Friday, November 16, 2007

My thoughts today will anger some, I know. We are working without a contract and negotiations are ongoing and now in "crisis" mode. The union has decided teachers should work to rule, standing outside in the snow and cold until 7:50, walk in together, then all leave together at precisely 3:10, adhering strictly to the contract. IF you have more work to do, it is OK to come back later, or so I was told.

I get to school each morning at approximately 7 a.m. I like to be here before everyone else gets here. There is no line at the copier, there are no kids wanting to chat, there are no teachers wandering gossiping, and I can get my self ready for the day.

After school, the halls are filled with running kids, gossiping teachers, people.... and I cannot get anything done.

I also have things to do outside of school in the afternoons. I go work out somedays (not nearly enough!). I go to the credit union, post office, drug store, etc... Those are things I cannot do before school.

The union feels we are sending a message to the adminstration and school board by doing this. What message are we sending? They think we will gain public support for our plight.

I think they are wrong on both counts!! Administration and the board do not care what hours we work as long as we get our job done. The public in our small town with few paying jobs views us as whiners.

I understand that I would not have all the benefits I have without the union having worked on my behalf. I get that. However, I also GET that we are losing kids, we are losing state funding, and we cost more and more each year in our health care premiums. I think we are unreasonable when we think we can have what we always did, get a regular raise and never give up anything.

I appreciate my job. I appreciate my paycheck. I appreciate my benefits. However, I did not become a teacher thinking I was going to make gadzoockles of money. I expected to work long hours, for less than adequate compensation. I am not a martyr. I think teachers should make 10 times what they make. I think pro athletes and entertainers get paid 10 times what they should.

However, me standing outside in the cold until 7:50 will change nothing, except make me less competent in my classroom. If I COULD work from 7:50 to 3:10 and accomplish all I need to accomplish, I would be thrilled! Please..... someone tell me how!! My coming in later will only lead to my being more stressed, less prepared, and will certainly not lessen my workload.

I am here for the kids.... I love my job.... I love my kids... and I will NOT stand out in the cold and look foolish to parents and community members to prove a point I do not believe in.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Toot, toot, tootie frooties!!!

A few students actually finished up today!! I am not sure their projects are 'A' quality, but I did make sure every little task was completed before I allowed them to turn them in. Others are getting close. Even in 5th hour, things are falling into place.

My little Derek today.... oh gosh... you know how you have that ONE who can always make you laugh without even meaning to??? THAT is Derek. He is this tiny little 7th grader. Here he sits, with one leg crossed under the other in his chair, working away. For some reason, apparent only in Derek-land, he leans down under his table, still cross-legged. The position becomes a Chinese fingertrap of sorts and there he is, a tiny voice from under the table, "help, help, I'm stuck" with his head trapped under the edge of the table. As I try to get up and head to him, the boy next to him gives the chair a swift kick which loosens the trapped child.

It was a frustrating day too though. First thing this morning, walking through the 8th grade hall, a young man has a hat on, so I ask him to take it off, and get an argument back, rude comments. I turn around and go back and force the issue, and he does remove it. Knowing him from last year, I think to myself, "It's going to be one of THOSE days. I am glad he has moved on to 8th grade and I don't have to deal with him." A few minutes later, guess who turns up in the 7th grade hall with 2 huge rubberbands looped together poised in aim? Yep!! I yell his name as I lurch to grab it before it can make its target. Another kind talk and direction to leave the 7th grade hall and move on. Again, I think,"WHEW!"

About half an hour into first hour, I have a question for the secretary so I pop next door into the office. No secretary, but there sits the miscreant from the hall episodes, detention slip in hand. I reluctantly ask why he is there and get a story about someone hitting him first but he admitted retaliation. Shaking my head, I tell him Mrs. C will be back soon.

Ten minutes later, some little devil on my shoulder tells me... "GO BACK TO THE OFFICE!"

There he is, still alone, but standing over the secretary's desk. I tell him to sit and I will be right back. Zipping back to my own class, I see they are all working diligently, surfing National Geographic sites about Antarctica. Back and forth for another 10 minutes until I give up and try all the principal myself. I finally track him down in Central Office and leave a message for him.

A few minutes later, the secretary returned, and eventually the principal showed up and gave him the slip for the young man describing the incident. I piped up, me and MY big mouth!! and told him about the 2 incidents in the hall in the morning. But for some reason, even with all those incidents before school had been in session for half an hour, the kid gets sent back to class. I knew it was wrong... I knew he would continue that routine for the day until he got suspended. I know the kid.... and sure enough, he was suspended by lunch. Set up to fail....

I know being an adminstrator is tough, I get that.. I don't ever want to sit in that seat... but when you are new at the game, you need to listen to those who know the kids, and know their patterns......

**SIGH** does every day end with a huge sigh????

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Whew.... yes, I still love Tootie Frooties, but I am TIRED. Most students are working diligently with minimal help. However, there are a couple in each class who cannot/will not do anything independently. It is so incredibly frustrating when you KNOW they CAN do it alone, but they want you to tell them every single little step every single time they do it.

I have a few of those kids this year, who will ask and ask and ask... simple things like: where is the lined paper (on the bookcase above where you turn in homework...), what day is it(it is written on the board EVERY day...), what do I need for class (it is written on the board outside my door), should I write my name on my paper (DUH!!).... and on and on and on.. I know, I know.. they just want attention but it is wearing on one's very soul when other kids honestly NEED help with their work and those few suck every moment and ounce of energy out of you.


Monday, November 12, 2007

Tootie Frooties AHOY :-)
One of my favorite math projects is always Tootie Frooties. I buy those cheap off-brand Fruit Loops lookalikes cereal by the bag. Each student gets a cup full of cereal. We collect the color distribution data as a class. Then each student makes 4 graphs - a bar graph of their data and one of the class data, then a circle graph of their data and the class data. A series of guiding questions follow. The graphs all go together on a small poster. The displays are fun, colorful, and decorate my classroom.

The circle graphs are tough for kids. None of the math is really all that difficult but there are soooo many steps involved, for many students the process is tedious. It really is a learning process for them to remember what to do next in the sequence of steps but by the time they have the circle graphs completed, most are doing great.

Once, a student even used actual Tootie Frooties to create their bar graph. It was AWESOMELY cool.

The downside? Tootie Frooties EVERYWHERE the first day... then, the work days are always somewhat chaotic as they work at their pace, some of them on task, some of them needing constant prodding to get them to do what needs done.

Thursday is opening day of deer season and is like a holiday in the UP.. I will have a large number of kids gone. Project work days works well for this!! I wasn't thinking though, in social studies. We have a unit test Friday, which means Thursday is review day. Oh well, those kids will just HAVE to review on their own.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Yesterday we had our first parent teacher conferences of the year. It always makes for a LONG day but I really enjoy getting to meet my students' parents. As you talk to parents, you see so much of each child in mom and dad!

Several parents insisted 7th grade math must be easier than 6th grade math because their child is having such a better year this year. They are surprised when I insist the curriculum is much tougher, really the transition between arithmetic and algebra.

I try to find positive things to say about each child, and for most it is so easy. This group really is a fun group and I have enjoyed them so far, despite the occasional glitches.

I always leave conferences with a sigh of relief and a sense of self-doubt from the positive comments. I love to hear I am doing a great job, but there is always that tiny voice in the back of my head saying, "NO WAY!! YOU ARE INADEQUATE!!" So when parents say I am their child's favorite teacher, or share stories of older siblings I have had who are doing great now and they attribute that to me, or tell me how much their child is learning this year, or praises my methods or philosophies, it is humbling and rewarding. one of the many perks of being in a job I do love...

Monday, November 05, 2007

We started our next unit today, one of my favorites - data. I started with a cool activity. I had each student grab a handful of wooden blocks. We then used the number of blocks each student had to review line plots, bar graphs, as well as mean, median and mode. The entire hour had them up, moving, interacting, and hopefully, learning. Nothing we covered today was earth shattering or new, but served as a great intro to the unit.

I am concerned though, about some of the other things I would like to do. This group seems unable, unwilling, to listen, follow instructions, be respectful, etc... Today, there were blocks all over the floor, people with sticky notes on their faces, loud comments, stolen blocks, etc.. I have real concerns about giving them raisin, or frooties tooties, or Skittles to count.

I wish somehow they could see the connection between their behavior and the consequences but for some of them, it just doesn't click!

Last Friday was our first big chapter test in my regular 7th grade math classes. It was a huge shocker, like always, to them that I was not going to accept less than a 70% for their score.

I had to take the test away from 2 young men who were talking during the quiz. After contacting parents, both of them came in before school today to retake. Both were humbled. It was a wonderful experience to see that parents are supportive and concerned about their children. Both left my room this morning with 97% on their tests :-) I couldn't be happier!

I am gone AGAIN tomorrow but it was promised to me I would have a different sub. I don't blame the previous one for my kids' lack of respect, I just think it was bad fit. I am curious to see how they handle themselves tomorrow.

Of course, we are expecting our first snow storm of the year tonight - only 4-7 inches, but the first snow is always SOOOO exciting. I would love to be at school to see all the excitement tomorrow!!