Tuesday, September 25, 2007

"Big Tid"

This is so far a pretty slow week at school. We're doing testing so I don't have to teach half of my classes. I'd be lying if I said that I wasn't enjoying the pace. My eight graders are reading a book called Squashed. It's a book about a high school girl who is in a pumpkin growing contest while at the same time trying to win the love of her life. I know, it's an awesome sounding premise. But don't judge too quickly.

I enjoy the book a lot and I think my students are enjoying it too, even the boys in my class and students whom I would label as at-risk students. Many students don't necessarily enjoy reading, but almost all of my students love being read to. That in and of itself is enough to remind me of the power of the written word in reaching people. In an age where entertainment is measured in microseconds, it's good to know that books still have a place.

I had a pretty cute moment at school today. It's the only way you could really describe it. As I've mentioned before, I've been eating lunch with the elementary school teachers because they make for better company. Well, the other day, one of the kindergartens asked me if I was a "big tid" as I was standing in the lunch line with them. He can't say his K's very well. (Imagine him saying kitty cat.) One of the elementary school teachers overheard this and laughed. She thought it was pretty funny. I thought it was pretty funny too. Today when I went to sit down at the teachers table, she had made a little standup sign for me that said, "Mr. Anderson-Big Tid." Now I was of course too polite to point out the name misspelling because I really appreciated the thought. It was just one of those aww moments. The teacher that made it for me is the kindergarten teacher whose son I have for 7th grade English. She's a bubbly 30-something redhead who is always in good spirits. Overall she's just a pleasant person to be around, as are most of the elementary school teachers. Her son doesn't really enjoy English and writing in general, but apparently my class is his favorite class according to her. I take that as a good sign that I'm doing something right. I actually don't get to see my 7th graders this week due to testing. I kind of miss them to be honest. You become attached to your students, even the ornery ones.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The World in Mono

The cold I caught from unnamed sources has hit my ears. As a result, I've had a somewhat difficult time hearing today. One of my ears seems to be perpetually clogged so I had to ask my students to repeat themselves a few times. Being under the weather and trying to teach is a pretty abysmal experience. The most difficult part is keeping this knowledge from your students. If they sense weakness, they will use it to their advantage.

I kind of feel like I'm failing my 9th grade class. I don't see them as getting very much out of the readings and my teaching efforts seem to be falling short. To be honest, I picked a reading that was way above them and because of book shortages I'm having half the class read one book and the other half of the class read another. Because of this, I don't think either half of the class is really benefiting from it very much. I just wish we were done reading the book so we could move on.

I've started eating lunch earlier, with the elementary school teachers and kids. I have my plan period 3rd hour so it works out well. I've done this for a few reasons. One, I'm hungry. Two, the elementary school teachers make for better company than the high school teachers.

Kids can be pretty damn cruel. I am reminded of this on a regular basis. It's not just the name calling, but every time I have the kids write a creative piece they insist on casting classmates they don't like in unpopular roles. I tell them afterwards that I'm pretty disappointed in them and that I don't think what they did was appropriate, but they're 12-14 years old and could care less.

I'm starting to make some real progress with the one problem student who I had to send to the office the second week of school. I've tried to make my class a safe environment for her and she said she's liked the last few activities we've done. She's not a stellar pupil, but she's actually acted kind of sweet in my class these past few days. She's even "gasp" helped me pass out papers and ask if we could do more activities.

Oddly enough, I've realized that I've been a better middle school teacher than a high school teacher. If I had to rank my teaching ability based on the class I taught it would go something like this:

7th Grade

8th Grade Reading and Writing

8th Grade English

11-12th grade Creative Writing

11-12th grade journalism

9th grade English.

I never thought I'd want to teach middle school, but I've got a better rapport with them than I do the 9th graders. Of course, the 9th graders are a weak class on the whole. Their MAP scores show this and they have been a terror for past teachers. Their previous teachers have horror stories. I'm going to keep adjusting my teaching strategies and maybe I'll figure them out. Either that, or they are going to fail fantastically at learning and I'm going to fail miserably at teaching.

One of my favorite students is an 8th grader who I have twice a day. She's a low end student, but a real nice girl and a hard worker. She tries her hardest, but she also struggles. In addition to school, she also goes to Sylvan learning center for added help. I know that Sylvan isn't cheap and I don't think her parents can afford it. I am really impressed by the value they put on education though. I want this girl to succeed so badly because I know she wants to succeed herself. I talked with her mom today after school. It turns out that she is enjoying my class. That's kind of a relief. A lot of times my students give me these thousand yard stares like I'm lecturing on rocket science. Scratch that, rocket science would be something cool. Let's pretend that I am lecturing on watching the soil erode in real time.

I'm no great teacher, not yet at least. I have been keeping my head above water and my students are learning, but I'm still not doing as much as I could be doing. My classroom management skills need improving and so does my ability to provide individualized educational opportunities. It never feels as though I have enough time to do everything, but I love this work. I love the job and the kids and getting up and doing something as great as teaching. That's enough for tonight. I have to get to bed so I can do it all over in the morning.