Sunday, March 27, 2011

Stamina - gotz none

Oh yeah, also at this delicious burger - my first one in ages!

This has always been in issue with me. I don't have much stamina - never had. I could sprint the 100 meter dash in the top 5 of my PE class, but I was always dead last when it came to running the mile. I can beat anyone in my tennis group - as long as the match is under 2 hours.

So thus, I am rounding the corner of the 4th and final lap of the school calendar and I. Am. Exhausted. Running on fumes. Beat.

Took two days off - my first official mental health days of the entire year so far. 4 sub days total - not bad, considering. And the first two were because I was sick and had lost my voice.

I foresee at least another sub day before spring break. Spring break! Lovely thought! It won't be a mental health day though, I plan on using that sub day to observe the other math teachers around campus. Whoever is willing to let me swing by and watch for 20 minutes or so.

It'll still be an easier day than a regular teaching day.

And I guess it could be worse. I'm usually in bed, asleep by 9pm. I leave work in the classroom. I exercise and eat healthy things. I read, and cook, and hang out with friends, and journal, and get sunshine (albeit, there has not been a nearly decent drop of sunshine to be had in the past three weeks - maybe that's why I'm a little gloomy) But there's nothing like a long yoga session to make me realize I haven't been breathing right, or holding proper posture, during school hours.

Without all these things, I would be a zombie.

Even with all these things, I'm still more wiped out than I am comfortable with. ::shrug::

Ack! No! Let's think of positive things! This cloud of negativity is horrible. Things I enjoyed during my self-declared 4-day weekend:

- delicious eats like strawberry shortcake, red curry bisque, dad's home cooking, chili baked potato, pineapple baos...
- reading without a time limit
- hanging out with cool people like P Jeh
- sleeping in past ::gasp!:: 7am!
- playing animal crossing like crazy
- buying myself new shoes
- finally getting a chance to watch Avatar all the way through (one LONG movie, but actually pretty good)
- enjoying gifts from my favorite place to get gifts from! (heavy duty Thermos with folding spoon, 0.3mm pencils, 2.3mm erasers, black raspberry eye cream by skin food [the korean one, not the weda one], chinese fashion magazines, korean movies)

Just thinking about the good things has made me less stressed out for tomorrow. Oh tomorrow, you will not beat me!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

New home

This Child Left Behind has moved to tumblr. Or, at least, I'm hogging the url name.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Notes and keys

Been giving myself a lot of excuses lately. NO MORE!

Reality is reality. Make a change, a little at a time. Reality will still be reality, but some parts can be a dream.

Practice dignity and restraint. Students are watching and every moment is a teaching moment.

Be persistent.

Be consistent.

If you're tired, take a break. A proper break. Not a "crash-and-space-out" break that makes you more tired than before.

Come back stronger.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Hamsters, the other white meat

These would be a closer guess.

This week has been full of zingers - too many to count. I come home, lock myself in my bathroom and laugh like a lunatic.

Because laughing in front of the students' faces would make them feel bad.

The best one this week so far:

Me: *makes a joke* What do you call a an ambulance for pigs?

*dramatic pause as all eyes stare at me*

Me: A HAMbulance! Hahahaha!

Student #1: I don't get it.

Student #2: Because HAM comes from pigs, dummy.

Student #1: REALLY? Miss, is that true? Ham comes from pigs??

Me: Yes.

Student #2: Where did you THINK ham comes from?

Student #1: I don't know, hamsters?

Monday, March 7, 2011

A teacher's wish list

It's the 7th month of my 1st year teaching middle school math. I am enjoying the experience. I am learning a lot.

And I think I have finalized my classroom wish list.

This is no ordinary wish list of donations like tissue boxes and reams of copy paper. This is a professional wish list, and it goes something like this:

Wish #1: I would like one full teacher work day for every 10 days of instruction. By "full teacher work day" I mean no meetings, no training sessions, no students, no parent conferences, nada. Just me, in my classroom, prepping. Period.

Wish #2: I would like a week of non-school for every 10 weeks of school. I've already discussed this before, but it never hurts to reiterate it. Seriously, over-work is no-good for anyone.

Wish #3: I would like to watch someone teach MY subject in MY setting to MY students every so often. I would like to hang around to observe, side-teach, etc while this occurs. And I would like to discuss the lesson with this someone.

Wish #4: I would like to be observed by someone every so often, and discuss this observation in relevance to MY setting only. No "what ifs," no "you should do these things." Just "this is what I saw happen, the good and the not so good; do what you will with this information."

Wish #5: I would like to teach some demo lessons in a colleague's setting, to THEIR students in THEIR subject. With chances to repeat with the same class/subject/setting later in the year.

Wish #6: I would like to involve my students in the community, and vice versa.

Wish #7: Tied to wishes #3-5 in a way, I would like to share the observation/demo lesson findings in an academically systematic and journalistic way to whoever would like to know about them. I would like to see the observation/demo lesson findings of other teachers in an academically systematic and journalistic way. I would like to see this happen at local, state, national, and international levels.

When I was 6, I wished for a dog. I got a dog when I was 7.
When I was 14, I wished for a car. I got a car when I was 16.
When I was 17, I wished to study and live abroad. I studied abroad when I was 21. I lived abroad when I was 23.
When I was 25, I wished for work that I liked and my own place to live. I got both when I turned 27.

I've been pretty lucky with my wishes. I'm going to work hard to make that luck happen with these wishes too.

Sunday, March 6, 2011


I watched the March 3rd Daily Show this weekend. This interview, and Ravitch's book, is interesting. I haven't actually read the book, but I've flipped through it recently at the bookstore and would like to read it in depth some time.

The Daily Show interview with Diane Ravitch

A couple funny things: first, the discussion on the education system in Finland. Over a year ago, I wrote a paper citing Finland's turn around of failing schools for one of my master's classes. I actually knew what they were talking about! In detail! This rarely happens for me. I don't read primary source articles often enough, which is why my default statement when asked about what I think on current issues is, "I don't know that much about it, I'll need to study up a bit to form an opinion."

Second, I was highly amused by Stewart's comment on how the teachers who leave work at 2:30 to go shopping with their kids are "sh*t teachers." I know this may or may not be - some of my colleagues do leave school right away, to pick up their own kids and to take care of their families (which probably includes shopping at some point in life). But I also know that these same colleagues put their kids to bed and come back to campus to work in the classroom in the evenings (it's one of the reasons why our school gates don't get locked up until 9pm from Mondays through Thursdays). From waitressing to movie theater ushering to teaching to being the CEO of a company - I believe that you really aren't working at your highest potential until there's some blood, sweat, and tears involved.

Thirdly, there ARE bad workers everywhere. This is why I frequent certain shops and gas stations. Safeway is usually better than Food 4 Less. Chevron is usually better than the local QuikMart. Tacos from a taco truck taste better than Taco Bell's. Even for fast food, Panera and the like are a cut above Subway. There are going to be bad teachers. There are going to be bad days for good teachers. There are going to be good days for bad teachers. There are going to be good teachers. Such a wide variety of situations makes a one-size-fits-all-type system rather ridiculous.

Fourth, the problems of our education system is highly interwined with the problems of our cities and towns. Poverty, crime, unemployment, a lack of community, homeless rates, division between the wealthy and the poor, race tensions, cultural and language differences. Public schools is the locus where all these things meet under one roof. And because it happens in the schoolhouse, the schoolhouse is blamed.

Last but not least: teachers are demoralized. We are wiped out. Exhausted. Broken down. We haven't been able to catch a break since NCLB began. I've experienced this too. I've just gotten lucky with my school and the demographics I teach. I can still teach Title 1 students, but in a place where I am supported by the admin, the veteran staff, and the resources of the community. I have variety in the type of students I teach, from high achieving, high SES, to low achieving, low SES, and everything in between. Despite all the frustrations, I'm constantly reminded by how fortunate I am. This really is the best first year teaching that I could have ever asked for.

Not many teachers have that same luck. Many first year teachers are thrown into an urban, segregated school with little more than warped desks and a cracked whiteboard. And they still perform the miracles that they do: the miracle of teaching a 5th grader how to read a kinder level book. The miracle of convincing 9th graders that they can acheive more than the occupations of their migrant worker parents. The miracle of managing to get through 6 hours without students from rival gangs killing each other because they were enclosed in the same room with bars over the windows.

It's no wonder the nation sees the test scores that it does. It's no wonder that 3 out of 5 teacher quit after their first 2 years.

What is a wonder: that those statistics are not any worse. I'm the first to admit that I can improve my pedagogical skills. But really, it could be worse, much, much worse. Especially if certain policy makers truly have their own way.