Tuesday, October 30, 2007

You tell yourself
That the things you need come slow
But inside you just don't know
Rob Thomas

October is hard. I don't know if it's the weather or the fact that the newness of school has worn off and the tests still seem so far away (and honestly, that's why our kids come to school), but the end of October and the beginning of November are hard. For me. For the kids.
I'm exhausted - mentally, physically, and spiritually.
The kids are restless and so am I.
Keep your fingers crossed and that we get some renewed energy - we need it.

Monday, October 29, 2007

They want me to take Joshua back. (They never sent him a few weeks ago because he's too low academically...so I only got Elvis back).
His new teacher hates him, tells him he's ruining the class, tells me he's retarded and will never make any progress.
He comes to me everyday at lunch and we read, do math, or simply talk about life. Lately he's been cutting out coloring pages because I took away his scissors (he was cutting up his worksheets into confetti and screaming "Happy New Year!" in the middle of class). I made a deal with him that he could use his scissors during lunch if he was having a good day - problem solved.
I love this child.
His new teacher does not, nor does she want to put any effort in to teaching him, but I do not teach his grade, I'm already teaching 2 curriculums, and diffentiating down to his level would require TONS of effort. It would basically require making a 3rd lesson plan for each subject everyday.
And he's not supposed to be on my roster. He's supposed to be on hers. And somebody needs to make her do her job.
But he's my kid. Even though he's on her roster, he's my kid.
We had a meeting about him today. Me, my principal, and my lit coach, who sees him come in my room for the entire lunch hour everyday.
"I know you're TFA, and I'm not asking you to answer this, please don't answer this, but I know lots of TFA people leave after 2 years to pursue other things, and this is your second year. Please, if this is your last year with us, please let Joshua spend it with you. He needs to spend it with you."
I cried. I tried to hold back the tears, but I cried.
I cried because I'm exhausted. I cried because I want him but it's not the best thing for the rest of my kids...or really, for him either. I cried because the system is failing him....and me....and all of us, and because his new teacher gets paid over $70,000 and is getting away with not doing her job while I am scrambling to keep my head above water because I love these kids.
I do not know if I'm coming back next year.
I do not know if I should take Joshua back.
I know my heart wants him back.
And I know that, most of the time, I teach with my heart. But my heart is pulled in a million different directions and it can only take so much before it breaks.

Monday, October 15, 2007

If I Ran The Zoo...

Oh wait, I do.
When Dr. Seuss wrote If I Ran the Zoo, I bet he didn't know that my little classroom in the Bronx would one day be home to 100 crickets, 8 anoles, 30 earthworms, 1 grasshopper, a beta fish, 9 children, a wonderful long term substitute para (mine is gone on sick leave until who knows when), and me, the teacher now known around the building as zookeeper.
My kids are SO invested in their new science curriculum that they check on their mini ecosystems (containing crickets, anoles, and earthworms) multiple times daily. Our grasshopper, brought in by a student who thought it was a cricket, is still alive and well nearly a month after it was brought in. We've discovered that it likes not only grass, but grapes and apples, too.
Upon hearing about our pet grasshopper, a parent of one of my students went out and bought us a proper class pet - a bright red beta fish, who completed our little zoo. I'd have never thought that caring for animals would be such a uniting experience for 12 and 13 year old kids who, on the outside, act so tough....
There's only so much the street can take away and to see my kids huddled over a grasshopper they've named and nurtured over a month makes me realize, even if only for a little while, that they are, like their peers across the country....just kids who deserve a chance to make something of themselves.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Return of the 3rd Graders

Only this time, they're 4th graders.
Yep. They're promoting them, in the middle of October. The 3rd graders (who used to be mine) have been causing chaos in the whole school, not doing their work, not wearing uniform, and pretty much running the other building are getting rewarded a)by coming back to my class and b)by being promoted to the 4th grade.
Oh - and they've managed to waste almost a month of instructional time in the process.
But it's not their fault.
It's my administration's fault, who knows NOTHING about special ed.
Someone came in today and told them they were too old to be in that class, so our special ed AP has decided she'll just promote them. That will fix the problem of them being too old for the class with the teacher who can't control them anyway, and the problem of me having 3 grades in one room.
"They can't multiply, or read on the level of my class," I reminded her. "I've gotten new students since then."
"Yes, but now they're 4th graders," she said.
"Yeah, but they're still at a 2nd grade level," I replied.
"It's the only thing we can do," she said. "Some kids just can't do the work, and we can't hold them there forever. That's why they're in special ed."
"No, they're in special ed so they get extra help and master the basic skills they need to function in society. Until they do, we keep them here. They made a lot of progress last year, but we can't push them through to a grade they're not ready for." I said. I could feel the tension in my neck.
"It's the only thing we can do," she said. "You'll make it work!"
No, she doesn't.
I really want to not go to work tomorrow, but unfortunately, that would only punish the 9 people who deserve it the least - my babies.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Bright Spots

Today we had an amazing discussion about voting and government and political office. It was born out of our social studies test prep and studying a line graph of voting trends. The conversation was slighty off topic, but bordering on brilliant, considering some of my students can't even tell you the name of their country.
We talked about why more people vote during Presidential election years, voter fraud, campaign funding, voter registration, taxes, why it's important to vote....the kids wouldn't stop asking questions, and before I knew it I was merely a member of the discussion, not the be all and end all answer giver. At one point I even sat down on a chair and listened to them discuss, Malik serving as moderator. This is how I love to teach. By lighting a fire beneath the kids and watching what becomes of it.
"We're off topic," reminded Chris.
"I know," I said. "It's okay, I'm so impressed with you guys right now. I wish I had this on tape."
"You do?" asked Malik.
"Yep. I'd put you on one of those political news shows." I replied.
They laughed, and kept on talking. I sat back, crossed my arms, and listened as my kids had a discussion that I thought was so far beyond them.
Prepare to be amazed....I thought. They have some amazing things up their sleeve :)

Thursday, October 04, 2007


And the magic continues, even during test prep.
Welcome to 5th grade, where thanks to the Social Studies test, which is given in the middle of November, we start test prep during the second week of school. We're in full swing now, and our lowest kids get 4 and a half hours of test prep a day. (2 and a half hours during the school day, and 2 hours after school.) It can be hard to focus, for all of us, but my kids are doing amazing!! We took a pre-test on Monday and my kids scored the highest out of all the other grades. Yeah. Go my kids.
"I'm gonna tell my kids they need to go to special ed," said one of the gen. ed. teachers.
"Please don't do that," I said. "That's all we need to be doing is feeding stereotypes," I said.
She gave me the most evil look imaginable.
I gave her a smile in return. It probably looked sarcastic. I'm not a very good liar.
Whatever. My kids, for once in their lives, are focused and driven, and their scores are already showing it. For those of you that have been with me from the beginning, I think you know how incredible it must feel for them and for me. Finally it comes together.
Lessons flow, and we have so many 'light bulb' moments, where kids 'just get it'.
We haven't had a fight in my classroom yet this year and it's the 5th week of school.
If I'm dreaming, I hope no one pinches me until July :)

Monday, October 01, 2007

Victory is Sweet

And sounds like the jingle from McDonalds.
So we won.
After weeks of trying but not succeeding, my babies did it. They behaaved consistently enough to win the weekly behavior contest by 4 points!! (91-95) They were pumped! I told them when they won we'd add a new cheer to our cheer wall (they get to do a cheer for someone when they share work that they've done, and they recently made up a 'McDonalds cheer, which is basically just the ba da ba ba ba, I'm lovin' it' song.) They've been DYING to make it a cheer and today when I told them they won they burst out, all at once, in to the McDonald's song. My AP, who just happened to be walking by, looked in to my room, and all I could do was laugh.
"It's a cheer," I said.
"Ok..." she replied.
"Hey! We won!!" shouted Malik, my AP's least favorite student.
"I heard," she replied.
And all we could do....me and my now 8 babies....was smile :)