Monday, November 21, 2005

Actual thought that crossed my mind today while decompressing over the 4pm TNT showing of the first season of Alias (which, of course, I own on DVD): When do I get to be Sydney Bristow? I would so much rather save the world one terrorist at a time than one inner-city middle school student at a time.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Oh. My. God.

Am I suddenly reverting to the blonde hair of my youth or is that a grey hair I see??

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Muse

I tell you the truth:
I have often loved poets,
but never much understood them.

And they, in turn,
while Love's fancy carried them,
loved me in chaste thought
and impure touch,
with precise words
and love neither quite cruel
nor entirely kind,
but always violent - for a time;

then sang songs
of beauty divine
or brilliance sublime
(or some other such thing)
sang to possess but not to be so,
and sang to exorcise
the betrayal of imperfection.

And this also: I never fancied myself
a poet, nor even a poetess,
but times there have been when
thoughts sprang, Athena-like
from me, though sullied by
the Afterbirth that I dare not bury,
which renders me
unclean for seven days -
or is it fourteen?

But their meaning
I shall have to leave
to those with a sharper pen.

So, this is slightly off-topic, but lately I've often found myself thinking of intellectual kinship, and what I can expect or hope to find in my students. My university supervisor* has challenged me recently to attempt to create students who might share in those interests which brought me to teaching in the first place. I wonder how I should go about doing this. Perhaps a book club? If so, then how? My most gifted students are all not interested in adding any activities to their plate, and dread expending intellectual effort that does not involve the memorization of the periodic table of the elements for trivia competitions. (On that note, I wonder how our National Academic League did in their meet today?)

Ideas would be greatly appreciated.

*(I almost feel like a hometown cheerleader on the Today show who feels the need to give a shout-out to all her friends and family, as of course I know that the aforementioned supervisor will be reading this. Woohoo! Go, Hopkins!)

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Oh, the joy.

Today a colleague (and sort of mentor) resigned his position. He will remain on staff until a suitable replacement can be found, which is a very kind thing to do for a school with chronic substitute problems, but that is the only positive thing that can be said for the situation.

On that note, I spent the early morning with a combined class as my 7th Grade co-teacher was unexpectedly ill, and was reminded of the horror of a huge class as (in a shocking turn of events) two chronically truant children finally showed up. And as a suitable ending to the evening, after I had just spent two and a half hours rewriting and reorganizing my (paper) gradebook to reflect my new grading standards and style, I received a phonecall from my principal stating that, come next Monday, we were going to reorganize the homerooms and classes all over again (thereby, of course, making my entire afternoon a write-off).

Thankfully, I hadn't gotten to all the planning I was going to do. More importantly, I am grateful that Monday marks the beginning of a new unit. It would have been too much to expect that a reorganization of this kind would have been attempted prior to the beginning of the 2nd quarter last Thursday. Thankfully, we'll only be a week into the term.

Quote of the day on (oddly suitable once again - excite people, how well you know me!)

A professional is someone who can do his best work when he doesn't feel like it.
(Alistair Cooke)

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Drama. There has been ever so much drama lately.

I am reminded of the time my 9th grade English teacher intoned in her gratingly awful faux-Brtish accent that a child dying in its cradle of Suden Infant Death Syndrome, while tragic, was not a tragedy. A tragedy, she maintained, involved a tragic hero or heroine whose fatal flaw brought on ruin and grief. I notice now, looking at the American Heritage Dictionary, that the meaning most people associate with the word, "a disastrous event, especially one involving distressing loss or injury to life," is in fact listed and therefore correct.

I hesitate to think what she would think of my use of the term "drama" to apply to the events taking place in my school over the past few days. Would she wince, or has she mellowed with age? Drama in this sense, referring to events that were overly-dramatic, seems highly appropriate. Then again, given my seventh-graders, everything is dramatic.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Today, I stayed after and got the majority of my remaining things out of Room 200 and into Room 215, which is not to say that they're at all organized once they arrive there. Two of my students stayed after (read: were persuaded by the promise of service learning hours) to help me set up my desktop computer. We were going to attempt to set up some student computers, as well, but weren't able to find the necessary parts in the "computer graveyard" to make that happen. Ah, well.

One of these students is an absolute favorite of mine, though he is ... shall we say ... a challenge. During the course of our afternoon's labors, our special education inclusion teacher stopped by and said, "You know, Miz __, your class is the only one John* is doing well in." (Meanwhile, C.J.* was with John at my desk, busily plugging away.) Firstly, and I wasn't going to get into this with Mrs. __, but John is NOT doing well in my class, unless by "well" you mean persistently avoiding work and being on constant walkabout in the room. And secondly, what business do we have discussing such things openly in front of C.J., who, by the way, is an IEP student? Had we been discussing C.J., I'm sure our special education teacher would have felt some qualms, but as it stands, I got very annoyed on John's behalf.

Now John was one of my problems earlier today, and in fact he and I had a little chat about what we could do to help him get his work done. Coach class? Private tutoring with someone else? Seat separation? More work? Less work? Any way you look at it, I've got to have a conference with his parents, and soon. Frankly, I just don't know what to do with him. He's an artistic genius, and fabulous at getting technical things to work. His mind is sharp, too. (He picked up a giant historical fiction novel once that I had left out on my desk - a book that I was reading in my spare time - and asked if he could have it for his independent reading.) I know that he's really into history because he seemed very interested when I mentioned the possibility of his helping me to lead a National History Day project group. When it comes to my coursework, (or anyone else's, for that matter) I'm baffled. I truly don't know how to get him to do his work. HELP, O muse of teacher inspiration. Or, barring that, HELP, O muse of "momma's gonna open up a can of whoop-a** if John doesn't do his work."

I hate to go there, but go there I shall.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

"Put up or shut up."

That isn't *precisely* what my principal told me today when he told me that with smaller class sizes, he wanted to see me take better charge of the learning environment and ensure that learning does, indeed, happen. I knew something like this would happen, of course: for weeks, I've been saying to him and anyone who would listen that the biggest problem I've had was class size. There were too many ringleaders, too many IEPs, too many non-responsive students and far too many walkabouts and petty fights.

Today, my new colleague, my principal, and I met to finalize our suggested new class lists. Of course, I couldn't simply hold on to every student I like, though not all of them are top students, academically. We decided to place academic and behavioral "anchors" in each class, as well as (of course) splitting up obvious disciplinary problems involving students who can't stand each other or like each other just a little bit too much.

Here's praying that it works. Dear Lord, give us some PEACE and let us teach these your children.