Saturday, September 27, 2008


As the newbie at a school full of "vetrans," I was assigned one of the less desirable schedules. It is the schedule that the other teachers don't want, and they often comment on my "misfortune" of receiving such a "difficult" group of kids.

My schedule is one section of "regular" students for English, three sections of "low"* students, and one section of a class that is being eliminated. This is considered "difficult" because the "low" students are often more likely to become classroom manegement issues, and they are less likely to pass the state mandated exams.

I do not see it this way. My schedule is great. I no longer have seniors, which are without question the highest maintenance group of students in the world. I have sophomores; a group of kids that have some motivation and room for growth.

I am a bit nervous about the way that my colleagues percieve my students. They offered up some workbooks that haven't been published since 1985. They have recommended Flowers for Algernon, which I feel is condescending to ask students to read. "Here is a book about a mentally challenged child. He learned to read, so you can too!" My colleagues also seem to disregard the issues of ESL students, special education students, and students without parental guidance.

I am worried. I worry that I will push the kids too far. I worry that if I don't follow the "they can't do it, so don't try" attitude, then I might not be asked back.

I just hope that I can do well for my students this year.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Kids are funny.

I have a group of rowdy students for 1st period. These kids are always talking and they don't spend much time working. At the beginning of the year they were all sitting together, but that soon proved a mistake. I never got a moment's peace, so I revamped the seating chart and spread them around the room.

Now the distractions are global.

Case in point: I was walking around the classroom the other day as the students were working. One of the rowdier boys stopped me and said, "Can I show you something, and will you tell me if it makes me look like McCain?" Well, I was in no mood for any ageism, and so I just ignored the request and told the student to get back to work. I continued my walk down the rows of desks. I turned around because I heard snickers, and what did I see?

Sitting in the seat of a tenth grade boy was a mask of John McCain.

It was all I could do not to die of laughter. I instructed the student to take it off, but all he did was leave it on and mumble about Point Break.

Sometimes it is really hard to pretend that you are the authority figure. :) Here's to harmless jokes and kids that make me smile. Now, get back to work!

Saturday, September 20, 2008


I just spent the last two days of the week participating in Parent/Teacher Conferences. For some reason I always dread this time. I have never had a negative experience, but I think that I get nervous because I have to say, "You're child is not working," or "Your child is disruptive." I have this fear of parents rising up and screaming, "You're wrong! He's perfect and you should be fired! We are going to sue!"

I think that fear comes from some HR person warning new teachers about never being alone with parents, but I have yet to speak to a colleague who has had a violent or threatening conference.

That gets me thinking about all of the other "scenarios" new teachers are warned about. "Don't allow students to be alone in your classroom; they will burn the building down," or "Never talk about a student in front of anyone, because you could be talking in front of her parents," or "Don't teach a book with cussing; you will be thrown out of teaching forever."

Of course these things happen occasionally, but I think that many teachers are living in fear. I teach what I want to teach, and how I want to teach it. Does this mean that I shun best practices? Absolutely not. This means that I don't allow the fears of a few "classroom legends" to drive my curriculum. It also means that I am a member of the union. :)

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

The Beginning of Year Three

This is an important year. This is the year that I apply for Level II licensure (and a major pay increase), and become a teacher that people will reckon with. I must be on top of my game, and I have to have all of my paperwork filled out immaculately.

Complications to the third year include;
I just moved to a new district.
I have an infant.
I am a procrastinator.
My previous district did not complete all of the paperwork that I am required to

I am really excited about this year. My new school is great. The kids are pretty motivated. The administration seems to stand behind its teachers.

I have some interesting things to talk about, but so far so good.

Thursday, May 08, 2008


It is crunch time. My students graduate next Saturday, and I have to have their grades done by Thursday. I was crazy enough to assign a project an essay to close the Shakespeare unit (both of which are proving that students will learn difficult material, if they are given the opportunity). Then I assigned another essay on a current event.

Have I lost it man? I am constantly grading papers in these last days, and it is a little overwhelming.

I am really proud of my students this year. They had it a bit rough, what with a pregnant teacher followed by maternity leave, but they pulled through. I feel pretty confident that I am sending (most) of my students to college with the skills they need to succeed.

However, I am reconsidering my teaching style. I am going to start the year with a "Skills Boot Camp" that will ensure (hopefully) that I won't see an entire essay of sentence fragments.

With any luck, I will also be moving to another school this next year. Updates to follow.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Back to work

I took a three-month maternity leave, and I have returned (triumphantly?) to work. It was like returning from summer break, but without the cushion of students who have allowed their minds to turn to mush over a long, hot summer. My teaching muscle was a bit weak, but my powers of observation never cease.

The first thing I saw was tagging (gang graffiti) on my door and my desks. Then I saw my dictionaries. Some were missing covers, some were tattered. There was one that looked completely fine--until I looked inside. Someone had taken a razor and sliced every page in the dictionary. How creative.

Classroom defacement aside, things seemed pretty normal. The students who failed the 1st and 2nd quarters failed the 3rd quarter. Despite the standard protests ("The sub lost all of my work! I was here, but she just marked me absent!") the sub's information matched what I would have experienced.

Needing to get my bearings, I finished up the plans that I had left for the sub, and I felt a bit guilty. Textbook based lessons are the most boring! I wasn't sure how competent the long-term sub would be, so I wanted to leave the easiest lessons possible. Sadly, the students suffered. By the end of last week they were banging their heads against the walls. Thankfully, I spent a portion of my leave preparing a very challenging unit on Shakespeare. This ought to give the students the challenge they have been wishing for, yet are afraid to admit missing.

Back to work indeed.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Maternity Leave

I am currently on maternity leave. I am worried about my students, as they are seniors, and the 3rd quarter is very important for seniors. I left some great lessons, but I hear that there is no consistency with the substitutes. I look forward to returning, but I fear the worst for myself and my students.