Thursday, March 23, 2006

"Sunflower seeds and bubblegum, it's not pretty"

Overheard yesterday morning as I passed a cluster of 7th grade boys. Sometimes I wish I had a miniature tape recorder to catch all the things I've heard.

Had to send a boy who's normally a good kid to the office yesterday; he and another boy were throwing an eraser back and forth, I told them to stop, helped another student, and the two first boys kept throwing the thing.
"I can still see you two."

"I can see you too, so?"

This from a boy with whom I've never had any trouble, who's never been rude to me.

"Excuse me? You need to get to work, not take that tone with me." (shades of my mother coming out)

"Just a minute." And he doesn't look up.


Now, I'm rather dumb-founded. I know for some of you, this might be an everyday occurrence, but I'm not used to kids just blowing me off like this. This boy is in my reading class, meaning all the kids are at least two years behind in their reading ability. It's full of knuckleheads, and I'm more strict in here than in other classes. If I wasn't, it would just be chaos.

"You know what, you need to go outside until you can act like a student." I have a timer, and set it for two minutes. All the kids know they won't be outside forever; it's a junior high style of "time-out." Sometimes it's just a way to let the kid calm down, and sometimes it's for me, so I don't start yelling at the kid.

"Okay, just a minute." He doesn't look up once, just keeps working in his book. The class has now gotten silent.

This behavior is amazing to me from this boy. He's normally a squirrelly seventh grader, he has a hard time focusing, but this tough guy act is brand new.
"Victor, you need to go out now." and I walk over to his desk. He gets up, strolls out, and under his breath, says,
"Okay, strawberry shortcake."

What the hell? I was wearing a pink sweater, is that where that came from? Is it some weird slang I don't get? What does that mean?

I have to call his mother today.

Oh joy.

Otherwise, the poetry lesson teams are going very well, for the most part. I'm out tomorrow, the day before Spring Break, so we'll see what kind of storm lets loose while I'm gone.

I may not be posting for the next week or two (what else is new?) because I'll be drinking wine, tasting cheese, and hacking up the French language on the streets of Paris!

Sunday, March 19, 2006

One more week

Spring break is in one more week. This year we have two weeks for the first time. The kids are thrilled about it, me, not so much. I'm hankering for the summertime and warm weather, and it's just been rain, rain, rain here for the last three or four weeks. I'd rather have a longer vacation in the summer, rather than this longer one now.

Except. I'm going to Paris (where I hear the weather right now is also quite dreary). I've not been since I was backpacking at 22, and this trip will be, shall we say, a bit more sophisticated. I'm going with two friends (one I've had since junior high school, the other since first grade!), and we are going to have a fabulous time. That is, as long as I and one of the friends don't get too bossy. Me? Bossy, you ask?

Yes, I am. Is it the teacher in me, or was it one of the reasons I became a teacher? All I know is that I tend to tell children in Ross to stop running around, I comment on the language of teenagers on the street, and I have to bite my lip more often than not if I see a kid mouthing off to his or her parent.

Maybe I just like good manners.

Anyway, I am still working on my poetry unit. The kids are teaching each other this year, rather than me standing in front of them and lecturing. This is cause for fright, since I don't know how good a job they will do. Our standardized testing, the STAR test, begins two weeks after we return from Spring break, and I want to have this unit done by then.

What do you think of this idea? I'm going to ask each group (there are 7-8 groups in each class, responsible for one type of poetic form such as, Elegy, Sonnet, Ballad, etc.) to contribute at least three test questions for their form. If I do this in all three classes, then I should be able to put together a pretty good test, don't you think?

Gah. It's all about time. We'll be in the library tomorrow and Tuesday, and I've got to make up their schedule for them.

I'm going to go eat breakfast.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Sunday night, not ready for tomorrow

Okay, so it's been raining like you wouldn't believe, unless of course you are in California, then of course you'd believe it, but I digress...

Because it's been raining, I've put off going into school until now, which is too late to go into school. I don't have tomorrow well-planned; let's face it, I don't have tomorrow planned.


Back in the good old days, before standards and NCLB and drilling and killing my students with tests, I could wing it once in a while. Not often mind you, but I could carry a whole day just on the seat of my pants. No longer.

See, my reading class just goes slogging through the Corrective reading book, so I don't have real planning for that. My Honors classes ( I have three of 'em), now there's another story. We had their mini-research reports last week, and we are all off schedule now. Second period still has two groups that need to present, due to absences. In addition, I've not finished going over their abysmal Theme quiz with them. Of course, the fact that it was the first scan-tron test I've ever given, and the fact that the teacher's key had two mistakes in the first ten questions, and the fact that I didn't check it until after the quiz when almost 95% of all the students got question #1 and question # 5 incorrect, contributed to their terrible scores. Anyway, I'm writing another test for them, but can't give it tomorrow because I've not reviewed it with all of the classes.

Do I sound a bit manic? I feel that way. Two weeks until Spring Break, two weeks of freedom, then two weeks until the STAR testing. Am I going to get everything they're supposed to know in by then? No, not if I'm winging it.

Okay, so my fourth period class did finish all the presentations, but need to go over the quiz too. My sixth period, now there's a great bunch of kids. They have just one presentation to do, but have finished going over the quiz.

What can I plan to bring it all together? I know the quiz will be Tuesday, so I need to get it written, but what do I do tomorrow?

Next up is poetry and poetic forms. It's going to be different from how I've usually done it.

(Thanks to nobodyknows over at reflective teacher.)

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

I'm evil I tell you, evil!

I'm at school, and I've figured out how to get to my blog. It's a terrible thing, because I will now be checking my blog and writing on my blog at school.

It is after 4pm right now, and all the little darlings have left for the day.

I lost my temper this morning with my first period class. See, we're working on a mini-research project; five students to a group. It's a way to get them ready for a real research report, what with paraphrasing, summarizing, adding in originality, and citing works used properly. Tomorrow is their "presentation" day.

Each student is required to write one paragraph, and cite at least two sources they used. We spent last Tuesday in the computer lab, last Friday in the Library, and yesterday and today they had class time to work on this. Today, one of my charmers said with frustration,
"You didn't give us enough time! It's not fair!"


So, the two-week schedule I handed out last Monday will all assignments, homework, and due dates on it wasn't enough? All the time in the computer lab, library and in class wasn't enough? You didn't see the daily agenda every day, also spelling out what you should be doing? You didn't hear me say, "Stop chatting and get to work."? Yesterday, what did you do all period?

It's not fair that one student can rile me up so. I'm worried though that I'm not preparing them properly for high school. They need to step up and take responsibility for themselves, and yet they still want to whine and blame me when I don't remind them three thousand times, or give them an engraved invitation to be quiet or sit in their seats.

I have a running joke with one student. Almost every time I ask him to do something, or even call his name, I have to say it three times before he acknowledges that I've even addressed him. I've asked him if his mother doesn't mean it unless she says something three times. He laughs, but still ignores me.

My problem is that I'm at a loss as to how to deal with this. I've told my students that I don't want to have to get angry to have them listen or take me seriously, but that sometimes it seems that's the only thing that works. What do you do when just waiting patiently for them to shush up doesn't work? When physical proximity means nothing? When the hand signal of raising my hand goes unnoticed? When I say quietly, "if you can hear me now, clap your hands once," and only two girls even try to follow my directions?

please don't tell me to get one of those long hollow sticks with beads inside, a rain stick or something, I think it's called. Too hokey, and I can just imagine one of my boys pretending to be Luke or whoever-it-is-now Skywalker with it.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Any advice?

I'm applying to help write the STAR test questions in English. I am, shall we say, less than thrilled with the test questions so far (not that I have ever even peeked at any of them, I'm just talking about the released sample questions, of course), and this is an opportunity for real teachers to become involved. Only 26 of the 62 state English standards are tested on that silly test, and of those, it's mostly reading. The writing portion of the test is not actual writing in the 8th grade, it's reading other people's writing, and finding the mistakes or the "thesis statement." The test is ridiculous.

On a side note, our district has just come out with new recommendations for English class placements, based on test scores. Here's just one: if a child scores between 350 and 365, considered "proficient" by the state (the low end of proficient, but proficient nonetheless), that student must be placed in a two-period "bridge" English class at their grade level, rather than the traditional single period that most take now. It's got all of the principals in a tizzy, and we English teachers too. There's nothing in the recommendation about student's grades or effort or anything other than their scores. In addition, English Language Learners can not be transitioned out until they score higher than a 365 on the English portion of the STAR exam.


Anyway, back to my plea. I have to get in a letter of application and... Horror of horrors... a resume. I haven't written a resume in almost 10 years, and don't even know where my last one went. I'll be doing a web search for how to do one, but I know teacher resumes don't look the same as they used to. New teachers, you probably know best what's out there.

It's first-come-first-served with this application process, so time is of the essence. I'm trying to draft something together this weekend; we'll see how far I get.

Always better to try to effect change from within, rather than complain and do nothing.