SO - how am I supposed to feel.??

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-14-2005
SO - how am I supposed to feel.??
8
Sun, 08-07-2005 - 2:12am

...when most of my Title Ones can't pass my weekly test for the 2nd week in a row???! I haven't graded my 7th graders tests yet & they did seem more comfortable w/their concepts, but I'll save that for tomorrow. I just had to take a break for one day & get some of the other stuff off my plate.

OK - here's where I'm gonna unload -- I've been on overload since I signed my contract in June it seems and I'm exhausted as we head into week 3 of school & fighting off that "niggling edge" of catching a sinus-cold-throat-thing (teacher-throat from the varying degrees of A/C to nauseatingly stuffy my room goes thru). My house is a walking bacteria farm which none of my guys seems to notice... I finally have an appt w/an unknown housecleaner for Tuesday nite to see if that will work & I again placed an order for my office furniture so I can consolidate my working areas & have one place to spread out & work in my office since I got it painted & laid the new carpet in May. My original plans got messed up (can you say Office Max is not my hero this year!!!). Now I'm dealing w/Staples, hopefully this will go as planned! The laundry is pretty much caught up for today, tho my washer is on its last leg & not working quite up to par which didn't add to the mix trying to fight w/it before heading off to school at 6:30 in the morning - just don't have time to deal right now! My oldest D sent me flowers at school (course she's a teacher, she knows how this works!!). My Mom called nite before last to wish me a happy birthday & let me know I'd be getting a call to pick up some flowers in town as she was getting info that they wouldn't deliver in our area - I was grading papers as usual!! Got home Friday & had a call that a different florist had delivered them to the neighbor as he didn't want leave them outside in our heat (a regular 110 most days + monsoon humidity). Of course to top it off the neighbor left for the weekend well before I got home from school so I may get them when they've outlived their usefulness tomorrow nite or Monday nite when I get home. My guys at home took me out to dinner last nite & I came home & promptly crashed -then woke up about 1am unable to go back to sleep as I couldn't slow down my brain from all the stuff I "should be getting done & if I can't sleep I should just get up & do it". But am wise enuf to know I need to get my sleep at nite while it's dark & quiet & I have the time. Finally about 2:30 took a sleeping pill as just happened to have a bottle we picked up for S15 for the 10 hour flight home from Alaska after visiting SD & SIL end of May before I set sail w/this new adventure... S15 starts his Jr year of HS Monday AM & I couldn't go w/him to registration last week because I was tied up w/my class + now have to figure out a way to get him to school when I've really gotten used to using that extra hour in the morning for class prep; S18 leaves for his jr year at ASU in about 8 days & I feel like I've spent all of about an hour with him since he's been home from Europe early July; & D29 is more than 1/2way thru her pregnancy w/my G'baby #2 & I'm swamped w/school stuff & don't have time to be part of it. I'm still working on how I can wangle a few days at the beginning of December to be there when the baby's due & we'll be about 2 weeks shy of the end of 2nd quarter.

Anyhoo - should I feel good that my class is getting about 1/3 to 1/2 of what I'm giving them & a couple are actually passing the math part of the class w/a D - at least w/the 8th graders - this is preAlgebra, quite an abstract concept for 12 & 13 yos??! So far I've added in all the requisite classroom points - daily points for participating & classwork & so far for just bringing their "Journals" (the spiral notebooks for warm ups, key concept notes, & vocab words & definitions). Did a quick glance over w/most of them last week to see if they seemed to be on-track w/what I'd asked of them & check them off daily just for having them while seeing that homework is already done before we start the review of that lesson & work. I start collecting the notebooks to take a close look at them & try to jot a note to each of them this next week. But w/those added in, the grades look to be pretty fairly spread - just not representative of the "Math" they're actually doing. Gave them last weeks test after all failed that. I already set it up to offer test redo's w/strings (showing all work, writing me an explanation of what they did wrong the 1st time & how they corrected it) normally for half credit - but gave them full for the 1st test & walked them thru what I wanted to see). A very few actually took the time to do most of what I asked for to get that credit so this weeks gradebook actually had one w/an A-, a couple per class w/B's, C's, & D's, and 3-4 per class w/F's - mostly because they aren't turning in work & can't seem to get around to bringing in the spiral as well as not doing well w/the math. I'm spending all of my waking time trying to do right by them & feel like I'm missing something if this is where they're at - but we are forced to move thru this material so blasted fast as they are only Title & still held to our same district standards testing each quarter (and we are definitely held to teaching to those standards)...

Well so much for this post - I'm going to now head off to bed so I can put in a full day tomorrow & do what I didn't get done today to be prepped for this weeks classes. I really do know that this is all part of the 1st year process, but man alive I can't even bear to look at my paystub when it comes thru when I realize how little time my family gets w/me. I can't imagine how people who actually have to do this "for the paycheck" make it. I have never been paid this little for this much work. Lucky for me that part is more of an afterthought as we live comfortably these days w/DH's salary.

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iVillage Member
Registered: 05-22-2005
Tue, 08-09-2005 - 12:38am

Wow!!! Take deep cleansing breaths. It does get better. I can remember in my first year teaching, prepping for the very next class while students were working on an assignment during class. It is crazy. I'm not sure what a Title 1 means in your school district, it is a term I'm not familiar with, but know that grade 7 and 8 are notorious for just getting by. It's almost like a rite of passage with them, to see how little they can do and still pass a class. I'm not saying it is right, but it seems to be the nature of the beast. Don't panic if they are not getting it all right now. As you and your students settle into a routine, it will come together...the marks, the organization, the planning, etc.

I know it is hard to do, but you have to set time limits for yourself. If you work during the week nights at home, don't take anything home on the weekend. Easier said than done, but I had to make that my cardinal rule, otherwise I would work 7 days a week, because there is always something you can be doing to plan, improve, design. I have a 2 year old son, and weekend time is for my son and my husband to be a family. It is also the time I need to recharge so I can be ready for Monday morning. You know how you need that time to be away and do your own thing so you can be a better mom? It's about the same thing, if you get burnt out, you won't be effective.

Please know that it does get easier with time. My first year was a nightmare, but it got better with practice. And yes, your house will be a mess for 10/12 months. I hope your cleaning service works out! Good luck, and keep your chin up!

Belinda

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-24-2003
Tue, 08-09-2005 - 9:18pm

It will get better. Honestly! You'll learn to plan and set your priorities. However, I'd also suggest that you look at your plans and activities. Title I kids usually never get it from the same old methods, teach, practice, test, that we seem to use too much. I found that slower students do better with real-world applications and scenarios that they can relate to. They enjoy the work and it is more meaningful if the can see it as useful in their everyday life.

Sherry

 

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
Tue, 08-09-2005 - 10:30pm

Hmmm, I can really relate. You are three weeks into your first year? I lived like you for the first half of the year with that age group (I teach 6,7,8,9,10,11,12). It was horrible. Then, I decided to end the craziness and started to listen---really listen to them, and things got a lot better, but that was because my administration people were too tied up elsewhere to give any of us much notice. For example, I had to teach art one day a week to my 7th/8th language arts group. I was exhausted thinking up projects and buying materials at the last minute, and then explaining projects I hadn't even time to try myself, etc.

One day, I decided to teach them graffitti lettering instead, since they all used that on their notebooks. Very, very risky. Was I turning them into JDs? Well, actually, some of them already were (!) I started out though, noticing that they all had very strong feelings about their handwriting (that was the "listening" part). So I started, on "bad" days (again, "listening")---what would happen if we just spent a class on improving cursive? They loved to hate that, but it was something they could all do. I have to take in group dynamics into account like that, for a myriad of reasons you may not be experiencing (students with extremely high GAF scores, multi-grades in each class, etc.)

We happily did graffitti for many weeks. It introduced the concept of working at something over a long time to get better. We had a guest artist, even. We developed portfolios so they could look back over their old stuff. Then that led into teaching Anime---but that's another story. All my best ideas came at the end of the year for me. Please let me know how it works out for you. And they saw me struggle as an artist as I came to learn some of the lettering myself.

Another catalyst for me was a book on the collective experiences of first year teachers-----I went to Barnes and Noble one night and found one---all their stories mirrored my own--I would seek out a book of that nature because the narratives don't pass judgement, and that's what, I think, is so common in teacher stress: judging everbody and everything, including ourselves. It takes a toll. I think you will experience a turnaround before too long---I hope you can write and tell us about it when it happens--Pam

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-24-2003
Wed, 08-10-2005 - 6:54pm

What a great story. You've done exactly what I was talking about...meet them where they are and give them something to relate to.

Sherry

 

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
Wed, 08-10-2005 - 9:01pm

Dear Sherry--

I dug out my book, it's called "My First Year as A Teacher", edited by Pearl Rock Kane, part of "The First Year Career Series"/Signet. It isn't part of Harry Wong. It is just a naked little cheap paperback that does not teach or direct or interpret, merely presents first person accounts. Anything more would have been alienating. Here is one of my favorite passages:

"I tried to teach the book (The Great Gatsby), clinging doggedly, for technique, to memories of my own educational experience. Every day my students tested my authority and tried my patience. In desperation one day, I changed my tactics and abandoned The Great Gatsby. Instead, I ravaged magazines, tearing out pictures of fast, sleek sports cars (Fitzgerald's description of Gatsby's car was the only carryover). I gave each student a picture and asked one to describe the car and fantasy journey in that vehical. They were excited and acted immediately on my instructions. Their pens raced across the paper as they tried to outdo each other creating a fantastic and incredible story......." (p. 33)

Emma Lewinsohn Frey/The University School

I thought it was absolutely brilliant ad tried it myself. It had the exact same effect in my room. But I was definately ready for the collective message of the book, or at least the one I picked up---of breaking free and listening-----just this little tiny book.

Thanks for the quick reply. I thought I would get drummed out of ivillage for sure for admitting I taught graffitti. It was really quite fun and we all enjoyed it. I used the whole whiteboard in the fron of the room to do mine---I would start on a word in at the beginning of the day and shade and block it out throughout the day. The kids enjoyed watching it progress and giving me tips. sometimes I would let some of them do the shading if they were experiencing letter-fora=mation difficulties and other aplications. It was a blast and I want to do it again this year, but, um, I never exactly told my principal, an ex-marine, um, hat we were doing it, exactly. He never asked! But...getting away with it two years in a row???? Pam

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-24-2003
Wed, 08-10-2005 - 9:38pm

Hey, sometimes you have to do what you have to do. You probably gained more respect and credibility by teaching graffiti than spending a year on the standard curriculumwith traditional methods. This

Sherry

 

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-27-2003
Wed, 08-10-2005 - 9:47pm
Hope you like the book. Have you ever heard of Mary McCracken???? A much more in-depth treatment of "thinking outside the box". Pam
iVillage Member
Registered: 03-24-2003
Thu, 08-11-2005 - 9:34pm

I think I've heard the name, but I don't think I've read anything of hers. I'll look it up. Thanks.


Sherry

Sherry