Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Coffee and Funyuns

A few random anecdotes:
Yesterday, I saw a girl in one of my classes slowly unzip her leather jacket, stick her hand inside, slowly remove an individual-size bag of Funyuns, and stealthily hand them to her friend. Later, another student absent-mindedly unzipped his jacket, and a bag of Cheetos fell out onto the floor. I thought some of my kids were a little chubby, but apparently they are all just stuffing their outerwear with Frito-Lay products.

Last semester I was on "morning duty," standing by the door where all the bus-riders enter the building. All of a sudden I heard yelling down the hall. The shouts were coming closer and then a guy ran past me and started to bust through the doors. Right behind him was a fairly hefty young lady (she was the one doing the yelling). As her intended victim ran out the door, she threw a cup full of some disgusting coffee-type drink in his direction. Unfortunately, he had made his way out of the building by the time her beverage had launched, which meant that the drink ended up all over me instead. As she tossed her glass, she lost her balance and wiped out on the hall floor. She pulled herself up off the floor as I tried to process all that had just happened. I began wiping the coffee grounds off of my pants, waiting for her explanation/apology, but she just turned around and ran away. Absolutely no acknowledgement that she had just unloaded a glass of some nasty liquid all over a random teacher. (this is about how much attention most students pay to me) I spent the rest of the day explaining to people why my khaki pants were speckled.

The window repair man came to my classroom yesterday to examine the broken window situation. (An entire piece of glass shattered 2 weeks ago when a student tried to close a window. This is what happens in a building that is an historic landmark and therefore never gets updated...) The hole in the window happens to be right next to my desk, creating a perfect angle for the cold air to blow on me while I attempt to be productive. The repair man took a look at the window and asked, "Ain't y'all on the list of schools to be shut down?" When the custodian responded that we are on the list, the repair man replied, "Then I'm just gonna screw some plexi glass on the outside of the window. No need to go to too much trouble." And there you have it; the general attitude about our school until the blessed day when they finally shut it down in May!

Friday, February 4, 2011

Long Post

So, it’s been a while. I am 7 or 8 weeks away from beginning maternity leave (depending on whether a doctor will write me note stating that I NEED some time away from work before the baby comes), and I’ve missed several great opportunities to document the craziness that I experience every day at this school.
I’m continually shifting in my seat as I write this, trying to find a comfortable position because, yet again, I had to yell so loudly to get my students’ attention today that it has literally made my stomach muscles hurt. Until the last two weeks, teaching high school while pregnant wasn’t nearly as difficult as I thought it would be, though. The students were surprisingly happy for me when I told them the news last fall. Of course, several of them have children of their own (one girl in my AP class is due about a month ahead of me), so I guess they can relate to my situation. The process of choosing a name for our little one was made a little easier by the fact that I didn’t have to avoid the names of the “bad” students that I teach (as so many teacher-moms do), because names like Erion, Kareem, Khalil, Kendarious, Quentin, Akil, Dominique, Najee, Morrell, Jamario, Makkadoo, and Leon, were never on the list in the first place.
Although there have been LOTS of negatives about this year, I do have to acknowledge the positives. I needed to work this year, and the Lord provided JUST enough sanity in this circus so that I could make it through. Having my own classroom has been glorious. I can’t even explain how much better it is than a rolling cart. (Despite the fact that the room is currently freezing due to a large hole in one of the windows that has yet to be fixed…) Also, 2 of my 3 classes are AP US History. This is a year-long course, so I have been able to build a relationship with some of my students. The AP label doesn’t guarantee that they can read, write, or know that Europe is a continent and not a country, but it does mean that there is a higher likelihood of them coming to class and attempting to work. There are even a few who occasionally ask intelligent questions and reference current events other than rap and marijuana. I was incredibly touched when a few girls brought in baby presents for me (and the pregnant student in the class) last week. Finally, my entire department, all three of them, think this place is just as crazy as I do, so we’ve been able to help each other out and mostly keep each other from absolutely “losing it.”
I say “mostly” keep each other from losing it, because we did actually lose our 9th grade teacher in November. We still don’t know the details, but there was apparently some sort of confrontation with the principal, this teacher was taken away in an ambulance, and she hasn’t been back at school since (although her name is still on the roster of teachers and no one has been hired to replace her.) I met the long-term sub that currently has her classes one afternoon this week and tried to encourage her, but she had that “I’m-going-to-burst-into-tears-as-soon-as-I-get-in-my-car” look anyway. And I know that look, trust me.
If you watch the Atlanta news, you know DeKalb County is working on redistricting a bunch of schools next year. Since our school is about 60 years old, is way under-enrolled, and has been performing terribly for the last decade, we are on the almost-official list of schools to be closed. This is actually welcome news to most of the staff and students, who know that the county has long since missed its chance to save this place. And, unlike some of the north DeKalb schools on the list, no parents here are fighting to keep it open.
With the anticipated closing, it feels like the school is spinning out of control even more quickly. Teachers are just flat out leaving, so there is an unusually high number of substitutes in the building on a regular basis. We’ve lost the English and Math department chairs (one was involved in some scandal, the other just couldn’t take it anymore) One of the four administrators still hasn’t returned from Christmas break. Last week, our main principal was out for cosmetic surgery and another decided to use her vacation days at the same time, leaving only one administrator in the building the whole week. He had to deal with the usual morning fist fights and one student being taken to the hospital all by himself.
This post is now so long that it is probably unreadable, so I’ll have to write more charming anecdotes about the Blue Devils at a later date.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Back to School

School started last Monday. I found out what I was supposed to be teaching when I walked in that morning and checked the online grading system. 1st Period: General US History, 2nd Period: AP US History, and 3rd Period: AP US History. The AP classes are year-long, but I will only have the general US class until Christmas. This schedule will be a lot of work, since 11th grade History is a highly-tested subject in Georgia, but it is a lot more interesting to me than the other social studies classes.

The school is just as unorganized and out-of-touch as ever, but there were a few pleasant surprises as I started the year. My room is awesome. I love having a place to work, a board that I can write lessons on, walls that I can decorate, and a phone that I can use to call parents. It is right across from the discipline office, so hopefully that will give the students a little extra incentive to behave.

With all the last minute schedule-changing that went on, I somehow ended up with 4th period planning. My 3rd period class leaves for the last lunch wave at 12:50, which means I am done teaching each day by 12:50. I still have hall duty from 1:20-1:40, but 4th period is the longest period of the day and I am SO thankful that I don't have to teach through it again this year. Also, I was one of the few fortunate teachers who wasn't assigned a homeroom class. So, every other Wednesday morning, I'll get 30 minutes free while everyone else is in homeroom. (except when a homeroom teacher is late for school and they come find me and make me cover... which has already happened)

In fact, I am so excited about the way my schedule is set up that I am not even going to complain in this post about how every teacher had to give multiple intelligence tests to our students and then break down and post the data. I also won't complain about the fact that my Advanced Placement students wouldn't be considered AP at any other school (one of them didn't know what a "European" was). And I won't mention the fact that every day this week my 2nd period class is being pulled out to take a practice GA High School Graduation Test and that I have to help proctor 150 students who would rather text, curse, and laugh than do anything that could help their academic future. I'll save the negatives for the next post :)

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Here We Go Again

Pre-planning started on Wednesday and we kicked it off with the first of many looooong faculty meetings. One of the first things anyone said to me was, “I’m surprised you’re back.” Thanks. Nice to see you too. We talked about a whole bunch of nothing for 4 hours and were released to start working in our rooms.

This year, much to my delight, I HAVE A CLASSROOM! It’s difficult to explain how wonderful it is to have a home and a place to spread out. Other teachers keep walking in my room to tell me how happy they are for me. Other than the fact that all the furniture had been waxed to the floor over the summer, it is a great room. I inherited 4 filing cabinets full of chalk, 4 globes from the 80s, an American flag, and a step stool (which I will definitely be using). They also issued me my very own classroom key. No more searching the school at 6:50 am for a janitor because I am locked out of the room where I parked my cart!

Thank goodness for the classroom, because nothing else about the school year has been decided. Since my last blog, my class schedule has been changed twice. The students’ first day is tomorrow and I currently have no idea what I will be teaching when I walk in tomorrow morning. Now, I don’t have a degree in educational leadership, but it seems like a schedule would be the number one thing you would want to have figured out before the kids actually come into the building. But, what do I know, I’m just a teacher. I guess the first day will just be a meet & greet…

In other news, only 2 out of last year’s 5 Social Studies teachers returned this year. The administration only decided to hire 2 more, so we have a smaller department (and bigger classes) than last year. My department chair was one of those who “got out” over the summer. The new department chair seems nice but I feel so badly for him as I watch him realize what kind of situation he has gotten into. He is an FSU fan, so thankfully, I’ll be hearing a lot less out of him this fall than last year’s Bama fan department chair.

So, I am entering this year completely in the dark but completely thankful that the Lord has gone before me and knows exactly what is headed my way. It’s probably better that I am clueless- less to worry about that way!

Monday, August 2, 2010

I'll Call You If Anything Changes...

This post is an attempt to give you a snapshot of the see-saw that I've been on this summer when it comes to my expectations for this upcoming school year. Last spring, my assistant principal asked if I would take an AP history certification course this summer. She said I could choose between AP U.S. and AP World. Since I prefer U.S. history, that is the course I chose. Before turning in my paperwork to take the certification class, I checked with this principal 3 times to make SURE she was still OK with me taking AP US instead of AP World.

The very first week of summer, that principal called me and said that they didn't need me to teach AP US after all and that she would try to register me in a AP world certification course instead. (see-saw) Shortly after, she told me to take the AP US course anyway and she would stay in touch with me about AP World. (see-saw) So, I took the AP US course, but didn't look at any of the curriculum after that week since I knew I wouldn't actually be teaching it.

A few weeks later, I heard from the principals that they were still waiting on me to choose which week I could attend the AP World seminar. However, I hadn't even been informed that I was supposed to be choosing a week, the other principal was supposed to be in charge of that. (see-saw) So, I chose a week and waited for confirmation from the administration that I was successfully registered to spend yet another week of my summer in training. Finally, I got a call from the principal saying that the school didn't have the money to send me to another workshop and that they just wouldn't offer AP World this year and I would just be teaching general World History instead. (see-saw) This was a welcome turn of events because I have taught that class before and would be well-prepared... and I wouldn't have to go to another workshop!

So, last Friday I stopped by the school to make sure that I had actually been assigned to a classroom and to drop off some supplies in that room. When I arrived, the principal said she was glad I stopped by because she was about to call and tell me that I would, in fact, be teaching AP US History. (see-saw) Another teacher from last year had just left and they decided to move me to AP US. [please note, this means that only 2 teachers from the Social Studies department are returning this year] Begin panic attack: an AP class is a big deal and NOT something you want to start preparing for less than a week before you go back to school. But that's how we roll in DeKalb county.

As I walked out of the principal's office in a state of shock she said, "I'll call you if anything changes." And it wouldn't surprise me a bit if something does.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Oh Yeah, I Have a Blog...

Oops. Ok, I can explain why I haven't blogged since January 11th. First, I got extremely overwhelmed with a whole new set of kids and classes. Then, I had so many good stories to write about that I knew it would take me forever to catch up on the blog and I didn't have enough time to do these stories justice. And finally, as the end of the year approached, I cared less and less about anything remotely related to school and couldn't pull myself away from Facebook, Twitter, and everyone else's blogs long enough to force myself to recount all the funny and/or depressing anecdotes from the semester.

Second semester found me still pushing around my cart which, fortunately, evoked enough sympathy from those in power that I am high on the list for actually having my own classroom next year. As anticipated, my 2 classes of Juniors (or repeat juniors...) were significantly more tolerable than the freshman class from Hades which welcomed me into my new profession last semester. By Junior year, many of the kids have acquired their street names (this is entertaining but also doubles the number of names with which I have to be familiar). Bootsy, Cole Slaw, Juice, and Pork Chop were some of my favorites.

Second semester was also characterized by the same mismanagement, confusion, and incompetence on the part of DeKalb County that I quickly recognized in the fall. You may have heard that the DeKalb County superintendent, Crawford Lewis, was indicted this spring and eventually forced to resign his position. This event was certainly not a proud moment for the county, but it was most definitely not a surprise, either. Unfortunately, he seemes to have set an example for leadership that many others in the county appear to be following.

There are so many ridiculous things from this past semester that I have been meaning to write about, so I'll try to add them as the summer goes on. Let me just leave you with some teasers: fights every day after school, getting called to the Principal's office because too many students were failing my class, and being forced to eat lunch in the classroom with my students every day for 2 weeks.

If you don't already know, I signed the contract to return to AHS next year. I know, I'm still surprised myself. There was a lot of praying, a lot of discussing with Kenneth, and a lot of tears that went into this decision. I'm just glad that the Lord is in control and knows exactly what I'm supposed to be doing. Honestly, the idea of returning for Year #2 doesn't make me all warm and fuzzy inside right now. (actually, it's more like sweaty and short-of-breath) But, summer is a nice separation from the chaos and has given me the opportunity to take a few steps back to realize that the Lord can use his children where ever he wants to use them, even if they feel inadequate, unprepared, scared to death, and very, very small. He is BIG and he has a plan. Thank goodness! So, it looks like I'll have plenty of more material to fill the blog...

Monday, January 11, 2010

Somebody lost her weave...

For real. I had just pushed my little cart into the classroom at the end of the day when a student came in and asked my department chair if he had seen the fight outside the room. When Mr. Flowers asked if it was a real fight, the young man responded,"Oh yeah, they hooking for real." (which was his way of saying 'yes')

We both stepped out into the hall to make sure it wasn't still going on, and immediately saw the remnants of the fight strewn down the hall. Right outside the door we saw 2 big hoop earrings, a shoe and (you guessed it) a handful of braids. As the students began to clear out, we saw pieces of the weave scattered about 20 feet down the hall. I feel like it was some sort of initiation; I am now officially a teacher at AHS.

Also, completely unrelated, one of my students told me that he is a vampire. I'm not sure what to do with that. Since I didn't jump on board that whole New Twilight Werewolf Vampire Moon book/movie bandwagon, I was significantly less impressed than he probably intended.