Monday, October 31, 2005

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Reflections of a Somewhat Random Nature

It has been a year since I bought my digital camera. Often, when looking through old photos, I wish I could go back in time and take digital pics. I love my camera! I absolutely cannot wait to have it on an international trip this Christmas. Paris with a digital camera! Oh, the fun I will have. AND, since my mom will be with me, I might actually have some pictures of ME on my trip! What a treat.


I have had some odd dreams lately but refrained from blogging about them. UNTIL NOW, you lucky bastards! Ha!

1) Last week or thereabouts I realized I'd forgotten about AmeriCorps, in the sense that I could still be a team leader. And that the age gap is quickly closing, so I'd have to do it soon. So I dreamed that I had a new team, but they all hated me. Harrumph.

The AmeriCorps thing...I really wanted to do that again. But I wonder if I just want to relive my old glory? I'm scared and sad to have to close a chapter in my life where it could still be possible to drop my life as I know it and dedicate my time to once again helping others, hands-on.

If I finished out this year and successfully got my master's, in theory I could then be a team leader starting in the fall. I would turn 27, which is still a long way from the 18-year-olds, but does still seem reasonable. What if I did a third year here in NYC? I could be a team leader at 28. After that, being a full ten years or more than some team members would just be too much.

But that would interrupt things so much...maybe I'll have to see how I feel this summer.

The teaching thing is something that I feel myself getting into. I don't necessarily want to break my streak. Professionally, it makes zero sense. Financially, it makes even less sense. But wow, I miss the freedom and the structure of NCCC. I really miss the people.

I miss my teammates. I don't hear from many of them very often. The three-year anniversary of our graduation is less than a month away.

2)I had a dream that I had another job from teaching. Something involving an office, or selling, or something traditional like that. In fact, there may have been miniature trains involved. And this day of the dream, I came in and my boss (who was my real life Mr Principal) told me that I would have to be fired (as in laid off, so it wasn't an insult or something). And I honestly didn't care, because I realized that I had teaching, and I considered that my "real" job that mattered.

Which was scary to contemplate upon waking. Does that mean that now I'm going to be a lifelong teacher? Will I stay in New York much longer than previously anticipated? Do I really love to teach? I know that I have no idea what else I could do. No other job has such a power rush every day, plus the way that one gets to decide how to spend their day. (Continuing with my pattern this year, I'm ignoring the bureaucratic minutiae.) After that, an office job (rightfully) sounds pretty lame.


Three years ago, I had one hell of an October. I spent the first half of it in Mississippi, living in a hotel, driving a rental car back and forth along the coast highway, doing damage assessment and service center work. The second half, I lived in what felt like a huge house with my entire team again, building and constructing things (and also doing stupid shit like sorting nails). We made a sidewalk! Of course, I threw my back out lifting the eighty-pound bags of concrete mix, but still, how cool. We erected and took down scaffolding, and carted it around. We installed cabinets and painted siding.

Then we had to clean the house, ten months' worth of dirt from AmeriCorps teams. It took a long time and a lot of energy that none of us really had.

But then it was my birthday. I rose in a cheerful mood, buoyed and touched by the cards and gifts from my teammates, and drove the initial leg of our trip back to Maryland. That night, my team and I went to dinner and it was the happiest birthday of my life. I felt surrounded by real friends who had become family, and we kicked ass helping communities to boot! Can't get any better than that.


This year is such a trip. I've lived at the same address for more than a year. That hasn't happened since...well, I'm not sure, actually. Before college, possibly? A long freaking time.

This afternoon I've been re-reading last fall's blog posts. Last October, I was in a perpetual state of worry, anxiety, and anger at myself and my students. I felt like I was failing them and myself. I did have to fail many of them, because they made no effort. And I thought that was my fault.

But this year? NONE of my students is failing. ONE is getting a 65. I have SCORES of 90s and 95s in my report cards. So that must mean that is my fault too, right? These kids really deserve it. Almost all of them make a wonderful effort and do their work and are just good kids.

When Mr Principal popped in with a bigwig last week, I mentioned that my kids this year are so much better than last year. Mr Principal jumped in and said that no, it was me, with my routines and expectations and stuff.

And since I'm still so new at all this, I'm really not sure which I believe. I suppose a little of both. The kids are more motivated, but I also kick some serious ass at helping to push the kids in the right direction. I *think.* Certainly all my work last year, and my desire to improve, have meant that I put in a lot of work this year to make sure I DID improve. It seems to be working. I swear to god, it is like a miracle to me.

This could be construed as arrogance, which means that I will knocked ON my ass soon, by those kids I think are so great. Someone should make a book or reality show about teachers called "The Hubris Chronicles."

One quarter has already passed this year. Wow! It was a long one, but it went so quickly. And I have such a different mindset this year.


Sadly, this week that mindset seemed to run out. I just cannot bring myself to do work at home.

Since my disastrous C grade this spring (the second one of my entire life, so it still bothers me), I have tried to push myself to be a better student. This summer I did a good job at it. This fall, until now, I have done a good job.

But there was an assignment due on Wednesday that I had thought wasn't due for another week or two, and never cared enough to look at the syllabus to check. And there was another assignment due yesterday that I honestly didn't care about enough to even start.

So now both of them are officially late. And I don't give a shit.

There's a midterm this Wednesday, and another next Wednesday. I had better start making an effort again; I don't want my good-work-til-recently to go to waste.

Happily, I found in myself the strength to realize that I just was not going to get the short stories graded right now, let alone in one weekend. So, since I've kept up very well on inputting homework and test grades, I was able to complete two classes' report cards last night. I have one more set of homework to grade, and then I can quickly complete the last set of report cards.

So at least I have something to celebrate. I should be able to get the report cards in a day early.

Which means I can start celebrating my birthday! Tuesday is the big day!

Saturday, October 29, 2005

American Reality

I totally blew the mind of my Class 1 yesterday, and it was awesome.

I finished reading Encounter to them, making sure we stopped to analyze the characters, symbolism, and foreshadowing. Then, as with the other classes, I shared excerpts from "Lies My Teacher Told Me." When I asked them where they had learned Columbus was from, they all said Spain. I, in fact, had not even thought about where he was from. I think I asked my mom about it a couple years ago and she told me Genoa, in Italy. Which is, of course, the standard line of thinking. However, there is no evidence that Columbus was Italian. There is evidence that he was Portuguese, Greek, or a Spanish Jew. There are also myths about the first voyage across the Atlantic. I read excerpts about the myth versus reality.

I showed them a chart of people who had visited the "New World," and Columbus is dead last on the list. I briefly mentioned a few groups: the Vikings, the Chinese, the Afro-Phoenicians. Then came the good part.

"So if all these people had been here, how come Columbus is the only one to get the credit? What's the difference between him and the other groups?" I asked them. They answered random, safe answers like you'd expect from schoolchildren.

"What is the difference?
He is the only white one!" I exclaimed dramatically.

Well, they exploded into surprise and shock. "Who wrote all the history about this country? The white people! And not just the white people, but the white MEN! Can you name some white men important to American history? How about white women?"

I heard one student say, "I can't think of even one!"

I continued: "How many black men have you heard about in history? How about black women?"

"Rosa Parks!" "Harriet Tubman!"

"Native American men? Does anyone know who Squanto is?" Nope, of course not. "He's the one who welcomed the 'Pilgrims.' He'd left his village, for five or ten years, and when he came back, the entire coast was deserted, because white people had already been there and spread diseases. He had no people left, so he helped the white people. A lot of them died, but they ALL would have died if he hadn't helped them survive. How many Native American women do you know?"

"Pocahontas!" of course.

"Let me tell you about her. She was *thirteen* years old, did NOT have double-D breasts, and John Smith was in his 40s!"

"Ew!" came the cry.

"Any others?" "Sacajawea?" "Who was she with?" "Lewis and Clark?"

"Oh yeah, Lewis and Clark. You know how many people were on that expedition? FORTY. [As soon as I said it, I realized that I might be wrong; according to Wikipedia, it was 33. Still.] Sacajawea saved their butts and helped them figure out where to go. Yet who gets the credit for "exploring"? The white men."

One boy raised his hand and asked, "What else have they lied about? [for example,]
Do the red stripes on the flag really mean the thirteen colonies?"

This is awesome, I thought to myself! See them questioning everything they've learned!

I replied thoughtfully, "Well, yes, the flag does have that specific meaning and symbolism. What has not been truthful is the story behind our so-called history. Why do we accept that white people "discovered" a continent where millions of people already lived? Why do we accept that white people "settled" the west, where plenty of people had been living just fine?"

The students' minds were completely blown. They were talking and exclaiming excitedly and I just LOVED it.

Unfortunately, I had to calm them down; I told them I really enjoyed having this discussion, but that we still had to do some ELA stuff. And after a minute, they really did quiet down and got to work copying the template for the four square.

I tell you, it was awesome. THAT is what teaching is all about.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Seriously, why isn't it Friday yet?

Thank you, blogger friends, for your words of support and sympathy. I'm glad I'm not alone in this glumpy, gloomy mood.

Wednesday was a regular day; that is to say, whatever. I do my thing at school, all energized and crazy, and then come down to my 'regular' persona. Wednesdays are supposed to be a fairly easy day; I have three preps in a row. On this one, though, I had a coverage of a seventh grade computer class that was moved to the cafeteria. I'm sure it could have somehow been worse, with the kids, but yuck, it was pretty hellish. I'd been used to good coverages with games and stuff. I can't stand the self-righteous and arrogant, disrespectful seventh (and eighth) graders.

At lunch, I've got a group of kind-of regulars, and they've been leveling and sorting my library. Very helpful. However, since I'm so overbooked, I still run out and make copies or drop in on the donation area. I leave them alone in my room (door open), and so far things have been fine.

Today we just about finished sorting the books into baskets based on genre. They've all been leveled and labeled with appropriate stickers. The last step is to finish the check-out log. We have pages made for most of the books, but they need to be double-checked and put into genres, then alphabetized.

This library has been a huge project that, frankly, I haven't even thought about except when the kids are there to help. And that's just as it should be, I think. There are about fifteen things more important than the library to keep at the forefront of my mind. Plus, the kids get practice SYNTHESIZING books and applying knowledge of genres. (Like that test prep reference? See, even lunch help has a purpose, if anyone asks...)

Today was another weird day, with the first three periods and two classes taking place outside my regular classroom. I must say that my students did an excellent job focusing on whatever they needed to do. We did some independent reading and played some games too. For the first time, I got to play MadLibs with one class. They were like, "Yes!" when I announced it. So I figured it would bring them down if I told them that this was good for ELA practice. Let them think they're just having fun. Ha ha. Actually, it was quite fun. I let myself giggle, as I am wont to do around MadLibs. The kids loved it.


Oh, god, here's a story. During the first class's independent reading, a boy looked at me, pointed to a word in his book, and asked me, "Miss, what does this mean?" pointing to "circumcised." I thought, oh holy shit you did NOT just ask me that. I stifled a giggle (barely) and steeled myself, reminding myself that I am a mature, educated adult. Ahem. And I said, very calmly, "It's something that Jewish parents do for their sons when they're babies. It's when they cut off the foreskin of the penis." Whew! I got through it. He and the boy next to him were horrifed, "Oh, snap!" Me, curiously: "You really haven't heard of that before?" Them, still shocked: "No!"

Ten minutes later, they're still talking about it, muttering about how someone would still pee or something. And I said, "It's not anything necessary!" I grabbed my earlobe: "If I cut off my earlobe, would it affect my hearing?" "No. Ohh, I see."

Hoo boy.


The last two classes, I read them "Encounter," and we practiced analyzing it, as well as making predictions and identifying figurative language. Sweet! The analysis really took some prodding...but it seemed like eventually it kind of sunk in. Who knows. It made for some good notes for my assessment notebook--who can do facts but not infer, or who can identify characteristics but not analyze traits.


On one of my preps, I made it up to the top floor to visit the new teacher I'm supposed to be looking out for. She's still having a tough time dealing with the eighth graders, who are being blatantly rude and disrespectful, dissing her to her face. I just shook my head and told her to keep ignoring them. I made a point of saying that the year was NOT going to be easy. And it would NOT get better right away. My year started getting a little less torturous around February, I think. But, I emphasized that that won't even happen for her if she doesn't keep implementing new things and trying stuff out. I reminded her that they're just pushing her, that they're awful and mean, and she needs to stay strong. I gave her more ideas and tips (individual classwork points, anecdotal book, monitors, jellybeans for good job list students), and she seemed kind of responsive to some of them. I don't know if I'm helping, but I feel good about talking honestly with her. I think all new teachers need that.


I filled up my gas tank yesterday for the low, low, bargain price of $2.79 a gallon. Oh, how I wish that was sarcasm.


On a personal note, I had some interesting interactions with the guys in my program class. One of them, the one who flirted and gave me rides and admitted attraction, and then a steady girlfriend, now "keeps me on" as an academic advisor. He calls me for stupid shit about class or assignments or information. Totally using me and whatever. I'm completely over him, though I wish I knew if he still wanted me. Just cause I like that validation.

The other one, I'm not sure if I've mentioned him. He's the one I really flirt with like a twelve-year-old. He's tall and a little burly, in a good way, and I find him quite teh big sexy. He's also about twenty years than I am. Which is weird when I think about it. And I make fun of him for being old, because I'm mean like that. But really, I think he's hot and he's great fun to flirt with. He keeps telling me how hot I am. We hung around for over an hour after class, chatting and flirting. He very willingly gave me a shoulder rub to help my neck crick, and gave me a lovely hug when we finally parted ways. Mmm.

Perhaps there will be more salacious details on this at an later date.

In other, similar news, CuteTeacher is definitely coming along with my other school friends to hang out for my birthday next week. THAT, Nancy, is deserving of a resounding SQUEE! :)


I am fucking exhausted.

I still have no interest in grading papers at home. And I only got a little more than half a set graded at school. Oh well.

On a happier note, I got my first official birthday card today, from my fabulous friend Stacey. Lovies and bug hugs to you!

I also got the one hundred and twenty-eight photos from Snapfish from my summer adventures. And since I bought two albums at Costco (fifteen bucks and real leather, 30 pages each!), eventually I'll be able to put something nice together to document it. I hope. At the very least, I'll print out my blog reports and paste 'em in. Heh.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

An early winter haiku

Frigid air whistles
through the cracked window, chilling
tiles, my toes, and bones


It is one week until my birthday, which seems awfully surreal.


Though this year is surely a thousand times better than this time last year, I'm not feeling it. I am decidedly melancholy and full of malaise. After yesterday's frenzy and flurry of activity, I'm rethinking my assurance to Seth that I have normalized and unswung my mood habits. Manic-melancholy, that's me. Maybe I'll have to rename the blog.

Seriously, though, shouldn't I feel better? I have a semblance of social life; I'll have been booked for three weekends in a row. Last Friday, my teacher friend NA called me for drinks; I'm meeting my old camp boss for drinks in the city this Friday; and meeting a small group of teachers, bloggers, and assorted others next weekend to celebrate my twenty-sixth year's dawning.

God, last year was horrible. It could have been a grand gala in honor of my quarter-centennial. Unfortunately, it was ... nothing. Nothing at all. Not a dinner with family. Not drinks with friends. Not the day of. Not the weekend before. Not even the weekend after. Nothing. And it was horrible.

This year is not last year.

I have a few people that I call friends. They are coming to a little gathering for me. I am really happy about that.

At my job, I am well-respected by both my colleagues and superiors. I have been chosen to be part of several schoolwide extracurricular projects...

Shouldn't I feel grateful and fulfilled?

At home, away from teacher-me, I feel...blank. I don't even know how I feel about my job, my life, New York, anything.

I just don't know.

Still only Tuesday and not Friday

Well, it's only six pm, but I've been home since three, so it feels like practically the middle of the night. And I have done nothing school related!

Grades are due on Tuesday--MY BIRTHDAY!! WHEE!!--and the only thing I really need to focus on is getting the stories graded...all ninety-five of them. Argh. Should have worked on that over the weekend, but oh well. I've kept on top of the homework and test grades, for which I'm really proud of myself. Just need to input participation and classwork grades, which I will estimate based on my observations.

Today we talked about making connections in reading, and then in writing, about writing short responses. Then we also did a kind of fun activity that I was excited about.

I told the students: "I'm going to play something for you and you need to listen. Write down any words that you know. ...It will be harder than it sounds." They were all, ok, whatever, weirdo.

Then I pressed play and out came "Comic Strip" by Serge Gainsbourg, a boppy, slightly polka-ish French song peppered with all kinds of onomatopoeia. The refrain goes, "Shebam. Pow. Plop. Whiz!" It's definitely weird but delightfully goofy. The kids' faces were priceless. Mostly along the lines of "What the fuck is this?"

Once we shared the words they noticed, I had them write down what the words had in common, what kind of words they were. I think all the classes got that they were onomatopoeia. Reviewed the definition, and then listened again to the song to find more examples.

To practice having them incorporate this new figurative language into their writing, they wrote a poem about school, using onomatopoeia. As they wrote quickly, I walked around and told a few students I'd be calling on them to read theirs aloud. They did and so the class got to hear how the onomatopoeia was used. It went well.

Ho hum. I'm bored because I hate working at home. I've been really good about grading homework during preps or quiet time during class (yes, folks, I am a world-class multi-tasker! sweet!). However, I did not get any graded today. I'm not sure why. Guess I was a bit lazy after the craziness of yesterday.

So, I have to grade that shit (poems using alliteration), and start grading the stories...

...Yeah, I think I'll keep watching tv and reading blogs.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Busy, busy bee

Damn, I'm losing my mind. All those hats are gonna implode my head or something. Sheesh.

At lunch I had three meetings. At the same time. Ended up with maybe ten minutes at each.

After school: two things at once; late for PD.

I stayed for two hours after PD; left at 5.30. Haven't done that since last fall, I think. But I got a lot done. I made three charts and completely organized my crate of test prep materials. That felt good, to clean stuff out and file others away according to skill. And I have at least ten practice tests all in a pile. Damn.

When I got home, I made two batches of cookies for good table work, and ate "dinner". I made three parent phone calls. (Annoying A HUNG UP on me! He's the one that tried to trick me last time. Straight to the cell phone, dumbass.) It was 8.00 before I could relax and be regular me again. Phew.

We keep getting more stuff to use. And I always say that resources are one of the most important things...but holy shit, I'm ridiculously bogged down with resources! Isn't that terrible? I just don't have the time or energy to go through the nearly two dozen books that are sitting impotently on top of my file cabinet. Bleh.

What *is* working well is exchanging materials--class sets of tests or practice things--with my colleagues. We know it works and we don't have to worry about time at or paper for the copy machine. Which is always a relief. Since, you know, we have other shit to do. Like TEACH.

I keep telling myself that soon, some of the things on my plate will be done and I can expend a little more energy and brainpower to all the others waiting to usurp its place.

...and did I mention that I'm going to be on a grant-writing committee for my school? So much for plate-emptying. Sigh..

Oh! I totally voted No this morning. Whee!

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Weekend Notes


Flushing Avenue is one of the worst-kept streets ever.
My directions led me on that street to the BQE, only that particular ramp was detoured. I successfully followed the detour and got onto the BQE, but then was past my exit. Frustrated and confused, I got off the freeway at Atlantic Avenue. I pulled over to the side of the road and consulted my handy Hagstrom atlas. And then I totally got myself to the volunteer site without getting lost. Hurrah! I was very proud of myself.

However, on the way back, I got off the BQE in Brooklyn. Big, colossal, stupid, moronic mistake. Metropolitan Avenue does not go all the way through; there's a huge, complicated detour in Maspeth. Ugh. Took FOREVER.

I stopped at Wendy's when I was almost home, because I felt like I deserved something a little special. Mm, butterfinger frosty.

Saturday Night:

Catherine Zeta-Jones is one hell of a performer. "Chicago" is one of the best stage shows, and the film version is also outstanding. "Cell Block Tango" is one of the best musical scenes of all time. However, I'm always disappointed that the disjointed filming doesn't let us just soak in the incredible dancing.

Anyway, I loved her opening number on Saturday Night Live. She's a fantastic singer, eh?

I laughed like a five-year-old boy *all* the way through the parody "Butt Cancer" commercial. Tee hee.

I went to bed at eleven and got up after eight. Ahhhsome.


One of my friends N and I went to Costco this afternoon. It took an hour to drive there, through stupid, traffic-ridden Astoria. I hate Astoria.

I spent way too much money, obviously, but I got a lot of stuff. For one, a snow shovel and ice scraper. Plus a huge thing of construction paper. Lots of snacks and other mostly healthy food.

We asked a lady at the store, and she told us how to get back to the Grand Central. Return travel time? Approximately twenty minutes. See? Stupid Astoria.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

We made a difference!

Ms M and I, along with about fifty other volunteers, painted yellow, light blue, and dark blue in the hallways of a downtown Brooklyn high school.

Non-painted areas:

After the painting:

When we were still about halfway through, the administrators of the school stopped us because they didn't like the color. Apparently the order got mixed up; this bright yellow was to go in one single room, and there was a lighter shade for the hallways. Oy. We painted the doorframes in that nice royal blue, and the doors a pale turquoiseish color.

What a difference, eh?

They are hoping to organize another event to finish the painting. So you know what that means: more of you can come! :)

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Oh, the injustice

Not really, but that's a fun title.

At fifth period, Class 2 asked me when the homework was due.
"Uh, tomorrow, of course," I replied in a no-shit-sherlock tone.
"But we're on a field trip tomorrow! Class 1 and Class 2!" they chorused back at me.


I wonder when I was going to find out? I have an image of me standing in the hallway third period tomorrow, tapping my foot. "What the hell? What is wrong with these irresponsible children nowadays that they're ALL so goddamn late?!"

So I will teach only one of my three classes tomorrow. And for one period of the two, I will be in a meeting. So I'm really not doing anything tomorrow. I imagine they'll give me a coverage or two. I made some copies of fun activities to bring wherever I might end up. Who the hell knows.

So with this knowledge that tomorrow is a nothing day, it makes me feel better that in my head, today was already Friday.

Oh! One of the missing Scholastic packages delivered over the summer showed up in my box this afternoon! I was thrilled. Not so thrilled that it's THREE MONTHS LATE and some asshole had either tossed it somewhere or been hiding it, and not so thrilled that there's still a third out there in the void somewhere, but at least I now have possession of the materials that I am obligated to pay for.

Please, someone explain to me, why one would sign for a package WITH A TEACHER'S NAME ON IT, and then stash it somewhere. As in, where they CAN'T GET IT. Hello?!

And I'm talking about two packages that were delivered IN THE PAST WEEK, not just this summer. I'm actually here now, and my name is ON there, and you can find my name IN THE why hide what is not actually mine, but the property of my innocent students, who are eagerly anticipating the rest of their book order?

And for that matter, what THE FUCK is wrong with the world when CLOTHING DONATIONS disappear from the sorting pile?! Seriously, folks, grow some fucking scruples.

Um, apparently I'm feeling that title, after all.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


On Monday, while eating a salad, I bit down on my fork too hard, and felt my tooth hurt. I felt around and then looked, and sure enough, a flake had chipped off my front tooth! It was tiny, but it felt really weird. Like, you know how you play with your nail when it's broken? It felt like that. It was catching on my lip.

I called the dentist. It was 4.45pm; I figured they would be closed. Not only were they open, the receptionist said, do you want to come in today? I said, sure, I'll be there at 5.00. The dentist saw me almost right away, and polished the bottom of the tooth to smooth it out. It still feels rough and funny, but I guess I have to live with that.


I can't believe I drove across the country this summer. I guess I've been thinking about that because it was an incredible freedom and adventure, and now that is completely lacking in my life.


Class sucks, and homework sucks. But now only one class actually meets physically, which means that today I came home like normal, ate, watched tv, finished my homework, and took a nap, all before making my way to campus. That's much preferable to the other way.


Saturday is New York Cares Day, and I want to recruit more people. So far no go. I feel sad.


My birthday is two weeks from yesterday! Ee! Thanks to Nancy for the Evite. :)


The next two and a half months of teaching is now gonna be all test prep. LAME!! Today we did start talking about poetry, and we analyzed Annabel Lee. They did a great job. We discussed the vocabulary--seraphs, sepulchre, kinsmen, dissever. Then we did sample test questions and they had to sit and listen to me do a think aloud. Boring!

Also, the mini-lesson and block structure is now obsolete (in my opinion). Test prep and demonstrating questions and strategies takes too much damn time. And somehow there's supposed to be group work AND conferencing too. I call bullshit. Actually, a lot of us are.


My back, since Monday, is back to just about normal. Twinges here and there, but overall, it's good. Phew!


I could not fall asleep last night! I tried going to bed at 10.30, and after tossing and turning for an hour, finally turned on the light and read for an hour. This morning I felt distinctly zombie-ish.


Coordinating things sucks. I have no time and space to get organized and delegate to people to help. One person can't do it. But now, every free period, I could, and maybe should, be four places at once.


Wednesday is now over. I suppose that's a good thing.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Mon Dieu--Trop de Chapeaux!

My computer sucks. Actually, I think it's the "new" router in the main house. Our connection SUCKS.

Anyway, I have a very full plate at the moment.
1)Book order coordinating for my three classes
2)Hurricane donation drive coordinator
3)Coordinating P@nnyH@arv@st for my school
4)Mentoring a new teacher who's not cutting it so far
5)Being a copy clerk
6)Being a graduate student
and, of course,
6)Being a teacher


I was all of these things today. In only six hours.

I know it's not that big a deal, really, and that administrators have a bajillion things going on at once. But at least they have the pay to reflect the extra duties and responsibilities.

If I can make it until Christmas (sorry, winter holiday) doing all this, then after that I can coast a little bit. For one thing, there will be no grad school for about a month. I love it when I have no school.

Our poetry unit is now not really there; we have to do all test prep, every day. We can use poems to show students how to answer test questions about them, but not a study of poetry. And we have to practice writing responses, for the test. Stupid, stupid test.

Today, after the test on homophones, we killed the words "good," "bad," and "nice." I used the worksheets that I found last year and it was so much better this time, since the students this year can consult a dictionary or thesaurus.

Tomorrow I will begin my poetry/ test prep unit with my most favoritest poem ever, "Annabel Lee." Oh, how I love it. The rhythm, the assonance, the repetition. The last stanza gives me chills every time I read it. I will talk about mood and vocabulary and point of view, and then we will do some practice test questions. If there is time, which I doubt it, I will teach alliteration.

God, I have to redo my entire plan. I had the next week and a half all planned out, and now it's out the window. Boo.

And I have two homework assignments. One is almost done, but the other is only halfway done. Bah.

PS--Something I love? The Opera browser. Whee!

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Because it's been awhile

You Belong in Rome

You're a big city girl with a small town heart

Which is why you're attracted to the romance of Rome

Strolling down picture perfect streets, cappuccino in hand

And gorgeous Italian men - could life get any better?

What City Do You Belong in? Take This Quiz :-)

I was hoping for Paris, naturally, but Rome is great too. Ah, the Eternal City. Gorgeous place. I didn't find any gorgeous Italians, but I did find a couple Aussies. That works for me!

Things I Hate

*Major League Baseball on FOX, for causing the world to not see Prison Break

*NASCAR, in general

*NASCAR on FOX and NBC, for preempting MadTV AND Saturday Night Live

*Jon Corzine

*Jon Corzine's Ad Announcer

*Doug Forrester

*Doug Forrester's Stepford Wife

*Doug Forrester's Ad Announcer

*New Jersey, in general, for overinundating us with stupid political advertisements

*People who think the perpetual flooding due to even a hint of rain in the Northeast is due to Biblical-type apocalypse; it's our (humankind's) own damn fault for over-foresting, and building ineffecient pumping/drainage systems

Friday, October 14, 2005

NY Cares Day Location: Come Join Us!!

HS 519 K The Cobble Hill School of American Studies

This school houses 968 student from 9-12 grades. Volunteers will be painting murals in the main lobby, cafeteria, and outside the building. In addition, they would like to repaint the handrails in the stairwells blue, to paint directional signs with stencils throughout the school, and possibly organize the library, depending on the order of books which they are planning on receiving next fall.

347 Baltic St, Brooklyn-Take the F or G train to Bergen St. Exit on Smith St. and Bergen St. and walk along Smith towards Wyckoff St. Turn left on Baltic St. School is on left.


All these days off is really fucking with my system. I don't know when I am anymore. Oh well, it's over now.

Today was my good busy day. I had the students proofread that awful excerpt about teachers' pay that I posted recently. All but maybe four students missed the compound words, and an alarming number missed the "where" for "were." Gah!

We went through it together, error by error. This whole exercise ended up taking the entire reading workshop. But that's totally cool.

So for writing workshop, I handed out copies of my rubric. They began by grading their own drafts according to the rubric. Next, they read their own story aloud to a partner, who listened and gave feedback. After that, they traded stories with other partners and read and graded them silently.

It seemed to work quite well. Hurrah. I hope they make a lot of improvements over the weekend. I hope that I get a whole bunch of level 4 stories on Monday.

Today, especially, I had a LOT of time during class in which I wasn't doing anything. And I keep remembering my mom's repeated words about how good teachers should really be facilitators. Not to toot my own horn that I'm an awesome teacher, obviously. But this year, I feel like I'm not teaching many new things; rather, I'm reminding, giving notes, and then setting them loose to practice. I guide them as they work, and we go through things together at the end. I guess it feels nice that my group of kids are effective self-starters, and that the discipline/routines facilitate ease as well. But it feels like I'm cheating, kinda. Like, shouldn't I be opening their eyes to new things? And teaching them new stuff? ELA is so abstract and repetitive. I'm not sure how many "new" things there are to learn in a subject like writing or reading. Especially for my high-level kids, who are actually on grade level and understand things like subject-verb agreement (even if they don't know that that's what it's called. I guess I can teach them that kind of thing).

Sure, I could have been conferencing on a day like this, but A)I forgot, and B)I figured they needed to hear/see their peers' work and critiques. If they hadn't taken my comments to heart yet, a conference might be a waste of time.

Gotta start those conferences at some point, though, I guess. Blah.

At lunch, three of my students, and a few random kids from the lunchroom helped me transport and then begin sorting the goods that have so far been donated (is that a split infinitive?) for hurricane victims. Mr Principal told me that some displaced folks are currently living in very cramped quarters in Queens, and that we will be delivering some of our donations to them on Monday. So they gotta be sorted.

And boy, there is a lot already. Mostly clothes. We got the food separated, and the shoes, during lunch.

I came back during eighth period, my only prep on Fridays. I sorted through two or three bags of clothing. One minute, I'm sitting there, going through and folding stuff, and the next minute, my left lower back has cramped and I can hardly breathe.

It hasn't stopped spasming and aching since. It's now six pm and it's getting worse. Since I don't have a heating pad, I boiled some water and poured it on a towel, then lay with the towel under my lower back. No help. Just popped some fakeAleve. I sure hope it helps, because holy shit. Walking, sitting, laying, all hurts. Boo! Waah! Oww!

Thursday, October 13, 2005

Happy Birthday, Mummy!!

One day weekend, one day week

Big thanks to Ms M, our first New York Cares joinee! Thanks! Who'll be next??

Yesterday, I gave all my students a pre-test by dictating sentences with homophones in them. Then I made them write a bunch of notes on the most confusing ones. I copied the notes from, which are short and easy to understand. Hurrah! I gave them a very stern lecture about how the days of spelling mistakes are OVER. From that day forward, they WILL use the correct homophones in their writing. NO EXCUSES. It was fun to get out all my grammar geek irritation, and I figured it would be a good intimidation/motivation for them.

My smartest class is really the smartest class; about six kids got 100% on the pre-test. Whee!

We'll see how well they paid attention, when I give a post-test next week.

There wasn't much time for the homophone activity (two classes had approximately four minutes!), but I'm going to revisit it next week, along with the synonyms activity I had originally planned for yesterday.

Today we had another day off for the Jewish holiday.

I watched some tv, but later I did work out. And took a nap. Plus I went clothes shopping and food shopping. Couldn't really afford it very well, but oh well, I kinda need it. Many of my pants are old and/or too big. (Cause my bum is so cute and tiny. sweet!) And I was at Marshall's, not Bloomie's or even Macy's.

When I got home, I finished the grading and grade-inputting. And THEN I made some parent phone calls--my first of the year! I know, I know, I should have made contact with all of them in the first few weeks of school, and I really meant to, but...meh. I just never feel like it.

My second call went like this:
Me: Hi, is Mr or Mrs O there?
Child: .... Who's this?
Me: This is Ms C from [my school].
Child:.... They're not here right now.
Me: Is this A [the student]?
Child: Yes.
Me, pleasantly: Oh, okay, well, I'll just call your mom's cell phone then, ok?
pause, shuffle
Mrs O: Hello?

Heh. Excellent teacher manipulation. But only in response to the child's manipulation. This is the kid who pulls this, "who, me?" face anytime I call him on his bullshit, things like making fun of people or not being on task. It's dumb cause he's quite smart and he should excel. But half the time he's just sitting there not doing anything productive.

Tomorrow I will be reading "Encounter" by Jane Yolen and then the students will review their stories and their peers' stories, according to the rubric that I will be grading the final drafts, when they're due on Monday.

Ho hum.

Last weekend, when I was so bored and broke, I again broke out my Popular Season One DVDs and watched two whole discs' worth. And if you never watched the show when it was on, around 1999-2000, at least rent it. It's brilliantly ironic, sarcastic, and just hilarious. I maintain that Mary Cherry is one of television's best and most memorable characters of all time. I love Mary Cherry, especially her weird, fake Southern accent.

Mary Cherry: [after being shown a cheer routine] Do we have to do those splits? I'm a Christian.

Guess what else? One entire episode revolves around a featured guest star: none other than the uber-hot Wentworth Miller. Only instead of middle-distance staring, and plotting and planning, he's a new student cheerleader with a slight flair. Brilliant. And hot.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Ok, the word is officially out!

I set up the New York Cares volunteer team. Please join!! It's Saturday, October 22, 2005.

Go to, click on the link for New York Cares Day. Click on "Join a Team." Select "Teachers in NYC." Make a donation, IF you want (and that goes for all of you), ten bucks maybe.

Come volunteer! It will be fun!

Monday, October 10, 2005

I Stand Corrected

Thanks for the suggestions!

Movies, sadly, have been banned for their exorbitant price, but I will remember to queue up Wallace and Gromit when it's out on DVD. And a little paintin' might be just what the doctor I'll have to look up and contact those organizations.

*And* I had a fun lunch with Miss Nancy!

Oh, who's up for New York Cares Day on October 22? I would love to get a teacher team together. What do you say, folks? The event focuses on 'beautifying' NYC schools. That's definitely a cause I'll support!

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Blah, Part II

So far this weekend, I have only left the house to go to school on Saturday morning, for an extra-help/tutoring gig. Hurrah for extra cash opportunities, goodness knows I need it.

The rain that lasted all day got to me, and the house too. There were two drips from the ceiling near the central light fixture. I've never lived in a leaky house before. I suppose it comes with the territory of living in a century-old building.

I'm bored and snacky and terribly broke.

Next week we'll finish up our short-story unit. Tuesday, the class will do some activities with my new resources from DonorsChoose. Will also do some compare/contrast about Columbus, after I read the picture book Encounter. Wednesday, we'll work on finding synonyms and adjectives to make stories more interesting and intriguing. (Oh, and I absolutely made sure to emphasize never starting with "Hi my name is/My story is going to be about"... god, that makes my teeth itch!) Friday, there will be two periods of revision and peer review. They will type their final drafts next weekend and Monday will be a publishing party/author's chair.

I need to do some four-square stuff, probably for a couple days, before starting our next unit on poetry. After the tutoring was over yesterday, I organized my poetry resources from last year. I have a ton of stuff. I figure that I'll confer with my colleagues to get their input on what kinds of things we should cover and what kind of end product we'll have the kids do. It's only gonna be three weeks or so, not exactly a full unit. Not like you need six to eight weeks for poetry, though.

And of course, gotta fit in some test prep too.

Again with the blah. I wish I could think of something to do. I wish I had some kind of involvement with people or organizations outside of school. New York Cares doesn't even have anything for tomorrow. Boo.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

For your listening pleasure:

Haley Bonar, The Size of Planets

I have been listening to this album non-stop for two weeks. I love it and want everyone else to hear it and love it too.

Listen to tracks 2 and 3 and see how quickly you're hooked. Amazon has samples of all the tracks, but please buy at CDBaby; they are an independent online store, plus the proceeds go for hurricane relief.

Go! Listen! Buy!

Friday, October 07, 2005

Three Day Weekend!

Today was pretty fun. I tend to like Fridays this year, even though it's the day I teach six periods. Three classes, lunch, three more classes. Bam!

So we chatted about theme for reading workshop. I asked them what the stories of Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White have in common. They, of course, knew that they were all pretty girls or princesses who got rescued or saved by a prince. And we talked about character/personality, too; the females are all kind and gentle but have no discernable personality beyond that, and the men have no personality at all. So these stories have themes that women's only purpose is to just sit around until a man comes along to save her. And that it doesn't matter what the men do or say, as long as they save a woman. No so healthy.

Anyway, then I read them The Paper Bag Princess. I love that book, it's short, easy to read, and the kids seem to like it too. They wrote quickly about the themes they heard there. AND we actually had time to let them do independent reading! Haven't done that all week.

In writing, I taught them correct dialogue format. I was so loving them because they knew some of it already and picked it up very quickly. After a couple practice sentences, we played the erasable-sentence-strip game. I dictated dialogue and they, in pairs, wrote the sentences correctly. Punctuation Practice=Fun Game. Win-win situation. Sweet!

If you don't have erasable sentence strips yet, get them! They are super fun. Whee! See what a fun life teachers lead? Don't you want to be one of us? You know you do.

Thursday, October 06, 2005


I am still quite convinced that it is Monday, not Thursday. That's not to say that I won't be overjoyed when tomorrow is Friday and the start of a three-day weekend.

Today was a very busy day--bulletin board madness, paper grading, copying, all kinds of fun stuff. Tomorrow won't be much better.

We did leads today. With the help of Ms. F's lead lesson (three of us exchanged lessons during this unit--it has been so awesome), plus my own resources from last year, I had a great linked double lesson. That's a rarity, despite all the bigwig talk about connecting reading to writing. Honestly, with the restraints, time limits, etc, it's bullshit.

But today it worked. We talked about leads and how they help us decide to read something or not. I gave each table a book at random, and they evaluated the lead.

Then I gave them things NOT to do in writing a lead, followed by three techniques for writing effective leads (action, snapshot, and dialogue). They practiced 'translating' boring leads into effective ones.

See? Blah.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

New Red City: Shamelessly Stolen...

But in a good way, cause it was such a neat idea. Thanks, Ms Frizzle! :)

And a cookie for the blogger who can correctly guess what these next two are:

Monday, October 03, 2005

Pissed off

I didn't start off that way.

I got to sleep in an hour, and spend most of the school day at an orientation meeting for a thing I'm going to be coordinating this year. It was relaxing, an easy day, and it got me excited to start the project.

(Except, can I just say? I cannot STAND ice-breakers, warm-ups, motivations, or any of that childish, stupid, Piagetian (? I'm sure it's rooted in somebody's psych theory) bullshit. We are ADULTS. Just start the goddamn meeting already; no need for soft, hippie, touchy-feely introductions. GRR!)

I arrived at school in plenty of time for last period, which I'd agreed to come back and 'teach.'

Now, on Friday, I stayed after school organizing my room and getting things ready for today, for the people who would be taking over my classes. I cleared the clutter off my desk, wrote out specific directions for the day (to let the students do their daily routines of entering and collecting homework, then have the classes take the language assessment test that I haven't been able to administer yet due to time constraints.), put them in a binder, put a clear sign on the binder saying "Ms C's Sub Folder," and laid that neatly in the center of the pretty desk. Perfect, appropriate, etc, right?


I walked in to Class 1, just in time to see a ball of paper fly from one table to the next. Thus, before I could even say hello to the students, I had to fucking yell at them for misbehaving. Then they were all talky and loud, just to take the test, so I made them get up and re-enter the right way, because apparently they forgot how my classroom works.

When I walked to my desk, I immediately saw the neat pile of tests, just the way I had left them on my desk on Friday. Blank. Turn around: no homework in the bins. No worries, it's only their new drafts of stories that I need to grade for the fucking bulletin board.

Fuck. Are you kidding me?

The three subs couldn't be bothered to read the specific directions I wrote out and left in a SUB FOLDER?? I know that it's a pain to cover classes. I know that teachers only very rarely prepare anything for the class, and that when I go in, I bring something to do.

But hello?! It was ON THE DESK. LABELED. It was so fucking easy, too! All they had to do was READ THE DIRECTIONS, pass out the tests, and chill out while the kids completed them. If there was extra time, I said they could color some bookmarks that I've also been meaning to do for the last six weeks. I made the covering teachers' job as easy as fucking possible, and they outright IGNORED it. THREE different people!

This (obviously) really irritated me. I found it extremely rude and irresponsible. I don't understand how people can be like that.

After a boring/slightly pointless and overlong staff meeting, I came home and watched some tv. I perked up and paid attention to the news--the mayor and the UFT have agreed on a contract. It's clearly not the same one as the fact-finding report, which could be great. And we don't have to worry about a strike and the Taylor Law, which docks us two days' pay for each day struck. So that part is a relief for all of us, since we're poor.

However, here's yet another thing that pissed me off. In the press conference, the mayor insisted that "politics had nothing to do with it. We obviously wanted it done as soon as possible." They showed a couple random comments from New Yorkers, and one woman was like, "Well, that's good because we want teachers to be happy."

Holy fuck, are you kidding? Who said we're happy?

One--"As soon as possible??" Do you REALLY want to go there, Mr Mayor? It's TWO YEARS OVERDUE. Shut the fuck up. 'No politics' my ass.

Two--I'm waiting to hear about Circular 6. That's the thing that, up to now, has protected teachers from having to do lunch duty and hall patrol and other non-teacher things. The fact-finding report would have tossed that out the window.

Also, I'm very anxious to hear about the coverages thing, if they're gonna still make us do a bunch of them for free. The UFT and Edwize have not yet posted details about this new contract on the site, so I guess I'll keep looking til they're up.

Three--The raise is 15% over FOUR years. That's 3.75% per year. BUT! We have the extra ten minutes a day, plus three more DAYS to the school year. If we have to teach in goddamn July, my ass is out of here. I'm assuming the days will be teacher "training" days before Labor Day, like the report offered. (Gee, thanks.) So this is NOT a raise. This is more work. Since teachers don't do anything anyway. We're obviously not worth our salaries.

Mr. Bloomberg estimated that the contract would cost the city $350 million in fiscal year 2006 and $650 million to $750 million in subsequent years. "But remember, you are getting a lot more teaching time for it," he said.

You know what? Fuck you, too, mayor.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Dear President Bush,

CC: Mayor Bloomberg
Chancellor Klein
and all teachers not sure how to teach the concept of irony

RE: No Child Left Behind??

Posted in a forum for new teachers:

ehhheheh...sorry to bother again, but I was helping my reading and history teachers grade papers today after school (we get along reall well, they act just like my older sisters) and we where talking about how teachers where over worked and under paid...and theres something ive been pondering on the way home. why is it, that if education is so important, that teachers are so under-paid? I mean, isnt the teachers as, if not more , important than the text books and supplies?? Theres like 100 mistakes in my math book anyways.. why do we even have text books if the government dosnt even bother to make shure everythings correct??

Oh. My. Fucking. God. You must be kidding.
It sounds like a student wrote this, which is nearly as bad as if it were a teacher. WHAT THE HELL kind of teachers has this child encountered to have them lacking so many basic mechanics skills? TWENTY-ONE ERRORS.

Still sure about no one being "left behind," Mr "President"? Still sure that your test-driven "reforms" can "fix" the broken school system, Mr Mayor?

Sincerely (well, not really),

A concerned and very irritated American educator

Saturday, October 01, 2005


**One month til my birthday! Whee!

**At the end of my writing lessons about descriptive writing yesterday, I told my students that "I want to see those drafts covered in SNOT!" Reaction: "Hee hee! Ew! Hee hee!" It's fun to manipulate little minds, bwah ha ha.

**When I walked Class 3 outside at the end of the day, these two girls approached me, as if they'd been planning and plotting about it. "Miss," they began, "did you used to be in the navy?"
Barely stifling a laugh, I asked, "Why in the world do you ask?" "Well, you stand up all straight, like in the navy." I just shook my head. "You guys are weird." "So that's a no?"

**I am feeling much more human today, much less aliens-camping-out-in-my-cranium. Yay!