Showing posts with label this gig sucks. Show all posts
Showing posts with label this gig sucks. Show all posts

September 17, 2011


Dear parent, thank you for quoting me from open house night when I said it was best to contact me about things before they become a problem. Of course you are concerned about one of your son's assignment that wasn't turned in. Of course, I uploaded that fact 12 days ago.

What I meant when said that statement is that students need to come to me immediately if they are struggling with an assignment, not weeks later. This situation is not quite what I was talking about, but it's okay. I am happy to hear from you.

I'll certainly check into it.

Perhaps there's an error and the assignment was turned in. Perhaps I missed putting the grade in the computer. I hate it when papers stick together. Perhaps it didn't have a name on it. Did you know I've already collected five assignments with no names already this year? Yes, perhaps it's an error.

I should mention--or maybe it's not worth it--that your son did not talk to me about this problem? Also, he did not see me grading the assignment. Is that something you might want to check into? No I don't have a witness to my testimony...but that's the point. There were no witnesses when I graded the assignment in question.

How many themes I could visit with this story.

I always say, "It's the little things in life..." Usually I'm speaking of the simple joys of life and how I adore them, but there's a dark side to everything, right? Sorting through the many small untruths I encounter from the under-20 crowd on a daily basis is exhausting. It's takes a lot of simple joys to beat down the bitterness and paranoia that result in the barrage of lies I get weekly. What did I ever do to deserve this?

August 29, 2011

It Could Have Been Better

The strangest thing happened this morning. Somehow, I set my clock an hour ahead. It's a completely different function from setting the alarm. How that happened, I don't know. I was minutes from walking out the door when I noticed that the time on my phone was an hour earlier than I thought it was, so I check all three of the clocks downstairs, my computer, and the television guide, and sure enough, the one clock that was wrong was the alarm clock.

My poor husband! He was already in the shower when he could have gotten another hour in!

I took the opportunity to have a leisurely cup on coffee. Perhaps that was the best thing I could have done for myself--especially considering I was tackling one of the hardest days of the 180 on reduced sleep.
Arriving at school, we all found an inferno. Not literally. That's so not funny considering our history with fire. No, what I'm talking about is no air conditioning. Big shock. Unlike last year, when the same thing happened, it was 115º outside. Thank goodness I'm not a armpit sweater, but unfortunately my head and face get just drenched. Drippy. Disgusting. Embarrassing. So much for the extra time I took I my make-up. And my hair. My colleagues blew off their hairdos for ponytails. Too bad I cut mine too short for a ponytail but long enough to make me hot. Waaaaaah!

I take a 32 oz. bottle of water to work with me, and usually it's a struggle to drink it all. Today, I had to pace myself, lest should have to get water out of the bathroom sink, which for once was HOT. I could have easily finished that bottle by 9:00 am.

I felt some cool air blowing just before lunch. Not much though. I bailed as soon as the bell rang.

I wore cute, yet comfortable shoes that were not new. After a few hours I was crippled with, well, not even blisters. It just tore the skin off my heels and little toes. I'm just not used to wearing shoes. It doesn't matter that in May they were the most comfortable shoes I owned. I don't know how I'll make it through the week. This isn't the first year I've suffered from shoes on the first day, but I thought I was okay with old shoes.

During 3rd period, one of my students who had me for publications last year said, "Why don't you just take your shoes off like you usually do?"

Well, I usually only get that comfortable with my publications class.

But today...I apologized to my 5th hour class and took my shoes off. I explained I wasn't used to wearing shoes. I also apologized for my lack of voice because I was not used to talking. And finally, I apologized for my haggard appearance, as I wasn't used to the heat.

So much for first impressions. I really liked my 5th hour class, though. Except for two boys who had to be reminded that it's rude to talk while I'm talking, they made a great impression on me, and I think it's going to be a good year with them.

August 12, 2011

The Locker Game

Poor Mrs. Bluebird, whose school started this week, has blogged about her school's locker woes. Besides dealing with the anxiety of nervous students who cannot figure out how to open locks, the the teachers at Mrs. Bluebird's school also have to deal with lockers are too old and tired to cooperate with students.

Locker Drama! The crazy things we teachers have to deal with besides teaching...

At our old school, we did not have enough lockers for students, so they had to carry everything with them. That situation was fraught with its own drama. At our new school, we have new lockers, but to prevent shenanigans in overcrowded, narrow hallways, students can only visit them before school, before and after lunch, and after school. Our locker drama is keeping kids out of them during the other passing periods.

The rule about staying out of lockers is serious, but many students believe that rules are made to be broken. In fact, for many of them, getting away with breaking the rules everyone else has to follow is a fun game.

The Locker Game

Remove or place an item in the locker without getting caught.

Game Play:
Obviously, you need a reason for accessing your locker. It does not matter if it's real or critical. Just know your purpose.

If you get caught while the locker is open, the teacher may or may not let you get the thing you were trying to get, depending on teacher and mood. Whatever the outcome, try again next time.

Point Values:

+1 Access locker without getting caught for a forgotten textbook or assignment.

+3 Access locker without getting caught for the textbook or assignment you intentionally "forgot."

+1 Access locker to take or put away your jacket.
+1 if jacket is not dress code

+1 Access locker to put away textbooks you don't want to carry.

+2 Access locker to retrieve or put away gym clothes.
+1 if the clothes are not in a bag
+2 if the clothes are dirty/smelly

+1 Caught accessing locker but get off with a warning and mission completed.
+ 2 if you really didn't need to get in your locker
+ 1 if you told a story that wasn't exactly true

+4 Caught accessing locker, close it, and walk away while teacher is reprimanding you.

-1 Caught accessing locker before the door is open.

-2 Caught accessing locker but have to close it before completing mission.
-3 if the item is in your hand, but you have to put it back.

Strategies for Winning:

Set your combination so you just have to turn to the last number on the dial. Because the lock will automatically open when you reach that last number, this will save a lot of time, but do not let others see you setting up your lock for the quick open because they can quickly open your locker, too.

Although physically dangerous, open your locker when the hall is most crowded. The teachers cannot get to you.

Get 3-5 of your friends to gather around you to hide the opening. Make it quick, though. Groups of students standing around draw attention.

Make sure the item is ready to be grabbed. You do not have time to search your backpack for your "forgotten" textbook. Leave it on top.

If you are putting something in your locker, shove it in forcefully, pushing your whole arm into the back of the locker. If even a backpack strap falls out while you are closing your locker, you may not be be able to open it again. Jammed locker? You lose.

Game play ends June 6, 2012.

The winner gets to be the coolest person in school.

July 21, 2011

Ugh. Homework. What's is Worth?

Darren over at Right on the Left Coast is discussing LA Unified's new homework policy. In the original policy, which has recently been canceled anyway, homework would count for only 10% of the grade. My administrator would support the idea that we teachers cannot control what happens at home and students have varying levels of support at home. Darren supports this idea, too, but he correctly predicted that policy would make it more difficult for students to earn good grades. Placing value on homework is more than a numbers game.

Over the years, as I try to fairly assess my students and attach a grade to what they do, I've struggled with what this homework business is all about and what it is worth. (A few months ago, I anguished over how to squeeze the blasted work out of students.)

In the past, I counted homework as 10-15%, and assignments that were considered homework are assignments completed totally at home, such as independent reading. If an assignment was started in class but needed to be completed at home, it was considered classwork (formative assessment), which was 35-40%. Assessments (summative) counted for 50%.

Sometimes I just couldn't get that 10% = homework to make sense, though. Throughout the year, students had projects and major reading and writing assignments that require more time at home than in class to finish. In fact, many independent reading projects were done completely at home. Technically, that's homework. However, those were worth a lot more than 10%, and often they were considered an assessment in the end. I always had to be explicit with students that just because it is being completed at home, it was worth a lot. I'm not sure if they were even paying attention to the weights of the class, but some students had to be reminded that doing assigned work at home is very important.

Ultimately, I have had difficulty justifying assignments that were worth a mere 10% of a student's grade. Sometimes we would go weeks without an assignment that was technically considered "homework." Everything required of them was very important! Even when students were asked to do small tasks that might not add up to be worth much in time and points, the completion of those tasks was usually integral in the students being able to participate in classroom activities and move forward in learning. Is it really necessary give points to every little step along the learning continuum? In the big picture of assessment, I say no, but students are used to being rewarded often for their work.

When my students struggle--in my class and in others--it usually comes down to this concept of homework. My colleagues and I use homework as a means for students to practice and extend their knowledge or prep for upcoming classes. In my class, that means that students should have rough draft writings completed so they can receive feedback for revision and have time to practice in class. In algebra class, that means students should practice the newly assigned concepts so they may apply them to the next lesson. In geography, that means students should read the textbook and add to the notes/concepts that were discussed or will be discussed in class. This is not busy work.

When students do not do their homework, no matter what the value of the grade it is worth, they are not taking responsibility for their learning, and that translates into a lack of performance extends throughout the rest of their work. So when we tell parents, "Your student needs to do his/her homework," it's a pretty big deal.

Is this where the argument about how not all students have the same support at home comes in? Not all parents are home to give help on homework. Some students have to care for their siblings after school. Some students have too many extracurricular activities. Maybe we should not even have homework, right? Hmmm. Maybe. Maybe some some students want to do well and require more time. Maybe those students have no problem with working at home. Maybe the students need time to process their learning, and that time is not afforded during the school day. Perhaps we could lengthen the school day! Yeah, that will happen. comes back to the responsibility issue. Students must take responsibility for their learning. There are wonder students who do this innately, but usually do need all the support they can get from school and home, especially in the early years as they are forming habits. Yes, some students live in heart-breaking circumstances that make it difficult for them to find the support at home. That problem cannot be fixed with a certain percentage of a grade being attributed to homework when homework is part of a learning process.

Oh! Some might say that perhaps homework should not be part of the learning process. No, it's not crazy. I mean, where are we going with the concept of placing a mere 10% of a grade on homework? We could have a big debate on that alone. But think about it. What are your goals for students? Does homework enhance student learning? Is homework that important?

I know in my classroom, homework will not go away. A specific grade for it might, though. I will continually strive to make homework valuable for my students, for without it, they just cannot progress as quickly as they are capable of doing. Now, if I could drive this point home with my upcoming students...

April 28, 2011

Too Bad...

Earlier this week, one of the administrators posted a reminder to us teachers to watch what we say in front of students and parents.

In the hallway we pondered what the story behind that e-mail was, and which one of us said something that triggered an angry parent's e-mail to administration. We joked about the poor sucker who stepped in it, but we also wondered if one of us was the one who screwed up. Reflecting back, haven't we all said something to students that, when repeated at home, might raise some ire? I've had a rough bunch this year, and I've given a record number of brutally honest speeches this year. What have I said? Oh lordy...let's not go there.

Worse yet, in this late part of the year, as some of us are locked in gladiator-type battles of wills with helicopter parents, so goodness only knows what could have been said to a parent. I've been there, too, on a smaller scale. Early this year, I said to a parent that her student didn't care about his work, and that was why he did poorly on a project where we had multiple drafts. (The student should have been there to give his own excuses so I didn't have to speculate, but that's another matter entirely.) There was almost blood in the meeting, and after the meeting the parent was still ranting about me to other staff members, and later I did end up in the principal's office. My team's tough love approach does not always go over well...

One of the teachers in my hallway was able to dig up the dirt on the offending words warranted a reminder from adminstration, and she reported back to us during lunch that somebody had said, "Sucks to be you."

Oops, I should have warned you. It is pretty harsh.

I hope my colleagues will be more careful, as will I, when offering sarcastic sympathy for petty excuses.

Sonny, I remember when "Sucks to be you" was too crude for the classroom, but it has become a lot more mainstream in everyday life, including in the classroom. Nonetheless, we should soften our words our students.

No pencil?
"What idiot doesn't bring the one thing he needs each day? Too bad you will not be able to do your work."

No homework?
"Thank you for telling me about your non-achievement. Sit your ass down now."

Forgot the project I assigned three weeks ago, although I have reminded you daily about the due date?
"WTH is wrong with you?" Perhaps saying nothing is best here...

See? It takes some practice, but teachers should learn to censor themselves, or as one of my colleagues mutters under her breath as she's monitoring her classroom, "I will not say what I think. I will not say what I think."

I should take this to heart, too. I am harsh with my high school students (this "sucks to be you" matter was from my middle school), and in fact, one of my boys frequently comes in complaining that his arm hurts and he cannot write, to which I reply, "Okay, cupcake. Suck it up like a real man, grab your notebook, and sit down." Except for the cupcake part--I think he prefers being called "creampuff"--it's quite motivating for him.

What will become of my students in the future? I think of my them struggling against the hard, cold world, unable to stand up on their own, unable to take responsibility for themselves, and unable to learn from life's hard knocks. They take the wrong things too seriously and cannot laugh at their own little mistakes. Man, it's going to suck to being them.

April 3, 2011

Now with 20% More!

It's hard to be a happy classroom teacher in my neck of the woods right now. Things have been bad in Nevada the last few years, and we have experienced drastic cuts in educational spending, but we've survived. This year, the governor has put it on our district to cut $400 million from our budget. What we're looking at to save that money is an 5-8% salary cut (something we had avoided in the past few years, yet we did go into a pay freeze last year) and 2,500 lost positions, some of which will be support staff, but a gigantic chunk will be classroom teachers. There are other proposed smaller cuts, like no new textbooks and transportation adjustments, but when it comes to cutting millions, it has to be teachers and salaries.

I met with my principal on Friday to sign my evaluation this year. She gave me my directives for next year, which are pretty much to continue with doing the things I'm expected to do in my job anyway, and she thanked me for doing a good job. (I appreciated that actual verbal praise.)

She said, "I don't know what to tell you about next year."

"Oh, I'm not worried about my position here. It's like it was last year. If I get bumped, the whole department is screwed," I joked with her.

She glanced at her seniority list, confirming what I knew already about my seniority, which is 2nd in my department at my school. When it comes to district seniority, I'm pretty much in the middle of the list, too.

I continued, "No, what I'm worried about is how much more it's going to suck working here with larger class sizes and no funding. Moral is already low. It's not going to get any better."

You know, my boss didn't even bat an eye at my frank talk. We're all in this sinking ship together.

The buzz among us teachers is concern for those larger class sizes, which are predicted to be 7 students more than we have now. I don't know about others at my school or in the district--although a new student in my night school class claims she has already 56 students in one of her classes at a local high school during the day--but my classes have 4-5 more students in them this year than they did last year. What do you want from me? A scientific study or something? My larger classes are harder to manage. It takes us longer to accomplish things. Students have fewer opportunities to speak or interact with each other. I do not have the opportunity to interact with many of my students.

I can tell you that adding adding 20% to my class next year will absolutely change the way I teach. Oh, is that a threat? Or am I going to evolve as a teacher? Parents and the public should know that more work--especially with the reward of less pay--will not be a great motivator for me, but more importantly, having to do more work with the same amount of time and resources will not produce a better experience for the students. What I should tell parents is that we are preparing them for college. Students need to come to class, get the information, do their work, turn it in on time, get their feedback, and if they need help, it is up to them to seek me out after school.

Wait, that's kind of how it is now anyway. Only parents, and sometimes administrators expect much, much more of me as a teacher. I'm expected to hold hands. Pay attention to the whole child. Differentiate my instruction to meet the varied needs of students. Teach them to think while teaching to the test. Document everything as I do it, too. You know, pay attention to each of those 150 students. Oops. I mean, 175 with classroom size increases. Yeah...You can go---oops. I'm in teacher mode here. Language in check, please.

I don't even know where I'm going with this post. I've want to talk about these frustrations, but my thoughts are so jumbled with work overload, depression from constant public abuse of teachers, and doubt about exactly how much I should be expected to do as a teacher.

I'm not happy about having my pay cut.

I'm not happy about my job being made harder.

I'm not happy that teachers are being demonized in the public eye.

I'm not happy that I'm begrudged a living salary, health benefits, and retirement benefits for my service.

I'm not happy that my students do not value education, and I'm to blame.

I'm a survivor who has stuck out tough times in the classroom since the day I walked into it.

I'm going to do what is expected of me and act professionally--even when I'm not treated professionally.

I'm going to still give my best to the students; I'm not going to blame them for situations they cannot control, like overcrowding and lack of materials.

Life in education is disheartening these days. I'm not ready to quit it yet, and after investing 15 years of my life in it, it would take a major shift for me to move out of it. But how much more major would that be?

I understand that times are tough and we all need to make sacrifices, and I'm okay with it for a short-term fix, but with all this talk of cut, cut, cut, there has been no talk of how education will be built to pull us out of this slump. For three years, in the state, it has been all about cutting education, and little talk from leaders about funding education. In the meanwhile, in schools, we talk about raising achievement--getting those test scores up--with the fear that if we don't, our schools will be deemed ineffective, taken over, and reorganized. In our classrooms, where we try to block out the adversities knocking on our doors, we fight student apathy and a cultural disregard for the value of education. We teachers love our jobs, but there is a lot to hate about it, too.

I don't need sympathy. A little respect would be nice. Education is not about the teachers just like health care isn't about the doctors. I wish I could be persuasive enough to convince the public and politicians that they really don't get what is going on with education, but from everything I've read and seen in the last few years, it's a waste of my breath.


March 22, 2011

Speak Up!

Did you see that post that took me three days to finish? The one about my students who were too shy to record their voices for their public service announcements during class so they decided to come to an after school work session where there were over 40 students with the same idea?

Didn't see it?

It was hilarious.

And frustrating.

Oy, this gig is rough sometimes.

That was the topic of the post, but now it's how much the technology gods must hate me. Seriously, where did that post go? I saved it--actually hit the SAVE button despite the fact that Blogger automatically saves--a few times this afternoon. When I finished, I pushed the bright orange PUBLISH POST button. I've done this before.

Yeah. Seriously. Technology gods have not been smiling on us this week, but I blamed my students for procrastinating. It hasn't been terrible, but I can tell you that live without wireless Internet is just not as much fun. Sometimes it's crippling.

In anyway case, podcasts are over. I'm thinking about blogging with my yearbook kiddos the rest of the year, but it's been a few years since I tried that, and it didn't go very well. I have a different group, though. A great, interesting, creative bunch of students who will be back next year. I'm going to take a leap of faith. Or stupidity.

That's the news from HappyChyck's World.

February 26, 2011

Homework Hassle

Mister Teacher is talking about his homework woes this week, and several teachers are chiming in. Wow! Do I feel his pain. Getting students to turn in work is something I always struggle with, and this year's students have been particularly stubborn about not doing their work.

Let me start off by reminding everyone that I teach accelerated English to 8th graders in a magnet program. They are our school's best and brightest. Granted, a lot of them are on a bus for a few hours a day to attend our school, but that is a choice their families have made. One wouldn't think that I would have too many issues with students not turning in work, right? Oh...only in a perfect world.

During most of the year, I give a writing assignment to be completed at home each week, but we start it in class on Monday, and the rough draft is not due until Thursday, when we do some sort of revision or editing activity with it. School-wide, students are expected to read 30 minutes every night, and over the years, it evolved into a system where they plan to read four nights a week--their choice of nights--completing a book a month. It does sound like a lot, doesn't it? I consciously do not plan for other homework, but students are also expected to complete any work not finished in class as homework. Those who stay on task do not usually have this type of homework...

A few years ago, my team instituted a no late work policy. It does cause a little panic, but many of us use some sort of Oops Pass where students have a few chances a quarter to turn in an assignment late with no penalty. It's a system that I like because it demands students do their work but gives them a break if they have a couple of bad days.

Although, my administrator approved my course expectations this year, and for the past several years, she prefers that we give homework detention. Now, it is not expected that we personally stay after, which would conflict with our contracted time, but there is apparently an aide who conducts the detention. At the beginning of the year, the details of this system were wonky, and at this point it conflicts with the system we have in place.

I have two major issues with the homework detention. The first is the paperwork I would need to do. I'm smart enough to understand that I can hand the kid the slip and make him fill it out, but the process of collecting and discovering who hasn't done it would certainly take more time than, "Okay class, pass your work forward." I think I could make it work, but what if the kid did not attend detention? Here lies my second issue with detention. If the student does not go, I should do something about, right? Well, I guess I could call home or issue it again, but I cannot refer the insubordination of not attending academic detention to the dean. Ultimately, the punishment if I assign homework detention is nothing for the student, and everything to me with the responsibility for me to contact the parent and document the insubordination. I mean, I guess I could just let it go, but if I dole out detention with no consequences, that weakens my authority. I guess I could say to students, "I do not accept late work, but if you would like a chance to turn it in, you must attend homework detention." Still a hassle. So shoot me for being a lazy teacher.

There is a third reason I do not like the homework detention "system" we have in place. It puts all of the burden on me, and just the thought of it gives me panic attacks. I have more than enough on my plate with the curriculum and grading. I try my best of offer quality units, which takes time--much of it collaborate with my colleagues. The program in which I teach demands a bit more paperwork, which is kind of an unspoken reality. Spending another hour each day cajoling students and their parents into contributing their share of the effort is a poor use of my time. I know I mentioned this at open house this year. Something like, "Hey parents, it's a poor use of my time, energy, and expertise to simply babysit your student."

Ah, but what if homework detention worked like a charm and students were compelled to stay after school to do their work? Well, it hasn't worked that well when I've done it myself. Just last week, after I discovered that many students did not turn in an assessment essay we worked on in class, an assessment grade that dropped them a full letter grade by not doing it, I handed out detentions to be served with me. Only 1/3 of the students assigned showed up. Do you know why? They don't care.

No, they don't care. If it really mattered to them, they would have done it the first time. This is why I should not stress so much about those who don't do their work and spend my precious time planning excellent learning opportunities for this who do care. Those poor brilliant, compliant students don't get enough of my attention anyway.

February 10, 2011

One Hurdle Down

Wahoo! We made it through the state proficiency writing exam. Of course, the results will not be back for a few months, but the TEST is over.

It's been a rough path because the test changed. In the past, our 8th grade students spent two days writing a one narrative or descriptive essay. Now the students are tested on two different expository topics in one sitting, much like students do for the high school exam. Apparently, the federal government thought our 8th grade test needed to look more like the high school exam, thus the change.

As you can imagine, in a time of test mania, we have always focused more on narrative writing than expository writing. Yes, yes, we did teach expository writing, but for the sake of the test, there was so much more focus on narrative. (Those high school teachers are going to so thankful with this test change for sure because their jobs should be easier now!)

I agree with having students write expository essays over narrative at this age, but I don't know if I agree with making them write two essays in one sitting. The time suggested is two hours, but as long as students are working productively, they may take as long as they need. For most students, it was between three and four hours. Rough!

So, with the change in test, it's been a panic to get the kids ready. It's been a rough road, starting from scratch with some of the students, and I still have students who can't write a decent thesis--by my standards at least. And I almost started crying when I saw one of my students, who was one of the last to finish, turn in an essay with three sentences in each paragraph. Bless his heart for trying so hard...but seriously, I wanted to quit on the spot. I wanted to shred the tests I glanced at that had a boring restate-the-question-in-the- answer-lead. I can't even tell you how many times I told them that they needed to make a good first impression and not do the functional, "If I were to compare and contrast blah, blah, blah..." And you know I didn't just "tell" them, right?

From the beginning when we heard about the change, I was worried sick about two general things: (1. distrust that the state's test, which was scant on information and materials at first, would actually assess what they said it was going to assess, and (2. our gains in writing the past few years (indicated on the old state assessment) would all be lost and nobody would acknowledge that our scores were lower because of the test bait-and-switch, not because of my instruction or our students' abilities.

The test is over now. I'm putting my fears on the back burner for now. We're moving on to the next obstacle: the state reading test.

(And the rest of the year: PROJECTS!)

November 30, 2010

School's Not a Buffet

Hitting the ground running today so I can save my students from themselves. I hate that duty.

When I was out of the classroom 1 1/2 weeks ago (seems so long ago), I gave some assessments. One was a chart for students to map out some cause and effects of the novel. The other was an essay relating their own lives to the essential question of the unit. Each one was given in one day and was to be collected the same day. The sub knew this, and the writing assignment even stated that it was due at the end of class. Imagine my shock when I found that some students didn't turn it in. Thus, these students have Fs on assessments. No big deal? Assessments account for 50% of their grades.

I think the sub factor played a part in this crisis, but I'm mostly blaming the students. When the sub asked for papers to be passed forward, why did they think they had the option to not follow instructions? It could have easily happened with me standing at the front of the room, collecting their work just before the bell because I wanted to give them as much time as possible.

I'm calling this the buffet mentality that my students have:

I'll do this work but not that work.
That looks yucky, so I think I'll skip it.
I took bite, but I'm just going to throw the rest away.
That work is good. Can I have extra?

Oh, and because I found two charts with the exact same answers, let me add:

Can I have some of yours?

I should just say, "Your parents are paying the same price no matter how much you 'eat.'"

I can already anticipate those who threw theirs away are going to be hungry now that the meal is over. The parents will probably wonder why their kids didn't get enough. My administrator will probably wonder how they could walk in, sit down, not be a happy little consumer. Did I not serve them?

Sure, I served the picky little ones. Apparently I'm not allowed to force-fed them, so what can I do?

Detention. You will sit there until you finish.

(That's a battle of wills to take on, thus a rotten day for me...)

November 28, 2010

My Pen Bled Out

I Hate This Gig 11/23/10

It all came crashing together during the one full week of instruction we had in November. Three assessments for the novel we recently finished and the independent book project whose due date was pushed back two weeks because of all the days off we'd had.

The grading would not have gotten out of hand if I would have been in my classroom doing those assessment days because, of course, when the students are working independently at their desks, that is also work time for me. I would have had been able to keep a handle on it. Oh sure, it's likely that I would have taken some home, but it would not have been the 26 hours I spent this weekend grading.

Excessive isn't it? Honesty, I would have blown off about half of it and graded it next week, but my midterm grades must be posted tomorrow.

I did not think it was teacherly possible to conquer such a pile in one weekend.

Once again, I have performed an educational miracle. (Oh, I don't even want to think about the accuracy of my magic in the last few hours!)

I need a do-over on my Thanksgiving weekend.

That miracle isn't happenin', is it?

So starts my countdown to Christmas--and a promise to myself for a 100% work-free holiday.

November 16, 2010

Some Love Me; Some Hate Me


When I walked onto campus at night school this evening, I found one of my students from last year, Evelyn, sitting on one of the benches. I was very happy to see her, and we exchanged hugs.

"What are you doing here?" I asked her.

"I came to see you!"

"No, you didn't!" They always say that, and it's sweet, but I'm not the primary person they come to see. They just want to see everyone.

"Yes, Miss!" she exclaimed, "I've been waiting since about 4:30 p.m. They said you'd be here sometime but it was going to be a while."

She waited two hours to see me. Wow. Do I feel loved!

Evelyn was one of those students that by the end of the year, I was more like an auntie to her. She was in two of my classes, and because she didn't pass her writing proficiency exam, she was one of three of the remaining students I had in my remedial class during the 4th quarter.

I love it when the students come back to show us they are hanging in there and doing well. It was a major bright spot to my day.


I had a parent conference with one of my 8th graders today. He is on probation in the program for his grades, and during the 1st quarter he ended up with a D in my class. A few weeks into this quarter, he has an F. He has turned nothing in!

Now, as a person, I really like this kid. He is polite and he participates in discussions, but his follow-through is terrible.

I went into the conference shootin' straight with the mom and the boy. He claimed that he was not good at reading and writing, which is just fine, but I can't work with a pile of excuses. Bring me a craptastic piece of writing or stupid questions on a reading, and I can help, but bring nothing to the table and I'll bring out Queen Cranky.

The conference went pretty well. The boy was excited about the mock writing proficiency test we took today (and he was one of the last ones working because he was trying so hard ), and come to find out that he t.v. production teacher gave him some tips and a way to think about approaching writing. That's awesome that she has been able to help him make writing more relevant to his life. He is also doing very well in his Algebra class, so we looked at how he could transfer the strategies he uses to be successful in some of his other classes, including mine.

At the end, we set some goals and discussed the idea that he needed to come for help after school sometimes. Before we parted, his mother thanked me and told me that he was embarrassed around me. Embarrassed? I asked the boy if I had ever embarrassed him because although I can be a bitch strict, I didn't ever mean to embarrass him. In fact, he is not even one of my targeted fools in his class.

What she really meant was that sometimes he was too embarrassed to ask me for help. The boy confirmed that I had never done anything to embarrass him, but apparently I have a reputation that precedes me from his brother, who was never actually a student of mine, but he was such a...well...pain in the butt...that I certainly know who he is.

Poor kid. I had to explain to him that he need not be afraid. If he were to come to me for help, I'd be nice as pie. I just have no patience for excuses or laziness.
I think I'm a pretty nice teacher, but I'm not all sunshine and rainbows. More often than not, I just don't have much patience for shenigans. (Later in the year when I'm more tired I might be.) I'm not the kind of teacher that makes a great first impression. I kind of grow on the students, and even students like Evelyn have taken plenty of my wrath when they were acting like fools. The smart ones realize that in the end, I am mean because I care. My bark is worse than my bite, as they say.

November 8, 2010

What's the Point?

One of the students in my high school proficiency class, a ELL student from Iraq, began questioning the point of the writing exam he will be taking next week. I have a few students who complain, but this particular student usually has a positive attitude.

"This test does not prove anything. What's the point?" he said.

Blah, blah, blah. When they start talking about the hoops they have to jump through, I stop listening. It's the same old stuff.

All the same, I like the kid. It disappointed me that he was wasting time.

"You know what? Welcome to life. There will be a lot of things that seem pointless that you will have to do."

Does that make me a cynic or a realist? I don't know. I work in a system where there is a lot that doesn't make sense. I live in a world where sweatin' the stupid small stuff can suck the joy out of life.

But then...aren't there times when perhaps I've given into complacency simply because it's easier?

Sometimes I wish the kids knew when it was time to question life and when it was time to just suck it up and move on.

Sometimes I wish I knew, too.

September 3, 2010

Fantastic or Craptastic Year Ahead?

Sums Up the Week 9/3/10

This is a little note to myself on my desk, and today after I came back from meeting with some colleagues, I found all tagged up. Another prankster colleague is surely the culprit, but it did make me take pause.

It's been a hard week.

It's felt like three weeks.

Thank goodness for a three-day weekend.

August 30, 2010


Of course, in typical first-day of school misery, there was no air conditioning for half the morning. My room tends to be extra chilly year round, enough so that I was comfortably wearing sweaters through the last day of school, and you know I'm afraid to complain because then it might get hot.

Last week, while other teachers were roasting while putting up their bulletin boards, I was feeling cool. I love my classroom!

Why should I expect there to be no air conditioning on the first day, then?

Afterall, our school is a mere two years old.

Like that matters.

There are just too many days where the heating and cooling are wonky.

Of course, the first day of school has to be one of them.

Outside this morning it was unusually cold--in the 70s! Therefore, it was actually cooler outside than inside. Bizarre for August here!

So, I was ever so happy (right!) to make a first impression as the sweaty English teacher. Embarrassing.

Oh, how was my day other than that? Well, it had its moments...

August 3, 2010

Doubts, Irritations, and General Pissiness

I miss being a wide-eyed optimist.

I'm being the kind of cranky teacher I always wanted to avoid, and sadly, it really didn't take me as many years as it should have.

Yesterday I had lunch with the other accelerated English 8 teacher. Our plan was just to ease into things, start thinking about what we'd like to do, and maybe take some notes on a to-do list. Of course, after we spent half the lunch catching up, we started talking about what we'd like to do differently this year. That is, we put a microscope on our weaknesses, and it didn't take too long before I started feeling like I can't do anything right.

But then, of course, why would we talk about the things that work? We have so many other kinks to work out. Too many kinks to work out. I'm no newbie, so what's with all the kinks?
  • There are just too many things to teach, and not enough time. Although English is pretty flexible, as there are a lot of ways to approach teaching the skills through speaking, reading, and writing, English class is like five different subject. I just named three. Let's toss in research. Okay, that only makes four. There's always grammar and vocabulary, but apparently, they falls under writing, and those areas vaguely mentioned in the standards now. However, without those foundations...
  • The pressure for students to achieve on tests is unrelenting. I feel that when I teach what I am suppose to, the students will leave with what they need. I believe that I could structure my classroom in such a manner that I could probably get to the things I need to, but with testing pressures, I have to teach in a certain way, placing emphasis heavily on one or two areas. Oh, and the tests are in February and March. I wish we'd test in May. Give me a whole year.
  • In the program in which I teach, there are some conflicts with the ideals--students centered, project-based, technology-rich, multicultural, well-rounded learner--and the testing mania. I am held accountable for both, and sometimes I cannot get it to work smoothly. It's taken me a few years to fully realize this, and last spring when our program was under review, these conflicts came to a head. I thought it was the big elephant in my head, but it turns out, he was right there in the room for all to "see." I don't know if anything can be done about these conflicts in ideals. It's just the way it is.
Just the way it is. Boy I get tired of doing with what we have. No, wait. Not just doing with what we have. This year we are bracing for the worst amount of us doing with what we have, which is more students and fewer resources.
  • Finally, and this one gets my blood boiling, has to do with students' performances and expectations. Some of the things we are working on improving are things that students simply did not do last year. Like reading logs and projects. And along with that conversation, we return to what we do if students don't turn in work. Take it? Take it with penalty? Give academic detention? So much of what I need to tweak in my classroom has to do with me making it difficult for students to blow-off or cheat on assignments; it has to do with me thinking of ways to keep them from academically hurting themselves. (Last year I saw the worst apathy, and we've heard it might be bad this year, too.) Sure, I can accept that sometimes I do things in my classroom that may not be best practices. Perhaps sometimes I'm wrong. However, there are many times when I do know what I am doing--I have plenty of experience and training--and the whims of teenagers screw it up. They have too much power, and they use it in the wrong ways.

I'm so full of self-loathing right now that I shouldn't post this. Do I hate my job? Do I hate the students? No, neither. I'm pretty cynical, though. I wish I had my rose-colored glasses because I'm pretty pissed off at the system and feeling stubborn and cranky toward the students I haven't even met yet.

May 27, 2010


I have been an English teacher for long enough that I can see why students make certain mistakes. Most of them are quite predictable, so I typically try to address the common problems before I see it too much. Usually the students are quite shocked to find that they are even making errors. Often my bilingual students are the worst because they do not understand that what we say is not what we write.

The evolution of cause (worse: cuz) is easy to explain to students.

Incorrect usage: My sister boyfriend is a tool cause he dropped out of school.
Of course, that sentence does not make sense because, technically, cause is the wrong word. It makes no sense in the context.

So, I show students: because --> 'cause --> cause --> cuz.

I don't need to give you the details; you know how this disaster happens. It has to do with how we speak. No big deal, right? Just use the real word in your writing. Are you imagining me in front of the classroom explaining this devolution? I always like those days because I see light bulbs going off all over the classroom along with a chorus of "Oh! I didn't know!" From juniors and seniors! Hilarious!

In the last few years, I have seen of joins the verb ranks, nearly putting poor have out of a job. This one is frustrating and harder to explain to students who simply want to use the language well enough to pass their proficiency writing exams and get a job. Even more, it's absolutely entertaining seeing students who know the difference interact with students who don't.

A conversation between two students in my creative writing class:

"'My brother should of given me some money.' This is suppose to be have not of."
"It's should HAVE, not should OF."
"Are you sure?"
"Uhm. Okay. I guess--Hey, Ms. HappyChyck, is it should have or should of?"

And then a series of eye rolls follow (between me and the students who know the answer to this easy question) as I calmly answer, "Yep, it's have."

It's during time like those that all the suffering I endure being a blasted English teacher is worth it.

As in tune as I am to these common writing issues in my classroom, so much that I hardly blink an eye over them, this week one of my students who just joined my class this quarter introduced me to a new crazy devolution of language.


As in, "Ama miss you next year." This is what the student wrote in a letter to a teacher she was thanking for helping her in her education. A letter, I need to add, that would be given to her teacher--not just a random writing assignment. A real letter on nice paper! Time to make a good impression!

I called her over to so I could help her revise, and I said, "What the heck is this?"
"You mean, 'I am going to,' right?"
She shrugged her shoulders.
"You should change it. Nobody is going to know what you're saying. Use some real words, even if they are contractions."
"Oh no, Miss, she'll get it!"
"I doubt it."
"No, she will!" And then the girl went bouncing back to her seat like she had no worries in the world.

Does anyone have a gun? A needle? Please, shoot me now!

I just sat like the speechless, powerless fool I am.

Sometimes I hate being an English teacher.

September 20, 2008

Because We Like to Share Misery

I had the worst professional day on Thursday.

It started as I was getting into the car and I remembered that our new school does not have wireless Internet yet. You'd think that after a month I'd remember that I can't do things like I have for the past four years. This is particularly stressful because I had planned to stream a video from United Streaming from my laptop, which would be plugged into the projector.

So, when I arrived, I tried to download the movie from my desktop, so I could save it to my flash drive, and then I could plug it into my computer...only, I couldn't get it to download. It wasn't even a very long movie. My friend came in, and she's pretty computer smart, so she tried. Then she ended up calling the computer tech person so she could go get an extra long Ethernet cable so could I hard wire my connection. That didn't work either because I couldn't configure to our system. Sigh.

Long story short, I eventually able to get things going by my second class, as I had a prep between, but I punted in the first class and the students played The Uhm Game (my version's better, but it's similiar to this one), which was probably a lot more fun than a video on Shakespeare's life and times. Not harmful, but not the most productive. I apologized to the students, but they didn't seem to care.

Because I was dealing with all of that, I didn't check my mailbox in the morning, so it later in the day when I went, I found a notification of a parent-teacher conference. In fact, I found it about 10 minutes after the conference was scheduled to start... I dashed over to the conference room, without a progress report in hand. I couldn't decide which would be worse: not showing up at all or showing up late and unprepared. I'd like to think that I chose lesser of the two evils. Super embarrassing.

I left the meeting feeling like a snake's belly--in more ways than one. Did I mention that I woke up with a cold coming on? I should have added that because throughout the whole technology fiasco, I really wanted to just to home and go to bed.

And just before the meeting, I received an e-mail from a colleague where I couldn't read the tone to know if she was asking me a sincere question or taking a shot at me. This colleague was in the meeting.

And while I was checking e-mail, I found a message to the whole staff about a certain school-wide procedure that my department had been told we were going to do one way and now we had to tell our students to do it another way. Frustrating! It's been a struggle, and now that we finally have them trained, and we have to go and tell them to do it a different way, which is the way most of them were doing it anyway. As one of my fellow English teachers said, "Now we're going look to like asses." Indeed.

That would have been the perfect time to just leave early, but I had a stack of papers I needed to grade so I could get promised progress reports out on Friday. And let's not forget the faculty meeting after school, too. Bleah.

I made it home--albeit late--without dying in a fiery crash. After all, my driving has nothing to do with my professional life.

Crossing my fingers that the last part of my teaching day would go well, I went to night school, and even arrived early. While I was waiting in the teachers' lounge, I reached into my bag to get something and discovered that a can of soda (caffeine I would desperately need later) had been punctured. What punctured it? My cell phone? My camera? The plastic tip of a mechanical pencil? Some evil demon stalking me?

Some of the books in my bag received a little damage, but the brunt of the damage went to the feedback forms I had for my day school students on the speeches they had given this week. I would never accept such messy papers, and there's no way I'm giving messy papers either. What's worse is that on some of the papers I had used a felt tip pen, so the paper was just a blur of red and Diet Coke. What do I say to those kids? Without notes, I certainly don't remember how they did! Grrr.

My classes went okay, except for 6th hour. I have a student who is giving me problems, and I keep trying to work with him, but he keeps acting like he's doing nothing wrong. His cool-guy act is not helping be a better reader or writer at all. I moved him to a table where he would be away from his situation so everyone could focus better, but he couldn't get comfortable because he's a big guy, and the table was rather low. So, I moved Goldilocks to the teacher desk, and I moved everything out of his way and turned off the computer.

On Friday, I found out that was about the dumbest thing I could have done because he wrote on the computer screen. (It was apparently about an inch, written in ink, but we don't know what it looked like because the day teacher rubbed it off before taking a photo.) I know better than to let students use teacher computers, but I didn't think he'd get in trouble sitting at the desk with my aide sitting across from him and me in a direct line of sight. How wrong I was. (My aide is 16 going on 35, and she has no tolerance for the students who show up to school and just think they can goof off and graduate. She even took the opportunity to lecture him.)

Oh, and by the way, having a student write on a computer screen is a new one for me. Add that to my book of Stupid Things Kids Might Do.

Since the day school teachers at the school think that all things "night school" are straight up thug, including the teachers, my attempt to deal with this student, who really needs a boot up his rear, but I'm trying to deal with one on one, has set off another battle between the day school and night school teachers--don't think that this incident is just between the me, the student, the other teacher and the administrators at both schools. Oh no. Every teacher at both schools knows about this. Although the building has always been used for a dual school, we night teachers are interlopers. Or maybe even worse.

Okay, let's add them up. That's FIVE ways Happy Chyck can look like an unprofessional dolt. All wrapped up into one day. I hope that was my allotment for the rest of the year. Seriously. I took bitter pill after bitter pill all day long, and even into Friday, as I faced all of these issues head on, admitting my culpability each time. I certainly didn't lead by example. I hope I was able to screw up by example.

August 22, 2007

Can I Get Some Prozac With That Exedrin?

Chiming in that I made it back for my first day--for us teachers, anyway. Before the day was out I was breaking into the headache medicine of which I am super stocked.

I know I wasn't psyched to go back to school, but after today, I'm just depressed.

The pressure of all the things we have to do to be effective teachers with all the best practices and documentation of all things behavioral and academic (for 150 students) is super stressful at times. Do this. Do that. Don't forget to do that other thing. Use technology. Make it all work together. Be sure to call the parents--for good and bad. And, by the way, you need to work closely with your colleagues because we can see how PLC is working for us. Ack!

I guess just sitting with my colleagues all day while they ask questions for which answers should be obvious just wore me down. I know I am going to have to work with some of them, yet some of them are not easy to work with. (When I have students who don't want to work with other students in class activities, I tell them it is real life experience and they need to learn how to deal with those situations. Boy, do I know.) I am not one for conflict, and I'm pretty easy-going. I'd imagine it's easy to walk all over me, but in my mind, I consider myself flexible. I've made it through a decade in this career, and I'd say that my ability to be flexible has been an important character trait in surviving. Yes, I'm one of those women who has a Plan B--and sometimes C and D--for everything. I learned it in the classroom.

Lately, though, I don't feel like bending over anymore. It is not worth my time to negotiate my way through everyone else's drama. Maybe it should my way or no way. Honestly, it seems like it usually goes one person's way, instead of compromising on all participants' accounts. Other teachers do not seem to have any qualms about going against the flow and doing exactly what they like. I'm so done with them. Somehow I feel like now I'm not being a good team player, but maybe the pleaser/do-gooder in me can get over that.

I had a conversation with a confidant of mine on staff. She feels like although the teachers at our school are all nice people, the atmosphere is too much like high school at times. There are very definite cliques. There's drama. There's gossip. There are even love triangles. I'd never really thought about it (other than some people act like middle school girls), but she's right. Those uncomfortable feelings of not quite fitting in... Most of the time I blow it off, and just social with whomever I like. Yea, I was one of those kids in school who didn't specifically fit in any one place. It's okay, but it is exhausting at times. I have to be careful because sometimes I feel caught between people who don't like each other. Seriously, what do I care about other people's lack of social graces? Oh, other than just like high school, not getting along with your colleagues can make your life a living hell.

Oh my gosh! Reality check. Now I'm all full of drama! I'm one of them. Maybe it's time for me to go back to teaching high school.

When you add up stressful working conditions with immature people, it's easy to get frustrated. These are not the feelings I want to start the year with. So, get my tantrum out. Have a good cry of frustration. Turn my frown upside. Get over it, aye?

That's right.