Wednesday, December 10, 2003

Oh holidays, oh holidays,
With children ever laughing,
They talk and talk,
They laugh and play,
Homework, no they do not do,
For days before the break!

Decorations hung with care,
Brazil's celebration studied deep,
The tree they made,
It made me laugh,
Their imagination got the best
Of their logic and sound judgement
I think I see a Jewish star!
Candy garlands,
Made from wrappers scarfed from me.
The ideas they had,
Initially... based on research sound!

Every year, we do Christmas door decorations by homeroom- this year in a an effort to be more "multi-cultural" each class chose a celebration from another country. My class chose Brazil - it did start out wonderfully - they did some research and got some ideas - but as they made they their own ornaments for the tree, their individualness took over the sound research - we have one with an Insane Posse Clown (which rotates on a metal brad..) a orange and black Jewish star (our school colors are orange and black... why a Jewish star we do not have an answer. The girl who made it does not even KNOW anyone Jewish!) We have a ballerina, a snow globe... our paper covering the door is 3 inches too short, and cut jaggedly... the tree itself is about maybe 18 inches tall on my 7 foot classroom door. It is lovely.... colorful, creative, and all theirs!

Tomorrow, let them behave as I go to the high school for a math department meeting... they have their assignments... they know what is expected... oh please don't let them call me!

Thursday, December 04, 2003

I feel like I am living in the center of a whirling cylcone... time is zooming by, at home and at school. I just need to reach out and grab ahold of something to keep from blowing away.

Math is great - geometry is always my favorite unit. The students enjoy it also - I just got the "latest" state standards, by grade level, which when I adhere to strictly, will greatly reduce/change my geometry unit. The 3-d drawings, much of the measurement part, a few other odds and ends, are no longer 7th grade fodder. I must admit I am disappointed because these things are so hands-on and active for the students to get involved in. I wish we could actually find and purchase a new math program though; I am tired of digging for everything I use in class. I spend so much time looking for activities to fit with what we should be covering, I often feel that I spend more time doing that than actually teaching!

Social studies - our Latin American country posters and presentations are underway. I think I needed to do a bit more scaffolding with the assignment - I am disappointed in the quality of some of the posters. Maybe a bit more time spent on actually HOW TO RESEARCH, how to organize your findings, and how to create a poster would help. The oral presentations are going well though. For the first time this year these guys have done something like this, I must say I am impressed with their efforts so far.

The other 2 7th grade core teachers and the spec ed teacher and I sat down this afternoon to plan the last day before Christmas break - it should be a great day! Video rooms, craft rooms, snacks, games... gym time... WOW!! To be a 7th grader again... me, I'll just be beat by the end of the day!!

Speaking of spec ed... after the last year, with all the conflict, this year is going so well. I enjoy working with the person in there now... she is so positive, looks for ways to help, comes into my math class(YES!!) and actually finds ways to support my curriculum for her students! AMAZING!! SO much less stress and conflict than this time last year!

Parents... oh what a week with them and kids! I was gone on Monday and some of the kids did not do so great on the assignment I has left. I gave them time on Tuesday to redo this assignment. Unfortunately, quite a few did not see the need. Annoyed, I wrote notes on those papers that had gotten failing grades and were not being redone, saying "______ had class time to redo this assignment but is choosing to fail instead. Please sign that you are aware of this choice." One mom wrote back a snippy-ish note asking if her son really "choose" not to, or was he in fact working on something else. I wrote back that he indeed wasted at least 15-20 minutes of classtime... well... that changed her tune a bit. ANother young man forged mom's signature... dead giveaway when the signature was erased and rewritten!! ANyway, he ended up with an hour of after school detention, and mom and I had a nice long chat. Very supportive, she was!!

Survivor night so I really must cut this short with lots more to say... another day... that is my Christmas break daily!!

Monday, November 24, 2003

I haven't blogged for a week and I really miss this time! Last week was a goofy week with me gone to a conference the last 3 days - the sub notes were mostly good. Only 2 suspensions while I was away - seems a small fight broke out in my room but the antagonist was no real surprise, I am sad to say.

A while back I gave the students in my math classes an assignment to bring in items for a taste test experiment/price comparison activity. I gave them plenty of time to get the stuff, a chance to bring a note from home if they were unable to bring it, reminders, etc... still, about 20 of my 80 did not bring anything! So much for planning something fun for the last 2 days before our break. I was mad, sad, disappointed... and the worst part, lots of "good" kids did not bring their items. In fact, some of those real characters that never have their homework, actually remembered to bring this stuff!

So now I am faced with the "what to do with them" problem - I had said they would sit in detention but there are too many to send! I copied icky "busy-work" worksheets but I HATE that! It is inherently against my grain to give math as punishment. I cannot let them participate - it is unfair to those who were responsible. I feel like Scrooge...

The conference was OK- a lot of the info was above my head... it was geared to more the Tech reps for districts but had a ton of great info about NCLB, writing tech plans, using technology to improve student achievement, testing, standards/curriculum alignment,etc. The best part is always the away from school bonding. The 4 of us who went are friends anyway so we made the most of the 5 hours each way there and home catching up, laughing, gossiping - calling the principal the catch him up on our antics... you just got to love cell phones! I feel revived and refreshed!

THe kids complained the sub said they were idiots, but this was from 2 young men who today, well.... let's just say that would not be an entirely incorrect label based on their behaviors in class today - of course, I dealt with it a bit differently than she but I know them also. Still, I feel uncomfortable with that. Maybe I will mention it to the principal tomorrow.

I am reading the book recommended on the listserve "What Great Teachers Do Differently" - what a wonderful read - interesting - thought-provoking - eye-opening... I do so much well... I do so much horridly..... Life is a learning process, a growing event... teaching is the same... I shall continue to strive to become a "great" teacher.... and person... especially in the lives of these kids I see daily...

Monday, November 17, 2003

Things went well today in math class. My students were using the data from their surveys they gave their classmates to make graphs - 2 bar, 2 circle, and other of their choice - 1 for each question. They also need a frequency table for each question/graph, and a circle graph table for each of the 2 circle graphs. These will all eventually go onto poster board to make a display to show their survey results. So far, they are doing very well. The circle graph is causing them some problems, but I expected that. We have not done any fractions, decimals or ratios yet this year. Many students struggled with the protractor use also but they seem to be catching on quickly.

The biggest concern - those few who will not/cannot tune in to oral instructions, and are unable/unwilling to read the printed ones given them. It is always the same few....

Social studies - they worked in groups to create a timeline comparing important historical dates from US and Canada 1763-1900. WOW! We had allowed one class period to finish but most of my groups were still in the planning stages. We will finish tomorrow which throws off the rest of the week...

I leave Wednesday at noon, gone Thursday & Friday to Michigan Institute for Educational Management conference in Grand Rapids. That makes for a hectic week this week and next, with next week being Thanksgiving. THis week is the end of the 2nd marking period so grades are due by end of day next Monday... whew!

Sunday, November 16, 2003

It is Sunday but I still spent about 4 hours at school today. Sometimes I feel resentful of other teachers who seem to survive without putting in these extra hours - how do they get everything done? Am I simply that unorganized and incompetent that I cannot do what others do in the same amount of time? Or I am doing too much extra?

What I did today....
** put up a bulletin board - not an educational well-thought out teaching sample - just a bulletin board. Laminated pictures of the Upper Peninsula, deer, wolves, and such.
** Changed the window clings that had been up since school started from school things to snowflakes.
**Hung pictures of National parks in social studies room
** worked on geometry unit plans for after Thanksgiving - looked at standards, what I did last year, what I think the kids really need to be successful at activities that support standards, and other activities for things I simply feel they need to know/experience - made a few copies of some activities to send over to make multiple copies
**worked on upcoming social studies project - a poster on a Latin American country - typed up a basic instruction sheet and list of countries students can choose from based on resource books we have on hand
**copied rubrics for math project students will work on in class this week
** took my daughter in who cut paper for tomorrow's timeline activity and squares from cardstock for tangrams for geometry unit (also cut herself twice on paper cutter... she is 18!! my 7th graders would have been safer I think!!)
**updated website assignment calendars
**got out colored pencils and markers for timeline and math projects
**typed up some National Geography week fun question quizzes

Even looking back, I cannot see that anything, except the last part, is EXTRA. It will all make my job easier, and my teaching time more productive.

Bulletin boards - I wish I had more time to make creative presentations that tie in with what we are doing in class. I'd love to utilize these for project ideas, samples, enrichment activities, etc.. but I never seem to have time to actually plan these.

Of course, planning time during the school day is short- reading on the listserve today, someone mentioned the planning time their school had. Ours is really inadequate - 30 minutes before school - about 20-25 during student lunch which is actually when I eat since my lunch hour is at 2:05. I usually eat at my computer entering grades so I guess it is double-duty, but still, with this limited time, split into 2 sessions, I have to spend so much time outside of alloted "planning time" to jsut keep my head above water.

I wish someone would give me a magic wand to wave over my days to solve this time crisis....

Saturday, November 15, 2003

Happy opening day of deer season here - thank goodness it is on Saturday although we still had many gone yesterday headed to "camp" early.

What a week - so much good - so much I'd rather forget...

After the wonderful Monday beginning, Tuesday was also a "good" day. We started off in the auditorium to see the dress rehearsal of the high school Veteran's Day assembly - I was reluctant to go, to give up seeing my 1st hour math class for a day, thinking the kids would not be really all that impressed. THe presentation was outstanding - my class was outstanding - I was so amazed and awestruck by their intent attention. Maybe the fact it was high schoolers up there helped - I'm not sure. THe rest of the day, the kids seemed subdued.

Wednesday, woooo..... a day to remember - my principal popped in last hour Tuesday to ask about observing me Wednesday. I said sure, we were headed to computer lab. So it was all set - he'd come observe 2nd hour. When 1st hour Wednesday went well, I was pumped. We were using Excel to create computer generated graphs from spreadsheets, the first time most students had ever done this. 1st class listened, followed along, did extremely well. Better than I had hoped.

2nd hour - the observation...small class, usually a pretty good group, even given the fact this is the inclusion group. It was easily my most horrifying hour of my all 10 years in the classroom. THe kids were chatty to the point of just plain loud and rude - they were not following directions - several kept going ahead and getting lost - others were always so far behind, I could not keep them caught up without losing all the others so it was a constant battle of slow down/speed up. The spec ed teacher comes in about halfway into class- she was also shocked at their behaviors.

It would have been a frustating hour anyday - but knowing my principal was there watching, made everything seem just futile.

Thursday - no school - blizzard came thru Wednesday night - we really only got a few inches of fresh snow but the winds were horrible and the electricity was out for 7 hours.

Friday -a new day - I rethought my lesson plans for the next couple of weeks after losing a day of school, knowing I will be gone to conference next Wed, Thur, & Fri, and then THanksgiving the next week... we took surveys (the ones the kids had typed on Monday)

Great day- they were organized, quiet, on task! They even had time to start tallying answers. Now next week they will take their data, make circle graphs, bar graphs, pictographs, etc... They seem to really be enjoying it so far - I know it is better to use "fun" data than the stuff the book has - YUCK!

I must go wake my college freshman daughter- we are off to shop on this opening deer season day. It's 100 mile each way to the nearest mall so it will be a long day; best get going.

Monday, November 10, 2003

Not bad for a Monday!! Math class - hey! hey! back to the computer lab where first students typed surveys they will eventually use to survey their classmates. Then we will create "visual presentations"....i.e. graphs and tables to display their info after they compile the responses. They are really pumped - some of the questions are soooo 7th grade. 2 of the girls have all these fruufruu questions: what is the funniest word you know? what is your favorite temporary tatoo saying? and so on... but that is OK. It will still be good stuff for graphing.

After typing surveys, they had time to finish their research from a week or so ago when the internet went down. Very uneventful for the most part :-)

Ah... thank you oh great middle school gods for a wonderful day!

Friday, November 07, 2003

Speak not, the Lord said...
and took away my voice...
and yet I went to school anyway...
on Friday...
and lo, the children were liken to angels....
and spoke for me to the crowds, telling one another, "Put away your calculators!" "Remember to pick up your chairs." "NO late papers on Monday" "Mrs. George says to have a good weekend."

Oh I am so very tired but it was worth it to be there and see them in all their glory...
They really do rise to meet your expectations....

Thursday, November 06, 2003

No great insights tonight - just 2 days without my student to reflect upon. I have a horrid case of laryngitis - just a occasional squeak to join my whisper - as my college- aged daughter and loving husband, and well, even the dog, taunt me about my lack of voice. Me... the ultimate chatterbox - unable to speak!! It is too terrible to be true!

Tomorrow I will go back to school with or without a voice. I shudder to think of the chaos which ensued without me there today. My babies were measuring the height and arm span of each other and recording this data along with that of all their classmates. They will then create scattergrams and make some observations about these. I am quite certain it was something near a 3-ring circus today. Not as a reflection on the sub, whoever it was, but give 30 7th graders 25 foot measuring tapes to measure each other... I can only imagine what was measured :-)

Snow storm on the way tomorrow - close to 10 inches in the next 24 -36 hours.... the kids will be all CRAZY with the barometer change! and me unable to raise my voice - what a great lesson for them and me...

now if I can stop coughing long enough to sleep tonight.. after Survivor of course!!

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

I love my job I love my job.... somedays I keep repeating it hoping to make it true, and other days like today, it is so true I almost get chills :-)

Nothing really special - I don't know why somedays it seems so good... today in math kids had a short worksheet packet on interpreting graphs - no biggie - after that, they were working on digging graphs from magazines. I have piles of old magazines (I am a subscription junkie...) in crates - they dug through Time, Discover, Better Homes & Gardens, Time for Kids, Alaska, Reader's Digest, etc... finding all kinds of graphs - now they will glue their graphs on paper with explanations of what is shown in the graph and why the type of graph was chosen for its particular purpose. THey were so "into" looking for graphs it was almost funny!

Social studies - our first 2 US geograohy videos - the introductory overview and the Pacific West - WOW! I cannot believe how much info is packed into those 2o minutes videos - what beautiful photography! The kids loved them. I hope they make it through the entire set - we watch 2 a day for the remainder of the week. If today is any indication, they will beg for more!

so, I love my job, I love my job....

Monday, November 03, 2003

Just another Manic Monday.... but actually, all in all, a quiet one at the ole' 7th grade ranch. Only 1 kiddie absent... the others must have been coming down off their Halloween candy high because even in social studies class, I had 4 sleepers. I tried to wake them each, at least twice, and then decided maybe they needed the sleep more than ss at that time. And, 2 of the sleepers were 2 of the usually more hmm... shall we say "irritating" students so it was actually blessed relief.

Friday I sent home progress reports to all students with below 70% in my classes. 28 progress reports for 80 math students and 28 social studies students. But the change was dramatic today - most students received them Saturday - I had parent notes, kids with planners for me to sign, kids looking for makeup work. It was amazing!

but... WHY DON'T PARENTS LOOK AT POWERSCHOOL??? Why don't they stay on top of their kids daily/weekly instead of waiting for those once a marking period progress reports and report cards? I try to keep parents informed but it is difficult to contact them all regularly and when I know they can access their child's grade via phone or internet, I am reluctant to use my time to inform them. There are so many other pressing things I could be doing school wise. Do parents just assume 7th graders will be responsible on their own?

Then there was the young man who loudly asked why I sent him a postcard for his A on his social studies test... (he also got a progress report for his 40 some percent in math..) Must have been his first because I try to send psotcards for any test scores that are A or dramatic improvements. But he was cute... embarassed and proud... then even asked to go to library in AR - got a HUGE book way above his level but insists he wants to read it - will finish it... he has 3 weeks...

My classes are so unbalanced - 1st hour 28 kids - quiet for the most part... 2nd hour - 22 kids - loud group, inclusion kids in there - not that they are at all behavior problems because they are great kids - 3rd hour is the dreaded social studies with 28 kids - AR is up to 32 (with 30 tables/chairs) - and then last hour is 29 again... too bad the scheduling is so difficult to make equitable. I miss the years with 20-22 kids each hour :-(

As teaching days go, I shall not complain about this one - the smiles and positive attitudes to start the week certainly make for a good start for me. Of course knowing Wednesday I have off, and a snowstorm predicted for tonight help also!!


Sunday, November 02, 2003

Reflection is the mark of a truly inspiring and inspired educator according to the book I just read on mentoring. I hope that I can use this blog/reflection to become more inspired and inspiring. I feel that too often the things I blog here are not all that reflective, but more chitchatty about my thoughts. I guess just the putting words to screen do help me think through my thoughts about my days but I would like to take this to a deeper more meaningful level at which I truly examine my teaching - my lessons - my classroom - its productivity.

After a day of catching up on school "stuff" - I feel sort of melancholy that all those great things I accomplished will not really dazzle my students. When I spend time writing lessons, trying to incorporate their lives in to what we are doing, I am usually disappointed they do not appreciate that we are not simply turning the page in a book. I guess part of it comes from the fact I am not really sold on our math program and its ultimate completeness. THe following is an excerpt from an email I sent to a middleweb colleague this morning about our program:
Connected Math - I love many of the higher level thinking aspects of the
program but with my 7th grade students, they need more structure, more
"math". It does not really align with the sequence of the Michigan standards
either. In order to maintain the sequence I should be using, I end up
pulling in from lots of other places.

The program assumes the kids come to me with many skills they do not have -
fractions, decimals, percents, etc. It does not give enough practice in such
areas either. It presents a problems and the kids, through solving this
problem, should "acquire" these skills. My kids just don't. Even most of the
higher level kids need more exposure to an idea.

For first unit, Patterns, Relationships, and Functions, I did use the CMP
Variables and Patterns book. But we did alot of other practice writing
equations and such. One of the high school math teachers and I were looking
at some of the equations they expect 7th graders to be able to write and for
most of them, it is just beyond their grasp, and their need at this point.

One of the 8th grade books go extensively into exponential growth which is
so far over their heads to try to see/write the equations, also.

Another problem is the program is too long - we can never, even if we use
the program exclusively, get through all the books, and there are topics in
the optional books which are on our state assessment (MEAP).

WHen our kids get to the high school, teachers there find them to be great
problem solvers, but without basic skills they need to be successful on
algebra. I am all for higher level thinking, having a student driven
curriculum, and having students learn math in context of real life
situations, but I am realist also. They need to know their basic facts, they
need to be able to +,-,x and / intergers, fractions and decimals and they
need to be able to round off numbers, understand scientific notation, etc..,
all those basic ideas we learned through rote practice, in order to be
successful in chemistry, physics, physical science, geometry, etc... This is
where I find CMP coming up short. Most of my students come to me not being
able to divide even simple problems like 550/10 or 46/2. THey have no
concept of fractions - largest, smallest, finding equivalent fractions,
simplifying fractions, etc. They cannot subtract when they need to borrow.
THey are very calculator dependent, which for most things is OK but I really
think they need to be able to do some of these things on their own.

Could it be used with just a higher level group? Maybe - but we are a small
school. I only have 3 sections of 7th grade math, with about 80 kids in my
math classes(6 are pulled out to an LD teacher for math - maybe 4-6 are in
categorical classrooms all day). Reality is what one class does, they all
do - the mix of students is kept very "shuffled".

I also struggle with CMP with what to grade - how to use some of its
philosophies (partner quizzes) and ideas to suit my students and my own
needs. Parents by and large in our community do not like it - they cannot
help their kids with their homework -there are no examples or real
explanations. The parents find the math "over their heads" and this attitude
definently rubs off on students.

AND... now back to the blog....
I do like CMP - I do not like CMP - I do like CMP - I do not like CMP. I feel like I need a daisy to pluck petals off as I chant. I am reviewing another program - MathScape - it seems much like CMP, but with more practice problems, more reinforcement. It still lacks the skill/drill type activities I feel my students need in some areas, but seems more complete than CMP. It is also very colorful and "fun" - I think students would be excited to use it, at least initially. I love the House PLan unit - it is so similar to the one I did in class last year, except with the added component of making an actual 3-D model of the house. I had thought about that last year but was not sure how to tackle it - This series does it so well. It is awesome - I cannot wait until spring so we can do this unit - I think I will try to incorporate many of the MathScape ideas in to what I already do.
Anybody reading this who uses Math Scape??? Please email me: I 'd love your input on this program.

Off for now - to reflect on my 22 years of marriage as of today :-)

Friday, October 31, 2003

Halloween should be hazard pay for teachers. The holiday, coupled with the big football game tonight - the first time our high school has EVER been in playoffs (in over 100 years of having a school and team), made for quite an adventure. My 7th graders were so wound up it was almost comical. But in reality, they drove me crazy. I even offered 2 parents who happened to be standing in the hall outside the office across from my room a million dollars to take them for the last half hour... unfortunately, they said no... as did the principal! Of course he just got back from 1/2 hour lunch duty with 200 of them alone in cafeteria so I am certain he had his fill already too.

The good of the day - most of my students not only passed their test on the Canadian provinces, they ACED it with extra credit for the capitals. This is the same group that mostly failed the tests over the US states... hmm.. explain that one, someone please? Even the young man who could not identify Michigan (where we live) on a US test, managed a 92% today... woohoo!!

They are all out trick or treating now and then off to big game... keep them safe til Monday :-)

Thursday, October 30, 2003

The 3 7th grade core teachers (including me!!) have a perfect solution - nervous breakdown.... padded cell.... time off from work.... ahhhh...maybe a hot bath??

The computer lab went down today.... that is all I need to say.... no internet.... no research... no more open dates for 2 weeks....

Wednesday, October 29, 2003

Computer lab usage is so valuable - we have 1 lab with 30 computers, with 26 which actually work, to share among 10 core academic teachers, and another 1/2 dozen other teachers, and 300 students. Knowing we would need to be SUPER efficient in our precious 2 days in there, I typed very explicit instructions, or so I thought, for our data gathering expedition today. I went through directions on how to open a Word document, insert a table, add headings, made data links on my website with annotations as to what information could be obtained at each site. I had maybe a third of students who followed the directions with absolutely no problems. Another third needed occasional help, sometimes legitimately "lost", other times just not really reading the directions. THe other third simply asked EVERY STEP OF THE WAY! These were not necessarily low functioning students, or those without computers at home, but your typical A-B middle class students who simply refused to read directions, or try anything on their own. They could not/would not even get their name and math hour and project title centered on the top 3 lines before they inserted a table. It was a nightmare with me scurrying back and forth around the lab, saying "Read the directions." "What does it say here?" "Look further down on the page." "What don't you understand?" "Show me where you got lost."

I am not sure what I could have done differently.... one day to actually set up the form, with tables to enter data into - step by step together. But I think the top 2/3 of the students would have died of boredom, and the other 1/3 would have still had to have me hold their hands for every step... so what would the points of that have been.

Part of me says.... LET THEM FAIL! Either they read the directions, and make an honest attempt on their own, or they just do not get the info they need.... But the "teacher"part always intervenes and says they are just middle schoolers... be patient... don't snap at them... and then ultimately.... my sanity escapes and I start being a grouch to all of them ... even those with legitimate questions, and worse yet, I just DO IT for those who are refusing to make a valiant effort on their own.... and nobody wins.

one more day in lab tomorrow... wish me luck.... and even more patience

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Math was good today :-) We are still learning about data analysis & stats so we did a worksheet packet on tally sheets and frequency tables. Maybe because it was easy (??) the students worked independently (well... in groups..) without having to have their hand held to write every single answer down! Tomorrow and Thursday should be awesome - we have rare computer lab time reserved so the kids are going to do some research online for stats. It should be easy for them to find what they need since I have links to everything they need at my webpage. Later we will go back and they will be able to research topics they choose but for this initial exploration, I chose the topics carefully so they would have little frustration and be able to find lots of information.

Social studies was OK - they are SO chatty still, again... and I had to send 2 to detention - I almost think they planned it - they are best buds. I am still contemplating giving them an hour on top of the detention they had. Maybe I will wait and see how tomorrow goes?

One of my frequent absents was back today after an ortho appointment yesterday. My gosh! When my Jenny had braces, she never missed more than 1/2 day of school and this guys missed at least a day a week for something... and never does makeup work - did not even have his assignment from Friday in class completed. Did not have his reading log completed because "I didn't 'get' it." When pressed as to exactly what he did not get... he could not explain... well... the form has a table to write "Pages read at school" and "Pages read at home" - not exactly rocket science!! He drives me CRAZY - that is his patent excuse and the reality is he just really does not put forth much effort. He finally finished his unit test from when he was gone last Wednesday - he was supposed to come to my room at lunch Friday, Monday, today.... but conveniently forgot everyday so he had to finish in class today. He got 59%....the graphs were not even complete. He seems bright but is not "with"me in class -hates it when I call on him, even for the "easy" answers. GRRRR.... I have talked to mom... but that seemed to help for a couple of days and now that has worn off. Maybe I need to call again...

But.... my 2 guys who are "visiting" 7th grade for the second year... YAHOO!!! YIPEE!! They are on a streak - one got A- on his test, the other B-.. and they are working together in class, turning in work!!! Oh please, oh please,,, let it last - I even bribed - I will take them out to lunch if they get an A for the marking period - we are in the 3rd week of 6 this week and they both have a C, which is the HIGHEST grade for either in 7 marking periods these past 2 years. THey are both bright and can easily do the work.... oh please... oh please.... ???


Monday, October 27, 2003

I don't know whether to start with the good, the bad or the ugly... how is that for a cliche?

The good.... most of the math kids are doing great with mean, median, and mode, even the higher level of thinking through which best represents the data set and why. Of course there are a few who insist on being led step by step through everything...And the most frustrating part of that is those are students who are perfectly capable on their own - it seems my lower level students are the risk-takers, the ones who do not mind being wrong, the ones with their hands up, the ones LEARNING... are those others bored but so used to being bored they instead choose to not participate? DO they need more challenges? Would they rise to meet those challenges? WHere do I find the time and resources to challenge them?

The bad - my social studies class - the same kids I have in math, just in a different combination... the exact same group I have for AR - who come in and watch Channel One and read for 25-30 minutes every day without fail... with very few exceptions, they are horrid when they are in social studies - they speak out of turn, they whisper among themselves, they snicker to private jokes among themselves, they drive me nuts... The curriculum I am certain has something to do with part of their behaviors - we are teaching 3 sections of social studies together, the 3 7th grade core teachers this year, we plan together, we all do the same stuff the same day - so none of has any real ownership in the lessons, but it does make for easier planning. Still I am sure the kids sense it is not all "my style" in what we do in class. They hate book work - they hate anything remotely "traditional" in nature. THey want it to all be active, with a partner, with a group, up and loud and fun. And today, we read a section of the book together.... icky....icky for them, for me and their behavior showed their whole "icky-ness" with it all.

THe ugly.... another of the core teachers and I have had it with kids not bringing their social studies book to class - we have reminded them - it is posted in a large red poster on the inside and outside of the social studies room door oon days they need it - so... we both warned them.... no more - anyone without a book goes to detention tomorrow. On the door are about a dozen bright yellow detention slips partially filled out : Reason - NO BOOK! Unfortunately, we will catch 2 kids each- the one who would rather sit in detention anyway and the poor innocent soul who will have their book EVERY other single day of class ALL YEAR LONG!!! But maybe the message will get through because today 7 of my 28 kids had no text to use...

How to change the whole mindset of some kids? how can we make school important to them? I try.. honestly, to reach out every day to those "undesirables" in my classes and make them feel welcome, and wanted and loved.... but for some of them, it just is not ever enough to get them motivated to succeed. Even in 7th grade, they are counting the days until they turn 16 and can drop out, or go to the "cool school".. and those are the goals of their parents also for them.... how to change this rut they are stuck in ????

Thursday, October 23, 2003

Thursday - and all is well. What a crazy week! If it weren't for all the extra stuff, we could actually teach school around here :-) Yesterday's guest speaker for social studies (the owner of a local car dealership) talked to students about entrepreneurship, risk taking, profits, making choices to be successful in life, etc.. very motivational - I was impressed! The kids were so awesome & well-behaved. I was proud to call them all "mine" - you know, sometimes they just come through shining and make all the bads times seems so unimportant.

Today my last few kids are finishing their first BIG math unit test. The ones I have graded... oh my gosh! Either 100 % (or close...) or failing. What am I not doing for those failing kids I should be? What are they not doing for themselves they should be? What role do parents have in the failures of their children? How can I reach out to those kids and somehow get them "with me" more of the classtime we have together. Most every failing grade was easily predictable - missing assignments, lack of participation in class.... I try to make math fun, interesting, engaging, relevant... I try to offer help - I am at such a loss.

More papers to grade...

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

Parent conferences are half over - we went from 1-3 and will go from 6-8 this evening. So far so good- I seem to be a stuck record: "Your child is missing many assignments. Your child participates and does well on tests, but does not turn in homework or daily work." I hope this will be a turning point, a positive point in the year.

This morning was another great teaching day, especially in social studies. We had a candy bar auction: 15 candy bars, 30 students, each with $5 of George Bucks (good only in social studies class for exactly $1) - great lesson in supply and demand - lots of fun! I never knew you could sell M&M's for $18!! Of course, the other ss teacher sold a candy for $38!! Talk about profit margin!! WOW! And even better, the class discussion afterwards was quite enlightened. They really picked up on the ideas.

So off to the last parent meetings now...

Monday, October 20, 2003

Oh finally - a wonderful day. It did not start out that way though! We were playing math games in class and before I could even get the papers passed out, 2 students were already whining "I don't get it!" I exploded.... unusual for me in class anyway, but especially on Monday morning.... unheard of, but somehow - I guess it was what I needed, and what the kids needed. They settled down - listened and then played the games and had a roaring good time!! All day long!! With choruses of "Can we do this again tomorrow?" "I never knew math games were actually fun!" and good natured ribbing about who beat my score, and who was "cheating" and all sorts of 7th grade fun.

If that was not enough for one day, social studies was awesome too! I had taken photos of tons of businesses. I handed out 9 pics per group of 3 students, with double sided tape, markers and instructions to label each pic as public/private, providing goods/services, profit/non-profit, etc. The kids had a great time and were doing an outstanding job. I highly recommend the activity! It matches some economic standard - and the only difficult part was taking the pics, and that is mostly because of community is small and businesses are few and far between. I took ours on my recent visit to my daughter at college - took pics all along the 200 miles there and back. We had a great variety of businesses for the 3 sections of social studies, and the lesson/project went well in all 3 classes. It is one we will definently repeat.

Some days I love my job... and some days I just keep repeating "I love my job, I love my job." over and over trying to convince myself of that fact.

Today.... I love my job! And one last confession: I skipped the union meeting and school board meeting - I just did not want all that negativity tonight. Tomorrow is parent teacher conferences and I need to meet parents with a positive outlook. Wish me luck!

Sunday, October 19, 2003

It is Sunday night and things seem better than the last time I wrote - I have spent the weekend contemplating our next math unit which will be Data Analysis and Statistics. I seldom use our text anyway, since it is Connected Math, which while it is great for problem solving and writing, does not seem to be very effective at teaching MATH, or at least not with the kids I have. The text assumes students are proficient at things they have never even been exposed to and I spent so much time pulling away from the text to teach "side" lessons I have gotten to where I actually supplement with CMP rather than the other way around.

But with Data... I am going to try to let the kids use data they gather for almost the entire unit - I have set up some computer lab research time and we will be able to go into the lab for 2 days to get some info. We will also gather some data about their AR pages read, compare individuals to class and grade level pages read. We will also work on their individual grades. I wish we could get enough lab time for them to spreadsheet their entire marking period of grades. We are also going look at things like their height vs. foot length and other more "personal" things that may be more interesting to them - If I were just a bit more knowledgable about sports stats we could try that but I have never understood baseball averages!! I love hockey and it is big around here - maybe we could compare shots on goal, goals made, etc...hmmm.... I will have to think about this aspect more!

But the point here is I feel a bit more inspired to go back to school tomorrow- hopeful as we start this new unit at the end of the week things will get into the "groove" after parent teacher conferences.... This week will be crazy just because of all the "stuff" going on - it is Red Ribbon Week, with dressup days every day, and assembly for RRW Thursday, a guest speaker for social studies on Wednesday, Tuesday 1/2 day for PTC.... It will go by quickly and then it will be the weekend again... and I can look back and contemplate. I know that I can get through to this group - the question is how...

Friday, October 17, 2003

Well, so much for good intentions - I started this blog to be my reflective journal for the year but have not written in it since school started. It is now the end of the 7th week and it has been a very frustrating year in many ways. First of all, the union stuff is really getting me down. We are supposed to be under the good old work to rule business but I cannot accomplish much that way and cannot teach when I feel I am doing a disservice to my students so I have been "sneaking" in early - getting some flack from some staunch union supporters, support from others who wish they were brave enough to do the same.

Aside from all that...

The kids I have this year are very frustrating. To get them to complete even a simple homework assignment is beyond my grasp. In social studies yesterday, they tore ads out of magazine - 3 total - they had to take them home and identify each as either a good or service and explain BRIEFLY why it was one or the other. Maybe a 10 minute assignment - 9 out of 29 turned it in.I do not know whether to scream, cry or abandon ship.

The math assignment today (they started in class and had to complete at home - was a 2 sided worksheet - meant to be a simple review before our unit test next week. One side had patterns - we have done TONS of these. They did not follow directions or just wrote in numbers - the one pattern is square numbers - 1,4,9,16,25, etc... we have worked with this extensively - graphing, etc... Still many did not get it correct. The other side of the worksheet had writing algebraic equations, which we have done TONS of and they have been doing awesome at - things like writing the expression for "x more than 13" - they should have written x + 13... not real tough for 7th grade - they wrote all kinds of bizzarre stuff - they swear they do not know what sum, product, increase or decrease mean. I know they do! Even if they had NEVER learned them before, we have gone over them several times. It is like they want EVERYTHING handed to them - they do want to do anything by themselves- they wait for the spec ed teacher to come in because she gives them answers (that is another issue for another blog) -

and those were the students who bothered to complete and turn in the paper!

I can only make things so easy and I honestly feel it is too easy - they are LAZY and WHINY and driving me nuts - I'd think it was me but the other 2 7th grade teachers are not having any better results - one has been teaching for 25+ years and is an absolutely awesome, efficient, excellent teacher - the other is younger, maybe 5 years experience, but a great teacher, and me, with 10 years experience, many of those in special ed. ANd, we are all at the end of the rope with at least half of this group - Parent teacher conferences are next week and I am hoping that helps.

I have talked to many parents on individual students but for the most part, it seems to make little difference. We have several who spend half their time suspended, several other who miss at least 1 day a week, several who miss at least 2 days a week, and then the majority who just do not complete and turn in work - even things we do TOGETHER in class, I get turned in half done, or not at all from many of them. I feel like a B**CH and always swore I'd never be that teacher who lectures, but today I did ....

There are no easy answers, but it does feel good to write...

Friday, August 15, 2003

This will be my first attempt at blogging. I had never even heard of blogging until very recently but through my involvement with and the middle school listserve there, along with the Teacher Leaders Network, I have heard from other teachers across the world how wonderful this tool can be. Therefore, I shall venture forth into the world of blogging. (This sounds like something from a hokey science fiction movie though!!!)