teachable moments…

21 01 2007

Found this online and was struck by how this should be what is able to happen in my classroom. Unfortunately, with pacing charts and the city’s limitations on how I can teach in my own classroom, it’s just not possible anymore. Sad.

“But the best classes, for me, always seem to be the
ones that go sailing off in some direction I hadn’t
anticipated. I used to worry about having to pull the
kids “back on track.” In recent years I’m more
interested in trying to explore with them where the
new track is leading. Truth to tell, a great deal of
my lesson “planning” is actually done after the fact,
trying as you say, to figure out, given today’s
surprises, what would be a good thing to do next.

And all of that connects to the objection that I think
we both share to curriculum design driven by
standardized testing. There’s no room there for side
tracks, we’ve got to get to page 48 by Thursday.

The artfulness of teaching is about knowing when and
how to respond on the fly to things you hadn’t
anticipated. And if you don’t provide room for those
things to happen, if you don’t give the students room
to make them happen, education devolves into something
mechanical and soul-deadening.”


Survival Mode

21 01 2007

Last week was wretched. Too many meetings, too many kids suspended, too many other staff members not minding their own business. I only made it to the gym on Friday, the night that I usually don’t go.

I realized that I’m in survival mode. My own defense mechanisms are kicking in and it’s where my brain is if I’m in that building. I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t want to interact with the other teachers or with the students because it’s the only way my heart can keep going. This job is so emotionally draining, and I don’t know what to do with it all other than to shut it out as much as I can. I’m not interacting with my students as much, they continue to take advantage of any leeway that I give them. I had a four hour IEP meeting Thursday afternoon, the kids were with an instructional assistant and Jim. They were fucking out of control. They can be great, but for the most part, they really just don’t know how to keep it together. I’m so tired up picking them up from somewhere and seeing that look on the teacher’s face.

This week, on Tuesday, Dr. P told me that my entire class wasn’t allowed to go outside because of their behavior in the cafeteria. So they didn’t. They had to stay inside and just sit while the rest of the third grade went out. Then on Wednesday, Dr. P stopped me when I came in to pick them up from lunch. She met me at the door to the cafeteria and said, “You really need to talk to your students about their behavior in the cafeteria. They are horrible and I don’t know what to do with them.” She said it in this condescending way that showed she truly thought that the problem was that I have no expectations, that I must let them do whatever they want and that’s why they are such a behavior problem. Not that someone in the office lumped the most wretched little beasts in the whole grade into one class and gave them all to me. She doesn’t know, this is the only group of kids she’s ever seen me with. I mean, what on earth. But what did she want me do say or do to them that she, the vice principal, couldn’t accomplish? It was like she thought that previously I had told them to do whatever the hell they wanted in the cafeteria, that they didn’t have to behave or something. I feel like the administration is saying, handle it or just send them home.

Neither of these things is working out. I did however, take my completed resume to Chris’. Next step is to really be working on a portfolio to take them in about a month. Hopefully that will all work out. I don’t want to put too much hope there, just in case, but I think I could really do some amazing things with a group of kids who were really motivated. In any case, if this week isn’t better than last, I might just .


18 01 2007

Undivided attention
By Taylor Mali

A grand piano wrapped in quilted pads by movers,
tied up with canvas straps – like classical music’s
birthday gift to the insane –
is gently nudged without its legs
out an eighth-floor window on 62nd street.

It dangles in April air from the neck of the movers’ crane,
Chopin-shiny black lacquer squares
and dirty white crisscross patterns hanging like the second-to-last
note of a concerto played on the edge of the seat,
the edge of tears, the edge of eight stories up going over, and
I’m trying to teach math in the building across the street.

Who can teach when there are such lessons to be learned?
All the greatest common factors are delivered by
long-necked cranes and flatbed trucks
or come through everything, even air.
Like snow.

See, snow falls for the first time every year, and every year
my students rush to the window
as if snow were more interesting than math,
which, of course, it is.

So please.

Let me teach like a Steinway,
spinning slowly in April air,
so almost-falling, so hinderingly
dangling from the neck of the movers’ crane.
So on the edge of losing everything.

Let me teach like the first snow, falling.

The first snow of the season was this morning, my classroom is chaos.

Private Visits

16 01 2007

All right- a little reflection on my visit to SS- not
all that I had hoped for quite honestly.  When I was
preparing to visit St. Chris- I was kind of prepared
to have it disapoint me.  I figured it couldn’t
possibly live up to all the hype, the kids couldn’t
really be that well behaved, they couldn’t be that
advanced academically, the teachers couldn’t be that
great, they couldn’t really feel that free.  However,
I was wrong, on all counts as far as I can tell.  I
was so bowled over by Chris’ that I am ready to move
on to that type of environment.  I want to be in a
place where I feel challenged to do my BEST work.  And
where I can encourage studetns to do the same.  That
was how it felt at Chris’- there was a mood, a vibe I
guess.  The teachers worked with the kids steadily,
they stayed moving, constantly going and punching it
up to the next level, to the next thing.  I didn’t
feel that way today.  The kids were babied, the
teachers were weirdos, the whole place kind of had
this creepy stepford children of the corn thing going
on.  The kids weren’t that smart, the work wasn’t that
incredible, the teaching was lackluster.  They’re
using Saxon for math- which I hate.  And they’re
thrilled about it.  They love the script- which to me
screams lazy.  There weren’t ANY black kids- the most
diversity I saw all day was the ONE Asian student.
Now, Chris’ wasn’t the picture of diversity either,
but it was a little better than that.  Not to mention
that the kids all were just soo uppity.  I have these
huge things with teaching snotty white rich girls.  I
just don’t think I can do it without getting
ridiculous with them.  I love some boys, I can deal
with snotty boys, it’s different.  I don’t know.
Maybe I’m putting all of this on myself in a way that
is unrealistic or unecessary.  However, it was
deffinitly proven to me by the end of the day that I
don’t have any desire to be there.  I would rather
stay where I am than make that kind of switch.  I
guess I feel like if I’m going to make the switch, I
want to go from one extreme to the other.  I’d really
be thrilled to be at Chris’ next year.  I’m trying not
to get myself all worked up or set myself too much on
it, but I would really love it.  I think I have done
the best work I’m going to do for the city already,
It’s time to move on to another aspect of my career,
another challenge.  What I really should be doing is
working on my resume.  I’m out.

Dancing in the New Year

12 01 2007

Dancing in the New Year

Originally uploaded by essential e.
I just have to make a quick note that in all the craziness of this place, this school, these kids, this whole educational system; there are teachers who are really and truly amazing. Suzannah rocks my world, wanting to make a difference while raising her own daughter in the crazy times of testing. Her classroom is amazing, the kids are free to make choices about what they’re learning and she strives to stay educated and informed on the current data regarding what she is teachign. I love that I have her to talk to about appropriate practices and really refining my pedagogy. Here we are dancing together on New Year’s Eve. Love her.

my workout inspiration

10 01 2007

  This group of kids is slowly killing my spirit.  I just don’t know what to do.  I’m at the point where I wonder if completely shutting off is what I need to do for my own survival.  As far as my spirit goes anyway.  I have this group of terribly apathetic kids, which I can’t handle.  Apathy is specifically the reason that I did not go into high school.  And I understand that they don’t care, I do, I just don’t know what to do about it.  My usual contagious energy isn’t cutting it with these.  I think I might have told you about the book that I’m reading on how to motivate disruptive and deffiant students, maybe not.  Anyway, at the beginning it discusses reason that the group is like that, the diagnosis for my class?  “Toxic Grouping”  That is the actual term in teh book.  And that’s what it is, this lethal combination of attitude, ignorance, apathy and disrespect towards everything but themselves.  And noteven themselves really, since they cheat like motherfuckers.  My stocking had tiny bottles of liqour in it this year.  Santa must be concerned for my well-being too.    In any case, after two and half hours at the gym last night, abs, step class and then kickboxing as well, I went home and drafted an e-mail to the headmaster of the private school that I observed at before Christmas.  I told him after a tremendous amount of thought and consideration, I’d like to express interest in any positions he might have open next year.  He wrote me back within the hour, which was last night- around 8:30- and told me that he didn’t know until March about definite openings, but to please send my resume soon so that he has it on hand.  I don’t have a resume.  Something to work on over the next couple days. All right, the bell is ringing, I’m going to go, we’ll see how it all goes. 


5 01 2007

Ahhhh, what a day already. This morning, my class is supposed to be
on a field trip to the Math & Science center here in Richmond.
However, due to the fact the they are all horrible little children,
instead they are sitting at their desks taking a test that we were
going to take this afternoon. Three are crying, and I’m sure that I
will be getting some phone calls on Monday. Since I’ve started writing this post, I have also now ripped up two tests and thrown them in the trash because the students were talking to each other.  Nice.

I’m just at this point where I truly wonder what kind of difference am I making? Th sad fact of it is, most of these kids won’t be making it to graduation, much less to college and beyond. the ones who would would have done so without me. So why am I burning myself out when the kids and their parents aren’t bothering? I can’t teach the way I know I should be, the city has such restraints on us because of all the testing. It’s out of control. I just don’t know what my next step needs to be. Do I stay here and try to change things, burn out in a couple more years because I can’t keep myself from investing too much time and emotion? Do I seek out private school where the pay won’t be as good but I might be get more respect? How do I tell my principal that I adore, that I just can’t do the job I want to be doing here? I spend so much time on all of this, and for what? I just don’t know.