Thursday, June 22, 2006

I'm back to normal

Somewhat, anyway.

Last day with kids was Friday the 16th, and it was a scorcher. Sitting outside on hard plastic chairs in the direct sun with 500 eighth graders, Monday, working in the classroom, finishing up grades, and yesterday, Wednesday, I flew to Denver, where I am right now. Geek that I am, I'm at the National Scoring Convention for the National Writing Project. It's a lot of sitting on chairs and being inside all day, but it's a great way to see how others score papers. There's a rubric that's different from the one I use in California, and it's interesting to see where my, and other teachers' biases show up when we grade.

One of mine is the essay that starts with, "Have you ever...?" Someone, somewhere, taught them that one of the ways to "hook" readers was to open with a question. I ended up telling my students this past year to never start another essay in my class with those three words, because they've become such a junior high school essay cliche.

I have to get over that here.

However, we are done for the day, downtown is calling, and there's a quiz night some of us are going to at an Irish pub in the LoDo (lower downtown, don't I sound in the know?) area.

Geek, geek, geek. I know.

But a happy one.

Monday, June 12, 2006

The grouch

It's what I am right now. Bad, bad time of year. One more week (yes, our last day is Monday, the 19th), and then I'm sure I'll be bored within 24 hours.

It's all this hurry up and get this, that and the other thing done.

Actually had a girl looked shocked when I told her she was earning a D- for the semester.

"I am?" Tears started in her eyes.

I guess she didn't realize that when I reminded her to get in her rough drafts for her poetry assignments, I meant it. Or when I called home when aforementioned rough drafts were past the due date, that I meant she should still get them turned in. Or when the due date came and went for the final drafts, and I still hadn't seen anything from her, that her grade would suffer. Or when I reminded students that it was probably the easiest 100 points they would earn this semester, she wasn't paying attention.

What I'm so pissy about is that this is an honors student. I did call home, yet I'll be held responsible now for not notifying her parents about her crappy grade.

And, last week, this was the mother that wrote her darling daughter a note asking that she be excused from the House of the Scorpion final, being that she was behind in her reading, and that she had had to attend her sister's band concert the night before.

Crabby, cranky, grouchy, and generally unpleasant to be around right now am I.

I'll get back to you when school's out next week.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

What do you think?

Every year, I hear a student teacher, or first year teacher, talk about "copyrighting" a lesson plans or unit. I'm thinking about it now as I procrastinate (not getting my papers graded) in this unbelievable heat.

For me, I have been saved many times by other teachers "lending" or "sharing" their work with me. The Internet particularly has been a boon those times I needed help writing a test for a novel I'm teaching, or when I've been fresh out of ideas for teaching prepositions. As a new teacher, I remember the struggle I went through, creating almost everything from scratch. It was fun, sort of. I mean, I love the creation part of teaching, but it is exhausting.

If someone has a fabulous idea, and I know about it, it's much easier for me to see their plans, than have to try and recreate it all on my own. I've gone down that road. A teacher at our school taught Socratic Seminar. She learned about it from a presentation at the CATE conference a few years ago (California Association of Teachers of English). She talked about it in our department meeting, said it was really a great thing to do in the classroom, and yet would not give up her notes or worksheets or any other paperwork. I bugged her about it for a year, not realizing she wasn't going to help me out. I figured she was just busy and didn't have time to go looking for things for me.

Finally, I did a bit of research myself, mostly on line, and just jumped in with my classes. It was a rough start, but we figured it out rather quickly. Now they are a permanent fixture in my classroom.

This could have been so much easier if Ms. I-will-deign-to-give-you-my-attention had just shared what she had learned with me.

Another situation. I teach eighth grade. Poetry forms are a specific eighth grade standard in California. Memorizing a poem or speech is another one. I've always been known as a poetry lover at my school, and I always have a great time during that unit. I've poured myself into it.

Well, a seventh grade teacher at our school loves poetry too. Her seventh grade students quite often end up being my eighth grade students. Since she loves poetry, even though it's not specifically in the seventh grade standards, she teaches a rather large unit in it as well.

So far so good. But.

What she has done again and again, is teach almost the exact same poetic types, along with the same examples, and the same "poetry coffee shop" recitation that I've done (did I mention that she was a pre-professional in my classroom several years ago?).

I've tried talking to her; it's not like there are only 20 poems out there, but she puts me off every time. "You know, Ms. JHSTeacher, it's okay for students to do something more than once."

I know that, but does she have to do almost the same unit as I do? Every year, I keep throwing out poetic forms, because I know she's already taught the students, using almost the same lessons as I do. I no longer teach Ode, or Random Autobiography, or color sensory (one in which a color represents all five senses) because of her lessons.

This year, I was helping out a seventh grade student in my tutorial class. She has this teacher. As I was looking over her shoulder, I saw on her worksheet a very familiar poem.

Wait a minute. I wrote that poem!

Was there any kind of acknowledgement that I had written it? No. Was it a poem I had written to specifically teach a type of poem? Yes. Was it one that I had asked her not to teach? Yes.

And so, confrontation again. Now, I must say, this teacher is a friend of mine on the "outside" so our confrontation is very polite.

She won't back down. Apologized for not giving me credit (which isn't my point anyway) but kept up with her party line of "well, we don't teach students how to write an essay just once, do we?"

No, but we do hopefully, use different avenues to teach it. What this teacher is not understanding is that when she uses my worksheets, my units in her class, it's new and fresh for the kids. When they get to me, they whine and moan about doing "the same thing again" and try to recycle the poetry they wrote the year before.

How do we go about differentiating between ripping off another teacher's lessons, and sharing our expertise? I know I've used things almost word-for-word I've found on-line or which other teachers have given me. I'm also quite perturbed right now about my poetry unit.

Where do you draw the line? Should there be a line? What do you think of this "copyrighting" idea? Do you share? How do you share? Have you ever felt your lesson was "ripped off" or "hijacked" by another teacher? How did you deal with it?