Oct 29, 2010

something i love.

Regardless of what has happened the day before, I walk into my classroom the next morning feeling blessed and fortunate that I get to do this. Yeah there is a never-ending to do list, a gazillion things to think about and paperwork galore, but I can honestly say that every single day I have FUN. Our job is fun!

I think that is pretty freakin' cool.

Oct 24, 2010

For The Cool In You

One admittance I'm hesitant to share is the decline of my cool factor. I'm not sure what it is, but I feel my teacher coolness has steadily declined these past three years. I come up with the following rationalization:
Year One - I came in after a teacher had left, so already it was a given that I was appreciated. In addition, many students were Juniors and Seniors and our humor stayed at the same level. They were accustomed to 'the other' math teachers who're typically older and old school. Mr. G was refreshing.
Year Two - My first batch I taught from start to finish, and the establishing coolness wasn't as easy without the assist. The coolness was there, don't take me wrong. I'm the coolest teacher out there. But, just... not THAT cool.
Year Three - My first full load of freshmen, where humor is somewhere completely different. Some even consider freshmen a completely different race from human being. The defenses are high when you're in your first year of high school. The adjustment was a difficult one. Again, still cool... but not THAT cool.
One goal I have for the year is to regain the cool. I have a new full load of freshmen, and I know the cool is somewhere in me. And while there is no objective measure nor "value-added system" to what 'teacher coolness' is necessarily, I feel things are so far so good. I attribute this change partially to the fact that I'm one year conditioned to freshmen personality and energy, but added to this I share:

For starters, I maintain the randomisity I share with class on a daily basis, one completely non-math fact to buy their attention. I've added music to open class. I make sure I do not go a day without standing at the door and to preserve those one-on-one interactions with each and every student.


More importantly, I've allowed myself to be more open and vulnerable. Rather than keeping my life completely mysterious, I answer the personal questions (to an extent, of course). Rather than responding with a sarcastic "Mister" when they ask my first name, I tell it to them straight. Rather than keeping my 'teacher' facebook restricted to Mr. G alumni, I'm letting them add me if they find me (which is a fun post all in itself).

But, most importantly, I let them direct my life in ways I haven't allowed before. In the past, I wanted a wall to separate my teacher self and my non-teacher self but what I've realized is the two can co-exist and intermingle quite beautifully without some great divide. When a kid asks me to do something that may require extra work an effort that might not even contribute to his or her math success, I say 'hell, let's do it.'

So, when A.X. recommends that I read a Manga book that she absolutely LOVES, I read it (my very first Manga book, by the way - 'Death Note' if you're curious). When the kids say they want to see me decked out for 80's day, I show up in chucks, knee highs, members only, aviators, and a headband. When B.L. asks if I could bring him a tennis ball b/c he lost his, I provide. When a N.P. finds out I'm an avid fan of chess and challenges me to a match, we schedule a weekly morning meeting and play. When an advisory class is hungry for some dodge ball, we set up a game and do it. (Readily evading the dodgeballs flying at my face). And when J.S. challenges me to a one-mile race afterschool on the track in front of HELLA PEOPLE, I race him. (And WIN... yes, I am simultaneously brushing my shoulders off as I type this parenthetical).

Anyway, the result of these added components to my teacher life is the most fun I've ever had in the classroom. Why not let my students drive what goes on in my life the way I drives theirs and the way the classroom drives us?


PS. It's spirit week this week and I'm excited.

Oct 21, 2010

So Much Hate (part 2)

He tells his parents he is getting bullied. I have yet to see anyone threaten or intentionally harm him. If anything, he is the one who does things that scare the other kids. I don't want to sound like I'm being one-sided, but everything I am saying is coming from what I have seen from him... EVERYDAY. But at the same time, I don't think he is simply telling blatant lies. He really does BELIEVE that people are out to get him. And that is what sucks. Big time.

I have a conference set up with his parents and the principal on Monday.

I am worried for this kid.

Oct 20, 2010

So Much Hate

I have a boy who thinks everyone hates him. A boy who thinks his parents hate him, I hate him, and his classmates hate him. A boy who will yell and burst into tears of frustration if anyone tries to point out the fact that he is not following directions.

He is EXPLOSIVE. The class walks on egg shells around him.

And here is my dilemma. Why should we have to do that? I have analyzed this situation many times hoping to find an explanation for his behavior. How convenient would that be if I could link his behavior to turmoil at home... but that is not the case. Here is what I know: His parents don't hate him, I don't hate him, and his classmates don't hate him. There is something within this kid that is raging, and I don't know why.

But there are 27 other kids in the class. Kids who are going through their own battles. And they are still genuinely trying to help him. I am trying to help him. But he doesn't see it as help. He sees it as an attack. And he attacks back.

I will keep trying to help you. I promise I won't give up on you. But I will not sweep 27 kids under the rug, for you.

Week 8 Reflections - Teaching as Evolution & Inspiration

Teaching is inspiring me.

I came into teaching after college as one of those "I'll teach in an urban area for two years, then migrate elsewhere." Yet, it is now year four and while I've seen many of my OTF cohort move onto new fields, I'm still here and I see myself staying put.

Only an hour ago, I was in a staff meeting. The principal presented recognition to our freshmen house and shared the new resources we're receiving because of the work we've done. I heard of schools across the nation looking to replicate a form of our model to better serve their student populations. The principal tells us we are the drivers of this school, we are the leaders in the culture change. I see it happening before my eyes.

In my first two years, staff meetings were not nearly the same. There was no direction nor purpose to what we did. There was virtually no positivity and way too much gritching (grief + bitching). A sliding door of principals and assistant principals led teachers to create their own solutions. What we see now is a blend of those teacher-driven projects with an administrative team whose finally got vision. It's refreshing and validating.

As I said in previous posts, there's something special in the air. I realize the benefit of teaching in an environment already well-established and conducive to student learning and teacher sanity, but undergoing and contributing to the process of the creation itself is something inspiring. My high school is still an ongoing project, but it's on the rise. I can sign off as witness to it's evolution and as a piece of it's legacy.

I realize the rainbows and butterflies and cliches I've presented in this post, but whatever - I've allowed this blog to be my go to spot for teaching thoughts and this is what I've got now. Holla.

Oct 1, 2010

Post-Quiz Noise Stopper & Mind Occupier

You give a rigorous quiz. To begin, everyone is working diligently. But people work at their own pace. Soon, the quick test-takers will finish, raise their hands and submit their finished product. You walk over. Collect. Then, a few more. Then, more. Suddenly, more than half the class is finished w/ nothing to do. The rest are still working hard and are normally the type who NEED the extra silent time to finish. Some finished students are getting impatient. Human nature pushes them to start actin' a fool.

How do I stop it? A post-quiz riddle. Hand in the quiz, I hand you a mind twister. Kids read, then proceed to sit dumbfounded (and silent). They've got something to chew on while the rest of the kids test-take. Periods later in the day, a few students STILL have their mini sheets trying to decipher the answer. I pass them to other teachers I catch in the copy room and we've got a topic to discuss for the rest of the day.

Answers aren't revealed til next week, on the next post-quiz riddle:The buy-in is zero in-class time but the pay out is immense and hella fun.