Posts tagged ‘DR’

Paycheck!

I got a job!!

Well, kinda.

I was in the right place (next to my mentor teacher) at the right time (the moment when the principal of our summer school learned that one of their English teachers quit at the eleventh hour) and now I’m going to teach a semester of ninth grade English this summer. It will last about 3 and a half weeks, mostly in June, two classes a day. The pay is awesome (around $23 an hour) and the experience is priceless. Plus, it’s at CHS. Mr. Bees will be in classes at the time anyway, and we could definitely use the money.

The first semester of 9th grade English is pretty cool. Short stories and poetry. I’m excited…

In other good news, both DR and BR recently expressed confidence that I will be able to get a job this year. Feels good to hear it from people “in the know.”

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May 28, 2008 at 10:09 pm 3 comments

Mrs. Bees vs. Wonder Mother, Part I

The past week has been wrought with drama, thanks to a particularly nasty and extended altercation with an aggressive parent. My mentor says that she’s never encountered anything quite like it. I’m sharing this story because I’d like to commit it to virtual memory, because some of you may find it entertaining, and because some of you may find it helpful.

Did you read that article in Time that talked about the parents that drive teachers crazy? It was called “Parents Behaving Badly” (Feb. 21, 2005). Well, “Wonder Mother” is a pretty nice illustration of the “public defender” parent. I’ll share some illustrative quotes from that article here:

By the time children turn 18, they have spent only 13% of their waking lives in the classroom. Their habits of mind, motivation and muscles have much more to do with that other 87%. But try telling that to an Ivy-educated mom and dad whose kids aren’t doing well. It can’t be the genes, Mom and Dad conclude, so it must be the school.

At the most disturbing extreme are the parents who like to talk about values but routinely undermine them.

Student-teacher disputes can quickly escalate into legal challenges or the threat of them. The fear of litigation that has given rise to the practice of defensive medicine prompts educators to practice defensive teaching.

Without further ado, I begin my saga. And yes, it’s a long one…

The Background

I teach, among others, three sets of twins. This story concerns the pair of fraternal twins, who – despite being both males of Caucasian descent – shall be called Yin and Yang on this blog. This will help differentiate between Yin – the melancholy, silent, passive, ignorable boy who never speaks – and Yang, who is cheerful, noisy, and active. Both boys are bright, hardworking, and more along the lines of “future engineers” than “future scholars of literature.” They carry comfortable As in accelerated sophomore English.

The month of February was devoted to a major project, worth 250 points of their 3rd quarter grade. One week before the due date (a Monday), Yin and Yang came up to me to tell me that they would be absent Thursday and Friday to compete in an engineering competition. I asked them how their projects were coming, and they assured me that they’d been getting a lot of work done and were feeling confident. I told them that Thursday and Friday were library/computer lab days, so they’d have to complete any work left unfinished without the benefit of the library and lab.

On Thursday, while my students were finishing up their projects, I realized that there were a few recurring questions about one portion, an essay worth about 10% of the final grade. Taking the opportunity to flex my “creating helpful graphic organizer” muscles that I’d developed in my certification program, I threw together a worksheet that provided some generic questions they should answer. I printed it off, took it to the library, and told my kids that if they would like the handout it was available. Most, but not all, of them picked up a copy. Most, but not all, of them stuck it in the back of their binder and never looked at it again.

Second period Monday, Yang submitted his final project. It was pretty good, although it had some small issues that collaboratively dropped his project grade to a B. One such problem was that 10% essay, which he wrote as a bullet list.

Fourth period, Yin failed to turn in his project.

Now, my mentor teacher, DR, has a STRICT late work policy for the accelerated classes. Late work is not accepted. We provide “slowpoke” certificates so that smaller assignments can be turned in late – one per quarter – but they can’t be used on major projects or tests. By fourth period, however, I’d had a small number of (good) students arrive emptyhanded and brokenhearted. I spoke with DR and told her that I wanted to give half credit for students if they could get their projects in the following day. While the other students peer-reviewed one anothers’ projects, I had those without projects write me letters explaining their lateness. I also told them that if they could submit their project by the end of the day – meaning about 5 PM – that I would accept it as on time.

Yin’s project was submitted the following day, and was very good. He received a 248 out of 250 before the 50% penalty. The note I left him on his project indicated how disappointing it was for me to have to give such a low mark to such a good project, and that I hoped he would manage his time better in the future.

I’m sure he was disappointed, but he didn’t say anything and the semester went on.

to be continued…

April 12, 2008 at 1:04 am 1 comment

Fool April

Read that title in the voice of an angry, older Southern woman. If you’re not familiar with how that would go, replace the word “fool” with “damn” and let loose.

Okay, for one thing, spring sucks. High school kids come back from Spring Break in a fine state of insanity. And if that isn’t bad enough, I’m feeling it, too. Just because they’re counting down the days until summer doesn’t mean we teachers aren’t, too. But yes – classroom management just changed entirely. If I had 90% cooperation and attention before, it’s down to perhaps 70%. In my regular class, that’s more like 40%.

I am approximately three weeks out from being done with the dawn-til-dusk thing, at which point I guess I either am, or am not, going to be a teacher. Depends on whether or not I completely self-destruct before then.

All of my teacher-type friends assured me that the glitter would fade, that I would “be sick of it” by March. They were wrong. I didn’t get sick of it in March. In fact, I am not tired of it even now. I’m just TIRED. This is most likely due to the WEEK FROM HELL. Ready for this? [Ed. note: Upon writing it down, it doesn’t actually seem all that bad. That’s good.]

Monday, March 31: First day back from Spring Break. Kids have been replaced, mysteriously, by 101 chimpanzees. Most peculiar.

Tuesday, April 1: Nearly get in a car accident. Fall and try to break my ankle during 1st period, in front of an entire class of students (not my own, although some were in later classes). Receive a particularly cold email from a parent disgruntled about her child’s grade on a recent major project. Said email just happens to be the principal of a local school that has a LOT of connections to CHS. Begin to feel a general sense of disapproval from DR. Drop a gallon of milk on my bare toe.

Wednesday, April 2: Ankle still hurts, as do my triceps due to misguided attempts to take my weight off of my ankle. Receive a follow-up cranky email from same parent, who has now shifted her tactics from “bully me into changing to the grade” to “guilt me into changing the grade.” Revamp entire teaching style for 5th period just in time for the principal to come in and observe me. Sit down for evaluation with BR and DR and get chewed out for not clearly explaining my objectives for a creative assessment. Receive all “meets expectations” on evaluation – I guess that’s good?

Thursday, April 3: Fourth straight day of bad tension headaches, third straight day of achy ankle. Everything feels like it is going to hell. One of the other teachers begins to have contractions and DR, excited, tells 2nd period that I am going into labor. This is news to me. I can’t remember anything else especially awful happening that day, other than just feeling like crap. DR tells me that she will sub for me the following day if I am still feeling badly.

Friday, April 4: Still feeling poorly. I email DR to confirm that she is subbing, and send an outline as a reminder for what is happening that day. (Since she’s been in the classroom I don’t bother to send a formal lesson plan.) Unfortunately, what I took as an arrangement was in fact much more tentative, and DR does not get my email until she arrives at school – about 15 minutes after the first class started. I check my email that evening to get a well-deserved arse-chewing. The hardest part was the feeling that I was talked about behind my back to the students; I’m glad that we now know where things aren’t working, but I worry that my classroom presence has been undermined – and I worry that I really am not doing as good a job as I thought I was. Headache does not improve.

Saturday, April 5: Receive a third, now outright angry, email from the Snowflake’s Mother.

Sunday, April 6: Realize that I really don’t understand what DR and BR are looking for from me in terms of objectives. Begin to wonder how long three weeks will take, and what my recommendation letters will look like, if I just completely tank from here out. Ankle still hurts. Head hurts again.

April 6, 2008 at 9:13 pm 1 comment

Exciting Stuff Afoot!

CHS returns to school from Christmas break a full two weeks before the university, but exciting things are already afoot. To wit:

  1. Mr. Bees is now in his Block II at CeHS, where he was placed with a real live 12th grade American Government teacher. That’s pretty rare; there are so many more poli sci education majors out there than there are appropriate mentor teachers that a lot of them get placed in junior high history classes. Anyway, he’s loving it so much that he went in every day for the past ten days. Keep in mind that A) he is only required to put in 100 hours this semester B) the semester hasn’t started yet and C) he is most assuredly NOT a morning person.
  2. Yesterday was a half day at CHS, and yet I didn’t leave the school until after 4 PM. Why? Because DR and I were working on getting the classroom ready for my invasion! How cool is it that I now have a desk of my own? That I have the keys to the building and will probably go in this weekend and do my own bulletin boards in preparation for the next unit? That I’ve been given enthusiastic permission to do as I wish with the classroom? Squeee!
  3. It’s not just that she’s so happy to hand over the wheel to me… I have a truly awesome mentor teacher, and I love her to death. I am one lucky sonuvagun. Daughteruvagun? Hmm.
  4. ALL (BUT TWO) OF OUR STUDENTS PASSED THE EOC! One of the students who failed is ELL and is being moved back into the ELL program. The other… well, we need to work on the other.
  5. Our average score for the regular sophomore English class was slightly higher than average for the rest of the department.
  6. ALL (BUT TWO, I THINK) OF OUR STUDENTS PASSED FIRST SEMESTER SOPHOMORE ENGLISH!
  7. I’m putting together a poetry unit that has me disproportionately excited. It is being so much fun, and I’m just shocked – I was honestly expecting not to care for this unit. At this point I would be quite content teaching nothing but poetry all semester. Can’t, of course; there’s Shakespeare and standardized test prep and (ick) Lord of the Flies to contend with.
  8. My dog is spinning around and around and around and around, far in excess of three times, trying to make her pillow comfortable. That’s not related to student teaching, but seems somehow notable…
  9. I’ve been asked to come to lunch twice next week, gratis, and help interview two candidates for new professors of English education at our university. Hate to be out of school, but this seems like an awesome opportunity and way to give back to the program, plus – hey, free lunch! When you are in a two student-teacher household, you don’t turn down free lunches!
  10. Did I ever mention that I got a 4.0 last semester? I’m still kind of buzzed about that.

(Up there at the top… should that have been “to whit”? Things I woulda thought I woulda known…)

There is some bad news, however. Remember Ramona? Well, having given it a semester, she’s decided that this whole “public school” thing is for the birds. I think she’s taking a couple of classes through CHS still, things she couldn’t have gotten through home schooling, but she’s ditching us. Sucks. But she’s hated it from the word go, and hasn’t worked up to her potential, and maybe she’s right – maybe it isn’t for her. We’re disappointed, though, and we’re going to miss her. I would have been quite interested to see what she contributed to our exploration of poetry.

January 19, 2008 at 3:05 pm Leave a comment

Borrowed Words

So DR caught a plagiarist this week.

It was one of the accelerated students. The assignment was to write a short credo, in the style of “All I need to know about life I learned from ____.” This student chose the Easter bunny as her role model – and lifted about half of her credo, word-for-word, off of one posted online in a few different places.

Sigh.

I asked DR what she was going to do. She’s giving the student zero points for the assignment, and wrote a note on the back letting her know that this was inappropriate and that a second attempt to “borrow” someone else’s work will result in removal from the class.

Technically, a teacher can have a student removed from the class upon the first infraction. This seems like a good solution to me, though. It makes it clear that she didn’t get away with it, provides fair warning, teaches the appropriate behavior, and sets the groundwork for later discipline as needed.

October 12, 2007 at 1:01 pm Leave a comment

Thank You Notes

At CHS, one of the student clubs either sends, or makes available for sending, cheap thank-you notes. You just go, fill it out, write who it is to, and they deliver it. (I’m going to look into the details.)

Anyway, DR got two of them the other day. One was from a male student who wanted her to know how much he liked reading Ishmael, even if the rest of the class didn’t.

The other was from Ramona, and it read: Thanks for not settling.

How cool is that?

October 11, 2007 at 12:58 pm 1 comment

Reflection #1

Note: this is my first 30-hour reflection for my teaching internship. It’s about thirty hours overdue at this point – same as everyone else in the program – because we’ve all been too busy learning to write about it. 🙂 Hence, the apparently abandoned blog. Anyway, I thought I would share my thoughts on the start of the year, to kind of catch the blog up so that I can move on from here. I’ve changed all the names and everything, of course.

This thirty-hour reflection is a bit overdue, and the only excuse I have is that I must be having fun, because time sure seems to be flying! In an attempt to rectify my tardiness, I’ll try to focus this reflection on the beginning of my year, and then catch up in the second reflection. 

When I started out at CHS, I felt like I had trouble getting my footing. I hadn’t been at the orientation meeting and didn’t know how much information I’d missed, and my natural worrywart tendencies were having a field day. Maybe my experience was utterly typical with its whirlwind of uncertainty: was I in the right place, doing the right thing, wearing the right clothes, meeting the right people? The cologne-heavy hallways weren’t the only thing at CHS filled with chaos and confusion, if ya know whadda mean. 

After a week or so I began to feel like I was getting my sea legs. I no longer felt quite so out of place or in the way, and I began to contribute to the class in small ways. Among other things, I worked with small groups, took attendance, recorded grades, helped in the computer labs, and even got some time at the front of the classroom. 

Meanwhile, of course, the worrywart machine was still chinking away at my confidence. Now it was anxious about my progress in comparison to my cohorts’. Both of them were working near full time in the schools, as substitutes and (although maybe not this year – Dan?) paraprofessionals. On MWFs when I was working on the college campus, they were completely taking the reins for their classes. After talking to a couple of different people, I no longer feel quite so concerned about this – the three of us didn’t start out from the same place, and we’re not going to be the same kind of teacher necessarily, and we’ll all progress at somewhat different paces. There’s no point in holding myself accountable for unavoidable perceived disadvantages – I just need to trust that neither I nor my mentor and supervisor will lead me astray. 

My mentor, DR, and I turned out to be what I’d classify as a really good fit. We have similar comfort levels when it comes to productive classroom chaos, and for the most part really compatible with our teaching styles. I’m really counting my blessings that I am getting to work with Dianne for the next several months. Not only is she a master teacher, but as the department head and someone involved in education at a wider level in the community, she has a lot to show me. And I certainly can’t complain about having four periods of accelerated English. I do know how unlikely it is that I will be able to teach accelerated classes in my rookie years, and I hope that I am learning the necessary classroom management and motivation skills for regular classes. I feel as though my work with her regular period, and occasional work with other teachers’ regular and modified classes, that I’m picking up those skills.  

Within a few days I began to get to know some of the students and to gauge the personality of each class. There are students who immediately caught my attention: Ramona with her unusual background and sense of style; Stuart with his air of a much older young man; Frank with his blustery, brilliant authority; Amber, hiding in the back hoping no one ever notices her or asks her a question; Damon with his stubbornly blank page; Gerry with his obnoxious jibes against other students; Misty, who sits near the front in the 10-R class but engages at an accelerated English level. Second period was the hardest, each student stoically resolved to neither smile, talk, or react. Fourth period brought in a handful of band kids straight out of marching practice, and with them a much higher decibel level. Fifth period – not only the 10-R class, but right after lunch.  

Sophomores, I realized, are in a funny stage of their life. In certain ways they are still so young. Everything they believe – and they believe it with vehement passion – they believe because their parents told them. And on the other hand, they were almost-but-not-quite adults, surprising in their occasional bursts of maturity and ingenuity. Months ago, when I learned I’d be in a high school rather than a junior high, I was disappointed. I’d wanted the experience of working with kids in transition. I’m not disappointed anymore – I’m exhilarated. Tenth grade is a transition year in so many ways, and I’m just soaking it up and trying every minute to figure out how best to guide them across the bridge. 

The last thing I think I’ll add to my “first thirty hour” reflection is that in the first weeks of school, the relationship between DR and the students seemed a little delicate. They didn’t quite know who she was or whether she (or I, for that matter) was trustworthy. They certainly didn’t seem to be loving class as much as I would have expected, given the “alumni” of the class who hung out during breaks, lunches, after school hours, and even during class from time to time. These older students were so dynamic, so confident, and so convivial with DR. I could tell that these students had loved her classes, had learned from them and grown, and become their teacher’s friend. How did this happen? Was it happening with this year’s class? And what mysterious magic occurred between tenth and twelfth grades to make these fragile, blindered seekers transform into carefree, self-assured adults?

October 2, 2007 at 4:33 pm Leave a comment

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The Bee’s Knees

This is the teaching journal of a student first-year second-year THIRD-YEAR (!!!) English teacher. I am writing this blog as a reflection for myself, a way to keep friends and family updated, and a sharing-ground between other educators online. I love comments!

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