Of Interest

It’s Christmas break and I’m not thinking about school.  🙂

But I haven’t stopped thinking altogether.  In light of that, I thought I would call your attention to some of the most interesting things I’ve come across over the last week.

  • The Dallas Morning News named The Illegal Immigrant as their 2007 Texan of the Year.  I thought the article was beyond fabulous.  It is slowly dawning on me that I teach in the city that is the hotbed of controversy in this region.  I don’t know what the outcome is going to be, but I do know that I’m living in the middle of history every day.
  • Every week, the BBC News blog, Magazine Monitor, publishes “10 Things We Didn’t Know Last Week.”  I’ve subscribed to the RSS feed!  I also look forward to the year-end edition: “100 Things We Didn’t Know Last Year.”  I haven’t found 2007’s yet, but you can find 2006’s list here.

Hmm.  I thought I had more, but I guess that’s all.  Perhaps I haven’t been thinking as much as I thought I had! 🙂

Happy New Year!

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December 31, 2007 at 1:58 pm Leave a comment

Two days until break!

I am pretty sure I read another blog one time that said something like, “If you’re a teacher who’s counting down the days until vacation, you might not be in the right profession.”  There are two things I know today:

  1. I am in the right profession.
  2. I am definitely counting down the days until Christmas break. 🙂

Generally speaking, we have begun to pull our heads out (of the sand…or wherever we’ve had them).  Grades are improving drastically!  Assignments are piling up on my desk!  I hardly know what to do with myself.  It’s all very exciting.

But I’m still looking forward to having a couple of weeks off.

The semester is drawing to a close and very soon, I’ll get the opportunity to go through my government curriculum a second time.  I’m really looking forward to making improvements wherever I can.  Some things have worked really well; others have not.  I am quickly coming to appreciate the fact that I get to retool my lessons so soon after their debut.  Semester classes are good that way…

…but I’m still looking forward to vacation!

I am feeling a little out of touch as far as technology goes.  I feel like I haven’t really learned (or tried) anything new in quite some time.  I’m also frustrated that my students have more restrictions on their laptops than ever before.  We’ve had all kinds of issues.

But no matter – we have two days left.  Time to rest, then come back refreshed and ready to tackle whatever life throws at us.

Hope your holidays are as happy as mine are going to be!

December 20, 2007 at 8:29 am 1 comment

I am dreading 2nd Period.

Because we have to have a little heart-to-heart.

It’s sort of my “lay it all out there, be honest, and hope for the best” approach.

I’ve tried everything I know to try with them to no avail.  So I figure I might as well just let them know what the situation is as I see it.  We need to discuss the fact that graduation really is on the line.  It doesn’t matter that they’re AP students; I can’t – and won’t – just pass them if they haven’t done the work.  I am going to do my best today to make sure that that is clear and that they understand that no matter how young I am, no matter how relaxed I am, I mean business when I say that the grade you earn is the grade you’re stuck with….

Wish me luck.

December 6, 2007 at 9:25 am Leave a comment

Second verse, (almost) same as the first…

The second attempt at layered curriculum was better than the first.  I’ve had several students tell me that they were overwhelmed by what seemed like a ton of work the first time around, so instead of just chipping away at it little by little, they just decided to skip it entirely.  I can’t understand that mentality with respect to school, but I do realize that that’s exactly how I treat housework.  Sometimes it’s too overwhelming, so I just sit and watch television instead.  Anyway, this time, they did a layered unit without knowing it.  I surprised them with the news on the last day of the unit.  They groaned at first, but then we looked over the assignments together and they realized they’d already completed most of it.

Despite the increased success, I had lots of failures this last six weeks.  This is only a one-semester course, and there are several that I already know I’ll have back in my class next semester.  It’s a little disheartening.  Well, okay, it’s actually a lot disheartening.  I just have to keep trying to do things better.

However, there are some positive things going on.

The first is that I am munching on Cheetos Puffs.  Muy delicioso!

The second is that the fact that this is only a one-semester class means that I get to revamp my lessons soon!  It’s nice to get to retool things in the same year, rather than having to wait an entire year like you do in a year-long course.

There are other things that are keeping me chipper right now, but the parent meeting I have to go to in about 6 minutes is not one of them.  This particular student is a senior (or an early-graduating junior) who turned in one assignment in my class for the entire 2nd six weeks.  sigh.

I will try to post again soon with more positives.  It’s such a festive time of year – it’s good to focus on cheerful things!

Anything fun going on in your lives?  Any successes with your students that really stand out?  I’d love to hear about them.

December 3, 2007 at 2:41 pm 1 comment

They say a messy desk is a sign of intelligence.

And if that’s true, I’m a total genius.

I can see about two square feet of my desk. The rest of it is covered in books, paper, pens, miniature clocks with movable hands, etc. And it’s not even in piles – it’s just tossed on my desk like some sort of typhoon moved through.

I have wanted to write a new post for about a month, but I have a lot going on that the rest of the world doesn’t really need to know about. Some things have happened in my family that are distracting me right now. Perhaps I’ll be able to share more at some point.

Anyway, a couple of weeks ago I gave my Government students my very first attempt at a layered curriculum. It worked well for some; most of them, however, accomplished very little. I had to have the “No, you cannot turn it in tomorrow; I’ve already extended your deadline; next time you’ll have to work on it rather than goof off” chat with more than a few.  I am not sure what they thought would happen if they didn’t do the assignments…. I’ve decided that because they’re seniors and because we’re turning them loose on the world in eight months, I’m really doing them a disservice if I let them get away with not doing anything. I’m not afraid to keep them in high school an extra semester – or even an extra year – if it helps them be better prepared for life and the demands of a boss in the long run.

But I still hate telling them “no.” I have to get over that. I have to be okay with them failing when it’s legitimate. It’s something I go back and forth on – especially when their sweet little faces are practically begging me to take a paper. Sometimes it’s easy. But sometimes, like last week, it counts for a major grade and their lack of effort is going to cause them to fail. They have to participate if they want to graduate, and I need to figure out what I can do to make them want to participate.

Around the same time in AP Government, we had a “class debate” about the Electoral College.  I say “class debate” because really, it was more of a one-sided conversation by one student and the rest of the kids just sort of let this particular student dominate.  I tried to involve them as best as I could, but it just wasn’t happening.  I ended up asking a pro from down the hall to come speak during our next class about the need for the Electoral College today and enjoyed his lecture very much.  I was impressed that my kids asked him a lot of good questions, but I’m left wondering why they don’t ask me questions….

Generally, I feel I’m in a bit of a rut right now and I need help digging myself out.

On the plus side, I started another layered unit with my Government students late last week – only this time, I didn’t tell them!  I’m just giving them the assignments one by one, and when they finish the C Layer (as early as next class), I’ll surprise them with the news.  I made sure to put some really fun activities in the A Layer and some interesting (but less fun) activities in the B Layer to encourage them to work for a higher goal.  We’ll see how it goes.

Went to my best friend’s wedding over the weekend and it was fabulous.  She’s on her honeymoon now – which is why I suddenly find myself with time to blog. 🙂

November 6, 2007 at 9:52 pm 1 comment

A List, Thursday-Style

Last night I had lots of things rolling around in my head and I think the time has come for me to get them out.  I have tons to do this weekend (tomorrow is the last day of the six weeks) and I need to be able to focus.  Shall I use numbers or bullets today?

  • I have Monday off.  I didn’t know this until two days ago, and it THRILLS me.  I’m definitely ready for a break.
  • I’m not too amused by the last-minute “What do I need to do to pass?” emails I’ve been getting from students.  I needed them to care about this three weeks ago, when they received their progress reports and could have actually done something about it.
  • Yesterday I saw the Ron Mueck exhibit at the Modern in Fort Worth.  It was beyond fabulous.
  • My grades are due on Tuesday, but I don’t want to spend the weekend working on them.  I’d like to have them done by tomorrow evening.
  • We had to discuss lockdown procedures at yesterday’s marathon faculty meeting.  It made me a little sick to my stomach.  We’re going to have a drill – which is good, because we all need to know what to do – but I’m a little freaked out about the whole concept.
  • A bright spot in the meeting?  Finding out that our school has the poorest kids in the district.  This is good news because we also happen to have the highest-performing students in the district.  It shows that we’re doing something right.  (Mind you, we already knew this.  It’s just nice to have confirmation on paper.)

What about you?  Any cool stuff going on in your classrooms/lives?

October 4, 2007 at 8:55 am Leave a comment

Happy Thoughts

The mood swing, mercifully, was on its way out shortly after I wrote my last post.  Now that I’ve had a couple of days, I’d like to mention some positive aspects of Saturday’s experience.

First of all – SURPRISE! – the training wasn’t a waste of time!  I learned a few things, and I’d like to highlight some of them here.

1) We learned about extension menus.  Basically, it’s a tic-tac-toe board (or bingo card) with different levels of questions about a particular topic.  Students can choose any row horizontally, vertically, or diagonally.  I like that it stretches their brains but also gives them choices.

2) The average age of the people in that room was…well, let’s just say I was definitely the youngest person there.  Considering I’ve only been doing this job for 5 weeks and two days….  I’m going to be fine.

3) I talked to a veteran teacher and posed the same questions I asked in my post.  He reassured me that I probably wouldn’t feel like I had “Differentiation in the AP Classroom” under any semblance of control until I’d been doing it at least seven years (give or take).

By Saturday afternoon, I’d let myself off the hook a little.  (And I will also admit that my world got a whole lot sunnier after the delicious Subway sandwich I ate for lunch.)

Then on Sunday, a coworker left the funniest comment EVER in response to my post, and that pretty much sealed the deal:

I’m going to be a good teacher.  I might not be one of the world savers referenced in this article, but, like this gal, I’m not going to give up on my students either.  I’ll find a nice balance – just maybe not right now, this six weeks, or even this year.

And I’m okay with that. 🙂

October 2, 2007 at 1:30 pm 1 comment

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