September 27, 2009

Let's Do the Time Warp Again

On Friday, we had a fun dress day: Nerd Day!

Since our students have to wear collared shirts (most wear polos) in a choice of only a few colors, I think they already look pretty nerdy, but that's a different story. Also, some teachers viewed this day as a little insensitive to real nerds, but that's a different story, too. The kids were also off-the-hook all day, which I guess isn't technically scientific data on how uniforms make a difference in education, but that is , again, a different story.

Here's the real story for today:

Students were encouraged to dress nerdy, but they also had the opportunity to be out of our school's strict dress code. So, many students dressed in their best normal clothes, which I guess is what would be fashionable nowadays.

The whole day was a mind trip to me. Most students dressed like Steve Urkel if they were nerdy, and the rest of them looked like they were straight out of the 80's, but apparently, they weren't participating in a dress-up day.

I had a hard time telling who was intentionally looking goofy and who was being fashionable.

Large plaid? Really?

Leggings? Seriously? Well, I guess they look best on middle school girls anyway.

Neon colors? Could I get some Ray Bans, please?

All we're missing are some bangs to heaven.

I'm so old and out-of-touch...

September 16, 2009

Living in a Dream

Vegas Art Guy made a good point about me being where I should be considering my student were all on task after my last post. Things are going well!

I'm afraid to admit it...Something bad might happen...

Last year, I had such a horrible time at night school, and in the five years that I've worked there, each year is a crap shoot. Because the students earn credits by the quarter, each quarter can often be a crap shoot, too. For the most part, once the students start the year with me, they pretty well stay with me the whole year, but adding or subtracting students each quarter can severely change the dynamic of a class.

I have a small section (10 students) of seniors trying to pass their proficiency exams, and they are a pretty good group of students. Most of them have been at the school a few years, which means they are more likely to be leaders and know the rules. The classroom has tables, so everyday the boys come in and move the tables together so we sit all together around a long table. Of course in that setting, we're becoming like some dysfunctional family. Oh yes. Dysfunctional. We started off learning to write paragraphs, and we are just moving into forming full essays. Considering how remedial some of this stuff is, they have been cool. Most nights I can feel the gaps filling in. It's times like this I feel like I can be effective in teaching lower-level students. I'm happy with them, and they are happy with me. Tonight when they started getting wiggly, I told them that they were not going to be my favorite class anymore, and a couple of the boys furrowed their brows in concern: "Miss, are you serious? We're not your favorite anymore?" Man, that's rapport!

My other class is a little wilder, and at times so much more hopeless. Creative Writing. This year it's really creative writing, and not a facade for remedial writing, either. Most of the students have passed their exams, but that doesn't mean they really like writing that much. My only saving grace with them is that I've built a good rapport with them, too, and they like some of the assignments we've done. Somehow we are having a good time in there, too.

There are a couple of boys who are stubborn, but they don't act out, and I seriously doubt they'll be in the class next quarter because they aren't earning credits by constantly saying, "I'm not good at writing." How do I explain to them that there are only a couple of students in the class who are good at writing? Of course, I can't because then my rapport with the rest of them will fly out the window! I just keep saying, "It's okay. I'm just asking that you try..."

I'm just asking that they try. You know, that's all I'm asking of any of my alt students this year, and they are totally buying it. Some years, I wonder if I come off as a pushover, so students have not been inclined to just try. I'm not sure what's different this year, but I am thankful to have such a nice bunch of young people to teach in the evenings this year!

September 14, 2009

How Did I Get Here?

Sometimes I have this thought pop into my head, "How the hell did I get here?" During most of the instances I am waiting at an eternal stop light in the middle of traffic, wondering how I ended up living in Las Vegas. I never really imagined myself living in a big city, but here I am. After living here for several years, I've come to see that it's not really that big of a city, but compared to the other places where I have! (Remember, before moving here, I lived in a town with only 3,ooo people.)

Tonight, I was walking to my desk in the back of the room from the trash can near the door, and the room kind of tilted. For the most part, the students were on task, helping each other with the assignment and having a little side conversation. It was a kind of casual, collaborative evening because I was first able to get my gradebook up and going on Friday, and I was behind on my grades. Anyway, the room tilted, and I found myself looking right at Ernesto and hearing what was going on in the classroom. I was disoriented for a few seconds as I thought, "How did I end up here?

Seriously. What causes these little time/perception warps? Why is it that my brain questions my location from time to time? Am I suppose to be somewhere else?

September 6, 2009

What's New?

Throughout the day, I think of things that could be "bloggable," but by the time I sit down at a computer all of those things are gone. Daily! I'm averaging about 6 posts a month now, and I claim I have something to wonder on a daily basis! Hard to believe, huh?

If only I could blog straight from my brain!

Here are some highlights of things you've missed out on.
  • When will I have time to pull that boy aside and start talking to him about his thumb sucking? I heard about him before he came to my class. A few years ago another teacher just about had him broke of it, but then his dad died, and nobody wants to say much. He's a nice kid, but he's going to get his ass kicked in high school next year.
  • I wish I could get the concept of theme across to my yearbook staff. Thankfully, one of the smart girls thought of one, but now getting them to think of ways to develop it is about kill me. I have no more creative ideas. It is becoming more and more evident that I'm a sham of a yearbook adviser, and this year, our school's 50th anniversary, is not best year for it to be revealed. I have called in reinforcements from my rep, though. I need it.
  • Speaking of ass-kicking...there are some odd boys on my yearbook staff. Which teacher recommended them? I have three boys this year, and one of them is one of two returning students from last year. His nickname is "Thing One" (aka Cosa Una). The new boys are more immature than he is--and just plain weird. Maybe they'll be more blog fodder, though.
  • We have some new teachers on our team this year, and we all ROCK! A few years ago, it was easier for our IB team to work together as a team because there was just one teacher per core subject, but in the last few years, the program has grown and we have a lot of teachers teaching half 8th grade IB and half something else, like regular courses or a different grade level. Communication has been difficult. This year, we have some new personalities, and some new strategies. I'm not in anyway disparaging any of my previous co-workers because they were awesome and I miss them a lot, but I'm just saying we're off to a HOT start this year, and we might be able to figure out how function more cohesively.
  • This is a good year to get our ducks in a row. We have our IBMYP re authorization visit in the spring. Yikes!
  • I've been closely collaborating with the other IB English teacher, which is something I have not really done much of in my career. Collaborating--yes. Lots. Establishing matching procedures and units that we hope to teach exactly the same--nope! It's find of fun, but exhausting.
  • My night school students are cool so far. No riots. I haven't been driven to drink yet. One class is a small group of seniors who are desperate to pass their state exams. For the first few weeks, we have been sitting around a table, going step-by-step learning how to write paragraphs. Oy vey!