Thursday, January 28, 2010

Promotion, complaints and funny stories

Okay, kids! Here's what's on Miss Brave's agenda today:

1. shameless self-promotion;
2. complaining;
3. funny stories.

Yes, in that order. It wouldn't be a Miss Brave blog entry without the complaining and the funny stories, but the shameless self-promotion might be a new one for me! I was honored to be interviewed at findingEducation's Digital Teachers' Lounge; you can read the interview here! They asked me some really thoughtful questions and I enjoyed answering them. They're now looking for middle school teachers in order to survey middle school students, so if you're an NYC middle school teacher, click here to find out how you can help the project.

There, that wasn't too bad, was it? So let's move on to the juicy stuff: the complaining. At a time in the year when I feel as though I should feel relatively settled in, I'm actually continuing to feel more and more overwhelmed. Maybe it's because I'm striving to take things more seriously instead of merely trying to survive the day -- we've always been expected to do two strategy lessons during each major subject (reading, writing and math) in addition to a mini lesson, but in the beginning of the year I was lucky if I could even get to one. Now I'm truly making the effort to fit in two, and I'm sure it doesn't surprise you to learn that it's a lot of work. And it doesn't always happen. Just the other day we had writing first period, where time always gets shaved off for unpacking and announcements, and then as we were dispersing from the mini lesson (which itself was interrupted by a visit from my assistant principal) I happened to notice sneaky things going on with Frick and Frack, and while I was dealing with that, my AP came back to speak to another student about something that had happened the day before. Things like that happen every day -- they're the rule, not the exception -- and I wish my administration would just roll with it instead of honestly expecting two strategy lessons out of us.

Or maybe it's because we continue to make changes to our curriculum that are difficult to keep up with. At a meeting last week, we were informed that we'd be using this new program two days a week during word work, we were given one hour of professional development in the new program (half of which consisted of watching a pointless video that was obviously filmed in some sort of blissed-out Montessori classroom where the teacher had transformed the entire room into a jungle and the kids concluded their share time by saying to each other, "Are there any comments, compliments or connections?") and then ordered to begin the new program in two days. Last year, during reading, we were always expected to do one guided reading group and one strategy lesson. This year, they decided (who's "they"? who knows?) that we should do two guided reading groups. Now, they want us to go back to doing one guided reading group and a strategy lesson, but with the added twist that everything we teach has to be (a) goal-related and (b) taught over a three-day period. So if I want to teach "inferring characters' feelings," or "synthesizing information in text," I have to come up with three different ways to teach it. Which is fine, but it's just...never-ending. I still feel like I do an enormous amount of preparation for every single day...and when that day is over, I know I have to do it all again for the next day.

Or maybe it's because we're in that January rut where you start saying to the kids, "It's January! We've been in this classroom since September! And yet you're still calling out! Raise your HAND!!!!!"

All right, enough complaining. On to the funny stories!

If you ask any teacher whether they've ever found themselves in a situation that caused them to simultaneously think, "I can't believe I went to graduate school for this" and "No one taught me how to deal with this in graduate school," the answer you're going to get is "Abso-freaking-lutely." I had one of those moments recently when I was walking my class upstairs and one of my students got his whole arm stuck in the stair banister. There we are, all 28 of us, with me trying to coach him out of it while simultaneously wondering whether I'm actually going to have to send two students to the office to announce that we need help because someone is stuck.

I got him out.

Next: My extended day students have developed a fondness for the quiet game. (I know, I can hardly believe it either.) Every day as we're putting our coats on and I'm telling them to calm down for the 68th time, they ask me if we can play the quiet game on the way downstairs. Their favorite aspect of the quiet game is that I deviously attempt to make them talk: "Hmmmm, Felix, do you have any plans for the weekend?"

So today, as usual, they decided to play the quiet game, except that Julisa announced that she wasn't going to play. Julisa is one of those students who's not technically an ELL, except that she's totally an ELL. But she's really come a long way recently in how comfortable she is conversing and explaining herself.

A moment later, Julisa decided, "I'm going to try to make everyone talk!" She pranced around the room from student to student: "David...why are you wearing glasses? you think I'm pretty?" The other kids just stared back at her, their lips pressed tightly together, shaking with silent giggles. I was watching her when it clicked: She's doing me!


Anonymous said...

Miss Brave, I love your blog and the quiet game story is sooooo cute!

Greta said...

Congratulations on being featured on findingEducation's Digital Teachers' Lounge! I applaud your mantra "Close the door and teach." That is the bottom line, that the children learn core knowledge, despite all the administrative changes in curriculum and strategy lessons.

Mr. Ray said...

Just thought you should know yours is not the only administration that goes in different directions midway through the year. It seems there are so many options out there for them to consider and so much desire to try the hot new thing, that yes, we are often asked to shift gears on a dime. Very difficult to deal with. I can sympathize with you.

photomatt7 said...

I'm also blogging about my experiences as a somewhat new teacher. You might want to check it out.

Anonymous said...

I love the quiet game and I also teach 2nd grade.

Congrats on the interview! I am really enjoying your blog. I could relate with everything you are saying. It is really hard to explain all this crap we put up with to non-teachers. Even my husband can't understand it at times.

My kids also love playing the quiet game. That's because I usually put the timer on. They are very competitive. We time everything, even how long it takes us to get our jackets.

Our new tradition is that I play my ipod at the end of the day, and I play the smile song. If you were great you get a little smile. It is Smile by Uncle Cracker. And it basically states, you make me smile. They leave home smiling. Isn't that the best feeling ever?

Funny Facebook statuses said...

I like to read funny stories,its very funny to read thanks for sharing this fun related story.