updates for 12.05.2011
Yup, I work in that school. The one with the low scores, with the dropout rate and the attrition and the poverty... I work on that side of town. When people get killed nearby or when there's a hit-and-run involving one of our kids, we're in the news--but you'd be unlikely to hear that we're the only high school to ever have two navy all-american team players, two years in a row, and when we come in first--FIRST-- in attendance for the district, teachers scoff and whisper that someone must be doctoring the numbers. Yup, it's a hard job. Yup, there's a lot that goes down at my school that doesn't at other schools. It takes a lot to do it every day and to keep doing it when it feels like all there is is inefficiency and apathy and frustration. ... which is why it's understandable that we need a little validation every once in a while. Maybe it's not a crime to want someone to affirm us: "wow, that must be so hard," "I don't know how you do it," "he said that to you?" But it doesn't help. There was a major fight on Friday in the classroom next door to mine. The one with all my babies from last year--the one with the long-term sub this year. Two of my girls were getting into it, two others got involved to break them up, there was a stapler involved... no administrators came... After school, I texted everyone I could think of and told them all the gory details. It came at the perfect time to help me realize how much I've made all of this about me. I'm good or bad at teaching, I deal with this or that, I feel this or that when I get home. My kids are just normal kids going to school, trying to make it in exactly the same way I did, just barely six years ago. The same way you did. Sensationalizing all of the upsetting or violent or scandalous things that happen there, both in conversations or on this blog, just makes all the stereotypes worse. And it's not the whole truth. There are so many kids who show up every day, who are respectful and kind, who do all of their work and more, who never show up in the headlines. If I could, I'd take my texts back and instead tell the whole truth. I owe the world some stories of all of the amazing kids who do the right thing. This movement lives or dies in the stories we tell.
12/4 Weekends are bleh. But Friday was an awesome day in my classroom. Not so great for the 7th grade. But, me, in my own little ELA world, didn't catch this until after school.....and don't tell, but I'm not too upset about that either. The lesson executed wonderfully. Students were engaged in the project exploration, which took most of the period, and then excited chatter prevailed once I passed out the names of the nursing home residents they would be writing to. Lastly, they each received the name of a classmate to write a letter of appreciation to over the weekend. I'll get those tomorrow, and hopefully they'll be of sincere quality. . Because we had two teachers out, we decided at the end of the day just to stay with our last period. This meant I had them for 2 hours, which was a little scary, but you know what......it allowed me to slow down, something which I rarely do in my classroom. I video-taped myself last week...using my super-cool IPad, and there were parts where I said stuff so quickly that I had trouble understanding what I said. Now I get what my students mean when they say they wish I would slow down a little. Anyways, 7th period, going a normal pace, taking the time to really walk through every activity....took an hour and a half. Lol....it sounds about right that I try to pack an hour and a half of stuff into 55 minutes. Anyways, after school I was feeling totally zen and excited about these next two weeks. I was determined to get my copies completed for Monday, something that helps peace of mind so much. One of the teachers who had been out wandered in, and I found out we had had 3 incidents during the day. Apparently her substitute hadn't spoken English. Great. During lunch, one student stabbed another in the eye with a fork.....b/c that student had thrown the fork at him first. Another student left his class b/c of "girl issues"....wandered into an 8th grade classroom and sat there for about 10 minutes until the teacher noticed him. (You're probably like, how does that happen? But trust me, it has happened to all of us.) Lastly, our student who has shown major growth decided NOT to take his medicine, and he got into it with the sub, and eventually had to go to the admin office. Like I said, I was not upset in the least that this had all happened outside of my ELA bubble...I had a lovely day :) Tomorrow, we begin working with some editorial articles. I've spent a lot of time working on presenting on these lessons this weekend because the reading level is above that of most of my students....there were words I didn't know in the articles. Fingers crossed that the pre-planning will lead to a productive classroom....and not me having to behavior manage. Two weeks until home!!
When we came back from Thanksgiving break this week, things at school seemed totally different. Managing my students has become a lot easier and I'm enjoying them more. I don't really know what happened to change things, but I'll take it! One of my classes has even earned the privilege of choosing their own seats! My two bad classes have also improved; first period on their own, second period because two students are either getting expelled for at least 11 days. I really need to reward first period because they've made a huge turnaround. Planning has gotten a little easier, too. I have 8 teaching days left and have planned 6 of them. All that's left is this Friday and next Friday. I want to do some sort of celebration on the last day but I have to make sure I'm teaching, too. Maybe I'll do a lesson on the formation of snow or something fun like that. I'm looking forward to the next two weeks and especially to Christmas break. My plan is to get three unit plans written and four weeks of lesson plans (inquiry the week we get back and the first week for each unit). I never really know how to end these blog posts. Have a great week! PS: We got 5 new students this week!
Take 2 weeks off of work. No I don't mean to LITERALLY take off work for 2 weeks. I mean cut down your work hours outside the school day GREATLY. 2 weeks ago when I thought I had reached my breaking point I decided cut down my hours dramatically. Was I nervous I wouldn't be as well planned? Absolutely. Was I feeling guilty for putting in what seemed like even less than the minimum? Yes. Could I have been frowned upon for the lack of effort I was putting towards some things? Probably. However. 2 weeks later I can feel my second wind coming on. Because I have started seriously balancing my personal and work life I can tell my body is getting to a point where I'm going to be sprinting again. Not only that, I can tell the atmosphere of my classroom is changing. I laugh with my kids and there are moments where we can just joke around. And I also enjoy teaching them. Nothing has gotten easier, I'm just rekindling my sanity. And you need to too. Because I promise you are doing nothing for those kids when you are miserable. And it is going to be worse if you have to leave for health reasons and they are replaced by subs daily (at least what we've been dealing with in our building. Maybe your school is better about re-hires). Take care of yourself, that means if 2 weeks isn't long enough try another. Find the things that can wait and LET THEM WAIT. I feel like I'm finding myself again and my love for my kids is growing much more. Have faith. And do it.
How To Get Teens Excited About Earth Science... The week after a holiday break is always rough, but this post-Thanksgiving week was crazy! It started with a surprise visit from the Mississippi State Department at 8am Monday morning. My school is under a school improvement plan because it is labeled at-risk-failing, so we have a lot of “help” coming in to consult and evaluate the learning environment. Honestly, I appreciate the attended assistance, but I don’t like having big brother over my shoulder like that. Well, a pleasant, well-intentioned former educator came in to my homeroom class for 40 minutes. Ultimately, he told me I needed to get better control over one student because he tries to be the class clown and throws the rest of the class off. Also, they weren’t invested in the state test. TEST! TEST! TEST! I hate standardized tests. I hate being told to teach to them. But I understand where he’s coming from. Also, my first period has a high concentration of special education students who don’t take the state test, so I took the advice with a grain of salt. I still hold them to a high standard, but I obviously mention the 8th Grade science test more frequently in my other periods, since it has greater relevance. Maybe I should have highlighted the class composition but I wasn’t interested in making excuses for not being at the top of my game on Monday. My first period was great Tuesday through Friday, so I’m not losing sleep over it. I just wish we received better feedback. I asked a lot of questions because I believe if you know something works in a high-performing district, you should share. I’m not trying to reinvent the wheel. As I struggled to find time for Science Fair projects during class time, it became necessary for me to take over as head basketball coach for the end of the week when the actual head coach went down with illness. Given that our boys were 6-0, I was a little anxious about taking over the reins. I didn’t want to blow our ability to say: “All We Do Is Win!” Fortunately, the boys stepped up to get the win and I couldn’t be more proud of them. The only downside was that I bore the brunt of playing time complaints and I had to deal with some fragile feelings. I think it’s all good now, though. Coaching, teaching, mentoring, planning, testing, blahblahblahing. Bring it on, because I can handle it. To be honest, I struggled to write this post. I struggled because I’m feeling a bit ambivalent about my role within Teach For America…again. My blog so far has been fairly positive regarding my experience but I’m starting to feel like I’m sugarcoating a lot. I originally wanted to write about the question: “what good is TFA?” As I continue to scrutinize the work I’m doing here in the Delta, I’ll likely continue to withdraw around my TFA colleagues. I don’t like this dynamic, so I’ll need to speak my mind and keep working to be the change I wish to see, rather than drowning in my own thoughts…
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