T – 14 days of 170 2020-2021

It’s been almost a year since I last wrote, and honestly, I thought it would take me longer to return. Last year was hellacious (and I’m not talking about every day after March 13th which was a “virtual” surprise). It seems that every 8 – 9 years I become so disillusioned by education, myself, my administrators, co-workers, life, alien invasions, who knows. Whatever it is, it kicks me in the head and makes me want to cry for years. What does this mean for this year? Well, let me tell you. It means, I’m going to be in a new school this year!

June 30th was my last day at my former school. I interviewed and transferred during the school shut down. I’ve done all my professional development for the upcoming year on Zoom. On the 15th of this month, I’ll start teaching kids who have potentially been in the school (it’s a combined middle & high school) for 3 more years than me. This feels weird.

Such is life, I suppose. Digital notebooks, attendance rosters, unit 0, and unit 1 completed. Plus, even though I bought some cute shoes, I don’t have to wear them. Kind of a win.

Day 27 of 180 2019 – 2020

If my calculations are correct, we’re now 15% of the way through the school year. 15%! That seems like nothing at all and also a ton of time having already passed. It’s difficult to judge time as a teacher. Everything gets processed through progress reports and quarters, semesters, vacations, when seniors finally get to “be outta here” and PD days. 27 of our 180 days are done at the end of today.

For one class I teach – writing for college – I’m asking students to figure out a working definition for success and possible ways to attain it. While they are doing their own research, I thought I would look up some information about the 20 richest people in the world in 2019, because apparently, I’m a masochist. It wasn’t the most scientific research that I did. I went to this link and browsed through it.  And this link as well to find a more tactile way of demonstrating these numbers.  I know someone on FB posted another cool visual for this, and I’m hoping someone remembers they posted it and  re-post the link.

It’s been a long time since I last posted.  Last year was … problematic.  However, as I try to look at what I consider success, I did complete the coursework that I needed to earn a second certification for moderate disabilities grades 5 – 12.

I struggle to complete things.  And I do mean, STRUGGLE.  I don’t know if it’s fear of failure, fear of success, something else entirely, who knows.  This is a goal I have wanted to achieve for years, and now I have.

There’s so much more to talk about.  Union involvement, work drama, my own goals.  For now I thought it more important that I get back into the swing of writing here and keep myself and my memory honest.

Day 69 of 180 2018 – 2019

It’s been a whirlwind, ladies and gentlemen.  An absolute whirlwind.  Week 6: surprise! schedule change.  Week 10: surprise! schedule change.  Oh wait, just kidding, let’s wait a bit and then Week 12: schedule change now!  It’s hard to get into a classroom routine when your classes keep shifting.

On the plus side, this has let me get back into teaching a section of Read 180. As I’m taking classes to add a Moderate Disabilities license to my teaching licenses, working with struggling readers is a definite plus.  (I had gained two sections and then lost one, but one is better than none!)

Even more on the plus side, it has allowed me to co-teach with another woman in my department.  This woman is lovely.  We have similar philosophies, ups and downs, skills and struggles.  I suspect (as she is a bit older than me) that I am looking at the woman I am becoming. She is an incredible sounding board.  Since my work wife left at the end of the 2016 – 17 year, it has been lonely at work.  It’s not as lonely right now.

Going back to the Mod Dis license, I completed my first class on Positive Behavior Intervention and Support.  Confession: I am NOT a good student.  This class was filled with dynamic, diverse women who teach in a variety of types of schools, and yet, all of us, every last one of us, love our students (even, maybe especially, the punky ones) and believe that behavior is a form of communication, and that students would do well if they could.

Last year was rough on me. My work wife moved.  I turned 42. I fell down a flight of stairs and was out of work for 5 weeks.  I felt lonely and isolated a lot.  Honestly, I wasn’t sure that teaching was the right career path for me. Co-teaching helped, but this class, man, it was rejuvenating on a level that I never expected.  My next class – it starts in January – is about learning disabilities.  I’m nervous about it, but I’m hoping it is as exciting and educational.

Day 9 of 180 2018 – 2019

This has been the craziest beginning of a school year.  Heat has been so horrendous that, a full five of the last nine days have been half days!  (Climate change, ladies and gentlemen, it’s not a hoax.) This is going to be our first full day this week.  I’m a little bit intimidated by the idea of teaching all 8 periods in the day.

Last week was all 10th graders for 45 minute of Enrichment English.  This week is 4 sets of 9th graders for 45 minutes of Enrichment English and 1 teensy group of SEI (Sheltered English Immersion) 10th graders for a 90 minute block.

The plan for my SEI 10 class is to finally use a lot of my Interactive Notebook purchases from several years ago.  I bought them from TeachersPayTeachers three or four years ago over the summer, but had my schedule changed at the beginning of school and I haven’t had the opportunity to delve into it properly since then.  For this class, I’m going to start with The Pearl by John Steinbeck.  It’s not one of the official UPG  (Unit Planning Guide) choices, but I think it will be a better fit for my kids, and I can hit all of the unit priority standards with it.

For my Enrichment 9 classes, we start by looking at The Humility Code by David Brooks and then writing 5 paragraph Pro/Con essays.  Enrichment 10 classes started with making SMART goals and now are creating academic timelines of what they remember from school.  It’s bizarre how much students claim they don’t remember.

Off to prep!

Day 3 of 180 2018 – 2019

Climate change: it exists.  My school has its second early release day in a row because we’re in a dangerous heat wave and the air conditioning is busted in some of the schools in the district.  It’s the end of August.  In Western Massachusetts. This did not used to be the case.  Apparently in one of the districts near mine, they had to cancel yesterday and today.  I joke, in the Spring, about wanting to have some Sun-Days instead of Snow-Days, but this is something else entirely.

This year, my A week is 6 classes of English Enrichment (10th grade) and B week is 4 classes of  English Enrichment (9th grade) and 1 long block of SEI English 10.  (Aka “Big Kid” English or “Air Quotes” English.)

I’m starting an additional license program to add a Moderate Disabilities license for grades 5-12.  One class a semester, and then a practicum.  I’m nervous, but excited.  We’ll see how it goes.

Day 49.5 of 180 2017 – 2018

Today my heart hurts for my students.  I’m looking at the selections for tests and I think I’ve realized the problem.  There are not pieces of writing in the public domain being used that have any language that begins to resemble language my students would understand.

Grapes of Wrath, O! Pioneers, selections from Bleak House.

My students are level 1 and level 2 WIDA scoring students.  They have been in an English speaking part of the US for less than two years in most cases.  They’re trying to understand English spoken in the year 2017.  Why are they also being asked to try to comprehend 19th century British accents and slang completely a-contextually?  How is that relevant or fair?

I understand that teachers need to not just educate but illuminate.  In my perfect world, I teach students to read and write because some day I hope they’ll learn to love literature as much as I do.  However, I’m troubled by what I see in front of me and by how much it feels like students are being asked to set up students to fail.

We differentiate instruction for ELL, SPED, CP, Honors, and AP.  We teach different materials.  We instruct our classes differently.  Why are the tests we are required to give the same tests?  How is that in any way acceptable?

And more importantly, what do I do when it is no longer acceptable?  All I’ve ever wanted to do is teach.  What do I do if I can’t do it anymore?

Day 23 of 180 2017 – 2018

Today it has been a month since we started school.  So far, I’ve felt more or less like a hot mess that can’t quite get everything organized.  Pretty much this means my year is starting as expected.

The second week of school – our classes alternate between A and B weeks because of vocational training on the opposite weeks from the traditional academic week – I gained a new class.  Surprise!  You’ve been selected to teach an SEI ELA 10 class to WIDA level 1 and level 2 students without any warning whatsoever! So even though we chose to not give you SEI classes for two years (thus allowing you to infer that you were doing a shitty job with those students) we’re going to give one of them back to you because someone else whined about having too many preps. That’s the essential sum up of the insanity.

What I wanted to write about was this, however.  School supplies and students, especially in light of natural disasters.  At the beginning of the year (Either August 28th or September 5th, for those playing along with the home edition), all students were told they needed the following supplies:

  • a binder and paper for it
  • a composition notebook (or just a small notebook – even just a one subject, as long as it was separate)
  • a pen (preferably two in two different colors, but just one would do)
  • a pencil
  • a highlighter

At the beginning of the year, this would have cost a student approximately $3.  Very few of my students picked up the requested supplies.  Now, post hurricanes in a city with many students with Puerto Rican roots, requesting supplies feels like a crap request.  Family that may be dead versus school supplies.  I get it.  I’m not a completely cold-hearted woman.  Priorities shift.  However, if my students had followed instructions at the beginning of the school year, these priorities would not need to have shifted because they would have their supplies.

So how do I balance the fact that students failed at the requests, but now those requests seem trivial versus if they don’t get these things, I’m going to wind up paying out the nose for them.  It’s frustrating and feels petty, but isn’t.  I don’t have the money to buy 100 binders, 100 composition notebooks, 200 pens, 100 pencils and 100 highlighters.  Nor should I have to do so.  But how else are these kids going to get the necessary supplies?

Next summer, I’m going to pick up the supplies, plus gallon plastic bags.  I’m going to have students buy them off of me for $4, and use the extra money to fund the supplies for students who can’t buy them.  But that’s next year, and right now, students keep losing their stuff because they didn’t buy what they were supposed to.


Day 1 of 180 2017 – 2018

Morning started with Low Blood Sugar and then I left my regular glasses in my car, so then I had to go back to my car and get those before starting classes.  Computers weren’t working, so that made Read 180 classes difficult.  (Fortunately, the IT department has now hooked me up with a laptop cart, so I’ll be set for tomorrow.)

It’s been super nice to see all these students who I don’t teach this year.  I’ve been getting enthusiastic hugs from kids I missed a ton.  That’s definitely the most rejuvenating part of coming back.  I miss my kidlets something fierce when I’m not here.

Onward and upward.  On Tuesday  (no school Monday because of Labor day) I start to see 9th graders.  That will be exciting.

Day 180 of 180 2016 – 2017

Today is the day!  Wheeeeee!  Today is today is today is today!  Day 180 is almost done for students.  This has been a quiet blog year as I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out who i was outside of teaching.  However, I feel like this year – most likely due to that very process – has rejuvenated me.

Also, and this is terrifying in many ways for me, I’m not teaching summer school this year.  It’s been fourteen years of summer school for me.  Fourteen years of working with students who need extra help, extra company, extra something.  I can’t believe I’m going to take an actual break.

I think I’m finally starting to accept that it’s okay not to do everything.  I’m 41 not 21, and if I am to be the best teacher that I can be, I need to rest.  I’m so grateful that I’ve found some younger teachers that have the enthusiasm when I’m tired.  It’s been a solid year.

Day 117 of 180 2016 – 2017

Hold on to your hats everyone, Storm Stella is coming our way!  Panic in the streets!  Make sure you have all the bread and milk in the store.  Mug others for theirs if need be! Run!  Panic!  Freak out!  AAAAAAAH!

or, y’know, something like that.

As is always the case at this time of year, the MCAS is imminent and my heart is hurting for my students.  Many of them will do fine.  They know how to organize their thoughts; they understand reading comprehension.  They have this.  My students who are lower-level English language learners have me worried.  They try so hard, but their English grammar is not good yet.  It’s getting there, but … not yet.

Some of my teacher friends and I started a creative writing club after school.  So exciting!  There has been an insane amount of positive feedback from the students.  Students are producing great works.  I’m hopeful that this is the start of something great for them and for us.