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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

50%

     Well I gotta say today was great.  Probably the best day yet.  I began using a simple class conduct chart on the calk board, smiley faces, question marks, and x's.  Te children really took to this and I really never even explained it to them.  Guess I'm gonna have to come up with a lot of fun Friday activities if they keep it up.
     One thing that is not so good though is that another teacher is not having a good time of it.  Adimin.  told her to figure things out on her own, that she shouldn't have experienced teachers helping her get control in her classroom.  I guess they want her to earn respect from the kids but our children will do everything in their power to drive their teachers crazy.  If she needs help the admin. should be willing to give it to her.  They did hire her and the rest of us.  I wish there was some advice I could give her but I can't really seem to figure out what to tell her to do.  I think there are too many people trying to give her advice now!?!  I'm not sure but I think letting new teachers get to their breaking point in the first few days of school is what makes them quit within the first 3 years.
   This brings me to the thought of the new teacher initiative.  The districts, powers that be, are monitoring all of us 'seasoned' teachers, and if we 'fail' they threaten to fire us.  But what is their genius plan?  To replace us with NEW teachers.  Well I'm sorry to say but if you fill an inner city school with NEW teachers the freakin walls would fall down.  One problem with this is, like I've said before, I chose to work in a school where sixth graders come to us from the 4th grade!!  So any gain is good gain, to me anyway!!  this year the majority of them did not know their multiplication, NOW they are converting fractions to decimals, and decimals to percents by hand!!  We are still working on simplifying fractions but they'll get it eventually.
      Isn't that crazy that the  50% of teachers quit within the first 3 years?!?!?!  Wouldn't it make more sense for the district to survey new teachers who choose to teach here and find out what they need?  Rather than driving them to quit with all the new initiatives, stress, and lack of help from administrators.   The initiatives and push for test scores is enough to drive a veteran teacher crazy.  I was lucky to come in when we had 2 assistant principals and a tone of 'extra' people (for lack of a better term) to help with behavior problems.  Now all of a sudden 4 years later, "your on your own."  It almost seems that it is worth your while to be on 'the list' so that you can get all the extra help!!
      I  am glad and surprised that I have made it past the three year mark.  I love to teach and am glad that I have had the experience of this inner city school.  The school may not exist next year but it will always hold a special place in my heart for teaching me to be the best teacher I can be.  Working in a challenging environment forces you to use your imagination and do anything in your power to make the concepts STICK.
 

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Looking Back

   While working on lesson plans I was looking back on old notes I left from my first year teaching!!  A lot if this stuff I forgot about but it funny how things have changes soo much in only a few years.  My first year I taught 8 grade pre-algebra.  We had gender based classes which I loved.  The girls were hard to get along with at first some of them had outstanding personalities.  Some had to go.  By the end the girls who were left and I decided we would really miss each other!!  The boys were funny they loved math, some needed more attention than others but I loved the boys classes.  They would not let anyone mess with Mrs. Ward!!
     At the beginning of the school year, I was told that "these kids can't learn without calculators." Even though that person will never know the difference, "these kids" did learn, and we made AYP.  I will never forget her making that comment.  I still stick to my guns on the calculator issue to this day.  I was told this year my students would be sooo low, but with a bit of tough love the have studied their multiplication and most of them memorized their facts and have learned how to do long division!!
     Speaking of the students from that first year, I also found a few funny quotes i wrote down that they said to me through out the year.  A girl told me on a Friday when I had on jeans that I "look like one of those white women who go to the grocery store and stuff on T.V."  On a field trip we walked to a community center and had to cross a major intersection, I was being safe waiting for the walk sign to light up, the next thing I know the a boy steps in the road and says, "Mrs. Ward, white folks don't know how to cross the street."  That same day I was wearing a pair of clear jelly sandals and another boy said, "Mrs. Ward you have on your glass slippers, are you sure I don't need to carry you?"
     The adults are what left the year very interesting.  I never missed a day of work until my grandmother passed and the principle made me leave early.  I even taught with bronchitis (not suggested).  But it seems that there was always a teacher missing on our floor.  This is still true today, the same people are late every day.  I don't get it.  I got written up for not having my chalk board set up correctly but other people can just stroll into work whenever they feel like it!!??!! When everyone was there, two of our 8 grade teachers had major personality clashes which lead to a complete blow up one day.  Another teacher had to leave after the first six weeks and another went out on maternity leave for a looooong time, then one moved to another country.  We had substitutes in and out which was hard.  After a lot of ups and down mainly from the adults I found out that no one was to be fully trusted!!  Oh yeah and don't let me forget the crazy janitors too.  One day I let some girls into the restroom after school which lead a janitor to cussing and throwing garbage cans it was NUTS!!  then one got hired and fired within just a few weeks for hitting on me, making rude comments, and asking for my number.
     Even with all of this going on I still did well in the classroom. My goal this year is to get the 6 graders conditioned to middle school and have another year like this one without all the adult drama.  6 graders are just different some have still not been tested special ed and it is obvious that they need it, but the elem school teachers did not do the proper paper work and the child is now in middle school falling further behind.  Hopefully we can get the paper work processes underway soon and get all children in their learning environment, but who knows. One more funny thing and I will quit reminiscing, the admin that first year, actually told me in January or Feb.  that they didn't think i would make it the whole year!!  Look at me now 3 years later!!

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wearing Many Hats

     My dad complained that I did not use proper spelling and grammar in my last posts, I tried to explain to him that in a blog it doesn't matter but he didn't get it.  But anyway not a hole lot going on in Coxy's life right now.  I have been helping with cheerleading tryouts which has been a blast.  I am so sore I can't stand it though.  Helping with tryouts has triggered my eat, sleep, and breath cheer reflexes.  I have been having my infamous cheer dreams, and last night my hubby stayed out late and then called me late and woke me up, all these ideas for cheers and dances kept running through my head and I couldn't get back to sleep until 1:15.  Then had to go teach without any coffee this morning because I did not go grocery shopping over the weekend.  I tried instant coffee but it did not do the trick I ended up getting a soda out of the vending machine at 7 am!!  lol  
     On a more serious note as mentioned in an earlier post education is in a crisis and no one knows how to fix it.  Guess the folks at the Board have never heard the saying 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it'?  I just got on the other large school districts website and they have all sorts of resources for their teachers.  Too bad their stuff is for a completely different text book.  I stole a few ideas but their curriculum is so different.  This other school district is always doing well though, maybe consolidation is a good thing?  IDK Seems they know some secrets and aren't sharing.  I also tried to find the NAEP (national assessment of educational progress) Standards online and can't seem to find that either.  If the state standards are not being tested I need the National ones!!  I know I can get them from the PDSCC at work, but it would be nice if this much needed info was readily available.  
     Now don't get me wrong I am not saying teach to the test, believe me I don't.  But it would be nice to know the stuff that has to come up throughout the year.  If any teachers or almost teachers read this, and have some classroom strategies to share please do!!  
     On top of all this, tomorrow night is Title one parent meeting night.  I was asked to work the sign in table which means I have to be back at school at 4:45 and leave who knows when.  Monday was the chew out faculty meeting we didn't leave until 4ish, then I said I would cheer tryouts which didn't end til 4 tues and wed, and now this.  I have a family people!!!  Last week was about the same, and this coming week doesn't look much better, pretty in pink on Monday afternoon!?!  Then Judging for the cheer squad on Tues.  who knows what else will come up between now and then!  I have to stay calm and take it all with a grain of salt.  After all I don't want to gain 'stress' weight :)  Needless to say Maggie will be returning to Title one parent meeting tomorrow whether she likes it or not!!
     Guess I should just be happy to have a good job!!  I do love it but blogging is a good way to vent and let it all out without bothering anyone else.  tootles

Monday, August 23, 2010

being left behind

     No Child left behind, Ha, what a joke.  More like every child in Tennessee left behind.  It has been rumored for years that the south has some of the lowest test scores in the nation.  That really doesn't mean much to most of us because we all turned out ok.  But now all of a sudden in 2009 the state decided that Tennessee should start adhering to and testing by the national standards.  They did not slowly trickle this initiative up starting in elementary schools, moving to middle schools and fully implementing in high school after a few years, they decided to throw it at us.  What this did, is basically make every child miss one year or so of school.  What was taught in the eighth grade is now taught in sixth and eighth graders were all of a sudden in pre algebra.  This hurt all children but for the children in inner city schools who were already 'left behind' it hurt them and their teachers the most.
     With this change of standards and testing, no one told the teachers what to prepare for, what to teach or even how many questions would be on the test.  We were all driving blind.  Now the people in high places are pointing fingers like we are horrible teachers, schools are in danger of being shut down, principals are being removed and teachers being fired.  Yes teachers are now measured by how much their students grow in a years time.  Well, obviously with these new standards and the new test, it looks like the students have not only not grown but regressed.  It is not because they have bad teachers the students are not getting dumber there are simply more idiots in places of power!!  DUH  I say you make the test harder the standards more rigorous and leave everyone in the dark about what to expect, what do you think is going to happen??  They set us up for failure!!!!
      I just left a faculty meeting where my principal got chewed out by higher powers because we had very low scores on last years formative assessment.  Well they look low, but if you compare them to the previous years scores our students are growing, they are learning they are leaving middle school knowing how to do math and being able to read and comprehend.  Even with the new standards and more rigorous curriculum they made gains until the new cut scores, the national scores, were put out.  Now every student in our district is below proficient, but was it their fault??  Was it the teachers fault, in some cases maybe,  or were we all dealt a hand of injustice by someone trying to make a bigger paycheck.
     Our school is an inner city school, people are getting killed robbed and sent to jail all around us.  The school is the safe haven.  Should we the teachers be discarded because the elementary teachers gave up on our students??  My worry is that even after working out asses off for three years in a row and staying off "the list"  We have now fallen right back onto it.  If They deem me as an unfit teacher and fire me will I be able to find another job?  Remember this is inner city children we are dealing with.  Not students who have mothers to remind them to grab their backpack or remember to do their homework.  making any progress is good progress. The score in Math before I taught there was 53%  my first year as a teacher it went up to 76%  the next 80%.
    I am confident that in a different setting I could have much higher scores.  But i love the children I serve, the children who need me, the children who have taught me soo much.  Would I like to teach in a school where the demands are not so high??  Sure I have thought about it, who wouldn't but in the end those children have parents at home that love them and will make sure they get what they need.  It takes a special teacher to teach in the inner city, teachers who care, who do not judge, and are willing to play multiple roles; mom, teacher, and sometimes friend.  Will anyone look at my background and take into consideration I chose this challenge, if my school is shut down or i am fired?  Or will my four years of college and my four years of blood, sweat and tears be thrown to wayside and leave me searching for another calling in life??

Saturday, August 21, 2010

just getting exciting

    Remember, when your a teacher everything has to be done after 3pm or on saturday!!  I do not know how single working mothers make it.  Two weeks ago my cable simply quit working they were supposed to come fix it on friday morning while my hubby was home.  They never showed.  Saturday I canceled them.  I called a new company the following Wed.  made an appt.  and they called me while I was at work and said they would be there in one hour.  I told them I have a class of sixth graders and wouldnt be able to make it.  So they never showed and I have not been able to make contact with anyone who could reschedule me.  (I think the janitor answered the phone friday afternoon LOL) Amongst all of this I was washing dishes one night about 6:30pm and realized I was standing in a pool of water.    ~ Emergency plumber needed immediately!!! ~    Luckily my dad came over and fixed it with out breaking anything in the process, but i had to take everything out of the cabinet and leave it all in the kitchen floor until the cabinets dried out!!  Not fun!!  Then the tire pressure monitor (tpm) has been on in my truck for a long time now.  I took it in over the summer and one the guys said there wasnt anything they could do about it at the time.  I called this week they told me to bring it in anytime and they would take care of it.  I also have a recall that needs to be fixed, a plastic part needs to be glued down.  I got to the shop at 8 am today and they said my tires needed air and the tpm light would go off and that they could not fix the recall at that time.  When they sent me on my way the tpm light came back on so I U- turned it, yes in Bartlett, and went back to show them the light.  The techs checked it out and no one had put air in the tires the first time I was there.  While they were running the tester thing this time to reset the monitor, the truck went into theft lock mode and wouldn't start!!!!  It took about 20 minutes for them to get that figured out and fixed.  Luckily after that, I got my air and was good to go.  They told me to came back during the week to get the recall fixed, I told them I was a teacher and needed my ride.  He said well Im sure theres a day you can make it, I told him, i would just go home and super glue it myself!!  LOL   But the funs not over yet.  My daughter had a slumber party last night and we were outta toilet paper so I stopped by kroger to get some and when I was looking for my kroger card i realized it wasnt in there AND  it is on my house keys, so I had to walk across the street and get the key!!
     I am not saying at all that I have a horrible life this has been one exciting morning and I am happy to say that I actually feel like I did accomplish something today!!  And I really do not know how single mothers can work, keep appointments, and take care of things around the house.  Recently I have felt like I am going to work to relax and get away from all of the crazy people I have been dealing with (cable companies, car companies, plumbers etc..)  Oh yeah and I did at least figure out how to get the local channels on my t.v.  Thanks kim!!

Friday, August 20, 2010

getting started

        Hi all  I really wanted to start a blog about the life of teacher.  This is my fourth year as a teacher in an inner city school district.  My first year was wonderful and full of learning how to get along with different people.  The next two years were hell.  The children were not well behaved and the teachers all turned on each other.  I am now teaching 6 grade and the school has become more diverse.  (there are now 6 white teachers.)  The students are all african american and all economically disadvantaged.  I grew up in a middle class family and went to a private middle school where I was the 'poor' kid.  I never really knew what poor meant.  Just yesterday in class i had to step out and get some fresh air because I almost threw up while a little girl was talking to me, her breath smelt horrible!!  From what i have been told the project housing these students come from do not have washer/dryer hook ups so they have to hand wash their clothes and hang them on the line to dry.  the laundromat is too far away, most of them do not have transportation.  We hear the children saying they only come to school to get free breakfast and lunch and to have heating/ac.  I always wondered growing up why someone would drop out of school but now i know, i get it now.  All these kids know is the streets, most of them come to middle school and cannot read, multiply, or divide, but they do know how to have sex, count that money, and fight.  I tried and tried to explain to them that people outside of thier 'projects' didnt fight everyday.  They looked stunned.  This 'street' life is the only one they know, many of them have never left the one block radius between home and school.
     I love to feel like i have made a difference.  Just this week students came to me and said that they learned something today, like they were surprised.  It is funny, in sixth grade after hollering at a student he came and gave me a big hug the next day.  that would never happen in 8 grade!  Although i miss those big babies too.  They still come back to see their middle school teachers.  One even told me she was sorry for acting so bad in my class because her 9 grade math teacher was horrible!!
     And on top of all this madness I have my own drama that plays a part in the crazy life of Coxy!!  a 7 year old who is "grown" so she thinks and a hard working husband that i love but like any husband tends to make me crazy at times.  I hope someone will find my blog helpful, interesting or just plain amusing!!