09 September 2009

Day 2

I am already exhausted, and achy. I'm not old, not even middle aged, but I feel my age right now. There was a time when I could lug boxes and stretch to hang banners and hop on and off chairs, and while I can still do those things, I feel it the next day. Clearly I am not 25 anymore. If I had time, I'd start going to yoga again.

Choosing not to loop with my former students might be the best decision I've made recently. I passed the classrooms of my old students, and saw one whole class already being reprimanded by the assistant principal, with a few knuckleheads already removed pending parent contact. My new students, on the other hand, were very good and while I know that we're in the honeymoon phase, I get a very different vibe that makes me feel optimistic.

And it's almost Thursday already. Despite my low-level euphoria, I can't wait for the weekend. I am worn.

08 September 2009

Day One, Post 100

This will be nothing significant, but I want to get into the habit again, of at least writing something, even if it's not worth reading. (Sorry.)

Today was pretty productive. For the first time ever I was very organized in how I put my materials and other stuff away, and it paid off. I also knew exactly how I wanted to organize everything (and even made a floorplan) so I was able to get a lot done. There is still work to be done, but the room looks great, maybe even the best I've ever done in (gulp) thirteen years. The little tweaks will come in time.

Somehow we got an A on our progress report. I told Mister that I hate to knock good results, and I hate to knock our school. But I don't think I'm impressed. I think we were helped by the fact that the people who graded our tests were asleep at the wheel. (You know, kids who can barely read getting 2s and even 3s.) We're apparently in the top 20% of the city, or something like that. But I still wouldn't send Beany here. I am looking forward to seeing how my incoming kids compare on my assessments to their state assessments.

I'm looking forward to meeting the kids, but tomorrow's going to come too quickly.

27 August 2009

Updates on Various

In brief, since Project Runway is on in 13 minutes and it's about the only show I watch anymore. (And thanks to Schoolgal for thinking of me again; I wonder if anyone's even reading anymore? I hate that I let this blog get so neglected.)

Summer: I can't believe it's almost over, but it's been wonderful. Mister, Beany and I took several short trips and packed a lot into our time spent locally as well. It's been great to not have any real pressure on us, beyond cleaning/laundry/raising a kid, all which are relatively a breeze.

Beany: She is amazing. I can't believe that she's almost two and a half already. She's not a baby any more, she's a little girl. I am happy and sad about this.

School: I think this past year may have been one of my worst ever. Usually I want to move up with my kids from sixth grade to seventh and eighth. Though I swore after '07-'08 that I would never loop from six to eight again, I thought that staying with the same kids from sixth to seventh might be nice. But not these kids. I was happy to see them go. I never had kids who were so rude, entitled, unwilling to follow rules and policies, mean to each other, unmotivated. And I have always and only worked in the South Bronx so it's not like I left the 'burbs for the city all of a sudden. In almost every other year, most of the kids were nice, put in some effort, were respectful and adhered to expectations. This year (or I guess I should say last year) I found that the diligent, nice, respectful kids were in the minority. In my homeroom, there were maybe ten kids who didn't make me want to rip out my fingernails one by one. I had one really good month and then it went downhill quickly.

Other: I told Mister that I was going to give this one more year. If things don't improve, I don't know what I will do. I think about quitting, though, and fantasizing about working in Borders where I will have a 15 minute commute and the chance to be around books all day. Of course, there's no better time to plan a career change than when the economy's in the shitter.

And that's all for now.

15 January 2009

Who says kids lack manners and grammar skills?

Alternate Title: Ewwwwwwwwww...

Dear Ms. ***** I have to tell you something private.

There was a condom on the back door nob. And you touched it. So I think you should wash you should wash your hands or do something. That is why nobody goes through the back door.


From: Girl #1 and Girl #2.

p.s. you are welcome.

17 December 2008


My new incentive system has worked well in one class and not so well in the other. I wish that I'd kept some data of the "before" and "after" (because I don't have enough data to deal with already) because this data would actually mean something to me. I do know that at least three kids who got fifty-fives in the first marking period now have averages of 75 to 80 because they have been doing all of their homework and classwork. I have fewer kids coming late; there are only a couple of holdouts. And I haven't had to give out a pen or pencil; that situation was really making me want to tear my hair out from frustration.

I am not a fan of teaching after lunch. Usually, it would take me ten minutes to get the kids quiet, at least. Then they would be so hyped up that it was hard to get anything done. Now, it's like walking into a different room. Most of the kids have books out and are reading and it's actually quiet. I began throwing bonus points at the groups who did this on their own because they took it upon themselves to make sure that they all had books and began to read as soon as the previous teacher left. And the behavior is also significantly better. Usually the noise would be coming from all over the place, making it hard to pin down which kids were actually talking. Now, I have entire groups that are completely silent while other groups are noisy, so those noisy groups don't get their conduct point. It's been interesting to see which kids have thrived and which kids haven't done as well as I'd hoped. Some of the kids are really stepping up, leading, organizing, supporting the others, and that's really gratifying to see, that they are getting something out of this that might actually be useful in the real world.

It's not perfect, but it's made a huge difference. In the other class, where the idea was less-than-successful, the math teacher and I had grouped the kids by ability. There are about six kids who are really strong academically and they are well-behaved, so they were sitting together. There is one group of kids who are seriously behind, and we wanted them together to facilitate differentiation. But when I tried to move to the new system, only the strongest group did well; the others were a mess. I think they'd been better behaved before. The math teacher gave them new seats, which are slightly better. I'm doing the reward (a field trip to see The Tale of Despereaux and lunch) with those kids on an individual basis. This allows me to exclude the girl who made a point to say loudly, "Mr. Science is the only cool teacher." Because she knew that I am now emotionally mortally wounded over not being the cool teacher. Tomorrow during lunch, I am going to hurl myself dramatically off the roof for all to see. If I survive, then next month I am going to make another attempt with that class to implement my system.

Of course, it's not perfect. Interestingly, I noticed that the two groups who so far have the most points are single-gender. One group is all girls and the other group is all boys. There are two mixed-gender groups who have both had multiple meetings with me (at their request) and at the heart of the problem in both was boy-girl conflict. So I'm thinking about doing something I've never done before: grouping by gender. I am going to keep the successful groups intact but make some changes to the others.

Overall, I do feel really good about the results. It's helped me stay more on top of grading, because the kids are very eager to know how many points they got. As soon as I have a prep, I check all the classwork and homework and it's not hanging over my head. And a couple of kids in particular have really amazed me. I think that they really don't want the other members of their groups to be upset with them, and that's motivating them to do for themselves, knowing that they are helping the others.

If only I could stay in my much-improved bubble all the time...

Middle School Logic

In the last two days, I've confiscated an iPod (because the girl put it away when asked, but then took ten steps away from me and took it out again) and a phone (from a girl who was texting during my class). I learned something very important: when you take something from a student, it automatically belongs to someone else. Thus, it is expected that you will return the item immediately to the guilty party because the person you took it from was not the owner.

Of course, this is the mindset of the middle schooler. Naturally, I laughed the laugh of the evil, not-cool teacher, and walked away.

05 December 2008

Is diagnosing teacher burnout like determining recession?

Two Christmas vacations from now, will I be on a long-awaited, child-free vacation with my husband, drunk on daquiris, and realize that I've been living burnout for most of the last decade?

Supporting Detail One: I've been misspelling simple things. As an English teacher, and an often-maligned city teacher, I'm always very mindful of using language correctly. And I'm a good speller by nature, so when I make these errors I know that I'm in need of serious rest. The test prep books that were chosen (by someone else who doesn't even use them, of course) really suck, so I printed all the old ELA exams for my grade from the state website. I'm using them for practice and assessment, and after I labeled one of the sections I realized that I'd written "ASSMENT" instead of "ASSESSMENT." Though I can't say for sure if I can attribute that error to tiredness or if it reflected my real feelings about testing.

Supporting Detail Two: During seventh period today, the only day and time of the week that I believe in Satan, I found myself wondering, If I fall out the window "accidentally" is that considered an on-the-job injury?

Supporting Detail Three: Now that I've been able to log on to Acuity, I actually find it useful. This is the weakest example of the three, because I still have lots of valid reason to bitch about Acuity.


01 December 2008

A Post, Just For The Hell Of It

My new reward system went into effect today. It worked better with my morning class than my afternoon class, but that's typical. Teaching in the afternoon is nearly impossible.

I had fewer late students this morning, which was also a positive, but it's also occured to me that it's ridiculous that I have to jump through all these hoops to get the kids to do the things that they are supposed to do.

I've been a good little soldier and have been attempting to use more data. Of course, it took me about three weeks to be able to log on to Acuity. No one could figure out why, but then I realized that my old DOE e-mail account is somehow lost in cyberspace, replaced with a newer one I had no idea about with both my maiden and married names. In the meantime, I still haven't been able to log on to ARIS.

I suppose that the millions the Tweedians coughed up for these programs wasn't enough.

More importantly, I wish I knew when I was supposed to have time to look at all this data. While I don't think it's the be-all, end-all that the brainwashed educrats think it is, I do think it can be useful. But we get no time to look at it, or think about what it says, other than the fact that Johnny can't read because he doesn't come to school have the time and does nothing when he's there.

Each week I'm tempted to boycott our weekly common conferences. It's wasted time, really. There hasn't been a concrete agenda in weeks. And the programs were done in such a way that not all the teachers on a grade are at the meetings, because many of them are teaching. Last year, as difficult as it was, I found solace in the other teachers on my team. We all taught the same kids, and while a focus on instruction would have been more beneficial, at least we were able to discuss the kids who were challenging us the most and come up with ideas and solutions. We were truly a team. I don't have that this year, even though I am fortunate to have a great working relationship with the math teacher for the grade. We're a team of two, at least.

Otherwise, I feel like I am totally on my own. The curriculum guidance is non-existent, and we're always being hammered on using the data and using technology without any real conversations about how to implement these things.

Today I started my full-blown, hard-core test prep. It bores the shit out of me, but at least I don't have to think quite so much. So maybe this month I will be able to figure out ARIS. If, of course, I'm able to log on.