Tuesday, August 29, 2006

The First Day of School

Yesterday was the first day of school, which went surprisingly smoothly. 100 kids either forgot to come to school, were sick, or their parents forgot to unenroll them, and many more enrolled who had not enrolled when they were supposed to. But not one kid got sent to the office! And I do not have the emotional problem class this year! I mean, there are emotional problems, but in a proportion closer to what I'm used to. Not EVERYONE has a huge overpowering issue.

As usual, I spent hundreds of dollars on necessary school supplies and I'm not done yet. (Someday I'm turning this blog into a book to make millions. Any leads??) I got a class pet (a leopard gecko hatchling as shown in the photos). I am waiting for my class list to be finalized and attempting to teach children in English and Spanish, as there weren't enough spaces in the Spanish bilingual classes.

The administration is reasonable this year - it's pretty awesome. Two assistant principals and a principal who are all intelligent (unfortunately, a trait that is not a given in educators), reasonable, and who I think were all really good teachers themselves.

The district continues to be... well, silly. There are four workbooks needed for third graders. Only one of them is needed for the first week of school. Guess which one is the ONLY one we don't have. Yep. Sigh.... The newest stroke of brilliance is that math is being taught in a different order this year. We are told to teach multiplication and division, THEN get to the addition and subtraction units. Never mind that multiplication builds on addition and division builds on all of them. Never mind that half of these kids don't really remember ANY addition and subtraction from second grade, so they won't even be able to START multiplication. Never mind that we start teaching from Chapter 14, so the "review" section on the workbook pages is stuff they haven't learned yet, so we can't use the workbook! Seriously, I think the district's goal is to make us crazy. And it's working.

Two more things, then I'm collapsing and going to sleep.

One: a second grade teacher asked me to be her official mentor teacher today (I get paid for it!), so I must be doing something right!

Two: today Oakland surpassed (in 8 months) the entire 2005 homicide count. Yes, the total of 2006 homicides is more than in all of 2005. And more of them were gang or drug related. 95 people have been killed so far (Oakland is not a large city as cities go, only about 400,000 people), and 60 of those were 25 years old or younger. 17 of them were 17 or younger. One this weekend was a 14 year old who went to the middle school that shares a parking lot with my school. It breaks my heart that my students have to grow up here.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Getting Ready

The first day of school is on Monday and I spent all day today setting up. I was fortunate enough to have three friends (and two former students!) help me, and I DO NOT know what I would have done without them. We put paper up on all the many bulletin boards, set up all the desks and chairs that had been moved, moved the rug, bookcases, computers, put up all the posters, put all the supplies in the desks, made name cards, got supplies ready, organized things... Funny, when I list it, it doesn't sound like all that much but it took me all day, three other people each put in two to four hours, and I'll be going back tomorrow. And I don't tend to do things slowly. It's a LOT OF WORK. In fact, one of my friends mentioned that she had no idea what kind of hard work this would be and that she was exhausted!

At least this year, with the new contract, we get paid for one day of setup. We used to do it all on our own time. Which I'm used to, but it still infuriates me, because it's just one more way that we're taken for granted and not provided for. No one can start the school year without putting in a good chunk of time setting up, but until this year, this wasn't recognized and we had to donate our time.

I've also just come from spending yet more money at Office Max. This week, I've spent $100 at www.classroomdirect.com, $180 at Office Max, $60 at Walgreens, $60 at www.reallygoodstuff.com, and a little bit more here and there. I almost have everything I need, but not quite. And keep in mind that this is my 8th year at the same school, and my 7th teaching the same grade level. I'm only buying things that get used up. The new teachers have a lot more. Books, for example. Fun books that make kids want to read. Those don't come with the classroom. Neither do scissors. Or a great number of other things.

This is the kind of thing that makes people want to quit teaching. Part of it is having to spend all this money on supplies that are either required for our jobs or highly recommended - or just make what we need to do more effective. There's the actual panic over the money that we're spending. The rest of it is the indignation that we are expected to do so! It's just accepted, and it's not right, but if we don't do it, the only people suffering are us and the kids who we love. Some schools have PTAs and such that provide extra money for supplies, but those are generally the schools where kids come with their supplies already. Ours not only come without pencils, sharpeners, paper, and scissors - they often come without breakfast and sometimes without dinner the night before.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Streets Got Him First

That's the headline on an article about the killings in Oakland this year, many of whom are teenagers. One couple has lost 3 sons to homicides in Oakland. It makes my heart hurt. I just wonder how long it will be until it's a kid I know - and when I think about how devastating that would be - for me as a teacher- I just don't know how the families of these kids deal with it.

I also don't know what to do. It's easy to get cynical and hopeless. I've heard teachers talk about second graders, saying that it was too late for these kids. You have to get them earlier to make a difference. Those kids are SEVEN YEARS OLD. But if you were around them, you'd see that it's easy to believe that it's too late.

I've heard that several of my former students are in juvenile hall. My oldest former students are only 13 years old. I don't know which ones are incarcerated, but I'm going to work on finding out and writing to. I'm not sure it will make any difference, but then, we don't know if ANY of this makes a difference. All you can do is hope and pray that it does, and keep doing whatever you can...