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.