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updates for 03.29.2011

7 new posts today

Have You Seen My Swagg?

For those of you who don’t know, I wear big glasses with medicine in them.  This is what my kiddos call prescription glasses—most of my babies wear fake glasses to increase their swagg (go to urban dictionary for a reference). Most of them still do not believe my glasses are prescription.   They don't understand that the same pair of glasses can increase your swagg and vision, but I wear my faux swagg glasses every single day.  My children had never seen me without them. I woke up this morning before the sun rose and put in my contacts because I am on bus duty.  I hate bus duty more than I hate educational inequity, so I decided I would wear my new Shady Deals sunglasses (thanks Double Quick) to cheer myself up.  However, when the sun finally rose, it was blocked by a wall of clouds.  My killer stunners were not necessary. Because bus duty always sucks one way or another, I was left without a need for any kind of glasses.  My face was nude.  I shaved most of my hair off in November, so I knew what kind of reaction to expect from my babies.  Today’s was a combination of when the bus moves on Extreme Home Makeover and when a parent loses a child at the mall.  My kiddos immediately freaked out like, “OHHH Mr. H doesn’t have glasses!  Have you seen him girl!?!  He looks even more like Steve from Blues Clues!”  It then quickly turned to the parent flipping over clothing racks looking for the kid on the leash that slipped out their grasp in Belk’s.  It was followed by, “Oh my gosh Mr. H.  Let me help you find your glasses!  They must have fallen off!  Can you see anything?  Do you even know who I am?!?!” Knowing that an opportunity like this would never present itself again, I quickly carpe diem’ed.  I responded with different quips like, “First Lady Obama, is that you?”  Or, “AHH!   It’s Chris Brown!  Lock your dressing rooms!”  My children also thought that without glasses my aim would be off.  I quickly dispelled this rumor with some well-targeted paper balls and Expo markers that I made them pick up.  I do not bend over to pick anything up or do any heavy lifting because a phenomenal veteran teacher taught me that’s what my students should be doing in addition to learning. That is some of the best advice I have ever received.


One step forward....

3/26/11 - Saturday! I only snoozed twice with my alarm today. I got up, paid bills, ran to Wal-mart for some last minute supplies, including a hat, picked up some Whataburger, and headed to the school. As the kids showed up, I enjoyed their reactions to the classroom. I really didn't do much. I had 9 desks in a circle  in the middle. I strung string across the room, and put a green sheet across it. I only had one (because I wasn't going to bring my actual sheets to school), and so it just hung up, kinda like a canopy. In the center, I had brown butcher paper. I went outside and got some of the wood chunks and laid those on top. When they got in, we read a "Welcome to the campfire" letter. I had a dark green shirt, tan hat, and they had to call me "Ranger ______." They had to first write a paragraph. Then, I gave them a red or orange piece of construction paper. They wrote their name on it and threw it "into the fire" to start the burn. We did some vocab. This activity didn't go as well. It was hard vocab - words like perilous, solemn, etc. They had two sentences of the words in context and they were supposed to write a synonym, antonym, and create their own sentence. It's how we're really supposed to teach vocab but I rarely do b/c it takes so long. I thought it would work with 9 students though. Meh. I should've explained it better and my sentences confused some of them. After that, we finally got to start reading "The Monkey's Paw." I had creepy music playing in the background, and before we started I had the lights turned off, flashlight in my face, and I read a synposis in my creepiest voice. The story is a little slow to start off, but we were answering text evidence and inferring questions left and right. I quickly realized the story would take the rest of the time and that the 2 other activities I had planned would need to be scrapped. It was worth it though. The BEST moment, hands-down. We stopped right when the father makes the 1st wish for "200 pounds." (b/c English writer). Suddenly, there's a crash. I had the students write a prediction. In my 1st group, two students wrote that the old man crashed because he suddenly GAINED 200 lbs. hahahaha. I had clarified during reading that pounds meant money, but they argued that he wasn't specific. I let them have it. After reading, each group completed an independent assessment of inferring questions. They had 4 questions. No one scored 100%, I had several score 75%, and most scored 50%. I was happy that no one scored below that, and I just reminded myself that this is the HARDEST objective, and we will work on it every week from now until the TAKS. With one group, I stopped them before they turned it in, and over and over I repeated - if you can't prove it, it isn't right. I think just getting that through their heads will help a lot. I hope. After, I stayed for 40 minutes or so cleaning my classroom. I hate coming into a messy room on Monday. Then, another teacher and I hit the beach, met up with lots of random TFA-ers (b/c where else would you go on a Saturday in the Valley?), laid out, walked, read, and concluded our journey at the best pizza place on the Island. Now, I'm a little red, but completely content, with leftovers soon to be in my fridge and a craving to watch the newest episode of "The Office." Life-work balance, my friends, it's awesome.


Tests, Cheating, and Healthy Skepticism

DCPS made the front page of USA Today today. Unfortunately, it was for the worst of reasons. The headline reads: "When test scores soared in D.C., were the gains real?" What follows is an in-depth report that highlights the controversy brewing around one Crosby S. Noyes Education Campus, a K-8 DCPS school. At over 4,300 words, the piece is monstrous (but worth every word); heck!, USA Today mobilized the investigative skills of a baker's dozen journalists. In a nutshell, the school saw such a sharp increase in test scores over the past few years that it earned a "blue ribbon" from Secretary Duncan. Now, it turns out, most of the classrooms at the school had abnormally high wrong-to-right erasure rates on student answer sheets. Let the crisis begin. Much has already been said about the issue (indeed, how can this have not gotten pundits on both sides of the testing aisle chiming in?). Andy Rotherham's reaction is short and sweet. He points the reader to Jay Mathews'. ***** I do have a few reax of my own (Read it for yourself here and develop your own opinions.): (1) I believe in the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. This is basic. Let's hold to this and not prejudge. (2) Yet, holding this belief should not and does not preclude a dose of "healthy skepticism." As Jay Mathews--and the reporting of the talented USA Today journalists--makes clear, we have an obligation to at least execute a thorough investigation of the issue (classroom connection: today's SAT Word of the Day was "scrutinize"--something I will definitely bring up with my students tomorrow). I'm glad it's happening. Given the abnormally high wrong-to-right erasure rate, I see a "preponderance of evidence" supporting the idea that fishy behavior took place. I'd definitely investigate. (Ancillary note: here's an example about how (1) and (2) are not contradictory. As a former bike racer, I have huge respect for Lance Armstrong and all that he has accomplished. Heck, the Lance Armstrong Foundation is one of the few charities that I donate to each year. Unfortunately, Armstrong has been the target of a wave of recent doping allegations.  In fact, the FDA is investigating him as we speak. Despite my reverence for him, I believe it is right that we investigate these claims. His achievements were so extraordinary--so unbelievable--that they deserve healthy skepticism. In other words, precisely because he has accomplished so much does he deserve extra scrutiny. That being said, I am not praying for the verdict to be guilty. Armstrong is, in many ways, my hero. But if the investigation does conclude that Armstrong doped--well, at that point he may no longer stand on a pedestal for me.) (3) It does not surprise me how "in the dark" so many members of the community were and are. It's pretty clear that all clued-in parties tried to stay as quiet as possible about the ongoing investigation. Rightly so. In our judicial system, grand jury secrecy exists in large part to ensure that "derogatory information" that is leaked does not unfairly taint the reputation of someone under investigation before s/he is indicted. We would not want Noyes to be the subject, unfairly, of intense public gut reactions. I do happen to know someone who teaches at Noyes. This person had received word that the school was under investigation, but knew little beyond that. Indeed, according to this person, the admin had "kept it all pretty quiet." Granted, this person does not teach a tested grade, so the lack of knowledge on this person's part might be slightly more understandable. Nevertheless, you would hope that at least the teachers in the building would be filled in on an investigation as momentous as the one currently underway... (4) The most worrisome, pathos-filled segment of the piece involved one Noyes parent's (Marvin Tucker) desperate attempts to reconcile the unusually high score his child earned with the reality he saw with his child at home. Mr. Tucker's daughter scored proficient in math, yet "struggled with addition and subtraction" at home, even with the help of a private tutor. I think this is pretty critical anecdotal evidence. Something must be off if a parent--one who we can reasonably assume best knows one's child--himself is in complete disbelief over "positive" test results. I would expect the natural reaction would be to celebrate the astounding progress of one's child. That he could not do this is at least a sign that something needs to be explained. But what is most troublesome about this segment is the way that parents are effectively disenfranchised. According to the article, Mr. Tucker tried, through all types of channels, to get an answer from the school about the discrepancy he saw. That Mr. Tucker enlisted the aide of others in the community and even went so far as to stage a protest outside the school board's office and still heard nothing shows how using one's voice sometimes leads to no change at all. Will he and his daughter exit? ***** This whole controversy is going to, once again, crack open the meta debate around high-stakes testing. I am happy that I no longer teach a tested subject. I felt so much pressure as a 10th grade English teacher last year. I still push myself to advance my students in as many ways as possible, but I feel I can do this naturally, without artifice. Speaking of testing...DC CAS testing starts in a week. What perfect timing, right? profile counter


Did you hear the one about Friday?

I'm sure everyone who reads this blog who has taught or currently teaches understands the concept of Friday. Friday is a day in which the smallest tic can send you as an instructor into a whirlwind of hate, a sermon of "YOU DON'T KNOW HOW HARD I WORK TO PREPARE YOUR LESSONS AND YOUR QUIZZES AND TO HELP YOUR BRAINS FLOURISH AND THIS DISRESPECT IS HOW YOU REPAY ME?!?!?!" to which your students can barely muster a reply because seriously, it's Friday, and all they did was drop their pencil. Friday is rough. Last Friday, a day on which I could not summon the strength to blog about the day's events, was noteworthy in its ridiculousness. I wrote up my smallest child, for screaming at me "MAN I WALK WHERE I WANT TO." I'm sure you can assume the predictable "well then you can walk to the office" response. This was shortly followed by my lovely little SugaMama peeing herself underneath our ramp when her 5-minute sit-out at recess was a few minutes too long. Oh dear. End the day with children screaming about stealing candy as I stand in the sun, hoping that if I stare into the sky long enough my kids will just find their way onto the busses themselves. This, of course, can't happen- not even on a Friday. Looking back on my day now on a Monday evening, my Friday wasn't so awful. I have 29 days left until we take the MCT2, and I feel...surprisingly ok about it. It'll happen, school will end, and then I'll move. Hopefully nobody else will pee themselves....


Arrived in the Delta!

Welp after a 12 hour car ride, we made it to the Delta!! I am beyond excited to be checking out the place I will be calling home for the next few years!  I have already made some discoveries 1) the south moves a lot slower than the Chicago suburbs and I must learn to sloowwwwww down!  2) I must find myself a fun accent like everyone has down here! 3) must get gas after I leave St. Louis and after Memphis because between St. Louis and Marion AR - there is nothing but flat land.. and the same between Memphis and Cleveland. We stayed over night in Marion, AR last night and then went through Memphis and made a quick stop at Graceland.  We didn't go in, but my parents wanted to check out the Harley shop that they have there in town.  We found Delta State University which was really easy to find for when I come down in June! Tomorrow I'm going to get my first taste of a Delta school!  I'm doing a few different Spanish observations while I'm down here, and very excited about it!  I think that it will make me feel a lot better about the fact that I miss my 4th graders - a lot! Beyond excited and will let ya know how it goes!


Pride and Illness

On Saturday, out of nowhere, I became violently ill. I had just finished watching the Gators lose (time for a celebration, I know) and was well on my way to my new favorite bar (as the old favorite bar closed down). I had to pull over on the side of the road! Twice! The first time my lovely roommate and her man saw me and pulled over to help a girl out...they thought I had a flat tire. Don't worry, I warned them before they got too close. I get to school this morning, still feeling ill, with the plain bagel I ate for breakfast making my stomach a very cranky camper. My students immediately noticed that I wasn't feeling well. I love my students. I have to...otherwise I'd have pulled all my hair out and run away doing my best to scream and cry all at the same time.

"You hair all up over yo' head!" - Kisses

"That hair be lookin' like a pile uh doo!" - February

"You be lookin' B-A-D BAD thi' mornin, Mi Plays." -Sugar (Get it Ms. Scott's phonics class!)

"Mi Plays, you do be lookin' bad. Ain't no lie. Now what about that pen you be tellin me about? Can I use it? "- Smiles (mind you, I told him about the pen my grandparents bought me for graduation LAST YEAR....just takes a while for things to sink in.)

This morning getting up and going to work was a close call. The real reason I came to work today? I didn't have a good sub plan. Sad, I know. The reason I am GLAD I came to work today? Our sweet little TA. He's a real darling (no, really, I love him a lot). But the little sugarpie is in SpEd and is way behind where he needs to be. He can recognize most of his numbers 1-100, but not all, to give you an idea of his math skills. Sugarpie sure does try real hard though, does the best he can every day and is getting better. He proved it today. Today, we relearned about Mean, Median, Mode, and Range (MMMR) in math. We learned about it all last week, but didn't really get it so we're going to keep working at it (hey, most frequently tested math objective, how are you?). TA, the little darling, looks at the problem (1, 4, 6, 4, 8, 11) and slowly writes the numbers down. In order. I come back a few minutes later and he has the mean written down. WHAT!? The mean?! All on your own!? He smirks. "Watch this," he says. I watch. He correctly solves for the median, mode, and range on his sheet of paper, in front of my eyes. I almost cried. I asked him if I could have a hug and he said yes, so we hugged it out for at least 30 seconds in the front of the room. I faced the wall, but not because I was tearing up at how far TA has come in the last few months. Nope, definitely not. I love these kids. Scary, isn't it? How frightening that their education is in my hands and I am part of what will push them to be a good grown up. I hope I can meet the challenge, because they sure do deserve it. Thank you, TA. For reminding me that you try hard and listen. That if we work hard enough, we will get it and other people will see how amazing we are.


mah kittehs

I have two cats - I adopted them separately in the last year - they kind of came into my life on their own.  I'm well on my way to becoming a crazy cat lady!!   They're semi-outdoor cats (in at night) and fairly independent.  My family loves them and is quite willing to take care of them while I'm gone. One of the major debates I'm having right now is whether I want to bring them with me when I move. I probably won't be home a lot, so I think I'd feel guilty for not being able to spend a lot of time with them.  And moving them across the country might be traumatic for them.  On the other hand, it might be comforting to have them with me there. What I'm wondering is: is the Delta cat-friendly?  What do all of you Delta people out there in cyberspace think?


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