Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Creative thinking

Each morning at 9:12 we have a routine. Principal Crazy plays a tune on the loudspeaker, welcomes us to a "BEAUtiful day at PS ..." and then has a "very special"class say the pledge and sing 'God Bless America'. The rest of us have the kids stand, face the flag and sing. The "special class" gets a writing utensil (pencils for K-5, pens for 6-8) each time (as if they should be rewarded for screeching into the microphone).

Today, our homeroom had the joy of being that "very special" class. We took the kids down threatening months of detention if they misbehaved. As it turns out they were very good. I told the kids to meet me in the hallway when they finished. They ran up to Pr. Crazy, snatched a pen in the color of their choice, and skipped out the door...

...only to have the pen confiscated as soon as they crossed the threshold.

You see, last time we did the morning exercises, those pens were destroyed. In ways you would not think of destroying a pen. It was disastrous. And wouldn't you know FN already had his split in half by the time he reached me today...approx 3 seconds after receiving the pen.

Ms. Happy took the kids upstairs and I returned to the office with my booty. "Pr. Crazy, I wanted to let you know that I confiscated all the kids pens." I told him, hands overflowing with 34 half-inch-wide weapons.

"Why did you take those from them?" he was rather startled.

"Well you see, last time we did this, the kids took apart the pens" He gave me a confused look. "See this top part of the shaft? When they stick it between their cheek and molars, it becomes an invisible whistle which they blow when we turn around to write on the board. See this squiggly thing (the part that supposedly clips onto your shirt pocket)? This is snapped off and they scratch their names into the desks with it. The ink tube is then snapped inside desks and on chairs to sabotage the next student who uses the desk. I decided that it wouldn't be a good idea for them to take these pens to their classes."

His response was not one of understanding. His response was not one of shock, horror, or sympathy to we poor teachers who have to deal with all of this x34 every day. Instead...

...he smiled.

A big, dorky, goofy smile. He started nodding/shaking his head, pointing to me, and looking at the secretaries in the office who just stared back at us, as dumbfounded as I was.

"Future scientists! That's what we've got up there! Future scientists! I can't believe their creativity! How do they do it?! That's great!"

I have nothing left to say about this. You can draw your own conclusions. I'm drawing mine with a bottle of gluhwien from some friends in Germany. Without support from my administration, it's about all I can find any solace in. Prost!

Friday, January 18, 2008

This is uncomfortable to watch...

(Can't find the html code to imbed, so you'll have to link)

After you watch, if you can handle it, read below:

The woman in this video represents every insecurity I have about disciplining my students. She comes out swinging, trying to discipline the kid via the airwaves, as if he's going to have some kind of epiphany right there in front of her entire viewing audience and she can take credit for setting him straight. In the end, the kids socks it to her and she looks like a moron.

I hate being the moron

Early on in my first year I tried yelling, setting-straight, and shaming in moderate doses and it really got me nowhere. The kids didn't respect me any more. They were still obnoxious jerks in the same exact ways. Grades didn't improve. What exactly did I accomplish? My guess is that I just took about 3 years off the end of my life with undue stress. Oh, and I was accused of being mean amongst many other things.

I was a moron.

These days I resort to long-term secret alliances. I pull kids out of other classes under the guise that I have some important business and then discuss their rude behavior in a personal "It hurts my feelings that you don't respect me like I respect you" kinda way. The kid feels both excited to be pulled out of class and upset that they missed the mark on this 'friendship' with a teacher. The most bad-ass kids in school now give me covert nods and quiet hellos when they're pretty sure nobody else will notice. And they do show me respect in the halls and in class.

My question to you is this:
How would you have treated this jerkwad if you were:
a) the reporter
b) his teacher
c) his parents
d) an acquaintance/neighbor.

Pick one or all.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Under Pressure

My kids aren't all that bad. In fact, I normally think of them as mostly good contrary to what my posts may present. Though I am only a 2nd year teacher, one of my best abilities thus far is in classroom management. Since I am able to reign everyone in pretty well, the students considered most obnoxious by other teachers tend to be my favorites as they have the best senses of humor. A particular favorite is "FN". He's much smarter than he or other teachers give him credit for AND he is absolutely hilarious. When positioned properly in the SW corner of the room next to an exceptionally brilliant student and a mute student he is focused, participatory, and a real asset to my class as he loves to ask gooooooood questions. I even got him to wear a red polka-dot dress in front of the class once when we were learning adjectives. Any other teacher will tell you that he's a nightmare.

The kids all have my instant messenger screenname so that they can ask me questions about homework at night. Not one person has asked me about homework yet. Instead I get a lot of "wuz up?"...but I digress... Tonight FN sent me a message for the first time. (I should mention that he is also a homeroom student of mine and Ms. Happy's.) Apparently our peptalk during today's homeroom about the importance of tomorrow's impending ELA (English) exams actually had an impact on him as you can see from this excerpt of our online chat:

FN: i feel weird for the test tommoro
MissSeñora: The ELA test?
FN: yes
MissSeñora: Why?
FN: alot of pressure..
FN: not a tea spoon but like a sumo wrestler on me
MissSeñora: This is true. You must remember though that you're smart and will do a good job!
FN: why, Thank you
FN: now you've made my day

"....not a teaspoon, but like a sumo wrestler on me..." That was just one of those sweet, innocent, sincere moments I've been craving with a student lately. Little does he know, FN just made my day.

Saturday, January 12, 2008


Last school year I was told that I must teach grades 2-6 (in my K-8 school). Nevermind that not one of those grades is in my certification. Nevermind that it was my first year teaching. Nevermind. Just go babysit Miss Señora.

So, completely clueless, I made 350 copies of a general questionnaire for the kids to fill out because hey, ...if my administrators weren't going to give me their expectations, the students would have to do it themselves.

Here are some of the answers I collected in September 2006. Some real gems. Remember, these kids range in ages from 7-12 years old. I wonder now why I didn't do this again this year

1. Do you speak, read or write in Spanish?

-I do not read Spanish. I may look spanish, but I'm not.
-No, because not one person in my family speaks Spanish. How am I supposed to know it?
-No I geus speak a Aloon Bei. (¿qué?)

2. Where do you think that Spanish is spoken?

-In my house
-America & Aruba
-Brizsl -Birzl
-Amirica, Texes
-Sedgwick Park (Bronx)
-Domme Replica, -Dimenicon repblc
-Cypress Ave. (Bronx)
-canada, canida
-Spainu, Spine, Spani
-Puato Rico, Putro rico, Peruroto Rico. pocote ricaio, purto ricc
-my house and Spanish Harlem
-Rome & Florida
-Argentina, streets, and stores
- Cuba, and maybe some parts of New Jersey
-gomolow (what?)

3. What do you want to learn in this class?

-I want to learn spanish and to ascholy comunikat with spanish people. (huh?)
-When did Spanish come to the world? (yeah, she wont' be allowed to ask any more questions)
-becaise people mite be Spanish. they mite befrom Spain
-If a lunch lady is Spanish you can tell them what you want (right on man)
-I want to learn spanish because if somebody talks to you in Spanish and you don't know to say and you pretend and they think its a bad word. (ok)

4. What do you expect of Miss Señora?

-to wear red shirts
-What I expect is that she'll help me do what I WANT.
-to show us the respect we deserve.
-to show me Spanish and explain it good.
-What I expect Miss Señora are Spanish teets and how to speak. (apparently he meant "tests" lol)
-I expect Miss Señora to speak spanish and to smell good not bad.
-I expect to learn Spanish from Miss Señora. I also expected her to be Spanish, or at least look Spanish, but I'll get over it.
-I think she is a nice Spanish woman. (why thank you. you're a nice Nepalese man)

5. What do you think Miss Señora. expects of YOU?

-good be havure
-to pay a tenchon (that's expensive, poor kid)
-to rais our hands or write complete (he did neither)
-a lot since I'm in middle school now.
-to be bavering (no, I would never expect that....)
-she probably expects me to like class
-a lot of antarchy (it really disturbs me that this 3rd grader not only knows the word, but is now using it to intimidate me)

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Shhhh! Don't tell her she's failing!

I've had nice parents. I've had angry parents. I've had threatening parents.

I've never had a parent like this. Chastising me ("To whom it may concern" you really not know my name?) about informing her daughter that she's failing. It all started when I sent home a second letter, informing parents that students are failing and providing a list of assignments with grades. This young lady is in 7th grade. She is 13 years old. She is fully capable of taking responsibility for her own grades. How else will she learn responsibility?

Are there any parents out there with some input? I do not have children, but if my child was failing I don't believe that I would ever try to shelter them from that, even if my goal was to help them improve their grades.

If you're not a parent, you can play a game: Find as many grammatical mistakes as possible. Winner gets a congratulations comment on their blog. Go!

Saturday, January 5, 2008

El Año Nuevo

After a fabulously excessive break in Central America, I returned to school refreshed, renewed and relaxed. There were no thoughts of children, of students, of work, of stress or of NYC at all while we were gone. As if nothing existed north of the rainforest, we carried on about our vacationing business and had the time of our lives.

Fast forward (a bit too fast) to January 2nd, 2008. I am relaxed, rested and slightly tanned. I have climbed all five flights of stairs back to my room (which makes me smile as I realize that just 2 days before it was a volcano I was climbing) and I wait for my kids to come up. I am confident that they too have had peace and relaxation and are ready to turn over a new banana leaf just like I am. I smile as they enter. I thank them for their compliments on my newly bronzed skin. I bounce about the hallways gently reminding them to tuck in shirts with a smile instead of roaring "I tell you every single day to tuck this in! When will you learn?" as I had just two weeks earlier.

Morning homeroom is almost over but we still have 3 minutes. They have actually finished their morning duties early! Yes! I knew it! We've all changed this past week. Spring semester will be wonderful!

Then I make the mistake of asking them about their breaks. "What did you all do? Did you go anywhere interesting? Did you give or receive any neat gifts? Tell me something about your holidays"

"I saw my brother get wasted on Christmas Eve. It was mad funny because I've never seen him drunk before."

Does anyone have anything to share that doesn't involve alcohol?

"Yes! I went to the casino with my cousins!"
Someone in the back shouts to him: "Yeah, tell her the rest! Tell her about your 'beverages'!"

I glare and move on. "What about New Year's Eve? What did you guys do for New Year's Eve?"

"My sister let me drink champagne!"

Looks like vacation is over. Central America, with her warm temperatures, kind people and brilliant colors, is nothing but digital photos and memories. And on the bright side, my students are now with me and out of the hands of drunken family members.