Archive for the ‘8th graders’ Category

How young. How innocent.

8.January.2009

“Hey, we should look that up on SparkleNotes!”

-8th grader

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How’s YOUR day going?

15.December.2008

Imagine you wake up with that “Geez, it feels so late” feeling. You look at your cell phone alarm, which you will NEVER USE AGAIN. It has mysteriously frozen at midnight. You click until it comes back to life.

It reads 7:30.

But, but…you have to report to work at 7:40 and, on days with good weather, it takes you about 40 minutes to get to said work. Adding salt to your  barely awakened wound, you knew today was not one of those days. It had rained all day on Sunday, the temperature had dropped – creating a virtual ice rink – and then it had snowed. The windchill was 27 below zero so when you leave in your heels – instead of wearing your warm boots – the little cracks of your exposed upper toe area become crinkly and painful. You wonder aloud, “Why the F*** am I living in this godforsaken hell hole?”

Just kidding. You loooove it here.

Anyway, needless to say, the highways aren’t exactly “free-flowing” and as you give your secretary a panicky phone call, you realize it may take well over your typical 40 minutes to arrive at school. You say a quick prayer that your 8th graders will behave themselves in the dangerously unstructured time before Homeroom begins at 8:30.

You walk in the front doors at – miraculously – 8:30. On the dot. Your 8th graders have morphed into little angels and all are seated, being quiet enough. You stroll in nonchalantly. Everything is cool. “I was just at a meeting,” you say. Nevermind that you actually did miss your ILA Department meeting earlier in the morning.

Now, let’s say you arrive home to a stomach-churning smell. Why? Because you have a little doggy whom you carelessly tossed into her kennel this morning while you were running around half-dressed, trying to prioritize (AKA: Do I have time to make coffee?). The poor dear left a vengeful mess and continues to bark punitively the remainder of the evening. “Is glaring an effective training method?” you wonder – again, out loud.

You pour another glass of wine and remind yourself to pull out the faux-wood-paneled alarm clock you hate to look at, but love to hear in the morning. Okay, maybe “love” is a strong word.

Day over.

I am a teacher and I’m being unprofessional.

29.November.2008

My students just finished writing -or I just finished grading, whatever- short stories. This is the second year that we’ve used pictures from The Mysteries of Harris Burdick as story starters. In a nutshell, the book contains black-and-white drawings, each accompanied by a title and a caption, enticing readers to make up his or her own story. It works pretty well to ward off the “Once upon a time” or “A Brief Retelling of Something That Happened In My Childhood, But I’ll Pretend I Made It Up” stories.

the-mysteries-of-harris-burdick

Though I was extremely pleased with the majority of the stories, for every 20 stories, there was inevitably one containing lines that stood out enough to make you want to heckle and throw tomatoes at the student. Or at least privately shame them by showing the lines to someone who will find them equally as amusing. Dear readers, this time around, said persons are you!

Occasionally, the stories will borderline on inappropriate. It’s the kind of inappropriateness, though, where you can’t quite decide whether it’s done with the intent to get away with something or whether the kid doesn’t have a clue. Honestly, it could go either way with this one. Excerpt:

“Fred told his mom, ‘It’s a puss with hair!'” (Now, he could have meant PUS as in the liquidy substance OR puss as in cat. Sure. My mind, however, is absolutely in the gutter at this point.)

Hmm. It continues:

“She doesn’t believe him. When he sees the puss he doesn’t know what to do.”

And later:

“Finally, Fred sees the puss. Fred yells ‘You!’ but he gets so excited that he forgets to get out and he blows up everywhere.”

After this uncomfortable experience, I reached the end of the story. Not only had the student gone all second-grade on me by printing “By: <Innuendo Boy>” at the bottom, but he proceeds to SIGN his name under it. Thank goodness I know it’s an original.

You have to love the complete randomness that some inject into their stories – with TOTALLY serious intentions.

On Elm Street, there is a tormented purple house where a strange young man lives. His name is Matt and he lives alone except for his pet swan.

The swan is never mentioned again.

Other times, one will shudder at the grammar. This example made me want to pry open his head to see why the hours of class time we’d spent on grammar mysteriously evaporated. Example:

“The opperator said, ‘Hellow what is your emergence.'” (Come on! You KNOW how to spell “HELLO”!)

Or, my personal favorite:

“She raped him in a blanket.”

Ahem: it’s WRAPPED.

I will end this post with a most cringe-worthy line that ended far too many stories this year:

…and it was all a dream.

The First Part Last: Adolescent Lit. Book Review

23.November.2008

A colleague of mine came back from her Department Leader meeting with a stack of books that the district had purchased, but that had since been deemed “inappropriate” for classroom use. Yeah, our district usually operates that way.

Anyhow, they were up for grabs for use in our personal classroom libraries, which operate by a different set of rules.

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One of the books I grabbed was The First Part Last by Angela Johnson. I’d just heard positive mumblings about this book and thought – if not for use in my classroom – that I’d actually like to read it. I knew it was about teenage pregnancy and I figured that I pretty much had the plotline all figured out.

It was a super quick read. I’m talking 2 hours tops.

And the plot was -yay- different than I had thought. There’s a dramatic twist at the end and it was so very sad. It reminded me of Rachel so much so that I had to put down the book and just bawl. Which isn’t really a bad thing because it’s been months since I actually felt any real emotion about her situation. It sometimes goes into hibernation. So…um…I guess I just gave away the twist.

But I digress. It’s a good read, though I’d be careful of which young person you hand it to. There’s a bit of “language” and then there’s the whole teenage pregnancy thing. Ya know.

DC Teacher Chic

15.November.2008

Since my close encounter with moving to DC – when I was scrambling for any morsel of what my future life/job/universe might be like – I’ve been reading several blogs from writers in the area. On the outside looking in, if you will. The public schools had been of particular interest to me -obvs- and I’ve been following a teacher in Southeast DC who regularly divulged the dirty details – the reality – of her job as a 5th grade teacher.  DC Teacher Chic.

The teacher recently made an admittedly surprising move and left her position mid-year. She’s been very candid about the reasons; in fact, she takes the risk of sharing her identity and that of her school by sharing said details with DC Wire.

From a teacher’s perspective, the “Comments” sections (in both the DC Wire article and DC Teacher Chic’s blog) are where you’ll find yourself shaking your head and holding yourself back from calling out 80% of the commenters as stupid idiots without a clue who cannot spell or write properly! (Whew, feels good.) It’s easy to see which commenters are the teachers, which are the posers, and which are the ignorant, unappreciative teacher-haters.

Listen, when teachers talk about how stressful the job can be, it isn’t just mindless complaining. If most teachers have the same complaints about their job, shouldn’t we come to the conclusion that the LARGE number of people who make up this demographic are NOT just a bunch of whiners but that there is a real need for change? (Am I channeling Barack Obama here?) What affects the teachers eventually affects the students. Better education starts here.

This is why I can’t blame DC Teacher Chic for leaving her position. Though I don’t take abandoning a responsibility lightly (Did I mention I am a Catholic? GUILT!) if the school environment/the administration/the student are placing the amount of mental duress on you that results in regularly vomiting before you go off to work, it is time to leave. Not only for the teacher, but for the students. I think that’s the part many of the commenters are missing: You have to be healthy and well in order to teach. You can’t do your students justice if you are under intense, unforgiving stress every day.

That being said, I’m a teacher in a suburban district and therefore don’t know or truly understand the problems of urban districts. We just don’t face the same problems of attrition that the latter does. There are also some things this teacher had mentioned that do give me misgivings (i.e. “Can I see a show of hands of teachers who have been asked for a bite of food? I get this question all the time.” I am going to hope I’m missing something here and that she isn’t truly eating in front of her likely-hungry students.) The point is that if this example of the urban teacher exodus isn’t a legit one, there are multitudes of examples of that are.

What will it take to turn urban districts and schools around? So that teachers don’t get to the point that DC Teacher Chic did? If education is the foundation for everything else, when we can’t figure out how to effectively educate ALL our country’s children well, we can’t expect to have a productive society in the future.

*PS: If you go back to earlier posts on this blog, DC Teacher Chic discusses Michelle Rhee’s (district superintendant) contract proposals – some of which feature the phasing out of tenure. An interesting conversation in itself, this part is worth reading as well. Remember, DC is often the petri dish for initiatives that go nationwide.

*PPS: See, not a re-post! Happy face!

Yes! You should feel bad for me, as a matter of fact.

9.November.2008

Why Sarah Has Posted One Million and One Times This Weekend

dscn1235

Short Stories and Other Miscellany Turned in Last Week

(As seen compared to the size of my morning coffee. I don’t have a chance.)

Don't Look at Me

“Don’t look at me,” says Iris while lying on a floor of strewn-about dog “toys.”

Yes, I’m even taking pictures of my dog and pretending that she knows what the hell is going on.

I need to get to work.

What do old presidents do when they’re done being president?

3.November.2008

(Asks one of my students)

THEY DIE.

(Said in unison, in a “duh” tone of voice, from a group of students in the back)

It would be cuter if they were 1st graders.

But they’re not.