Friday, March 23, 2007

A Worthy Caretaker?

My sister left me a message today that ended with, "...and by the way, I put your name down at the doctor's office as an emergency contact for Lucas. You can now take him to the doctor without me and approve his care."

I am a real, adult aunt. With responsibility. Yes, this probably should have occurred to me sooner.

* * * *

On another note, it is not so easy to find a positive thing to say about my classroom today. I had a substitute in the morning so I could go to the doctor's. She left saying, "I will never again, in a million years, substitute in your room." I guess my lovelies called her all sorts of names, and the loveliest of them all made fun of her name, told her he hated her and called her stupid. I tried to tell her it wasn't her, that they treat me the same way every day. I don't think that was what she was looking for. Another teacher came in today and reamed them out in front of me for not respecting me and the other students in the building. "Don't you know that your teacher is wonderful and she works hard for you? You reward her by making her look like the worst teacher in the building!" and, "If my class were that loud, we'd be practicing walking in the hallway."

Thanks. I think she was trying to help. Of course, it was only 15 minutes later that another one of my students was getting reprimanded for pounding on the outside of another classroom wall while the students inside were taking a test.

So the positive today would be me standing my ground and only letting the students who were reported as being "cooperative" go down to play Friday afternoon dodgeball. Despite the bellyaching and scowls from the kids left behind.

Another positive: Today was the first day of fourth quarter.

Labels: ,

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Domesticity & March Madness

I made cookies tonight. So far (crossing my fingers) they aren't ending up burnt like they so often do. I tend to forget that they are in the oven... In general, I am not a very domestic person. I clean because I have to, Dave cooks every night and I do the dishes, and this is the first time I've baked in months. I wanted cookies for us, of course, but also my international partner from China because I am seeing her tomorrow, the custodian from school for replacing my dirty orange curtains with blinds, and the teacher across the hall because she has returned from maternity leave.

I was sad to see Southern Illinois lose tonight to Kansas. Last year, Bradley made it to the Sweet 16 and beat Kansas in the first round. I would have liked to have seen another Missouri Valley Conference team do even better. It's crazy how no matter how the basketball game goes, it always seems as though you can just watch the last two minutes and see the most exciting part.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Fun Notes Today!

  • The crocuses and daffodils I planted last fall started popping up yesterday! Will they make it through the lower temperatures coming over the next few weeks?
  • I didn't have to call Jeremy's* parents once today, and he made it through the entire school day. (*Name changed)
  • Last night at my volleyball league game, I FINALLY accomplished serving overhand! They were great serves through one and a half games. After that, of course, I couldn't get one over the net. I have another chance tonight in the winter league playoffs.
  • The temperature in the house is 63 degrees right now! 63 degrees feels wonderful, as we regularly keep the house at 59 degrees during the winter (I sneak it up to 62 every once in a while).The warm spell will make the gas bill next month a little easier to take.

What went well in school today:
My students are making PowerPoint presentations for book reports this quarter. Jason* did a fabulous book report about dinosaurs, complete with wonderful, scary pictures!


Tuesday, March 13, 2007


On my way home today, I was stressing out over how to get my papers written for my class Thursday night while at the same time getting the writing my students have done graded (which I've put off way too long). I started thinking about my graduate class. . . and my students. . . and my graduate class . . . and my students . . . and all of a sudden I remembered why I was taking the graduate classes to begin with! I remembered a conversation I had with my principal a few months ago- we were attending the funeral of one of my student's fathers (he had been shot and killed) and were conversing about my graduate work. I told her then that I hoped to connect my learning in this class to my students, most of whom are African-American.

The light bulb finally came on today on my way home. I am enmeshed in learning about the continuum of individualistic vs. collectivistic cultures. Individualistic cultures (in a nutshell- I've read about 200 pages worth of material elaborating on this point-a lot of which has seemed like gobbledygook to me) are those that emphasize self-worth through individual accomplishment, while collectivistic cultures strive to promote group goals and unity. Westernized cultures (America, England) tend to be individualistic, while Asian and African cultures tend to be collectivistic.

My students are primarily African-American and low-income. Both of these categories tend to place more emphasis on the collectivistic end of the continuum. Relationships are more important than accomplishments. The major 'aha' moment I had today was about behavior and the importance of allowing my students to save face in front of a group. When I am correcting their behavior (and often punishing) lately, most of it is done in the public arena. This is a major embarrassment to the students. Collectivistic cultures are supposed to accept the idea of hierarchy and power- that those above them need to be listened to. At the same time, though, THOSE ABOVE THEM ARE SUPPOSED TO PROTECT THEM- especially their face. The senior members of a collectivistic group are supposed to help the juniors look good.

So then I asked myself the question- If unity and group harmony is so important to collectivistic cultures, why don't my students worry more about unity in our classroom community? The answer is that it isn't fully a community this year. They haven't bought into the idea that in our classroom, we are family, and everyone is it in together. There is too much antagonism, and to many of my African-American students, they are identifying with each other and I am part of the "out-group". Can a teacher be part of the student group? I think so- it is what I have accomplished in other years. I think one major area I went wrong was resorting to public behavior correction out of frustration.

I swear this would make a lot of sense to anyone taking this class with me.

Labels: ,

Monday, March 12, 2007

What Worked

In an effort to salvage a year that is going downhill fast, I am going to try to blog about things that are going well in the classroom. Hopefully I'll get to this every day, but we'll see.

Today, writing went well. As usual! It takes a few minutes for the students to settle in, but once they are wrapping their brains around a piece of writing, I can usually get 40 minutes of quality learning time in. I love teaching writing according to the writing process in a workshop approach. It gives the kids responsibility for their writing, and ultimately teaches them to be good writers. Many students will spend three weeks on a piece of writing- planning, drafting, revising, editing, revising again... and I love their final projects. Today was a good day- we started writing by writing to the pen pals the students currently have. Around Valentine's Day each year, we start a post office in the school. Kids are required to buy postage and address their valentines to send them to each other. We also pair them up with students in another room to write letters back and forth.

Writing for a purpose always works well. Actually, when there is a clear purpose, students do most anything well. They get engaged in what they are doing and want to do their best. Today they did a great job, and for once when I was traveling around the room it was commenting on writing instead of behavior. We've started a time for "Author's Chair" each week, and students with a final published copy of a piece of writing can read it aloud (or have me read it aloud) for the class to hear.

Yup, I think writing about the good will help me out.


Sunday, March 11, 2007

Back to work...

I failed miserably at my goal for this week off... it was to get to Sunday and be able to relax and be prepared for the upcoming work week. Here I am scrambling on Sunday night, once again.

At least it was a good week. My spirits are very high heading back into the week- I have only one job for the next five weeks! I am glad to be able to focus solely on teaching for at least a short while.


Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Vacation Fun

I haven't had anything worthwhile to say lately- that was starting to get to me! We are on a "mid-winter break" this week. One of the joys of that is getting to baby-sit for Lucas (my sister's son) more often this week. So far today, we have played the guitar and piano, eaten mac and cheese and applesauce for lunch and gone for a walk outside. When Lucas gets up from his nap, we will be heading over to the nearby high school to coach a diving practice. He loves diving, and claps every time someone hits the water. We think he likes the splash more than anything.

On a related note, last night was the boys' regional meet. I was pleased that one of the boys from the team I'm helping out with (their coach is on maternity leave) made it to the state meet this weekend. It feels good, since I never accomplished getting there myself.