Wednesday, December 17, 2008

so good, but oh so bad...

So my lessons are innovative; I know that. Apparently they're so creative and appeal to so many different learning styles that I've been asked to write about two specific lessons for a national educator's magazine. But if I'm so good with my lessons, why am I finding controlling my classroom so difficult???

The teaching fellows program taught us that if you have an amazing lessons and routines in place, then the classroom management will follow. Sounds great in theory, but that is so not happening in my class! When I told this to the head of the organization I'm writing for, he told me that would be true basically anywhere else in the country, just not for our diversified and challenging student population. That's great. NYCTF *knew* I'd be teaching in the city (duh!) so why bother feeding us this bullshit?

OK, I realize I'm sounding angry, which I really am not. The lack of control really gets to me, but in truth, I wasn't 100% faithful that good lessons will always lead to a well managed classroom. My principal keeps trying to convince me that the chaos is good, that the kids are really learning. Who knows.

Speaking of innovation, today I threw a worksheet on the kids' desks and told them to take their textbooks and learn themselves since they wouldn't shut up. That's surely a new one for me! This class is a smart one though, and after 15 minutes of struggling through the work, they let me speak. Pretty good for my second easiest group of students. Seriously, I don't know how teachers handle class sizes of 34. Mine are such a struggle with only 20!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

So, out of nowhere this week, I thoroughly lost the respect, and subsequently the control of, 3 out of my 4 classes. I'm not really sure where this came from, and I'm feeling terrible about it. The students worked on a fun, creative project last week, so it wasn't my lesson. Some of them were outright saying they have no respect for me, in the middle of class.

Students came in and out of my rooms and wouldn't leave when asked to. Whole classes talked through my entire lessons. Students started yelling that our conversation was stupid. The dean was out all week on various school trips, so the one time when I called for help, no one picked up. I almost cried in class on two occasions, but I thankfully kept myself composed.

I'm supposed to teach these same kids next year and I have no desire to do so. I know next year's students aren't going to be any better, but I will be hopefully have better classroom management techniques. If these kids have zero respect for me this year, what's going to be in store for me next year?! At least I can start fresh with new kids next year.

I'm just holding out for xmas now, because I desperately need a break.

Monday, November 24, 2008

2 s-ratings

I had a post-ob today with my principal, and I also got an S from her. She said even though I'm new, a lot of my work shows the maturity of an experienced teacher. So nice! I still feel totally lost with my classes sometimes though.

Speaking of which, I totally lost the CTT class today. They did so well last week but not only forgot everything over the weekend, but they even regressed. I don't know what to do with them! Ah well, only one more class with them and I'm free to think about it until Monday.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

woohoo, i'm s-rated

i had my post-ob conference on thursday and my AP loved the lesson. the only thing he wants me to watch is how i phrase my questions, which i can easily work on.

friday was a weird day. we had a school wide activity in the afternoon and my principal kept looking at me. she can be prone to stare at times, and it made me feel like i was doing something totally wrong.

but on the plus side, i got homework from every student in my CTT class except two of them! they were exceptionally good on thursday and for the second time this year, actually understood everything and wanted extra work to challenge themselves. let's see what monday holds...

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

i took my first sick day yesterday. i guess i just can't get used to working 5 day weeks:) actually though, it was an emergency and i had to take off... even though i was supposed to get observed, whoops!

luckily i rescheduled the observation today and i already know i did fine. i used the same lesson i was observed with on monday by my university liaison. it was a real hit two days ago, and i'm sure it went over equally as well today. the only difference is i was observed with a rowdy class, which wasn't as originally planned.

we got a new transfer student today who came in from a private school. seems like that's going to be happening a lot do to the economy. i asked her what she was learning in math when she left, and her class was about 2 months ahead of where i'm holding. it's only mid-november, i don't know where i went wrong!

Monday, November 17, 2008

feeling better

my week started off today a bit crazy. i'm fortunate to have a great class first period on mondays, so even without a clear lesson plan, they're game for example after example on the board, competing with each other to get the most right and put them up for everyone to see. so that's what we did.

then i have 2 hours of prep. with about an hour left, my school secretary reminded me that i was being observed by my college professor today (during a bad class; i don't know what i was thinking!) so i thought real hard and planned a fun, easy lesson on unit rates and thanksgiving recipes. it went over really well with the kids and the observer loved it.

i also was reminded that i'm getting observed by my AP tomorrow at 9am (the good class.) i'm thinking of using the same lesson, just making it more advanced and competitive for them.

i got my graduate class over with for the week, too. tomorrow and friday are my hardest days. once i'm finished tomorrow, the rest of the week is a breeze until friday. i already have lessons for half my classes tomorrow so i'm almost there. i so wish i didn't plan day to day though. but this week seems like it will be a bit better than last week.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

no motivation.

i am so tired. i haven't been planning my lessons in advance for the past few weeks. i just write up something quickly during prep periods, and i'm seeing the kids lose interest because of it.

but right now i'm not really caring so much. i'm a bit overwhelmed with work, school work, and housework. i withdrew from one of my college classes. i was failing and thursday nights were really bad for me. i needed to be home.

i stay up really late every night doing nothing, and it's killing me. i have so much on my mind. i need to snap out of it.

i can get through this... i just can't wait for thanksgiving!

Saturday, November 8, 2008

mission complete

I finished grading the massive pile of make-up homeworks that were due to me this past week. Even though I only gave 1/2 credit for the work, my passing rates went up immensely. Right now 64% of my kids are passing my class, up from exactly 50% from the last marking period. 10% of the kids are virtually no shows and about another 10% can't even read or write, let alone add numbers.

that last 15% are just lazy, or really struggling with the material and not putting enough effort into everything else to pass. but i hope i can bring them up and have close to an 80% passing rate by january.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

i'm so tired. i don't have a lesson for tomorrow and i'm not about to write one!

just wanna give a shout out to algebra tiles. you rock, man! on monday i worked one on one with a kid who scored a low 1 on the 8th grade exam. using the tiles, within 5 minutes he was able to solve 3x-6=18.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Today I declared to the other staff members that I actually liked the CTT class in a strange way. They thought I was demented.

I gave them a lesson on adding and subtracting signed numbers. Basically boring stuff, but most of them did not know how to do it. Now they're halfway good at it. Some more practice and they should be great. They are a bit crazy and class is wild. But they did their work for the most part and their crazy personalities made it more enjoyable.

One girl in that class is averaging a grade of a 7. That's a 7 out of 100. Her mother threatened to take her out of the school and away from her friends if she didn't pass everything, so she's desperate. I gave her a ton of work to do over the weekend and mandated her to come to tutoring twice a week if she wants to pass. She was amazing today during class. She was attentive, participated, and did the group work nicely. I hope she keeps it up, because I could use more students like her!

I have to make sure I don't get egged tomorrow to officially declare this a good week. But I'm hoping...

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

bad test, good lesson

i gave a test this week that i thought would be really easy for them. i made the things they really knew well worth the most points but unfortunately, they either forgot it, or just forgot everything else. i'm not really sure how i would do this unit differently in the future but somehow i didn't prepare them well enough. i got 2 As out of almost 80 students. My top students all got in the 70s and 80s, and a couple even failed.

I was most upset with my CTT class, in which only 4 students passed, with the highest grade a 74. So yesterday I gave them a really fun lesson that covered a specific topic that the test was on. Usually this class is out of control, and it was hard to draw them in, but once I got their attention, everyone but one student was involved. I think every kid in the class was up to the board, even the ones that haven't done a drop of work all semester. At one point I had 10 students up at the same time and it worked great! My class was loud, but it was the most amazing lesson I had ever given. It was so much fun for us all, and when I gave them work to do on their own, they were all trying to outdo each other and go above and beyond my requirements.

Then I gave them homework to create their own examples and told them I'd give them 20 extra points on their test if they hand it in (this particular topic was worth 28 points on the test and they all bombed that part.) And if they made a super-duper example, I'd give them 30 points.

I didn't even have them today but 2 kids stopped by my classroom to drop off their homework early since they were so proud of what they'd done. one kid did 2 super-duper examples instead of the 2 regular ones I assigned. I told him to go home and do another one and he was excited! The other kid that came by is the biggest gangster in the school. He can barely even read or write, and hasn't done an ounce of work in anyone's class so far this year. It's the first homework assignment he's handed in since he started high school. He was so proud of his work, and he also did the super-duper example. He actually almost passed my test!

I'll see what kind of work I get tomorrow, but I might make a big poster with all of their super duper math examples and put it on my honor wall. The CTT kids would never get up their otherwise, and I'm so proud of them.

As for the other classes, I think I'm going to give them a second test for homework and average their two grades. I can't bear to see so many low grades. In the past when half of them failed, at least I had a good distribution. With this one, every student performed terribly! Oops...

Saturday, October 25, 2008

one more thing

On Friday, the new girl who I've previously written about came in and said that since I gave her a 55, she's going to continue to fail my class on purpose. I said "whatever you want, that's your choice." She just laughed and said "nah, I got you. I'm just kidding!" Then she took the first desk at the front of the room and did all of her work. She was actually the model student.

I think I'm the only teacher she tried to push to the limits, but I guess since I stood up to her I somehow earned her respect.

Now there are only 3 discipline problems left in that class, most of whom I can deal with on a day to day basis.

Friday, October 24, 2008

parent teacher afternoon

We had just as many parents come up today as last night, and all in all, 45% of the parents came. I think that's a pretty awesome turnout.

I also had record amounts of homework handed in to me today and lots of journals brought in. I promised the students a list of missing work for Monday and I believe that at least half the kids will bring it in.

I picked up easy grade pro and I'm finding it to be a dream! I have to say the hardest part of teaching for me has been organization. My attendance and HW records need a ton of help. When it came time to put in my grades, I had to manually calculate records and it was terribly time consuming. In the two days I've been using the program, I've been 1000x more organized. I think I'm in love.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

parent teacher night

So I ended up failing exactly half of my students, mostly because they don't do journals or homework. And of all the kids I failed, exactly half of their parents came tonight which was a nice turnout.

The parents were all very supportive, and all but one student knew why they had failed. I had extra copies of the current homework assignment on hand, and I hope to get record amounts of homework back from the students tomorrow.

In other news, one student was locked up last week for armed robbery, and another student was out today because he's on trial for attempted murder. Man, I hope he doesn't get too pissed that I failed him.

I'm getting sick and I feel like shit. Thank god tomorrow is a short day, even if I have to meet with parents.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

the aftermath

i came back after a few days off and the new girl was in an in house suspension, except that she never bothered to come to school. so much for a new start.

most of the kids did work while i was gone. i had a fantastic sub that pretty much kept the order in my room. but then a bunch didn't show up for the actual presentations. ugh.

my grades for first marking period are due monday. i haven't gotten around to reading the journals since i allowed them the grace period to make them up but i'm not seeing a whole lot of them passing. i so hope i'm wrong!!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

take 2

friday, thank god, was the total opposite of wednesday. the ctt class was a struggle, but everything else was a dream.

new girl came in and asked to join a new group with 2 students who weren't there on wednesday. she asked if she could start the project all over. i agreed and even told her we could start off completely new as far as the class goes. she was happy with that.

all the groups worked really well. even the one with the terrible kids. they were joking around a lot and didn't get as much done as the others, but they had concrete ideas about where they were heading with their final work product.

and i had some amazing ideas coming from some of these kids. to explain the concept of the additive inverse, one student drew a meteor plus a black hole. another one drew a sandcastle and the seashore (the waves wipe out the castle.) and someone else drew a pen plus white out.

i'm not going to be back into school until thursday; i really hope they continue to work on everything. i'm no so sure about the ctt class, because i barely got the directions across to them, but i see everyone else passing this unit easily. and thankfully my sub assisted with my classes on friday so he know what the project is all about, so i'm sure he can help the kids in the ctt class just fine.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

the new student

what a doll she is, really. first day in my class she tells me she plays by her own rules and ran out of my class when i expressly told her she couldn't.

i called home and left a message.

the next day she started out a bit better as she let me know in advance that she would have to leave shortly and i told her fine, as long as she finished the do now. she agreed.

but then as i was assigning the group work-- mind you this is a 4-day long project that counts as a test grade-- she refused to join a group. then 3 other people followed her. i said fine, you're all gonna fail. then i handed out school discipline sheets. the dean happened to walk into my class at this point to see one of these students and when he came back with her, the girl said she would make sure everyone did their work and i shouldn't use the discipline code yet.

fine, i agreed to this. it took a few minutes, but everyone started to work. well actually they agreed to join a group but refused to work. after 5 minutes the new girl told me she was working on something (praise the lord) but when i asked her a question she was bitchy and sarcastic.

i have let her know more than once that her attitude accounts for 25% of her final grade, but i don't know if she cares.

and to put the cherry on top, they decided to dismiss themselves 4 minutes early. they starting cheering and throwing up things in the air to get out of my room. but i wouldn't let anyone out until they all sat back down. they were cursing and mad at me that they were going to be late to their next class. one student said the class was in charge of dismissing themselves and not me. hahaha. new girl said she was going to hang herself if she had to be in my class any longer. hahahahaha. they ended up leaving my class 3 minutes late which meant yes, they were late for the next one. but i don't care if i have to do this every day until it stops, it's ridiculous.

at the end of the day, luck would have it that her guardian came in because she had an altercation with some other students. i spoke with them and they told me she's the same way at home. i don't know if this means they have no control over her, or if they will actually help. but they weren't happy to hear how she was acting.

and the funniest thing was this other boy, who has to be the worst in the school was shocked when i told him i would fail him if he didn't do the project. i asked him if he passed my last test. no, he got a 53. then i asked him if he ever handed in any hw. no, never. does he ever participate? once the entire semester.

it's pathetic, really. i bet they were allowed to get away with this through junior high and passed no matter what.

but they're not going to graduate hs without one math regents, and enough credits, either.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

the changes have been finalized.

the staff met and we decided to switch around all the kids' classes. we created one CTT class, and the rest are basically a mix. i hope this is for the best.

i taught a lesson on probability today that really had very little content. but it was fun and incorporated a ton of literacy with journaling and reading an old NYT article that was relevant. even the kids who are usually the hardest to engage were interested and asking questions. my kids can have a lot of fun in my class, but the problem i have is balancing content with the fun. today, there wasn't very much learning-- just a few review items. and the project i have them working on for the next week isn't so content oriented, but i think that something will stick with them long term for doing it. plus it makes my life easier not to have to teach much!

after this unit i start some hard stuff again so i wanted to give them a break, and an easy way to succeed in the class.

something interesting that happened today is that i shared my religion with two of my classes. it came up naturally in conversation for some reason, and when they found out they were absolutely shocked. i'm jewish and they just couldn't believe it. i'm not sure what they thought jews were supposed to look like but i was shocked that they were shocked!

then one kid asked me if i was reform or orthodox, which also really surprised me. these kids for the most part have no exposure to different cultures and here this kid knew about the different sects of judaism. i was very impressed.

but alas, most of my students were upset that i'm taking off part of next week... which i was also suprised at. i guess they like me which is great!

and one last thing, we have a new student little ms. attitude. one day in my class and i called home. unfortunately i couldn't reach anyone. i'm going to try again soon. i have never dealt with someone so disrespectful in all of my 25 days of teaching! :)

Sunday, October 5, 2008

i actually have a unit plan

yep, my very first one. i have the next 10 lessons fully mapped out. this is ever so exciting. but at the same time i'm already 2 weeks behind the pacing calendar.

my kids told me they feel like all they do in my class is take tests. which is partially true. so i'm giving them a fun project to work on this week.

my plan is to skip the first 3 chapters in the unit, and make a 4 day project out of the next two chapters. since the ones i'm skipping are mostly review, i will take one or two 20 minute blocks away from each group over three days just to individually teach them what they need to know and catch them up on any review items. this makes it easier for me, plus i can individualize their studies.

then i have two days on the last 2 sections (and i already have the activity planned for one of those days,) a day of review (probably powerpoint jeopardy,) and a unit quiz since their project will count for half their unit grade.

yep, exciting indeed!

Saturday, October 4, 2008

great success

the words of borat basically sum up my latest formative assessment of my kids.

i spent a month on unit 1. much longer than i had planned, but i wanted to teach and reteach until enough of them had success in the beginning that they would continue on in my class with confidence. and it pretty much worked.

i tested them this time on the same topics, but the exam was at least twice as hard as the quizzes have been. half of the questions were regent's type ones, and all the other required them to construct things, analyze and explain data, and write sentences giving examples or justifying their answers. it was really really hard. and not only did i get some good results, but a lot more students passed even on this level.

-28% of my kids scored under a 50, compared to 36% last time. and considering 22% of my kids are special ed, and i have others that just won't do a damned thing no matter what, that's pretty good.

-19% scored between a 50 and a 64. I think I can move these kids up eventually. actually quite a few of them were kids who passed the quizzes but couldn't handle the intensity of the questions. with practice, i'm sure they'll get better at it.

-28% scored between a 65 and an 84. among these are a guy who got a 20 and a 30 on the first two quizzes. he came to me the morning of the test for a cram session during homeroom. he ended up getting an 80. i hope this encourages him to pay more attention since i told him i will not be teaching him during homeroom again. this group also includes a girl who got a 40 and a 33 on her quizzes. she told me she doesn't know how she passed the 8th grade, as she has never gotten higher than a 43 on a math test in her life. she used to have mad attitude with me but she suddenly mellowed out this week. i found out that she was pregant and got an abortion on monday which might be the reason she has been giving all the teachers tons of problems. well anyhow she worked with me a lot this week and actually did her homework and she ended up with a 65, her first pass in math ever. i think this will mean a lot to her and i hope she will work as hard as she did this week every week.

- finally, 25 % of my kids got over an 85 on the test, up from 18% last time. this includes a girl who started off with a 45, got a 67 on the last quiz, and now got a 92.

-an added note, only 4% of my students scored below a 40 which mean that even those who are in my lowest bracket aren't too far off from passing.

given that this test was regent's format and reading/writing intensive, i'm pretty impressed.

so indeed, it was a great success. now if i only had a plan for the next unit...

Sunday, September 28, 2008

It's grading time!

Progress reports are due tomorrow. This is exciting. There are comment codes for just about everything. Poor/missing journals, absent on test days, has ability to do better, recommended for afterschool tutoring, etc.

On Friday, a student told me "Ms. Adelaide, you know you're my favorite teacher." I told him "Well you would be one of my favorite students, but you never show up for my tests." So sad, because the kid obviously knows his stuff in class, but I refuse to give late quizzes since I grade everything and go over them the next day and just move on. Now I have the perfect comment codes for him, plus he knows he gets another chance next week, that if he aces my test (read 80 or better) I'll ignore the fact that he didn't take the first two quizzes of the unit.

Then we have two days off for Rosh Hashana, I'm giving a test when they come back, and I think I'll do something fun with them on Friday. I made it through my first month!

Thursday, September 25, 2008

yet another reason my school is so awesome

i think i've mentioned my toughest class. they're really out of control. there are a few motivated students in there, but they're really suffering because the rest of the class makes teaching a lesson nearly impossible. i've tried investigative group work, experiments, lecturing, games, and nothing seems to get through to them.

anyhow it seems they're starting to cause a problem for other teachers now too, and the genius kid in that class has asked to switch out.

well this afternoon i heard the administration has decided to break up that class a bit and switch around some kids' schedules to make the group more manageable. all the kids take the same classes and have the same hours, so it wouldn't make a difference in their education, it would hopefully just subdue this cracked out class.

i think it's so awesome my school would do that just to respond to the teacher's and a few kids' needs.

also, they're thinking of switching some kids into an single inclusion class. right now, all the classes are inclusion, and the one or two sped kids in each class are really suffering since they're not getting the academic support they need. with one specific inclusion class, we could include the sped kids with those that just need some extra help, and with the sped teacher pushing in to support, it should go much more smoothly.

i'm all for heterogenous classrooms, really. but with the sped kids and no team teacher, they're falling way behind. for the most part, the more advanced kids can help out the average and somewhat below grade level kids during regular classwork, but the sped kids really need a lot more academic support.

i also finished grading and analyzing the data from my quizzes. my failure rate has dropped from 54% to 50%. and 27% of these failures are from kids who came to class in the last week and missed nearly all of the first month of school. this means that over half the people who failed my last quiz passed this one. but the real big deal has been the movement to the top tier. 5% of my kids scored above an 85 last time, but this time 18% of my kids are above an 85. That's huge. I really think on the test next week I can get closer to 25% of them above an 85. It's finally time to start and honors wall!!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

today was interesting

I only had two classes today besides from homeroom. I decided cursing was really getting out of hand with my kids so when someone cursed in homeroom, i handed them a discipline sheet. he was a good sport and filled it out with no problem. then, during my next class, i warned them that profanity was unacceptable and would result in a discipline sheet. i got one "fuck you" after 15 minutes. 5 minutes later, another kid said the f-word. Both kids took the discipline sheet. one didn't want to do it but i convinced him, and the other was ok. The whole class was good for a while, but 10 minutes later, another one said shit when he gave a wrong answer. This kid absolutely refused to do it. The only thing that convinced him was that I told him he wouldn't be able to play football if he refused. I gave him an extra period to think about it, and at the end of the day he had a half complete sheet for me.

Hopefully this should help the cursing issue.

Then my last class was a whole other story. I gave a test and two students were being mildly disruptive. One girl kept turning back and laughing at and talking to a boy who kept humming and making random comments. I decided to move the girl's seat, since the boy wasn't really talking to anyone but himself, but the girl was completely turning around and trying to converse during the test (and she wouldn't care about a zero either.)

Well she refused to move. She mostly just ignored me, but occasionally asked why she had to listen to me. The third time I asked her to move, I told her I would give her a minute to gather her things and go to another desk, or I would have to give her a discipline sheet. She wouldn't move, and then she refused to fill out the sheet. At this point, the entire class had stopped testing and was watching me and this student. Luckily, a dean happened to be walking down the corrider so I asked him to come and take the student.

Not moving her seat isn't such a huge offense in my book, but this was the u2b class (she is my newest addition to the roster.) They used to be a huge discipline problem for me and if they saw me let this girl do whatever she wanted, I feel that all hell would break loose the next time.

So it turns out that the dean conferenced her with the principal and they spoke to her parent too. And apparently she pissed off the always calm principal so much that she walked out of the room on her. That's not a good thing, but it makes me feel like maybe I wasn't overreacting with this girl.

But thankfully my administration is super supportive and are adept at handling these problems while I learn the ropes.

In other news, my entire schedule is now messed up since Friday's classes were cancelled for a school wide activity. I was planning on giving a test on Monday but that will have to be pushed off until Thursday and Friday because of Rosh Hashana. I'm sure the kids will rejoice.

Monday, September 22, 2008

ok scratch that

now i have 2 bad ass classes. i love how it changes from week to week. and the u2b class is getting worse, but i think i can fix that with a seating change. every day there is a farting issue with them, ugh... they're so immature. the other 2 classes, i'm not sure what to do. i need to think hard and come up with some strategies. i'm actually thinking of changing their seats into a circle, but that's a superficial move. i have to get to the root of the problem, which probably has something to do with me boring them!

in other news, i told 3 failing *with zeros* kids to come to tutoring today and they agreed. but then they never showed up. but then 10 other kids did come so at least if i can't bring up my kids at the very bottom, i can bring up those borderline kids with 50's to passing.

i'm giving a quiz this week, which will be a mini version of the test i'm giving on monday. i know it's excessive, but i want to leave a day to review before the test and have different topic "experts" make booths in my room to teach the other kids. if i quiz them the day before, i have a better idea of who know what and who needs reinforcement in specific areas.

hopefully this will work. and if not, then i spent too much time on unit 1 and i know to abandon that idea for next time!

i'm going to basically skip unit 2 since it'll all about adding and subtracting using matrices. i'll stick it in at the end of the year if i have time. unit 3 gets into the algebra which is fun.

but seriously, i don't know how i'll get my kids ready for june! i have a few really high performers who i want to accelerate up a semester so that they can get college credit in math before they graduate. everyone else, i'm not so sure of!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

how do i get them to shut up??

seriously. my classes talk and talk. and one in particular never shuts up, uses street language, and i almost had a fight break out with them.

i have learned to handle the other classes, even with their chattiness and getting out of their seats, and all that jazz. but this one class is the pits. and the worst part is that half of them are in my advisory so i see them twice per day. i really dread advisory now, because even there they talk over me. i can't get anything done with them at all. ughh.

ok anyway, i gave my first quiz and we're averaging about a 50. i'm not really sure what to do. i'm thinking of making test number one super easy, just make sure there are a couple of questions that they absolutely need to know for the regents and the next chapter, and the rest dumbed down. as long as they know the *must know* material, they should be fine. and perhaps getting a good test grade will boost morale and performance a bit.

we'll see...

Friday, September 12, 2008

Today certainly was different!

I decided I didn't want to do much work with my kids today since yesterday was awful for them and me. So I did a quick review with two classes and then started an in class project that had them drawing and counting and building. I had to go around facilitating all the groups, but I didn't have to do any real teaching which was a load off of me.

Then the awful class from yesterday got greeted today with a classroom filled with row seating. This really threw them off. I drilled into them that I have no problem failing them if I here even a peep from them. Then I made them arrange the rows into tables and line up in the back of the room while I seated them. I really took control of the situation. They were a million times better today. It also helped that the worst kid was out! But I asserted my authority and I think I gained a lot of respect.

So for the used-to-be-awful-class (I'll call them U2b) I tried something different. I gave them really challenging functions to work out while I helped the struggling kids with the basics. I gave them only 2 homework problems for the weekend and told them that we could all leave home happy today. As they acted up, I added more homework problems. All it took was one time, and they quieted down.

And then for my last class, I tried to keep them challenged and ended with a game. But I have to work a little harder for them because there is a big range of talent in that room, everywhere from special ed to kids who are really really smart. I'm going to have to make more of an effort to differentiate better.

But anyhow, today went really well, and it's actually supposed to be my most intensive day. I was really impressed with how I brought the teacher 'tude to the classroom, and the change it made in my kids. And even more impressive, my principal and AP visited my room at the end of the day to ask me how it has been, and also to make sure I didn't want to quit! I'm sure even if I did, they would've done anything they could to help me.

I left the building today with a big smile today. I'm sure next week will be full of it's ups and downs, but I know I can survive!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

And again, what a difference a day can make...

Today was mostly a failure for me. My advisory class walked all over me again. I'm a crappy advisory teacher, that's for sure. I need to think of something fast that will keep them engaged.

Then my brilliant lesson from yesterday didn't work so much for my classes today. One of them was a little lost, and then the other one I just had to slow down entirely with. But still it was ok. I promised them the fun activity for tomorrow.

But then the class that my advisory kids are in, they were wild. They pissed me off to no end. I told them they're getting a quiz tomorrow. I bet half of them won't even show up!

Some of my best kids in that class were awful... but two things i just thought of that are cheering me up... as I was telling the class how I was upset with their behavior today, one kid said to me "tomorrow is another day." and yeah, he's right. everyone has off days. i certainly did. i'm going to go in tomorrow and just try to do my best, and i hope they do as well.

secondly, two days ago the staff discussed my used-to-be-awful-class. they were little terrors with me and one other teacher. this afternoon I got a letter in my box from the guidance counselor that said that he spoke with three of the students who were causing problems. two of them acknowledged their behavior and one of them was clueless/denied it. regardless, it's good to know that in my school, action is taken immediately and everyone works together to improve the learning environment. i don't think i could be in a better spot for my first year, especially since my lessons are failing half the time so i need all the help i can get!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

What a difference a day can make

My advisory class came in and were pretty quiet and respectful for the most part. I guess word got out that I enacted the school discpline code on a student yesterday and no one else wanted in on that.

Then my principal sat in on my class with the horror show kids. They were pretty much perfect with her in the room. But it wasn't only her presence; I gave such an interactive and engaging lesson that I genuinely had their attention throughout most of the hour. I know that for this class especially, I really need to bring it.

Too bad this wasn't a formal observation, really, because my principal and the curriculum coach commended my lesson immensely. I blended literacy with math, and had the class make a graphic organizer. Then to top it all off we played a game that really got them fluent in what I was teaching. I pulled out all the stops, and thank goodness, this lesson is a keeper. I even had a closing journal entry that we couldn't get to which I will use as my do now for tomorrow's lesson. This means 2 less hours of work next year... woohoo!!

In other good news, I checked the DOE payroll system and I'm on it, set to get paid on the 15th. No delays! Other teachers were warning me that it might take months so see my check. But nosiree... I even saw my paystub online (I have to change my exemption status because they are taking out waaaay too many taxes.)

So now I have to plan to see how I can bring it for the kids tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Into the second week

I thought I was doing great after the first week. My kids were all into my rules and procedures and for the most part my classes are responsive. I knew it was just a honeymoon week but it seemed they had everything down well enough that we could have a good year together.

Today my advisory class walked in and talked all over each other and myself, no matter how many times I asked them to stop. I think a talk about respect is in order for tomorrow.

Then I had a bunch of mostly boring lessons which is obviously my fault. I tried to make the most of it but then my godawful class came in. They are every one of the most immature students in the 9th grade all stuck in one class. They are terrible, not because they're cursing and fighting, but rather they talk nonstop the entire class and don't pay attention to a damn thing we're doing. Plus the class is 75% boys and the girls stick together like there's no tomorrow. When I split them up for some group work, a girl and a boy got into a fight and after 15 minutes, only one third of the students had any work on their paper.

I need to plan some amazing lessons to grab their attention. But I'm too goddamned tired. I've been sleeping 3-4 hours a night and right now I'm absolutely fried.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Before the first day

Tomorrow will be my first day teaching. Ever. I'm not really sure why I chose this path... for most people who are part of the New York City Teaching Fellows it is a calling, a longing that they have felt for some time. For me, I wanted a career that would work well around my family, plus I like math. So I gave it a shot and here I am.

So I'm going to step into the classroom tomorrow, terrible at speaking in front of crowds as it is, and fake my way through my nerves. I am lucky enough to be in a supportive school; we actually just created a school wide discipline plan and are on a unified front. But the plan still isn't finalized and I'm not sure exactly what to tell my students. I can't even lay out the consequences for their misbehaviors because the dean is going to come around during homeroom at some point this week to discuss the system.

I've been reading through the Wong book... I've had it all summer long but only opened it up tonight. It mentions all the procedures that are important to go over with the class. It even gives the language with which to address them with the class. But it's too late for me to memorize anything...

So it's 10pm now, my husband is coming home with dinner, I have to fix my letter home to the parents and come up with a list of rules and procedures I want to discuss tomorrow. I feel so unprepared.