Thursday, April 30, 2009

Easy work

This week, I had a number of experiences with the word "easy" that were "good teacher" moments. First, one of my students who is notorious for turning in nothing (last quarter: 41 missing assignments), is actually putting effort into his work. He's actually quite brilliant, but only wants to do things HE wants to do and tends to get easily overwhelmed. He finally started working after a meeting with his parents in which he got the impression he was going to fail 6th grade if he didn't get his act together. (In reality, I would have had to start the paperwork process for this in September if I actually had intentions of doing this. Needless to say, that didn't happen. I told his parents this when they left the room, and they said I should let him think he was going to fail, if it was motivating him. :-)) So, either way, after 2 days straight of keeping up with (almost) all of his daily assignments, he looks at me and says, "Mrs. Shetler, it's easy to do my work." My jaw just about dropped. If it's so easy, why was this lesson so long in coming?!?!? Either way, good deal for him. :-) 

Then, on Thursday, I was determined to use the laptops, as I hadn't done so in a couple of days, so I decided to have the kids research swine flu (I know, I know, H1N1) since there seemed to be rampant misinformation. Actual quote from student: "Is it true you can die from swine flu in 48 minutes?" So I had them research a bunch of questions about symptoms, how you get it, where it started, etc. I didn't tell them how or where to research it, just to see what turned up and what they decided to read. I did, however, tell them to look at the address or source and make sure it was something they had heard of before; i.e., news station, newspaper, etc. 

First of all, the connection to "easy" is that this lesson was super easy, as is often the case with technology use. When I say easy, I mean "easy" in that all behavior problems almost entirely cease and the kids are almost entirely engaged. To me, that is an easy lesson, because behavior is what makes my day crazy. To be sure, I still spend a lot of time working on tech issues, but all that I do is essentially educational, which is what I'm there for (not to scream at kids). 

Anyway, after about 10 minutes of near silent searching (bliss!), a (Mexican) girl came up to me and said in a pouty voice, "Mrs. Shetler, it says that swine flu started in Mexico because Mexicans are dirty and don't clean themselves!" She said this with a hurt look of, "I know this isn't true, but it's on the internet. Does that make it true?" So I said, "Well, does that sound like something that is a fact or an opinion?" With eyebrows still raised in consternation, she said, "Opinion..." So I replied, "So do you think you should trust that source?" "Nope!" she said and went back to searching. Lesson learned. :-) That was my "good teacher" moment of the week. 

That's the kind of easy lesson I wish I could teach everyday.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Heads Up

I am not a superstitious person. At all. However, this morning, I happened to find a penny in the hallway (which I always pick up, not because I'm superstitious, but because I'm cheap) and it was heads up. I thought for approximately 1 second about the purported "luckyness" of found heads up pennies, and went on with my day. 

Then this afternoon, 2 colleagues came to the door with good news. The penny must have done it's work. In order to understand how much I appreciated this item, you have to understand the prior situation. I've known since January that I wanted to apply for a different job out of the district for a million reasons (see all previous posts), and had applied for several. Didn't hear back from any place for various reasons and had to turn in my contract to my current district last week. I was very bummed because I was not excited about the way my current job was going to change next year, AND my partner in teaching succeeded in getting a different job. 

In the midst of all that frustration, 3 7th grade teachers who I have high respect for came and asked if I'd be interested in teaching 7th grade with them. I told them I would love to, not because it was 7th grade, but because I'd love to teach with them. (I was actually very flattered that they chose to ask me.) So, I went and talked to the principal about it, but evidently it was too late because the position was already filled. More frustration and hoping for miracles. Today I got my answer :-) The person who was going to take the other 7th grade position decided to take an 8th grade position! 

So, short of a job out of the district, this is probably the best solution for me for next year. I'll get to teach with great people, I get to stay in the same room (another lucky thing!!), and I "get" to learn another grade level. We shall see how it turns out, but it has to be better than this year! Yay for lucky pennies!!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Am I Crazy?

There's been a quote that's been running through my head lately: "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result." By this definition, I have completely gone off the deep end. Because every day, I go in, hoping that I might get just a modicum of respect and care for their education. But every day, I get nothing. No, let me rephrase, I get blatant disrespect, defiance, and things thrown at me. Clearly, I am far too tolerant, which I know, and I spend every day trying to alleviate this, some days with more success than others. For the last week though, I've felt completely useless. Like, I may as well just prop up a dummy in front of the class and they'd learn just as much.

I was definitely questioning my chosen profession today. Maybe I need a desk job where I can relate to reasonable adults on a daily basis. Or, maybe I should pursue the technology thing and try to get a job in a computer lab. Or maybe I should be a campground host and hang out in my RV.

To be fair, I'm also in a bad mood because my co-worker got another job in a different district, and I did not. Not even a response. My contract is due Thursday, and the places I applied at have hardly even started posting jobs for next year. The one job that sounded appealing at my own school, I was turned down from because I waited too long (on the other jobs I had applied for).


Definitely not a good teacher yet....

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Word play with 6th graders

It's really funny listening to kids figure out how/why certain words and phrases work the way they do. We're in the middle of a series of tobacco lessons, and today we were talking about why peer pressure affects kids and one girl came to a revelation. "Hey! I get it! Peers are people like you and they put pressure on you! Peer pressure! I get that now!" Lights going on...

Then, out of the blue, a different kid comes up to me today and informed me what "Jewish" means. Before I could answer, he says "It means when people are half Jewish, you know, like sort of Jewish. That's why they're called Jew-ish." :-) Gotta love 6th grade word play :-) 

Friday, April 3, 2009

AIMS Reflections

A reflection on Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) standardized test. I'm not generally a big poet, but I didn't think this one turned out too bad...


Bubbling, bubbling, bubbling
Soft, nervous scribbling
A yawn, a stretch, a silent groan, a sigh
Got it!---wait! Nope, this is it… whew, that was close

Perfect bubbles, heavy and dark

Wheels turning, pondering, thinking, considering, wavering, confused

Hushed whispers=reading silently, lips move

Intent, must do well

A sea of sloppy bubbles

Eenie, meenie, miney, moe, C if you don’t know

Figuring, counting, calculating

Pages flipping

Bubbling, bubbling, endless bubbling…

-D. Shetler, April 2007

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Do or Die

Well, it is AIMS week here in Arizona (our state standardized test). The kids are doing their best, and I'm proctoring with the best of them. Actually, I take that back. The best of them would walk around and monitor the entire 3 hour testing block. I walk around every half hour or so and give anyone the evil eye who dares make any sound outside of breathing, writing, erasing or thinking. It's effective for most kids. 

I have learned a few things about these tests in my past 4 years of teaching. 1): Bribe them, when necessary. Since I'm required by law to read the exact same test directions for all 8 sections of the test, the kids get tired of hearing me say it and I get tired of hearing me say it. However, I get even MORE tired of hearing them say, "Why do you have to read it again?? We know what it says! Just let us start!" So, I told them that whoever could go the whole week without saying this got candy. :-) I know, Mom, I shouldn't reward with candy, but I can only give out so many free homework passes :-) It's saving my sanity, and by proxy, their lives, so it's all good in my mind. 

2) Get as much done as is physically possible during the first 30 minutes of each test, because that's when the kids are most focused (i.e., no one's done yet.) After that, it's hit or miss, between getting up to get someone something, checking to see who's done, telling someone in a nearly silent whisper that they are not the only person in the room and they need to shut their mouths, etc. So today, I set up 15 laptops with Google Earth during the first hour. After that, I started collecting notes that got passed, paper airplanes, etc. 

3) Remind them that it is important to their teachers, parents, and should be important to themselves that they do the best they can on it. I learned this last year in one of my master's classes, when I read about a study where that was the only difference between 2 groups of kids, that the teachers reiterated the importance of this topic before they took the test. The group that was reminded did better. That's an easy enough strategy to implement :-) 

4) Tests are NOT allowed on the floor. If they are on the floor, the teacher collecting them MIGHT step on part of it while picking it up and rip it and then have to re-bubble/re-write half your test for you and that is NOT what the teacher wants to do!!!!!! 

Today was Day 4 of testing and the kids are starting to wear down. Yesterday they flew through both parts of the test, which makes me very nervous, so I told them to take their time today. (They don't realize how lucky they are to have an un-timed test.) They all burst out, "But it was easy!! It was easier than the Galileo! We just knew all the things because you taught it to us!!" Yay!!!!!! Warm fuzzy for me :-) Even though I hate to teach to the test, I really, really, really don't want my kids to get to this super-big test and not have a clue what they're looking at or how to solve problems. So, I'm not sure if that makes me a good teacher, but at least my kids don't feel too bad about the test, so far. We'll see how that applies to their test scores though...