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updates for 12.04.2011

3 new posts today

This Job is Killing Me

I haven't written in forever, and that's basically because I have no idea what time is... Between being constantly observed by one party or another, revamping my classroom so the DOE is happy(er), dealing with combining two very different curricula every week for my lesson plans, going to PD, and giving two separate assessments to all my students, I have been a little worn out. It doesn't help that I have also been giving a whole battery of other assessments to one of my students so that I can write/finish my early literacy case study paper for my grad class. Basically, a lot of the time I feel like no one else has a clue what's going on, which means that when I stumble, no one is there to catch me. From my school site, I am the only one who has been to any PD about UPK or the assessments required by the program, which means that it is hard to get support for the things I am supposed to be doing. For example, my school's curriculum has been rejected by the DOE as the basis for our UPK program, but the corporate side has done nothing to address this, and so people like my director have their hands tied slightly, making it difficult for her to address, and for me to incorporate. Basically, what it's come down to is that I write two sets of lesson plans- one for my "regular day" which is basically from 2:30-5:00pm, and one for UPK which is from 9:00-11:30am. Also, because we are short staffed and I don't have an assistant, just another lead teacher who helps me in the mornings, they actually send me to lunch at 11:00am usually, meaning that the UPK time is cut short by half an hour. This lack-of-assistant thing seriously impedes my ability to give assessments, especially since the UPK-required assessment must be given outside of the classroom to one student at a time. I love my kids, and I like a lot of the people I work with, but I'm not too sure about making it through two years at TFA. I'm not a giver-upper, in fact, I've rarely backed down from anything, but this might be what does it. TFA provides little support for me as a person, instead focusing on stressing me as a corps member. Even though my M,TLD is in my classroom pretty much at least once a week, she apparently isn't on other people's backs quite so much. Of my other friends who have her as their M,TLD, she's been to their (three) classrooms collectively fewer times than she's been to mine. When I have questions or concerns however, there is very little time for me. My dad once told me that he was incredibly proud because I've loved a lot of things in my life, but I've never really had a passion before. What I wonder is: can this passion of mine to move into the field of education policy/consulting really overcome my complete hatred for the trick that was played on me?


In which there is ephemera

Hilarious quiz answers: On spelling/vocab quizzes, students have to draw an original picture for the spelling/vocab word of their choice. One of my students chose to illustrate "ecosystem."   Therefore, he drew a square with three stick figure humans and one stick figure dog. The humans were labeled, "Ms. B, kid, kid."  The dog was labeled, "dog."  To give credit, to not give credit...  [I gave credit, it was too entertaining.] Vocal cords, where are you vocal cords?: I used to be able to sing along to the radio in the car whilst driving from place to place.  I've had to start whistling along with the all-Christmas-all-the-time station, because my voice doesn't work anymore.  Either from all of the shouting, the laryngitis, or the colds, I'm not sure which.  Someone told me that we're supposed to get our voices back by year 3.  Major bummer. Leaving on a jet plane: Today I got an email reminder from Southwest about my flight home on the evening of December 16th.  As if I were likely to forget... One reason to love appreciate tolerate praise have mild affection for TFA: Without it, I wouldn't have my TFAmily, from which one of the members came to my apartment last night, brought a bag of food, and cooked family dinner while I got to sit and watch her and provide amusing commentary.   AND she left me with left-overs.  In the words of the immortal Julie Andrews, a far better imaginary educator than I will ever be, "Somewhere in my wicked, miserable past - I must have done something good. Another reason [let's all be quietly surprised for a moment that I am admitting to two] is that through this... I'll be nice and call it a special life experience...  I have gotten to really enjoy writing again.  As much as I secretly liked doing research and writing my thesis (shh, don't tell), I thought that a year of scientific writing had beaten any affection that I had for the process out of me.  Blogging, in some ways, has brought me back.  Teaching writing to children, on the other hand... Evil plans: My children cannot follow test directions, even after I did the silly activity at the beginning of the year where the directions tell you to read the whole test first and then the last question tells you to only answer every odd number or whatever such silliness.  So on Friday, the instructions on the top of their spelling quiz will read as follows:

Directions:  Write your name at the top of this quiz.  Do not write anything else, do not answer any questions.   Sit quietly for at least 15 minutes before turning your paper in.  Once you turn your quiz in, please complete the writing prompt on the board.  In no way inform another student of the directions on this quiz.
How many F's will I give...  So many.  So many.  How mad will the children be... So mad.  So mad.  I better practice my evil laugh. Merry little thoughts: My brother sending me a new nightly email with a new internet link (to the tune of the 12 days of Christmas - this started December 1st and it is remarkably joyful)...  The last glass in the bottle of wine that TFAmily opened with dinner last night...  10 more days of teaching...  14 more days until the traditional B family McDonald's eggnog shake run...  Trader Joe's gingerbread... only 8 more quizzes left to grade (let's not talk about the rest of the grading stack right now)... peace on earth... good will to man...

Let's Catch Up

Man, it has been almost 2 months since I last sat up here to write. That's how crazy life has been for me. Teaching is all politics!! I wish I could say that what I am asked to do is teach, but I would be lying. My school district is the most dysfunctional, backwards, illogical place on this planet!! There is such a focus on the tests and making sure they see it EXACTLY how it would be BEFORE the exam, that I wonder why we bother teaching at all. Why dont we just give them the test with the answers and then have them take it again? Well, some people are already doing that, so there you have it. But let's look at a couple of issues that I am having at school. 1. Teaching the TEST: When I joined TFA, I didnt want to do it to beef up my resume. I actually joined because I believed in the cause. I still believe that education is something so beautiful, that even if you were never to get a job with a six figure income, you would still be rich because of the wealth of experiences and knowledge you have acquired through the years. Remember stories like Great Expectations? All Quiet on the Western Front? Jayne Aire, Sybil, Pride and Prejudice? OR those popular books like Judy Blume's Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing or Beverly Cleary's Beezus and Ramona? What about those Boxcar Children or Babysitters' club? The list goes on! But outside of literature, you have science with genetics, evolution and reproduction. Social Studies covers the world in which we live and all the history from the beginning of time. How can you not benefit from all of this? But my students  don’t get the half of this!! They are deprived of a true education!! But we rant about "a quality education." What a bunch of crock!! Can we honestly say that what we are teaching is preparing them for the world? Heck, it's not even preparing them for the next grade level!! Critical thinking skills? What is that? Why teach it, when you can teach the test and give them this false sense of success? Here's a question for you, where in the real world do you constantly take tests? I don’t mean evaluations or tests like passing the bar or whatever other tests we take to be certified/qualified!! I mean just TESTS!! When is the last time we really had to test like we test these kids? I'm guessing the answer is a very long time ago or NEVER!! So how does this prepare them for the real world? It doesn’t! But we swear we're giving them an education and the necessary tools to survive. 2. Teaching at this pace: I had to teach an objective that would normally take 8 days in about 3 days. Now, I believe in challenging students and pushing them to think outside the classroom, but come on!! Let's be very honest for a second. You take a group of students who can barely read, lack the foundation to properly and safely add more knowledge, and you give me 3 days to teach them something that should be taught in 8?? Let's think about that for a moment. Pause. What's wrong with this picture? If they don’t know their multiplication and division or addition and subtraction, the simple stuff, how do you expect them to grasp more complex ideas like slope, inequalities and polynomials? And we wonder why they are not mastering these objectives? HELLO!! That's like taking someone who couldn’t even run a mile and throwing them into a marathon, WITHOUT training or proper gear. How successful can that person really be? Would you be shocked if that person failed with flying colors?? I would be more shocked if they succeeded!! We teach 28 objectives in 27 weeks and expect them to get it!! Why do we need a whole 9 weeks to review for a test? Why don’t we just teach it right the first time so we don’t have to go back and re-teach?? No, that would make too much sense!! 3. Cronyism and Nepotism: our schools would be sooooo much better if it wasn’t for cronyism and nepotism.  Everybody here is either related or really good friends! Of course, I have no problem with that, but I do have a problem with people getting hired based solely on those two factors. If a person isn’t qualified to do the job, then he or she should not get the job simply because of the pre-existing relationship with the administrator. There are people who are qualified and unemployed, find them. Stop giving cousin pookie and best friend nookie the job because of your relationship with them. It baffles me how openly this is practiced. Then you want to use me to cover up your mess when it starts catching up to you? Oh no! You've made your bed, now lie in it. I will compromise my integrity for anything or anyone. Continuing on...from the tone of this note, you can see that much has been going WRONG!! In every sense of that word!! But let's talk about what has been going right. My kids, crazy as they are, and as much as would like to strangle some of them, continue to amaze me!! The saddest thing I learned this past month is that my students really don’t know much about history. I asked them about the bill of rights and they said they didn’t know it. When I asked one of them about the first amendment (cause he said he knew the bill of rights), he told me the first commandment! The good thing about this is that he knows his scriptures. That makes me happy. The bad thing about this is that he doesn’t know anything about rights and duties as a citizen; yet our mission is to "educate students to compete in the global community." What globe?? Not this globe!! They cant even compete in the American community, and you want them to go global?? I digress. They have been sooo interested in learning different things that I feel so guilty that I can only focus on math. But EVERY little opportunity I get to sneak in a life lesson or history lesson, I take FULL advantage and I am not ashamed. They lack so much!! And I'm not talking about financially. I'm talking about exposure, opportunities, basic skills, consistency in the adults in their lives, and the list goes on. But my goal is to give as much as I can with the time that I have with them. I am soooo happy that Christmas break is coming because I need to recharge and regroup; but I'm also sad because that means half a year has gone by. What have I accomplished? Sadly my friends, other than allowing my health and body to deteriorate, I don’t feel like I've accomplished much. There is small change. I see my "kids" growing some, but we have such a long way to go that I still feel much like a failure. It's one thing to fail at something that only affects you. It's completely different to fail at something that affects a whole generation. It has been such an emotional roller coaster. It still is; but I'm hanging in there. Trusting not in my own understanding or strength to carry me, but clinging on to the Almighty to guide footsteps!! I know this was long, but it has been almost 2 months since I last wrote!!


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