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Showing posts from February, 2011

The Mural

I still get to see this beautiful mural when I volunteer.  It makes the whole school brighter. Wednesday, February 28, 2007 A Beautiful Mural
I've always had this dream that somehow our school could be make more beautiful. I've envisioned a mural of some sort, to bring color to the industrial off-white/off-yellow/beige-ish color of the school (why don't districts pain elementary schools in bright primary colors? Of all the buildings to be a neutral color, elementary schools should not be the ones). I've gone to paint stores to ask about extra paint, and discovered that, at least at the place I went to, they mix all the leftovers together, creating a pukey mud color.

Last year, my dream was realized. The principal at the time - we'll call her "Seems Great Then Totally Flakes Out Administrator" was totally on board with the idea, and I just happened to have a friend - Robin the Artist - who was both unemployed and trying to raise money for a mi…

Proposition 6

I saw Milk for the first time last week and I found out that I am embarrassed at my lack of knowledge.  I had absolutely no idea that California was close to passing a proposition banning gays and lesbians (and possibly anyone who supported gay rights) from being public school teachers. 

I had no idea. I knew that Harvey Milk did something good for gay rights but I didn't know any specifics.

I just want to say again, in case there are any questions, that I have worked with many gay and lesbian teachers and not a one of them had a "gay agenda" or tried to convince the children of anything inappropriate.  Not one.

And it bothers me that this came up in 1978 and that I heard people saying the same types of things in recent years.  This needs to stop.

Three years ago: No More Sanctions!

Four years ago: Communication
Logic Triumphs After All

Homework

I'd love to get some feedback on this one.  I always gave homework.  Every day.  Often it was very very short, but I gave it every day - including weekends - because the kids I worked with had few opportunities to build responsibility and I wanted them to know that they were responsible for something every day.  Also, they really really needed the practice.

I was aware that many of them had chaotic home lives though, and that things came up or they had to help at home.  I told them and their guardians that if they called me or wrote a note - or just had their guardian sign the homework - they wouldn't be penalized for not doing it.  (In third grade, penalized means sitting on the bench for five minutes, but that's a big deal).

Now that I'm working most days with an 8th grader, I am a little surprised at the amount of homework he gets but he really needs the practice.

Parents and teachers, what do you think about homework?  For it?  Against it?  In what amounts?



One yea…

Maturity. And a Flower Horn Fish Pet.

I'm hoping that this sub grows up a little before she becomes a teacher.  It's been a year.  She could very well be a teacher at this point.  Check out her helpful comments.

Monday, February 22, 2010 First Day of School How often is the first day of school February 22?

I am happy to report that I really like my new class.  I mean, I've met them for a total of 103 minutes, so that judgment may be premature, but I don't think so.  They are very diverse - not like my other district where "diverse" meant black kids - but actually diverse.  There are kids who came from Bosnia, Russia, China, Nepal, New Zealand, Tonga, Samoa, Mexico, Central America, and a few other places I'm not sure of.  There are kids who didn't say one word and a couple who came in like it was their job to be a one-man (or woman) show.

I'm impatient for Wednesday because at the moment, their sub of the last two months is still there.  The principal thought it would be a good…

Unconventional Motivation

I saw this story about a parent who basically humiliated her child into doing better in school.  I think before I started teaching, I would have been firmly against this sort of tactic.  However, that was before I realized that doing well in school or not could literally be a matter of life or death in the future - or at least a matter of a life of freedom or behind bars.  If I hadn't done well in school, I probably would have gone to a community college instead of a four-year college.  The culture of my family and friends was such that I would have made those choices.  Many of the kids I have taught have never been around that culture, and dropping out of high school or not doing well would mean they didn't have other options - at least, not other legal options.  That's obviously a generalization, but I really can't blame this mother for feeling desperate.

The blogger says: "I'm guessing standing on the corner for four hours with a sign soliciting your embar…

Just When I Miss the Classroom...

... I remember things like this.

Monday, February 19, 2007
My evaluator is afraid of the gecko.

I realize that this shouldn't bring me pleasure, but it does. (Especially because his teeth are probably the size of an ant's brain. They're teensy.) Jesus wouldn't feel happy and superior because His evaluator was afraid of the gecko. But I do.

It's not entirely fair to take out all my frustration on my evaluator. Some of it is actually just way too many years (sad when 8 years is way too many) in the district, which is entrenched in negativity, dysfunction, failure, and hopelessness. Does that sound dramatic? Probably. But I think it's true. (Lindsay, you were there, what do you think?)

But she is doing her part to earn my defensiveness and ire. Apart from the things I have already talked about, with my not-so-good evaluation and such... last week she was trying to schedule
an observation with me. Note that word, schedule. Because it is a SCHEDULED form…

Missing Solomon

I'm not the only one who misses Solomon.

These kids, who I miss very much, saw a friend murdered a couple of years ago.  I've worried about them a lot, especially the older one, who protects the younger one to some extent.  He has had a lot of problems before and since the murder, and often seems very hardened.  I have been worried about him for a long time and haven't heard from him lately.

These two boys were very close to Solomon, my late puppy.  I told them that he passed away and didn't hear back.  I waited a few months, sent them Christmas cards, and didn't hear back.  I texted them a photo of the new puppy this week and finally heard back.

The younger one said "Is that a pitt she is cute."

The older one asked what I did with Solomon when he died.  the text "conversation" went like this:

Him: What did you do to puppy when he died:

Me: I had him cremated.  You know what that is?

Him: Yea when they burn you and put you in a box

Me: Yeah.  So I…

Seriously Dedicated Teachers

I'd like to think of myself as a dedicated teacher.  However, there's no way I would do this, just out of sheer exhaustion.

The AP English class got cut at one of the small high schools in the more difficult part of Oakland and the teachers are teaching it anyway.  For free.  Before school and during their prep time.  And the students are taking it.  Pretty amazing.

Three years ago: From Mexico, Part 2

Four years ago: No Child Left Behind, Football Version
A Year Off

Professional Development Reminder

Just when I start really missing teaching, I remember that, although I miss the relationships I had with the students, I really really don't miss the bureaucracy.  Here's a look into a professional development session, four years ago.  You can see that the intent is good but that none of our specific needs were taken into account, making the whole thing almost useless.  This is time that could be spent really helping teachers who need ideas and strategies, and it's hard not to feel bitter when it's wasted.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007 Professional Development



We read a story about Picasso which told about his Blue Period. We tried a Blue Period too - I don't know which shades of blue Picasso had, but we used black, white, royal blue, sky blue, turquoise, and glitter blue. Picasso could have used glitter blue.
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Professional development is often an exercise in boredom and/or sitting still. I never like it. Today we had a training on Eve…

What it Takes to Bcome a Teacher

I wrote this four years ago, but if anything has changed, it's been to add more hoops.


Hoops to Jump Through
It's gotten worse since I was getting my credential. Now, in addition to doing your coursework, you have to:take the CBEST test ($41, not hard)take the CSET test ($222, really hard, many people retake it and pay again)take the RICA test ($140, don't remember how hard)take a CPR class ($)BTSA (two year long mentorship program)CLAD certification (extra classes and $$)Student teaching (unpaid and virtually or completely full-time)Tasks 1-4 (see below)Clear credential (extra classes and $$)Fingerprints ($)Certain number of hours of classes or professional development (I forget how many) each 5 years to renew your credential. ($)Oh, by the way, the prospective teacher has to pay for all of this. According to this website, the median salary for an elementary school teacher is $38,175, so we don't exactly make it back in a hurry.
These are the tasks. This…

Pilar de Esperanza

Pilar de Esperanza (Pillar of Hope) is the Mexican orphanage I visit every year or so.  I was there for Christmas and haven't had time to put up photos yet.  I don't think I need to actually say a whole lot about it because the photos pretty clearly show what an amazing place it is. 

These are still hard economic times for many people, and the orphanage is run completely by donations.  The wonderful thing about it, though, is that every donation goes to the kids.  All of it.  There are no administrative fees.  They're also working on getting tax-deductible receipts automatically sent to donors but for now I have receipts if anyone wants to donate. 

Check out these kids and let me know if you'd like to help in any way!












One year ago: Ornery

Four years ago: My Neighborhood

A Tricky Balance

I have been known to be strict, especially with kids who really need it.  Kids who curse out their parents, for example, get to start calling all adults "sir" or "ma'am."  Students who argue with me when I ask them to do something get to choose from one of two answers: "Yes, Ms. ---" or "Yes, ma'am."  Those are their only options.  I got the kids to buy into this so well that when a new kid started up, the kids would say, "No, you have to say 'Yes, ma'am.'" 

There are children who need to be talked to brusquely.  There are kids who don't understand when you say something like, "Hey, sweetie, what I really need for you to do right now is..." They've already bashed someone's head in by the time you get to what you need them to do.  There are some kids who have a lot more respect for adults who will look them in the eye and say, "In your seat.  NOW." 

There are, of course, other kids who…