Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Evaluations make me puke

It's midterm season, which means performance evaluations. Which, restating the obvious here, make me puke.

I, frankly, am not very good at evaluating myself. The things that stand out to me - and seem important to me - are not exactly important to anyone else. In particular my CT, my supervisor, the university, the school, etc. Who, by the way, are the ones who decide whether I am competent enough to teach the public's children.

Another example. I think I'm good at some things, my CT has an opposite view. I think I'm not so good at some things, and once again, my CT has an opposite view. So far, I'm just getting confused.

My evaluation of myself, this time around, was a lot harder than what my CT gave me. I'm still not particularly confident yet, for a variety of reasons. Sure, I can rock an art lesson. This week I had spectacularly awesome art teaching (from my point of view, of course). But handling a full day classroom? I'm shaking in my teacher "power shoes," which, ironically, are supposed to give me more confidence.

I am the teacher. i AM the teacher. i am THE teacher. i am the TEACHER.

But just because I am, doesn't mean I'm good at it. And I want to be good at it. I thought I had talent for teaching, but now I'm not so sure. Which confuses me more because my grading of myself isn't to be trusted, apparently.

Oh well. I guess I'm still only good at eating, sleeping, and getting distracted. Right now, I'm cool with that.

Friday, October 23, 2009

A time of reflection

Like looking at an old, black and white photo.

I'm currently waiting for my one-on-one conference with the professor about our most recent paper. Not particularly in the best of attitudes, since, in my opinion, she wasted a lot of time doing these one-on-ones in the first 45 minutes of class while everyone else waited around doing nothing.

Anyway. This week has been a week of reflection. And not just because my paper is about blogs and teachers and critical and descriptive reflections. But I would like to say that I'm not critical of myself enough on this blog. Which I will try to change. Maybe. There are some criticisms I'm not particularly willing to share with the entire cyberworld. I wish teenagers (and adults too) would learn a bit more restraint on the internet themselves.

It's been a tiring week, but a good week. My lessons were decent. My CT, who proclaimed to give me miles and miles worth of notes during my teaching hasn't really given me that much feedback this week. Not sure if that is a bad thing or a good thing. Maybe it's just a neutral thing. We have been extremely busy this week.

I'm pretty sure I will be taking a leave of absence from the MA program in January. First, I'll need to find a job. Second, this potential job may or may not be in the Sacramento metro area. Third, I'm pretty sure my job will take up 150% of my time. The things I do in my classroom now are only things on the surface - I've taken on most of the teaching but my CT still handles the logistics, scheduling, parents, and a myriad of other things. I'm surprised any one teacher can handle the teaching job on their own.

Job comes first. MA can wait. This doesn't mean I won't be studying on my own. Even if I don't have online access to the university library and database (but maybe I will if I subscribe to the alumni association...either the UC or CSU one is fine), I can still physically go to a university library on a free Saturday and read, bring photocopies home. There are also tons of articles in my files from these past two years that I haven't had a chance to properly study using my own sweet time yet.

Last word: still lots to learn. But I need to contribute something outside of academia now.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Movie day

Site of movies such as The Dark Knight, Push, Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun Li, and whole bunch more.

It's the end of Unit 1 in Open Court and we are watching a movie on cooperation and competition. My CT chose Remember the Titans, which fits really well with the theme.

I originally wasn't so hot on the idea of showing movies in class. It seems like a cop out to me. And students get so much TV at home anyway, they don't really need more in school.

But the choice of movie can make the activity sink or spectacular. I like pretty much anything by National Geographic, Lonely Planet or Globe Trekker, and the movies that match with whatever topic we are studying.

My all time favorite is Donald Duck in Mathmagicland. This movie was made before I was born, probably, but it is still awesome. Math never goes out of style.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Why I told your child, "It might be necessary to staple your mouth shut."

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Dear Parents,

I know your job is tough. I know you have to juggle a lot of things. And I know you want the best for your child. But it is NOT necessary to do any of these things, in any order:

a) provide your oldest child, the only boy, with art lessons. And leave your four daughters with no enrichment activities whatsoever.

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b) encourage your child to talk a person into insanity. Sometimes, it is ok to tell your child to shut up. They need to learn this. Period.

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c) ask me, not in a questioning way but in a "I'm just making sure" way, if I intended to give the weekly art prize to a different student each week. For the record, yes, I do. And FOR GOODNESS SAKE IT'S ONLY THE SECOND WEEK OF THE SESSION. You don't have to show your disappointment that your child didn't win the prize yet in such a public and deep way. Frankly, your behavior hurts your child is more damaging ways than me not choosing him for the prize this week.

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d) FOR GOD'S SAKE DO NOT DRAW YOUR CHILD'S ART FOR HIM. It's like doing his school work for him, because you think "he has too much pressure already." This is definitely a parent-fail in this teacher's book.

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Because, you know, it's a little sad that Fail Blog has an entire section devoted to you.


An Annoyed and Tired Teacher

Monday, October 19, 2009

Media Mondays: Add some fun

I may be the last person on the face of the planet to have seen this, but it's pretty awesome. Volkswagon decides to make stairs into a piano in order to coerce people into walking instead of using the escalator. Quite a clever idea.

Which brings me back to the classroom. I'm having enormous fun (outside of the sinus infection and being called to other teacher's rooms to watch their class while they use the restroom on rainy day schedules because I'm the "extra teacher" which also apparently means I'm a jack-of-all-trades). It seems like the students are too. We played a decimal number writing game, we do a lot of group work, and there's lots of jokes flying around during instruction.

I've heard people say that I'm lucky to afford to have fun with what I do for a living. Some people go so far as to tell me that's ALL I do - have fun. I'm not belittling the fact that I am one of the lucky ones, but my optimistic side refuses to think people who work in more routine jobs can't have fun too.

Case in point: teaching can sometimes be a real drag. If you let it. I let it go there last semester. It was definitely not fun, and look where it landed me. Repeating phase III student teaching.

Case in point #2: the janitor at my school is always having fun, or so it seems like. He has a smile on his face, a bouncy step, and he likes to whistle. Plus, he is the most efficient janitor I have ever met. I've met quite a few both in schools and at the dairy lab when I was a lab rat. Janitorial work is thankless, tough, gross, and low-paying. Thus, many janitors have low morale and cut corners. A lot. The dude HAS to have fun to make him go about so cheerful and be so efficient.

I personally add a little fun to my day every day. Again, I have it easy because I have a rabbit, friends to call and chat, hobbies to enjoy, family to rile up in arguments at dinner. Not everyone has that, I know. And making things fun out of nothing fun is tough too. I've been there as well. So I guess I understand. But I don't particularly sympathize with people who complain about life being boring when all they do is just wait around for the fun to come to them.

In this profession, I can't afford to NOT have fun. I'll burn out before Thanksgiving.

Saturday, October 17, 2009


Like sometime rising up out of a pit.

Just barely. Had a close shave with another sinus infection - second one this year. I'm still getting over the tail end of it. Luckily it didn't last three weeks this time, thanks in part to Nyquil. Still, I need more sleep and am not looking forward to getting up early tomorrow.

Lots of things to do, with a crunch for time. Story of my life as a student teacher. I like it and I don't like it at the same time. It reminds me of how students need structure and stability in their lives. I need the structure of paper deadlines and lesson plan due dates. I don't like it at the same time because I've grown to enjoy working at my own pace. Which can sometimes be much slower than the prescribed deadlines.

Every day has been a good teaching day. Well, at least there hasn't been a bad teaching day this semester so far. ::crosses fingers:: I'm sure there will be one soon. This group of kids is just too good. You have to pay them to misbehave in a big way. Of course there are little things like talking out of turn, getting out of their seats, being over excited and knocking things down. But they quickly get back in focus and no one has questioned my authority in a resentful manner. Very polite kids, very logical, reasonable students who care about and are decent to other people. Great kids over all.

I'm having issues with teaching two maths to two groups of students at the same time. Enough said for now. Partly because I don't even want to think about it right now. It gives me a headache on top of the one from the sinus pressure.

Thinking about my future and what I'll be doing once I'm finally done with this program. In in the MA program at CSUS too, but with the way things are I'm leaning towards transferring the credits elsewhere. Thinking about job hunting (bad), thinking about money and professional development and my life goals as well as career goals. So much to think about. Still, I'm forcing myself to push these items aside until the tasks immediately in front of me are complete.

But life is good so far. I'm at peace with where I am, satisfied with where I'm going, and glad I did the things I did in the past. Right now, I'm happy with that.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Like a garden path that has to end somewhere.

Well, that was a good run. Six months of one-post-a-day, but of course it had to end sometime. Not that I've quit blogging. On the contrary, just as I was starting to run out of ideas, the education world vomits a whole slew of things into my lap for consideration. As if I was the only person to consider them.

Recent events

a) A big rig decided to flip over in the middle of my route to school yesterday morning. It took me over 2 hours, when the morning commute usually takes 45-50 minutes. I was So. Freaking. Late. Luckily, this happened during student teaching when it doesn't really matter because I'm not the sole adult in the room. Still, it wasn't exactly a good start to the day.

b) Related to a), my personal goal of living within a 10 minute walk from my workplace is re-ignited.

c) Just as I got to school, and just as I got started teaching, I was called to the kindergarten room. To cover for the kindergarten teacher. Because the kindergarten teacher had a meeting with the principal. This, in my eyes, is so not cool. At the time, I didn't mind, but being taken out in the middle of teaching a new segment I just picked up this week, not being able to experience that, or get feedback from my CT, that SUCKS. I totally brought this up with my supervisor. Let's hope it doesn't happen again.

d) We got a new student! My CT is not so happy about this change because they just called him down (right before they called me) and plopped a new student in our class without prior notice. When our class was already at 27 enrollment and the other two fifth grade classes were at 25 each. Where is the even distribution here?

e) Some days I love teaching art. Some days I'm ready to leave it for something new. Yesterday was a good art teaching day.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Our generation, your generation

Image from: 24 Free Dinners - the most awesome gathering of inspiring/stupid/hilarious/thoughtful/down-right-hip images ever.

Dear students,

It's not your fault until you know better. So sit back, relax, work hard, enjoy life. Some of us old fogies don't trust you, not because of anything you've done but because they've had some very unpleasant experiences.

Or because they are negative people anyway.

Or because they feel helpless and hopeless themselves.

Or just because they are cranky and old.

But some others of us old fogies believe in you. We're on your side, so when you become an old fogy yourself, you'll be smarter. Ganbatte.


Ms. Ng

P.S. But if you STILL mess up after you know better, this teacher's "evil teacher eye" will haunt you to your dying day.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Standards Sundays: Grade 5 listening and speaking strategies

For some reason, it seems like fountains are good listeners.

Listening and speaking sometimes are rather "soft" academic content areas, which makes teachers cut corners around these things. But students need to listen everyday, and hopefully have at least one formal speaking assignment per week.

Here's what 5th graders are supposed to know/show by the end of the school year in this area:

* ask questions not already discussed
* interpret speeches - verbal AND nonverbal
* make inferences based on oral reports.
* make oral presentations that have a focus (topic sentence), supporting evidence, and engage the audience with voice and posture
* identify, analyze, and critique persuasive techniques
* analyze media sources for entertainment, information, persuasiveness, etc

Listening and speaking really should be infused into everyday lessons. Asking questions is really something that should occur in every single lesson, not just language arts. I really like how my CT makes our students speak as a group in front of the class - while everyone listens respectfully. I would like to bring that up a level and have the audience write questions to ask of the speakers. With some careful guidance, we can get a decent debate going.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Sanity and teaching

CT: Hey, listen to this (reads from a quick write response), "I think it is a good thing because it is good and it will be good."
Me: So she means, "Good things are good now, and will be good later?"
CT: When it comes down to this point, I've usually stopped trying to make sense out of it and just laugh.

I've heard teachers say they never crack a smile until Christmas. I used to agree with that, and then I disagreed with that, and now I'm on the fence. As a relatively young teacher, I think my students expect me to laugh a little. If I don't, I somethings get the feeling that they think I'm a stick-in-the-mud and thus lose a little respect for me.

Ok, so I'm not sure if that's true. It certainly isn't a scientific observation - just something my "teacher gut" tells me at certain times.

I like laughing. I like laughing with my students. I like laughing at my students. My CT and I do all the time - although we don't let the students know. I like ending a day that is so bad it makes me cry with a laugh.

Because that's how I stay sane doing this insane job. That's how I deal with educational law and policy that makes me do 10 hours worth of instruction in 5.5 hours time. That's how I handle being given thousands of dollars worth of teacher's manuals and yet not be provided with pencils or paper or a classroom that doesn't leak rain in during the winter and turn into a broiler in late summer/early spring. It's how I can still feel that this job is worth it even when I'm blamed for my students low test scores - these same students who are children of migrant workers and have been in school an average of 2 full years by the time they are ten years old; students who were alcohol fetal syndrome babies; students with learning/physical/cognitive disabilities; students who have no concept of what "humor" is in their first language, let alone English; students who find gang activity as common as Saturday morning cartoons.

So if you ever see me having something that looks like a hysterical fit, don't be alarmed. I'm not crazy, I'm just a teacher.

Friday, October 9, 2009

Courses: P.E. and VAPA

The art of calligraphy - I really admire the dude who drew this one, it looked really nice.

My credential has many things built into it to comply with NCLB regulations. Two of these many things include the fact that I can teach elementary physical education AND visual and performing arts (VAPA).

What does this mean? Nothing really for a typical self-contained classroom teacher. We don't exactly have the time for P.E. or VAPA. But I am qualified to apply for P.E. and art teacher positions in the K-6 grades.

As if the typical schools I work at have the resources to hire an additional art teacher. We barely have P.E. once a week, since we share our P.E. teacher with another school.

Yep. We have to SHARE teachers. Like we share nurses, guidance counselors (which are pretty much non-existent at the elementary level), reading coaches, speech instructors, and resource teachers (i.e. special ed).

If you are boggling at the sheer number of support staff that today's schools need to run itself, well, I was in your shoes not too long ago. You'll get over it.

Anyway, I find it incredibly funny, in the sarcastic way, that I'm qualified to teach P.E. after a one-day seminar on games and sports. I find it equally sarcastically funny that I'm qualified to teach VAPA after a two-day seminar on making pulp paper, Taiko drumming, and interpretative dance.

As a professional, I'm also responsible for developing my content knowledge as well as pedagogy in these areas throughout my career. Which I'm ok with, even if my school can't reimburse me for my efforts. I whole-heartedly believe in life-long learning, and modeling this skill does help me be a better teacher.

All I'm saying is, those are low standards yo. Low standards indeed.

I also have to be honest that I wouldn't be so vocal about it if it significantly increased my chances of getting a job in December.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

The class "Eager Beaver"

Not a beaver, but close enough.

I've never met a student "eager beaver" until my current class came along. Wow. What a different world teaching this student is.

He likes to echo the teacher. He likes to get ahead with assignments - no matter how poorly he did in the one he *thinks* he just finished. He likes to tell his peers what to do.

I'm using "he" here, but of course it's not limited to males.

This kid may likely develop OCD tendencies as he gets older. Was I like this too? It's a little insane at how much he wants to move forward, checking off a list for the sake of checking off a list. Like a bulldozer. It's difficult to teach him to be patient, enjoy the moment, and go back and fix his mistakes.

But I suppose life will teach him these things much better than I ever can.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

A token economy

For some students, school is about as appealing as this dish of vegetables - whether appealing in a good way or the not so good.

My current classroom uses a token economy as part of a behavior/academic motivator. It was never my intention to use a token economy in my own classroom, but now I'm not so sure. There's a lot of structure that can be built in, plus it helps me to keep track of who is motivated and who isn't.

People need extrinsic motivation. The goal for students is to develop their own intrinsic motivators, but over all, people need something from the outside to push them forward. Money. Fame. Praise. Recognition. Love. Respect. Technically, these are all extrinsic.

What are intrinsic motivators then? Plain old wanting to do something just for the sake of doing something. For knowing that it's a worthwhile thing to do even when you don't get any benefit back from it. Other than a sense of self-worth that is.

I've had professors say that intrinsic motivators should be the only thing in the classroom. I'm not so sure about this. I prefer a balance of both. It's not that they don't have any intrinsic motivators, it's just that the intrinsic motivators that they DO have are aimed towards something other than high academic achievement, or working well with others, or a good work ethic. They have intrinsic motivators for being lazy, watching more TV than reading, and fueling selfish goals for selfish reasons.

I like the token economy, mostly because that's how the world works. You do something to gain something. No, of course that's not an ideal world. But what exactly is an ideal world and how do we get there? Step-by-step, I think, and turning those motivations outside in.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Back to school night #2

Last week, I experienced my second back-to-school night as a teacher. It was pretty fun. GE is one of those schools that has a high parent involvement percentage. And by parent involvement percentage, I mean at least 75% of them attend back-to-school night.

Out of my class of 28 students, 19 students' parents/family showed up. That was a number I didn't see at WB. It's probably a number that wouldn't happen often at EIB either. GE is an awesome school like that.

But there were some unhappy parents too. Mainly because they don't like the fact that we are teaching 5th grade social studies and science to both the 5th and 6th graders. Which is understandable, I would be angry too if that happened to my kid.

I would also raise some money to hire another teacher to relieve this problem as well. At least a part-time social studies/science teacher, if not a full-time, contracted one. There are crazy things happening with this district, and parents aren't the only ones who are unhappy about it.

I had a positive experience with back-to-school nights so far. Enough so that I'm willing to do more than just give my own classroom spiel to my students' parents. The local Jamba Juice decided to sponsor our back-to-school night this year. Which was awesome and hilarious at the same time. There's a thesis idea in the works over this concept in my head.

Monday, October 5, 2009

A vision of students today

This is pretty cool and thought provoking.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Standards Sundays: Grade 5 written and oral English language conventions

Bits and pieces waiting to be put together.

This set of standards is basically the nuts and bolts to writing and speaking English. All the little things that make English what it is. My current class does something called "Standards Plus," which is one of the most boring things on the face of the planet. But effective. Because we work on one concept for eight mini-lessons (one each day), and then we do an assessment to summarize.

I hate teaching Standards Plus, to be honest. But it's fifteen minutes that is worth it because students are less daunted by writing assignments. They can handle the parts, it's just putting it all together that gets tricky. Without the parts though, they wouldn't have any place to begin.

These standards are:

a) correctly using prepositional phrases, appositives, and independent and
dependent clauses.
b) correctly using transitions and conjunctions to connect ideas.
c) correctly using irregular verbs, modifiers, and pronouns.
d) correct usage of colons and quotation marks.
e) correct capitalization.
f) spelling and using affixes, roots, contractions, and syllable constructions.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

A day in a life #3

4:55 AM - Stupid alarm.

5:15 AM - Morning bunny time makes me happy.

5:30 AM - Must eat a LARGE breakfast or else I will die from hunger.

5:55 AM - Commute.

6:35 AM - Still commuting.

7:20 AM - STILL commuting.

8:00 AM - First bell.

11:30 AM - LUNCH! And I finally get to pee! Life is good at this moment.

12:25 PM - Computer lab prep. I love prep.

1:55 PM - Bye kids! Time to correct papers, lesson plan, organize, clean, and prep for the next day.

2:45 PM - Teacher's turn to go home.

4:30 PM - I lied! Master's course: Pluralistic and Multicultural Societies in Education

7:20 PM - Now I get to go home. Yay!

10:17 PM - Dies on floor. Bunny steps all over my dead body looking for carrots.

Friday, October 2, 2009

So far so good

All blue skies and palm trees.

Phase 3 take 2 is going well. My teaching can be improved of course, but overall I'm getting decent reviews from all those who are reviewing my performance.

The MA classes are going splendid. The volume of difficult and dense readings can be intimidating upon first glance, but I'm into it by at least the second page. And I'm retaining a lot more information than I thought I would after just the first read. The assignments are fun and challenging and intellectually rewarding. I was so apprehensive about going into the master's for such a long time and now my brain is all, "You worrywart, all that anxiety was for nought!" My brain has also been using more academic, and slightly British, words like "nought" and "astonishment" and "bothered." This is not a bad thing.

After school art has been going well. I cut back on my classes a little, more so because I can't be in Sac at 2:10 PM and magically appear in Manteca fifteen minutes later than because I don't want more classes. But the classes I do have are going well. I have some really fun stories from these students too.

Life has been going well. I'm excited about many personal pet projects and potential social events in the near future. Momiji has made home life go much smoother - having a pet makes you live longer and happier, it's scientifically proven. There are still inconsistencies and things I'm not completely satisfied with. But we all need goals, right?

And now I've probably jinxed it.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The Number Devil

By Hans Magnus Enzensberger. Illustrated by Rotraut Susanne Berner. Translated by Michael Henry Heim.

Of course the coolest book about math was originally written in German. Of course.

The number devil appears to this kid one day and brings him through a journey involving primes, Fibonacci numbers, geometry, calculus, and even topology in an effort to make the kid a number devil advocate.

This book presents math in a way that is simple enough for elementary students to get, but interesting enough for at least this math major to get into. It's not something I would have my students read from cover to cover - unless they want to. But I can definitely see taking certain chapters and integrating it into the mandated math curriculum.

Great read. I wish I had time to finish this book. I read it near the end of my summer vacation and didn't get a chance to really spend quality time with it - only skimming. Still, I saw enough to warrant further studying here.