March 24, 2009

It Hurts You More

Have you see this test going around lately?

Train Horns

Created by Train Horns

Mrs. T is testing it out today, and it made me think of my silly students and how I like to torture them with this sound.

Or they torture themselves.

Last year around this time, a few of my middle schoolers loaded that sound on their laptops. Try it out in a classroom sometime. It's difficult to tell the source. Anyway, someone would bring it in, and it would cause a classroom disturbance. Yes, I can hear it, but I can tolerate it for a little while before it gives me a headache. (My student teacher at the time was in complete torture but had to act like it was no big deal.) I'd laugh and joke, "Ha, ha! Nice joke. Whoever it is, now turn it off." The jokester would, but for a few days, we had a lot of disturbances because of "the noise."

It happened mostly in the class after lunch, so before I left for lunch one day, I loaded it on a computer to play on a loop. When they came in, they had a hard time finding it because it wasn't one of them. After that, I never had any problems. Students hate to have their cool tricks used against them.

Last night, someone in my high school class had that sound. (This time I know which one it was.) At first, the students were trying to mess with me, to see if I could hear it. If I can't hear it, then they are doing something secret that the teacher doesn't know about. How they love to make me look the fool! If I can hear it, then it must irritate me, and that will get me stirred up. Oh how they try to get me stirred up!

I had such a good time last night with that irritating sound filling the room!

"Oh, yes, I can hear it, but I can handle it."

The kids were all wincing.

I laughed and laughed and laughed at them: "This is the funniest thing I've seen in the longest time! You are all suffering so much, yet nobody will shut it off! Wow! What are you going to do? I can't believe the lengths you'll go to just to bug me! That's kind of loud. Your ears must be nearly bleeding now."

So much fun! Usually we only laugh at them behind their backs, but when they are being so silly, it's hard not to laugh.

Here's another thing about teens: they don't like it when you laugh at them when they think they are getting one on the teacher.

March 20, 2009

Why Do They Do That? #456,392

I gave a vocabulary quiz today where the students had to fill in the correct answers with the vocabulary words. There were definitions needing words, synonyms, antonyms, and fill-in-the-blank sentences. I gave them the word bank.

Essentially, it's multiple choice, right?

Why did I have students turn in papers with blank answers? One student had 20 blank answers out of the 45 problems. Seriously? Guess who didn't study?

"Uhm. I don't think so. Try again." I hand the paper back.

"But, Miss! I don't know the answers!"

Sigh. "How I appreciate your honesty! But on a test like this, you need to work the system. Process of elimination? Or maybe guess! I can't believe I'm telling you this...but seriously! Don't leave blank answers when your choices are all there! And study next time!"

One of my brainaics came up later and said, "You know, Miss, if you know the all the definitions on the first part (20 of them), then the rest of the test is really easy."


March 18, 2009

Trying to Make Podcasting Relevant

I have not jumped on board with podcasting in my personal interest in technology. How old school that I just read blogs! I think the biggest reason is because I can read a lot faster than I can listen, so I save podcasts for airplane rides.

About a year ago I sat in on an infernally long professional development training on creating podcasts on our Macs. You'd think I'd be ecstatic to learn something new on a PD day, but it was trainer was boring and slow, and I was not thrilled at the idea of my students spending so much time creating a podcast when they could just get up in the front of the class and speak to all of us LIVE!

I hate to be so negative about podcasting, but can anyone see my points for not jumping onto the bandwagon?

The last few weeks I've been taking a 1 credit PDE course, of course I'm taking it to move over on the pay scale next year, and now I have to make a podcast that I'll use with my classes or create an example of one I want students to create as a project. I could just make something up, but I really do like to make good use of my time by creating things I might actually use.

Rather than thinking of a stinking simple assignment, I'm thinking of something bigger.

My students read every night. Most of my students don't hate it too much, and I have quite a few whose books I have to take away from them in class so they'll do their work. Last summer, I started a Shelfari group for our students, but it didn't take off that well. I think it would have in the fall, but when everyone came back to school, it started coming up as a blocked site. What we are really lacking is a great way to share books. I don't have a recommend wall in my class like I should. They share word of mouth--and that works pretty well, too.

Wouldn't it be cool for us to have a weekly podcast of recommended books? These podcasts need not be more than a few minutes each. Just tell us why we'd like the book. Over time, we could have quite a collection of book talks that students could refer to when trying to choose a book. I'm pretty sure we could host it on the school site, so all students could enjoy it!

For the logistics...I think for now, I'll require all the students to create one. We'll get over 100 episodes pretty quickly. For next year, it would be a something that each student is assigned to do once during the year. That would be manageable.

What do you think?

Does anyone use podcasting on a regular basis--or for classroom projects?

March 17, 2009

The Book is Done.

Done like a turkey.

March 16, 2009

The Intuitive Administrator

My administrator suggested that I take a day off this week.

We had just finished a quick review of the yearbook pages she needed to approve so I could submit them, and we were just sitting in her office visiting. Catching up on life and work.

I wasn't even having a nervous breakdown. Not even close--and I have been close in the last few weeks.

When I said that 3 more weeks until spring break was a long time, I was just expressing what a lot of people have been feeling.

We're all tired.

It's been a long year of transition, and we've had a long quarter of testing.

It's spring. Spring is not the season of renewal for teachers. It's the season of surviving.

How blessed I am to have an administrator who can sense that a mental health day could go a long way right now. Truly blessed.

March 14, 2009

Yearbook Deadlines, Taking Photos, Feeling Pride

Yearbook deadline is killing me.

We have taken a lot of pictures this year, and the staff members, it seems are always wandering out to just shoot some pictures. How we are short, I don't know. Okay, I do. They take a lot, but we are down to icky pictures and same ole kids. We simply need more.

We're down to the mass candid pages in the back of the book. It's middle school. Our book is small. You know, those pages with just kids doing stuff. Not a crisis. A crisis is a lack of sports pictures after the season ends. Pictures of students being themselves? Easy! Just get it done!

I sent one of my editors out during one of my English classes (she was finished with her work) to take some candids. I told her to go to the cafeteria during breakfast to get some good picts. Those kids are just hanging around, and they WANT to have their pictures taken with their friends. THEY'LL POSE! Tell them to stop flashin' their signs or they won't be in the book. They do it, or you go to another group. How easy? She came back a few minutes later, telling me nothing was going on. I told her to go back in 10 minutes. She never did. She just wanted to sit down and read her book. I was so irritated with her!

I sent out a different staff member from another English class, and she came back with a bunch of pictures. (Nice to have the smart kids who finish everything early in my English classes and who are on my staff, too.) Unfortunately, most of them were blurry. Irritating under the gun, but I can't be too mad because at least she tried to help out. She took some cool pictures of a chess match. She has a great eye for perspective--if only she would stand still when she pushes the little button.

I spent my prep trying to get those extra pictures. I sneaked into 15 classrooms and shot about 60 decent shots. How damn hard is it? Of course, the teachers might be nicer to me than my wandering staff members, but I enter and leave without speaking to anyone. That's what they've been told to do, too. Phantom photographer. Some of the teachers help by asking their students to grab their projects to show or to look up and smile.

Of course, I really needed to use my prep to proof and print pages so I could get them to my administrator. Now I'll be giving them to her when I need to back desperately soon. "Lack of planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part." She would never say that, but now I am in the vulnerable position of that famous saying.

I went to the basketball game after school because I was summoned by the dean to get a photo of the winner of the free throw shot contest at halftime. I took probably another 25 shots of fans in the stands. Easy peasy. They begged me to take pictures of them. They posed. They smiled. They threw up signs. I told them I wouldn't take the picture. They stopped.

In the course of one day, a little over an hour's worth of time, I have so many pictures of beautiful, smiling, happy students. Nearly a 100 to choose from. Of course, I've been doing this a while, and I have fewer mistakes, but initiative helps.

Not that hard.

After we're done with the book, I'll send my picts to the broadcasting class for the 8th grade video they produce at the end of the year.

I've already passed on pictures to the magnet coordinator for the banner they're making for the Magnet Schools of America conference (we are getting an award again).

(I know some yearbook advisors would never share pictures, but as long as it doesn't ruin my yearbook surprise or sales, it's no big deal to me.)

These last two points have nothing to do with my yearbook crisis, but I think it's cool that our staff contributes to other areas of our school. I think it would be cooler if I could say that ALL of the pictures were taking by our wonderfully talented students. Instead, I get the credit. Bummer for them. Another day at the office for me.

I am really so petty that I would take credit for all of the pictures? Hardly. I tried to get some pictures out of the magnet coordinator because I knew she's been trying to capture the essense of our school when I took my pictures to share with her. She would not surrender them. She took our pictures with relief and said, "Oh good! You all take much better pictures than I do!" Not me. My staff. The pictures I gave her were taken by all of us.

We all collectively get credit for the yearbook and the photography, as we don't tag credits on our photos. But you know how it goes when the books come in or they see their own photos on the video. The students say to their friends and family, "Look! I took that picture!" If I end up taking most of the pictures, they lose out on that source of pride. Oh, I am proud of my good shots, too, but I'd rather be proud of them for theirs. Either way, I feel good.

What do they get? My irritation and no glory. Man, it must suck to be on the yearbook staff.

March 10, 2009

Can You Persuade Me Into Forgiveness?

Yesterday I started a short unit on persuasion, and frankly with all the review and state testing this quarter, we're all ready to move on, and I should try to conjure up some inspirational teaching.

Only...I'm half sick and half tired. Floating.

I borrowed from ReadWriteThink a good activity that could be used at any level. I divided the students into groups and gave them the task to convince me that they deserved forgiveness on a missing assignment. Forgiveness means that I simply excuse them from the assignment so it doesn't count for or against them. To add a little motivation, I printed off their most recent grades. Very motivating! The groups were random and mixed, so there were students from each group who desperately desired forgiveness and students who had turned in every single assignment. (I offered extra credit for students who didn't need forgiveness. I rarely offer extra credit.)

After all the exhausting testing, it was a great activity to get the kids up and collaborating on a no-brainer task. Well, for some it was a no-brainer.

Some simply could not figure out how in the world they could persuade me to do anything.

(insert wicked laugh here)

March 6, 2009

The Longest Friday

Day 4 of 4 of the state testing. All 8th grade students had to test two hours longer than everyone else. This put my testing group, who attend my early bird class for 50 minutes before we begin testing, in my classroom for more than 5 hours.

Five hours.

Two boys came up to me at 7:00 am and told me there was a pool going around about what time I would crack.

Crack? I'm not the one taking the test. Whatever.

Uh oh. They might do something that would make me crack. But how can that be since they will be testing? How can that be? The testing period is about twice as long as my students need. That's how.

We had about 2 hours after everyone was finished with the test where we were trapped like animals. Some of them acted like animals.

I didn't crack.

The geeky boys wouldn't detach themselves from me, and we created Dungeon and Dragon characters and almost started a campaign.

I'm telling you...they wouldn't leave me alone. Chirping in my ear. Creating characters distracted them for a few minutes.

I didn't crack, though. I just went with the flow.

But now I could use Happy Hour.

March 2, 2009

Please, Read My Shirt!

Smells like CRTs are in the air! CRTs? You know, the state mandated test that will determine AYP. For the past two years, we teachers have participated in a contest to see who can come up with the coolest, most inspiring shirt. A group of students vote, but I think we teachers do it to both inspire our student and to entertain ourselves.

The first year I won with this a clever tee (click on the link in the first paragraph to see the back of the shirt), and last year I placed either 2nd or 3rd with my "Kicking AYP" t-shirt, which is even cooler when you know that our mascot is a colt.

I thought I'd be way too busy to participate this year, but I've found the creative outlet rather refreshing. So, before I unveil my creations for my students, I am show my dear blogging friends.

Day 1: This design is a on golden yellow t-shirt. I'm always telling my students that it's important for them to show what they know.
Day 2: This design looks really sharp on a clean, white t-shirt. In fact it looks almost professional, so my fellow t-shirt designers weren't very impressed. They probably thought it was just a clipart that I downloaded. Some of you may not be impressed because you recognize this as a Wordle. I think it's cool because I was thinking of our IB program, and I had to find all the translations and plan the frequency and design. (I do hope all these words mean success and not something else.) This one took a while.

Day 3: I really wanted to wear this one for the first day, but the truth is that it's not printed yet. Oh well, I figure that by the third day, we might need a little humor. I also think this might be a winning t-shirt, but then sometimes people don't understand my humor. It will be on a white and blue baseball-style t-shirt.
Day 4: This last one is kind of lame, but it's kind of hard to come up with four inspirational t-shirts. It's on an orange and blue baseball-style t-shirt. The blue and orange look really nice together.

Today, a lot of the t-shirt designers wore matching t-shirts that parodied the Twilight book with "Proficiency" as the title. Since all the little teeny boppers have ruined any joy I had in reading the books, I decided not to join in. I did consider a Twilight t-shirt that might have said something like, "Edward is a vampire. Vampires don't exist. You can't marry him. Stop daydreaming and take your test!" I think I took a better road with the designs I chose, don't you?