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Showing posts from February, 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 missions trip. The principal said we had the money, said she loved the idea, that the school would reimburse for the paint and pay Robin $1500 for the mural

A Coat for the Gecko

"Jade" wants to make Tiger (the gecko) a little tiny coat. I'm not sure how she's going to accomplish this, but she appears determined! It's going to be red and pink, to go with his colors. Who knows. Here's a picture of Tiger eating a cricket, with the cricket legs hanging out of his mouth. (Look carefully; the picture was taken through his glass cage, so it's not the clearest.) The kids love this more than anything. They think it's very bad manners on his part to leave the legs "hanging out his mouth."


Or Lack Thereof. Report cards are due sometime. I'd tell you when, but I don't know. To quote Lindsay, this is a "no brainer. It should have been on the calendar from the beginning. Duh." I agree. But it wasn't, so we just have to sort of guess that it's been a long time since report cards, so they must be due soonish. The administrators decided to be "nice" and give us an hour to work on them today so we wouldn't complain about them being due. We still don't know when they're due. This free hour was created from sending the kids home an hour early, just for today. So, on Friday at 2:30 they passed out notes saying that dismissal was at 2:00 one day only, this Monday, Feb 26. The flaw in this plan was that any child who was absent on Friday or whose teacher didn't check their mailbox at 2:30 pm didn't get the note. Now, getting the note the Friday before would be bad enough. Parents work, have commitments, arrange

Longer School Day

The longer school day debate has started up again. This article references the Knowledge is Power Program (known as KIPP) - which has schools going from 7:30 am - 5:00 pm Monday through Friday and sometimes on Saturdays. Teachers are varied in their opinions on longer school days. I think it's too much. I think it's too much for students - being at school for almost 50 hours a week plus some Saturdays!?! Maybe if they don't have homework, I don't know. It seems like an awful lot to me. I don't even think adults should be at work that many hours a week! It would be WAY too much for me as a teacher. You have to remember that teachers have to prepare for every hour that they teach. My time sheet says I work 30 hours a week. More accurately, I teach 30 hours a week. That only includes 2 hours a week of prep time. There's a lot more that goes into teaching - preparing, grading, worrying about the kids, cleaning up because there aren't enough janit

Observations and Being Nice

My evaluator now says that she didn't mean to schedule the meeting with me last Friday, she meant this Friday. (Even though she specifically said Friday, Feb 16 in her emails). And she says that she couldn't possibly have said she'd observe me on Tuesday because she's never at school on Tuesdays (she's always at a day-long meeting on Tuesdays). Again, check the email. Written (or electronic) record. We had a meeting today about being nice. Specifically, about how administrators need to be nice. They have a habit of not being nice. Example: there was a memo about how the bulletin boards need to all be updated, showing current student work, no misspellings, blah blah blah. It was a little ridiculous, with a written rubric and everything (they're just bulletin boards) and near-perfection demanded of all student work that was to be posted. Whatever. Teachers mostly updated their bulletin boards - some didn't, probably not from laziness but from over

Things I Won't Miss About School

Trying to have my prep time - on minimum days after the kids are gone and I finally have some time to myself to work or whatever - while there are constant announcements over the loudspeaker, every 10 seconds. "Johnny Smith, come to the office." "Teachers, dont' forget that the back gate is locked." "We are making this announcement just to create noise and drive you crazy - it's part of our evil plan." Having "optional" meetings that aren't so optional during my prep time, which is supposed to be left pure and unadulterated and for MY use. Getting memos and announcements over the loudspeaker that teachers are not allowed to leave campus during our prep time. Which would make sense if the kids were still here and we needed to be around in case the prep teacher had an issue with them. But when it's after school, the kids are gone, and I have to be back for a meeting, what is the harm in me going to get a coffee


Jenn and some of her engineering friends came to teach the kids about construction. They brought safety equipment and pieces of rebar and showed slides of construction and a movie of work on the Bay Bridge (with the construction worker comments mostly deleted out!) They also taught the kids how to make concrete by a cookie analogy. It was awesome. The analogy goes like this: Crushed Nilla Wafers = Large Aggregate Instant Oatmeal = Small Aggregate Brown Sugar = Sand Cornstarch = Cement Honey = Additives Water = Water Mix it all up, roll it into a ball, let it dry, and... voila! Concrete cookies!

The Gecko is Growing Up!

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 formal observation. I'm supposed to turn in a lesson plan for the

Chinese New Year!

It is the Year of the Boar (or the Year of the Pig, or the Year of the Piggie, if you're in third grade) and Mrs. Dwyer brought us Chinese New Year crafts to do! The kids made paper lanterns and heard a story about Chinese New Year and got to eat fortune cookies and apples. One of the kids brought homemade sushi (she's Vietnamese) but most of those were gone by the time Mrs. Dwyer and her wonderful helper friend got there. The kid who made the awesome yellow lantern with the ferocious looking dragon says he can't draw. More of a low self-esteem problem than a can't draw problem, you think?

A Year Off

I need about a month of this before I am going to feel un-tired again. During Christmas vacation, it wasn't until the last Sunday of the two weeks that I began to feel rested. And I had to go to school the next day. ------------------------------------ I have applied for a leave of absence for next year. I am exhausted. And it's mostly not because of the kids. I am tired of the crazy amounts of paperwork we have to do. I am tired of the ludicrous testing that requires me to do so much more paperwork, as well as making the kids cry because they think they're not smart enough. I'm tired of being given a 30 minute lunch and being told that's enough time for me to walk the kids to lunch, go to the bathroom, eat lunch, and prepare for after lunch. I am tired of sending kids to the office after I have exhausted every possible disciplinary action in the classroom only to have them sent back because there's no one to deal with them (we have THREE admin

No Child Left Behind - Football Version

I already gave you the dentist version. Here's the football version. Funny how we think it's ridiculous when it's sports, but not in its current form. 1. All teams must make the state playoffs and all MUST win the championship. If a team does not win the championship, they will be on probation until they are the champions, and coaches will be held accountable. If after two years they have not won the championship, their footballs and equipment will be taken away UNTIL they do win the championship [my note here: they wouldn't take away all the equipment, but they would take away some and definitely fire the coaches every year.] 2. All kids will be expected to have the same football skills at the same time even if they do not have the same conditions or opportunities to practice on their own. NO exceptions will be made for lack of interest in football, a desire to perform athletically, or genetic abilities or disabilities of themselves or their parents. ALL KIDS WILL P

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. ---------------------------- Professional development is often an exercise in boredom and/or sitting still. I never like it. Today we had a training on Every Day Counts. The first problem was that the presenter asked us was if we would put everything else away. We never put everything else away. Everyone is always working on at least two other things. Stapling packets of work, correcting homework, writing lesson plans, knitting (I'm not the only one!), cutting things... there's sort of an underlying understanding that we all have way more work than we need and not enough time so if we can multi-task, then we will. So, she says to put everything else away, "if you don't mind." But I did mind! A

Sometimes, Kids Are Just Plain Weird.

One of my kids, "TJ," (who I need to explain more about at some point, severe emotional problems here) was throwing a fit after lunch. As we were having a Valentine's party, I decided to pawn him off on a teacher who was not having a Valentine's party. TJ went to get in this other teacher's line and immediately started making racist comments about the other kids. I went the the back of the line, and had just HAD IT with TJ today. So, I asked the other kids in my line what he had said. No answer. "Did anyone hear what TJ said to the other kids?" No answer. "Did he say something mean to the other kids?" Finally another kid answers... "Teacher, I can make a sound just like a puppy, want to hear?"

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 is what would be the final straw for me, had I not gotten my credential already. I think the idea might be that

My Neighborhood

Every time February comes around, the kids have to write a little essay about their neighborhood. The essays always shock me, scare me, and make me unspeakably sad. Here are the essays from this year: "Lamar": Out side at 12:00 o'clock a person comes and gets a gun out his pocket and shoot in the air. And at 1:00 o'clock in the morning it will be so quiet in my dad's house. Out side it look clean and dirty. I n my room it's so so clean. And my couch smells so grate. In a restawrant the food is delishes." "Deja": I here guns popping at night. I here babys crying at night. There little girls outside at night time. Little girls getting raped. I here dogs geting kilt. I here that man geting shot in the back. "Ashley": My neighborhood is dirty and it looks like a jungle. My neighborhood sounds like gunshots and fireworks there and sounds like music singing and loud. Sometimes at everybody neighborhood feels like thunder and rain. My neig

Duty Free Lunch? Don't Believe It!

Not for a minute. I've explained before how we're supposed to have a 30 minute duty free lunch every day. Including rainy days. There is supposed to be one support staff member for each class who brings the kids into the classroom and watches them during lunch. Well, my person's only here some days, and when he's not... well, guess who's spending her lunch time watching kids. It' s certainly not an administrator! In fact, I can't even find an administrator to ask if there's someone to watch the kids! Besides, I already know the answer. There's not a staff member here (except administrator's) -who's not watching kids right now. Unless we decide to employ the gecko, I'm out of luck. So, I'm blogging on my lunch hour - I've put a movie in for the kids to watch. I'm still supervising them, but at least only about 2/3 of them need me to be on top of them with a movie on. The other third are totally zoned out into the movie. W

Comments on Being Overly "Standardized"

Sure, a lot of people think standardized, or "high-stakes" tests are great for accountability (I saw this shirt once that said "High Stakes are for Tomatoes" if anyone ever finds it for me), but what's the reality? It's overdone. It's ridiculous. It's so far beyond the line of realistic and doable that it's chasing people out of the profession and chasing students away from the love of learning. Or, at least that's my opinion. Here are some quotes from our union newsletter. These are not the quotes I think are extreme and silly. These are the ones I agree with. I used to work in an “at-risk,” low socio-economic school. The school had not met AYP for three years. I transferred to a school in a middle class neighborhood that was closer to my house. This school did well on AYP. My fellow teachers at the at-risk school were highly qualified professionals who also work hard. NCLB punishes teachers working in at-risk schools for things