Friday, November 15, 2013

Today is opening day of deer season. I swear every other school in the state has a day off, especially since it falls on Friday this year. But not us, ooooohhh no!

So here were are, with half the kids missing, trying to fill the hours. I do try to carry on academics as much as possible, but the reality is, whatever we do today is lost. With so many seats empty, those absent will have to be 're-instructed' Monday.  In THEORY, students should have to make up the work they miss on their own, be herein lies the hard cold reality. Students do not do work outside of school - I don't care what the class, what the assignment.... We have a culture of non-compliance for school work.  Students don't care. It is overwhelming to even consider the how's of fixing it.

Students know they will be sent on to the next grade regardless of their academic progress so many choose coasting though middle school. Even 'good' students are lackadaisical about a missing assignment here and there, so long as they manage to get through.

Part of the issue is with US, the school, the teachers, the system. We have been molded into a group of 'make them feel good about themselves' robots, who bend over backwards to make sure no one fails, and everyone gets through high school. It is like a black mark against US if they choose to fail. This habit is creating a generation of coasters, who will graduate without the skills they need to be successful. We have taught kids we will give them one more one more chance a zillion times, extend yet another deadline, excuse missing work, not expect excellence from them on anything. We mean well, but we overextend the chances to the point of ridiculousness, to the point students no longer expect themselves to meet deadlines or do what is expected because they have been brainwashed into thinking they NEED those accommodations to be successful.

The other component of the downward disaster is parents. Parents think imposing consequences on their children for misbehavior, for missing work, is taboo. I see students who have been suspended spend their punishment day playing video games, snapchatting friends, or taken shopping. Seriously??? Suspension from school should warrant NO FUN at home. Kids LOVE suspensions. Why wouldn't they! We have students who miss 1-2 days of school per week, just because. We have kids whose parents don't care that they are failing and actually perpetuate the acceptance of failure in their children. We have students who come from families who don't work and manage just fine to survive financially, so those students view their future as not needing an education. They think WE are the ones to be pitied because WE have to work everyday to survive.

We are told to build relationships. We are told students will rise to our expectations.
 and sometimes, they do....
and sometimes, they don't.
and sometimes, we can fix them, or us, or both.. and find ways for them to be successful.
and sometimes, it is beyond our scope of possible... 

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Today is the last day of MEAP testing. Whew... I am sure glad THOSE scores will be used to evaluate me.

Disruptive students.

Wrong audio version of tests so students were cycled in and out of classroom. Once they realized when they were done, they were allowed to leave and go have 'free time' next door, none of them wanted to do anything but be DONE.

One day the room was freezing cold. Another day it was so hot we sweated just sitting still.

The chairs and tables squeaked with every movement.

The group next door decided to move furniture around loudly.

Another 2 sections took a break in the hall in the middle of our testing.

Tired kids.

Sick kids.

What a nightmare....

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Today's big news? I FIXED my speakers :D ALL BY MYSELF. Anyone who knows me knows I cannot even manage to get a DVD to play in my home DVD player 9 times out of 10. Forget anything more complex.

In history Monday, we tried to watch a short video but the sound was so terrible, the back of the room couldn't hear anything. I was devastated. I just bought new speakers!

But today, determination led me and I figured out the subwoofer wasn't plugged in! YAY! GO ME!

It might seem like a little thing to you, but to me, it is like climbing Mt Everest and not having to have my body left behind on the mountain.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Tonight I blog with sadness and a little anger, and a lot of frustration.

Education today is all about the mighty test score. We test kids and test kids and test kids. But there is more to education that trying to cram as much knowledge into their minds as possible. Today's big plan - NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND - Common Core.. it is all a big hocus pocus way to tell schools what they are doing wrong.

When in reality, it isn't the academics where we are failing. Too often, we are failing to give our students the love and support and foundation they need to make good choices.
We've become so oriented towards covering as many standards as possible, pretesting, post testing and retesting, we don't have time to teach the things that really matter.

In the past year, I have had 4 former students go to prison (and no.. I don't teach in inner city, crime ridden neighbor. We have about 60 kids per grade, in a small isolated, rural midwestern town. Not exactly where you'd expect 'these things' to happen..) I've had several young girls end up pregnant before they are grown up themselves. Another two were in a terrible drunk driving car accident, lucky to be alive. Another is on long term suspension. and, and, and, and, and...

Where did we FAIL these kids? It wasn't for lack of testing or trying to teach them irrelevant stuff. It was for lack of love and the lack of  time to show them we love them, and give them the skills they need to SURVIVE in the world.

I am disenchanted, saddened and frightened that yes indeed, we ARE leaving children behind. We are failing them.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Every September 11, we are all transported back to that day...

I was teaching 8th grade history - excited to be in a regular classroom, an opportunity to do my own thing, after 5 years of being in special ed, working primarily in co-taught settings. While I loved what I was doing, being the 'second' teacher usually means conforming to someone else's standards in their room. I longed for my OWN classroom, my own curriculum, my own students. And, I finally had it.

I don't remember what we were learning. I do remember the secretary walking in. She was visibly shaken and told me to turn on the TV (Back in the day we actually HAD TV's in our room and sketchy reception). She said something about planes and the Twin Towers, but none of it really made any sense until I turned on the TV.

The rest of the class was a blur. I remember one young man, a tall, burly smart kid, class president.... not the kind to panic or overreact... he grabbed my pant leg, and tugged at it as I walked by, much like a kindergartner would, asking in a trembling voice, "Should we be worried?"

It took all I could muster not to cry but I assured him we weren't in danger.

Now, 12 years later, I am back in special ed, but also teaching one section of 8th grade history. But things have changed, in the world, and in education.

Most of my day is spent pulling my students into my resource room, for math classes and for language arts. We've come full circle from isolating students with special needs, to full inclusion, to a mixture of pull-out resource room mixed with push into regular classes.

I LOVE having MY kids most of the day. This year in particular, I have MY 8th graders, that I have had since they first came to me as little scared 6th graders. I have seen them grow and mature and learn. I know their strengths, I know when to yell, I know when to encourage, I know when to hug, I know when to send them for a walk, I know when to push harder and demand more, I know when to call home, I know when to invite them to my room for lunch.

But educational 'reform' is forcing me to force them to push beyond the limits of their capabilities. I have a little girl with an IQ of 53. A boy with an IQ of 60. Both are expected to PASS the state test, just like your normal Joe Schmoo with an IQ of 100. The same curriculum has to be shoved down their throats at the same pace as everyone else.

Expecting them to learn and retain ALL of that is like expecting me to kick the winning field goal in the Super Bowl.

When it is just us, my kids and me, I can try to adapt, prod them along, drag them along, working our hardest to keep up.

But then, I see some of them in my history class and I am reminded of how difficult it is for them to maintain, to keep up, well, not even keep up, but barely not drown, when they are in regular classes.

I'm saddened. I am frustrated. I wish one of those powers that BE, would come sit with these kids one day, and see their struggle and explain to me how I am supposed to make them kick that field goal. It is not going to happen....

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Some random reflections on Week One:

  • Kids are FUNNY. Especially middle schoolers. They see the humor in the weirdest of things. If you can learn to see the world through their eyes, life is much easier to take.
  • Most kids are willing to give you, their teacher, a chance, a second chance, even a third chance.They want to be successful and please you. You just have to persevere in finding the path to that success with them, and sometimes, FOR them.
  • Some kids will learn despite being dealt a rotten hand in life. They seem to be resilient to the negativity which bombards them. Too bad we can't bottle what makes them tick to share with the others.
  • Some kids just don't want to learn, period. A variety of issues come into play - lack of sleep, too much screen time, a sense they will never be successful regardless of effort. But whatever the reason, the choice they have made impacts them as well as those around them.It becomes a triage situation where you may have to let go of some to save the others. It isn't a pretty realization. But it is inevitable and heart wrenching.
  • Never assume they know anything. To me, this is the toughest part of teaching. 
    • For example, 8th grade history is supposed to start with about the American Revolution and move along to the Civil War. Unfortunately, when students come with no concept of the geography of the globe, no understanding of what got the colonists into the Revolution, it is tough to start in the middle of the story.
    • Math is even worse. It isn't about the calculator, no calculator battle as much as it is about number sense. When a student cannot SEE that 400/4 is 100 without a calculator, teaching them how to graph a line, balance an equation, turn a real life situation INTO an equation, find perimeter/area, all become extremely difficult. 
  •  Some other teachers won't get it. They don't see the magic, and never will. Let it go. It isn't MY battle. I'm going to smile, laugh, learn and not get sucked into the negativity they generate.
  • Teaching is the BESTEST job in the world. The paperwork is overwhelming. The mundane pointless meetings are insane. But never, ever will anything top a hug from a kid you taught last year who just stopped by for a visit, a smile from the new one who finally feels like you are their "person", or a simple, "YOU'RE the best".  

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Some of you are friends on Facebook but others aren't.. but I thought I would post HERE my status updates from the first three days:

Day one, check! Actually a pretty good day overall. I'm beat, it guess that's to be expected after herding middle schoolers around all day Bring on day two!

Day two:

~Got some fantastic writing assignments turned in
~broke up a fight
~realized most of my history class has no idea where North America is on a map
~Got told I was BEST teacher ever and favorite teacher ever at least 20 times
~ wore my shirt inside out half the day
~ realized how much my 8th graders have grown up since I first met them when they started 6th grader
All in a day's work in middle school. Yes, I my job.

Day 3:
~Language arts kids set their own class goal to write 10 lines in 10 minutes, and they MET it
~Still can't figure out how to view kids' grade in stupid new grade program (Anyone else using Illuminate? I MISS PowerSchool!)
~Got robbed at the pig race. Penelope soooo should have beaten Oinkers but Tim Whitehouse cheated.)
~Had my group of 7th graders boast about how learning ALGEBRA is FUN
~Came into my 8th grade math class to EVERY student working on their Math Starter without being prompted
~Realized I needed a can of Febreeze in both classrooms - thanks to middle school boys and their prolific gaseousness
~I remembered why I usually wear a HIGHER cut tank top under this particular shirt
~Got peanut butter fudge from Farmer's Market on way home to reward myself for surviving another day

All in all, just another day in middle school. Yes, I still love my job
Some days, you just have to remind yourself to breathe. The week seems to be zooming at the speed of light at the same time it is dragging like watching paint dry.

We're off to a great start overall... many success stories in that column. But in the other column, I have to learn to breathe.

Guided study is opposite band this year. This means that special ed students have to make a choice. So one of my young men chose band. I don't blame him. Band is fun. You get to make noise, be a little wild, express yourself. Guided study is work time, pure and simple WORK TIME.

But he's been out of Guided Study and in band one day and he's already behind and missing one assignment that I know of... and we are in Day Three of school. Yeah, I am sure he will survive successfully without that hour of Mom At School hounding him to get his work done.

Today the tardies started too. First hour, one girl came about 10 minutes late. Granted, that time of the day, it is a parenting issue, not a student issue, to a certain extent. But then, same girl, tardy to fourth hour. She came and checked in and had some crisis elsewhere to deal with. Despite me asking her to take care of it another time, she left anyway.

The first days of school are about teaching a routine, a schedule, a pattern of expectations. It seems like herding cats to try to create those routines with students, especially special ed students with organizational issues. But we do it, over and over, over and over, over and over, until we get it figured out. I was soooooooooooo impressed that on Day Two, once my 8th graders had their math books and notebooks, when I came in the door at the final bell, they were all working on their Math Starter, just like they learned last year. It was such a relief to know they learned and remembered.

So now we learn how to have language arts class. I've cotaught language arts, but never had my OWN LA class. Together we will create our learning path. I'm trying to show them they ARE writers and readers.. and even more important, THINKERS. These are kids who are too often content to sit in the back of the regular classroom and  coast their way through, either copying, just not doing, mostly just biding their time until the bell rings. But I want this year to be different. I want them to realize they are capable! I am trying to hook them into writing with some art type projects about themselves, ideas I've borrowed from others. So far, it's been a fantastic start with them writing more and longer than I thought possible. Of course, we need to learn to work on quality, not just quantity, but for now, I am tickled pink :D

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

First two days down... my feet hurt. My back hurts. My head hurts. Did I mention my feet hurt??

All in all, a good two days. The first one went by so quickly I didn't have time to breathe, with new kids and new to middle school kids, all lost, confused, trying their best not to look lost and confused. 

Day two.. the honeymoon is waning already, with our first fight breaking out. The attacker... what a sweet kid. You will remember him from last year - he was my swearer. Well, he was determined this was going to be a GREAT year for him. I was so proud. He did our language arts assignment today, FANTASTICALLY SUPER TERRIFIC. Wrote a page and half of amazing stuff. I was SHOCKED and proud, as was he ;) We talked about how good things were going and how this was to be HIS YEAR.

I don't know what happened. I just know some kid popped in my room screaming, "THERE'S A FIGHT!" and two seconds later I was pulling two kids apart, and trying to calm the crowd in the hall, sending one down the stairs to the north, and escorting the still screaming other one down the south stairs. .... That was mine. **sigh**

And tomorrow, we try again. Determined and resolved.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Many people have this image of teachers as spending their summer, feet up, toes in the sand, soaking up the sun on some exotic beach. The reality for most of us, though, is:
For me this summer, I am frantically reading and prepping for new classes I will be teaching in the fall. I might be doing some of that reading with my feet propped up, but nonetheless, I am working!

I am excited to be teaching 8th grade language arts for a group of resource room students. I will have 12-13 of kids I have known for 3 years now. It will be my first language arts venture and I am looking forward to trying many ideas. One area I would really like to focus in on is vocabulary building. For many of my students, they come to school without the same opportunities more successful students have, and therefore, don't have the background vocabulary to be a building block to their success in school. With the Common Core, we are expected to spend more time reading non-fiction, so I plan to try to help my students build their vocabularies for their core classes through our readings and activities in class. 

Another class I have been working on is American History, which I did teach once, many years ago. I hope to find some exciting resources to make learning about the Articles of the Confederation and the Constitution rocking exciting for 8th graders ;) 

But for now, I must paint my toenails pink, soak up a few more rays, and... finish reading that pile of novels I want to use in class.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

The year is winding down, and I feel relieved and melancholy all in the same breath. It's been an up and down year, no doubt, but overall, 2012/2013 will go down in history as one of my better school years. I think, in large part, that was due to having students I have had in the past. I've been able to see them grow, see the progression, celebrate the accomplishments they have achieved. 

I leave the year frustrated with many things... I feel as if no matter what, I will never reach many of these students. I see them up all night on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter... unconcerned about their being tired the next day. No parental control/supervision at home to support our efforts here. No consequences for their actions, no pats on the back for their academic accomplishments. It is as if school and home were two different worlds that ought never intertwine.

Today was the middle school awards assembly. I know many are against these types of presentations of awards to accomplished students, and teaching special ed, I feel the pain and  embarrassment of my crew when they are passed over, award after award. But on the other hand, I see the awards they COULD have gotten - citizenship, attendance, positive attitude, etc... Ones that some of my crew DID get. :D I wish we would do the awards assembly the FIRST day of school instead of one of the last. I wish we could inspire more students to want to be on stage, expect to be on stage, learn to be students in the true sense of the word. 

I see the cuts proposed for next year, and I am worried my kids will be the ones lost in the shuffle. Too many decisions are made on numbers alone - you can have 20 on your caseload. Period. End of discussion. Forget trying to realistically SERVE 20 students in 12 different classes at any given time. Forget that *I* am their only advocate, the only person here many of these kids believe believes in them. Forget that unless they have someone there for them, they  will just not bother, choose failure, slip between the cracks, fail, and look towards dropping out. I get it that money is tight. I get it tough decisions have to be made. I get it, I really do. But there is more to life to than MONEY. The worth of a child's success can not be measured in $$$ signs. 

My summer will be spent planning for teaching 7th and 8th grade language arts in the fall for the first time. I am excited, apprehensive and confident, all at the same time. I have so many ideas to corral in my plans, in my thoughts - interactive notebooks, writer's workshop, read alouds, vocabulary building activities.... all with crews with reading levels from kindergarten to near grade level, all lumped together. It will be a wild journey, one I hope to share with you!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Tuesday was auction day. I was a little disappointed because one of my characters was suspended and could not participate. He's had a pretty good year overall, but did something dumb at the last minute. He was the one with the MOST tickets to spend! Darn...

But the auction itself was fun. I had bagged small sandwich bags of assorted candies, had canned pop, Gatorade, full size candy bars, small bars, gum, etc... and of course, the infamous MYSTERY bags. One of them had $5 in it, another $1, one a race car, another a pair of socks, one a can of beets, one a can of green beans, others had a pop and candy. It was HILARIOUS. I think they loved getting the dumb stuff just as much as the good stuff.

Of course, some students, despite seeing the HUGE pile of goodies, bid high to begin with, spent all their tickets foolishly, and had to sit and watch/pout as others enjoyed the rest of the auction. 

At the end, one little guy was the only one with tickets left, and he had a HUGE pile. I offered him whatever he wanted from the pile. Those who had run out of tickets immediately whined, but alas, an economics lesson learned.

They did ask if we would be able to do it again next year :D

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

I'm excited about next year. After hammering out my schedule for fall, I am relieved to know I will be pulling out my same group of this year's 7th graders, not only for math again, but also for language arts. They've struggled this year, especially the group I am not 'inclusion' with for the hour. 

The upcoming 7th graders, from all accounts, are a difficult, large group with many issues. I will also pull them out for math and language arts.

The best part, for me and the kids, though... the other special ed teacher and I are going to collaborate for math, with her taking the very low ones, and doing some more basic life skills math type things with them. YAY!! These are kids who work hard, but are never, ever, ever, ever, going to make it through algebra. We need to give them some life skills stuff instead. 

**sigh of relief**

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Today, on Teacher Appreciation Day, I got a wonderful gift, a reminder that I do make a difference, even when I don't think I am even making a dent...

In my mailbox was a letter, with the top note attached, telling me this was a class assignment. Still, I was excited to get and read this particular note. The young lady who had written it had been removed from her home to a residential care facility earlier this year. I have had her for 3 years as a student, but never felt as if I was making any difference to her at all. The emotional baggage she brought to school distracted her from learning and caused her much turmoil. To read her letter, to have her tell me I helped her, to have HER say I am the best teacher in the world, meant more than words can express. I am humbled and honored.

Monday, May 06, 2013

When I first started teaching, I was a special education inclusion teacher.  I liked my job. I like working with struggling students. On the flip side, I often felt as if my talents were wasted. not utilized to their maximum potential. Most of the day, I felt more like an aid than a teacher. I was the secondary person in the classroom, not the sage on the stage.

After a few years, I was offered the opportunity to teacher 8th grade history, then moved to 7th grade math, where I spent a majority of my teaching career. Three years ago, a special education position opened again, and I took it.

Giving up my classroom, my curriculum, my students, was tough. I knew it would be but I was motivated by many factors.

The new job has come with its challenges and its joys. By definition, the students I work with are struggling, at-risk students who present me with a constant need for innovation, patience, and determination. Never a dull moment does not begin to describe my classroom on a daily basis. From students with ADHD who cannot sit still for more than 2 consecutive seconds, to those with emotional, often violent,  outbursts, to the low functioning ones who simply cannot grasp the content, regardless of what I do for them, it is like a 3 ring, well, maybe 12 ring, circus most hours.

But with the turmoil comes small successes. A parent shared with me that I was the FIRST teacher to EVER compliment her son. The first teacher, in his first 8 years of school, to EVER tell her he was a joy to have in class. The first teacher who had ever believed in him. The first teacher who was able to reach him, teach him, help him learn.  And to myself, I thought, “How sad… how very tragically sad.”

And realistically, had I been teaching regular education, and this young man had been one of 25 in my class, would I have seen that side of him? Would I have been able to coax his compliance and attention as adeptly as I am able to in the small setting of special education?
Education has  become an assembly line of ‘production’, with no time for coddling, no time for finding the inner child, no time for making personal connections with students. As regular education teachers, we are driven by the content, forced to herd the cattle every quicker and quicker, towards the slaughter of the standardized tests. In special ed, the herding becomes even more pointless. We are forced to push harder and harder to make these students fit the mold, meet the standards, get through the content, when in reality, what they really need are life skills, coping skills, and a way to become meaningfully productive members of society. 

Friday, May 03, 2013

Those who criticize teachers for their lack of compassion, their short work hours, summers off.... do not understand the heavy heartedness that accompanies this profession. 

Over the years, I have filled out more Child Protective Services reports than I care to count. It haunts me to think of the lives too many of my students experience - the abuse, the neglect, the poor choices made by parents the children must bear the consequences of. 

...and I wonder, how many of them have hidden scars I miss.

Thursday, May 02, 2013

One of my favorite end of the year activities is an auction. I give out tickets for on-task behaviors. Students need to keep track of their own tickets. Then, we have a HUGE auction -  cans of pop, candy, gift certificates, mystery bags, etc... 

I haven't done this in a few years, but considering how tough this year has gone, I thought maybe it would be a fun way to end the year, for students, as well as me. 

I cannot believe how EXCITED they already are! I've been generous with the tickets this first week, no doubt. But they are so INTO the process. I was a bit doubtful because they are   NOT into getting the PBIS tickets we pass out.  They would rather have a small treat from my box than an "Indian ticket" to enter into a drawing for prizes. 

But their enthusiasm has been overwhelming. The positive impact it is having on their behaviors and attitudes is impressive. 

Best of all, it is reviving my own faith in their abilities to BE STUDENTS. 

They have come up with their own little "rules" for when I should hand out tickets. For example, when a student has to go to their locker or bathroom during class, everyone ELSE gets a ticket, since Student A wasn't prepared for class. Never mind that in 5 minutes, another student will ask to go somewhere. It is about the camaraderie as much as the reward I think. 

Now to start collecting treats... 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Oh but seriously.. two good days in a row. I knew, I KNEW, it was TOO good to be true. Maybe it was because it is Friday; maybe it is because the rainy snowy dreary weather just won't quit. Maybe they just wanted to see me grouch.... I don't know.

Third hour is split, half before lunch, half after lunch. On Fridays, if you are working, I usually let students listen to music if they have headphones, use a playlist so they aren't spending all their time surfing for music, and keep the volume such that others cannot hear it.

Well, several students didn't have headphones today, so they asked ME to turn on my iTunes. They even relented and begged for country tunes. It didn't even last through one song. They wouldn't stay put anywhere. They couldn't be quiet. Everything from banging on the walls and tables, to making rude comments to each other... SERIOUSLY??? Music does THAT to you??

two steps forward, three steps back...

I turned the music off, but the half hour was a waste. They were simply too distracted and distractable to accomplish anything.

Math didn't go much better. Swearer Boy moaned about his headache, the one likely caused by not wearing his glasses. The others really honestly tried, but somehow, just cannot remember to SQUARE the radius before doing the rest of the problem. I've had them circle it, highlight it... they still either forget to do it altogether, or worse, they multiply the number times 2.

I'm thinking our probability unit will be done on Compass Learning. That should give them a break from me, give them some individualized instruction, and a chance to sink or swim on their own.

I'm worried about the higher level kids I have. I think they will be going into a regular math class next year.... I will be pulling out for a 7th la and 7th math, an 8th la and 8th math, but there are too many students to pull them ALL out. How will they survive? Will they? Did I give them enough skills to be successful in the gen ed curriculum? Time will tell. That group has worked soooooo hard this year, and come so far. I only hope it is far enough....

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

I don't know if it is just because things have been so rough lately, or today really has been a good day, but the sun is shining outside (YAY! Maybe the snow will melt???) and I feel like it has been shining inside as well.

Guided Study went well. For the most part..... Most of them actually brought something to do and DID it. The ones without something to do managed to not drive me over the brink of CRAZINESS.

Then my low math group - WOW. What a difference today. I don't know why, and I have no fantasies it will be a long lasting effect. But we worked AGAIN on volumes of prisms and cylinders, for the third time. AND.... drum roll, please.. they GOT IT!!

Granted it took much patience on my part.. and I acknowledge that often a lack of that is my fault... But we managed to work through 3 problems together, and then they did 6 problems on their own.. OK, 6 problems with me supervising and hand holding. They all got them done, except my swearer kid. He refused to do anything yesterday and ended up walking out of class so he was behind. But he did try today. He gave me a good 75% effort, and for him, I will take that any day. He was even talking about high school, and wanting to graduate, and not be a bum someday. He is thinking about the military. YAY! That is the first time he has ever expressed any intention beyond dropping out....

**Fingers crossed the rest of the day continues along this path**

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

We've drawn circles. We've labeled circles. We've learned definitions. We've drawn MORE circles. We've labeled THOSE circles. We've colored coded the words and definitions. 

And... they still don't consistently know the difference in diameter and radius, center and circumference. 

I am supposed to be teaching volumes of prisms and cylinders. How is THAT supposed to work when they can't distinguish between the radius and the height? 

You go into teaching thinking you are going to save the world, make a difference one student at a time. And... that is true. Your reach, your touch, your impact, is more powerful than you often realize.

A carpenter, at the end of the day, has something to show for his efforts - a building standing tall, casting a shadow in the evening sun. 

A doctor, at the end of the day, has something to show for her efforts - a patient healed, resting comfortably in their bed.

A policeman, at the end of the day, has something to show for his efforts - the bad guy, locked behind bars, society safer for his heroics.

A teacher, at the end of the day, has little tangible to show for her efforts - a dirty whiteboard, desks scattered in crooked rows, papers to be corrected piled on her own desk. But the long term impact is not often seen, sometimes, never seen. 

For me, this lack of tangible result makes difficult stretches in my teaching career longer, bleaker, and more defeating. 

I don't need a pat on the back, or a blue ribbon; I just need the acknowledgement that I HAVE made a difference, that my efforts are worthy, that my hours of trying, in the end, made a difference somewhere, somehow.

Instead, it seems the media bashes me: Tells me I am unworthy. Tells me my worth is measured by a test score. Tells me my years of service are nothing. Tells me to do more with less. Tells me EVERY student should succeed (like I don't believe that myself already.... but to them, success is measured not by growth, but by bubbles, consistent bubbles for every child regardless of their God given talents). 

I don't know... anymore, I question my own worth in the classroom. I wonder if I AM truly making a difference. Or am I just a warm body filling in scores, counting tardies, and tracking office referrals. Does the feel goody part of my job exist anymore? 

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A new week.
A positive attitude.
A determination to see the good in all students.

I started my day, my week like that....

First I had to tackle the note left by my sub from last week outlining the behaviors exhibited by my best and brightest, and the rest....

Some were good. Some were "horrible". Some made her life a nightmare for the day.

In their defense, she messed up their assignments which led to some frustration on their part. Still, throwing paper, writing notes, using cell phones, being rude & disrespectful, etc... NOT acceptable, regardless.

Tackle them one by one. Listen to their side of the story. Try to emphasize my expectations for them meeting my expectations whether I am here or not. Move on.. today is a new day. PERIOD.

Student #1 - Sleeping. Wake her up and talk to her. She doesn't know why she is tired. She got 4 hours of sleep last night! I tried talking to her about how important sleep is, how you can't learn without sleep, etc... but she insisted she has to Skype and SnapChat her boyfriend at night because that's the only time she gets to talk to him.

Student #2 - Reviewing for math quiz - This student has missed 15 days of math class so far this semester(She also missed 15 days first semester, but we still have 7 weeks of school to go this semester.....). She is perpetually behind. The review was for her more than anyone else. While I was reviewing, she doodled and wrote a note. When I tried to draw her in, she argued that she didn't have to take quiz because she has been gone so she doesn't need to listen to review. In theory, she is 'sort of' right. Students get 2 days for every day they are absent to make up work. At this rate, she will be making up her 7th grade work when she is in 9th grade.

Student #3 - Nice girl. Very low IQ - in the 50's. Completely mainstreamed. Overwhelmed with our recent launch into geometry and formulas. Too abstract for her mind to grasp the concepts. She is trying but no matter how much effort she or I put into this process, it is simply too difficult for her. (Not to self, find alternate assignment for tomorrow for her.)

Student #4 & 5 - Arguing loudly with each other before class over some non-issue. I tell them to chill out, trying to lighten the moment. She gets huffy and leaves, to sit in office and sleep for hour. He stays, settles in and works for the hour, but refuses to get a calculator so is constantly behind. He tries to do math in his head but doesn't know his multiplication facts so this task is impossible. I finally go get a calculator FOR him.

Student #6 - She is drawing an elaborate picture during math class. Swirlies, hearts, etc... all around her boyfriend's name. I try to reign her in. She just dreamily smiles and almost laughs as she continues her doodles. Then in the middle of my demonstration of finding circumferences, she loudly asks to borrow colored pencils to finish her doodles.

Student #7 - Cell phone out, under table, SnapChatting with a friend in another class. Ask her to put away. She argues, saying she was ONLY turning it off. Give her a break. 5 minutes later, back in her hand. Take phone. She announces she hates school and me.

Call home on #7 to discuss cell phone issue. Mom says it is impossible because phone is taken away from daughter. She is not allowed to use it, much less bring it to school. Describe phone. Yep, it is hers. hmmm....

Call home on #1 to discuss sleeping. Mom says she knows daughter is up all night, but doesn't know what to do about it. hmmm....

Call home on #2 to discuss attendance. All numbers disconnected.

Call home on #6 - no answer on any of the numbers I have.


It was just another day.
We'll try again tomorrow. Again.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

I think I am tired and ready for retirement. I think I am at the end of my ropes. It seems I spend more time begging students to be cooperative than anything else. My toolbox is empty of tricks. 

I ask a student to copy down a math problem. He refuses. It's too hard. He doesn't do math. He doesn't understand. 

No, I asked you to copy the problem. There is no too hard, no understanding, just copy down the problem. 

Another student I am trying to help with a science worksheet. I underline the answer they need to write. I have to write ALL that?? she whines. Seriously, it is nearly half a sentence, word for word from the text.

Another is editing her memoir. Can you switch around this part to make it more interesting? I ask. You mean rewrite it? she grumbles. (and it is done on the computer so the fix is a 3 second job...) I will just turn it in the way it is. I don't care about the grade anyway.

Two students get suspended because of a fight in the hallway, so one of them convinces her best friend and her boyfriend to skip school the same 3 days. Five students gone for 3 days. And none of them will even consider taking their assignments from when they were gone. 3 days of learning, gone. 

I've tried everything I know, all the tricks I have learned over 20 years of teaching. But it is like being slammed against a brick wall over and over and over again. 

Hands on activities, connect it to their lives, work with them one on one, work to develop relationships, treat students with respect, acknowledge small gains, talk to parents, etc...

NOTHING works. NOTHING WORKS. Somedays I think I might be making a small in-road, but then, slam, back into the wall. 

The paradigm of education has changed. Students are rude, disrespectful, unconcerned. Parents are too busy being friends with their children to set expectations. Curriculum is dictated and boring. 

I give up..... I just can't stand the day to day bashing. 

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Need a reason to teach middle school? Their incredible sense of humor :)

My kids have been bugging me to make them brownies. Thanks to Pinterest, I did make them BROWN E's (followed by real brownies). But they LOVE, LOVE, LOVE weird humor and this was right up their alley. You have never heard such laughter and ridiculousness over the Brown E's!

So much fun for a Thursday in March.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Today shall be a new day.

 I will not be grouchy. 

I will wipe the slate clean, for students,for other adults and for myself. 

GO FORTH and SMILE and have a great day. The choice is yours, really... it is!

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Some days it seems more like a circus than a school here. Today was definitely one of those days. 

We started at 7:50 with a staff meeting where we were told we weren't filling out minor office referrals like we should. OK, point taken. Minors are for infractions the teacher deals with. Majors are when you send a student to principal for 'harsher' consequences. 

I have probably filled out 2 yellow minors all year... until today. Not because my kids are that on task. Not because I have that kind of perfect classroom management. Nope. Simply because I do not have time. If I honestly filled out a yellow slip for EVERY time I deal with student behavior, every time I ask a student to remove a hat, to get on task, every time I deal with disrespect, insubordination... filling out slips is all I would do. 

Part of the issue with me is that teaching special ed, I deal with some pretty high impact kids, with some fairly intense behavior issues. Some of their 'yellow slip infractions' are to be expected. Maybe not tolerated... but expected. Do I really need to write them up for EVERY instance?

But back to the beginning.. we all left the staff meeting a bit bristled and frustrated, and late for first period. 

The tone for the day was set. We were crabby which set the kids off, which set the snowball storming down the path, gathering steam as it plowed down the halls.

One was sick and wanted to go home but there was no one at home to get in touch with. 

Another was angry because his computer didn't come back from the repair shop today.

Another did get her computer back so all she wanted to do was get onto Skype and Spotify and enjoy her computer.. forget the assignments she had to do on it.

Another was mad at me because my sub yesterday left her name as being disruptive.

Another is being removed from her 2nd foster home since Christmas to be moved, this time to a different school district.

Another is upset because his mother is talking about taking a job several hundred miles away. 

and.. and.. and... 

so the day unfolds.... 

Friday, February 22, 2013

“The educated differ from the uneducated as much as the living differ from the dead.” ~Aristotle
Education should level the playing field. It should give students who grow up with uneducated parents, barely scraping out an existence, a chance to have more, to be more, and to give more. Education should break the generational struggles of dead-end jobs, bleak futures, and hopeless poverty.

Does it?

Teaching in a high poverty area, I see a wide spectrum of students, in demographics, abilities, and attitudes. Some of my students live in homes with no running water or indoor plumbing. Others live in beautiful new homes situated on lakefront properties. In my classes, I work with students with IQ’s as low as 60, to those in the above average range. Some come to school each day with a positive attitude, a can-do, will-do work ethic. Others, regardless of the task, put forth as little effort as humanly possible.
Our goal in education is to smooth out the hills and valleys of what was handed these children, and send them out into the world with the same skill sets, the same intrinsic drive, creating the same opportunities for adult success. Is that truly possible?

The defining difference in student success ultimately is their attitude, not their ability, and not their demographic background.  This attitude is built with a variety of tools, at home and at school. Students must see the purpose in education and seek their own path for learning and success. As educators, we can try to instill this need, this craving, this want for knowledge by providing a caring, engaging school environment, where all students feel success is possible. We can build upon the individual strengths of our students, scaffold their successes to create independent learners. We can develop programs which service the whole child, not just academically, but emotionally as well. We can be their role models and their confidants, their coaches and their guides.

Will that be enough to overcome generational school avoidance? Will it convince students that education is a priority?

For some students, yes, a caring adult can make all the difference and change the course of their personal journey.

For others, it seems the path is already set in stone, unable to be changed. 

Friday, February 15, 2013

I've just finished two online classes. I realized my teaching certificate expires next year, and with the chaos my life has been the past year, I have no idea if I have enough credits or even where to begin to gather them. So.. I signed up through Learner's Edge and Marygrove for 6 grad credits. 

Interesting to say the least. 

The materials for the classes were great. I loved the readings for both classes. I dove in headfirst, diligently completing assignments and whipping them off to be 'evaluated'.

Imagine my disappointment when the comments were things like:
"I'm excited to read your thoughts! Keep up the good work!"

"I hope you are able to apply some of what you are learning to your own classroom."

Comments that were easily written by someone who probably had at MOST scanned my laborious answers. 

This is what gives online learning a bad name. Did I learn stuff? Probably... but could I have just as easily blown off the classes and still earned the credits? Absolutely. 

The credits were relatively inexpensive and will meet the requirements to renew my certificate. No harm no foul I guess. I just feel like my investment didn't exactly net me any long lasting personal growth.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

I've had a few people ask why I haven't been blogging as much lately. The answer to that is multi-faceted.

Some of the reason is personal - I've been swamped at home with a husband who had back surgery over Christmas break, after some other medical complications earlier in the year. His back surgery means I am on deck, on first base, and playing pitcher, all at once. Not only do I come to school and teach, with all the responsibilities associated with that, when I am home, I am doing my normal routine as well as many of his usual tasks - hauling wood, filling the wood stove (the ever hungry outdoor wood boiler!!), plowing, shoveling, snowblowing, etc... Add in my 3 year old granddaughter who sucks up quite a bit of my free time :). Well, you get the idea on that front.

I also am just finishing up a grad class with the associated readings and written responses for that.

At school, things are always a whirlwind. New students, new issues, old students, old issues. Overall, this school year has been a breeze compared last year simply because of the students on my caseload. For the most part, they are cheerful, pleasant, hard-workers, motivated to seek their own success. We have our moments, but the year has been overwhelmingly pleasant compared to last year.

Trying to keep them all moving is mind boggling though. We've had more than our fair share of illnesses sweep the school this year - stomach viruses, flu, nasty colds and other respiratory bugs that take out half the class at a time. 

Toss in the special ed paperwork, trying to align my math classes to the Common Core, and I feel like I am barely treading water most days. That leaves me with little blogging time, unfortunately! 

But I will be back when the dust settles :) Thanks for stopping by.