Monday, March 30, 2009

Heterogeneous vs. Homogeneous, which will win??

Same same but different.

I get Parade Magazine in my local newspaper every Sunday. Like many other publications, it's slowly disintegrating into another gossip magazine. But sometimes, it still delivers the more intellectual goods.

This past Sunday, Parade had this article. It's on the light side, only about a quarter of a page long, so obviously it's missing some serious research data. I was intrigued by it anyway.

Nearly all my studies in UTEC so far have proved that heterogeneous groupings are highly effective as well as culturally and socially responsive. Mixed genders, ethnicities, AND academic background.

So how does homogeneous class groups - at least in terms of academic level - work? There must be something else going on here. Like class size, teacher training/professional development, support systems outside of the classroom, et al.

All the schools I've seen at SCUSD (granted, that's only three, but still) utilize some sort of leveled groupings for some daily instruction. Usually it's English language development. Which makes since, since there are so many EL students in that district. In theory, and sometimes in reality, homogeneous academic groupings may be effective in higher student learning and retainment of content.

But I personally wouldn't use it outside of switching. Somewhere in between what the classrooms I've seen (they only switch for about 30-40 minutes on a typical day) and the all day thing that the Parade article says. Maybe 60-90 minutes a day. I do think restricting it to ELA/ELD is a smart idea. Elementary students, EL or otherwise, have tended to do better in math than in language arts in recent years.

Which is a little sad, because these kids have so much to say.

On a lighter note, I decided to do this. =) Have I mentioned before how much I love lists? No? Well, I love lists.

Friday, March 27, 2009


I think I'm cycling through the widest range of emotions I've ever experienced:

Very worried

I'm on the last three of that list right now. I am angry. How come this had to happen to me? Again?! And what is up with people? I heard some very disturbing news on the grapevine today - and I was not surprised. I suspected something like that was going on. I was naive enough to hope people would be above all that. But I guess not. We are supposed to be adults here! What is with all the high school-ness that is going on here? Mankind is a rather disappointing organism.

::sigh:: One day at a time.

The One Meme
All these items are supposed to reflect anything about you right now.

One picture

Dead jelly.

One poem

Why is it?
Why is it some mornings
Your clothes just don't fit?
Your pants are too short
To bend over or sit
Your sleeves are too long
And your hat is too tight -
Why is it some mornings
Your clothes don't feel right?
By Shel Silverstein

One item of clothing

Comfy, faded, floral pajamas

One song

I was debating between this one and Surrounded by The Fray. I chose this one because I can embed it, and it's lesser known.

One place

Yep, I think I am a beach/coastal person.

One Disney princess

I never really liked the Disney princess franchise, so it was odd to find it so difficult to decide which one I identified with the most. It was a three way tie between Jasmine, Mulan, and Belle. Belle's love of books tipped the scale.
Photo from here.

One quote

"There is always something more important than ourselves and our dreams." - Ed from FMA
(There were several I was debating on too, for this category. I chose this one, well, because there is.)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Why all schools should have art prep, reason #351

From the artistic and literary mind of a first grader. Notice the complementary colors? I taught them that!!

I taught art after school with YR today for the first time in, wow, months. In December, I was ready to quit that gig and move on to other things. No matter how much fun art is, teaching the same lesson twelve times a week wears on a person.

But I forgot about all that and had fun teaching today. It was a small group (REM: send class summary to boss and the person I subbed for!!), nine students from 4th through 6th grade, at one of the more well-to-do schools in my locality. Another thing I forgot was that students from wealthier schools have some very different campus routines. For one thing, there are these nice benches outside of every classroom with direct access to an uncovered area. I got to the school early, despite getting lost on my way there, and had a decent ten minutes of sitting out on that bench, face to the sun and protecting myself from getting rickets. It was nice. I need to sit out in the sun, staring off into space more often.

There were many things similar though. Students can still be unmotivated. Students can still be exceedingly annoying and attention seeking. Students can still be struggling with family issues and a stressful home life that no child deserves. Students still have their own agendas that they want to push. Students are still forced by their helicopter parents to go to something to learn stuff that they really doesn't interest them very much. And yes, there are helicopter parents at low SES schools as well.

But it was a good teaching day because a) students had fun while learning stuff, b) I had fun while on a teaching job, c) the product made by students was pretty outstanding, despite the lack of time and such that always seems to occur with intermediate to upper grades in art class, and most importantly of all d) students RESPONDED POSITIVELY TO MY TEACHING AND BEHAVIOR MANAGEMENT! I can actually do this! The previous eight weeks were just an anomaly! I CAN command the attention and respect of students in the intermediate grades!! Granted, I can't do it all, yet. But at least I can.

What I can't do is express the level of relief that spells for me.

Next worry: a source of income from now until September. I really really really need to make some cash, and a decent amount too, not the bits here and there teaching art. I applied to sub, and to tutor just tonight. I was stupid and slow in applying to another subbing thing and missed my opportunity there. Will look for more tomorrow. And apparently, there is such a thing as "freelance writing the reading comprehension pieces on standardized tests." I want to go there, but am not sure how. Will also look into it tomorrow.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

My kind of adulthood

The shiny, brilliant, complete life of adults.

Ok, I take it back. I'll probably keep talking about this for awhile because it won't go away any time soon.

Yes and Yes is one of my more recent favorite blogs, partly because she writes stuff like this. And also because I admire her general gutsy-ness in dropping everything and taking a six month trip across South America.

So I was finishing up my taxes last night - they were mostly finished, I just needed to wrap it up, sign the thing, and send it in - and I got to thinking. Yeah, thinking. As if I haven't been thinking enough lately. I thought and thought and thought. I went to sleep thinking, I think.

And when I woke up this morning, my brain came to a logical and comforting conclusion. It helped to make me feel a little freer, a little less hung up over the general suckiness of my life right now. And I felt so productive after thinking all night! Like when you leave the disk defragmenter on overnight and when you go to your computer again in the morning, it's clean and running smoothly again!

Anyway, the conclusion is: one isn't exactly "left behind" when one has something else to occupy oneself with. Let me explain using the NCLB law and how I came up with the name of this blog.

No Child Left Behind was enacted in 2001 in an attempt to revolutionize the American education system. There are many many things involved in this law, most notably (and much loved by the media) the idea that standardized testing will improve student performance. The theory is that no child should be left behind by public schools and that all children in this nation should have the opportunity to succeed in their learning. What is meant exactly by "success" and "learning" and "public schools," however, are up to different interpretations.

That's a great idea right? Making it possible for every single child to learn and grow and live to their potential? That kind of thing is rooted in the Constitution for crying out loud! Who won't get behind that? But the truth is, there are hundreds of thousands bordering on millions of children in this country being "left behind" daily. The kid who can't read in my 5th grade class (yes, I still consider them my students - I still consider my China students "my" students) is just one example. Our nation will continue to pass students into higher grades, even when they don't belong academically, because we don't want to leave them behind.

To me, we are doing these students a greater disfavor by moving them through the grades like that. What are we saying? That a kid who can't read can be shunted through the grades like a football even though he's not truly ready for it? That a kid who should be reclassified from EL isn't because the school will lose out on federal money, or maybe just to shelter the kid a little more because even though he has the academics and the English to be reclassified, there is still a huge gap originating in something more socio-anthropological that would cause him to fail anyway.

Now I'm getting into deep waters that I really don't have the authority to even fully understand. But the point is this: my 5th grade student who can't read is an awesome kid. He's smart and capable and has a lot to share in his community, and thus the world. His potential is astounding and just because he can't read doesn't mean he won't find positive success in his life. He's being left behind by a school system that won't take the time and effort to get his reading up to par. But he's also not being left behind because there are things going for him. Albeit these things originate from his own nature, and the school should spend more effort supporting his strengths as well as his weaknesses.

I chose the name, "This Child Left Behind," as a pun on NCLB and also as a joke on myself. I'm a first generation immigrant. I was born in Hong Kong from a family history of poverty and hard work and pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps. My parents blew their savings and whatever inheritance my dad's parents left to come to this country so my brother and I could live a better life with a chance at a better education. In a way, their goals were achieved. They were able to provide a nice home, a car, computers, cell phones, internet, travel and other enrichment opportunities to their children. They provided both their children with first-class educations, seeing them both through universities ranked within the world's top 40. We know multiple languages, mix nearly seamlessly in multiple cultures, play multiple instruments, have a firm understanding and appreciation for the sciences, maths, arts. I never felt the pinch of poverty as a child or a teenager, even though I know now, as an adult, the many sacrifices my parents made for my brother and me.

And yet, in the middle of my twenties, I have yet to even reach #2 in that list of traditional adulthood milestones. So despite all the fine opportunities handed to me on a silver platter, I haven't got much to show for it. And I know on an intellectual level that the list of traditional adulthood milestones is really an exception and not the rule, at least for my generation. That doesn't make me feel any less incompetent and left behind sometimes.

Still, you only leave someone behind if they end up stagnating in that one position. Being "left behind" doesn't happen when you get up and move because now, there is no one left in that spot anymore.

Sarah at Yes and Yes hints at the point my mind made as it was working on taxes and sleeping through the night. All those things she listed that make up a "traditional adulthood" and the people that achieve those things sometimes makes me terribly hung over about my own non-successes. That I'm being left behind too, because my peers are getting married, buying homes, advancing in their careers. Which are all really really good things.

But where I am at is a good thing too. Well, sort of. It's not a good thing in and of itself. It's a good thing because I have the will and outlook to make it so (I think). It's a good thing because I think it is so. Or at least *will* think it is so once I've got enough distance from the sucky part.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Putting it in the past

Long ago and far away...

Ok, one more entry about the global disaster that is my phase III student teaching and I'll be done.

Today was the last day I'll ever go to EIB in the foreseeable future. I had a little chat with the principal to make sure things are ok between the school and UTEC. Then I had my midterm evaluations with my CT and supervisor. Both of which did not go without tears on my part.

I was surprised and then not surprised that I got some pretty low scores on my midterm. Instruction and behavior management go hand in hand - or that's what my CT and supervisor kept saying. And I know that's true, but instruction, behavior management and the way the students react did not go hand in hand in my opinion. There's something missing here that I don't get. Well, I suppose I'll have six months to figure it out.

Saw some of my students today. C is this boy who would be my favorite student if, well, he wasn't so C. He's a great kid: smart, considerate of others, creative, hard working. He looked as sad as I felt when I told them I couldn't be their teacher any more. They all asked why. I said it just didn't work out.

Ok, that's all. Time to move onward and forward and upward. My CT and supervisor both said I belong in this profession, that I have many talents for it and I bring a lot to the future of education. I don't know about the "belonging" part; I guess I can't help by doubt myself. And I know they mean well, but I couldn't help but feel a little condescended to. How can I have anything to bring to the profession if I can't handle management?

Tomorrow is a new day. But I think I'm going to wallow a little bit more tonight.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Next gen

Things a blooming.

21st century education is a term I've heard tossed around recently. Not really in my urban education classes though, so I'm assuming this is a proletariat education movement. It sounds like one of those trendy, fast to grow, fast to die movements. Now I'm not for trendy things like that - I prefer the tried and true theories that have worked for ages and ages even if the name for it has changed over the years. But I read an article by a veteran teacher some time ago about the level and amount of talent present in the next generation of teachers. I agree, and not because I have a huge ego about my own talents as a teacher. The new teachers of today have so many mistakes to learn from that veteran educators and policy makers have left for them. There's a lot of talent, A LOT. And I'm honored to be counted within this group of up-and-coming teachers. We have a huge job ahead. I'm not going to call it 21st century education, but for lack of a better term right now it'll have to do.

CSUS Arts Resource Fair was yesterday. I went to the sessions on Taiko drumming, pop art using stencils and spray paint, patterns in movement and dance, and pulp paper art. They were all pretty fun, but by the time the third session rolled to a close I was ready to go home. I didn't even stay for the pulp paper art to the end, I just heard what the instructor had to say, made my sample art piece and left.

My favorite was definitely Taiko drumming. So exciting! And now that I don't have student teaching until September, I'm totally signing up for some beginner's classes for adults at the Sacramento Taiko Dan. I've seen them perform several times throughout the years and was always impressed by what they did. The hands-on experience yesterday cemented my positive impression of taiko.

I haven't told my family about my student teaching situation. They don't need to know just yet, and frankly I'm not sure how to break the news to them. It probably isn't as big a deal as I'm making it out to be. It's also not like they are paying for my tuition. But I'm certainly not completely independent yet, and the plan to become independent in May is not panning out the way I wanted it to. Just another case of how today's 20-somethings can't live up to the standard of living they've grown up with. My generation is the first generation since before WWII that have a lower standard of living than their parents. It's sad, but perhaps that is what today's American society needs right now to right our "road kill" sensibilities.

Just because my world doesn't revolve around student teaching doesn't mean I haven't been busy. I'm jumping back into YR and teaching art again. I'm on my way to sub. I'm definitely going to travel. There are many other things I'm definitely going to do. And hopefully, when fall arrives I'll be a wiser, stabler, more well-rounded person as well as a better teacher.

Friday, March 20, 2009

The Girl Who Doesn't Speak

P reminds me a little of Mei (or "Cho Ji" in the Cantonese version) - they are both a little on the whiny and volatile side, but sweet and pure child-like whimsy at the same time.

I can't express how thankful I am that I can continue to blog about education after this week. That I can still look forward to being in the classroom (just not THAT classroom), teaching, learning, having fun, enjoying the work that some consider to be the only profession nobler than medicine. There are definitely people out there who think I'm a loser teacher. But my cohortmates and friends have been overwhelmingly supportive and sympathetic - a couple of whom thinks I should file grievances against the university/teaching school for not advocating for me enough. I don't think I'll do it, just because I'm not the type of person to be all rampage-y like that for myself and also because I accept some of the blame. But it does tie into what I wrote about yesterday on the system on education and the education of pre-service teachers that is fundamentally not right, even if it isn't outrightly wrong.

But this entry isn't about that. It's about the joy of teaching. Yay! I can write about the joy of teaching again! Around this time last year, during phase I, I tutored a second grade girl, P, in reading for my literacy course. P is very special because, due to some tragic and traumatizing event in her young life, she has selectively chosen to be mute.

You can imagine the challenge it was for me, a greener than grass teacher, to get this kid to read when she doesn't even speak. On top of that, P missed a lot of days of school, including our tutoring days, regularly. I think I only met with her a total of five times during a twelve week semester (which meant I tutored two other students at the same time).

P loves Spongebob, particularly the squirrel. We had whiteboards and dry erase markers to write with during our tutoring sessions and she would constantly draw the characters from Spongebob on it as I read aloud to her. I never really understood what went on in her mind, because she didn't even write in conventional English. She had her own system of writing using a lot of o's, u's, m's, n's, e's, s's, and not much else so we couldn't even communicate in writing.

Anyway, today when I went into class at J.S., she apparently shot out of a classroom and ran in after me, sticking right on my back so that I didn't actually see her until I turned around fully. She had grown a good four inches since I last saw her close up a year ago, and she was just as shy as ever, hiding her face in her hands and hood. But she "talked" to me, which basically meant I asked yes or no questions and she nodded or shook her head with occasional hand gestures.

I found out that she wasn't particularly liking third grade. That she had been hanging out, outside the UTEC classroom on campus every day for awhile now, gearing up the courage to come in, I think, which she did today. She was sleepy this morning, but also felt good. And happy. She noticed I had a dry nose and had brought a box of tissues. I told her I was a sick. She touched a finger lightly to my collar bone. I looked down. She flicked her finger up at my face, careful to not poke me too hard. I laughed and repeated the joke back at her. She then proceeded to perform the same joke to all the other adults in the room that she was familiar with.

Then it was time for her to go to class. She hid behind my back, gripping the back of my shirt tentatively, gave me a hug, and ran off.

Would it be stretching it too much to take this as a sign that I'm still meant for this profession? Because I've been doubting myself, long before being withdrawn from my placement. Am I really a good teacher? Was the success I had last semester just a dream and now it's a nightmare? Would I join the statistics and become the one out of three teachers who quit after the first three years? Not even that, would I quit even before my career has even started?

Right now, I don't think so. And it took a third grade girl who doesn't speak to tell me that. I actually forgot all about her for the rest of the day because my head was so wrapped up in my own concerns. But when I pulled out my planner tonight, I saw this little sticker on the cover. It was a cartoon snake hissing out the word, "Sssuper!" I recalled that she was looking over my books and things that morning; she must have stuck the sticker on without me seeing it.

I may never see her again, since next week is our last class, but thank you P, from the bottom of my heart. You may never know how much you cheered up a teacher that only taught you for five days a full year ago. May you live a healthy and happy life.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times

Broken but not destroyed. Maybe.

St. Patrick's Day 2009 dawned, well, when I woke up Mr. Sun was still well off in the east so technically I didn't even get to see St. Patrick's Day dawn at all. I arrived at school at my normal time, 7am, which meant I had left the house by 6:15 if not earlier. I signed in, unlocked the classroom and got to setting things up for the day.

That day was the first day of benchmark testing so I had relatively little to do, but it was still plenty. My supervisor dropped by and said she needed to speak to me at the end of the day. I told her I had to go to the PACT class, but we had P.E. prep that morning and she was welcome to come and visit. She agreed.

The day started as normal, I led community circle and taught ELD. Then it was benchmarks. I was still sick, having started not feeling well on Friday, and it grew into a full blown sinus infection by Sunday, increasing in magnitude throughout Tuesday morning. It was difficult, to say the least, to get through teaching. Thankfully, the ELD group was relatively well behaved. I never had behavior problems with them. Which is why ELD was the highlight of my teaching days. Especially M. He's an awesome kid.

Then it was P.E. prep. My supervisor came in and immediately started a very serious conversation. She reiterated what had been going on throughout the semester so far in my classroom - how the students are not respecting me, how everything I've tried hasn't been working - and in fact have been working less and less as the semester progressed. That the situation has gotten so bad that major instructional time was being lost and that the principal was concerned.

At this point, I was just gearing up for what was coming. I could feel in my bones that it was not good.

Long conversation short (we took the entire prep time plus recess time), the decision was made between my CT, my supervisor, and the program coordinator that I would withdraw from phase 3 student teaching this semester. I'll still continue with my classes, and I could still come into the class to teach but officially I would not be a student teacher. Instead, I would repeat - well, not even repeat because I won't be finishing - in a different placement in the fall.

It's been two full days since the news broke and I'm still numbed by it. I know what my next steps are, I have a plan for the six months between now and when I resume student teaching (first of all, I have to pass my classes and the PACT). But I really don't know what to think about the situation.

My CT has repeatedly said that there were a lot of things stacked against me: the fact that he's male and I'm female and these students mainly come from cultures that respect males much more than females. The fact that this group pretty much goes off into mob chaos with nearly every other teacher on campus except with my CT. The fact that they know I'm a student teacher. The fact that this group seems to have issues dealing with transitions (they had a student teacher last semester too). The fact that my CT's style is polar opposite to mine. That I had felt uncomfortable at this school and in this placement from day one and I had never fully gotten into the groove of teaching there.

Frankly, I'm relieved. I've been neglecting my health, my family and friends, even my hygiene and household chores because of this incredible stress of student teaching. I'm typically a very organized person who likes things clean. I was not a very organized or clean person for the past 7-8 weeks. I'm mentally, emotionally, and physically drained and I only know this because I took yesterday off (why not? I've been withdrawn from this placement anyway) to get over being sick. I slept a good fifteen hours straight. Plus took a two hour nap in the afternoon. Then went to sleep again by 9. I did nothing but lounge around, take medication, drink gallons of tea, and once in awhile get up to putter around in a dream state.

I did manage to go to swim class, but I only swam for 35 of the requisite 50 minutes. And I only went because I'm failing that class too: I've been staying late after school so often that I managed to miss 9 swim classes. When only 6 are allowed to get a passing grade. The coach knows me as one of the best swimmers in his class and asked what was up. He was very nice about it, telling me he did his student teaching at CSUS too and knows what it's like, and allowed me to make up the three classes as an exception (because he only allows two make up classes in general).

I did realize, during my much needed day of rest, many many things about this career. First, it's supposed to get easier as I gain more experience, not harder like it has been this semester. My student teaching last semester was awfully difficult in the beginning as well, but at around the eighth week mark, it started becoming second nature to me. I didn't even have to do a lot of prep or planning after I got home from school. The fact that it was getting harder and harder indicated to me that I wasn't learning anything, let alone internalizing what I'm supposed to be learning. This was basically what my supervisor told me on Tuesday. I agree with her.

Second, was the thing I said above about not being comfortable at this placement. The whole "frat house" atmosphere, not just among the students but with the teachers as well, that surrounds my CT grated against my personality like nothing else. He was also very messy. I swear, the days when I could find a pencil that wasn't broken, or clean copy paper to print things on was an "organized" day in that room. He's a great teacher, don't get me wrong. And I did learn some things from him. But philosophically and stylistically, the two teachers in that room were not a well matched team. And as the junior, as well as the "permanent guest," I had little to no say about these things that are so important.

Which was probably why I wasn't very assertive as a teacher lately. And that was the one thing everyone seemed to say I didn't have set in my teaching. My lessons were well planned and well executed (when I managed to execute anything), my assessments of student needs were accurate, I used a wide variety of positive management as well as logical consequences, I stayed calm even when no one would blame me for blowing my top, I built relationships with students, I was professional in speech and demeanor, I knew the content in breath and depth as much as a teacher at a JC. But I showed signs of weakness and the students took advantage of that. I never am "convincing," as my CT calls it, when I don't feel at all comfortable in any situation. I usually shut my mouth, grin and bear it. I hate complainers, so I tried not to complain. I wish I did complain a little more, and if I had been more comfortable in my role I would have, and perhaps all of this could be avoided.

But I know that there is nothing on earth to prevent something from happening if it was meant to happen. Even if I complained more, who's to say I wouldn't haven landed in this situation anyway? Call it fate, call it God's will, call it predestination, call it course correction, whatever.

Third, there are many many many flaws to the California, and by extension the US, educational system. This piece is mind-blowingly huge. Like being on a ship and coasting up to the face of a sea glacier that towers above you, only to discover by radar that there's more where that came from. Like seeing Mt. Everest from a distance and being awed, then discovering that as you get closer to it that the previous feeling of awe was just the beginning. If it's hard for me to put words to what I've been thinking these past two days, then it's that much more supremely difficult to voice my opinions on this subject. So more on this later.

Anyway, the plan. I'm totally taking a vacation. Several vacations, if my wallet can handle it. I'm going to sub - I at least have that credential on my walls. I'm still on payroll at YR so I can teach art, although I won't do it as much as I did when I first started that job nearly two years ago. I'm going to travel. I'm going to read and write. I'm going to play tennis again! Wow, that's probably the one single thing I look forward to the most; I missed tennis so much! I chatted with another cohortmate who took a break after phase II last night and we're going to the beach next Thursday. =)

I'm going to take care of my health - as in see the dentist for the first time in forever! Finally book that optometrist appointment they've been after me to set up since November. I'm going to get rid of this sinus infection thing. I'm going to get a haircut, something else I haven't done since China. I'm going to call up friends and chat and catch up. I'm going to help take care of stuff again around the house because my parents are not as young as they were. I also worry for their mental deterioration - seriously, the signs point to both of them getting Alzheimer's within the next 10-15 years.

So in a way I'm relieved. I'm relieved that I don't have to hunt for full-time teaching job yet. Teaching may be recession-proof but full-time teachers are not wanted when there are subs to do the same thing for less. I would probably have ended up subbing for the first year after graduation anyway. Or ended up at a position and then get "pink slapped" in Spring 2010 and have to move to a different school again.

It sucks to have to withdraw, that I'm still certain. I hate failing. This has happened to me three times now - I was failing in some classes near the end of high school and college. Now I'm failing near the end of post-bacc. It's like I keep running out of stamina to last through any one stage in my education. It also sucks because it looks bad for UTEC. When a student teacher fails, it degrades the program's status in the eyes of principals, who might have second thoughts the next time the coordinator asks to put a student teacher at their school.

But I'm thankful too. Thanks to fellow EIB-er Bree for the shoulder and encouragement and for being the first at the scene and helping to pick up the pieces of my professional confidence. It isn't put back all together again, but it will after awhile. Thanks to Jeneka - I'm sooo looking forward to the beach! Thanks to G. for your perspective! Thanks to E for being you and your general plan-making self! Thanks to J for your words and your call today, even though I didn't get to actually talk. It happened while I was at school, during library time. Students laughed because I had my Vita-Soy chocolate milk commercial jingle in Cantonese as the ring tone. I laughed too.

And that's the one thing I'm going to miss about this class. I won't miss their boogersnottiness at all, but this class has an awesome sense of humor. They will never know how much I laughed and mocked them, just as they laughed and mocked me. Albeit, I think they were a little less benevolent in their mocking of me.

I went into school today not having a clear exit strategy, but I decided this morning during the social studies lesson that today would be my last full day at EIB. I still have to go in on Monday to do the midterm evaluation (which is pretty much pointless now, but anyway...), but that's only after school. I have other things to take care of now.

That Tuesday didn't end there. After the fateful meeting with my CT and supervisor, my left ear started to lose hearing and by 2pm it was like the entire left side of my head was stuffed with a wet pillow. I left school as early as I could to go to the campus health center. That experience in and of itself was a nightmare. I had to sign in on a plastic form, I had to wait FOREVER. They made me take a pregnancy test before they would address the ear pressure, which by this time was starting to meander over into my right side. The surly nurses didn't believe me that it was normal for my little red haired friend to visit only once every year or so. Of course they didn't believe me, it was a university health center after all. But they didn't have to be so hoity-toity about it. Poor girls who are actually pregnant and go there! My advice: don't. Just go somewhere else. Then, I was greeted upstairs in the clinic with a digital scrolling sign. Talk about cutting back on budgets and the growing dehumanization of the American healthcare system! I laughed out loud at the sign. People stared. I coughed up a phlegm ball. They stopped staring.

But the reception guy was nice and helpful. He showed me step by step how going to the health center works. And the P.A. that saw me was very nice and sympathetic towards me being fired from student teaching. And the amoxicillian she gave me started working the moment I took the first pill. I had to suffer another 24 hours before my ears finally popped, however, but my throat is feeling 100% better than previously. The drugs themselves were cheaper than curry fish balls from an HK street vendor.

Speaking of which, I wish I was there now. It's around 10 in the morning on Friday there. The traditional part of my cousin's wedding ceremony (the groom and groomsmen invading the bride's place with the bridesmaids playing tricks on them before letting them in, the tea ceremony with the bride and groom's parents, etc) should have started already. What a waste, I could have gone.

Well, now I have plenty of time to. I'm totally booking a flight for June through August.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Monday, March 16, 2009

I love surveys more than studying

Half full, half empty.

Using them as reflective questions on my own teaching doesn't hurt either. Got it from A Passion for Teaching

1. Teaching assignments, how long? Wait a minute, is this questions asking how long assignments given by the teacher should be, or how long each of my teaching experiences have been? I'm guessing the later. If it was the former, then it would be "student assignments." I've been providing private tutoring off and on since high school. More formally, my teaching experiences run like this:

St. Paul's College/HKU after-school Conversational English Program. 8 weeks or so.
Foreign English Teacher, SMBS. 1 year.
Young Rembrandts art instructor. 1.5 years.
1st grade student teaching placement, WB. 1 semester.
5th grade student teaching placement, EIB. 7 long weeks and counting.

2. Favorite Class Taught and Why? Most of my "good teaching days" occurred in 1st grade. Teaching English as a foreign language rocks. And not only because Engrish is hilarious.

3. Worst Class Taught and Why? Most of my "bad teaching days" have occurred in 5th grade so far. If I survive in this career long enough, I'll look forward to having a class even more difficult than this one behavior-wise.

4. Favorite Class Taken? The History of Mathematics, Probability Theory, Euclidean Geometry, Intro to Proofs (with Sallee, NOT that other dude), and all my Chinese classes at UCD. Chinese Music at HKU. Mr. Griley's English Comp and Ms. Landucci's AP Calculus at LHS.

5. Favorite Education Book? Technically, all books are about being educated in one way or another. I really enjoyed Kaleidoscope: Readings in Education by Ryan and Cooper. It's full of stories from the trenches.

6. Best Teacher Buddy? It's amazing how many people I know who are in the education field - a dozen from just a five second head count! Not including the people I met after I got into UTEC. Everyone in UTEC with me are awesome. Shout outs to AL and JMC as well.

7. Best Administrator? My experiences with administrators are little to nonexistent. I suppose an ideal administrator to work with, IMO, is one that balances being hands-on-hands-off well. Approachable and supportive of what goes on in the classroom, but also allows teachers breathing space for creativity. I'll be more specific with this as I develop a better understanding of the administrator's role.

8. Most Disappointing Experience? Haha, I'm living through it right now. It's so frustrating to know this class is manageable. Just not by me apparently.

9. Most Thrilling Moment? This is a tie between the moment a kid almost tossed his cookies at my feet before I rushed him outside with a hall pass and the order not to come back until he gets his business done in the bathroom and the moment a kid threw a golf ball up at the ceiling and broke a florescent light.

10. Funniest Incident in Your Classroom? Oh my goodness, there are so many! The time I kept walking into a class when it wasn't time for me to teach it yet. The time I kept knocking this portable whiteboard over until it finally broke. This adorable first grader who got so excited about getting his words right that he fell out of his chair. The kid who wrote, "My tears fall like rain on dry cement," and he WOULD NOT STOP TALKING ABOUT IT. Thank God my sense of humor is still intact throughout this horrendous phase III.

11. Most memorable student? I have a lot for this one too. The kid who looks like a girl but is really a boy. But he REALLY looks like a girl. The first grader who says, "Uh-oh," in this most endearing way. The fifth grader who loves Anne of Green Gables. This other fifth grader who has serious ADHD issues but is the sweetest, brightest, most observant kid and who reminds me of a first grader in a good way. That is if he isn't bouncing off the walls and dancing to the soundtrack in his head.

12. What about unions? Um, they send you magazines a lot? It's nice to have liability and life insurance for $30 a year though. I don't know, this is another facet of the field that I'm not very knowledgeable in.

13. What about charter schools? Like every other school, it just depends. There are serious craptastic charter schools. And then there are charters schools light years ahead of everyone else.

14. What about merit pay? I'm all for it. Teachers deserve a little extrinsic reward for working in a field that seems to only provide intrinsic ones. What I'm not for is penalizing schools and teachers for poor student performance on high stakes tests by taking funding and salaries away. THAT is so not cool. And if it comes to the point of decreasing a teacher's salary for poor performance, then honey, it's time to fire that teacher and get a new, improved one.

15. What does "21st century learning" mean? I've never heard of it. But then I've never heard of a lot of things. It seems like another one of those catchy, trendy educational terms that people change the name of every ten years or so but it really means the same thing as before.

16. What makes a teacher "effective?" The ability to engage students in a positive social and academic atmosphere of learning and respect for all.

17. Most overrated "reform?" High stakes testing. Although technically, this subject has gotten pretty low ratings across the board. Unless you're a politician that is.

18. Best professional development? Observing other teachers and self-reflection.

19. Personal education hero? Maria Montessori. Tiny chairs rock!

20. Priorities, if you could spend $5 billion on education? In this order: teacher training including instructional/content/pedagogy/etc development, providing teachers with lesson study cycle opportunities, more teachers (lower student:teacher ratio), reinstating arts, sciences, and physical education to a higher status, updating facilities and buildings. All of these at high-needs schools first. Maybe only, since non-high-needs schools probably already have these things in place.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

What a pressure cooker looks like

Add students behaving completely inappropriately, a career that hasn't even begun on the line, stir, and enjoy.


From CT who expects creative, innovative lessons.

From supervisor who expects complete classroom control.

From students who take every opportunity to test me.

From EIB which constantly calls my room when I'm in the middle of a lesson and whom get cranky if I don't manage to have the chairs stacked up at the end of the day.

From professors and the university because these are graduate courses.

From the state of California for making pre-service teachers jump through more difficult hoops every day.

From the economy because it's crap and education jobs are scarce, no matter what they say about it being a recession-proof career.

From the grossness that accumulates when I choose to work on lesson planning and studying than on household chores.

From my own body which is wearing down.

From the inside of my head which came to the stage of break-down today.

From myself because I know I can be above this.

Seven down. Ten more to go.


A good cry, a hot shower, some humorous perspective later: RESOLVE. I. Will. Not. Fail. Damn it. I overcame Dr. P.P.W. Wong and HKU; I will overcome this.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Spring Forward

Beach! Totally not what I am doing right now.

I just spent the past 3 hours trying to make a 310 MB video clip into something less than 100 MB without sacrificing decent quality because I won't get credentialed without it even though I'm not required to do it.

And yes, that last part was on purpose.

Oxymorons abound in this profession. We are supposed to give everything we have to help these kids learn, yet make enough "me-time" to stay sane. We are supposed to save school money, yet more often than not teachers dip into their own personal funds to enrich the classroom environment with special activities. We are supposed to advocate and teach life-long learning but many teachers either don't find the time/energy or choose not to continue their own education.

I got an email from SDUSD yesterday saying that they would be willing to interview me whenever I happen to be around in town. J&S? Can I visit you during spring break? It's the first interview offer I've received. Which means I should get cracking on my letters of recommendation. I have enough references, but no actual letter on an actual letterhead.

REM: copy RICA official score report as well as my CPR card and mail to the college of ed.

Should I stay up longer tonight to upload my video and send Task 3 to Dr. L? Yeah, maybe. I might as well do something productive if I can't sleep. If I do end up in SD over spring break, I'm going to spend one day in interview mode and the rest in vacation mode.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

We aren't that different after all

The Mexican Electric Slide - Room 14 version.

Techno rave club - SMBS, China version.

I'm not crazy for seeing similarities, right? Right?!

Monday, March 2, 2009


Feeling like a triumphant Bonta-kun. Photo from here.



Yeah!  Eat that California Commission on Teacher Credentials!