Wednesday, December 24, 2008

This and double jointedness belong in the same category

Apparently, I haven't learned enough.

Today, I found out that CSUS dropped my enrollment because I forgot the payment deadline was last week. Today also marks the day I become the biggest doofus on the planet. Today, or the deadline that had just passed.

I'm not particularly worried about not being enrolled since I'm pretty sure I can work something out with the registrar's office. But it just goes to show what a rough semester it has been on me that I forget to pay tuition. It just isn't me. Granted, this semester has had decent amounts of drama outside of school/work so I can't blame it on the semester since I can't say stuff wouldn't have happened without CSUS. It is entirely my fault and I have no excuses.

That said, I really dislike the fact that CSUS makes students pay tuition weeks before the courses being paid even start. I paid for the Fall 2008 semester before summer even began. At UCD and at SJDC (the jc I attend off and on), all fees are due on the first day of the term. Certainly you can pay before, but that time from registering for classes and actually going to the classes is free of all monetary obligations. I know I've been at CSUS for two terms already, and I should know how they work it by now. However, old habits die hard, especially in times of emotional and physical stress. Plus, I've had 13 quarters of UCD's payment schedule on top of dunno-how-many years at the jc. It just makes sense to me that tuition is due on the first day of school.

I also am confused by the fact that some financial aid disbursements don't actually disburse until a week or so before school starts. Some students rely on financial aid to pay for school. I'm paying for the credential program completely out of pocket but more than one of my cohortmates have been through issues of enrolling, then being dropped by the school because they haven't paid. But they can't pay yet because their financial aid hasn't arrived. And some loans may not disburse, seeing that the student is not enrolled this term and thus assumes the student is no longer a student. Then the student can't prove they have the money to pay for school, and so the school won't let them reenroll.

How is this logical? It's like a m⍥bius strip gone wrong.

Anyway, I'm pretty sure my case can be fixed, perhaps with a little more drama involved but still repairable. I'm boggled by the fact that I forgot the deadline. I'm even more boggled by the system. It's quite astounding.

Things I've learned this year:

- I still look forward to when Christmas is over, even when there are fun things to do with fun people. New Year's Eve still rocks solid.

- It is definitely not a good idea to have caffeine after 1pm. Or else I'll be awake, like I am right now when I really really want to sleep.

- I cannot live with my parents for an extended period of time and still maintain a healthy relationship with them.

- I have the confidence to take the RICA and think I can pass. Actually passing is a whole other story.

- I miss China.

- I miss my China teammates and other friends from T.

- I miss my brother. Weird.

- I would very much like to return abroad. Preferably in a teaching/learning capacity.

- I like teaching first grade.

- I would very much like to earn a Ph.d some day.

- I like someone. Who is already in a relationship. So I am also a coward/passive observer about it. But I think I can live with it if he is happy too.

Things I haven't learned yet:

- What exactly I'll do about my future.

- What exactly is going on with my spiritual life.

- The best way to format a lesson plan. At least for my own use, since there really is no "best" way.

- If I'm really a grown-up or still a kid.

- How not to be socially awkward with teenage girls. Teenage boys are ok. It's the girls I don't get. See next line.

- Why children are mesmerized by Hanna Montana.

I've only ever had one super-long term goal for myself, and only because a high school English teacher made us write about short and long term goals once. That is: to make the last year of my life the best. And since one never knows when one will up and smoke it, it seemed like just another way to say carpe diem without the latin.

However, that goal may not be quite as worthwhile after all. It is also very vague. What does "best" mean exactly? And what if the die just weren't rolling my way the year before I kick the bucket? So I've decided on a new, hopefully more concrete goal:

To learn more things than not in any given year.

One can say that one never learns more things than not. For instance, I will probably never learn the finer details and calculations associated with String Theory. Not an impossibility, just slim chances. But when this time of the year rolls around again and again, I would like to make a list similar to the above with which I can prove that I've been more productive with my life than not.

And that would make it a decently "best" year for me.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

I'm going to miss those first grade booger snots

I went into room 10 for the last time today. Half in a daze, partly because I didn't have coffee and partly because my mental self had allowed my physical self to loosen some accumulated tension, I helped with some crafts and read some stories for the afternoon.

Then, the students surprised me with thank you letters they wrote themselves. The pictures are the most hilarious. A lot of them remembered to put glasses on me; which made me wish I had worn contacts at least once during the school year to freak them out a little.

They went to P.E. and I helped my CT deal with a kid off his meds. Then we chatted for a little bit with her visiting boyfriend. The bell rang and I went to say a final good bye to the students.

K, one of my favorite students, hugged me for a long time. She is the sweetest, most well behaved kid, albeit not quite academically at standard yet. Far from it actually. But she has shown great improvement.

K: Ms. Ng? Will you come back?
Me: Probably not, but you never know. [my CT had asked if I can sub for her in May when she goes to So. Cal. for a wedding. I said I would if I had no other engagements.]
K: Thank you for the card. [I had given all the students a Christmas card with bunches of stickers to go with it.]
Me: You're welcome.
K: I'm going to miss you.
Me: Me too.

She hugged me again, and then reluctantly left with her mom and siblings.

Yeah, me too K, me too.

Monday, December 1, 2008

When "high tech" educator tools only make me want paper and pencil again

Dear Taskstream,

I want to take this extra time to say: you annoy the hell out of me. Take note that this may not necessarily be your fault (although I really dislike your never ending pop-up windows of d00m). This may not necessarily be my fault either (but like most people of the tekkie generation, I believe anything that doesn't accomplish its task instantly is taking WAY too long).

I am annoyed by you because the Beautiful State of California requires me to do something called a PACT, aka Pressure to Achieve Craptastic redundantness for Teachers, which I must submit online at your site. If I do not do this, I am not allowed to teach until I sacrifice my first born child at the feet of the CCTC, the governator, and all California legislative and nonlegislative staff related to the Almighty Board of Eduction. Regardless of any actual competency in teaching. Or competency in general.

In this case, you, dear Taskstream, take on the unfortunate role of middleman. I do not envy you. I'm sure the feeling is mutual. And I would love to take a we're-all-in-this-together stance, however I, unlike you, have yet to make any kind of living out of all this hoop-jumping. And frankly, I have no mercy for your pains. Because in reality I am about $6,000 in the hole, and counting, since the start of this credential adventure, a chunk of which is residing in your pockets right now. So unless you are an African or Southeast Asian baby suffering from malnutrition and disease, you are not getting my pity.

Just thought you would like to know.


Bandwith Challenged Student Teacher Feeling Like a Dressed Up Pink Poodle

Sunday, November 30, 2008


Room 10 as well as the other 3 first grade classrooms had a Thanksgiving potluck last Tuesday. It was awesome, to say the least. I was surprised that so many parents brought items to share. Not that the parents at my ST school are more (or less) non-participatory than your typical school, but we ARE Title I, and 99.9% of these kids are on a free/reduced price lunch program. I personally would have changed it to only one class (or pair up with another class) for the potluck. Then the parents would only have had to make enough for 20-40 rather than 80+.

But they did, and the teachers supplied pizza, and the kids were So. Very. Full. After lunch it was chaos. One of my students had to just put his head down for awhile.

All the first graders made this "Albuquerque the Turkey" placemat, tracing their hands on construction paper and glueing beaks and waddles to the thing. They turned out rather cute, and I'll make a note to take a photo of one of the absent student's placemat tomorrow and post later.

Everything they did that day had a turkey theme: from the math facts, to a connect the dot activity sheet, to a story book. Hopefully, they will be turkey-ed out and we won't have to mention them for another year.

Sunday seems to be a good day to post. Except for last Sunday, I've been pretty consistent about it for several weeks now. So let's make Sunday my posting day. I'll try to up it to twice a week, but no promises. Which is sad, because there is so much I want to make a note of and comment on. I've learned so much this past semester.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Just say no!

A couple weeks ago (actually, closer to a month ago) was Red Ribbon Week. What I remember of RRW from my own elementary school years consisted of drug sniffing dogs showing off their skills, various competitions among classes for a pizza party, and copious amounts of thin plastic red ribbon tied to the fences, randomly or by design.

Considering that, RRW hasn't really changed all that much. Here's a breakdown of the activities my school participated in:

Monday - start of RRW; pass out those awful, scratchy, "red" but really orange, plastic bracelets that I always was relieved to take off at the end of the week; assembly by a puppeteer/magician with catch phrase "Too smart to start!"; beginning of prize give away at lunch time for students who have their plastic bracelets (each bracelet has a number on it)

Tuesday - nothing related to RRW (except the lunch time give away) because yesterday's assembly was so freaking long that teachers spend all of today catching up on academics.

(I'm not at my student teaching school after Tuesday of each week, but they informed me about it anyway)

Wednesday - students spend some class time working on "Too smart to start!" themed activities; depending on grade level, these activities ranged from drawing pictures of different ways to be "Too smart to start" through the physical, emotional, psychological, and economical effect of drugs.

Thursday - another long-ass assembly, this time a presentation from the local police force, sans drug sniffing dogs (boo, the dogs are cool); murmurs throughout teacher population of doing away with RRW in lieu for teaching actual content; the smarter, more savy, and thus better teachers breathe a sigh of relief (or a smirk of arrogance, depending on the personality of the teacher) for planning ahead and integrating RRW themes into academic content.

Friday - last day of RRW!; competitions in K-3 and 4-6 categories of who drew the best pictures/wrote the best essays about being "Too smart to start!" judged and prizes handed out; the entire school population can finally cut off those plastic bracelets and feel the blood circulate through that hand again.

The funny thing is, most kids at this school probably have more first hand experience with seeing the effects of drugs than any of their upper-middle-class, mainly white teachers. I saw some of the drawings they did; a blind person would have been able to detect the fakeness in some of those illustrations.

Which leads me to ask: are we really teaching students to say no to drugs, or are they the ones playing along, pacifying the adults? Who, for many inner city students, is the sole steady grown-up role model they have and thus want to impress. Because these are the people, maybe the only people, who have higher aspirations for them. Who view through jaded-but-still-rose-colored glasses, hoping that their students will reach that full-ride scholarship to a prestigious 4-year university, unscathed by the environment they live in. Most of these students know, at the bottom of their hearts, parts that they don't even know they have, that statistics are against them, as is practically everything else on the face of the planet.

But they still pop out with pat answers, play acting the dream for the adults who care so much for them and wish them so much better, because these kids know what it feels like to be disappointed.

Wow, I didn't mean to make this entry so angst-filled. On a brighter note, the essays by the older grades were less contrived. A few were quite good. Maybe it's just the natural tendency for younger students to please their teachers that make them do the fake-answer thing. I hope so.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

A note on behavior management

This past week made me want to pull out my hair. What is with all the chatter? Is this how people grow up to be obnoxiously loud, especially on their cell phones?

I know I am WAY too lenient. I personally don't really give a damn if people are chattering and not listening to me during daily conversations. Their rudeness is their own problem, not mine, and if they have no desire to listen, well, I have no desire to speak to them.

However, obvious differences in a classroom environment makes me need to care. Students are not going to learn much if they are forever chattering away in personal conversations. Thus, the following will be implemented in strict order, with no exceptions, from now on. And if the Ss start to dislike me, so be it. I am there to teach them something, not be their friend. Or their mother. Which is a whole different issue entirely and, as always, deserves to stand on it's own at another time.

Anyway, my hiearchy of behavior management, moving up the steps if the previous doesn't work:

ONE nonverbal intervention
ONE verbal intervention, consisting of a warning to the next step if they don't shape up
ONE move to an isolation from the group (if at the carpet), or closer to me (if at grouped desks)
ONE phone call home
Ejection from classroom lasting no longer than 15-20 minutes
Principal time; which usually means some form of suspension/detention

Time wasted continues to be taken from recess.

I've done nearly all of these things up to isolating the student from the group. Which usually works and thus no more interventions are necessary. But I have trouble with the ONE of each level. Usually I give them so many second chances to prove themselves, the message being delivered now is that "the consequences to misbehavior are negligible."

But no more Teacher Nice. They will already have a second/third chance with the nonverbal and verbal warnings. It's time to stop babying them and put the responsibility of their behavior (thus the consequences too) on their own shoulders.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

$$$$$ vs. $

My CT recently asked me why I prefer working at Title I, or equivalent, schools. I gave her a very impassioned and strong answer - something I haven't been doing for a while now (being impassioned, I mean). When I got home, I wondered why (haven't I been more impassioned lately, that is).

Hmm, maybe not being able to communicate in any coherent way plays a factor. The fact that a lot of theories is being shoved down my gullet right now doesn't help with developing my own opinions very much. Lack of reflection time.

Anyway, Title I schools are awesome. I know most teachers flee to the 'burbs - if they haven't quit already - because of better pay/benefits/local environment and students who don't live as tough a life as inner city kids. But these schools deserve a lot more than what they get. There is just as much talent, if not more, here. There is ambition, intelligence, hard work, and yes, even fun here.

Most of all, the vibe of Title I schools feels so much more comfortable to me. Many students spend the majority of their time at school. They get fed here, they play here, they see friends here, they come into contact with responsible adults who care about their well-being and provide the structure that they need.

Not that all these things don't happen at home sometimes. It's just other times, it doesn't happen at all. Reality bites, even for 7 year olds.

School is where they come into contact with books, stories, problems that they can solve, the social circles that are important to them, and a wider world they may not be able to see from home. These schools are more home-like, sometimes, than their homes. School is where they get flu shots, eye exams, hearing exams. Schools are the first level of detection for CPS, health issues, psychological needs. Some Title I schools open the campus for food drives, as storm shelters, or clothing drives.

Non-Title I schools, or at least the ones I've taught at, are...well...not home-like. At least not to me. The students in these schools have support elsewhere, so school life is not as important to them. They have computers at home, so it's not such a cool thing to use them at school. They have books at home, so getting them at school isn't a novelty. They have friends, responsible adults (although, again, sometimes not), social circles outside of school. Thus school is less a place of community, more like a bunch of buildings that they have to spend 6 hours a day in.

Frankly, the attitudes I see in non-Title I schools are much more intense. Not just about academics, but also about diversity. Students and staff alike.

Now, not all Title I schools are communities, and not all non-Title I schools are arrogant stuck-ups. It's just the tendencies I see. Most of all, I like Title I schools because these kids need me, in all my noobie-student-teacher-mistake-making-insufficient-management-handling glory.

And it's always nice to be needed.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Saturdays = Laze

I can't seem to tear myself away from the intarweb this morning and despite waking up at 7-freaking-AM for no apparent reason, I've yet to do much more than brush my teeth, wash my face, and eat breakfast.

Thus a to-do list! Crossing stuff off a list always motivates me to work, so here goes:

1. Fold laundry.
2. Write LP's for Monday and Tuesday. Send to my CT. - afternoon was MUCH more productive. The nachos didn't hurt either.
3. Prep tomorrow's Sunday school.
4. Write reflection on performance eval. Print.
5. Re-write/revise classroom philosophy paper. Print.
6. Clean bath. Get rid of ants! Seriously, where do they come from anyway?
7. Exercise: yoga and/or bike.
8. Read and write notes for math.
9. 4 hour nap - yeah, today's kinda a failure...let's see what the afternoon brings.

I'll probably add more, besides crossing off, as the day goes.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Teaching Prop. 8

First, this entry is NOT about same sex marriage in the sense of "should people of the same sex be allowed legally recognized marriages." This entry is about the misleading campaign against Prop. 8, specifically concerning "if Prop. 8 passes then public schools will be required to teach about gay marriage."

Let's make this clear: Prop. 8 in no way mandates anything about teaching gay marriage or public education. Look it up here or in your own snail-mail copy of the voter guide. It is what it is so let's not drag public education policy into it please. Believe me, the US educational policy has WAY more crap going on than having some political group loading it up with more false info.

Still, people believe those commercials are true! I've gotten some emails and seen some blog entries by educators who actually think they will have to teach gay marriage in their classroom.

Seriously? Use your common sense! Or, if you are lacking in the common sense department, continue reading the following.

Why US schools will never teach about gay marriage

1. Because the phrase "same sex marriage" is pretty self-explanatory. What on earth is there to teach about?

2. Have you even seen the boat loads of academic content standards CA students have to know by the end of each grade level?? Assuming there is something to teach about gay marriage, what teacher in their right mind would even spend the time in teaching it when across the nation a good 60-70% of American students are failing standardized tests?

3. Because the cons are mostly based on religious ideology and, well, we've already been there and done that when it comes to the debate about teaching religion in public primary/secondary schools.

4. Did I mention Good Lord There Are Already WAY Too Many Things To Cram Into A School Year And You Want Me To Teach A Topic 90% Of My Students Know More About Than I Do Are You Kidding Me I Am Quitting The Education Field For The Private Sector Damn It!

Side note: Ok, so I may be wrong about #1. Despite our nation's over-active, over-suppressed sexual imaginations, most people only have a very vague, or contorted, idea of what same sex sex is, physiologically speaking. Don't believe me? Ask someone what they think happens when people of the same sex do the monkey dance. More likely than not, the scene that pops out of their mouths from their heads resembles more like low-budget porn. What if they say they don't know? Just keep asking, they'll come up with something.

5. Frankly, I would have enough trouble teaching regular sex ed to 4th graders - The giggles! The snickering! Disbanding the many myths that a lot of students already hold! - that I would not even go there. I think my students' heads would explode. If not from hormonal build-up, then from the hilariousness of being forced to learn about sex from a person whom will probably experience the real thing much later than they do.

Side note 2: Teaching about social rights falls under a completely different category. If I am talking to a 5th grade class about America's slave trade and the wrongs of that period then extrapolating it to modern day injustices, and a kid mentions prejudices against the GLT community, then I can guarantee that I will not gloss over those facts. There are wrongs in this world. There are sad things that really should not be so starkly real, but yet, here we are. Will I put pressure and stress on students for having different opinions, or for having parents who check the "my student will go to study hall during this controversial lesson" box in the academic waiver forms? No, of course not. But neither will I teach something that is not a fact.

The moral of this entry is: do your homework before you vote! And, sometimes, people will lie and twist words in order to promote their own agendas.

But then, we've known that since kindergarten.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Activity of the week: poetry scaffolds

From Dr. N.L.C., professor of Language and Literacy at CSUS:

Use poetry scaffolds as a "starter" to familiarize students with writing different forms of poetry. Scaffolds are meant to be used through the following main steps (add more as necessary for age/academic level):

1. Show/read examples and discuss the characteristics of each scaffold.
2. Brainstorm words/phrases to fill-in-the-blanks.
3. As a whole class, complete one poem.
4. In pairs, students complete another poem.
5. Individually, students complete yet another poem. Edit, polish, illustrate, and publish in a class book.

The following is an example of a poetry scaffold:

I Meant To Today

I meant to ____________ today,
But _________.
And __________.
And __________.
I meant to __________ today, but __________ got in my way.

Here is an example of a completed poem using the above scaffold:

I Meant To Have a Good Day Today

I meant to have a good day today,
But I didn't have a good night's sleep.

And my parents continue to wait until a specific calendar day to turn on the heat so I was freezing.
Then my students were being squirrely today.
And I didn't teach my best today.
And I slammed my car door on my hand.
And the person I sold my iPod Touch to nearly two weeks ago still have yet to receive the package; which lead to an anxiety attack about money.
And my mother was in a mood, a loud, obnoxious mood.
And my caffeine wore off.

I meant to have a good day today, but fate got in my way.
- Ms. Ng

As evidenced, students have freedom of thinking outside the box when using poetry scaffolds. Words at the end of the lines do not have to rhyme, the meter can be irregular, and they can add/leave off certain parts to the scaffold. A poem is a "design of words," and that design can be (almost) limitless.

There are lots of poetry scaffolds; teachers always create and share, so a simple Google search will bring up many options.

Most importantly, have fun!

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

The Jermies

I am officially sick.

To be honest, I’m surprised I’ve lasted this long - first illness of the school year after 6 weeks - especially considering how my immune system has been famously downgraded since my stint in China.

Not that I blame China.

Nope, it’s the germs. The creepy, crawly, microscopic organisms I hadn’t yet built up a firewall against and hence over the course of that year, I got sick a whopping 6 times, each bout lasting 3-4 weeks. Breaking it down, I was sick for a nearly month every other month I was there. The effects of which I have yet to fully recover. And probably never will until the day my health insurance deems it suitable for me to finally remove my tonsils.

I was hoping it wouldn’t happen on my home turf, but apparently I am no match for kiddie-germs. They have killed me and me is ded. I’m sure those kids would be proud of their achievements.

Note: I’m not a fan of airborne, and recent studies have shown echinacea and zinc tablets don’t really work at all, but ZINC IS DA BOMBASTICFULNESS OF ILLNESS HELPING!!!! Vitamin C apparently still works, but your body can only absorb so much of it at a time, which means it’s a waste if I take a dozen Halls drops at 200% DV of vitamin C. I’ll probably still do it though. Just because they are addictingly good tasting. Cocaine pushers putting drugs in candy cough drops actually have an effective idea there.

Fortunately, class is suspended for tomorrow. Thanks to the Large Group of Professionals Who Enjoy Gathering Those of the Same Professionals Together, my professors will be in Tahoe conferencing it up.

And I will be in bed, staving off the return of the King of Phlegm.

Photo from Washington City Paper

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Playing dead

I woke up this morning with idea after event after though running through my mind like it was the racing of the bulls, except with faster bulls and only one street.

Hence my breakfast of two Advil and a chocolate bar.

All the stuff that's been going is probably just hitting me now, creating shock and panic and freeze-mode. Right now, I feel for the fainting sheep when confronted with an umbrella that suddenly decides to open and chase after them.

Too many boxes to unpack all at once, too many people + their baggage to take in, too many changes to a schedule, which was really intense, but at least I was ready to follow through (can't say the same for the rest of my cohort-mates). All makes me just want to hid in bed this weekend.

Which is too bad because the weather is glorious - just after a night of rain, clean, fresh, cool, mellow sunshiny with a scattering of fluffy clouds just for fun. Maybe I'll manage a bike ride later.


Tuesday, September 30, 2008

For the love of language

Sitting outside the classroom, waiting for parent pick up today:

Issac*: Ms. Ng?
Me: Yes?
Issac: Do you speak Spanish?
Me: No.
Issac: Yes?
Me: No. (I shake my head)
Issac: Yes! (he nods vigorously)
Me: (thinks to myself, "Ms. Ng, you cultural dumbnut.") Oh, yes, "no" means no in Spanish.
Issac: Yes! You speak Spanish!
Me: (trying very hard to hold in the side-splitting laugher bubbling up) Si, I speak a little Spanish. Do you?
Issac: (huge grin) Yes!
Me: No?
Issac: (pauses and thinks for a moment - I could almost hear the cogs in his head clicking) Si!!


Monday, September 29, 2008

Just a note...

The brand spanking new fun books I ordered arrived today, as well as E's gift of the 6th season of 24 (Go Jack, go!), which means I have much to distract me from real work or not-so-read work (like this blog) so I'm making this short.

Today was a good teaching day. =) I feel like a weight has been lifted from my back. I hope it continues.

That is all.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Playing favorites

Student teachers (and teachers in general) are told not to have favorites because scientific observation proves these favorites will out perform non-favorites academically. Putting aside the idea of why can't all your students be your favorite, I'm shamelessly admitting that I've got mine.

Issac* has the cutest face I've ever seen. He resembles the blonde fur puppy in the photo above - although he isn't blonde, as well as tons livelier. I never really understood the term "liquid eyes" before, but this kid has got them. He is smart, well behaved, listens attentively, participates, and is in general the kind of student every teacher loves to teach. He is slightly on the mischievous side, but that is what prevents him from being a robot and brings him into the realm of charmer.

Kate* reminds me of me. She is supremely shy, doesn't have a whole lot of confidence, and it takes A LOT to bring her out of her shell. She's like the white puppy with the sleepy eyes in the photo, her hair and the puppy's hair has exactly the same texture. A little sad-faced, a little world-weary, but a really sweet kid. When she does open up it's like the transformation of a sunflower seed into a sunflower. Sadly, she's considered one of the "lower" or "not at proficient" students, however I believe there is a lot of potential with her.

I really wish I could use a real photo of them, but that's supposedly considered child abuse or some such thing. This previous week was a really tough teaching week for me, not just at WB but for YR too. I guess everyone just had a difficult week.

But these two kiddos made it worth it. =) Ms. Ng appreciates your presence in her class.

*names are changed


Tuesday, September 23, 2008


Ok, I'm ready to be a CPA now.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Rule of the day

Rulers are not light sabers.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Clues and wanderings

How come I'm most tempted to buy wanted, but imprudent, things just when my wallet can't handle it? Really, I might have to sell this mac in order to pay for next semester.

5 English speakers + 1 Cantonese speaker + 1 rather shallow curriculum = me pulling out my hair in fistfuls.

I'm not sure my CT really enjoys me being in her classroom...student teachers get such an awkward position.

Baja Fresh's chips and guacamole were surprisingly satisfying today.

Babies are funny when they drool.

Ok, so my financial situation is not as dreary as the picture states, but tonight I am strongly wishing I had filled out a FAFSA for the 08-09 school year. My cash reserves are just getting a little too low for comfort.

I'm also getting a little too sloppy for comfort. It's clean up time!

Photo from here.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Back to school night

This past Wednesday was the dreaded back to school night. Why dreaded? I don't know. All the parents who came and stayed beyond getting free school supplies were nice and attentive and interested. If they weren't they wouldn't have stayed.

But my CT was kind of disconcerted about meeting parents. She was jittery and talked a little too much in my opinion. I would have loved to mingle around and talked one-on-one with the parents. I would have also loved to ask those who wanted to sign up for home visits and volunteering. Parents are a huge resource and teachers generally don't use them enough.

I suppose I would feel jittery too, but I know many parents of my current/former students and I have never had an unpleasant situation with any of them. I suppose I'm lucky in that sense. Unless there is some unfortunate upheaval, the guardians of students only want what's best for their student. Which should be in line with the teacher's wishes as well.

I really wanted to reassure my CT that things will be fine and it'll work out and parents aren't as demanding as she seemed to think they are. Perhaps she wasn't so lucky as I was with the parental units of her students. Parents can be quite anxious and they have the ability to take it out on their kid's teacher.

Props to the parents who came! My parents never went to a back-to-school night in my entire academic career. Not because they didn't care, but because they trusted the public education system enough to let it do it's thing. Oh, and they worked 16 hours a day, including weekends, which puts a damper on extra activities such as these.

Which goes back to the theoretical usefulness of newsletters. Many parents regularly ask their kids what they did in school, but it's nice to have some confirmation from a teacher's authority. I haven't gotten mine out for Sunday school yet. But I swear it will happen!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Well, I was hoping that I could blog a lot more than I have recently. Because there is a lot to write about and writing helps me process. However, that hasn't happened and the following is why.

- My CT is an overachiever. Which is good. Except for the fact that I'm slightly overachieving too. And that makes for a very long, very thorough to-do list.

- My dad had some surgery. Long story short, the point of this part is that Kaiser sucks. And it takes a lot longer to make mashed potatoes than I thought it does.

- A college friend is getting married tomorrow. Yay! There are various preparations for this as well, and I'm a lot slower (read: more fastidious) than I used to be about certain things related to dress and appearance and social occasions.

- Readings, journals, reflections, lesson plans, unit plans, PACT (which deserves an entire series of entries to explain), and the fact that my selective memory has kicked in leaving a lot of last minute rushes makes for a wiped out Bonnie by the time the weekend rolls around.

- An other college friend is in Japan and requested some care package items that were so hard to find that I have yet to locate them to this day. I blame this God-forsaken dump of a town rather than said friend's hippie tastes.

- I have to lesson and unit plan for Sunday School too. Here, I'm allowed a lot more freedom. But that doesn't mean I'm working with curriculum that's better than Open Court or Saxon Math. Side question: What is with this preoccupation with witchcraft and psychics? I swear, I'm going to stumble along a lesson involving lighter fluid and a hundred copies of Harry Potter one of these days.

- A China teammate is now in Laos and I know shipping to Laos is on another level from shipping to Japan, thus planning a Halloween/Thanksgiving package needs to start last week.

- Did I mention the incredible amount of work that is involved in Phase II?

Anyway, this may seem like complaining, but to me, I'm just writing down what I've been up to for the past two weeks. It's difficult and time consuming and it makes me want to veg out in front of the TV for a month in order to recover from a week of this pounding schedule, but I love it. For sure.

Happy thought of the week: I taught an awful lesson on Tuesday. But I got lots of hugs and "I love you, Ms. Ng! You're my favorite teacher!" notes from various Ss. I don't like kids in general, but sometimes they make me all warm and fuzzy and think that having kids of my own might not be so bad. =)

Monday, September 8, 2008

Whoever says, "SES doesn't affect kids," is in denial

Case in point: Chernobyl teen wants to stay in US

Hmm, return home to a nuclear fallout landscape or snatch at the possibility of living in sunny Cali for the rest of my life? Decisions, decisions....

Not that CA is all that grand *ahem*arnold*ahem* right now. Still, there are plenty of positives that I often forget.

Like when I hear of tuition fees in other states like Ohio.

Or when I hear of produce prices (as well as selection) on the Atlantic coast in the dead of winter.

Or when some White Bread wanna-be ANTM decides that hate-spurred shooting deaths of transgender persons isn't "closed minded" thinking, it's just "traditional."

Cali doesn't seem to bad after all.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

So I don't write very well when I'm cranky and overheated and feeling slightly abandoned...

But I'm over it. For now. On with some random things that will fit nicely into an envelop and tucked away into a cubby until it's necessary to pull out again later. Or not. Just like what half those parents would do to the letters home my CT sent with the Ss on the first day of school.

In my opinion, 99.9% of parents don't really want to be bothered with what their kid is learning is school. Let me explain.

Parents care, I know they do. For the most part at least, and as far as their energies will allow. But they like to think that their kid is cared for while at school. They put a lot of trust into the CT and the school environment to bring up their kid.

Case in point #1: the growing need for teachers to teach morals, manners, and acceptable social behavior in the classroom. Up until very recently, all of this was taught at home and only reinforced at school. Like it or not, the trend is towards schools taking responsibility for non-academic learning as well. Too bad teachers and schools don't get extra money for moral performance.

Case in point #2: although a church Sunday School is VERY different from everyday Monday-through-Friday school, this principle stays the same. I don't even see the parents of my Sunday School kids on a regular basis. They do not question what I teach, nor do they visit the class. I'm not even sure they have any interest in their kids' Sunday School learning...because, let's face it, Sunday School is boring.

But I don't want my Sunday School to be. So I'm working on a once-every-other-month newsletter to communicate with parents. I don't really want to print them (the expense), but I also work from a mac so the newsletter formats might not cross-over in email-land. Plus, I don't know every parent's email. Maybe printing and copying them are my only do-able choice.

Which leads to my question, after many winds and turns, how do teachers keep in touch with the parents of their kids? I'm sure some don't even see them unless their kid is acting out or failing. But that's not really acceptable to me. I want to at least be on communicative terms with the parents of my Ss. It'll help me teach better.

Well, I'll try the electronic version of the newsletter for the first round. And then try something else if it's not doing what it's supposed to do. Trial and error is never easy.

In other news, now that all my course syllabi are in my hands, and I've stopped freaking out about the immense amount of workload, it's time to get down to business.

Lesson planning isn't as bad as some people see it. It's also not as good as how veteran teachers see it. I see it as a chore that must be done, and thus I spent nearly all of Friday working on this upcoming week's LP's. I'm glad they are done.

Now on with the real assignments.

Friday, September 5, 2008

A convoluted story if I ever heard one

At the end of May this year, I registered for my fall classes. No biggie right? Millions of students across the nation, across the world, does this. I'm a veteran at registration. I've done this about 12-15 times. Not including summer sessions.

Yesterday, I found out I was registered for the wrong class. Except it's right. Except it's wrong. Except it's right. And the entire staff and crew over in the Office of the Registrar and as well as the Department of Teacher Ed. is having a blast of a tennis match over who is right and who is wrong with students caught in the cross-fire like poorly trained ballboys/girls.

Anyway, to make a long story short, this is why section numbers should be abolished. Or at least a better system put in place with less confusion. I personally don't understand why one class offering, with one instructor and one meeting time, and only 23 students in the entire damn class, should have 4 sections. It's the same class damn it! It's not like Bio Sci 101 where there's a gazillion students each term and sections must be offered in order to accommodate them.

Just another thing to not get hung up over.

So....anyone watch the RNC this week? The elections are probably the only thing more controversial than what's going on at CSUS's registration codes.

Thursday, September 4, 2008


This whole student teaching/going to school/working thing isn't letting me swim as much as I would like.

I haven't swam since...last Tuesday. Today is only the 3rd class I've missed, but it seems like forever ago. And it's hot, and I WANT to swim.

But I can't.

So boo.

Ok, I'm allowed to get over it now.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Things that went through my head during the first day of school

- crap, it's early.

- crap, there's only 2 more minutes of morning prep before the bell rings!

- some kids do not like the taste of gingerbread cookies.

- sometimes it is hard to stop myself during a really good, responsive read aloud.

- dude, lunch is short!

- they were not kidding about the "after lunch slump."

- it's not very fair to expect half-day kinders to suddenly adjust to full-day 1st grade.

- gotta get me a set of link blocks.

- who has "n00b" printed in bold italics on their forehead? The student teacher does!

- even 1st graders know a test when they see one...and thus nerves definitely play a part in unexpectedly low scores

- a/c good. hot sun bad.

- Borders is officially my go-to place to process and unwind after long days.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Three straight days

...of doing the following:

Open Court decodables - it's like "The Song that Doesn't End," except with more paper cuts

And there's more here.

I actually think some of these poems are exact copies, pictures and all, of what I used in elementary school.

I swear the school's laminater can cover anything in plastic - paper, cardboard, jeans, cutlery, tennis shoes, etc.

So it doesn't look like much, but it really did take three days to finish. I too, was surprised at how long it took to get just this stuff done. No wonder teachers complain about clerical work overload.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

It's a wonder

You know this post? Well, I've eaten my words and pooped them out again within an 8 hour period today.

It's a wonder anyone in their right mind would want to become an American school teacher (note: very different from an American "schoolteacher" - if only I had these verbal skills during the SATs, no?).

It's a wonder I'm able to leave the house properly dressed each morning. The things I forget and then finally remember when I'm already half-way to my destination!

It's a wonder American students are able to do as well as they do when they have so much to do in so little time. And it all has to compete with ipods, video games, TV, and popular culture in general.

It's a wonder anyone with any kind of life at all and/or who supports themselves/their families financially survives the California teacher credential process.

There were times this summer when I felt that I was the laziest person on earth. Apparently, the time has come to balance out that inequality.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Activity of the week

Name: Group juggling
Materials: one tossable (ex: beach ball, frisbee, ping pong balls, scarves, etc) per player
Number of players: 2+. The more the better in my opinion, but I would cap it at 10 for littler ones. Older students would find 20+ an enjoyable challenge.
Space: Indoor and outdoor. Preferably in a coned off space, but not necessary.

How to play:
1. All players stand in a circle, arms held wide, fingertip to fingertip.
2. Each player chooses a "passing partner," the person they are going to pass to. The Starter (usually the teacher), says the name of his/her partner, 2nd player says name of his/her partner, etc. Until the Ender, who will always pass to the Starter.
3. Starter passes tossable to his/her partner, keep going until all tossables are in the air.
4. Keep going for as long as possible.

This is one of my favorite group games from SPARK! It's fun, allows catch-and-release as well as communication practice (players have to get the attention of their partner before tossing), and teaches kids to be aware of their surroundings as well as focus on one person at a time. This is harder than it looks for young kids.

Note: When I say young kids, I mean 2nd grade and below usually.

I played this with water balloons last week. It was tough since I had a range of 1st grade through 6th, as well as low to high athletic abilities. But this activity is meant to be low-stress: no competition, just trying your best to keep the items in the air, so it's a lot of fun too.

Photo: qesnrecit

Thursday, August 21, 2008

That "I'm gonna hurl" feeling

I met my co-teacher yesterday. She is very nice and much younger than I expected. But then, I expected her to be rather older, since her name is old-fashioned-sounding, like “Ethel,” or “Martha.”

I like how organized she is. In many ways her classroom philosophy aligns with mine, which was how the program coordinators matched us up to begin with. Props to them for a good job doing that, at least in my case so far.

I like how she referred to everything as “ours.” It made me feel less awkward. I was probably not as out-going and initiative-taking as she might have liked, however I do have a valid excuse. Being introduced to so much in such a short time was definitely overwhelming. I have enough confidence in my capabilities to know I’ll learn the ropes like second nature in the future, but right now it’s nothing but @~@.

Our classroom is dinky; can’t be more than half the size of a typical elementary classroom - I would say even bordering on a third of some affluent school’s classrooms (*cough*Brentwood*cough*). We’ll only have about 18 students, but even if I weren’t a natural organizing maniac, that room would force me to become one.

SCUSD uses Open Court. A lot of people have a lot of issues with scripted curricula, but I think it’s decent as long as it’s used in an appropriate way. Besides, it takes out a lot of the boring research tasks so that you can focus a little more on the fun stuff. Cons: this thing is H. U. G. E. As in Highly Useful for Gaining spinal Erosion. The photo above is just for unit 1 (i.e. about a month’s worth of curricula); there are 11 more of these babies, each thicker than the previous one. Obviously, parts must be skipped as there are just not enough hours in the school day. And some people wonder how on earth our students are failing standards - because technically, they are not failing. They learn it eventually; just may or may not be according to the timeline the government mandates.

Ms. M is highly focused and highly goal-oriented, but I think she also understands that not everyone is like that. I’m glad. I’m willing to push myself and take on challenges - might was well do it now and make as many mistakes as I can (so I can learn from them) when I have a huge network of teachers, professors, and classmates to lean on. So when I’m really solo, I’ll know how to avoid mistakes, and look for answers myself whenever they do come up. We are supposed to work our way up to at least 2 full days of SOLO (in caps of course) teaching, with many milestones marked by papers and supervising faculty evaluations, by the end of the semester.

Thus, I’m taking the read aloud responsibilities, plus the transitions surrounding them, starting on day 1. Ms. M reads to her students at least once a day, which is so great for the 1st grade level. Reading aloud was really awkward for me in the beginning, the adult audience wasn’t so encouraging either. But when you read to little kids, it’s so awesome to see them get involved and laugh and do all sorts of interaction with the text. It’s also fun for me to act out the voices and make a fool of myself in general. Puppets are also the l33t, believe it or not. In this age of ipods and video games and electronic “learning equipment,” nothing beats a good old sock with eyes glued on. I’ll probably record myself during practice - put that spanking new webcam to good use.

Despite that feeling in my stomach that I’m going to hurl all over these poor, unsuspecting 1st graders (THAT would make for a memorable first day of school), I’m looking forward to it all.

The big move from this side of cyberspace

I've been a long time user of blogger, but just finally made the decision to move here from there. Mainly because I like Google, and party because there seems to be fewer glitches here.

We'll see how it goes.