Sunday, February 14, 2010

I Never Thought I'd Say This, But...'s time to go back to school. I am actually almost running out of things to do with my time, besides plan for school, because there is always more to do when it comes to that. But still. I kinda miss my kiddos, and having some semblance of a normal schedule in my life. Not to mention that too much money has been spent on going out, food and wine, and such in order to fill the time void. Let's hope Monday night's snow does NOT force the SDP to close the district again.

Monday, February 8, 2010


In case you've been living under a rock and never see or hear the weather report, we had a snow day today because Philadelphia got buried under almost 30 inches of snow this weekend:

Our backyard from my 3rd floor window
Somewhere under there is our walkway around the back of the house

Some kids (or adults) even made a very realistic looking igloo in the backyard of the apartment building down the street. Basically, for a snow-lover, it was an awesome weekend, and it is even awesomer because I got today off.

Snow days as a teacher are way more awesome than they ever were as a kid, especially when you find out the night before that you don't have school the next day. I know I was excited as a kid to not have school but as a teacher, snow days are like a gift from the heavens. Don't get me wrong, it definitely messes up my planning and its a day that my kids aren't learning, and that makes me frustrated, BUT they're awesome because they're a day that I didn't plan to have off, and therefore actually feel like I can use to take some time to myself. Over the course of the week, I prioritize my work so that I know what has to be done on the weeknights because it is immediately necessary for school, and I plan to do things like grade major papers and lesson plan on the weekends. I planned for enough things to do in 2 days this weekend, so having an extra third day off means that this is about as close as I can ever get to unadulterated free time. Plus it means I get to play in the snow (snow angels, anyone?), which is especially fun with roommates from the south who never did this as a kid, and this time we actually got to enjoy the Superbowl.

Of course, it is back to school tomorrow, but a four-day week doesn't look so bad- and we have a three-day weekend next week :)

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A Whoa Moment, A follow up

The same student from my last post spent this morning in homeroom, when he was supposed to be doing his silent sustained reading, debating the existence and purpose of religion. His argument was that religion only existed to give scared people something to hang onto because they don't understand what's going on in the world, and that sometimes people in power take advantage of religion to get people to do what they want, but that he doesn't think there's actually some kind of higher power. Religious debate aside, I feel as though I may be teaching Karl Marx reincarnated. Seriously though, wherever this student came from, I want more of him.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

A "Whoa" Moment

This past week, I was observed by my Teach For America program director. I always dread seeing the email from him in my inbox saying its time to sign up for observations, because I hate, hate, hate being observed. I love getting feedback to make my practice better, but if I could somehow be observed without ever having to know I was getting observed, it would probably be a whole lot better. I hate having someone else in my room watching me- which is odd, I suppose, for someone who did a ton of theater when she was in middle, high school, and college, but that's just the way it is.

Anyway, I asked my PD to come into one of my classes that behaviorally can go either way- some days they are angels and some days they are devils (oh 7th grade boys!)- but more importantly, they had hit an academic plateau from which I seemed unable to raise them, and I needed help figuring out what to do next. It was good to have my PD in my room, because he helped me with some strategies for that, but that's not really what I was so happy about. What I did get psyched about was when we had our debriefing meeting, and he mentioned that he had talked to one of my students to ask a few questions about what we were learning (it was a lesson on Egyptian mythology and the afterlife), and then he asked the BIG question: Why are you learning this? Why is this important?

There are times when I dread this question from my students, because sometimes the best answer I can give is: It's in my curriculum, so I'm supposed to. Obviously, I come up with something else, and if I really believe in my objective, there really IS a reason they are learning it. However, my students rarely see things this way-there is always someone who complains about how irrelevant the Egyptian god Osiris is to their lives today. Now, I happen to love mythology, and could go on forever about why this is important culturally, but this is sometimes (read: almost always...) lost on 7th graders.

However, my student blew my PD (and me, when I heard about it later) away with his answer to this question. He said that we still have a concept of the afterlife today, and although its different from the Egyptian concept of the afterlife, there are a lot of similarities and it's important to know this so we can see where I beliefs came from...

I would like to think I taught him this and he will now go on to deeply love history and the social studies as a way of learning about why we are who we are today and whatnot. However, I fear that may not be the case: when I asked this student what he said after I noticed them talking, he said "Oh, he asked me some really random question, but don't worry, I BSed some kind of answer and made you look good." Small steps, I suppose :)

Sunday, January 10, 2010

One Week Down...

We are back at school this week, and what a week it has been. Nothing was harder than getting up at 5:45 on Monday morning after not having had to do that for several weeks. However, I was excited to go back to school in many ways, because I made several resolutions that I am hoping are going to help me become a better teacher. Sticking to them, though, has been less than easy.

More than anything, I am trying to be a more engaging teacher. I have heard from various sources lately that, while my lessons are solid and I set the bar high for my students, I am not good at adding the fun into learning. I am surprised at how difficult I am finding this to do- I guess as a student who always wanted to learn, I didn't need to have teachers that used "gimmicks" to get our attention- but with my students I really do need to. This week, I added music- Revolution songs- to my lesson on the first battles of the Revolutionary War, and it went over with mixed results. Some of my students still thought it was boring, even though I was excited for it. I guess the bottom line is, I really need to start going out on a limb to get my students engaged and excited for work in class.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Maintaining that Work/Life Balance

I always thought that after I graduated college and didn't have constant reading to do anymore, I would have so much more free time.

I was wrong. Probably took the wrong kind of job if I want free time.

To be honest, this normally is not a huge issue for me. I'm not unhappy with spending a good amount of time planning for my job, as long as I feel like I'm being productive. However, over the past few nights, after my roommate and I have planned to go to the gym together 2 or 3 times and due to a conflict in her schedule or mine, we have not gone any of those times, its starting to get to me. I really like teaching ( I almost typed that I love it, but then I realized I don't know if our relationship is that strong yet...), but I don't understand how people do this and have spouses, kids, pets, time to go out on weeknights (like several of my 30ish colleagues still do).

Maybe I procrastinate more than others. Maybe its that I don't really love my textbooks so I create and find a lot of supplemental materials. Maybe its that I have 3 different classes I'm planning for, or maybe I'm just really bad at time management. Anyway, I'm not sure if this post truly has a point, except to say that I don't understand quite how other people do it. I really hope I figure that out sometime soon.