Wednesday, May 30, 2007

More Old Faces

Another former student came to visit today. He now goes to another school, and is in fifth grade. We'll call him "David." David is definitely gifted, but LAZY. But two years ago, when he was in my class, I figured him out. One thing I noticed is that he hated to write in pencil, but would always writing in pen. (Generally, third graders aren't supposed to write in pen because they have to erase a lot.) It turned out that he just hated how pencils felt when you wrote with them. Once I started letting him use pencil - with the caveat that subs and next year's teacher probably wouldn't be quite as accommodating - he stopped complaining about writing.

Another thing about David is that he was very picky about what he read and wrote about. He hated the reading program and would just sit there, not reading, not writing, nothing. It didn't matter what I said, how much trouble he got in; nothing changed. However, if the subject had anything to do with science - particularly inventions and animals (especially dangerous/poisonous ones), he was quickly the most interested child in the room.

He was also really good with computers, and other gadgets. We had these Leapfrog electronic educational toys in the classroom (typical of my school; spend tons of money on them, use them for one year, and now they're all in cabinets because no one wants to deal with them). The kids were constantly having problems with them and David spent so much time fixing them that I just started calling him "Tech Support." He liked that - once I explained to him what tech support was.

David also had one of the most out of control tempers I have ever seen. Most of the time - the vast majority of the time - he was a shy, really soft-spoken child. It was hard to get him to raise his voice enough to be heard. But if anyone picked a fight with him - especially if they mentioned his mother- he would turn into someone completely different. I don't think he had any control over himself when this happened. People would try to reason with him, but I think he was just as confused as we were.

Fortunately, I think David's story will turn out better than a lot of other kids'. His mother is aware, and willing to take advantage of counseling. She is also willing to do extra things like take him to the Exploratorium in San Francisco, which is probably his version of heaven.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Open House

Open House... supposed to start at 5:00 pm... at 5:15, after I still can't find 2 out of the 3 administrators (the other one was on the phone) and the auditorium, where things like this take place, was locked... I went back to my classroom. Eventually the announcement came on that it was free-form and parents should just go to classrooms. This is what we call a "low-maintenance open house." Or a "lazy open house."

I don't know - I think administrators get six figures (or close to it) and that they could maybe organize a REAL open house. But maybe that's just me.

As always, the gecko was a favorite for all children at the open house, whether they knew me or not.

The countdown continues!

Saturday, May 26, 2007

The Future

I am starting to realize (with three weeks of school left) that I'm not quite sure how I'm going to earn a living next year.

I've got some wiseGEEK work, and hopefully that will continue and grow. But there's no guarantee of either.

I can sub at my school and other schools where I know the kids, but that is provided my district doesn't mess things up with the paperwork - it could take a while to figure out and they won't let me start the process until August.

I can tutor but I have to build up clientele so I have no idea how often/how much I can make from that.

Lindsay thinks I can teach knitting - I'm not entirely sure I'm good enough for that.

I can teach Spanish but so can a whole lot of native speakers.

I now have editing skills, but again, no clientele.

I still haven't figured out a way to get paid for blogging.

And I will have to pay for health insurance and save my own money for taxes.

I have until September to figure all this out because (thank God!) I did the deferred payment plan so I still get paid in July and August. However, that's not that far away!

Scary, scary.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007


14 school days left

21 chronological days left (including weekends ) until the last day of school

Maybe then I'll have more energy to write...

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Missing School.

I have a student who has missed 73 days of school so far. SEVENTY-THREE. We've had 164 days of school. She has missed one day for every 2.25 days of school. She's missed almost half the days of school.

I keep telling people (administrators). They always look shocked. But I still don't know if anyone has done anything about it! I keep telling her mom she needs to come to school, but it needs to come from a "higher" authority than me. If they are doing anything, they certainly aren't telling me.

And I like communication. It works for me much better than not communication. Not communication is frustrating.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Out of the Mouths of Children

An email from one student:

I am so HAPPY all the tests are finish. I will act better in class and shool. I Promiss. The reason I was not that good was because all the tests made me think that you are letting tham make us suffer. Will now that the tests are away I feel real good.
I'm using this quote for anyone who doesn't know why I'm leaving teaching. Because the kids think my job is to make them suffer, not to help them learn.

Later, I got another nice email from the same girl:
sure and I know you dont.When I see your meggesses I am so happy.Cause it is great when you know your teacher loves you bye

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Three Good Things About Testing

And believe me, there are only three!

1. The school gives us enough pencils for every kid, and they're pre-sharpened.
2. The kids get snack so they're not hungry until lunch. (Well, for the first few days, they do, until the school inevitably runs out of money for this).
3. I can lock the door and no one comes in to tell me I'm off schedule or that I have no student work up.

The tests are dragging them down now. I got a note from one girl that said, "I hate the test so munch the test make people sad and mad that's why I hate test because there are answers that are really hard and stupid."

She didn't used to feel this way about tests. All the assessments taken up until this point; reading, math, spelling, etc. were seen as fun - she liked taking them, she usually did well, and she never freaked out. Today I had one child get sent home, three more whose mothers were called, and about seven more who got in some sort of trouble, and all of it started with the test. They feel stupid, they feel like they don't measure up, and their feelings are being reinforced.

Also, it's so LONG! The third graders will take a total of 10-14 hours, more or less, of this test! And they do this every year, with some grades (I know fourth, maybe sixth also) having more. It's spread out over 6 days, but the total time is longer than the SAT, MCAT, LSAT, GRE, or almost all the adult tests I can think of. The poor things can't sit still. "Lamar" took his test standing up because we had two parts today and after one, he just couldn't sit any more. One girl fell asleep on her test, and it has drool marks on it now. A couple other cried, and I think the test has tear marks.

I did get a nice note from the girl who hates the test "so munch." She wrote, "I love you and Tiger very munch because you are very nice to me in my heart."

Thank goodness for the gecko! When he comes out to watch them during the test, everyone relaxes a little.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Former Students

Three former students came to visit this week. They all have standardized testing this week also, so they got out of school early.

"Michael" is, as his mother says with some misplaced pride, a lead poisoning baby. Not all there, not too bright, not too well taken care of at home. I don't know what is going to happen to him, but I'm willing to bet he doesn't stay in school much past sixth grade, where he is now.

"Harry," also in sixth grade, is a very intelligent boy with severe learning problems. He can carry on a very high-level conversation, but has serious difficulty reading and writing. Unlike Michael, he is with it enough to understand that he's really behind and it makes him really sad. His mom came through last year when he told her that he wanted to kill himself because he was stupid. She found him a counselor, started taking him to family counseling also, and got him through this. She's been fighting with the district for years to try to get him the special services he needs. He's been written off a lot as being stupid - nothing could be further from the truth. He's almost as tall as I am now, and only twelve years old!

"Shawna" was the most exciting one, because she's about to turn 16, and was one of my first third graders. She moved away shortly after third grade, and I didn't know she had moved back. She's tall, confident, and beautiful in an athletic, always-on-the-move way. She didn't think I would remember her, but she walked in the door and I turned around and took a picture I had of her down from the wall. She just looked at it and said, "That's me? I was really a tomboy!" She's got her own special set of circumstances - her dad is 76, and has about thirty children from various women. No, I'm not exaggerating. THIRTY children. I think the youngest is around four and the oldest passed away a few years ago at fifty-some years old.

Shawna lives with two brothers and her dad, who is very overprotective of her, probably because she's a girl. Her brothers - 13 and 17 years old - are failing school, staying out all night, getting in trouble with the law. Shawna has a 4.0 and has had this for several years. I'm really proud of her because she's not the kind of girl you think of as being on the honor roll - she's intelligent enough, but ready to fight, argue, kick, and scream. I think she still does all that, but obviously she finds some time to study too! I asked her how she was doing so well and she said she wasn't going to be a crackhead like her brothers; she was going to get out of there.

Monday, May 07, 2007

National Day of the Teacher

Tomorrow, May 8, is National Day of the Teacher. It is always the Tuesday in the first full week of May. The first full week of May (I believe) is Teacher Appreciation Day.


One year we got a crookedly copied certificate without our names on it. Another (maybe last year), we got a memo from the Superintendent saying that the administration should appreciate us and that he had written us all a letter appreciating it. We didn't get the letter of appreciation, just the memo saying that it existed.

Tomorrow we get to give standardized tests to kids who already think they're stupid. Oh, and we get a staff meeting. That's appreciation, all right!

Friday, May 04, 2007

Oh Dear.

This has nothing to do with school but I found it SO disturbing that I needed to share it.

The Pentagon did a study - a Pentagon study, not an liberal anti-war study - and found out that 40% of Marines and 55% of Army soldiers would report a member of their unit for killing or wounding an innocent civilian. Yuck.

Lest I be accused of not knowing what soldiers go through as they try to help each other, blah blah, this is, in my opinion, the worse part. They also found that "only a third of Marines and roughly half of soldiers said they believed that noncombatants should be treated with dignity." NONCOMBATANTS, people. NOT the people fighting. Only one third of US Marines believe that these human beings who are NOT fighting them should be treated with dignity. (the radio report I heard said it was "treated with dignity or respect.")

We are in big big trouble. There are the people keeping Iraqi civilians safe???