Saturday, November 29, 2008

In lieu of an actual post

I've been trying to pare down my ginormous favorites links. I had eleventy billion, what with all the blogs and teacher blogs I think I will find the time to read. Some of them don't even exist as a blog anymore, and many others haven't posted for a year or more. Deleted! Even more I haven't looked at even once. Deleted! Now I'm down to a mere kajillion.
Right now I just reworked the links at right, updating and simplifying. Sorry there's so much shit over there.

In the last week or so, I have found these new teacher blogs that I really like! They are funny, honest, and share great stories. Go check them out, since I have nothing to say. (other than NO WORK THIS WEEKEND!!!! WOOO!!!)

The Smallest Twine

A Truth Universally Acknowledged

Molding Young Minds

Wednesday, November 26, 2008


A few days ago, one of my supervisors noticed how annoying the pencil thing is--a handful of kids ask for pencils every single period of the day. (At this school, students expect to get pencils and paper and teachers are expected to give them out as needed. This irritates the hell out of me every single time. No wonder charter school kids have a hard time in high school--they haven't even been 'trained' to come prepared to school every day. Anyway, end rant.)

She suggested I sharpen a bunch and keep them with me. So I did; I wrapped a dozen or so freshly pointy pencils in a rubber band and put them in the bin I use for papers.

The next morning, they had magically transformed into a rubber-banded dozen of *unsharpened* pencils.

What the freaking f*ck?!?!

Monday, November 24, 2008

Things I've Noticed

A young man wearing a cupcake hat. Not decorated with cupcakes, the hat *was* a cupcake. It was actually kind of awesome.

A car with a tiny electronic readerboard underneath the rear license plate. Way too distracting, although it would be a convenient way to tell people, "Get off my ass!"

When I leave a message for parents of my students, apparently they don't take the minute to listen to the damn message and instead call back, saying, "Yes?" when I answer. Gah!

My students don't care much for reading, or even logic. Today I read this on a historical worksheet: in response to who was the leader of the American army? "The English." GAH!!

I loathe a lot of CBS shows and most sitcoms as well. So it's a little begrudging and nerdy of me to admit that The Big Bang Theory is actually really funny. I literally laughed out loud three or four times.

Our landlord is an asshole. Le sigh.

No one noticed my glasses. I've worn the same pair for over three years and a few weeks ago, I noticed that one of the lenses was scratched. So I started wearing my old pair, which have a similar shape but are dark burgundy instead of light, clearish brown. Pretty noticeable, if you ask me. No colleagues, no flickrpeople, no one noticed. Well, ONE student asked me about it. Last Saturday I picked up my newer pair, with freshly replaced lenses. Nobody noticed that change either. Harrumph.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Sudafed is my hero.

I would like to give a bear hug to the person that invented it. It's like a miracle--I can breathe freely again!

I am totally bodily exhausted today. Last night I tried not to fall asleep at 9pm. I was actually so tired that when I went to bed, I had a hard time falling all the way asleep.I already took a sort of nap this morning, it's now 2pm, and I still feel all beat up and weak.

I have errands to run, though, so I hope I can get it together to get on the train.

I've had some emotional meetings at school this week and truly don't know what my future is at this school.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Ups and Downs

I woke up with a cold this morning.

Remember the sign that Distractions McGee made me and then carelessly lost, and how it made me sad? It was sitting on my desk this morning, all colored in. I put it right up on the board behind my desk.

Half the Debaters were throwing paper across the room at each other every time I turned away from them.

Homework completion has jumped up this week. I have been giving out worksheets with historical summary passages and questions. I also FINALLY put up a homework star chart. The sad part is that a significant number of students got questions wrong. The passages are at a 4th to 5th grade reading level.

Apparently some of the Moles are sneaky sneaky--insulting me behind my back, calling me racist, threatening me. I alerted my administration and then later on in our second class together, I wrote a sample sentence about "The esteemed Ms. _____" and when asked what esteemed meant, I said lightly, "Well, it pretty much means really awesome. And I am pretty awesome. If you disagree....too bad, sorry."

Also, when asked how they would feel about living in a dictatorship, one student responded, "Well, I'd be afraid of the water."

In the afternoon, I asked the Moles to vote on how to read their example story and they wanted to read in pairs to each other. So they did--and they DID. Even the disruptive ones!

A bunch of kids--boys and girls--want to learn to knit. I want to start a club and told a few kids, and they're asking about when it will start.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Roller Coaster

People talk about peaks and valleys, good days and bad days. But how is it possible to be in so many valleys with nary a peak in sight?

Things were going okay for a little while. And by that, I was getting through the day, though none of them have been good. I was trying to be positive and strong and strict, to reinforce the rules that the school and I have clearly set from the first day of school. Sometimes the students cooperated and I gave plenty of praise and compliments.

The last few school days have been a big fat Rift Valley. Yesterday was a plain old bad day, all told. I was bad and mean, the kids were rude, loud and obnoxious. It was awful.

And! I was surprise-taped and then had a meeting about it. I've been videotaped a couple times this year, and watching them hasn't been as torturous as I'd thought. But god, seeing my class outside of my head did not help me feel any better. I cried--not at the video, but at the feedback, because I'm so very frustrated at the entire situation.

Today was not a bad day. I wouldn't call it a good day, but there were decent bright spots during the day. The Debaters were noisy as ever, but the Moles had one good class. One disruptive kid --Distractions McGee--worked quietly and made me a really cute sign. (I was all warm fuzzy and wanted to laminate it. I gave it back to him later so he could color it for me. And then he lost it and didn't even care.) A second disruptive kid talked and called another kid names all period. I had to cover the Hedgehogs, and they were great. For my class, not so much.

Yesterday I stayed at school until eight. Today I graded nonstop (truly; not even a break to check email or stretch) for two hours, but put down my pen at five on the dot. I haven't slept through the night the last two nights and woke up with a migraine this morning.

Is the ride over yet?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Naming Ceremony

Apparently I haven't named my classes yet, and I wanted to start keeping track of how each was doing. So.

My first class is very low level and very small. They shall be the Hedgehogs, because many of them are rather prickly at times. It's been a huge struggle lately to first control them and then get them paying attention and involved to learn something. Their homework completion, classwork, and test scores are all abysmal. I need to do something different, but at this point, it's all I can do to create one set of materials for all my classes. I don't have the brainpower or creativity to make something special for this one class.

My second class has a couple very difficult students, and as a group can be awful or amazing. They shall be dubbed the Cookie Monsters. The last three days of class, they have been awesome! One kid--hm, I can call him Talky--just refuses to control himself and was making noises, talking, all kinds of disruptions. But get this--the rest of the class worked silently! Yesterday I made sure to begin class with high praise for them.

Another I see two times a day for two different subjects, has a couple very difficult students and a handful of kids that occasionally choose to be difficult. I will call them the Whack-a-Moles. The year started very difficult with them, but at one point they became my favorites, because they were controlling themselves and working hard. The tide has turned all the way back and class with them is a complete disaster. On a good note, one of the worst kids in the grade, who calls out noises, words, weird voices, extremely disruptive, had two amazing days! I showered him with stickers, positive reinforcement, and praise in class, and yesterday started class by complimenting him to the whole class. How times do change, that the usually worst kid was the one working the most in class.

The fourth class thinks they are the s#!# because they're smart. They will be the Debaters because they always have something to say. It's hard to manage them, it's even hard to like them, because many of them are blatantly rude and disruptive. The talking almost never stops, and it's awful. They don't like me either.

This week I'm asking my classes to evaluate themselves and me at the end of each class. The results were mixed in terms of honesty about their own performance and mine as well. But I am willing to take feedback, and I hope that with more opportunity, the kids will start thinking about what they do and *how* they do it (which to me matters a little more) and hopefully preventing some of the nasty, disrespectful and disruptive behaviors.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Guess What

I drive to school, even though it's only a mile. There are nine or ten stoplights in that mile, and this morning, I didn't have to stop for a single one of them. It was a Brooklyn miracle!

Also, last night I bought a plane ticket! I'm going to Guatemala for a week over Christmas! Whee!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

A bunch of interesting things I could write about

...But I'm not gonna.

Instead, I will try to articulate something that's been irritating me for awhile now. I was in my old neighborhood, had a few minutes, and decided to check out Ann Taylor Loft. In the sale section, I picked out some trousers and tops to try on.

And none of them fit! But here's the stupid thing--they were all too big!

No, I'm not complaining, exactly. But the sizing of clothes has really gotten out of hand--I'm beginning to think it's all an outright lie. See, in high school I was a size 7/8, in college a 10. When I moved to New York, within a year I was back to 8, and then a 6. A six! I hadn't fit into one of those since I was maybe in early high school. I figured that even though I hadn't lost weight or inches, I had started walking around more, and maybe that was the reason. But still, two full sizes seemed a little extreme. Anyway, so for the last four years, I've worn 6s in trousers and dresses, and sometimes small tops.

Now, my body hasn't changed that much in the last fifteen years. I'm 5'7" and a half ish, I weigh between 140-150--I'm not a tiny girl. A six sounds like it should be for tiny, tidy girls. My belly is not flat; my inner and outer thighs are not toned; my chest is not small. I've worked out exactly two times in the last three-plus months, and I've not at all been eating healthfully. And today, the size six was TOO BIG! I bought two pairs of size four trousers! What the hell?? Don't lie to me, fashion industry! A person with 38-inch hips should not wear a size FOUR!

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

I heard the news, first. I was trying to sleep when I thought there was some noise outside--cheering.

I realized something had happened, so I crept out of bed and tiptoed into the other room, crossing my fingers, hoping it would be what I wanted, but not positive...

I turned on the television, and there were the magical words: Barack Obama elected as the 44th President. I was overwhelmed with emotions: disbelief, relief, happiness, excitement. I read the words several times, and each time I had to tell myself, It's real! It finally happened! The worry is over, the decision is in, the country finally came through!

This is the first time I've ever said this, without irony or sarcasm: Go America! I'm proud of you!

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Like Christmas in November

We've been watching, waiting for months on end, eagerly anticipating. Will the day ever arrive?

It's the official eve. Votes were cast, numbers are coming in, map colors are filling in. The results go up and down. It's so early yet. I won't be staying up all night to see all the results, which means I will go to bed wondering anxiously what will occur tonight. Tomorrow morning will be the bright and shiny moment, a be-ribboned gift for us to tear into. The wait will FINALLY be over.

When I wake up, will the world be a different place? No. Will my life change? No, not really. I'm in a pretty good place, economically and socially.

But I will possibly feel good about my country, I might feel hope for the direction of my country, maybe I will publicly declare positive feelings about the future of my country.

I don't know what the news will be when I wake up. But at the very least, I'm excited about doing my part to make the future a gift for us and our children. Merry Christmas, America!

Who r u votin' 4?

I got that as an IM last night and as several questions today from students. I did not answer. To one group, I merely that I will be voting for the candidate I believe in. When they continued to pester me, I explained when an adult talks about their beliefs, it's a way of exerting influence, and it's not my (or any teacher's) job to do that.

"McCain? McCain, right? She be votin' for McCain."

"Are you for war? Europeans are for war."

"You votin' for McCain? I would vote for Obama."

I got irritated and snapped at them. Racism AND presuming they had any clue about my politics? Whoa now, hush yourself.

It would have been easier if I'd just let myself say what I wanted to the question:
Student: Who are you voting for?
Me: Your mom.


All silly matters aside, please vote! I am Pro Voting! This is the third time I've voted (...because I'm a slacker and don't know enough to vote in the non-presidential elections), and it's still exciting to be a part of democracy. Especially since, a hundred years, neither my students nor I would have been able to vote, I don't take it lightly. I hope every single person finds time to vote, no matter their opinions on who should win.

And how come my voting place never has stickers?!?! I want stickers, dammit!

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Now entering Worksheet Land!

Where children do as they're told and don't learn to think for themselves! Where note-taking is ignored! Where the students take on the burden of learning!


This past week I achieved my goal of structuring my classes more, with the help of a trusty timer. Beep beep, time's up! Didn't finish your work? Oh well, too bad, use your time more effectively next time! I have definitely seen an increase of work being done, especially in tandem with my sticker incentives that I've been using.

I have accepted the fact that at my school, it is expected that students fill out worksheets for everything. They will not or can not do notes on their own, so I have to just suck it up and keep creating more materials. The next step--that I'm not sure how to do--is differentiating the worksheets and materials for some of my low-level classes and students. Not sure how to squeeze even more work into all those hours at school; I still feel like I get nothing done in eleven plus hours. Argh.

Quiz scores this week weren't too bad. I hope the students noticed that the questions came from the daily end-of-class assessments. When I return them graded, and tell them to correct any mistakes, maybe they will actually LISTEN and STUDY with it. Durr!

On Friday, I had to tell myself, Oh crap, tomorrow's my birthday! It was a decent day; frankly, quiz day is always pretty calm. Most of this week was decent, actually. Colleagues have told me they really like my sticker incentives and think it's making a difference. I'm not totally sure yet, although I have definitely seen a marked improvement in a few students. In the afternoon, our staff discussed the importance of kindness and compliments toward the students. I definitely do that (I see so-and-so getting right to work! Great job!), but I do a lot of corrections as well. Someone talked about their experiment with counting out a handful of good things before saying anything negative, which was definitely inspirational food for thought.

My birthday was nice; it was pretty quiet. I slept in and had a little time to hang around home in the morning. In the afternoon, BF and I went into the city and took the tram to Roosevelt Island, something neither of us had done before. It was fun! Definitely a new view of the city, seeing the big avenues from above, traversing the East River, seeing the downtown bridges through the Queensboro bridge. We took a bus around the island to get an easy view of the town. Everything was painted red or yellow; it was all so clean and pleasant. I saw a white cat on a leash, drooled over pickles at a street market, and was approached by two very fat, aggressive squirrels.

In the evening, two lovely friends joined us at a nearby bar for drinks and a gorgeously delicious chocolate cake. It was low-key and just what I wanted.

This morning was lazy; I love snuggling under my covers on a chilly morning. Worked on next week's worksheets while catching up on television from last week. I'm looking forward to an even better week at school.

Roosevelt Island day trip

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Saturday, November 01, 2008

Happy Birthday to me!

I am now twenty-nine! Weird.

I've been meaning to post all week, I have plenty to say (I think), but I have pledged not to work or think about work today. Hope everyone had a safe and fun Halloween, and welcome to November!