Friday, August 31, 2007

Day 156: The many tasks of a teacher

So my classroom is set up and ready for students. Not sure that *I'm* quite ready, but if the room is, that's a big step forward.

And my mood has improved, not to the level of "Ooh, school! Yay, wow! I'm so excited!" But, it's also not "I hate school and want to die." I'm distinctly in the neutral area, something like, "Okay, school. I've done it before. I know what to do. Maybe it won't be torture."

I'm also happy to report that I am feeling good about the administration. So far they have been upbeat and positive, pledging support and continued success. It's a relief for sure.

I can do this. I can do this. I can do this.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Stolen Meme

Nancy just did (re-did?) this one. And I'm pretty sure she did it before too and tagged me. [EDIT: It was another teacher meme she tagged me for. Oh well. I'm not too proud to invite myself to the teacher meme party.] I'm finally completing it in an effort to get myself in the mood for school and in the hopes that sometime in the next couple days I'll get my plans written down so I'll feel like I can tackle this thing called a job.

1. I am a good teacher because…
Education is really important to me, and I am knowledgeable and passionate about my subject area.

2. If I weren’t a teacher I would be a…
public speaker.

3. My teaching style is…
not so much with the workshop model (GASP!!!). Sometimes, sure. But a seven minute mini-lesson is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard of. I do go through the "here's something," "let's talk about it/you guys figure it out," "discuss," "do it together," then "now see what you can do." And that hardly ever fits in a class period. But I do feel that it involves the students a bit more and encourages them to pay attention.


4. My classroom is…
always full of books and piles of stuff, and music if I can help it.

5. My lesson plans are…
often done in my head and on the spot. I'm good at speaking and teaching on the fly. However, there are times when I'll do a whole week at a time, all printed out on a sheet, and I'll feel so proud and productive. At the beginning of the year, I will map out several weeks or a month at a time. It makes me feel prepared. Once the spring hits, though, those written plans disappear, just like my patience. :)

6. One of my teaching goals is…
To not take things personally. To be more patient and openly caring. And to start tracking students a bit closer with their writing.

7. The toughest part of teaching is…
Dealing with the tough kids that I can't get through to. And having no money. And waking up early.

8. The thing I love about teaching is…
Trying to get new ideas and concepts through to students. Not just dialogue format and verb tenses, but world travel, current events debates, google tips, etc. Things that I link to school but really are important knowledge for citizens of the world today. I love getting (forcing?) kids to care about something other than myspace and the new ridiculous song on the radio.
The other best thing is seeing student progress. Test prep progress doesn't exist in my opinion, but writing progress is clear to see. It's exciting to know something is getting through and feeling effective. Not that this happens much, mind you.
And yes, I love the much-needed vacations.
Oh, and the community of good, fun teachers, if you can find it. I'm grateful for the teacher-blogger community for providing friends, mentors, idea-bouncers, and the knowledge that we're all going through the same things together.

9. A common misconception about teaching is…
That teachers are stupid. (Some are, certainly. But I'm not, and I make sure to surround myself with others who are sharp and thoughtful and skilled educators [often better than me].)

10. The most important thing I’ve learning since I started teaching is…
I never feel effective enough. Or patient enough. Or able to deal with difficult parents. These are important things because I'm stubborn and don't like to give up, so I have to keep trying to improve myself.

This has made me feel a bit better.

You know what else did? Last week (?) I wrote up a resume and cover letter to submit to a charter school, to feel like I was being proactive about my dread for my continuing job. I had to do several drafts because I kept thinking of more things I've done. And honestly, I kick ASS on paper. I was really impressed with myself (in an observer kind of way) and what I've done in the last three years.

I've got plans and ideas for this year too: more trips, even better bookroom makeovers, homework club after school, possibly a community service club. I'm excited about all those things. Just not about the everyday ins-and-outs of teaching.

Like it or not, tomorrow I have to suck it up and meet the new staff and admin and get my room set up. Hoo boy.

Here we go again.

So. Much. To. Do.

Don't. Care. About. Any. Of it.


I began writing a response to an interesting and valid comment. Others may be thinking the same thing, and my reply got lengthy, so here it is. Thanks, Jen. :)

Jen, I'm not sure if I really hate or loathe teaching... I've always been kind of ambivalent about it. (The dread stuff this summer is new. I'm pretty sure. I need to reread my archives. Last year left me afraid of my management abilities, or lack thereof. That's what I'm dreading--a repeat of last year.)

Which is not exactly reassuring, but part of me also thinks that I'm holding out for a better teaching job to feel happy. As in, a job where I have enough chairs, fewer than 33 kids in a room, I don't have to buy paper for copies, that kind of thing. The conditions in my school and in NYC are ridiculous. The bureaucratic BS and paperwork overload are everywhere, but I think that would be easier to deal with if there were better conditions, supplies, and a more collaborative, positive faculty.

To be sure, a change *is* definitely in order. I just was too lazy to really feel it early enough, and it quickly got too late before I could effectively figure out how to go about finding that change.
Next year I will certainly be looking for a new job--perhaps a NYC charter school, perhaps an overseas job, perhaps back home in Seattle.

Here's to hoping this dread dissipates soon so I can focus on getting through this year, learning from the bad shit last year, and doing my best to make this a good one. I do have faith that I can be a good teacher.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Techno dork

...but in the wrong way. Since I don't know how to put the thing in the actual post, just go here and watch the hilarious Hipster Olympics.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Duh Squared

would be a better title for this "news" story. I guess it's good to get the word out, but come on! Is this really a surprise or anything new, to anyone?
With Turnover High, Schools Fight for Teachers

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Freaking Workmares

This happens every summer, but somehow this time around it feels more ominous.

Last week I had a terrible dream in which I returned to school with everything different. I didn't even get into my classroom, I was immediately thrown into two coverages in a row. One of which was subbing for the cheer/dance advisor, whose practices began every day at 4am.

Last night I had a carbon copy workmare. There was a giant class that was spread in different places (a classroom and two trailers) and they were not really behaving, so I gave a quiz. On baseball. These things happened again later, slightly different situations but the same events. Baseball? Really, brain?


Monday, August 20, 2007

Healthy (?) Distractions

It's not a poem, but tonight I put together a smashing playlist, and I thought I'd share.

Stuff and Nonsense--Missy Higgins (an Aussie pop singer who sounds a lot like Susie Suh)
Sunrise--Norah Jones (you can't help but bop pleasantly to this)
Que Sera Sera--Pink Martini (sometimes I need a reminder that things work out in the end)
Stupid--Sarah McLachlan (you can't sing this one quietly, and I love that)
Stop this Train--John Mayer (such an addictive rhythm)
Concrete Sky--Beth Orton (I listened to this album a lot when traveling)
Sun Don't Shine--Haley Bonar (you know she was gonna be here somewhere)
Strong Enough--Sheryl Crow (I'm not the biggest fan of her, but there's something about this simple acoustic guitar melody that I love)
Someday You Will Be Loved--Death Cab for Cutie (a song I downloaded awhile back, after another blogger mentioned it, and I love it love it)
Stand By Me--Jason Mraz (a simple yet fantastic live performance)
Songbird--Fleetwood Mac (just a gorgeous, wistful song.)
Ain't No Sunshine--Eva Cassidy (slow and sensual female version of the classic)
Born Secular--Jenny Lewis & Watson Twins (from her solo album Rabbit Fur Coat, which is great)
Both Sides Now--Joni Mitchell (featured in an amazing wordless scene of Love Actually)
Shell--Susie Suh (lovely textured voice that I adore)
Grey Street--Dave Matthews Band (reminds me of dusty Chimney Corner nights)
Spark--Tori Amos (a lesser-known song from the classic singer)
Silent Sea--KT Tunstall (we're seeing her in September!)
Spring Street--Dar Williams (god, I love this song Every.Single.Time)
Song for a Friend--Jason Mraz (this mix is dedicated to my friend S [see the pattern??], and I hope to get it to her soon, along with a couple Australian souvenirs)(this same friend made me a truly awesome mix when I was home in April; I keep meaning to post it here)

Bloody Cheek

Somebody looked at this entry from TWO YEARS AGO and decided to leave a rude and stupid comment. I know that I should be the bigger person and ignore it, but honestly, this was ridiculous.

The apparently offending passage:

It's not a "Do Now," it's a "Motivation."

We may NOT abbreviate "instructional objective." We must actually write out those two long words every day. Because, of course, we have NOTHING else to do with our time than play at the fucking chalkboard.

I know that I'm the only one who has ever noticed this bureaucratic nonsense. I'm probably the only one who's ever mentioned it, too. [/sarcasm]

Go check out the full post and definitely the comments (the anonymous rude one and my terse response). It's kind of hilarious in its utter naivete.

By the way, I do have a contact-paper section of the board (works just like a dry erase board! very convenient and easy. Highly recommended to other/new teachers) with sentence strips reading "Miss ---", "Today Is", "Reading Instruct!onal Object!ve", "Standard", "Writing Instruct!onal Object!ve", "Standard", while on the other chalkboard is one for "EL@ Homework". Makes my life just that much easier. So, you know, I can spend more time actually working on teaching the children.

Day 142: Blue

Blue wall, blue eye, blue mood.

This coming year will suck. My administration will be completely different but I don't know any details. My only three school friends are gone, two out of state. The classes I will teach will be like my first year: two middle and one inclusion (meaning nearly half will be special ed). Though I think last year began okay, it ended badly and left me very unhappy (although thrilled and utterly relieved to get to the summer).

I hate feeling so negative; I wish I could change my mood. But look at all those ominous events!

Friday night I finally cried, from the stress of thinking and worrying and dreading September 4.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef

Y'all, seriously, that was Really.Freaking.Awesome.
I was really nervous at first; it took me a few minutes of being in the water before I tried putting my face in. The mask and snorkel took some time getting used to; I'm always afraid of choking on water (ugh, and seawater is so gross). But very soon I was breathing closer to normal and finning around happily, thoroughly enjoying the amazing experience. Holy wow, batman.
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Friday, August 17, 2007

Note from Previous Students

At the end of each year, the class writes letters to next year's students, giving them advice and such. I found a stack of them the other day, and I'm posting this one to help me feel good about this year. My teaching years have gone back and forth--very bad, good, kinda bad; I'm not at all looking forward to this year, which I know is terrible. So I'm going to have to psych myself up and this kind of thing may or may not help, but it's worth a shot.

Dear Incoming Students,

I hope you get Ms --- class for homeroom next year. I hope you get Ms --- for homeroom because she is a very nice teacher even though she screams a lot and gives a whole lot of hard and understanding homework. She is a teacher that will keep pushing you until you get it or do it. If you don't get it she will explain it and then push you so I hope you get Ms --- next year.

Student S

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Apartment After!

You know I had get a shot of myself with the roller.

[Leaving the tape on for now, because I think I'm going to do a quick second coat tomorrow, to get the surface even and pretty.]

I'm so excited that I got this all finished in just three days. I was almost nervous or confused to do the real painting today. I was enjoying having a project, and I was really surprised at myself for getting started straightaway. One of my best traits is having great ideas, but one of my greatest downfalls is not always following through, especially in a timely manner.

I think one reason it shocked me, going so quickly, is that I've done so much painting in the past, but it's always been for someone else. Meaning that it all had to be set up, materials bought and set out by the time we got there, and someone else calling the shots, basically.

So to get myself a great project and to take care of the whole thing on my own is definitely new for me. I'm used to being self-sufficient and independent, but most of the time it doesn't involve hands-on things like this. When it does, I invariably have help. Setting up the apartment when I moved in, organizing and cleaning the bookroom, and other large projects, there was at least one person there to help. Not only that, but I often felt like I could not have done it without those people, even for patience's sake. You know, someone to hash out plans and to chat to. Even for this, Boyfriend was going to help me. And look--I decided on a color, bought all the materials, did all the preparation, and completed the painting ALL by myself!

I'm very happy and proud of myself! So much so, that I wouldn't mind finding another big home improvement project...

That said, I've really appreciated your supportive comments! You guys definitely helped motivate me, if only to have another step to show off. :)

Which actually brings me to my plea for help (see? knew I needed other people after all...) I think I still want to do a different accent color on the door and window trim. I'd been thinking about a bright yellow and a red, to create kind of an island feel (since that is what finally inspired this color choice). Online, though, they looked weird. So I figured that I'd get this much done and see what I thought. Though this process was a little tedious at times, it did go pretty darn fast (I could have easily squeezed this all into two days instead of three), and I think it would look even better with an accent. I definitely want a completely different color, something bright and cheery.

So I'd love to get your ideas!
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Apartment During

Taping is complete!
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Apartment Before

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Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Random Student IM

thank 4 not fallin me
and 4 some reason
i got to say
thank u
so so much

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

New Project

I've lived in this cute apartment for a year and a half. It has frame moldings on the walls, but everything is white. I told myself that this summer I would try to do some painting.

After loving the Whitsunday Islands, I decided to use that vivid aqua as my main color. I had been thinking about a yellow and a red for trims, but they didn't seem quite right when I played with the preview tool online.

This afternoon I returned to Home Depot (I'd been there, scouting, a couple times before) and bought paint (a pretty near match to the color above, named Mermaid Treasure) and supplies!

So here is what I need to do, in order. [New teachers, this is what educrats call a narrative procedure; you will see it on your standards lists! :)]

First, take down fairy lights and other things on the walls--DONE

Second, move furniture away from walls--DONE!

Tape the edges of the frames (god, that's going to take forever)--DONE!!!!!

Fill and sand nail holes--DONE!

As well as look for and sand any random rough/sticky-out bits.--DONE!
Be sure to wash the walls-they're dusty!--DONE!

Before opening the paint, put down drop cloths--Easy done

Carefully and tediously cut in edges of all frames (also going to take forever)(but I'm really good at it)--DONE!

Finally, paint inside frames with rollers!--ALL DONE!! WOO!!

Stand back, tilt my head, think about whether I should use another color for trim

And of course, take pictures at every stage. Naturally.
Wish me luck, folks. I'll try to update as I progress through my long list.

It is 4.42 in the morning!

It's been over a week now since my return to the States. I figured I would be jetlagged, but this is ridiculous. Every other night I crash for twelve to fourteen hours, and the in-between nights I can't sleep.

Last night I tried to go to bed at 12.30, but got up at 1.15. Back to bed at 3, brain started thinking about school, probably drifted off close to five. Alarm at 9.45 to move the car.

I did not go back to bed after this, thinking that missing out on sleep like that would tucker me out for the next night.

But I easily stayed up until three this morning, polishing off TWO chick-lit novels. After a shower and some flickr, I'm feeling more tired, but not sleepy.

Oh, and also? Four or five days before leaving Australia, my lower left eyelid developed a twitch. It got worse as our departure date came closer, and it was especially bad on the plane day home, but after my complete return it subsided. It flared once or maybe twice a day, and I thought it was gone. Ho, no siree. That twitch has been acting up a lot in the last day or two. And it's freaky. I can feel and also see it; it impedes my vision from the bottom up. It's like an involuntary upside down stuttering wink, sometimes for almost ten seconds at a time.

What the hell, dudes? I can't sleep and my FACE is TWITCHING. I'm a freak!

Friday, August 10, 2007

For Shame!

I saw on a random blog today that this is Blog Against Racism week.

Oh, the irony.

Now, I've only been in New York since 2004, but it didn't take me long to figure out that the Post and Daily News were disgustingly sensationalistic excuses for newspapers. But apparently I underestimated them--the Post is also openly racist. Not surprised? Yeah, me neither. Still disgusted? Yep, me too.

I'm not the most informed of citizens (too much of the news is sensationalized, silly [Lohan and Hilton escapades?], or too upsetting [our President?]), and I'm not the most articulate writer, so I apologize for my bumbling efforts, but even I can't ignore this.

The Post has published two very racist, name-calling articles about the woman trying to open the Khalil Gibran school in Brooklyn.

"Almontaser, a community activist and Muslim, has said the new grade 6-12 public school will be modeled on other dual-language city schools and have no religious component."

"Intifada is a war. Isn't that what Arafat had?" said Pamela Hall, a Manhattan mom opposed to the academy on the grounds that it violates separation of church and state."

So many things wrong in just these two sentences. First, calling her a community activist but then basically qualifying it by referencing her religion and cultural background? This reporter has taken an innocent direct quote from Almontaser, but by invoking Muslim as basically a racial epithet, implies that she cannot be trusted and is wrong or lying.

For who is a better judge and expert on Middle East troubles than narrow-minded Manhattan moms who clearly can't read?

So naturally, the next step is to actually call the educator and activist the 'Intifada Principal.' Read on into the article, and the controversial t-shirts,

"were being sold by an Arab activist group headquartered in the same storefront as a Yemeni-American association that Almontaser heads."

So what exactly did she do to 'earn' this slur? Merely be of Middle-Eastern descent and work NEAR another Middle-Eastern group. Propinquity now determines guilt?

An established educator has been working for years to get this school going, a school that would TEACH future generations about different and foreign cultures and ways of thinking (has that reporter ever even read any Khalil Gibran? Read before you throw stones, please), which, one hopes, would help those future generations to be more accepting and open-minded; instead, the racism she's trying to overcome is thrown right back in her face.

I am literally trembling with anger and disgust. These stories make me sick to my stomach.

SHAME on you, NYPost. SHAME on you, anyone who fell for this racist claptrap.

Something needs to be done about this all-too-pervasive attitude, in New York City and in the United States in general. You know what's 'revolting,' Post? Your small-minded tabloid attitude and its 'tenuous' grasp of ethics and cultural acceptance. Shame on you.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

That was easy

Yesterday I was very productive, so I was worried about today. What would I do to keep myself busy and entertained?

Silly me!

I slept for fourteen hours for the second time this week, so basically, my day was over when I woke up! Awesome!

Yesterday, besides finishing Harry Potter, I did laundry, got my eyebrows done (phew! so much better!), worked out, procured some groceries, and of course, uploaded photos. I felt really good about Getting Things Done, especially as it was So Bloody Humid.

During the night (erm, I mean, during the day, apparently), while asleep, I could feel the difference in the weather--still hot but not sticky and humid anymore, thank god. I had thoughts about going for a walk in the evening sun, but obviously that didn't happen; it's dark now.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

The Last

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows was released July 21st, while I was in Australia. So my first glimpse of the book happened in the Brisbane airport on the 22nd, and I was excited--finally! it's here!--but also sad and disappointed--I didn't want to buy it right away. They were charging AUD$45 and it was a heavy hardcover, so I told myself I just had to wait.

The night I got back to the US, Boyfriend lent me his copy. With the return errands and sleeping, I began reading it Monday night and finished it this afternoon.

Oh. My. Goodness.

On Tuesday, I read until the twenty-first chapter, and holy cow it was like an action film--packed with suspense so that I rather felt on the edge of my seat.

Today I picked it up again and DAMN! I had to read the entire rest of the book. There was really no choice; it was impossible to put it down. She really packed so very much into one book, and in under 800 pages!

The emotional turmoil started much earlier in this one than in five and six, but I guess that's what has to happen in the final installment. There were lots of tears and anguish (ha--from the characters and from me), but I was happy with the way everything wrapped up.


Recovery and Readjustment

Returning from a big trip is always a letdown. Sure, you get to sleep in your own bed and you don't have to live in the same three outfits anymore. Sleep cycles are disrupted, of course, but it's bigger than that.

A long time ago, I wrote in a trip journal about how it feels. It's like the normal world is one of those wooden toy boards with different shaped holes in, and each person is a peg that has to fit in their own slot in the board. When you go on a big trip, you do all these new things, you see who you are without the creature comforts of everyday unchallenging life. You grow new bits and pieces, you expand and feel an awakening of the possibilities.

Upon your return, the hammer of life tries to force your now-explanded shape back into your slot. It's uncomfortable, because you've got new things about you that the normal world doesn't care about, wants to eliminate, wants to get you back, complacent with dullness. And eventually, you can't resist and succumb; sliding back into your place.

You never get back to complete normal, though; the scars of your experiences remain as a testament to the new growth that you sought. Sometimes those scars fade until you barely remember them; other times they scab and bleed and they're all you think about. Or they seem to have healed, but flare up and remind you--hey! over here! look what you've done! look what you're capable of! normal life doesn't have to be the end-all be-all!

It's disappointing because other people can never really understand the change that you go through. Too many people never travel; worse, too many people never *want* to go anywhere. And let alone going anywhere alone! If you are lucky enough to go somewhere with other people, you'll share that bond, that brotherhood, forever. You got to see and grow and wonder together, and you'll all understand the difficulty of returning home after an amazing new experience. Most of all, those fellow travelers understand the pull of wanderlust.

You have changed, but when you get home, nothing has changed. Your room is still messy and the city is still dingy. You still have to do the shopping and the dishes and go to bed at a reasonable time. You still have to make small talk and condense your adventure into twenty interesting, yet nonthreatening, words. The alarm in the morning doesn't signal the start of another adventure; it signals Just Another Regular Day. Not something to be looked forward to, not something to document with photos and an internal narrative, not something that holds the potential of New and Different and Exciting.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Ha! Awesome!

I stayed up until 2.30 last night/this morning, fiddling around on the computer and watching tv. I was fairly sleepy before that; I was just being a lazy stubborn night owl. So with the jet lag and stuff, I figured I might sleep until ten or maybe twelve.

I forced open my eyes after a nice sleep, and checked out the time. I did a double-take squint--it said 4.45pm!

Fourteen hours on my first night back. Wow. I feel a bit swollen and achy, especially in my hands and back. And my throat hurts (but that's been there for awhile already. Also a little restless and lost, as the day is fairly much over by now and I haven't done anything on my prioritous list.

Just now the photos have finally finished uploading, and the final tally is...da da dum...2,033!

Sunday, August 05, 2007

The Return!

I tried to post a hello yesterday (the day before?), but it didn't work.

Right now it's half-past midnight. The longest day of my life is ending: awake at 6am on Sunday morning, boarding a plane at 11am, traveling for a full twenty-four hours, then doing the arrival business (bags, car, settling in). Going to bed after midnight, still on Sunday.

That makes a thirty-four hour day! Those of you/us who declare there needs to be more hours in a day, I found the solution--travel eastbound across the international date line!

So our Australian Adventure has come to an end. After three weeks, it's kind of a shock to come to a standstill, after moving every one or two days, living out of my silver suitcase (very proud of myself for that), seeing all new terrain every single day. Now we're back to the daily grind of humidity and preparing for the school year.

I haven't really mentioned much of what we did, but right now I have to gush about two standout places: the Outback--wide open spaces with a harse and spare beauty unlike anything I've ever seen; and the Whitsunday Islands/Great Barrier Reef--the most amazing blue water and glorious flora and fauna. I already miss them both and very much hope I get to return.

There are so many things I need to do right away, but I began with a quick mail sort, booting up my computer, tossing together laundry for tomorrow, and best of all, a shower. Ah, that felt great. Nothing like a shower in your own place after a long time away. For the last thirty minutes or so, I've been going through email and uploading photos (come on, you knew I was gonna do that straight away).

I'm hungry; I'm not sure if I've had a full proper meal today. Qantas had some meals on the plane from Brisbane to LA, but I really couldn't tell you how long ago that was. Possibly yesterday, technically.

Tomorrow I have a lot to do to catch up with normal life again: laundry of course, an eyebrow wax (holy crap! the sun down under must have spurred their growth!), opening mail, balancing my checkbook (ie, figuring out how much money I did actually spend), finish uploading photos, go food shopping (I seem to have a lot of frozen desserts, and cheese.), get the disposable camera developed (an underwater camera from the Great Barrier Reef! Those will be some hilarious self-portraits, and I hope the sea turtle picture came out), SLEEP, eat, begin catching up on recorded television, start reading Harry Potter #7 (eee!!!), and attempt to catch up on blogs and flickr.