31 August, 2010

Initiative?

I had an interesting conversation with a friend yesterday. I went on ARIS to look at what I'm teaching and which students are in which classes. It was mostly what I expected- classes of 34 (and one of 35?) organized only by level. Not by grade, not by past experiences in the school, not by which students have failed the same classes 3 years in a row because they cut the last 2 periods every day.

Even though this is what I expected, I wasn't exactly thrilled. What do you do when you see 2 students in a class together who fought repeatedly last year? Seating charts, overplan so they never have time to fight, take their "temperature" every day when they walk in, know how to chose your battles, etc?

But I mentioned this situation to my friend and she asked why not just ask for one of those students to be switched to a different class? She views this as showing initiative to prevent a problem. I agree, but in my school such switches are almost never made. A teacher asking for a schedule change is looked at as someone who can't handle their classroom and has given up without even trying.

Maybe it's a different situation in other schools. I hope at my own the voice of the teachers reaches more ears during the school year than it has this summer.

29 August, 2010

Summer vacation= sunday morning tv

I will watch any show Christiane Amanpour is involved with. Even the episode of Gilmore Girls in which she makes a cameo. Since she took over This Week on ABC I've been watching it religiously.
Today the guests were Arne Duncan, Randi Weingarten and Michelle Rhee. I was glued to the screen. Here's the video:

Michelle Rhee visited my grad school last year and was a topic of debate in every class I took in the last 2 years. I haven't agreed with all of her choices, but I support a lot of them, and I am willing to consider all of her suggestions because she talks about teachers as if we are professionals.
In the summer I start to romanticize my job. I spend time with people who treat teaching with respect instead of my students and administration who view us as someone around to serve and or annoy. I imagine that my opinions and initiative might be influential in my work environment and that I might be rewarded if I am successful. I forget that my evaluation will come down to checks in columns labeled "satisfactory" and "unsatisfactory," instead thinking that my hours and hours of work might warrant at the very least a few carefully chosen adjectives.
But then I get a welcome back email from my principal and remember that I work for the NYC DOE.
What the panelists on This Week seemed to agree about, and the reason that I tolerate the downsides of working in the DOE is that the goal is to give every child a quality education. But it is nice to imagine being treated as if that's what I were trying to do.

18 August, 2010

Neon expo markers? Yes, please!

Getting ready for school seems so much harder than anything I do during the school year because finding a place to start can be really challenging. This is how I end up sitting in my room surrounded by stacks of lesson plans on one side, resources I've acquired behind me, school supplies on the other side, and a stack of to-do lists in front of me.
I've found a few helpful things so far.

I found out that you can buy school supplies on amazon.com. I'm sure everyone else already knew this, but finding a way to avoid the back to school rush at Staples seemed like quite a victory to me. Plus, they have these.

And I'm already excited about creating lessons on wordplay.com. It's a great new tool for Spanish teachers. Free, customizable vocabulary lessons, with sound. The best part? You can monitor how your students are doing at learning and retaining words, there are class and individual statistics. The developers of this website have been nothing but helpful to me, I highly recommend it.