Tag Archives: life

Blogging My Memory: Off the Bench and Back to Writing

I'm also a robot sent from the future, and will someday govern California.

Heyooooooooo awesome blog perusers!!

I know I’ve been on the proverbial bench for over three months now, but to be perfectly honest, I went through a stretch where I lost the will to blog. I know this fact has been extremely disappointing the majority of the world, but fear not earth, my rambling, semi-edited chronicling a of teenager-teaching life has returned.

Since I last posted my School Lunch Experiment, so much has happened at school. I can remember a few times where I sped home around 5 PM, passed out for my half hour nap routine, and then forced my dazed self to write a post. Each of these two or three times, I managed less than three meager paragraphs. I can vaguely recall the culprits of my blogging inefficiency. Each time I sat down to type, I was sucked into the many entrances of the black hole of distraction; either magnetized out of my apartment to play basketball at the Y (which I’m literally addicted to), or compelled to hit click on another webpage on the internet. The latter always resulting in the opposite of productivity – my brain turned off, and my eyes transfixed on most important articles on fantasy baseball mock drafts, videos of puppies wresting cubs, or even the newest pictures of Blue Ivy! So hopefully everyone can relate to this common predicament.

Looking back in during the last few days of a much-needed ‘SPRING BREAK 0-12’ (which should always be shouted like a frat boy), there is absolutely zero excuse for me not to write a little blog post. The toughest part is that so much has happened since my last post “The School Lunch Experiment” in mid January.

No need for blogging. When this little guy becomes a teacher, he'll never forget his weeks yelling at hallways of loud adolescent elephants.

I’ve been thinking about memory recently, and my fear is that if you don’t give yourself time to sit back and reflect on your day, week, or, as it has crept up on me, your month (s), than all of the things you could have appreciated or learned from could be lost.

So off to my handy iCal, which will hopefully jog my fading memory and allow me to summarize some of the more gripping events of the past few months at school.

The end of January, through my 8th grade teacher eyes, could be defined by my attempts at preparing my students for their midterms. Our school’s second marking period ended at around this time, and most of the students grades were even more jaw-droppingly low headed into these cumulative tests.

To give you a depressing and way-too-dramatic visual, try to follow me here: Imagine yourself of showing up in the morning to wherever you work, and putting your briefcase or work satchel in where-ever you store your personal belongings. You walk into a room with a giant, clear wheel propped up on a platform made for a human being to enter and walk on. You step into the wheel and begin running full speed (anywhere from 6.0-10.0 depending on your level of treadmill fitness). You continue doing this for seven hours straight, and then you stop, get out of the giant clear wheel, and head home to pass out face down in your bed.

Look at him making so much (figurative) progress!Tiring right? Seems pretty frustrating? Trying everything you possiblycan to help your students pass classes that they haven't done homework in for months is essentially this, a near impossibility with many an hour spinning your wheels like a jeep stuck in the mud.

This overly extended metaphor wasn’t meant to explain my entire livelihood at school for the past few months. It’s just me trying to represent the few weeks reviewing year-long concepts in preparation for a midterm.

Into February, my trusty iCal tells me that I was helping lead our 8th graders into a ‘promising’ 3rd marking period. One in which, if I remember my attempt at inspiring words correctly, was an “exciting chance to improve and show everyone that you are ready to enter high school!” These couple of weeks, I made a concerted effort to, and of course struggled at, getting students to come after school for help. (Now I just remembered it was then when I was about to write about this before getting distracted by the Jeremy Lin phenomenon). The school month of February went by quickly because we had Winter Recess and an entire week off to relax and recharge our injured motivations.

After break, March happened. This was the time last year, if you want to search through my old blog posts, where I almost broke down completely as a teacher. For all teachers on this public school schedule, March is the most dreaded and painful month. To new teachers, they say, “Just get through March, into Spring Break, and your home free”. This could not be more true.

What has stuck with me so much this year after the 7 week grind without a break from teaching is how emotionally unscathed and “used-to-it” I’ve become. I definitely want to separate this feeling in my mind from the neighboring feelings of complacency or even ‘not-giving-a-crap’, but I’ve definitely learned so much after a few years. I tend to look at things as being in my control or not, and I leave it at that.

Imagine these on middle school girls as a rewards celebration. It's weird I know - but they loved it. E-mail me if you want the real pics.

More of my thoughts on this to come in future posts, but these last weeks at school, our team of teachers have worked insanely hard. Our eighth grade team has made over 900 calls to parents this year. In addition, all of the teachers plead to students to come for help after school when they are confused. Basically, we’re doing our jobs with following up with students.

This whole year, I’ve had very honest and direct conversations about school and home lives with my students every day while pushing them to do their best. I’ve taught after school English Test prep on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and coached soccer on Wednesdays.

What I’ve learned after yet another 3rd marking period of failing students is that the majority of the reoccurring problems preventing student achievement are more strongly influenced by obstacles outside of some of the amazing work we do inside school.

Either way, we have to stay positive and keep our heads up as state tests begin this upcoming week! We can even celebrate some of the smaller successes with fun mustache rewards parties.

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Passed Out, Quality Reviewed, and Labeled a Grinch

"A hippo wearing a hat!!!!" Oh man, it's just a bunch of boring words website..."

I’ve been overcome with blog-guilt the last few weeks. I feel like I would be lying by omission if I didn’t say that for a full week, I waited until I passed a milestone amount of view hits.

With a sad, sad understanding that many of the random hits on the blog are from elementary students typing “cute animals” into google image search, I nevertheless find it great that a solid group of friends and family read my thoughts on school life. This makes me feel a little guilty when I take a three-week hiatus from writing, so I must get some computer ink down on computer paper tonight. Now where do I start…

Since I last wrote about the dangers of phallic symbols in the classroom, winter has crept up on all of us in the northeast. There’s always a little melancholy feeling when the leafy season has come and gone, yet this year, the warmth has lingered so much that it hasn’t been too painful. This may be one of the reasons that this November-into-December stretch of attempting to control hormonal teenagers has seemed to fly by faster than my previous two.

This is me napping on my cubby.

In thinking back at the hazy, pass-out-for-a-longer-nap-than-you-expected-after-work-everyday three weeks since the end of November, a few moments stand out over the (its sad to say it) monotonous routines of life in 8th grade.

During the first week of December, I recall not even thinking about blogging, reflecting, or even writing down funny student interactions. Our school was undergoing the most highly stressful time of the year – our Mandatory Quality Review.

From the first staff meetings in August, to the day before the superintendent and her colleagues came dropping into our classrooms at random, our administration had been reminding and prepping us about this evaluation and its importance. It was a slowly building crescendo of  warning and preparation, and as teachers, we were expected to be on our A games.

The Quality Review is a big deal, and happens only once every three or so years for public schools in the city. It determines how well the school it doing on every level, and we are expected to have high level lesson plans and spotless classrooms. I’m afraid of going into too many details about the very official review (because I don’t want to create controversy) but in short, the superintendent and her assistants are given the job of grading every aspect of a school’s culture and effectiveness in a two-day visit. You can imagine how fair and easy that always turns out.

You can never be too prepared!

My classes were never seen by any reviewers, and for me it just felt like a lot of preparation with no exciting event. It was kind of like I was Harold Camping for a few days. I can only say that through the eyes of the powerful individuals in charge, our school is rated as still developing and there is need for improvement. I think that as a school we are better than we were rated, but if the rating can help us improve and contribute to us making our environment better, then cool beans.

Another quick thing that I feel the need to vent to the internet world about is a quick recap of how my students are doing. Many of our 8th grade students are STILL not consistently doing their homework. Today, five out of twenty-three students handed in a one page english worksheet about imagery. The absolute worse part about this was that I gave the entire class twenty minutes to complete the homework after a quiz today. Still, only five handed it in on time. After individual conferences, some of the kids themselves (without me forcing them), responded that the class was “irresponsible” and “didn’t seemed like they care”.

They have actually called me the ugly grinch.

After a bunch of phone calls home to remind parents of their students’ sup-par work ethic, I am official a giant Grinch before Christmas. It’s fitting though, because for the last month of so one of their nicknames for me has been “The Grinch”. I’ll take the funny nickname, and honestly, if turning into a meaner, heartless, green monster in the weeks following break will increase their motivation, I’m in.

Finally, another entry that I started to write, and one that most co-workers of mine saw me doing research for, is about school lunch at our school.

Due to the fact that I have never given the names of students, teachers, administration, or the name or location of my school, I think I’m in the clear to write truthfully about the free/reduced lunch that about 90% of our students eat for lunch each day. I came into my “Supersize Me”- like experiment with the same Morgan Spurlock mentality. After the week of only eating cafeteria food, I have all sorts of comments, reviews, and questions about our governmentally subsidized lunch program.

My questions to everyone out there are: Should I continue with my next post? What should my boundaries be? And has anyone read any blogs or stories that would be similar. Please leave  a comment and I’ll post before the end of the year (we are off in two days!!)

And of course, have a happy, safe, and eventful holiday!

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