Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Skill of the Week: Making Predictions

Despite claims from a few students that they planned to be “wiling out” after the standardized test, the first few days of actual instruction have gone relatively well. I could have sung and danced when, on Monday, my class begged to do independent reading and then flipped pages in total silence until I forced them, thirty minutes later, to move on to writing.

Granted, the only books they want to read are about graphic sex and violence – a fact we discussed two weeks ago when we read a New York Times editorial about the ghetto-ization (in every sense) of African American Literature. But if my kids reading books like True to the Game and Homo-Thug mean that my classroom is silent and people are begging for reading time, then I’m willing to use that to build them up to bigger and better reading choices.

This week, we are reading – gasp – novels! My eighth graders are reading the book Speak. It’s about a high school outcast who finds her voice. I felt like a real Humanities teacher today when I tied the main character’s isolation into our Isolationism vs. Imperialism debate in Social Studies. This is what English/Social Studies/Getting Ready for High School class is supposed to be like.

My seventh graders are reading My Brother Sam is Dead and talking about the Revolutionary War – a more explicitly interdisciplinary choice that will tie directly into their Social Studies curriculum. They are making predictions about what will happen next. Most of them are pretty sure that Sam is going to die.

My Prediction: Math Test Prep!
Always another test around the corner. Two days next week are devoted to Math practice tests, and I’ll start helping out in a Math afterschool test-prep class next Tuesday. Always something to look forward to.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Today's News

Good News, Broadly:

My children take their &#$*@# standardized tests next week and then I am free to teach them – gasp – books and poetry. I am excited, but a bit scared to leave the safe confines of multiple choice lesson planning. Also, proctoring tests makes me nervous, so I have that to look forward to.

If you are so inclined, think nice thoughts about my brilliant young things next Tuesday and Wednesday mornings (Jan. 17th and 18th,) and hope that they don’t forget every single thing I’ve taught them so far.

Bad News, Specifically:

On the depressing stories front, one of my eighth graders, a beautiful girl who is struggling with her sudden popularity among the older males at our school, was nearly date raped by her ninth grade boyfriend. Her mother called the cops, and the kid spent a night in jail. Naturally, all of his friends now want to beat her up (violence comes quickly to these kids – the depth of their conflict resolution abilities is much shallower here than in other places.) Her parents kept her out of school for three days and are now having to pick her up right when classes let out. She is shaken, but seems to be O.K.

The Most Depressing Part: My assistant principal told me today, in no uncertain terms, that the incident was “just as much her fault as it was his” because they were skipping after school tutoring when it happened. Humph.

But Back to Good News:

Did I mention that my kids are about to take their tests? On top of that – a three day weekend, a field trip, and a spelling bee are all coming up next week as well. So much to look forward to...

Monday, January 02, 2006

Bits and pieces

Nothing real to update here in winter break, but a few spare ideas and details that don’t really fit anywhere else:

Number one reason why, no, you can’t be in the middle school talent show: You called me a “dumb slut” and then walked out of class.

Silliest threat I have received: “I will destroy your car and if you get a new one I will destroy that one too.” (I don’t own a car.)

Best Christmas present I received: hat and scarf from my new favorite suck-up

Best comment made during a standardized test: “Um, you didn’t teach us this, but I guess it’s too late now.”

Most disturbing monologue overheard in the library:
“That’s why I hate these teachers. They spit in my face and I spit in theirs. I have a lot of hatred in my blood. That’s why I like the color red. Your whole wardrobe should be red. Your teeth should be red. Your glasses should be red. Your brain should be red. I’m going to let all of my hatred out until I feel good.”

Best compliment I have received: “You make social studies fun. Our teacher last year just taught us out of the book.”

Second best: “I told my friends I only had one cool teacher and that’s you.”

Best comment on my announcement that I am going to read The Brothers Karamazov: “You wilin’, Miss. Did you see how big that book is?”

Best idea proffered during “fact and opinion” week: “Fifty-Cent is a gangsta and that’s a fact!”

Small act of rebellion: the fact that my bulletin board was empty for nearly three weeks (had anyone figured out that it was mine, I probably could have been seriously disciplined)

Biggest difficulty in teaching the Civil War as a play: Abraham Lincoln was suspended for bringing a knife to school

Biggest success before that: the Lincoln-Douglas debate raging across the classroom

Best (or Worst) made up name for an immigrant (we took on immigrant identities and wrote from their perspective:) “Dang-a-lang Duck Shit Shabazz” (which was later – after much debate – changed to “Dang-a-lang Duck Poo Shabazz” )

Best comment made in response to my announcement that the President had potentially spied on U.S. citizens: “Oh that happened to me! I was talking to my friend and I heard the phone clicking. It was the President listening!”

Most unlikely turn of events: I am now the number one supporter of our high school basketball team (9 and 1 kids, 9 and 1 – you can’t argue with those numbers) despite the fact that I do not particularly enjoy basketball. I just enjoy arguing with twelve year olds who say the team is “garbage” simply because they aren’t allowed to try out yet. The fact that I enjoy debates of this nature is perhaps the only reason I stay sane.

New favorite thing to do when I am being strict (after the one day that I admitted to not having had enough caffeine): hand me my coffee cup with the instructions to “take this to the head”

Most disheartening standardized test reality: all but three kids in our whole seventh grade got zeros on a portion of the practice test that requires them to edit a paragraph.

Silver lining: all three were in my class

New Year’s Resolutions:

Read something every day that has nothing to do with school
Write something every day that has nothing to do with school
Be kinder when it is most difficult
Settle “lay/lie” issue
Keep up with my book report sticker chart (I get one tomorrow for having finished Frank McCourt’s Teacher Man – one of the four copies that residents of my apartment received for Christmas)
Dishes (do more of them)

Apparently most first year teachers experience a “rejuvenation phase” following winter break. Do I feel it coming on? Maybe.

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