Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A Thankless Job?

So Cathie Black, to no one's surprise, has been granted the necessary waiver to serve as Chancellor. I stand by my position that I'm attempting to reserve judgment until she actually does something, but in the meantime, I'm going to continue to speculate about the situation, since it's all anyone is talking about anyway. Who wants to think about anything else with eighteen long school days remaining until the holiday break?

Like many people, I wonder, still, why Black wants this job. No one, herself included, is pretending that she has some kind of lifelong passion for education of any kind, public or otherwise. The public disapproves of the appointment, with many believing she's being brought on primarily to "right-size" the DOE. The highest echelons of state education administration have expressed serious reservations about her ability to do the job, such that they have insisted that she take on a specific deputy, Shael Polakow-Suransky, to serve as a Chief Academic Officer.

I think, if Ms. Black was a teacher, those around her would quietly begin to discuss the "counseling out" process. A lot of teachers don't make it, a fact that's well-known and silly not to talk about. The job is not right for everyone. That's not an admission of general incompetence, lack of intelligence, or lack of compassion; it's a simple statement of fact that not everyone makes it because it is not the right fit for everyone, even those who are well-qualified on paper or even lovely people with many lovely qualities in real life. It just doesn't work for everyone. Nothing you can do.

At this point, is this job a good fit for Ms. Black? Given a host of other choices, anyone from Michelle Rhee to Jesus Christ or anyone in between, would anyone who is not Mayor Bloomberg or one of his sycophants actually choose her, on purpose? And what is she going to get accomplished with this serious lack of support?

If I were Ms. Black, I would have graciously stepped aside weeks ago, saying that, after careful reconsideration, I found the job to not be a good fit and would have offered my support to a different candidate. Ms. Black could still do that, pointing to the excellent (or at least better) qualifications of Mr. Polakow-Suransky and expressing confidence in his ability to take on the job solo.

Why does she want this thankless job at this point? Seriously. I'm wondering.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

There Are 19 School Days Until the Holiday Break


Hope you all enjoyed the all-too-short Thanksgiving break. I know I could have used one more day.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Miss Eyre Gets Schooled on Reality Television

STUDENT 1: "Miss Eyre, this girl Violet acts like she is on Bad Girls' Club."

ME: "Bad Girls' Club?"

STUDENT 2: "Aw yeah! Like that one where the one is all up in other's face and they were like dragging each other around by the hair?"

STUDENT 1: "Ohhhh yeah."

ME: "I'm sorry, is this a reality show or something?"

STUDENT 1: "Oh, Miss Eyre, you never saw Bad Girls' Club?"

ME "Um, no."

STUDENT 2: "You HAVE to! It would, like, help you understand Violet."

STUDENT 1: "These girls have, like, issues. And they're all angry and stuff and have all these fights and they have to live in a house together."

STUDENT 2: "I would not want to live with Violet."

Friday, November 5, 2010


STUDENT #1: Damn, girl, pull up your camisole! Don't nobody need to see all that!

STUDENT #2: Aight, I got you! Jeez! **pulls up camisole**

STUDENT #1: Look at Miss Eyre! She can wear a tank top without showing all that business! You can too!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The Best of Days, the Worst of Days

Did I have a great day or a terrible day? It's after 7 p.m. and I'm still wondering. Let's look at the evidence from the text:
  • One of my advisees got into a truly dirrrrty girl fight today, and because I happened to be in the hallway, I got to babysit the girl she fought while waiting for a dean to pick her up because the two girls needed to be separated (obviously).
  • Two kids openly complained about their grades.
  • My lesson totally fell flat.
On the other hand:
  • One of the kids who complained about his grade actually came back after school and had a heart-to-heart with me about how he could do better.
  • The girl I babysat was in tears and I might have actually gotten her to calm down before she gave her statement.
  • Another student came by after school to help me organize my classroom library, and along with a couple of her friends, we ended up having a really nice chat. She even told me that I was her favorite teacher so far this year.
So: great day or horrible day?

Is it corny if I say that I secretly think it was great?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

No Sports for You

Really? Yes, really. The principal of Martin Van Buren High School is trying to drive sports out of the school. Rather than share a reaction that ought to be obvious, I'm going to share a rebutting anecdote instead.

I have a student this year, "Jonathan," who seems so far to be a bright and good-hearted kid. But he has issues, for sure--anger issues, home issues, friend issues. He's in counseling already, thanks to a quick and concerned counselor at my school who jumped right in when I alerted her to Jonathan's problems. I checked in with her the other day about Jonathan's progress.

"His attendance is better, right?" she asked.

"It is," I said. "He's been in school every day, and he's been late less."

"Good," she said, nodding. "He wants to go out for baseball and there's batting practice after school every day, so he's getting here. That should help."

Sports are important to Jonathan, important enough that he'll overcome his aversion to school to play baseball. And if we can get him there for baseball, the academics will begin to sink in, at least somewhat. And then Jonathan will have options other than baseball, too.

Sure, it doesn't work that way for every kid. But it works for an awful lot. Because student athletes have to get through a physical, pass every subject, and be present on game days, you're also promoting health, scholarship (at least a minimal standard), and attendance. Maybe Ms. Shevell will save a few bucks, or get a few distracted athletes graduated because of her new policy. But I wonder if she won't also see a drop in attendance and a bigger drop in graduation rates as kids who were drawn in by sports find one less reason to show up every day.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Let Me Get Right on That

Like many of us, I am working on finalizing grades for the first round of report cards. (ALREADY? ALREADY. I know. I can't believe it.) On the last day of the marking period, I was on my way back to my classroom after a visit to the supply closet a little while after the end of the last class of the day.

"Miss Eyre," I heard a voice call. It was one of my students, "Lee."

"Hi, Lee," I said. "What's up?"

"Um, you got any extra credit I could do to bring my grade up?"

"You're kidding, right?" I said, incredulously.

"No. I want to bring my grade up."

"Lee," I said, "I had two make-up periods earlier this week. The days and times were posted on the board all week. I didn't see you at either of them."

"Well," he said, "I was failing science."

"Then you made your choice, right?" I asked.

"But I want to bring my grade up," he protested.

I made the outlandish suggestion that he should do more homework and studying and come to see me before 4:00 p.m. on the last day of the marking period next time.

He walked off in a huff.


Friday, October 1, 2010

The Blog World Loves Miss Eyre, Or Maybe They Just Love Commas

Core Knowledge loves commas!

NYC Educator tells me that all the linking love has earned us some extra traffic. Always a nice thing. Thanks for the love! The commas thank you too.

Coverages: Not So Bad?

Coverages are usually an excellent way to muck up a teacher's day. Take away one of those precious preps and toss a teacher into a random classroom, where s/he does not necessarily know the subject, the students, or both, and it's a recipe for disaster much of the time.

But not today.

I got my first coverage at TMS2 today, with lots of big scary older kids and not the precious youngsters in whom I have already cultivated a very gentle and friendly sort of fear. The previous period's students were having a paper-ball fight while the coverage teacher was doing something on her laptop. I had a raging headache and did not plan on dealing with a paper-ball fight with a fresh class the following period.

So as the new bunch came in, I let them talk, and as those of us who teach teenagers know, "talk" really means "yell, and do that incessantly." I let them talk and talk and talk while they furtively glanced at me, clipboard with roll sheets in hand, and at the Do Now bravely posted on the board.

I just looked at them. For what seemed like forever.

Then they got a little nervous. Finally, one boy spoke up: "Yo, shut up, she's waiting."

"Is that," I asked them, "how you enter the room every day?"

They looked at each other. "No," a few muttered.

"Then why on Earth," I asked them, "would you do it today?"

"Sorry," a few more mumbled.

I smh'ed at them, tempted to make some grandmotherly mmm-mmm-mmm noise while I did so, but thought that might be taking it too far. I took roll and duly noted the ditchers and the girl who came in late. "Okay," I said. "I'm Miss Eyre. I teach English down the hall. I don't know you, but I'll try to learn your names. Your teacher left you this assignment. If you can complete it in your seats and keep any conversation you have at a low volume with school-appropriate language, that works for me."

"Aw, miss, that's not gonna work," complained one boy. "I can't be silent all period."

"Yo, she said we could talk, duh," said another boy, pretending to slap at his friend.

"That's right," I said. "Low volume, clean language. That's all I ask."

"Oh," said the first boy. "Aight, miss. I got you. I'mma do this work. This looks okay."

Whatever I did with those kids, it worked. Every kid did the work (with varying degrees of success, I'll grant, but at least they tried). They kept the volume low and even let the room fall silent a couple of times. When a few kids started tapping out a beat on the table and rapping over it, I suggested that they wait until the end of the period, and, if they could, I'd let them knock off two minutes early and demonstrate their beats again for me. To my amazement, they agreed and got back to work. (And, okay, I had to hear their beat in the end, but I braved the banging through my headache and tried to enjoy it.) I did learn most of their names. We got through the coverage without any stress. I even did a bit of planning while they worked. And now I have a few new kids to say "Good morning" to in the halls.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Humility Lessons

BRILLIANT and beautiful piece at GothamSchools about building respect and collegiality among generations of teachers. You must read this.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

School Aides Rock My World

What is it about school aides that makes them so awesome? I don't know. Just like teachers, these folks do NOT get paid enough for the fantastic and essential work they do. And they work hard. On those crazy days where it's 2:00 and you haven't eaten lunch yet, your school's aides probably haven't either.

The school aides at TMS1 were always bright spots of sanity, efficacy, and humor in a school that is, from what I'm hearing from my former colleagues, continuing to career off the rails. And the school aides at TMS2? You ain't seen nothing yet is my general impression of these people. My early favorite is one who consoled an angry parent over the phone about a MetroCard issue--effectively, from the sound of things--while giving a lost student directions and filling out paperwork for me to get some new tech equipment. This lady is good.

Just had to say that today,.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Proud Papa of a Ferret

So I alluded to this kid in my post at NYC Educator today. He's so awesome that he definitely deserves his own post. So here it is, my first kid story of the 2010-11 school year. (Please note that, if you're new here, all kid stories are posted with names and identifying details changed to protect the child's privacy, and that I do not in this post or any other identify my school or even my borough. Kthx.)

Will is one of my English students at TMS2. He sits in the back because he was a late addition to the roster and that was all the room I had left when he came in. But he's quickly made himself into a rising star in the class.

"Miss Eyre," he greeted me on Monday, "how was your weekend?"

"Great, Will," I said. "How was yours?"

"It was rough, to be honest," he said, shaking his head. "My ferret got into all my stuff 'cause my brother left her out and then didn't, like, supervise her, you know? That's what ferrets be doin'. They get into stuff if you don't watch them."

I was somewhat taken aback by this tale--it's just not what you expect to hear from your typical high school boy, absorbed as he so often is by girls, sleep, and sports. But I tried to play it cool. "How much damage?" I asked.

"Aw, no real damage," he said. "Some papers torn up and stuff. Nothing major."

"Does she do this a lot?"

"Naw, not usually! When you watch her she's real good and cute and stuff. But you leave her alone, you know, she's just like a kid. Does crazy stuff."

Will's first writing piece is also about the ferret. I haven't read it yet, only looked over his shoulder while he was writing it. But, as you can imagine, I'm looking forward to it.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Oof! (Welcome Back)

My calves, my eyes, my back...everything in my body is like, "Oof! So this is what it feels like to do a full day's work!" Yeah, we're all back for real now. Kiddies were in today. Rules were explained, icebreakers were endured, bulletin boards were covered, room-sharing arrangements were (or probably are still being) ironed out. One down, 180 to go.

My first day was pretty good. My classes seem really nice. Of course, I've already pinpointed a few darlings who should NOT sit together, but overall, the kiddies (and the adults) were on their respective best behaviors. My room looks nice.

That's about all I have to say because I'm EXHAUSTED. But I'll have more to say soon.

BTW: My posting schedule at NYC Educator is back to Tuesdays and Thursdays for the fall starting Tuesday, September 14.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Night Before the Night Before the First Day of School

Whew, and welcome back! Did we all have a nice summer? Yes? Good. Mine was all right. To be honest, it kind of went downhill in August. I can't deal with the heat and The Morton School v.2.0 (to be referred to hereafter as TMS2) didn't send me my curriculum materials until, uh, a couple of days ago (yes, despite repeated badgering), so Miss Eyre got good and bored. I admit it. I read twentysome books and watched a LOT of movies and went to a couple of museums and such. But most days it was too hot for me to feel going outside. So, anyway, the point is:

I am glad summer is over.

Yes, you read that right. I am glad summer is over. Glad, glad, glad. I want to go back to work. I'm itching to get to know my new students and colleagues. I'm exciting about trying the new things I was afraid to try at TMS1. I am not even dreading tomorrow's day full of meetings because I really need to know how my new school works. I confessed earlier today that so far TMS2 seems a little too good to be true. The colleagues and administrators I've met so far just seem too pleasant, reasonable, and helpful. The way things are done seems a little too self-explanatory and trusting of teachers. This is the DOE. I know this is far too much to expect.

So I'm going into tomorrow with very low expectations, but into Wednesday with only the highest. I'm already just about ready to go for Wednesday.

And if you're not totally annoyed with me by now and you've kept reading up to this point, good luck this week!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Back-to-School Shopping and Reading

Hello friends,

Just another quick post to keep things at least slightly alive here before school starts! Hope everyone is enjoying summer vacation. Even if you have a fairly elaborate classroom setup with which to contend, you should still have two more good weeks of relaxing remaining. Max it out.

Since I'm apparently a masochist who is ever-so-slightly looking forward to returning to school, I'll blog a bit about my preparations so far. I've hit Staples twice. I bought a case of paper ($25 or so with an Easy Rebate; good deal!) because you never know when that will come in handy. The former Morton School's schizoid copy "policy" last year found me able to get some copies made sometimes in the main office, but more often than not I was on my own. By being judicious about when I really needed something copied, printing on both sides of the paper, reusing scrap paper, and shamelessly soliciting paper donations from students, I was able to make my case of paper last all year. I also bought some five-cent pocket folders, one-cent notebook paper, #2 pencils, and dry-erase markers. These are the kinds of things your school should supply, but we all know that that does not always happen. Those are some good basics to get you started.

I've also bought a few new teacher books, all of which are good reading. I blogged about Kelly Gallagher's work again at NYC Educator this morning, and I'm happy to report that his two books that I've now read are both well worth your dollars and your time. Readicide: How Schools Are Killing Reading and What You Can Do About It is a marvelous companion to Thomas Newkirk's Holding on to Good Ideas in a Time of Bad Ones, another book I've heartily recommended to ELA teachers. And Gallagher's Reading Reasons is a wonderful collection of solid, easy-to-follow minilessons about both academic and real-world literacy, many of which I can easily imagine real students and teachers actually enjoying. This is empowering and sensible reading for ELA teachers.

Another book I picked up is Three Minute Motivators by Kathy Paterson. Although you might have been taught in ed school that your motivator comes at the beginning of your lesson, many of Paterson's motivators are useful as transitioning, refocusing, and closing activities. Some are longer than three minutes and would work well as review games and contests. Some of the activities are more geared to the elementary crowd, but as a middle school teacher transitioning to high school, quite a few of them seem like they would work for all ages.

Feel free to share your own recommendations in the comments.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Who Wants to Think about Test Scores?

Not me. We're just about halfway through summer vacation and school is still pretty far from my mind. But it was hard to miss the "release" of the test scores today. I say "release" because it's hard, if not impossible, for us teachers to get any meaningful information. The best y'all can do, as far as I can tell, is this document from the state education department that does break scores down as far as grade, district, and building.

I'm pretty sure everyone's numbers went down, but my individual numbers still look pretty darn good, at least comparatively speaking; my students' scores are well above the district average and are among the highest in my district. That's never bad news. I just wish I could see specifics so I know how individual kids did. The specific scores will be up on ARIS the second week of August, allegedly, but everything needs to be downloaded from ARIS by the 20th of August because it all needs to be reloaded for next year. That's tight.

I'd like to know why the scores couldn't be released to teachers today. ARIS cost $70 million, right? Are you going to tell me it still takes 2 weeks to get everything loaded? Human data entry people could probably get it done in less than 2 weeks.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Summer Vacaaaaaaaaaaaaaation

I haz it.

More reflective post on the end of the school year forthcoming.

Down to one day a week at NYC Educator for the summer until the school year gears up again.


Tuesday, June 15, 2010

On the Foolishness of Certain Memos

The teachers at the Morton School recently received a memo admonishing us to wait until the last 2-3 days of school to dismantle classroom libraries, take down bulletin boards, and the like. I appreciate the spirit of this memo, but in practice find it absolutely impracticable.

Those of us teaching with classroom libraries constituting several hundred volumes have a daunting task: sorting and storing books for the new school year. If your school, like mine, is used for summer school, all of these materials must be secured so that they aren't "borrowed" during the summer. If you don't want to spend September in any more pain than you have to, you want to assure that things are put away with some sense of rhyme and reason so that unpacking is not terribly daunting when you come back for the fall.

"But Miss Eyre," you might say, "surely, as a professional, you can understand that this task might require time outside of the school day?" Yes, I do. I stayed at school two hours late today and worked through most of my lunch getting my library sorted out for next year. I am maybe 25% done. New book purchases mean that books must be leveled; books must be sorted according to genre and level; and then stored. When I'm really clicking along, I can do maybe 30-40 books in an hour, but when you have over 100 new books to be sorted and leveled, plus a new sorting system for next year, you're talking a multi-hour task. Saving it for the last 2-3 days of school is just not doable. In fact, looking at the work still remaining after my efforts today, I'm glad I started today.

"Maybe if your classroom library was sorted and leveled to begin with, you might not have to do this." Well, you're probably right. The problem is that when I first got my classroom, I got boxes and boxes of books, most of which were not leveled, none of which were sorted by genre, and some of which were totally inappropriate for my grade. These books I have gradually weeded out over the years, only to have them replaced by more books--purchases of my own, the school's, the PTA's. All of this takes time. Plus the new requirement that 100% of books must be leveled and sorted by genre, as opposed to the old 30-40% target--you can see why this is a substantial task.

Putting together the physical space of a classroom when you teach the lower grades (I'm counting anything lower than 9th as "lower") is a task that takes close to a week of full-time days. Why administrators think that you can take it all apart on your 45-minute prep period over 2 or 3 days in June is beyond me.

Happy packing, everyone. In flagrant disobedience of the memo, I'm already underway.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Passing, and Getting Beyond Passing

Well, whoopee for Miss Eyre. All my little darlings passed the ELA exam. Not like I had many worries that they wouldn't, but it's nice that it's official.

And with school winding down, I've been talking a lot with my kiddies about the future and reading many of their hopes and dreams for high school. My curmudgeonly self has to admit it's been, well, inspiring. A couple of the girls with whom I worked closely this year talked about high school with shy-but-big smiles, saying they feel prepared to go there and do well. (They're not deluded, either; I think they're ready, too.) One of my male students wrote an essay about making the honor roll for the first time and it literally made me cry. That recognition meant the world to that kid.

I guess I've felt like a failure so much this year that it's been wonderful to be reminded, despite my myriad mistakes, that I was still a force for good, on the balance, in my kids' lives. There's so much more I wish I could have done; I suppose there always is. At the end of the year I always feel like Oskar Schindler at the end of Schindler's List; "I could have got more," he frets, "I didn't do enough." (I'm not saying I put my entire fortune and, indeed, life on the line like Schindler did or anything; that is, I'm not equating myself with him. My martyr complex isn't quite that severe.)

But I did a lot. I'm not going to change everyone's life. But if I, working with my colleagues, was able to bring the lion's share of the kids to a point where they feel excited and confident about moving on to high school, I did all right. I can hold my head up. That's better than passing.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

No Staycation for Miss Eyre This Summer

Since I'm not getting laid off, I'm planning a real summer vacation. I've staycationed for the past two summers, and while I genuinely love messing around in the city, I have a bit of an itch for travel and I'm looking forward to scratching it.

It's not quite finalized where I'm going yet, but it makes me feel good to be able to put it on the blog.

Monday, May 31, 2010

20 Days of School Left

I am awake, still, doing stuff for school I can't even talk about. I graded papers for three hours today and now I am doing stuff for people who find it charming to tell you things they need at 3 p.m. on a Friday before a three-day weekend.

Only 20 days of school left. I can make it.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Another Sunday Night

Tomorrow, we'll have exactly five weeks of school left. Subtract Memorial Day and Brooklyn-Queens Day* and that's 23 school days. Subtract the clerical half-days that we folks in the elementary and middle schools have, subtract Regents Week (since no real instruction happens that week) for our colleagues in high schools, you're looking at just about 20 days, give or take a couple.

*What is Brooklyn-Queens Day, my friends outside NYC wonder? It's the day that marks the anniversary of Brooklyn and Queens joining the City of New York. Yes, there is really a day off from school for this. Well, the kids stay home; the teachers come in for a CHANCELLOR'S CONFERENCE DAY, which is about as much fun as it sounds.

We're still hard at work in Miss Eyre's classroom. The kiddies are gearing up for their social studies exit project presentations, among other things, which will happen in the second-to-last full week of school. I'm starting to openly beg for classroom library books to be returned; after all, a good many of them were bought with my own money and I'd like to have them back for next year.

But other things are drawing to a close. Our last book talks are scheduled for this week, and our last vocabulary quiz. We'll take our last social studies test soon, before we start preparing for the state social studies exam, which is much sooner than any of us think it is.

I'm elated and depressed to think about this school year ending. True, it's been a difficult year for me. But I have lovely groups of kids and I'm very much running out of time to spend with them. I've stayed in touch with many of my former students, and while it always makes my day to hear from any of them, it's never the same as having them together. The magic never re-forms itself after they go their separate ways.

Still, it's another Sunday night here in New York City and, as usual, I'm foggy-headed trying to piece the week together. Not unusually, I'm facing a number of interruptions ("special events") in this week's calendar and am trying to figure out when and how to fit everything in. I'm still grading papers and figuring out which students need to have conferences soon. Life goes on more or less as scheduled, even with so little time left.

I plan to make it to the end of this school year with my sanity, my dignity, and my rating intact. Beyond that, who knows.

Monday, May 17, 2010

College for Everybody, Anyway

I like Claus van Zastrow's post on continuing the push towards college for everyone over at his Public School Insights blog today. He makes one of the few points about "college readiness" that rings true and sensible to me: "The vast majority of wealthy parents expect their kids to go to college," he writes. "Even some of those pundits who pooh pooh college in the pages of the Times or The Wall Street Journal would likely pitch a fit if their own children decided to go the voc-ed route. Poor children face a very different reality. (...) [T]hose who never went to college are getting hit hardest by this recession. The poor get poorer."

I'm skeptical, I admit, of the idea that all children can be made college-ready. Most children can, but many won't cooperate with the effort. But--and here's the key--college should be suggested and encouraged for every child. The child for whom college is the right thing--and maybe that's a poor child, an immigrant child, a child with learning disabilities--will be heartened and motivated by the expectation, the assumption that he, too, can make it to college. And the child for whom college is not right will hardly be dissuaded from education altogether by someone suggesting that she should stretch herself.

Maybe college preparation activities should be made "opt-out" at schools, rather than opt-in; that is, college tours or visits by admissions officers or SAT prep should be de rigueur for everyone. Only after a careful and realistic evaluation made by the student, his or her family, and a counselor should the child be pursuing other options that are concrete and realistic for that child. And those options should still include education.

I feel like a system like that would preserve the push towards college for bright, motivated kids who simply feel discouraged that college is out of their reach because of lack of resources. It would perhaps inspire some students to aim for college even if they didn't think they could or should do it before. And it would also help to care for those students who might still decide college is not for them.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Principal X: Developing

Well, it's been a fun year with Principal X. (Not really.) But let's face it: Principals have tough jobs too. I try to be a generous critic. So I'm going to list some of the good things that Principal X did at the Morton School this year:
  • Instituted more teacher-led professional development (previously, there was little to none of this).
  • Kept grades together for lunch periods (sounds like a small thing, but I think it made a big difference).
  • Helped students launch two new community service projects.
  • Hosted parent breakfasts for parents who have a hard time making it to PTA meetings in the evenings.
  • Planned professional development across the curriculum rather than just focusing on reading and math.
  • Kept appointments with members of the school consultation committee.
But, if I were rating Principal X under the new teacher evaluation system, I think s/he would still only rate a Developing. Why?
  • Teachers were evaluated and often criticized for not doing things for which they had explicitly and repeatedly requested training that they did not get.
  • Principal X cannot give a compliment to save his/her life.
  • Principal X's relationship with Miss AP is rapidly and obviously degenerating into total and mutual hatred.
  • Principal X has often undermined teachers' attempts to discipline students and does not follow the DOE Discipline Code, meaning that too many students are getting away with too much.
Where does this leave my relationship with Principal X? Honestly, I know there are some true nightmare principals out there and mine isn't one of them. And since I (painfully) remember my first year of teaching and can rattle off a list dozens deep of mistakes I made during my first year, I'm going to give Principal X the benefit of the doubt.

But in order for PX to get any better, s/he has got to become a better leader to the teachers. I don't think any teacher at the Morton School feels like PX appreciates them or recognizes their efforts. I said to a colleague the other day that our other colleagues would be much more forgiving of PX, given the very real challenges PX has had to face, if PX weren't so relentlessly critical of us.

So that's where we stand with exactly six weeks of school left. I suppose Developing means that PX can keep the job for next year but needs to do some reflecting and retraining. That sounds about right.

Friday, May 7, 2010

Salute to Smooth

I haven't written about Smooth much this year, and when I mentioned him briefly in my NYC Educator post yesterday, I had to ask myself why. Smooth is a very interesting kid. If you met him, you'd think he was your standard-issue popular kid: he's cute, well-dressed, and just smart-alecky enough to be funny without being disrespectful or disruptive. He gets good-enough grades; not great, and probably not as good as he could do if he really tried, but good enough. You probably have a kid or two like Smooth. You probably like him and don't give him much more thought.

I've known Smooth for as long as I've been at the Morton School. He's always been the way he is. Except for the first half of this school year. I talked to his mom a few weeks into the school year and commented that he seemed much more reserved, maybe even a little down, than I'd known him to be in the past. He wasn't jokey and fast-talking the way he always was before, and his grades, instead of being good enough, were just north of failing.

His mom sighed. "It's his brother," she said. "He's in jail. Smooth really looks up to his brother and he made some really foolish choices, and he got caught."

I felt terribly. Smooth's brother is considerably older than him and had been out of the house for a while, but Smooth's dad is not involved with him, so the brother was something of a father figure. Smooth was angry at his brother but also missed him. Smooth's mom promised to get him into counseling and work with him to get his grades up.

Well, fast forward to May. Against those lousy odds, Smooth turned the ship around. First his grades started ticking upward. Then he started dating a sweet girl in his class. Then his former personality started wiggling out again--a funny impression here, a sarcastic remark there--and I'd say he's back to his old self.

But it's not just that. Smooth grew a heart, too. He stays late after school every day--not because he gets AIS, but because his girlfriend does, and he waits for her to get out. The girlfriend was convinced, to the point of tears, that she bombed the math exam the other day, and he didn't want to leave her side. I mean, I know these kids are young and their relationships aren't *serious* per se, but I think that's sweet.

And you know what? I think Smooth is awesome. I just know so many kids who would give up in his situation. I love that he put himself back on the right path (with help from mom and a counselor). I love that he's kind to his young lady. I even love that he messes around in class, just a little, because I think he's finding school tolerable, even positive, again.

I've been wanting to write a note to his mom and tell her all this stuff, but I haven't been sure how to say it. Maybe I should just say what I said here.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

This Is Why I'm Hot

I've always been an advocate of teachers dressing professionally. I don't mind casual Fridays, but I just think that coming in in sweatpants and t-shirts on a regular basis (and, yes, those stretchy velour pants ARE SWEATPANTS, ladies, and I lump track pants into that category too) doesn't send the right message. I've made a lot of mistakes in four-five years of teaching, but I've never come to work in sweatpants. That has to count for something, right?

I'm finding it hard to maintain my self-imposed dress code, though, because at the Morton School, it.is.HOT. Disgustingly hot. The DOE, in its infinite wisdom, proposed an arbitrary calendar date rather than a temperature and humidity threshold for when air conditioning can be turned on. AWESOME.

"Well, Miss Eyre," you might say, "aren't you being a little spoiled? Not all schools even HAVE air conditioning, you know. You should be lucky you have it at all."

I agree. I should probably just suck it up. I should probably just open my windows--oh wait, NONE OF MY WINDOWS OPEN ALL THE WAY.

Well, I could prop open my door. I could ask my custodian for a doorstop. SORRY, WE'RE ALL OUT OF DOORSTOPS.

So the situation in Miss Eyre's room is thus:
  • I am trapped in a room full of 20-30 teenagers, not all of whom have mastered the fine art of deodorant wearing yet.
  • None of my windows open all the way.
  • My door is wedged open with a binder.
  • And, in this room--this very room--I have to administer a STATE MATH EXAM tomorrow. YES.
Forgive me if I show up tomorrow in a bathing suit and flip-flops.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Murderers' Row: The Sequel, Sort Of

Apparently this week I'm writing sequels to some of my previous blogs. Today, I'm tackling a fresh, if quick, revisitation of the Life at the Morton School classic Murderers' Row. The gist of this post was that, despite the relentless (some might say obsessive/self-aggrandizing/obnoxious/all of the above) drive of the New York Yankees to win the World Series every.single.year, they still have only done it 25% of the time--which is still far more than any other team in the league. And as far as this has implications for teaching and schools, you can't do reform (real reform, not what folks like Norm Scott charmingly call "deform") on the cheap or overnight. The Yankees organization, quite the bastion of unapologetic capitalism, knowa this, I note, so why not Mayor Bloomberg, he who believes that the free market will solve everything?

Then today, via GothamSchools, I picked up this delightful blog posting that also uses sports metaphors to get the point across. Most sensibly, this blogger, Sam Chaltain (with whom I was unfamiliar before but is becoming a very fast favorite!) points out that while there are certainly superstar teachers and teachers who might nicely be described as not-very-superstar-like, the vast majority lie somewhere in between on the competence and effectiveness scale. These teachers, he argues, need investment and support, not scorched-earth policies that force them to narrow their curricula, pedagogy, and (I think) their own spirits, interests, values, and talents in the classroom to what Chaltain calls "40 times"--reading and math test scores.

I don't know why I think people like Klein and Bloomberg will listen to Chaltain any more than they'll listen to me, but I would like to encourage him to keep talking.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


A student of mine whom I'll refer to as "Junior" was singing the Dora the Explorer theme song the other day. As a refresher here, I teach eighth grade. Maybe in a kindergarten classroom, the Dora theme would go unnoticed; in a middle school classroom, I found it surprising and touching.

Shortly thereafter that same time, I saw Junior in the hallway complaining to his friends about how long it was taking them to catch up to him. "Damn, n***a," he said, "let's go, we gotta get to class."

"Junior," I said sharply, "that's not appropriate."

"Oh," he said, realizing I was right behind him, "yeah, sorry."

"You know," I said, "not ten minutes ago you were singing the Dora song, and now I hear that kind of language from you?"

"Yeah," he said, shrugging. "You know. My little brother." (Junior has a brother in the elementary school; second grade, I think.)

"Well, you wouldn't want your little brother to hear that other language, would you?"

"Nah, nah," he said. "You're right."

I sent him on his way, shaking my head a little. It was a good reminder of just how "middle" middle school can be.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Fork

Principal X decided to "pop in" for a little while this afternoon. It was not really a good day to drop by. It was the last period of an 80+ degree day in an un-air-conditioned room with a bunch of teenagers, almost none of whom had done last night's homework, so...you tell me how you think the visit went.

The ensuing conversation with PX was unpleasant. Apparently I should just be conferring with students all the time. That's the only thing PX ever wants to see. Never mind that when s/he comes in during conferencing, I do that wrong too. Le sigh.

Anyway, after the Grand Poobah swept out of the room, I was officially drained of energy for the day. One thing I will say about my darlings, they have my back. They were dead silent the whole time PX was in the room, and looked about rather tentatively after PX left, wondering what to say or do. I made appropriate murmurings to put them back on task, somewhat halfheartedly. I think they could tell I wasn't going to enforce this too hard, but God bless them, they got right back to work.

They plugged away for a few more minutes until a boy I'll call Teddy raised his hand. "Miss Eyre?" he said. "I don't know if now is a good time to tell you this, but you have a fork in your hair."


I reached up and touched my ponytail, where I tend to absentmindedly stash pens and pencils. Sure enough, there was a plastic fork stuck through it. I remembered thinking a spork would be better suited to my lunchtime yogurt today. And that was evidently where I'd put the unneeded fork.

I burst out laughing. The kids laughed along with me. I gave Teddy a hug. And I said, "Okay, kids, let's call it a day."

And I went home with them at the end of the day. 'Cause, man, when you've been dressed down by your boss with a fork in your hair, really, you've got nowhere else to go from that point.

Friday, March 26, 2010

On the Eve of Spring Break

Rest up, have fun, be safe.

If you teach 8th graders, try to get the message to them that their high school letters are coming.

Pray/hope/vibrate for good weather.

We all deserve it...this is the last big one until the summer, so make the most of it!

94 calendar days until June 28.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mi Asignatura Favorita

Well, if you read my most recent post at NYC Educator, you'll know I was feeling somewhat disheartened about how the Learning Environment Survey was playing out in my class. Thankfully, a bulletin board--yes, a bulletin board--helped to lighten my mood.

I have to admit I don't always read my colleagues' bulletin boards, particularly when they're not in my native language. This particular bulletin board was in Spanish, and perhaps I thought I was practicing my rusty Espanol by stopping and leering for a minuto. Many of the pieces displayed on this board belonged to my own students.

The writing that the maestra had them doing was about their favorite subjects--their asignaturas favoritas. They had to name their favorite subject and why they liked it. Guess what? About half of them said their favorite subject was Ingles.

Okay, that about made my day.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Save Student MetroCards!

It's hard enough to get some kids to show up to school with MetroCards. Take away MetroCards and you're putting an already-vulnerable population at risk for missing more and more school. Sign the Working Families' Party petition to save student MetroCards.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Sunday Night Optimism

Sunday Night Optimism is cousin to Monday Morning Quarterbacking. Sunday Night Optimism says, "I had a very nice weekend and I feel prepared to go back to work. Everything is going to be fine this week. Heck, I might even have reason to look forward to work this week." This is a fine feeling to have on Sunday night. Here I sit, a large pile of graded papers beside me, lessons ready for tomorrow, a tasty dinner in my belly and one more movie in the DVD player before I call it a weekend. However, as frequent readers of this blog know, Sunday Night Optimism is a bad feeling for me. It has, as of late, portended a horrible week.

BUT. BUT! I dodged two major bullets last week: the Quality Review report, in which I was not implicated; and the Teacher Data Report, which turned out fine. And assuming no psycho parents show up for Open School Night (we really don't have any hardcore psycho parents in my grade, thank goodness), it should be a reasonably smooth week.

I'm off now to knock on every wooden surface in my apartment.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Meetings Will Continue Until Morale Improves

The shit has hit the fan at the Morton School. Phrases like "worst week of my life," "career change," "utterly depressing," "all for nothing," and more are emerging from whispered conversations in the hallways and the teachers' lounge. It's the kind of talk one might expect to hear in, say, a SURR school facing a 50% budget cut in which one-quarter of the teacher and student population had recently, say, died.

Nothing of the sort has transpired. I tend not to say very much about the general environs of the Morton School to keep this blog as anonymous as possible, but what the hell. I took the name of this blog from Jane Eyre, the timeless story of a determined young woman who, among other things, does time as a teacher. The very name "Morton School" brings to mind Jane Eyre's little school, in which the strong-willed Jane takes all comers and, with her unique blend of smarts, toughness, creativity, and love, turns her students into self-respecting and well-prepared young people. She says of her school and her students, "These soon took a pleasure in doing their work well, in keeping their persons neat, in learning their tasks regularly, in acquiring quiet and orderly manners. The rapidity of their progress, in some instances, was even surprising; and an honest and happy pride I took in it: besides, I began personally to like some of the best girls; and they liked me." Later, when she concludes her tenure there, she says, "I had long felt with pleasure that many of my rustic scholars liked me, and when we parted, that consciousness was confirmed: they manifested their affection plainly and strongly.(...) Mr. Rivers came up as, having seen the classes, now numbering sixty girls, file out before me, and locked the door, I stood with the key in my hand, exchanging a few words of special farewell with some half-dozen of my best scholars: as decent, respectable, modest, and well-informed young women as could be found in the ranks of the British peasantry." I'll spare you any further forays into proto-Victorian literature; suffice it to say that this is largely how I see myself, my school, and my students (though perhaps the author Charlotte Bronte is a tad condescending towards Jane's students at times).

The Morton School, circa NYC in 2010, is a lovely school. Our building is kept clean and pleasant by all teachers and by a dedicated custodial staff. We are fortunate to have a very fine arts program that gives students a number of opportunities to pursue visual art, music, and dance. We have a beautiful library cared for by an excellent librarian. Of course, if none of those "frills" matter to you these days, take a look at our test scores. They're good. Great, in fact. We send a sizeable percentage of students, above the citywide average, to the specialized high schools year after year. You can say you work at the Morton School with a sense of pride, knowing that our school gets dozens of resumes every year for positions that are very unlikely to become open. How yours truly ended up there remains a mystery. But, if the numbers are any indication at all, I've held my own there.

So why is everyone at the Morton School so miserable?


Principal X has gotten the results of our Quality Review. And, apparently, it sucks. Again. How a school that operates like ours does and produces such good results ends up with such a lousy review is beyond me. After all, I'm just a village schoolteacher, as Jane might say. But it makes me wonder: What good is this doing anyone if, by any other measure you can imagine, our school is pretty darn good? What are we missing? Why are we constantly feeling pressure to fix that which is not, it would seem, broken?

I don't know the answers to these questions. But probably Principal X will deem more of the same to be necessary: More upheaval that doesn't help teacher or student; more meetings; more paperwork; more "you suck" as both implicit and explicit messages in feedback.

I'm not saying there's no room to improve at our school. There always is. But there's the idea of continuous improvement, because one wants to maintain the quality one has and expand it; and there's the idea of IMMEDIATE AND TOTAL REFORM BECAUSE EVERYTHING YOU ARE DOING SUCKS. Maybe Principal X and the quality reviewer mean the former. But the message we're getting is the latter. And that's not helpful for anyone.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

My New Obsession: Teachable Moments (No, Not Those Bizarre Moments in the Middle of Class)

But this very funny webcomic by teacher Chris Pearce. All are SFW, so feel free to distribute widely and enjoy a chuckle!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Drop Everything and Read

Today was such a crazy freakin' day that I sat down and read with the kids during DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) time today for about fifteen minutes. I was reading a book that one of them recommended to me (Uprising by Margaret Haddix Peterson, historical fiction about the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire).

It was nice.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Very Productive Long Weekend

That's what I had. I graded four sets of papers, planned lessons for this whole week, worked on some stuff for an extracurricular activity I advise, and finished two reports for my literacy coach. I AM AWESOME.

Here's my problem, which happened after Christmas vacation and again after winter recess last week: I'll feel FINE about going back to work--accomplished, in control, ready--and then by Monday or at the latest Tuesday, I'm depressed and demoralized again. I worked on that very hard this weekend. Even if I'm not "with the program," I'm still a good teacher for lots of reasons. I can see a few areas where I need to improve and I'm working towards that every day. I really and truly don't suck. I got a few nice compliments from colleagues and from students and even from my AP this past week, and I HAVE to hold on to those things. If I let Principal X be the sole source of my feel-good about work, well, it's just not going to happen. S/he just is not in the business of giving warm fuzzies. And maybe I have to learn to live with that, at least for the rest of this school year.

I even got my car dug out, so I should be able to breeze off to the Morton School tomorrow problem-free.



Here we go again. 120 days until summer vacation.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Come On, Saint Eulalia...

Let's do this thing.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Back to the Grind

Tomorrow we're all back to work and I have to say I had a really nice break. I didn't do much, but I had tried to plan it so that I wouldn't need to. The Morton School recently gave out report cards, so I didn't have a backlog of grading to work through. I have eight million interruptions this week, so I didn't need to plan a full week of lessons, either. About the only thing I have left to do is preview a movie I might show the kiddies, which will be a nice quiet way to pass this Sunday morning.

My resolution for the rest of this year is to stop letting Principal X and the b-s at school get me down so much. I had some revelations in the past couple of weeks that reminded me that, details be damned, I am a good teacher who is respected and appreciated by current and former students alike. That means a great deal to me. Principal X may not have any use for that particular measure of teacher quality, which is fine. It means everything to me, though.

This school year has been tough on everyone at the Morton School. I know this for certain now, that it was never just me. I'm doing the best I can in a difficult situation, and as long as I behave kindly and fairly to the kids and design lessons that don't waste their time, I am doing a good job. Everything else is details. Some details I'm good at, some details I'm not. C'est la vie.

Now, let's see if this eminently reasonable and healthy attitude endures for longer than 36 hours.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Quiet Winter Recess at Home

I wanted to go on vacation for this recess, I admit, but for various reasons it didn't work out. As it turns out, though, I'm okay with it. I'm having a nice winter recess anyway. I've visited with some friends and family, done some sightseeing across the city, enjoyed watching the Olympics, and caught up on some movies and books I've been meaning to get around to.

I came to the realization that, despite how hellacious work has been since returning from the holiday recess, I dragged my sorry butt in to work every single day. If ever I deserved a mental health day, these past six weeks were it. But I doggedly showed up every day, if only because I was embarrassed about how messy my desk was. So I pat myself on the back.

Incidentally, there are only five weeks between this break and the next one. But April and May are going to be looooooong. Still, March is right around the corner. The end is starting to come in to focus.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

All Hail Saint Eulalia

Won't be setting the alarm tomorrow! WOOHOO!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Back from the Dark Side

One of my most controversial posts here was this one, in which I complained, perhaps unfairly, about a colleague who, as I put it then, went over to "the dark side." She had been an administrative intern and seemed, for a while, to be firmly in Principal X's pocket. I am, in a tragic way, happy to report her return from the dark side. And yes, these days, at the Morton School, it definitely is the dark side. Sorry.

I had to talk to her today about a matter completely unrelated to general bitching about Morton School management, and we ended up having a just-like-old-times talk about how much everything has changed. Apparently my colleague found herself on the receiving end of Principal X's insanity a few too many times. We talked for almost an hour, leaving with promises to catch up more often. I was reminded what I'd always liked about her--her sense of adventure and abandon in the classroom, her irreverence and wit. She's a wonderful teacher and we're lucky to have her. And of course, I'm glad that she doesn't see me as a squeaky widget anymore!

Meanwhile, Principal X is getting crazier. Principal X making someone cry is hardly newsworthy, but the other day, one of Principal X's staunchest defenders broke down and cried. It's getting uglier by the minute in our "breezy mountain nook in the healthy heart of England," so to speak.

Thank God for the kids. Apparently my job is to teach them. Who knew?

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

¡Callate la Boca!

I had to talk to a colleague the other day. I caught her during our common prep, but she was on her way to cover a Spanish class.

She motioned me into the room anyway, and we tried to have our conversation, but the students in the room were giddy with the absence of their regular teacher. Within a few minutes, the room had erupted in chatter and laughter. "HEY!" my colleague shouted at them. "I know every single one of you and most of your parents! Your teacher left work for you and you're going to do it! And don't ask me for help, because the only Spanish I speak is ¡CALLATE LA BOCA! You got that?"

Chastened, they put their heads down and grudgingly pulled out their Spanish books.

I hope to one day achieve that level of classroom management.

Friday, January 29, 2010

January Is Over

Well, for all intents and purposes, January is over. On Monday, the school year will be more than halfway over. And thank goodness for that. I haven't had a month like this since early 2008.

"It has taken me a great deal to regain my footing," as Carl Jung once said, and I think I have. After a couple of weeks of total despair, I had a fairly peaceful and productive week this week. One rotten lesson with my difficult class, but okay, that happens sometimes. One annoying meeting, but only mildly annoying, and Principal X wasn't there for it. And I got lots done every single day--a couple of big projects and big piles of grading out of the way.

But boy, was this month ever a slog. I was saying to a colleague that last year, I didn't really start thinking about summer vacation until sometime in May. This year, I've been dreaming of summer since November. That's not so good. Now, at least, I can console myself by saying I'm more than halfway there.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Loose Lips Sink Ships

It's an old military saying, as you may know. I mentioned it today, along with the idiom "keep your cards close to your vest," to my class while trying to describe a character in a story who is quiet and reserved. I explained the source of the saying by saying that if a ship's location is known to an enemy, the enemy could come along and sink it, so you have to keep the ship's location a secret--loose lips sink ships.

"In that case," one of my students said, "my sister is lettin' in all kinds of water every time she open her mouth."

Yeah, I LOL'd.

Monday, January 18, 2010

I Like This Idea: Kelly Gallagher's Article of the Week

Taking this opportunity over the long weekend to do a little professional research, I came across this idea from Kelly Gallagher:

What a great way to build background knowledge while also allowing students to interact with texts in their own ways.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

'Kay, I'm Good Now.

Leaving work while it's still light outside=EPIC WIN.

Three-day weekend=AWESOMENESS.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Worst Drive Home from Work Ever

Well, I shattered my longest-day record for this school year. I clocked eleven hours in the school building today, which is way too long. And all the way home I was berating myself for my many failures as a teacher: not enough parent contact, too long to get papers graded, disorganized classroom, blah blah blah.

I wish I had a happy ending for this post, some peppy way that I talked myself out of this self-esteem death spiral. But I don't. I'm disappointing myself as a teacher. I can't even figure out why. I look at how hard I'm working and I don't know what I'm missing, but it's not enough, and everything that goes even slightly negative towards me just breaks me up right now. Today, just a mildly annoyed e-mail from a parent pushed me over the edge. I had to rehearse a reply in my head three times before I could come up with something conciliatory, pleasant, and helpful.

Today is one of those days when I remember my career in corporate America and I wonder if working for a soulless, faceless entity was really so bad. After all, I had a big desk, I could listen to music all day, and I never had to take work home. My work was easy to understand and, even though it could be time-consuming, I never had these spirit-killing doubts about how to do it. And if I didn't understand it, I could pop over to someone else's cube, ask them, and be set right usually in a matter of minutes and be on my merry way. Fixing a mistake didn't take days or weeks or months. It might not have been the most inspiring work, but dammit, I was good at it and my boss was happy with me.

These thoughts and more, right up to and including how on earth to roll over my TRS funds into a Roth IRA if I decide to quit, filled my mind on the way home from work today. I've been having too many of these days lately. Please someone tell me that this is not a sign, but is entirely normal, even well after one's first or second year is over. I'm feeling like a noob this week.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Another Perfectly Good Sunday Ruined

I wish I hadn't spent most of today doing schoolwork, but I did. Where does this shit come from?

I have THREE new units launching in the next two weeks, two of which are brand-new to me, so I had to prepare for that. One is more or less done, now. I had to spend a good hour or so reading, another hour or so filling out unit planners, another hour writing lesson plans for tomorrow, an hour going to and from Staples to make copies (don't blame the bizarro copying world at the Morton School, this time it's my own fault), and maybe one more hour (after dinner) grading. Okay, that's clearly five hours. Clearly enough for a Sunday.

But I still feel guilty because I have four huge stacks of fairly heavy writing to get through sometime soon, as well as two stacks of quizzes I hoped to do this weekend. But I HAD to take yesterday off. Last week was just too much. And I didn't even take yesterday entirely off because, among my relaxing, I watched a documentary I plan to show the kids, which should count as a little work too.

I'm out for PD one day this week, which is nice, even if setting up for a substitute is a hassle. I know what work I plan to leave for the kids already, anyway. And then next week we have a three-day weekend. I think I can make it to winter recess. Maybe.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Don't Mess with Shauna

I've written about Shauna here before. I love this kid, and today, I almost got into with Principal X over her.

Without going too much into the dirty details of the whole unpleasant sit-down I had today, one thing that really irked me--and I didn't even know how much until afterwards--was how much Principal X discounted Shauna. Shauna, as I've mentioned, is a former ELL--specifically, she tested out of ELL two years ago after arriving in the country four years ago. English is her third language, and she works very hard to improve her English. Anyway.

Principal X was questioning Shauna's records in my class and comparing them with what her most recent assessment showed. Principal X was dismissive because Shauna's score was only a 70%--which, last time I checked, was a high Level 3. Shauna has made progress every year in everything, if you look at her records on ARIS--her NYSESLAT climbed for three straight years until she tested out, she went from a 2 to a 3 on the ELA once she was in the country long enough to have taken in twice, her grades are good and her behavior is exemplary. I don't know why Principal X was being so hard on Shauna--and, by extension I suppose, on me.

You can criticize my teaching, my classroom, whatever and I'll try very hard to take it like a grownup. But pile on some kid who's obviously doing the very best she can, and I get nasty.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A Snapshot Is (Not) Worth a Thousand Words

I hate "walkthroughs," "snapshots," "learning walks" or whatever you want to call them. Well, I don't hate them all by themselves. I don't mind if an administrator wants to come by my classroom and look around and see what we're doing--I have nothing to hide. What I DO hate is when they come around in a pack with someone or several someones from outside the school, look around the whole room, take a bunch of notes, and leave without talking to me. Tell me that's not enough to rattle anyone!

I especially hate that it happened early in my day today and just left me anxious and cranky all day. I worked very hard to hide it, and I let the kids cheer me up this afternoon, not caring if social studies was perhaps more lively and freewheeling than it should have been. It helped me forget about it for a while.

As I said to a colleague yesterday, the children are always the least of my problems.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

A Wonderful Break

I hope all of my colleagues had a wonderful holiday break. I certainly did! I got to spend a lot of time with friends and family, read some great books (for work and for fun), did a lot of grading and reflecting, even cleaned my house. The terrible weather we had here in NYC was actually pretty conducive to having a nice time, for me, because it meant I could stay home and relax without feeling bad about not being out and about.

Breaks like these are so valuable. I feel great about going back to work tomorrow. I usually launch a new unit after the holidays, but this year we're going to ease our way back into the curriculum. We're going to have a few days of reflecting, goal-setting, portfolio building, and word work before we start our new unit. I'm sure my darlings won't be nearly as giddy to be back in the classroom as I will, so we'll go gentle for the first few days. They need some time to get back into the swing of things.

December is always a much longer month than January. You have a holiday in January, and then you have not so long until winter recess anyway.

All right, enjoy your last day off, everyone. Back for more fun tomorrow!