Tuesday, September 30, 2008

chugging along

We collected enough snacks and non-food items to send 2 soldier care packages, one of which was sent to the cousin of a student.

I just haven't felt like writing - sorry!  Definitely busy, in many good ways, and definitely still the best job ever.  We started a unit that connects informational text reading with writing fan letters to Olympic athletes.

Oh, today I was missing for 10 minutes.  We have a 2-day schedule, and as a lab teacher, I live by "Day 1 or Day 2" because I see students every other day.  Well, for 7 minutes, I lost track of which day, showed up to lunch duty, said hi to a few students whom I knew, then realized they're not in my lunch duty, jogged 3 minutes back to my classroom, where a teacher was calling the office looking for me and my 10 students were waiting.  The first student who saw me huffing and puffing up the stairs said, "There she is!"  A boy said, "Darn!"  A girl said, "I thought you were dead!"  Another girl said, "I thought you fell down the stairs!"

Sunday, September 21, 2008

going home

We live in the town where my husband D grew up and in the house where he lived from age 3 until adulthood.  A few minutes away from the house in which we live is the cute little ranch house pictured above, where D lived from birth till age 3.  The family moved because D's 2 year old brother liked to be in the front yard and watch cars pass by on the busy main road, causing much anxiety and consternation for his parents.  We drive by this ranch house often, and last week we noticed a "For Sale" sign in the front yard.  This morning, D's sister saw the "Open House" sign, and none of us could resist the chance to go "home" again.  The owners are a friendly, gracious couple who have lived there for 30 years (but moving to Florida) and welcomed us in (after we readily confessed our true intentions). It was fun for us to see the changes and think about the young family living there in the 1960's.

I missed my 20 year high school reunion yesterday.  The reunion was held at a restaurant in Manhattan, not the Bronx where my school was (and still is) located, either a nine-hour train ride or one-hour plane ride away from here.  I really REALLY wanted to go, but I couldn't figure out the logistics of going out of town the third week of the school year to attend my reunion without my husband who was coaching my daughter's last soccer game of the season that same day.  Instead, I found and friended a handful of classmates on Facebook and followed with envy their updates and posted pictures about the reunion.  That's my version of going home and staying home at the same time.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

marching to the beat

This is pic of the terrific marching band "Thunder of the East" of the University at Buffalo, State University of New York, performing at half-time of the UB Bulls vs. Temple Owls game this afternoon.  My husband is a UB Bulls fan and season ticket holder, but we (daughter and I) join him at games only once, maybe twice, a season.  We sure picked a good one today!  Despite the clouds and late-game drizzle, we witnessed the probably history-making, astounding, end-of-game play, 35-yard Hail Mary touchdown by UB to win the game, 30 - 28.

Further evidence of best job ever - my biggest teaching dilemma is my two sixth grade classes.  One class has 1 boy and 4 girls, and Thursday I had to declare a "Jonas Brothers-FREE zone" for the sanity of the teacher and the male student.  The other class has 3 girls who are super super super quiet, and I think their happiest moment in my class so far is when I made up a homework assignment on the spot, and they dutifully copied the directions with visible relief, as in, "Finally, something we understand."  Honestly, I'm getting used to teaching 6th graders.  I have packed 7th grade classes, in which I use seating charts and maintain "raise your hand for permission to speak" order with ease.  And the small 8th grade classes are just very relaxed and conversational.  So easy!!!

Last week, our lessons focused on their learning strengths (Multiple Intelligence inventory, perfect for 7th and 8th graders, IMO, except the 6th graders seemed confounded) and learning interests.  Next week, we start a Soldier Care Package project, and they all write letters or create drawings or origami or songs, depending on their learning strengths and interests.

As for my high-stakes testing problem... according to a colleague and my husband, the correct metaphor is "hurricane", and I think we're weathering it the best we can.  (No offense or disrespect intended for Hurricane Ike victims.)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

short-lived euphoria

The job itself is still the best ever, but right now dread sits in the pit of my stomach, and its name is high-stakes testing scores.  That's all I have to share about it for now.  In place of information, I offer this morning fog pic taken today on my way to work and also the following classroom conversation yesterday:

Student A - So, we pay money to go to school, and we have to work.

Me - First of all, you don't pay money.  Your parents pay taxes.

A - Yeah, we pay taxes.

Me - And get used to work.  Everyone works, or they do nothing and have nothing.

Student B - You can get scholarships!

Me - You have to work to get scholarships.

B - This one guy just had one fall from the sky!

Me - Oh.  You mean you want to get lucky.  You can sit around and do nothing and wait to get lucky.  Most people who do nothing and wait for lucky just get nothing.  And you think I should work for free, teach you for free, and not pay my bills or take care of my family.

And that was the end of that class.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

best job ever

I think I won the teacher lottery.  I don't know how long I will feel this way, and I just hope I can keep the job for as long as I do.

"ELA Lab" is our term for the remedial reading and writing course that is a "booster" class in which I can teach and strengthen fundamental reading and writing skills as well as support classroom curriculum.  I have 60 students so far (the number may increase next quarter), and I see them over the course of 2 days.

Case in point: I have one former student (from last year) who was smart and cooperative during class activities last year but typically handed in poor quality work and performed poorly on the state assessment.  As of last Thursday, he had not done any of the summer independent reading assignment (due tomorrow) and showed no concern whatsoever.  In his words (last week and all last year), reading and writing is hard and boring.  Guess what I'm going to be doing this year?!?! First, help him find interesting reading and writing content, then push him to try harder and not give up on something that takes work.  As his regular ELA classroom teacher last year, I knew what he needed to do, but I was too busy with 20 other students in his class, most of whom had serious cognitive and behavioral problems.  This year, in my ELA lab class, he is one of TWO students.  And the never-ending overwhelming flood of papers to grade?  POOF!  Gone!  ELA Lab does not give homework or grades, but oh students will WORK.

In summary, I think I can improve the quality of my teaching and have more fun doing what I love about being a teacher!  Please don't wake me up if I'm dreaming.

The top picture was taken outside our home by my husband on our daughter's first day of second grade.  That really is our kid boarding her bus, with new massive polka dot messenger bag slung across her person.  The fuzziness is an authentic mistake but oh-so-convenient for blog anonymity.  The bottom picture shows a part of my classroom on Friday - ball toss (popular), tangram sets (interesting but not as popular), real plant (green) and fake flowers (orange).  Most popular carnival activity was ping pong.  That was the best dollar I ever spent in the dollar store.

Monday, September 1, 2008

last day of summer vacation 2008

Nothing earth shattering, just some organizing of home stuff and shopping at Target and Barnes & Noble.  This is what I picked up at BN:

... tangram set (with magnetic pieces) to use in classroom, especially for carnival (either instead of or in addition to origami)
... scenic calendar (of beautiful beaches) that I cut apart and use as posters in my classroom
... The One Hundred by Nina Garcia, eye candy reading about clothing and accessories (FYI - I have 46)

And that's that!