Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Things that are working!

Peer Review - Where the students are editing each other's work and giving feedback.

This actually went well! Of course, I'm writing this halfway through my day and my afternoon classes are a bit more on the "squirrely" side, but it is progress. I've been trying so many new things in my classroom lately that it's nice to have one of them finally work.

Also, I'm having one volunteer teach the Guided Notes for the day. That means that one of my students gets to get up in front of the class, go through the notes, hand out the Stars when people answer right, and basically practice public speaking. This is a major win. I think I'd like to use this more.

Now, if I didn't come up with both of these because I'm not doing well healthwise. I guess necessity is the mother of invention.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Geeking Out


Due to some bad news with my finances (that I'm sure will resolve itself today), I was up almost the whole night. I slept well the night before, but this got me to thinking.

So many of my posts seem to comment on my general lack of sleep. I wonder if there's a pattern to it. I should make a chart and figure out how many hours of sleep I get through the night. I used to do this when I was in graduate school, version 1.0. During my first stint in graduate school, I found that there was a wave-like pattern to how many hours of sleep I got during the week. Sunday to Monday was always bad, as was Thursday to Friday. Over the weekend, my sleep was around 7 to 8 hours, which is a lot for me.

I wonder if the same pattern has persisted. Also, I'm a major geek for having this thought.

What's worse than being all geeked out and thinking this: "Geeze - I wonder how I could turn this into a class project?"

Monday, March 22, 2010

Teaching makes my head hurt

Something disturbing keeps happening in my classes.

When I'm using the teacher "Project Like Crazy" - get their attenion - voice, I can feel the larger blood vessels in my head start to throb. This happens about 2 to 5 seconds after I use the Projection Voice (tm) to get my students' attention in class.

It has me a little perturbed because it's occasionally accomplanied by dizziness.

Or it could just be a sign that I'm exhausted, worried about my health, and have had more migraines lately. Still, I wonder if other teachers have odd symptoms like this from teaching.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Transitional Coach

Transitional Coach Meeting after school

I had my final observation and meeting with my transitional coach today. To review, my T.C. was a lady appointed by my graduate school and transition to teaching program (tm) to help get my teaching up to par with their standards. Her job was to help me meet their expectations while I was struggling with my new teaching environment.

She watched me teach during my last period. She stayed after school to talk to me about my progress and her final assessment of my teaching practices. It went very well. She said I had developed and that she was confident in my teaching practices.

She also said that I should look into teaching a the collegiate level. She said that my style of teaching, the types of projects that I wanted to teach about, and that my wit and sarcasm would lend itself well to a 2 year or 4 year college. I think I agree with her. I'd love to give that a try and see how it works out. That, and it would be a lot less work. I'm going to give it some thought over the next few months and see if it's something that I want to look into later.

Overall, I'm just happy that I did well with my 2 advisers up to the end. There was some worry there for awhile that I was not doing well enough to get past them. We shall see.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

20 Days Left

21 days of teaching left before the surgery. On April 26th, I'm going to update one last time before I go to the hospital for abdominal surgery. I should be hospitalized for 2 days and then I'll be on bed-rest for some time before I'm up and able to walk around again. Yes, I'm nervous. Yes, I'm worried about my teaching in the mean time - because it's hard to concentrate with my body as it is right now. The pain isn't quite as bad as it was before the shots, but on the other hand I'm worried about more than I was last time.

As things are drawing to a close before the surgery, I want to focus on things that I have found entertaining about my life as a teacher this year. Before the surgery, I expect things to go fairly smoothly as I have the time to prepare for the upcoming missing time and the kids will all be caught up for their ECAs (end of course assessments) for the state.

Life is a funny thing. Being ill has put aspects of my teaching into perspective and made me worry about fewer things at school - though on the other hand I worry about different things.

First goal - get the thesis done and everything ready to go for graduating before I need to be on bedrest for a month or so. That, in and of itself, is nerve-wracking. However, I have great hope. Only 5 more weeks of working insane hours and getting everything caught up before I have quite a bit of time to myself. Everything will go alright. In this, I put my hope.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Insomnia is not my friend

This post is brought to you by insomnia. Insomnia is like the color purple: deep and full with an embrace that is almost if not quite in actuality comforting. For people that have had trouble sleeping in their lives, they know what I mean. When you are truly exhausted and can't sleep it's one of the worst feelings in the world. When this happens repeatedly on an almost weekly basis for your entire life you begin to look at sleep in an entirely different manner. It's something elusive that you can almost feel slipping through your fingers as the night progresses.

Insomnia is more like a dessert. No matter how much you crave water in a dessert and no matter how hard you search for it you are not the controlling factor in whether or not you find it. Sleep is my water. I can look and do all the right things, and sometimes I just don't have it's oasis of comfort.

Can you tell it's been a bad week?

One of my major triggers for insomnia is stress. I know - what could a person in their last year of a transitional teaching program have to be stressed about? Masters degree classes to finish on time? Thesis? Teaching portfolio (of which all of the transitional people in my program were supposed to divine how to do without assistance until 3 months before it was due)? Upcoming nuptials? Bad health? Possibility of impending joblessness?

All of this and what's really bothering me is that my students aren't learning. I guess that's where the true insanity of teaching comes in. I've been up since 2 am (it's now 4) and I have to get up and get going in a little over an hour. I've been tossing and turning and trying to do everything to relax myself into some sleep and it's not going to happen.

My students are just not getting the material. Of course, it would take them actually wanting to - and there's the rub. Some of the students, a rare few, are getting it. They are understanding and having fun with the projects that I've been giving them in class. This comprises, however, only about 2% of my total students. The rest don't want to work, don't bring their books, don't bring a pencil or paper, don't review what we've learned in class, don't study, and really expect to get good grades this way.

That's what has me up late tonight and many other nights. I'm expected to change these students. If I have more than 20% of my class fail then the administration *will* hand down one of those messages that says "why are you not doing your job right?" I've gotten them before and my response was to change the grading scale to save my skin. Now, I'm not so sure. Most students are not working despite everything I try. Why should I pass them to save my job? If I have to do that, is it a job I want to save? Or is it something I'm doing or not doing in my class that's causing so many of my students to fail or not be invested in their learning? Because when I call home, which is frequently, most of the parents are passionate about their son or daughters future and want them to succeed and do well in school. I have to figure out what's going on with this and why so many of my students are not even trying.

I have to find out. Is it me? Is it something else? Am I contributing to their failure? I don't know if I can stand that.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010


What works and what doesn't - Passes.

Many of my students want passes. They want to go talk to another teacher about something, to go to the bathroom, to go get some water, to go to a vending machine, to go talk to an administrator, to go "take a break" in the hallway, or to go to their lockers.

They interrupt me during class to ask for passes. They beg for passes. They get mad at me when they don't get passes and harass me over them - sometimes for the whole class.

In example:
Student: Can I go to the bathroom?
Teacher: That's what a passing period is for.
Student: I didn't have to go then! I can't wait until the next one!
Teacher: Tough. You got a 5 minute break every hour - which is more than any job will give you - and I give you the first 3 minutes of class to go if you need to.
Student: But I can't wait. I'll pee on your floor.
Teacher: (Ignores student)
Student: Can I go?
Student: (1 minute later) Can I go? Why can't I?
Student: (2 minutes later) I have a question. Can I go to the bathroom? Why are you ignoring me? Why can't I go? It's not fair that you get to tell me when to pee and when not to pee? That ain't right! No one should be able to tell me that I can't go to the bathroom!
(This continues every few minutes for the whole class - sometimes mumbling and sometimes not.)

My solution - Emergency passes! Each student gets 3 passes to use whenever they wish during the whole semester. I don't ask why they need them - the can use them for whatever. When you're done, then the answer will be no. Unless you are bleeding on my floor, the answer is no after that. It worked like a charm last year and the students need clear boundaries.

I have a cardbox on my desk for 3x5 notecards. They are alphabetized and each student gets their name one the front. On the back goes the date that they used each pass. After they use the 3rd one, no more. I like this system because it's easy and once the kids know how to use it, they ask for their pass and go get it themselves and put it back for me when they're done. No frills, and easy to use. Love it.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Books in a classroom

This post is brought to you by books.

How do you teach a class without literature of any kind? I'm supposed to impart knowledge and have my students learn something worth learning in my class. Actually, I'm supposed to have them learn quite a lot worth learning. I'm supposed to get them all ready for college, even if they don't want to go, and I'm supposed to make sure that they have the tools that they need to succeed in college, even if they don't want to go.

And I'm supposed to do this all without a book. Why? The students don't bring their books. I've decided that I'm ok with that. It tells me who wants to learn and who does not. It tells me how many don't care enough to pass the class.

Comments I recieve when I ask students where their book is:
Teacher: Where's your book?
Student 1: In my locker.
Teacher: Go get it!
Student 1: I can't. I forgot the combination.
Teacher: Where's your book?
Student 2: In A's locker.
Teacher: Why can't you go get it?
Student 2: A's not here.
Teacher: Where's your book?
Student 3: I lost it months ago.
Teacher: Where's your book?
Student 4: It's too heavy to carry to class.
Teacher: What do you mean it's too heavy?
Student 4: My locker's all the way over in such-in-such building and I not going to carry that heavy book that far! I'd be late?
(This is a student coming in late)

As an avid bookworm and studious person, this hurts me. I have 4 students out of 180 that bring their book to class. At the start of the semester, I had some of the students leave their books in class so I could have a few copies to use. This was a huge mistake, as these got stolen, drawn in, glued, and ripped up. Now, the students that left theirs in my room are angry with me because they have to replace them. As sorry as I feel for them, they left them in the room so they wouldn't have to carry them to class or remember them.

My policy on this subject has gotten a little bit more jaded this year. I need books to teach - I don't always go exactly along with them but I need some sort of tool to help these kids understand other than listening to me talk. Actually, they don't like that either.

I'm just failing. I'm not good at motivating people to learn. I'm good at explaining information that is complicated to people that are ready to listen and learn.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The inmates are running the asylum

This is the reality of the situation:

Most of my students read at least 2 to 4 years behind their grade level. Most write like a student in grade school who is learning to read. Most can't spell words that are two syllables or more. Some can't spell the days of the week. Most think they are going to college. Some have a current GPA above a 2.0. All think a D is a passing grade. None that I've ever talked to say that know how to study. Most say they never are assigned or do homework of any kind. Most are absent from class between 5 and 15 times in a *semester.*

That means that out of 180 school days, they miss, on average, about 10 to 30.

I don't believe that other teachers don't assign homework, because I know many teachers.

Some days I just walk around and think to myself that I've walked into some alternative world or universe. In this strange, sometimes poignant and sometimes horrible, place I have had the misfortune to realize that the education system where I'm in is injured to the point of dying. We can't kick all of the students out that are causing problems in class because of all the laws and rules governing how much money a school gets from the government. We keep them for the money. The kids have realized that they aren't getting punished for punishable offenses and the administration doesn't keep their word. Therefore, the inmates are running the asylum. It's all upside down.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010


I need to be more positive in my posts. Today is a day where I fail in that regard.

I'm sick.

On April 26th, I'm going to have abdominal surgery. I had surgery of the summer, but it was a quick procedure called a laproscopic surgery. They didn't have to cut me open very much. This time will be much more "invasive," as the doctors put it. I need two surgeons and a hospital stay.

On some level, I think I'm happy about this. I get to not attend the last month of school - which was my favorite time last year. The last month of school is when all of the students that don't want to be in school don't show up because the weather is nice. The only kids you have left in the classroom are those who have parents that discipline their children or those who are there to get an education. They are usually all fun and well-behaved. It says a lot about how much I've enjoyed my teaching this year that I would be happy not to be a teacher for the last month of school. I'm ashamed of myself. Terribly, horribly ashamed.

And yet, I still don't want to go. If there was a way I could stop teaching now and still get my Master's degree, I'd do it. I'd go without the pay. This job makes me feel like a failure every day.

I've always been a law-abiding person. I try to do the right thing. I wanted to become a teacher because I'd had such excellent teachers over the years and I wanted to pass that on to the next generation. My teachers helped me be the person that I am. The inspired me and pushed me to do better and be better. I'm trying to do that in my students and failing. I'm not inspiring anyone and the majority of my students seem to not even hear what I say, no matter how I try to get it to them. I'm not doing my job. I'm not achieving my goals. I'm failing. That knowledge makes me feel like I'm running sandpaper all over my skin every day that I teacher. I'm failing. It's not just that I'm failing my students but I'm failing the next generation as a role model and myself for not passing on the good I've been given. Failfailfailfail.

Or perhaps I'm just very anxious about the surgery. I don't know anymore. I just know that I don't feel well emotionally and summer can't come fast enough - even if I have to get cut open to have it arrive faster.

Monday, March 8, 2010

What I wish kids would say

I'm playing hookie tomorrow from school. I have an appointment with a surgeon for a medical issue that I've been battling all year. I'll update on Wednesday about my medical news.

I've been playing hookie a lot this year. I'm almost out of sick days. Apparently, I don't look good when I teach because my students have stared saying things like "oh, do you have another one of those headaches that you get?" Or "you look like you're really tired or in pain."

I love that kids have a magical ability to tell the truth all the time. I hate that they mirror in me that I'm tired, pained, and dragging.

I wish they'd say "man, this class was fun and I learned a lot." Or "my teacher inspired me to do better." My favorite would be "I learned something in this class that will help me the rest of my life." I got a few of those last year. This year, not so much.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Teaching on 4 hours of sleep is never good...

Nothing is ever enough.

These are the lists of things that I need to work on, (according to my superiors at my Transition to Teaching Program): Classroom Management, Student Engagement in the Lesson, Creating Inquiry in the Classroom, Creating Effective Procedures in my Classroom, Creating a Culture of High Expectations, more projects, more labs, Better Hooks at the start of a lesson to capture the students' emotionally, better closing at the end of a lesson to focus on the main idea before they leave, more differentiation, and more Positive Reinforcement.

According to my administration, I need to work on proximity. That means I need to be more present in my classroom and see everything that's going on. My administrator said that I could be better in some areas, but as a second year teacher he didn't expect me to be much better than OK or just getting good at something.

My students don't bring their books. They don't come with a pencil nor paper. They lose their work and expect to be given credit for it, since they promise me that they brought it to class last week. They don't do homework and don't study.

Ok, not all of them but still.

In what world do students think they should be able to pass a class without having to lift a finger? I'm so irritated.