Monday, October 31, 2005

Seat Change

OK, it wasn't so major. Well, it was, really, but it didn't have a major effect on my day.
The Co and I made a massive seat change. Every single girl got her seat moved. Most of them turned out pretty ok, some of them still need adjustments. But that's ok. It's one of the advantages of being a teacher. I get to do whatever I want with the 32 in my control. (Evil Laugh...)
We put B.E.D. in the front of the classroom, right in front of the teacher's desk. I liked her there. I kept an eye on her all day, and she even gave me some beautiful smiles! I guess sitting in the front put her in a place where she felt more involved in the class, and although she didn't raise her hand once, she did seem to be following along.
R.R. was absent, and that was a relief because I had forgotten to prepare her special sheets for her.
R.H. was put into the front as well, and it was a little disastrous. She tends to take over the class, because she's constantly calling out, and speaking out of turn, but being put in the front made her worse. Here she feels like she owns the place because she's sitting in such close proximity to the teacher.
I got a little nervous, but I started ignoring her every time she called out. I should've done it from the first day of school. It worked so well. She got so insulted that I didn't even turn around to look at her when she said something, that she got quiet very quickly. I might actually get somewhere with her.
C.K. was also put in the front, but on the opposite end of the room as R.H. I needed to keep an eye on her too.
G.S. took another one of the front seats in 7a, she's one kid I cannot take my eyes off if I want the other girls to be safe.
Seventh grade is full of little monsters. I wish there were a system to put all 32 of my kids in the front. Every single 12 year old needs to be watched closely.
Anyway, we were in the middle of discussing the story, "The Countess and the Impossible," a nice story about a seemingly strict, proper lady, who taught a Utah farmboy an important lesson in life. At the beginning of the story, the boy sees the countess as a strict disciplinarian, but it ends off where they're strolling around her garden together.
I brought this point up in front of the class, and asked them if they thought the countess seemed a little nicer at the end of the story then at the beginning. So the girls had an animated discussion on this, and basically, we came up with the conclusion that a walk around the garden is something you take with a person you're close and comfortable with, not someone like your school principal.
Well, F.G. raised her hand and said,"Well I have no problem walking in the garden with our principal." I think I almost fainted.
The class didn't all agree with her, but just the fact that F.G. wasn't shy to say that in class, just goes to show that something is very wrong in this school. There is no reason why the students should feel comfortable enough to walk around gardens with the principal, when the teachers live in mortal fear of her.
Later, we were doing history in 7a, when surprise, surprise, the principal walked in to observe me.
This must've been the third or fourth time she came in to my class this year, more than any of the other teachers, and I almost exploded.
She sat in on my lesson for about 20 minutes, until the bell rang at 4:15, and I didn't wait until she came over to speak to me. I ran for safety and made it to the teacher's room as fast as I could.
I don't need more compliments, I don't need more work, and I definitely don't need it from her. Not today anyway.
I stayed a while to talk to the other teachers and we all somehow managed to have a bad day. They all unanimously agreed that having the principal in for 20 minutes definitely made my day the worst day of all of theirs.
It was kind of fun sitting and kvetching with all those scary people called teachers. But the truth is, we're all just regular people with regular jobs, who manage to have bad days, just like everyone else put there.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Back to School

And of course, there is no better time to go back to school than on a Sunday.
After 3 weeks of sleeping late, who wants to get out of bed at 7 am, especially on a Sunday?
Well I had no choice, so I left my husband still asleep, and went down to school.
The day was actually pretty great, I loved being in the front of the class again, and the the girls seemed excited to be there too.
My co had to leave halfway during the day, so we switched the schedule, and for the last 45 minutes of the day I had both classes together.
At first I was a little nervous, but we started a new, very creative writing assignment, and pretty soon, the class was so involved, I forgot I was teaching both of them together. I had no discipline problems, it felt great!
I had come in on a Friday before Yom Tov to give the girls back their history tests, but R.R. was absent that day. I gave her test back today.
I was surprised to find that she was miserable with the 80% she got.
She came over to me after class, and we had a little talk.
I told her very openly, that if I could, I would open my roll book and show her that most girls average out at an 80. I told her that even I myself wasn't a hundred student in school.
She looked skeptical, but I told her further, that had I been a hundred student in school I probably wouldn't be doing all the extra things I'm doing for her.
The reason I am doing this, is because was a student like her,and I can understand what she's feeling. I told her that it was not because she was dumb that I was doing all this for her. It was because I believed in her. If I didn't think this was going to pay off, I wouldn't bother to work hard.
I think she seemed pleased by that.
I also told her, a little strictly, that I wasn't going to be around forever to boost her confidence. I warned her that if she doesn't believe in herself, no one will.
I hope this kid gets straightened out., but honestly, I think all she wanted was just a little bit of attention.
That's not a problem, but I wish she would start looking for positive attention. What she's doing now won't get her anywhere, except for maybe on my nerves.
just a side point, I went into the principal's office for something, and I walked out of there staggering under the load of work she put on my shoulders. I was a little, ok, more than a little annoyed, but learned to say, "Yeah, yeah, yeah." and do absolutely nothing.
Yep, I'm learning the ropes in life.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Later That Night..

I just did something very scary. I called my first couple of parents.
OK, it wasn't so bad. The parents are regular mothers just like mine, and the funny thing, is that they feel like they have to excuse themselves for me. I think they think I'm this big person, when they're not getting that I'm probably younger than some of their kids.
So the first mother, S.G.L.'s mother, actually sent a note to school requesting that I call her. So I called her first.
She happened to be very sweet, and she wanted to discuss the matter that S.G.L. has a problem with comprehending what is going on class, and if Mrs. L. wouldn't study with her, she would flunk everything. The problem was that she had just opened a business in her basement, and she was too busy to study with her all the time.
Personally, I don't know why they keep promoting these girls into older grades. I know it's more complicated than just the way I make it sound, but social promotion is not an answer. If there is a problem it has to dealt with. By the time a girl is in seventh grade, the problem can grow to affect the student socially, as well as educationally.
The mother was very quick to agree to have S.G.L. evaluated proffessionally, she had already even discussed it with my co.
I offered to let S.G.L. retake the history test at home, where she had no time limit, as long as Mrs L. made sure that she wasn't looking back in her notes, and talking to friends about it. The mother agreed wholeheartedly, and personally, I don't think S.G.L. or her mother will be telling anyone about this anyway, they seemed to be a little afraid of having a reputation of being learning disabled. That in itself is a horrid attitude, but that discussion isn't for now.
My second mother, M.R.'s mother, also requested that I call her.
Now this one was a strange one. She wasn't calling to discuss her daughters at all! (I teach two of her daughters, one in seventh, and one in twelfth.) She was calling to find out information about a girl I went to school with that someone was trying to set up with her son.
I hung up the phone laughing. This mother was a character! I didn't mind at all that this is what she wanted to speak to me about, but it's a funny thing to call your daughter's teacher for. There were 90 other girls in my grade who were mostly pretty accessible for info, but she chose to call me. I had a good laugh.
My third mother was the one I dreaded calling. C.K.'s mother.
C.K. had been acting very fresh lately, and that's one thing I don't go for. At all. I had already spoken to C.K, but she didn't seem to care, because she "forgot " what we discussed in out little chat pretty quickly.
Surprisingly, Mrs. K. was very understanding. At first she tried defending her daughter by telling me that she only acted this way because she didn't do well on tests and school work.
I knew that, but I explained to Mrs. K. that her daughter might never be a good student, there are some girls who are not cut out for sitting behind a desk for 8 hours every day. But her daughter had a great quality, and that was her personality. I told this mother, that I personally believed that a good personality can get someone much further in life than just 100% on every test.
When she saw that I was on her daughter's side, she became much more receptive, and I explained to her that her daughter had so much going for her, it would be shame for her to ruin it by becoming sarcastic and fresh. Mrs. K. understood the point I was trying to make.
She tried explaining it away on her changing hormones (after all, she IS a 12 year old) she said it might've been her period or something.
I almost dropped the phone.
I appreciate it when a parent is comfortable talking to me as a teacher, but woah, this is one embarrassing mother!! I hope this kid never finds out that her mother spoke to me about her monthly visitor. I know that I'd have disowned my mother should she have done something like that to me.
Anyway, we left off on good terms, and those were my adventures tonight.
And my husband has just dubbed me with a new name: "Little Stinker."
Hey, he might be right, and that's long as those parents don't know it!

Tuesday, October 11, 2005


Also, another strange day.
I walked right in to give my test. I gave the test to both classes at once, and the other teacher proctored the other class. We switched in the middle so that I was able to take questions form girls in both classes.
The multiple choice really threw them off, but the essay is what killed them. I had girls going crazy trying to figure out what to write, and obsessing over how much they remembered (or forgot!)
In reality, most of the information they needed for their essays were scattered throughout the test, and if the girls were bright enough, they figured it out. I think most girls got it in the end. I read some beautiful essays on their tests.
Some girls got me so nervous though. The way they made a big deal over stupid questions bothered me to no end. And the biggest joke of all is that the girls whoa asked the most questions, occupied most of my time, and threw the crying fits were the ones who got the top marks in the class. Is that ironic or just annoying and selfish? There were so many girls who actually needed the help, but those girls don't bother to ask a lot of questions. They don't obsess over that extra point. Those girls just want to pass.
I used to hate those girls who would cry every time they got a 98, and wouldn't rest until they did enough extra credit to get a 100 percent. I used to hate them, and now I teach them. Now that is ironic.
I made the girls hand in their tests when the recess bell rang, and the girls who needed more time all came into one classroom to finish up. Guess who was there? Well, M.L. for one, (she got 103% on her test) and T.K. 7a, (who got a similar mark) and E.F.G. (another 103%). F.G. was there, snd she threw such a tantrum, I was tempted to rip up her paper and send her back to kindergarten. I didn't even think a 12 year old would be capable of throwing such a fuss. She was fresh, and angry, and downright babyish. And then she went and got an 85%. What is wrong with the kids these days?
T.K. (7b) stayed after, and I helped her out a lot, I really wanted her to well, it would do a lot for her self confidence, and in the end she did beautifully, she got a 72%. I'm very proud of her.
R.R. came back form the resource room, and I gave her a special test I had prepared just for her. She also almost threw a tantrum, but she sat down and tried. She said something to the effect of "Now you'll really see how stupid I am."
I got a little upset at her. I told her, "What is it that you want me to tell you? Yes, R.R. you are stupid!? You are not stupid, and stop trying to make me think so, now sit down, and start writing!" She looked at me, shocked, and then she sat down and took that test. (She ended up getting and 80!!!)
B.E.D. also needed more time. I had heard she was not smart, but I think she just needed a lot of time. I gave her until the end of the day. she got a 96%. Proud is not the word. Even my husband was excited!
After recess both classes got together and did an arts and crafts for Succos. It worked out very nicely, and I was happy we did it.
Of course, we couldn't waste an hour and a half on just an arts and crafts, so I read the girls a nice story that took about 20 minutes. It was called an e-mail from G-D.
Boy, did I get it over my head. After class, my co told me that I'd be in huge trouble about this e-mail thing. Parents were going to call the school, and the principal would kill me.
Mind you, this is not internet, this is just e-mail! Every kid in that class knew what e-mail was, so why would the parents call up?
I was regretting the whole day.
The other teachers tried to make me feel better by telling me that since we wouldn't be having school until the end of the month because of Yom Tov, it was likely to be forgotten, and never make it to the principal. I hope so.
My husband hates this. Again, it;s the same story, this is what I have to put up with for that kind of money? Blah!

What a Day!

I had to be in school early today to ship the girls off to the Yom Tefila.
It was starting to get really chilly outside, but I was running late, and in such a rush, that I ran the block to school without my jacket.
I walked through the doors to find my class already waiting for me to take them to the place, but guess what, no buses.
I had to WALK about 25 minutes to get to where we were supposed to be. And of course I had no time to go back and get my jacket, and then of course it started raining.
My students had a field day with me on the walk to the Yom Tefila. They were asking me all sorts of questions, and trying to get me to tell them what questions were on my history test. I was a little surprised. I don't remember ever being so comfortable around my teachers when I was that age. I guess things are changing.
Around halfway there, about 7 of my students who were walking right behind me began laughing hysterically. Every time I looked at them, they laughed even more, and I started feeling self conscious. You know how it is, I kept thinking there was something wrong with me to be making them laugh.
I kept checking my skirt, my tights, to see if they had a run, my wig, I was really starting to feel dumb. I think it's funny now, but I seriously could've cried at that point. My seventh graders aren't mature enough to come over and tell me what's wrong or funny, they'd rather point and laugh.
So I went over to them and I asked, "Girls, is there something I should know?" and the funniest thing happened. One girl mustered up all her courage to ask me if I had a sister named B.L.
I was so relieved! That was all they were laughing about! They were shy to ask me if that girl was my sister! (She is my sister, and they knew that because there's a children's book dedicated to my family, and it says both of our names there, so I guess my students put two and two together. I'm just glad they didn't see the later printing of that book that has about 6 of my siblings mentioned. LOL)
Anyway, the Yom Tefila was beautiful, and we had an uneventful walk back to school.
Except for a student who thought it would be funny if she rang my doorbell as we passed my apartment building.
I pretended not to notice, but I couldn't decide if I was flattered or not. On the one hand, it was pretty cool that my students liked me so much that they found out where I lived and kept track of my family members and everything. But on the other hand, it takes guts to go over and ring your teacher's doorbell the third week of school. Then again, it was G.S. who did it and that's not surprising, and like I said, the kids today are not what they used to be.
We got back to school where I just proctored the science teacher's test in one class, and I answered the girls' index cards.
B.E.D. wrote on her index card that she likes to read, and I had come prepared for that. I told her on her card to come over to me after class because I had something for her. She didn't come over, but I went to her and gave her a mystery book similar to the Nancy Drews she liked to read. She was in heaven.
I'm so happy.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Start of a Crazy Week

Sunday again. It's just a weird day.
We had another balanced literacy teacher's meeting, and of course, we weren't notified. So my students took 10 minutes to write a journal entry, and then they ran around the halls for an hour until we were dismissed.
Then, during recess, I found out that, guess what, I wasn't going to be teaching Monday. All the girls schools were having a Yom Tefila Monday afternoon because it was three days before Yom Kippur, and so that left an hour for teaching when we came back.
My problem was that the science teacher was giving a science test Monday, so that didn't leave me any time for the history review I planned on doing with the classes before their test on Tuesday. Great.
I walked into class after recess, took everything I planned to do with my girls and threw it out the window.
Instead, I told them all to take out their notes, and I spent a half hour in each class rushing through my notes, and telling them what they should be having in theirs for the test.
I was speeding through the material, trying to get everything in before the bell, and starting to get a little hoarse, when the principal walked in to observe my class. Oh Yippee!
So far, I have been the most observed teacher in the entire school. And every time, the principal walked in, it was at a bad time for me.
I just wanted that bell to ring so that I could run home and go to bed!!
I think Murphy's Law should be changed to have my name in the front of it.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

What do I do Now?

Today was quite weird. The teachers had a meeting about a new program the school wants to implement called balanced literacy.
The balanced literacy is a fantastic idea, but I don't' believe it can be started in the seventh grade. I think that if it isn't introduced in the younger grades, the older grades are just too old to start learning to read in a new way.
But I enjoyed the meeting, it was for all the English teachers and it was informative and exciting. The problem with this meeting was that it took place during class time. The teachers were told to give the class quiet work to do, but they did the work like I'm gonna die my hair blue. The girls had a field day.
The meeting went until the morning recess, and after recess, my co and I were really pressed for time. We decided to split our class time in half. That gave me about 35 minutes in each class.
I had prepared a lot to teach, but once I realized how little time I actually had, I had to think fast.
We did some answering questions in our journals about the letter to self, and then we did a few short minutes of history.
I couldn't start something new with them, so I came up with an idea. I called it "Creativity Sparks."
Each girl took out a clean sheet of paper and I gave them a word. When I said "Go," they had to write down whatever came to their minds. It didn't have to make sense, they just had to keep writing. I told them I didn't care if they started off with the alphabet and ended up with pajamas. They just had to keep on writing.
The point of the exercise was to teach these girls to use their imaginations, and not to be afraid to express their creativity. (I found that was a MAJOR problem when it came to writing in my classes.)
When a girl put down her pen, she was "out." She wasn't allowed to continue writing, not even one word. When a student's mind went blank , she had to keep writing, she could write, :my mind is blank." It was all fine with me.
I didn't collect these. At the end of 3 minutes, every single girl had to put down her pen, even if she was in the middle of a word. We used the word "ice" in one class, and the word "fork" in the other. It worked really well.
And no one wanted to get out. At the ed of the exercise, I told the girls, that whoever offered to read their creativity spark out loud to the class got a plus one on any of my tests. The girls were all begging on me to call on them....even in class 7a!!! Maybe I AM getting somewhere!
I called R.R. over to me after school, we had a little problem with her "forgetting" to do her special homework. I told her that this was only a trial, and if she wasn't going to show me that she was going to try her best with me, I wasn't going got give up my extra time to her.
She basically got the point, but she told me that she threw out her "letter to self." Her reason? She claimed she had nothing to write, and she hated herself. Hmmmmm, haven't I heard that somewhere recently? I told her in no uncertain terms, that it was going to be handed in. I wonder if I'll ever get that letter.
She was walking away when I called after her, "By the way, I remembered about our appointment today, but it seems like you forgot."
R.R. blushed, and half turned around as she said, "I still don't think you'll have anything to say about me."
I answered, " I think you're wrong, and I think that if you'd really sit down and look inside yourself, you'd see all those wonderful things I see in you."
R.R.'s day was made.
Mrs. F, who works in the copy room, also a mother of one of my students, F.F. had called me over earlier that day during recess.
She told me that B.E.D. spent all her free time with F.F. in the F. family's house. She did her homework there, and called F.F. all hours of the day whenever she needed anything. She said that she sometimes spoke of her family problems, but she always told them never to tell anyone anything she said. She was afraid of her mother finding out. And the parents? Mrs. F. lived down the block from the D. family, and she described the mother as being extremely overprotective, and a bit unrealistic when it came to dealing with their kids.
The principal told me the same thing.
She said that a couple of years ago, the school had had B.E.D. evaluated for some strange behavior. The evaluation showed that she needed some serious professional help.
When the report was shown to the parents, they refused to believe it or do anything about it.
The school doesn't want to get involved anymore. They know that at this point it would be extremely detrimental to B.E.D. to talk to her parents again. The school is afraid that should the parents get the wrong idea, they might take B.E.D. out of this school and put her somewhere where no one will ever look at her twice. We don't want that to happen.
This kid is a bigger problem than I thought.
I spoke to F.F., and she told me what was going on. B.E.D. had no friends. She treats F.F. (a pretty popular girl) as her best friend. B.E.D. honestly thinks that her teachers have no idea about anything going on in her house. She's afraid to say anything to anyone, because she doesn't know whom to trust not to tell her parents.
The principal later told me that she had called Mrs. D. on Tuesday to tell her that some teachers had been complaining about her daughter being very reserved and about her not doing any work in class. Of course the mother denied everything.
The principal though, begged the mother to at least tell her whenever there was something going on with the baby, like this we would know when B.E.D. might have a hard time completing her homework, or paying attention in class.
The mother promised whole heartedly to work with the school, but we later found out, from Mrs. F. in the copy room, that the baby had been in the hospital since Thursday, but unsurprisingly, so one bothered to call us.
We're not working with very co-operative people.
I went home later and out of curiosity, I read B.E.D.'s letter to self. It was 4 pages long, and it had a nice long part about her sick brother. The funny thing is, she wrote about her older brother like he was still alive.
When I later asked the principal about it, she said that the evaluation they had done on her showed that this family keeps this boy very much alive. The longer I investigate, the more messed up this situation seems to be.
The bright side to this whole story is that B.E.D. confided in me. She knew that I was going to read her letter, so she obviously wanted to confide in me.
My shoulders keep getting heavier and heavier. I'm just missing that last straw in the camel's back to make me collapse.
Maybe I should give my husband a "piggy back" ride.