Friday, March 27, 2009

Survival of the Teacheriest

Goal of the Week: Survival.

Thought of the Day: I made it to break. That's about it. I just wanted to make it to break. It was a long haul just to make it this far. I seriously didn't think I could make it this far at some points but I finally did it. Some days I was ready to throw in the towel and just give up. Some days I was just about done for... but I made it. I don't feel so badly about the movie day. I needed it because I was just barely making it there at the end. I didn't want to admit it but I was really sick.

Sometimes we must admit that we aren't all that we're cracked up to be. The first year is where we're supposed to learn from our mistakes. I'm learning a lot about humility in the face of my own limits... and to respect those limits. I never knew I had limits before. This is definitely a good experience in that.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Thoughts on a Movie Day

Goal of the week: Get my Documenting Our Torture... excuse me... teaching project underway. It's this huge dang project for my masters degree program (tm) that I need to get done to prove that I'm not a total nincompoop as a teacher. In fact, what I'm probably hiding is that I am. At least I feel like it these days.

Thought of the day: I've completely given up because today is a movie day.

I'm having the kids watch Ice Age II. I'm done. I finally give in. I'm sick. I'm tired. I just want to die and have the kids drag me out back and bury me. I thought I'd never do it. I did it. It's a movie day. I eat my words. There. Done.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

How I do love breaks.

Goal of the week: To get my D.O.T. project done. I have to get this huge project done for my masters degree. It's going to be huge and it's going to be hairy. I even need to have myself videotaped while I'm in class, teaching. That is an issue since I lack a camera. My professor at my grad school seemed a little floored at that one. She was also a little taken aback that I didn't have a cell phone with video camera capabilities. Sorry, I'm poor. I spent until November being a substitute. Not having medical insurance for all that time killed me. I'm still catching up on the bills. At any rate, I want to do well on this project so I can get on with the teaching part of my life. I'm excited to become a full teacher and move on past the emergency teacher's license so I can teach with some job protection. Whoo!

Topic of the day: How I do love breaks.

I decided a long time ago that I wanted to be in a profession that had a lot of breaks because I think that Americans work too much. We spend entirely too much time at work and I think it's unhealthy. I love being a teacher and I thought, initially, that the amount of time spent on break would be a good match with my philosophy for work. However, now I'm thinking that it's really not. I've been working since Christmas break and I'm nearly dead. I think I may not make it to Spring Break on Friday and that's 2 days away.

I've developed another infection since December. Add to that a negative reaction to the antibiotics that is making my stomach extremely upset and you have a very unhappy teacher. I've decided that I just can't do it anymore and the kids are getting a movie the last two days of school before break. It makes me a horrible person, but it's either that or I'm going to be about sick and I absolutely hate that.

At least I'm having them watch "Ice Age," and we're covering climate change and glaciers. That is moderately over what they are covering. Right? I'm not an evil person... right? Ugh.

Is it Spring Break yet?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

My kids are elitist, entitled, scary so-in-sos and I fear for the future.

Goal of the week: get my D.O.T. project up and running. It's for my Masters Degree program (tm) and it's this big, huge, hairy project that will prove to everyone and everybody that I'm Ms. TeacherPants. Here's to hoping I do it well.

Topic of the day: My kids are elitist, entitled, scary so-in-sos and I fear for the future.

So, today wasn't a good day. I've decided that for the sake of my mental health that I should never have a dull moment in my class ever again where my kids have the time or opportunity to talk to each other. For most of them, it isn't a problem, but for my "devil period" today I heard more than I ever, ever wanted to.

My students were talking about being on food stamps and how they all wanted to be on food stamps because you got to get the 24 packs of cans of Sprite and Coke (I buy generic to save money) and PopTarts (I buy generic, if at all... usually I have toast because it's cheaper so I can have more money for my college loans and to spend on my students).

The kids that were saying this were eating GIANT bags of Cheetos and drinking Cokes while playing on their *Touch Screen* cell phones.

They were talking about having their mothers drive them to the store to buy things on food stamps, like bacon and sausage so they can have both for breakfast. My roommate can't afford meat right now and she has a 4 year degree from a good school. She's doing temp work.

Nearly all of the kids in the room that were talking about food stamps were overweight and eating junk food. Then, they started talking about how many of their mothers or fathers were on house arrest or had abandoned them. I just listened.

One of my students stopped eating her Cheetos and asked me if I didn't feel well. Apparently, I looked sick. I told her "No, I feel alright. I just wish that most of you had better lives." Another one of my students decided to perk up by saying "You know what would make us all have better lives? If you all gave us all a dollar." I was so angry that I could have screamed at him. I hate screaming and I was there.

Of all the stupid, intollerable, inane, obtuse, ignorant things to say... he had to say that one.

I need to remind myself that I choose to walk away from a job with good money and good benefits to work here. I could have done anything that I wanted. I have an education. I know how the world works. An education can do that. I can go anywhere. These kids don't have that. These kids think they know it all because they have a cool phone and a smart mouth to swear at a teacher with.

Well, good for you. You can cut down the only person that's trying to help you get personal power to control your life. You can fight the people that want you to have control over your own life and stay a victem in the world. Great. Have fun with that.

I need to remind myself that they're children. They're children. They're children.

It's my job to educate them. Especially when I don't want to.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Different periods are totally different ball games

Goal of the week: increasing student participation in the classroom. I've decided that my next goal should be making sure that I can get as many students as possible working during each class period. It's a difficult goal, as the students have 1,001 excuses as to why they should be let out of work. However, that's what I get paid for. I need to be the adult.

Topic of the day: Treating classes differently.
When I first started teaching, I decided that I wouldn't treat my classes differently if I was teaching the same subject. They would all get the same treatment and the same material. I've decided that what works for one class doesn't always work for another class.

In example... my first period is always about 10 student shy from them being late. That, and the ones that are there are always dozing off. I need to wake them up. Second period is very small and has a couple of extremely noisy students in the class that cause all sorts of disruption. Third period is filled with a bunch of high achievers. Fourth period is overfilled and has a lot of lower functioning students with special needs. Fifth period is small with the majority of the students being lower functioning with special needs. Last period is wild. For last period, there are only about 10 students in there and only 2 ever do work. The rest need to be restrained to hold still.

The needs of my classes are multifaceted as are the needs of my students. I can't expect to treat them all the same way and gain similar results. That's just not sane. I'm going to have to come up with some ideas for the different needs of my classes.

Friday, March 20, 2009

I've pushed it too far again.

Topic of the Day: I've pushed it too far again.

I'm leaving school. I'm leaving school early. I'm leaving school before 6pm, which is early for me.


I've spent the whole day barely making through class. I now have a positive reason for making myself go home at a reasonable time. I'm thinking that 430pm is a reasonable time since I start work at 630 to 7 in the morning. That's more than a full day, I think.

I'm hoping to get better over time so I can slowly leave earlier and earlier. Or maybe I never will because I like what I do. I figure that I only work 9 months out of the year so putting in a 10 or 11 hour work day isn't so bad. I get so much vacation time that it's not funny... even without the summer vacation. I don't mind. I just need to be careful for my health.

What's really killing me here is the lack of bathroom breaks. When I'm not in class I need to be in the hallway watching the students. Which means that I can't drink water during the day because I can't run to the restroom. I cheat on that one because I have really bad kidneys. I can tell when I've pushed it too far because I feel the middle of my back start to get warm and I know I need to bring about a gallon of water in with me to school and drink it in order to ward off an infection.

Honestly... why can't they have bathrooms in the back of the classrooms like they did in elementary school? This is just silly for me and the kids.

There's no way I'm taking more sick days. I will *not* have another sub in my class unless I'm 3 feet in the grave. I'll just plan some easy days for the kids and for my body while I go to the doctor and get some more antibiotics. Rawr.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Why I need to stop spending so much time at school!

Topic for the Day: Why I need to stop spending so much time at school!

I've been staying until 530 to 730pm after school each day this week. I'm trying to catch up on my paperwork so that this period is all caught up and starts off on the right foot. I want my classroom to be organized and neat for my students and I want to convey to them that I have a good idea of what I'm doing. So, I stay after school to work.

There's a problem this this philosophy. The students have realized that I stay after school and have started invading my sanctuary. That's what my classroom is after hours - it's quiet with no people and the perfect place for me to sit and organize my notes, thoughts, and stuff for class. Except, I can't do that with 1 - 6 students hanging around in there.

It wouldn't be so bad if they were quietly doing their homework. Or quietly reading a book. Or doing anything quietly. However, they all have to talk to me nonstop about their lives. Their lives are always so pressing and important that they need my attention and I end up just starting my paperwork, grading, filing, and thinking at 430 to 530 at night when they finally leave.

It's so hard to tell a child that is trying to unload on me about their parents who fight all night and keeps them awake that I need to file. It sounds so pathetic in comparison. However, I keep staying later and later and going home later and later. That means that I don't get to my graduate homework until later and later. And I'm becoming more underslept than usual. Not good.

I need to put a cap on it. I need to be strong and for the sake of my own life put up limits. I can't give away everything to the students for nothing back. I will give up lots of my time, money, energy, and sanity to help them but only if it does some good. Just listening to them, I fear, won't have as much of a positive effect as helping them succeed in school. I want them educated to make their way in life as they choose, not to be their shrink. Frankly, I'm not qualified for that.

It's just so hard to look a child that needs someone to listen in the eyes and say "no." I remember what that was like and how much I needed someone to listen.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


Goal of the week: Timing the lessons effectively. So far, it's not been going so well. I managed to do it perfectly on Tuesday and fail the rest of the week. There's still hope.

Topic of the Day: Cheating!
I've been fairly lucky so far. I haven't run into much blatant cheating. Of course, there's probably a whole bunch that goes on under my nose... but I remember that high school was like that. The kids do stuff like that because they don't understand the importance of what they're doing.

Today, I had a student steal another students poster (big project), erase her name, put his own on it, and turn it in as his own work. I caught it because I had helped the first student create her poster so I knew what it looked like. That, and it was very distinctively her's.

I was livid. I hate cheating. If you do something like that in college, it's a good way to get thrown out of the school and lose a lot of money. If you do it in the scientific world then you don't have a career anymore. Plagiarism is considered the very worst of all sins - except maybe being unable to get published.

I pulled the student into my room and confronted him. He just smiled and admitted that he'd done it. He was very cool - like it was all a joke. I gave him an out. I told him that if he wanted to not get suspended for plagiarism and theft then he could write me a 4 page paper on why cheating isn't good for a student and how he'd feel if it happened to him. He just laughed and said to "write him up." I was stunned.

I'm still stunned.

Then the thought occurred to me. He doens't get very good grades. He doesn't turn in homework, really, except when he does it with other people. I think he might be functionally illiterate.

He might have been smiling because he was nervous about being found out. I feel like a jerk if that's true because the "out" I gave him wouldn't have been an out at all. I need to start offering "community service" for the kids as an out - where they come in after school and help me clean and grade to get out of trouble. That, instead of a paper, would be more effective because it'd keep them out of trouble and they'd hate it so they'd not misbehave again.

But I still feel like a jerk.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Creative Projects... how I love them and hate them.

Topic of the Day: Creative Projects... how I love them and hate them.

So, my students have a half day tomorrow. I hate these days because I need to come up with a lesson plan for 30 minutes that still covers what I need to cover. It gets hard to cover something in 30 minutes when you're used to 55. I always thought that talking for a shorter amount of time would be easier but I suppose you get into a pattern when you so something consistently.

Speaking of doing something consistently, my students all come in on half days (for the ones that show up) expecting us to watch a movie or have a free day. I guess that's what they're used to in other classes. I know this to be that case because when I walk around the school that's what I hear in some of the other classrooms. I know that other teachers do teach... but if a few teachers consistently have movies on a half day then the kids expect it from all of the teachers.

I cannot accept this. I want my classroom to be a place of learning, whether they like it or not. I need to drill the standards into them until they can recite them back to me. I will not accept a half day as an easy way out.

So what can I do for a half day to fill time with meaningful learning? I decided to do a Poster Project (Tm) where the students can pick a city from anywhere in the world and research it's climate. This would allow them some creativity, to learn about distant places, to tell me about themselves, and to LEARN ABOUT CLIMATE!

Unfortunately, it's not going so well. The kids are having trouble "coloring between the lines." If we do something creative in here, it's like they all go nuts and want to do everything without rules. I'm sorry, but there are parameters for doing the poster. It needs a title, yes. It needs a name on it, yes. It needs to actually have information about the climate on there, yes.

Ugh. Creativity will kill me one of these days.

Monday, March 16, 2009

New Grading Periods Rule!

Today's topic: New Grading Periods!

I love the fresh smell of promise in a new grading period. My students are all starting out new and they can get the grades that they want this time around. I always loved this time during school because if you hadn't done very well in the previous grading period then this was your chance to really make up for it.

I don't think my students really fully appreciate it. Most of them, despite my constant hounding, don't know where their scores come from in my class. Ugh. I need to create a 10 foot tall sign.

I've decided to have some resolutions this grading period. I want to return the students work to them every week once it's graded. I've decided that monday's will be "pass back" days. I've decided to keep everything graded in the gradebook and up to date for each day. It makes my job a lot easier in the end. I learned that last semester when I had to spend hours after school grading and trying to make sense of things. I've also decided to start the rule of "No Full Name, No Label = No Grade." This is for my own sanity. I need to find out what the students are turning in so I can give them credit for it. So many of them don't turn in work with anything telling me what it is.

I'm always torn because in my Graduate Program (Tm) they've told us not to make anything a rule unless it interferes with student learning. Well, I like to grade material and know what I'm grading so I need that rule but it doesn't affect student learning. I'm sure this will all be made clear to me in the end.

Friday, March 13, 2009

I never really leave the school...

Goal of the week: To get the list of goals for my Masters degree program (tm) so that I can start working on them during my stint teaching at this school. That hasn't been going very well. My graduate advisor, who was supposed to observe me on Wednesday, disappeared. I finally got an email from her saying that she had been ill and that she hadn't been answering email. She said that she sent another person around in her place to observe people. I didn't get seen so I'm wondering what happened.

Topic of the day: So much work to do and so little time to do it in.

My schedule during the day is that I officially teach from 730 in the morning until 230 in the afternoon. However, there's all the papers to grade, the lessons to create, the materials for the lesson to prep, and the catching up with students that have been absent to do.

This does not count the work that I do for my graduate program: homework, projects, presentations, papers, and reading.

My schedule this semester and last has been all over the place. I've been trying to balance all of this work with my *real life*. Not that I currently have much of one, but there are still groceries that need to be gotten, bills that need to be sorted and paid, phone calls of relatives and friends wondering if I'd died to return, and on rare occasions - social events to attend.

This work all needs to get done someplace conducive to studying. I need a place that's quiet, calm, and free of distraction. With all of the running that I do, I used to bring my work home with me but it never got done. I would be so exhausted by the time I got home that I'd just fall over into bed or be to mentally drained to sit and think coherently. This is a first for me since I've always done my academic work/studying/organizing right before I went to bed in graduate school and undergraduate. I'd get home from whatever job I'd held and spread out on my bed to study.

That doesn't work with all of this. I've had to go beyond my normal comfort zone to find another space and time to work because I got sick of always being behind in my lesson plans, grading, graduate homework, bills, and sleep from trying to force myself to work when I'm mentally and physically drained.

Sometimes in life, you have to go beyond your normal boundaries and break a long-established pattern. It's good to remember that as an adult because the students are going through that on almost a daily basis (the ones that are trying to help themselves out of their situation, anyway).

My solution: for the past week I've been staying after school until 5 or 6, sometimes 7. After 3, it's usually quiet as a tomb and no one is around. I'm stuck there so it helps me to work being in the education environment. I just wisht the office downstairs didn't shut down and close up at 330. I need to make copies.

The other teachers have started to comment on my late hours in the school. Apparently, there's a rumor that I never really leave. Oh well. I've got thick skin from people making fun of me in graduate school, undergrad, and high school. It's just another case of people not understanding how I need to work.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Kids coming in late

Goal of the week: to get the master list of goals for my program. I'm halted on doing that until I hear back from my Marian College adviser. She is MIA.

Today's topic: Participation Points

The people in my Graduate Program (tm) hate participation points with a passion. They say that it's not a true test of what the student knows and therefore should not be part of the grading scale. I both agree with that statement.

However, I really need to find a way to get my students to STOP coming to class LATE. Actually, I don't care if they come in the door late. I just care if they're a disruption in my class. If they come in singing, dancing (yes, I have students that do this every day and cause a unholy racket every time they do it), pulling chairs and stools across the room, and basically interferring with my ability to talk.

Now that I think about it, the real problem are the students making noise when they come in the door late when I'm trying to teach. It's disrespectful to the other students trying to learn, and slows down time that I could be spending with the students helping them because I have to stop and get it quiet again. Also, by coming in late they slow me down by constantly asking what they missed, both loudly and repeatedly.

There needs to be a procedure in place to put a stop to this. I refuse to lock the door like the other teachers do. The students need to be in class. However, they do not need to be treated the same way as the other students for coming in late. I need to move my desk to right next to the door. That way, I can tell exactly who is coming in and who isn't and force them to the side of the room to wait to be seated.

Actually, if I had a project-based class, then there wouldn't be much of a problem. If the students came in late, then it would be their issue and I wouldn't have to deal with it. Kids learn best by doing anyway. They don't want to listen to me talk and they hate doing anything from the book in class.

In a perfect world I'd love to have a project-based classroom where the kids learn by doing different projects at least 3 days a week. I would explain at the beginning of class and then the kids would start working. If students came in late, then they'd have to catch up from other students because they missed the explanation. OR they come in after school because it's their responsibility to be at school.

This is what gets me: students that miss school (I don't care if it's excused or not - that's not my business) but then think that they shouldn't have to do the same amount of work as everyone else that was here. If your grandmother died or your were sick or you were skipping, you are still responsible for the same amount of work as everyone else. You need to get it and make it up, either before or after an absence. If you miss a lab, you need to come in after school and make it up. If you miss a movie, you need to rent it or stay after school and watch it to do the assignment. That is the deal. If you miss time, then you need to make it up. No Exceptions.

Ok, back to kids coming in late. I need a procedure that works. I think I need to buy everything of Harry Wong's and memorize it. He's the apparent king of procedures in the classroom.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

I'm no Mother Teresa

Goal of the week: getting my masters degree program goals from my graduate school adviser so I can work on the master list for my program. You know, being all efficient and a good student. I'm supposed to be seeing her today so I can ask her about them then.

Today, we were theoretically supposed to start a new unit. I decided that we were going to start a unit on Climate and Weather, because I was bored with fossils. The kids are asking me why we jump around so much. I think that next year when I teach I'm going to create a vague syllabus and post it somewhere in the room so I can point to it and say, "Now what was it that we were going to cover next?" It'd be great if I could get the State Standards up on there as well, because then it would be all legally appropriate and shiny. Mmmhhhmmm, shiny.

I haven't had much sleep lately.

So, how to deal with contact from students outside of school. At the beginning of the year I gave out my cell number to students in case they needed to call and ask for homework help. I'd heard from previous people in my program that they'd done it and the kids had never abused it. They swore that the kids had never abused it. I don't know if it's my age or gender, but I've had four kids (all boys) call me about non-class related things. Granted, one wanted to wish me a Merry Christmas... but still. It makes me extremely uncomfortable. I want to put a stop to it without sending a message to the kids that they are horrible people and I want to run away from them. Really, this is just something that I was trying and now I don't like. I think I look too young and the kids are confusing me with someone that they can have as a "friend." I'm not their friend. I'm their teacher. There is a difference.

Last night, one of my students texted me that he was having "issues with his ex and needed to talk." He hasn't shown up at school more than a handful of days in two weeks. I texted him back and said that if he felt threatened to call the authorities, but other than that that he needed to come to school if he wanted to talk. I realize now what I should have said was "while I feel sorry for your stress, I need to keep my time free for students that need help with their homework. You can speak to the counselors if you need to talk to someone about your personal problems."

I love my students and I wish I had more time to listen to them about their problems, but I'm not a qualified mental health professional. I might break them in some way or say something wrong. Not only that, I just don't have the time. I need to teach. That involves a lot of work. When I'm not teaching... I want to go home and have a life and not be the wandering surrogate parent for 150 young people. It's selfish but it's true.

Mother Teresa I am not. I've finally found my limit, and that's late on a Tuesday night when I'm rushing to grad school, trying to find something to eat when I haven't eaten all day, trying to fit in grading more tests to get ahead for once, planning lessons, and working on projects for my grad class while getting calls from my students who want to talk about their previous relationship problems. That's it. I'm done. Limit not only crossed but tap-danced over.

Grades always make me thinks too much - take two

Goal of the week: to get the list of goals for my masters degree program so I can get going on the actual list instead of coming up with my own. My graduate adviser never showed up yesterday so I'm wondering what happened with that.

Today's topic: Grades. They are the bane of my existence. I want to teach but the powers that be insist that I tell them how well, down to within one percentage point, I think everyone has learned. Frankly, I don't care. I know that probably makes me a bad teacher.

It's not that I don't care how well my students learn. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I keep awake at night worrying if my students are learning what they are supposed to be learning and if they are learning it well enough and in the right way. I just don't see why I need or have to give them percentage grades. I think that takes away the meaning from the learning and puts it on the point system.

I only care about if they have learned what the State has told me that I need to teach them. I see it as this: have they learned what they are supposed to learn, have they done better than average, worse than average, far superior work, far inferior work. Those are the marks. They correspond to the: A, B, C, D, F grading system. I don't really care about pluses or minuses. I see it as this: have you learned what you were supposed to learn? Yes or no? How well (or badly)?

I need to redo my grading system to reflect this. I spend hours of my life calculating pointless grades down to infinitesimal percentage points to answer a question that can quickly be answered with an assessment.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Grades always make me thinks too much

Goal of the week: to get the goals for my program so I know what I should be doing. That would be a great idea. I need to get a copy of these from my graduate college adviser to make sure that I'm doing exactly what my program needs me to be doing. Yay.

Today is test day. It's peaceful and quiet. It's also a standardized test day. My students are upset with me for testing them on a standardized test day since some of our juniors and seniors are not in class to take the test. Frankly, I need to give them a test before the end of their grading period. The end of the grading period is Friday.

It's been recommended to me that I should give my students unit tests every two weeks and a quiz to show them how they're doing between every unit test.

I don't know if that will work with my students. I don't know what will work with my students. They miss school so much that it's amazing that some of them are going to make it at all. It's amazing that people pass them. I'm amazed that I do.

I've been grading the tests all day. The grades tend to range from ok to scary. There are no great grades. I think my highest score out of all of my classes was a 45 out of 50. And I do not write these tests to be very hard. Additionally, I allow them to get half of their missed credit back instead of curving the test. I think I won't do that anymore because it allows it that most of my students do not fail. Not that I want to fail them, but I want to give them grades that represent their level of learning in my class.

Grades are assessments of how well I am teaching and how well they are learning. It should be 50/50 in that regard. I need to teach the material so that it is easy to understand and at least mildly fun. It does not need to be fun all the time or I am reinforcing the idea that life is all fun and games, everything is easy, and your education should not be difficult. It needs to be difficult and they have to work for it because life is like that and I need to prepare them for that. Their classwork needs to have limits on when things are due and when you can turn things in because life is like that. Life is not a free-for-all where you can turn in whatever you want when you want. My class needs to be a balance of all of these things at all points in time.

That, and a balance of about 1,000,000 other things.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Review Day (Tm)

Goal of the week: Operation get the grades done ahead of time and stop scrambling at the end of the grading period. Actually, let me rephrase that. Perhaps I should call it "For the love of everything Holy, Get A Handle On Your Grading Practices!" I've noticed that I don't really decide in advance how I'm going to grade things because I have to change up the assignments so much. I'm so new at teaching that I have to modify everything constantly. I know that now so that's ok. The secondary problem is that it drives my grading system bonkers. And me. And my sleep schedule as I try to figure this out. I'm going to try and put humpty dumpty back together again, but this is going to take some time to figure out.

Why can't everyone get A's? Seriously? I really hate the way modern grades are set up. It puts the emphasis on some number and not on how much they are learning.

Today was another Review Day for the Test for my kids. I love Review Days (Tm). The kids all get down to work and start acting like true academics. Well, not really but I can pretend. Actually, I did something different this time. I made some assignments due with the test because another teacher told me he did it that way to save himself the hassle. I find that it's not working. Most of my students can't remember their pencil, much less their lab report from a week ago. I couldn't either at that age. Ugh.

I think I won't make things due later unless they are notes. They need to learn how to keep their notes together. I may make them keep a note folder or notebook in the future, but not half-way through the second semester. Next semester would be a good idea.

Also, for reviewing for a test, I will never again give them a review sheet and say "this is not an assignment but just questions that you should know for the test." They don't do it if they think it's not an assignment. I was told to do it that way in graduate school, but my kids won't do anything unless they see the immediate payoff. I could probably be clever and think of a way around it, but it will take some creativity. I'm going to have to play with a lot of things in my classroom to get them where I like them and where the kids are empowered and learning to the best of their ability. Whoo... years of work and picking at things.

That's the ultimate question: how to get them invested in school without bribery?

Friday, March 6, 2009


Goal of the week: To find the goals for my program so I can have goals for the week that adhere to my program's standards. That's a really good goal! That, and to actually get my lesson plans up on time. I'm always running late.

I love working with kids. Some days I don't want to be around people, but I think you'll find that with any job. Most days, I really look forward to coming into work. The students make me laugh so much. They are so funny and wonderful. I've never laughed so much at a job in my entire life.

Shhh... don't tell anyone. I think they're paying me just to have fun while teaching the kids. There has to be some sort of problem with that.

On a more serious note, I do take my job really seriously. I've started staying after school until about 5 or 630 at night. That usually makes for a 10 to 11 hour day when you add it all up. I need to get a key to my building to I can come in on the weekend. I don't remember when I became such a workaholic, but it apparently happened. I just have so much to do and if I bring it home with me it never seems to get done. When I get home, I'm so exhausted that I just want to collapse.

So I've justified my obscene amounts of time at work like this: I'm a graduate student and a first year teacher. Both of those things require a lot of time on my part. It won't always be this way. I anticiapte that within the next year I'll finish up my grad program and that will clear up a lot of time. I hope that within the next two or three years after that I'll really get a handle on how to teach to the best of my ability. Then, I'll know how to do things well and I won't have to put quite as much work into it. I can spend some more time at home.

It's an investment. I'm paying now so I can get good and have a family later. Right? Or I'm just turning myself into an insane workaholic. Heads or tails on that one. At least more grading gets done.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A truly bad day

Goal of the week: organize my filing system! I managed to get all of the student work that was backed up into the student files. That was a task that took me multiple days. Now that I have it all in the student folders, I begin to think to myself - why do I have a folder for each particular student anyway? That means that I have to take the work for each student each night and file it, take it out and grade it, put it back, take it out again and hand it back. I could just be taking it out as a group and grading it and handing it back and keeping the quizzes and tests in the files for safe keeping. Their practice work could be handed back or the files could be for them to keep their stuff in in class if they don't feel they could keep things in their locker. That could work. I'll have to think about it. I know that I graded much faster when I did everything as a class.

Yesterday I took another sick day. That makes the grand total this year at 6. I feel like I've taken too many. I may need to talk to an administrator about the problem. With the stress of the program and me always running around and busy... my migraines have gotten out of control. They are nearly always a problem these days and I'm always medicated. It's horrible. I hate being medicated all of the time. I feel like I'm constantly in a daze. I hate being underslept and constantly tired and feeling exhausted. I don't know how the other people in the program with families handle all of this.

And I really, really hate having a substitute in my room. The sub that I had yesterday didn't follow my directions. I'm having the students do a project over the movie "Journey to the Center of the Earth." They are to point out the scientific differences between the movie and the geologic reality of the center of the Earth in a Venn Diagram and a paper. The sub didn't have them start the movie like I had indicated. Instead, he let the students talk all period and he let them swear and be disrespectful to gay people in my room. I don't tolerate disrespect to any minority group in my room. It's a pet peeve of mine to an extreme degree. School should be a warm and welcoming place to people of every race, creed, gender, sexual orientation, and possible definition. I can't believe that the sub let them do that. A few of my students came to me clearly upset because the sub started "bonding" with some of the jocks in the back of the room and theys tarted throwing around really nasty words. Apparently, they made fun of me as well. I don't really care that much about me. I do care that my students didn't feel comfortable in my room. That has me extremely ticked off. I want to go downtown and make a complaint about that sub so he never works in my district again. He threw off my schedule and made my students feel uncomfortable. That is not allowed.

Perhaps I'm just in a bad mood because I still have a migraine. I don't know. I do know that my students are now behind schedule and I'm angry. I rarely get angry.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

I hate being sick

Sick day: version 6.0

I got sick yesterday afternoon after school. I was hanging out filing ( or working on my filing system) with a couple of my favorite students. The students were watching movies on my lap top because they were waiting for rides or working on homework. I was filing the massive piles of paperwork. I got another migraine. I hate it when I get those around the kids. I really, really do. I had to call my mother to come and pick me up because I couldn't drive myself home.

Once I got home, it was 7 hours of being violently ill. Yeah, I tried to go to school but I didn't make it. I tried but I could stop getting sick. I hate missing school. Someone else is going to be in my room... messing it up. Ugh.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Math and Tightropes

Goal of the week: Operation filing system. My goal this week is to find a way to get my grades filed and back to the kids in a timely manner. That has been another one of the banes to my existence as a teacher. I think that my overall goal is to have a folder for every student (already done) separated by period (already done). I want to have it so that the folders hold their work, but I haven't decided in what way. I'm thinking that the kids could put their work in the folders themselves and that way I could have nothing to do with it. I pass out the folders and they put in their work. I collect the folders and grade what's in there. I need to come up with a system that saves me time and energy because I spend hours of my life filing when I don't need to.

Today, we're going over the lab from last week to make sure that everyone understands it. I, unfortunately, chose a day to do this when I'm missing a lot of my student body due to state testing. My school is a combo school where the middle school and high school students are mixed and the middle school students are testing. That means the school is under lock down. It also means that most of my high schoolers are skipping. Oh well. We do the best that we can. I guess the rest of them will have to make up the missing information with me after school or miss those questions on the test.

The kids are stumbling on the math, despite the fact that I'm going over it on the board. I like the system that I was taught at graduate school. I'm giving them the answers and if they don't know how to get the answers then we go over them. It saves me a lot of time and only the kids that are really interested are asking questions. Those that would copy anyway stay silent. Problem solved, and I weed through them on the test for those that were trying and those that were not putting any effort into it.

I still worry about the math. I need to push the standards and have high expectations, but a lot of them are having trouble. It's another tightrope walking day.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Modified Schedule - Because I need to post it for myself


Testing 7:30-9:40

Period 3 9:45-10:30

Period 4 10:35-11:05

Period 5 11:10-11:20

Period 6 11:25-11:55

Period 7 12:00-12:10

Period 8 12:15-12:45

Period 9 12:50-1:35

Period 10 1:40-2:30


Testing 7:30-10:10

Period 4 10:15-10:45

Period 5 10:50-11:05

Period 6 11:10-11:40

Period 7 11:45-12:00

Period 8 12:05-12:35

Period 2 12:40-1:30

Period 3 1:35-2:30


Testing 7:30-9:15

Period 3 9:20-10:10

Period 4 10:15-10:45

Period 5 10:50-11:05

Period 6 11:10-11:40

Period 7 11:45-12:00

Period 8 12:05-12:35

Period 9 12:40-1:30

Period 10 1:35-2:30


Testing 7:30-9:15

Period 3 9:20-10:10

Period 4 10:15-10:45

Period 5 10:50-11:05

Period 6 11:10-11:40

Period 7 11:45-12:00

Period 8 12:05-12:35

Period 2 12:40-1:30

Period 10 1:35-2:30

School versus gaming

Goal of the week: I've decided that my goal of the week should be getting my filing system under control. The sheer amount of papers that I need to keep track of for my students is mind boggling. I need to get a better system underway than the one that I currently have because I spend hours of my week just trying to file and grade. I mean - literally hours into the night. It's not an efficient use of my time when I need to be coming up with lesson plans. I've decided that I need to figure out how to make this more streamlined.

This week we have standardized testing for the state going on. The whole school is under lockdown. I'm not that happy about it but there's nothing I can do. The kids aren't that happy either, but I need tos how them that sometimes in life there are things that you have to deal with that are less than you want. Sometimes, you have to deal with the crud in order to get what you want. Basically... life isn't always fun or we'd all be happy all the time. Tuff nuggies. All of that.

My kids seem to think that they are entitled to a life where things are easy and tame. They seem to think that school should always be fun and easy, that there should never be homework unless it's over PS2 or another such gaming system, that teachers should let them listen to iPods in class instead of lecture, that they shoudl text in class instead of take notes, and that every day should be movie day. I don't know where they get these ideas from. They won't help them in life. There isn't a job on Earth that is like that, and they all know that or should know that. I need to ask them what they think school is preparing them for. I think there's some sort of disconnect where they don't seem to realize that school is supposed to be preparing them for life and for a job. I think they just consider it to be an annoyance that gets in they way of their gaming.

It's one of my goals to fix that.