Q's Personal Legend

"When a person really desires something, all the universe conspires to help that person to realize his dream," said the alchemist, echoing the words of the old king. The boy understood. Another person was there to help him toward his Personal Legend.

-- The Alchemist, Paulo Coelho

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Location: Georgia

I teach Social Studies at a Georgia high school.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Glass Houses

I have not been very diligent about posting lately. In fact, I have done much lurking as I do not have much energy. The first six weeks of school have passed, and I need a break! Any way...

Teachers blogging is the newest hot topic. History is Elementary was recently featured in USA Today. I applaud her in her courage to blog and identify herself. She is getting a lot of flack about it. I do not understand people who feel the need to express their pettiness because they have no real reason to dislike someone other than 'they just do.' Unfortunately there are some people in this world who feel the need to take their anger out on others. I guess the public forgets that teachers are human too. Granted humanity, in my opinion, does not give us an excuse to be slack in our jobs. Teachers live in glass houses sometimes--everything we do, say, and write is scrutinized. Even college-educated individuals make mistakes--I make plenty of them. At least we own up to them and are not bitter about it. If somebody feels the need to correct my grammar--I thank you for the concern. I just hope you are polite about.

To History is Elementary--YOU ROCK SISTER!!!!!!

Thursday, August 31, 2006

If I had only known!!

After graduating college, I decided to wait before teaching and got a job in curriculum. I knew that I would burn out quickly and be too concerned with being the popular teacher. I am so glad I waited. When I got a teaching job six years later, I knew that I was a teacher and not a friend. I felt that if I were to be popular, that was fine--I would rather be consistent.

So my first job started after the school year started--six or eight weeks in. I was finally ready to be a teacher. I learned real quick that I needed to find a better way to grade homework. My then-boyfriend, now husband, helped me grade everything because I stupidly graded homework for accuracy. Soon I started grading in class using a rubber stamp. It is amazing how teenagers will vy for a smiley face stamp. If I forgot to stamp, they made sure that I knew it. So I started using stickers for A tests. Again, a great motivator. A few years ago I laminated some 'A' sheets and hung them on my bulletin board to advertise A test grades. It is so funny to watch the students come into class to see their name on these sheets.

In AP classes I havent found a way to motivate them to increase test scores. The first test in the AP classes at our school are typically horrible. In fact, each year I only had one student pass. So I tell each new year that the first test grade will most likely disappoint them. I advised them to read the chapter (a novel concept). This year's class thought I was lying to them. So on the fly I mentioned, if you pass the first test, I will make a banner and hang it outside the door. You get your name on the banner if you just PASS the test. They showed me! Out of 2 classes I had the following distribution:
*2 A's
*8 B's
*18 C's
*7 F's

I was stunned and happy. I know 7 still failed but they failed well. My lowest grade was 58%. So, I made the banner and hung it outside. The students loved it. Many said that this was the first time they every read the chapter for a test. And, they are seniors!!!

If I had only known that a banner would motivate them to pass a test! I would have done it sooner!

And, some say that this stuff is too childish for high school students. Pushaw!

Friday, August 18, 2006

Tests, Fridays, and Fire Drills

Today was test day in my regular Psych class.

I forgot about the fire drill in 6th period. Who schedules a fire drill on a Friday during 6th period?

Normally I give ten minutes to study and then distribute the test. Since I knew the drill would take at least ten minutes, I got started immediately. I told the class that when the alarm goes off to leave everything in the room and to meet under the covered area by the concession stand. "I was just going to risk it." <--- That is literally what I said. I never said do not talk to each other. In fact, I assumed that they would talk (my way of making up for the lack of study time before and still finish the test within the period). During the drill I took roll, held up my green "All is good" card, then I even made myself scarce during the drill!! (Okay, really I lurked about like I LOVE to do and to see if they talked to each other. What in that kind of time, they really couldnt have gotten a lot of answers.) I dont think they talked about the test questions. Really!? I was stunned. All I heard them talk about was that they were worried about which questions to answer (I use choice in each section. My way of bonus without a bonus. For example, they get to choose 8 out 10 in one section and so on...). Then another kid told them, "Dude, answer them all. She only counts the ones that are right." (I taught him before.) Then, the sweet children that they are came back to the classroom and immediately went back to work!

And this is the last class of the day! What did I do to deserve such honest students?

They must be on something!

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Adapt. Evolve.

I said a curse word in 4th period today. In front of all the students and, yes, they were all listening to me.

It may be hard to imagine but summers in Georgia are hot. In fact, the past several weeks have hit 100 easily. One might think the students would be glad to walk into my classroom which is set at reasonable and cool 70-72 degrees.

No.

Instead I hear much whining and complaining about the temperature: "I'm cold." "It's freezing in here." "Can we please turn off the a/c?" I realize that they have less body fat than I do. But, really! There is one teacher in my school who literally has a meat locker. I have been in there. I swear it is at 65 degrees. 72 is not that bad when you keep things in perspective!

So I have listened to two weeks of this crap. My 4th period is my largest class and it is right after lunch. When I open the classroom door after lunch the temp on my digital thermometer I bought from Kmart typically reads 71.5. Once the bodies get in the room it quickly jumps to 74. Our a/c units are pathetic--its all or nothing. My students do not have a seating chart yet, so they have chosen their seats. I think the ones who get cold easily chose the coldest areas of the room.

Today I snapped. After 40 minutes of whining I said this:
"Give me a break. I am tired of your whining. This is my classroom. I spend every day, all day in this room. You are only present for an hour and 25 minutes. Get over yourself. I have sweaters in the front of the room that I purposely brought for those of you who get cold easily. If I get hot I become a bitch and you will definitely know it. So, get over yourself."
They were stunned. But they stopped complaining.

I told a colleague about my 'oops.' She told me a story about a collab situation earlier last week when all of the World History classes got together to do an activity on prehistory. One teacher was discussing evolution. He mentioned that the theory implied that humans have evolved and adapted to new situations (yes, we are so politically correct). Then, he proceeded to tell them, if you think it is too cold in here--Adapt. Evolve. Layer up. Bring a sweater. I thought that was great. Now all the World History teachers are constantly saying, "Adapt." "Evolve."

I think tomorrow I am going to put up a sign that carries that sentiment but with a twist.

Many prospective employers appreciate flexibility in challenging situations. Challenge yourself. If you feel that it is too cold in here.

Adapt.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Where Am I? What Am I Doing Now?

It is hard to believe what all has happened in the last couple of weeks.

The week before last consisted of interviews. At the last minute we had to hire a new teacher. Plus, all the political mess that is a part of leadership. I dislike politics at work. I am not the type of person to play others against each other and I resent feeling as if I need to acquiesce to other people's politics. And, we wonder why good teachers get out of the system.

Last week I had Lasik. I can't even begin to describe how revolutionary this procedure has been in my life. I used to ask my husband if the alarm was set--I couldn't read the numbers. I was 20/800, now I am 20/15. This is awesome! I have to fight back the tears when I think about how different my life is now that I can see.

Monday began with meetings. I fail to understand why districts feel that they must fill every hour (well, maybe every hour but three) with meetings and inservices when there is still so much we have to do to prepare for students. I mean, isn't this the reason why we are in a classroom? ...to get ready for the students? I have lessons to prepare, desks to clean, files to organize... I hate to be a Bitter Betty--I just want to do my job.

I am struggling right now. I want to be positive, but I am just feeling overwhelmed.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Musings

I am feeling a bit melancholy as I write this. I am tired, both physically and mentally. My body hurts from exercise and the home projects I have been completing on my summer break. I am trying to get back onto the teacher schedule since the start of school is just a few weeks away. That is hard as I am such a night owl. Plus, a colleague of mine got an AP job at a school so now we have to find a replacement; that, and the other crap going on at school. And, school hasn’t started. So instead of going to bed at 11pm when I was tired, I finished reading Greg Michie’s book, Holler if you hear me. It was on my suggested reading list for Sociology that was taken from another teacher in my district, but one I hadn’t read yet. So I grabbed the donated copy from my class shelves to take home for my summer reading.

Greg’s story is really a bunch of stories about his students and his journey of becoming a teacher. The book is refreshingly honest. There isn’t a cute, tidy ending to the story because the end hasn’t been written. His students are still struggling—struggling to find a voice, to find an education, and to find a way to make a difference. On page 180 (of 181), this jumped out at me:

“Test scores aren’t the only misguided obsession, of course. There are plenty of other equally maddening distractions. The topics that dominate our upper-grade staff meetings, for example, rarely have much to do with how we can better teach our kids, how we can help them see themselves and the world in new ways. In truth, we seldom have time to talk about individual students at all, unless one of them is being suspended or has broken some sot of rule. Instead we go back and forth about detention, schedules, or state goals, or lesson plan formatting, or bathroom supervision, or girls wearing too much makeup. The lipstick situation is getting out of hand. The minutiae become the agenda, and our mission, if we can even remember ever having one, gets buried underneath it all. It can all seem so overwhelming and discouraging that at times like tonight I ask myself why I continue. Why teach? Why do I do it? Why even go in to work tomorrow morning?”


He wraps it up with “making a difference.” His stories, his words remind me of my first few years of teaching. I taught at an inner city school where the expectations of the students was and continues to be low. Really, I believe that these kids could do it—whatever ‘it’ was, they just did not know how. They were caught in a vicious cycle—repeating their parents’ actions. I loved teaching there. Often, I miss it. Really. People often ask me if I was scared. Or, they remark that it must be disheartening. At times, it was. I had never worked so hard in my life. I went from an active social life to going to bed early. My colleagues at my previous career often commented on how teaching really agreed with me. After all, it was what I went to school for; I just had a six year detour.

I remember fondly my students. I still see many out in the community. Some still keep in touch. They were so desperate for someone to care. There was Mack with his big smile and easy going ways. I never taught him but he was always in my classroom after school. Star was my student in the 9th and 11th grades. In the 10th she had a beautiful baby boy. One day, she, another student Kim, and I were talking about their plans for the future. Both mothers had taken their experience to heart. They swore that they were going to finish school and somehow go to college. There is Dee who still calls me four years later for advice on her classes. My girl, Bethany serves our country in Korea. San is in his third year of college. The other day I went to my pharmacy and saw Monda behind the counter. She graduates this summer from college with a degree in biology. Her little girl is a sweet child. I could probably go on. To answer Michie’s question, they are why I teach. I left that school—not because of the students, or the parents, or even the course load. I left because of a bad administrator. I felt that I did not need to be treated as a sub human. I like where I am now—but, sometimes, I feel that they don’t need me as much as I need them.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Woo hoo!

Two years ago, my dad called me up and informed me that he had a brain tumor. The only reason they found it was because of the ringing in his ear that the doc's couldnt stop. A CT scan revealed a massive tumor in the lining of his brain the size of a grapefruit half. So dad went under the knife and had the tumor removed, or so we hoped. The tumor had grown through the skull and could not be salvaged, the skull part had to be thrown out. Unfortunately, the area was so large that the doc could not construct a prosthetic right then. So for 12 weeks, dad had to wear a helmet to protect his head. (**side note: It infuriates me that some people do not think before they act. For example, one idiot went over to my dad and rapped on the top of the helmet. He is lucky that I was not there. Obviously, dude, the helmet was there for a reason, not a fashion statement.) So, when the prosthetic arrived, dad braved the knife again. The fluid from the brain, so used to being free, rebelled at the new enclosure. Dad suffered from seizures. The family freaked. We thought we lost him. My dad is young, considering he has a kid in her 30s. I never thought I would have to worry about him until I was middle-aged myself. He learned to walk quickly. Not two months later he walked unassisted--excellent I thought, but he was frustrated. His facial muscles have taken longer to cooperate. I have trouble understanding him at times.

But last week, dad had his routine MRI to make sure that all the tumor was gone and not regrowing. IT IS ALL GONE!

Hallelujah! Congratulations dad! I love you.