Friday, February 27, 2009



Weekly Goal: Posting lesson plans to my blog. That hasn't been going so well, but then again nothing really has the last part of this week after the lab. Sleep deprivation has truly set in and my brain has shut off. I think that this entire week I've gotten under 5 to 4 hours of sleep a night and after 6 days of it my brain has lost it. I also have a stack of grading that is getting up to past a foot think that I don't have time for. Basically... it's mental break down time.

Today, the kids got to watch a presentation about the PeaceCorps. I loved it and it had some gross slides on it and some interesting ones that kept the kids guessing. I wish it was a little bit more relevant to the kids lives, but it wasn't my presentation. It felt great just to sit down and not talk for a bit. All in all, it was good to have the kids get some culture in class. I try to do that as much as possible. I loved the experience and hope to do it again.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

My First Lab

Goal of the Week: Posting my lesson plans to the blog! I need to do this because it's helpful. I really need to do this more frequently. I love referencing my made up lesson plans that are online during the day to keep myself on task. It just makes me happier and calmer to look at them because they look so neat and organized on my blog. This makes Ms. Teacher's OCD happy, which makes her teach easier. It's totally worth the extra effort. I just need to make the extra time. The only problem is finding the extra time when I'm already sleeping 4 hours a night.

Today, I got to reflect on my very first lab experience. The first two periods of the day were horrible, but I got better the most I modified the lab to remove the kinks. My mother and I were up until past midnight trying to make sure that the lab was perfect. Today, my mother came in with me to help move the kids from station to station during the lab. The kids have been begging me to have her come in for months, since she sends them in candy all the time. She calls them her grandkids since I have no children of my own yet. The kids all love it and find it fun.

My students all had a great ime today. Most of them had a great time learning with the manipulatives as opposed to listening to me drone on and on.

I think that my ultimate goal for my classroom would be to have a nice schedule where I have lecture 3 days a week, lab 1 day a week, and a quiz and some sort of other activity on friday. That would be a nice weekly schedule.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Can I adopt them all?

Goal of the week: Lesson plans - So far, they are stuck in my brain and not getting out into the page. I think I need to keep a notebook on me for ideas. Some days I have really great ideas for my lesson plans. Other days I can't seem to remember my ideas when I go to sit at my computer. I'm still trying to get into the swing of things. I'll get it sooner or later. I hope it's not later.

One of my students got into a fistfight with his father. It's scary because he thinks that he started it and his father has him thinking that he needs to have a punishment for it because he started it. He went to the hospital because of this fistfight. Did I mention that? He spent the whole of class today with his head down and flexing and unflexing his hands and staring at them when he was awake. I'm a little worried about him. It does explain why he's been such a behavioral problem in class.

I want to take them all home with me but I know that's not legal. I really wish I could.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Three Rants and a Positive

Goal of the week: posting my lesson plans to the new blog. So far it's been extremely helpful to me. I don't have to remember to track down 5 different people in email to get them what I need to get them. I do have to remember to get everything for everyone in one template, so that should be a little hairy. I'm hoping that I can get them so that they're done WEEKS in advance. That would be my definition of teacher heaven. Even though they change from day to day anyway.

So, in light of the fact that I've been encouraged to rant more this entry is going to be 90% rant.

Rant #1 - The back of my room is a storage room (I teach science and it's supposed to be storage for the chemicals). Instead, it's been turned into an office for floating teachers. This includes 4 older men. They crack jokes about women drivers, eat my students' candy, and call me "the queen." They also walk in and out of my room while I'm teaching and use the phone in my room while I'm teaching. That's frustrating.

Rant #2 - Only people outside of school take my work as professional. When I'm at the bank, talking to people in the doctor's office, or out anywhere other than at school, if people find out I'm a teacher then they view my line of work with respect. In the building, however, the staff seem to not view the work with respect and it bothers me. I like my work. I think of my job as a professional one. The attitude of the building is leaking into the students, who don't really see the teachers as professionals. That's frustrating.

Rant #3 - I've had to deal with my first case of people being too casual in the workplace. This never happened to me as a scientist. This relates to Rant #2. When I was working in Research (TM), everyone was very proper, no one over-shared, and everyone was very polite. There was possibly the occasional swearing when things did not go well. I've never had to deal with colleagues telling me about their past drug addictions casually, or their low sperm-count in the elevator, or male coworkers trying to rub my shoulders (uninvited because I'm not a fan of people in my personal space) to get me "calm down," or cuss and scream about the administration at a professional meeting. I've never had people refuse to do what the boss told us to do at a meeting and then loudly exclaim that it was "just stupid" and sulk, either. My grandmother would wash my mouth out with soap if she even thought I was behaving like no matter how old I am. This is all very frustrating. I've also never had co-workers walk in and interrupt me while I was working without asking permission or even apologizing for the interruption. I don't understand where everyone's manners are. It gets me every time.

All of this ends on a positive note. I realized the other day while I was getting interrupted that I've come a long way as a teacher. I knew within 2 minutes that the class was getting slightly out of wack and how to get them back on task. I have to stop and smile at that one.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Easy fun learning?

My goal for this week: to get my lesson plans posted to the new blog ahead of time. This means that I want to get the lessons done in advance of each lesson and get the up on the web before I teach every day. I'm hoping that it will go well. I've also started using the book and Cornell notes as more of a resource because I have to do less creative stuff in order to keep sane. I can't be coming up with this stuff every night or I'm going to go completely nuts and drop from exhaustion.

Today everyone's energy was down. The kids were bored to tears. They could do the notes and understand the material when I broke it down but they were bored. Honestly, it's really hard to make rocks and fossils relevant to them. I'm bored by it as well. How can you make a rock and the geologic time scale more interesting and relevant?

I feel like I'm not successful either way. If I'm creative and fun and the kids are excited and ready to learn that I'm exhausted because it takes a lot of energy to maintain that high. At the same time, the kids don't understand that much when it's creative and fun. If we take the time to slowly go over it and learn, then they nod off and doze. I have to wake them up, but they learn. Everyone learns. It's not fair. I need for everyone to learn.

Why can't learning be fun and easy at the same time?

Sunday, February 22, 2009

A rare Sunday Post

I try to update just on Monday through Friday and limit my contact with the teaching world to the academic week but as I sit with my laptop surrounded by educational material working on the lesson plans for the upcoming week, I thought about something.

I never stop working on this stuff.

Seriously. I'm always either talking about it, working on it at school, thinking about it, running around for it, going to graduate classes for it, or trying to sleep and not being able to because I should be doing something for it to catch up.

I'm always behind. I'd need to not have friends, family, a relationship, or to prepare food, clean my apartment, or possibly eat or sleep to really get everything done that I need to get done.

I'm in a job where I've had almost no training. I'm taking a full-time graduate program on top of a full time job. I'm a first-year teacher, which everyone seems to say is one of the hardest jobs and most stressful jobs in the world. I'm a teaching in a high-needs, urban school, which everyone seems to say is one of the hardest places of all to teach. I'm teaching OUTSIDE OF MY SUBJECT AREA in an AREA I KNOW NOTHING ABOUT. That means that on top of coming up with lessons that are relvant and engaging, I have to teach myself about the stuff every night in order to understand it.

That last one is 90% of my stress, so let's go over it again.

I'M TEACHING OUTSIDE MY SUBJECT AREA IN AN AREA I KNOW NOTHING ABOUT. I'm a Biologist. I have professional experience in Genetics, which is what my Master's degree is in. I have coursework all over the Life and Physical Sciences. I am teaching Earth Space Science, which is a little Geology, a little Astronomy, a little Hydrology, and a little Paleontology. I have never had any classes in these subjects past a little bit of an into in the 7th grade. It's been awhile.

The teacher that I replaced had the kids outline the textbook. He has nothing there. No tools, no worksheets, no posters, no anything. The kids outlined a section a day and then took a test using their notes at the end of the chapter. That's all that they did. Nothing else. I have some overhead transparancies from downtown that go with the book, but the academic standards that I have to teach aren't in the book. The book is WORTHLESS. And I don't know anything about the subject to teach the standards.

What did I do? I hit the internet to teach myself. I've been doing that for 6 months. I spend all of my time researching on the internet so I can ever try and come up with some lesson plan ideas. Because I can't come up with fun ways to teach the kids about something I don't understand.

I don't know about rocks. I was a cancer researcher.

I want to cry at night because I have to sit down and try to think of ways that are fun to teach the kids materials that *I DO NOT UNDERSTAND.*

People have told me to try and talk to other people in the building that teach my subject. Guess what - I'm the only one that teaches it. Since I'm new to the district, I don't know anyone else. I went to a few science teacher's meetings to try and meet other Earth Science teachers and they scared me. There were 10 Earth Science people at the last one. One man yelled at me for trying to do what the meeting organizer told us to do. Other woman aggressively asked me why a student of mine that transferred to her had a B in my class and was failing with her. All of them were over 40 to 45 and looked angry, bored, and slightly annoyed for having to be at a meeting at all. When I sat at the table and smiled, I think I felt the flinch. One man told me I was the "wrong color" to work at any schools because the new principals were racist.

Call it a hunch, but I think I'm on my own. That's ok. I'll just teach myself Earth Space Science at night on top of everything else and hope that I can come up with clever and fun ways to teach it without any tools in my classroom (I went in with nothing and there was nothing there) and without a book (the kids can't read it anyway). I just pray that I get a job teaching Biology next year. I can't do this again. I at least know what's going on with Biology. Inside out and backwards. That would save me HOURS a day and so much pain.

Pleasepleaseplease can I teach Biology now?

Friday, February 20, 2009

I have permission to rant

I have gotten permission from my graduate advisor (who oversees the observations in this blog) to rant more. This is an exciting prospect.

My new weekly goal: lesson plans. I suck at lesson plans. Today's whole blog is about the concept of the lesson plan in modern education, why we need it (we do), how difficult they are for me (strangely), and how my stomach has a slight ulcer from them/my insomnia has gotten worse because of them. The end goal for next week is to create a second blog to post my lesson plans for my class on just like I'm posting my observations for my teaching. I sometimes forget to get my observations up daily, but I always catch up in a couple of days and it helps me to keep organized. Plus, there are there for easy access. I think that using this tool for my lesson plans would help me IMMENSELY since I never seem to get them to the people they need to get to in any degree of quickness. That's usually because I'm crying over them and contemplating my inability to do them at all.

Ok - for the non-teachers: what is a lesson plan? A lesson plan is something like a recipe for a teacher to run his or her classroom. It should contain the background information, what you will need, the order that you do things in, the goals for the students, and the work (independent and guided) that you give the students. The idea is that should the teacher be kidnapped by aliens on the way to work or otherwise be delayed that a substitue with no knowledge of the subject can teach the lesson. Also, it helps the teacher stay on task.

So, I bet you're asking yourself... what's so hard about this? Well, have you ever tried to write something that contains a lot of information and specific minutae in a regimented way without ever having been taught the format? That's where I'm sitting. In my 6 week training program this summer, which I have dubbed the "Crash Course to Inner City Teaching," I attended a seminar for an hour on how to plan a thematic unit and to keep coherence from the big ideas in the thematic unit down to the daily lessons. They actually didn't cover how to write lessons at all.

I'm aware of the basic idea and I've had 3 different college professors give me examples of different lesson plans. I'm being prissy because I don't like these formats. They all concentrate on the *work* that the students are doing and not what they teachers are actually supposed to be teaching and how. I don't understand the different teaching strategies so telling me to have the kids go over 1-10 on the worksheet by themselves and then we'll go over it together doesn't fly. I don't use worksheets. I can't use my textbook because it doesn't align with the standards unless I want to break the law and deviate from the standards. The only resources I have are for the textbook.


Thank you and have a lovely weekend.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The worst critic you'll ever have is in a mirror

I've lost my cell phone. Again. At the beginning of the year when I was teaching Earth Space Science, Biology, 8th Grade Math, 7th Grade Science, and 8th Grade Science (which is probably not good for the sanity) one of my students stole my cell phone. It was before I got them on board with me. I had to go through all of this to get it replaced and it ended up costing me over $200 when all was said and done. Not to mention all of the time running around that I did not have. I lost my phone again a week ago. I had it shut off and I'm hoping it wasn't one of my students again. I'm just going to have to stop bringing anything of mine that's personal into the building except my car keys and my coat. Everything else will have to get locked in the trunk of the car because the the break ins in the parking lot.

Oh, and I've gotten into a car accident. Due to the lack of sleep from worry over the phone, worry over the 50,000,000 other things on top of the phone that I'm always worried about (will I ever get lesson plans figured out, are my students learning anything at all???, am I passing my graduate courses or trying hard enough because I'm exhausted all the time, why can't I manage my time better, how should I schedule the time in my classes, is bellwork really that effective because my kids use it to goof off, I want to try exit slips but can't seem to get them right because I just have so much extra work to do for them, why can't I get a handle on my grading, oh my god - grades are due, i'm losing weight again, my insurance company can't get my migraine medication right so I keep missing work and they're going to fire me, how are my kids so sweet but so very disrespectful towards school and how do I change that) I finally snapped and slept 6 hours in 3 days. It was about 2 hours a night off and on. I finally got into a car accident this morning where I rear-ended someone and made myself late to school. I think it's time to seriously re-evaluate my time in this program and what it's doing to my health. I'm more worried that I was late to school and what that says about me to my administration and how the kids handled it than the fact that I got into a car accident from sleep exhaustion.

I can't shut it off when I go home. My mind is always racing about the things that I need to do and all of the things that I'm not doing right, fast enough, or well enough for the kids. This isn't like another job where if you screw up there's another chance to get it right. I'm dealing with impressionable people children here and if I make a mistake I could harm them irreparably.

Except when I sit down to work on my stuff for school, I'm so scared of making a mistake that I flip out and just stare at my computer screen. It's become quite a problem. I have to take my laptop everywhere with me in case I come up with an idea for my classroom somewhere. My backpack is attached to my back. Except that I'm so scared of doing something wrong that I never really come up with anything.

I'm beginning to think that I'm seriously bad teacher because of this. If I can't get over this then I might have to consider doing something else, even though I love the kids and I love the work. It's no use being here if you love it if you don't do the job that you're supposed to do. I'm a State employee and the taxpayers are paying me to make sure that these kids get an education. I'm not doing my job because I'm afraid of screwing some of them up worse than they already are now. There has to be some irony in that somewhere.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

"To thine own self be true"

Goal for the week: effective use of seating in the classroom. How's that going for me? Yeah, not so hot. Today is a half day so I'm missing over half of my student population. What does that mean in reality? It means that there aren't any real discipline issues because most of the kids that are causing the problems aren't here.

I've been trying a lot of different strategies as a teacher to really try and feel out what works best for me. I take night courses to work on my Masters in Education a few nights a week and in those classes I get exposed to a lot of different ideas and ways of doing things in a classroom. I try to be a good student and a good teacher and try a lot of different approaches with the philosophy that I can't say I don't like it until I've tried it.

My final perspective on this is that although it's good to try new things I really need to remember why I do this. I *need* to have fun in my class or I hate my work. I've been coming into work (and I've been thinking of it as work and not fun) for the past two weeks trying to get the kids organized and doing college level stuff. I've been worrying about grammar, turning in stuff on time, organization, seating charts, and all this other nonsense that gets in the way.

Yes, those have their place. Everything in a classroom needs a PROCEDURE so the kids know how to do and how to expect things. That is the teachers responsibility to set up. However, I will not and cannot teach in the "old school" style where the students sit and learn from a book while the teacher walks around the room and talks. I just can't. It's not me. I've tried to do that for two weeks because I got it into my head that kids that learned in my class wouldn't thrive at college with what I was teaching them.

Here's my worry: I teach very outside the box. I like games, music, creativity, silliness, pictures, dancing, and student autonomy. I don't care about latework. All student work is marked "M" for "missing" on my gradesheets until they get it in to me, because it's missing. I'd rather get their work and accurately reflect their knowledge.

I think students should have extreme schedules but that all learning should be as fun as possible, RELEVANT TO THEIR LIVES, and promoting educated citizens of the world.

Blah. I'll work out the kinks in my classroom style, but in the mean time I need to remember Shakespear. "To thine own self be true."

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Teaching in tune with Nature

Goal for the week: effective classroom seating. I've been working with the assumption all year that if I let the kids pick out where they sit that they will behave better. Oh man, that was one of the stupidest things that I could have ever done. Actually, it could have worked if I had set up a procedure for how to stop problems before they start. Now, I have a bunch of talkers that think that they run the room and I have to *reclaim* power, which is never a position that a teacher wants to be in. It's time for operation seating chart.

Other than that - I've never really had a bad day and tried to teach before. Usually, I gave the kids busy work and knew better than to try and teach when I wasn't feeling well. Today, I tried to push on with my schedule anyway. I should have known better. The kids were acting up because I think they could sense that something was off with me. The poor sprouts got to meet my evil twin today. I'll have to do something fun tomorrow for them to show them that I'm not evil. Ugh. I need to work with my bio rhythms more.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Oh Dean of my school

Ode to my Dean.

Oh Dean of my school. I'd really like to meet you and speak with you at great length. I'd love to know why I do not have access to the discipline procedures at our school. I need those in order to discipline the students since we're not allowed to hold them after class or school. Oh Dean of my school, this is not a slight matter. Please understand that I have many, many students in my classes and that some of them cuss me out, walk out of class while screaming, refuse to sit where their told, refuse to work, refuse to bring supplies to class. Oh Dean of my school, I'd love to know what to do with these students, because telling me to call home isn't always an option. Some of these students don't have anyone at home. Oh Dean of my school, please understand that I do not dislike you. Quite the opposite, I don't know you. I'd like to know you but I haven't had the chance yet. I'm trying to figure out what to do with these students. Please help me.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Oral Quiz Day

My goal to work on this week: proximity. The idea that a teacher should be as close to the students as possible at all possible times. This is done by circling them constantly like a shark while I talk, lecture, explain, or generally help them work. I'm always on the move around them so they never know when I'm going to be behind them, but they know it's going to be sometime soon. It's really been helpful in my classes. More helpful than a lot of things.

Today's topic for thought: weekly quizzes. I love giving my students weekly quizzes. I think it's a good way for them to review the material and a good way for me to assess quickly who is getting it and who is not. Today, I finally got around to trying something different that I've been wanting to do for some time. I got this idea awhile back from a SpED instructor I have in my Masters Program. She told me that there was a SpED lady that gave out tests by giving the students review questions and going over them in class. That way, everyone knew the questions and had a chance to learn them. She went over them and even did another day and made them into a game. When test day rolled around, she had them stand up one at a time and answer one or the review questions randomly. No one got to pick their question. It was hit or miss, and that was thier test.

I have modified that down to this for our one week fossil unit: Mr T Rex was walking down the street and he (died in a horrific way). Tell me how he because (insert one of the 3 types of fossils) step by step.

I've been killing Mr T Rex horrifically all day. The kids love it.

Also, I can't have them answer in front of each other. I always hated doing that. Maybe I'll work up to it later.

I have to say, most of the kids really have been liking this type of quiz. It's over quickly. :)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Phone woes

Goal for the week: Proximity. It's been going better today. The kids seem to be getting the idea that I circle like a shark. No one has used those words yet, but I'm sure someone will eventually.

Today's topic for discussion: when students attack, part 1. Today, I had a student who is normally extremely well behaved turn around and bite my head off. I guess the teenage years are just like that. This student had issues with missing a lot of school and she came in after school last semester to make up a lot of her work. She turned her grade around and really studied. She was such a good pupil. She had medical issues this semester and missed many weeks. She's now back and I was happy to see her.

Today, when I turned around in class I saw her on the school phone speaking loudly and agitatedly. The students know they are not supposed to use the school phones. I allow them to use them during the passing periods only in cases of an emergency and only if I stand next to them. She did not ask and this was during class. I would have written her a pass to the office to use their phone if it was an emergency. She only needed to ask.

When I saw her disturbing my class by yelling on the school phone, I was shocked. I was honestly shocked because I stared at her and she acted like nothing was wrong and ignored me. I walked over to her and by this time the whole class was watching both of us. I calmly asked her what she was doing on the phone. She ignored me and kept yelling into the phone. I had had enough. I told her in a calm voice that she had 5 seconds to hang up or I would do it for her. Then I counted down.

"5. 4. 3. 2. 1." I stared at her and she kept ignoring me. Then I signed and hung up the phone. She just stared at me for the first time and said "I can't believe you just did that," and walked out of class. I called that Dean and told her what happened.

Now, I've lost her. When I've seen her in the halls today, she ignores me coldly. She won't perform in class just to "spite me," except she's just hurting herself and I wish that she could see that.

Sometimes, my job really hurts.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Parent Phone Calls (And how I hate them)

Goal for the week: Proximity. So far, it hasn't been going that well. I've been having to spend my time controlling a few classes (or rather a few kids in a couple of classes) and that is sucking up my time when I could be walking around and using proximity from stopping problems before they start. I'm a HUGE fan of stopping problems before they start. I hope to eventually be good enough at it to stop most problems before they start.

Today's topic for discussion: involving the parents. I have a student in one of my classes who is a handful. He's intelligent (very) but one of those kids that is a classroom management problem like pulling teeth is painful. I don't think he means to be. Actually, that's a lie. I think he thinks it's funny and he's bored because he's intelligent. He gets done with his work in record time and wants to disturb everyone else in the room by being funny.

I was at my wits end because he was literally making it so that I dreaded one of my classes out of the 6 that I teach. Every class has their ups and downs, but when he was there it was like pulling teeth and when he wasn't there they weren't quite angels but it was infinitely better.

I decided that I needed to involve the parents.

I'm scared of doing this because you never quite know what you're going to get. You could get the type of parents that think that their child could never do anything wrong or you could get a parent that is willing to sit down and listen. I think it's all in how you present things. If you walk in with the attitude that their kid is trash and that you don't want them in your room, then of course the parent is going to get defensive. I think that if you have a relationship ahead of time then it is so much easier. I want to show all the parents that I really do like all of my students and that I want to see them get good grades and have fun in my room. They have to be there, but that's no reason not to have fun and get something out of it in the end. That way, if something does go wrong - they are more willing to work with me.

I need to keep the end goal in mind and tailor how I act in order to get my end goal. I need the kid to behave in class so everyone can work. So I call the parent and talk about how much I like their kid (even if it isn't true at all) but how much they are being disruptive so other people can't work and we can't have that.

End result - parent is confused and on my side. Child gets changed. Win.

Mom always said that sometimes you need to act in order to get what you want. Even if you want to strangle the child - he/she is the most important thing in the world to somebody and that needs to be respected.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Constant Attention

Today's topic for discussion: my kids need so much attention. My students are in a high-needs school and I recently brought in a friend of mine from college who as thinking of subbing in the school system where I work. I wanted my friend to see what she was getting into before she made the decision to work here or not. It's not for everyone and I don't want people coming in unless they mean to make it their home. The kids need someone who is going to stay.

At any rate, her comment to me after spending a day with me in my classes and around my students was to the effect of "some of them need constant attention, don't they?"

After I thought about it, don't all teenagers need constant attention? That's what makes them teenagers? They want you to see them and how great they are all the time? You need to be patient all the time. You need to boost their fragile egos all the time. It's part of what I like about my job.

It's also the part that is exhausting. Ugh.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Grading tests sucks. The kids took a test on Friday and I really wanted to get the test graded over the weekend. I was intending to have everything done and graded - but the path to a very hot and bad place is paved with the best of intentions.

I am really struggling with grading. I want the kids to learn, but the grading is really pulling me down. I know that in my graduate classes that they told us to not grade things - not really. That the kids should have homework/assignments/whatever.... it's called now.

Sidenote - I have to be careful about what I call their assignments and it annoys me. I always heard it called "Homework" when I was growing up. I do that now because it's a habit. But if I call it homework now, then the kids won't do it in class. They want to sit in class and talk. If I give them time to work in class then they won't - they'll sit and talk and say "well, you called it homework so I thought we were supposed to do it at *home*." I want to scream when they say that. If I give them something to do in class, then they are supposed to do it. I've started to call them ASSIGNMENTS. That way, there is NO confusion about what they are supposed to be doing.

Again, it's with the wasting time in class that they could be learning. It think that's my biggest complaint. That, and the BOOK doesn't follow the standards. The kids don't want to learn. Kids always don't want to learn, so that's nothing new. Ugh.

Disorganized. I feel so disorganized. I just need a mental break.

I'm glad next Monday is presidents day.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Educational Goals

I think that every teacher has goals for their classroom. I have goals for mine as well. There is an Language Arts teacher down the hall from me that teachers like I've never seen before. He has two flat screens, posters of current bands on his walls, his own desks, his own textbooks, his own workbooks, his own carpets, and his own photocopiers in his room. He lives in his own little bubble in his room away from the rest of the school. The whole room is organized within an inch of it's life and he is the owner of everything in there. Not a cent of it was paid for by the school. The whole day for every second is methodically organized and accounted for with an activity and the schedule never waivers. Each day is filled with fun activities that help the students learn. Just being around this teacher is an inspiration to me.

It's not the money or the gimmicks in the room that make me happy to be in there. It's the amount of effort he puts into his day with the students. Every moment of each class has been turned over and over until he can wring as much blood from the educational stone as possible. That is my happy place. I want my students to be having fun and learning each moment of their 50 minutes with me every day. Right now, so much time is wasted and it drives me crazy every moment of it.

If I had a magic lamp and genie and there would be one wish that I could change about my teaching right now then that would have to be it. I would like to be able to use my class time more effectively so that each moment in class was fun and organized for my students. I want them to come in every day and know the schedule and know that we do suchinsuch on this day and suchinsuch on this day and that there's a pattern to my class. I want them to know how to succeed with me. Unfortunately, I don't want to set a pattern until I'm sure that it's going to work for them.

In example, I wanted to make notes a vital part of my class but my students don't know how to take notes. They can't pull out the important information. I need to find a way around that. I wanted to make weekly quizes a vital part of class review, but my students are absent so much. I need to find a way around that. I need to find a way arond everything. My creativity is being taxed. Ugh. I'll figure it out.

It can't be that bad. It's friday.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

My Students Defend Me...

Today was slated as a review game day. Instead, everything went to pure chaos in the first 10 minutes of each class.

Some days are just like that.

On the up side, I learned a valuable lesson from my students today. Today, an administrator came in the side door to my classroom. To explain this, there are three doors in my classroom. On is the door that the students enter and exit through. There is also a side door that opens into the same hallway that I keep locked because it distracts the students. In the back of the room there is a prep room that has been converted into an office for the SpED teachers.

Today, my Vice Principal came in through the side door. V. - one of my students - saw him coming in the door while I was lecturing and turned to the class and made a "PSSSSSTTTT" sound. He then said "Administrator Administrator Administrator - everyone - headphones out!" Before I knew what was happening, the whole class pulled out their headphones, put away their iPods, and straightened up to look like shiny little good students. I turned around to see the Vice Principal walk in just as they did this. I spoke to the Vice Principal about an administrative thing and he left. When I turned around, all the students were pulling their iPods back out and smiling. They all had cute, sly, impish grins.

Here's the deal - while they are doing their assignment, as long as they are working and making progress, I let them listen to their music quietly with one headphone in. That's technically against the school rules, but I listen to music when I work to help me concentrate and most people I know do, too. I don't see how that's a problem. As long as it's quiet enough not to bother anyone, I don't see a problem. The kids know the drill - it has to be quiet enough that you can't hear it standing a few feet away. If it is, I tell them to turn it down. If I have to tell them again, I take it for the rest of the period. I've only had to do this 4 times this year. They all know and they're good about it.

Unfortunately, we all live in fear of the administration since the school says they shouldn't have them on school property at all or the teachers have to take them. It's against the school code. And it' probably means I'm a bad teacher, but it helps my students to concentrate, I think.

Anyway, once the Vice Principal was gone, I turned around and just stared at my class. They were all grinning like Jack-o-Lanterns. V. stood up and informed me that they liked me and didn't want me to get in trouble. I know they probably didn't want thier head phones taken, but it was still something to see. They were all so proud of themselves. I'm glad I could be part of their joy, even if it was only for a few minutes.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Back Home Again

I absolutely love review days. I gave the students a review worksheet for the test that I will give on Friday. I love review days. Suddenly, all of my students become studying machines and buckle down. I know that it's only because they're worried about their grade, but it's so nice to see them caring about school. I want to hug them all and tell them that I'm proud of them.

Instead, I go around and tell them that they'll do great. On my first day back, the kids were so excited to see me. I was so happy to see them, too. My class was exactly the way that I'd left it. The students were unhappy that the sub had given them busy work. In fact, one quote was that they hadn't "learned anything in days."

They are such wonderful people. I'm in awe of my students each and every day.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

When do I get to go back?

Sick day - this is becoming a habit.

I got up today at 530 am and sincerely tried to go to school. I can remember even when I was a child how I tried to get up and go to school when I was sick. I hated missing days. I always felt like I was missing something.

I feel even worse about it now. Now, I feel like my kids are missing me. What are they doing all day at school without me? What is the sub doing there without me? What is the sub doing in *my* room? More importantly, is the sub treating the kids they way they should be treated? All my my students are wonderful and should pushed to excel and motivated to work and do their best. If I'm not there to do it, then I worry about them.

I am going to spend the whole day in bed thinking about them. Ugh.

I really hate sick days.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Sick Day

Sick day.

During the superbowl I got the drinks mixed up and I drank the wrong soda. I'm allergic to caffeine so I've been spending today in bed, ill.

I hate missing school but I don't think throwing up on my students would be very kosher so for once I'm not going in. Tomorrow, I will.

Ugh. Did I mention that I feel like crap?