Friday, September 11, 2009

The Mother of All Blog Posts

I have the best job in the world.

My students are incredible. They love to talk, but it’s mostly because they’re curious – about EVERYTHING. If, or rather, WHEN, I can harness that curiosity and direct it toward science and methods of inquiry (let’s be honest, that’s not always, or ever, an easy task), we will have a lot of success this year in lab. They’re all excited about exactly the same units I am: we’ll dabble in cosmology when we “investigate the Earth as part of the solar system”, we’ll build Rube Goldberg Machines when we “design and construct simple and compound machines” at the end of the year, and since several students have already made this request, we’ll maybe dissect a frog when we discuss tissues, organs, and organ systems (hmm… “Scalpel, please, and a paper bag”).
At this point, my only worry is time. The schedule right now is a crazy sprint of eight sections, 30 minutes each, without any breaks until I take the last class to lunch before lab. Depending upon whether the students are being sent to me or I am picking them up, we could be running 5-10 minutes late at the beginning of class. I give them “five” (usually seven) minutes on a Do Now Activity (assessment/review of lesson from the previous day), spend about 10 minutes catching up on content (two of the four 5th grade classes haven’t talked about science at all this year), leaving 5-10 minutes for them to create a graphic organizer relevant to THAT day’s objective or, on Mondays and Thursdays, a Word Wall game to review vocabulary words they’ve never actually learned. Remember this is supposed to be a science LAB. Do you see a lab in there? Because I don’t.

We MIGHT switch to an A/B format (not likely) so I am seeing four of eight sections every other day (Monday-Thursday) for 45 minutes – which is better for lab time, but reduces the amount of time per week we spend on Science to an hour and a half. That means I’d have about 30 hours total to help them master 27 learning goals before March 3. Oi Vay!

That said, I recognize that I am blessed to be here. For one, my classroom is beautiful (though I did work my butt off for it to become so). Second, I have a principal and assistant principal who have established a positive and motivating school culture and hold teachers accountable while remaining pretty hands-off in the classroom. Though I understand this is more convenient for me than for self-contained teachers who already have quite a bit on their plate without extra administrative work, like scheduling, that may slip through the cracks with the focus of the administration elsewhere. But because of the positive culture in the school (for the most part – we’ll get there in a second), a big part of my job is already done for me. The kids know that college opens doors to any occupation they choose, and they know that going to school now is a necessary step in order to go to college in the future. I don’t have to drill that information into them. They believe in education. They believe in themselves. I just have to convince them to put that belief into practice.

I’m not saying everything is perfect, either. This morning I saw a morbidly obese student, probably in Kindergarten or 1st Grade, get paddled by her mother just outside the doors of the school. I was literally frozen in shock. Part of you feels like you are intruding on something you are not supposed to be seeing and wants to slink away and hide, while part of you wants to run screaming, tackle mom, and yell at her for not only hitting her very young child with a plank of wood (and letting her other daughter laugh at the girl afterwards) but also for letting the girl gain weight to a point that is dangerous even for a six year old! Phew. Ok. Suspending judgment, Alex, suspending judgment.

Then, my Assistant Principal requested that I watch the kids in the ISS room while the woman who normally works with them ran to get them breakfast (the free breakfast line was so backed up this morning kids were 10, 15, 20 minutes late to class). I obviously said yes, though I was convinced it was a test, and walked into the room. There were maybe 4 or 5 kids in a room the size of a two and half racquetball courts. It still felt like the room was spinning - it was abuzz with ADHD. All the kids were seated where they were supposed to be, but the new person in the room definitely had them excited. First, it was, “Are we gonna do science today, Miss?” Then, “Are we gonna dissect frogs?” I’m used to that question, now, so I say: “I’m thinking about it… but I’m not making any promises.” “AWESOME! We’re gonna dissect frogs!” Then, the only girl in the room (who has escaped into my classroom several times since) decided that she was going to faint and leaped over the back of her chair onto the ground. I told her to get back in her seat immediately and went over to stand right next to her so she had nowhere to leap. I started asking her questions, which seemed to keep her mind occupied while her body was forced to sit still. I asked her if she liked science. Yes. What do you like about science? I like cutting things open. … OK. (Oh, and don’t get me started on my 5th grader who started explaining how to make crack while standing in the lunch line and is currently working on a movie called “Scooby Jew”…)

Anyway, while I was in the ISS room, I finally found my Principal about 5 minutes before I was supposed to get off morning duty and start doing whatever my real job is. I asked her about my schedule for interventions on Fridays. I started to get a blank stare (which isn’t really a blank stare, it’s more of a thinking stare that is clearly expecting you say more), so I offered to create the schedule myself. My principal said, “Thank you so much, that would be really helpful!” and walked away. (Don’t get me wrong, my principal’s leadership style suits me perfectly, but that is exactly what she did.) I didn’t know for what subjects or grade levels I was to intervene, but I started making schedules for several different scenarios. When I went to ask my Team Leader what time of day would work best to pull her students out for math, she said to me, “Well, I don’t know! I’m a teacher, not an administrator! I’m not supposed to be doing schedules!” and continued venting for a few minutes after unnecessarily explaining that her frustration wasn’t actually directed at me. Eventually, I figured out that I am to pull only 5th graders who need math intervention work for half an hour at a time, and finally created a schedule that, as far as I know, works for everyone. But at that point, I was still looking at only half a day’s work on Fridays. Probably not ok if I’m getting paid full-time.

Then, at about 11:00, the woman I covered for in the ISS room knocked on my door and told me the kids from her room (I’ve had to stop myself saying “the ISS kids”) wanted to do an activity. PANIC ATTACK. An activity? RIGHT now? Turns out NOT right then, thank goodness, even though I offered to. Rather, at least two Fridays a month, I’ll be doing a science-related activity with the students from the ISS room – one that we can put on display in the hall. Any ideas??? Besides foldables, por favor. At least I have a couple more Friday afternoons taken up each month. Also, the girl who can leap over the backs of chairs from a sitting position is apparently going to come to visit me during her resource time. The woman I covered for literally said: “She likes you… I don’t know why. Probably because you’re young and attractive”.

In other news, at 2:00 p.m. my school gave me free nachos. I love my school.

And in case you were curious, if you type Obi Wan Kenobi into Microsoft Word (2007), it doesn’t tell you that you spelled anything wrong. If you type Quantarrius, Montaza, or Barack Obama, Spell Check yells at you. PCs are geeky racists. I’m getting a Mac.


1 comment:

  1. Yup, kids have their own secret world. We just forget about it when we are adults. I wish I could find my way back to that....