Monday, February 27, 2006


Someone encouraged me to start writing again. I appreciated that, so I'm going to do my best here.

I've been exhausted lately because I started my student teaching assignment. I have 2 classes of eighth graders, but each class only has social studies three days a week. So I have one class on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays, and the other class Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays. It's difficult to teach this way because the scheduling gets all messed up in my head. And I have to try to cram a lot of content into a short amount of time, since they have to take the 8th grade s.s. test in June. And they were supposed to start the year on the civil war and right now be on like the Progressive Era, but my teacher re-taught a lot of 7th grade material, so I am doing the Civil War currently!! I am trying to map out how I am going to get through the rest of the Civil War, industrialization, the Progressive Era, World War I, the Depression, World War II, and the postwar era in the approximately 30 some days they have left in social studies. Easy, right?

It's weird that there's only 3 days of social studies a week. Also we have this weird period after lunch called "Literature group." It's basically group reading, which is good, but they only have 5 periods in the day (plus an hour lunch), so I really think they should tack that on as a 6th period. School only goes from 8:40 to 2:50, which is not enough time I think. It's an ok school, but there are a lot of messed up things like that. For example, every Friday 2 of my girls miss class because they have dance. And that's somehow ok?

I like the kids though. There was one precious moment last week that I loved. I wasn't there, but one of the other teachers recounted this story to me. The kids had this ridiculous speaker for Black History Month. He was a poet, and read some of his poetry about black leaders, which was great. But then he put down his poems and just started ranting to the kids about his far-left political views, like how the first George Bush caused 9/11 and how everything is a conspiracy, blah blah. The kids really challenged him on these views, especially when he criticized black rappers for being too materialistic and mysogynist and then bragged that he hung out with Snoop Dogg. I was proud of them when I heard that.

Anyway, the funny part came when he asked them who the first "gangster" in American history was. He was looking for the answer "Christopher Columbus." But the kids didn't understand what he was getting at in his question. One kid raised his hand and was like, "Um, Biggie Smalls?" Brilliant.

I'm getting more used to behavioral management, although I'm still not very good at it. The hardest thing is the transitions between activities. Also, some activities lend themselves better to quiet than others. My class is sometimes chaotic, although other times I am proud of how it's going. Also, much of the information we're covering seems to be getting across, so I'm happy about that. So much of how the class behaves depends on the lesson plan and how smoothly it operates. Unfortunately I have to do so much on the fly because it takes me so long to plan a lesson that I can hardly catch up with myself.

But for all my complaining, my situation is 10000 times better than last semester, and I am grateful for that. My cooperating teacher is very supportive and helpful, and has given me a lot of free rein to be creative and do what I want. The kids have chafed under some of the changes I've made, but I think they'll get used to them and stop whining eventually.

On Saturday I took 2 of the NYState Teacher Certification Exams. One was a "Liberal Arts and Sciences Test." I think they should redesign this test to have 2 questions:

1. Are you an idiot? ______
2. On a scale of 1 to 10, how sure are you that you are not an idiot? ______

I think that test would be pretty much equivalent to the one I took. The other test was a history content one, and that was more difficult. However, it was poorly designed in that, for many of the multiple choice questions, you could make a good argument for more than one answer. In my mind, I would think, do you want the traditional standard textbook answer or the more PC, revisionist answer? Because they're both there. It was frustrating. Still, I'm sure I did fine. Not that I'm done with testing. There's one more, the ATSW. I think it's on teaching skills or something. No idea. Don't care. I'll show up and take it and I'm sure it will be fine.

So that's my story, and I'm sticking to it. And I'm constantly wishing that I had a portable cot. Like right now I am wishing that.


At February 28, 2006 7:16 AM, Blogger Suzi said...

Glad to have you back.

Student teaching is crazy. And teaching a dual schedule can be very frustrating.

But it's been done before and you can do it. Hopefully you'll figure out a fun way to do 100 years of history in 30 days. (I can't imagine what that would be, but...)

You might could do what one of the lit teachers here does. He has a World Lit class and the first day he explains all the different kinds of things he'd have to cover if he were really going to cover 1000 years of World Lit in a semester. Then, once he's overwhelmed the class with all the things that should be in the syllabus, he throws most of them out and says, "Here's what we are going to cover."

Don't know if that would work for you since you have a test you've got to be teaching to. Can you look at old ones and find out which time periods they tend to skip? Then you could skip those. (Ouch. I know that's not the way to give them a good handle on history.)

At February 28, 2006 11:53 AM, Anonymous Mike G. said...

Yay, she's back!

And, despite lack of practice, she's still funny.

At February 28, 2006 6:56 PM, Blogger newoldschoolteacher said...

mike g, know this: I am ALWAYS funny.

At March 01, 2006 3:24 PM, Anonymous Abi said...

Transition help: tell kids what they're going to do next and let them know what it means for one project to be finished. When I taught, I started the day with our Agenda. I reviewed the Agenda again after lunch. The Agenda was a major part of my class. Ok, I must admit that it was fun to hear 8-year-olds say 'Oh, Paired Reading is next on our Agenda.'

The Agenda makes you set realistic goals for what you can achieve in your classroom that day and keeps a necessary formality/routine in the transition process.

While I taught 3rd grade and you are teaching older students, the Agenda is adaptable. Even if you're only going from a discussion to a project or writing excercise, it really helps kids to see the next item/excercise/activity written on a board. Having The Agenda up there also gives you the chance to go ver why it is important to learn seemingly boring/useless things. Plus, if a project or lesson part is running over time, you can just say 'Let's stick to The Agenda' instead of looking flustered.

Hang in there, it looks like you care enough and work hard enough to be a great teacher.

At March 10, 2006 4:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The NY tests are a joke. Especially the History and LAST; ASTW and English are only slightly less so. Have been taking them the past year as I get my reciprocal certification from another state worked out. All are simpler than hell, but I have many of my students from the EDU classes at the college fail them. Yet they think they're competent, and that they're bright. And they'll teach when they pass.
No wonder my kids go to private school....

At March 31, 2006 12:31 PM, Blogger HaloJonesFan said...

THANK YOU for using "free rein" correctly! It pisses me off so badly when people say "free reign".


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