Thursday, September 27, 2007

Back from the Party and Ready to Die

That's completely the way I felt Tuesday morning. I had spent a very long weekend in D.C. with some other teachers attending some conference. However, as soon as it ended, we hit the trail. (The Metro, really.)

Two of my teacher friends had never seen the nation's capital. NEVER. With my sister's help, we thoroughly endoctrinated them in our nation's history. It is never easy, picking and choosing just what sites to see, especially when time is limited. One of them thought we could cruise the Smithsonian. After all, she said, we had 45 minutes.

They marched my fanny up and down the mall, from the Smithsonian station all the way down to the Lincoln Memorial, with pit stops at the White House, Washington Memorial, World War II Memorial and the Vietnam Memorial. (I couldn't take one more step over to the Korean War Memorial - I'm so sorry.) We then cruised Georgetown, Dupont Circle, (Sydney Wade couldn't get off of it in The American President), the Jefferson Memorial and then down to the Capitol, Supreme Court and Library of Congress. I'm tired remembering. And Arlington National Cemetery, two hours before we were supposed to fly home. That plane ride back was the longest time I had sat down in four days.

My children nearly cried when I got back. "Dad's Dad, but he's no Mom."

That was the best part of the trip.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

More Griping and Moaning, Via E-Mail

I couldn't be a bigger fan of the electronic mail; it lets us be in touch in an instant. However, there comes a time when parents should have those privileges revoked. Today, I encountered such an instance.

I have a student who is floundering. She barely passed the big state test in reading last year. Her parents are divorced. Dad is an assistant principal in the district and he has access to e-mail. He fired one off this morning, basically making me feel like I am some kind of incompotent nitwit without one iota of common or professional sense.

He let me know, in no uncertain terms, that his daughter could read on a much higher level than I had said. Her problem, in his esteemed estimation, was one of motivation. He told me that my assessment tools were unscientific and fraudulent and he had written his Master's thesis to prove it. Now, I am not the biggest fan of AR in the entire world, but I am not stupid enough to tell a parent, any parent, that his child was only assessed using one tool. I have made certain that I backed up the STAR test with other assessments - and scientific or not, my STAR test results are often backed up by other tests.

The fifth grade counts AR as one test grade for the entire nine weeks. He is bent out of shape over that. Funny, he didn't have anything to say about it a month ago during Back to School Night. A month ago, he didn't have a problem with it. Now that we're half way through the nine weeks, his precious has only gotten 0.9 AR points. Fifth graders are supposed to have 20 for an A. If his precious already had 17 points, his panties wouldn't be in a knot.

He insisted that we not grade for AR. The county doesn't support it. The data is unscientific. Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. State standards require fifth graders to read 1,000,000 words this year. AR tracks those words. We assign grades to those words. It is called accountability.

This is his problem. He is the father of two children, both of them identified for our intervention program. This is troubling for him, as it makes him look bad. He doesn't care one whit about anything other than how this will make him look. Oh, yeah. And getting back at his ex-wife. That is playing in here somehow. He let me know that he didn't know what kind of standards his ex-wife held his children to, but when they were with him, he expected quite a bit from them.


I e-mailed him my best sweet Southern girl. And I let him have it. I wasn't in Nancy Grace's sorority for nothing.

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Saturday, September 15, 2007

"What's Up Front, Doc?"

I believe I could have been in Korea with Henry Blake, Trapper John McIntyre and Hawkeye Pierce. Right now, I am watching the MASH marathon and my favorite episode, "Chief Surgeon Who?" is on. You must know the one where Hawk eye is appointed Chief Surgeon, much to the chagrin of Frank Burns and Margaret Houlihan. "I've sipped, lapped, and taken gin intravenously, but I have never swilled gin." "I've got oak leaves on my shoulder." "Well, I've got dimples on my butt." And, of course, "One thing that will get you nowhere with me is impersonating my wife." "That's a bit strong." "Did you realize you have a man on guard duty wearing a skirt? Yeah, but lucky for us, he's got the legs for it."

I couldn't believe it when Henry died; I grew to love Colonel Potter, but I couldn't say "Hello, Larry." I don't think McLean Stevenson ever forgave himself, either. But when John McIntyre went home and was replaced by that B.J. Hunnicutt, I did not love him at all. After a while, I wanted them to ship him home, too. Or shoot him down over the Sea of Japan. "Goodbye, BJ."

I nearly went to medical school because of this show. Instead, I became a teacher.

On another note, PrepGirl has announced that she would like to apply to two colleges so far.
Wake Forest and the College of Charleston.
Both beautiful.
Both liberal arts.
Both expensive as hell.
I went to a private liberal arts college and spent about five grand a year. In the dark ages, of course, but still. Does a good liberal arts education have to cost $45,000 per year? That's a little less than what I make per year.
Maybe medical school was the answer to the question.

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Friday, September 14, 2007

Learning How to Write

Got a visit from more county people this week. They invaded my school space, talking about the wonders of Writer's Workshop. Don't get me wrong; I've heard good things about Writer's Workshop for a long time. Shoot, I think I participated in Writer's Workshop as a kid.

Let me tell you what bothers me about this visit. Our principal is the one who initiated this visit. Our state now requires the fifth grade to take the Writing Assessment, but passing it isn't necessary to go on to sixth grade. It would be one thing if we weren't involved in writing at all, but that isn't the case. We have spent tons of money working with a guy who has been to our school who has taught our kids how to write. We have worked with him and his ideas for years now, and his methods have been pretty successful. He doesn't align to Writer's Workshop very well, at all, though. But our principal is the one who initiated this writing method. I would be all for kicking him to the side of the road if he and his methods didn't work. We were completely stressed out after our county visit. They actually want us to completely dismantle what we are doing so we can do something else. Five weeks after we have already started school.

And now, I come to the irony. BrownBear came home from school that VERY afternoon and said her English teacher had asked where she had gone to elementary school. BrownBear told her and her English teacher told her that her first essay was excellent and to tell her old teachers that they had done a wonderful job with their writing program. Hello!!?? Remember where BrownBear went to elementary school? Guess where she learned how to write and which program she learned under? The very program our principal wants to ditch.

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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Who Is a Patriot?

Apparently, I have a mini United Nations in my classroom. While we were discussing 9/11 (to clear up some misconceptions), my students were talking about their memories of the day. I was surprised at how much they did remember, seeing as how they were only four at the time. However, what surprised me the most is where a lot of these kids were on that day. One in India, one in Rumania, one in Russia, one in Columbia, one in Mexico and one in England.

We talked a lot about being a patriot, today. What exactly did it mean and why was today Patriot Day? We've been studying the Constitution and the Framers were patriots, but we don't honor them, today. They started connecting the dots - a patriot is a person who loves, honors and defends his/her country. You don't have to be president to be a patriot; you can be a fireman, a policeman, a guy going to work, a kid going to school. As long as you love your country and are willing to honor it with your actions, you are a patriot. I think we came away with a lot today.

And, of course, Mrs. Teachergirl had a story to tell. The 'where were you' on September 11th story. Just like my grandmother's story when FDR died, and my mother's story when JFK died. My brother-in-law should have been in the first tower, but he was home. My sister could see the Pentagon burning from her school. The things I remember are how empty the roads were when I finally went home from school. And how long the line was when I stopped at the Red Cross to donate blood. And how my friend couldn't get home from Paris for about an additional week. And how another friend was flying a jet for Delta and was told to land at the first available airport by order of the President of the United States. And how empty the skies were. Except for the fighter planes. And my greatest act of faith that week was putting PrepGirl and BrownBear on the school bus the morning after. Because we are Americans. But we are also patriots.

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Monday, September 10, 2007

Could You Repeat That?

Our principal announced that in honor of tomorrow being Patriot Day, we should wear red, white and blue. And one of my little darlings, bless his heart, asked if Patriot Day was when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.

Got my work cut out for me, don't I?


Sunday, September 09, 2007


..hours wasted in meaningless meetings on Friday.

..pounds lost!!!!!

Who knows how many more hours the district will kill, but only about 16,000 more pounds to go.


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Another Day, Another E-Mail

Today's e-mail was from the mother who is way too busy making excuses for her child instead of seeking ways for her to become successful. "Just moved here this summer...still trying to get used to the teachers and all the procedures and all this homework."

Whoa, Nelly. All this homework? I've got ESOL (or whatever acronym we're using this week) kids who are tearing all this homework up. Eating it for breakfast and asking for more for lunch. Please don't insult me, my other students and your own child by telling me I'm too hard on your kid when, in fact, I am not hard enough. This is the same kid who went to the guidance counselor a few weeks ago, and complained that I wasn't nice and I was "laying too much work" on her back.


Since when do you go to the guidance counselor to complain about your teacher? I thought savvy kids went to Rate Your Teacher. Complaining to the guidance counselor about the best damned teacher in the building (my rating, of course) will only incur my wrath at a location to be disclosed at a later date.

Precious, let's get a few things straight. I have several kids who are brand new to this building, this county, this state. They have figured out the procedures; they can find the bathrooms, the library and the cafeteria. No one is wiping their behinds and I would bet the farm that they will not only pass the stupid state test, but they could write a better state test than we will give. One of these new babies is from a country, far, far away. She has only spoken English for three years. She can out perform me in certain areas. I would trust her to run the room for me.

Maybe this will help. Yesterday, on an Oprah rerun, Andre Agassi was talking about the school he opened in Las Vegas. At one point, Oprah asks about parent involvement and support. "Parents have to buy into this totally," Agassi said. If they didn't support this, he pretty much said his school would be a failure.

Hello? Isn't this what we've been preaching for years? My parents who buy into the idea of education and no excuses and doing your homework and respecting the authority of the teacher and all the adults in your life are the ones who aren't making excuses and have the kids who are getting it done. The parents who don't buy into it are the ones who are busy making excuses for Precious. And e-mailing me about Precious needing more time to get used to the routines.


Tuesday, September 04, 2007

What Happened to Good Old Fashioned English?

Received an e-mail from "parental unit" who happens to be the child's aunt. Boy lives with said aunt. Identifies self as worker at nearby middle school. Makes many inquiries about said child. Does so with several violations of said English grammar.

I am a priss. If your writing isn't grammatically correct, you shouldn't be publishing. (Now, as sure as I am sitting here, there is probably something wrong with this post. But bear with me.)
As I was replying to the poorly written e-mail, I decided to investigate what this aunt does at the middle school.

Wait for it.

Language arts teacher.

Don't we have standards anymore? Or have we just become so lazy that we don't care how we present ourselves? E-mail is considered to be mail. It is publishable and it is able to be subpeonaed in a court of law. Why would you send someone a piece of garbage just because it goes over wire and it isn't written on a piece of paper?

I told my students today that they couldn't leave my classroom ignorant of the rules of grammar. I told them that people would think they were stupid if they couldn't write a complete sentence, if they couldn't identify the subject noun in a sentence or if they couldn't find the verb.

And let me gripe about one more thing. Last year, our principal bought into some crazy-assed English program where you chant and read stuff to the kids (it is so damned boring, I had to force myself to do it) but they never really practice the fundamentals. The 500 page - I said 500- teacher's manual actually says that children will do anything if you make them. Tell them how important this is. Just make them do it. I believe the author of this crap realized how awful her drivel was and was just trying to keep you going (because really, you don't need to know anything to "teach" this stuff). Like one of my favorite teachers said, it is like the Harold Hill Think Method. (See The Music Man.) Think really hard and you will learn you some English. Think harder. There. See? You know English.

This year, I am seeing the fruits of that little experiment. My kids from last year can sing you the song about linking verbs, but it doesn't transfer to paper and pencil. They can't locate a linking verb in a sentence to save their lives. They can't separate simple subject from simple predicate. They have a hard time distinguishing fragment from sentence.

But they have to write. And there are rules they must know. So I continue onward.


Sunday, September 02, 2007

Friday Night's Lights (all of them)

Apparently, we weren't that much trouble. LawyerBoy and I sat in the very back of the away bleachers, under the trees, behind the eighth graders. I had to stand up on my seat to see because everyone in my section was standing up in front of me.

Those trees came in handy when it first started raining; it was the lightning that freaked us out. At halftime, the officials heard that a huge storm was coming our way. They evacuated (yes, those were their words) the stands and we headed for cover. Since it was halftime, LB, BrownBear and I decided to head home. Well, of course, the big storm never made it - and they resumed the game after lots of people left. And, we lost. A crushing defeat. We haven't lost in years.

Maybe next year.

In other news, I joined Weight Watchers. Remember the freshmen forty? That stint in college this summer pushed me over the edge. So, if I am difficult, it is because I am hungry. And I hate losing weight. But BrownBear, is, after all, eleven. I probably should at least lose her baby weight.


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