Thursday, September 4, 2008

Almost Friday and I feel like talking about school.

Its almost my favorite day of the week, Friday. Things have turned around some. I've had some student surprise attitude changes, some new students also, and some new challenges to accompany them, as well as some various other good fortunes. I've been working really hard burning the candle at both ends to try and become a better Special Education teacher. I am taking on more and more responsibility every day as well as starting to provide actual service to students on a daily basis. I work all day long and don't ever seem to even have a time when a student isn't in my room. As I had said a couple of days ago deep in my self pitying I didn't feel like I was really appreciated or needed around here. Yet, everyday I work my ass off trying to help these kids out.

Since some of you are teachers/friends you may wonder what my day is like.

I get to school at 6:50 am. After foggily making coffee I sit in my classroom trying to drag my mind out of the deep slumber it still seems to be in. After a cup of joe I get everything ready for the day, copies, smartboard notes, and generally making sure I have all the crap I need to get these little buggers up and running. If I'm lucky enough to have left overs I usually eat them in the morning but most of the time I just starve myself in trade for an extra 15 minutes of sleep.

I guess I could talk about all kinds of school stuff but I realize that many of the readers aren't teachers in the district so you might not fully comprehend what a complete disaster the "Phase" system is as our Core subjects curriculum (great in theory but ridiculous in real world application... kind of like communism). Regardless of my opinion, I have two math classes first thing in the morning that feature about 14 students in various stages of different pre-algebra learning Phases. Some students have been there for two years because they can't seem to pass this string of "standards" based tests that are supposed to align with their textbook. Unfortunately the tests only mildly resemble the practice they get from the book and are pretty culturally unresponsive as well. Other students get the "system" and realize they can just teach themselves math quite well. My math classes look nothing like the ones we all probably grew up with: A teacher does examples on the board, gives homework, gives time to work, checks work next day, practices more and takes a test. My class really resembles a private math tutoring time where the kids assign their own homework, run their own Phase programs/folders and are responsible for their own pace of learning. The problem with this being primarily how many teenagers do you know that are DRIVEN to learn Algebra (especially at the BUTTcrack of dawn)? I've had mixed results but with the shotgun mixbag of kids I have their is no other realistic options for how I can provide assistance to such diversity. And, its starting to improve now that I've added an electric water boiler and various teas to choose from. Somehow having something warm to drink in the morning helps wake up those math brain cells in my foggiest early morning risers. Last point, its an injustice to ask a teenager to attempt agebra at 7:55 in the morning, enough said.

My Junior High Science Class is amazing as always. Teaching this age of students makes me realize I probably should have been a Middle School teacher all along. I love the content level of JH because its right before everything gets serious, you can just teach science for enjoyment, nobody is watching (state tests and all that crap). I can still show students about all the cool stuff in the natural world with out wondering if big brother is watching. Also, my juvenile toilet humor and sarcasm seems to be funniest with this age group and comedy in the classroom is essential to keep the day fun. Plus, JH students don't usually have that High School "Who the hell are you" attitude which usually wears down thousands of teachers a year around America. Also I only have three students and with that little to worry about I've even had success making the "Rock Cycle" really really fun.

Our school has its first elective besides "Cup'ig" in like 4 years. And, I get to teach it fourth period. The class is Fine Art 1 and its my favorite class by far. Its only 6 students but they are all so new to art that I really have a chance to start from scratch. I haven't taken "formal art" for a really long time and I'm really enjoying reteaching myself about all the introductory art skills. Plus what kind of an Arsehole is going to put "Phases" or State Standards on Art? I mean really, "Little Bobby Joe Student must meet this rubric of expressing his soul through this color wheel exercise" is friggin ludicrous. It doesn't mean we slack off, I actually give more homework in Art than in any other of my subjects but I don't ever hear any complaints. We've been working our way through the elements of design and have already done some cool projects. When learning about line (and the beginning of art) we learned about "Cave Paintings" and I put a giant butcher paper (black) up on the wall and let them go at it with chalk pastels encouraging them to go Cro-Magnon by playing Tribal drum music. After a tentative start they went nuts! Here is the result. Thanks to my mom I was also able to give them professional quality Sketchbooks and pencils which they love and treat with respect and responsibility. To finish off some negative space/form stuff tomorrow we'll be completing our silhouette vases faces and learning about ol' Henri Matisse. I can't wait...look for pics to follow.

In my monster High School Ecology Class (18 students 13-20) things have settled into a nice little routine. Although the majority of them bombed a vocabulary quiz today I still feel like they're doing alright. They take wonderful notes, have been completing assignments, and seem to still be paying good attention to what I have to say. With the complete lack of real science class essentials (sink, fume hood, microscopes) I'm usually limited to ridiculously rudimentary experiments. I can tell they are getting antsy to do something "cool" or out of the norm. Right now we're starting to learn about aquatic biomes and eventually the ocean. I gotta think of something really good but I was thinking maybe looking at plankton from our waters here under a microscope (3 microscopes per 18 students...what? It could happen!) Oh well, at least I have A microscope right?

After that I have a study hall/sped time/planning period followed by another hour of Special Ed planning and service time. I run around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to solve multiple issues simultaneously. Thank goodness my SPED students are great and I don't mind them at all. Its really all a bunch of politics and law anyways, or at least thats what its become, I just like the face to face time with the students so I put up with it.

The biggest thorn in my side this year is a little thing called "Homework Club" the last period of the day Since our kids our so awful at doing homework we scheduled an hour at the end of the day for them to receive help on their assignments as part of the school day...a study hall if you will...BIG MISTAKE. Its like locking up a bunch of caged animals. Further more, our "proxy" doesn't filter internet content that well anymore so they are very good at looking like they're doing what they're supposed to while actually just checking email and myspace (a tactic I often do when old farts blabber at me useless jibberish in large meetings so I can't really complain I guess).

Then after that I usually run an after school art class or open gym. After that I return back to my room to sip coffee, work on the next days plans, get my blogging in (no internet at home this year), chat with friends on skype, and surf the net.

At about 7 ish I stagger home a broken fragment of the man I started the day as. I make some shi**y dinner and collapse on the couch. If I have energy, I make/record some music, write some poetry or watch a movie...until last night that is! I got satellite TV for the fall so I can watch college football. For 40 bucks a month under the table I get like thousands of channels. Its ridiculous but all I really want is ESPN, FSN, and ABC for college football, Showtime for "Weeds" and HBO for "Big Love." As an added bonus I get "JamON" and the Grateful Dead channels as well as others on Sirius satellite radio. This is a major difference from last year...TV. We'll see if I get stupider...if so let me know and I'll get rid of it...after college football season that is.

I usually fall asleep around midnight listening to Sigur Ros on my headphones and trying to make the flashing images and spinning thoughts of the day go away. Then I get up and do it all over again.

Its exhausting, its odd, its my life, and I don't know why I do it sometimes, but I do, and I do it well usually, so thats something right?

For all of you blogging friends...I'd be interested to see what your daily life consists of, its weird to go through it in words as an exercise for yourself...maybe try it and get back to me!


Susan Iverson said...

I'm not going to go through my day because it is too boring and insignificant compared to what you do. You are doing something meaningful. I am glad to know what your day is like, and also disturbed. How can you have no internet at home? Can you still use garage band? It's good that you have college football though. Go Cougs!

hdt said...

I totally am getting the new Sigur Ros! I loved the going through my day idea. I'll have to do that on my next post. The cave painting idea was brilliant! That alone should make you proud for years to come. I might have to steal that somehow. Don't worry about the tv making you stupid. I think it might be a little way of connecting you to back home or even just the world outside of school. Once the school year starts, I totally start living in the school world, you know. Take care, hdt.

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