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:)

Saturday, September 18, 2010

A Breath of Fresh Air

WOW I can already tell this will be a much better year than last year.

Firstly I had to jump through some hoops and ask favors of a couple of people, but everything worked out with my college. One of my professors changed my failing grade to a B+ and I am able to retake and replace the grades for the other two courses. I feel so refreshed and motivated.

Secondly, my students seem so different this year. Of course I recognize we're still in the "honeymoon" phase, however I just can tell these students are a totally different crop than last year. They seem more intrinsically motivated and more respectful in general.

Also, I only teach two or three classes every day. I have 2 periods a day off for dean work this year. Plus, there's a second dean now, so the workload is lessened.

And best of all, I only teach two algebra classes, and one MUSIC class!!! i'm teaching the kids how to read music and play piano and they are loving it. i'm loving it, too.

i still have a lot of dean work and per session activities that add stress, but my program is so manageable and my students so wonderful this year, that i just know it's going to be much easier this time around.

Monday, August 16, 2010

recap and moving forward

i ended the year with 56% of my students passing. that's pretty pathetic but I did my best. over 25% of my kids were SPED and the rest were downright low functioning nearly 80% 1s and 2s) so i'm ok with the results.

i just finished up a successful summer school class so I think my stats will go to about 65% passing but i've accepted my low scores either way and am looking forward to meeting the new freshmen in september.

i have a new, interesting schedule for this upcoming year. they reduced my teaching load by another period to do dean work so now i only teach 3 classes. i'm teaching two algebra, and then one music class which i've never done before. it will be a piano lab which i'm nervous about, but it's nice for a change of pace.

but i'm extremely stressed right now. i might lose my license and be kicked out of grad school. i was stupid and didn't follow through with things and got 3 ABS grades. One of them I never resolved, but I handed in the work to the other 2 professors. However both professors never changed my grade and now it's too late. One professor, who still is teaching at the school, has downright refused to return any emails or phone calls and my GPA is horrendous. I also took a class last semester where the professor visited me at my school and he told me I got an A, but it's not on my transcript. Apparently I was on academic probation, so they didn't register me (although the teacher was visiting me so I had no clue this was an issue!) and now I basically wasted the entire semester with that class because I have to retake it.

so i'm on academic probation with 2 semesters left. 2 semesters to take my pre-thesis class, my thesis class, plus retake the 3 ABS classes that turned into Fs and the observation class. There is no way in hell they're going to let me do this and I just don't know what to do! I got a letter in July telling me to speak to the department chairperson, but after calling, emailing, and then visiting in person, I found out she will not be in until the first week of school. The school secretary that was in when I visited told me she thinks they will kick me out.

This is not looking good.

I am really good at what I do, but really bad at school.

I am just going to go down as soon as the chairperson gets back, give it my best shot, and hope for the best. This is really stressing me majorly. I fucked up so badly.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

ZOMG 31%

I administered a practice Regent's this past week. It was an actual 3 hour run through that 22 students stayed until 5:30pm to take. The group was a perfect cross section of my school: 3 level 3's, the rest 2's and 1's. 5 student's with IEP's and 2 ELL's. A few repeaters, too. This was not planned, but that's the group that chose to stay after I announced the run through to my students the day before.

I graded the exams on Friday and a whopping 31% passed! And yes, this was with the Regent's curve.

I'm hoping to double this score with 4 instructional days to go.

ZOMG not happening.

I will administer another Regent's this coming week. I hope for 40% passing this time...

Friday, May 21, 2010

i will be teaching geometry

for 2 short weeks, that is.

i filled out my preference sheet and chose to teach algebra again. the current geometry teacher who has seniority chose to teach algebra II, and then geometry as her second choice because she's that sweet and feels comfortable teaching anything. so i will be teaching the same subject for the third time in a row.

however, she opted out of teaching summer school so i've been asked to teach both algebra and geometry in july. we do a super short summer school for two weeks of two hour classes a day. it's good for review, but hardly anything else.

i'm excited to foray into geometry without a year-long commitment. i'm looking forward to wetting my feet a bit and maybe in another year, i'll feel like changing subjects.

My class is now in "Regent's Institute." If they are not there to work hard, I kick them out of my class and then have them come in for 7:15am detention to make up what they missed. So far this has been keeping my students very much in line. I guess having dean power is very helpful, but technically any teacher can adopt this policy. Before I was dean though, I would have never thought of doing anything like that.

I'm a firm believer of NOT kicking kids out and working with each kid to learn, however, at this point in the year we are moving very quickly and working intensely and I feel that no student has the right to take away from an entire class' chance of passing the Regent's.

Along with the assistant principal, I have also put 4 kids on permanent suspension for the rest of the school year. I love the no tolerance attitude. Our 9th graders are taking 3 Regent's, and our 10th graders at least 2 Regent's each so we want to make sure individual classrooms run as smoothly as possible right now.

ok it's 4am, another one of my insomniac nights. must go to sleep.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

hit me (with a pie) baby, one more time

the students are making a carnival in june. as part of the fundraising, they're having a pie throwing contest. students will pay $5 to throw a pie at teachers' faces. when surveyed which teachers the students at my school were most willing to pay to throw a pie at, i overwhelmingly came in as #1. yesssssssssssssssss. i hope to raise a ton of money for the school!

in other news i gave a test this week and my students overwhelmingly aced it. 20% of them scored above a 90, up from about 5%. 3 more special ed students passed for their first time ever, too. it's very exciting. my CTT class is trying so hard, it's fantastic. my bad-ass class was still bad ass today, but they learned really well.

i'm just about racing through the curriculum right now since i'm soooo behind, but the kids are going with it. unfortunately, i seem to be out of school more than in school lately, so i've been falling even more behind. the one thing about taking on more responsibility at work is that i have more professional duties to pull me away. this month alone i flew across the country to speak at an international conference, and i also had a network meeting in the city. i know of 3 more days that i will be out in the next 2 weeks, and i'm getting nervous. i'm fairly certain i will not even come close to last year's regent's passing rate, but i'm trying my best.

for the record, i still am a per session whore. i picked up even more hours by running an extra math class so now i'm up to 12 hours a week.

and now for the joke of the day... how many students does it take to make tables from a classroom set of desks? no one knows for sure, but apparently more than 27!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

love being dean

the phys ed teacher told me this afternoon that the kids are scared of me.

no, that isn't my goal as dean. my current goals are that the kids comply with the school rules for the most part, student frustrations and fights are kept to a minimum, and that detention is restored as a viable threat, sought to be avoided.

in gym class today, the students were discussing that i suspend them just for saying "okay." bwahahahahaha. i'm really not that evil but i have very little tolerance for the students disregarding rules. there are certain students i'm willing to give an extra chance, but overall i have been suspending for simple offenses.

my feeling is if the students see they can push the boundaries with basic rules, it will only get worse. next year we are adding another 80 students to the school and i want to set a precedent for behavior.

i have already noticed a big attitude change in a couple of my repeat offenders. they're following the rules more and being more respectful in general. i'm also "insane" with my detention policy but this week uniform compliance has been at an all time (96% ) high since we first instituted the policy in 2008.

i also noticed that now i can walk into advisories in the middle of the day and get the whole class' attention within seconds of standing there. they are becoming so respectful, and it only took about a month!

in terms of my other goal, minimizing fights and frustrations, i try to pull kids out of class and talk to them when i notice or hear of the first hint of an issue. when i hear a child's name mentioned with a certain issue, even if only as a periphery figure, i still pull them to talk. i check in often and try to have many personal conversations with the kids. while i am known as being "super strict," at the same time i don't want to lose my softer edge and sacrifice the personalization most students need.

just as i'm still tweaking the way i balance my personality and teaching style, it will take time for me to find the perfect balance outside the classroom.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

awesome observation

i decided at 2:30am that today i would have the students design their own theme park rides.

i came up with a project proposal form in a matter of minutes and wrote up a lesson plan in less than 5.

why is it that my best ideas come to me at the worst possible times, and only take me minutes to write up and plan for? i should just sit down for 15 minutes a night and do what i need to do at normal hours.

so my class learned about disjointed inequalities today and practiced. then they proposed and sketched theme park rides of their own. they needed to impose height restrictions on their rides and make an inequality to represent it (and justify their reasoning as well.) tomorrow they will put their plans to chart paper and draw them up.

my kids had sooooo much fun with it, and i really got to see their personalities shine. they came up with some interesting and crazy ideas too. i look forward to seeing them finish tomorrow.

during my observation, i used 40 minutes for the warm up, mini lesson, practice, and discussions before group work. the kids were excited and engaged. two kids put there heads down and i woke them up with a bang. they debated the math, as well as semantics and meanings of words. they were raising their hands for every question. even my of the boat ELL student answered a question using her hands to simulate inequalities because she couldn't answer in english just yet.

from bell to bell i used every second and once we moved on to group work, the kids went right to it without any prodding. they did everything asked of them and i was able to wrap up with a couple of summary questions.

when i finished, the first word my professor said was "wow." i thought he was wowing the kids (they're a bit attitude-filled and feisty) but now, he was wowing that lesson. then he said "that lesson hit on everything i could ever want a teacher to do."

he went on to go through the lesson piece by piece and praise it. but i realized why it ended up being so good... the motivational hook. i never think too much about the motivations but my professor emailed me earlier this week reminding me that he would be looking at how i handle motivating my students. so yesterday and today i used the amusement park theme and drew in the kids from the first step.

i know that i need to really think hard so i can hook my kids with every lesson because it clearly works wonders. i just only wish my AP had stepped in, because he promised me he would pop in either today or tomorrow to observe.!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

i rocked out interdisciplinary studies

today i walked into school at 7:58 am with little idea of what i was going to be doing. we're learning inequalities and my kids are already good at solving multi-step ones so i couldn't exactly give them a whole period of practice.

i was reading about some of the best roller coasters in the world last night, and in a split second, a fantastic idea came to me.

i grabbed a few tape measures out of my closet and borrowed my neighbor's yard stick and proceeded to tell my class about an amazingly fast, tall, and intense ride called the "extreme horror coaster" in japan. of course i made up the name and pretty much all the details.

my kids were totally hooked, either they wanted to learn more and were listening intently, or they were horrified and completely silent while they took in the details.

little did i know this would be an awesome lesson which reviewed not only math with them, but some global studies, literacy, and biology as well.

i told them that because of the intensity of the horror coaster, riders had to be at least 66" tall. I armed them with measuring equipment and told them to determine whether they would be allowed on.

while they were measuring away (which is a skill they really needed the practice in) a colleague of mine happened to stop in to see what we were doing. when i told her, she mentioned he pingping, the shortest man in the world who recently passed away. she said she even had some copies of an article about him and she got them for me.

after they measured, came to conclusions, and drew up some inequalities, i handed out the article. we read and discussed it briefly. it even had a picture of both the shortest and tallest men together.

the class, who is currently in living environment, made the connection to the endocrine system and hormonal defects that cause dwarfism and gigantism!!!

then we came up with a ride that only pingping could go on (the choo choo train) and made an inequality for it.

then we decided the bumper cars would exclude both pingping and the tallest man for safety and comfort reasons and learned how to build a compound inequality with this information.

i'm getting observed tomorrow, and i want to come up with a good idea on how to continue with our amusement park inequalities (and perhaps some candy game,) preferably BEFORE i get into school to teach my first class tomorrow!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

better week and tales from the darkside

sexual innuendo boy was suspended. after a conference with him, myself, and the guidance counselor, i think he's clear on the issue and extremely apologetic. i'm somewhat confident this won't happen again.

my lessons have been going well since friday. i'm practically going broke purchasing candy for the students, but this is the self dubbed "candy unit." the kids are eagerly spending the first 45 minutes of each class learning and working out problems, just for 10 minutes of the candy inequality game in which they hold up a number in the solution set of a given inequality. if they are correct, they get a piece of candy tossed to them and if they are incorrect, they get a paper ball thrown at them. they all see to enjoy the game, especially when kids get hit with flying paper balls.

so last week was really bad and this week is better. that's the nature of this profession...

my principal nominated me for the teaching fellows ACE award again this year. my second application essay was rushed, as I submitted it at 11:59pm on the due date. but my resume is significantly more extensive and i'm much more involved in my school this year, so it might help. i could really use the money, i don't even care about the faux prestige!

and now for tales from the dark side (aka dean's office):
-today, after inappropriately touching two girls, a male student grabbed an iron bar in science lab and modeled it as his own penis and thrusted into the air telling the science teacher "isn't this what you do when you go home at night?"
-another student threatened a teacher and tried to throw punches at him, only to be intercepted by security just in time.
- yesterday two female students got into a fight in the main hallway over facebook comments. one girl was pulling the other's hair and when a teacher tried to intervene, the other girl literally climbed over the teacher, bashing her face in.

i have an insane number of kids currently on suspension or removal from class, about 10% of the school right now. my AP told me it gets very bad in the spring and if we crack down in march, it will be easier buckle down and the kids on board with their regent's work in april and may.

i'm also completely revolutionizing the detention system with a ton of resistance from the students. they don't want to serve their time because they hate it, which is leading to multiple suspensions. the administration is fully behind me and feels that students will adapt to the new system with time, which will ultimately lead to less detentions and suspensions in general.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

how i know i'm *really* hated

i attended an inquiry meeting today instead of teaching (woohoo.) after a long day, i had to come back into work to catch up on some paperwork.

i walked into my classroom and almost started crying.

my box of crayons and markers was laying open and empty on a desk and the floor was covered with my uncapped markers, plus broken up little bits of crayons. and my floor was flooded with torn up little bits of paper, all coming from detention letters.

the kicker was that i know it couldn't have happened during advisory because the teacher that took over my advisory class would NEVER let the students leave the room looking like that. so i was able to identify that it was my 5th period class that did it-- which means they saved their detention letters for 2 hours in order to trash my room with them.

the sub isn't at fault at all. from what i can tell, she did a great job. i had her actually teaching my class something, at it seems that many of the students learned. something else i noticed when i walked in is that there were explanations and answers up on the board and textbooks all over so my classes were somewhat productive today.

but back to my trashed room... the initial shock wore off after about a minute and i started cleaning up. then a 10th grader (boy do i miss teaching those kids!) came in and when he saw the mess, he offered to clean my room in exchange for me knocking an hour off his detention, which i gladly accepted. (note to self: think of more duties i can have kids help me with in exchange for detention hours.)

lucky for this boy the janitor walked in about 3 minutes later so the job was easy. i profusely apologized to the janitor for the mess, but he was pretty rude to me. i understand why, but it still bothers me.

oh then my day got even worse. there's a relatively new boy in my school who has been completely disrespectful to me. i pulled him into the office to talk to him, tell him he's getting on my last nerve, that i'm willing to start anew with him, but next time he bothers me i'm not even going to give him a chance and i'll just suspend him...

so he seemed ok with everything. an hour later, when i left work he was waiting outside. he told me he wanted me to take him home with me and he wanted to be with me. asked if i had a husband, and other assorted nonsense. too bad he didn't do this in the school building because i would have sat him down, had him call his father and explain what he did, and suspended him for sexual innuendos.

i was nervous the boy was going to follow me home but he didn't.

i am calling his home tomorrow but i feel so goddamn defeated. EVERYTHING is getting to me! i think i'm more of a mess this week than i have ever ever been in my teaching career (all 18 months of it.) i am realizing though that my AP gets nearly as much crap from the kids as i do, but he lets it roll right off of him to the point where it amuses him-- and that discourages the kids. so i think i'll develop thicker skin from this, because i know myself and i always succeed at everything i try. i'll just have to adapt.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

i feel like running away

the students hate me this year. i went from most loved to most hated very quickly. i suppose that means i can be loved again but right now it's bugging me.

i'm under so much pressure at work. i feel like i'm letting things slip past me and maybe i shouldn't care so much but i'm used to being 100% on top of things and in control.

something i haven't discussed thus far in this blog is my personal life. i won't go into detail, but my marriage has been in turmoil for a long time and it very well might be ending. but right now i'm feeling tortured and scared.

every week it seems a new babysitter cancels on me and i'm now in jeopardy of failing my grad school class because of attendance issues, even though i have the highest scores in the class.

i want to stay home and cry and hide. seriously.

but i cant.

spring break is coming but it's no vacation. it just means getting up early and taking care of my children, all the while fighting with my husband. i'd rather be at work than on break.

i need to manage my time better and get in control. i'm feeling extremely on edge and vulnerable right now. and i know i'm probably biting off more than i can chew at work, but to make matters worse i'm desperate for the money. i gave up one per session posting (only 4 hours a month) but i can't afford to take on less at this point.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

I am a per session whore.

I would probably do best not to overwhelm myself in only my second year, however as my husband's pay has been seriously cut and we're struggling to make ends meet, I have happily stockpiled as many per session positions as I could get my hands on.

My extra duties go something like this every 2 weeks:

Extra math class I picked up: 4 hours
Running detention: 6 hours +
Data specialist: 4 hours
Coordinator of education plans: 1 hour

This leaves me with approximately $630 extra every 2 weeks.

Today I pitched an idea to my AP for an extra hour every week to work in a small group with the ESL students who miss a lot of my class due to mandated ESL work and he went for it. He liked it so much that he's asking one of the science teachers to do the same. I just have to find the time for it.

So now I'm going to be getting over $1400 per session a month. I'm such a whore.


I started a project the day before break last week and have been continuing it this week. I forgot how much projects are a win-win situation! The kids enjoy doing them, while I don't need to make lesson plans or worry about teaching as they work together practically the entire period.

I'm ever so slightly ahead of last year's pace and I did TONS of projects and chart paper lessons and presentations, so I should be just fine relaxing slightly until the end of April and work on making my class more enjoyable.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

need to rethink things

i realize i'm not differentiating enough.

and i've been way too boring.

i need to take next week to relax, think, and come up with new ways to help my kids learn.

Monday, February 8, 2010

making the most of advisory

They still haven't hired a new history teacher so I have my advisory in the meantime.

I actually came up with a pretty decent 2 week project to tide us over until the break, after which, I hope to have the class relieved from me.

I have the kids making their very first resumes and they actually really enjoy it. I've been alternating days in the classroom with days in the computer lab. When they're on the computers, I let them play music and surf the web as long as they complete the assignment and hand in a printed document by the end of the hour. They're great at multitasking on the computer-- and trust me, I get it. I do the same thing myself all night long.

They have enjoyed the peer editing as well. Tomorrow they'll print out a final version and Wednesday I think we'll do mock job interviews. Thursday, if I know for sure that a new teacher is coming to take over my class, I'll throw them a little "going away" party.


I have officially been chosen for the per session after school dean position. This is from 4-8 per session hours every 2 weeks.

I'm already making 9 per session hours each pay period so this will be a nice addition.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

advisory is almost gone!!!

the dean position is still not posted. and apparently i'm not the only person gunning for it.

however, my AP told me yesterday that him and the principal decided that since I have been given so much responsibility since my colleague left (running PD, meetings, basically at the beck and call of my principal) they agree that it's only fair to take my advisory away from me to free up some of my time.

and when the time comes that dean is posted, it'll be easier to take the position as i'm only teaching 4 periods a day.

so in the meantime i'm just waiting for them to hire a new teacher to take over my old colleague's classes. because of the freeze, they have to interview all the ATR's in addition to traditional candidates before they are allowed to make a decision so it's taking a while. but i can't wait for the new teacher because i'm in the mood to meet someone new and this person will be picking up my dreaded advisory class!!!

while i'm waiting, i'm hanging around the AP trying to learn the ropes. today i played with the building security cameras for the first time and caught a kid graffiti-ing up a table in our main hallway. exciting because he just happens to be someone my AP is trying to get rid and here the kid earned himself a suspension.

my AP was so excited that we nabbed, he actually high fived me when he saw the camera footage.

omg i'm such a suck up. but really i'm desperate for money right now so i'm mostly gunning for per session hours.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

i have been told today by my departing colleague that my advisory has already been taken away from me. THANK GOD. although it's kind of strange that the position still hasn't been posted yet and the administration hasn't said a word to me about deaning yet. but if i were on the other side of the fence and wanted the position i'd be extremely upset.

it will not, however, be a reality until i hear it direct from the the higher ups.

something i'm mulling over though is that my colleague asked if i want to take over his classroom. he's directly across from the main office so if issues came up he could quickly take or make a phone call or print out a suspension letter. my classroom is in the main teaching corridor but not near any office or computer or phone. it would be an advantage to move to his old classroom, but i there are a few things to consider:

a) it would be a huge hassle to move my entire classroom, take down student work and bulletin boards, move my bookcases and textbooks, and empty my lockers and cabinets.
b) i just got new oversized desks and don't want to give them up, nor do i want to inconvenience the custodial staff and make them switch two classrooms.
c) many of the students are emotional about my colleague leaving. i feel weird taking over his position as well as his room when everyone knows i have my own room already. i don't want to give the students any more reason to be resentful towards me.

but should i really care? am i being too meek and overly sensitive towards others? ugh whatever. maybe i'll stay put just for this semester and then i can always move rooms over the summer if i feel it will be easier.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

out with the old... possibly.

My dear colleague is leaving next week and will only be with us for a maximum of 3 more days.

Although the position for data specialist hasn't been posted yet, I've been told it's mine. There's only one other person who might apply, but I know the administration wants me for it. I'm nervous about going to network meetings and schmoozing with all of the higher ups at the district but it's good for me. My ultimate goal is to become an administrator so this can only help me grow and learn professionally.

The school will also need a new dean now. My colleague has been pushing for me to consider it for a while and I felt it wasn't for me. However, I teach a godawful advisory class 4 days a week and would do anything to get out of it. I really struggle with the class and would not mind whoring myself out to ditch it.

As dean, I would be able to get rid of one of my classes to take care of paperwork and other issues. So now I'm sure I will be applying for the position and am hoping I get it. Anything to get out of advisory!

I spent almost 2 hours this afternoon learning everything about being data specialist and doing dean work. I know all the computer stuff and how to take care of paperwork. I've got it down. I learned about the budget for the different positions and for my data team staff. I'm not worried about any of this. What I am worried about is standing in the hallways and ensuring order. And earning the respect of all the students. I don't have enough confidence with this.

I have some big shoes to fill and I'm nervous. But everyone starts somewhere. I'm just going to jump in head first and go for it.

As for dean, I've been told that there are 2 other people who might apply. The administration was unsure of who they wanted but I'm the only one who has been trained on the back end aspect which is valuable. I also have the school secretary on my side and she's thisclose with the principal. She's sold on my ideas to change our ineffective detention center.

So here's hoping I can get rid of my advisory, something I've been trying to do since my very first week as a teacher!!

Sunday, January 17, 2010

my disjointed year

last year i felt that the prentice hall textbook presented integrated algebra in such a disjointed fashion that i attempted to reorganize the curriculum this year. i don't think i've made any major improvements though and approximately half way through the year, i still have a ton of ground to cover.

so far i've done:

writing expressions and equations
solving equations
ratios and proportions
function tables
scatter plots
graphing lines
slope and y-intercept
solving systems of equations graphically and algebraically
properties of real numbers

so far i have to do:
data analysis (MOCT, types of data, presentations of data)
inequalities (understanding and graphing)
systems of inequalities
working with exponents and scientific notation
polynomials (adding, subtracting, and multiplying)
pythagorean theorem
simplifying square roots
trigonometric ratios

i'm skipping rational expressions for now...

i'm not so sure i'm going to be able to fit this all in by mid-may. somehow last year i was incredibly ahead of where i am now.

what i'm hoping is since my kids are now mavens at graphing, the inequality and parabola sections will go super fast. i'm really nervous!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Bittersweet news

There is a teacher at my school who I really look up to. He is younger than me, but is in his 5th year. We always have gotten along great and he really helped me learn the ropes of the whole school system. Unofficially, he has been my mentor.

He has always talked very highly of me to the administration and introduced me to important people. He also pushed me to coordinate the inquiry team for my grade and has nudged me into other leadership roles since he saw great potential.

I love working with him for another reason; we challenge each other intellectually. We are both highly competitive and push each other to be the best we can be. And aside from that, we compete in silly games and make bets and just generally make work a lot more enjoyable.

He has been looking for an administrative position and today he let me know one of his interviewers called back and he's been offered an AP position to begin within 2 weeks. I am sooooo happy for him, but also quite sad to see him go. He will be sorely missed.

He thinks I should be happy that he's leaving because he's also vacating a slew of per session positions for me to fill (to the tune of about $20K/yr.) And god knows I need the money. But I'm not so sure I'm ready to fill his shoes. I only just ran my first PD for the school today and was enjoying easing into various leadership roles. This is all so sudden.

I'm nervous, scared, and already missing a good friend dearly before he has even left.

Monday, January 11, 2010

bad day

omg today was semi-hellish.

of 4 classes that i taught, 3 were absolutely horrid (the sole exception being the CTT class because apparently i have some natural skill with them.) i wanted to make at least 20 phonecalls home this afternoon but i had no free periods. instead i had a mandatory PD meeting at the end of the day.

so of course tomorrow the kids will be just as bad since they "got away" with their bad behavior today as i had no way of calling home. thankfully tomorrow i have the last 2 hours of the day free so i will be on the phone and hopefully make some sort of impact.


i'm not going to even bother starting from september again in regards to rule enforcement because i have 1 week to go until finals. in another day these kids will be working in groups with review materials and it's up to them if they want to pass or fail. i've temporarily resigned from helping them at this point.

after finals is regents week so there's no school, and then the new semester starts at which point i will go back to basics with the rules. until then it's just survival.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

I never got a chance to relax or rest during christmas break, so my first week back was pretty miserable. I guess the kids were also a bit off the wall and things didn't start looking up til around Thursday.

I started a new practice this week which is so obvious, I don't know what took me so long to do it! The topic I'm doing now easily lends itself to a long answer section of the Regents. So I put up my own 4-point Regents rubric on the board, encouraging the kids to get a point or 2 even if they're pretty clueless (as I go over the rubric, I teach them the tricks to earn partial credit even with minimal knowledge.)

The students are eating it up! For about 30 minutes I give the class multiple examples to work on either independently or with their groups and as they finish each one I give them a rubric grades. Kids who I usually get no work from are getting 1 or 2 points, and the really sever special ed students are also able to get at least 2 points using what I taught them.

I've found this to be particularly helpful for my CTT class, because everyone can get involved and see some measure of success, but at the same time the high achieving students strive for perfect 4's and with the immediate grading, they compete with each other for the perfect 4s, and look for errors and correct the work right away when they get anything less.

Ok so speaking of CTT, there was a big meeting on Friday with the principal, AP of special ed, the special ed teacher, 2 paras, the secretary, and guidance counselor. They discussed how the CTT class isn't working well and changes needed to be made next semester. They asked the CTT teacher if they saw the class working well in any subject and she said that only in my class are the SPEDs making progress while the gen ed kids are doing as well as, or better than when they started back in september. she pointed out that they work particularly well in groups in my class, and that i maintain a competitive enviroment that encourages the lower function students to achieve while engaging the higher functioning ones.

I wasn't at this meeting; I had no idea it was even taking place. But for the rest of the afternoon random people came up to me to tell me what a "hit" i was at the SPED meeting. Pretty awesome.

So last week started terribly (I mean there had to be at least 10 times a day that I just stood there staring at my students not knowing what to do because they were so bad!) but it ended pretty successfully. We'll see how next week goes.