vacation

June 30, 2007

Tomorrow morning I’m off to Guatemala! (I have a secret urge to go hide somewhere and send lots of fake postcards home in order to avoid the possibility of everything going hideously wrong. I had the same urge the day before I left for Japan. That worked out okay in the end.)

I will bring back approximately 9,000 photographs and hopefully some working knowledge of spoken Spanish. This blog won’t be updated again until the 23rd or so. Have an awesome summer, everyone!


last

June 27, 2007

Today was the actual last day of school. All the kids were supposed to come in and get report cards, but only about 50 did. I saw a few of my students, and they hugged me and told me they were sad that I wasn’t coming back next year. (I’m pretty sad, too.)

Then I walked out of the building I’m never going to work in again.  I know next year will be different and awesome in its own way. But today was hard anyway.


mistakes I have made part 1

June 25, 2007

When I was student teaching, I was mysteriously given my very own section to teach, with absolutely no supervision. (I say “mysteriously” because “the ‘real’ teachers just didn’t want to do it, and no one wanted to pay for a sub/real teacher” sounds mean, although it is true.) I was in a tiny room, with a giant pillar down the middle that meant I could only see half the students at a time. The desks were also so crowded together that I couldn’t get to the students at the back of the room. Delightfully, no one would give me a key to the room, so every time I was supposed to teach it I had to spend half an hour running around the building looking desperately for a janitor.

The tenth graders could tell immediately I had no idea what I was doing. I teach 10th grade now, and I love them, but at the time it was like being responsible for a room full of wild dogs, while covered in juicy raw steaks. I was awful. I didn’t know how to write a lesson plan, I was never given any kind of syllabus, I couldn’t remember their names.

The real nadir, however, was the day I was teaching (“teaching,” really) and suddenly smelled something. Smoke? I looked around. The kids were giggling.  I went into the hallway to see if anyone else was freaking out, or if there was a fire drill going on and I’d missed it. The kids giggled harder. Eventually I figured out why I smelled smoke; three of the little hooligans at the back of the room had lit cigarettes they were hiding under the desk. The room smelled like matches because they’d used them.

I couldn’t get to the back of the room to take them away. They were totally uninterested in me yelling at them. The other kids found the whole thing hilarious. I yelled a little bit, but they just shrugged. The bell rang and they sauntered out, totally confident that I — a brand new student teacher — wouldn’t do anything about it. And they were right; there was no one for me to tell about it, and the other teachers I complained to just told me I needed “better classroom management.” The other teachers, by the way, were total dicks.

Three years later I rule my classroom with an iron fist, but it was a long, hard learning experience to get here. I write things like this down in case anyone reading this is a brand new teacher, dealing with students and having trouble with classroom management. “Get better classroom management” really just means “Be totally confident in everything you do or say in the classroom — even if you have to fake that confidence. Practice saying ‘knock it off’ without yelling, but make sure you sound mean. Don’t confront kids in front of their peers. Arrange the classroom to your own benefit, and don’t let anyone rearrange it. Don’t ever appease teenagers.”

Also, I promise, things get better.


graduation story

June 22, 2007

Today was graduation. I teach 10th graders, so the seniors are nice kids I see in the hallway and sometimes tutor for the Regents, but not the kids I’d cry over. Except one.

I don’t remember how he learned that I speak Japanese, but sometime last year he asked if I would teach him. I was pleased (a chance to use something I really enjoy!) but skeptical (these kids don’t even show up for tutoring when the test means the difference between graduating or not graduating).

He showed up twice a week, every week, for the next two years. He learned two alphabets, all the colors, tons of nouns, verbs in the present and past tense, and conversations ranging from “How many books do you read a week?” to “Last night there was a loud party in Shinjuku; did you go?”

His parents weren’t thrilled. Japanese, his mother told me at parent-teacher conferences last winter, would not get him a job. Spanish would. And his grades in Spanish weren’t fabulous. I told her I would talk to her son about his academics, but if he wanted to learn Japanese in addition to his regular course load then I supported him. Kids should be allowed to study the things that interest them. I would have killed to learn Japanese in high school.

Two months ago he told me he’d been accepted to college with a scholarship, and that he’d be studying Japanese there. He’d already gotten email from his new Japanese professor. And he’d be studying abroad. It was required.

Last week I brought all kinds of Japanese junk food to school and we had a picnic in my classroom. He kept the bottle of Pocari Sweat to show his classmates. He was ecstatic.

Today, at graduation, his mother came up to me. “Are you Ms. A?” she asked. I said I was. “Oh, thank god. You’re the reason he’s going to college. You’re the reason he’s going to school to study Japanese. And you never charged him for the lessons or anything! My mother wants to meet you. So does his uncle. So does his cousin.” They took pictures. I was hugged by grandparents. Uncles and cousins and nephews all promised me that he’d email and let me know how college was going. I cried a little bit.

He hugged me — he’s about 6’6″, maybe 250 pounds. He lifted me clear off the ground. “I don’t know how to thank you, Miss,” he said. “I don’t know in English or Japanese.”

And I don’t know how to tell him that this is the story that will keep me teaching on days when I hate the students and I feel useless and angry, or on days when I find out one of them is pregnant and kicked out of the house, or on days when I have to tell a senior she can’t walk at graduation because she failed the Regents by two points.

Thank you.


they really, really can’t spell

June 21, 2007

HEY MS. —– THE BEST GLOBAL TEACHER AND TEACHER IN GENERAL THAT I EVER HAD!! OMGG MISZ IMA MISS U SOO MUCH!!! ITS GONNA B SO BORING AND DIFFERENT WITH OUT YOU NEXT YEARR!!! OMGG…WELL I WISH  you THE BEST IN THE NEW SCHOOL YOURE GOING TO TEACH NEXT YEAR! && I HOPE U WONT FORGET ME OFCOURSE! LOL =]…BUT IM JUS WRITING TO TELL U WHAT I JUS TOLD U && FOR MY CHEESY PICTURE THAT YOU TOOK OF ME IN CLASS TODAY! =]… && WISH ME LUCK FOR TOMORROW!!

LOVE UR BEST GLOBAL 4TH PD STUDENT**

[Sic] clearly.

PS — She got a 65. 🙂


faux pas

June 20, 2007

I don’t want you to think I just pick on students when I make fun of people. I make fun of everyone. I believe in equal opportunity mocking. Perhaps I will spend the summer telling stories of all the insanely stupid things I have done while attempting to teach.

In the meantime, there’s this:

As we graded the Global Regents one of my fellow history teachers turned to me. She’s taught all 8 semesters of history at some point, and most recently global.

“This student wrote his essay about Robespierre… He’s that Russian guy, right?”

If we’re going to ask the students to know these things, we should probably learn them ourselves.


flubs and misdemeanors

June 18, 2007

Most years the Regents we grade are filled with hilarious mistakes. (Did you know Hitler was the leader of the Jews? But “he was a bad leader.” Priceless!) This year the essays were so friggin’ hard the kids didn’t have time to come up with many crazy new historical “facts.” They did manage to be pretty awesome with the short-answers, though.

The reading passage was all about feudal rights owed to the lord of the manor by his serfs. The students had to come up with one advantage the Lord received (free work) and one the serfs received (food for them and their beasts). Most students just read it backward and told us the Lord recieved food, but a few came up with much more creative solutions.

“The serfs receive that they get to carry manure all day.” (Yes, that would be delightful.)

“The serfs get someone to carry their horse for them.”

“The Lord receives that his serfs work for him and in return he gets three breasts.” (HAH. Although I wonder where the “three” came from. Those were some funky serfs.)