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.