Sunday, May 28, 2006

Help if you can!

The other day a fellow teacher blogger posted about a lesson using AIM or IM language and translating it into standard English and back again. I was at school and couldn't link to the website where he got his idea.

Of course, now I'm at home, and can't remember the site or the blogger.

Anyone? Bueller?

Edited Sunday:
I found it! This is the post I was talking about. Mr. McNamar was the one. I printed out the 10 (!) pages from the BBC Adobe file, and now am going to go about adapting the stuff for my classes.


The Mad Dash

This is the giddy time of year. The end is in sight, the kids are absolutely nuts, and I'm crazy trying to get all my work done.

On Wednesday, more than two full weeks before the end of school, I have to report who is earning an A or A- (for our valedictorian pool) and who is earning an F. Every year I chafe at this. Most of my straight A students can be counted on to continue with the A's, but not all. I have one student who has a B. Not a B+, mind you, an 86% B. She's not going to get an A this time. And, of course, I have to be the one to cause her not to be one of the special valedictorian's that get to sit on the stage with the other honored kids.

I know, I know, she earned it, I didn't give it to her, but try telling that to her parents. It's not her fault, it's my fault, for not giving her enough time, enough make-up work, whatever.

Then there's the three students I have that are flunking. Are they for sure flunking? Well, no. Not for sure. They are are hovering at the 55% mark. Which means they are flunking now, but could conceivably pull off a D- or even a D by the end of the term. Can they pull it off by Wednesday? No.

therein lies my frustration. If I had a student with a 35%, there'd be no question, but I don't have students that are doing that badly any more. That is something that has changed.

Several years ago, when I started teaching, I had more students that flunked, and with much worse percentages. I think there has been an improvement in parental expectation (and of course our support for those kids at school). I'm available before school, after school, during lunch... we have a mandatory Homework "club" for students missing work, and any student earning a D or an F in a core subject automatically is put into a zero or seventh period tutorial class so they can get extra help with their grade.

I digress.

A friend of mine in another district tells me that students must earn at least a C or they don't graduate.

I like that idea. However, implementing it here would be next to impossible. It's got to be a group effort. I get called into Mr. Principal's office every term I have even one student who is flunking. And every time I have to explain myself, what I did to help this child, and all the measures I took. Can you imagine the pressure if all kids needed at least a C?

Teachers do have a responsibility to their students, they need to use every avenue possible to reach the child's needs.


We can't be held responsible for it all. What everyone but teachers keep ignoring is that there are other players involved. If a kid simply doesn't want to do the work, and he or she doesn't do the work, our hands are tied. If parents don't support the education of their children, if they don't even do something as simple as checking their homework each night, respond with "Well, I trust him when he says he did it already." after they've received the poor grade progress report, and that's even when I actually call and talk to a human being, when parents can't be bothered,
we, as teachers are getting the full brunt of the blame.

The state threatens to come in and take over "under performing" schools. They don't know what the hell to do, but they can't come in and "take over" underperforming parents.

I'm really glad the school year is almost over. It's time.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Loud Boy

Do you remember the Louds? The family from a Saturday Night Live skit about a family who had no volume control?

I have one of their kids in my third period class. He is absolutely the loudest student I have ever encountered (other than the autistic child who screamed all the time. But again, that was back in the days when I worked in Special Ed.).

I don't think he knows how to whisper. He's the same charmer who hit me in the head with a straw during the STAR test a few weeks ago. Disruptive isn't a strong enough word for him.

Now, he's not a bad kid. He's not mean to others (except for Beauty Queen, on which every boy in class has a crush. And in that oh-so-junior-high way of showing affection, on whom massive teasing, mockery, and general annoyance is heaped.). He knows what manners are, just chooses never to use them.

He just never. Shuts. Up.


I've told him I don't need to know every thought every moment one passes through his brain. I know for sure, every student in class doesn't need to know it.

One on one? Outside the class to have a little... um... conference about his behavior? He's all business.

"Yes. I understand." "I'm sorry Ms. Jhsteacher, I know I need to be quiet."

He gets serious and appears to be listening. Then goes back into the classroom and starts singing about how "It's getting hot in here, so take off all your clothes" at the top of his lungs.

At Unnamed Junior High School, eighth graders are not allowed to participate in the graduation ceremonies, or the after party, if they get poor citizenship marks in more than one class. A "4" is exceptional, a "3" is satisfactory, "2" means the student's behavior needs improvement, and a "1" means the kid is actually disrupting class. There is no "0" score, or Loud Boy would be earning it.

I've been warning some kids again and again; they don't have much time to get their act together if they want to improve their marks. It's not as if I'm known as an easy mark, or a pushover, but somehow, in that eighth-grader-itis way, they don't think it's going to happen to them.

Why? Why, with 5 weeks left, with that last week really fluffy fun stuff, why can't they just keep it together? The weather continues to be foggy and dull every day, so it's not as if they're wistfully staring out the windows, wishing they could be in the sunshine. Memorial day isn't even here yet.

I have to go to school now, and fill out the last "progress reports" that go home this year. Their last chance to turn things around, and their parent's last official notification (my frequent phone calls aren't always taken seriously), before the final semester grades go out in June.

Wouldn't it be fabulous if this was the year no one in any of my classes earned less than a "3" for behavior?

A girl can dream, can't she?

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

rah rah sis boom bah

I got the award today. It was a PTSA award, not anything fancy or big, but it is fun to be the center of attention for a bit. Mom and sister came to the thing, and we had a good lunch. It was a minimum day, so the students got out early, and here I am, before three in the afternoon, with free time.

Most folks have left school by now, but I still have work to do. What am I doing here then? Well, it's work I don't want to do.

I'm still slogging through the 700+ poems my students turned in, and trying to work out some lessons for The House of the Scorpion.

I took Polski's advice, and have assigned a book and work as independent study to the girl whose mother didn't want her reading The House of the Scorpion. I've given her Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry, which I've taught in the past. It's a simply written book, and I've never used it for Honor students before, but I have quite a bit of material for it, and a person would be hard pressed to find something offensive about it.

I've talked to the girl one-on-one about how to go about doing her work, and I can see she's torn between doing what her mother says, and what everyone else in the class is doing. I think she'd just like to get through to the end of the year without incident.

This will be an interesting few weeks.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Still figuring it out

First of all, thanks for the advice on my post below. I'm still trying to figure out exactly what to do, but I still have a few days.

I've won an award. I'm not supposed to know; it's a secret, but I do. It's a long story, but suffice to say that my mother got far more thrilled about it than was necessary. It's one of those awards that everyone at the school gets if they hang around long enough.

The funny thing is, I was dying to earn it the last two school years. I really thought I deserved it. This year though, I've barely even thought about it.

Maybe that's the key.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

It's finally happened

For the first time in my teaching career, a parent has called and demanded that her daughter be given another book to read.

Yesterday, Mrs. I-think-The-House-of-the-Scorpion-is-junk called, and told me just that. That the book was "junk" and worthless. I asked her if she could be more specific, since I wasn't sure just what was giving such offense.

She said she found the book full of verbal and physical abuse and that it was offensive to her. Said her 13-year-old should not be exposed to such, what did she call it? Oh yeah, "trash."

Now, I'm not sure how to deal with this. Of course I was accommodating and told her I'd give her daughter a new book. Which book that is, I haven't yet decided. This will throw quite a wrench into class plans for me; I've been planning to do a lot of Socratic seminars around this book, and use it as the basis for a persuasive essay in a few weeks.

I won't even get into the value of this book. I'm not a parent, and what this mother says goes.

For now though, I'm really stymied. How do I assign a different book, one that is appropriate, and one for which I don't have to make a whole other set of lesson plans?

Did I tell you, this is the first year I'm teaching The House of the Scorpion? So of course, everything is already new for me.

Please folks, fellow teachers, if you have any suggestions, or this has happened to you, please tell me about it. Better yet, any and all advice appreciated!