calmer. Then he walked in, and the rest of the class was touch-and-go, because he'll set the others off with his noise.

Yesterday I gave a big quiz, really two. All last week and a bit the week before? we worked on media stuff, and they had definitions for a lot of things. I've kept a list going on the side board so they can see exactly what they should be knowing. Starting last Friday, I let them know there would be a quiz on the vocabulary soon, and to study. All week that was written by the homework--Media Quiz Coming Soon--Study At Home! And yet, sure enough, all of the students failed. Even the high-level class. Damn. It sucks, but I wasn't too shocked, unfortunately. I hope they learn a lesson and change something, or else they'll keep racking up failing test grades.

The other quiz was on the grammar stuff that we had been doing for warm ups all week--capitalizing, some commas, and type of sentence. And I only graded one full class so far, but I'm really pleased. They all did very well on that. It was exactly like the warm up activities, so they were comfortable, and I think they all felt good about that part.

So I graded them as separate quizzes, and this way, though they failed one, they most likely did very well on the other.

I will be continuing to do the language activities, because they're actually learning, and it's a better way to get them settled in than the more abstract writing prompts that I sometimes use for warm-ups (though I hadn't actually been doing much of anything lately, what with test prep). And I will quiz them every Friday, and that should make them feel good about their abilities.

I'm thinking about giving them the media quiz again but with open notes. They won't get all the answers from there (I specifically wrote different types of questions, some easy and some requiring thinking and memorizing and analysis), and the grade won't be worth as much, but they need to know this information.

Next week I have to get off my ass. I need to cover the advertising types, but not all the classes can handle that kind of activity. I also want them to do a biographical project on a civil rights leader. I have a list of people already, but I need to narrow it down and figure out how to assign the students. Then I need to figure out how I'm going to teach these three different classes that need completely different things. And come up with diffferent homework assignments as well. And then, we're supposed to do a project as well, a public service announcement, to conclude this unit. Again, my high-level class will certainly be able to, but what kind of timeline, considering the biography project and the break coming up? The middle class certainly won't get to do that project, at least not with any class time. I think I am going to focus on essay writing and biography writing with them in class. Maybe I'll assign the PSA as homework only. The third class wavers back and forth about how much they can handle.

On Thursday I probably made a mistake by introducing actual ads with them. I began by explaining the questions one must ask when viewing an ad, and then I described an ad for them. The words of the ad were "Your lips look so lonely. May I keep them company?" Hoots and hollers.
The image? Close up of an unmade bed, with satin-looking sheets and pillow cases. All kinds of noise from the class.
What tone or lifestyle? Romance and love.
They tried to guess the product--most of their guesses were lipsticks or chapstick.

The real product? Can you guess?


They were just as shocked as you, except noisier. Then I tried to explain how this ad is telling you that cookies or food is and should be a replacement for love and companionship, etc etc. The students were howling and shouting all over the place!

I was exhausted and irritated. Maybe it's not such a good idea.

God, one week. I hope I can make it.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Perseverance, Stubbornness, Willful Ignorance, Whatever You Want to Call It

As you may or may not know, one of my traits is indeed stubbornness. That's really how I survived my entire first year, willing myself to get through it.

Sometimes it comes naturally, and sometimes I have to take myself by the shoulders and say, "Self, buck up and grit those teeth! You won't quit, because you're too scared and lazy to let yourself down! So quit the whining and get on with it!"

What's that, readers? You said the same thing? Ha ha, we're on the same wavelength. Good.

The funk of last week has passed, and my teeth are set once again for the good fight of keep-on-keeping-on. Helped greatly by the countdown to the London trip, which reached T-minus ten days today! Except an interesting thing occurred. I got a phone call from the airline, offering us two $300 vouchers to change our flights one day because of overbooking. Hey, why not? So Boyfriend and I are now leaving a week from Saturday and returning the next Sunday. Whee!

This past Sunday, I spent the whole day doing nothing. I read two whole books (YA novels, but still) and dinked around the computer too. Not even for a minute did I turn on the tv. I don't think that has happened...ever. At least for the time that I've owned a tv. It felt good to just relax and chill out. Also, I sort of spontaneously sat down and thought up a plan for the week, even including interesting and relevant homework assignments, planning for a quiz, writing that quiz (which I'd really started to do in the shower the day before--see what I mean about the job taking over your brain no matter the day or time?), and even planning for a day of grammar work.

That made me feel productive and relieved, which was nice because then I went back to reading and lounging. Excellent.

So far this week things have gone well. My high class has gone faster and in more depth than my other classes, and I'm going to leave it that way. I'm finally starting to let the classes separate into their own comfortable pace, whatever it may be. That means I'm not stalling and slowing down the fast class, and I'm not impatient with the slower and shallower results from the not-so-fast classes. I'm trying to keep things a bit more personalized, so to speak. In theory I'd love to even assign different homework for each class, but that's a bit much. But who knows, we'll see.

Oh, and you frisky Big Apple bloggers out there did not respond to the planned event! Thank goodness Nancy was available (finally!) and showed up with a friend, and Boyfriend was there, and his sister came later. It was a smaller, quieter evening than I'd hoped, but still nice to be out and about with good people. Nancy suggested a once-a-month gathering, to give you folks more of a chance to come hang out and meet and have some tasty beverage. She made a Google calendar, and there's a button somewhere on the right. Click it and you' linked? Or be added? Or see it? I'm not sure. Just click it.

Anyway, right now I seem to be nursing a migraine, so I'm going to go get absorbed in last night's episode Heroes. And then go to sleep and rest up for another day of getting through.

Sunday, February 04, 2007

Job Risks

The NEA Today magazine has an article about non-teacher school employees ("Education Support Professionals") and the dangers they face on their jobs.

Now, I surely appreciate the people who help keep a school running, and I certainly don't want any of them facing undue hardships or injuries. But the list of hazards they should be protected against...well, take a look.

"Bus drivers repeatedly open and close manually operated doors, and depress the clutch and brake pedals."

Many teachers drive to school. All teachers must also move their feet up and down stairs all day long. Does this mean that we can claim job injury from these repetitive motions?

I would think that the risk of bus drivers would be in the arena of hearing loss and stress, dealing with loud and potentially rude or disruptive children, yelling and throwing things. Let's protect them from that instead of brake pedals.

"Food service workers repeatedly life heavy equipment, stand for long shifts, and reach above shoulder level and below knee level or across counters."

Teachers stand all day long. Teachers are constantly bending and reaching: across tables to talk to students, putting charts on the wall while perched on student desks, picking up piles of paperwork and transporting them to the staff room, home, and back. Et cetera.

I've worked in food service, and the lifting and standing were the easy parts of the job. These workers get little respect and have to deal with nasty food and chemicals all day, not to mention children with little to no manners. And the dish-washing that leaves your whole body and clothing soaking, your hands pruned beyond recognition, even with gloves? Or how about the searing steam and heat from the Hobart and hot pans of food? Talk about hazards.

"Technical service and clerical workers perform repetitive keystroke motions on computers."

Several words: Gradebooks. Report cards. Bubbles. Attendance lists. I'm sure you can see where I'm going with this. Keeping in mind, of course, that teachers have to do it all manually, since too many of us (at least in this godforsaken city) are not blessed with computers on our desks like the rest of the professionals. So we have to go to our own homes and do the repetitive keystrokes.

"Skilled trades workers and custodians are subject to muscle stress from tools, prolonged kneeling, and bending."

That's what custodians have to worry about? How about cleaning up disgusting spills and picking up heavy trash cans?

Teachers are very much subject to muscle stress--clutching chalk for hours at a time; tripping over bookbags and other hazards in the obstacle course known as a classroom; balancing writing with never completely taking their eyes off the students; carrying loads of paperwork in cutesy tote bags, resulting in sore shoulders every morning and afternoon; ...this list goes on.

Health workers are exposed to diseases and contact with blood and other body fluids.

Those diseases and body fluids come through the classroom first, and many of them never even make it into the nurse's office. The teacher gets to play nurse for the easy stuff.

And how about removing the ridiculous restrictions on those nurses, so they can actually treat headaches and stomachaches and sore joints, without worrying about lawsuits from parents who worry about all the wrong things?

Security staff face psychological stress from dealing with violent student and parent behavior.

Um. Are you serious? I'm sure this is the case sometimes, but FAR too many 'security' officers simply take up space and do nothing to increase the security of the building or students. And again, all those violent and virulent students and parents go straight to the TEACHERS all day long. And then we get to think about how to deal with them on our 'off' time, often while we sleep. I know the security officers wouldn't have that dilemma.

Really. Where are the teacher job protections? How are we supposed to be the smiling, gentle faces who educate future generations if we can't even get protection from the myriad dangers that the other 'professionals' get? Why do they get to be support professionals and we're the simpletons who couldn't cut it in the real world?

Friday, February 02, 2007

Manic Depressive

Sometimes teaching makes me feel a little...not so normal. Let me give you some examples.

Last night I was thinking about my day. First, I brought some colleagues to the book room. As we descended the staircase, I noticed that the door was open and the light was on. Someone else noticed the lock was nowhere to be found. The little hook loop on the doorframe was mangled, so that the flip-bar thing on the door wouldn't fit over it. The book room itself looked pretty much the same. I didn't see any new piles or new messes, and there was no giant gap of goods taken from a shelf.

Nevertheless, I felt violated and defeated. Everyone knows that I have the key, and the lock (which I had to buy and put on) was to protect all the hard work that's gone into improving it and making it a valuable resource for the teachers once again. And someone decided to (or ask someone to) break the little padlock off? That makes me feel like the work is not valued and that makes *me* feel not valued, since I was doing the work. So if things disappear or giant piles of miscellaneous crap start appearing, I give up.

Next, common planning. Like I've mentioned before, at times, instead of inspiring me, meeting with my colleagues makes me feel inadequate. We have bulletin boards due on Tuesday, and I have no writing projects going on. Others have already begun or planned small projects, or have had the kids writing about their media work the last week or two. Me, not so much. We've been working with vocabulary and worksheets, helping the kids see what kinds of questions they need to ask themselves to be critical viewers of media. So then I had to realize that I've been slacking and my kids haven't really been learning and the stupid bulletin board has to go up and the work will be shit and I'm not doing my job anyway so who cares?

To boot, I have this kid. Somehow, I have heretofore refrained from posting about him. It's a blood-boiler issue for me, so I try not to think too much about it. Every time I do, I feel the anger and indignance rise up and go nowhere. The kid follows no rules and constantly harasses the class, verbally and physically. He throws paper. He crawls on the ground. He threatens other kids. I have made calls. All go straight to voice mail and nothing ever changes. The admin tell me that they have called home many times as well, and the parents have never responded. When the kid has been suspended, he shows up to school anyway. When told that he can't return without a parent, he comes back anyway and no sign of either parent. This child clearly knows that he can break the rules without punishment, and his misbehavior has continued to escalate since the first day of school. (Yes, on the very first day I saw he was going to be trouble. But for awhile, he was cooperative and tried to work and participate. Slowly, but very surely, that disappeared.) I have submitted all kinds of written documentation, to the dean, to the AP, all to no avail. The kid is still in class every day, and he bothers the entire class on a daily basis, on various levels of severity.

All of this really, really bothers me. And I've done more than my job in attempting to deal with it, and the rest of the students in the class are the real victims here--their rights to a comfortable and safe learning environment are violated every single day. And no one is doing anything about it.

I must stop writing so I can stop thinking about it. I can't get worked up again.

I've also been just a tad behind on grading homework.

All this had me feeling very down and blue and frustrated--with myself and what I'm doing, and with the school system in general.

Thankfully, today was a pretty good day. We had a half day for periodic testing, so I didn't have to teach. I graded nearly all of the grammar worksheets I'd assigned earlier in the week. I was reading newspaper articles to use in next week's advertising work.

I was feeling a little re-energized and rested.

After a lunch break, we had a department PD. And it was a treat. We met in grade groups and discussed how the year has gone so far. My colleagues and I had a productive and interesting discussion, and we came up with some things to tweak for next year.

It turned out that all the grades were thinking about the same themes. One teacher mentioned that reading has become cold--they have to read a book alone regardless of their reading ability, and turn in a book report. Reading is not fun or passionate anymore. Several of us agreed and mentioned ways to start turning that around. The Reading Rainbow book talks I mentioned, and other teachers have done that as well has creating a "Books We Love" display for students who need something to read. Another group mentioned having classes all read one book together. One of my friends has been doing that--even using the dreaded round robin reading! She has found that they are doing really well in comprehending the book, as well as enjoying it. The kids like to read!

All the groups also mentioned vocabulary, and how those basic skills are so vital for the kids, in their reading and writing.

Someone mentioned a particular reading program they'd done in summer school, and how effective and exciting it was for the students. My grade definitely sees many kids who are below or far below level in reading. All the reading workshops in the world will not improve someone's reading ability. So the idea of once again having reading instruction is very exciting for us.

My AP is fantastic for many reasons. One is that she was an EL @ teacher for eight years and is still very much in the mindset of being a teacher and supporting teachers. Thus, she is very open to these discussions and suggestions. She welcomed us to use these "new" (traditional) methods to help the kids increase their reading levels and excitement. And she's going to see what can be done on a funding level to help with that. Wow!

To have a department all on the same page, and a supportive administrator, are some of the best things a teacher can have. It gets me worked up--in a good way, thinking about fun projects and new ideas to inject into our existing curriculum.

Then I start evaluating what I've been doing for the last three years, and I realize once again that I feel ineffective. I told myself that I would do vocabulary and grammar every week. A colleague of mine actually has one day per week set aside to do that. I wanted to, but I've never been able to. I end up feeling time-crunched and pressured to do so many things at once. I try to "share" lessons during the week, but inevitably we get behind, or have an assembly, or I just get lazy.

And once again I become depressed, convinced that the other teachers are better than I am, that my kids aren't really learning anything, that I'm not really doing my job, that all my plans and excitement never end up actually happening, that I am a failure and I am failing my kids.

I go through varying cycles of this all year. The summer is mostly three months of manic thinking and planning (and by manic I mean excited and happy and fruitful), and at least three to four times a year I sink into a depression of truth. Maybe it's winter blues, maybe it's dehydration, maybe I'm homesick maybe I'm stuck in a rut. All the stupid and awful things we deal with every day and complain about? Are never going to change. Ever. What's the point of anything when it's just so pointless? Each week I find myself counting the days until I don't have to work. On Fridays, I'm not happy; I feel physically relieved, like I can finally relax. The sad thing is that during the week I don't seem to work that hard.

I'm tired. Not like burnout, and not like fatigue, just worn out with all the aspects of this impossible "profession." I put that in quotation marks because only people in this profession consider it a profession; everyone else seems to think it's mindless grunt work. Whatever. Right now my mind just isn't there.

It's definitely time for a mental health day.

Thursday, February 01, 2007


Last night I finally upgraded to a pro account on flickr! Then I spent several hours uploading older pictures into it. I also pulled out my prints from the Paris 2004 trip and spent over an hour scanning them to my computer and now am headed to finish uploading to Flickr, along with whatever else comes to mind. Woohoo!

And I was looking at making Moo cards, some for personal use, but some for teaching use. I'm thinking of taking pictures of gold stars, the word excellent, me smiling, etc, and making cards out of them to hand out to students who are doing well. Doesn't that sound neat?

I brought my prints to school today and got to show them off to a couple people. They raved about them and made me feel all warm and fuzzy about my photography skills. Snapfish now lets you put borders on all your prints. I chose a thin black border and it makes them look so professional and fancy-like. Ooh, so pretty. You know, for years I've wanted to take classes to learn more. Anyone have ideas or suggestions?

Reading and Teaching

Yesterday I decided to do something new, and yet old.

I finally took out the anthologies that clog up my bookroom. I also took one of the rare teacher editions! We did some guided reading of the Phantom Tollbooth--I read aloud to the students, and we stopped to respond orally or in writing. I saw many more students on task and ready to participate. The responses weren't very deep, but it was a start. And they seemed to quite enjoy the story. In fact, I read another chapter from the actual book after we finished the excerpt in the textbook.

I did this with the middle class yesterday, and today we finished the story. My afternoon class started it today and it went even better, because I thought of more and better response prompts.

My first class, the highest (on grade) level, won't need to do this. But I think the other two classes will definitely benefit from all reading the same material, discussing it together, and responding to multiple prompts each day. My hope is that with practice, the students will be able to delve deeper into their stories and understand things better, as well as improve their writing. Not to mention discovering new authors and books and genres they might enjoy.

This is the first time EVER that I've used a textbook in teaching. I can't tell you the difference it makes. I think that content-area teachers take them for granted--excerpts already chosen for you, suggestions ready-made for how to use them and teach them, questions pre-written for writing and even vocabulary. These are things that English teachers usually have to make up by themselves, which is boring and tedious and not necessarily effective.

I hope to use it for a little while. Not forever, but to keep the kids in line and thinking.

Other things I want to implement in reader's workshop include Readers and Books of the Week, kind of like Reading Rainbow--choose two or three students per week who present a book they like, and read some to the class. Doesn't that sound fun and inspirational?