Monday, August 31, 2009

My list of things I cannot change (or ”brought to you by an insanely bad day“)

Things I cannot change...
  1. The ability levels of my students. Yes, some are functionally illiterate. Yes, some do not speak English. Yes, some are homeless and have never been pushed in school or have not been there most of the time. Yes, most don't have 2 parents at home telling them to do their homework (this really does help). I can't fix that. I must work with what I'm given.
  2. My administration... because they suck. Yes, they are always looking for a quick fix and never really pay attention to what needs to be done to help the students. Yes, they want only 20% of my class to fail... even if 25% don't show up. Yes, I've been told to raise my grades despite the fact that my students can't pass the end of year assessments for my subject. Yes, see before mentioned "thing I cannot change."
  3. The general inability of my school to have supplies or working equipment. 'Nuff said.
  4. My health. It sucks right now. I'm always tired and grumpy or in pain and on drugs.
  5. My students' general dissatisfaction with the fact that learning is work and not always fun and games like they've been led to believe.
Things I can change...
  1. The attitude of my students toward school insomuch that it can be positive and kind.
  2. My professional approach to problems that will always end up with me feeling like I haven't lowered myself to the level of those around me (I will remember that I'm an adult).
  3. My students' appreciation of science and biology.
  4. My students sense of academic self worth (that maybe they *can* do this).
  5. My students' hope for the future and in themselves.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Thoughts about leaving my inner city district (or ”wracked by guilt and shame“)

I think I may be done with teaching in IPS.

The kids are great (thought they need a lot of help), the lower administration usually is out to help the kids and the teachers, and there is definitely a need of good, experienced, and fair teachers in this area. However, the upper administration makes teaching so difficult that it's almost not worth the fight.

Examples of ways that my life is a living hell of bureaucracy:
  1. I have a classroom monitor from downtown sent in to examine if I have the correct amount of posters and that they are all up to date - also... a whole meeting where an hour of my life was spent chastising the teachers for the incorrect use of take (type and style) on said posters. That's just inane.
  2. Having to do ATTENDANCE twice each day for each class and emailing the list of students who I have never seen. Um... there's no way to do this other than creating an excel spreadsheet and copying the attendance online to it each day. There goes a half hour of my day.
  3. I'm not not only supposed to monitor the hallway each and every passing period (I, apparently, don't get to pee all day) but I now have to - during class - poke my head out and make sure the bathrooms don't have students doing graffiti.
  4. I'm being professional observed to see if I'm monitoring which students are in dress code and which are not. I get in trouble if any student has the following: sagging pants, any electronic device (iPod, cell phone, portable gaming system), hooded sweat shirts, sweat shirts, non-dress code colors, and head coverings. I get in trouble should any students be in these things.
Now, the meetings that I have with my Academic Dean each day aren't bad. However, nothing really gets accomplished there other than him updating us on what's happening on the world of our school. That usually translates to personal development where people are brought in to show us slideshows and then one month later we have to provide a list of professional goals. Now, if I did that to my students nothing would get done. You need to remind people of deadlines - especially when they have a lot going on in their lives like many teachers do.

It's not like we aren't spending all of our time grading, creating lessons, tutoring students, doing attendance, and all of that.

Of course. We just sit on our butts during class and do nothing. Whee.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The nice teacher next to me (or ”Praise the Lord - one who doesn’t make me want to stab myself in the eye“)

I had another headache today – though it wasn't a true migraine but rather just a bad headache. The nice gentleman that teaches architecture next to me was walking in the hall and looked intoo my room. He's adopted the habit of looking into my class to make sure that I'm OK during and that the students haven't eaten me yet.

He saw me on the floor because I was exhausted. I was leaning against the wall in a little ball because my head hurt and I had 3 more periods to teach yet. It was exhausting. He kindly poked his head in and checked on me. It was nice of him to do so.

He's one of the few teachers in the building that doesn't make me want to stab myself in the eye when they talk. Teachers are some of the most bitter people that I've ever had the misfortune to meet in my life.

Friday, August 21, 2009

In communicato (or "schools are supposed to informt he teachers' of what's up!")

Today was an extremely irritating day in my teaching life. There’s a huge football game downtown in the venue where our Superbowl winning team plays. Apparently, our football team from the School of Legion are playing there tonight. Now, I’m all for fun and games to get the students excited about school spirit but it’s just odd. Apparently, all of the students that are leaving for the game are going during last period. Also, the teachers have supposedly been told that they need to not give the students any homework over the weekend. However, I was not informed about this in advance so I gave the students a quiz that day. I am so frustrated with the communication issues that I constantly see in schools. If a business were to function thsi way then it’d go under. I guess that’s why our public schools are in peril.

Also, I’d like to know who the person in charge was to decided that our students should leave school during the day to attend something not academic. This is a total waste of our students time and for students that are so close to not meeting the academic standards of a high school diploma then that’s really an issue.

For those teachers like me that didn’t get the memo that we weren’t supposed to assign homework then the students are in trouble. The buses that leave to attend the game will not permit the students on them to have backpacks or anything else larger than a handbag. All backpacks and books must be left in lockers. The buses will not be coming back to the school, either. The students have to leave their things in their lockers until Monday morning. It is not very good for students to not only loose class time but have to leave their things on campus for two days. The buildings will be locked and the students will not be able to get their things even if they wanted to!

Actually, I’m just really annoyed that my schedule was disrupted. There’s an OCD part of me that hates it when one of my classes is off. If I teach something in one of my classes then I like to teach it in all of my classes or I’m out of sorts all day.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Remember when life wasn't nuts? (or "I work in Bedlam")

Today was the first day that I’ve had to have my mother and step-father come to drive me home. As a person who suffers from migraines, occasionally in class I get sick and am unable to perform my function as a classroom teacher. This would constitute a medical emergency on my part because I physically can’t keep performing my job.

Today’s fiasco was started by the overhead projector and cornell notes. In case I hadn’t mentioned it before, my room is severely ill-equiped for the education of children. There’s no dry erase board, no usable chalk board, and no overhead projector of any sort (dry erase or for a computer). Actually, there is an overhead projector for a computer but it is currently broken and I have nothing to get it to work with. It’s a system that looks like it’s about 20 years old which is fairly interesting since I didn’t think they had overhead projectors then. Also, the whole apparatus is locked and I can’t figure out how to get into it.

So I solved this problem by using my liberated projector that was I got last year from the collection of materials that was going to be auctioned by our school district. Last year, with about 2 hours notice, I was informed that downtown was going to get rid of a bunch of materials that were not requested by teachers or were old technology. This is absolutely absurd because so many classrooms are in need and could use materials, old or not.

This year, my room is one such example of a classroom in need. The room has nothing usable and I can’t even rearrange the desks to suit my needs. The students are all in desks that look like they’re from a lab circa 1953. I’m so frustrated with screaming my notes to my students and having to repeat myself every 20 seconds that I brought in my projector and set it up with the rickety old screen at the side of my students’ desks. Yes, at the side. All of the students have to swivel their heads 90 degrees to see the screen. Those behind the giant cement pole in the middle of my room don’t have a clear view and have to physically pull their stools out to attempt to see the notes. Let me tell you, this really increases student achievement right there. Some days I feel like I’m being tested by God in this room. if I can teach here and grab their attention, then I suppose I can teach anywhere. OK, there are probably classrooms that are worse, but I don’t care to to think about them.

At any rate, I had to stand in front of the projector with my laptop all day to bring the slides up for notes. The reason why we are doing so many notes in class is because two of my five classes do not have books. That is pleasant. For the rest of the classes, they have a middle school text for a high school Biology class. I’m not amused. So, I stand with my little laptop in front of an extremely bright projector all day. This made little miss teacher have a migraine in 7 hours.

It would not have been so bad if I had been able to leave right after school. Unfortunately, we had our monthly small school meeting. My school is so large that the different buildings are all small schools that have their own programing and slant on education. While it’s true that I love my boss and think the staff at my small school is very nice and attentive, I really could have done with out a meeting on that particular day. I managed to drive home without throwing up but it was a close call. My significant other was not pleased at my state when I literally fell through the door of our home.

Another average day in Bedlam.

Friday, August 14, 2009


After an exhausting week I have learned some things about my new school. I have learned that not just one but two fights can break out in the same classroom in one day. I have learned that it takes time after the summer to develop the muscles that are required to stand for 9 hours a day again. I have learned that without those muscles that I want to cut off my feet and boil them until there’s only bone left. I have learned that I miss my old students and I wish I could see their smiling faces in my room again. So many of them became like an extended family for me during the day. They were my daytime children... or more like my nieces and nephews because I wasn’t able to really discipline them like a parent. I couldn’t hug them like a parent - though I wanted to when they were sad or did really well. I know I probably got too close to them and I hope to do better this year with maintaining my professional distance, but they were such cool and funny people with interesting lives. During the course of this week, I have learned most of all that I am really out of practice but it comes back like riding a bike. I was afraid over the past few weeks that I would not remember how to teach and I’d be terrible.
Also, just for a daily moment of humor - my mother and step-father came to my school to bring me the skeleton that I liberated from my last school. My step-father took the time to clean him and fix him for me and my mother put a tie and baseball cap on him. They got stopped at the gate when they were bringing me my skeleton and the poor guard on duty didn’t know what to do with the two people bringing what appeared to be a dead body seat-belted in their car into my classroom. My mother forgot to mention to said guard that the skeleton was a replica and not real.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Exhaustion... (or... should I go back to research?)

I am totally exhausted. I keep trying to think of wonderful and exciting activities for the kids to get involved with the first few days of school but I really can’t manage to think of anything. I know that I should have thought of this long before the start of school and been lesson planning like a demon to get ahead but I got out of the practice of being diligent. Actually, lesson planning has never bee my greatest skill as a teacher. Yes, I am able to come up with great lessons when I feel like it - but that’s usually not more than a few days in advance of the day that I’m planning on executing them.
Why am I exhausted, you say? Well, it all has something to do with the fact that I’m extremely nervous at having a bunch of new kids on my roster. It’s insane for me to think that I have 200 new names, personalities, and background stories to learn. I’m trying my best to be optimistic about it, but frankly I’m not going anywhere. I don’t have much for classroom discipline right now because they don’t know me or have any investment in my teaching so they don’t care.
Wow, I guess this is now the “other” teachers feel. The teachers to whom I am referring are the ones that I pass in the hall that throw busy work at the students day in and day out. They are the teachers that give out crossword puzzles and worksheets photocopied from a book that doesn’t really apply to what they’re teaching. I know each of them has his or her reasons, but it must be horrible to have classroom discipline when the kids don’t know or respect you. I can’t imagine.
Right now I hate my job because the kids don’t respect me yet. I groan at the thought of getting up and going in for another 10 hours. That was not the case last year at the School of Apathy. Granted, I was exhausted from my teaching load, trying to get everything done on time, and my graduate classes, but I liked being around the students and found it energizing. I hope I can get some of that back and soon.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Welcome Back...?

The students have all come back. By “all,” I mean those that were registered and ready to go for classes. I’m missing quite a few students and I’ve been advised by other teachers in my transition to teaching program that it would be best not to start teaching material until next week. The theory behind that one is that the students will not be caught up and in their correct classes for some time.
However, the chaos of the first few days of classes is NOTHING compared to where I used to work, which will forever after this point be called “School of Apathy.” I have termed it that because the majority of the teachers and administration there were filled with such an overwhelming aura of apathy that I had to limit contact with them lest it infect me, too. The first few days of classes there resulted in such massive pandemonium that I’m frankly surprised that some students made it to class. My first two days of teaching were as a substitute there and I just stood in the hallways and directed the hoards of students that were wandering around the halls lost, confused, or having social hour. It was amazing.
Here, there are not that many students out in the hallways and those students that come late to class generally show up within the first 3 minutes of class starting. I don’t know if it’s the new method that I have to get them on task when they start but it’s amazing to me that the difference between two schools can be so vast. My old school, during the first days of class, had people just wandering around everywhere and taking advantage of the large proportion of bodies in the hallway to skip class. Nothing ever happened to them. At my new school, which I have termed “School of Legion” because of the amount of students there, the kids get thrown out of the hall by our Academic Dean - who thus far seems to be an excellent boss.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Welcome Back and get a kick in the face...

Hello to my adoring public... (insert maniacal laughter here)

Everybody's favorite slightly insane science teacher is back on the warpath... my goal this year is the same as last year - to get some kiddies learn-ed. I'm sure that I'm probably failing in that respect but I know that the students and I are ready and able. Or at least I am. Or at least I'm here.

Some background info for those that are interested: Over the summer I got diagnosed with endometriosis. What's that, you say? It certainly isn't a walk in the park. I'm really irritated because it's going to be interferring with my teaching which is a GIANT no-no in my book. I have to have surgery in the next year to get my body parts back to playing nice with each other. This will be a major surgery and if done during the year then it will cut into my teaching time. I *hate* having subs in my room. The kids walk all over them and everything gets turned into a giant mess. I really don't like being out for a month or so. I'm hoping that I can swing it so that I'll have the surgery as close to the end of the year as possible so it doesn't cut into my teaching schedule. You know what's also a giant bummer with all of this - I'm theoretically finishing my master's degree right at the same time so the surgery couldn't be during a worse part of my life.

This has been impacting my mood for the past month so I've been slightly distracted.

At any rate - here we go. Get your padded rooms and strap jackets ready... it's time for another school year.