Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Not about school

This post has nothing to do with my work life- but still  I wanted to write this story.

I ignored my better judgement and stopped at the ethnic supermarket to pick up the ingredients for the holiday meal.

It was crazy crowded, The lines were ridiculous. The parking lot,  woefully inadequate on a typical week day, was an exercise in collision avoidance greater than any video game I ever played.

I tried to load my car without getting run over or causing damage to another vehicles.

"So easy to buy the food, so difficult to get home,"  the woman next to me said with a heavy European accent.

And the elderly woman next to her replied, Baruch Hashem, Thank Godl

We have food, and we can celebrate any holiday we choose.

And she was right of course. For such blessings we should:
Thank God
and maybe Thomas Jefferson
(so maybe this post is just a tiny bit about school)

Why I was absent and did Thomas Jefferson really write the Bible?

Attendance is a problem at my new school.
Thousands of kids, no one person responsible for any one of them.

Without the designated advisor, the progressive form of a homeroom teacher- no one person is in charge of hauling your sorry ass into school everyday.

And if we can't get the attendance rate up the soda hating, teacher loathing, sore loser of our mayor is gonna close us down.

So I ask everyone who misses a day, why they were absent.

Some answers:
It's personal miss...
I've got problems miss...
I couldn't get up
I had a migraine
And today's favorite, from Stuart, who responded when asked twice in English and once in Spanish.
I was buying a book bag. (Stuart was absent three days last week, it was a very elusive book bag.)

The American History class is studying the Declaration of Independence.
Daisy had to write a paragraph on what was her favorite part of the Declaration of Independence,
(No I am not making that up,)

Someone suggested she write about the part where it guarantees all men human rights.
Except, of course, if you happen to be a person of color. Or a woman for that matter.

Student One:  That's why Abe Lincoln put the part about freeing the slaves in the Preamble.

Me  Nope- not born yet Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence
Jefferson wrote (even if he didn't really mean it) that all men are created equal.

Student Two:- He didn't write that, God did- its in the Bible

Me- Nope- that was Jefferson - Google it

And she did - guess what? she wasn't the first person to claim the all men created quote was from Bible- several websites addressed the issue.

She still doesn't believe it though- she's pretty sure its from the Bible.

Student Three- Daisy why don't you just say your favorite part is all the complaints against England?
So she would have, but the bell rang.

Maybe I should just buy a really elusive bookbag and take a couple of days.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Just Teaching (and a little small group learning community time))

I am wondering if I learned to keep my mouth shut.

Maybe's it temporary. I'm afraid my good sense will wear off.

I wrote in the last post my reasons for leaving my little pond and big fish title, for the current very big one.  I think I am officially a minnow.

No one asks me anything.

 I spend my days teaching,
Just teaching.

I have three Resource Rooms, Up to eight students, in four different grades. They appear in the back of a half size classroom with a large south facing window which currently would be more effectively used for growing tomatoes,  And I try to do something worthwhile while they're there..

Currently we have been reading an article Is Algebra Necessary? I hoped to spark some lively debate but mostly we just crowd around a table and I try hard to get anyone to say anything.  Yesterday one group had a lively discussion about Sponge Bob Square Pants, but it died when I tried to steer the conversation back to the article.

I'm not sure if its the oppressive heat, the incredibly crowded quarters or we're still in the process of sizing each other up.

My two other assigned periods are with a self contained special education math classes.  (See and here I thought in the 21st Century no one isolates learning disabled kids into a separate program all day long- shows you what I know)

Bailey told me three times today she hated this class.  The third time I gave her a calculator walked her through the first problem and she managed to do the second one (which was something like find the absolute value of x-(-6) when x=4). in the remaining fifteen minutes of the period.She didn't mentioning hating the class again,
Didn't do much work.
But didn't call me over to tell me she hated me and the class.

Kandi only went to the bathroom for twenty minutes, (he's been averaging 30) and Lenny told me he might be able to learn enough math to pass a regents.

So I can still teach isolated self contained classes. (Please, don't read this--- gods of Chaos, I know my mother would have been sure that just typing that sentence would ensure a chair flying through a window tomorrow, but I am bucking a long tradition of superstition and writing it anyway)

My last obligation of the day:
Attending a small learning community session.

Today's discussion, the uselessness of small learning community sessions.
My contribution.
I didn't say watching the video clip about good teaching practices on Tuesday  made me put a graphic organizer into Wednesday's plan.
Even though it did.
Who wants to be known as a suck up.

I said

Maybe, just maybe I've learned to keep my mouth shut!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

New Year New School

Six years ago I worked at a small recently  created  high school.   I was assigned the new math teacher to mentor.  Okay so I was a special education teacher.  But I felt I knew everything about everything and somehow mesmerized the principal to believing that.  I agreed to be his mentor.

The first time I observed him, I watched him the command the attention of thirty antsy eighth graders as he spent well on forty minutes speaking in his fine Jamaican lilt about the joys and foibles of equations.

No one moved.

In the feedback session I noted that I almost always told teachers to speak for no more than ten minutes or you are bound to lose attention.

"Yet you spoke for more than four times that amount,"  I reflected, "and no one moved.  You are like Castro!"

So the years roll by faster than summer vacation days and somehow, I convinced the not so new math teacher to apply to the fast track principal program.

And he did.
And I fulfilled the promise to go with him.
Not to the small new innovative high school I imagined him leading when I promised to come with him, but to a large troubled high school which the mayor threatens to close, daily.

Tuesday he spoke to a staff of over two hundred (the old school had less than fifty.) many of whom faced losing their jobs when they left in June only to be saved by a Union initiated contract arbitration at the last minute.
Forty five minutes later he had at least opened the door to the healing process.

"Good job, Fidel"  I texted him as he left the stage.

So here I am, as I enter my twenty-ninth September in hot sweaty building, unable to dissipate the the humidity the Atlantic hurricanes insist on pushing our way.

And so begins the next chapter.

(Scary note- this principal knows about this blog!  Good thing he will be too busy to read it )