Sunday, September 19, 2010

Social Engineering?

from Joanne JacobsU-Minn backs down on teacher ed plan:

The College of Education and Human Development (CEHD) is redesigning admissions and the curriculum to focus on “cultural competence.”...In response to a letter from FIRE, General Counsel Mark B. Rotenberg promised that “[n]o University policy or practice ever will mandate any particular beliefs, or screen out people with ‘wrong beliefs’ from the University.”
This has got to be the harbinger (great word, no?) of the country's swing to the right....Since when is cultural competence a bad thing for teachers?  That said, I don't know all the details about the requirements the U planned to use.  I did check out the document provided on the Foundation for Individual Rights (FIRE) article about their "sustained pressure"on the U. From that U document:
Teachers will complete and receive feedback on TWO Self-Assessment measures: The Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) and the Cultural Intelligence Instrument (CQ). 

Self-assessment seems like a positive chance for self-reflection, no?  I didn't find evidence in the U's report of what FIRE called "plans to enforce a political litmus test for future teachers."

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Digging in

We're on Day 3 (don't get me started on the law that won't let us begin before Labor Day).  I have about 20% of names down (naughties and cuties and needies, mostly), there were five new kids in one class, and yesterday I apparently completely missed that a student added into one of my classes, because he came in and sat down in the seat of a kid who dropped the class before I changed my seating chart.  Gah.

We're starting things off with the start of the American dream.  My awesome partner-in-crime focused on figuring out how to make Of Plymouth Plantation seem relevant and meaningful through some read/think aloud action that gets the kids thinking about the Puritans' traits and what we can still see of those traits in the way Americans live today.

Before we got down to OPP (Yeah, you know me!), I gave the kids the quick and dirty run down of why and how the Puritans wound up here.  I start with Henry VIII and his devout Catholic Spaniard princess of a wife, the hussy Anne Boleyn and the king's throw-down with the pope, the quick succession of wives following Anne's execution, including Catherine Howard (an even bigger hussy) saying she would rather be another man's wife than a queen before her execution.  [BTW, have you seen The Tudors?  Holy man is it hot!  Netflix on demand rules!]

http://www.ioffer.com/i/pocahontas-14-bustine-trading-cards-skybox-8283141
All of this to prepare them for the Anglican-->Roman Catholic (Bloody Mary)-->Anglican-->Anglican progression that sent the Puritans out of England and into...the Netherlands!  That part always surprises the kids, but they can relate with the idea of being totally out of their element if they were in the same place, unable to to speak Dutch.
http://www.scarborough.k12.me.us/wis/teachers/dtewhey

Today was also ruin Pocahontas day: Sorry, kids, but P. was just a wee girl when John Smith was in the area.  Trees don't talk.  Later, girlfriend married some other English dude, and  pictures of her from later in her life make her seem like any other old white lady.  :(

I love the history, and I think that makes the kids dig it.

Oh, also, today my team teacher said that one of our kids asked her yesterday, "Is Miss MIKD a genius?  She seems like she might be a genius."  I still got it!

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Chat Pack

Today, after our theme-related warm-up and collecting signed syllabi, each kid got a card from the Chat Pack.  I got the idea from another teacher in speech coaching community, and it's really a nice ice-breaker.  Each kid gets a questions, and as they take turns, each one stands up, gives their full name, reads their question and then answers it.  If they don't like their question, they can use someone else's but only if they can use the person's name to reference it--no "I wanna use that guy's question."

From the website:
"Some samples:
* If you could have any book instantly memorized cover to cover, which book would you choose?
* Of all the movie characters you have seen, which one do you believe is most like you?
* Which of the 12 months do you think would best describe your personality?"

Fun stuff.

To paraphrase the Pioneer Woman, I don't know the Chat Pack people, they don't know me, and I am not being paid for this endorsement of their product.  I just like it.

P.S. I like Ree's latest post about blogging well.  A lot.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

The first day of school

Whew.

Feet are swollen.

Lesson plans for tomorrow are ready.

Classroom is still clean.

Spicy kiddos.

Curriculum begun.

Idiotic new lunch bell system withstood.

Website updated.

Some student introduction emails already received (Thanks, Epiphany!)

Still working my way through Teach Like a Champion.  Used "Technique #1: No Opt Out. How to move students from the blank stare or stubborn shrug to giving the right answer every time" in class today.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Comments & Review: No Impact Man

Last week I finished reading Colin Beavan's No Impact Man: The Adventures of a Guilty Liberal Who Attempts to Save the Planet, and the Discoveries He Makes About Himself and Our Way of Life in the Process, and I've been meaning to post about it since I started the book.

I appreciated his honesty in recognizing (in hindsight) that his demand that his fashionista wife not wear fur was perhaps hypocritical since he "managed to exempt, back then, [his] leather shoes from [his] concern that humanity puts vanity before kindness to animals" (4).  I, too, struggle with the day to day choices that put my convenience before the needs of my planet and our future.  I can totally get behind Beavan's fear of being a "do-nothing liberal" (4).

I did not appreciate how often his project involved his wife giving up something that she was clearly quite attached to when he didn't really give a rat's patoot.  When he blew his nose with a paper towel first thing, I wanted to shove that paper towel UP his nose.  Or other orifice.

The quandary that the book presents can be summed up when Bevan quotes then-candidate Obama as saying, "Well, the truth is, Brian, we can't solve global warming because I f---ing changed light bulbs in my house. It's because of something collective" (Beavan 219--I can't find the original article, but here is HuffPost's coverage of the comment).

Yes, real change does rely on collective effort, but any collective is made up of individuals, and I believe in what Margaret Mead said: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."  It is disheartening to learn that a man whose personal legend is built on community organizing seemed to dismiss the "little person's" contribution.

As a read, this wasn't the best book I've ever read, and it's not the best I've read about decreasing environmental impact.  A lot of things that he seemed to be learning for the first time I've known for a long time, but I am almost 20 years younger than he is, and in theory we've been getting better educated about such things.  I was also involved involved in an organized kids' action group for environmental awareness when I was young, so I'm probably a little better informed than people my age.  I wanted less statistics and more human story, but I am a story-geek, so that makes sense.

I can totally get behind Beavan's continued blogging: http://noimpactman.typepad.com/, and I'm looking forward to checking out the documentary on his year.

I have more to say on this, but I've run out of steam tonight.  Maybe another post later.

Monday, August 16, 2010

LOLCatz 4 life!

http://icanhascheezburger.com/2010/08/16/funny-pictures-principal-kitteh/

Sunday, August 15, 2010

I'm Lovin' It...and it's calorie free!

Epiphany in Baltimore had a double-dip of goodness in his post about teaching The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time:
  • The professional deliciousness of the kids coming in with understanding and openness:
 "Hands shot up. They wanted to talk about it. 
'At first I was confused by this boy, but when he started explaining his behavorial problems I got it more.' 
'I liked it but got confused when he went off and started talking about things that didn't seem to fit, like ice cream.' 
'Christopher was such a visual learner and drew stuff out but I didn't like that and it confused me. I liked the book overall though.'"
  • The kind of deliciousness I can steal for my classroom:
"I created an 8-page handout about all the summer reading, including a couple of passages from the novel for which students had to text-mark for the IB Learner Profile."
Hells to the yeah, Epiphany!  Love that idea!  Yoink!

Monday, August 9, 2010

A Post With Little Social Value

So, here's the thing.  I'm very judgmental.  I know this is not an attractive trait, and believe me when I say I am trying to minimize it.  The minimization always leaves me with questions, though: what if I just don't say it aloud...what if it's figure skating/The Bachelor/my high school reunion...what if the person is sloppy drunk...what if I'm bored at the mall/a restaurant/the grocery store....  As you can see, I'm just not always a really nice person, and sometimes it leaks out a bit...like right now.
Today I added a few rules to my personal toolbox:
  • Wearing a wet washcloth on one's head makes one look like a jackass, especially when said washcloth was clearly stolen from one's mother's pink wedding towel set.
  • I know it is eight-hundred-bazillionty degrees outside.  Believe me, I know.  Add the humidity, and we're up to a heat index of eighty-five-hundred-bazillionty.  However, this does not excuse grown men from wearing shirts in public.  Especially when riding a bicycle.  Especially when that bicycle seat drags down one's sagging pants and his visible underoos...which reveals one's ass crack to the sun and EVERYONE ELSE (on another note, that's got to be a nasty place for a burn!).
  • Even if one still has a flat tummy when one is over 60 (or younger, depending on exactly how unkind the years have been), regardless of gender, one should not expose the area below the belly in the neighborhood of their waistband when one is not at the beach.  Yucky.  Actually, I take the caveat back: not one should wear pants in such a way that this area is visible.
  • There is something weird about wearing a halter top when one's hair is grey.  I don't know why, but them's the rules.
  • Men should not wear capri pants.
Now I shall breathe out and continue with my day.  As you were.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Are you kidding me right now?

Ms. Cornelius, over at A Shrewdness of Apes. sums up a union issue in Milwaukee pretty well by titling the post "This is dumb." According to the Milwaukee Wisconsin Journal Sentinel Online story,
The Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association has filed a civil suit claiming that MPS' exclusion of Viagra and other drugs that treat erectile dysfunction from its health insurance plans constitutes sexual discrimination against male employees.
...
The union now seeks a review of that decision by a Milwaukee County circuit court judge.
"This is an issue of discrimination, of equal rights for all our members," said Kristin Collett, spokeswoman for the Milwaukee Teachers' Education Association.

As far as I'm concerned, not only does this show a lack of focus on priorities, as Ms. Cornelius mentions, but a grave waste of union and taxpayer money, as well as public good will.  Teachers around the country are fighting for fair wages and health insurance coverage while these yahoos are fighting for the right of their male members to get an inorganic hard-on.  SERIOUSLY?  Never mind that Viagra is not a medical necessity.  Never mind that this is clearly not an issue of equal rights for all members, since it leaves out all the women--the estrogen replacement therapies mentioned are the kind that keep women's brains from getting eaten by the menopause, I think.  What gets to me is that bullshit like this is a media dream, and that BULLSHIT LIKE THIS IS THE REASON PEOPLE DON'T SUPPORT UNIONS!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Bring on the Healing!

Today I watched Oprah for the first time in a long time, and the show was about the effects of compulsive hoarding on a family.  It made me think about how much is hidden behind what we see when we interact with people.  I don't know whether the kids in front of me had breakfast, has clean clothes, doesn't get smacked around or called an idiot at home.  So frequently, I learn about heartbreaking circumstances in a kid's life when the term is done with.  Of course I work to know kids, and make community, and know them, but most of the kids who I need to know about hide themselves best.

Web Juiciness

Yesterday Tom at Stop Trying To Inspire Me wrote about the British government's proposed cut in arts funding.  From Ars gratia artis:
If you read the comments on the WaPo article, you'll see quite a number of people who think the arts are useless or that NPR is propaganda and should be shut down anyway (I don't think that, because NPR is hopelessly boring and if that's propaganda, it's shitty propaganda).  There's also one person who declared that Shakespeare was a "commercial" artist and didn't need funding ... completely ignoring the Queen and King's patronage aspect of his career.

Bringing this all down to education, we're all quite aware that arts education is notoriously one of the first things cut in a budget crisis.  It's seen as "frivilous" by the more "practical" people in a community who don't want their tax dollars going to waste and think that they send their kids to school to read and learn math and science and take tests, not paint pretty pictures, but never see the correlation between being creative and doing well in other subjects.
Aside from the crack about NPR, which tells me Tom's local affiliate must be crappy, or he only listened once, Tom is pointing out the biggest problem, or perhaps a symptom of the biggest problem in education: schools are being set up to push kids through with a focus on "the basics," which are apparently reading and math, since that's what the kids are being tested on.  Forget the whole student, the whole person, who we are trying to prepare for an unknown future.
I hate this bullshit.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Everyone needs a little reminder....

Dr. Rebecca Branstetter, who blogs on Notes from the School Psychologist, gave some excellent advice over the weekend in the first of a series on the things we've heard but never seem to remember, Did You See The Memo About...Interventions?  I love this advice coming at the beginning of the school year, when I know I am so excited about buying new pens and learning the kids names that sometimes I forget things that I've known since I was a wee new teacher, like documentation of interventions.
"I know the referrals come from a place of caring for the student and wanting to see progress. But let’s not be surprised when students have no intervention and do not progress. Friends, it’s not that your school psychologist doesn’t want to test the student for a disability, it’s that s/he doesn’t have any evidence that the problem can’t be remediated with a decent targeted intervention."
Filing this one in the little brain card-catalog drawer named "Durr, MIKD, Remember to Keep Your Head In the Game" (Isn't it weird that a diginative like me still has a card-catalog up there?  Probably left over from when I used to lovingly pat the one at the public library when I was little.).

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Hot Child in the City

It's hard to believe that July is over and I'll be back to work in a month with all of my rock-star colleagues.  I lost June to work and travel, one of which was painful and drawn out and the other went to quickly, even though I was homesick toward the end.  I'll let you guess which is which.

Yesterday I met with a colleague who will also be teaching Honors 10 this year to plan.  With the schedule change, it's a little tougher to figure out the flow, but I'm looking forward to having more time with the kids.  One of the things I'm focused on is front-loading community building so we all still like each other by the end of the year.  We're planning our studies around the theme "Defining Identity."

Right now I'm listening to the book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us while I'm in the car.  While the end of the book focuses in on how to apply motivation theory to kids (I'm still wrapping up that section and didn't have to drive anywhere today), what's got me wound up is how totally wrong-headed performance pay is.  AArgh!  Even monkeys don't like to do puzzles for raisins.

Friday, June 11, 2010

And a deep breath out....

Yesterday was the last day with kids.  We have one more day of workshop.  I think I can.  For the third year in a row, I have packed up my entire G-D classroom.

Despite my poor time management over the last weeks, finding a girl who turned in the term's two papers on Wednesday had copied another student's paper, and having a rude mother decide that her child needed an extension to raise the child's grade from a B, I did not cry today.  However, after a near meltdown with my friend-friend, I did jump into something that will be a huge departure for me if it works out.  Such a huge departure, in fact, that I can't tell you what it is because then my sneaky-sneak anonymity would be totally blown.

I got my grades done, but didn't get checked out today.  I'm trying to get someone to help me pick up my boxes this weekend.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The End is Near

Today I stayed at school until 7:30 to finish grading the kids' Close Reading essays.  I grade using turnitin.com, so the kids will actually be able to see their grades tonight.

I still have to grade tests, independent reading projects, and two essays' worth of rewrites before grades are due Friday afternoon.

O, I also have to pack up every single damn thing in my classroom for the third year in a row.  Hopefully there won't be a flood this time.

Now, I am going to bed, because the idea of actually sitting up straight is making me cry on the inside and moan a little on the outside.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Law...& Order?

Who else watched the season/series Finale of Law & Order last night?  (Can you believe they actually canceled it?  I feel like we must be approaching the apocalypse or something.)

Anyway, the episode was called "Rubber Room,"and does, in fact go to those infamous "bad teacher"zoos.  It goes through teachers' nightmares, as well as the nightmares of the parents who entrust their children to those teachers.  We teachers.

The real villain in the story was the system--administrations afraid of being sued, unions standing in the way of justice, and a system that makes teachers choose between their honor and their paycheck.

The actual "villain" is a teacher, a blog-writing teacher no less, who sinks into a dangerous depression after being humiliated in front of a classroom of ninth graders and being falsely accused of child molestation, which of course lands him in a rubber room.

The victims in the tragedy are unclear.  The kids?  The teachers?  The society that has no idea what's going on?

I just see one more example that no one gets the whole story, and people who aren't in the classroom have trouble telling truth from fiction.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

How many?

Definitely thought it was Monday all day today.  And nearly left my car running in the parking lot.

With sixteen days left of the year, the seniors and juniors have CHECKED. OUT.  Never mind that sixteen days is more than a quarter of the term, and if they fail my class they will not graduate.  Never mind that I ask them about their missing work once a week.  Never mind that there are only eight kids in a class of twenty-eight who have turned in every assignment, which is, oh, wait, REQUIRED TO EARN CREDIT.

Never mind that I got this email today:
"[Child]-You need to speak with this teacher!  You told me you would take care of this last week!  This is completely unacceptable!"  
One must love"reply all," no?

Or this one last week:
"...I have to work nights,so I missed conferences..... I guess I am wondering if effort is considered? [Kiddo] is really anxious every night before and morning of these speeches. She got help for her speech, she got up early and had me iron her new clothes, she had me go over chocolate cookie recipes. As a family we gave suggestions for her bag speech. I want you to know how nervous  she gets for your class. She hates getting up in front of people. I know it's great for her! She just doesn't know that yet! I  Loved speech as a student! I loved to rebuttle anyone! I think you should give [Kiddo] a little more credit when she does do her speeches,she is giving that part her all! She has avxiety attacks before she ocmes in for a speech. It's hard to watch as a parent.She comes iv though. I kvow she has skipped a few days of a speech.I get on her....

[Kiddo] was involved iv gifted and talented summer classes here in [Our Fair City] as a youth. She played [sports], avd she got [X Recognition] of the year at church for being spiritually kivd,good at building and well versed in bible. she has a good family support system. I know my communication isn't great with you,She is 18 and I am on her all the time.Her sisters are doin great at school ! It's a bit of a good thing and hard for [Kiddo]. She isn't quite sure who she is yet.

She was top 3% in math and reading all through k--8th grade. This all changed with age and friends,peer pressure. She is very smart and big hearted. She will do wonderful things out of high school! I just want her to get that diploma !

I have talked with her, she said she has assignnments she will get turned in to you. She said you have a good relationship . I will be fine if she  gets a d iv this class. I know that sounds horrible to a passionate teacher . [Kiddo] is just ready to be done with school and go to work in the family business.... She is a very smart young woman, who is just pulling her weight and lazy at doing her work ! She used to get by with A's on tests and skipping through the pre-work. This was changed to ,no tests unless your homework was done. This is when [Kiddo] started getting bad grades.

I also don't know if your aware she attends night school all year as well to make up for low credits while doing [alternative program] for a year. I let her try that to see if it would help her interest or efforts in school.It didn't.I sent her back to public and it is all she can do to try and get through this year.

She also struggles with [malady]. She is going to be okay as we keep communication open at our house, and have our faith to rely on. I didn't know if you knew or not ,but she has [another issue]. She has a hard time sleeping and then concentrating. She is [receiving care]. I realize she misses school alot . We push and push her in this area. It's really hard for us to see her not use her full potential.

I know she will pull out of this funk once school is out! She is 18, very smart and ready to be done with school. My brother went through same exact thing and is now a multi millionaire avd a pilot,owvs huvdreds of realestate avd is working onan invention...!! I just need her to pass this class!

She has assured me she will finish her work. Will you let me know if it isn't done by this week?

Best, [Kiddo's Papa]
p.s your concern is greatly appreciated!
I know I'm lucky--these kids (for the most part) are not putzes--they're just trying to rollerblade up a hill without trying.  Maybe if I keep pushing, they will skate.  I can do it for fourteen more school days, right?  Twelve for the Seniors.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

You say goodbye...

I don't even know what to do with myself, lately.  I've had a few buckle-down, get-it-done sessions where I actually finished sets of things.  Other than those, though, I've been twittering about in large loops, finishing little.  I was feeling guilty because I'd had a set of essay tests for a week.  Then I realized I'd had them for TWO weeks.  What a d-bag!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Giggle for Tuesday

Student: "Rararrr!"


"That's dinosaur for I like whatcher wearing!"

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Thursday FTW!

Today was Demonstration Speech day.  Hooray!  I got to eat
  • peanut butter cookies,
  • puppy chow,
  • and Snickers salad.
 Up here in Tornado Alley, today was a state-wide drill.  As a student went to help our student who is blind, he said, "So, Nate, do you want to square dance or walk down on your own?"  If that's not a gracefully way to offer help, I don't know what is.

Tomorrow begins State Speechapalooza and I took the day off for it.  Walking out of school today knowing I wouldn't be back until Monday was positutley delicious.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Break Time

This week I've been on Spring Break, and I've been getting some much needed recuperation.  I've been doing some serious sleeping in, got caught up on laundry, and continued to procrastinate, so my papers are still not graded.

I also saw a nutritionist, so hopefully I will have more energy and be healthier in general.  Tonight I'm going to get the taxes done, and tomorrow I'll spend some time with the Mutti.

Monday is the start of Term 4.  I'll keep my tenth graders and get a new set of Speech/Comm kids.

Saturday was our last regular season Speech meet, and the kids did pretty well.  I'm working on polishing with my kids so that at least rough edges won't keep them out of the running at Sections.  I really want them to do well.  In two weeks we'll invite the community in to see what the kids can do.

I'm ready for a fresh start.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

A bright spot

There's been a lot of depressing shit going down lately, and I'm sick.  Rather than talking about it, I'm going to bury it and put on a happy face.  Sounds healthy, right?


We have a student with ASD who is a hoot.  She is very observant in some ways, but a bit off the wall in others.  She frequently starts conversations with people who don't realize she's talking to them.  Yesterday, she leaned over to my colleague during a lull and said, "Did you know there's a geek table at lunch?"  My colleague said that the student shouldn't call people that, to which the student responded, "No, everyone is saying that they're nerds!  I think it's because they wear glasses [gestures to her glasses] and play with calculators [mimes playing Tetris on a calculator]." My colleague told her that it wasn't okay to call people nerds, no matter what other people are saying, and then the young lady responded, "You know, I bet some people think I'm a nerd, because I...[adjusts her glasses] wear glasses.  But I'm not!"

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Oh, and by the way...

Today a friend mentioned that I've maintained radio silence for almost a month after posting almost every day last month.  While I was proud of that accomplishment, I also felt like I was spinning my wheels in negativity (yesterday's post, anyone?), and the world and my life do just fine without me wallowing in that feeling.

Anywho, I'm calling in with a bit of an update on the speech season.  Today the kids pretty much got their asses handed to them, but it wasn't all bad.  A few times the kids today talked about being a family, which is totally what we are about as coaches, and what we want for our team.  The kids also got to see what their competition will be when it comes time for sections in a few weeks.  Additionally, I wasn't judging, and I got a ton of grading done in the tab room with the Mozart for the Mind blasting on my iPod.

The season has really been going well.  Our babies have been placing regularly, and my babies in particular have been rocking the house.  I LURV IT.

Friday, February 26, 2010

SO, what's the deal?

Lately I've been thinking a lot about my job in specific and the job in general.  I'm pulling back from "involvement," mostly because I don't feel like I can make a difference.  Why live with the frustration and extra work, when I don't see any good coming of it?  Most recently, I was also pushed out of one of my remaining "public" responsibilities in favor of the leadership clique at my school.  The whole thing is making me feel like it's all pointless.

I thought that stepping up was part of the point of teaching--making things better.  I'm frustrated that all it seems to do is make my life worse.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Weekend Update

Especially at the beginning of the term, I like to do weekend recaps with the kids on Mondays.  It's kind of an easy way to start the week, and we all get to know each other better.  Super cool today was that there was at least one speecher in each class, so I could recognize them without it being totally awkward.  Not only that, but there was a kid who was on stage in every hour.  BOOOOOOOYAAAAAAAAAA!

Feelings, nothing more than feelings

Once in awhile, a student does or says something that just flat-out hurts my feelings. Like this:
The primary concern is that most of my friends have consistently told me how terrible and brutally hard this class was. ..... My other only concern is how my friends who have had you previously haven’t liked you.
This, in a student's introduction letter.  After two days of class in which I assure the kids that yes, my class is hard (what would be the purpose of lying to them?  I think some of my tendency to sugar-coat is what kept kids who didn't feel like doing the work from switching out last quarter), but that I will do my best to help them succeed if they put the work in.

After reading that essay last night, I nearly cried.  Then I felt stupid for letting it get to me.  I finally got to talk to my friend-friend after school today, and she was totally getting how I felt.  And she told me she would have cried, which made me feel less stupid.  All this following some mean-spirited vandalism on the last day of second quarter is making me blue.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Almost February

Spent most of today recovering from yesterday.  As a result, I have only this to offer you:

 icanhascheezburger.com

With the note that, in true LOLCat fashion, the last bit is grammatically incorrect.  Grammar Brownie Points to the first commenter to explain why.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

LLLOOOOOOOOOOOOOOONGGGGGGGGGGGG Day

Got up at 5:30am.

Did not get home until 7:15pm.

Did not pass GO or collect $200 in that time.

Kids totally rocked the meet.

People running awards who do not plan out what they are going to say, speak clearly, or make awards run quickly = FAIL.

Good night.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Friday snapshots

Husband this morning:
[Nudge] It's BeAtSchoolTime RIGHT NOW!

Cranky, aggressive email from a kid, mad about getting an incomplete:
Ok, this is starting to make me a bit angry with the grading of the english class. My dad has copies of the last few emails that you have sent out for final grades of the term. From the second most recent email to the one from today i have increased my over all points by almost 10 but the criteria is still the same. It still says I am at an incomplete because i have "didnt turn in" my Macbeth word journal. I sent it to you on Sunday night, the 24th. Please make some corrections so i have an actual grade otherwise I will have to talk to the principal. Also after you make the corrections if its not too much of a hassle i would like two new emails sent out. One of which will be sent to my parents, and the other will be sent to me at this email.

Sincerely, Child

Child,

Please reread your original email and consider the tone. It seems very accusatory, which is not an appropriate way to address a teacher. You may certainly discuss this with Mr. AP, if you would like, but threatening to do so is unnecessary.

The email I sent on Monday the 25th was a progress report (not a final grade) that said, “Your student is missing one or more assignments. As mentioned previously, Friday was the last day of the term. All work for the term must be turned in order for students to earn an English credit (per the class syllabus). All work must be turned in on or before Tuesday, January 26 in order for your student to receive a grade. Emailing assignments to me is encouraged. Please review the progress report below.”
That email indicated that you were missing the word journal, as did the one I sent last Wednesday.

Unfortunately, I did not receive an email from you on Sunday, just your Independent reading project Friday night. Since turning in late work is your responsibility, it is also your responsibility to make sure the teacher receives it.

When I get the late assignment from you, I will adjust your grade and complete a grade change form.


Have a good day,
Ms. MIKD
Yeah, sorry for it sound so rude and all. I was a little mad when i wrote it because i was getting yelled at by my dad and i still dont understand why i have an incomplete. I sent you the email on Monday (typo from before when i had said Sunday) but aparently you didnt resieve it. so here it is again
Fun with a speecher after school:
"I really want to take someone under my wing, like Recent Graduate did for me.  I was so sad when I found out I would be the only person in my category!"

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Tersday

Hitting my stride with the new kids.  I think it's going to be a good term.

Tired beyond reason.  Hopefully more tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Thankful for thanks

Today was a solid second day.  I talked with one of my new 10th graders who is already driving me bonkers (he didn't want to edit his introduction essay because it was already perfect, and then wanted to know what to do if he didn't want me to know some of the stuff in his essay, but then was "worried" it would be too short).  I pulled him aside after class today and said, I can tell you're very smart.  I can also tell you really like attention.  I you need you to curb your impulse to seek it.

Anywho, after an appointment this evening, I hit up Target Boutique to buy more binder fillin's.  I've sold 5 complete binders, and  four more kids said they would like one, plus another girl told me that her family can't handle any school purchases right now.

The cashier looked at my pile of pocket dividers, binder pockets, Post-Its and notecards and said, "You're a teacher, huh?  I can't believe how much teachers have to spend for their kids.  My daughter-in-law is a teacher, and I just can't believe how much she spends on things for her classroom."  We chatted while she rang up my stuff, and when I was leaving, she said, "I'm going to vote to get you more money!"

I'm still smiling.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A new beginning

I had a great first day of the new term.  I am also completely exhausted.

I can tell you that during the semi-annual first-day question and answer session, I was asked the following:

Have you ever been to a disco?
Are you a good dancer?
What did you want to be when you your were little?
What do you think about nationalized health care?
What is your favorite gaming system?
What is your favorite word?
What do you think about nationalized health care?
What is your political denomination?
What is your favorite color?

I love my job.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Workshopitude

I may have mentioned that the term ended last week.  I may have mentioned that I have had the most ridiculously stupid amount of late work in the history of the world.  Srsly.

Saturday:
Hi kiddo [CCed to Papa, since Kiddo failed term 1 due to missing work],


Your Comparative Analysis Essay was in the slot for the Macbeth Close
Reading Essay on turnitin.com. I moved the Comparative Analysis to the
right assignment slot. You still need to send me your Macbeth Close
Reading Essay to earn credit for English this term.
--Ms. MIKD
Today:
Kiddo says that he isn't sure what this assignment is, could you
please send me and him what it is he needs to do. Thanks.
--Papa

I am also missing Kiddo's Journal, which he should have a
handout for. I also think we discussed both assignments last week.
--Ms. MIKD

Kiddo is wondering what tpcast means?
--Papa

He doesn't need TPCASTT for the assignments he is missing. There are
two handouts to help him with the paper on the class website.
--Ms. MIKD

Okay thank you, nothing like waiting until the last minute huh.
--Papa
Following the advice of colleague friends with more sense than I, I emailed the parents of kids missing assignments (the kids too, obviously), rather than calling as I had planned.

icanhazcheezburger.com

I know I'm letting this craziness infect me, but I have got to figure out a better way.  Maybe the new late policy will work.

BTW, this post got away from me.  Apparently that pressure was justa buildin' up and had to be released.  Maybe tomorrow I'll be able to come up with something sensible to say about today's meetings.  Maybe.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The late work discussion

My department has been arguing about late work.  I have to say, this year I have had more trouble with late work than I ever have before, and two thirds of my classes are honors.

One of the teachers who is new to the building is truly appalled by the problems she has had getting her students to turn in their work at all, let alone on time.

It seems that our building, or at least my department, has a serious issue with getting kids to turn in their work on time (we need to see if this is a more widely spread environmental/population thing, or something to do with what we are doing as a department.

I know the argument against docking points.  That's grading behavior, it's not grading skills, which are, in theory the purpose of assessments/ assignments.

I also know that my own experiments along the continuum have not supported not docking points:

Full disclosure: I HATE the sliding scale percentage for late work.  I like one thing that gets applied across the board, so I don't have to worry about tracking when things came in, etc, etc.

I think my first year I had a sliding scale (I was a long term sub, so I had to use what the regular teacher had in place).

My first few years at Park, I gave 50% for late work across the board.  I occasionally had kids carry on about getting docked for turning things in late the day they were due after working furiously for the hour to do the work that was to have been finished before class.

Last year I allowed late work (no penalty) with a late slip signed by a parent explaining why it's late, but then it turned into something that was more work for me, and, quite frankly, I didn't want to do the follow up and nagging to make sure the kids did it.

This quarter was 80% off for late work, and I was buried. BURIED. Especially at term-end.

Today, Mrs. Bluebird was on a similar thought pattern:
The Team decided after we returned from our Christmas break to really lay down the law on late work. We have kids (and parents) who beg and plead for us to accept late work and we did to a certain extent, often with penalties involved. However, none of the 8th grade teachers accept it, except in the cases of kids on IEP's who get extended time, so it's about time our critters start getting their work in on time so they'll be able to hit the ground running when they make it to eighth grade.

The results have been amazing.

It's been three weeks and I probably have the highest number of assignments turned in I've ever seen. Word got around really quick when we implemented this policy. A few kids whined and whimpered, but once their friends saw that we Really Truly Weren't Accepting Late Work, they got the message. Work is getting turned in. Granted, it's not always complete, but it's better than the big fat nothing we were used to seeing.
 Maybe it's the turn-around we need.  We shall see.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

AAAAAANNNNNNNNNNNNNNDDDDDDDD, I'm spent.

Yesterday, my little friend whose mother seems to care more about his success than he does copped all kinds of attitude with me.  Apparently, he "always asks for help" and I "never help him."  Because really, friends, I'm all about setting kids up for failure.  That's why I've been contacting her moms at least once a week for the past three.  Oh, I know what it is: I make the kids ask me actual questions.  "I don't get it" requires a specific question before I will help; making them think through it before I help makes me an unreasonable biz-nitch.  And of course, there's the ever popular, "we never learned this in the other teacher's class last quarter."  Except, sweetie, that I knoow you learned this in MY class last year, and we've been working with these skills all this quarter.  ROOOAAAAAAARRRRRRRRR.

Slept in this morning, which always feels delicious.

I got up, graded (turnitin.com is a beautiful thing, friends) the 17 Macbeth Explications I told the kids would be graded yesterday , then rewarded myself with a nap.

I've also been watching the reverse-order Lethal Weapon marathon all day.  Gotta love Mel from back in the day when he kept his anti-Semitism on the inside.  Those guys sure spend a lot of time underwater.

To make sure I didn't get too giddy with the post-grading flush, I found out that a friend of mine who is the only World Language teacher at her semi-rural school in MN just got cut down to half-time. She teaches Spanish and French.  In addition to worrying about my friend and how she is going to make ends meet, I can't help but worry about those kids.  She teaches at a 7-12 school.  Now those kids have only a half-time teacher?

Friday, January 22, 2010

I'm wearin' mah cranky pants.

So, rather than subjecting you to it, I thought I would share the only real laugh I got all day.


I definitely, definitely need some rest.  Definitely missed Burn Notice last night.  Definitely.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

If I didn't love them, I might have to kill them all.

Some tastes for today:

"Ms. MIKD, can I see you during lunch about my grade?" asks one of my honors rats.

Sure, sweetie.  I will be in the teachers' lounge.  Knock on the door and I will come out.
 ...
"What is my grade right now?"

You've got an A-minus at 94%; you're just kissing the break to a full A.

"Is that with today's presentation in there?"

Yep.

"Oh, okay.  Because I had a B, and I don't get Bs.  What did I get on the presentation?"

With the extra credit for being a recorder last week, 103 out of 100 points.

"Awesome."

Nice job, sweetheart.

"I was so worried.  I don't get Bs."

Honey, a B in this class is something to be proud of.  You've got to settle down.

"I know.  But I've never gotten below an A-minus on a paper, and then in this class I was getting B-minuses and I just didn't understand why.  But then I finally looked at the comments and stuff on turnitin.com and it made sense."

I'm glad it made sense.  I'll see you in a little bit.

Okay, friends,  what about this is making me insane?

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sub-par?

NY Times Op-Ed by substitute teacher Carolyn Bucior.

The hat-tip goes to Mrs. Mimi, who lays out why the lady is shooting at the wrong target.

Mimi mentions that teachers work in germ-infested petri dishes (I like to call the children my little outbreak monkeys) in response to this:
As much as I became frustrated by the lack of training and support, I was most angered by how many days teachers were out of their classrooms. Nationwide, 5.2 percent of teachers are absent on any given day, a rate three times as high as that of professionals outside teaching and more than one and a half times as high as that of teachers in Britain. Teachers in America are most likely to be absent on Fridays, followed by Mondays.
I was struck by the comparison to British schools, so I snooped a little.  According to Woodlands Junior School,
English schools have three terms (semesters), separated by vacations.
The summer vacation lasts for about 6 weeks from July 20 to September 4; winter and spring vacation both last two weeks, from December 21 to around January 6 and March 25 to around April 5, respectively.
The new school year starts in September, at the end of summer vacation.
The three terms are:
Autumn Term: September to December
Spring Term: January to April
Summer Term: April to July

Each term lasts for approximately thirteen weeks and there is a week half term break in the middle of each term.
By my count, that means that teachers never go more than seven weeks without a week and a half long break in between.  Maybe I'm wrong (and I know I'm being defensive), but I think if I had even a week off every two months, I might not get so run down.  If I didn't get so run-down, I wouldn't have two or three instances a year when my body breaks down on a Thursday or Friday night and I can't get up for three days (never mind the craziness last month).  Maybe, if I had a block of time like that off every two months, it would be easier to get in to see the doctor without having to miss school.

Additionally, most trainings/conferences run over Fridays or Mondays so that we lucky ducks can spend part of our weekend being trained without the district paying for a sub.

Is it fair subs are being put into classrooms without appropriate training or education prerequisites?  No.  Is anyone forcing them to keep the job?  No.  Is there anything to keep them from getting some of that training on their own?  No.  I know they would have to pay for it themselves, but I am STILL paying for my college education and will be doing so for the foreseeable future.  Them's the breaks.

I have more to say about this, but I have to get to bed (so I don't have to call in on Monday, haha), and I wanted to post something meaty-ish before things got ugly, end-of-term-grading-wise.

Sunshine on a cloudy day

Yes, I was at school until 7pm calling the parents of students who are in danger of failing (term ends Friday).

However, until 4 I was working with my speecher who is an absolute delight.

Yes, I still have 50 essays to grade.

However, the kids have been working on their Midsummer Night's Dream scenes, and they are just a hoot.  Performances start tomorrow, and I can't wait.

I think I will make it.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Excrement+HVAC Blower=Sucky Day

Had to talk to five different kids about plagiarism today.

One "thought we were supposed to" paraphrase Shakespeare by copying an internet source word for word.

Another "thought he had changed it enough" by substituting every fifth word from an internet site.

We use Turnitin.com.

We have all year.

The kids can see their reports and re-submit up until the due date/time.

What the hell.  Boo.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Remember the reason

"To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust."--MLK, Jr. in his Letter from Birmingham Jail

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Blargh, or Sometimes I wish I could tell them to leave me alone.

From Student X:
I have some questions about how you graded my paper. First of all, the comment you left that I didn't cite a source correctly, the website was just on a line below the rest of the citition. It was all one citation and i think you thought the website was just thrown in as a separate citation. You also said my margins are too big, but on my last paper you told me they were too small, so I don't see how I get graded down for that. I also have a lot of trouble understanding the rubric. If i'm correct though it says my paper is "clear and focused" but at the same time "the paper has no clear sense of purpose or central theme". I really don't understand how those two statements aren't completely contradictory. I'd like to know if you'd look over these things and adjust my grade if necessary without me revising it or before i revise it. I also don't really understand how i talked about plot too much, because I would imagine that's the main way to use the text to support my thesis. I think that's everything i was wondering about, but if i remember anything else i'll send another message.
My reply:
Please remember that conventions (eg capitalization) matter regardless of the medium. I think we talked about tone after your last note. This is reading as very accusatory and almost rude.

Your website citation is missing parts as well as being punctuated incorrectly (you have an example in your student planner). In addition, it's hard to tell if you included all the needed information, since you did not cite the website in your essay.

Margins should be 1". We've discussed that in class.

You will notice that the rubric has a spectrum between the 5 and the 3 scores; you received marks between the two, which means there are attributes from both 5 & 3.

Retelling the plot is not the same as providing evidence. Focus on using specific examples, ie quotations, to support the main ideas in each paragraph. I've read the works: I do not need your to tell me everything that happens. Your job is to analyze the examples, and that is what is currently missing.

No, I will not regrade your essay before you do the rewrite. Part of the work of writing is figuring out how to focus on what is important and cut out what is not.
 
X's reply:
I apologize if my messages sound rude. I don't mean them to at all. I'm still confused on margins because you told me not to use 1" margins on the first paper so on the comparative analysis I used increased margins just like you told me to. Now you say i need 1" again, and I don't understand why. I see now that i put a coma after the day in my citation. I also understand that it has a lot missing so may be hard to read. The date i gave is the date accessed not the date of the website in case that was confusing. The reason so much is missing is because the website didn't provide the other information I needed. It's a sort of message board kind of posting site if you see what I'm saying. Because of that, there wasn’t one author. It was just a bunch of people with usernames posting things. Should I put in a username as the author or the original speaker of the quote I used instead of a website author? I still don't really understand the rubric. It's really hard to read for me. I don't quite get what you're saying about five attributes. It just seemed like i got two scores in parts and that the descriptions of those scores contradicted each other. Since i don't understand it though there is the possibility I'm reading it wrong. I still also don't understand how you want my papers changed to talk less about plot. I don't really know how to analyze the examples if that's not what i did. Maybe I'm just not an abstract thinker, but if you can’t change my grade without a revision, can i revise it just changing the margins and other small things like leaving out "comparative analysis" in the header? I want a better grade but don't entirely understand what I should change in the paper itself to get one. Again, if any of this sounds rude, it's completely accidental. I always try to respect my teachers.
My final reply:
Retell the story less. Introduce short quotations that illustrate your theme in relationship to the plot element. Explain the relationship. Compare how that is done with how it is done in the other text, repeat.
 Thoughts?  

Saturday, January 16, 2010

I'm just a girl who cain't say no



On Thursday, a nervous looking young man who I have not previously met came to talk to me.

He started to tell me about how he wants to be an IB Diploma Candidate (did I tell you the IB accepted us?).  And he wants to take pre-calc this year.  And he would have to switch into a different hour of my honors class.  The one that already has 37 kids in it.  And the counselor told him he would have to ask me if he could be moved into the class.

I said, "Sweetie, look around this room.  There are 36 desks in here right now.  Where am I going to put two more?"

Blink.  Blink.

"Okay, honey.  You can switch."

The truth is, I never turn kids away.  If they want to do the work, I want them.

However.  So far this year, I have had the laziest honors students ever.  Four times this year I have been at school three hours after the final bell because I have been calling the parents of students who are failing my class.

Let me also point out that kids only fail if they don't turn in work.  I don't grade a lot of daily work in honors because the proof is in the pudding of their grades on the more final assessment, and these kids don't (always) need the the external motivation of points to get them to do the daily work so they will be ready for the bigger assessment (unlike my 11th graders, who, honest to Pete, sometimes won't open their book unless they know they will get points for doing the assignment.  I'm not sure about how to get 17-year-olds intrinsic motivation.  The students who do well in my class all have something hanging over their heads in order to...sorry, I digress).

Of 66 children, I only got 54 Comparative Analysis.  They were due on the first day of winter break.

ROAR...so, with humangous classes, lazy asses mean tons more work for me.

And I kind of resent that the counselor put me in the position of having to say no to this kid's face or have another body in my overflowing classroom (the other class is 35).  MAYBE WE NEED ANOTHER SECTION.

I've already been thinking about setting the tone more specifically with the new term.  Now...I don't want to scare kids off, but for Pete's sake, I cannot nag them all the time, or I will lose my cotton-pickin' mind, and it will be ugly for everyone involved.

Friday, January 15, 2010

How I feel about the papers I FINALLY finished grading today




icanhascheezburger

4th hour today

"I'm going to be really honest with you.  I had a crappy day, and I'm really tired of those of you who really need to find a time machine so you can go back kick yourself in the butt wanting me to do more work  now than you have all semester.  There are four days left in the quarter, and if you come back to me next week wanting me to help you with all your missing work, I'm going to be really mad.  I can't really work with you today because I am afraid that I might say something nasty.  You are going to read silently.  In 30 minutes, I will put your study questions on the board so you can work on them."

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Ah, THAT's why I do this!

Today I got to spend some time with a girl who started at CoolioSchoolio this quarteras a junior, and we worked through her Drama piece for speech.  This child is full of joy, and I will admit that I cherry-picked her when we were assigning students to coaches.

Sunshine Of My Life was working on her character analysis while she waited for the desperate slackers who are trying to make up 8 weeks worth of work in the 5 days we have left of the quarter.

The monologue she chose is right about 6.5 minutes currently (time limit is 8), which actually excites me, because it means that we have 1.5 to play with while we keep cutting and forming.  The piece did not really impress me at first.  I was afraid it could go the way of awful drama, which sounds like country songs without a melody (my wife left me, my dog died, and now my truck's broke).

However.  We started talking about what's really going on with the character.  I talked a little about determining the character's Victory/Goal for any given action.  SOML asked me if we could pause for a second...while she got her notebook.

Friends, the child took notes.

I did not tell her to do so.

DO YOU HEAR THE LITTLE MERMAID SINGING!?

Anywho, the discussion continued, and we got to the idea that the crisis is the rational woman versus her depression.

It's gonna be good.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Teaching Speechers to SLAP

Perhaps you have heard of SLANT:

  • Sit up
  • Lean forward
  • Act like you’re interested
  • Nod
  • Track the teacher
 Someone at school shared it, and I spent some serious time working with the tenth graders at the beginning of the year on being polite, decent human beings.

Today my friendfriend and I came up with an altered acronym specifically for Speech rounds:
  • Sit up
  • Lean forward
  • Act like you're interested
  • Participate
At our last all-team meeting (distressingly poorly attended, BTW) before the season starts, we discussed what participation looks like: laughing when it's funny, making occasional eye contact with the speaker, making mental notes of ideas, not staring off into space and picking your nose, etc.

Also, the importance of positivity (not badmouthing themselves, others, or judges), and celebrating our successes in a manner befitting a graduation ceremony, rather than a kegger.

Chris Sacca's 6 Ways to Help in Haiti

Hat tip Dooce.

And pray.

This morning I heard on MPR that 1 in 8 children in Haiti die before they turn five.

Pray.  And give.  And pray some more.

What I learned from the interwebs today:

Snails hatch from eggs.

The wonders of the world amaze me.  I hope they never stop doing that.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Joy for Today

Today, C Jane's post is My Brief History with Beyonce's Single Ladies.

It made me think about how much I love that song.
And that video.


And it led me to this.  Which reminds me that I love dancing.  A lot.

It also included the video below, and the whole thing rocks my freakin' face off.



So, the moral of this post is DANCE! Fall down, get up, shake that ass!

BTW, today I saw the PT, and WE KNOW WHAT IS WRONG WITH ME! All this nasty bidness was caused by a pinched nerve. I shall now commence getting better.

Long day? Have a tall, cold...blog post.

As you may have guessed, I read a lot of blogs.  I split them up by four categories:
  1. Friends
    • People I knew before meeting them online
      • Friends who live across the States
      • Traveling family members (my snot little cousins insist on growing up and becoming adults)
      • Friends who are serving in the Peace Corps overseas
  2. Fun--Stuff that makes me purely happy to look at; all learning is purely coincidental
    • The Oatmeal has been making the rounds of the teaching blogosphere (yeah, I said it) lately because of his recent posts on Words You Need to Stop Misspelling (I wish I could use this with my classes unedited, but...) and How to Use an Apostrophe
    • LOLcats, LOLdogs, Daily Squee--Don't you judge me! (Name that show!)
    • Pioneer Woman--I think everyone needs someone like Ree Drummond in their life.  She's a Renaissance woman.  I'm lucky to have some in-person models, but Ree is on-demand.
    • Dooce--Definitely, definitely (name that movie!) have a blog crush on Heather Armstrong.  I love her writing style.
    • XKCD--comics about love and computers, and math, and stuff--helps me relate to my hubby.
    • Elements of Style--about design, not Strunk's book
    • AltF--John Michael Cooper and his wife take some of the most beautiful photos I've ever seen.  Looking at their bridal, wedding and engagement shots is kind of a sweet pain for me: they are so gorgeous, and I can't go back 16 months and have them do my wedding photos.
    • C Jane Enjoy It--a woman leading a joyful life and sharing it with the interwebs
    • etc.
  3. Interest--Stuff I can learn from
    • Lifehacker--how to do everything, better--If you decide to add them to your feed, you're going to want the "Top Posts" feed, or they will totally flood your feedreader.
    • Get Rich Slowly--JD and his crew can help your get your books straight and think about what you spend and why.  Also how I learned that my real hourly wage is $13.90 and hour.  Boo.
    • Unclutterer offers ideas on organization of your physical and mental space.  I also need to give a shout-out to Erin's book, Unclutter Your Life in One Week. It's the best of it's genre I've read: sense of humor, reasonable guidelines, easy to read.  Oddly enough, today's post is about what your free time is worth to you.
    • etc.
  4. Teachers
    • Look at My Happy Rainbow!--Dude is a kindergarten teacher, and he's all up in the meanigfulness and cuteness and higher level thinking.
    • Joanne Jacobs worked for Knight Ridder, and now shares and comments on stories about education.
    • It's Not All Flowers and Sausages--Mrs. Mimi has sass in all the right places.
    • The English Teacher's Companion--Jim Burke was my very first teacher crush.  I sometimes wish I had more of the answers he seems to keep on the tip of his brain.  Sometimes I have to save his posts for later because they require deep thinkings.   BTW, have you joined the English Teacher's Companion Ning yet?
    • Epiphany in Baltimore writes about life as an English teacher.  He's got a good mix of real life, inside and outside of school.
    • The Line--Dina hasn't posted tons lately, but when she does, it's good English teaching juice.
    • dy/dan is my first blog crush.  He teaches math, thinks hard about why he's teaching what he's teaching and how he's doing it, and is always looking forward.  Sometimes he pisses me off, too, which is always good.
    • Huff English--I love Dana's blog.  She's a great sharing resource, and she also started up the Understanding by Design Wiki.  You should join.
When I started this list, I was all ready to write about a particular post, but this list seems to have gotten away from me.  Another post, I guess.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Are they so SMART?

Lately, the Tempered Radical has been wound up about interactive whiteboards (most recently here). I have a SMARTBoard, and I've mentioned before that doing without it makes me sad.

TR has a solid argument, though:
Even the “Internet access, video and audio presentations, and digital assessments” that Ed Week spotlights can all be done with a data projector alone.  The actual whiteboard does nothing to enhance any of these activities.
Now, Marzano goes on to argue that he’s an ardent believer that technology can make good teaching easier—and he’s right.  But Interactive Whiteboards don’t. 
Instead, they are disarmingly insidious gadgets—so stinking sexy to people making purchasing decisions that they're almost irresistible whether or not there are proven strategies for meaningful implementation.
I can't argue this from beyond my own classroom experience, but I have also worried about spending on SMARTBoards when I could get a whole wad of netbooks for my classroom instead.  Sigh.


Something to chew on, regarding the use of new technology, from Unclutterer:
What inspires me most about the Amish isn’t their alleged simplicity (which you can probably infer I don’t necessarily believe is simpler), but their ability to give up a convenience after experiencing it. It is extremely difficult to give up a technology (or habit or vice or any possession) that you greatly enjoy. The fact that the Amish know of the technologies and ways of our world, have even experienced them, and are willing to give them up if they start to interfere with their priorities in life is what I find impressive. They easily get rid of the distractions that get in the way of what matters most to them.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

"All My Life's a Circle"

One of the things that I love about my job, about working with kids, and about working with literature, is that everything fits together. Recently, Jim Burke wrote about "teacher brain," when you see connections between you life in and out of school everywhere you turn

I had one of those moments last week: I had been trying to find a way to really get through to kids that what we call "Shakespeare's works" have been through so many different hands that changes have inevitably been made, and we never had a copy that was the one true thing to begin with.  That night, I was mulling over my crummy explanation at dinner, when my cousin started talking about seeing Avatar at our local theater's new "Omni" screen, which isn't really that fabulous.  It hit me: what we have from Will (I like to pretend we're close, personal friends, so sometimes I call him Will.  I don't think he stood to much on formalities) is a lot like old-school pirated movies where once in awhile the picture gets shaky and people sometimes walk in front of the screen.

I don't have any real deep thoughts to share here, but I did want to share one of my favorite songs with you.  I was raised by a mother who missed the sixties but never bought into to much of the seventies, and I think this guy holds that true spirit.
"All My Life's a Circle" by Harry Chapin with his brother Tom

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Breathe in, breathe out

Yesterday I heaved out all my frustration here.  I apologize for the rant.

While I slept away most of the exhaustion and frustration of yesterday, I'm still fighting the mucus monster that is trying to swallow my head.  I thought I'd bring you some tastes of people more able than I.

Oh, and I can't read when I'm this sick, so they're mostly pictures.



 

 






Friday, January 8, 2010

ARE YOU FREAKING KIDDING ME!? or, MIKD and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

The good thing about today: I did not go to sleep with gum in my mouth and wake up with it in my hair.

Welcome to Crazytown. Feel free to take a nibble, or just RUN, RUN AWAY.

A. Was shaking due to exhaustion when I woke up.  Am now doing so again.

B. A student, apparently thinking I am an idiot, changed five words from a paragraph on Sparknotes and thought this was sufficient mental effort on his part to get a grade for it.  So he turned it in on turnitin.com.  Really.  Really.

C. This student said "This is bullshit" when I informed him that he would not receive credit for the assignment and no, he could not just redo it and get the points (Have I mentioned previously that plagiarism, in addition to making more work for me, REALLY, REALLY makes me angry?  And you don't want to see me when I'm angry.)  He then argued with me when I told him to go down to the office.  NOW.  Did I mention that this physically imposing child likes to loom over me and also only asks me questions when I'm sitting down?  I need to bring back the "step into my office" chair.

D. While I was talking the kids through the plot of A Midsummer Night's Dream (Geez-heck, do I love that play!), a girl sitting in the front row was texting.  I made eye contact, asked her to "put it on my desk," and then kept talking.  When I was done and we were transitioning, I said, "[Insert child's name here], set the phone on my desk."
"It's not a phone, it's an i-Thingy."
"I don't care what it is.  Set it on my desk."
"It's not mine."
"It doesn't matter.  Set it on my desk."
"But I'm leaving right after lunch, so can you bring it to the office right away so I can get it back?"
"I will bring it to the office at lunch.  Set it on my desk."
"[Insert under-the-breath sigh of deep suffering and snottiness here.]"

E. Fast-forward five minutes.
Same child: "Can I go to the bathroom?"
"Is it an emergency?  There are only ten minutes until lunch and I don't want you to miss what we are doing."
"I have to go NOW."
"Fine."

F. Fast forward to the lunch bell.  I see the SAME DARN CHILD ask another student to write a note and sign it for her.  IS SHE KIDDING ME?
After I drop her phone off and mention my suspicion that she has forged a note to leave to the attendance secretary,I run into the girl who was doing the signing.
"Hey, [Insert generally pretty straight-laced student's name here], what was [Apparently a Rebel Without A Freaking Cause] asking you to write?"
"It was a note.  I'm sorry.  Am I in trouble?"

[Insert call to mother of said rebel using up my lunch period.]

G.  3.5 hours after school calling of parents whose scholars did not see fit to turn in the essay that was due before Christmas.

H. The dog pooped in his kennel.

I'm going to lay down, and maybe move to Australia.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

On being thankful: making your own luck

Over at Look at My Happy Rainbow, dude is on a roll. Today he wrote about penny luck.
"Living in Manhattan, my grandpa loved walking the streets. He particularly loved finding money on the street. While he often found quarters, dimes, nickels, and even the occasional bill, his collection mainly consisted of pennies.

“My grandfather is ninety-one years old.” I told them.
...“Let’s put the penny up on the board so we can all see it and remember how lucky we are, like your grandpa.”

He came up and gently handed it to me. I took a piece of tape and put it up high so we’d all see it and remember my grandpa and how lucky we are each day.
Today I was looking for things to be thankful for (I'm really struggling throughout the day), and I just kep repeating to myself, "I go pee with the door shut.  I go pee with the door shut.  I go pee with the door shut...."  I sang, "Just keep swimming" to myself in the shower when I got home.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Even more to be thankful for

Seeing this:

made me remember my thankfulness list from when I was tutoring Kindergarten:
  • I can tie my shoes by myself
  • I don't need someone to help me take a drink from the drinking fountain
  • I go to the bathroom with the door closed (which reminds me: when I was in K as a student, I once slammed the very, very, very heavy door to the restroom in our classroom on my thumb.  Did I mention the door was heavy? OW-WA!  That same year, I slammed my thumb in a locked car door with no one within hearing distance to save me.  How I never did more serious physical damage to myself growing up remains a mystery.)
Though these things might be small, consider what your life would be like without them!

Something to be thankful for

Since I have been ill, I have been blessed with some great subs. One woman, in particular, actually moved the kids forward, curriculum-wise. In addition, the kids liked her!

The best subs I've had are all retired English teachers. Today, one of them was in for my next-door-neighbor buddy. At lunch, my mentee was talking about how Teach for America has become a means for some (not all of them, obviously!) Ivy League grads to pad their resumes before entering the "real" workforce. Then, the gentleman subbing for my bud said that he began teaching in California in 1958 with no qualifications other than his degree in what we now call Mass Communications. He spent the next few years completing an English degree and getting his teaching credentials. Sounds more stringent than what they're doing in some places now to get teachers into classrooms.

BTW, this daily blogging thing may be an excellent catalyst for me.  I feel dumb admitting this, but I just figured out that I can save a post on Blogger without publishing it.  Now I have a couple more posts in the hopper for a rainy day, just from this one!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Time to Start Boundin'!

Thanks to Look at my happy rainbow!: Boundin' for giving me a mental kick in the ass.  I have been feeling sorry for myself over the past few days because I can't kick this illness.  Yesterday the doc told me he still doesn't know what the problem is, but we're going to try a couple of things before doing an MRI.

Anywho, Rainbow's post included a link to Pixar's short "Boundin'."

a.  I'm not sure this could be any darn cuter.
b.  I need to shake it off and just keep swimming.
c.  My attitude is what needs an adjustment more than anything else.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Return

Though getting out of bed was tough today (sub zero temps outside did not help), I did make it to school.  I was proud of myself for only being a couple of minutes late (I know, I know...but I figure reversing 12 days of nocturnal living requires a little leeway).  I felt pretty good until I went up the stairs.  Then I felt like I had been hit by a truck.  I made it through today, but will not be at school tomorrow.

On the teaching front, today we started Lit Circles in American Lit.  One of the kids who was in reading recovery last year finished The Old Man and the Sea over break, and he was so proud of himself.  I think a lot of the kids completed reading their books over break, which both surprised me and didn't.  I wasn't sure how much the draw of not having reading homework this week would actually affect their reading over the break.  Of course, there are a few who didn't read and won't....today was a little disorganized in terms of the kids getting their feet under themselves and work through their roles.  I'm interested to see if the kids will hold each other accountable.

On the speech front, I wound up showing the girls Anna Deveare Smith and Alice Walker.  They both liked what I found, so the next step is getting a script and forming a poetry program.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Oops

One day missed, but I am trying to pick up and start again.

Tomorrow marks the return to school, with only three weekends left until our first speech meet.  Tomorrow morning I meet with two of our newbies, and I don't have a piece for either of them.  I have a vision of what I want, bu I don't know what that will translate to, and I didn't make it back to the bookstore to find anything (I managed to avoid the siren call of the stores after the holiday, even on Boxing Day).

I hate not being ready for the girls, but not as much as I hate being behind in my grading.

I've now contracted my husband's cold on top of my pre-existing lurgy, so the thought of being upright all day tomorrow is not pleasurable.  I'm hoping the doctor will be able to tell me more tomorrow.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Day 1, 2010

Going to try out NaBloPoMo.

I'm still not at my best, whatever the theme may be, but I have cleaned 75% of my house for the annual shindig that's tomorrow.

This afternoon is more cleaning, some cooking with the Mutti and OM, and probably going to see The Young Victoria.  I don't know when I last saw a movie, and I'm looking forward to this one in particular.  I know a fair amount about the results of the Victorian Age, but not so much about the lady herself, other than she really loved Albert and liked to dedicate things to him.

As usual, I have squandered my Winter Break spending time with the fam, reading mind-candy and playing on the interwebs; not a single piece of student work graded, but I'm having trouble feeling guilt or will to do them.