Day 60 of 180

Back from Thanksgiving break and I realized that I isolated myself quite a bit because I have been feeling very negative, and I didn’t want that negativity to exude onto others.  At the same time, when someone says, “Oh, how are you?”  I didn’t want to lie and say “fine” or “great”.  So instead I hid myself away.

In reality, what I need to do is change my negativity and focus on being more positive, because the downers in this job?  They can gut me.

Positive things:  my tenth graders did really well focusing on Ethos, Pathos and Logos today.  I was pleased with the questions they were asking and how they tried to make sense of them.  I think that teaching the rhetorical triangle is harder for me to teach than anything else, up to and including poetry.

I decided to write essays with my second week Enrichment students.  I don’t know how well it will go, but I’m thinking that it will be a better experience than my first week with them.  It’s hard to be a ninth grader in a shop, knowing that you might actually be spending 3.5 more years in there.  It’s s forced moment of looking at your future, and I’m not sure that students are ready for it.

My AP seniors are writing timed essays related to All Quiet on the Western Front as I type this.  They are timed for 40 minutes, so we all know where they were then, but they have longer to write them down.  Only one student is missing today, so it should be easy to get her caught up.  The positive moment here is that I’m beginning to get caught up with where I want them to be.

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Day 57 of 180

Friday.  Next week we have only two days.  The students we see today, we don’t see for a week.  This is normal, but when they know there is a teeny week between this time and the next, they get a bit crazy.

“Miss, I don’t wannnnnna work.”  
“But Miss, it’s FRIDAY!”  
“But Miss ….”

And so I took a PDF of the The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, read it to my classes, and taught them how to answer MCAS Long Composition prompts with it.  I refuse to not be productive.  Apparently, I am the Grinch.

Good points of this:  I love reading to the kids.  Many of the kids benefit from this and, sadly, have not had enough experience with people reading to them for pleasure.  I want to incorporate more children’s lit into my classes.  I say that every year, but this year I’m trying to invest in these books for real.

Bad points of this:  Students cannot see how they are benefiting from this and think that I think they’re stupid.  I need a better introduction to my children’s books, probably in my syllabus, so that they understand why we are using them.

Sad reality:  I asked a group of students if they had stories read to them when they were children, and the closest they could think about it was “I saw a lot of Disney movies.  Does that count?”

Day 53 of 180

I’m mentally preparing myself to go meet with my supervisor so he can tell me that my latest observation was terrible.  He’s going to have another assistant principal (AP) with him.  He’s going to lecture me about what I should have been doing, what I didn’t have on my boards, and where it should be.  I don’t expect him to ask me what was going on and why my class was the way it was.  I don’t expect him to acknowledge that when he stopped by with the district head of English that I said that not much was going on in the class, and that perhaps there was a reason I was saying that. What he will tell me is that I was teaching tools in a vacuum and not explaining what the purpose was.

The truth is that 6 out of 12 students were missing.  Of the 6 that were there, a full 100% had not done their homework.

The truth is that the reason they were filling out the TPCASTT sheets was so they could write essays on themes in poems.

The truth is that when introducing new concepts, it seems really crappy to do that when over half the class is being required to retake a state mandated test, and the other half is not prepared.

However, I will agree with some of it.

The truth is that I did not have my agenda posted.

The truth is that I did not have my objective posted.

And here’s why.

The truth is that I was so frustrated with my students that I wanted to cry.

The truth is that my students had thought, “Oops, I forgot it” was an acceptable excuse.

The truth is that when a teacher says “we aren’t really doing much”, she might be trying not to shame her students by saying that they colossally effed up her carefully constructed plans.

The truth has many sides.  I don’t want to go and hear any of this, even though I can own my part of it.

The truth is that my AP did this and so much more, to the point where we use the APs last name as verb to describe when a teacher is barely phoning it in.

The truth is that I am embarrassed to be caught in being lame, but I’m equally frustrated that I acknowledged as much, and my AP and the district head went on with their observation.  At that point it stops feeling like an observation and starts feeling like they were out to get me and prove how I was failing.

The truth is that I wish I didn’t have to go upstairs and be told that I suck.

Day 52 of 180

Things I have learned:

  1.  My students panic at the word essay, even when they have been writing essays for me for the past three years.  Why is that?  What about the word “essay” fills my students with such dread?  For real, I thought my juniors were going to start vomiting.  They couldn’t come up with thesis statements.  They couldn’t figure out how to restate the prompt.  Heck, they couldn’t even figure out what the poem was or who wrote it.
  2. Urgency can’t be impressed enough, and apparently I still haven’t figured out how to explain it to my students.  I think I need clearer deadlines.  But I think they need clearer understanding of what it means to have a deadline.
  3. When I get frustrated, I appear depressed.  Sometimes I get afraid that I’m going to lose my temper.  It’s not okay to lose my temper at my students.  I think it’s okay to show them that I’m frustrated or disappointed in their behavior, but actually losing my temper at them is not going to get myself anywhere.
  4. When I wake up and I feel like I’m going to vomit, chances are that my sugar levels are high and it’s not that I don’t want to go to work.  Sometimes, however, it is hard to tell the difference.

Day 49 of 180

How do we improve time management and urgency?  I don’t mean for the adults in the school, though I’m sure we could all benefit from that.  No, I mean the students’ senses of urgency and their time management skills.  Having to give kids that faux-MCAS two weeks ago re-emphasized that for me.  5 X 45 = 225 minutes or 3 hours and 45 minutes.  They did not work with any sense of urgency.

And yes, I know that this was a test to see what they know, so we can assess that and figure out what we need to teach them, so that they can take a test to prove that they know what it is the state thinks that they’re supposed to know.  However, I feel like they’re taking their time because they have no sense of time, not (only) because they don’t know or they’re thinking about the answers.

So, without actually setting their hair and/or chairs on fire, how do we make children feel that things need to be completed by a certain time, and that time isn’t going to change?

Day 46 of 180

Had all day, all staff PD on Tuesday.  On the downside, this means today is only day 46 and not 47, on the plus side, it means today is only day 46 and not 47.  In the middle of PD I was so angry.  I didn’t understand why we were all suffering through this CRAP.  What was the point?  Why should we care?  Etc. Etc. Etc.

Part of that, no doubt, has been my negativity about my school in general.  Another part came from – once again – getting conflicting messages about what we’re supposed to be doing.  The last part definitely came from my colleagues.  What is it about being in PD that makes teachers want to prove their smarter than the presenters, and want to attack them?

However, it’s a new day and I have a new outlook.  I’m trying to remain positive, because the truth is always that I love my students and they deserve me to be in as good a space as possible.  So I tried some new group work patterns and roles today.  It was … clunky … at best, but hopeful.

I love to see that my groups all want to support each other, but I want them to be honest in their reviews of each other.  That honesty is what will help them grow.  Instead, every single student said that everyone in their group did WONDERFUL, PERFECT, A PLUS PLUS PLUS work.  Uhhh, sure they did.  That’s why you were complaining to me about so-and-so not working the day before.

I got around some of that by having them reflect individually in their notebooks, but we’ll see.  I might have to change up the rubric to have more specific questions, or make each student fill out the rubric for homework and return it.  Maybe the fear was that someone else would see it and have their feelings hurt?  Silly sensitive students and their silly sweetness!

Day 44 of 180

One of my students called me Mom last week.  That was the first time this year, but certainly not the first time over all.  I have several students who continue to call me mom, even years later.  I imagine that happens to everyone.  Sometimes, it’s an accident, a slip of the tongue.  Other times it feels like so much more, like the weight of the world in one small word.

Mom.

I’m not a mother to biological or adopted children.  In general, I’m a cats-not-kids kind of woman.  However, there’s something magical about being acknowledged as the woman who takes care of / makes a difference in a student’s life.  It warms my heart.

***

I spent last week with one class giving them a practice test to figure out what they need to work on so we can practice what skills they need for a test. On the flip side, I spent another class looking at poetry and a collection of my students embraced it with everything they had.  There is no better reward than seeing kids’ brains click with the lesson.