March 31, 2008
So, play along if you like!
1. Go to Photobucket. (I'm a Flickr girl so this seems weird.)
2. Type in your answer in the search box.
3. Use a picture from the first page only.
4. Insert the picture into your blog.
1. What is your relationship status?
2. What is your current mood?
3. What is your favorite band/artist?
4. What is your favorite movie?
5. What kind of pet do you have?
6. Where do you live?
7. Where do you work?
8. What do you look like?
9. What do you drive?
10. What did you do last night?
11. What's your favorite television show?
12. Describe yourself.
13. What are you doing tomorrow?
14. What is your name?
15. What's your favorite candy?
March 28, 2008
This video is basically a student sitting in class recording himself doing nothing. You know, because school--and my class--is so boring. There are some other antics, like he makes weird noises and faces and tries to make it look like he's working.
From my personal perspective, I'm afraid I look like a bad teacher. Do students really have nothing to do and can just play on computers all day? Snort! As if! Sure, there's down time for a few students when their work is done, but if you didn't know any better, you might think that he had absolutely nothing to do. This particular bored student was suppose to be working on a project--a project for which he ended up earning a C.
What's that about boredom being a personal issue?
If I would have seen his behaviors from across the room, I would have thought he was mostly on task and just doing middle school boy things. Do you know any middle school boys who don't make random noises? And mostly on task...well, this kid is not your type A honor student by any stretch. He's a C student who falls into the D as often than he climbs to a B range. You know what this looks like right? A pokey student who works but doesn't make much progress...
So, if you see that thrilling video, go ahead and judge me. Seriously, where was I? Not standing over this kid's shoulder, that's for sure. The kid knew where I was while he was taping himself instead of working. It's evident by his behaviors.
Ha, ha, kid. You pulled one over on the teacher by taping yourself being off task.
Just thank goodness I wasn't the one caught on tape looking like a fool.
March 27, 2008
They are having a...Puppy and Popcorn/Movie Party!
I think that I've heard of puppy or pet parties before. It's kind of a cool idea to bring animals and kids together. What a creative alternative to your basic reward party!
A movie and popcorn party is what I consider to be a basic reward party. When it comes to snacks, I think popcorn is one of the few affordable and acceptable foods we can give to students. Movie and popcorn is a classic hit with students of all ages.
But popcorn and puppies? You know this idea makes my skin crawl a little. Refer to my OCD story for a snapshot of my issues. I'd like to think that I'm not as bad as I used to be, but there are certain things...
When my daughter brought the permission slip home, there was a option for students to not participate in part of the party. It was all I could do not to write, "She may play with puppies, but please have her wash before eating popcorn." I didn't want to seem too nutty. And there is a very large part of me who wants to believe that washing after playing with animals and before eating food--especially finger food--is an obvious concept.
Or...maybe I should be more concerned for the poor puppies if the popcorn comes first...Do you think they'll wash after eating and before petting?
All I know is that I don't really want to know.
March 26, 2008
"Jamie, is there any reason why your pages cannot be finished today? I adjusted your layout so you CAN get it to work."
Twenty minutes later, Jamie is sitting on the floor chatting with her partner.
"Jamie! Did you finish?"
And that's how most of them are. They finish and don't tell me. They don't mark their pages complete. They don't run up to me and beg for my approval when they finish. It's so strange. They just go back to their ipods, and well...whatever they do.
Of course things aren't perfect. A few of them are having difficulties with their pages. Of course. It's what's yearbook is all about. Damn difficulty. The biggest difficulty was trying to get the band director to submit her name rosters. It's been weeks. The quiet-kid-from-the-corner has been bugging her, and today I stopped by to implore that she finish because we have a deadline. I suggested to the kid that he try to get some waterworks going today. Plead with her that his life is on the line or something. He respectfully declined to resort to such measures. I had a good laugh at his expense, though. He's warming up.
The band teacher finally finished her rosters, and there goes our biggest issue. Can you believe how easy we've had it this year?
I spent all day proofing and doing minor tweaks. Tomorrow will be the same. By Friday I'll be blind from squinting at the screen, and my wrist will be limp from the fine tuning mouse work of moving elements 1/8 of a pica to find perfection. And I'll be so thankful that I'm finished--and that I'm a teacher instead of a graphic designer!
March 24, 2008
I know you have developed amazing talent as a designer since you joined yearbook this year. That's why when everyone worked on designing layouts, yours was not chosen to be used. Don't worry, though. You and your other middle school friends can continue to use your amazing talents on your MySpace pages. So, when I make it easy on you (and me), just use the layout that I give you. Don't delete elements. Don't change the color. Don't change the font. This page does belong to you, but there are rules to follow. Why don't you take your supreme creativity and use it with your photography?
You wanted so badly to do your page, but it does require a little creativity. We could be like other middle schools and just have portraits and club/organization pictures. We do have limited space. And we've chosen to include student life features. Remember? That's the cool stuff everyone has enjoyed seeing the last few years? You joined the staff. This is what you've been living for. Step up already. Don't ask me a million questions about what you should do. Don't be so co-dependent. If I don't like it, I'll tell you. Or if you're lucky I'll be so glad to be done with all this that I'll let it slide even if it's only okay instead of brilliant.
You had so many great ideas at the beginning of the year. Where are they now? Yeah. That's a great theme you've chosen. How about thinking outside the box and not simply repeating it on each page. Again. Creativity. Maybe a thesaurus?
Creativity isn't putting yourself three times on your page either. Again. This isn't MySpace. It's the yearbook. You want to be in the book? You are on the yearbook page. That's right. We have a whole page to ourselves in a 72-page book. Pretty cool, huh? Since I'm doing the page as a gift to my dear staff, and I haven't submitted it yet, I suppose I can just take all the pictures of you out.
Yes, that's right. I'm doing a page. I've done a lot of pages. I'm probably going to have to do your page, aren't I? What if I just put a big title that says, "(Your name here) did this page. That's why it sucks!" Yes I would dare. Okay, I won't. My reputation is on the line, too.
So, anyway, don't be a hog. You're in the book. You probably haven't even purchased your book yet, have you? What about your closest friends that you keep trying to put in the book although they are already in it? How about going out and meeting new people? I know your world is small, but there are 1295 other students that this school.
You know that kid who sits in the corner reading obscure books all year long? Yea, well, he's done eight pages to your one. I know his job was pretty easy because he just had club pages, and it's mostly just group pictures--but typing all those names! He did have to go take some pictures, but he did that and placed them already. Sure, he screwed up a few, but then he went out and took more. The point is he has been working diligently and is almost finished. Oh, and you know what else he did? He followed the directions given him. You know, I felt sorry for him because nobody else wanted those pages, so I was going to help him, but he has barely needed my help at all.
You. You need help.
March 22, 2008
Cepacol Sore Throat Lozenges
Earl Grey tea
homemade strawberry smoothie with soy milk
all-natural apple juice Otter Pop-looking thing
water, water, water, water, water, water, water, water, water...
Halls cough drop--cough drop flavored--found in purse
long, steamy showers
orange cold tablets found in desk (Dayquil?)
CVS Nighttime Cough Relief
slow-cooked homemade chicken noodle soup
Kroger DayTime Non-Drowsy Cold Medicine (like Dayquil)
strawberry fruit bar
Dad's Old Fashioned Root Beer Menthol Cough Drops
Cough Relief Herbal Supplement distributed by Sunflower (30 drops in apple juice)
Kroger NightTime Cold Medicine (like Nightquil)
green tea with honey
1 bag green tea and 1 bag Celestial Seasonings Wellness Tea with honey
purple cold tablets found in purse (Dimetapp?)
NatraBio Cough Syrup
Ricola Cough Drops
Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar chased by Sonoran Desert Honey
It's taken nearly a fortnight, but I've almost conquered the evil beast!
March 21, 2008
I sat on the couch, a chronic, coughing lump, stumbling the net, reading books, and watching movies on IFC and the Sundance Channel. I wasn't complete sludge, but pretty close.
I forced myself out of the house earlier in the week to put together Easter care packages for my brother's family and my stepdaughter and her little sweet pea. I spent an hour of my vacation standing in a line at the post office. (I hate the post office, but what a great cross section of America!)
Other than that...nothing to do. Didn't feel like doing anything.
I resolved to get out of the house today and do some clothes shopping. My warm-weather professional clothing is a little sparse and dull. Wouldn't you know it? I'd just tried on some clothing at my first stop and my Dad called. He freaked me out a little because he doesn't call in the middle of the morning on a week day to shoot the breeze. Phew! Everything was fine, but my aunt was trying to reach of me because...
She and my uncle are passing through Las Vegas. Today. How lovely! Sure, Dad! I'll be happy to call them back and try to see them. Maybe we could have lunch.
Or maybe if it's possible, they can stay the night here...Of course I invited them, and nobody twisted my arm, but what I thinking? ACK!
My shopping trip abruptly ended so I could come home and do the Tazmanian Devil Dance to make my home presentable for overnight guests.
Tell me, when it's time to run around trying to get things spic and span for guests, where are the other people who live here? It seems like in dire situations like this, I am always home alone. ;-0
There must be some sort of mommy Murphy's law for that.
Probably because I've been home alone all week (kids off visiting their mother's family) the Tazmanian Devil Dance didn't take too long, and now I'm waiting in a dust-free vanilla scented home waiting to spend a nice evening catching up old times with family.
It's kind of a pathetic high point of my week, I know. But I'm happy!
March 15, 2008
Mr. Phillips hates to inform the public that he doesn't have time to actually teach anymore...and you know testing is the biggest reason.
This school year my students will take no fewer than 12 mandatory tests, which will erode a minimum of 26 instructional days from their classroom learning. Some of these tests, in fact, will be duplications of the same test information. Due to time constraints and teachers not having access to the tests or answer keys, mandatory tests, therefore, often go ungraded as class work, and many students either lack motivation to take the tests or couldn’t care less about them. Some, in fact, refuse to take the tests seriously or at all, so what does that measure?
What is the schedule? Three CCSD Interim Tests (two days each, or six days), the Nevada State Writing Proficiency Test (two days), four quarterly building-level unit tests based on CCSD Benchmarks (two days each, or eight days), the Iowa Basic Test (two days), the Criterion Reference Test (CRT) examination—the big test which measures a school’s federal NCLB Average Yearly Progress (AYP) standards—(six days) and two semester finals (two days).In addition to the test dates, I will need to forfeit at least another 22-30 days of class instruction for pre-test preparations, test analysis and post-test follow-ups in order to assure test concepts are understood and scores become the highest possible. With the time remaining, I’ll try to connect substantial information within my lesson plans so that the educational maze and merry-go-round of test information might make sense or otherwise be of some value.
Boy am I feeling that pain! This quarter started off with two days of CCSD Interim Testing, directly followed three days of prepping for the Nevada State Writing Proficiency Exam, which of course, led to two days of the actual exam. I had about a week to of normalcy before I had to spend part of every class period for a week psyching my students out for the CRT. The CRT ruined a full four days of class. Although we did have classes each day after testing, it was such a limited amount of time that it took us those four days to accomplish what I would have done in one class period. The other 8th grade English teachers and I are suppose to give a common quarter assessment, but I pleaded with my administrator to just let us teach instead of test. I have benchmarks to reach, after all!
Mr. Phillips also has a few things to say about the district benchmarks, which he calls, "unconnected—if not disjointed—impracticable standards" for which our students are tested each quarter. I've struggled with the curriculum since I moved to CCSD, but I thought perhaps it was a personal problem. How hard can it be? It's English! I've been teaching to this state's standards for years. I understand the content quite well, and I have a decent toolbox full of approaches for teaching the content, but I do have difficulty getting it to flow. My issues are compounded as I try to balance the benchmarks with the ideals of the magnet program for which I teach, and sometimes it seems like I'm working on a 1000 piece jigsaw puzzles where there are pieces I just can't find, yet I KNOW they should be there. Maybe it's not just me.
A few of my colleagues and I were discussing this article over lunch, and while none of them teach in testable subjects, they feel the impact that all this testing has on the students. Plus, they've heard me rant enough that they understand Mr. Phillips speaks the truth. A young substitute in our school who was eating with us was appalled by what she read and asked if the parents knew what was going on. What would the average parent have to say about this over-testing? They have to know about the testing. What does it make me look like to complain to the parents that we have too many tests? Does it make me look unprofessional? Are the parents secretly relieved that there is some proof that their children are learning?
"What are we teachers doing about it?" asked the bright-eyed substitute. I dunno; waiting for the pendulum to swing back?
I remember the day I heard about NCLB. You know how people when they heard about JFK's assassination or the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers? It's like that. It was one of the last weekend workshops I was to attend that year as a member of the professional development team in my district. I'd been on the team for four years, through a program in northern Nevada that trained and paid teachers to provide professional development for their own districts. Apparently changes were being made and monies for the program were being diverted elsewhere. Professional development was going in a new direction. No Child Left Behind. School Improvement Plans.
I was sitting in the cafeteria of the new high school in Silver Springs, Nevada, which is little more than a crossroad town (the WRPD made it a point to hold trainings in every county at some point, no matter how small), watching a state testing director deliver a PowerPoint outlining the new direction education was going to take with NCLB. I remember thinking, "This teaching gig is really going to suck now. I wish I were in her shoes right now. She just gets to go around telling all of us how to implement this thing. We're the ones that have to do it. It's an impossible idea." At that time I was teaching in a school where 30% of the students had IEPs. Yeah, just because the government says that all of these students will be proficient doesn't mean anything. Did they think a mandate would make it so? Especially with no funds to back it? Whatever.
And I've felt quite powerless ever since.
So what do we teachers do about it? Complain. (And I might add, our administrators at every level sympathize with us, but they are powerless, too.)
And then we pick ourselves up and do the best we can to teach under the rules we are given.
It's part of the job.
March 13, 2008
Oh lordy, I thought! What in the world could he possible have in his backpack that has to do with coffee?
He plunked a baggy onto the counter. "Coffee beans!"
"No," I told him. "Those are not coffee beans."
"Oh. Well, what are they?"
"Those are pinto beans. Where did you get them?"
Is it just him, or do these totally random things happen with all little boys?
"Consuela gave them to me," he told me.
"Why? And who's Consuela?"
"She's in my class. I don't know why she gave them to me," he shrugged. "There are 100 of them, though. I counted."
"So, you have no idea why Consuela gave you 100 pinto beans?"
His sister, always ready to rat him out told me, "It's because she liiiiiiiikes him!"
"Really?" The plot thickens, which is good, because the whole baggy of beans is just way to weird for me. "So, did Consuela say why she was giving them to you? What did she say when she gave them to you?"
"I dunno. She doesn't speak English."
Great. Dead end.
He continued, "She's the only one who doesn't speak English in my class, so I don't know what she says most of the time. Nicole is the only one who understands her."
I have a hard time believing the truth in that since I know his teacher is Hispanic and speaks Spanish. And the last time I checked the school population is still 45% Hispanic. Holes in his story already.
"Okay, so what did Nicole [who happens to be my stepson's close friend] say?"
"Oh, well, she didn't say anything. Consuela just wanted me to have them."
"Yeeeeeeesssssss!" And then he ran off to escape more pointless questioning.
I should just get over my analytical self. A gift is a gift....unless someone can tell me what's with the baggy of 100 pinto beans.
March 10, 2008
Today their foreign language teachers collected bibliographies from the students. It's still early in the process of the project, but I love the idea that the teachers are asking to see a bibliography now--an annotated one at that! Asking to see the bibliography now is an excellent checkpoint to see if students are staying on track.
Unfortunately, the majority of their bibliographies were, uh, poorly presented. That's politely said, by the way. I KNOW I told them that a simply cutting and pasting a URL does not a bibliography make. Obviously, what I taught them didn't stick, and I'm blaming myself a lot. It was a pretty quick lesson where I told them the basic information they needed to collect. My point to them is that they don't need to memorize the formats for bibliography entries. They need to keep in mind the basic information needed and then look up how exactly to do it online and/or use a citation machine.
It's not rocket science. Use the examples. Plug in your information. Use a citation machine and let it do the formatting for you if using models is too hard.
Am I wrong to spend so little time on this? When I was in middle school, I remember having to do practice worksheets where, using a list of sources, I had to format each one and create a bibliography page. Is this what I should have done with my students? Being able to write a bibliography is not something students will need to use on a daily basis. Am I wrong in treating this like something they should simply to able to look up? I know there are purists who would say that using a citation machine is cheating, probably much like using a calculator is cheating. It just seems like in our modern world, there are things students need to know, and then there are things students need to be able to reference.
I may have had drill and kill worksheets when I was middle school, but I didn't remember any of it. I still had to look up the specifics on creating a bibliography in a book.
When I was in middle school, I also learned these useful skills that are pretty pointless now:
- diagramming sentences--months and months of this during 7th grade
- setting margins on a typewriter
- centering a title on a line while using a typewriter--it used to take a lot of math knowledge to format a document
- cutting a whole chicken into recognizable pieces (Home Ec--a required class for all students!)
- converting American measurements to metric because it would soon be important
- Using a Reader's Guide
So what should I do next? It disappointing that my students have laptop computers with wireless connections at school that allow them to access any kind of resource they could possibly need. I showed them how to use their computers as tools to get a basic job done. And they didn't. Do I need to go old school and bring out the practice worksheets on bibliographies?
March 9, 2008
The final deadline is fast approaching. Yet another year where I am constantly saying little prayers, "Please, God. If you will just help me get through, I swear that I will plan better next year. I won't procrastinate! I'll be a good little yearbook adviser. I'll even be early on my deadlines! " And that is why I am destined to burn in hell. And you thought it would be for other reasons...
I've had a long day of yearbook work today. I'm stuck between being picky about design to really having no clue about design and thanking my lucky stars that nobody else at my school does either. The only comfort I know is that if I left things up to my students, the whole book would look like MySpace captured in a book. It would be flashy, clashy, and filled with MySpace-face poses.
The program I use comes with template designs, which are actually pretty nice, but I'm so tired of the same old thing! Of course, I have to tweak with the templates to make them more useful to us, but my poor brain has hit a dead end of ways to tweak. And by now I hate the color palette and the fonts. Hard to believe that just a few months ago, we though our decisions were INSPIRED! I'm telling you--I'm tapped out! I'm afraid I might need to be put out to pasture. That sounds so peaceful!
March 8, 2008
As we were packing up our bags and getting ready to leave she said, "I better take the rest of these home to grade."
"Sounds like a plan."
"Do you ever take work home on the weekend?" She asked.
That's the funniest thing I've heard in a long time! Heavy-duty grading has been light this quarter, and since she's been there, she's kept up on the grading while she observed me, and I graded quite a few of the standing weekly assignments, such as reading logs and writer's notebooks, as I monitored her lessons. She's on her own now, though.
I answered her with a laugh, "Of course I take work home! I try to keep on top of it during my preps, but sometimes I have no choice, especially when I have essays to assess."
"It's kind of exciting," she admitted to me. "I'm taking papers home to grade. I feel like a real teacher."
Welcome to the life of an English teacher, my dear. Try to keep up your enthusiasm after you realize that stack of papers doesn't go away until June.
March 5, 2008
I'm pretty well out of my classroom, but I introduced the project to my students on Monday, along with a lecture on different online research techniques and resources beyond Google. I warned them that they might become irritated at times because in my class we will be learning the skills of research while producing two products: a public service announcement and a research paper. I have some reflective steps built into the process that demands the students stop to think about how they are researching and learning. This attention to process slows them down. They hate it. It's an important part of our program. That's life.
This morning I told the student teacher that the students might start freaking out about the project and it wouldn't be a bad idea to check in with them each day and see if they have questions. We don't have a lot of class time for students to work on the project right now, and they need to complete a few tasks on their own while we finish up the literature unit during class time.
I have to admit that there are some parts of the project that might seem a little confusing because they have to also go through the thought process of research rather than simply submitting a product of a research project as they do in their other classes. Again, it's not uncommon for the students to stressed out in the beginning of a large project, and since their foreign language classes (the base of the team project) gave out instructions on Friday, our students have been slammed with a lot of information and some giant tasks.
The student teacher had no problems and no questions from the students until the last period of the day. And then she had a new riot situation on her hands--so bad that she thought she might need to send someone for me.
I walked into the classroom at the dismissal bell only to be mobbed by 20 voices, "Ms. HappyChyck! You're here! Ms. HappyChyck! Where have you been? Ms. HappyChyck!" They were so so rowdy I thought they were being goofy. Come to find out, they were actually near hysteria with worry because they don't understand the project. (I might add that at this moment the student teacher looked like she needed a drink.) My automatic response to broad declarations about not understanding is, "Exactly what part do you not understand?" I answered a few questions and promised to return to answer a few questions the next day for the rest of the class who had already left.
I reminded the students that they tend to make things harder than they really are, asking them to recall the last mondo project that they did and how confused they were at first. Guess what? They survived the experience and turned in awesome projects. The students were slightly appeased and a tad bit more confident as they left the classroom.
The student teacher could not figure out why the last class was so stressed out while the other classes hadn't said anything all day. One of the classes is full of the top, most motivated students and they have already figured it out. I'm betting she'll have to field clarifying questions from those students by Friday. The other two classes are in denial about the whole thing and haven't even looked at their materials yet. She should be concerned about the two classes that won't ever ask any questions. Those kids don't get it, or they don't care enough to freak out.
I promised the students I'd stop in and answer questions, but that's Mama Bear kicking in. How else do I react to students in crisis?
The student teacher is implementing a unit that she didn't write, and I need to coach her more on the requirements and procedures so she can own it. I'm not sure if her teaching my unit is authentic, as I've rarely had to use another teacher's plans to teach. However, I have had constraints of working as a team or keeping the pace. Teaching this unit is constricting to me. We're working with a team, on an unfamiliar topic, using a lot of technology I'm not competent with (iMovie), and we need to meet a firm deadline in the video part of project.
As a teacher, it's my job--and it's her job--
to know the unit,
to be able to explain,
to be able to reframe,
to be able to give guidance,
to be able to calm the fears
to be able to make students do something tomorrow
that they don't understand today.