Wednesday, April 13, 2011

And THIS is why I teach!

Today was a very very good day. I started my poetry unit today and had the students listen to and read "The Road Not Taken" to give them an idea of how different poetry sounds when it is spoken aloud. When I asked my kids about the poem I got two just jaw-dropping interpretations. The first one was from an honors student who compared the poem to a Biblical story about the road to Hell and the road to Heaven. I've read that poem so many times I've lost count and I've NEVER made that connection. Then one of my regular kids comes up right after class and tells me that while she was listening to the poem she heard the first line and realized that her desk was both yellow and wood and then made the connection that students have two choices. They can choose to do the work, or they can choose not to do the work. Again, total jaw dropper! I love teaching poetry for just this reason, the kids come up the coolest most original ways of looking at poetry.

In addition to that, my 6th period class showed me just how much the respect me. Near the end of class there was a fight in the hallway, I saw the crowd and because of the yelling and the size I thought it was a full fledged brawl and not just a couple of kids. As I shot out of the door I told the kids to 'stay in the room'. Now most of the kids on the floor ran out to see the fight, which was just a couple of girls fighting. Most of the kids... but not mine. They stayed in my room and were back in their seats when I returned.

I simply looked and them and thanked them for doing as I asked.

And THAT is why I teach.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

You were not selected...

With those four words I now find myself without a school to call home. Oh, I'll be where I'm at until June, but I no longer consider myself a part of that family, and before you start writing about how I'm going to short change my students, relax. I plan on staying loyal to them and to teach the hell out of my poetry unit and to prepare them for the spring final. My loyalty is to them and them only. And no, I am not going to burn any bridges with the administration of the school either. If they need a sub during my prep, I'll cover for that teacher and that sort of thing.

Will I be taking many souvenirs from my school? Why the hell do I want all those reminders of my failure to measure up? How would you feel if you knew you were in the bottom 50% of the teaching staff at your school? The only things that will come with me will be a coffee mug, my BSU shirt and my rejection letter. The mug I'll take because I can put pens in it. The shirt because it was a gift from the club adviser and has no school name or logo on it, and the letter (which I'll have laminated) to remind me never to feel secure in my position again.

I'll be honest, I thought that I would be a 'One School Guy'. I'm not, nor was I ever a nomad. I don't get those teachers who constantly move from school to school. I figured that since I had gotten off probation my first year, and had received good reviews both years, I was pretty safe. After all, how many teachers actually want to teach at a Title I school? And of those, how many want to teach 9th graders, especially at a school that has had such low test scores for such a long time? The answer is not many, so you can understand that I got a bit complacent and lazy.

When the turn around was announced I had my application in as soon as I had answered all the questions and I felt comfortable in the interview, but I also had this feeling of dread that I would not be selected. That feeling was confirmed Friday afternoon when I got the letter via e-mail. That part I don't mind, at least I knew right away to start looking for another (very scarce) teaching job. In addition, I have my resume updated and Monday I'll ask a couple of people for letters of reference.

Finally, I have a rule about shirts etc., when I leave a position. If I leave on good terms, then I don't mind keeping a shirt or hat assuming that it's OK with my former employer. I still have a Xerox shirt and jacket from my 4 years working for them. I also have my shirt from a middle school where I subbed from late February through the end of the school year. But when I get fired like I did here, everything goes back to my employer, or gets donated to Goodwill. Is it immature? Probably, but that's how I roll.

Thursday, April 07, 2011

Job Joys... Not

So today I had my interview with the principal to see if I am among the 50% of the staff who will stay at my school next year. A turn around school is one where the test scores have been low for so long that drastic changes needed to be made. So if the principal has been there more than three full years they are out and the new principal has to interview everyone who wants to stay (teachers, administrators and support staff) and then they can keep no more than 50% of the current staff. Our principal had not made three full years so she can stay but you could not pay me enough money to be in her shoes right now. There were three high schools that fell into that category in the valley.

I think I did pretty well but I'm not sure it matters at all. Our district is going to be $400 million short for next year and even if the deficit is much smaller than what is projected then lots of teachers are going to lose their jobs. That has already happened to one of my friends who got surplussed at her school because they lost some teaching positions. And to make it even worse for her, she is expecting another child.

Now our district happens to have one of those really cool contracts where it's LIFO. That means 'last in, first out', AKA it's all by seniority. So I busted my a$$ to get off probationary status last year and I did well on my observations and review this year and it doesn't mean spit. This is one of the reasons why public education sucks in my state. Once you get seniority all you have to do is to get decent reviews and then bump teachers who have less seniority than you when times get tough. So there are two dates I have to worry about. The first is next week when I find out if I'll be 'staying' at my school and the second in is May when I find out if I got bumped.

This really sucks...

Update #1: I will be looking for a new position next year. I was informed that I would not be coming back to my HS next fall. Now what the hell do I do?

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Muslims, Christians and Jesus

This was a very interesting book to read. Written by Carl Medearis, it talks about how to talk to Muslims about Jesus without turning them off to the good news. It explains the 5 Pillars of Islam and points out a multitude (I lost track at 80) of verses that mention Jesus in a positive light along with a correlating Biblical Verse.

The book also talks about the things that Christians do that turn Muslims off to Jesus. One of the most interesting things about the book is how focused the book is on Jesus and not the Christian faith and it's not hard to see why. It's not Jesus that turns people off it's the way we follow (or don't follow) him that turns them off.

Reading that book gave me insights into the Muslim faith that I didn't have before and answered some questions that I did have. It was far more instructional than watching blowhards on the news argue about whose religion is better.

For Jesus it was never about religion, why do we keep forgetting that?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Why is this OK?

So today at lunch I found out one of my male students called a female teacher 'sexy chocolate' during our mentorship class. Needless to say I didn't take that news real well and seriously chewed his ass out when I saw him before class. I told him that if I caught or heard him doing something like that again I would call his grand parents, write him up for sexually harassing a teacher and personally walk him to the dean's office. I also made him go back to that teacher and personally apologize to her for that comment. WTF?

Why is this OK? It's not the first time I've heard female teachers get hit on at school. Last year one kid told his teacher that they needed to get together because he could 'teach her things'. Are their home lives so bad that this is an acceptable behavior? Do the parents have so little control that they let their sons do this at home? My parents would have ended my life if I had done this in high school and not figuratively either.

Tomorrow I am going to address this issue tomorrow with all my classes to let them know that they need to add this to the list of 'things you just don't do'. What's sad is that I even have to do it at all.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

HS Students Hungry For History?

Normally people would see that and say... "uh, not a chance!" and I don't really blame them. I learned far more about history and military history from reading books on my own than I did in any history class I took. However, I'm confident that the reason that most HS kids don't like history is that most of the books... well suck.

I say this for two reasons based on my own observations. The first reason is that when I do a mini lesson on big historical events like 9/11/01 or Pearl Harbor the kids always eat it up. Both days I got great written responses and comments from the kids about how they learned something that day. The second reason is that I have this tendency to put historic WWII aircraft on my desktop and when I project them on the screen 'by accident' I always get questions about the plane and it's historic importance.

The first one I did was a P-38 Lightning, my personal favorite. The P-38 Lightning was made famous when it shot down Admiral Yamamoto and America's top ace Richard Bong (40 Kills) flew a P-38. It was fast and had it's 4 .50 caliber machine guns and 1 20mm cannon in the nose for a very concentrated blast of firepower. Can you say 'swiss cheese'? I knew you could. It's extremely long range made it perfect for the Pacific Theater in WWII.
After having that image on my desktop for a while I then found a picture of a P-47 Thunderbolt with the bubble canopy that is currently gracing my desktop. I always forget just how flipping big that airplane is, and I don't know about you but I'd rather not get in the way of it's eight .50 caliber machine guns! The 'Jug' as it was called was also great at attacking ground targets as well as taking on enemy fighters. Another interesting thing about both of them is that they used superchargers to maximize their performance.

If only the history teachers could actually add things like this into their curriculum and not worry about offending anyone. War is part of history and when students get to see images like this it piques their curiosity and then you have them. I'm not sure what will grace my desktop yet, I'm thinking about either a B-25 Mitchell or maybe the B-17 Flying Fortress. All I know is that I'm glad to give them a bit of history in addition to literature.

I also linked the photos to the original sites so you can see the bigger images and to give them their due. Taking a ride on a war bird like those is totally on my bucket list!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

WTF? The March Edition

Maybe I should make this a monthly thing since there is a plethora of subjects worthy of a genuine 'WTF?'. This month's edition is thanks to my students who thought it would be a good idea to flash gang signs in my class when there was a guest teacher covering for me while I was proctoring the proficiency tests. One of the kids wrote 'F*** Crabs' in one of my textbooks. 'Crab' is an insulting term used for the Crips. I found this out when one of my students from that class came by after school and pointed the tagging on the book out to me. I asked her point blank about the gang signs and she said that they were indeed flashing signs in class. WTF? Did they think that everyone else in the class was just going to STFU and not say anything? So I had to email the deans with all the important information to see what the next step is. If what I heard is true then both those kids will at minimum get suspended and possibly expelled from school. We have a serious gang problem at my school and any gang activity is a one way ticket to behavioral school.

The other piece of news is that my school is going to be facing a major staff change next fall. Fortunately our principal won't have to leave but it will suck to lose half the staff. I've already started filling out the application to return next year. I love that school and don't want to leave. I do know that some of my fellow teachers will not be back next year. I just hope they make the right choice. It should be interesting to see what happens.