Thursday, December 31, 2009

Decision made, let's rock 2010's eve

Although my plans for my favorite holiday this year consists of less rocking and more quality time with the rabbit and Animal Crossing on Game Cube (they have fun activities for NYE), it's peaceful to know that I've finally made a decision about what to do with the buckets of offers from TEFL abroad positions.

Teaching abroad will always be something I like to do - want to do - but right now, the better choice would be to find a position in CA. The better first choice that is. I'm going to stick around until the spring/early summer job fairs are over before jumping across the ocean again. That's my choice and since I've lived with it quite nicely for the past twelve hours after weeks of mulling and indecisiveness (which I hate as a general rule in people, but most of all in myself), I think I can live with it until June.

So. Art and tutoring and (crosses fingers) subbing, here I come!

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Things I did in 2009

Doesn't necessarily make the picture clearer, but that's ok.

At the end of each lesson (usually at the end of each school day in the primary grades), good teaching requires a "closure." It can be a 20-30 second spiel about what the lesson was. It could be a review in the form of a quick write, a "ticket out the door" deal, or even simpler, just having the students tell me when they learned that day.

Throughout the credential program (and from what I can tell, well into BTSA as well) professional and personal reflection has such a high priority. Which I get - but there needs to be a point to it too. Reflection not for reflection's sake, but for change. For making my teaching more effective. For making peace with all the sadly ironic things about teaching. For making peace with my own decisions before, during, and after teaching.

The first step to a thoroughly productive reflection is just to recall what happened. Here's my first step for the past twelve months:

Things I did in 2009

1) Lost 25 pounds. Most of it during the stress of my failed seven weeks of Phase 3, the first time around.

2) Gained back 15 pounds. Most of it during my month long vacation in HK.

3) Was withdrawn from student teaching. Cried in front of everyone and their principal.

4) Survived complete change of teaching philosophy with integrity intact and determination rejuvenated.

5) Took three travel vacations, and one big stay-cation, over a span of five months to get over those seven weeks. Best decision this year.

6) Attended four weddings. Felt that much older.

7) Drove 19,782 miles, including a road trip to WA.

8) Got much better at tennis.

9) Learned that sometimes, giving less than 100% is more effective - and sanity saving - than giving more.

10) Taught the best group of fifth and sixth graders that I will ever see in my entire future career.

11) Passed the RICA, PACT, and finally the credential program at CSUS.

12) Adopted a pet.

13) Planned and initiated goals for blog.

14) Learned to crochet.

15) Moved away from the polo-shirt-and-khakis combo and into more experimental fashion territory.

16) Increased financials. Good investment.

17) Kept up correspondence with far-flung friends. Better investment.

18) Made decisions that made me happy. Best investment.

19) Was astounded by the huge world of blogs.

Now what am I going to do with this reflection? That'll take more reflection. Yeah, of course it does.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

A new decade

I wonder what 2010 will bring? I suppose we'll all find out with time. Meanwhile, I think I would rather go out of town for new year's celebrations, or not celebrate at all, than do what I normally have done for the past twelve years.

It's time for new traditions. =)

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Chrismakwanakuah!

My family usually goes out to lunch (Chinese food of course, since everything else is closed), then watch movies and such until dinner, where we either a) go to a relative's or b) go to a friend's home. It's a relatively quiet day, just the way I like it. I'm not a big Christmas person by choice and preference.

During my observation week, I helped a kindergarten class put together Santa windsocks and gift bags. Christmas is HUGE for primary grades. Well, it's huge for older students too. Which is nice, but I'm not sure I would make it such a huge deal. To me, the students just get all wound up with nowhere to go - and the teacher has to deal with that.

It is nice though, to teach students how to give and receive graciously. Even if they get something they may not like, it's good to teach them how to say, "Thank you for thinking of me." Community service comes to mind when I think about holiday activities for students to do in school.

Would I go the route of multi-religion-holiday studies? I'm not sure. I don't think spending one day on 4-5 different cultural holidays really do them any justice. I would rather make it a relational, personal time of reflection and enjoying classmate's company before the long break.

I would have a party of course. Because I really don't want to fight a room full of crazy, holiday heads on a Friday afternoon, trying to teach them anything solid. It wouldn't be fair to them, and it certainly wouldn't be fair to me. My aim is to work hard each day, so that we'll have time to relax a bit on those special occasions.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

My life's outlook right now.

funny graphs and charts
see more Funny Graphs

In the past six months, I've applied to 20+ different teaching positions in California. None have replied.

Yesterday, I posted my resume on a TEFL job site. Nine have replied.

I spent so much money on a credential degree, and worked so hard, and waited so long, just to come full circle again? Irony much?

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The winter solstice

It's hard to see stars in a city, but the moon is always trackable. As is the sun, obviously.

In the fifth grade Open Court curriculum, there is a dreadfully dull story called "Circles, Squares, and Daggers." I taught it a few weeks ago and it was a complete failure on my part. I made a miscalculation as to what the students could comprehend.

The story itself is incredibly technical (hence, boring). I wish we could have just skipped it altogether, even before I realized my miscalculation. This story is one of the many reason why I hate Open Court. I would rather choose literature, magazines, and newspapers to teach language arts, even if it meant having to spend all that energy and time creating my own stuff.

Anyway, what does my little rant have to do with the longest night of the year? "Circles, Squares, and Daggers" is all about how Native Americans tracked the passing of the sun and moon using ancient observatories. They put great importance on the solstices and the equinoxes.

It would be interesting to have the class track these things too, not from observatories (too complicated, too time intensive) but just from tracking the sunset and sunrise times that all weather reports have. Then, they can figure out which exact day is the solstice themselves.

It's one of those maintenance activities though, which I'm not particularly gifted at. But I might be able to manage it if I keep the end goal and overall purpose in mind: namely, practicing observing the natural world.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Media Mondays: Wall-E

Yes, I am the last person on earth to watch Wall-E, so what of it? I do have a lot more to do during a typical day than keep up with pop culture.

But it's winter break, so I set up a Netflix account again, after two years of it being dormant, and have been taking advantage of the two week free trial pretty much non-stop for the past 24 hours or so.

Wall-E was among the first on my list. It's a pretty good movie - as most Disney/Pixar collaborations are (side note: is it just me, or are the ONLY good Disney films of recent history related to Pixar?).

It is also a pretty entertaining moral story, not only for the environment, but for individual thinking. Thinking about consumerism, thinking about reading, thinking about learning things, thinking about your own body, what you put into it, what you do with it, and what comes out of the one life you live. Because we are not all robots with replaceable parts. Yet.

Thinking about thinking too. And if the one thing that people don't do enough of, other than reading, is thinking.

Photo credits here.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Standards Sundays: Grade 5 social studies/history

So I've written about the other core subjects (math, language arts) and science. It's time to move on to the social studies standards.

I've only taught all of three social studies lessons in my three semesters worth of student teaching. Too little? It's pretty average actually. Which is quite sad since I like teaching social studies, especially the geography and mapping topics.

The fifth grade theme is called "Making a New Nation."

Students in grade five study the development of the nation up to 1850, with an emphasis on the people who were already here, when and from where others arrived, and
why they came. Students learn about the colonial government founded on Judeo-
Christian principles, the ideals of the Enlightenment, and the English traditions of self-

The above is quoted directly from the standards book. And there are a lot of standards. I'll get to them one section at a time for the next several weeks.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Good byes

Yesterday was my last day at my student teaching school. It was a busy day. I observed three more teachers, bringing the total for the week up to 9.

Then, after discovering that everyone else was either testing or watching a movie, I returned to my own classroom and helped facilitate the dissection of owl pellets. This activity is awesome, I'm totally going to make time for it in my classroom. Now, I wonder if anyone knows where I can order cow's eyes to round out my plans for 4th-6th grade science labs?

After lunch, I assisted with the unit party. Students handed me gifts. I gave each of them a lucky red packet containing a little, Japanese styled pad of sticky notes. One student cried. I got many hugs. I gave a thank you gift to my CT, who would be working throughout the winter break, prepping for the rest of the school year.

I visited the office staff, said some good byes, and I was out.

I think I'll visit some time again, near the end of the school year. This student teaching experience was so different from my previous two. I was only in the classroom two days out of the week last fall. My time was cut short in the spring. But I was here, at this school teaching these students, five days a week, starting the week before the first day of school through yesterday. You get attached.

I'm going to miss these kids. I hope they know Ms. Ng is rooting for them, where ever they are, for the rest of their lives.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Winter break to do list

1. Job hunt!

2. Sleep in.

3. Prepare gifts.

4. Write thank you cards.

5. Job HUNT!

6. Bike.

7. Play tennis (?)

8. Clean.

9. JOB hunt!

10. Play with the rabbit.

11. Watch movies.

12. Read.


14. Vegetate.

15. Make 2010 resolutions.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The class "Grand-Stander"

Look at me! Look at me! Although this photo was just for a joke.

Devon* is a fifth grader. He has a speech impediment (stutter) which he sometimes relies on to prolong his time during presentations and whatnot. He likes to be the center of attention. He is rather show-off-y, although his skills across the board are a B average. Which is good, just nothing spectacular. He likes to interact with his audience, get side-tracked, which also means he needs constant re-focusing during his presentations.

In other words, he's a grand-stander.

He's a very sweet kid. Kind, caring of others. He works hard, and manages to keep his other attention deficiency under control most of the time. He does tend towards accidents - falling, tripping, dropping things, bumping into people. It seems like almost every other recess he manages to hurt himself in some way. His mother is known to call him, "weird." Which he is, but in a good way for the most part.

The thing with Devon is that I have to be very firm, and very direct with him. Using hints and jokes to re-focus him are not as effective as when I use it with the rest of the class. He takes those hints and continues on his merry grand-standing way. It can get obnoxious. Similar to how grand-stander adults are.

Luckily, he is just a kid, a pretty good kid. I give him a square look straight in the eyes, firmly tell him to "move on, Devon," and he does. Sometimes he gives me this innocent look, opens his arms, palms up, and says, "What?" as if he doesn't know. I play the record on repeat, changing my tone of voice and he says, "Fine, Ms. Ng" and moves on. Sometimes he moves on reluctantly, but move on he does.

When personalities are strong, like Devon's, some of that basic child psychology I had to learn as a teacher gets thrown out the window. Kids are kids, until they need to be treated like an adult to get them to stop wasting class time on frivolous things like making faces and bantering with individuals.

On of my CT's last "teacher mantras" is: "Some of the things they teach you in pedagogy is a bunch of bull. Give students more power? No, students have enough power as it is."

I say it depends on the student. Some students definitely have too much power, and end up using it negatively. There are others whom I would like to see more get-up-and-go in.

But Devon, and others of his like, definitely know how to work the bit of power that he has for his own attention-seeking devices.

*not student's real name

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

CA credentialing: the RICA

It's true that people don't read for fun anymore. Nope, they read for "literacy."

The Reading Instruction Competence Assessment (aka RICA) is a huge exam all California teachers need to take in order to get their credentials. It is one sick test - difficult too.

I took two semesters worth of language and literacy classes to prepare for the RICA, in addition to my own independent studying. But really, most of what I learned about teaching reading came from actually teaching reading, especially all the word knowledge and phonics work done in the first grade.

One of the major things I worked on in preparation for this exam was just understanding the definitions of all the wacky terms used in literacy. Homophones, the "schwa," what it means to be an "independent" reader (there is an actual number that goes with this definition!), and my favorite term to say: the dipthong! Even student interest in reading was analyzed down to a science.

You only need a 60% to pass. Which is a D, and a D is a passing grade. Barely. And here I thought teachers were being held to a higher standard?

Don't get me wrong, I'm ok with a 60% passing grade. I probably got something in the 60's or 70's (they don't tell you exactly - like the CSET, you've either passed or not passed). The policy just seems inconsistent to me. But then, the CCTC never really directly claims they are consistent.

But the craziest thing of all? Students themselves are learning these literacy terms that adults still have to look up. Honestly, never in my adult life have I cared about knowing the difference between superlatives and comparatives. Actually, to this day, I still pronounce "superlatives" wrong (I say, "SU-per-LA-tives" and then have to correct myself with "su-PER-la-TIVES").

Yep, students are tested on whether they know what the official definition of an adjunct is, more so than on how to use an adjunct effectively in writing. Some people think this is a waste of brain space, and I tend to agree.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Now what?


Solo is finished. I handed the class back to my CT. I spent yesterday observing other teachers. Will spend most of Wednesday and Friday doing the same.

Today, I'm getting the semester's paperwork organized, finalizing my portfolio (which I've been doing since June, so many things to add! and they are all last minute!), printing business cards, and making a list of schools to visit on Thursday.

On Thursday, I'm going to hand-deliver my portfolio to various principals and HR people at various schools and district offices.

Yesterday was a little awkward for me. I didn't want to be in the way of my CT getting back into the classroom. But I also didn't know what my role was. The university has said we are not required to teach anymore after our solo, but it's always an assumption that student teachers stay in the room past their solo to transition out. These transitions can be so awkward.

But I've got to do what I've got to do right? It's nice to observe other rooms. It's nice to take some time off from teaching all day and get my ducks in a order.

Most of all, it's just nice to be done.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Media Mondays: Wiki Sky

Screen cap taken from

I have no words. But then, neither does Wikisky.

Well, at least not many words. I'm not sure how exactly I would utilize this in the classroom. I'm not even sure how I would get an LCD projector FOR my classroom so I can utilize this. But it is way, way cool.

EDIT: Google, of course, has their own way of mapping the skies as well.

Screen cap taken from Google Sky.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Standards Sundays: Grade 5 investigation and experimentation

Both are focused, just on different things.

The fifth grade standards for investigation and experimentation are very similar to the other grades' standards for investigation and experimentation. They just added a little more complexity with each grade level. Almost as if it was a "copy-and-paste" job. Almost.

But what I'm questioning now is less the completeness of the standards. I'm pretty sure no one can say that the California standards are not utterly complete and thorough (maybe a little too thorough).

I'm wondering what happens when the student's goals of investigation in science do not align with the standards? Or the textbooks? What if they have other questions? What if their focus isn't necessarily the focus of the "focus questions" that MacMillian/McGraw Hill (and Open Court) love so much?

Because frankly, I sometimes can care less about what a textbook is telling me to focus on during my teaching. I would rather focus on what my student's specific needs are in content area, social skills, and critical thinking skills.

Is that wrong? Instinctually, I know it's not. Most people would say it isn't. But then, I also have to justify it with what the state and the school governing boards think are important for students to learn. And that gap is sometimes wider and more vast than any ocean on earth.

Perhaps education should move towards what graduate students do. I like how I'm able to study anything I please, as long as I'm doing it in an academic fashion. What is wrong about analyzing, critiquing, and creating rap music? That can be academic in so many ways too.

Not to mention this would solve the incredible pressure on teachers to differentiate, differentiate, differentiate.

But it is also time consuming. There is a reason why grad courses are usually capped at 15 students per 1 professor. And the ratio is even smaller on some campuses.

What would I not give to be able to teach 15 students at any one given time. That would be sweet.

I've drifted off from studying the science standards, but really, investigation and experimentation - the title already says it all.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Solo done!

Where can I find these little lights of hope when my confidence is broke?

Yesterday was my last day of solo. Overall, the two weeks went decently. The entire semester was productive too.

All I have left before I get my preliminary credential is the final evaluation, and filing for graduation with the university and the CCTC.

Yet, I still have this nagging fear that they will fail me. Because CSUS has been known to guide a student teacher through the entire semester and then say at the very end, "You are not good enough."

Although they didn't tell me at the very end, they did make me waste a good six months of my life.

In my eyes, I passed. But I can't shake off that nagging fear.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Unreasonable assignments

Not everyone is as lucky as this double-yolk egg.

I have one more day of my solo experience to go. Since last Wednesday, things have been going pretty well on all fronts.

Today was a bit of a scatter-brain day, what with students getting pulled out left and right, assemblies, end-of-the-year-2009 rush to get things accomplished, and a general sense of "w00t! one more week of school until Christmas break!" The fact that it was Thursday didn't help matters very much.

But over all, I'm teaching well. At least, according to my standard of "teaching well." Of course I've got things to make better. But I got 90% of the class to learn how to locate North and South American countries and their capitol cities today. 75% of the class can correctly calculate the multiplication AND division of fractions AND mixed numbers - despite the fact that both concepts were introduced within one day of each other. Two days ago. Which was about the same time when 90% of the class finally understood the difference between the GCF and LCM.

However, I'm babbling. Let's just say what I've been telling people: "It's been up and down, but more up than down, so I consider it a success."

One thing to remember: don't assign ginormous assignments (i.e. like the astronomy project my class had to finish this week) without mico-deadlines. Or requiring that students type and print their report, knowing full well that they don't have computers, let alone printers at home and that school rules say they can't print anything from school printers (budget cuts). Granted, my CT gave them plenty of time to figure all this stuff out (a full 6 weeks), but still. They are 10 and 11 year olds. They have no concept of independent long-term planning.

Oh well. They'll learn. This class's demographics are such that they will bounce back. I'm not so sure about others.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Discipline without stress

That moon cake from the Hong Kong Peninsula Hotel was awesome. I ate three of them in two days. Which is an example of non-discipline.

Ideal and impossible? Not according to Dr. Marvin Marshall. I bought this book some months ago and began reading it immediately. The first third wasn't so great. It was everything I knew already, nothing new to add.

The second third was a little better. A bit more practical advice, and an activity on defining standards that I want to do in my own classroom. Very logical, very clear cut, and very internally driven, which I like. The goal, when teaching behavior and social standards, are to get students to do things on their own, for their own benefit.

UTEC encourages us in a very overt way to feature social objectives in every lesson. I would say at least 70% of my pedagogy classes were about teaching social standards in an explicit way. But my CT likes to handle behaviors on a one-to-one basis, developing a sort of mentorship rather than direct teaching. From what I've seen, both are effective, and both are even more effective when both are used at once.

I haven't gotten to the last third of the book yet. There are still five days left of my solo, and I've only been able to read a few paragraphs before I conk out each night. But I'll get to it. And I'll let this blog know.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Books in a phone booth

A different kind of bookshelf.

This is a pretty sweet idea for the community. Too bad there are no cute, red phone booths on this side of the Atlantic.

But there are decrepit shacks and empty buildings in parks. I'm sure parts of those can be converted, if the city really wanted to do it.

That's one of the things I've learned recently: people will do things if they really wanted to. Although sometimes, people will do things if they don't want to too, but that is a choice as well. If a student chooses not to finish the writing assignment, then it means they accept a zero for their grade.

Anyway, I think it's a great idea. Something small, and maintains itself. Those opposed will use the excuse of "vandalism" and "increased gang activity." Which may or may not be true. At least the city will have well-read gang members, no?

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Standards Sundays: Grade 5 earth sciences

The photo above is my sixth grade science teacher's manual. A lot of the topics covered in this text overlaps with the fifth grade standards for earth science. The water cycle, how the sun affects living things on earth. I think only the solar system isn't in this text.

The solar system isn't in the fifth grade science curriculum either - well, at least I'm told that they won't be able to reach the solar system within the school year. It is one of the reasons why they use Open Court's Astronomy unit so heavily.

Bunny trail: Open Court sucks. I'm not a fan.

In any case, my goals would be to get in at least half the science material in these texts in the year. I would rather spend less time reading those boring stories in Open Court and more time reading the science books. Much more interesting, many more vocab words, and I can still teach the mechanics and comprehension skills lessons that they all need.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

The problem with language

Sailormoon speaks poor English too.

Remember this? Well, I ran into something exactly like it in the Daily Language Review curriculum that my school uses. Here's the question:

Which word does not belong in this group?

bird plane surfboard kite hot-air balloon

The answer that the teacher's manual gave is, "bird," because it is alive and the other things are inanimate.

But another possible answer would be, "surfboard," because it doesn't fly.

Or even, "hot-air balloon," since it is a hyphenated word.

I haven't seen as much borderline racial issues at a school than at my current school. I've read about it in journals and such for class, but I have never seen it in real life. My current school has precisely one African-American teacher, one Hispanic teacher, and two Asian-American teachers (including myself). And that is it. Everyone else is white bread.

I don't really know what to do about the minor racial things I see going on every day. I call them minor, but oppression in any sense isn't minor at all. It just that students will have a build up of it over time, so the results aren't showing right now.

I do commend this school for having a strong male teacher presence though. There is one in K, 2, 4, 5, and 6, plus the computer teacher and the highly involved plant manager.

Still, this kind of demographic really does change how English language is taught at my school. Which is to say, in a rather traditional way that may not address some EL student's needs.

I accepted both "bird" or "surfboard" as the correct answer. I only thought of "hot-air balloon" after the lesson, but none of the students picked it up either. Sometimes, you just have to move on, even when mistakes are made in teaching.

Friday, December 4, 2009

The Imax experience

About a month ago, my class went to the local Imax theater to watch two films: one about California and the other about the International Space Station. The second one was in 3D.

It was fun. The students had a blast. It was rather pricey for a field trip, but we took all day to go, since we walked to the light rail and back again. I would have also included a packed lunch picnic at the capitol park. The film admission included a hot dog, chips, and a soda - which the students consumed at around 10:30 AM. And they were starving by the time we hopped back on the light rail at 12:30 to return to school.

Most of that day was spent in travel time, and really, it would have been better if we had private vehicles as transportation. We could have also shuttled students back and forth from the station to school, and from the station to the theater too. That would have cut down on our travel time by A LOT. But no parents signed up as volunteer drivers. Which is too bad.

I liked it. It wasn't the most spectacular field trip ever. I definitely don't think it was worth the $17.50 the entire trip cost for each student. But it was a relatively easy-to-plan-and-execute, logistically speaking, trip. Student need a break from the daily grind as much as teachers do.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Dark vs. light

Sometimes, I think the light just isn't shining on me. The lamp above me is broken, but everyone else's is lit. That was yesterday.

Today was better. Today, the light above me was dim. Not completely there yet, but better. I think my social studies lesson went well, although two of the higher achieving students bombed the assignment, strangely.

I need to be a little harsher on the grades. C is the middle, B is above average, A is advanced. Don't give a nicer grade just because of they took more effort, and yet didn't quite make it to par.

They say upper elementary grade students tend to value peer opinion more than teacher opinion. I see that as half true and half not so much.

Keep high standards! Demand more from students. They are slacking when I am slacking.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Solo, Day 1-3

Lord Byron got it quite accurate. I've been in a daze the whole day, at least since my morning Open Court lesson crashed and burned in the most spectacular way possible. Thus, I'm not very coherent right now, not even to myself. But I do want to jot down a list of thoughts going through my mind, learn from them, put them aside, and start fresh with a renewed spirit.

Did I mention I only have half an hour to do all of that? Yeah, because the work never ceases.

*finally completed the Educational Leave of Absence process today. my impression of the chair person's reaction to my question on who would approve my form seemed rather snotty. I in no way expected any "special" anythings "granted" tome. the form protocol required a signature. I was following the protocol. period.

*I really wish my CT would let me talk a little more when we go over my lessons after I teach them. I'm not sure him doing all the talking is effective in helping me understand how to teach better.

*also, it is very difficult to get my thoughts together right before the bell rings when someone is talking at me. and when my thoughts are not together, I teach poorly.

*I better let my CT know this tomorrow. I'll ask him to save his comments for the end of the day, not at lunch, or at prep, or at recess.

*damn, is it only Wednesday?

*seriously, I love teaching science.

*why on earth am I making the same teaching errors over and over again? why am I so inconsistent? why are my old habits dying such a long and drawn out death?

*more importantly, how can I fix this weakness?

*I am totally NOT a 4 in any of the performance evaluation items. Am scared. Am anxious. Am nervous. Am frustrated. Am depressed and disappointed.

*almost cried at school today. at the verge of tears now. and my first three solo days haven't been that bad! yet, I still feel like a hopeless failure because of my inconsistency.

*I don't mind failing. it's the second time that makes me mad. and also the fact that the future doesn't look very promising.

*right now, would very much like a decent paying job where I just play with rabbits all day. is there a job like that? because I would like to apply.

*the commute seems so much longer when it's been a bad day.

*so much freaking stuff to do for the job hunt. I've already done so much too, but it never seems to end. there's another piece of information to add to my portfolio, another bit of contact information to give to this person, another school to study-up on enough to be able to ask intelligent questions, another thing that needs doing but I don't know what it is yet because it'll only pop up at the last minute. ~.~ uugh.

*I do not give a rat's tushie about being "holiday ready," so you can stop pushing that tinsel in my face now.

*I really appreciate my part-time job, really. But I don't appreciate the expectation of showing up to a class WHEN I WASN'T TOLD THAT THERE WAS ONE. Or being under the assumption that I am available teach a new session, scheduling me for it, AND THEN telling me after all other things had been set. Or thinking that I can magically appear at a school site in twenty minutes WHEN IT TAKES FORTY TO DRIVE THERE.

*I really do appreciate my part-time job. I will probably work at it for a little longer if I can't manage to find a full-time teaching position.

*that is, assuming they let me pass. it would SO SUCK if they end up not letting me pass. again. I'm not sure I would continue with the program if that happened.

*not that I've been told any time this semester that I'm under risk of not passing. my supervisor has actually been pretty impressed by me. and my CT, in general, thinks I'm decent as well. it's just that today was such an utter disaster, it feels like I'm failing. again.

*would very much like to crawl into a warm, soft cave and hibernate for a very, very long time.

Ok mind, are you emptied yet? Can I move on with my life and get back to work? Can "being patient start now," like Lyra says at the end of The Amber Spyglass?

I'm so glad tomorrow is a new day. I just hope today won't chain me down from those flying colors tomorrow.

Photo from: Beauty in Everything

Monday, November 30, 2009

Media Mondays: What competition shouldn't be

A headline as glaring as this little fellow, whom I found in my kitchen recently.

Mo. Looks at Overhauling Ed. System to Compete for Funds

The above link goes to an article at Education Week, and you need to subscribe to view the whole thing. But you don't need to subscribe to ask yourself the following question:

Why on earth do schools need to compete for funding? Because, in theory, there should be plenty of funding to go around, without the need to compete.

Because competing means that someone will end up without the funds.

And that is so NOT what public education is about, dudes. Seriously.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Education for a democratic and pluralistic society: part 3 of 3

(As part of my Masters of Education, Instruction and Curriculum, I'm required to take a course called Education for a Democratic and Pluralistic Society [EDTE 251, Loeza]. Within this course, I was supposed to write two position papers on a topic of my choice, conduct an interview, and create a presentation using technology on the same topic. Here is part three of three of my technology project.)

The interviews:

The teacher

> J.H. is a sixth year 2nd grade teacher in the Washington D.C. area (urban, public school). She attended school in Abington, PA and College Park, MD. Overall, she was satisfied with her education.
> She believes education is important because well-trained and skilled individuals are needed to contribute to their nation’s growth.
> She would like to see future schools build a solid foundation in abstract concepts and higher level thinking, more technology, and more training on the IEP process for classroom teachers.
> She would like to see less testing.
> She believes the high amounts of worksheets have not changed over the years (negative reaction).
> If she could reform schools, no limits, she would increase teacher pay, hold parents responsible for doing their part in their child’s education, and create a more concrete discipline system with clear consequences and rewards.

The student

> N.M. is a sophomore at a Sacramento area high school. He believes that knowledge is power and that without education, society will become corrupt.
> He would like to see more school supplies, such as laboratory equipment and computers, available for student use. He would also like to see schools remodeled so as to match “East High’s (the high school in High School Musical)” aesthetics.
> He would like to see less education budget cuts and a halt to increasing class sizes.
> He is not satisfied with his current education because “teachers don’t know how to teach anymore.” His elementary and middle school experiences were “hundreds of times better” than his high school experience so far.

The (future) parents

> J.M. and S.C. are married and are in the process of planning for a family. They went to school in Stockton, CA, San Diego, CA, and Berkeley, CA. Overall, they are both satisfied with their educations.
> They believe education is important because society needs a certain level of basic skills to benefit from, and contribute to, their communities.
> They would like to see more homework that is actually corrected and graded, grades based on the student’s work (as opposed to the level of parent involvement in the student’s work), creative writing, and traditional math facts drills.
> They would like to see fewer “useless school projects” that are irrelevant to the subject matter, such as student films on random topics.
> They believe the presence of games at the elementary level has not changed over the years (positive reaction).
> If they could reform schools, no limits, they would like to implement longer school days (with longer breaks, “like French schools”), a wider selection of electives, and emphasize education/career options other than four-year universities and “mass produced” white-collar jobs. They would also include meaningful instruction on world financial systems as well as home economics for the modern student (since “parents are now such workaholics that they no longer have time to teach their children basic life skills”).


It was not surprising that all of my interviewees had a high interest in education reform, considering their backgrounds. However, I was not prepared for their detailed discussions on items they would like to change. It was obvious that all interviewees had thought about education reform, either on their own or in discussions with other people, prior to the interview.

Putting aside any questions of practical feasibility of their ideas, all interviewees seemed willing to take education into their own hands, shaping it into the way they want it to be. Even the student, who spoke in complaints during the interview (which might be partly contributed to the fact that he is a teenager), showed confidence in his bearing and voice that he could overcome any shortfalls of the public education system. Thus, supporting my second thesis on enabling individuals to contribute to their communities in a grass-roots manner.

It must be noted that all interviewees come from middle- (the adults) to upper-middle class (the teenager) backgrounds, which highly contributes to the way they value their own opinions and the belief that positive changes in education will happen.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Education for a democratic and pluralistic society: part 2 of 3

A good cycle: the circle of life. A bad cycle: the following.

(As part of my Masters of Education, Instruction and Curriculum, I'm required to take a course called Education for a Democratic and Pluralistic Society [EDTE 251, Loeza]. Within this course, I was supposed to write two position papers on a topic of my choice, conduct an interview, and create a presentation using technology on the same topic. Here is part two of three of my technology project.)

In my previous paper, I noticed the long and difficult journey school systems take in their path towards reform. In my second paper, The Unbreakable Cycle of Reform, I analyze the mistakes US education policy leaders continue to make, including some misguided ideas proposed by the Obama Administration.

Many times, public schools cycle through similar education movements without gaining much ground in lasting changes for learning. What makes school reform so difficult and how can educators break this seemingly unbreakable cycle?

Most of the ideas from my second paper can be seen in this previous post, which presents a rebuttal to a CNN Opinion editorial by Ruben Navarrette Jr. I reiterate my points here:

1) Funneling all students into four-year universities is, in itself, a type of low expectation. There are educational opportunities outside classroom walls. For example:

- Peace Corps and other similar service related programs
- internships
- teaching abroad
- work studies (work part-time, study topics related to the work part-time under one or more teachers - which is basically a modified internship)

This is a very small list. Even the powers of Google wasn't able to bring up many options. More ideas are definitely needed.

Also, comparing students from low SES backgrounds with students from high SES backgrounds is unfair. Students from low SES backgrounds CAN learn - they are just not always learning the same things as their wealthier peers.

2) The traditional school setting - including schedule and hierarchy, among other things - is not particularly convenient to both students or staff.

3) Continual, high-stakes testing is only one method of assessing student achievement. Other methods should be used in order to get a complete picture of where students are academically. This information should be used as a launching point for further instructional goals, not solely as an assessment on teacher performance.

I'm suddenly reminded of US Secretary of Eduction Arne Duncan's interview on The Colbert Nation a couple months ago:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Arne Duncan
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorU.S. Speedskating

Notice that Secretary Duncan makes no mention of NCLB, but nearly everything he said is, in essence, NCLB. Also, NCLB highly resembles other movements in US reform history, the results of which are nearly identical to our results now.

Which has good intentions, but will probably not achieve the goals it set out to do.

So how can these goals be met? Should these goals be met at all? Does increasing the high school graduation rate actually mean these same graduates are now independent, well-rounded members of society, ready and willing to contribute to their communities?

I proposed in my paper that lasting societal changes can be - and are being - achieved through small individual choices by educators, students and parents. Teachers should adjust practices within their realm of influence in small, logistically manageable steps. Perhaps they can include one more group project that requires students to create something. Perhaps they can schedule an afternoon of community service at a local park, or even within their own school site. Perhaps schools can bring focus onto current national and world events by bring the news to the students, or, better yet, showing students how to get the news for themselves.

Then, perhaps, students will have both the skills and the mental initiative to become news-makers themselves.

(In a positive way. I don't think the world needs another "Britney is a bad mom" headline.)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Education for a democratic and pluralistic society: part 1 of 3

(As part of my Masters of Education, Instruction and Curriculum, I'm required to take a course called Education for a Democratic and Pluralistic Society [EDTE 251, Loeza]. Within this course, I was supposed to write two position papers on a topic of my choice, conduct an interview, and create a presentation using technology on the same topic. Here is part one of three of my technology project.)

Have you ever felt like a sardine packed in a tin can when seated in bleachers like the above picture? Yet, after awhile, you forget the discomfort - you get used to it.

US education reform often mirrors this "closed bubble" feeling. Why should we care what other students in other countries do in their public schools? All we need to do is focus on improving our own school system.

However, the pan-out picture from the aerial camera is much more spectacular than the tunnel vision available at individual seats. US education reformers should take note of what other countries have done in their reform histories, learning from their mistakes and perhaps adopting their successes to create a more well-educated society.

My first position paper, Education Reform: An International Agenda, was my comparison of various school reform histories in the US, Slovakia, and the Scandinavian countries (namely, Sweden, Norway, and Denmark). The comparison was very narrow and further study would be needed to gain a more complete picture of how various countries' public education systems are similar and different.

I had many sources, but the main ones were:

Hechinger, Fred M. About education; miracle cures seldom work in school reform. The New York Times. September 13, 1983. 1983/09/13/ science/about-education-miracle-cures-seldom-work-in-school-reform.html?&pagewanted=all

Kalin, Jana. Zuljan, Milena Valencic. Teacher perceptions of the goals of effective school reform and their own role in it. Educational Studies. Volume 33. No 2. June 2007. pp. 163-175.

Telhaug, Alfred Oftedal. Medias, Odd Asbjorn. Aasen, Petter. From Collectivism to individualism? Education as nation building in a Scandinavian perspective. Scandinavian Journal of Educational Research. Volume 48. No 2. April 2004.

I noticed that education in the Scandinavian countries from sixty years ago was very similar to the US school system today. There is value in studying the process, and current results, of school reform in other countries to analyze how US reforms can improve. In the end, most countries' goals for educational reform is to create a more well-rounded, educated public which can produce (and reap) better economic and social benefits.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Events on Thanksgiving, before there was a Thanksgiving

I'm thankful for Haagen Dazs.

Last year, I posted about one school activity for Thanksgiving.

This year, I'm posting about other significant events that fall on this day. Since we are doing the Age of Exploration in social studies right now, let's talk about Captain James Cook and how he became the first European to land on Maui, on November 26, 1778!

Item #1: I wouldn't mind it if I was in Maui right now.

Item #2: Captain James Cook probably had much to be thankful for on that day. For example, he was probably thankful that he ship didn't capsize in the middle of the Pacific.

It's funny how people create random holidays like Thanksgiving. Not that it isn't a good thing. I would like to see more holidays, actually, especially between Labor Day and Veteran's Day. It's funny because most American holidays celebrate wars, the end of wars, conquests (aka Thanksgiving), and such. While, say, most of Europe takes the entire month of August off just for the heck of it.

Cultural differences and commonalities are fun, no?

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

How to get your child out the door FAST

The cheese factor is high (as it is for nearly all Japanese TV), but there are some pretty good ideas on how to streamline a weekday morning routine.

Conferences ended yesterday. Out of a class of 28 fifth and sixth graders, we had to talk to five parents/grandparents about their student's consistent tardiness. In elementary school, it really isn't the child's fault when they are late to school - it has to be all parent. 6 out of 28 (there was one more, but it was a no-show) kids is a lot of regular tardies.

I know this school starts early - 8 AM - but it's not like the child is in kindergarten or anything. They are 10-12 year olds who are perfectly capable of waking up, dressing themselves, getting their school stuff together, and walking out the door when the parent does.

Is there whining? Stomp it out. Is there a late-waker? Get a louder alarm clock. Are they slow in the morning? Most of the time, this means that they are slow at any time of day. Which means you just need to get them to move faster.

I'm torn here because I do want the daily school schedule to change. School should NOT begin at the butt crack of dawn. But until that changes, get your student on campus, on time. Perhaps the following video will help the adults to move faster in the morning.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

We are all going to die

epic fail pictures
see more Epic Fails
If international media is portraying panic over swine flu accurately, then we would all have died of it by now. Pigs win.

Thankfully, it is not like that. Sure, some flu shot clinics around the Sacramento metro area have closed for some reason (I wasn't patient enough to wait for the news to say why they closed, just that they did and OMGHIDEUNDERTHECOVERS!). But other than a flyer or two going home to the parents, hand cleaner every day in class, nothing much has changed.

I have not taken the swine flu shot. I haven't even taken the regular flu shot - haven't since I turned the ripe old age of 24 and was no longer covered by my mom's health insurance. I have purchased my own, if only because I know it is a smart thing to do. But I have the cheap-o-matic coverage for the huge things. And the flu shot is not one of them.

I can shell out $20 and get the flu shot at my local Walgreens or Target (Safeway sometimes have them now too). Clinic shots are usually more expensive, plus you have to wait forever with mounds of paper work to keep you company.

Bunny trail: I really dig Taiwan's idea of each individual keeping their own health records on a "smart card." Your information travels with you, not with your doctor or health plan or whoever. More power to the consumer!

I haven't yet shelled out that $20. Probably won't this winter. I don't know why though, because this is a smart thing to do too. I've taken the flu shot every year, with one or two exceptions when I was out of the country, from the age of 7 through 24. My parents nag me about it every year. My excuse is that it is such a hassle (it is) and I want to use 2-3 hours of my life doing something other than filling out forms and filing them with my insurance (which I do).

The point of this post, I've forgotten. Taiwan's health care rules? Maybe that was it.

Photo from Fail Blog

Monday, November 23, 2009

Media Mondays: Make students your fans?

The title of this post over at The Thinking Stick initially took me by surprise. Why on earth would I want to make my students my "fan" on facebook? I'm not actually sure I even like the idea of "friending" my students on facebook, even though my facebook page is relatively free of private information (I hope).

However, Jeff Utecht does make a good point about setting an example of how to keep your private life private and still be connected to people you interact with on a daily basis. It might be nice for a student to leave me a message on my facebook fan page, because that is the way they they know how to connect with people.

On the other hand, if I see these kids every day, there really shouldn't be that much of a need to make contact through other means. I'm going to use face-to-face time the most. Phone and email next. Those three ways should cover all my communication bases, so anything else is just extra.

Of course, I'm speaking from an elementary teacher's point of view. When you have high school kids who take your two hour block scheduled class twice a week, it probably would help to have other means of communication. I would just make sure that saying things over a fan page on facebook holds as much seriousness as speaking in person. If I tell a student that an assignment is due on that day over facebook, it is due on that day. No room for interpretation.

Hm, now I want to take another look at how exposed I am online. Time to clean up my online presence by unsubscribing/deleting accounts, no?

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Standards Sundays: Grade 5 life science

This post should also be known as another reason to flaunt the cuteness that is my rabbit.

In fifth grade, the life sciences are all about systems. Systems for breathing, eating, excreting, and the transport of materials within an organism. I'm still not so sure about this "students know" terminology splattered all over the standards. Know is a very, very low order of thinking. Besides, just because a kid can regurgitate something from a textbook doesn't mean much when it comes to true comprehension.

I'm no longer teaching fifth grade science in my current classroom. The fifth graders go out to another class, while the sixth graders stay. I like sixth grade science better, so far. It is nice to have a small group of fourteen students for a 50 minute period each week. The possibilities for labs and demos are nearly endless. My CT showed me where to order owl pellets, which this class will dissect in December. Can you say awesome?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Lessons from a rabbit

Lesson #1

Never bite the hand that feeds you. Although, once in a while, it is ok to give it a light nibble.

Lesson #2

The best thing to do after a tough day is sprawl out in a ray of sunshine and take a nap.

Lesson #3

A vegetarian, high fiber diet is good for the inside AND the outside.

Lesson #4

Watch out for hawks.

Lesson #5

Everything will turn out ok in the end, especially if you have proper grooming and utilize gentle nose nudges and chin rubs to get your own way.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Good to know

Apparently in California, I am qualified to take a first year special ed teaching position with only a Multiple Subject credential.

They expect you to at least begin the special ed credential within your first year of teaching.

Good to know. Special ed, bilingual ed, and math/science are hot, hot, hot in terms of openings.

Thursday, November 19, 2009


Today wasn't a bad teaching day. It was actually a pretty good teaching day. Students were productive, I ran a teacher/parent conference myself, I didn't bring any paper work home because I got it all done at school. Even the traffic wasn't too bad today.

But something happened to me earlier in the week which got on my nerves, and I've got to get it out or it will pickle my soul. Which is not a good thing, since I like my soul fresh.

There are some people who are just not gifted in teaching. I know a dude who is such, yet he continues to teach. He may be gifted at other things, but that is something he hasn't figured out yet because he is too busy being NOT-gifted at teaching.

His students are bored out of their minds in his class. They ditch it whenever possible. They hide out in my classroom until the last possible minute. They go reluctantly when I make them go. They are not being challenged and their needs are not being met through that class.

I feel sorry for these kids. Some of them are my former students, so I let them help me in my own class on certain weeks. They help out during special projects and games. They stand in as substitutes sometimes. We used to hold a special, small class on our own for them - especially for the girls - until we got too short-handed to do that any more.

He does not like it when I invite my former students over. He hasn't said as much, but his attitude towards me is palpable. He probably sees it as me luring his audience away. I see it as giving the students a chance to experience a more positive learning experience.

I had a little skirmish with him this past week - a rather public skirmish. I'm a little embarrassed at my immaturity for falling down to his level. But he made a whole lot of hoopla and zero helpfulness, and I was pissed off. It was wrong because he "corrected" something I did (my attempt to prevent the wrong thing in the first place) which made me do it wrong all over again, since I didn't have enough time to fix his "correction."

I got rather confrontational. I have no apologies for being confrontational, although I suppose I should have kept my voice down. He did make the choice of correcting me in the middle of the activity, rather than waiting until the end. He had that coming to him.

Long story short, it makes me really sad, and really angry that there are horrible teachers like that out there, teaching horribly. I am by no means a perfect teacher. But I am also not a teacher because I like to preen my ego by hearing myself bore the will to live out of a group of intelligent teenagers.

It also makes me rather annoyed/disappointed/angsty at people in general, because (except for a select few who have gotten the same, and more, from this dude) I am looked upon as the enemy. I'm the "bad guy" because I'm not fitting into this preconceived notion of QSAG - Quiet Submissive Asian Girl. That I got it coming to me since I "asked" for it by confronting him like that.

I am unapologetic for not fitting into someone else's ideas on who they think I should be. I spent 23 out of my 26 years being the QSAG, and I am SO over THAT.

I'm going to keep offering these opportunities to those teenagers. And if that dude doesn't like it, then so be it.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The food chain

Mo says, "Please don't eat me."

Today in science:

Me: Humans are at the top of the food chain because they have the ability to hunt and eat nearly everything. In China, at the markets, they sell all sorts of things like roasted cockroaches and barbeque snake. On a dare, I ate bbq snake once.

Student 1: Did it taste like chicken?

Me: It was burnt, so it tasted like charcoal.

Student 2: My dad said when he was younger, he would catch rabbits and eat them.

Me: Yes, people can eat rabbits. But that story makes me a little sad. Do you know why?

Students (all): ::blank but curious stares::

Me: Because I have a rabbit at home.

Students (all): ::bursts out laughing::

I love teaching science at the elementary level. They are just so naturally curious about the world. I wish I could have science lessons every day.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Parent/teacher conferences

Viewing the paper work from this point of view.

Parent/teacher conferences began yesterday and will continue up to Thanksgiving break. This is my third time sitting through these as a student teacher. I got to participate a little, giving my input on the student's progress, during my first experience last fall. This time, I'm going to run some of these myself. My CT will be present, of course, but I'll be the sole person addressing the parent. Am I a teacher-geek for being excited about that? Absolutely.

So far, I've learned:

- schedule the Spanish/Russian/Hmong speaking parents back-to-back with the other Spanish/Russian/Hmong speaking parents so the translator doesn't have to hop back and forth, from day to day. They will have more energy to do a better job translating, AND they will like you more. It is important to have a good relationship with the support staff.

- schedule the "teacher intensive" (either on the parent's side, or on the student's side) early in the conference week. Some will be no-shows, which means I can call them and attempt to reschedule later in the week.

- conversely, schedule the model student/parent meetings later. It just makes it nice to end the conference week on a happy note.

- massively push to have most of the meetings in the early half of the week, because it is A WHOLE WEEK AND THEN SOME of conferences. It is a long slog. I will get tired.

- leave the last conference week day open. That allows room for reschedules - and if those aren't necessary, then I'll get to leave school at 12:15 PM! w00t!

- coordinate with the teachers of brothers and sisters of my own students. The parent will be happier about hitting all the meetings on one day, rather than returning multiple times for anxious meetings.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Media Mondays: Taskstream

Time for a replacement.

But don't replace it with something else that will fall apart even faster.

Taskstream is an online tool that I was required to subscribe to ($69 for 2 years). I still have it, but I don't use it anymore. Why? Because it is a completely useless piece of technology that gave me more headaches than not.

But we had to have it, because that was how we submitted our PACT project. So we used it.

I don't like it because only subscribers can access/post lesson plans on it. Which is nice, but if I can get lesson plan ideas for free elsewhere, why would I want to pay money for it?

It is also the most user-unfriendly thing on the face of the internet. Sure, it is customizable with colors and fonts. But there are way too many drop-down boxes, too many columns, too much clicking through things to get to the exact thing that I want. Too much of a hassle to keep up on a regular basis. I know of no one in my class who still uses this after submitting their signature assignments. I know of no actual teacher who uses this for lesson planning and sharing. It is just too time consuming for what little benefit it brings.

So I'm going to take Taskstream off my Educational resources links list. Although it's nice to know what a bad example of an educational tool is, I don't want to fill up space with something I no longer use.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Standards Sundays: Grade 5 physical science

The photo doesn't exactly speak "science," but it does remind me of what my area of the lab benches looks like after four hours of college chemistry experiments: bunches of stuff scattered here and there, each pile representing an attempt at the experiment. Most of them were failures.

And in the end, I didn't end up being a pediatrician, as I had dreamed of doing my freshman year. Ah well.

The fifth grade physical sciences consist mainly of elements, their properties, and the structure of atoms and molecules. Every standard in this section begins with three words:

Students will know

Say what? How come these state mandates standards begin with the pedagogical word which is forbidden of all student teachers? Know is such a vague word. It is also low on Bloom's Taxonomy, lacking any higher order thinking skills. Which is a little backwards to me, since science is all about the higher order thinking skills.

I wonder why physics isn't included in the physical sciences. Ok, so atomic interactions is technically physics (transfer of energy between atoms, movement of electrons). But I think physics is a much bigger part of science than chemistry. Perhaps chemistry is just more readily teachable?

In any case, I intend to have one targeted science lesson each week in my classroom, no matter K or 6th grade. I'll probably have a couple integrated science lessons here and there too. And these science lessons aren't from the text either. Yeah, I know. Lots of prep associated with this, but it'll be worth it.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

A day in a life of a student teacher #4

8:50 AM - Down filled blankets are the best.

3:45 PM - Have I mentioned how much I like to stay home? Especially when I usually spend 12 hours a day outside of it.

6:17 PM - Christmas is almost here! Which means 2009 is almost over! Which also means that craptastic first half of the year will soon be considered "long past in the memory banks."

Friday, November 13, 2009

How my pants usually die

I found these ink stains on my carpet some months ago. They came from a leaky Muji pen, which is sad because Muji pens are my favorite pens ever. It's like I was betrayed by a best friend.

This happens to me more often than not though. I come home only to discover that I had been walking around with an ink stain on my pants from the pen I stuck in my pocket during teaching. Sad because that ink stain doesn't come off all the way. Sadder still because I have limited pairs of teaching pants.

Maybe that's why my skirts and dresses last a lot longer than my pants - they don't have pockets.

I sometimes wish I could just have a velcro - or magnetic, because it won't make that annoying ripping sound - band around my arm and stick pens to it. Kind of like those non-slip pads that keep things like cellphones and sunglasses sticking to the dashboard of cars. I would so buy that. It would be much more handy than any pocket. Especially since pants pockets have been growing smaller and smaller.

I'm not that only one that thinks so right? My theory is that clothing manufacturers cut costs by making the pockets smaller. I can barely fit my car keys in some of the pockets of my newer pants. My older pants can easily fit my keys, my phone, a lipgloss, and my wallet (in the other pocket). Which is convenient because then I don't have to carry around a bag.

The small pockets also ruin my pens more. The nibs get damaged, which makes them leak even more. The caps snag on fabric and snap off. Sometimes the whole pen doesn't even fit into the pocket, not even diagonally, which makes it uncomfortable as well as annoying.

The ink stains on my carpet doesn't really have anything to do with pants. I'm just reminded of my pen-and-pant-pocket dilemma from the photo. Make bigger pockets, people!

But you know, if my bigger worries from teaching is ink stains on my pants, then I really can't complain. It's been a good semester so far. I'll miss this.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Those who can't do, teach

Can you tell from this entry that I'm a little ticked about something?

I've heard that saying many times. I used to be one of the people who scoffed like that too. Sometimes, I still do.

But you know what? I'm ok with that. I don't know how to do a lot, so I'll learn. I don't know how other people do things, so I'll make it up and improvise. I don't know if it is the right way to do it, so I'll adjust, fixing my mistakes as I go along.

I may not be able to do much, but I'm evolving. Which is more than I can say of some people I know.

But hey, those who can't teach, just do.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veteran's Day

Veteran's Day is kind of like Labor Day in terms of school activities - if I do incorporate it into lessons, I don't want to just throw together a crafty thing with some sort of American national symbol on it. I want students to figure out the meaning. Why do we have a day for veterans? What is being a veteran like? Because it isn't all war and honor and glory.

The U.S. Department of Veteran's Affairs has this entire PDF for teachers to use in relation to Veteran's Day. It studies several wars, the history of the day, how to fold a flag into that neat triangle, and distinguishes the different between Veteran's Day and Memorial Day.

There is only one living veteran from WWI. There are 2,306,000 from WWII, and 7,125,000 from Vietnam. I heard on the radio today that two-thirds of homeless people are veterans. Even though veterans have access to the best health care (and I'm assuming they have access to mental health care as well), there are some who don't get help.

I've only ever met two vets in person. They both kind of creeped me out. Granted, when I was a teenager, a lot of things creeped me out (think lion from Oz). I didn't really know how to interact with them, and since I didn't want to walk on eggshells around them (as I observed other people doing), I didn't interact with them much at all.

The radio anchor kept saying that the general public needs to thank the veterans more. Which is a little weird to me. Not that thanking them isn't a proper thing to do (it is), but to be honest, just saying "Thanks!" to a vet seems rather anti-climactic. Their needs are obviously not fulfilled just from thanks alone.

Someone tell me this is too political to teach in a classroom. Would I get into trouble for bringing up the issue?

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Heart attack teaching day!

Kind of like what eating 16 of these will do to you. All at once. And only the chocolate-caramel outside.

Introducing a new tag: heart attack teaching day! I've actually had quite a few of these, so I'm surprised I've just thought of the idea now.

Today was a pretty big heart attack teaching day, even though it was only one incidence (oh yes, there are heart attack teaching days FULL of incidences). My routine is to go get the students at the recess bell and bring them in from the line in the playground. Today was no exception.

Except one of my students had an asthma attack. Without his inhaler on him.

I, nervous newbie student teacher that I am, panicked. By panic, I mean P.A.N.I.C.K.E.D.

What do you do when something like that happens to a student, and you can't leave the other 27 alone. And you are not certified to do any medical thing other than administer CPR (and I honestly never want to, even though I know how). And the school nurse is only on campus THREE DAYS out of the week due to budget cuts. And the school office where the student's extra inhaler and medications are, is a stone's throw away for a healthy person but seems like miles away for a kid who is being strangled by inflamed muscles. What the hell do you do?

Well, the proper procedures are to send another student (preferably a healthy one) with the asthma attack student to the office. Needless to say, I didn't do that.

Luckily, the student got over his attack. I'm not sure how one "gets over" an asthma attack without some sort of medication, but apparently he did.

In any case, it was a heart attack day for me. Note to self: be sure to know which student has what medical conditions! Have my own emergency kit in the classroom handy. And make sure said students have their inhalers on them at all times.

Monday, November 9, 2009


The Moon Festival (aka the "moon cake festival") was a couple months ago. But I still savor the memory of these delicious lotus seed paste and preserved egg yolk pastries.

This entry is basically non-education related. No apologies, it just is. I've been pretty good about posting once a day since November 1st (which was only a week ago, still I want to keep my goal going again) and I don't want to break that streak yet.

So here's looking at you moon cake. Let's meet up again soon.