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.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Round 2

Alright. This gig is officially more than halfway over. I was back at work today (no students, just teachers- making the whole situation deceptively pleasant). With just one day to get everything in order, the day was rushed but also fairly productive. I hardly did anything over the break to prepare for this semester and was able to have several days of absolutely no stress and complete enjoyment of the all the other parts of my life which have been neglected for the past several months.

This semester's lineup: 1st period World History with 32 students, 2nd period planning, tardy table duty with a new set of teachers (more encouragement/gossip time!), 3rd period US History with 24 students, and 4th period US History with 23 students. My schedule and student lists were changing through the end of the day today, so all of this may not be permanent. I am floating again, despite the fact that several new classrooms were opened just before the break. Most of my teacher workday was devoted to updating my posters so I can maintain my title of "Model Cart Teacher."

I am nervous/excited about my first time teaching US History. If you know me, you know American History is my favorite... not to mention that it is an 11th grade course, which generally means less behavior problems than 9th and 10th. (by 11th grade, the students that really don't want to be there are old enough to drop out) Also, the class sizes are on the lower side. It would be fabulous to keep those in the low 20s. The downside is that US History is a "high stakes" class because it is tested state-wide and it comes with a series of benchmark pre-tests and post-tests. And, unique to Avondale, the high-stakes class teachers are required to create and present 6 presentations about the results, preparation, and improvement plans for all of these benchmark tests. (a.k.a. more work which really does nothing to help the students but everything to stress out and frustrate a teacher)

Ready or not, the students come tomorrow. I feel completely unprepared, especially since I haven't been living in my house for the past week (new floors- that's another whole story). Whatever happens tomorrow, I know that the Lord has faithfully carried me through 18 weeks and that He is more than able to get me through 18 more.