Friday, January 30, 2004

Today was one of those "ah - ha" moments in my life, and I guess in teaching as well. I realized, and now, bear with me, because this just sounds foolish!.... I am an adult, a teacher, and a pretty darned good one at that. Recently we hired a new special ed teacher to fill the half time position that has been floated thru by several subs this year (what a mess!) She is working on her LD endorsment, and is also the parent of one of my students. I have to admit that I was somewhat nervous abotu having her in my classroom one hour of the day. I am hmmm... shall we say a wee bit unconventional. THis lady, is very nice, but very proper - wears a dress all the time, has her hair rolled just perfectly, prim and proper in every sense of the words. Her daughter is an amazing over-achieving perfectionist, a teacher's dream. I was afraid this teacher would think me just toooo bizarro world to relate to me, so I was somewhat hesitant when the special ed director for our district asked me to be her mentor and supervisor for her while she finishes her degree and teaches at the same time.

Still I agreed to do the mentoring and supervising..

It has gone well! She has been here for 2 weeks and it has been a hellish ride at best for her with MEAP (state-wide assessment) week, snow days, challenging students, you name it.... But today, as I gave my kids their first "FREE DAY" all year, they were playing board games, and she and I talked - she asked tons of questions about kids, parents, teaching, etc... I tried to answer the best I could, with an almost apologetic "But don't ever feel you have to take my advice - I know I tend to be a bit uconventional." And she then complimented me - how wonderful I am :-) and then told me I need to observe her teach - we discussed me observing her Guided Study class but she would rather teach a math class one day - I suggested a week or a unit but she insists on one day, because she does not want to deprive them a "veteran teacher".

I don't know - I guess it really is not that big of a deal... but I just suddenly felt old and mature and responsible!! and she proceeded to tell me the things I do well... I think I need her as much as she needs me!

It is not that I am insecure - I truly feel I touch my students and help them learn and be successful... but her comments and insecurity about teaching around me was such a boost to my ego!

and for those who may read this and don't know me... I am such a goof ball most of the time - like my 7th graders.... I don't think of myself as in a leadership role, so when these moments happen... it is like a big surprise! Like the day our superintendent told me he thought I was "principal material". I just still feel like I am learning to teach, learning to lead... learning to learn. How can I be the ROLE MODEL?? or is that the key?? We are all, always learning and growing? hmm...

and yesterday... another beautiful moment - as I was grading math quizzes on finding perimeters and areas.... a note on the top of one, "I love you Mrs. George" with a heart with an arrow thru it... and that alone would make my heart melt, but the student who wrote it... Chris - 2nd year in 7th grade... nothing but trouble last year and most of the first 2 marking periods this year - broke into 7th grade store at least twice last year... always in trouble and school - dealing with court system - on probation - doing community service .... and he ACED THE TEST TOO!!! 93% absolutely awesome!!! I think he turned in more work to me this past week than he did all year last year (SERIOUSLY!!!) what a remarkable change - sometimes, we do make a difference.... and I wrote a note back - I love you too Chris :-)

good days.... good stuff... I do love my job, I really do!

Thursday, January 15, 2004

I've got this kid.... don't so many of the thoughts of teachers start this way??? He is with me 3 hours in a row each day and is usually pretty good. He tends to be a bit sarcastic and likes to show off, but not really overly rude, disruptive, mean, or anything. He LOVES to work in the 7th grade store. It is like "his territory". He is very responsible about cleaning, ordering, tidying things up, almost possessive about it.

But... he can be a real BUTT for other people, like most any other adult in the school - other teachers, the principal, subs, lunch ladies, anyone and everyone. THe problem - he got in trouble again today - was pretty much from all accounts, terrorizing the entire front lobby before school today. Little kids, slapping, cursing, picking up, harrasing, just being a general all-around jerk to everyone.

How can I tap into this relatively good relationship he has with me, to help him be better behaved other places without making it seem like I am condoning his behaviors? I am appalled that he'd act this way, but I want him to know that I do still care about him. My gosh... truth be known: he is one of my favorite kids this year. How can I turn this into a positive spin?

grrr....grrr.... note the lower case.... low grumbly growl this time :-(

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

I am so excited for so many reasons!!!

#1 - I may get to go on the 8th grade trip in March - they are headed to Detroit which must be 7 hours on a bus.... but they are short a chaperone and I just love those kids, and know them well, and was the initiater for the 1st 8th grade trip 3 years ago.... the principal said he couldn't see why not...

#2 - We are getting a spec ed teacher for the 7th graders. It's been so screwy all year... with a part time sub for their Guided Study and another teacher in and out of classrooms. Those kids have really gotten the shaft. Now, this lady, very nice lady... will be in my room for math, then go to language arts with the kids, and then have them in Guided Study for 45 minutes. What an absolute gift!! She is working on her LD certification right now, but will be the perfect fit. She and I talked a long time this afternoon, and it jsut seems so right!

#3 - MAMSE is in March and my presentation proposal was accepted... I planned to spend Christmas break getting organized but I just have not gotten the old mindset set... but I am excited at the opportunity. It will be quite an experience... Hands on Math for active middle schoolers... that is just my thing!!

now... the bad.... today, tomorrow, and Friday are half days.... so.... we have alternate schedule - first I talked to my homeroom about camp - they were so excited... then we tried to do the "Fallout Shelter" problem - the one where you have a list of 10 people, World War III, decided which 6 go into shelter... my group... GRRRRR!!! they just WOULD NOT listen to each other - blurting out - rude comments.... we had to stop.... I am so frustrated with their behaviors. The language arts teacher and I were talking after that... she is also at her wits end with several of our lovelies. It is like they are so stuck in their rut of behaviors... how to break the cycle?? They really are not BAD kids... they just seem so unable to control their impulses.

cold tonight - weather man just said 15 to 25 below.... BRRRR!!!

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Today was octahedron day. WOW! For so many of the kids, making these 3-D models is a breeze. For others, it is pure torture.

This one little guy 5th hour had made 3 octahedrons before others had even finished the drawing of their #1 model.

The flipside.... one guy spent the entire hour erasing, because even with my step by step instructions and guidance, he was lost. Granted, part of the "lost" is his inability to focus himself. I moved him to my desk so I could record homework grades in the computer next to him while helping him. But unless I actually drew the lines, they were wrong! It is frustrating.... for me and him...

He cannot follow simple directions... spends half the time looking, watching and listening to the others in the low-functioning.... struggles reading.... not special ed.... has been referred for testing but when??? and then what??? He is not in math when the spec ed teacher is in my classroom. She is in there very little anyway, but at least if he was there when she is, he could get some extra help.

Social studies was interesting - I conducted a little "experiment". We had a short section to read out of the social studies book. Nine students chose to go next door to read alone. I allowed 3 partner groups to read in hall. THe other half of the class stayed in the classroom, either reading with a partner or alone. After a reasonable amount of time, I divided them into the hall group, next door group, alone in classroom group, and partner in classrooms and quizzed them as a group on the section. THe "next door-alone" crew did better overall, closely followed by the hall group. Of course, other factors influenced the outcome. The groups I chose for the hall were quieter more trustworthy students I knew could read out there without neing distrated by the activity. The loners next door were even the more studious quiet types. Still - it was interesting.

Friday we take our first online test!! I made it at teacher.web - the questions are all true/false or multiple choice and very easy. I must admit, with the first time using this testing method, I was more worried about the actual setup than the validity of the questions. It should be a learning experience for the kids, but a needed one with the MEAP going to online version in near future. If we are successful Friday (and all 3 social studies classes are taking it... not just mine..) I will attempt this method again, with better questions. The appeal of it grading the questions is a real plus for all 3 of us teachers, I must say.Students will also have essays to answer but we opted to have them separate - my class will have option to type in Word, or write longhand, whichever they prefer.


Monday, January 05, 2004

Success!! OK - for today:

In math class we made tetrahedral pyramids. What fun! For the most part, the students did great with using their compasses to make arcs and create equilateral triangles. The biggest obstacle to success for all of them: inability, or unwillingness, to follow to directions! I don't know what the solution is - they want their hands held every step of the way, no matter what we do. It is like they are so afraid of failure they are unwilling to attempt anything independently.

But on the upside, as I babysat them through the process, they were successful, and made comments like, "This is the funnest thing we've done all year!" "COOL!" "Hey! Look at mine!!"

Another "I love my job" genuine day....
Hmm... I cannot get yesterday's blog to post so this is a test!

Sunday, January 04, 2004

So much for the goal of catching up on the blog over break! Two weeks off school... 4 days of that spent at school... 2 working with the other 7th grade teachers on social studies curriculum - the other 2 doing my stuff, although I spend so much time on social studies it really does not seem worthwhile. I only teach 1 section of SS, and 3 of math and the SS work is split up between the 3 teachers.... so why do I end up spending so much time prepping for that class???

One thing really worthwhile from one of our SS days - we talked a lot about 7th grade camp. Planning for some new classes/adaptations of old ones - to make them more aligned to our curriculum. For example: the outdoor cooking class has traditionally been done with students cooking over a campfire, making some tasty treat like orange cake or baked apples. We want to continue this class - it is a favorite with the kids and worthwhile... but we want to try cookiing something like the colonial people would have cooked - perhaps vegetable soup and johnny cakes. We also talked about a tie-dye class using natural foods to make the dyes - "tie-dye the colonial way". We also talked about potential kids who will not be able to go. Unfortunately our intial list is of 22 students. WOW!! That is of about 90 total. Of course, many of those will end up going, but at this point, we have legitimate concerns about them for various reasons: attitude, attendance, tardies, out & out meaness... this is an interesting group we have this year.

Math this first week after break should be fun for me and the kids. We are making 3-D polygons - cubes, tetrahedral pyramids, square pyramids, dodecahedrons, octahedrons, etc.. I hope students come away with several skills - able to accurately create 3-D models, draw various shapes given directions, draw bisectors, apply their measuring lengths and angles skills to a new situation, explore sides, vertices, edges of various models. I also plan for them to do some journaling about the actual making of these models - the process, what they learn...

It's a new year... let's pray it is a good one!