Thursday, April 28, 2005

Hey y'all! Where the heck did the "upper midwestern" come from?

Actually, the surprising thing is that just about everyone I meet up here says "well, where's your accent?" when they find out I'm from Texas. I tell them it' s not really about accents for me, but word choice. I do choose my words very carefully here. I answered the quiz based on what comes naturally, though.

P.S. Bush's accent is so totally fake. I don't know anyone from Austin (and remember that he really spent some time up north) that talks that way.

Your Linguistic Profile:

55% General American English

30% Dixie

10% Yankee

5% Upper Midwestern

0% Midwestern

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Tip #6 and Question #1

What a deal! You get a tip and a question all in one post today, folks. AND -- they're related. But wait. There's more. If you comment within the next 15 minutes you get....well, you get to be first I guess.

Anyway, here it is:

We all know how important it is to set out your rules the first day of school. I follow all the experts' advice and have only 4 rules that govern my classroom. (Show respect for your peers. Show respect for your teacher. Show respect for yourself. Obey all district and school rules.) I also go over the negative and positive consequences for my classroom.

I already have the negative consequences written on a transparency with permanent ink. When I get to the positive rewards, though, it's blank. I then give the students a chance to PICK their positive rewards. There is always one wise guy that suggests something like money, but I just blow it off. For the most part, the kids like getting to play a role in setting the classroom guidelines. I know other teachers that actually let the kids set out the class rules, too. I'm not brave enough for that and I want the students to understand that I am in charge. Anyway, I let the students choose 3 or 4 things that they would like to be rewarded with if they show excellent behavior. Then, I make sure to use those things within the first couple of weeks. The kids generally choose the same things -- a free homework pass, a movie day in class, positive parent phone calls, and ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS, they say candy.

Which brings me to my question. Up to this point, I've always gone with the teenage flow and provided smarties or tootsie pops, or whatever else. I do it because that's what the kids like and it seems pointless to give a reward that isn't really something they like. BUT, I don't like doing it. It's not that one roll of sweet tarts will ruin them forever. I just hate the message it sends. Kids are bombarded with messages about food today and school should be the one place they are taught to make wise decisions. Of course, we know that isn't actually happening. But do I want to contribute to the culture of overindulgence? Do I want to teach them that the purpose of food is to make yourself happy?

Should I give my students candy to reward them? And, if not, what else do you suggest?

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Maybe he's just really bad at math...

That's what one of my friends said to console me today. One of my students asked me if I went to Woodstock... I'm 26 years old.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

It's hump day...

Whew! We're more than half-way through the week. Thanks to the The Education Wonks for their concern and for their work on the weekly Carnival of Education. I am feeling better. Sometimes it just all comes at once, ya know.

We are plugging along at school. The kids have been a bit restless. This is due to a number of reasons:
1. The weather is absolutely fabulous.
2. This stretch between Spring Break and Memorial Day is the longest all year without any kind of holiday, professional development day, or some other sweet relief.
3. The Advanced Placement exams and the state standardized exams are coming up. So, there is quite a bit of tension preparing for them. It also means that we are in the part of the year in which no assemblies, no field trips, or any other activities distracting from the normal school day are allowed. Things get a little montonous.

Fortunately, exciting units are on their way. In U.S. History we are working on the Cold War, with the Cuban Missile Crisis coming up on Monday. In World History, they are almost finished reading their book and we will start the French Revolution on Monday. It's the best of units, the worst of units.

In other heart-wrenching news: I got a new student today. It's late to be coming to a new school, but that is the least of her problems. BOTH of her parents were killed in a car accident last December. She was hoping to finish out the year at her old school but there was no one in that state that she could live with, so she's moved to our area to live with her aunt. She's seems very nice and also bright, in what I could tell in one day. On her assignment today, she alternated answering every other question in pink and blue. She dotted the 'i' in her name with a heart. Speaking of hearts, I think she ripped mine out...

Like posthipchick, sometimes the broken kids are the easiest for me to love.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

So I married a (future) history professor

On the worst days, I wonder why my soul mate also had to be an academian. On the days when I'm not wallowing in self-pity, I know it had to be that way because the things that make my husband an academian are the same things I love about him. His knowledge, curiosity, dedication to understanding, courage to ask the big questions...the list goes on and on.

But today, alas, I AM wallowing in self-pity. The PhD grad and high school teacher can be a tough match sometimes. History PhD's spend their days throwing themselves into their work and then HOPING someone will like it. You don't know whether anyone else will appreciate it or not, and even if they do appreciate it, whether they be willing to pay you for it. You invest years in an unknown future. Why can't he be an accountant or mail carrier or something? In those jobs, they tell you what to do and how much they'll pay you for it. You do it, and VOILA -- you get paid, exactly what you had planned. Being married to a history PhD is nothing like that. I can only hope that someday my husband will make a decent salary. Beyond that, I hope beyond hope that it will be somewhere in Texas so I can be with my parents during their twilight years, attend all the niece's and nephew's functions, and hopefully raise my own children with the same sense of family I grew up with.

It goes the other way, too. If you are a history PhD, do NOT marry a high school teacher. Marry someone who makes some money. Then, there won't be so much pressure to do so yourself. Marry someone who doesn't come home everyday with their own set of baggage (and I mean that both literally and figuratively). That way when you need support you can count on it.

Sorry to be so sullen and despairing. The situation probably wouldn't be so bad if I didn't also desperately want kids, and the life to support those kids.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

Spring Cleaning on the Blog

Haloscan commenting and trackback have been added to this blog.

Unfortunately, this means the great comments everyone has made so far are gone! Now, everyone stop your whining because we get enough of that at work don't we. Instead, feel free to make NEW comments. In fact, I already have something you can respond to: I really want to be able to post pictures on my blog (although maybe you guys don't want me to because what I really want to show you is progress on my knitting projects). Anyway, I've noticed Blogger's plugs for Hello and Picassa. Has anyone out there used them, and if so could you give me a quick summary of what they really do?

Tomorrow's Friday and you know what that means?? I can wear my staff shirt! I love not having to pick out an outfit for the day...

Okay I'm done rambling.

UPDATE: I just realized that blogger sent copies of comments to me via email. So, I've gone back and published some of the past comments by pasting them into one giant comment from me.

You know you work at an upper-economic school when...

One of your 7th period students walks into class the day after Spring Break and says "Hey Joe! I saw you in the Bahamas last week. I shouted your name but you didn't hear me." Geez.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Tip #5: Via Polski3

Happy Wednesday everyone!

Polski3 has a handy tip: Always have an extra backpack on hand. To find out why, read about the day he returned from Spring Break.

Also, thanks to those of you that have responded to my tips with tips of your own. I've got some new ideas to be trying out!

Monday, April 04, 2005

Tip (or suggestion) #4: Getting started

Spring Break was wonderful. I ate, shopped, and visited with family. My middle sister, who is five months pregnant, finally feels better and it was good to see her so happy. I had lunch with my niece at her primary school. Hanging out at an elementary school is so neat and somewhat weird. Everything's so small! And the kids look just like miniature people!

I was dreading returning to school, but the day turned out to go very smoothly. The kids were in good spirits and very cooperative. I hope this feeling lasts for a while. One small hang-up in the day: Our school is finally having the tv/vcr/dvd combos put in every room. These are the kind that attach to the wall. For whatever logistical reason, the tv's were all installed in the BACK of the classrooms. My room posed a special challenge for them because it is a special room. It used to be part of a larger room and has a temporary, very flimsy, wall down one side. (It is also the only room in the entire non-air-conditioned school with no windows.) Anyway, they placed my tv in the back of the room, right by my desk, and about five feet off the ground. If I make it through the week without a bloodied head it will be a miracle. The vcr/dvd cord is actually too short to reach the outlet so we will have to get an extension cord. And it is placed about 15 feet from the cable outlet, so I've got to get a longer coaxial cable, too. But I should be thankful right?

Anyway, I do have a tip today. It's really more of a suggestion because I know plenty of very successful teachers that do not follow this procedure.

I like to start my class with a drill. Some people call it a warm-up or a mind jog or something else. Basically, it is a couple of questions on an overhead that the students are supposed to answer at the very beginning of class. I absolutely hated them when I was a student, but I don't think they were done right.

I like using a drill because it gives me an opportunity to review the factual details from the previous day. Our history curriculum calls for lots of experiential lessons, discussion, creative work, etc. We focus mainly on themes and so sometimes the details of people's names, places, dates, etc get squeezed out. The drill is a great way to make sure they are picking up on those things as well. In fact, I encourage my students to review their drills when studying for an exam.

The drill has a large behavioral benefit for me. Students know that they have to answer the drill and will be graded on it (see below). This means when the bell rings the students are in their seats, with their materials out, and they are working. I certainly don't mean 100% all the time. But the majority of them are ready to go and that is significant. It also means that if students are goofing off even before the bell rings, I have something to direct them to because the drill is on the overhead as soon as they walk in.

The students take the drills seriously because they know they will be held accountable. With my standard students, I collect drills every Friday. They get points for writing the entire question and for having the correct answer. They are responsible for getting the drill from someone else if they are absent. I call on random students to answer the drill after a few minutes.

If I feel like students aren't taking the drill seriously, I do a couple of things. First, I actually set a timer as soon as the bell rings. I give them 3 or 4 minutes and then time is absolutely up. I also wil collect the drill every single day (which means lots of grading). Or, I will stop going over the correct answer so that I know every person has to be looking up the drill on their own.

On a final note, the drill allows me to take care of logistics. Once everyone is busy on the drill, I can take attendance, pass out papers, pass out textbooks, pass around the stapler for homework assignments, or anything else that would normally just waste time.

If you have trouble getting your class calmed down at the beginning, I highly recommend using something like this consistently. Your students will resist at first, but if you follow through it will establish a productive and calm routine.