Sunday, November 1, 2009

Soap Box

As my last full teach week approaches, I was writing a journal entry and it turned into a soap box time. I ended up apologizing for getting on my soap box, but not for the issue at hand. Here was my latest journal:

I am realizing just how much our kids are tested to death! This past week we decided we needed to test them over adding and subtracting fractions because it’s a huge part of the 6th grade. So we collaborate to make a 13 question test. I made a Jeopardy review game to go over all the concepts and still on test day I see 3/8 + 1/3 = 4/11! I just want to be like when have we EVER just added straight across! All of that is really besides my point though, back to testing. This week we have to administer the Unit 3 CScope test. It’s over fractions, decimals, order of operations, gcf, and lcm. It is a long test and we must have our kids complete scantrons for it now, which leads to setting aside 2 days for that testing. The very next week is the end of the 6 weeks, so we have the district 6 weeks test. That always takes 2 days. So for 3 weeks in a row now, my kids have been tested for a total of 5 days. That’s a whole week - 33% of my time is spent administering tests. This makes me want to only do in class projects, out of class projects, anything else besides a multiple choice, written test for my students’ major grades in my class. I feel like my time could be better put to use if we weren’t testing our students so much. I also don’t think this follows a very progressive learning mindset. Even if we are doing hands on activities to lead up to the tests, there’s still too much testing going on. It’s like they aren’t even giving us real time to teach. They want us just to shove everything in their faces so they can be ready for the next district test. Discovery learning takes time. You can’t tell a student they have to discover the concept of common denominators by 10:45 am when it’s 10:20. I know scores are important in Texas and, of course, I want my students to do well, but it can’t be everything. We spend more time teaching our students test taking strategies, then concepts that are going to be on the test. I know that may be an exaggeration and I may be on my soap box a little bit, but I think it’s an important issue.

I read it to my roommate and her response was "I love when teachers get on their soap boxes, because they're just so passionate about everything!" I figured this was a good way to look at it. As far as my personal life, everything is fantastic and I'm just loving where I'm at in life right now. Hannah reminded me this past week that I've reached the 200 days and counting until I graduate. Kind of scary! ha

Through my good friend Emily's death, my eyes were opened to her favorite Bible verse. It has become the verse I go to now when I find myself missing her (4 months last Thursday), but I also think it has an awesome message: "Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see. Hebrews 11:1" I think "faith" is a word that is thrown around a lot in today's world, but this verse does a great job of defining what it really is and how we can apply it to our lives. I also love to listen to this song by Natalie Grant called "Perfect People." Being a natural, first born perfectionist, it helps to remind me that I don't have to be perfect to come before my God. Here's just the chorus lyrics:

There's no such thing as perfect people
There's no such thing as a perfect life
So come as you are, broken and scared
Lift up your heart and be amazed
And be changed by a perfect God

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Hardest week EVER!!!!!!

Last week was the hardest week of middle school I’ve ever had. I think all the middle school interns at some point have reached the point of tears, but that has never happened for me. This last week I was just ready to cry.
We have timeout chairs in the back of my room and I’ve never had to utilize them once. On Tuesday, my 1st and 2nd period were terrible. I normally have to beg them to talk and I couldn’t get them to stop talking. Throughout these periods I put one student in the timeout chair. Timeout chair total: 1.
My 3rd period is a more difficult period and they were just that on Tuesday. Multiple rude comments to other students, to me, and there’s so many of them! Once again I put someone in the timeout chair; timeout chair total: 2.
I thought my morning was rough, but it turns out it was the better part of my day. In 5th period things were going ok, when I started putting the students into groups to “jigsaw” their review. Apparently I put two girls together that had been in an argument for the past 2 weeks in the same group. They started yelling at each other and I heard the typical “Get closer and say it to my face!” As I’m making my way over there, I get a desk shoved into my leg as one girl tries to shove the other. I immediately send both of them to the timeout desks and tell them I’ll deal with them later. I was just so dismayed that they would even begin that in my classroom, while I’m busy teaching!! I later went over to them and told them I would not stand for that behavior in my classroom and how dare them act that way. Timeout chair total: 4.
By this point of my day, I was just wondering what was in the water and why the kids were so crazy. I am now a full believer in weather changes the kids! The barometric pressure does wonders on students. My 7th period is a small, great class minus one student that I struggle with daily to cooperate with me; she is angry, rude, and distracting. I had a very rough day with her and ended up giving her a STEP (a big discipline consequence). After multiple disrespectful comments to several students, she told me “Why do your eyes look like that? You look like you got punched in the face.” I try to just love on the students that are like this and build them up, but I am struggling with her. Timeout chair total: 5. I haven’t used the timeout chair once and in one day I used it 5 times!!!
Later on Tuesday I was at my 3 hour class and it was going better. We were not doing anything but working on our exercises independently and I was busy joking with my aggie teacher about the aggies losing to Arkansas. Our class gets out at 9 and at 8:30, I checked my email to check a grade – I lost allllll the work I’d been doing for the past 2 hours. I ended up just asking my professor if I could leave. I guess she could tell I was ready to cry and she let me go. Ahhhh! I almost go sideswiped on my way home and I had a 9 o’clock flag football game I was trying to make it to. Tuesday was CRAZY!!!!
My week went on and things got better than they were on Tuesday (I did score a touchdown in our football game), but this is the first week that I felt the weekend could not have come sooner. This week I’m just trying to get to Friday for Fall Break!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

"Ms. I didn't know we were having a test!!"

First test day!! Ahh!! We decided to give our students a 12 question equivalent fraction test. We’ve covered fractions many different ways and matching the equivalent fraction should not be that difficult for them. We wanted a major grade to be in our grade book for 3 week progress reports and felt this was a good way of testing their knowledge. It would also allow us to assess how CScope (our new curriculum that were using for the first year!) is really going. Our math department at Lake Air has decided while CScope has great hands on activities, it is a lot of application and not a lot of practice for the students. We only assign homework on two nights a week (I think this is a Lake Air policy), but our homeworks so far have been over division and not fractions. I graded all the tests on Thursday as they were coming in. I do not like doing a 12 question test for the fact that if a student misses 2 they are already down to an 84! When I have my own classroom I will not do it this way, or I will not make the questions be worth so many points. I think the scores were a good representative of what I was expecting. I didn’t have a grade lower than a 44 and they were several 100s in all of my class periods. I didn’t have a chance to talk over with my mentor teacher how she felt about the grades, but I think this is a great start to what we have been doing. Having 120 kids is so different than having 30 (like last year!). I like it because it allows me to have a better comparison to how the students are doing. I know which classes of mine are the brighter ones and which ones are going to be my slower ones! I don’t know if it’s bad to categorize them this way, but it’s definitely true. I definitely feel like my students respect me and that’s nice to feel that way. When I taught the warm up in one of my classes I had a little girl say, “Oo, Ms. L are you teaching today?!” and when I replied just the warm up she said, “Aw, ok.” I thought it was so cute that she was excited for me to be teaching and I hope many more of the students feel the same way! I kind of feel behind since I haven’t started my full teach yet, but I like our plan of on and off every week. So by next week, I will be ready to start and get my full teach rolling!!

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

1st week - Angels, 2nd week – Close?

Wow. How a week can change your students! The first week they were my innocent little 6th graders who were so quiet and in a new school. They asked you questions repeatedly, you could tell they were nervous, and they were like little perfect angels.

The second week - they are intermediate pros. They know everything and are not afraid to prove it to you by talking back constantly! These are just some of my second week stories:

- I found out one of my favorite little black girls who sits in the back by me and always talks to me is diabetic. We got an email with all of her emergency phone numbers and who to call first and what to do if she ever has an issue. She left school early today because she was feeling too bad from not eating or eating too much of whatever yesterday.

- One of my talkative girls asked me “Do you got kids?” I replied with, “No, not yet!” …she thought about this answer and said, “yeah, you don’t look like you got kids.” I told her I would take that as a compliment! Ha funny girl

- The next day the same girl was having a bad day and got sent to out “time out chairs” in the back. She still refused to do her work, resulting in our first office referral of the year. It’s the 7th day of school!!

- One of my repeat 6th graders who does excellent in class he just doesn’t do well in the hallways/interacting with other students will be in ISS (in school suspension) for 2 days for apparently something to do with “herbal tea” (our teacher code for marijuana) … oh dear.

- I dealt with having an “accident” in the bathroom. My first thought was I teach 6th grade not pre-k! But nevertheless, the little girl was so embarrassed and I worked with the Community-In-Schools person here at the school to get her a pair of pants to use while her mom brought her new ones. I missed an entire period of my class, but that’s the beauty of being a student teacher and having 2 teachers in one class.

- The last and biggest deal of the week was a huge reality check to the fact that I am teaching in Waco ISD and things like this could happen anywhere. The middle school that we split with – they are now only 7th and 8th – is Tennyson Junior High now. At Tennyson, on Tuesday, they had an 8th grade student with a gun in his backpack. They are being very hush-hush about the whole situation but apparently a teacher reported “strange behavior” to an assistant principal. They pulled the kid out of class to question him and ended up searching his backpack where they found the gun. More than likely, he was just trying to be “cool” to his friends and wanted to prove something by actually showing them that he could bring a gun. The whole situation was contained by 10 am and my close friend Clancy who works at the school didn’t even know about it until 5th or 6th period or around 1 pm.

Overall, I still love my school and the people in it! We have open house tomorrow night and I’m very excited to meet some of my students parents. I’m hoping I can remember all of their names on the spot without them sitting in their correct seat in the correct period! Ha I’ve definitely already formed bonds with many of the students, so I can’t imagine what it will be like at the end of the school year in May.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

LAIS - Here I Come!!

dun dun dun.. I will be a 6th grade math teacher at Lake Air Intermediate School!!!

Here are some facts about Lake Air:
- this is the first year it has been Intermediate (5th and 6th only!)
- there will be approx. 540 students
- there are 35 classrooms and 44 teachers
- the demographics are 39.26% black 41.11% Hispanic 19.26% white 0.37% Asian
- it is an IB-MYP candidate school

Since this is the first year that the school has been an Intermediate school, it means that 98% of the teachers are new to the campus AND it means all 100% of our students are new!!! This is exciting for me because I do not even feel like an outsider coming in, everyone is getting to know everyone and it has allowed me to just slip right in! I'm also the only Baylor Intern at the school and so it makes me feel even more like I'm a real teacher! My mentor teacher seems amazing and has even lived in Carrollton for a short time! She had Jessica Russell last year as an intern who is also from Carrollton and grew up in FBCC! This made us have a connection right off the bat and conversation just started flowing! I have a desk at the back of the room and have my own little set-up which I love. I will be bringing my laptop every day which isn't something I was counting on, but not a big deal! I am very interested to see how an intermediate school works because the 5th and 6th grade are verrry different! The 5th graders are on team teach and do not follow a bell schedule, while the 6th graders are on the bell schedule and the teachers are split into core departments. The 5th graders will have assigned lunch tables and recess, while the 6th grade can eat wherever and have PE 3 days a week and Health 2 days a week. There is a new curriculum that Waco ISD is implementing that is going to be very rigorous, but we don't even have to write lesson plans anymore. I have the first 17 days of the curriculum and its 130 pages front and back. The difficult part will be that the curriculum has not left any days for "reteach" or if you get behind we aren't sure how to catch up yet!

This is also the first year we are an IB candidate school. This stands for International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program. We will be doing certain things with the community and have 10 focus words that we spend a lot of time on during the year. If the students graduate highschool with their IB certificate, it is a world known accomplishment. All the boarding schools and international schools have been obtaining this IB certification, so if we become an IB school it will be a huge deal!!! Because of this we have 2 conference periods this year. So my schedule goes like this:
1st, 2nd, 3rd, conference period, 5th, 6th, 7th, IB planning period

Overall, I'm very excited and have been looking over my rosters all weekend!! I've already been cutting fraction strips (over 600 of them!) for the year and what I'm sure will be my wonderful 123 students!!! I'm pretty sure it will take lots of prayer and patience to get through the year, but I'm ready for it!!

I found that quote I was looking for:

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond imagination. It is our light more than our darkness which scares us. We ask ourselves – who are we to be brilliant, beautiful, talented, and fabulous. But honestly, who are you to not be so?

You are a child of God, small games do not work in this world. For those around us to feel peace, it is not example to make ourselves small. We were born to express the glory of god that lives in us. It is not in some of us, it is in all of us. While we allow our light to shine, we unconsciously give permission for others to do the same. When we liberate ourselves from our own fears, simply our presence may liberate others."

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Summer Coming to A Close!

After what seemed like the shortest summer ever, I have made my last first trip down to Waco!! ha This is what I'm sure will be the first of many lasts for me! I like thinking of all the things that I've enjoyed for now 4 wonderful college years!! It's so crazy. I remember Move-In day like it was yesterday and all the excitement/nervousness/crazyness that went into that day. Now, mom is a veteran at having teenagers and even college students (just don't tell her I used the word veteran!).
After answering the question "at what school are you going to be teaching?" all summer with "I don't know yet, I find out Aug 20th".......tomorrow is August 20th!!! I really don't think I'm even nervous - I'm just anxious and want to find out! I think I've done a good job of keeping my heart open and willing to go wherever they place me for my senior year. I would love to be back in the ghetto, I would consider it a blessing to be in a suburban ISD (much like I would experience in Dallas), and I would find it very interesting to be in a more rural ISD. It's astounding to think of how each and every ISD is so different around the Waco area even though they are all within 10 or 15 miles of each other! I would love to teach 8th graders again or have sweet, impressionable 6th graders again, or try 7th grade for a change! Wherever I am I hope God can use me to be a beacon for whoever needs to see him the most i.e. the children, my fellow teachers, the principal, the cafeteria staff, the counselors. There are so many people I will come into contact with daily that I have the opportunity to show them why I am who I am.
I pray that God would continue to work in the hearts that I will be working with daily and these first couple weeks are going to require a little more strength on my part because I am still mourning the loss of my dear friend, Emily Stuller, from this summer. I keep thinking of how she could have affected so many students this year and how her students will be missing out on an incredible teacher. I will miss her so much during these first couple weeks, but I thank God daily that she is hangin out with him in Heaven and I will be reunited with her one day.

I can't find the quote I want to put right here for now.. maybe I'll find it for tomorrow.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Leading by Example

Growing up in a christian home has allowed me to hear the phrase "lead by example" for many years - to the point where I just think, "Yeah, yeah be a good example." I don't know if everyone is aware of my roommate situation. My relationship with my newest roommate (the one I share a bathroom with) has slowly deteriorated throughout this last year. This has led to her decision to move out for the next year, which is really an answer to prayer. We are still very cordial, we just weren't agreeing on some of the activities she was choosing to participate in. She was going home for the weekend and I was leaving to come home to Dallas; we didn't say bye, but when she got home she sent me this text message "'On Christ the solid rock I stand' song just came on in the car and I thought of you!" Reading this text made me realize maybe I was just supposed to be an example to her all year long. She obviously recognized my music and so who knows what else she learned from me. I guess this was the first time that I realized without knowing it I was leading by example.

All of this prompted me to find this verse: Psalm 71:7 "My life is an example to many, because you have been my strength and protection."

So as cliche as it sounds this is a simple little reminder to myself to lead by example, because people are watching you whether you're conscious of it or not.

Monday, May 4, 2009

Kind-of the Beginning

I guess you could say I've been wanting one of these for a while now. I feel like I spend enough time on this piece of technology and that I could keep up with my thoughts better if I just type them out! I also can type a whole lot faster than I can write. I'm writing this first post before I even know how to invite people, that's how eager I am just to write.

My junior year of college is finished. I cannot believe it. I guess it just proves what I love to say - "Time flys when you're having fun!" Although, this year was definitely way different than my first two years. Beginning with, Hannah was in Waco!! This has been amazing. I cannot explain how much closer the two of us have gotten since I originally left for Baylor. She is definitely one of my best friends and someone I rely on massively. The biggest change in my junior year has been the amount of responsibility I now take on. I am responsible for an entire classroom. When I think about this I want to be like, "Hi, I'm 20 years old. You are giving me 21 thirteen and fourteen year olds to be completely in charge of?" The best part of my junior year has been the realization that I am made for this. People always say, "Wow, you are so brave" or "I could not do that!" I guess my realization has been that I could not sit in an office all day, every day. I love what I do, I'm good at what I do, and I wouldn't want to be doing anything else! My 8th graders took the math TAKS on April 7th. I was SO stressed this particular week just because I want my students to succeed and I want them to strive to succeed. I got the results back today and 65% of my class passed the test! I was originally aiming for 70%, but for a Waco ISD school where 95% of the students are on free/reduced lunch, 65% is an incredible number. For this reason, I was very pleased and excited for my first ever results of TAKS for my classroom!!

Spiritually, I have found that since the new year my spiritual life has been moving rather slowly. I often find that I am trying to be the strongest person around and, in turn, there is no one stronger than me to push me spritually. My accountability partner and I have been working closely together in middle school this year and I think we got so carried away in our school work we dropped the ball on holding each other accountable. I'm hoping this blog will allow me to talk through spiritual concepts I find fascinating. All I need is a song or two to whip me into shape and quickly remind me how blessed I am. Since freshman year of college I always start the day off the same way, a one line prayer that a chapel speaker told us - "God give me courage to be a Christian." Courage is a word that has followed me around lately (maybe more to follow on this in a later post), but right now I'm on the 3rd book of the Mitford Series and this is a quote that I'll end with:
"Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy, and shall break
In blessings on your head.
His purposes will ripen fast
Unfolding every hour
The bud may have a bitter taste
But sweet will be the flower."