Posts tagged ‘POETRY’

Plagiarizing is Bad Enough When There’s a Point

Lucy is one of those students that you just like to teach. She’s got a happy personality, a good attitude, and a strong work ethic. Lucy sits up front, always has a smile, and is a good sport when you pick on her for being a ditz. The fact that she has managed to get through junior high with a fourth-grade (at best) understanding of grammar is easily forgiven when you are sitting next to her, trying to calm her down as she bawls about her terror of failing English 9 again. It isn’t that she isn’t trying – she tries her little butt off. (Case in point: she asked for extra help with grammar, and after we spoke for a while we determined that what helped Lucy most was practice. I gave her a metric ton of grammar activities: worksheets, paper games, supplementary reading, you name it. She came in the next day with half of it done, and had the rest done the following day.)

Lucy is a musician and a songwriter, and although her grammar is spotty she has a nice way with words. When she came up to me, blushing, with a poem she had written for her best friend, I praised it with sincerity. It wasn’t a work of genius, but it wouldn’t  have seemed out of place on  a Hallmark greeting card.

The next day, Lucy brought me another poem, and then another. She brought me a poem she had written for her brother, and it was remarkably good. It was so good, in fact, that I asked if she might consider writing a “companion poem” – this one about girls instead of boys. She enthusiastically agreed that this would be a nice idea, and two days later brought me a matching poem more appropriate for a sister. I praised this poem as well and, while she was busy doing something else, typed a copy of it into my email to keep as a student sample. When I was done, I asked if I could borrow the boy poem to do the same.

As Lucy rummaged through her folder, she spoke to me: “My mom even helped me put it on the computer! I wanted to put it online, so she helped me put it online. I have it on my MySpace, too. But I don’t like to put my name online, so I put it under ‘Author Unknown’.”

If you’re an educator or a parent (or any other experienced judge of character) you are already wincing, but let me tell you – Lucy could have been reciting the Gettysburg Address and I still would have known she was being dishonest. She had that tone of voice, that cadence, that screams I know I may be caught, I’m covering for myself on the fly, quick, let’s throw off the dumb teacher by preemptively explaining the discrepancy. (In retrospect, the fact that she jumped immediately to this point probably indicates that she has plagiarized, and been caught, in the past.)

Anyway, my heart sank. I said nothing but took the proffered poem to my desk and, instead of opening up my email, went to Google. It didn’t take long to find the poem online – not just on MySpace or some cheesy free website Lucy’s mom might have set up, but everywhere. Mr. Bees and I did a little bit of digging later and discovered the poem copyrighted as early as 1999, when Lucy would have been a kindergartner. By 2000, both poems were being sold on cross-stitch kits online. Lucy hadn’t bothered to change so much as a phrase, although in her copying she had misspelled several words.

Why in the world would Lucy do such a thing? It’s one thing – deplorable, but understandable – when a student plagiarizes for an assignment. But Lucy was plagiarizing something for no reason – something that she had written for herself. Or, as the case may be, had written to impress me. And I was impressed, all right – impressed that Lucy, of all people, would be the person I would catch lying to me.

I discovered Lucy’s transgression after school on Friday, and it haunted me all weekend. The poems weren’t an assignment, so there was no real academic action to be taken. On the other hand, next year Lucy will be in tenth grade (the year with the huge poetry unit, worth a sizeable chunk of their grade) at a local parochial school with an exceptionally strict morality policy. If Lucy pulls something like this again, it will have a permanent and devastating effect on her transcript, and possibly her future.

My mind had been mostly made up on Friday evening, but on Monday I was sure I knew what I had to do. After school I asked Lucy to meet with me. We went into a neighboring teacher’s classroom, because this is a litigious society and it never hurts to have a witness. She knew something was wrong, but she didn’t know what.

“I want to talk to you about poetry,” I said. She tensed, but kept the same happy look on her face. I went on:

I was really impressed by what you were doing with your poems – so impressed,  in fact, that I wanted to keep a copy for myself – a sample of student work. When I asked to see the boy poem, though… well, Lucy, most teachers get pretty good at reading people, and at detecting it when someone isn’t being completely honest. And when you told me about putting the poem online, you were giving off all of the signals that you were not telling me the full truth.

She tried to protest; I continued.

I went online, Lucy, and I think you know what I found. That poem is online everywhere. I found it in Boy Scout newsletters dating back to 1999, and I think we both know you were too young to have written that poem in 1999. The girl poem is online, too, and it is just as old. They were selling these poems on cross-stitch kits eight years ago.

The denials – and the waterworks – began. I asked her to let me finish.

I understand that you are saying that you didn’t plagiarize these poems,  but that doesn’t change the fact that it is, unfortunately, simply not your work. You can see the 1999 newsletter right here.

She looked at the date, flipped through it, found “her” poem, threw the newsletter back onto her desk. All the time she is crying that she doesn’t understand, that she didn’t do it, that her cousin helped her write it (oh, really?), that her mom really did help her put it on the internet, that she has written lots of poems…

Lucy, I don’t doubt that you write poems. I don’t doubt that you are a beautiful writer. I am not even going to say that you did this on purpose, because sometimes people plagiarize on accident. We memorize something and don’t know it, for example. Or maybe your cousin plagiarized it and you didn’t realize.

Lucy was really fighting the tears, and frankly I’m surprised that she held onto them this well. She’s a big weeper, and this is a Big Upset.

Now Lucy, you’re not in trouble. This isn’t an assignment. In fact, I spent a long time trying to decide if I wanted to say anything to you or not, because I knew how much it would upset you. In the end, though, I had to say something because I care very much about you and don’t want anything bad to happen to you. I need to you listen to me for a few minutes, okay?

I had to repeat that last sentence about a dozen times in order to stem her flow of denials and protests.

Next year you are going to be in tenth grade, and things are different in high school than they are in junior high. You are going to be doing a major poetry project, if Parochial High School’s curriculum is anything like Urban School District’s, and part of that is going to be writing your own poetry. Teachers are very good at spotting plagiarism, Lucy. The only reason I didn’t catch this immediately is because I have had you for only three weeks and haven’t had much of a chance to learn your writing style yet. But anything that you can find online, a teacher will find online. And when you are in high school – especially one with such a strict moral code – they won’t just sit you down like I am and tell you that you screwed up. At the best, your parents will be called. The VP or principal will get involved. You will get a zero on the assignment – and we’re talking about an assignment big enough to fail you for a semester. You will probably get a detention. You will get a permanent mark on your record, which can have a serious impact on your ability to get accepted to certain schools after you graduate. This will be a very big deal, a very bad deal. I do not want to see that happen to you, Lucy, and that is why I am talking to you now.

The tears were flowing in earnest now, and Lucy was still in frantic denial mode. I repeated my insincere assurance that I believed it was possible that she was innocent of intentional wrongdoing, and added my sincere assurance that I wasn’t mad at her and that this didn’t change my opinion of her.

Regardless of whether you did this intentionally or not, Lucy, the important thing is that you never do it again. And frankly, you know if something you write is your own work, or if it is something you heard before. You need to be more careful. This is a serious issue.

Lucy wondered how she could tell if something she wrote was her own or not. I suggested she give Google a shot, reiterating that anything she could find on Google by typing in “poetry” could be found more easily by typing in a specific line from a poem. I know I’m giving her the main tool that teachers use to catch plagiarists, and I know that a determined adolescent liar will use that information to find a way around getting caught – but I still feel like Lucy is a good kid. At the very least, she is now a guilt-ridden kid who knows that she can get caught. And there is a part of me – a naive new-teacher part of me – that very much wants to believe that Lucy did not deliberately copy the poem. I want to believe that the girl who can’t remember what a verb is from one day to the next somehow memorized two longish poems, word-for-word, and rewrote them without ever realizing that her inspiration was external. So I’m giving her something resembling the benefit of the doubt, and hoping that my warning is heeded.

It won’t be.

And, because fate is the way fate is, she will probably get away with it. That will lead to a bigger cheat, which will start her down a road of unpunished minor ethical violations, until she eats away her own character and good reputation and finds herself an entirely different person than the blithe, good-intentioned little child I have come to know. That’s the cynical, old-teacher part of me talking, and I suspect that she has a pretty good idea of how these things work.

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June 30, 2008 at 7:30 pm Leave a comment

What Purpose is Served?

Lost a student today, and it’s breaking my heart.

In January, my mentor teacher received an email notifying her that we would be having a new student in 3rd period – not a transfer, but a junior who had failed this class last year. Ordinarily, I guess, a student in this situation would be put in with a different teacher. However, DR is the only teacher of accelerated sophomore English at CHS, and the student – we’ll call him Theo – had to take the exact same class in order to undo the previous year’s failing grade.

DR wasn’t completely happy about the situation. Theo, she said, was one of those students who can completely derail a class: unquestionably brilliant, but too loud, too energetic, too passionate and argumentative. A spotlight hog. Moreover, despite (or because of) his brilliance, Theo had real issues with “playing the game” – specifically, getting stuff completed and submitted. He didn’t do it to fight the teacher – he just had more important things on his mind.

Nevertheless, into the class Theo came. I don’t know what I was expecting, but it wasn’t him.  He is trim in a way that provokes the word “pixie” when applied to females, with a startling explosion of tight blond curls down to his shoulders. He wears tight jeans and brightly-colored hooded sweatshirts, several sizes too small – if you’re thinking of the male clothing aesthetic. Basically, it looks very much like his clothes came from the junior girls department. He has a bright face, a confident voice, and extremely nervous mannerisms. Immediately I found myself trying to analyze him. Despite his appearance he doesn’t come across as effete. His nervousness – twitchiness, really – made me wonder if there was a drug issue.

Theo has been extremely respectful of DR and me, and he fell easily into a role as quasi-mentor for the younger students. Because he had seen all of the material before, he has been able to assist in teaching it to students who struggled. When I began teaching poetry, however, I discovered what I had in Theo: a natural-born gift. Theo is not a particularly strong technical writer, but he has an extraordinary talent for words and rhythm. He is a poetic wunderkind with an especial talent for vocal performance. Lest I be unclear, Theo isn’t an amazingly talented poet among high schoolers – he’s an amazingly talented poet, PERIOD.

The semester wore on, however, and Theo’s grade sank lower and lower. He just could not bring himself to turn in assignments. The biggest part of it was that he was rarely in class. About two months ago the office noticed his chronic absenteeism and called him in (for what I learned was far from the first time) to tell him he had one more absence before receiving an attendance-related expulsion.

I was frustrated with Theo, as I am frustrated with any of my bright kids who screw up. After plugging in another series of zeroes for Theo in the grade book, I went to DR and asked what was going on. That’s when I got the rest of the story: Theo’s mom’s drug addiction, the beatings and abuse he and his siblings suffered, having to call the police on his own mother, his stepfather (who had been an ally) giving up on the mom and moving out, taking responsibility for his four little brothers and sisters, living on the streets and friends’ sofas when home got too bad to bear, his mom being imprisoned and then released, his mom sneaking into the apartment to “kidnap” the other children, and the weeks he and his stepfather had subsequently spent trying to track down the kids to rescue them from their own mother…

We have very few students on IEPs and none with 504s, but that day DR and I threw the class regulations out the window and made our own IEP for Theo. He began to come in for first period (our prep) to work on assignments. We took them, late or not. His progress was slow and his attention hard to hold, especially that early in the morning, but he was working.

I knew what my goal was. Theo didn’t “need” literary analysis. He needed to be in school so that he had a safe place to be. And then he needed to get out of school – the right way – so that he could move on and have a real life.

But today the VP came in and asked for a grade check on Theo, and although his grade has climbed 15 percentage points he still isn’t passing (yet). VP shook his head and drew his finger across his throat. “He’s done,” he said.

I don’t know what it is that Theo finally did that broke the camel’s back of school rules, but it looks as though he won’t be sitting in his seat tomorrow. And it just kills me. I am worried about him, disappointed I couldn’t do something else to help him, sad that the other students are going to lose the benefit of his insight. I am going to miss him. It isn’t like they kicked him out a month before graduation or anything, and I think he half knew that he was going to end up repeating 11th grade, but it still stinks. And I can’t, for the life of me, figure out what purpose is served by sending Theo home (wherever home may be at this point).

This is a kid who might not make it. If I could have seen him through to the end of the year… but this is going to haunt me.

Update: I think DR and I are going into the VP’s office tomorrow to lodge a complaint. Not sure if it will do the least good, but I think this is worth fighting for.

May 8, 2008 at 6:56 pm 3 comments

Is that a Poem in your Pocket?

This Thursday, April 17, is “Poem in Your Pocket” Day (in conjunction with National Poetry Month). The idea is that you pick out a favorite poem, copy it down, and carry it with you in your pocket all day. Throughout out the day, you take it out and re-read it – maybe share it with your friends and colleagues. And students.

What poem will you choose? What poem will I choose? I’m tempted to pick a new friend from the Billy Collins books at hand; I’m quite a little bit in love with his words.  But perhaps I should go more old-school?

Traci Gardner, with NCTE Inbox, wrote about the event here. Take a look, and maybe get some ideas yourself!

April 14, 2008 at 2:14 pm 1 comment

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

Poetry Anthologies and Inadvertent Plagiarism

I don’t actually want to blog – I seem to have lost the impetus, lately, but I have faith it will return – but I feel the need to comment on what I’m doing right now.

At the beginning of February, I assigned a Poetry Anthology. This was a slightly modified version of a project DR has always done with her accelerated sophomores. (I also made a slimmed-down version and assigned it to the regular sophomores, but that’s another post.) I taught it, in just about every way, with the same amount of structuring and scaffolding as DR.

The anthologies were due March 3. I was surprised that ANY students – knowing that this was a 250 point assignment, and that classroom policy dictated that accelerated projects could not be turned in late for credit – would not come with SOMETHING to submit. They did, however – about half a dozen of them.

The work that I did receive is overall good – particularly when I remind myself that I’m dealing with sophomores. Some of the anthologies are far better than others. Some exhibit a decided lack of time management. This is what I expected.

The one I’m grading right now is on track to get an A. I’m on second period (these are a bit time-consuming, but primarily I’m dealing with the fact that I’m doing too much actual teaching to grade) and so far, the boys are faltering and the girls are excelling (with one exception due to incompleteness). I don’t like to see that, but then again, it IS second period. They’re my most frustrating, low-achieving accelerated class. Only 11 kids in the room, and the air of “don’t want to be here” is apparently contagious.

I’ve graded six so far this afternoon, recording the following scores:

Gender

Score

Percentage

male 197 78.8%
female 147 (incomplete) 58.8%
male 215 86%
male 174 69.6%
female 247 98.8%
female 248 99.2%

 

Imagine how depressing it was to record those first four scores! I thought for sure that all of the students were going to flop, that somehow my instructions were bad, my classroom work time insufficient, my expectations misguided. Thank goodness for my two lovely ladies at the bottom of that table who proved that directions CAN be followed!

The main thing that is really perturbing me – and this is on all of the male students’ anthologies thus far – is the complete disregard for what we’ve taught them about research and internal citation. Not only did these boys fail to actually write a real essay for the required “featured poet biographical essay” component, but they failed to include a single internal citation between them. I’ve left notes in their scoring rubrics notifying them that what they have done is technically plagiarism, and that they need to be more careful because this is a serious offense.

Knowing sophomores, though, they’re not going to read that comment – or if they do, they’re not going to retain it. I think I’m going to do a mini-lecture on Monday. Show them a sample “essay” without internal citation, see who can identify the problem. Then tell them a little story about what happens to plagiarists at a college level. Sure, I know this isn’t quote-unquote “real” plagiarism – it’s carelessness, not deviousness. But it IS serious, and it is inexcusable after the amount of training we’ve done in class on appropriate research techniques.

This is a negative sort of post, but I want to record (for posterity, and for the very nice educators who have stopped by and left encouraging comments in the past few days) how happy I really am with these anthologies. I love this project, and love what the kids did with it. I SO want to teach tenth grade again next year, I can just TASTE it. And I know it’s not terribly likely. But still… want want want. I’m going to share some of these anthologies, through photographs, in the near future – I think. I’m just so proud of them. And some of the stuff is too good – or too funny – NOT to share. 🙂

In closing, an excerpt from the current anthology’s reflection essay:

After writing this anthology the only thing I can think of is how much time was put into the making of it. The decorations, all the time spent on the internet, and the writing blocks that had to be overcome. After I surpass that thought I decide that this was the most fun project I have done in an English class for quite some time.

I’ll take that.

March 9, 2008 at 6:53 pm 1 comment

Diary: Tuesday, February 19

Today was a post-four day weekend “Monday,” but went relatively well nonetheless.

Accelerated started the day with vocabulary word maps. Then I went over the deadlines and requirements (again) for the poetry anthology and poetry slam. They’ve squandered – almost to a man – half of their month for working on the anthology. :Shakes head: They really need to get started on this and do a little bit every night, or they’re going to have a really rough weekend at the end of the month.

After we went over the deadlines and whatnot I showed them a YouTube video of Alicia Keys performing “P.O.W.” at the Def Poetry Jam. I wanted them to see what a professional poetry performance could look like, and to think about the possibilities for their eventual poetry slam efforts. They seemed to quite like it; I got lots of outstanding comments on both the poem and Keys’s performance choices. Interestingly, 4th period didn’t care for it; they thought her dramatization was distracting and that it was a poor choice to sit for the majority of the poem. They’re an interesting crew of kids.

After the video I had them do a “scavenger hunt” to find the pieces for a found poem. Originally I had planned to give each student a different scavenger hunt clue, so that each poem would be fundamentally different. I ended up scrapping that idea (this year) due to logistical and time problems. Besides, isn’t a found poem going to be different from the next one by definition? Instead, I just asked them to gather the following things:

  • 5-15 words or phrases taken randomly from any novel
  • 3-4 words or phrases taken from the lyrics of a favorite song
  • a previously unknown word from the dictionary, thesaurus, or vocab book
  • a word or phrase from a poster on the classroom walls
  • two “stolen” words or phrases from classmates’ lists

Then I instructed them on how to piece some of this list together, using limited number of one’s own words, into something resembling a poem. I used a building block/Lego metaphor to explain that they didn’t have to use all of the pieces, that they could shuffle them up and build whatever they wanted.

I was honestly expecting them to flounder. I’m not sure why, but I didn’t think this was going to work for them. Goodness knows found poems rarely work for me. But the room was silent, every period. Just scratching pencils and very intent faces. I don’t know how much “quality” poetry (their term, not mine) will result, but I’m glad they seemed to enjoy themselves.

In fifth period (regular English 10) I had planned to do the spelling pre-test followed by SSR (silent sustained reading, also known as the teacher’s chance to actually catch up or do some reading herself) but given that it is a four-day week artificially shortened by a Friday assembly, DR and I decided to scrap SSR and move ahead with lessons. I had 5th do the pre-test, a grammar worksheet (problematic modifiers), and finish up with a slightly watered-down found poem scavenger hunt. I also went over the poetry anthology and poetry slam deadlines/information for them. This class worries me a bit; DR has never done the anthologies with regular English, and I begin to wonder if there might not have been a reason for that. There are several who are excited or at least optimistic about the project, but many seem freaked out – or worse, tuned out. I guess time will tell.

I showed 5th period the Alicia Keys video and was extremely gratified to watch their pens slow and then drop, their eyes turn from their papers to the screen. (Although – the fact that they had their attention on their papers was significant in and of itself!) They really seemed to like and appreciate it. My only regret is that I didn’t have much time to discuss it with them; I had server problems and had to show it at the end instead of before the scavenger hunt.

DR’s advice is good: give 5th stuff to do and they’ll do it, eliminating the vast majority of my management problems. Expect them to sit and listen to me, though, and I might as well give it up.

By the end of the day, I was tired, hungry, and had a pressure headache building behind my eyes and couldn’t stand to focus on anything. Sometimes I start to feel like my mind is going to explode. I’m not sure how to make all of this stuff work. It’s so hard working with so many different schedules. I have my schedule of things I want to do, DR’s schedule of things she thinks I should do, the school’s schedule of time-wasters (assemblies, fire drills, cheerleading mentoring – don’t ask), the government’s schedule of things that have to be tested upon, and the many inconsistent schedules of my classes and students. DR was talking to me about the various things that I have to fit in, and the review I have to do for NCLB testing stuff, and all of the things that are going to take away from class time.

For about three minutes there, I wondered – for the first time – if I really wanted to be doing this. I don’t think my doubt was about teaching itself; I think I was thinking more about the next month or so. It was a stressful moment.

Anyway, I went home, took some tylenol, sat down for ninety minutes with a cat and some papers to grade, and listened to the news. Then I got up and went back to CHS. It was “incoming sophomore orientation night” – and DR is the department head – and I had to input some grades in order to make the quarter three progress report deadline. Yep, that’s right – the third quarter is already half over. Ye gourds.

All in all, I was at CHS for 7+3 hours today. And now I’m at home, writing about it. That’s a long day.

February 20, 2008 at 12:07 am 1 comment

The First Day is Always the Hardest

Today was my first day taking over as the full-time student teacher. No more shadow/co-/team teaching. Thrown to the wolves, I am!

And of course, it wouldn’t be worthy of dragging myself to the computer and blogging if it weren’t an unmitigated disaster*.

It all started yesterday evening. I knew that I had an hour or so of prep work to do. I had a three-hour laptop battery and a two-hour event to attend that night – no problem, right? Or rather, it wouldn’t have been, had I not opened my laptop at the event to find a bone-dead battery and no power plug in sight.

I got home at about 10 PM and figured I would make it just fine. I could get done in an hour and get some sleep, right? (Ha ha ha.) Three computer crashes and four rewrites later, I finally crawled into bed significantly later than 1 AM.

Woke up early early early and got to CHS a few minutes into Zero Hour. I logged into the computer, remembered that our classroom printer was broken, and sent a print job to the main printer in the workroom. Walked down to the workroom – printer is down. Returned to computer, printed to secondary printer in workroom. Walked to the workroom – no print-out. Tried again. Nothing. Troubleshooting revealed that my intranet connection was down. I finally resorted to rebooting… and then couldn’t log back in.

We’ll fast forward through the comic scene of me running through the school, trying to find a computer that would read my files and print to a higher-load printer, finally getting the copies I needed just in time for 2nd period to start. (We don’t have a 1st period class.) Two hours of panicking. Two hours of deciding exactly how much I needed my handouts, of deciding I didn’t have to have them, but that I was going to have to completely rethink how I was going to do things…

Ack.

And then I proceeded to forget everything I ever thought I knew about good teaching for an entire day.

Uhm, hello, Mrs. Bees? Direct instruction isn’t effective. Neither is talking for more than five minutes straight – much less thirty. Oh, and while you’re at it, you’re teaching tenth graders, not college students. Spending an entire class period introducing a unit and the required projects is a bad bad bad idea.

Don’t ask me what I was thinking. Or do, because I know the answer: I was thinking that I was uber-excited about the content, and that my assessments were uber-cool, and that the kids would be excited to find out what they were doing, and that they would then naturally (or rather, naturally if you’re used to the college scene) want to start off with an overview of where they would be going.

This is not the case when you are 16. When you are 16, you just show up and let the teacher tell you what to do that day. You don’t care about syllabi, course calendars, the over-arching scope of the unit, or even the fact that there are units at all.

Note to self: high school is not college, even in the accelerated classes.

Also, lest I had forgotten: teaching is dehydrating.

 

 

 

 

 

 

* It wasn’t actually that bad, but it wasn’t that good, either.

February 6, 2008 at 7:21 pm Leave a comment


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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