Saturday, October 25, 2008

Posts for Thought

Mei Flower is one of my favorite teacher blogs. Her posts are always entertaining and thoughtful. Recently she articulated why education IS the issue in this election.

"I've watched all the debates, and I've decided that the one thing that will sway me is where the candidates stand on education. That makes sense to me, since everything I have is affected by the American educational system; from my finances to my employment status to my healthcare, nothing I do would be possible if it weren't for public education. So obviously I have a vested interest in the candidates' views on this important issue.
"McCain’s statement assumes that the only things standing in the way of growth in the teaching profession are exams or certification, and that is simply not the case. Other obstacles include low pay, high stress, increased duties (with no extra pay), governmental pressure, apathetic and/or combative students, unsupportive parents, and–above all–zero respect or status."

Go read that post for more details and then this post for a response and elaboration.
"It's not enough for me to stand over my students and keep them quiet and tell them to read from their textbooks; that doesn't teach them anything except that school is boring and horrible and teachers are lazy and mean. A teacher--a REAL teacher--does so much more than give lectures and worksheets and grades.

"Until politicians society as a whole realizes this, teachers will not be viewed as career professionals, but as low-achieving, unmotivated failures who have no business complaining about how "easy" they have it. And that is, with apologies to my mother, a load of old bullsh*t."

I left rambling comments on both posts. I don't feel like rehashing them here, so go read her excellent writing and take a look at my incoherent thoughts in the comments. :)

Speaking of teachers and workloads, don't you love when tests, homework, and/or projects pile up? Read this, the funniest thing I've read in a long time.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Pinch Me

Are you sitting down?
Get ready.

This morning was...good.

I'll wait while you recover from your faint.

Now, lest you think you've entered an alternate universe, rest assured that the afternoon was pretty much a mess.

BUT! The first two classes of the day--which have been giving me a lot of trouble--were GOOD.

I'm not attributing it to myself, but I will hold on to it as a tiny spark of hope. A hope-let, if you will.

I did a good job of staying calm and positive-ish, reinforcing the right decisions. For the most part, I felt good.


Yesterday I was proud of myself for an odd reason--I went home! My brain was just fried after school, so I made a few copies and then LEFT at like 4.40pm. And it wasn't even a Friday!

Later--brace yourself again--I worked out. For the first time in more than three months. I did one of the yoga-type videos, and it was harder than it should be because I'm so completely not in shape. But I felt good about finally doing something good for myself and using my evening time wisely.


Here is a snippet from a conversation at lunch today. A boy from my homeroom was pontificating to the table on why boys are smarter than girls:

"Who is the first smartest person on the earth? The first is Jesus. Right. Second is Albert Einstein, okay. Third is Mark Twain...or something. Fourth is this dude in England right now. He counts sand at the beach."

There was more, but this was so amazingly random and hilarious that I had to ask one of the kids for some paper so I could write it down. Ha!

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Ramble ramble

Today was genuinely an okay day. And that's an improvement!

Monday was pretty shitty. Too many kids are talking too much and being too disrespectful (guess all the signs about "work hard. be nice." aren't taken at all seriously), and I have too short a temper.

We didn't teach yesterday, and that always means a better day for me. (...I know.) In talking to a friend/colleague and my boss, I clarified some ideas for myself; in that I have them, not that I made any decisions.

Mainly I need to remember that I have choices: about how I react, how I think, how I speak; about working here; about teaching at all. I can take responsibility for what I do, and I can keep (trying to) urge my superiors to help reinforce the bad steps from the kids. So far that's not happening at all, even though it's been promised. I feel like they've given up on me, they don't speak to me, or try to help or anything. I stopped trying to ask because it's just been a waste of time. I'm doing what I'm supposed to do in terms of records and communications, but nothing is happening on their end.

I've been reminded about self-fulfilling prophecies, about my still-young age, about putting myself first.

I started a new incentive system today, with two rewards on the horizon (one a dated event and the other a farther-away privilege). It's my push to get myself and the good kids through the next two weeks.

Ultimately, and I haven't mentioned this here really, this job isn't healthy for me. At least not as it stands right now. For some reason I'm being really stubborn about facing this reality, because I don't want to let people down (the kids, my colleagues who'd have to cover me, my boss who wants me to stay, my boyfriend who worries if I could pay the rent). I know that these things don't matter in the long run and that my mental and physical health need to be a priority...but I'm having trouble accepting and acting on that. Plus I hate making big, important decisions.

So right now I'm giving myself a deadline--my birthday next weekend. Not that I expect things to turn around or drastically change, but since things (my management and their behavior) have been getting worse lately, I'm looking for incremental improvements.

Back to the beginning: today was okay. The behavior wasn't really better, but *I* was better, a little. I was able to stay calmer (...for the most part) and restrain the snaps. I experienced a few brief, shining, fleeting moments of silence and attention. I'm trying to hold on to those and build on them. The kids want better from me; I now have it in writing (they did a reflection this week). My planning has to get better. I'm not totally sure how to do that, or that I can do it effectively, because I'm still essentially creating my own activities for everything. I don't really think that is sustainable, especially since oh GOD there's so much material and we'll never get to it all!


Stay calm. Continue to reinforce the right things and reiterate the expectations. FOCUS.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Boredom meme

Pretty sure I've done this before. I've been around too long.

Which American accent do you have?


You're not Northern, Southern, or Western, you`re just plain -American-. Your national identity is more important than your local identity, because you don`t really have a local identity. You might be from the region in that map, which is defined by this kind of accent, but you could easily not be. Or maybe you just moved around a lot growing up.

Personality Test Results

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Sunday, October 19, 2008

I Am a Mega Blaster

The week ended fairly well--but I stress that that is only because I didn't have to teach all day. Instead, there was a field trip of sorts (source of the random title), which was way more fun than being in the classroom. We'll see if that improves some relationships next week. The day itself ended in an annoying way, with about 2 1/2 solid hours of grading. Yuck.

A dinner out in the city left me a bit lighter in the soul (and heavier in the stomach) but also a bit discombobulated--what's with all the people? having fun, out with friends, talking to grown ups? What? Always rather a shock to the system to be in crowds of strangers instead of hallways full of adolescents.

Saturday was a full, fun day spent with people from flickr. I didn't know any of them before (not even on flickr), but really enjoyed meeting them and wandering together. It took four hours to get from Madison Square Garden to Central Park, because we kept stopping to sit down, warm up, and take photos. We had a good session of jumping and cartwheeling in the park, with the always-amused passersby. (Got to give the tourists a good story to go home with!) Also, wow, I had a serious case of Camera Envy. Whew. For a bit I was almost envious of myself, because one of the kind folks lent me his 50mm lens to play with! It was freaking hard to focus the darn thing, but a few shots came out really well. I can't wait for the new 50mm lens that's coming out in December. It's f/1.4 and it will auto-focus on my camera!

I didn't get home until after 10pm, and I was totally exhausted. This morning I was sore all over--back and shoulders, abs, hip flexors, everywhere. What a wuss I am! Guess it's not good to be inactive for three months.

It's Sunday night and as per usual, I'm trying not to think about going back to school tomorrow. I have only vague plans but lalala! I won't think of it!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

ha ha...ha? or not

Joke's on me. I am the joke. Ha ha ha. Except, not so much.

I have become That Teacher. You know the one. You might have been that one your first year; I sure was. That Teacher--the one who can't control her classes. Who gripes all the time, full of negativity. Who no one wants to talk to. Whose class the kids dread. Who the kids disrespect. Who you feel bad for, but want to shut up and deal with it and go away already.

Yep, that's me.

Monday, October 13, 2008

tech misc

At the travel expo this spring, I signed up for a free subscription of Plenty Magazine, dedicated to the environment and green living. It includes tips, gifts, and technology updates. In the most recent issue, I read about some free online video games where you learn about endangered species and natural life, by becoming a threatened fish or a wolf in Yellowstone. Also, from one of their 'infographics,' I learned that under the first Bush presidency, 234 animals were added to the Endangered Species list; Clinton's added 512; our 'esteemed' current administration has added a mere 59. In another issue, I was happily surprised to read about CO2 'vacuums' being used by a handful of solid waste facilities.


The current Olde Tyme edition of the Onion cracks me the hell up. Some example headlines:
  • "M. Webster's New "Dictionary" Shall Burden Us With A TYRANNY of Words.
  • "...If is, of Corse, Plain to all Rationnel Foulk that need'd we an Ary for our Diction, the LORD GODD HIM SELF would have design'd us One."
  • "Opera Lyrics Blamed In Recent Spate of Regicides."
  • a last-page 'announcement' referencing Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure
  • "The Good-Ship Tea Ship has returned from Great-Britain with MORE TEA, thus completing her 47th voyage across the Atlantic Ocean, each time departing with No Tea and porting with Tea Aplenty, tho' We needn't more Tea and are all ready burdened with an Amount of GOD-forsaken Tea so great it is nigh Undrinkable."
  • [Please don't sue me, Onion. I love you, but you don't have links to these funny bits on your site.]


Speaking of "nigh undrinkable," some of the candidates are so ridiculous that I am seriously questioning the sanity of the American public. Somebody smarter than I linked to this New Yorker article that outlines many important facts about the Presidency, although in parts is definitely partial to one candidate. Still a must-read. (Even though, er, I haven't finished it yet. Google is indeed making us Stoopid.)


I'm using Google Reader, because who am I to avoid us all further becoming Google's bitch? It was easy to set up. You just click on Reader at the menu across the top of the page (from gmail). On the lower left, you see "Add Subscription." Simply cut and paste a blog link and voila, you are subscribed! Ms. M clued me in to folders, so you can categorize your chosen reading material (I have blogs, teacher blogs, NYC teacher blogs, funny, newsy). The list shows all the blog names and highlights a name with new posts. If you're me, those new posts will pile up faster than cars on any New York freeway at any time of day, and you will be quickly overwhelmed. I naively subscribed to mammoth-posters like gothamist, seattlest and jezebel, which pushed the new posts up to nearly 1,000. So with a moment of guilt, I unsubscribed from each of those, to make my life easier, not because I don't care about the news, cultural happenings, or strange pictures of celebrities.


I bought a Photoshop book today. Oh, the overwhelming choices! Oh, the over-inflated cost! I find it just a leeetle ironic that so many books are published about a computer processing program--but it does make sense. Some things really do need more than a soundbite or a five-minute video on youtube. (Don't think I haven't looked at those either, though.) And most of us will always have real books around--turning pages, flipping between chapters, the unique smell, being able to hold the entire thing in your hands--ebooks hold zero appeal for the many (even those as-yet unidentified) bibliophiles out there.


I am so, so sad to report that not only did I NOT find any Fiesta Nacho Cheese (spicy cheese in a can!) at Safeway during my blink-and-you'll-miss-it trip home last weekend, there were no Frosted Joe's O's to be found at the Brooklyn Trader Joe's this morning! I will freely admit to being just a little devastated. (Don't tell.)


And in other, strange, TMI news, my BF finally 'gave birth' to an Alien Forehead Baby. Aw.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Friday Night Parties

For the young and energetic, anyway.

For old fuddy-duddies like me, Fridays are for peace and quiet.

I left school at four, which was a first, and lo, it was AWESOME. I had so much time left in the day! I ran to the pharmacy, then to do laundry. The laundromat was nearly empty (where I chose to read old trashy magazines instead of the pile of 'smarter' magazines I'd brought with me), talk about big fun on Friday night. The BF and I had dinner at a tiny Mexican place we'd been with teacher blogger friends a couple years ago, before we were together, then watched tv.


On another, random note, I have finally joined the twenty-first century, with a blog reader. Ms M was shocked to learn a couple months ago that I actually click on links in my favorites to read blogs. My argument was/is that it's more personal and like a happy surprise when there are new posts. However, she was so right about it being so much easier! All the blogs right there, counted up and tallied, just waiting to be read right there in the window. That window does remove all the color--both literal and personality--from the writing, and some of the fun too. Not like it matters right now anyway, since I have so little time to read blogs (or, clearly, to write clever posts on my own stupid blog).


I've never been one to have a lot of friends, and I've not had any everyday friends at all in a really long time. I haven't made any real friends at my new school, and I haven't kept in touch with my old school buddies (the good ones moved away and the other ones, whom I really liked, I never really saw outside of school, so it's not a surprise). I'm pretty sure my colleagues don't like or respect me much...and I totally don't blame them. I don't like or respect myself much either. I am always stuck in my classroom, because there's nowhere else to go where I can comfortably sit and do work without hauling a bunch of stuff, so I just stay at my desk. No one comes in to chat, and I don't go visit people to chat. So it's possibly partly my fault also.

Anyway, I know that people have become worried about me, people that I don't see often or even people I don't know in real life. I appreciate this, which perhaps is strange. But I'm always surprised to know that someone cares, so thank you to those of you that have reached out or asked me how I'm doing. I have also been worried about me, actually. The week ended okay, sort of.

I don't have a social life. I've never been a very social person; I'm actually rather introverted and shy at heart. (I think at times I overcompensate and come off like a jackass, so I apologize to anyone that's been annoyed or offended by me--I might sound like an asshole but I swear I don't mean to or know it! I'm sorry! Be my friend please!) With the increased hours and stress at this new job, I can hardly even think about going out on the town. Like I said, I don't have work friends to hang out with, and my other city friends are much busier (and happier; why bring them down?) than I am and I don't see them much.

I know that work-life balance is important. I'd done a good job of finding that in the last three years (possibly even erred on the side of life--what a terrible thing for a teacher), though my nonwork life wasn't terribly exciting. I don't really have hobbies or activities that take me out of my apartment or even my borough. I haven't worked out in months. Exercise would probably help me feel better or something, but jeez, when am I supposed to do that? I only have two or three hours of time at home in the evenings, and I have to eat, shower, take a (stupid) picture, and try to relax and watch tv.

I would dearly love to force myself to take another photography class. Having time is a problem, not to mention energy. Someday I want to play some kind of intramural sport again, meeting up with people at a local park to play softball or ultimate frisbee or something. That won't be happening any time soon, unfortunately. For pete's sake, I should finish knitting that scarf I started back in January! It's just about done already, but I haven't even touched it in months.


Speaking of the park, we went into the city today and found a spot in Sheep Meadow to relax and do the Onion crossword puzzle. The sun felt wondrously warm. There were so many people there! Many just lounging with a friend or loved one, many tossing frisbees, baseballs, footballs, many reading and soaking in the sun. I should really take advantage of this lovely weather while it lasts and while I have this long weekend!

blah blah blah...

Thursday, October 09, 2008

hey hey now

I didn't cry today!

The end of last week and beginning of this week were really rough for me. I didn't like myself or my job one bit.

I currently owe my one measly shred of sanity to Ambien, and so far the best part is that tomorrow will be Friday.

I feel way behind on content, but my principal--so far--is totally supportive and would rather focus on real learning than on tests. Which isn't as easy as it sounds, because there are plenty of students who still haven't apparently grasped some basics. And with my management it's hard to keep the classes moving with the learning stuff. The classes themselves need a lot of work, and by that I mean me and my planning and the activities and such. Right now it's all quite boring, so I can't blame the kiddies too much for the troubles they've given me.

However, this is going to be a three day weekend--hallefreakinglujah!

Sunday, October 05, 2008

O Joyous Day

I flew home this weekend to attend a very special wedding of two of my good college friends, Brandon and Stacey.

It was wonderful, beautiful, and fun. They are both such kind, funny, good people in love. I was thrilled to be part of their day (I was a bridesmaid). Stacey looked so, so gorgeous in her gown, the ceremony was unique and lovely, and the reception was a great time. I caught up with old friends I haven't seen in a long time, I took a ton of pictures, I drank some tasty pomegranate mojitos.

I wanted to write a lot more, but it's almost bedtime. For the record, I felt happy yesterday. :)

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Ask me about my job:

and I'll cry!

I wanted to post yesterday; it was a decent day. What that means is that I was in a decent mood.

Today was the opposite. I was exhausted and I felt it in my reactions and timing and then I cried for most of my lunch break. I'm pretty sure something's wrong with me when I either cry or almost cry so often. I was never, ever like that my first year, or any other year, or at any other job.

I'm going out of town this weekend. I will leave in less than twenty-four hours and I'm totally unprepared and in denial.

It's not a good time to be me.