Thursday, March 11, 2010

just when you think you don't like a start to talk about poetry

I love poetry. Love love love love it. It's my life, afterall--I write it, I read it, I advocate for it. My administrator and I share that love,'s crazy to think that such a hard-headed, autocratic, and pretty insulting guy can be such a lover of poetry. And make me impressed and want to befriend him (in the way that only an administrator and teacher can befriend each other--by talking about cool things besides school and not in the let's get some drinks kind of way).

So, judgments are what they are...and I think I'm pretty right to say that he can be a jerk--he's the causal of many a frustration on my team and also his dept...but, at the same time, man, he's got some poetry history! Was in this famous African American poet MFA called Kave Kanem (sp?), and was taught by Yusuf Komunyaaka and Marylin Nelson...damn!

Well, anyhow...I'm still stressed to the nines, though a tad less so. I went pretty militant on my students the other day (my fourth period), and kept them there after the bell rang for three whole minutes of silence while they practiced their rotations from station to station. It was murder for them, and myself, but it certainly worked. Also, that day that I was feeling terrible, my lovely colleague came to watch me and helped me re-structure my room, so now I have a clear small group area that avoids all the chatter and ridiculousness that led to my downfall (of sorts). Now, my small group runs relatively smoothly, and I think we've been doing pretty well for ourselves on getting the reading done. Almost done with it, anyhow.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

from a letter to myself

I really want to make sure my mainstream kids are doing good things with keeping track of their books--they're going to feel really dorky about it, but it's really going to help them. I hope. They say they don't understand the book, so i really want to help them with that. It just SUCKS that i can't have the time to actually make this class a real reading class--to help them focus on the real strategies that will get them to understand main idea and details, etc. But that's a completely different battle.

Either way, i'd like S., M. and V. to write me a bit on why they think the book they're reading is not understandable...and I think I might have to read it with them so that i can understand it myself.

I think, also, on the high school side, things need to heat up with my fourth period. Perhaps our admin coming in and observing will really be an asset. However, I think he's going to have to know a little bit about how this program runs before he comes in. Maybe. I dunno, we'll see--I hope he pulls through with it. And, I think Ms. C. is supposed to come in tomorrow to watch for T (a recent skipper, tough to keep him in the classroom). I hope he's is actually there.

Lots of things to think about, and all of this is just a sliver of the shit that I have put myself under. I hope that next year, I have a place where objective calendars are either not a big deal or are something I can do practically in my sleep. I hope next year I have the creative ability that i've been pretty much longing for since i got into this business. I hope these next couple of months keep me busy and interested and wanting to succeed and have my students succeed. These new students have needs that I just haven't gotten to know yet, and i'm wondering how best to serve them. This is the trick that seems to be worrying me the most, getting me nervous again (i can feel it in my heart, it's beating pretty wildly, and i'm wondering whether or not sleep will be fitful or restful tonight). My hope is it'll be restful.

Monday, March 1, 2010

PS: my june will be longer than expected

So snow recovery til June 21st? I'm just thanking that it's not til June 30th or whatever, man. Last year was ridonc--Massachusetts had it til June 25th, and it was sweltering, and we were SO done with school, seriously.

Also--I just watched today (we had parent teacher conferences, so I got to go to school late, yay!) Obamarama on the television talking about some steps to improving the graduation rate of the United of those steps was firing principals and whole staff or part of staff as a last resort. Controversial!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I can't say whether or not I agree with that, because it seems very Rhee-esque. Does it work? Maybe, to aid in changing the climate of a school...or perhaps it just takes an attitude change? Do principals ever get proper training on how to turn around their schools, or do they just go around as they are, without considering that they, in fact, might be a problem?

With that said, how the hell are we going to change our graduation rates if we constantly focus on testing, testing, testing. Obama, let's get rid of AYP, please...and let's figure out what to do with the standards that 48 states want to focus on regrouping, yah? I doubt this'll happen in the next year or so, but let's get it soon, can we?

dr. tatum and the long road to reading

Middle school, for the longest time hasn't been much of a challenge. In fact, it's been pretty fun--very little classroom management, very little to do besides let the kids go and be a great teacher. Except now I'm finding myself up against a new challenge: really noticing and assessing their reading abilities.

In a very revealing moment, I finally got to separate myself from my small group and talk to some of my straight-English speaking kids (mainstream, rather) about their reading. And they said to me, "I hate reading, I feel dumb when I read. That's why I hate all my classes." They don't have access to vocabulary, they can't keep track of the books they're reading, and it's hard for them to keep it all together. So what can I do when we start reading an equally, disturbingly hard text in the rBook, "The Fall of the House of Usher???" Oy! Our first page has words like "ease," "moat," "obliged," and many, many what do I do, kids? Again, I ask?

I'ma try and figure this out, because the ridiculousness of it is perplexing and really grinds my gears (to coin a phrase). But also, speaking of Dr. Tatum, I'm thinking of re-writing the text with small parenthetical phrases that give definitions of the words. For my other kids, I'm going to print out some pictures, I think--these'll be for my ESL students. Very important that they don't get too, too confused with these words an' trip up on 'em. Oh, I mention Dr. Tatum cause he's this dude who's pretty bad-ass, and is a wonderful reading advocate and teacher. I believe he's a professor at U of Illinois, Chicago, and worked with kids in Baltimore--talks a lot about transformative texts for black students. Anyways, he had mentioned this thing about building background knowledge, or at least allowing students who can't read well, to access grade-level texts. He showed us a normal text with parenthetical phrases giving short definitions of words, so that you don't have to dwell too much on explaining these things. So, that should be fine. Also, he stressed guiding questions while reading, so that the thing isn't so daunting. So, perhaps that will be part of my Wed. night preparation?

Oy, oy, be a reading teacher. In the meantime, I hate to admit it, but does anyone know anything about Oyster-Adams, Takoma Ed. Campus, or Stuart-Hobson MS? Or, does anyone know of any other interesting middle schools in DCPS that're looking for people? I wonder what this year's turn-over is going to be like in DC? Predictions?