Saturday, January 22, 2005

noise control

i've recently discovered this whole teacher blog underworld. i don't have a lot of teacher friends and i love to read about the idiosyncrasies of other teachers and their experiences. i find them hilarious.
i just read an old blog by a teacher who hasn't been able to listen to music. i so have that problem! i used to listen to an array of music, from sleater-kinney, bikini kill, to ani, teegan and sara, interpol, sonic youth, fugazi, to the roots, tribe, mos def, aceyalone, atmosphere... and NOW, as a teacher, i've been listening to jazz, quiet folk songs, silence. i think my ears are so deafened from all the clatter and noise and my mind and heart are so tired and abused that i can't spit out any more emotion or energy unless i absolutely have to.
actually, this past week i've started listening to some of my old music again. it started with four tet, dj shadow--quieter music. music without a lot of words. but today i listened to sleater-kinney's recent album. i even sang along.

Thursday, January 20, 2005


By the end of last year I had a handful of kids who drove me completely insane. I couldn't stand their asses. At the beginning of this year they came back to see me. None of the students who gave me cards or told me they loved me came to visit me. I was incredulous.
I thought it was fairly obvious that I had become extremely irritated with these little mofos and I thought they'd mirror my emotion. I mean, I'm was still nice to them but I think it's easy to tell when I'm fed up with someone. But no. They came streaming through the door in August. And they still come by--one of them drops in every day.
So today the kid who caused me to have a cussing policy dropped by. This kid invented cuss words that even I, sailor mouth and all, would not think of. Whenever he drops in he reminisces from last year (punctuated by shit and fuckin) and I secretly congratulate myself on how far I've come in controling my classroom. "Remember that time you called Dameon Daddy?" he laughed. I had forgotten that. Don't worry, there's a context. There was a kid, we'll call him Dameon, who was walking around the classroom as usual. I was telling him to sit down and I blanked on his name. In that second, the Cussing Master shouts out, "Daddy" and I accidently call Dameon Daddy. So really I said, "Sit down Daddy." Fifteen yr olds find that funny. I blushed and hoped no one would repeat the command out of context to their parents.
The good thing about these boys coming back around is that I've grown to appreciate them again. Or maybe I just like them because they like me. Or maybe I like them because I don't have them in my class anymore. They're all still failing and skipping except for the Cussing Master, who seems to have pulled himself together.

good cop, bad cop

teaching and introspection go hand-in-hand for me. one realization i've come to is that i don't like to be the bad guy and i want everyone to like me. it's really hard for me to be the disciplinarian unless i'm completely fed up. but consistency is the key to discipline. i know i'll thank myself down the semester road and i have to remind myself that when i'm snatching up notes, cd players, insisting on quiet while individual instruction is going on, or assigning detention to those who can't shut up. i'm feeling way better about the bathroom and water thing though because i've lost sympathy when they just "have to pee." i say, finish your work and then you may use the restroom. it's amazing how fast someone can work when they really have to go.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005


So, the observation went well. So well, in fact, that they want me to do some workshop in the fall for the district. We'll see if that pans out; I'm not going to hold my breath.
My kids were really good. My first period has always been awe-inspiring because I've got lots of trouble makers in the there, including kids who get kicked out of their other classes. It's a nice compliment to my relationship-building skills and clear expectations (aka rules) that they come in and, for the most part, do their work. I've had one badboy in particular exclaim that "you better feel lucky cuz this is the only class I don't skip or cuss out the teacher." I was floored with gratitude, really. Honestly, I secretly believe that these kids are too tired from their long night of pimping and drinking to be god-awful.
This morning I was nervous because my first period has been edging toward dereliction in response to my stepping up the rigor. They absolutely abhor primary source documents because they actually have to think to get through them. Plus, there's the whole ancient vocabulary issue. But that's a tangent. The other day the same kid who always told me how much he liked my class threw down his pencil and said "Man I used to like this class but this sucks now. I hate this class now." Last year, hell last semester, I would have taken that statement personally. This time I thought, "Fuck. He better not start acting like an ass. He'll through the whole class into rebellion." Am I becoming a cold, unfeeling dictator?
I digress.
I think my kids felt sorry for me this morning. They could tell that I was wired pretty tight. I told them we'd have some visitors and I knew that they'd be on their best behavior. And they were. They answered questions like it was their ticket to heaven. They were all on task for every second of the period. They looked inquisitive and like they were actually learning.
Of course, I did offer to bring candy for those who participated. And one of my particularly volatile students exclaimed, "Ms., you better bring me candy. Because I've been wanting to smack Bryan for making all those wierd noises all period but I've held back. Just for you." Precious angel.

Monday, January 17, 2005

The Power of Yes. A motivational blog by Madhatter.

Friday I stayed at the school until six organizing and polishing. My friend N came and helped me, a godsend for sure (and also an organizational baddass). She's an elementary school teacher and made my word wall look delicious. There's no way I even pretend that I wrote those words, created those beautiful letters. They sing to you across the classroom. My kids are going to make fun of me but I have the prettiest Word Wall in town and I really don't care if those words were imported.

It's Monday and I've calmed down. I'm going to a coffee shop to drink tea and think about my lessons. Tea you say? Yes, dear friends, I'm drinking tea because I'm losing my voice. I think it's the cedar (damn the cedar trees!) and my voice has taken on that manish, groggy tone. But hey, every teacher wants her voice to go before the big wigs walk through. I'm thinking of shooting myself in the foot just to complete the picture of Totally Pathetic, Yet Capable, Teacher.

Over the weekend I thought about how tough I am on myself. I want to be a Good Teacher and I work so hard and care so much. I know there are several ways of defining Good Teacher, so here are my defining features:
-Organization (at least to some degree)

So whatev! It's my second year and I'm doing the best I can! And hopefully this pep talk and my extensive use of exclamation points will send me on my way! To the coffee shop! To drink and get my voice back!