Sunday, October 25, 2009

No Time

There's just not enough time! Unfortunately, actually doing my job has taken priority over blogging about it. So, as I continue to work on lessons for the upcoming week, let me leave you with 4 quick observations/tidbits from last week.

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

Wearing Down

Every Sunday afternoon, our principal (or, "illustrious instructional leader," as they call her on the morning announcements) sends out the "Monday Memo." This is an email attachment that describes all the events for the upcoming week and lets the teachers know what's on the agenda for the next 5 days. Unfortunately, this memo has actually become more a list of all the things teachers will be required to do: which day you have to miss your planning period to go to a meeting, the additional 30 minutes that has been added to the end of each faculty meeting, the new mandates for what has to be up on your walls (cart) or in your lessons. I admitted to my department chair that I cry every Sunday when I read the Monday Memo. He simply said, "Me too." Well, misery loves company!

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

Will Work for Coffee

So, today I got to proctor the PSAT. What age group? Freshmen, of course. I can't get a break. At first, I was a bit upset about the whole situation, especially since this 3+ hour test was preventing me, once again, from having my planning period to do some work. All was forgiven, however, when the Assistant Principal came by with coffee for all the proctors. I felt quite content for a few moments while I sipped on my coffee and watched the students work on math problems.

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

Real World Connections and a Long Weekend

One of the buzz words (phrases) for Social Studies education these days is "real-world connections." Instead of just learning the facts, students are supposed to be able to relate the information to events in the world around them. For example, rather than just learning when and where Christianity and Islam began, they would also need to understand the conflicts between the two and draw connections to issues in the Middle East today. Well, we really haven't gotten there yet. I'm having trouble just getting through the "facts" part of the lessons. The closest we've gotten to real-world connections was Thursday, when several of my students observed that the 8th century trading kingdom of Ghana sounds like gonorrhea. Hmm.

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 Plot Thickens

Well, we lost one. One of the new math teachers (new to Avondale, not brand new to teaching) quit yesterday. Apparently, she was so miserable that she called her husband, he told her she could quit, she packed up her stuff, and left. I heard all this from the Romanian World Language teacher who said that working at this school reminds her of living in Communist Russia. As sorry for myself as I feel, I fully acknowledge that the Math department has had it much worse (like a workshop last Saturday and constant visits from the county Math coach).

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

Teacher or Poster-Maker???

Last week, the principal sent out an email informing all the teachers of ALL of the required posters/bulletin boards/display boards that had to be up. The email was sent on Monday; everything had to be completed by Thursday morning. The email included phrases like "this is not a request," "if your room doesn't look like this, we have a serious problem," and, my personal favorite, "floating teachers are NOT an exception, just tape it to your cart." Not that this means anything to anyone who hasn't taught in public schools in the last few years, but this is the list of required "cart hangings."

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.