Friday, January 29, 2010

Interactive Notebooks: Day 5

Interactive Notebooks: Day 5

I told my students that I was collecting the notebooks today to grade them. Suddenly, there was a flurry of activity while they all rushed to get done a whole week's worth of work instead of working on the activity for today. I think that in the future I'm going to say that there will be one check per week but it will be random. That will save me a lot of fuss and trouble.

Also, it doesn't really help me to have my students not paying attention to me because they're worried about their grade for the previous stuff. Whether they realize it or not, I'm more worried about working with them on *today's* materials so that they can ask me for help or remediation when I'm *there* and can help them.

So far, I'm not too impressed with the Interactive Notebook's ability to help my students retain material because they're not invested in them. However, as an assessment tool - they're stellar. I can grade them in about 1 minute and the students can easily see exactly what they are missing. They're fantastic in that regard!

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Interactive Notebooks Day 4

Interactive Notebooks Day 4

The kids are not getting the concepts this time around. I'm having trouble (still) getting them to understand and retain transcription and translation. Grades are coming out soon and I'm a little worried.

I delayed a day longer to try and reteach the material, but now I'm moving on to other things I need to cover before the kids take their district-required tests to see if they've learned what the district says they're supposed to learn by this point in the school year. Yippie. -_-

On the upside - this method of teaching is making it really easy for me to tell when a student is missing work. They ask me their grade, and I say "Open your notebook and show me all of the finished activities for the past 4 days." They say "oh crap!" and I say... "yeah, get those done."

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Teacher, research your pupils, Part I

Update: Using my students as research subjects...

As a caveat of my Transition to Teaching (TM) program, I need to go to graduate school and get my Master's in Education before 2 years is up. For people that don't have an education degree that go into teaching, the state is vary wary. Apparently, it was brought up that without a degree in education that these career professionals could be doing horrible damage to the kiddies without realizing.

Now, I've always been a fan of learning. I've always loved school. That's part of the reason why I went into teaching to begin with. Also, I really hated research. Talk about boring and monotonous. (This is where I hear the Chinese curse: "May you live in interesting times," floating through my head.)

My love of education stopped at graduate school, Education Degree Version.

Suffice it to say that I'm not impressed with the learning going on in these classes. My latest rant is that of the quality of their research. It's called "Action Research." The action, apparently, is to test an idea without controls and relevant statistics.

High horse time: I was a cancer researcher in my former life. It pains me on an almost physical level to write a graduate thesis about my "research" without controls or statistics guiding the way. I've been been great at statistics, but programs are built for people like me that get mixed up on when to use a T test versus ANOVA versus a regression analysis. Yay for computers to think for me!

I'm just sayin'. Um... how can you ever say that what you proved was because of your hypothesis and not just a random pattern?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Medical Emergency

Special Update: Medical Emergency

One of my students last period had an accident and had to be taken to the Emergency Room. I have no idea what happened, as my back was turned to him for half a minute, but as I was quieting my last class of the day to get ready for announcements I saw them all back up quickly and fearfully like they'd seen a mouse.

I turned around expecting a mouse, and say one of the students on the floor. As I was opening my mouth to say his name, he opened his mouth and started spitting up blood. Lots of blood. And 2 teeth.

I quickly helped him up and got him to a chair with some paper towels to catch the blood falling out of his mouth. He covered my floor with spatters of spit blood for 3 feet. There was so much blood that it was coagulating in big clumps as it sat there.

I shooed the students out of the room and into the hallway, ran and got the nurse that teaches next door, and then tried to comfort my student. I had trouble with that. What do you say when one of your students has 2 of his teeth - root and all - laying in a puddle of blood on the floor? Really, "they can put them back in," sounds lame and "it's going to be OK," sounds trite.

I just settled for hugging him and telling him that his family would be with him soon and that he was going to see a doctor that would make it ok.

When the school nurse got there with gauze and other medical supplies, I backed up and let her do her thing. Medically trained, I am not thought I have an interest in the subject. Trying to be useful, I got the cops (who were coming in the door) the students emergency contacts and updated everyone on what I knew, though it was precious little.

However, I did send one of the cops for some milk. I said that we needed to get his teeth into milk as soon as possible so they could put them back in for him at the hospital. The cops went running to the cafeteria and came back with the milk in 5 minutes. Until then, we wrapped the teeth in wet paper towel. Once the teeth were in the milk, the EMTs arrived from the ambulance waiting outside. I wrote the exact time his teeth had come out on the carten of milk in permanent marker and made sure to show the EMTs the information so they could show the doctor.

Of the two EMTs, the taller man looked at me with a smile and said "I thought that was an old-wives tale, but OK." I seriously could have punched him. In the face. Hard.

I almost started crying when my administrator said that he had to go with my student to the hospital and not me. I wanted to stay with him and make sure he was safe until his family came to his side. He knows me. I could have comforted him when he was the most scared. He doesn't know the Academic Dean of our Magnet that well. He knows me and trusts me.

In the end, I told him that he would be OK and that the EMTs would make sure everything would be alright (which I doubted but kept to myself). Once he'd left, I had 3 students come walking in for after-school tutoring and stop at the sight of all the blood. I think he lost a little less than a pint on my floor, desks, stools, and walls.

I told them to wait in the office until I made the room sterile. They nodded vigorously and left with very wide eyes.

The school nurse, bless her, stayed and helped me clean up the blood. I went to get a gallon of bleach that I keep in the back room and mixed it up for at 70%. My science training came in handy, as I had to memorize how to clean up bio hazard spills as a researcher that handled blood. 70% bleach for at least 30 seconds, then wipe with alcohol after the bleach has dried. It took us almost an hour to get the blood up off the floor.

I was a bit in shock myself, as I just started laughing in the middle of cleaning. It was, apparently, infectious as the nurse started laughing to. I told her that cleaning up blood was "not in my plans for a Tuesday afternoon."

Update: 9PM

I called the boys legal guardian. He lives with his aunt. She told me that they were able to put his teeth back in at the ER. She also told me, which did make me cry, that it was because of me and my quick thinking that they were able to save his teeth. If they hadn't been put in the milk, he would have lost them because it took so long to get him into the ER. The root of the tooth would have died.

He's OK. I didn't realize how scared I was until I talked to his aunt. I apologized to her for not having more information on what happened, but told her everything I'd seen. I told her that tomorrow, I would talk to my students and find out what happened and update her after school. So help me, if anyone hurt that child I will yell at them with an inch of their life. Of course, I'm upset so I probably should calm down first. Never discipline children when angry. Ever. I learned that growing up.

Though, I now understand my mother saying to her children: "If you're OK at the end of this, I'm going to kill you."

Interactive Notebook Research, Day 2

Interactive Notebooks
The students were having trouble today. I think I need to go back and re-teach them the basics of Genetics because so many of them are not getting it. This is going to set me back but I'd rather have them understand the basics well then shallowly understand very little.

Today's activities involved vocabulary matching. Note for next time, if you're going to ask students that never study to match vocabulary words to the correct step in turning DNA in protein, make sure to review the meanings first. Or better yet, have them copy the definitions from the back of the book into their notebook BEFORE the activity. That was my major issue today. The kids kept looking at me with confused looks because they didn't remember what the vocabulary words mean that we worked on last week.

Le sigh.

Hopefully, tomorrow will be better. I'm going to have them work on mini-essays where they summarize the two steps (transcription and translation) and then draw what's happening. Then they're going to underline all the vocab words in the mini-essay. Hopefully, that will make them review and use the material. I hope. Short of making them repeat the words over and over until I force them to memorize them, I don't know what to do to help them get the basics. Understanding is easy. However, they lose their understanding if they don't memorize the basic stuff like vocabulary.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Interactive Notebooks: Day 1

Interactive Notebooks: Day 1

I started my graduate research today. I'm studying student retention of concepts. My hypothesis is that if the students take notes in an interactive, creative way that approaches the material from a different way than just seeking to comprehend it that they will remember it better. It should be interesting to see.

I pretested the students on their knowledge of genetics last week. It was a short 3 question test, so it just gave me an idea of how much they understood before we went into the unit on transcription and translation.

Today, I gave the students a questionnaire about how often they took notes in class. We shall see how this works.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Speechless moments

I have no words.

One of my students, C., today was sitting and playing a hand-held game. I asked him if he had his work done and ready to turn in. He didn't look up but told me he left his folder at home.

Except that he has no home. He lives in a group home. I found this out earlier in the week when he got 2 warnings in one day for barking in class (14 year-olds are silly and crazy). Instead of a parent on the other end of the phone, I got a very crisp-voiced professional woman assuring me that his misbavior would be dealt with.

Today, in the middle of class, one of my other students asked me how old I am. I answered and they all laughed and said I looked younger. I laughed and said I got that a lot. C looked up shyly from his game and told me that his mother died when she was 42, 2 years ago.

I had nothing that I could say. It was too painful and I didn't want to draw attention to him. I just put my hand on his shoulder and gave him a gentle squeeze. He looked me in the eyes for a second and withdrew to go back to his game. I walked away to answer another question. This took all of 2 seconds but it will haunt me for the rest of my life.

Somtimes, this job is harder than people think and for reasons impossible to explain without crying.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Compare to last year

Note to readers: I'm not upset with life. Really.

I think my New Year's Resolution should be to blog every day and not just when I'm so angry or upset that I indulge in BlogRant (tm).

Also... I'm so much better that I was last year at this time. Case in point: we'll compare where I was last year and where I am now. Some positivity is well deserved and might help me to put things in perspective.

Last Year
  • Struggling with how to organize my lessons
  • Didn't know how to lesson plan
  • Completely made it up as I went along (no planning in advance)
  • Reactive discipline instead of preventative procedures
  • Was trying to be students' friend instead of Instructor (big issue last year)
  • Didn't know how to grade in a timely/effective manner
  • Had trouble keeping track of grades
  • Never called home
  • Periodically had "free days" due to lack of planning
  • Still having problems with how to effective keep track of grades
  • Still having issues grading quickly and and getting stuff back to the students
  • Struggling with classroom management... but SO much better
This is where I have a conversation with my brain. I tell it to shut up and that I am making progress, albeit slowly. Hey, as I tell my students all the time: "Never give up."

As Doctor Heal Thyself, so I need to listen to myself more.

Monday, January 11, 2010

What is a teacher to do...

Just when I think I've got control of a situation... it all comes crashing down.

All of the teachers in my building have been told that the students that fail their classes were going to be removed and put into study halls. This was supposedly supposed to give them some time to work on the state standards that they hadn't gotten in their classes. I think it was also to remove the students that were not performing at their ability.

However, this was not done. In fact, with the new students entering my class, my rosters got larger. Combine this with the fact that the students that were failing math and english *did* get removed from those classes and their schedules had to re rearranged. My classes are going nuts.

There are some days where I wonder at the administration. I know that last year that if I have more than 20% of my students failing that we have to justify their grades to the administration and face an inquisition. The administration says their goal is to have 95% of students pass their state standardized tests. I understand their goal, but keeping kids in the same classes even after they have failed isn't helping anyone.

I don't know what the solution is but this certainly isn't it.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Well, this is an upper to start the year...

It's a new school year. The air should be filled with hope and promise of new things yet to accomplish. I should be looking forward to all of the young minds that I'm going to open this year.

I'm not.

Depression creeps into my mind everytime I think about my teaching abilities, my goals, the school culture that I teach in, and what I'm accomplishing. I suppose it's no different for the students that I teach.

Some days I'm just overwhelmed with how little I can accomplish. Between a lack of supplies, confusion over what's going on, being told one thing and having to do another, intimidation from the administration to scare the teachers into line, lack of respect from students, and unrealistic goals for the students from the administration... I don't know.

I think I'm getting burned out. Actually, I think I'm about toast. I don't look forward to going to work anymore. I don't really like my day. I need to fix that or I'm going not be here next year.

On the other hand... 2 years in an inner city school is an accomplishment. However, I look at it in terms of what I've done to help my students... and academically I don't know if it's much. I helped them feel better about themselves but that's not technically a teacher's job.

I feel useless.