January 28, 2008

Hi, guys.

The deal is, I have tendonitis in both wrists and some carpal tunnel and a little RSI and possibly nerve damage. I’m not really allowed to type until it gets better — and that could be a while.


at this exact moment

January 7, 2008

I’m writing this from my classroom 25 minutes (ETA: 50) after class ended. There are ten students still here, asking me for help. I’m a little overwhelmed, frankly. Seven of them are freshmen who have projects due tomorrow (they are writing speeches based on primary source documents from the Crusades) while two are sophomores writing essays who need help outlining, and one is a senior who is working on a different essay.

Right now I am trying to teach one student how to write a topic sentence. I am explaining to someone else what “evaluate” means. Someone else is learning how to cite documents properly. The 9th graders are arguing over what a thesis is and how to write one. Another group of 9th graders have just realized that if they use a quote, they must explain it. (We have discussed this approximately once a day since the beginning of the year.) The girl sitting next to me is struggling to come up with a reason Mao was using his power in a negative way. The problem is English is so far from her native language that I have to spell every word for her — she spelled “each other” as “eacher” and “positive” as “postipe.” The young gentleman on my other side speaks French (he’s African) and I have been attempting to teach him what “natural resources” are in my shitty high school French. There is a young lady here I teach who has her very first credit card bill, which she brought in to show me so I can teach her how to to write a check and arrange the envelope.

I’m pretty freaking overwhelmed, actually. It’s hard to help kids one-on-one, and it’s hard to run a class of 34, but it’s really hard to help nine different people with twelve different things.

Boy, I can’t WAIT for projects/portfolios/finals/Regents to be over so I can go back to teaching.

students: overheard

January 2, 2008

“Yo, you ever have [Ms. Other History Teacher]?”

“Dude, her class is awesome.”

“It was great. She lets you do whatever you want. She never gets mad or anything.”

“Every time she turned around, we’d be throwin’ spitballs.”

“I slept most of the time.”

“Yeah, I didn’t learn anything that year.”

“I failed.”

“Still awesome, though.”

“Dude, totally!”

Who knows why they do anything?

December 19, 2007

Today a different kid came in to talk to me for no apparent reason. This one is a tenth grader (I teach his younger brother). “Miss!” he said. “Check out my report card! Not what you’d expect from a kid like me, right? A kid who looks like he’s from the ghetto?” (Points of interest: the school has a dress-code, so he was wearing a shirt, tie, and dress-pants when he said this, and also he speaks beautifully, unlike 80 percent of kids I’ve ever taught.)

“90, 91, 85, 94… This is an excellent report card. But wait, what’s this comment? ‘Is a distractive influence in class?'”

“Oh, that? I don’t know. I’m not a distraction!”

“Then why did your teacher put it here?”

“Sometimes I guess I talk a little.”

“A little?”

“I can’t help being hilarious! I say stuff, the other kids laugh! That’s not my fault. What, am I supposed to pretend not to be awesome and funny?”

“Well, what if you just didn’t do it every day?” (I’m friends with the teacher who left the comment, and I’ve heard about his class.)

“Miss, that would be dishonest.”

“Or, it would be a smart way to get your 85 up to a 90.”

He looked at me like I was totally crazy. Then we talked about baseball for twenty minutes.

small successes

December 18, 2007

Today after school a student came to find me to ask me for help. Here’s what’s interesting; he’s not one of my students, and he didn’t want help with my subject. He’s met me at tutoring a couple of times where I helped him with history. Today he got particularly stuck trying to paraphrase a quote for English class he came looking for me.

We talked through it (“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy” is a lovely phrase, but REALLY HARD if English isn’t your first language) and he left with half his homework done.

I don’t know. It made me feel really good, so I thought I’d share.

at least it’s available, I suppose

December 17, 2007

Teachers at my school are often encouraged to use more technology in the classroom. I’ve used laptops twice this year and no one has died or broken one, but it was a close thing. Today I had a total meltdown; my LCD projector didn’t work, and then the speakers didn’t work, and the replacement speakers didn’t work, and the replacement projector ALSO didn’t work.

I think technology is hugely important for kids to learn; I show pictures, snippets of movies, interactive maps, videos, etc. But I also think it’s basically impossible to use when I teach back-to-back classes with only a one minute transition period and I have to travel from one end of the school to the other. Technology needs to be set up and tested before I try to use it with 9th graders. They don’t sit still very well. Nor do they deal well with, “Sorry kids, this isn’t working today. Get out your notebooks again!”

I didn’t deal with it very well either, to be honest. I was frustrated and disappointed and annoyed. The best part is, tomorrow I get to try again.

The reality of NYC schools

December 16, 2007

I did a google search this weekend for lesson plans on the Crusades. I always make my own up, but it’s nice if other people have found primary sources for me. I found a project that sounds a lot like what we’re going to be doing in class; splitting in to groups of Muslims, Christian Kings, and clergy, each of whom has their own point of view on the crusades and will debate in class. But then I saw the note on the lesson plan:

“I like to split the class in to three groups. I usually have about 12 students in the class, so it works out pretty well.”

I have a minimum of 32 students in each of my classes. Sigh. I guess I won’t be borrowing that plan any time soon.