Tuesday, February 22, 2011

What I'm Teaching This Week

So, it was a 3 day weekend plus 1! We had a snow day today, despite a very meager helping of snow from Mother Nature. That means extra time to perfect my lesson plans for the week. Honestly, if I had all the time in the world, I'd make these great lesson plans and worksheets that I could use from year to year. This weekend I've had the time to spend 5+ hours on one science lesson that covers two days, but I know that that is a rare gift.

Something I learned about myself in college was that I "need" pressure to work quickly. When I get an extra snow day, I don't think about creating more lesson plans. I think about perfecting the ones I have already made. And when I work quickly, the results are nice, but they aren't my best work. And when I have "all the time in the world", I work slowly, my results show my immense attention to detail (down to the correct font sizing and spacing on my worksheets) and are more of a display of what I can do.

One thing that I am coming to terms with is that I am not a particularly efficient worker. I can work quickly and "get the job done" or work slowly and get the job done well. Why can't I be quick and great at the same time!!

Anyway, there's three days left for this week and I'm starting new units for both of my classes. For 6th grade science, we are delving in the inside of the Earth and for 8th grade math, we will be working with solving equations while reviewing for the MSA.

In 6th grade, we'll be watching BrainPOP!'s video on the Earth's structure, filling out our first K(no W)L chart and making playdoh models of the layers of the Earth and practicing taking rock cores with straws (courtesy Lesson Planet) :) I'm also going to try to incorporate Magic School Bus somehow... Though it takes a while for Ms. Frizzle and the gang to get to the point of things, my kids remember the information so much better when told in story format.

Will update on the math side soon...!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Week From Hell

I hate complaining.

It makes me feel like all I'm doing is sitting around musing about all the bad things in my life and doing nothing about it. It makes me look ungrateful for my job and, sometimes, it makes me feel like I'm a worse teacher for it because the good teachers are doing such a kick ass job that they don't want or need to complain to stop themselves from spontaneously combusting.

So, before I rant about my week from hell, I will cite 10 good things I like about my job:

1. I am learning math and science better as a product of teaching it. And I really miss being a student.

2. My paraprofessional is awesome. AWESOME.

3. All of my kids are hilarious at times and most are very sweet. I like that I have a good relationship with all of them, though at different levels.

4. I get to be inspired by good teachers doing the improbable every day. The 8th grade science teacher who gets my constantly suspended child focused and ADVANCED on the practice MSA. Amazing. The 7th/8th grade history teacher who works hard to break down assignments for students. The 8th grade science teacher who knows how to get her kids in line, get their respect and still manage to teach them.

5. Fellows. Without this job, I wouldn't have met such fun, supportive people :)

6. The experience. Despite how much I struggle with the idea of (sub)urban-school teaching and teaching itself, I know that this is an important experience to have, even if I never decide to teach ever again.

7. The dinero.

Okay, well... 7 is good enough for now.

And now, I present, my personal week from the below.

Monday - My co-teacher is absent for (legitimate) personal reasons. Book work sent in for the kids is varied and plentiful. Sub is math-clueless. Students in math did not want to review for their test this week.

Tuesday - Co-teacher out again. No notice. No assignments. Students continue yesterday's work. Sub is math-clueless. Students in math did better with reviewing for their test. Student writes inappropriate words on papers and leaves them in class. Said student also ran out of paper in the notebook I provided because he is constantly doodling. And had the audacity to ask for a new notebook. Science student breaks down at the end of class because he has not finished his assignment (write the definition of one word for our word wall) and must stay to complete it. (He had 15 minutes and was wasting his time.) Said student fell onto the floor, started crying, kicked chairs and tables while on the floor, attempted to knock over desk with supplies on top... for 10 minutes, at least. Child clearly belongs in an alternative placement and not in the 6th grade.

Wednesday - Co-teacher out again. Notice this time, but with no assignment. I had plans to take co-teaching off (as we are allowed every other week, to have our co-teaching MODs off; while most teachers have two co-teaching MODs, I have one.). Math coach has other ideas. Insists that I go in to co-teaching because a sub is present. I understand her concern for the students' well-being and learning, but I have responsibilities as a SPED teacher. Furthermore, I have no plans for the class. Sub is COMPLETELY useless. Fellow teacher provides assignment (thank goodness), but students need to be taught how to proceed. I had no idea what the class was on, so I hadn't had the chance to review the topic. Students are restless. They are sick of bookwork. Most students have no supplies. It's been long decided that that is not my job, so tough. I have to stay the entire MOD instead of getting to do my SPED paperwork. Not happy. Math coach is surprised that students have no materials. Welcome to PG county. Math coach is surprised that after instruction, students do not begin bookwork. Welcome to PG county. I am late to 2nd MOD. I get to class and students are in my storage closet where I keep snacks and prizes. I am further pissed. Science student finds large amount of my candy stored in a desk of the classroom. Long day, but science students are great... until they break my ruler (by accident). Staff meeting on niceness and minorities. Fellow teacher suggests that our African American students appreciate education more so than the Latino students due to the struggle African Americans faced in trying to get equal education rights. Additionally, she cites that these children have college-going parents who want the same for their kids, whereas the Latino students do not have college-minded parents. Annoyed that my time is being wasted. College-minded parents or not, most of our kids are a hot mess, African American or Latino or Asian.

Thursday - Took the wrong exit on the way to work. Hit immense traffic - on the same road from 30 minutes. Missed science meeting. Looks horrible. Co-teacher out again. Notice with work sent in, though co-teacher tells administration that I will be teaching a lesson as we discussed. We did not discuss. Says she will be back tomorrow. I was planning to get my co-teaching MOD off today, since I didn't get it yesterday. Not so. Math coach says I'm needed in co-teaching. I print out a copy of co-teacher's assignment and have to go teach and monitor the kids, despite a paid sub being present (though this one is better than the previous 3). Plus: teach kids, most get it, most take notes, and are working. Minus: I try to explain to math coach that I have other responsibilities and it is my right as a co-teaching SPED teacher to take off a MOD. Math coach attempts to understand but has the interest of the kids in mind and not my responsibilities. Understandable, but I need to cover my butt. Further peeved that my plans have been changed again. Math students moving slow and unable to take test. Had to confront stealing children. Had to give two days detention to stealing children. Pissed that this is the first time this year that I've caught children stealing from me when I am very generous with prizes and treats. Other math class better, though, cause my paraprofessional is AWESOME. Had to go to store to buy supplies for activity later in the day. Annoyed that we are not reimbursed. Annoyed that additional children have been added to our in school club hours before. Plus: activity was fun. Minus: slipped on ice TWICE during it. Exhausted, but had to go to SPED seminar class. Three very boring hours. Sub for co-teacher reveals that she is going to be back again tomorrow. Co-teacher said she would be back tomorrow. Hmm, conflicting information.

Which brings us to the now. As you may notice, each day's description was longer than the previous.

I want to take a personal day tomorrow. I am exhausted. I think I have bruises from falling today. I don't want to have to deal AGAIN with my co-teacher being absent. I feel like everything is a mess and I would love a day to get it all cleaned up, but the thought of being absent from school makes me feel guilty. But the thought of how overwhelmed and unhappy and stressed out I feel from this week makes me want to cry. I feel like I am doing so much better with planning and instruction, but the meetings and being below the power bother me. I just want to do my thing. Which I know is not really looking possible.

I am seriously thinking about quitting (if not being fired) after this year. This is a nice experience, but I'm ridiculously tired.

I feel no support in a disorganized school. I am a first year teacher who teaches three grades, three curricula and two subjects in three (previously 4) different rooms. I am supposed to go to two morning meetings and several planning meetings a week. My students are constantly suspended or absent. I have not yet been asked what can be done to improve my experience and support me as a first year teacher. Instead, I have been scolded for not being a first year teacher with veteran teacher skills and management. I'm not crying or asking for pity, I'm asking for understanding for an already challenging profession. I have thought about asking for more support, but don't want to seem weak or as if I am struggling, putting me even more so under radar. My math coach, who is very knowledgeable and well-meaning, would have me meticulously plan every lesson by the beginning of every week which I simply do not have the energy for.

I don't enjoy co-teaching. You may ask, "As a co-teacher, shouldn't you have produced plans and work for the students?" Sure, but that's not the "model" we've been following. My co-teacher has been teaching for a while and I believe that she recycles the plans from year to year. Previously, when I made comments or suggestions, I felt that they were negatively received. I accepted the status of aide because I enjoy getting to walk around and work with children one on one. Also I like being the "aide" because I have 2.5 other different lessons to teach daily. I didn't know what unit we were on because previous to the practice MSA, my co-teacher began reviewing with the kids and thus jumping from one unit to another. I emailed last week to ask where we were in the curriculum (I had been testing the kids the week before, so I was absent from co-teaching) so that I might look up material for the kids. No response.

Anyway, I just needed to discuss the situation and now I feel like I can breathe and finish off this week without a personal day.

Thanks for listening :)