Monday, September 28, 2009

Rock the Blue and White

It's time for Spirit Week. The theme: Rock the Blue and White. I'm not sure who came up with the theme. Actually, I'm not really sure if that qualifies as a theme. At my high school, we always had themes like, "Winter Wonderland," or "A Night at the Oscars"- themes that could actually be used in decorating. Nevermind.

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.

Try a little Tenderness

My sweet grandfather passed away last Tuesday. I wanted to remember him, celebrate his life, and grieve with my family without any interference from school, but it was inevitable that the two would overlap. On Wednesday, when I announced to my freshmen that I would be absent the following day, they immediately wanted to know why. As I explained the situation and the funeral plans, I teared up and had to stop speaking for a moment to regain my composure. During this moment, one of my most frequent discipline-problem students stood up, walked to the front of the room, and gave me a big hug. He then proceeded to sit and work quietly for the rest of the period. God is so good to give us strength just when we need it.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Rain Day

Dear DeKalb County,
Closing school for inclement weather tomorrow is the first wise decision you have made all year. Now I'm going to go dry off after my swim home today.
Miriam J. Camp

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Song in My Heart

It was a rough week. I won't attempt to describe it because I am trying hard to get through this "without grumbling and complaining." I'll just say that it ended with me calling about 20 parents after 4 o'clock on Friday afternoon. The good news is that six weeks have already passed and that means only 12 more weeks of school till Christmas.

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

Oh dear...

Conversation in Civics-

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

Other Observations

Most days after lunch, I get a little chuckle while I am standing at the door of my classroom, waiting for the students to come back in. One of my 4th period students has a motorized wheelchair and he rides past me on his way back from lunch. That’s not the funny part. What makes me smile is that he speeds, like really fast, back down the hall, and I love watching the other students having to jump out of the way to avoid being hit. Plus, he is always singing some rap song whenever he is moving quickly. Maybe you have to be there, but it is amusing.

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.

The President and Me

Tuesday, despite protests, speech changes, and political agendas, President Obama addressed the nation's school children. I received an email that showing the speech in my class was not mandatory, but that if I didn't want to, I had to notify the administration so they could "make other arrangements for the students who wanted to view the speech live." Knowing that if I didn't show it, all of my students would protest and be taken out of my class so they could watch it somewhere else, I decided to turn it on and hope they would be inspired to be better students. The speech began at 12, right in the middle of my freshman class. I wondered whether they would be more respectful of the president they claim to adore than they are of me. Well, it looks like I'm in good company. I turned on the speech and was not able to hear one word of it due to the incessant talking. I mean, it’s nice and all that the president wants students to try hard and take responsibility, but the ones who really need to hear it, aren’t listening.

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

Freshmen, 1: Mrs. Camp, 0

I think they're winning. I'm about to give up on my freshmen. I am not exaggerating when I say that there is never, ever even one second that passes in 3rd period where at least one of the students isn't talking. It's like I'm not even there. I can stand right in front of a student waving at him and basically yelling for him to please stop talking so I can speak, and he will look right past me and keep on talking. They also seem to have trouble staying in their seats. I got stepped on today by a fairly rotund young man who had already been asked to sit 3 or 4 times. He could tell it hurt me, and he sincerely apologized, but was out of his seat again 5 minutes later. Of course, it doesn't help that we have one hour of class, a 25 minute break for lunch, and then 20 more minutes of class time. Every day when the bell rings for them to come back from lunch, I seriously consider crawling behind a desk and hiding until 4th period. I really don't think they would notice if I was missing.

This is my cart. Top level: Auburn cup with pens and pencils that the students steal, folders of handouts for both classes, lesson plan notebooks for both classes, and the overhead projector for those days when I'm feeling old-school high-tech. Middle Level: Trays to hold work from each class, extra paper, 3-hole punch, stapler, hand sanitizer to protect me from germy teens. Bottom Level: extra textbooks, boxes of school supplies which the students also steal.

In this picture, my cart is parked in my department chair's room. It used to be a science room, which is why there are lab tables instead of regular desks. I don't teach in this room, but consider it my home base in the mornings and afternoons. My department chair is kind enough to give me some storage space, the use of his computer and printer, and the secret hiding place
for the key to the locked storage closet.
The overhead projector in all its glory. There is something nostalgic about the fuzziness of the images it projects combined with the smell of vis-a-vis markers. It usually sits atop my cart, but sometimes I give it the day off. Even overheads need a break from freshmen every now and then...