Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Sympathy and Follow Up

Some good questions to ask at an interview or mention in a follow-up email:

1. What is the first professional development opportunity for new teachers?
2. What additional duties outside the classroom are expected of teachers?
3. When can I expect to meet my mentor?
4. What is the top schoolwide priority going into this year?
5. Is there one book, movie, quote, or motto that best reflects the culture of this school?

(These are taken from Training Wheels for Teachers.)

I have a stack of grading that might possibly reach the ceiling. I didn't do any grading at all this past weekend due to the Pops Concert, Plains Area Reading conference project proposals, Praxis, working at B&N, and job fair. Seems like enough to me. Of course, this is kind of hurting me, though I'll get through it! I did some grading at work tonight (yep, worked again tonight), but not nearly enough. It'll all work itself out, and if I can hand out at least one thing per day, everything is OK. I don't have to work or go to any kinds of classes tomorrow, so I can actually get through a huge stack of grading, catch up on applications, and maybe actually doing some homework. (How is it that my own class's homework hit the back burner? And did I make the right choice out of the three--teaching, job applications, my own class? I know that I'm not modeling good student behavior, and I don't like to think about it. Makes me kind of bummed.)

I have been working on the webpage at random times, though not as much as I would like. I did one big update today, and I can't take credit for it at all--Jill Flynn e-mailed me some suggestions for vocabulary activities, which is absolutely great. I know having the routine can be good--here are the vocab words, here are the dictionaries, have fun. OK, after having them do definitions one week, I realized this was silly--they know how to use a dictionary, and my forcing them to do so won't cause them to use a dictionary more often in the future. The second time I gave them the words and definitions and had them write out sentences. The third time I had no quiz, but they had to make a crossword. I don't know if I will need to give them more vocab. this trimester; I did it before as frontloading for To Kill a Mockingbird.

Inherit the Wind is going quickly. I am basically following Amy's format because it worked so well. I keep thinking things will go faster then they actually are... tomorrow the students have a line reading assignment, and they haven't had much more then fifteen minutes in class to prepare for it. I'll probably give them the 25 minutes before lunch to work on it. There's another great assignment, one where the students have to pick four characters and find lines in the play to support this particular character's point of view. I was going to give them that assignment today, but finishing reading the play took longer then I expected. So I think I'm going to offer it as extra credit. Goodness knows some of the students could really use it!

I had to scold my Journalism class today. There are about a third of them that never use the work time that I give them; instead, they listen to music, play with their cell phones, etc. (I'm going to have to ask Amy if there is some kind of confiscation policy--can I take them and give them back later, etc.?) I don't want to punish the rest of the class who actually use the time I give them.

And the activities are pretty neat. There was the activity where I interviewed ZJ in front of the whole class, which actually kept everyone quiet. ZJ is the loudest and most distracting, so it was entertaining for some, and it kept him less fidgety. When Jill observed, I did some follow-up questions with him (after writing the first draft of a feature on him), which she said was good because he obviously likes to be the center of attention and most people think he livens up the class, so it worked out well. I also paired the students up with people they didn't know. (It was funny because two girls came up to me and asked if they could switch partners because they knew each other better, and I said, "Well, that's the point. No one is supposed to know each other very well...") So they were to dig for something interesting and unique about each other and today in class, they were to write a feature about their partner. I read them on break at work today and realized it was a great way for me to get to know even more about my students! It's a nice time to fit it in, too... they've already given me some idea of their personality, but now I get to know about some of their passions. (Maybe this is something I ought to do with English 10 too! If we have some extra time between units...)

And on to the "sympathy" part of the posting.

JJ, the student of mine who has been gone (hospital) showed up as an official drop to my class, though Amy said it's possible this person isn't gone because of official paperwork, etc., not attending for enough days... I'm still going to send along the work to him/her and a get well card. Even if s/he doesn't come back, at least I will have given the card and let him/her know that s/he is in my thoughts. My heart goes out to him/her, and I hope things work out for the best.

Another student lost his father over the weekend. I can't believe he was back in class today! His brother is going back to Africa with his mother to bury his father.

I lost Yvonne, the woman who was like a second mother to my sister and I when we were growing up in Chattanooga, on the first day of the program. I was so grateful for school to have begun; I was distracted and dedicated. I felt a push to become the best teacher I could be out of respect and admiration for her. A dedication to her memory.

I picked up a card for both him and his family... And I excused him from yesterday's assignment, and I told him that he could do the line reading to me after school this week. This is the same student that told me he hasn't read past chapter one. Every day. Now we've moved on to another book, but we read the entire book in class out loud (this seems to be the only way to get some of the kids through it... reading days are sometimes the only way some students finish up--about half the class was able to read To Kill a Mockingbird on their own), so everyone should have kept up OK. In fact, I don't think I had a lot of absenses, though two of my students were in and out because one student "forgot" to pay for lunch earlier last week. Arg. (These are two students I stayed with after school several times and have gotten to know because they're funny and chatty, and I really like them a lot, so it's disappointing... I feel let down. I'm rooting for them, and I'm bummed.) Anyway.

Now that I'm in the fifth week of classes, I think I've finally begun to become connected to my students, and I feel such compassion for all of them. Most of them. :) No, I'm kidding. All of them. I noticed this with the Crosswinds students too, especially with the Intersession students. There were a couple that made me frustrated in a large group situation, but as individuals (and even in groups), I was amazed at their dynamic and incredible personalities. They have passions (and distractions) that were never a part of my own adolescence. I sincerely root for them... I know what kinds of frightening things face them in a handful of years (and what kinds of frightening things they face right now--as illustrated by the two previous students I wrote about), and I keep my thoughts with them to become the great people they have the potential to become. I need to keep figuring out ways to help encourage them. :)

Oh, poor MS. I called his home a few weeks ago. And now his father is gone! Gone, can you imagine? My family is still here--I am even lucky enough to have all of my grandparents around (knock on wood). I can't imagine losing a parent at that age.

OK, time to wrap up and get to bed! I meant to go to bed much earlier... hopefully I won't take a nap tomorrow. It's a tendency when I have days like tomorrow. So much grading to do when I get to school tomorrow morning...

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