Oct 31, 2011

165+ one-on-one interactions daily

Previous roommateships would have me awake and out the door by 7am, home by 6pm, grading and lesson planning until I'm burning the midnight oil while fellow roommate could easily sleep in til' 7:30 or 8, arrive home and relax with a beer, tv, video games and/or girlfriend. Damn you, roommate. Not fair.

Current roommate teaches at a middle school. It's convenient and it works. At this current moment, it is 9:58pm. I left campus around 6:30pm and still have a mini-mountain of quizzes to grade, but it feels ok since roomie is still at work too. I hear him disgruntled on his desk as I type.


We like to argue about who has to work harder. So, this year, as one of the few teachers at my high school who's taken on three preps (typical is two), I feel I've got the inside track on that title - "dude, I got it way tougher than you do. Believe me."

The predictable response: "I been teaching FIVE separate subjects, homie! 7th grade." 

"Well, I grade 165 different assignments by 165 students on the daily. 165 quizzes during the weekends."

"30 • 5 subjects each is still 150. I'm down 15, I agree. But, still pretty much the same."

"Ok, ok, but I've got 165 personalities to manage. 165 parents and families to keep track of. 165 one-on-one conversations at the door to catch up on days and nights and lives and check-ins to see whether or not they're having a good day or not. 165 potential phone calls I could possibly make tonight to see if I can get a failing student back on track. 165 interactions daily is exhausting, my sweet sweet roomie."

".... Ok, you got me there."


I guess I'm just venting. My parent log this school year has got me listed at interacting with 5 families on a nightly basis (through in-person conferences, phone calls, or e-mails). All extra interactions added to my day, but it still feels like I could do so, so much more. 

Oct 30, 2011

pencil policy - first two years vs second two years

My first two years - "Nothing should ever prevent a student from learning in my class. If they need a pencil, I will provide it. No questions asked. I won't hassle them or nothin'. You're in this class to learn, and learning you will do. Being pencil-less shouldn't prevent you from doing so"

My next two years - "Part of high school is learning the habits and skills to succeed in college and in life. If we take this stance, students MUST learn to have their materials on a day-to-day basis. Students must come to class prepared and if they realize I am not a pencil giver early, they'll meet my expectations and bring their pencils. Plus, I'm tired of giving out pencils."


I'd love to give pencils that say "I forgot to bring a pencil to math class and all I got was this stupid pencil." The irony.


I don't know where I stand anymore. What's your opinion? What's your policy for students who come to class without a pencil? And, if you ARE a pencil giver, do you have a specific procedure? (Are pencils in a cup where students can grab one? Do you charge a quarter? Do you take collateral? Etc Etc)

To give, or not to give (a pencil); that is the question.


Also, do you let them use pens? Goodness, the bag of worms we can open with that one...

Oct 27, 2011

school spirit

During my first three years, I had a hard policy against dress-up days. How I dress is connected to how the students respect me. Therefore, I must always dress professionally and never silly.

Twin day? Nah. Nerd day? I can't give up my dignity with silly tape on silly glasses. Gender bender? Hell no. St. Patrick's day? Ok, maybe I'll put on my green button up.

Last year, I thought back at my own high school years, and remembered why I loved it. The community, the culture, the friendships. Many of the most valuable lessons and experiences were not things inside the classroom. They were beyond.

I was voted "Most Spirited" of my high school class. Why have I not adopted spirit for my new home?

And so now, I go all out. Twin up with as many teachers as possible. Nerd out complete with retainer to give my talk a genuine nerd feel. Gender bender? Put that make-up on me.

If teachers are willing to dress silly to show pride in their school, a student is more likely to feel comfortable doing so too. In the end, the kids see a new dimension of your personality. They see a teacher with the versatility to switch from all-business to... all-business with some play! In the end, what you get is one of the funnest workweeks of the school year.

Tomorrow, at the culmination of this spirited week, look for the man with the red kicks, red face and red hair. All red everything.

Oct 24, 2011

count me in for year five

Hello world,

Here's another apology note to the edublogosphere. I'm still around, and I'm still learning from you. I'm still thankful for you. This year, I teach a new prep (advanced algebra), and it seems the best way I know how to plan for a new class is to listen to the ideas of my community. You, my friends, are my community. Without you, I'd be half the teacher I am today.


During a teacher happy hour the other week, a face I seldom see at teacher gatherings showed herself. We conversed. She's in her late 20's, originally of the TFA variety. And still here. So, I asked, are you a "life-er?" "A what?" "A life-er, you know, are you in this gig for the long haul... maybe for life?"

She looked at me, smiled, and said "good question, but I did say coming in that I'd commit 10 years to this high school, I'm in 7 deep now, and there's no way I'd be leaving when I'm this close."


And then I consider - what if all new teachers who've arrived on this campus stuck around for as long as she did. What if programs like TFA that wear "close the achievement gap" on their sleeve put down a more stringent regulation on their contracts and asked for TEN, rather than TWO.

What if the teachers our freshmen see today are guaranteed to high five them as they walk across the graduation stage?


I'm not raggin' on my teacher friend's who've taken a departure from this game; you know I love you. And, you know we'll always connect at a different level because of our time in the classroom.

But, for myself, I'm now on this new edge where I'm wondering how my contributions to my students, my high school, my colleagues, my community grow with each year of experience.

And now, I look over that other edge...

Count Me in For Year Ten?