Thursday, October 30, 2008

A Typical Day For Me

I have had people say to me teachers have it easy they only work from 8:30 – 3:30. They have the summers off. I won’t even talk about the summer issue here but I’ll take a few minutes to walk you through my day.

I am up at 5:15 in the morning unless I sleep in until 5:45. I am out the door by 7 at the latest. This puts me in the building at 7:30 unless traffic is bad. Then the real day starts.

I check my box for mail and sign in. I get stopped by the principal’s secretary so that I can be filled in on any LCT updates that came up after I left the building the day before. The Dean of Instruction calls my name as I’m leaving the office so we walk down the hall together strategizing the day. The Data Analyst and at least one Assistant Principal and another LCT usually join the conversation by the time we have reached the stairwell. After I unlock my door and we finish the conversation I meet with my Department Head for a morning check in. This is all within the first 30 minutes of my day. Some mornings my principal calls me into her office before I even have the chance to sign in and if that is the case I know I’m in for a really long and busy day. This usually happens twice a week. But it has been known to happen as many as four times a week.

Email needs to be checked; most mornings I have a meeting and if I do not I have teachers and or students stopping in for advice, help, or an ear. At 8:30 the bell rings and first period starts.

First period is my planning period so I grade papers, call parents, make copies or fill out forms so that the copy lady can make my copies for me. This 50 minutes flies by and before I know it the bell rings and with the start of 2nd period I switch into LCT mode.

For those of you that do not know LCT stands for Lead Content Teacher. This means that I am the Social Studies expert on our campus. I love my job but this is the part of my job that completely stresses me out some days. There is always something that needs to be done with this part of the job. During 2nd period I usually do one of six things: visit a social studies classroom to observe/help for the full period; do learning walks in multiple classrooms; plan with one of the American History teachers or the World History teachers; meet with the Advanced Academic Coordinator or meet with the Social Studies Director from downtown and if I am behind I get paperwork caught up.

3rd, 4th and 6th period find me teaching AP World History to 10th graders. I love this part of my job it is truly my favorite part of the day and yes I know I am spoiled because I have the best kids in the building. I have great students that I challenge, support, push and love. They go from being whiny unsure students to focused and confident students. I like knowing that I have gotten them ready to move on to other AP classes and started them on their way to a successful college career if that is what they choose.

5th and 7th period are also LCT periods. If it is a Tuesday the LCTs have a meeting with the principal. The other days I repeat period 2. I do get a 30 minute duty free lunch but there are times that I work during lunch as well.

The bell rings at 3:35 to end the day with the students and technically I can walk out of the building at 3:45. That only happens if I have a 4pm doctor’s appointment. Usually I am at work until at least 5 and many times until 6pm. I use this time for meetings, tutoring students, planning and grading projects that are really to big to bring home. I also take care of paperwork, entering grades into the computer, more emails, phone calls to parents and just about anything else that needs to be handled. Once I go home I typically have another two hours of work to complete.

Twice a month I am off campus for LCT meetings and I also conduct professional development training both on and off the campus. This means I have to plan for there being a substitute in my classroom; the part of the job I really do not like doing.

Oh yes and the last thing I am involved in is showing my students I care by attending their afterschool activities. That means football games, band competitions, volleyball games, basketball games, softball, baseball, choir and orchestra concerts and that is just the activities that I can remember.
I love my job, my school and my students. I would not give it up for all the tea in China but I sometimes get frustrated when people think teachers make too much because of all their free time. I sure would like to know what free time they are talking about. One plus side to all of the time I put in; my students recognize that I do not have a lot of free time because of all I do for them and they thank me for it so in the end it is all worth it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

My thoughts on Teaching and Education Within the Arguments Of The Campaign

This will most likely be my one and only politically leaning post so if you do not want to read my thoughts on the political process with regards to education this is your fair warning to close it down now and not read it. But if you want to read and leave a comment please feel free to do so.

After watching the third and final debate between Senator Obama and Senator McCain I thought I would put my thoughts out there. First of all I do not think either of the candidates have a workable plan for education and therefore the person they choose to become their Secretary of Education will really impact the state of educational system for a long time.

I am a teacher and as most of you know I became a professional teacher in 2005 at the age of 43. With that being said I believe I was a teacher long before that point and time. I also believe that most good teachers are innate teachers. That does not mean someone cannot learn to become a good teacher; I just think that it takes them more time to do so and some do not ever become good teachers.

One of my pet peeves that people discuss when they talk about education is how far behind the United States is with regards to math and science when compared to other countries. Let’s look at that for just a moment. Countries like Germany, Japan, South Korea and the list goes on do not educate all of their students to the extent that the United States does. Most students in those countries are identified and tracked by the time they reach intermediate to middle school age. What this means is that if those students are not “university material” they are trained for occupations. There is nothing wrong with this but those students are not taking the types of high school/college prep class that the students in the United States are. This country believes that everyone is entitled to a free public education and I agree with that. I also believe that we have turned our backs on vocational training in high schools for those students that want that track. The policy wonks have decided that everyone should be “college ready”. That affects our rankings so people need to compare apples to apples not apples to cantaloupe.

I will not go into all of my disagreements with NCLB (No Child Left Behind) I will just say I do not believe that there is a baby in that bath water so they need to throw it all down the drain and refill the bath tub with clean water.

One comment that Senator McCain made that I had a major issue with was when he said that when people leave the military they should be allowed to become teachers without having to pass any tests. Excuse me? So some person that joined the armed services right out of high school serves his 4 to 6 years that he signed up for, and has only been trained to drive a tank, can come back to the states and walk into the classroom and teach? So is my degree and all of the other degrees worth nothing? He has got to be kidding! Does that mean that once I have my Masters of Military History degree I can go and be a general in the United States Army?

I also take issue with Senator Obama saying that only math and science teachers should get paid more money to teach. Does he believe that those students suddenly become easier to teach if it is not a math or science class? I hate to tell him if they struggle in math and science they are most likely struggling in all of their core academic classes.

The other issue I have with Senator Obama and Senator McCain is that they want to hold parents accountable, that they have to be part of the solution. Believe me when I say every teacher in America thinks that parents have to be part of the solution. My problem is that neither of them has said how they would do that. We haul parents into to court on a regular basis in the district I work for because of truancy or other issues with their children and more often than not the behavior of the child does not change. So until they give me concrete examples of how parents would be part of the solution they are both blowing smoke as far as I am concerned.

The education system did not “break” in a year it will take longer than a year and quick fixes to truly fix the problem. In the end it will take educators that are still in the trenches to help fix the problems not policy wonks that are so far removed from the classroom that they have no clue what is like today. Until we are asked real effective and lasting change will not happen.

Trains, Legos and Other Boy Toys

Colin decided to rearrange his room and make it more adult. He also wanted his electronic keyboard and computer in the room so he can compose so we cleaned up his living space. Granted they haven’t moved the computer in there yet but I’m sure they will in the next few days. With Paul traveling it keeps getting pushed back. This event leads me to today’s thoughts.

As Colin cleaned up we had to decide where to put the trains, Legos and Duplos along with the many other boy thing Colin had collected over the years. Some of the items were very easy to get rid of. They either went in the trash or were donated to our church for the annual garage sale. It wasn’t really hard to decide what to do with the Thomas tracks and trains or the Legos and Duplos; we boxed them up and put them in the spare room. All of this cleaning and reorganizing took me down memory lane. It just seems so strange to me that my children are now 21 and 18. I am not sure where the time went but I do know that it went away faster than I ever imagined that it would.

Andrew was given his first set of Duplo blocks when he was 3 years old. He loved the blocks right away and he was very happy to have my help in learning how to follow the directions and build the blocks. Then he got his first set of Legos and all of that changed. All of the sudden Mom went from being a great builder of Duplos to a very incompetent builder of Legos and the refrain I heard more times than I can count was: “Mommy, girls don’t build right I’ll do it myself or I’ll wait for Daddy to come home from work and he can help me.” Of course my ego was crushed and to top it all off Legos were the start of Mom does not know everything. Colin very quickly learned this refrain from Andrew and I was barely allowed to help with the Duplos. Colin preferred Andrew’s or Daddy’s help Mom came in 3rd at best. If our golden retriever Mollie had shown any ability with Legos she would have ranked higher on the chain than I did.

We had Lego boats that really floated in the tub, more airplane styles than you can count, at least 5 different castles, more car and truck types than you can count, Star Wars came out of our ears and we just generally kept the Lego Company in business. We should have purchased stock actually I’m not sure that they sell stock in Lego. It was money well spent and our boys had many happy hours playing with them. Hopefully someday they will have children to pass these Legos down to.

The one down side to all of those Legos, they were everywhere. I can not even begin to tell how many times I vacuumed up a Lego piece or worse yet stepped on one. Those little suckers hurt and they seem to multiple like rabbits when you are not looking. Honestly when I think about all the Legos Andrew and Colin had I do not really remember either of these things unless I think about it for a long time. I truly remember the fun they had building and playing with Legos. When Colin put them away he officially closed a chapter in his life that has made me sigh. It is just one more thing that makes me acknowledge that he is a young adult and no longer a little boy. It is a good change but a sad one at the same time.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

It's the little things

I know it is a pretty obvious statement but it is the little things that make life wonderful and very interesting.

Today my students asked me what I do when I get home from work. They were shocked to find out that Paul cooks most nights and that I do not clean the house or do the dishes. I do the laundry and I feed the animals but I do not scoop the litter box. After all Paul wanted the cat he can clean the box. I cleaned Figaro’s box the whole time he was alive. But in talking with my students about my daily life it made me realize how lucky I am that I have a husband that likes to cook and he doesn’t complain about the cleaning. After all he is the one that wanted to cancel the maid service that we had. The boys also help out around they house so it gives me time to do school related work; which at times seems to be never ending.

Another little thing that makes my day is the towel warmer that is in my bathroom. It makes my towel nice and warm to wrap up in after I get out of the shower. I really love it in the winter time.

Notes from my students that they leave on my desk or at the bottom of the assignment also make my day. Of course some make me laugh while others make me cry. They will give me their reasons as to why they did poorly on a test, did not complete their homework and just little things about themselves or about what they think about me or my class. Most hate my class but at least like or love me. They hate my class because it is so hard for them. For the first time they are really truly being held to a very high standard and I keep their feet to the fire until the middle of May and then a let up a little bit after the AP exam is over.

Phone calls from family and friends that I do not get to see very often bring a smile to my face because it lets me know that they are thinking of me and that they miss me as much as I miss them.

My sons still give me a hug and a kiss each night before I go to bed; it used to be that they gave me a kiss before they went to bed. Now I turn into a pumpkin if I am up much past 10 pm and they are up well past 10 so as I say good night to them and head to my bed they give me the hug and a kiss.

Colin has to create a Senior Scrapbook for English class this year and he is letting me help with the design of the book. Working on a creative project with him is always enjoyable.

Listening to Colin sing and play the piano as I drift off to sleep is a wonderful gift that I will truly miss when he moves out of the house. He has a rich deep comforting voice especially when he sings hymns that I remember from my childhood.

My fibromyalgia is under control again and because of that I can face each day with less pain and more energy. That is so important in my profession especially at my school. My students have so much instability that they worry when a teacher is ill or just not themselves for a day. They want to be sure that I will be there. That is why I warn them if I am going to have a sub they do not like walking into a room with a sub they did not know about. Even when they do know about it I get things like “Ms. Please don’t leave us again we did not like that sub.” Of course when questioned about what was wrong with the sub it comes down to I wasn’t there.

Last but not least my husband of 24 years still loves me for better or worse and I feel the same way about him. As I crawl into bed he is by my side and for that I am truly greatful; for even though it at times seems like a little thing it is a wonderful thing.