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!