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.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

the news so far

So, as it is, I can't be fired from DCPS yet because there's some clause in the contract, according to my union rep, that my first year doesn't count. And I haven't been given a "you're fired" letter from my school, so that's that. Meantime, I'm having a chat with a principal tomorrow at a different school (gulp) to discuss the job. We'll see what happens.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

i've been impacted

Joking aside, I'm probably going to be excessed this summer. I just had my post-conference with my admin, and I got a 1.9, which means that, in total, just counting observations, I have a 2.3. CSC (which is a fucking impossibility in my school) looks like all 1's, and TAS looks like all 1's, also. Wonderful.

Here's to you, DCPS. But more importantly, here's to you, dick administrator. So what's next for me? Charter? Private? Stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

My Galley, charged with Forgetfulness (Sir Thomas Wyatt)

My galley, charged with forgetfulness,
Thorough sharp seas in winter nights doth pass
'Tween rock and rock; and eke mine en'my, alas,
That is my lord, steereth with cruelness;
And every owre a thought in readiness,
As though that death were light in such a case.
An endless wind doth tear the sail apace
Of forced sighs and trusty fearfulness.
A rain of tears, a cloud of dark disdain,
Hath done the weared cords great hinderance;
Wreathed with error and eke with ignorance.
The star be hid that led me to this pain;
Drowned is Reason that should me comfort,
And I remain despairing of the port.

I was observed by my administrator on our canceled field day: a day that I never expected to have to scrounge up a lesson, because I don't teach first period, which was supposed to be our only period of the day.

I believe, according to IMPACT, if you get, one year, a bad evaluation, you have an "improvement plan," and another year to recuperate. If, however, you have two years in a row, then you're out of DCPS. IMPACT scholars, is this true? If that's the case, most likely, I'm cooked, I'm pretty sure of it.

I'll talk with my administrator, see if I can get a hint at whether he saw improvement, which means whether or not I fucked myself over too hard. Either way, I'm a nervous wreck. Not a good feeling on my last few weeks of school, huh? Field day tomorrow, but a normal day with other students. More news on the next few days with period four: we're reading for fun, how interesting is that??

Monday, May 16, 2011

PS: updates on the job stuff

If you're into transferring, this might be your gig on the 25th:

Summary: To follow up on the transfer fair for WTU employees held last week, we will be holding an event for all non-WTU employees interested in transferring schools for the SY11-12 school year at Walker-Jones Educational Campus from 4-7 PM on May 25. Please check the Human Resources page for a list of available vacancies.
  • Applicable Educators: All educators
  • Date: May 25, 2011
  • Time: 4:00 PM - 7:00 PM
  • Location: Walker-Jones EC, 1125 New Jersey Ave. NW
  • Contact: DCPSStaffing@dc.gov

May 23rd, at Luke Moore Academy (1001 Monroe St, NE), there's a meeting to hash it out about IMPACT as it pertains to teacher support. If you're like me, you'll be there with bells on. The event starts at 4:30 and ends at 6:00 pm.

value added

What gets me really miffed about the idea of value added is that I just don't understand the math. That, and the fact that it's all test-score and benchmark related, and therefore only promotes a certain type of teaching within the classroom.

If a classroom is only an assessment-related classroom, the focus becomes only the measurement of skill. That's the only thing that is measurable, because it can be identified clearly within students abilities. For instance, as a reading teacher, I can figure out how well my students do in the following skills: main idea, compare and contrast, drawing conclusions, etc, etc. These are identifiable and measurable through a test. And, in fact, it's good to measure them: we're able to see how well a student can comprehend and, indeed, chew, savor and swallow a text that way. All these things are gateway drugs: we gather ourselves into reading through comprehending, which makes us enjoy things like beauty and language. But when we only measure those skills, then we falter where things really count: the synthesis of skills, namely writing, and projects, which usually takes the content we learn and wonder about and synthesizes it with a skill such as drawing conclusions based on information gathered, making inferences about character motivations, etc.

I also wonder how intensely the replacement of DCPS standards with Common Core Standards are going to affect how we measure skills, and how we teach. I like the holistic (err...whole-istic?) approach, but is DCPS doomed to be a testing culture because of value added? In the next five years, it looks like. Ugh.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

return of the CAS!

So, as most of us in public ed. & charter schools know in DC, the CAS is upon us. Today was quite the shit show, as usual: 4 1/2 hour period for non-testers, a substitute (in my classroom) who sat there reading the newspaper and didn't even hand out the work I had clearly on the table label "Sub Folder." Oy. Sometimes (and I hope I'm not offending any substitutes here), subs are just so uninterested in doing anything--they just want to make their money and go. Are they so jaded, or just ridiculous? Pardon, pardon to those subs who are really great and deserving of real teaching jobs: there are a couple of subs at my school who're regulars, and who are wonderful teachers. Sucks that a few bad apples ruins the whole bunch.

Anyways, while I was returning the CAS items today, my friends and I were like, well, the return of the CAS...which reminded me of an amazing song, and which will now be the anthem of this next week of ridiculous testing. Please enjoy, "Return of the Mack," and substitute Mack with CAS...all the time.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011


Fucking denied, man. I took an entire day off of school to go to OSSE to drop off my licensure packet that I slaved over for an entire year, and I just got a letter saying I was denied!!! All for one stupid thing: I didn't score high enough on my Praxis II Pedogogy test. Ugh!

Now, I have to take the test again, fork over another 50 bucks for a processing fee, wait another five weeks for the scores again, get another transcript from my college and graduate school, get another letter of clearance from my graduate school and another freaking background check letter, and submit it again!!!!!!

This is the most annoying thing ever. I'm so disappointed, OSSE. What the fuck, man. Jeez.

Monday, March 28, 2011

a quick word about obama

I don't know if anyone caught Univision today (everyone was talking about it at school), but Obama said something to the tune of how we over-test our students.

"Too often what we have been doing is using these tests to punish students or to, in some cases, punish schools," were his exact words.

He said it's boring to have schools teach to tests, and it won't make the student learn in the least. I'm all for that. But what are we going to do about it? That's the next question.

one small step for man, one giant leap for RTD

So, Reading the District is finally getting himself organized. Better late than never, I suppose! I've bought my MS students binders, and am going to instruct them on how to organize them. The reason that this is so late coming is several-fold:

a) I'm not a very organized person
b) I was placed in this class midyear, without much of an organizational system intact already
c) I'm not a very organized person

Binders haven't been my thing, mostly because I think I just never thought of them. We're supposed to keep some form of a portfolio, so I thought that I was covered. Falsity. Binders are the shit, and will help you and your students immensely IF you keep them organized and make sure they are counted every week.

Here's my management system for this, so far. Let me know if I need to work some kinks out:

1. Divide into sections: reading logs, homework, projects
2. Have a checklist or table of contents (?) for all projects and homeworks
3. Check this every week for completion

What say you? Organized finally?

In other news, I'm looking for jobs at public, charter and private schools. Let's see what happens!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

trying to respond to students

I don't know how successful this will be, or if this is a good idea at all, but I have a couple of students who might be a bit despondent these days about their reading levels, and probably quite frustrated by the fact that they're still in Read 180.

I also have two of my favorite students completely down in the dumps lately: unresponsive, very cold, not trying (one of 'em, at least). Basically, not their usual selves. This kills me, because they were the lights of my career as a second-year teacher. They made my class lively, entertaining and wonderful.

So, since most of my students fill out once in a while (when I want to get a "pulse of the classroom" as they say in the fucking jargon) this fill in the blanks free-write, and since a lot of them say the same stuff, I feel like it's time to respond to them. I'm going to use the same format, but just make it a response, allay fears, hopefully build confidence, hopefully show them that I know they're growing and doing better each time.

Is this an ok thing to do? I think so. I'll just trust my judgement, and see where it goes.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

the process of covering one's butt

One of the things that is very difficult for me to swallow is having to cover yourself. I didn't understand this concept at all in grad school, and didn't exactly follow it to the T last year. This year, however, stakes have raised, and, in order for me to function well--both under IMPACT and under the administration here--is to cover myself:

1. Always make sure you "hit" a certain amount of higher order thinking questions (HOTS, what a silly acronym)
2. Create spreadsheets that cross-reference DCBAS, Lexile levels, ELL levels and SpEd status and accomodations--for any other reason than just simply having it handy.
3. Keep a list of evidence that you have called 100% of parents, recording each time you call and whether it was answered, and what actions will take place.

The thing that makes me the most frustrated is that all of these are probably, in all likelihood, useful! But the mere fact that it is "required" of me to "hit" high order thinking questions, instead of "encourage" me to make my students go farther by asking them deeper questions, seems to me to be fake. Maybe it's the rebellious-side of me, but all this constant "hitting" things, or covering or do-it-because-they-tell-me really makes me less interested in the educational theory our school wants to shove toward us. It makes me also just not want to do it.

So, here's my question to the masses: how do I make it so that I can convince myself that, it's ok to do things with silly acronyms, or collect data sets, or record how many times I've called a parent? In a way, how do I make myself care?

Thursday, February 10, 2011

a triple-header tonight--procrastination at its finest

Check out this little quote: the 8-year-old son of Teach for America founder, Kopp, interviewed her for a project at school:

She quotes her son Benjamin, then 8, after he had interviewed her about her life's work for a school project. His final question was: "If this is such a big problem -- you know, kids not having the chance to have a good education -- why would you ask people with no experience right out of college to solve it?"
Interesting, no? I ask this same question many times. I think TFA has lots of good points, but many, many bad. I'm not a fan of those who think it's a vacation between college and law school (no offense to those who have done so). Teaching should be a decision, a career choice, and TFA should encourage that career choice through preparation and encouragement to stay in the ranks. Says I.

eating well vs. having time to grade & do work

I love to cook, don't get me wrong. But damn if it doesn't take a long time! I just finished and it's 9:14 pm. So, do I enter my homework grades in now? Those always make me lazy. Ay, what to do.

a teacher's complaint

How to Ruin Your Classroom Dynamic In One Two Easy Steps:

1. Reschedule two of the loudest loud-mouthed kids from their original period to the quietest, most productive period.
2. Rinse and repeat.

My classroom's been overrun by ridiculousness, and I'm not sure how to stop it. Two students, one who is "bored" because she's "not aloud to do anything" and so loves to talk and talk in the class. She's a rebellious type who's having trouble at home, and can dish out the snide-remarked disses, but can't take 'em herself. The other is an attention-seeker who seeks haven in the rapid-fire comments he makes to each and every single one of his classmates, only to get a laugh or disrupt the flow of the classroom. Thus, the class, who were once leaders, has thudded into the grasp of loudness, disruption, and/or general malaise (in some students). One of my favorite students (honestly, I can't say that I don't have favorites--I love all (read: most) of my students, but this one girl is just a treat to have in class: excited, ready to learn, a leader, if only she'd stop doubting her capability) has lost that smile she always has when she sees me. She hates coming to the class. She lays her head down. She lays her head down.

Now, I don't know what to do. Whether to accept it or make calls home expressing concern about behavior and the animosity that's built between those who were switched into the fourth period, and those who were there to begin with.

This is killing me.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

so many things to say, such procrastination

It's my own fault that I'm not posting. It's procrastination. Like most things that require long periods of time to think about and etc., I've put it off and off and off until now, when I'm procrastinating my real school work, and posting on this blog. So here I am.

It's a wonder that practically no other teacher blogs that I have linked are posting--although it's not even a wonder: there seems to be a general malaise, or at least a negative space and attitude on the posts that've been going around since last my favorite teacher blogs posted. I don't know if people have time, or if they feel the energy to post as much as before. I know I haven't as much, though I've wanted to.

A wonderful moment: one of my students is participating (and will win) the Poetry Out Loud competition on the 27th. I will be there with bells on. I can't wait to hear her--it'll be absolutely spectacular. She'll be reading "Those Winter Sundays," by Robert Hayden.

A sobering moment: one of my students, a natural jerk, in want of an audience, who wants to feel important and a leader, who is a 9th grader and had a stern talking to by the vice-principal of 9th graders, and the guidance counselor (they think he's in a gang; he's not). He's failed three of his classes, including mine, and has passed English with a B. Stubborn and stubborn, he came in somber and sober after the conversation. At the end of the day, we spoke, and he said I'd be seeing a new him come Monday, and he seemed pretty serious about it. He'll be in my 4th period this semester, which will be a very big change of scenery and environment, which will be very good for him.

This semester will be good in terms of students; same old shit, tho with the school. We'll see how things develop.