Tuesday, June 21, 2016

the end of 2015-2016 school year

This year has been the most difficult teaching year I have ever experienced. I look at this sentence now and a flood of thoughts come to me, recounting the various emotions and memories -- which feel more like physical dents in a car than little chemical expulsions in the brain --associated with the year, the wordlessness I feel when attempting to uncover the experience of it all. It's embarrassing, a little, as a writer to be without words. I'll attempt to explain:

I felt a wreck. I was as many euphemisms and metaphors for crushed as any poet could muster. I was crumpled by sleeplessness, my severe dedication to ensuring the curriculum work, my attempts to please my co-teacher and work with her as much as I could, and learning a new grading system very much unlike all other systems I have seen. Demoralized and distraught, I kept pushing. I held so much tension in my body, a countlessness of tears sucked into whatever space possible and released at odd times, and my own opinions (to the principal, at least) about what was truly wrong: I needed help and I couldn't communicate in sync with how they needed it.

But honestly, as I read over these words, I get tired of recreating it all in my head. I want to remind myself and my readers that I am not the most knowledgeable of teachers (I still have some learning to do), but I'm a good teacher. And I am getting better. And I cannot wait to chronicle the building and the growth I will encounter and experience in the next year to come. New school, new ninth grade, new routines. I'm into the building. I'm ready to start thinking about curriculum.

Thursday, April 17, 2014


Is not differentiating an essay test, as a final means of seeing what the kids know about discovering theme, organization, and analysis ok? I gave them a possible guide for a body paragraph. It's not much. It's small. There are some who need the differentiation. But I want to test it. I'm conflicted.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

2014: The Year of the Job?

Crazy that I'm doing this, but I felt like it's time to get back into the hang of talking about things, getting interested in what I'm doing, and also playing around with ideas to whomever sees them.

I've been at my new job for now three years (or will have completed three years), and I'm getting antsy for more money. The private sector is interesting, or at least the private Catholic sector is interesting--I don't know how much one gets in other schools, but I haven't seen much advancement in mine because we don't have a lot of money. I'm afraid to ask for a raise because I don't want to a) get disappointed and b) be forced to say well, I think I need to leave the school, which will mean an aggressive job search and quite possibly disappointing results, depending upon whatever happens, right?

So, I'm in this strange place now: updating my resume (having forgotten, in the first place, how long or how short a resume should be, and what it should include now that I'm no longer a new-new teacher), in dire need of putting together a portfolio (which means giving myself a deadlines), getting all of my packets for MD, VA and DC certification (my MA license expires this summer--gulp!!), and working up the chutzpah to talk to my boss about a raise. All of these things are happening at once, and they are nerve-wracking as hell.

I was glancing at a job at a private school and it said to submit a cover letter and a short description of my philosophy of education. I had to do exactly that in graduate school. To borrow a phrase from Robert Hayden, what did I know? What did I know of teaching's austere and lonely offices? Or, to be a little less dramatic: I was so young, uninhibited, uninformed (save what I learned from year-long, wonderful experience and grad school), and uninitiated. But now I'm not. So what is my philosophy of education?

Here are some notes: over the past five years I've realized that without a plan, I feel out of place and stuck. You have to know where your kids are going, and what you want to get out of them, (e.g., a skill set, or a standard or what have you) because if you don't--if I don't--you lose yourself in not understanding your text and floundering around with "the paper." I believe that student achievement is a mixture of a lot of things: that success is incremental, that it should be tracked holistically and on spreadsheets (though a focus on holistic has been my way, i.e., I see patterns of behavior and poor/mediocre results as opposed to formal data-driven instruction as the trend is) and looked at consistently, that you gotta know your kid's limits socially and emotionally before you can even pretend to try and force them to do something they're uncomfortable with. Hitting on that last point again, it's impossible for me to go forward with any school year without building a relationship with my students--the importance I put on person-to-person relationships, as a way to build classroom management and for general empathy, is the utmost. I feel that English is just as skills-based as Math or Science, and that it's all about steps and questions when you get down to the nitty gritty, but a flood of emotions when it comes to entering into a text and falling in love with language. It's a balance of love and mechanics, as is everything. Reading is a difficult process of metacognition and self-monitoring, and writing is about seeing models over and over to learn the rules, the break them.  A teacher's worth a ton. A student is worth a ton.

That was a good exercise. Now, Spring Break, I will attempt the impossible: get out of my house, go to the gym and do some physical exercise.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

100th post, and what news!

I've officially been fired by DCPS. I've been RIF'ed, IMPACTed, "excessed," and I am officially one of the 200+ fired this 2010-2011 school year. Well, at the very least, I have a job.

Speaking of which, here's the newest list of jobs: English I (9th grade) + Textual Analysis (read: Reading Workshop), and 10th grade Honor's English.

My biggest fear, I'm not very good at analyzing long novels. In fact, I realize that I never did a lot of long-novel analyses, and, in fact, all my college work in that realm was a lot of content, and not much skill. I mean, that's most of what college is, developing the skill of in-depth analysis instead of basic skills analysis.

I wonder, teachers: what's your biggest fear in teaching something new?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

short stories

Anyone know any good short stories that are good for 9th graders, but also are easily digestible for students that are struggling readers?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

creating curriculum

The easiest thing in the world is to take a curriculum that's done for you and ride it. I think that's how I felt the first year I started teaching. I never created. Last year, I tried, but felt pressure so hot and pressed against my face that I just did what I could with what was given to me, and did what I thought was best: teach it, but teach it slower. Now, I have a whole new challenge up against me: choice.

My students are supposed to read Animal Farm, Fahrenheit 451, Romeo & Juliet, a poetry unit, and an expository (non-fiction) unit. There are clear goals for each of the units, products laid out, and everything seems rather organized. It's the curriculum my lovely 9th grade partner-in-crime, er teaching, has sent me. She said to me, "Do it as you see fit." Thus, my problem: choice.

The thing I see, or rather, that I don't see, is a cohesion that unifies each, um, unit: a theme. Expeditionary Learning's taught me that a curriculum should be the investigation of a question, and one of my favorite things to look at is the question of power. I just don't know the question just yet. What I learned from this inquiry-based professional development thing that I did over the past two weeks, is that children (adolescents) have an innate curiosity about them (this is the supposed belief...I can dig it), and that they, themselves, can ask those kinds of questions. I just have to be mindful of what that question leads to.

A thought, though, and I think this might be it: What is power? What does it mean to have power? Usually, my thought process goes to things like superheroes, dictators, self-empowerment, and words. One of the goals that seems to be pervasive in this curriculum outline is the subject of power: censorship; propaganda; totalitarianism; the power of an author's choices and how that affects tone, theme, plot, and characters; the power of words and grammar in a student's writing; the tragic power of fate vs. the conflict of self-determination and fate (R&J). The list goes on.

Does this work? I'm going to have to think a little more about this, and figure out how to wrap these around, and also how to coax questions about power out of my new 9th graders.

Monday, June 27, 2011

aaaand, i have a new job

Yup. That's right, folks. I'll no longer be employed by DCPS. Instead, I'm entering into the private realm. We'll see how this goes, but I'm excited for the change in scenery. I'll still be teaching remedial, but this time within the context of a normal English class.

Details later once I find out.