Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Just another day, just another thought

I'm liking small group teaching more and more. It seems like we get more stuff done in the same amount of time. Also, there's a lot more flexibility with small groups.

Small, as in 4-6 students. Some teachers consider groups of 8-10 as "small," which is small compared to teaching 30 all at once. But it's not THAT small.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Unabashed self-promotion

I'm listed here. Wow, first time to be put on one of these lists. Crazy, because a whole bunch of the other blogs listed are my regular reads that I look up to.

The weird stuff just keeps happening, doesn't it? Happy-weird, I mean.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Media Mondays: Validation

I like this. It's funny, and sweet, and sad, and cute.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Trying to be more positive

I've been told my writing on this blog is too negative. Which has been true - I re-read the past month's entries, and yep, it's a lot of negativity.

I apologize for that. I'll work on turning that frown upside down.

Also, in my defense, I haven't been ALL sad faces ALL the time. Although, I suppose a lot of my sarcasm can seem really cold/cruel on the screen, without facial expressions and non-verbal language to make the punch line. This needs work as well. When jokes don't translate from the page to the reader, then the writing wasn't very good to begin with.

Still, I want to keep it real too. Real. Positive. Constructive. Better writing. Goals for this blog.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Mediocre teaching days and Tim Gunn

Don't know if it's worse to have clear separation of good and bad teaching days or not.

On Thursday, I taught a parks & rec sponsored art class. Ten students, ages 6-10, cartooning. It had been about four weeks since I last taught an art class like this. Last week's demo class with forty-four 2-4 year olds was a completely different animal.

This group, mainly boys, were a bright group. They were personable, easily melded to my class rules, and had a sense of humor. All in all, potentially a teacher's dream class.

Until about three-quarters of the way through the hour when things started to get a little hairy. Three-quarters into an hour long class is not the best time for things to get hairy. I had made a mistake too: I introduced the "framing" part of the lesson too late, and thus I had a whole bunch of students claiming they were done and I was scrambling to get them to see how they were not done all while stapling and passing out construction paper.

I should have also described what a "finished" piece of art looked like - I tend to not do this part on the first day of art class because I want to see the level of the student's natural work, as well as to keep things light and not intimidate anyone with overbearing demands of, "No, the sky is NOT white."

I managed to quell tantrums and kept students working until clean up time, but it was one of those mediocre teaching days when nothing went terribly wrong, but nothing went awesomely swell either. Rather disappointed in myself. I've been able to make the first class exciting and fun pretty much all the time this past year. It sets the right tone for the session, since not everyone likes art, or is motivated to push themselves to do well.

I can hear Tim Gunn saying that line from season two, "Your work so far as been quite lackluster." Today was a lackluster day. Eh.

On a lighter note: how awesome is Tim Gunn as an instructor? I know squat about making clothes, or Tim Gunn's professional history for that matter, but from what I can tell, he seems like one of those authoritative teachers who get automatic respect from students who aren't even in his class.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Field trip Fridays: bookstores

Deceptively small exterior.

A bookstore? For a field trip? Are you crazy? Well, it can't be just any bookstore. There has to be some sort of structure - perhaps a bookstore event. Perhaps the trip should coincide with a reading, or a book signing. Or some sort of fundraising maneuver. A community get-together.

Or it can just be a crazy bookstore, like Powell's in Portland. The world could do with a few more of those.

Thinking outside the box for field trip ideas. Anyone got any good ones?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Paying dues and comparison

Apples? More like toast and oranges.

Well. I've calmed down a bit since yesterday. Fretting less, especially after some inside info given by a very nice HR person. Asking questions is awesome.

Thought #1: I know I'm pretty whiney about this whole job thing. It's hard not to be, especially when I'm starting to dislike teaching because the job hunt has been so fruitless. But I've got it better than 90% of the planet. So just suck it up and keep plugging along, Emo-Self-Pitying-Self.

Thought #2: At the same time, there are people who have it "better" than me. Not that they don't have problems, but they are teaching and I'm not. A lot of them started teaching after I did too! What have I been doing wrong? How did they manage to get it right, seemingly effortlessly? Is it just the anomaly that SCUSD? Because most of them got jobs through their student teaching placements - for places like social studies, and elementary; placements that, according to the Department of Labor's Occupational Outlook Handbook has had "adequate" teachers for the past 10+ years! When I've been applying to the same elementary, and the "high need" math areas and I've got squat. Did I not ask the right people? Was I not forward enough? So many questions comparing my slow-developing-so-much-more-to-travel path to teaching and these younger-than-me-but-further-along-their-path people I know. So very few answers.

Thought #3: Which leads me to this: I compare WAY too much. I need to look at the absolutes more than the relatives. Just like how I look at the absolutes in academic performance of my students. Are their multiplication tables at 100%? If not, where are they? How can they get a little higher? I don't say things like, "Johnny is better than Diego at math." That doesn't tell me anything about how well Johnny OR Diego is doing in math. So stop fretting! Quit thinking so much about how "behind" you are!

You've done this much. You are here. Your next few steps are these. The end goal is something like that. And by the time you reach it, you will probably have thought up a newer, end goal to chase after.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

When information doesn't match up with reality

Justice and Truth. Let's have some of that please.

Ok. Here's the thing. I've been reading articles, and listening to NPR and the like, and all of them are touting things like, "US education jobs are on the rise!" "There's going to be a great demand for teachers in the next few years!"

Except that many of these articles were written pre-2007. Well, a few years have passed since then. What happened? Sure, the recession happened. And many teachers are deciding not to retire just yet. And budgets got cut. And even the good, veteran teachers, loyal to their district and school for neigh on 10 years have their jobs threatened.

But still. I don't get it. Those articles were saying things were good, and will probably get better. Were they just wrong in their predictions? Is there something they didn't see, that no one saw? And, my most pressing question: why on earth are those "decent job outlook" statistics still floating around in the 2009 US Department of Labor Occupational Outlook Handbook? Shouldn't they be more honest and say instead, "Right now, we are all screwed?"

I'm starting to hate hope. Hope disappoints. Realism prepares you for action.

I think the one thing I'm most annoyed at is that I'm being told - by interviewers, professors, colleagues, the media, politicians, non-education people and education people alike - that students NEED teachers like me. Students need teachers who are energetic, and have new ideas, and revamp the old ones to make it work for the generation growing up now, and are creative, and hard working, and CHEAP. I know students need teachers like me, and all the wonderfully talented and qualified teachers out there. Teachers with potential to grow and develop the craft into sophistication. Because let's face it, not matter how many Smart Boards get made and implemented, the profession of teaching has not changed all that much since even the time of Socrates.

So we're needed. We're wanted. BUT THERE IS NO PLACE FOR US. No solid space, on solid ground, without the fear of having it be taken away by spring time and the hunt for a professional home starts all over again. No security of not having to stress about my own future, as well as the future of my students. Not even a promise that IF (and that's a big IF) we find a place, that we'll be treated fairly, that we won't have to buy our own teaching supplies, that we won't have our classroom roofs leaking onto our students heads bent over shared textbooks because for some reason there's only 25 of the brand new expensive math books that really didn't need to be replaced for a class of 35. It really is like Dorothy, wandering this beautiful, awe-inspiring place called The Oz of Ed where magical miracles and attacks from flying monkeys can happen all in one school day. Yet, there is no place like that elusive home.

Well. I shouldn't say there is NO place. There are places to grow, students to teach, and a profession to practice and hone. It's just that I've used a lot of resources to get this damn credential in the first place, and the moment it lands in my hands is when it's being taken away from me again.

Some can say it's not that bad. I would say it too. But I'm not very good at letting go of things (*ahem*thepastthreeyears*ahem*). I've only got myself to blame for that one. So what that in five years my credential expires into smoke and glitter if I don't find a full-time position in Cali? So what that the documentation for two years worth of post-graduate work literally dissipates faster than valley smog? Just because I don't have the paper doesn't mean it's not in my head, and on my hands, and in my heart.

But what did I get this credential for? Why did I jump through all those maddening hoops (see tag: CA credentialing), use up all that tuition money from my own pocket, and get this far, this close and STILL have nothing to show for it? That's the truth, so where's the justice?

I guess what I really should be asking is why am I not brave enough to abandon what I've earned in order to gain something else. Perhaps more? Certainly different. Do I have the courage to leave this stinking credential behind - a credential that is fast becoming more like a burden than a stepping-stone - to pursue....what? I'll still be teaching. So does having a credential even matter? If it doesn't matter, then why on earth did I get it in the first place?

And why, WHY does a credential expire? Does knowledge expire? Does experience expire? HELL NO! WHY is that stupid 5-year deadline in place, set by the government and the school system, when said government and school system CAN'T PROVIDE THE JOBS TO MEET THAT DEADLINE?


Maybe they need me. But I don't need this.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Rabbit says, "Dude, why are you putting yourself through all that trouble and stress when you can just relax and munch greens?"

Now you've officially graduated with a teaching credential, you're on your way to becoming the best that schools have ever seen!

Sure. Only after you've finished another two years of being monitored by a master teacher, your colleagues, your principal, your district, and the All-Powerful CCTC. Because all you've got in your green little teacher hands is a Preliminary California Credential To Teach Whatever Subject(s) Your Degree And Your CSET(s) Say You Can And Nothing Else.

Beginning Teacher Support and Assessment is what awaits once you leave the protective gates of the Ivory Tower. It involves meetings, observations, writing papers and lesson plans, critiquing yourself/others, reading, case studies....basically your entire credential program packed into any spare time you have outside of your normal teaching responsibilities, instead of it actually BEING your normal teaching responsibilities as in your student teaching days. Some people call it an extended PACT, which makes sense: The Formative Assessment for California Teachers is done during the BTSA as well. FACT and PACT. Yep, only a teacher could have made up an acronym like that.

It typically takes two years to accomplish, although I've heard it can be done in one.

Well, that is assuming you've got a full-time teaching job. Subbing does not count. Apparently, you have to sign a contract with the district before they'll sponsor you into the local BSTA cluster. And you can't get into a local BTSA cluster without the sponsor ship of your workplace.

Thinking about the BTSA makes me question why I got into teaching in the first place. It can't be all that bad, right? RIGHT??

Monday, June 21, 2010

More annoying than the old rubber ink they used to use

And I thought over-aggressive squirrels were annoying.

Have I ever mentioned how annoyed I am at the current LiveScan/fingerprinting system? No? Well here goes. I'm more annoyed at the current LiveScan/fingerprinting system than at:

- Miley Cyrus
- Lady Gaga's "Alejandro" video
- my father's inability to make a solid decision about anything, thus making a mountain out of a mole hill
- gum stuck to my brand new work shoes

However, I am not as annoyed at the LiveScan system than at the incredible masses of hoops a person has to jump through to get their foot in the door of public school teaching. Was it always like this? Is it like this for everyone? And, most importantly, who do I have to know in order to bypass at least a few of these hoops?

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Lessons from a modern statistic

Gratuitous photo of delicious crepes.

This article is from 2001, which is relatively old. Yet it still applies on some level. I am one of those statistics that returned to my parent's house after college - with a stint in the middle of teaching in China.

I have no shame or stigma in moving back with the parental units. I am thankful for family, and a home base that welcomes me. And there's a certain comfort in knowing some things never change. There are definite pros and cons to this lifestyle, as with all things.

Pros: a) Even though I voluntarily help out with household expenses, I don't pay rent. My parents are not the type of people to make their grown offspring pay rent for living at home, for which I'm thankful. b) Living in one of the most dangerous cities in the US, it's nice to know someone expects me home at some point. c) My parents are transitioning too - from middle age to senior citizens - and they haven't gotten into the groove of it just yet. It's just the right thing to do, in terms of what I value.

Cons: a) OHMYFREAKINGPOOCOW is it difficult! I can't say I don't have freedom, because I do. I can't say I'm not independent, because I am. There is just a generational/educational gap that isn't reconciled - and will never be as long as I stay in such close proximity to them. b) I haven't grown as much as I had hoped. Probably because living with my parents doesn't afford a grounded sense of belonging, of being the king of my own castle.

Needless to say, it's time I flew the coop. Again. Thus, I'm reflecting on certain things I've learned while living with my parents as an adult that I'm glad I know now:

Lesson #1: Getting old is rough. It's not nice to be shunted aside by society. Take care of older folks - as much as I can manage without losing my sanity anyhow.

Lesson #2: I've developed a firm grasp of what I would like my own home to be like. This has been one of those lessons best learned through contradictions. As in, "Oh good lord, I would NEVER have that in MY house."

Lesson #3: Not paying rent has afforded me a bit more disposable income than otherwise. Still, leaning towards frugality is wiser. Second still, it's ok to relax and spend some on fun once in a while.

Lesson #4: Having practiced an arsenal of housekeeping/gardening/car-home maintenance skills is a plus for me, always and forever.

Lesson #5: When things get to be too much, GET OUT OF THE HOUSE. As it's already established that I can come back whenever I want, it's ok to go and leave as needed/wanted. My parents need their space just as much as I need mine.

Here's to my last summer under my parent's roof! Hopefully.

Friday, June 18, 2010

YOU catch up to ME

Hello there, snail-lio. Working hard, or hardly working?

Today, in art class:

Student: (whine) Wait! I'm not finished yet! Slow down!

Me: Kiddo, it's your job to keep up with ME.

Some weeks ago, also in art class:

Co-teacher: (whispers) There's a student that's behind, can you slow down?

Me: I'm going at the middle-rate. I'm not going to slow down for one or two students. They need to catch up to ME.

The co-teacher gave me an exasperated look at the time. But you know what the student from today's conversation did? He sped up. His eyes lit up. He didn't say anything in reply, but I could tell from the look on his face that a fire in his belly had been lit. At the end of art class, he had quite an awesome drawing - probably not the neatest, nor the most creatively colored, but still awesome. Because he took the effort and gave it his all, and was proud of his achievement. And he knew it.

So there, co-teacher. I light fires in my students' bellies. I highly suggest that you do too.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The substitute

Confusing directions: yes, teachers can prep, but subs see this all the time.

Reading this since I'll be a sub soon (if nothing better shows up):

I think I posted about this before, but I'm too lazy to check right now. Doesn't hurt to read things again.

Subbing technically isn't that hard - except for the fact that you don't know the students very well yet, nor do you know the school very well yet, and that it's another person's classroom that you have no idea how to use yet.

It's like the first day of school for a brand new teacher every single day. Except I didn't do the prep for the whole school year.

I'm not particularly looking forward to subbing. But it's the best offer I have at the moment, and it'll have to do.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Hidden teacher talents

Feeling rather used and discarded. Come on! Recycle it, and come back better and stronger!

Original post here:

So I wasn't tagged or anything, but I read the post above and thought it was an awesome idea. It's been a couple months since I first stumbled upon it, and now is as good a time as any to make a list of my own hidden teacher talents. It's an even better time now than before, as I'm feeling down, and unhappy, and disgruntled with the general state of affairs as well as my own sad, sorry life. Yep, it's a good time to think about the things that make me a good teacher. I can:

1. Make students at their own mistakes.
2. Make students cry - sometimes on the outside, but ALWAYS on the inside - when their actions are disappointing.
3. Then lift them up again to start all over afterwards.
4. Know the difference between the "fake pee" dance and the real one.
5. Know the difference between "fake tired/sick" and real tired/sick.
6. Make an achievement as small as adding negative integers correctly into the grandest, most honestly awe-inspiring thing accomplished ever.
7. Scare the living day-lights out of students with my cold, cool, calm presence in the face of a blow-up situation. Parents and other teachers also get a little intimidated by this, so I'm told.
8. Make the copy machine(or printer) copy(or print) something even when the "empty ink cartridge" is protesting.
9. Improvise lessons on the spot.
10. Push my students to their limits, and then push them harder until they discover that they've outgrown those old limits.
11. Fix a broken chair/desk/projector/window/drawer with only duct tape.
12. Teach a class of 30 - with only 20 textbooks.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

"Why are you so terribly disappointing" article from SF Gate

Was occupied with this a lot, among other things.

Mulling over this article today:

After spending all of yesterday afternoon napping, I think I've recovered from the past week of rehearsals, interviews, long-distance driving, baby showers, and getting overly people-ed-out. Or at least 90% recovered. I wouldn't say no to another nap this afternoon.

Got my stuff back in order too. That's the first hint that I've been too busy with not enough rest: I tend to throw things around and leave it all in a mess rather than taking the time to put things in their proper place right away. A clean room = a calm room.

Started job hunting again, after a month of doing nothing about it. Granted, tutoring and rehearsals have put my job hunt, as well as my own sanity, on the back burner. I sent out two applications this morning, so I'm back on the wagon. Let's go jobs!

Feeling calmer and cooler today, overall. Thank goodness for that. Pitta has been in overload mode for a while now. Getting back to balancing it out feels nice.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Media Mondays: Cool Infographics

Screen cap taken from: Our Amazing Planet

Cool Infographics is a place filled with really cool stuff. It's surprisingly time consuming, considering that graphic organizers are supposed to deliver information in a more concise and direct method than paragraph form.

I don't visit this site as often as some others. But every time I do take a peek at their new items, I'm amazed and surprised and end up knowing a little more about some randomosity like the height and depth of certain things on earth.

Apparently, they also have links that sell posters of the infographics featured on their site. The posters seem to be mainly $30-$40. Which, when it comes down to it, I probably won't spend on a fancy poster about information that will most likely be obsolete in six months. Thank goodness for digital projectors, right?

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Under the table

There is a lot of gum under tables. Touching chewed gum is already gross enough as it is.

It's pretty cool to know some pretty cool youths. Some teens are awesome like that. Go graduates!

Summer tv marathons are horrendously addictive. Also, they are horrendous time sucks.

Pie is awesome.

Blackberries are awesome.

Taking one day at a time is awesome. Not exactly in long-term planning mode right now, but that's ok. One step at a time.

This post is completely incomprehensible isn't it? Let's just say that I've been caught up in daily activities and need to balance it out with some longer-range investment actions.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Common sense

Momo says, "I disapprove of your freak-outs. Chill dude."

I'm really into common sense articles like this one of late:

It's just nice to remind myself with some straight talk and perspective.

Friday, June 11, 2010

A beginner teacher's rejection reaction

Buds will blossom, greenhorns will mature, so you just wait!

Update from yesterday's post: Ok, maybe I AM tech-y and professional blogger-y. I've been blogging for 9 years, after all. Play up your experience Ms. Ng! Play it up, and get some more while you're at it! I'm saying this as I didn't get the Wednesday interview job. =\ Apparently, I was among their top contenders, but they went with someone with more experience. Which is reasonable. It just irks me because:

a) I do have a lot of classroom experience! 2.5 semesters of student teaching! 1 year teaching in China! 3 years teaching after school art! Accumulated 3 years of tutoring! Altogether 8 freaking years of teaching Sunday school! 3 years being a youth group leader!

c) I didn't play up that experience as much as I should have. Not that they wouldn't have gone with someone with more experience. It isn't much in comparison to veterans of 9+ years who were pink slipped this year. But still. If I've got it, flaunt it.

d) The whole point of getting a job IS TO GET EXPERIENCE. No job means no experience. Yesterday, I found out that no experience means no job. In math terms, it should look something like this:

No job <=> no experience.

Suck on that single subject math CSET! I'm going to pwn you! Also, I'm going to seek experience where ever I can find it. Teach, teacher, teach!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Updated layout

I especially like the birds "flying" out of the trees, towards the right. Kind of funny too, because I didn't even notice the birds until I had picked the header photo and adjusted the sidebar.

Note: I sound all tech-y and professional blogger-y, but in reality Blogger just makes it really easy. Try it! It takes a little fiddling and whatnot, but the new "make as many changes as you want but it won't save until you say so" feature makes it much less painless than before.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Percolating fairy lights.

How on earth did three whole days go by without me even peeking in at the blog?

Well, ok, I know how. Volunteer work, portfolio updating, researching for upcoming interviews, play dates for the rabbit, pruning trees, keeping track of the constantly changing schedule, CSET prep (yep, I'm doing the CSET again - for single subject math this time) and an obsession with a certain manga story that seems to be everlastingly slow about releasing the next chapter (I want to know what happens!), that's how.

I've also been hit with a bit of a blogging-block. I have things to write about, but I'm not particularly ready to put them down in black and white just yet. Percolating, yes, percolating.

First of the two interviews happens tomorrow. Also tomorrow, first of the three separate 2010 Summer Road Trips South occurs. It would be the least fun one, so it's good that I'm getting it out of the way first.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

The university

I picked up a new student this week - the first student I've met who attends the University of Phoenix. She's very insecure about math, and talks super, super fast. So fast that it's hard for me to keep up with her train of thought.

Which is what I end up doing a lot because she has a lot of misconceptions in Algebra. It all comes down to fractions, positive and negative integers, and the basic operations doesn't it? Or at least that's what it's been like for all my tutees who are struggling with Algebra.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Overheard in the teen stacks

Only smart people are unafraid of peering up the inside of noses.

At the library browsing, two girls around 12/13 years old were pouring through a book, their heads close together. They seemed like really good pals.

Girl #1: ::points to something on the page:: Whoa, that's a big word.

Girl #2: Yeah. Should we get it [the book]? People will think we're too smart, or something.

Oh girls, there is no such thing as "too smart." Please don't let people make you think otherwise.

Thursday, June 3, 2010


Today has been a pretty horrendous day for me. Kind of like this.

Well, not AS awful as a bird drenched and drowning in oil, I suppose. I did have a little bit of a melt down though. My hair is the one thing I truly like about my physical appearance and it was hacked to pieces today.

And I have two interviews next week.

So I have to remind myself that things could be worse. I could have all the hair on my body coated in oil, like the feathers of these birds, and be helpless in getting it off. That would be worse.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Use Your Head to Get Your Foot in the Door

Some pretty good, practical tips here. It's geared for the MBA crowd, but some of this stuff is relatable for teaching jobs too. It's a decent refresher of how to present yourself in a stand-out, profession manner, without coming across as an automaton. It's a relatively new book too, so there are quite a few good online resources as well as tips on how to maintain a professional digital presence.

I wouldn't use EVERY single tip in the book though. First, a lot of it is too time consuming. Second, a lot of it is too almost-dead-white-guy style - at least for me. Which makes sense, as I'm not an almost dead white guy. Many of us are not, actually.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

It must be interview season

Studiously studying for working.

I'm getting two interviews next week. w00t! The job hunt is finally showing progress!