Thursday, November 29, 2012

Feeling like a loser....

Why oh why do my kids bomb the Constitution test every year?

I give them a study guide. The study guide even tells them the exact essay question on the test.

My lessons teach what's on the study guide. Our notes explain the text.

The kids are involved in the Convention--they "become" a member of one of the original states and see how the compromises would affect their state.

The homework reinforces what was in the lesson that will appear on the test. They have a project wherein they actually draw the powers and checks of each branch.

I relate the past with their present with school-based analogies. For example, federalism divides power between the national govt and the states, just like school, because the front office has power like the national government and so do the classroom teachers, like states. Another example is when we have a three-legged race to show how our three branch government prevents any one branch from abusing power, the effectiveness of separation of powers. Or when we use rock paper scissors to show how each branch gets checked by the others.

I truly am not just a talking head.

Granted, the concepts are abstract and the terms are fancy: ratification, federalism, checks and balances, separation of powers. I check for understanding. In the moment, they get it.

I am turning to my colleagues for help, because I am apparently being blind to some glaring weakness or issue. I need their eyes to help me see what's going on. Or not going on.

I do expect them to look at their notes for one minute every night, and pretty much no one does. Is that me shifting the blame to them? Is it wrong for me to expect them to carry some of the intellectual weight around here? How much learning responsibility is theirs? If I don't blame them, I have to blame me. Doggone it, I work so hard it's demoralizing to accept responsibility for the results.

Fourteen kids in each of the three classes earned a grade below C level--even with a free point for the question #34: "Hey! How'd you like to earn a free point right now? A. No thanks, trying to cut back.  B. I am just randomly bubbling, hoping to work two minimum wage jobs someday. C. Why thanks Miss M--that's so awesome!"

Every year.


Friday, November 9, 2012

Haiku about Hollywood & History

File:Lincoln 2012 Teaser Poster.jpg

Lewis, Spielberg, and
John Williams--AHHH! "Lincoln"
has to be awesome!!!

(Releasing it now
seems strange...why not in April?
....January 1?

Or Veterans' Day?)
"The Alamo" was so lame,
my heart almost broke,

And so my fervent
prayer: Please, Lord, let this film,
"Lincoln," be worthy


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Sweet Encouragement

A teacher's life is pulled in many directions, and the truth is, teaching can consume one's entire existence if s/he isn't careful (to wit, read Rafe Esquith's Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire). 
More than twenty years after starting, I still struggle with balance and time. There is no time to visit friends AND stay fit AND grade it all conscientiously AND design mind-stretching lessons AND stay current in research AND read for pleasure AND get flu shots AND refinance. I have to pick and choose, and so friends, research, flu shots, the gym, and refinancing get short shrift. (Which is a Shakespearean phrase, which I know because reading for pleasure always makes my time cut.) 

This past Monday, I was staring up a steep hill--forgetting to get personal snacks for myself, and teaching four classes in a row and then immediately going to the auditorium to help supervise our Bible Club's dodgeball event (I am the guarder of the food while players play--they grab bites between games), and then immediately going to my classroom to have the class participate in the mock election, and then immediately returning to the auditorium to clean up. All these "immediatelys" meant that lunch wasn't going to happen until 2:30. It also meant that the beginning of my week was going to require more energy than last week put together. 

And then the blessings came. First period, O. opened a container and told me she was giving me cupcake shoes--"I made some to test for my salon project and thought you'd like a pair."  I was so overjoyed! Something to munch on to keep me from low blood sugar. And then period 4, K. brings me (for no reason) a bag of Dove dark chocolates. My God takes care of me! To top it off, at lunch my colleague brought me some cookies. 

As my blood sugar spiked, I reflected that one of the amazing things about what I do is that I get so much back. I don't mean sweet treats, although Monday was sweeter than most. The Lord always reminds me that He is cheering me on so I can love the kids for Him.

Today was hard for a number of reasons. It is my beloved principal's last day at our school and we began the day with our last staff meeting with her. Many were in tears as the bell rang for period one. I am heavy-hearted. So imagine the lift when a former (over 30!) wrote this on my Mug Book page:

"Please keep doing what you are doing. You will never understand how you have touched our lives. You made it 'cool' for students to strive to become teachers one day. You taught young girls grace and self respect. You taught young boys how to respect those princesses. I don't know if you realize how powerful that is? Thank you" 

I didn't cry at the staff meeting, but I bawled as I read this. God took care of my blood sugar on Monday, and my heartache today.