Sunday, October 30, 2011

The Grind

After watching my co-workers, I'm thinking that I believed a common misconception for too long.  I believed that lesson planning tapered off to a minimum after a few years of teaching the same subject.  I now know that this is false with one caveat.  Good teachers who strive to motivate their students do not recycle lesson plans over and over again.  Now that I'm using TAP methods for lesson planning, I'm spending tons of time on my plans, largely on formatting and filling in all the little common sense sections of the rubric I use.  Take-home work and lesson planning, I guess we best become close friends in the next 50 years before I can retire.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Family Rockstars..I'm Thankful Even When It's Not Thanksgiving

You know that quote, "You can't choose your family but you can choose your friends?"  I know that it's true, but I am so. so. so. so. so. thankful for my family.  The family members that take the cake this week are, in no particular order:

1) My Aunt-- This amazing woman is basically a superhero.  In fact, I'm not sure that she isn't a superhero.  Her kids are dressing as superheroes for Halloween... maybe she just has them practicing for when they grow up.  You know, like the movie SkyHigh?  Anyway, she has amazing faith, and this faith somehow translates into her always knowing exactly the right thing to say.  Sure, she may have to think about it for awhile, but the notes, letters, emails, texts, and phone calls I get from her always leave me feeling rejuvenated.  She's a teacher, and I called her to talk about building a relationship with one of my students even though he's 16 and her degree is Early Childhood.  She works with a youth group, and I just needed someone on the outside to hear about this kid and how he works.  She was really encouraging and helped me to come up with some things to implement and hope they worked.  Unfortunately, he was arrested the next morning.  I was totally bummed.  I texted her when I left school and just said that the kid we'd talked about had been arrested.  This led to a text conversation in which she said the best thing I could have heard.  The best thing about it is that I'm 100% sure she meant every word and also 100% certain she's correct.  She said,

 "It takes a special teacher to see potential in the seemingly hopeless and care enough to want to reach out to them.  Hopefully you will have another opportunity to make a much needed impact in his life.  If you don't, then we pray that the Lord sends somebody else into his life to make that impact for you.  One way or another he seems to have seen a difference in how you treated him and felt about him opposed to others.  He will remember that and it will make a difference."

Then, she sent me a picture of my sweet, sweet 4 year old cousin in his police officer costume for Halloween and said, "Perhaps you needed this officer today...."

I love her.

2) My Mama-- I decided that I just really needed to spend some quality time with my family this weekend, even though I had a ton to do for my grad school program as well as plenty of take-home teaching work.  I called her at the last minute and asked her what she was doing this weekend.  Her response?  "Entertaining my daughter????" No questions asked, just gave me the okay that she would make time for me if I came home, spur of the moment.

3) My bubba-- Who, as a Junior in High School, stayed home on a Friday night to hang out with me. :)

In other news, the cat, the dog, and I roadtripped out of town for the weekend.  The little lady loves car rides. 


I learned about LURDs today.  Apparently, this is prison slang for "Lesbian Until Release Date."  We busted a bunch of girls for PDA today....girl on girl PDA.  Craziness.  What happened to the days where the girls tried to sneak around the portable with a guy?  I'll just add this to the list of things my students can teach me.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Bookstore Banter

I decided today that I want to amend my unit plans on rocks and Earth's layers and all that geology jazz.  So, what better way to incorporate more cross-curricular activities and spice up the activities that get a little repetitive in Earth science than to read a relevant, interesting book that corresponds with state standards?  Plus, we all know that a good movie often comes after a good book.  We're going to be reading and watching Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne.  It's one of the few "sci-fi" books that I enjoy. In exploring the book, I was a little disappointed to have a flashback to my middle school days and realize that I read the same book in middle school.  Back then, the new movie wasn't out, though.  Kudos to my middle school science teacher, Mr. G. for introducing me to such a gem.  (Earth science joke, get it? :P)

Anyway, after searching about a gazillion online sites and trying to figure out the best way to obtain a class set of these books with no money for books and no district-wide book exchange, I decided to head to some local bookstores and see what I could do.  The local new, used, and exchange bookstore didn't even have a copy of the book.  The next closest bookstore was Books-a-Million.  I hadn't stepped foot into one of their stores in years, probably not since high school.  I wandered around aimlessly because there were very few shelves of books and most of the books were just stacked on tables.  There was no order to the stacking, and alphabetical or genre order was totally absent.  I finally found someone to help me.  He informed me that I could get the one copy of this classic novel they had in the store (for seven bucks) and could order the rest, but that I would have to pay an ordering charge and wait 2-3 weeks for them to come in.  I bought the one that was there and saved the receipt.

Next stop: Barnes and Noble.  I walked in and, dismayed, found that the store is undergoing massive renovations.  Luckily, some sweet college student greeted me at the door and asked if he could help me find any books.  I explained (just as I had at Books-a-Million) that I was looking for enough copies of the book to make a class set, that I was okay with an abridged version as long as the gist of the plot and the science of the book were still there, but that I was perfectly content with the unabridged adult version.  This guy walked me to the back of the store, which even under construction was a million times neater and more organized than its competitor on an average day, and found me five different versions of the book to choose from.  Not too shabby, eh?  They had 5 copies in stock.  I figured this was a good start and went to leave, assuming I'd go home and start searching the internet again.  As I turned to leave, this sweet boy said, "Ma'am, would you like to order enough to complete your class set? It should only take 3-4 business days."  It was music to my ears.  I'm so excited to try this with my students, and they WILL read this book and do the activities I make to do with it AND relate it to the facts we know from class, even if I end up bald.  I'm so pumped!!!

So, B&N or Books-a-Million?  Experiences?  I'm certainly not going back to Books-a-Million.

The Way to A Teacher's Heart

Americans can be Really Self-Centered

Remember that time Steve Jobs died?  It was really sad.  He had cancer, and he wasted away.  And then the iPhone 4 came out, and they announced an iPhone 5.  Then, people all over the country had a big discussion about apple products and whether or not they would still be amazing and whether we should buy them, etc.

You know what we forgot about?  The children of the world.  Now, you don't have to go to whatever Third World country this picture is from, BUT children everywhere are in need.  In my school, we send home dozens of backpacks full of food every Friday to help some of our kids get through the weekend, since they often don't get fed at home, or don't get fed nutritiously at home. We don't think about them, and so many people (adults and children) go through at least as much as Steve Jobs is.  Granted, they're not as famous as he is, but does that mean we should ignore their plight?  We haven't even touched the iceberg for what some of these kids live through and survive, then learn to overcome.  Cancer? Neglect? Abuse? Starvation?  Come on, guys.  These kids are our future.

And here's one of my favorite songs of all-time.... This is one of those that my mom and I played the track to and danced around the living room singing the whole album.

How do you help without seeming to provide "charity," which so many will not accept?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Who doesn't love football?

This is an interesting metaphor.  It's carried out to great detail, but I think it makes a valid point.  There are definitely some things in our educational system that need to be addressed.  (I'm not sure where it came from...I just got it in an email.)

NO CHILD LEFT BEHIND---The Football Version 
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.
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 PLAY FOOTBALL AT A PROFICIENT LEVEL!
3. Talented players will be asked to work out on their own without instruction. This is because the coaches will be using all their instructional time with the athletes who aren't interested in football, have limited athletic ability, or whose parents don't like football.
4. Games will be played year round, but statistics will only be kept in the 4th, 8th, and 11th games.
5. This will create a New Age of sports where every school is expected to have the same level of talent and all teams will reach the same minimal goals.

So, what are your thoughts on NCLB?  Reminder- please be courteous to the opinions of others.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Blogging for my students

I'm trying something new:  I'm writing blogs for my students on my school web page.  I'm trying this one out as a conversations starter to help them work on their memorization skills.  It's an area that we're lacking in across the board, and at a district meeting I recently attended, memorization skills are a district-wide problem.  This is the post I wrote to start them off-- what are your opinons/ what works for you as an adult?  If you have an LD, what is helpful to you?

Rhyming or Songs: We all learn the lyrics to our favorite songs.  If we can memorize this, why can't we memorize the basic facts we need to know in our classes?  Let's try creating songs in our spare time and see what happens.  Is your song good?  What type of song/ beat helps you remember best?

Association: This is another type of visualization where you can use your imagination. You can associate certain objects in a funny way to remember them better instead of remembering each object separately. This association technique helps a lot because the brain can process information faster this way.

Chunking: This where you break up a large piece of dull information into easy-to-remember chunks. You can also make these chunks interesting by associating them with color, rhythm or music.  An example of chunking is remembering a phone number like "867-5309" by using the song.

Acronym:  Acronyms are combination of letters where each letter stands for some words.  In sixth grade science, we came up with a sentence to remember the system for classifying organisms.  The example our class came up with was "King Philip Can Order French Green Stew. The first letters of the systems of classification are: K, P, C, O, F, G, S.  By using this technique, they can remember a whole lot of words better.  

Visual aids:  It has been proven that some kids find it helpful to remember a word easily when they see it written on board or paper instead of simply hearing it.  Is it helpful for you to draw a picture/ rewrite information to remember it?

What memorization techniques work best for you?  What memorization techniques should I add to our class?  Do some memorization techniques work sometimes and other times you need a different technique?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011


I don't know how many people realize this, but teacher's wear a lot of hats.  Just as any woman who is a mother, professional, wife, volunteer, etc. does, we do.  That grammar was atrocious, but I suppose that's why I'm not an English teacher.  Here are just a few of the things that we do on a daily basis-- minus the travel agent.  That comes and goes in waves and large hunks of time.  This poster/ whatever it is could not be more accurate.  I AM proud to be a teacher.  It is something that I love doing and I hope that part of me will always have a passion for teaching young people and helping them grow, whether I'm teaching science or doing youth development, or no longer in a classroom, but still teaching kids.


God's Reminders

You know those kids that you really kinda just want to strangle?  Don't give up on them.  Even the most frustrating, difficult, irritating, you think they'll never learn how to behave or learn the curriculum or ever even care about school student HAS POTENTIAL.  I had a really really really exciting moment with one of my most frustrating kids yesterday.  The thing is, he's got a personality that I rather enjoy except for at lunch and when he's in my class.  He comes from a rough background- Mom's unemployed, disabled, homeless, etc.  He bounces around but mostly stays with Mom's sister, though she has no legal guardianship.  He has a host of issues behaviorally and psychologically, but he's got a good inside.  This boy was a thorn in my side from day one.  If he wasn't trying to sleep, he was talking out of turn or drumming a beat on his desk.  The last week or so, he's really improved.  He still wasn't by any means a "model student" but was much more enjoyable to teach.  (I felt less like a dentist doing a root canal and more like someone that could help him learn).  Yesterday, I asked one of my Chatty Cathys if he would like to teach the class, since he obviously knew more about the subject than I did.  I mean, he was clearly talking to his neighbor about class and the information I was presenting, right?  Chatty Cathy said he didn't know enough to teach the class.  My young thorn then politely stopped fidgeting, sat up straight, raised his hand, and waited for me to acknowledge him.  When I did, he asked me if he could PLEASE teach the class?  I was a little hesitant, worried that he would try to clown around like he often does, but agreed.  At this point, they were beginning and individualized activity using informational text.  This young man came up to the board, started explaining and teaching, and even went to several students' desks who raised their hands and asked for help.  I literally was so proud I thought I'd burst.  SO SO SO SO SO proud.  And thanks, God, for that reminder that they're ALL worth the effort.  I even called his Auntie and asked her to pass along the word that he had done so wonderfully and how proud I was.  Today, he was a "model student."  :D

Monday, October 10, 2011

Mission Impossible

My boyfriend just sent me a really encouraging email.  It said something to the effect of you can do things other people think are impossible.  Good luck, and I know you'll make it through.

I love this because part of our school's Mission is to make the impossible possible.

I hope you're all off to the great start of a week.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Shopping Carts

I find shopping oddly therapeutic.  I'm not necessarily talking retail therapy because, let's be honest, trying to find a pair of pants that fits me right is about as easy as finding a needle in a haystack.  I'm talking about any sort of shopping- picking up cat food and litter from Target, grocery shopping, anything that lets me take a cart and methodically walk up and down the aisles.  I sometimes shop when I'm really stressed out.  Of course, usually those shopping excursions are because I've had so much on my mind I forgot to get something on my list or totally forgot to get whatever it is I need for the lab I'm teaching tomorrow.  Some of the things I love about shopping are:

1) The methodically placed aisles and all the strategy behind the organization of a store calms me down.  I like to methodically reason my way through my madness.

2) There's great people watching at the grocery store.  For example, the "must have been on MTV's Teen Mom" mom who has three children (probably all under the age of 8) shopping for groceries at 10:45 on a school night that I saw last week.

3) Have you ever noticed how much you can learn about someone from looking at their shopping cart?  You get a sneaky insight into their lives.  Often, looking at someone else's shopping cart makes me feel more normal, or at least calms me down.  I like to guess what other people do socially, professionally, etc. by looking at their shopping carts. It sounds crazy, but you really should try's fun!

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Dear Jerks

Dear Jerks,

I don't know who you are or where you live, but you certainly don't live on my block because I've never seen you before and I know everybody here.  It is rude and inappropriate to have a loud, raucous, binge-drinking party on a Tuesday night in front of peoples' homes that aren't yours.  I don't want to hear your cussing, your screaming, your ridiculous drunked conversations, or about the wild sex you're going to have later.  I also don't want to see your trash all over the place in the morning.  Please remember that I am an over-worked woman who is cranky and has to get up early, so I like to go to bed early too.  I realize that it's ten o'clock and I'm still working, but I know my roommate and several of my neighbors have already had lights out.  You are rude and if you give me a little bit longer to work up a good temper, my cranky self is gonna come teach you how to behave in a respectable neighborhood. 



Saturday, October 1, 2011

but don't get crazy

Today was one of those days.  Not so much in my classroom, but in general it was a rough day.  We had four in ISS.  One was there all day and most of yesterday.  The other three got called out at the end of my class.  Plus, they were MAP testing again, so they were all chatty and wanted to move and play and unwind, but since there wasn't time for that, they had to go to class still tense from testing.   There was a fight in the substitute's class.  I feel a little bad for not going over to help her out, but she'd been screaming all day, so I had no idea that this time was any different.  One of my hardest-working, most well-behaved and motivated (but also battling a big disability) students is in DJJ. BUM-mer!  Tons of kids, normally good, were in ISS or doing PT with the Sergeant.  They were fine in class, but all the transitions were killer.  I'm sooo tired from the stress of it, and so glad it's over.  On to a better day!  Oh, and for the reminded me of Bonquiqui's famous episode at King Burger.