Friday, January 28, 2005

What an absolutely wonderful day to be a teacher :-) This was one of those days that makes it all worthwhile.... To start the day, another 7th grade teacher and I escorted 28 of our 7th graders out to breakfast. Their homeroom had won the first semester Survivor challenge. They were SO well-behaved. The entire outing could not have gone any smoother.

And then, like frosting on a cake... so went math class. Yesterday I introduced the idea of subtracting integers on a number line. This is by far the hardest, most abstract thing we do all year... I positively dread it. Yesterday was OK, pretty typical for the first day of this new concept. Today though, I gave them blank number lines and problems to put on them... partner problems, where the addition of a negative was the partner of the subtraction of the positive, and so forth. THEY GOT IT!!! I was so amazed, impressed, proud. They finished out the hour online at with their first 2 integers lessons. It was such good stuff....

I was so elated that when my little 6th graders came in begging to go to the high school winter homecoming assembly, I actually took them. And, they behaved like absolute angels....

Some days, I love my job.... I really love it... today was stellar.

Monday, January 17, 2005

grrrr..... It was ONE OF THOSE DAYS....I don't know if it was because it was Monday, because there was a snowstorm raging outside, because I came to school in a very pro-kid state of mind, or a combination of all of the above... but I could have walked away and gone to McDonald's and said HIRE ME... without even giving it much thought today.

The kids were loud, chatty, catty, rude, disruptive, disrespectful.... They did not want to pay attention, and we were doing something new - adding integers using a number line model... so when I expected them to be able to attempt the new skill independently... they could not even give it a valiant effort for the most part. And it was not just those predictable few who were not with me, it was a majority of them. They were either daydreaming, talking among themselves, putting on lip gloss (BIG GGGGGRRRRR......), reading their AR book, most anything but watching me at the board. I was so annoyed and frustrated and ultimately impatient, which really did not help the situation at all....

Why are some days so difficult, and the rest of the time, days go by.. day after day, week after week... things running so smoothly one becomes complacent? And then a day like today, that is so absolutely outside the realm of normality, it makes me question my reasons for being a teacher at all??

But as frustrating as today was, I know... I trust.... I have to believe... tomorrow will start with a clean slate... and my sweet angels will return... RIGHT??? :-)
ahh... the joy of taking 40 middle schoolers to a hockey game... words cannot describe... but I will try...
When you live in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, hockey is a way of life. In our little town, even in the summer months, hockey dominates. Kids block off entire blocks of streets to play street hockey, and even more amazing, drivers take the long way through town to let the games continue. In the winter, parents drive 60 miles each way to take skaters to the nearest artificial ice so hockey players can practice and play. When winter finally sets in, and the weather permits, the old hockey building in town makes real ice. Our players much prefer to practice here, priding themselves on being the only team around who still does it the “old way”.
With hockey being so important to the Yooper culture, it only seemed natural to want to take our middle schoolers to a college hockey game. Our isolated location means many of our students never travel to new places or see things others take for granted, so a trip to a REAL hockey game is a REAL treat. Not only do you get the thrill of the hockey game, but you get to see things like traffic lights, fast food restaurants other than McDonald’s, and people, lots of them.
So plans were made, tickets were ordered, the bus requested…. 40 middle schoolers and 8 adults were eager for the adventure.
When I drove into school Friday night, I was bundled up on all my warm winter gear, long johns, turtleneck, sweatshirt, hat, gloves, boots, all in hopes I would not to freeze to death on the school bus. The air temps were below zero, the wind chills and treacherously low, in the minus 30’s and 40’s, and blizzard conditions were predicted for our route. But nothing was keeping us from going on this trip!
When I walked into the school, I was greeted by a throng of excited middle schoolers. As the crowd grew to our anticipated number, the excitement also grew. I checked the trip roster, and when the bus finally arrived 15 minutes late, we loaded up and off we drove into the cold and darkness of a snowstorm.
The bus was filled with laughter, songs, the smells of body emissions from those who must have eaten cabbage, beans, and other noxious gas producing foods for months before loading the bus, and the objections of those smelling those gases. But the laughter was the predominant, and the 100 miles passed quickly, with excitement building with every mile.
When we neared Marquette, I passed out hockey tickets, and went over the rules: Always stay with a buddy. Always let an adult know where you are going.
It seemed so simple… until we got to Berry Events Center, and the throng poured off the bus. The excitement was too much. I have been on many field trips, taken students to many events, but I have never seen such chaos ensue in such as short time. Students scattered in every possible direction, some headed to the rest rooms after the 2 hour bus ride; some were desperate for food; others found their seats. But everywhere I turned, there was a student alone!! There were like fleas on the back of a dog, crawling through the arena, mysteriously appearing and disappearing, alluding my attempts to herd them all back together.
By the time the National Anthem started, miraculously, all of them had made it to our section, and were seated, with enough food to feed a third world country’s entire population for a week.
I can’t say I saw a lot of the hockey game that night, with all the ups and downs, the questions, and the laughter, but I do know that I have never enjoyed a hockey game more. During the second period, the Northern Michigan University mascot, Wildcat Willy, came to visit. He was so amazing with my group. He had them in headlocks, he teased, he made them laugh, he had them cheering… Willy made us feel like we were the most important spectators at the game.
My students had made letters to hold up at the game that spelled out NEWBERRY MIDDLE SCHOOL LOVES THE NMU WILDCATS. The letters were in the school colors of green and gold, complete with sparkles. The process of making this message took hours of coordinating, and left my classroom covered in paint and glitter that may always be there. But it looked so amazing! It was spelled right!! They got them passed out in order!! They held the letter high above their heads and CHEERED!! Kids you would never see talking to each other at school, laughing together, working to spell out other words.
And soon, another chant arose from some: G is for Mrs. George… L is for Love… as they held the G and L high above their heads. I knew all the hard work to get this trip together for them was worth it in that instant.
Our team won the game. We managed to get the entire crew back on the bus, and headed home without major incidence. Until they started singing again... some strange song I had never heard that had places to put in people's names... about relationships or something... anyway, initially it was fun, but then of course it got out of hand.. and rude, so we made them stop... which all in all was not too bad I guess...
We got home a bit later than anticipated and it was 10 below when we did arrive... but what a night... what a wonderful night...

Thursday, January 06, 2005

Integers are always a baffling thing for my 7th graders and this year's group is no different. While the basics of much of the information we cover is relatively simple to comprehend, that in reality on serves to make the material seemingly that much more difficult for them to "get". Why is that the case? That is the million$ question!

We are working on absolute value.... such an easy concept- whatever the number, its absoute value is simply that number without regard for its sign, the distance the number is from 0 on the number line.. but they turn it into something much more complex....

And mix that with snippets of subtracting negative numbers they have been exposed to here and there and think they know... it is all a tumble of confusion. But they are slowly coming around... and with these kids, I have to believe it will come...

My group of 7th graders I have now... WOW!! What a contrast to the first group. This group works independently... and works... Monday and Tuesday they spent finding links about the tsunami. I was so impressed with their efforts. Then they rotated around the room looking at the sites each other had found. WOW!! again... unbelievable... they are so ON TASK... so mature compared to the last group. I wonder what the last group will be like!

I have been thinking a lot about camp lately.. We are trying to find a person to teach square dancing maybe one evening... I still would like to come up some exciting classes which do nto require so much prep from us ahead of time. It seems we are in such a rush prepping those few weeks before camp it is a whirlwind.

Not a resolution this year to blog... but I will try harder to be a regular... too many other committments... too many people/things/demands on my time...