“No, the DaVinci code isn’t real. That’s how they get you.”

December 7, 2007

I’m home sick. Well — I’m home almost sick. I’m home if-I-don’t-take-a-day-off-I’ll-get-incredibly-sick-and-die. And as always, I’m spending my day off grading, lesson planning, and waiting for someone to come fix something in my apartment. Being an adult sucks.

I got a great email from a student yesterday; we’ve been talking about the Roman and Byzantine empires in class, and he’s reading Dan Brown’s Demons and Angels (I think). He found a reference to Emperor Constantine and was so excited (because we talked about it! In class!) that he had to email me immediately.  It made him happy, because the things he learned were actually useful, and it made me happy, because the ancient history I was teaching turned out to be actually useful. Everyone wins! (Except Dan Brown, because those books are terrible and I just don’t have the heart to tell my students that when they’re excited about reading.)


lazy wednesday

November 14, 2007

I didn’t actually go to school today. I sat home and waited for a plumber to come and fix the leak in my ceiling, so the super could rebuild the ceiling. It took all freaking day.

I knew I’d be home all day, so I brought grading. I didn’t do any of it.

Something about this time of year, man. It’s the doldrums. I spent a lot of time doing everything except grading and planning. I have to get my mojo back somehow.


October 8, 2007

Every year my classes debate whether or not we should celebrate Columbus Day, based on readings from Howard Zinn and Bartolome de las Casas. Every year the students are horrified, but usually overwhelming vote to keep the holiday because “I don’t want to go to school.”

Me too, guys. Happy Columbus Day. As happy as it can be. Nap time!

four days and counting

August 27, 2007

The week is here! I don’t actually have to go in until Thursday, which seems crazy to me; I’m used to having PD all summer and going in a week in advance. To be fair, I spent most of that week last year doing nothing.

I finally have a program, too, which is pretty exciting. I do indeed have an advisory but I’m co-advising with a science teacher (cool). And my Regents prep class meets five times a week. (I’d sort of thought it would just be once. Oops.) Both my 9th grade classes are in the same room, which makes me happy. (New teachers tend to get screwed over with classroom assignments. My first year I was in three different rooms three periods in a row.)

So now all I have to do is make the plans in my head plans in reality.

Several things are keeping me up at night: What will the kids be like? What will the classes be like? Are there things I should know that I don’t yet (grading policies, school policies)? Will the other teachers be nice, and how long will it take me to learn all their names? Who will I sit with at lunch? What if my sneakers aren’t cool enough?

Okay, not that last one; I got a pair of insanely comfortable low heels to wear that I know darn well are cool.

true story

August 15, 2007

Jd2718 made a good point here yesterday — I’m moving to a new school, so there probably isn’t much point in planning super far ahead. I have no idea about reading levels or class size or school culture, really, so I can’t even guess how much I can get done in 90 minutes. Once I have the first couple of projects planned out (rubrics and directions, at least) I’ll probably be playing it by ear anyway. This does not bring down my stress level much.

Oh! I know all kinds of awesome teachers read this blog now, so I was hoping you’d be willing to share: What do you do the first day of school? I tried playing a game my first year — that was a disaster, because all it did was convince the kids that my class would be all fun and no work. That is no way to start off. The second year I tried doing procedures, but I wasn’t really organized enough to have tons of systems in place, and I’m not comfortable just talking for 45 minutes. (90, this time.) I don’t have 45 minutes of procedures in place, apparently. So what do you do? Any awesome tips for the first day? (I am Harry Wong‘s nightmare, I tell you.)

And now, because this blog has been nothing but whining almost all summer, here is a fun story about a teacher I used to work with a couple of schools ago. He was (is, I guess) pretty traditional, a little bit older, one of those people who has been in the system for a long, long time. He shared a classroom with our awesome Spanish teacher, who was young and enthusiastic and female. So one day she goes in to the room during his class to grab something, and he turns to the students (impressionable 9th graders) and says “Children, do you know where Ms. Spanish Teacher should be right now?” The kids all shrug. “She should be home. She should be raising her children.” No, he wasn’t kidding. “This is why there’s so much crime and violence in the Bronx. Mothers don’t stay home with their children, they go to work, instead. She should be caring for her family, not going to work. A woman’s place is home with her children.”

I’m sorry, did I say “fun story”? I meant “scary as hell story” about the people who are educating your children.

step one

August 14, 2007

I have actually planned some lessons! A step in the right direction!

Then I remembered that, although I always think lesson planning is the problem, the actual problem is making up all the worksheets and graphic organizers that go along with whatever I’ve planned. I’m sure there’s a computer program that would whip them up for me, but I haven’t found it yet. (Any suggestions?)

I finally have a teacher’s textbook, which very occasionally has good suggestions, but is mostly useless. “Have the students make a sketch of what they learned from the text!” “Students should get into groups and discuss!” …Yeah, no duh. Even better, there is a “rubric” for student assessment at the bottom of every single page of the book. The rubric offers the same categories and the same one-sentence explanation for every activity in the book. And then it tells me I should “Focus, instruct, assess, and reteach.” There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, and the rubric is sort of helpful if you’ve never seen one before. It’s just, again, DUH. My eyes are getting quite a work out from all the rolling.

getting back in the groove

August 8, 2007

Confession time: I have been avoiding everything that reminds me of school ever starting again, including this blog. I have scrubbed the bathroom floor, reorganized the kitchen, knit a scarf, and seen many, many movies. I’ve also read 8 books since I got back from Guatemala, including 4 awesome Dunnetts, the last Harry Potter, and a couple of trashy romances. I have not thought even remotely about lesson planning.

Today, though, I finally managed to force myself to open the teacher’s text book I was given (I’ve never had one before! It’s kind of overwhelming!) and look at the first few pages. I’m ignoring the first couple of days of school, because I hate them, and working on a mini-unit on geography. It’s not thrilling — we’ll learn to take notes, we’ll brainstorm the ways humans effect their environments, we’ll plan a trip around the world, we’ll color maps — but it’s something, at least.

Last year and the year before that I had hideous nightmares for days leading up to the first day of school. Last night I dreamt about it, but it wasn’t awful, just confused. Instead of the normal dream disasters (no copies of my lessons, no key to my classroom, students who are actually people I went to high school with who hated me) I was just having a round table with the kids about why we study history. The only problem was I couldn’t fill 90 minutes, and that is, in fact, a problem I expect to have this year, since I’m switching from 45 minutes to 90, and having a little bit of panic about it.

Planning is slow going, and I never like what I did last year enough to use it again. Luckily I have an almost unlimited supply of cable tv and Diet Coke to get me through.