Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Long time, no see!

I just read my last post. What a bad day! But that's what the job is about, picking up the pieces and moving forward.

Well, that ICT class that gave me hell last November ended up doing phenomenally on the Regents! 75% of the class passed when the school-wide average was 50% (I only taught half the algebra classes so think what you will about the kids in the other classes...) Gotta love those crazy kids.

Last year was good to me. Aside from the stellar performance of my special ed students, I also completed my (first?) master's degree, was given a prestigious teaching award, and, more importantly, I got my tenure!

Now I'm halfway through my 4th year. My students drive me nuts a lot of the time, and this year I'm dealing with two separate first year co-teachers for my ICT classes which has been a trying experience. But I really do enjoy the work I do.

Next on my agenda? I'm thinking of applying to the LEAP program to get my SBL license. I'm not sure where I want to go with my career, and I do love teaching, but it's nice to have other options available for those opportunities that seldom, if at all, arise.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

today i cried

i'm used to being the best at what i do in the school.

i'm used to being the best at engaging the special ed classes every year.

i'm used to having the coolest lesson plans.

i'm used to the kids loving my class.

but right now i'm a failure.

my ICT class has been slipping away all semester. i falsely thought they were improving last week, but that was a joke. this week i have been dreading teaching them. yesterday they were awful. i put my all into a fabulous lesson for them today. i lost them before they even entered the room.

it's not about my lessons anymore. they have no respect for me. they hate my class. they purposely try to upset me. i never let them see how i feel though. as the dean i can give them all the suspensions and detentions i want, but i refuse to use that as a crush. i've doled out a couple here and there and they just get mad at me and shut down for days.

i've tried to build relationships outside of class with many of the students. i always smile and greet them in the hallways. i always praise positive behavior. i write lessons that are engaging, motivating, and address their kinesthetic and academic needs. but i can't even begin my lessons most days.

i feel like a failure right now and it's pretty shitty. i'm used to being the best. I think the fact that it's still bothering me at 12:30am tells me that my job is consuming too much of my life. And that i rely on my professional success as a source of positive self esteem, when really i should be looking for other areas of my life with which to feel successful and satisfied.

i am thankful that i have the wherewithal to pick up the pieces and come up with an action plan so that this doesn't get the best of me.

i am thankful that i have an awesome co-teacher who knew not to step in and let me fight my own battle, as this is the only way to maintain consistent classroom management.

i am thankful that this awesome co-teacher has some great ideas that he's going to help me implement beginning Friday morning.

i kept my composure during class but i felt the tears coming on. the students left and i held it in. i took deep breaths, and i let the feeling go away. but then when my co-teacher and i were reflecting on the horror show that was our classroom, i started to feel shaky again. he mentioned all the other responsibilities I have in the school that take up my time, and that I have two children, and that he understands how pressed i am for time.

suddenly, the thought of all the responsibility came caving in on me and the tears started flowing. for the first time in 2.5 years of teaching, i cried on the job. i think i cried out of desperation, and out of the realization that i just am not doing my job. not at all.

like i said before, i have a plan. i don't know what's in store for friday, but it's time for no holds bar classroom management. it's time to start over. friday will be day 1 of our new and improved zero tolerance classroom. i know this sounds like a strict disciplinarian environment, but that's only a small part of it. we have a lot of systems that will need to be put into place and a lot of work to do before friday, but i think things will get better.

but for right now, i still feel like shit.

i also have an observation with this class friday morning. the day after a horror story, on a friday after a day off from school, first period with stragglers who won't get the message as easily. i'm not sure how to write up this lesson plan. our mini-lesson will consist of discipline contracts and explaining our new routines and how class will function from now on. then i will allow them to engage in some group work that explores the pythagorean theorem, as we've been *trying* to learn for 3 days.

it won't be what the AP is looking for. but there's not point in trying to give a conventional math lesson when it will just crash and burn with these kids. i just hope the plan works. no backing down.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

things looking up and tomorrow's friday! yay!

my plan for the special ed department was approved, however it couldn't be implemented because of our block scheduling, unless the AP of instructional support taught 10 periods a week. my principal gave me two options:

1) bring in a retired sped teacher for $3000+ per session for the year (she said she'd find the money)
2) receive more training and support from our AP and outside sources and keep it as it is.

I discussed it with my team and we decided on option two. We made the ICT class our subject of inquiry study this year, and discussed strategies in depth. We are going to structure a continuum between all of our classes. Two teachers made phone calls to all the parents and I held a parental conference with one of the difficult children. And we've been ignoring the poor behaviors whenever possible and acknowledging the positive behaviors with tons of praise.

They whipped their butts into shape and have been amazing for the past two days. All we need is ten minutes of their attention for instruction and they just fly with it.

today after the warmup (which they all did!) i taught them how to do two step equations. we had planned on them practicing equations, breaking, and then moving back to instruction to break down word problems, then having them practice again. i had 2 different levels of problems prepared.

what happened at first is that two kids found the lesson to be too easy. my co-teacher gave them a scaffolded workbook that let them advance to the next level independently. after the kids started their individual practice, some wanted the advanced book, too, so they worked extra hard on their problems. then other kids just raced through so i gave them the word problems sheet. some kids finished more quickly than others so i plucked them from their seats around the room and grouped them together to create their own challenging word problem on chart paper, with the corresponding equation and solution.

by the end of the class, 6 kids had successfully worked on a worksheet of two step equations of varying degrees of difficulty. four kids had worked through the workbook section on combining like terms and mutistep equations. 4 other kids had begun working through word problems successfully. and six kids worked in 2 groups to create their own challenge word problems with equations on chart paper. to top it all off, the most ED kid in the group agreed to sit outside for concentration's sake and did quite well.

they all ended up doing different things naturally, but the bottom line, they were all able to solve the two step equations. it was the best lesson all year, and it was naturally so differentiated without much planning.

i'm hoping for continued good results, but i know there will always be ups and downs.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

better day

i stayed up late last night working on a document for my principal's brainchild. when i handed it out this morning, at first my principal said "wow." but upon further inspection, she said "this is a starting point..." umm no, this is it. this is all i'm doing this semester with this work. i feel confident enough to tell her i've worked on the process and feel that we have made ample progress and need to move on. we will revisit the document at the beginning of next semester.

i'm finding my voice again.

we have a supposed ICT class that's 77% IEP's. it's also our most crowded class. we are spoiled with small classes in our school; we have two cohorts with 12 students each, one with 14, and then the special ed cohort with 26 kids, 77% of them special. and we are so understaffed, they only have a coteacher in math and ELA. how is this servicing their needs?

as teachers, we can't even manage that class. it's practically a self contained class of 26. i know i'm really good at what i do, however, i'm struggling beyond belief with this class. and they're worse with other teachers.

teachers voiced their complaints to the principal today. she didn't know what to do. i did a little investigating and some aris work and realized we could move half the IEP kids into one of the smaller cohorts and move one of the ICT teachers to give math and ELA support to the second group. of the two new cohorts, one class would have the legal 60:40 ICT ratio, but the other would be 47:53. not ideal, however it's better than the current 77:23 ratio. and both classes would have 18 or 19 students.

i did my researched and pitched the idea to my AP. he said we can reprogram the handful of kids tomorrow and start them fresh on monday. so tonight i put together a document outlining the changes for the cohorts. i feel like i accomplished something worthy. now i hope my AP of special ed approves the plan.

my music students are learning how to play jingle bells with two hands. it's frustrating for them but they're excited to play a "real" song and not just the baby songs with one hand.

tonight i had grad school. last week i had a paper due, and i seriously half assed did it 30 minutes before class. it was really substandard work. but i got it back tonight and got an A. my teacher said she gives tons of A's, but you only keep that grade if you eventually hand her your corrections and edits. but she's awesome, because she asked specific questions for me to address and basically edited my paper for me. i never expected such hand holding in grad school, but i'll take it given the stress i'm under!

and lastly, my coworkers and i started a biggest loser competition today. i weigh a freaking ton. i'm also ultra-competitive, so i'm hoping the competition will keep me losing and i can lose 15-20 lbs by december 22nd.

Monday, October 11, 2010

i wish i was *just* a teacher

the issues with my coworkers as mentioned in the last post have blown over. i had a talk with my team and everything was cleared up.

but in my ultimate quest for money and responsibility, i feel that i'm cracking. i'm handling everything but i just lack me time. my whole life is spent running around for other people. i'm finally heading to bed every night sometime between 11pm and 1am which is an improvement, but that means i have even less me time.

sometimes i wish i could just teach and come home. but i can't.

for the month of november, i've been asked to run a 90 minute campus wide PD (for over 100 teachers and staff members) and to travel to florida for one day to run 6 hours long of PD activities at an educational conference. both of these tasks involve me selling something i truly don't even believe in, the brainchild of my principal that i've been asked to implement. i feel my work in this area has been lacking, and my school poorly implemented the idea, thanks in part to yours truly. even though i have a few weeks to plan what i'm doing, i still feel my heart beating quicker every time i think about it. including now.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

not a team player

right now our teacher teams are working on personalized education plans for each student.

we use our 2 hour PD block in the afternoon for appointments to meet with students and help them set goals for the year. however, many students aren't showing up for their appointment because there is no incentive for them to stay late.

when i threw the question out during monday's meeting as to what we can do to entice the kids to come in, a few teachers had the suggestion of holding their appointments during advisory time instead, and that the teachers who don't have an advisory would surely not mind covering each other's classes so that the appropriate teachers can hold their meetings with the students.

we're talking voluntary, unpaid coverages, every day, for about 2 weeks in a row. HAHAHAHAHA.

the teachers (mostly first and second years) were going on and on about what a great idea this was to get all our student meetings finished in a short time.

i spoke up and said: #1, we were given 2 hours every wednesday for four weeks to do this. if we don't do it during this time, our principal will just pile more work on us to do during this time. so let's figure out how to get these kids in the door and forget about using advisory time. and #2, even if i was paid for every coverage, there is honestly no way i would do it.

one teacher was stunned i said that and started to get on my case. i told him as the dean, i cannot commit to taking on another class every day. the staff members seem to think my "free" periods are for me to frolic around when in fact they are professional periods and i have a ton of work. and truthfully most days i have NO free time to myself. i am pulled into meetings left and right, have to deal with student issues, and have have a ton of paperwork.

i redirected the group towards brainstorming ideas to get the students in. that lasted for 5 minutes when the vocal teachers decided there was no way. they gave up. then one rookie insisted he was going to speak to the principal about paying us for doing it in the morning, like that is going to happen!!!

at which point, a second year teacher muttered under his breath next to me well that's not going to work anyway, as long as *some people* are not going to be team players.

hot damn so i'm not a team player!

i do everything for this job. i'm the dean and the inquiry specialist of the school. i spend every period i'm not teaching working to make everyone else's life easier. i prepare for and run meeting for the staff 2-3 times a week and no, i don't get paid any extra for this. the teachers come to me for everything they need. i'm lucky if between everything i do for the school, i get 20 minutes of downtime a day. so why in the world would i take on an extra period? it's not possible for me at this time.

secondly, the teacher who backhandedly accused me of not being a team player lives a typical brooklyn life. he's in his 30s, single, lives with a roommate, just goes home or chills after work.

my personal life looks like this: i work until 4 or 4:30pm at school. then with my kids in the car i drive my husband to work and then drive home. i get home around 5pm. then at 5:30pm twice a week i go to college. i get home about 10pm. i eat dinner. i lesson plan and grade (since i can barely use my preps for this.) i do laundry for my family and clean. i try to relax a bit. i'm lucky if i get to bed by 1am.

in the morning i need to get my kids ready and out the door. i walk in at 8:00am on the dot. if my paperwork isn't completely overwhelming from the day before, i try to use 20 minutes to get my classroom together and finish up any lesson preparations. then i start my rounds to the different advisories to check for uniform infractions, make announcements, print up necessary detentions, and then rush to my second period class. I CANNOT GIVE UP THIS TIME. the other teachers think it's just fun free time for me. this really pissed me off.

my personal life, i believe, is a lot more stressful than most of the other teachers at my school. but it never stops me from doing my job. and i hands down have more responsibilities at the school than any other teacher. some of them are purely for personal gain (think teaching credit recovery for extra $$$ and advising the music club) but everything else i do, even though i do it for $$$, has a direct benefit for every teacher and is completely a part of me working for the team.

but whatever. maybe i should level with the teacher that pissed me off. i barely have room to breath during the day. i really envy every other teacher, who i see relaxing, sitting at their desks grading, and having lunch when they want. i don't know what more they could expect of me.

oh and i did offer to stop in and help conduct some student appointments but told them i could not be tied down to covering a class. but that wasn't good enough.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

it's all about the benjamins

I thought I was insane last year with my per session activities, but this year I'm even more nutso.

I'm definitely feeling it and I'm getting home at 5pm every day as opposed to 3:15 like my first year or 4pm like last year, but I don't mind it. And even the nights I have school at 6pm, I feel just fine. I actually enjoy grad school this year!

I thought I might be burned out from working the summer, but the new freshmen are pretty great as a whole, so I'm managing.

A breakdown of my per session activities is as follows, in hours per week:

Math tutoring class: 2
Algebra credit recovery: 2
Geometry credit recovery: 3
Inquiry specialist: 2
Detention: 2 - 4
Music club supervisor: 1

That's a minimum of 24 hours per paycheck. Plus miscellaneous weekend activities come up from time to time.

Sick money, and good for my resume. But I wonder how long will I last this way...

I had to suspend a freshman today and her mother screamed at me over the phone, defending her daughter. The girl racked up 2 detentions in 2 days (stellar for a first year student) and then stole work from my desk during detention to copy the work and pass off as her own, thereby getting out of detention earlier. Uh academic dishonesty anyone? I didn't even nail her for that; I cut her slack as a first year student and only gave her a level 3 suspension.

But the mother called me worthless and basically pulled a "la la la i'm not listening to you" over the phone and tried to go over my head. i swear i thank god every day for my job and my supportive administration. they always tell me to do what i think is right and back me up on everything.

in other news, my music students learned how to play notes with their left hand today. they just love to show off when the faculty and administrators pop in to listen. and we get visitors every day! everyone who stops in is amazed that these kids, who never have read a note of music in their life, are playing songs after just a week. for the past two years the music classes were never this successful. no one even tried to teach them how to read music; they were told to play by ear. and they never got past mary had a little lamb.

i guess the other music teachers never took the time to teach them the language of music; maybe they didn't believe the kids could learn. but heck yeah they can! and they're awesome! a couple of them want to perform at the end of the year already!

whatever, i can go on and on about how proud i am of these kids. i like teaching math, but music is so interesting and so much more gratifying! for now at least, while it's still new to me:)