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...