Friday, October 29, 2010

Fill what is empty, empty what is full

Filling up on yummy things like crackers and hummus and peaches.

Oh dear.

I unexpectedly burst out crying today. In front of my BTSA mentor. Awesome and professional of me isn't it? And teaching isn't even going THAT terrible! Sure, I can do better, I can improve. Sure, I make mistakes on a daily basis. Sure, I've got some individual students who can do with a bit more "Mean Ms. Ng" and less "Sympathetic Ms. Ng" just because they learn better with more structure.

But overall, my students are:

- productive
- understanding the material
- well behaved, non-defiant, and energetic/happy about school

I guess I'm stressed out. It's the problem I had during student teaching too - the little things chip away at me until I've got nothing left. I'm also allowing the daily grind/traditional teaching methods/need to give, give, and give some more to get the best of me.

Well, I can't give what I don't have. And when I don't have anything to give, it's time to recharge and fill up again. That's my job tonight. That, and letting go of work things that consume my mind. Let it go....let it go....let it go....

Thursday, October 28, 2010

You killed a family all because of the wrong inequality sign

Please don't kill the cat cookies.

I was showing first period how to write and solve an inequality that represents this situation:

The maximum load that a truck can hold is 1500 pounds. How much more can the truck hold if it already has 780 pounds of cargo?

And thus, the following conversation:

Student: How come the inequality sign can't be the other way around?

Me: Because then the cargo would weigh more than the maximum capacity, and then the truck driver would get pulled over by the police and get ticketed, then the truck driver would get in trouble with his boss and lose his job, and then the truck driver wouldn't be able to buy food for his family, and then they would starve.

Student: And then they die?

Me: And then they die - all because of the wrong inequality sign.

Student: Whoa.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

I would just like to say...

...October is the longest month known to mankind. Or at least to teachers.

That is all.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Those first few minutes of the day

The very first thing I do when I enter my classroom in the morning isn't turning on the computer, or opening my lesson plan book (well, that's already open usually, from where I left off the day before), or check voice messages.

The very first thing I do is just sit at my desk and gaze off into space for a few minutes.

I like to savor the quiet of the room, and how clean it is, and how calm it is. And I think about the productivity that's going to happen in that room throughout the day. I imagine the path I take when walking around, monitoring students. I move the furniture around in my head, wondering if I an rearrange the space for a different effect. I think about moving students - who shouldn't sit next to whom, et al.

I think I like those first few minutes the most out of my day. It's just nice to be the only one in the classroom sometimes. It's nice to gather my thoughts and gear up for the day. It's my own time - with no interruptions, since I arrive so early that the only people on campus are the custodial staff. It's a time of absolute potential, when I haven't yet failed at teaching a student that day. When I haven't made a mistake, or gotten pissed off by a kid, or parent, or both. When I haven't been drained of all energy yet.

So I just sit, sometimes thinking, sometimes just being. It is a really refreshing moment.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Rain drops on the window

Eating out the stress is not a good idea - but it is a quick fix.

Last week was the tipping point of exhaustion. It sneaked up so unexpectedly! I was pretty energetic on Monday, then it all fell apart. I blame:

a) The block days. They aren't always awful, but it takes a whole 'nother level to handle them for me.
b) The earthquake drill.
c) The weather.
d) The new girl who got suspended on her first day because she got into a fight.
e) Parents.
f) Going to meetings when I would rather be doing something else.
g) Me.

I'm so glad for the weekends. And going to teacher-Bunko-night was a good idea. It took me out of myself for a little bit, and relieved some stress. Considering the racket we made, I think pretty much everyone is stressed out at this point. It sucks, but it's nice to know we are all in it together too.

It's also nice to know Monday is a fresh start. Everyday is a fresh start. And I suppose it's high time I had a bad week, after all the good weeks I've had so far.

Thank goodness for Veteran's Day and the furlough day after it. November has about 10 teaching days total. It's going to be lovely to be well-rested!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Dear parents

Dear parents,

I'm sorry your child thinks 30 divided by 2 is ONE HUNDRED FREAKING TWENTY-THREE. This is all my fault, and in no way is it your child's own carelessness.


I'm sorry "my style" stressed out your child, especially when I teach the class how to use different methods to problem solve BECAUSE APPARENTLY THERE SHOULD ONLY BE ONE DAMN WAY TO SOLVE ANY PROBLEM.

I'm sorry your child's locker is the black hole for homework assignments.

I'm sorry your child is not 3000% confident in their math abilities. I'm sorry that humanity has such an unforgivable flaw as self-doubt.

In order to make this up to you, I will now prostrate myself before an on-coming BART train. I will sacrifice my first born upon the altar of Helicopter Parenting. I am unworthy to teach your precious, over-coddled child because all their faults are my faults. All their inconsistencies are my inconsistencies. Your child is perfect as the day is long, and I should be honored to even wipe the hand-grease that they leave behind on their desks every day.


Friday, October 15, 2010

Spirit Week!

Oh boy.

This week has been one of the most exhausting, frustrating, fun, and productive weeks ever. It's as if everything exploded and barfed out masses of butterflies, which are very, very difficult to catch and contain again.

First: Spirit Week. I have never seen so much hype over a middle school football game. EVER. Battle of the Valley is even bigger than the high school football games. And of course, we won! There is a trophy involved. It has a chicken on it. This fact alone gives my school bonus +1000 points.

Second: I got two new students from the Academy class. Academy, as some teachers say, is an elite-named course for non-elite students. So far, these two seem really eager to learn, and they ask a lot of questions.

Third: Oh. My Freaking. Pooh. Cow. My colleague Ms. H, the geometry teacher - and a very good teacher - has noted in the past that 8th graders are like kindergartners on hormones. Never have I fully felt the impact of that description until this week. They are needy, they are random, their are easily distracted, they are funny, they are gross, they are messy, they forget things A LOT, they are smart, they learn fast, and they remember the most obscure things that will ever come out of your mouth. They will also latch onto those obscure things and ignore all else.

Fourth: It is wonderful to be caught up on paper work, caught up and AHEAD in lesson planning, caught up on every single little detail involved in daily teaching. I've found my groove, after two months of school, and it's working well. I'm happy. But I worked like there was no tomorrow. Certainly at this rate, without a break, I will burn out.

Fifth: Evacuation drills are a pain in the ass.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

In case of emergencies

Monday afternoon, 6th period, while going over emergency evacuation procedures:

Student: What do we do if you die? Who do we get directions from?

Me: There will be other teachers will help you.

Same Student: But what if all the teachers in the building die?

Me: Then the principal and vice principals, and other office staff will help you.

Same Student: But what if they ALL die? How can we be officially released if every adult at school gets taken down?

Me: Dude, if every single adult on campus gets taken down, you have full permission to run away, screaming your head off.

Monday, October 11, 2010

I broke my own rules

I took work home for the first time this year. When I promised myself that I wouldn't.

But then, I never promised myself that I wouldn't give super long tests to all my classes all on the same day. Maybe I should promise myself THAT.

But then, I might not even get to the stack of grading. I might just spend the next hour relaxing and then go to sleep early. So very early.

Also: seriously. I hate yard duty.

That is all for today.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Happiness is....

Yellow is a happy color.

...when Shut-Down Kid is able to complete a worksheet all by himself, turn it in, AND write me a thank you note. I just had to give him a sticker AND a piece of candy. There was no way I was going to let this opportunity slide without positive reinforcement.

...when I teach extraordinarily well, full of energy and excitement, which led to a very hard-working, very chatter-free 6th period.

...when the awesomely l33t PTA provides delicious Italian food for lunch.

...when an old friend says some really kind words. Thanks old friend! =)

I wish I took a picture of the thank you note. Next time.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

The mean is the average

Will making more spectacular breakfasts lead to more spectacular teaching days?

Today was a mediocre teaching day. It wasn't bad, but I wasn't completely on the ball either.

5:30 AM - Wake up to alarm. Spend some time writing to "mind dump" thoughts.

6:40 AM - Leave for school. Prep, prep, prep! Finally got bad emails taken care of, as well as fully integrated the eleven new students into my filing system.

8:00 AM - SST meeting with 8th grade counselor and other teachers. We talked about 5 students, 3 of whom are mine. It seems like things are progressing for all students, but they still have a long way to go.

8:40 AM - Rush to bathroom and finalize the day's plans.

8:50 AM - Advisory! Video broadcast on the consequences of bring knives to school. I read the bulletin.

9:02 AM - 2nd period. By far the most well behaved, best self-monitoring class to date. Might change in the future, but this class is great.

10:41 AM - Bye bye 2nd period! Hello 4th!

11:15 AM - I still feel like I'm not making enough connections for Algebra Readiness. Most students did very well on the Chapter 2 quiz though. As and Bs were most common with only a couple lower grades.

12:23 PM - Bye bye 4th period! Hello lunch!

1:01 PM - ::sigh:: Lunch is way too short. Spent it prepping. SSR time for 6th period!

1:16 PM - SSR over! 6th period is by far the rowdiest class I have. Is it because it's the last class of the day? Is it because of stuff I'm doing? Or not doing? Gotta rein it in more.....consequences time! But to be honest, there is no need for further consequences after I give them a warning. It's just that they need a warning EVERY DAY. How to remedy this? Tally marks? With a prize at the end of the week?

2:55 PM - FREEDOM. And first bathroom break in SIX. FREAKING. LONG. HOURS.

2:56 PM - JUST KIDDING about the freedom. Grading papers, recording scores, and figuring out activities for the mobile lab. Made copies, lesson planned, cleaned up the aftermath of today's lessons (also gotta figure out a more efficient method of keeping things organized throughout the day - I tend to get messier as the day progresses), did paper work, cleaned transparencies.

6:05 PM - Leave for home. Eat dinner, shower, blog, check email.

7:35 PM - Sadly, I will probably be asleep within the hour.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Smart Goals

Comfort food for failed goal setting.

My school has this thing called Smart Goals. It's basically student centered goals you want your classes to accomplish this year - goals that are measurable, trackable, and has a time limit.

The math team chose to keep track of homework assignments coming in. Each student should turn in 80% of all homework assignments. My classes have had 14-15 homework assignments so far. 80% of 15 is 12. So each student shouldn't have missed more than 3 assignments so far.

Have I just set myself up for failure?

There are definitely students who are missing WAY more than 3 assignments. I counted them today: the record is 9 missing assignments.

Oh boy. I suppose I'll have to figure out something like a work day to get that number righted. The students with missing assignments will spend time in class completing a make-up assignment. The students who have all their work turned in can play math games with the mobile lab.

Oh yeah. I have a mobile lab in my room. It's a cart filled with internet-ready MacBooks, as well as installed with software called Study Island. It's great!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Sub vs. Students

Broken cat, broken trust.

So of course there has to be some sort of conflict with the sub.

Sub's story:
- a stack of homework passes that I provided for the sub to give to "good" students went missing
- said any of three students could have taken it
- had put the stack on the overhead projector, and then the next moment, they were gone

Now, I've only taught for a little more than a month, but I'm pretty sure of these two things:
a) It is a seriously DUMB ASS idea to put anything temptation-worthy in an open, high traffic space without intense supervision.
b) I believe those three accused students slightly more than the sub.

(Side question: Does this make me gullible? Or does this make my students really good liars? Or have I fallen into the trap of believing my students because I want to see only the good in them, and thus I've become blinded to their faults? This worries me....must do more reflection on this topic.)

I did speak to all three today. I also spoke to my "eyes and ears" (the students who I asked to take notes of what happened during the class) who were surprisingly detailed. Nothing out of the ordinary had occurred. According to all records (even the sub's notes; minus the theft of course), it was basically like I had been there.

In the end, I decided to make all homework passes invalid, as well as cutting off using it as a prize for the rest of the term. Homework passes are a privilege. I give them out because I want my students to have a meaningful reward for their hard work. But somehow, that failed. They were too greedy, and now the system is ruined for everyone.

On a related note: I've got to balance give students a second chance/self-correction with having them serve the consequence of their actions. So far this year, I've only given one detention, and I had a student write a formal apology letter to another student. By this time last year, in the 5th-6th split class, I had given out AT LEAST 10 recess detentions. There is no comparison in maturity with elementary and middle school. There must be even less in high school.

But still. Gotta work on cracking down and following through. I don't want to be too much of a softie on them. They need to follow through with their actions too.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Sub day

Not in the pool, but thinking about swimming.

Today was my first sub day of the year. I wonder how it went? Were the students well behaved? How did they do on their tests?

Why on earth am I worrying? I'll know soon enough once the weekend is over - and the weekend is usually over way too soon.

Totally feeling achey today from the flu. But I can tell I'm getting better, which is good. It's too much of a clue that I'm a control freak because I don't want a sub to teach my students crazy math things.

But then, the other teachers tell me it's really difficult to find a good math sub. I wonder why?