May 31, 2006
I've knocked off most of the things on the list that was jumbling up my brain. In reviewing the list, I remembered I need to check up on that lack of payment issue. I did, actually, but I haven't hear anything. How could I forget to check on money that should be in my pocket? Maybe now that my brain isn't so jumbled...
The yearbook signing party was yesterday. Overall, the yearbook turned out super cool (first year in full color!) and the party went off without a hitch. I've gotten a lot of compliments about the book and how the smoothly the event went. That's good. I don't think the administration nor many of the students had much faith in me when I took over the yearbook this year. All I can say is, we had some rocky roads this year and they are damn lucky they had me. I'm patting myself on the back. Pshaw! These people don't know my past. My past is full of yearbook strife, so full that when I left my last position, I said I'd never do it again.
BTW, I've got to stop saying I'm NEVER going to do something. That's a surefire way to end up doing it. Next thing you know I'm going to be living in California, working at a fast food restaurant to support my six kids. Help!
Last week I had a potentially bad experience with a parent. It never reached me, which is often the case, but I was consulted and gave my input. Or something like that. Today the coordinator who was orginally contacted told me she'd talked to the upset parent again, and everything is okay. (We appreciate him bringing this matter to attention. We're working together, here! Wish that could happen more.) She also passed on a compliment that I was the student's favorite teacher, which seems pretty bland, but the student is a tough one to get to know. For his parents to acknowledge it and pass it on, especially when I was at the top of their shit list last week, is major. I recognized the student's awesome personality in the first week of school, but he keeps it pretty buried. I've kept trying to draw him out all year, and mostly he doesn't let me. It's like this secret between us that he is a much cooler kid that he lets people know. You know, he's been one of my favorites of all time, so I am glad to know the feeling is mutual.
Seems like I should have some more happy thoughts.
Oh! I found $.06 today! Puttin' that in my new car fund.
May 28, 2006
- Green jell-o with carrots mixed in doesn't seem strange.
- You can pronounce Tooele.
- The U is not just a letter - Neither is the Y.
- You have actually eaten funeral potatoes.
- You've gotten both heat and frost burns off your car's door handle in the same month.
- You are not surprised to hear words like "Darn, Fetch, Flip", "Oh, My Heck" and "Shoot".
- Your tulips get snowed on three times after they come up and twice more after they bloom.
- Hunting season is a school holiday.
- The largest liquor store is owned by the state government.
- You can go skiing and play golf on the same day.
- 30% humidity is muggy and almost unbearable.
- Somewhere in your family tree is a polygamist.
- You know the difference between a 'Steak House' and a 'Stake House'.
- The elevation exceeds the population.
- You've broken down on the highway and somebody stops to help you.
- You can see the stars at night.
- You have a bumper sticker that says "Families are Forever."
- You were an aunt or uncle before you were three.
- Your spouse's mother was pregnant at your wedding.
- You have more children than you can find biblical names for.
- Your family considers a trip to McDonald's a night out.
- Your first child was conceived on your honeymoon.
- You feel guilty when you watch Monday Night Football.
- Your kids believe the deer hunt is a national holiday.
- You drink Coke from a brown paper bag.
- You consider a temple recommend a credit reference.
- At least two of your salad bowls are at the homes of neighbors.
- You believe that you must be 18 or older to order coffee at a restaurant.
- You wonder why fire truck drivers honk when you drive 35 mph in the left lane on the freeway.
- There is a similarity between a ward basketball game and the L.A. riots.
- You think Jack Daniels is a country western singer.
- You negotiate prices at a garage sale.
- You can make jell-O salad without the recipe.
- You've heard about BYU football in a testimony meeting.
- You have two gallons of ice cream in your freezer at all times.
- Your father-in-law thinks Ronald Reagan was a liberal.
- A member of your family wrote in Lavell Edwards for president in the last election.
- Cars in the slow lane are traveling the fastest; cars in the fast lane are traveling the slowest; cars in the middle lanes are always trying to exit.
- Sandals are the best-selling shoes.
- You have to ask for the uncensored version of "Titanic."
- Hotel rooms all have the Book of Mormon.
- You buy your wardrobe at the local grocery superstore.
- You learn about the Mormon Church by taking history in elementary school.
- You live in a state where Democrats always come in third place, unless a zoo animal is running. Then they come in fourth.
- You're on your own if you are turning left.
- Schools stay open, even if two feet of snow falls overnight, but close for the opening of hunting season.
- People wear shorts and T-shirts if the temperature rises above 32 degrees.
- There is a church on every corner, but they all teach the same thing.
- The most popular public transportation system is a ski lift.
- People drive to Idaho, Colorado, (or Arizona) to pick up a gallon of milk so they can play the lottery.
- In-state college football rivalries are bigger than the Super Bowl.
- Beer drinkers don't shop on Sunday.
- You don't have to breathe cigarette smoke until you walk outside a building.
- The cost of living rises while your salary drops.
- Every driveway has a minivan and a pickup truck.
- When you buy a new vehicle, cigarette lighters are optional equipment but gun and ski racks are standard.
- Every time a new family moves into your neighborhood, the local elementary school has to hire a new teacher.
- Your paycheck has an additional 10 percent deduction.
- "Temple recommends" is acceptable identification for cashing a check.
- More movies are filmed in your town than in Hollywood.
- You've never had a Mormon missionary knock on your door.
- Your neighbors complain about where they live, yet refuse to return to the state they moved from.
- You make a toast with red punch at your wedding reception.
- You have more raw wheat stored than some Third World countries.
- Your idea of a good time is playing Pictionary in the cultural hall.
- Your idea of a wild party is a six pack of Pepsi and a PG-13 movie.
- You and all your friends come to your mother for a haircut in her kitchen.
- You measure Kool-Aid by parts per million.
- You think "You're a 10 cow wife" is a compliment.
- You actually get these jokes and pass them on to other friends from Utah.
I might change my blog to Happy Chyck Lists. Oy! What is it with me and lists lately? I'm working on "100 Things About Me," as I have seen so many do. It's a blast, but it has me reminiscing about home. (Where I grew up anyway. I have certainly always made my own comfortable home wherever I am.)
I talked to my parents today, too. I haven't lived in Utah in 10 years, but I still get homesick sometimes. I have often spent part of my summers in Utah, so I might be getting that itchin' to go hang out in some beautiful red desert. Of course I'd have to behave myself, and that's not much fun...
Anyway, this list makes me laugh so much. Oh, do I have stories to tell about many of these points! Some I can personally relate to, and some are the very reasons why I'm happy I don't live in Utah. And that thought should answer the question everyone wants to know when they find out I am from Utah. But if not, here's your answer: No, I'm not.
May 26, 2006
This is the first summer in a while that I don't have plans. No school. No moving. No travel. And since we are a one-car family, I'm literally not even traveling to mall.
So here are some summer ideas that have been kicking around:
(I won't make this as messy as my last list.)
- Read lots. This is a no brainer. I'd like to get to some of the books I haven't read here, and then whatever tickles my fancy.
- Practice Spanish. I took a Spanish class for teachers last spring. I was no whiz, but I held my own for most of it. But then I took the second class and didn't survive too many weeks into it. I was the poor kid in the back who could never catch on. Developmentally, I wasn't ready to move on. (All the teacher jargon doesn't cover the fact that I was a big loser, does it?) I understand a lot, but am not comfortable speaking it.
- Write more. Finish some things I've started--like my great romance story. (Man, still sounding like a loser.) Who wouldn't like to publish a book? I have a ton of stuff started in several genres...and I'm kind of embarrassed to say that a couple of years ago I started reading romances, and I rather like them. They are a quick fix when I need a book. (It's seriously like a drug addiction.) A couple of hours to read, and I'm left with happy thoughts in the end. Then one day, I thought, "I could so write this kind of stuff!" It's not like it's tough. The tough part is doing something fresh--those are the kind I know I like best.
- Work on differentiated grammar plans. This is something my department mates are working on, too. It sounds like next year we have to do so much tracking of standards mastery that basically the students will have their own IEP's. I don't think literally, but damn near.
- Do some year-long planning for next year, so I don't feel like I'm floundering like I did half the year this year. (I found out my new teaching assignment just a few weeks before school started last year--and that included knowing about yearbook.) English is English, thank goodness or I might have had another weird year. I do know that I'll have a tougher group, so I'll have to be an extra hard-ass. That won't make parents or students happy, I'm sure. Part of the reason I'm staying at my school, despite the fact that according to my contract, I can now move on to something I'd feel more comfortable with (like high school), is that I don't want to have a 4th year in a row that is different. I'm one of those who desires to settle down in a school and stay there until I retire. In my state, people don' t do that. The teacher transiency rate is very high.
- Figure out how to make a much cooler blog template. (Uhm, this is also like learning a new language to me.) And find time to post to my other blogs, or stop being such dork and get rid of the other blogs.
- Not spend money. Save money. Something like that--so we can buy a second car. I'd rather save for a house, but then I'd rather not be stranded at school until 6:00 p.m. every night--especially since I just found out that I will be teaching in the 0 hour next year, and that starts at 7:00 am. I haven't had to stay that late this year many times because my husband used to have a different job where he got off earlier, and I have a colleague in the neighborhood that I bums rides from. The one-car family thing worked out for nearly two years, but now that is all gone...
- Figure out my master's business. My husband finishes his degree in September, so it's my turn to go back to school. How I wish I would have done this a long time ago! I hate to admit I don't have my master's, but for the first many years of my career, I didn't have the time or opportunity. You know like, how do I squeeze it in when I was in contact with students 12-13 hours a day? And I lived 150 miles from the nearest university. Now my extra duties are occasional, and I've already quite my night school job. (Oh, I was so bummed! I'm really going to miss those young punks.) It's something I need to do because I'm getting majorly screwed over on the pay scale. I might learn something, too. I better for the amount of $$ it is going to cost.
- Exercise more. Or any. I won't have anything else to do. I'm actually looking forward to this. Have my gear. Have my DVD's. Ready to sweat it off. Now, everyone leave! You don't want to watch.
- Decompress. Whatever it takes.
May 25, 2006
A parent had complained about a book his teen had borrowed from my classroom. I had warned the student that it had swearing in it, and the parent took a lot of offense about the inappropriateness of the book. So, I've probably screwed up on a lot of levels. The book did find its way on the onto the most recent ALA's list of Best Books for Young Adults--on the Top 10 List. It happens to also be one of several books kicking around my room that I learned about at the Renaissance Conference during a session on books for reluctant readers.
But perhaps it should not have found its way to my classroom. A lot of surprising, most likely controversial books, have found their way into the classroom this year, but they are entering through the hands of students. Part of me wonders if I forget that my students are only 8th graders, even though they are often quite mature in their thoughts and reading. And part of me wonders if teens are way too jaded these days, and if we aren't all becoming that way. And part of me wonders if there could ever be a book that someone would not take offense to. I've been down this road before, but it's been a few years, and those books were widely known "classics" that I was teaching in my classroom, as opposed to just some books hanging around for personal reading. I'm not sure it's different. I don't have my justification for having the book around, though. (As opposed to a book that I teach and I plan a justification--just in case.)
I don't know. I do feel awful because this book has caused a lot of stress in a family. No, I'm not in the business of corrupting kids. In fact, I put on my lily-white persona in the classroom to try to steer kids away from what they can't avoid anyway. I totally respect the parent for being concerned and monitoring what his kids are reading. I even told my student this. "Your dad is trying to be a good dad. Not everyone has one of those." The parent keeps close tabs on his kids, but it's a huge contributing factor to the quality of the student, too. He's a really great kid! Anyway, I wouldn't exactly call this situation censorship. The parent he's doing what he feels is the right thing for his family. We need some more of that in our society!
(Oh a side note, this has me wondering if I will ever tell my children they cannot read certain books. I think I'm forming my ideas--make it a later post.)
This has been very stressful. Of course I'm feeling weird and unsettled. And even more exhausted.
And how did my punishment go?
My principal was really good about it. I was expecting something terrible (her approval rating low these days), but she was quite kind, fair, and supportive. Actually, she has always been that way with me, but I do try to stay out of trouble. Of course, I have a new game plan, a little talking to (but not harshly) about attempting to monitor better (my principal acknowledges that we can't know everything), and this has been "chalked up as a learning experience."
And I get to add this to my list of things to do to Cover My Ass (CMA) on a daily basis.
May 24, 2006
Nine more days.
May 19, 2006
"I might be the trained professional, but you are a teenager, and you know more than I do. My mistake. I forgot." It was a tough day, that day when I realized the truth about knowledge. Even if I think I know more than a teenager, I cannot prove it.
Oh, and now that I'm over 30, I really don't know anything, plus I can't be trusted.
I had the most inane argument with an 8th grader today--a dumb topic that I refused to give into. This student tried to tell me that the yearbook signing party was on a certain day. I told her it was not on the day she said. She told me, again, that it was on that certain day. I tried to tell her slowly, in case she didn't understand the simple words I was using, that she was wrong and that it was on the day I said. She still disagreed.
A most ridiculous game.
Finally I raised my voice to her and told her to stop arguing with me. And not so nicely either. She pouted and went off to her desk.
For God's sake!
I'M THE ONE PUTTING ON THE YEARBOOK SIGNING PARTY!
But that certainly wouldn't mean that I would know anything, would it?
It's that time of year that the littlest things send me over the edge. And I think it's a good idea to throw a party for 400 teenagers? Yea right. What do I know? I know the edge is crumbling, that's for sure.
May 16, 2006
I'd rather be in a suburbian high school in a city on the other end of the state. (Moving isn't an option right now.) I've never taught in an average school. It sounds peaceful. In my mind, an average (or a little above average school) doesn't have high teacher turnover. The administration doesn't think up new painful ways to increase student achievement that doesn't actually involve the students to having to work harder. People wouldn't turn their noses up at me for teaching in the 'hood. I might not get so stressed out all the time.
How easy would it be for me to move on to another school! I look at the long transfer list, but nothing really pops out at me. How do I know life might be better at another school? How do I know that I can make friends with a strong staff with good camaraderie? How do I know that the administrators act as a strong team, and that they support teachers and students? How do I know that the students have hope in themselves? How do I know that their parents will be supportive without being insane? The only way to really know is to teach in the school for a while.
I don't have it so tough at my school right now. (Last year was another story, though.) I get to teach the brightest students, and they are mostly motivated. Some of them are rotten brats, but they largely care about their futures. I am caught, though. Teaching the top students in a low-achieving school is a lot of pressure. Most of the year, I've felt like everyone is looking to my students to raise test scores to counter balance the number of ELL students who don't have a chance. After one particulary important test that will be part of our AYP formula, I was pointedly asked about a student who bombed his test. Read between the lines: We needed his score to bring up his ethnic subgroup's scores.
(I asked the student about his shocking scores, and he admitted that he didn't really care about the test. Don't even think about asking me if I told my students how important the tests were. Just don't go there.)
Test scores. That's probably my biggest stress. Too much testing. My poor students have been tested to death. I believe it is to the tune of 20 days this year. Half of those days were actual days where I did not teach. The other half is the estimate of time on the school-wide testing days where we did end up having each class, but it was for 15-20 minutes each period. I tried so hard not to waste those minutes, but after spending time testing all morning, the students were burned out. Add that to the time I'm suppose to be reviewing tests or test taking skills...I wonder, "WHEN CAN I TEACH SOMETHING NEW? WHEN CAN I ACTIVELY ENGAGE MY STUDENTS IN SOME INTELLECTUAL DIALOGUE?"
Since testing is the biggest stress, will it go away in a different school? We are all in the same district, after all. I hear encouraging rumors that not all schools are like ours. Sure, there's the testing, but some schools aren't hyper-pushing it all the time. Uhm, could be because their scores aren't in the toilet? Probably.
So, should I go?
Or, should I not give up and keep doing my best, hoping that I might be helping my school?
When do I say, "Enough about you! I am off to find my perfect school!"?
And the most important question...IS there a perfect school for me?
May 14, 2006
This is something I've been wondering for a long time. I've been burned so many times that I don't even consider visiting the vending machines in the teacher's lounge when I need a caffeine or chocoate kick. When I was walking by there the other day, a colleague lost her dollar trying to buy a water. Glad it's not just me.
May 12, 2006
Thank you for fixing my system log-in problem.
I appreciate your sympathy in my troubles with computers at your school. It was a rough couple of months there at first without my own logins and passwords for the server and attendance program. If you'll recall, I had to borrow them from other people, including the teacher with strangely spelled name whose classes I took over the second week of the quarter, and the school secretary who luckily logged off 15 minutes before I had to leave each night. After filing paper work twice, I was grateful to finally have my own logins and passwords. It was quite unfortunate that some sort of computer glitch erased all of my class rosters shortly after I was up and going. After the server went down for a week, I was relieved to find that I still existed on the system. I was beginning to feel quite unwanted there. I'm sure you can truly understand why each night I am a little afraid of what hassles I might have when I simply try to log onto the system so I can access the attendance program.
Anway, I appreciate your guidance in resolving my latest issue. I just wanted to let you know that I am well aware of the fact that when the computer indicates that I have only five logins to change my password before I am locked out, I should take that notice very seriously. In fact, when I see this type of notification, I immediately change my password. I’m not one to mess with such threats that prevent me from keeping copious electronic documentation on my students.
And by the way, thank you for the suggestions of passwords I might choose, but I think I have that covered.
The real puzzler here is that the oh-so smart computer never prompted me to change my password. I know I would have noticed something like that. Because, you see, I’m a writer, and I’m actually pretty observant. I could think of some reasons why I am in this predicament, and it possibly involves the fact that several other teachers use the same computer I do. Could there have possibly been another computer SNAFU at our school? I understand it didn't just happen to me.
Or, I just could be making lame excuses for myself because with my degree, I never learned how to read. And now that I think of it, in my minor coursework, Business Information Systems, where I spent 85% of my time working with computer systems, we never learned about changing passwords. I should probably alert my alma mater about this serious gap in my education.
In any case, now that you have labored for a few seconds to give me another chance to log in and change my password, I suppose I can be a good, silly-headed teacher who can figure it out this time.
I appreciate your condescending tone, and will be sure to add you to the list of people, which currently includes students, parents, administrators, and politicians, who think that teachers are complete fools. It is because of people like you that I try to remain humble every day in every way.
Again, thank you for your noble help and advice. As you know, our education system just cannot function without superior computer specialists. Keep up the good work!
May 10, 2006
We've passed around some books by Scott Westerfeld in my classroom this year, and Cassie has been anxiously awaiting the release of The Specials, the third in a trilogy. I'm not ashamed to say that I have been, too! I saw it at Barnes and Nobles last night and just had to buy for it myself (despite the fact that it's in hardback), but I knew it would get mileage around my classroom. I was willing to surrender it (after reading it) to Cassie, but then I thought, "You know, she has a D, which is basically a borderline F, in my class right now. She really needs to spend less time reading, and more time on her studies. Hey! I bet showing her this book will light a fire under her butt."
And it worked like a charm. So far. She ran right over to her desk and starting dragging out half-finished assignments to complete. She has until Friday, or the book gets sent home with one of her classmates instead.
If this scheme works, it will be the first time I have ever bribed a student with a book. Sweet!
**UPDATE: Cassie didn't get all of her work in. She was lacking an essay. The student who was second in line to get the book, David, came bouncing into the classroom Friday saying, "Hand it over! Cassie didn't get all of her work done!"
Now, I hadn't told the David about the deal. I felt kind of bad about not giving the book to him first anyway because he has an easy A and is always so helpful in class. But author Scott Westerfeld is really what sealed the bond between Cassie and me, so she was originally the one I was going to pass it to first. I did tell Cassie that I was going to give it to David if she didn't complete her work, so she must have told him about our little deal.
Later in the class period, when I went to give the book to David, he decided he didn't want to take it. He said that Cassie should have it first, and he had a stack of books at home he needed to read. He'd done some classroom chores for me earlier in the week and wanted to pick something from the goodie file instead. (Frankly, he could have done both!) I asked him if he was just saying that because he felt bad taking it when he knew it meant so much to Cassie, and he solemnly admitted it was true. I shook my head, patted him on the shoulder, and said, "You're a good person."
The book is still sitting on my desk, though. I had to stick to my word. She gets it when she turns in that last essay. I am thankful for Westerfeld publishing the last in the Uglies Trilogy this month. It's probably saved her from failing. Although I have a good repoire with Cassie, sometimes nothing can get her to focus and do her work.
So, in the end, I think the bribe worked pretty well!
May 6, 2006
I bought this finger pointer a while ago because I though it was funny. Much funnier than my pointer that my students say looks like I "jacked an antenae from a car." I haven't been using my LCD projector much lately, so I didn't need my pointer, but when I did break it out this week, we all had a lot of fun. Er, or I did, anyway.
What I discovered is that I just can't stop pointing at things when I'm holding it. It's just such a joy to POINT. Sure, I deliver my lesson and point to things on the screen, but then I can also walk around the room and point over students' shoulders, too. I'm sure they love that.
I also can't stop twirling my hand pointer, which, by the way, is a cheery orange. I've found that in 30 years I can still twirl a baton, but my fingers seem slower and bigger. I'm still working at it though.
My favorite joke, though, is also what will prevents students from touching my pointer:
When I first brought it out:
"Miss, what's that?"
"It's my nose picker," I put the finger up to my nose (it doesn't actually go in because it's too big) and then offer the finger close to their faces, "Want some?"
"Ew, Miss! That's gross!"
"Are you sure? I have runny and crunchy right now. Wait I have a nice juicy one right here."
And the student looks at me with such adult disdain. Oh, it cracks me up.
Nothing matures a student faster than seeing his teacher lose her mind.
May 3, 2006
I also have company coming to my house. Same clutter issues. Books and papers. We're trying to learn in here, too. An English teacher and computer nerd college student live here. We can't help it. We have stuff. Luckily, my visitor doesn't mind. She's just glad she doesn't have to pay $99/night for hard mattress when she can have a lumpy couch for free. Oh, and she's an educator and life-long learner. She understands.
Sigh. The only thing getting me through my day of school company is the fact I get to have fun company!