Sunday, August 28, 2005

Tomorrow is...

The first day of school.
A student's favorite,
A teacher's least.

Wish me luck!

Saturday, August 27, 2005

The week in review

Whew! I just read through all the unread posts in my bloglines account and that took awhile. Most of you, though, have been a little slow in posting too because everyone is in various stages of Back-to-schoolness.

I finished up the teacher development week and here are the highlights. Remember that I was starting out at 1 ahead.

+1 The AP took pity on me for my recent bad breaks and told me I could get another teacher to cover for my lunch duty one day a week. Other teacher was thrilled to do so because it got her out of other obligations.

-2 Opps. Things change again. AP now needs other teacher to serve lunch duty WITH me every day. So now I'm back to 5 day a week lunch duty.

+3 Everyone in the school got new computers. Our school got more new computers than anyone else in the district. This was because our school needed them the most though.

+1 Got everything loaded onto new computer with relative ease.

-3 Dude, they got Dells. I say this sarcastically. We were instructed to leave our comuters on overnight so that software could be loaded via the network. I came in the next morning and had an error message. The computer would not restart. When we finally got it turned off, it never turned on again. Ever. Had to switch out computer and reload everything.

+1 Bought a thumb drive. It works great!

+2 Continued jamming with IPod all week long.

-1 Got my class lists. There are some names I am pretty sure I will never say right. This year's names are by far the most complicated I've ever had. Here's to nicknames!

+1 One of my first period students came by to see if they needed any special supplies (they don't) and to tell me she goes by a different, much more pronouncable name (thank goodness!).

-2 Our closest network printer is broken. So, anytime we printed something we had to go to the other wing of the school to get it.

+2 Department head said if we brought our own printers into our rooms, he would buy ink for them all year long.

+1 The cat definitely missed me.

-3 Our district has a new policy. Any employee who is absent five days for personal or family illness will get an "official letter" and must begin producing doctors' notes when the are absent to avoid future letters and actions. Their excuse for this is that we are just abiding by the same standards we expect of our students. Excuse me? We have the same standards as our students??!! Then you'll be willing to take a note from my mother when I'm sick too, thank you very much. Total.load.of.bologna.

I think that's about it. And it leaves me at +2 overall as we close out the preseason and gear up for the real thing, starting Monday.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Back to school recap

In our district teachers report back a full week before students do. I think this is longer than some other school systems. Anyway, because I'm exhausted I'm going to summarize the day in wins and losses.

LOSSES
-4 I arrived to find that I had been assigned "substitute coverage" as my daily duty. This is waaaaay better than lunch duty. Score! But alas, at the end of the day I had an email from the AP telling me that they had to rearrange things and I now had lunch duty instead.

-1 I could not find the giant rolls of GoWrite at our local stores. This is stick on dry erase board. It works like contact paper but is easy to peel off and reapply. I had to order it online, so who knows when it will get here.

-2 Early class lists show I did not get some of the students I really really wanted.

-1 I have so far spent $100 on my classroom. I know this isn't much but I swore I wasn't spending a dime!

-2 The teacher that is moving in next to me is so annoying. I think she has a bad home life, so she stays up at school for all hours and will corner you and talk to you to death about all kinds of uncomfortable things.

-2 Someone stole my fan and my big comfy desk chair. The fan was recovered but the desk chair was not.

-1 The cable has not been turned on yet. (I don't have cable at home.)

WINS
+1 The weather is very mild right now. It makes my classroom almost bearable.

+3 My lunch duty is in the satellite (p.c. word for new, because we don't want the old wing to feel "old") cafeteria where all the goody-goody nerds eat. Sometimes you can even sit down!

+2 My goal was to get my entire room unpacked and reput together today. I did just that and a little more. Bulletin boards and all are done, excepting the GoWrite stuff.

+2 My department head is still feeling guilty about the classroom shuffle and basically says yes to everything I ask.

+2 I plugged my ipod into computer speakers and jammed all day while I worked.

+2 My conference period is at the same time as one of my pal's.

+1 I think the cat missed me while I was gone.

+1 A coworker gave me 400 scantrons she wasn't going to use!


So it looks like so far I am winning by 1. Let's hope I can add some more points tomorrow!

Tip #8

I've been teaching for 3 years. No one has ever told me this. I learned it the hard way. I'll pass it on and hope you learn from my mistake.

Never ever EVER go to the local teacher supply store on the first teacher work day.

EVER.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Another reason to go back to work

A recent AP-AOL poll shows that 63% of Americans say a teacher "made a difference" in their lives.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Looking ahead

My anti-burn-out plan of being lazy all day and doing nothing school related seems to be helping a little. Today was a rainy, cool day. It felt a little like Fall, which always helps me to get in the school spirit. I instantly begin thinking about football and new beginnings. Let's hope this trend continues.

In an effort to pump myself, I thought I'd spend a little time looking back over my evaluations from this past year. They were positive for the large part, AND were improved over the year before.

Here are the first three questions from my end of the year survey for my U.S. and World History students and some selected responses that make me feel proud (my comments in parantheses, spelled as is):

1. The most interesting idea or concept we studied this year was...
- Harlem Renaissance (I got this several times)
- Great Depression (This is usually the most popular, but I got fewer this year)
- Galileo's Daughter (the book I made them read. I got this several times even though it was a LOT of work)
- The Civil Rights movements, learning what minorities had to go through to achieve equality
- All of it! (suck up!)
- The study of integration because it caused the most contreversey between me and the other students
- World Wars

2. The most important idea or concept we studied this year was...
- all of it
- laws and amendments
- Black history
- how nationalism led to WWI and eventually WWII because so many people were affected by an idea
- the cyclical view of history throughout the world
- modern history
- imperialism
- change can take a toll
- I guess it would have to be revolution. We used that world more than any other.
- Galileo because it showed how there are many intricate details of history that we usually remain ignorant of

3. This course readlly made me think about...
- politics more than I ever have before; they became more interesting
- history, I actually learned!!!
- the differences in religion and how it affected nations' feelings of superiority and desire for domination
- the impact our generation will have on the future, which will eventually be reduced to a paragraph in a textbook
- "what if" scenarios, like what if Japan hadn't industrialized, or what if Europe hadn't imperialized America
- I shouldn't become a history major
- how one person can affect many people
- wanting to study European history in college and the future
- my role in the government
- how lucky we are
- the future and what we can do to improve it
- how much better this country would be if I was president
- this country is screwed up
- the more I learn the more I know I need to learn, Plato
- how screwed up society is, how grossly Republican this school is
- how past social and political events can affect us today


So, the question is, what am I complaining about? I get paid to this? I CAN do this!

Monday, August 15, 2005

Today: A Day in 4 Parts

The goal for today was to get all the annoying errand type activities done before the school year started. It was jam packed with fun.

Part I: The Oil Change
We have a 2002 Honda and we change the oil every 5,000 miles. We got a credit card with Firestone because they have cheap deals, are quick, and have many locations including one next to a Starbucks.

Today I decided to go to a different Firestone branch because it was near PetCo and I also needed food for the cat. The guy there was very nice -- told me I could get a cheaper deal with my card instead of the coupon I presented. I also asked for a tire rotation, which he told me WAS cheaper with the coupon. He sounds nice right?

About 20 minutes into my time there, he came out and said "Abigail, I can't steal your twenty dollars to rotate your tires because it won't help. You need two new tires."

Huh? Our car has 30,000 miles on it. Aren't tires supposed to last longer than that?

"Your alignment is way off and it has worn the tread off on the inner parts of the tires. I called the other Firestone you usually go to and they said they've never aligned it. Have you ever had it aligned?"

I told him yes, I thought I had it done at an Exxon a while back. He told me they did a bunk job. I told him I wanted to check on my warranty and talk to my husband about which tires I would want.

How the heck do I know if I really need tires or this is just another scam? I hate dealing with mechanics. I am completely at their mercy. DH will take a look at the tires tomorrow and maybe he can tell something. In the mechanic's favor, he did not charge me to align the tires, so technically he lost money of the deal.

Part II: The Confrontation
I had not been able to talk to my department head about my having to move back into my old room because he was on vacation. Today he was back and I headed up to school to discuss the issue with him.

He was very sympathetic. It turns out it was not actually him that rehired maniac teacher. It was the assistant principal. He agreed with me that she should not even be coming back after the way she treated everyone. He couldn't believe she WANTED to come back after burning every bridge. Plus, he basically took all the classes no one wanted to teach and gave them to her. In talking about my frustration, I started to tear up a little despite my best efforts. Then, he started to tear up too. I ended up not throwing much of a fit at all. In fact, talking to him gave me some perspective because I am pretty sure he has had a worse summer than me. (Remember that he lost his mother-in-law last June.) I also expressed that I felt a lot of pressure teaching AP and he reemphasized that none of that pressure would be coming from him or the principal because this was my first year and I should just do my best. I didn't really feel relieved, but I did feel less anger I guess.

Another highlight: when we went into my room to unload some books I realized that all my stuff was gone. The custodians had been kind enough to move it into my new room. So, I had to head down there and drag it all back. I took a minute to stand in my room that never was. I breathed in the air conditioning, stared at the dry erase boards, and imagined what could have been. "Don't worry," I told the room, "I'll be back. And don't forget, for one short summer you were mine." Sigh.

Part III: The Dentist
I do not like going to the dentist. There are few things in life I fear more than the words "root canal." The only reason I go is because I know it prevents future problems that could be much worse.

In that sense, I guess today was a lucky break. Today, my dentist refused to see me. That's right. I showed up for my appointment and was sent away. It's a long story. Basically, I marked on my medical history form 4 years ago that I had a heart murmur. I had never had it checked out because the doctor didn't think it was a concern. The dentist, after treating me for 2 years, noticed the information and insisted I get an echocardiagram before she would treat me further. Fine. I did. The cardiologist said there were no problems.

This summer our dentist moved to Florida and sold her practice to a new guy. Same location, same receptionist, etc. The receptionist called me last Wednesday to ask me to have the cardiology reports sent over. Well, the doctor retired and I had a hard time tracking them down and they didn't get there by today. This dentist refused to treat me because he did not have a copy of the cardiology report itself. He refused to accept a signed paper from me that I had in fact been checked out and was fine.

Time for a new dentist.

Part IV: The Reward
I bribe myself to go to the dentist by scheduling a haircut afterwards. I needed a haircut anyway, and it would just be RUDE to cancel on such short notice, so I kept the appointment even though I did not technically see the dentist.

We went to a new place that the dh had discovered. It was amazing. They provide free sodas, beer, wine, and ice cream. Then they have these giant movie screens. You sit in a personal room that looks out onto the movie screen and also has a personal monitor with sound controls. You can also choose to change the channel on your personal monitor to a variety of cable stations. No more uncomfortable small talk! The best part, of course, was the scalp message. It literally sent tingles down to my toes. It felt sooo good and frankly, I deserved it. Maybe this was the beginning of a better week for me!

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Admitting it is the first step

Well, first things first. I am an aunt for the third time -- my second nephew was born today. I haven't seen pics yet but I have heard him cry over the phone and he sounds cute! He is healthy and my sister seems to have had a (comparitively) easy delivery. Her contractions started at two minutes apart so things went really fast. I'll fly down Labor Day to meet him in person.

In school news, I have become very worried about myself. I am afraid I have become one of the "bitter" teachers. Thanks to all of you for sharing support and advice. There is not really a lot I can do about the classroom situation because apparently we were legtally REQUIRED to hire her back. I could make a bigger mess out of things and probably get a better room, somehow, but I would burn a lot of bridges in along the way.

What this really highlights is that our schools are in pitiful condition. Teachers should not have to fight about who gets the air conditioned room, or a room at all. EVERY teacher should have a clean, well-lit, and comfortable room. This should be non-negotiable. But in my district, a school is not even considred "overcrowded" until every classroom is filled every period. To do this, 2/7ths of the teachers would have to float. This is unacceptable. My classroom is part of my behavior management plan. My classroom is tailored to my teaching and my subjects. Things would be very different, and I would argue less effective, if I had to push all my supplies on a cart. As it is, I can guarantee you that I am not as good of a teacher when it is 82 degrees in my room, nor are my students the ideal learners they usually are.

Anyway, I've been teaching for 3 years now. I thought I had survived the early drop-out, burn-out phase in teachers that all the research points to.* I am good at what I do, to be honest. The students like me. They learn, even the tough ones. My principal and department head give me great reviews and there are several co-workers that I adore and find mutually supportive. So, why, with only one and a half weeks left in the summer, do I feel the same dread, the same burn-out that I felt at the end of the last school year? This is not like me. Usually, I am sad to see the lazy days end, but feel a twang of excitement at getting fresh students and starting over in the curriculum.

To answer my own question, I think the number one problem is that I spent three weeks of the summer in workshops. One should not spend 8-9 hours days with fellow teachers for extended amounts of time. If you think about it, we don't even do this during the school year -- we're mostly on our own. Professional development is frequently helpful but also always highlights what frustrates me about the education system. Those three weeks left me more frustrated than when I started.

I guess I am also stressed about teaching AP U.S. History at such a competitive school. I am not looking forward to the insane amount of work and self-doubting that go along with teaching a course like that. And all summer long, when I thought of it and got a pain in my stomach, I reminded myself that I would at least be doing all of this in a new classroom. Of course, that's not the case anymore.

So that's my story. I've got a little over a week to get my butt in gear and realize how lucky I am to be at such a good school. But, I'm not feelin' it. I'm just not feelin' it.




*I think those numbers are inflated though -- I think a lot of people go into teaching because they know they can leave after a few years and then come back with relative ease. It seemed like half the sorority girls at A&M were education majors because they really planned on being stay-at-home moms. People who go into teaching only PLANNING to teach for a few years shouldn't be included with those that quit in frustration.

Monday, August 08, 2005

26 minutes and counting

It is 11:34 here and so far I've made it through the day without any major problems. (Unless you count the fact that three of the things on my grocery list were not at the store, including two things that were advertised. But in contrast to recent issues, this was nothing.)

We might even count today as a success seeing as how I finished this little handbag. It is knitted in seed stitch with deco-ribbon from Crystal Palace Yarns, in case you're wondering.



By the way, my sister is now 8 days past her due date with her first baby. They're going to induce Thursday.

Sunday, August 07, 2005

Injury, meet insult. Insult, injury.

So, last week was pretty pathetic. But today starts a new week. I put on my best face and headed to church. DH was filling in for our pastor who was out-of-town. We went out with friends for a great brunch.

Then I came home and checked my messages.

Remember how we had to reduce our staff numbers because of NCLB?

Remember how our most combative, least team-supporting teacher was transfered?

Remember how I would be moving out of my no air conditioning, no windows classroom into her classroom with air conditioning AND dry erase boards?

Remember how I spent two days packing up my room, pulling down my bulletin boards, etc?

Well, one of our other teachers has quit. (Yes, quit, with a whopping two weeks left in the summer. But this was the guy who had his trailer doused in gasoline, so what do you expect.) So, for whatever reason we have rehired the teacher that was tranferred out (despite the fact that she was soooooo rude to everyone who tried to be nice to her when she was leaving. We got her a going-away gift and she literally told us to take the gift and shove it up our ****.) AND, she HAS to have her room back because of "medical reasons".

So I will not be moving. I packed up for no reason. I will be spending my third year in the classroom known to all as the "dungeon." This is the longest any teacher has stayed in that room. But don't worry, my department head told me on the message, they won't be changing my schedule.

Gee, how kind of you. The ONLY reason he is doing this to me is because he hates confrontation and the woman who is being rehired is much more likely to make his life miserable than me. The squeaky wheel gets the grease. Well you know what??!! He chose the wrong week to pick on me. I'm going up there tomorrow and I will not be carrying any WD-40.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

NCAA Mascot Ban

This morning as I was ranting over my bagel about the recent NCAA ban on Native American mascots, the hubby responded "sounds like a blog post."

But I see EdWonk has already expressed my sentiment. I side with the politically correct on a lot of issues but I am not convinced on this. Aren't mascots about bravery, honor, and teamwork? What about the Patriots or Cowboys? Now, if the school played up the mascot as overly violent and barbaric, I might have a problem with that. But I haven't really seen any instances of that.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Ugh.

Tuesday was dh's birthday. His father and brother had been in town and stayed long enough for cake and ice cream before heading back. I made a snickerdoodle cake with mocha icing. It was great. We went out to eat and had a great dinner. Later, we went to the Apple store to get dh a well-deserved powerbook (our first mac). I got an ipod out of the deal (one of the few financial perks of being married to a grad student is the student discount programs). We were riding high as we walked out of the Apple store with our haul.

Since then, nothing in my life has gone right. I. Mean. Nothing. All of my family is alive and in one piece and I guess I should be thankful for that but I am having a hard time keeping a positive outlook.

I try to keep this blog about education and knitting and other things listed in my subheading so I'll spare you the details for now. I just wanted to warn you that posting might be a little sparse over the next few days.

Next week I hope to start pumping myself up for the school year by sharing excerpts from this past year's student evaluations.

I hope you all have a wonderful weekend!

Monday, August 01, 2005

A friendly suggestion

Can I offer some advice to anyone who ever attempts to engage in polite conversation? If you know a woman (or a man, for that matter) who is in her 20's-30's, happily married, and does not have kids, you can assume one of three things:

1. She does not want kids. Frankly, this should be a socially acceptable position, and they also have no obligation to discuss this decision with you.

2. She wants kids but is waiting for some reason. In this case, it is always possible that it is a touchy subject between two spouses, which means you are bringing up a sore subject.

3. She wants kids but is having trouble or has been told she can't. This is true in way more instances than anyone imagines. 1 in 6 couples face infertility at some point. If the person you are talking to is included in that group, you could be causing a lot of pain. She may not tell you they are having problems because it is none of your business, and she may smile and nod, but inside she is cringing.

You can avoid this situation by recognizing that people's reproductive lives are NONE of your business. I read To Kill a Mockingbird a very long time ago but one thing that sticks out in my mind is the statement that lawyers should never ask a question they don't already know the answer to. You should stick to that rule in discussing people's personal lives. The best way to be sensitive is to not bring it up. If a person wants your advice or input in when, why, or how to have children, they'll ask you.

Otherwise, mind your own business.