Tuesday, February 07, 2006

from the horse's mouth

all of this talk about high school redesign is invigorating and exciting but the one thing that teachers need is unavailable: smaller class sizes. today i heard a snippet of conversation between three of my junior boys that reminded me that kids want smaller classes too. it went something like this:

Terrence: Yo, though, my bro, my bro is at this school where, you know, you got like small classes, like 15 kids in the classroom.
Brad: For real?
Terrence: Yeah, no, um, you know how, like, Ms. MH be all over the classroom helping all these kids and shit and you're screaming "MS! MS!" (exaggerated hand-wave emphasizes point) Well, this way you could have Ms. MH all to yo'self, youknowwhatI'msayin?
Michael: Yeah, for real, you wouldn't have to wait your turn.
Brad: So he's doing good there then?
Terrence: Yeah, he aiight. I mean, you know, he gots special attention. With only 12 kids in the class, I mean, it's tight personal. So he gonna graduate and everything.

On tha real.

Monday, February 06, 2006

i. heart. kids.

I gave an old student a referral for cussing and "insubordinate" (crazy) behavior. Usually I don't bother sending referrals down to the Taj Mahal because I get an email or a note back asking whether I've contacted the parent and urging me to feel compassion for the child. Yes, I contacted the parent. Surprise, the phone number was wrong. My kids are more nomadic than a Bedouin trader. But what really irritates me is the plea for my patience and compassion, because I obviously kicked the kid out of the room with my big black boot while shouting a litany of curse words at him. Please. I worry about the welfare of my kids all day long and I'd appreciate getting the benefit of the doubt in this department. Compassion is what I do best.

Other than that, things are going well... promise...

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

welcome back, yo.

That kid, the one who I wrote about in November, is back in my class. The Powers That Be switched him after an incident involving knives in his other class. Honestly, I feel a very maternal, possessive love toward this kid and, although it may seem cheesy, I consider him home.

You know, he might be one of the biggest and baddest "problem kids" in our school, but the boy has heart. And he comes to my class every day, which I take as a huge compliment.

Tuesday, November 08, 2005


today i "scaffolded" in a way i never thought would happen in my classroom. we made flashcards.

my kids have a test on thursday, a rather big test. it involves 40 terms and people that will be tested through multiple choice, short answers, and an essay. i know they can handle this. the quantity of terms however, was a little intimidating so i offered extra credit on the test if my students made flash cards. during the course of first period i realized, as my little demons were plugging away, that this flashcard business was gonna take some time. and because i'm determined to prove that flashcards can help one learn, i pushed back the test until thursday. i never thought i'd have to use class time in a junior level course to make flashcards. i mean, really. but um, see, my kids...will FAIL if i don't teach them how to study. and in the future i'm going to give the terms for the flashcards ahead of time (to be done as homework) but i didn't plan that far ahead. madhatter be busy in her off time, yo, and i didn't make the review until last night. so yeah. we flashcarded it. i'll be interested to see the results.

on a completely different note... i've been thinking about this kid today. i had an infamous student in my class last year, one who was routinely kicked out of classes. we had a bond and, although he's a pretty difficult kid, we worked together and got him through history. so, he's in another class this year and he's failing. i talked to the drop-out intervention specialist and she recommended we move him into my class. and here i sit at the cross-roads.

my first year i would have gladly accepted him. my heart was bleeding into my brain and i couldn't use rational thought to save my life. my second year i accepted kids who were difficult, worked with them, and watched them wear me down even as i loved them. so my problem is that the class this kid will enter is my WORST class. it's the class with the crazies and the class with the horrible kid who cussed me out for no reason on friday and the class where i have hormonal boys jumping off the wall and who's parents can't seem to control them. i'm afraid to put the kid in this period. i don't know if he'll actually thrive. i don't know if i can handle it. i don't know if i'm being realistic or selfish.

i can't "read" my gut reaction either. my intuition is all fucked up because i really love this child but i'm so worn down by my class. then again, i don't know if this kid even wants to be in my class. he could have friends in that class and may be offended if i take him out.

i just don't want him to drop out.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

let me do the damn thang.

it seems that my old madhatter craziness is returning and i'm enjoying the students again. i've admitted to myself that my personality riles them up and that i'm not good at running a utilitarian classroom. i feel pressure from the Old Regime to run a factory styled classroom and it's just not me. with that said, my kids are scary and animalistic, perhaps cannibalistic, and they do need to be tamed. granted, they are seated (although my third period has some serious problems with this tricky task) and there's some sense of order in my classroom. but it can get a little chaotic.

i know i'm enjoying my students and their antics more because i'm laughing again and sharing stories. i'm a pretty vivacious person and i always have a story to tell, albeit sometimes i have to conclude my anecdote with "okay, this wasn't a very good story" or "that sounded better in my head." i love to tell stories of my crazy high school teachers to my students, and because i had some definite crazies, they usually go over pretty well. i suppose this storytelling is cyclical and i'm the crazy who is and will be talked about for years to come. but whatev.

it's funny, actually. i would never act as obnoxiously outside of the classroom. a few weeks ago one of my students asked, "ms, do you hang out with other teachers? because i just can't see you hanging out with, like, adults." i'm like, "yes, teacher. has. friends." but then i started thinking about the singing, the dancing, the facial expressions, the crazy jokes and laughing, the completely nerdy exuberance expressed over historical data... it's almost like i'm two people. i mean, teaching is acting, but i'm not pretending.

so when my principal recommended me to host a student teacher i hesitated and declined. i feel like my classroom needs some fine tuning, i mean, the car runs but it's not a smooth ride. i run my classroom with a special emphasis on relationships and i feel like this can't be emulated, rather, this is a teaching style that must come from the heart. and, let's face it, i don't think i'm worthy of observation and guidance yet. i think i need a few more years under my belt. you know, for some fine tuning.

Monday, October 31, 2005

why we gotta hate people, ms?

i've got the best and the worst in my third period. this class is filled to the brim, and with the personality and energy of my students it's practically boiling over. the good thing about this is that we have lots of "teachable moments" and there is general enthusing at times. the bad aspect is that I'm trying to tame a class of monkeys, monkeys who are enabled by their parents and think of themselves as gods. they are teenagers at their best and worst.
take today for example. we're discussing immigration in the late 1800s. nativism is introduced and someone says something about the kkk. "but ms," another kid asks, "how come they can wear their hats and their sheets? they can't do that. like, how we can't wear gang colors here." ahh, a teachable moment. rules vs. laws and civil liberties are discussed. it's a good moment. then we move on in our discussion of immigration.
"i think they should build a great wall of america. mexicans just need to stay out," a kid pipes up. these kids are espousing racist rhetoric and, once again, conveying the gap between mexican american vs. mexican mexican (to use my student's language). they don't use words like wetback but the sentiment is the same. a conversation ensues between the students about immigration. "how can you hate mexicans when you are one?" "i'm not mexican, i don't know nobody in mexico" "yeah but you used to be a real mexican at one point" until one kid resorts to outright racist rhetoric and i stop the conversation. it's frustrating because my blood is boiling but i'm trying to be a good teacher and let the kids talk it out, hoping someone will learn something about tolerance. i'm trying to use clever guiding questions but after the conversation i feel depressed and frustrated.
anyway, the class is always teetering on "out of control" because they won't stop fucking shouting things out or asking about shit. most of it is filtered but sometimes, and i'm not proud of this, i stop what we're doing and say with a sigh, "alright third period. we're going to stop for one minute to talk about this. because i know you need to get it out and i'd rather just talk about it once and for all." this is what birthed our conversation about immigration. i can't tell if i'm caving in or going with the flow. is my class a mess or just messy?

Sunday, October 23, 2005


i haven't had the time to blog. i'm too exhausted in my free moments to think clearly about my job. and really, this year has been kinda tough. it swirls around me and i have trouble grasping pieces to talk about. i'm afraid this would turn into a mega bitchfest.
i've been pretty disillusioned with the whole education system lately, which says a lot because i've never thought too highly of it. maybe it's the third year blues. i don't know.
so i don't know if i'm going to continue blogging...given my lack of time, my feelings about this year, and my fear of losing my anonymity. really, i fear my voice is empty and hollow in this space, much like its impotence in the world of education.