Archive for Teaching Related

The Shower

Well I got my package from Melissa yesterday and she did seem eager to talk, but not about anything in particular, thankfully.  The package ended up being a sweet belated birthday present from my sister: tickets to a DC United game on the 1st of May and a ‘Keep Calm and Carry On’ journal.

this is on my body for the rest of my life.

So anyway, my main concern of the morning is the lapse of thought my French manual showed.  Today we started the next section, and we always begin a new section by going over the new vocabulary words.  This is always fun for me because as we go through I like to figure out the etymologies of the words with the students.  John usually enjoys this activity, while Andrew moans like a wounded cow and Hannah just sits silently.  Well, this chapter vocabulary theme was ‘The Home’ and Andrew took a keen interest in the French word for ‘to shower.’  Yes, as soon as the little computerized voice sounded out ‘le douche’ he absolutely lost it.

‘I think I know the etymology of THAT one!’

‘Thank you Andrew, but no.’

Do the makers of this manual know their audience?  Whoever put that in there laughed as they did it.

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Failed Math Tests

Test day can be extremely difficult for a teacher, at least for this teacher.  I’ve spent weeks on this past chapter in my algebra classes.  We’ve gone over some of the concepts at least twenty times.  The kids have done well on their homework assignments and were speaking intelligently in class.  Well Hannah and Andrew took their test today (Michael was absent) and gave a miserable showing.  Hannah showed that she understood the material in most places but there were some concepts that surpassed her.  Those combined with a handful of mistakes made for a pretty miserable grade of 77.  Andrew, on the other hand, completely and utterly failed.  Every single concept escaped his mind in some small way.  (x + y)2 became x2+y2.  When exponents were divided or raised to the nth power he forgot the proper operations.  Basically, every concept we’ve learned this year, even those learned in the past chapter, he got wrong in some small way.  To make matter worse, he even failed at doing FOIL correctly, even though I put it on the board.  He honestly thinks he can do math in his head, but he messed up every single foil on the test.  Out of 38 problems he had 2 that were completely correct.  I could hardly talk to him I was so pissed.  It’s so frustrating, because as you’re going through his work you realize “he has no idea.”  That makes you feel frustrated because you’ve worked so hard to teach him but it also is overwhelming.  I say overwhelming because you realize that nothing you say can make him learn this material or do a problem thoroughly enough to get it correct.  The underlying problem is his intellectual laziness.  He hates doing work and isn’t smart enough to simply grasp the concept or perform mental math correctly, so he fails.  I am praying that Michael does better because he’s worked so had on this chapter but I can’t imagine him getting a better grade than Hannah.  She is usually the last one to noticeably (or seemingly) grasp a concept taught but the only student who has the mental stamina to plod through each step and accurately complete the problem.

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A Field Trip!

Well, not really a field trip.  Today we’re taking the kids to work at a food pantry up in Waldorf.  It makes the day pretty nice for me because the only class I have to teach today is history, which I would say is my second favorite class of the day next to Algebra I.  I have a couple of posts in mind that I want to throw up so hopefully I get one of them out later today. If not I’ll get one of them up tomorrow, which by the way is Friday!  Excellent.  I’ll get to go hang out with all of my friends who went to the beach last week and it’ll be good to see them again.

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The Announcement

It became official last week but today we  announced to the kids that the school will not open its doors next year.  I couldn’t really gauge what they though because they were quiet and Tom spent most the time talking and trying to get them to see what it is they have to be doing.  That is, they still have to work hard to prepare themselves for high school next year and also they should be looking at schools in the area and begin applying to them.

I find the concept of applying to high school utterly foreign but it does seem to be the norm in this area.  I don’t really understand how this system works, but there isn’t a particular public school to which anyone is assigned.  In my area, our public schools were given the city or different parts of the county and you had to either go to the school you were zoned for, or attend a private school.  In Charles County, I can’t tell if there is any restrictions on what public school you can go to so long as it’s feasible for you to arrive there in the morning.  I guess that is a good thing because it offers greater mobility to the ambitious youth.  They can avoid going to the shit high school if they grew up in a depressed neighborhood; I find this aspect very appealing.  Yet, this will probably perpetuate the low standards of schools that gain the reputations of “bad schools” because the bright students will seek out better programs and intelligent teachers naturally desire the brighter students.  I hear absolute horror stories about many of the public high schools in this area and from the look of Waldorf, which is a large concentration of people in the Charles County area, I would believe the rumors.

I don’t think the kids will be terribly upset but if the reputation for Charles County schools is true then they will suffer intellectually because unless we can get them to take their studies seriously the boys are almost surely headed to public schools for sports and Hannah is bent on going to La Plata High because of friends.  John, who is moving to Tennessee at the end of the year, has of course applied to a very nice Catholic high school and I wrote my very first letter of recommendation.  I haven’t sent it yet and have little clue on what’s appropriate in such a letter, I mean it’s high school for goodness’ sake.  So we’ll see how it goes.

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Improvements

I’ve seen the change slowly wrought but there is a definite improvement in Hannah’s (once dubbed unfortunate girl) performance in class and general attitude.  I can honestly say that the students have all shown improvement in certain areas but Hannah has definitely shown the greatest improvement in all subjects, even in her class participation.

I’m not exactly sure what has spurred this change because things were still pretty bad near the end of last semester, though showing some improvement.  Tom, I think, took a new approach of flattery and constructive comments outside of class.  Really, the only thing I changed was how I dealt with her inside of class. When I call on her to answer a question I would tell everyone not to say a word and just wait until she works up the courage to say an answer.  Previously she would literally throw a fit and piss and moan until you either sent her out of class or just gave up on getting her to answer.  She wouldn’t even venture a guess.  Instead she would turn on you and blame of you being mean to her.  ‘If I don’t know then I don’t know! OK? So leave me alone!’  Seriously, it was terrible.  That gross display though has not been present at all this semester.  She’s even almost finished reading her first book this year.  All year she would start books and then turn on them and say how stupid they were and how boring reading is.  That’s her method, when she doesn’t feel confident doing something she becomes venomous towards it.  But Tom took her to Borders and helped her pick out a few books; (middle school level, but it’s a start) and she’s about finished the first one this week.  I also think her confidence has grown because the queen bee Lianna moved to Omaha.

Similar improvements have been seen in Mike and Andrew.  Not necessarily in their intelligence but in their attitudes. To begin, I think Tom’s been yelling less and therefore they’ve been more responsive and less mopey.  Outside of Tom calming down a bit I’ve found a subject to joke about with them, which literally puts them in wonderful moods: Andrew’s basketball games.

I found out two weeks ago that Andrew is playing on a select team in Waldorf, MD.  I instantly began joking that I was going to come to his games dressed real goofy and hold a sign cheering for him.  At first I was just joking, but I could definitely tell Andrew loved the idea because everyday for a week he would randomly bring it up, “you better not come to my game Mr. Simmons!”  This obviously meant that he wants me to come and embarrass him.  So I’ve covertly acquired his schedule from his mother and will be attending one of his games in the coming week.  He’ll never know what hit him.

As for the Smart Kid, well he’s hardly been here and when he is he is very smart and quickly absorbs the material but has little spunk.  I’ve also noticed he has very wrinkly hands, like an old man.

So, all in all I’m definitely enjoying school more this semester, I just hope that we can hold into this positive atmosphere we’ve created for the students and for my own sanity (I can’t stand yelling).  Really, we have to do as much as possible for their little egos because these are kids who need plenty of the teacher’s attention and next year they’ll be attending much larger high schools.

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Sickly Kid

The Weekend

AAAnnnnd it’s Monday.  Nothing makes me happier than coming back to work.  Though, I’m resolved to keep up with my attempts to bring some humanity to their ninth grade minds.  (No, they are not yet real people.)

This weekend was fun, though.  At first Jake and I concluded that it was quite a downer, but all in all I would say that I had fun and feel good about this coming week.  We went into DC both nights, which I found a tiresome but fun.  It’s cool because slowly my Harrisonburg friends are making their way into DC, either to work in the city (yay James) or close enough to come into the city on weekends (yay Rachel).  Hopefully with DC being a closer spot for the three of us, and with Sarah’s boyfriend in DC, the Harrisonburg crowd will make their way north more often.

I’m also really excited to go down to Boone next weekend.  App State won’t know what hit it!  Although, I decided I’m not going to apply to their graduate school.  It just doesn’t seem like a good fit – at all.

Sickly Kid

The past couple of weeks have been troublesome because John, who I now dub ‘Sickly,’ has honestly been in and out of class consistently since Christmas break.  I think he’s gone a total of 5 whole days of school in over two weeks.  Partially, it’s because he probably was a bit ill.  But mostly it’s due to his perception of who he is, which is completely reinforced by his mother.  This absenteeism due to ‘illness’ was a problem first semester but we started to ride him about it and he got his act together.  Yet, even then it was absurd some of the illness’ his mother thought he had.  One morning he came in and was looking fairly pathetic, begging to be asked his favorite question, “are you ok?”  He responded, “No, I’m not feeling well.  My mom thinks I have meningitis.”  Are you kidding me?  You would be dead.

Last week he was sick 3 days.  Today he came into school and we asked how the weekend was and if he felt better.  He told us that he felt better because he got his antibiotics, that he had a nasal-infection last week.  That may be so, but I recognized no symptoms of a nasal infection.  Furthermore, he went on to add, “Now my back hurts, and my mom thinks I have a lung infection.”  A LUNG INFECTION?!  Are you kidding me?  What does that even mean and how could his mother diagnose a lung infection?  Been smoking the cigarettes John?  God, I would hate to see what tobacco did to him.  He’d probably be suffering from emphysema in a weeks time.

I just don’t know how to handle this situation.  What he obviously needs is to be told to buck up and quit whining.  Yet, so much of his problem his definitely his coddling mother.  You can’t go around telling your child that they are sick or you’ll convince them that they are.  Should the mother be confronted?  Can a teacher even give the student a hard time about the supposed illnesses?

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Why ME???!?

Ahhhahh Their parents aren’t picking them up until 5:15?? ?!?!? !? !  Waahhaat?  I want to go die in a field.  It must be nice.

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