Monday, October 12, 2009
Wednesday, September 30, 2009
Monday, September 21, 2009
- 6:30 Arrive at my classroom...Organize the room,board and materials for class...help a kid with Chemistry homework (I'm an English teacher)...run off to pick up the computer lab key...Boom! The first bell rings.
- 7:50-9:20 Analyze college essays with bleary-eyed AVID students...develop some starting points for their own essays...go over to the computer lab...help several students one-on-one with the wording and conceptual approach of their essays...Boom! The second bell rings.
- 9:20-9:50 Run back to the library and return the computer lab key...find my waiting homeroom students outside...try to connect with the twenty or so new freshmen kids in my homeroom whose names I'm still foggy on...answer their questions about how to get a password for their online grades account...Boom! Time for 2nd period.
- 9:55-11:24 Analyze an allegorical story with my 38 English 10 Honors students...discuss the relative merits of rushing through life and being "phony" (We just finished reading The Catcher in the Rye)...Talk about what makes a good writing prompt for an essay...help groups develop prompts...Boom! Time for lunch.
- 11:24-12:05 Run and grab my lunch...head up the hill for an AVID college tour fundraising meeting...work with kids and another teacher to figure out how and where were legally able to sell food...choke down a tuna sandwich...boom! Lunch is over.
- 12:05-1:33 Prep period! Whew...At least some peace and quiet...Read, respond to and "deal with" about 30 new e-mails...grade five reflective essays...Boom! Time for the last period of the day.
- 1:39-3:10 Honors English 10, do the same thing I did 2nd period all over again with more exhausted students...Boom! End of school.
- 3:10-5:00 Type up student prompts and post to the class website...meet with a parent and her son who isn't working as hard as he could be...Mom and I search for something that will motivate him...grade two reflective essays...A former student stops by looking for work as a tutor...Wife calls...time to get home!
Even just typing all this is a bit exhausting. I wish I could say I accomplished all these tasks in a calm and deliberate manner, but I felt rushed and harried all day. Perhaps the solution is to accept that there is simply too much for one person to do every day. When I woke up this morning I wanted to get even more papers graded, but the kid with the Chemistry problem and the former student, plus all the other unmentionable minutiae of the day, prohibited all that.
Sometimes I feel like I'm running in place or chipping away at a a tunnel with nothing but a mechanical pencil with a tip that keeps breaking off. It is too much but I don't plan to stop. My kids need me to do all these things day after day, so I go on. I suppose I just have to draw the line at my physical health and sanity. When I feel cracks forming in my patience or sense of hope it's time to take a break.
If you're wondering why I'm blogging, on top of all this? I'm back to the essays as soon as I hit this period.
Saturday, September 12, 2009
Tuesday, September 8, 2009
We must be good models of human beings as teachers and if we are out of balance in some way and not living up to all of our responsibilities as husbands, wives, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, and friends, then we aren’t modeling appropriately. You have to craft your life so that you draw the line in certain places. Create boundaries where you say I’m going to work at this time and be with my family and friends at this time.
You must take care of your health, and get enough sleep, so that you can work effectively and when that time away from work comes, you don’t just collapse or hide in a dark room, failing your other connections in life. Keep yourself in that harmonious, singing mental state.
Again, make time each week. Don’t save all your needs for weekends and vacations. It may seem uptight, but planning is the best way to ensure that your needs get met. Otherwise, all your responsibilities as a teacher (whose work never ends) will creep up and bleed into the rest of your life.
I heard a teacher once say at a conference "Don’t neglect your own children in the raising of other people’s children." There are so many students with so many needs you could spend forever on those other problems. As someone about to have his second child, I'm determined not to let them grow up with their dad locked in a room grading papers.
Friday, September 4, 2009
This is a disturbing piece about the nearly 1,500 New York teachers who are paid to not work. I generally support our teachers' unions and think they're necessary to preserve academic freedom. I observed some countries during my time in the Peace Corps where the staff changed at high schools as determined by national elections. Tenure does and should protect and preserve academic freedom from these kinds of political gyrations.
However, the unions undermine their own position when they defend incompetent teachers at all costs. In order to improve education in any sane time frame there must be a mechanism to move consistently poor teachers out of the profession. One teacher in this article implied that poor teachers would realize they couldn't do it and voluntarily leave the profession. While this does sometimes happen, I think we all know there are folks who stick around for decades when they don't deserve to.
The difficulty comes in how to judge teachers. Do we trust administrator evaluations? Test scores? I'm not sure either of these are accurate measures, but to claim that there is no possible way to judge teachers fairly, and therefore all should keep their jobs no matter what, is intellectually dishonest.
Saturday, August 29, 2009
Students Get New Assignment: Pick Books You Like
This is an interesting New York Times article about some teachers and districts letting kids read whatever they like in English classes in order to encourage them to read more and like what they read. I understand why teachers would do this, however, I wonder if we should abandon the great books of our history and culture so easily.
Perhaps we simply need to do a better job of making the case to our students for these books so they actually want to read them. Maybe the failure is ours, not theirs.