Tuesday, December 15, 2009
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Someone at the school is in the Christmas spirit. There are big snowflakes all over the walls, light-up reindeer in the lobby, and ornaments hanging from every intersection of the ceiling panels in the front hall. Whoever hung the ornaments was probably trying to show a little school spirit by choosing only blue and silver decorations; however, to the untrained eye, that color scheme makes it looks the the Hanukkah aisle at Target.
I can't believe I have less than 3 weeks left in this semester. Praise the Lord for carrying me through this far. Things will be extra hectic these last couple weeks, but it helps to see the light at the end getting a little closer. There have been many moments this semester when I sincerely did not believe I would make it to December.
Here's an intriguing question that one of my freshmen asked me today: "What would you do if you accidentally killed someone?" From the way he asked, I knew this wasn't just hypothetical. I decided it was probably my responsibility to make sure that he hadn't actually killed someone, so I had to find out where this question was coming from. He didn't give too much information, but from what I could tell, he and his friends had been involved in a practical joke that caused another friend to pass out, which scared them all. It seems that everyone is fine now, and hopefully a little more cautious with their jokes too. Oh dear.
Monday, November 16, 2009
I was observed this morning by the lady in charge of social studies for all DeKalb high schools. She took pictures of all sides of my cart. She also told me that my cart was ridiculous (but she said it in a bless-your-heart sort of way). She took a copy of the assignment I had given to the class and told me that she thought it was great and she could tell I was working really hard. Then she gave me a high five, looked at my cart again, shook her head, and said, "all this on a cart... and they gave you two different classes." I could be wrong, but I think she feels my pain... at least a little.
So, I was feeling pretty pleased with myself until I got to 3rd period. Per usual, the freshmen managed to dismantle all the pleasure that comes with any small victory from 1st period. I'm trying a new tactic for discipline with a few of them that the assistant principal recommended... but NO success so far. Meanwhile, they still think that Australia is a country in South America. (true story)
Quick update on the new co-teacher in 4th period World History: The kids hate him, and I believe the feeling is mutual. Their behavior and attitudes are actually worse now that they have a stricter teacher. He is so frustrated with their inability to remain silent for even a few seconds, that he told them they were like a "straight up special ed class." The sad thing is that he isn't exaggerating.
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Monday, November 2, 2009
Last week I was observed by a classroom management consultant that was hired by DeKalb County to "assist" in low performing schools. Of course, this lady chose to observe my Freshman class in the 20 minutes that they have after lunch before the end of class. This is probably the worst 20 minutes of every day for me, but that's what she chose to observe. In my experience, when a teacher is being observed, the students are usually on their best behavior, whether it is to make themselves look good or to help out their teacher. Well, not my little darlings. They decided to go right on talking, walking around, eating, cursing, etc. I haven't heard the observer's official comments yet, but I'm sure I'll have to have some sort of training or action plan or something that sounds good but won't work.
Today, for reasons that have still not been revealed to me, my co-teacher (special education teacher) in my wild 4th period class, was traded. I now have a younger, much more intimidating co-teacher who, in the 30 minutes he was with us today, had already kicked out 2 students. I'll miss my first co-teacher, but think I am going to enjoy watching this class be scared of their new situation. After they were so rude and hateful toward the first teacher, I think they may be beginning to regret complaining about him.
I've gotten 3 new students in the last 4 school days. This is not ideal.
My geography class is moving along quickly, whether the kids are ready or not. Since they have 9 weeks to learn about the whole world, we spend about one week on each major geographical region. I don't think much of it is sticking with them, though, especially since we have pretty much no time to review. I handed one student a map of Asia today and he asked me if it was the United States. I'm failing.
Sunday, October 25, 2009
1. I had 8 parent/teacher conferences on Thursday night... most were quite pleasant
2. There was yet another fight in my first period on Friday.... that makes at least 4 so far this year
3. Due to my ambiguous answers to their questions about my personal life, many of my students now think that my husband is black
4. This job is getting harder and less tolerable every day... this is the opposite of what I thought was supposed to happen
Monday, October 19, 2009
I had a student ask me multiple times today if I am sick. Note to self: don't wear that yellow sweater anymore.
I was pretty excited this morning when I checked my mailbox in the teachers' lounge and discovered my school pictures. That's right, just like old times. All the faculty got a whole set of their yearbook portraits for free. So, all you regular blog readers, be expecting a wallet-size portrait of yours truly in the mail sometime soon!
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
The hours of proctoring gave me a good opportunity to do one of my favorite things: people watch. Granted, these "people" were 21 mentally strained freshmen sitting in a cold classroom, but there wasn't much else to do, other than make sure their ovals were filled in completely. While they were all relatively quiet and focused, I got a chance to see them a little more individually rather than as a big, unruly group of kids. Several of those 9th graders are in my classes, and I found myself wondering: Why does this girl always look so sad? Why does this student always come in late? Why can't this boy ever stop talking? Why did this boy bleach his mohawk and then dye it red? Why does he even have a mohawk in the first place? Maybe the PSAT was a break that I needed. I know I needed the coffee.
Saturday, October 10, 2009
Friday was a staff development day (a.k.a. teachers still work, but no kids). The faculty met at the Holiday Inn in Decatur for our sessions. This was not nearly as sketchy as it sounds. The break from the students was really nice, and I was encouraged as I finally got a chance to talk with some of the other teachers. The faculty has really been the best part of the school so far. Maybe the fact that it is such a tough school has made them all draw close and look out for one another. I am so thankful for the friendships there. It's also comforting to know that I am not the only one in a constant state of frustration at the actions of the administration and the overall climate of the student body.
The mini-victory of the week: We are officially halfway through with Fall semester! My Civics class wrapped up with a final exam and we're moving on to Geography after Columbus Day.
Tuesday, October 6, 2009
The funny thing is, now that one has left, the other teachers seem to be worried about me. I had a random teacher stop me in the hall and ask if she could do anything to help me, and then my department chair said, "You know we lost a teacher, right? You're not thinking that way are you?" I wonder why they think I might be next??? I guess I'm not the only one who noticed that I don't really belong in this setting.
Oh well. I'm not going to quit. Not in the middle of the semester anyway. I can't leave the kids halfway through. I still believe that I am there for a reason. I don't know how long that will be, but my responsibility is to my students. I don't blame the Math teacher for leaving. I just hope it will be a wake-up call for the administration.
Monday, October 5, 2009
1. instructional bulletin board for each subject taught (must be typed, includes the standard taught, the task, the rubric, the circumstance, a sample of student work, teacher commentary)
2. a complete lesson plan format for each subject taught (includes the sponge, standard, explanation, application, synthesis, homework, and essential question- updated daily)
3. a data wall demonstrating some subject related data from each class taught, must be a chart of some type
4. a word wall for each subject taught, must include the appropriate amount of words, words must be typed and the wall must be clearly labeled "word wall"
5. ALL the standards for each class taught must be fully displayed (for me, this is about 16 pages of text in 12 point font)
Our principal called these things the "5 non-negotiables." So, after weeping and gnashing my teeth, I started making posters for my cart. Please notice the photos I've included. Keep in mind that the students can only see one side of the cart at a time, they don't even look at the cart anyway, I wasn't working on actual lesson plans or teaching methods while I was working on my "non-negotiables," I can't see anything on my cart, which makes it impossible to conduct a class with ease as I constantly lift up posters to find my stapler, file a late paper, etc., and, I look ridiculous rolling my overly-postered cart down the hall.
Monday, September 28, 2009
Day one was "Tacky Day." Interestingly, it was actually pretty difficult to tell who was participating. Most students who claimed to be dressed up were wearing almost exactly the same type of clothes as a regular day. Clearly, I am not up on the latest fashions. I have a low threshold for what qualifies as "tacky."
Tuesday's theme is supposed to be "Flip the Script Day." Apparently, this is the urban translation for 'cross dressing.' I won't be participating tomorrow, either.
Monday, September 21, 2009
Sunday, September 20, 2009
A Jenny Owns song came to mind this morning as I was working on my never-ending lesson plans, and it reminded me that it isn't up to me to save the world all by myself. Time to chill out, Miriam.
"It may not be the way I would have chosen, when you lead me through a world that's not my own. But you never said it would be easy. You only said I'll never go alone."
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
student: You know the President? Is he president of the United States and Canada?
me: No, he is just president of the United States.
student: Does that include Africa?
me: (trying to hide my dismay) No, just the 50 states in the US. You know the 50 states...
Thank goodness we start the Geography half of the 9th grade social studies course in a few weeks. It is supposed to be "World Geography" but I have a feeling we will be spending lots of time on more basic skills like north/south/east/west and the names of the oceans.
The students were given their progress reports today at the end of the day. We met back in our homerooms (mine is in the cafeteria) to hand them out. Since we share the cafeteria with DeKalb School of the Arts, we got to watch their dance class practicing while my little freshman homeroom got their first progress reports of the year. It was distracting. Then, I had to walk back through the crowded halls. I almost didn't make it to the safety of my department chair's room, as I was ambushed by a disgruntled student. I used some "foggers" (I understand, I see, uh huh, etc.) and kept walking. Maybe she'll forget about her bad grade by tomorrow. I'm really not looking forward to seeing my freshmen class tomorrow, since half of them are currently failing. Maybe the bad grades will inspire them to try harder... I can always hope.
Monday, September 14, 2009
I would rather have a cold classroom than a hot one. Of course, as a floater, I don’t have much control over the temperatures of my teaching environments. Still, most rooms are usually on the cooler side. The students, however, hate the cold. The “cool” thing now is to bring a fleece blanket, preferably with some cartoon character on it, into the room and bundle up like they are in a meat locker. So dramatic. We’ve had several arguments in 4th period over kids stealing other kids’ blankets. Some of them are probably legitimately cold, but for others it is just a fashion statement or, more likely, a way to hide a cell phone while they are texting.
Today was the third time I've had to call the discipline office because of a near-fight in my first period class. The bell rang for class to begin and while trying to quiet everybody down, I noticed the same 2 guys yelling at each other from across the room. I still couldn't understand what they were saying, but could tell by their inflection that things could get ugly. So, another call to the office and the Discipline Principal came down and took them both out of my class for 3 days. Honestly, I'd rather not see them in there again.
This week was frustrating as I realized that I am failing to “get through” to my students on so many levels. There are serious behavior issues in every class, but what really bothered me this week was a blatant double-standard that 2 of the classes believe but won’t admit. I like when they talk about issues and stories that they see on the news. This week, they brought up the Congressman that called Obama a liar during his address to Congress. Of course, my students were outraged and said it was so disrespectful and that nothing like this had ever happened before. When I reminded them that last year President Bush had shoes thrown at him during a speech, they started laughing and making comments like, “Well, he deserved that,” and, “I wish they had hit him.” I tried my best to reason with them calmly, explaining that it doesn’t matter who the president is, you can’t claim that one of those incidents is wrong and the other is acceptable. They couldn’t see it. The majority of them have apparently been brainwashed so far that they are beyond reason. I’m not trying to push my beliefs; I just want them to be fair and reasonable. But I think it may be too much to ask.
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Monday, August 31, 2009
As scared as I was of Memorial Drive, I have to say that I'm growing fonder of this particular part of Atlanta. The lights of the jail at daybreak can be quite lovely against purple clouds as you drive up the exit ramp from I-285. The traffic is never an issue in the mornings (possibly because I am there before 7am). It is only in the afternoons that I have a problem with Memorial Drive traffic. Also, I have one word for the fine pedestrians of this area: CROSSWALK.
Friday was the beginning of the Blue Devils' football season. The school got in the spirit with a pep rally on Friday at the end of the day. I suppose it was a typical pep rally for DeKalb, although it looked nothing like my pep rally days back at Fellowship Christian High School. Even the Avondale tuba players were dancing in a way that would have gotten a Fellowship cheerleader expelled. Not to mention the Blue Devils Dance team. Wow. It's a good thing I wasn't asked to sponsor them. I clearly have a different vision of "appropriate" than most of those around me. Even so, I felt like the rally was a success. It certainly got me excited about the football season. I wish I had more time to enjoy the "school spirit" part of this job.
Kenneth and I decided to attend the game Friday night, and were joined by his parents. As we entered the stadium, I discovered the one perk of being a teacher; free admission. All my students on the team had worn their jerseys to school, so I wrote down all of their numbers in order to recognize them on the field. Everyone looks the same in shoulder pads and a helmet, you know. The Lithonia Bulldogs got off to a quick lead, but never scored again after the first quarter. I watched several of my students help lead the team to a 24-6 victory. It was pretty exciting, despite the fact that both bands' halftime shows featured the music of.... Michael Jackson. I'm not anti-Thriller, but seriously.
One interesting side note about the football program: Avondale apparently has one of the best football histories in the state. The winningest coach in Georgia achieved this title while coaching at Avondale in the 70s. Unfortunately, the team's recent record has been pretty bleak. Due to the school's successful past, there has been a recent push by alumni and coaches to restore the glory days of Avondale football. These alumni have formed the Touchdown Club, which raises money for the team and recently purchased new jerseys for the boys. The late middle aged white men all come to the games, sit together, get really into the game, and stick out like a sore thumb. Well, I guess I stick out too. It's nice to see lots of different people excited about the program. I think AHS needs all the support it can get.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
So, I'll focus on something else. I learned some new vocabulary today. My big brother Ben has been asking me for some new vocabulary words since I started teaching at Avondale. This one's for you, Benny. The term: "38 hot" (adj.)
Here's the conversation where student #4 explained the meaning of "38 hot" to me.
#4: I'm 38 hot! Isn't that right Mrs. Camp? You know what that means?
me: Um, no. What does it mean?
#4: Like, really, really hot. You know what hot means?
me: Yeah, like good looking?
#4: No. Um, like when the police are chasing after you.
me: Oh, hot, like, stolen?
#4: Yeah, if you were in a stolen car you'd be 38 hot.
me: Ok, so it means highly sought after, wanted.
#4: Something like that.
There you go.
Monday, August 24, 2009
I looked over to see the two boys standing inches apart, nearly yelling at each other. I had missed the whole seat-taking incident, and thought they were joking around (their voices were at the same level as many of my other students who play-fight with one another). I walked over to ask them to stop goofing around and suddenly realized that neither one was smiling. Fortunately, the teacher whose room I use during that period, an intimidatingly tall coach, happened to be in the corner of the room doing some work. Just as I figured out that I was about to have a serious rumble in my room, I heard the coach yell, "Separate. Do not touch each other! The first person to touch the other is going to jail! Back off guys!" The coach was immediately next to the guys, forcing them out of the classroom and down to the discipline office. They followed him out of the room, trash-talking and pounding their fists in their hands the whole way. Close call.
After they left, another student said, "Ms. Camp, why'd you get so close to them? You could've gotten hurt." Well, I didn't know it was a fight. I couldn't understand what either of them were saying. It would be helpful if the students could give me a heads-up next time I walk into a danger zone. So anyway, I'm really looking forward to having both of those gentlemen back in class in a day or two. I wonder who will get that seat???
In other news, my 4th period finally figured out how short I am. I'm surprised it took them this long. Student #1 walked up to the front to ask a question and promptly began waving his hand over my head, saying, "Uh, Ms. Camp, you're pretty short." Thanks for the input. Of course, the other students heard his comment and made the shortest guy in the class stand up next to me to compare height. And of course, I was shorter. I hope this class disruption helped his self-esteem.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
I tried a little classroom management tip from Rachel Hyder this week. I noticed one particular student, let's call him student #1, sleeping in my class and being slightly disruptive while he was awake last week. On Monday, for some unknown reason, student #1 stayed awake and was actually participating in class, even raising his hand to answer most of my questions. So after school, according to Rachel's advice, I called #1's mom and told her that I really appreciated his participation in my class. I told her that I know he is a football player and that I think he really has the ability to be a leader in the class and set a good example. She sounded appreciatively shocked. The next day, student #1 tapped me on the arm as he walked in and said, "Hey Mrs. Camp!" He has continued to participate and hasn't fallen asleep since. Thanks Rach!
One down, 89 to go.....
Monday, August 17, 2009
Sunday, August 16, 2009
I'm sure I'll have many observations to share in the coming months. This is just the first one that drew my attention. When I was in school, if I needed something from a teacher, I was expected to ask, "May I borrow a pen?" Or, "May I use the restroom." It wasn't really even acceptable to say, "Can I borrow" or, "Can I go," but the lenient teachers would let that slide. Well, my students have taken it a step further. If a student needs a pen, he says, "I can have that pen." If a student wants to use the restroom, she says, "I can go to the bathroom." I hear this statement-request form of asking permission multiple times a day. I'm considering correcting them, but it still throws me off so much when I hear it that I usually just respond with, "yes, you may."
The Michael Jackson sighting count has gone up to 6. And I've already lost count of the "Obama is our savior" references.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
The first 3 days of school are thankfully behind me. Here is a brief snapshot of this week so far. All teachers are required (and evaluated on their performance) to enforce the new dress code. Now picture me telling a 6'3" black 18 year old young man to, "pull up your pants." It seems that the majority of students in the Avondale district wait till the first day of school to begin registering for classes, which means that our original class rosters were completely wrong. Even on the third day there were many new students in my classes. The fact that I wasn't on the attendance/grading system until this morning has also presented a few challenges. All of this plus the fact that, as a new teacher, I have no idea what I'm teaching, so my entire evenings are consumed with planning, studying, and soon, grading. Oh yeah, and I cried while talking to one of the Assistant Principals today. That was a shining moment...
There are no good stories to tell about my "crazy kids" yet. Unfortunately I am too stressed out to see the humor in anything school-related right now.
The ONLY reason I have made it this far is through the strength of the Lord, the prayers of so many family and friends, and the much-needed encouragement from so many people. It is tough, tougher than I expected, but I have hope. I can't see the light at the end of the tunnel, but the people that love me can see it, and they keep me going.
Sunday, August 9, 2009
In church this morning, the pastor called all high school students to the front so he could pray over them as they begin the new year. When he said, "Teachers, you come on up too," I jumped out of my seat and quickly made my to the front. I needed that prayer! It was such a blessing to see our Young Families pastor and his wife stand up behind me and put their arms around me during the prayer. I am so thankful for all of my family and friends who have been praying for me during this transition. It is such an encouragement to have support, real support, outside the world of public education.
Despite the stress, I am confident that this is where the Lord has placed me. It won't be easy, but we aren't called to live easy lives. I am thankful to have a job and am looking forward to getting into the swing of the school year. It seems daunting right now, and Kenneth will probably have to deal with a tearful wife pretty frequently for a little while, but it really will be okay. Maybe even enjoyable.
Friday, August 7, 2009
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
I met no parents today at the Open House, but I am pretty sure it's because no one knew where to find me. This is just one of the many gripes of a floating teacher.
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
On a different note, I think the purple-haired librarian with an Obama button on her i.d. badge will be an interesting character to watch this year. And I am keeping count- including this i.d. badge, I've had 3 Obama sightings and 3 Michael Jackson references.
The most surprising part of this experience so far is the number of "War Eagles" I've received from my colleagues. I've met several Auburn fans and a few others from Alabama who respect Auburn football. One man even knows Damien Craig. The other new member of the Social Studies department is from Opelika and, after a brief discussion with her this morning, we discovered that she and my mother were best friends in elementary school. Small world. So, I'll have something other than school to talk about with some co-workers- at least until football season ends.
Monday, August 3, 2009
Sunday, August 2, 2009
Here is a summary of the events leading up to this school year. After receiving my B.A. in History and my M.Ed. in secondary social studies education, I found myself in the all-too-common state of unemployment. I began substitute teaching in DeKalb County, Georgia, hoping to be first in line if a high school social studies position opened up in the middle of the year.
After many frustrating months, with no ideas as to where to find a real teaching job, I began praying that the Lord would just drop something into my lap. Last March I was subbing at Dunwoody High School when the Assistant Principal informed me that the school was suddenly in need of a social studies teacher. Within 2 days I was a full-time, real, live high school teacher. The experience of starting my first teaching job with only 9 weeks left in the school year is a whole different story, but the important thing is that I was finally employed.
I made it through those 9 weeks, signed a contract with the county for the 2009-2010 school year, was told that I would be returning to Dunwoody in the Fall, packed up my school supplies, and went home to enjoy my first summer as a teacher. Dunwoody is consistently cited as one of the best schools in DeKalb County. It is closer to the suburbs than most of the other schools, and is in a nice, well-kept part of town. It has a very even mix of students and faculty members, and is only 4 miles from my house. Some might call it ideal.
With only 3 days left until I was supposed to report to Dunwoody to begin pre planning, I received a short email from the DeKalb Human Resources. "Miriam Camp, teacher at Dunwoody High School, is reassigned to Avondale High School. Please make the necessary adjustments in the system." And with that, I was transferred from one of the best schools to one of the worst. If you aren't from Atlanta, this may not mean much, but Avondale High School is off of Memorial Drive in Southeast Atlanta- very near a prison and a MARTA station. It is a failing school, which means that many students in that district who can afford transportation have transferred to other schools.
From what I can tell, this is a very different sort of situation from my brief time teaching in North Atlanta. I'm not quite sure how I feel about it yet, but I'll be there bright and early on Monday. I was angry at first, but am beginning to see this as an opportunity. Maybe I can make a difference. Maybe some of those students need me to care about them. Maybe this is a ministry. Maybe.