Sunday, November 29, 2009

Being played

I like Dean Koontz. I enjoy his books - and buy them often.

I just finished Your Heart Belongs To Me. I won't spoil it but I will say he tells you all the way through the book that the subtext is important and that sometimes you have to read a book multiple times to pick up all of the subtext and dang if he didn't play me so I have to reread the book to get the subtext.

It's ok - I like the book the first time and will reread it eagerly.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Six Word Saturday

I need to empty my pockets!!

Don't get comfortable

Erma Bombeck:

I always had a dream that when I am asked to give an accounting of my life to a higher court, it will go like this:

"So empty out your pockets. What have you got left of your life? Any dreams that were unfulfilled? Any unused talent that we gave you when you were born that you still have left? Any unsaid compliments or bits of love that you haven't spread around?"

And I will answer, "I've nothing to return. I spent everything You gave me. I'm as naked as the day I was born!"

I have had a week to clean house, ignore schoolwork, reflect on things. I have watched the Last Lecture and last night watched a special on Erma Bombeck. Both Randy Pausch and Erma Bombeck reflected on their childhood dreams and how the teachers they met on their journeys encouraged them. In Erma's case, a bad teacher almost talked her out of writing. (See, Mr. Ego, you CAN affect their lives!!)

I want to be the one who raises the bar, helps you become more than you thought you can be, not the Mr. Ego or Funsucker of your life.

And that is why I blog.

"Most people don't know there are angels whose only job is to make sure you don't get too comfortable & fall asleep & miss your life. " — Brian Andreas

Friday, November 27, 2009

The Last Lecture

Today I watched The Last Lecture - wow.

I am reading the book and today the Virginian Pilot had an interview with Jai Pausch and a link to the YouTube video.

He just set the bar and I feel the need to work to reach it.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Tday

John Spencer has written a lovely post on why he is thankful he is a teacher. I came to my blog to write something, but his is better.

I love being able to talk. (No joke, I love it - and I forgive most of my student-talkers because I get it!!)

I love explaining the math and making it easier to understand. Some people just need it simplified to understand it and then move forward.

Some can't get it even then.

I even like (not love) the challenge of trying to make teaching with Funsucker work. Things are better, but I feel it is the calm before the storm.

I am not so thankful for the organizational STUFF I struggle with.

I love reading the things I have the kids write - but not enough to move away from the math. I am thinking of ways to incorporate more writing with more learning.

I love the challenge of teaching my favorite subject to people for whom it is not a favorite subject.

Happy Thanksgiving!!

I want to laugh more, get angry less, be more organized and chill more.

Life is too serious to take seriously.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Banned books

When I was a teenager, my father would read books that I was not allowed to: the Ian Fleming books, The Carpetbaggers, The Day They Shook The Plum Tree. Mostly it was sex, I think, that caused my parents to ban them.

I read a lot of biographies/autobiographies/histories of the various concentration camps my senior year. Seems like that would have been a more appropriate topic to monitor.

I am now going back and reading the banned books. I think I would have quit if the parents hadn't made such a big deal about it.

I'm sure there is a lesson here.

Never put off til tomorrow what you can do today

"Never put off til tomorrow what you can do today."

That is the way I was raised. Work today, rest tomorrow.

I just got off the phone with a local college, postponing my starting work on my Master's degree. I was supposed to start in January, now I want to postpone it until September, so that I can add a certification over the summer. The economy being what it is, I need to add value before I add cost, being fully aware that the district may decide to save money by not paying for future degrees.

Thank God, they understood that.

I will write a letter today or tomorrow and mail it.

I have two letters of recommendation to write - these aren't my first, but they are my first for college. Normally mine are to judges.

PO wrote some great tips for writing recommendations. I bow to the master and will take these into account while I write the next two. Thanks, PO.

Watered down

A bazillion years ago Nestle's was in trouble for selling formula in Africa to new mothers. As I remember it, Nestle's reps convinced these new mothers that the formula was so much better, that their children would benefit more from it than mother's milk. The mothers couldn't afford to buy enough formula, so they would water it down. And their children starved.

I feel too often that I water down what I teach in order that the students find some success. If I teach it the way I was taught, with the expectations I had and the expectations I have for my own children, the students I teach give up, turn away, fail.

Even my attempts at making it relevant or fun aren't noticeably successful. But dumbing it down helps them to pass.

In the past week I have talked one former student into coming back instead of dropping out. And talked with another who moved, dropped out, won't come back and says I am in the only teacher who believed in him

I justify dumbing it down because the kids tell me I believe in them. They bring me their standardized test scores to share because they know I care.

But am I fooling myself and I am just slowly starving them?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Persuasive Essay

It has been a goal at our school that every department do 5 persuasive essays to help the students for the high school graduation test. And I have had my students doing that.

I have had two opportunities in the past month to utilize persuasive essays - apparently effectively. Unfortunately, I cannot use it as a teaching moment. At least, not on a large scale.

I have had two students have to appear in court where the outcome could have been jail. I have written letters, extolling the virtues I can find and asking that they be given another chance.

Not that I am awesome, but in each case, the student was given another chance. On an individual level, I have pointed out that my letter of recommendation was a persuasive essay and that it persuaded the judge to behave in a particular manner.

I wish I could use these as a broader example - but I will take what I can get. The individuals have seen the letters, know how I feel, and were told by the judge that the letter made a difference.

Six Word Saturday

Writing clarifies what's on your mind.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Learning about my kids

I made them write - well, only if they owe me work. This is quiz grade stuff that I am tired of trying to frag out of them. They still owe me enough math to justify this.

A page about them for each thing they owe me. And not everyone does. Some follow directions and do what they are supposed to when they are supposed to.

I learned about:
· A dead father
· A dead brother
· A dead mother
· Being sent to live with another family member because “I was bad.”
· Having to spend time away from school translating for a parent who doesn’t speak English and was in trouble
· Lots about jail time
· Being in foster care
· Stupid decisions made while in foster care that led to jail time

I may have to do more of this kind of activity - and do in next year earlier.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

O Where o where can my students be?

I got a new student this week (of course on a day I am giving a test. Hi, welcome to my class - have a test [won't count against you]). Turns out he "misbehaved" and was kicked out of another school in our district 2 months ago - which means he has probably been in juvie jail.

Another student has not returned from short term expulsion - oops, he stole a car, is in real jail. Stole the car from family, so they don't want to bail him out. I see him drifting away.

I've lost three others to either juvie jail or real jail this year. Had my fifth kid drop out this week - going to get his GED.

On the positive side, one of my problem kids got probation instead of the hoosegow so I will have him for awhile. He was going to drop out at Christmas. Don't know if that is still the plan.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Jeesh - where are the limits?

Daniel is a special ed student who does not want to be at school but his mother will not let him drop out. So, he disrupts every class he is in, when he bothers to come. The teachers get lambasted for writing him up, and nothing, nothing, changes his behavior.

We met on him today and learned that while he was in his culinary arts craft a month ago, he turned the garbage disposal on seconds (seconds!!!!) after the teacher had had her hand in it retrieving a fork. This is an old school and there was no safety on the garbage disposal = it could have been catastrophic. It could have been a student.

Daniel says it was an accident. The expression on his face at the time told the teacher it was no accident.

This was reported - and nothing has been done. He is still in the class. He likes the class. There was no discussion, no reprimand, no punishment. Nada.

Can you say "accident waiting to happen?"

Where should the focus be?

Curmudgeon says: "When I compare students and programs, talk with ex-students, visit colleges and speak with professors and admissions, converse with tradesmen and businessmen, I find one thing across the board. Success in college, life and careers is correlated more closely with schools that stressed facts and knowledge first and then blended in communication, information, literacy and critical thinking skills. Any school that tried to do it the other way invariably and ultimately did a disservice to its students."

I am so tired of hearing that the way I was taught was wrong, that we need to investigate the math. The kids I teach do not do well that way. They so need the facts they have never been taught or held accountable for.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

goals from above

We had a meeting yesterday where we were told that success is not perfection but is being better than average.

We are told this is to be our goal - to raise scores 2 or 3 points.

I think success is to push the envelope as much as you can to be better than you think you can be.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Made a kid cry today

It's been awhile.

I was overwhelmed. When class start I do the warm up, I do the roll, I answer any questions they may have while Funsucker walks around looking important. She only does something if she is teaching - then it is straight lecture.

A student asked for a pass to the nurse and I said she could ask Funsucker to sign it. Later I had to apologize - it isn't the student that I am angry with and I wouldn't want to ask her anything either.

New member of our "tribe"

A friend who teaches English has taken and passed the math test!! Now she can teach math!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

What is "normal" for team taught classes?

When you have a "team taught" class, what is the "norm?" I have had several special ed teachers teach with me and have a unique situation with Funsucker.

What I thought was the norm - what I have been held accountable for before - was
1) coming up with the rough idea of how I was planning on teaching the section
2) discuss with the special ed teacher to make sure everyone's accommodations were met
3) writing a test
4) discussing the test with the special ed teacher so accommodations could be made if necessary

I always graded everything (so I could see the overall picture) with the understanding the special ed teacher could change it if they wanted to (the district gives the special ed teacher access to the special ed students' grades - not the general ed grades. I have access to everything.)

I taught the lesson, then the special ed teacher and I would help them in groups. I have done this with several different classes and age groups.

This year, Funsucker insists she teach half. Now, this doesn't include her discussing anything with me, copying anything (somehow that is my job), grading anything. She lectures (this is low-level math - they need to work problems not listen to someone work problems) and then walks around the room socializing.

I have decided she will not review - I hate the way she teaches.

Is the expectation where you are that it is a 50-50 teaching? As in front of the room teaching?

Saturday, November 14, 2009

One step forward, two steps back

Meadowbrook has an idea which I would like to see implemented elsewhere.

For all the talk we hear about building relationships. (Do you know if you build relationships with students they will do your work - doesn't matter if they never come to school . . . ) Instead, as a state we are doing away with technical diplomas, forcing everyone into college prep: 4 maths, 3 science . . they can't do Algebra 1 even with outstanding teachers and lessons and collaboration. Somehow they will master trig.


Six Word Saturday

Set six impossible goals before breakfast.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Things I was asked today

1) I was arrested last spring and spent some time in jail. I was put on probation. I violated the probation. I spent the night in jail in September for something else. I go to court on Wednesday - do you think they'll throw me in jail over violating parole in the spring?

2) Darn! I got written up again for having my cell phone out! Why do I keep getting written up for that?

3) [student only comes about once a week] You can't make me take the quiz - I'm not ready! You can't give me a zero!

4) We're not going to do anything important, are we? I want to help Mr. Farmer aerate the field.

5) Hope you missed me the 2 weeks I was suspended. Did I miss anything?

You will pass 90% of your students

We were given goals at the beginning of the year of 80%. 80% pass the state end of class test. 80% pass the course, etc. Today they told us - nope, 90%. If you can't pass 90% and have 90% pass the state test - you aren't doing your job. What about the 20% who don't come, don't turn things in, don't get it? Well talk to them!! Reach them!! Become their friends and they will do work for you!

Thus spake AP BrownNoser.

"I can look around the room and know who is going to fail my class! It is half of you!" said Mr. Ego - guess he didn't get the memo.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Math Games

I do not think in terms of games. It isn't the way I learned or wanted to.

It is what my kids ask for.

I have asked them to come up with the games - not the problems - just they way to play the games.

They have obliged, and I will try to play.

And Funsucker sets new standards

Several of my kids, normally well behaved, had gotten really ugly about Funsucker and said things about her cheating on tests with the kids she takes off by herself. I nipped that talk in the bud, telling them they couldn't say those things, and surely they misunderstood.

She retaliated by saying that these kids cheated, which I knew wasn't so.

Funsucker refuses to follow the language of the IEPs and take some of the kids to a place for small group testing. I got tired of fighting about it (and fighting kids to go with her) so I took a group of general ed kids with me to another location (the kids left behind in MY room now have a small group).

We walked back in from a test yesterday to find two students working on the test together (it was NOT a collaborative test for anyone else) while Funsucker watched. Then she walked another student, step by step, through a problem - also not in their IEP.

Several of general ed kids asked for their tests back (loudly) so Funsucker could give them the answers too.

I need to talk with the administration about this, because Funsucker will justify it somehow. Jeez.....

Mr. Ego - slaughtering dreams in your neighborhood!

The student has decided to come back to school. I was afraid it had something to do with Mr. Ego - she had him and has never been strong in math. And, yep, he told her she couldn't pass his class and wouldn't graduate.

I think she could pass his class. Well, she could pass the normal math class - Mr. Ego isn't normal. If she isn't willing to try - and he can be intimidating if you buy into his crap - I think she should use his class as a study hall for the classes that matter - or pitch a fit (like threatening to tell the school board what he tells his classes) and get transferred for the 7 weeks remaining in this semester.

What a jerk.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Clean up on Aisle 3!!

I let the kids go for a break - the boys some back to tell me there are - well - things on the bathroom floor. Things that belonged in toilets, not on the floor.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

And life moves on

The letter went ok - her appointment went ok and now we see what happens next.

I asked a student to rework one problem on a project (since they had gotten WAY wrong answers) and was told "F**k this class" which I wrote in the comment as "Student refuses to fix problem." Student wrote me an apology later (after being chewed out by several friends, which made me humble) and will rework the problem tomorrow.

One of my students has apparently dropped out - mom doesn't know where she is right now, I will try to talk her into finishing and graduating. Wish me luck. I will look for her at her job until I find her.

Well, it's never dull.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

need advice on writing a letter of recommendation

I need to write a letter of recommendation for a judge. Have to have it done by Monday.

I would like to give the kid a chance - even though the student keeps making STOOPID choices. Student is in trouble in the first place. Then is told by the judge to do community service (hasn't done any in a month even though 2 teachers have told him it is incredibly important to make an effort - there is always a reason).

The student was upset with the judge, saying the judge was mean. I pointed out the judge has heard it all and doesn't believe anything anyone SAYS but is looking for what they DO.

I am going to write on letter (for the student only) detailing the choices the student has made the past month (attendance, writing on a test "I don't know this crap", sleeping through a review, etc). But I'd really like to write a more positive one than that for the judge or the student is sunk.

Any help from the great universe? A sample (names withheld) would be lovely. I am used to teaching younger students and haven't had to write many.

Weird week

We had more testing this week, where all of my Juniors (half of each class) were out for state testing so I had to come up with something to do with the rest that won't penalize the Juniors - so we had a catch-up day.

Because half the students were out, because we were doing catch-up work (you know, all the stuff that they won't turn in), I had time to talk with the kids.

I learned or overheard:
· “My parents kicked me out. Then my grandparents kicked me out. Then my boyfriend dumped me and I moved back home.” She was in middle school.
· One student’s father was murdered when he was 7. His mother was in jail at the time, so he was sent to live with relatives. No one wanted to talk about the murder.
· Another lived with a stepfather who raped her from the time she was 8 until she was 10. Then she was kicked out of the house and sent to foster care.
· I have seven students with children. The oldest is 18, the youngest 16 – their children are 10 months to 2 and a half.
· Another told me I could call his parents if I want – they won’t care (and they didn’t). He is actually a good kid with lousy attendance.
· A girl told me her father said she may as well drop out – she’s too stupid to graduate.

I want to fix all of it - I knew some had burdens. Maybe it lightens it to share. I hope so.

Six Word Saturday

Students come with their own baggage.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Our Thoughts and Prayers Are In Fort Hood

Our thoughts and prayers are in Fort Hood with the soldiers and their families.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

My most challenging class

My most challenging class is my repeater class. Their average age is 18. They have spent an average of 3.75 years in high school, so they should be close to graduation. The average is 11th.

Their average grade in Algebra in prior years is 43. They have taken other math classes - their average math grade in every math course they have taken in high school is 52.

I have 9th graders and seniors and everything in between.

They have all had it at least once before - several have had it 4 times.

I want them to care. I will settle for them passing - and, yes, I will have to modify the course for this to happen.

Oh, they need 22 credits to graduate. At this point, they should have at least 15 credits. The average is 8.

Administrators want statistics. How does the above tell them anything about my class other than it is challenging to teach?

Monday, November 2, 2009

Professional behavior - maybe not

Today the teacher (and I use the term loosely) that I teach with called me out in class. You know - across the room "Hey, Ricochet! Why are you handing that out when I am not done teaching?"

What I was doing was trying to help her.

She has apologized three time - each time with students sitting there, listening, where I cannot explain that her behavior was completely unprofessional.

There are no more words.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Formula for higher U.S. math scores

POD has a lovely post basically stating the same things I quoted earlier: the easy grading isn't Georgia's problem alone click here for Pissed Off Teacher.

I love mathematics. It defines things so well, follows understandable rules (sorry, English teachers, I don't think English always does.). How will today's students ever see that?

No, I must digress. The students in my school won't. They are treated like ill-behaved children, and are catered to in a way that cripples them. Other students in schools with higher standards and expectations, will not only see the beauty of math but excel.

I wish there were ways of reaching students in high and free them from the slavery they are being funneled into.

OPINION: Formula for higher U.S. math scores. October 30, 2009 By ALFRED S. POSAMENTIER by subscription to Newsday only.