It’s 9:41 PM and I am privileged enough to get to spend two weeks here at my favorite camp in the world! :). I have missed this place. I’ve missed the craziness, the running, the silliness, the feeling of…belonging.
Even if this is my last summer here - I’m so glad I got to come. It’s tiring - I’m already sore and there’s a headache on the horizon But it is so worth it.
I haven’t posted in nearly 2 years. But after a few stressful weeks at work, I was inspired to write this when I got home today.
I read about teaching constantly in the news, and it doesn’t seem to reflect what I experience each day. It’s been increasingly frustrating to me. While it’s very difficult to express in words what a teacher’s day is like, I gave it an honest shot here (warning: there is a little bit of profanity).
What it truly means to be a teacher
12:45pm. I am teaching a 7th period class; we are focusing on the costs and benefits of British rule in India. The students are working on a t-chart on their own, referencing a textbook.
A girl in the front looks upset. Her eyes are glassy. She is finished the assignment far before the others because her reading level is on grade level while many of the students in the same class are still struggling at grammar-school reading levels (I teach 10th grade). She is drawing circles on her paper.
I know she was supposed to audition for the X-Factor, a TV show, yesterday; she had been excited about it for months. I heard through the grapevine that her dad wouldn’t let her go. I kneeled down. “Are you okay?”
Another student shouts from a few rows over: “Ms. D, I need you to show me my grade.” (Yesterday, as I tried to get him to start his work, he told me to shut the fuck up.)
I ignored him for a moment to see if he would notice I am mid-conversation with another student. She nods and says, “I’m fine” unconvincingly.
Again- “My grade Ms. D, I need to see my grade.”
“I’ll show you your grade after class- I’m trying to talk to another student right now.”
“I need to see it though,” he insists. “Is this good? Am I done?” He holds up his t-chart. I’m still kneeling in front of X-Factor girl as she absentmindedly traces the already-drawn circles on her paper.
“Ms. D,” another student shouts from across the room. “Can I stay after class and see my grade too?”
It’s been 1 minute.
1:01pm. We have 4 minutes in between classes and the bell has just rung to mark the end of 7th period. My 8th period class is honors-level and they are preparing for a debate. I need to move the desks from their standard position in rows to 2 large groups before too many students file in. I start in the back and manage to get 2 desks flipped around.
A girl runs in who should have been in my 7th period class but wasn’t. “I came to say bye, Ms. D. I’m not gonna be here anymore.” She’s standing by my desk at the front of the room.
“What?” I ask, not fully processing what she’s said.
“I’m not coming back,” she repeats.
I walk up to my desk. My 8th period has started to file in. “Guys, if you could group the desks into your 2 teams, please,” flitting my hand at them since I’ve been pulled aside.
“My foster mom kicked me out and I’m going to a homeless shelter,” the student continues. “I can’t go to this school from there.”
A student I advise in NHS comes in. “Ms. D, I need to see the papers I gave you earlier today- I think I stapled something to them that I wasn’t supposed to.”
I reach for the file of papers that I had put hers in earlier that day. “You can’t come to CHS still while you’re at the homeless shelter?” I’m flipping through the pages.
“No,” the homeless student says. “Ms. M says I can’t until I’m placed, then maybe I can get transportation.”
I hand the papers to the NHS student that she’s requested. “I need you to sign these- they’re from the donation drive,” she says. I put them on my desk and sign quickly, looking over them to make sure they are what she says they are.
I turn to the homeless student again, not sure even what to say. “Do you have paper? Will you keep in touch? Call me if you need anything? Please?” I write down my phone number for her.
NHS girl waves a paper in front of my face. “Do you need this to verify my hours?” I shake my head.
“Ms. D, I have a question!” calls a student from across the room. I walk over.
The bell rings for 8th period to begin. I turn around and the homeless girl has disappeared; I didn’t even get to truly say goodbye.
It’s been 4 minutes.
1:20pm. My honors students are in their teams, preparing for their debate. There was tension in this class yesterday; the teammates weren’t getting along well. One of my students approached me in the morning saying she felt as if her team was not taking her comments seriously.
I absolutely love it when teachers do things like this. SO much more engaging than your standard textbook and a great supplement (how many kids would rather do this than filling in a worksheet?) to learning physics/math!
Been a long time since I got a chance to post. I I’ve just been really busy these last few days. Studying for the GRE (love you, math, but I’m so terrible at you), getting ready for iD Tech (cannot wait!) and trying to do some big things at work.
It’s been tiring. Kinda fun. But certainly tiring. I’ve been doing more “advanced” things lately at work, like custom coding scripts in Excel and stuff like that. Trying to do as much problem solving as I can, trying to become as comfortable as I can with the idea of coding a solution. Being able to think through a problem and find a way to solve it.
After all, if I want to go back to school, get my Masters in Computer Science and work for Apple, I need to get my but in gear. I need as much practice as I can get.
Computer science doesn’t come naturally for me. But I love it. Much like math. So I’m going to keep at it. I’m going to get this degree. Hopefully I live through the process. :-).
Keep the faith, y’all (I mean in yourselves…though if you want to keep the faith in me, that’s fine too) :-)
This is what they don’t tell you about in teaching, and no one seems to understand that. Or maybe I’m wrong. Maybe they DO teach how to deal with a student who’s brother is murdered. Maybe I just missed that in my accellerated and seemingly noble attempt to remake education. Perhaps when you actually take classes for your credential, you learn this stuff - as opposed to simply fast-tracking your way into a classroom because they so desperately need science and math teachers.
I used to feel like I was a good writer. Lately I’m not sure anymore. But I’ve never been able to capture my thoughts about teaching in any sort of elegant manor. It always comes out awkward. Incomplete. Borderline incoherent. Rants and raves and sobs and screaming. Fluctuating between never wanting to return and dropping everything just to try one more time.
This story seems to capture what I can’t. The work that you do outside of teaching the subject matter is what really, REALLY matters.
If there’s anything that makes me feel guilty to no end, it’s saying no. I’m horrible at it, in probably every sense of the word (except for the quite literal SAYING of the word “no”). :-).
I hate telling someone they can’t do something. Or that I can’t do something. No matter how rational the reason, it tears me up inside most of the time. Even if it’s something that I don’t want to do, saying no always makes me feel guilty.
I think it’s because I have this thing with wanting everyone in the world to like me. I always feel like if I’m saying no to someone, that person is going to resent me, or be unhappy with me, or something like that. And I know that’s unavoidable. No one is liked all the time. People are going to be unhappy with you. But it still hurts. And I’m terribly insecure.
I got an iPhone when they first came out - and it was absolutely amazing. Previous to that, the only cell-phone I had ever owned was one of those Tracphones (are they still around?) - you know, where you got a ridiculously cheap phone and you purchased minutes? And the thing that I thought was awesome was that you could SEE the number of minutes remaining.
Yeah. Good ol’ 2005 :-)
Up until the iPhone, I didn’t really understand the whole “phone” thing (and I still don’t really). Like, I had friends who were totally into buying phones like I buy video games. It was like, “let’s see who has the best phone!” and “my phone can do x and y”. I didn’t get it at all. I mean, it’s a PHONE. Who cares what it can do. And then I saw the iPhone.
But I’m digressing. I was sitting in the restroom and my phone buzzed, letting me know that I had a new email. I pulled it out , checked some link and really took a look at the phone. It’s about 5 years old now. It’s been handled by over like 200 kids. The phone has been dropped around 30 or more times roughly.
But the thing still works. Pretty well too! I mean, I finally managed to crack the screen pretty badly by dropping it on a solid rock kitchen floor, but it still works!
I’m kinda in awe :-). I quite literally threw the phone across the interior of my dad’s car when I was mad one day and it slammed into the passenger door. I have banged the phone against a metal street sign because I was angry with the volume buttons freaking out. And still it works, broken screen and all. I don’t use it as a phone anymore (don’t really have a cell phone now), but I still listen to music on it, download and play games, and surf the Internet. And still it works!
Admittedly, there is tape over the screen (pieces of glass in your finger are not cool), but pinching, zooming, scrolling - all that is just fine.
So one of my friends was given a choice last week by his parents. It was either no electronics for a week or give up piano for good (I guess he wasn’t spending enough time with piano).
My friend gave up electronics (a good choice, cause he’s good at piano and he really likes it). But he was pretty sad about it. So I decided to try and be a good friend and give up electronics too. Well, as much as possible (meaning that we could still use electronics for emergencies or school/work related tasks).
Surprisingly, last week didn’t go nearly as bad as I thought it was going to. I spent much of the time reading. I was able to focus better at work (if you’re using a computer, you can only do work or other necessary tasks - no visiting favorite leisure sites!). I started to carry around my notebook again to sketch stuff and write down my crazy ideas.
I thought that I’d miss the games and leisure reading on the Internet the most. Turns out the games weren’t missed all that much :). It was mainly the leisure reading. And being able to draw/write something on my iPad. I did miss that a lot.
There were a few “cheating” moments - like I had to respond to a friends IM. Or phone calls. My friend and I had agreed on 30 min of phone time a day (that’s what he got), but for me it was much harder. I tried to limit it, yes. But I get quite a few communications a day, be it email or IM or phone calls. That part didn’t work out so well and I ended going over my 30 minutes by quite a lot :-)
The week is over and the electronics are back, but I have to say, I kind of enjoyed the challenge :-). Glad to be back with my iPad though for sure :-D
Anyone else have those strange delusions of grandeur? I know I do :-) I wonder what would happen if I suddenly find my place and calling? What will happen when I find that one thing that I’m so in love with doing that I will do it until I transform the world ?
Performing. Software development. Kids. Science. I’m almost there. I’m going to figure it out. I just don’t know how long it’s going to take. :-)
One of the subheadlines is “Crowd erupts in cheers” or something like that as verdict is read. I’m a HUGE Michael Jackson fan - HUGE - and that freaks me out.
It’s involuntary manslaughter. Yes, Dr. Murray made mistakes. BIG ones. Yes, he needs to lose his license. Yes, he does deserve some jail time. But I truly don’t think he wanted any of this to happen. He didn’t want Michael dead. I don’t think his conviction, though deserved, is a reason to cheer :-(
Forgot to wash my work clothes, so here I am, up at 11:30 PM (despite the fact that I said I’d go to bed EARLY tonight), waiting to put my clothes in the dryer. I’m staring into Xcode pretending to program (I don’t even PRETEND program well).
It’s going to be a long night. And a longer tomorrow. :-)
I read a great blog post today about a father writing about his son turning 13. It was, ironically, about how writer’s block was preventing him from writing about his son. And through that writer’s block, he discovers what he needs to write about his son.
It was…beautiful. Like, I finished reading it and was almost moved to tears. Not because it was maudlin or sappy, but because it was such a simple, honest post. It was WRITING. The kind of writing that has a voice and personality so strong that it doesn’t matter if you’ve read the author’s previous work, or if you know the family or the circumstances. It communicates so clearly the author’s feelings it’s almost scary.
I just want to say thank you for such beautiful writing. Seriously.
1) I love how dancing counts as exercise :-). A glance down at my stomach recently has told me that sans iD Tech this summer, I have to make up that amount of physical activity :-/. Thanks to my new dance album (see last post), that is being taken care of each night before bed :-)
2) Sometimes I forget how much You bless a loser like me. I’m very glad You’re my God.
Okay, guilty pleasure admission time. I’m a pretty big fan and regular watcher of the show “Shake it Up” on Disney channel. Like, I DVR it. Cause Rocky and CeCe are HILARIOUS :-D
So anyway, Shake it Up is also the name of the “show within a show” that Rocky and CeCe dance on. Every episode there’s like a dancer or dance group and they dance to music that was extremely catchy (in the Disney pop kinda way) but that I couldn’t find.
How was this possible? I mean, the songs seemed pretty well produced and such - like more than just throwaway filler for an episode. But I couldn’t find them anywhere! I even found song titles and artists in the credits and it got me thinking…why go through all that trouble recording a song (with some recognizable names…well recognizable to ME), titling it and just throwing it away as a 30-second snippet on a show within a show?
I should have known Disney thinks deeper than that :-) Enter Shake it Up: Break it Down! The soundtrack to Shake it Up featuring (you guessed it) a ton of the songs featured in previous episodes.
You know it’s been a good weekend when you still think it’s good even though you’ve driven over 40 miles ONE WAY with your elbows awkwardly raised so the blisteringly hot air from outside still hits your armpits and allows them to dry out because you’re sweating from not having an air-conditioned car.
Actually, the air condition DOES work - it just causes the car to overheat fairly quickly. And then car spits out coolant like a fussy baby, which is REALLY annoying because coolant is expensive -____-.
But it was a good weekend nonetheless. A very good weekend. I actually got to get out and see some friends that I haven’t seen in like 10 years, among others. So that was very cool.
My Genius Mix decided to play “So Yesterday” by Hilary Duff. And memories of my first year teaching, hanging out with one of my homeroom kids after school listening to Radio Disney and playing games on the web.
Off Limits is published on Yahoo! Associated Content!! YAY!
So, I got my story accepted by Yahoo! Associated Content and it’s live on the web now!! If you haven’t read it, please give it a read! And if you HAVE read it, well, you can experience the magic one more time :-D
It’s a short, humorous science-fiction story about an inquisitive 6th grade boy who is convinced that the teachers’ lounge harbors aliens inside of it.
I hope you give it a read (or 7) :-) I do get paid by the page views, so please tell your friends! I think it’s a great read for kids, so if you are a teacher, it might be great reading for a classroom! Of course, I’m a little biased…
Starting small, but the more work I have out there, the more stuff I have published, the more my dream of being a writer becomes a reality. Actually, it’s been a reality for quite some time now. I just need to keep pushing and making it bigger and bigger.
Thanks for all your help and support out there, you guys. I appreciate it.
That Moment Where You Discover Your (Friend's) Calling
I was talking to my friend last night and we were watching one of Apple’s video previews of Mac OS X 10.7 (aka Lion). It was the one where Apple’s demonstrating the various gestures that are being incorporated into the new OS…very similar to the iPad except you use the trackpad and not the screen. Pretty cool stuff.
I’ve known my friend (let’s call him…Bill) has been wanting to do computer programming since I’ve met him. We’ve talked about it and working at Apple (or Nintendo) and things like that.
But last night as we watched that video, he told me again…but it was different. I don’t know if it was different for him, but it was different for me. Suddenly it was like I could see what he saw. I could feel what he felt about his dream. You could hear it in the tone of his voice…the drive, the focus, the fear, the uncertainty.
I think he’s found his calling. I think he’s known it for a while actually, but now I think I really understand.
Truth be told, I am a tad bit envious :) I want that. I want to find that thing that I am so driven to do that I’m willing to do whatever it takes to have it -to make it real.
I know dreams can change. And the path isn’t always the way we think it is. But he’s got what another good friend of mine has - that willingness to pursue their dream because it’s what they’re MEANT TO DO.
He’s gonna do it.
I wish I could find the words to describe how excited I am about his dream. How emotional it makes me for some reason. How unbelievably happy I am…but I can’t find the right ones. It was just such a cool moment.
Great teaching in action :-) I’m definitely impressed with the ingenuity and hands-on approach of this lesson. It’s getting kids excited about learning!
On the other hand (and no slight against the teacher…this is just a personal thing), it’s slightly uncomfortable for me to think of 5th graders believing that MONEY is the ultimate goal.
Again, no slight against the teacher at ALL. I wish I the ingenuity, control, and intelligence to come up with such a cool and engaging idea. There’s just a part of me that doesn’t want kids (and thus adults) focused on money. Yes, they do need to learn how to manage it. Yes, this is just a simulation, I know. The real world is different. I just hope they will learn as much about doing things for other reasons (like helping someone, or simply for the sake of learning).
Who knows - maybe we’ll see some philanthropists develop in their mini-economy! Now that I think about it, this could very well be a microcosm of their eventual real-world lives! Maybe the kids who are naturally giving will be giving with their pretend money. And maybe the kids that are selfish will continue to be selfish…or maybe they’ll learn how to be more giving.
Maybe I should just have a bit more faith in these kids and stop being so pessimistic…
VICTORIA, Texas — There’s no money in education these days, Aloe Elementary teacher Kelly Lorance will say, unless you’re a fifth-grader in her class.
On any given day, there are hordes of cash spilling from students’ fingers or waded into desks for safekeeping.
One student has $500 saved, and Garrett Weber, scarcely taller than a doorknob, is already a landlord with multiple tenants.
Lorance’s students practice economics every day in their self-created society by earning fake cash, buying and selling everything from pencils to $2 rubber duckies.
“It teaches them everyday life skills that you can’t really teach to them in a lesson,” Lorance said. “I can’t really teach them how to be organized by pulling up a lesson plan. It’s got to be hands on to show them what our society is.”
The concept is simple: Students get paid for earning good grades or odd tasks and use it to pay obligations like desk rent or fees for missed assignments. They can even save their money and buy up other student’s desks, like Garrett does.
He’s a slight, blond-headed boy who wears glasses and quickly interrupts his fellow students as he explains how he’s come to be a landlord.
“It feels like you’re gaining power over someone,” he said.
Garrett bought three of his classmates’ desks, lowered the monthly rent, but still nets $60 at the end of every month. His goal is to have the most money in the room and continue growing his business.
“I want to buy the whole room,” he said.
Every bit of the approach is student driven, Lorance said. Students set the prices for job salaries — a janitor earns $15 while a tutor earns $20 — and so on. Students also set their grading pay scale and can earn up to $3 for an “A” or owe up to $5 for missed work.
The approach comes at an ideal age and in a perfect way, said youth financial literacy expert Lori Mackey.
“Employers reward sales people with commission, and so on, and when you reward a child with money, you’re just teaching them how money works,” she said.
Grade school is an ideal time to start simple financial concepts like compounded interest and how to buy and sell things because teachers have students in one classroom the entire day, unlike upper grades. If students grasp the concepts early, it can prevent them from financial woes later in life.
“The less educated you are with money, the more it costs you,” Mackey said.
With the economic climate deteriorating, Mackey believes financial literacy must start with children now more than ever.
“Our states are falling apart because they can’t manage money. So we, as parents and states and educators, have got to teach financial literacy,” she said. “The only way we can do that is teaching our children to work with money.”
But the love of money also ushers another concept — greed.
When Lorance’s students drop money on the floor, it quickly becomes a free-for-all.
“It’s gotten wilder. Way too wild,” said Destiny Rios, 11, who’s seen her share of money dives.
“Sometimes there’s at least four people bumping heads getting money,” Garrett said.
The money grab is part of the class rules to keep kids vigilant, and if cash is touching the floor, it’s anybody’s dollar.
“If they lose their money, too bad. So sad,” Lorance said. “I’m not replacing it. It’s just like the real world.”
So far, it seems to work.
“Once you drop it, you’re never going to drop it again,” Destiny said.
Lorance even planned for counterfeiting by buying the last and only brand of cash at a sports store.
Overall, the process seems effective though it requires extra effort to manage the 27 students.
Grades are rising, and Garrett is anxious to spend his savings.
I’m working in GameSalad today, much as I did yesterday. Trying to get a jump on this summer when I’m supposed to be teaching a class on this software. So far…so good. It’s not a completely realized program yet…though it is pretty good. But some things are certainly missing - like when I resize an “actor” on the stage, there’s no easy way to view it’s width and height. At least as far as I’m aware of. It is possible to get the info, but it’s not the most logical thing. I’d have to create two actors specifically designed to display the width and height. And that’s all they’d be there for.
So there are things that can certainly be improved in GS…but overall, I think I’m enjoying it. I (along with a few other people) suggested GS to iD Tech as another game design class without the “programming” (well, at least without writing code). It’s not as fully realized as Multimedia Fusion…but then again, Fusion has about 17 years of work behind it :-)
If you happen to stumble upon this, please don’t get mad :-) I just thought it would be fun to parody your song, “Freak the Freak Out”, which is, by the way, so awesome! Ridiculously catchy and constantly stuck in my head.
But I digress…I do hope you hear this one day :-) Don’t worry, the lyrics are clean (well, the words “Puke my guts out” and “wee” are in there…but those aren’t too bad right?). I can’t actually sing this song…but I liked the words I made up :-D It’s all about eating way too much :-D