expanding your vocabulary

September 29, 2007

I’m exhausted, and my mom’s in town. Anyway.

I keep forgetting how young 9th graders really are. Like when the textbook they were reading explained that the ancient Sumerians used a series of dikes to keep the rivers from flooding and one boy’s hand shot in the air and he hollered “MISS, WHAT’S A DIKE???” across the room in total sincerity. Or when I told them they could put anything on their maps that they wanted as long as it  was appropriate for school, and another boy announced gleefully “I’m going to call my jungle Jungle Fever. It’ll be great!”

“You can’t call it that; I said appropriate for class.”

“But Miss, that’s something Will Smith says! How can it be inappropriate?”

And then I had to tell them what it meant. Just. If anyone needs me I’ll be napping.


It can’t be only Wednesday

September 26, 2007

So. Tired.

The students are designing their own Egyptian pyramids to reflect what’s important to them as we study Egypt. Interestingly most of them want to build their pyramids at Ground Zero “so people will remember them.” Interesting because these students were in 2nd grade on September 11th, so it doesn’t mean the same thing to them that it means to me; also interesting because they have no interest in memorializing the WTC towers; they simply know that it’s an important location.

Also interesting: What they’ve decided to bring with them. Lots of jewelry, a couple of Will Smiths, at least one L’il Bow Wow, the New York Yankees, comfortable beds, a library, and one girl who is going to have her autobiography published and put millions of copies outside her pyramid so everyone can know how awesome she was. She also wants to leave her report cards to posterity “to impress everyone.”

I can’t believe I missed National Punctuation Day, you guys. That’s my holiday!

Gandhi helps out

September 20, 2007

Class today was so much more awesome than I planned it to be! We were reading about Hammurabi’s Code (an eye for an eye, etc.) and discussing whether or not we felt it was fair. I finally remembered to do some structured class discussion techniques (“So A thinks it is fair and B thinks it’s not. C, who do you agree with? Why? D, who do you agree with? Why?”) which helped a lot. But even better, they got worked up enough about it that I created a second activity on the spot; I wrote “An eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind” on the board and gave them five minutes to silently write about what they thought it meant. It took several minutes of discussion before they worked it out, and once they did they were SO EXCITED. And so was I. We might actually be getting somewhere together!

parents and phones

September 19, 2007

Yesterday the kids were crazy, and I ended up at school until 7 calling parents. Most of them weren’t home or the phone numbers didn’t work. The ones who were home only spoke Spanish. (“Hay muchos problemas en la classe con su hijo… Es intelligente pero no hace su tarea.”) Calling parents always makes me sad and nervous; you never know if they’re going to be mad at you for calling or slap the kid around for getting a bad phone call or what.

I’m pleased to report that two of the parents I left messages for showed up today at school, all “HE’S MISSING HOW MANY HOMEWORKS AND HE SAID WHAT???” I had two productive meetings with them, the AP, and the guidance counselor. I love it when a plan comes together.

But why do we even HAVE ten reams of it?

September 17, 2007

God, it’s still September. How can I already be hearing those awful, terrible words?

“Sorry; there’s nothing left but the long paper.”


reading list

September 16, 2007

They asked about glaciers — repeatedly — so we’re going to read some of Bill Bryson’s A Short History Of Nearly Everything.

We’ll see how it goes.

deep dark secrets of teaching

September 12, 2007

Teachers — and I hope this doesn’t come as a shock to anyone — drink a lot. Not every teacher, sure, but a lot of teachers and a lot of drinking. I’ve graded papers at a bar. I’ve gone out lots of Fridays (and Thursdays, and sometimes Mondays) for a beer because “the kids are like… Oh my god.” I’ve been to bars for “let’s get to know you” and “thank god the semester is over” and “just sit there and listen to me tell you about this one kid” and “IF I QUIT TOMORROW WILL YOU COVER MY CLASS I AM NEVER GOING BACK.” I thought maybe it was just a living-abroad thing, and then I thought maybe it was just a student-teaching thing, and then I thought maybe it was a “working in a shitty school” thing, but now I’m pretty sure it’s just what teachers do.

Tonight I was in a bar near a middle school. I know it was near a middle school because there was a giant group of incredibly hard-drinking teachers doing shots right near me. They had a cheer and a hand-shake and a chant and many, many rounds of beer. Even by teacher standards it was pretty impressive. Plus, there were about 20 of them. It’s hard to get that many people to go out, even after school before a long weekend.

My favorite moment is still when I went in to a bar and saw one of my students trying to use a fake ID. He looked at me and I looked at him and then he walked out as quickly as possible. We never talked about it. It was way too weird.