Friday, November 23, 2007

Teacher Knows Books

I took my students to the library Tuesday to check out books for sustained silent reading in the classroom. Students dread SSR time, because they are usually required to keep page counts, write journals, choose certain types of books and genres and complete massive projects over their books. Nothing like making them hate something we're trying to get them to want to do in their spare time. So I told them we weren't going to worry about all that - that they should just get a book they thought they might like.

One of my students was wandering aimlessly, with that glaze over his eyes that signifies a reluctant reader suddenly trapped in his worst nightmare - an entire room full of books. I was checking out a book myself, so while I waited in line at the checkout counter, I asked him what kind of books he remembered liking at all. He said he liked Goosebumps, so I began rattling off a list of slightly more challenging horror and suspense novelists, telling him what they wrote and which ones I liked and why.

I noticed the crowd at the checkout counter had gotten very quiet. About seven kids who weren't mine were listening intently to our conversation. I looked up and said, "Why is everyone staring at me?"

One girl near the front said, "Because you can tell us what books we want to read."

It's good to know books, I suppose.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

English Teachers Fill Out Survey

Why you should not ask overworked English teachers to fill out a long survey about their writing training on the day grades are due, after they’ve lost 2 full weeks of teaching in 2 6 weeks’ periods.

Because we’re punchy. Because we’re frazzled. Because we just finished grading 170 essays. Because we also had to sit through a professional development faculty meeting during our planning period on this day and watch an art teacher explain how using art in the art class can help students be better artists. Because English teachers study word choice very carefully when they are feeling cynical.

And if you put us through a long survey of ticky boxes and blanks in which we’re asked to remember every little bit of writing training we’ve ever had, who taught it, and what we learned from it throughout our careers, then ask us something like this:

How would you describe your strategies for teaching writing?

You’re going to get a lot of this:

Me: Guerrilla tactics, ambush, bribery, and blackmail.

Colleague 1: I generally like to have the students write down words on paper, preferably with pen or pencil, although markers will work in a pinch.

Colleague 2: AWESOME! I use strategies that help students totally heart [she drew an actual heart] writing!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

It's Always Different Around the Holidays

It's like Through The Looking Glass. It's like April Fool's in November. It's like being tripped up by some cosmic banana peel and hearing a faint celestial laugh-track in the background.

Everything is different around the holidays.

This morning I had an observer, a young woman just entering a teaching program who must complete 16 hours of observation. Mine was her 16th hour. I really didn't want her to come during my 1st period, but that was the only time she was available.

So, I warned her in advance. This class and I are at odds. We're negotiating about several things: appropriate behavior, disruptions, not calling me a bitch out loud when I give you a zero for not having completed homework, etc. Tough crowd.

So of course, today, they were completely on task, participatory, and charming - except for a brief, limp rebellion at the back table when two students refused to answer questions I knew they had answers to. The first one said, with a huge grin, "No, I didn't do that one." The second one, asked to answer the same question, grinned and said, "I didn't either." Drama.

We moved on. The problem with their collaboration is that the other kids are tired of their disruptions, and won't play. It isn't insubordination until everyone's in on it. With just two, it's just kind of...sad.

My 3rd period class, which is all about the luuuuv but often can't stay focused, was completely focused. One kid slept through the directions for the assignment (despite me waking him twice). He came to me a little while later to say he was confused.

I said, "That's because you slept through the directions."

He said, "I did. I apologize for that, and for the extra time you have to take to re-explain it to me."

Can't a teacher even get a good excuse any more? An "I was resting my eyes," or "I was just thinking with my head down"?

In my fourth period class, the class that is always good natured and on-task, there was open rebellion. Cranky, fussy, rude, only class that didn't get through the entire lesson because they complained and complained.

Go figure. It's the holidays. Everybody needs a break, I suppose.


Best Slogan EVER, seen by the side of the road today:

Falcon Boxes. It's a box! You put stuff in it!

I must be delirious, because I can't stop laughing over this.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Things Teachers Hate To Hear, Part II

"If I pass out, don't send me to the nurse."

"Do you have...[counts on fingers] bandaids I could borrow?"

Sunday, November 4, 2007

What Is A Teacher?

Typed "What is a teacher?" into Google, and took the first five responses off the top.

A person whose occupation is teaching; a personified abstraction (Books were his teachers.)

To a mind of flint, the teacher must be iron, and strike sparks. To the empty pitcher, the teacher becomes a well...

The teacher is to the students what the rain is to the field. -Zaira Alexandra Rodriguez Guijarro, 11, (Mexico)

And - the all-important question -- Do you even like kids? And don't kid yourself (no pun intended): Taking your little brother to a baseball game one Saturday is nothing compared to trying to teach 25 screaming seventh-graders how to diagram a sentence. Think about it.

Teaching is like no other profession. As a teacher, you will wear many hats. You will, to name but of a few of the roles teachers assume in carrying out their duties, be a communicator, a disciplinarian, a conveyor of information, an evaluator, a classroom manager, a counselor, a member of many teams and groups, a decision-maker, a role-model, and a surrogate parent.

There are many different interpretations/ideas of what a teacher is. Some espouse the glory of an ideal. Make no mistake about it, the idea of a "teacher" is still revered, but those in the teaching profession have become much-maligned; sometimes justifiably so, sometimes not. People want to be taught. People want good teachers. People want teachers to be good.

Other interpretations are cautionary. You must love kids. You have to confront a stalled and static system, accept the salary, the Darwinian training, the administrative nonsense, the parental (and student) accusation or apathy, lack of resources, etc.

I'm fascinated by language, which is why I am an English teacher. Add three simple words to the question I initially posed, and you have a world of differences.

What is the role of a teacher? Once again, 5 off the top of a Google search.

If we want students to learn, we must show them how.

In my opinion teachers are the second mothers for the students because students spend a lot of time with their teachers.

The role of the teacher in literature-based instruction is one of decision maker, mentor, and coach.

Each of the six roles described (see Figure 1) can be subdivided into two roles, making a total of twelve roles. Roles to the right in the figure require more content expertise or knowledge, and roles to the left more educational expertise.

Preprofessional: The preprofessional teacher communicates and works cooperatively and [sic] families and colleagues to improve the educational experiences at the school. (One of the stranger videos I've seen in a while - RK)

It should be noted that the quoted portions of the websites above do not necessarily reflect my agreement with the statements or content. I just found them interesting. There is, certainly, a huge difference between not only the wording of the questions I posed, but also their interpretations.