Monthly Archives: July, 2013

Hope Against Hope

First off, let me start with an embarrassing realization. I like to consider myself a reader. My first year of teaching, my reading amount kind of dwindled and a lot of what I read were “teacher books.” Which became overwhelming when I wanted to do everything at once! Then, I moved up a few grade levels and had a class of nonreaders. So I kicked it into overdrive and read a LOT of books for them. (Silly question- what constitutes “young adult” literature? I am finding grades 4-5 to kind of be in that weird place where they’re too old for “kid stuff” but still too young for others. Very weird (not bad way) age group!) I needed to know these books so I could match them with my students. Obviously, I will never be able to read every book out there, but I want to read as many books as I can before I put them into my class library. Meaning, I’ve been reading a lot of books aimed at people much younger than me. I still read professional “teacher books,” and the occasional beach read, but I realized something. I don’t read nonfiction outside of professional development books! And that’s pretty much the first genre I try to get my kids to read more of! 😮

Even more embarrassing, when I went to a bookstore recently, I made a beeline over to the NF section. I was a history major and LOVE history, so I thought it would be perfect. I picked up books from topics I was interested in. And they were big. LONG. And had teeny tiny print. Oh dear. There was a time that didn’t intimidate me. Then I realized I was in trouble.

Now, I do read articles and such, but that doesn’t help with the NF staminia. So, when I read an article that interested me (still about education! I NEED TO BREAK AWAY FROM THIS FOR AT LEAST A WEEK!), I noticed that it was from a book. So, I checked that book out from the library.

The book is called Hope Against Hope and it is about three different schools in New Orleans. It follows the perspective of a principal, a charter school TFA alum teacher, and a student at a KIPP school. I’m mostly reading it before I go to bed, so it’s taken me more than a day to read. (Usually, even with PD books, I can be done in three days tops. This is weird for me). However, I am having to stop to think SO much with this.

One of the things I’m thinking about is having a goal for everyone to go to college. In this, there are examples of kids who I just don’t think are ready. For example, one girl makes honor roll at her school, but only scores basic on the state test. I don’t think standardized tests are all that great, but isn’t it alarming when a kids who is making all As and Bs can’t pass a test? And then there are kids who can’t navigate college when they get there. 

I was the first in my family to go to college, and I didn’t get a lot of help from my school when I was trying to figure things out. But I was able to get everything done, including financial aid stuff. There are kids who have NO CLUE about this stuff. Then, they don’t have basic reading, writing, and math skills. 

In some of the charter schools discussed in the book, the kids have so many rules. Where to look, where to walk, how their uniforms should look. Hopefully they are learning the basic knowledge they are behind in, but are they learning how to think? How does this translate into college? Professors aren’t calling and making home visits each week. If you don’t show up to class, does anyone really care? Do the kids now how to figure out grades for each class? Do they know how to structure time on their own? College is so much different than these schools. And is it right to expect that all 100% of these kids HAVE to go to college? What about learning a trade? A lot of these schools focus only on education, not on health care or other community services. Kids will need to figure out how to take care of themselves if they go somewhere else for college.

I am truly interested in learning more about the answers to these questions, if there even are any answers. I feel like I can’t even write this post very coherently because I can’t get through typing a sentence before twelve other thoughts pop up! Hopefully it does make some sense. 

And hopefully I can continue venturing out into adult-land books! 😉

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Professional Development

Today, I was supposed to go to the first of a two-day PD workshop. I set my alarm last night, wasn’t able to fall asleep until about 3 hours before it was supposed to go off, woke up about 5 minutes before it went off, and then questioned if it was really worth it. I realized a few things: no one I knew was going to be there, I was going to get road rage driving there on a road that is somehow always incredibly congested, and I was only going because my principal said it would look good on our evaluation. I realized it wasn’t going to bump me up any on that eval, I need more gas in my car (because the location is farther than anywhere I would go today), I would need to buy lunch there, and I didn’t actually want to be there.

I hate that I can’t depend on good PD. I went to four workshops earlier this summer, and I really only got something out of one of them. I also went to a workshop a few years ago on a similar topic and left completely stressed. We were told we NEED to be our students’ teacher, parent, counselor, nutritionist, and on and on and on. We NEEDED to do whatever it was that was needed of us. This followed a school year where nothing I did was enough. I could get a kid to do 99 multiplication facts in 10 seconds, and they’d be mad it wasn’t 100 (exaggeration, yes).

Instead, I stayed at home for most of the day. I did venture out to buy some crates for my classroom, I started an online PD session on the same topic I was supposed to go to day, and I just finished watching a free online webinar on something my kids struggle with and got a few great games for some of my kids to practice some of the skills they need to improve on. I also cooked lunch AND dinner for myself today. 

Very happy I decided to stay home. Now, if only I could find a free way to get all of the materials I need for my classroom! (Or, take a day where I don’t think about my classroom once.) 🙂

Just Waiting…

Today was a lot of waiting. I had to wait for the cable guy to come and fix my cable (again). I had to wait at the DMV. (And thanks to a missing check mark, I will get to go wait again). Now I’m waiting on phone calls that I will hopefully get. I have started applying for part time jobs. Like a lot of other teachers, my pay has been frozen. I am still making the same amount as a first year teacher. Sadly, my bills are not the same as first year teacher me’s was. If only teacher salaries have risen at the same rate as our bills! 

If I have to find a silver lining, I will finally have the kick I need to start applying for new jobs next year. I had some restrictions this past year, and the schools that fit that did not look good at all. However, at the end of this upcoming school year, those will be gone and I can apply wherever I want. Sadly, if I want to make more (it’s more I need to make more), I will have to leave this state. Hopefully that will just lead to a good new adventure!

(By the way, I knew I wouldn’t be rich being a teacher, but I do expect to be able to support myself. I think it’s pretty wrong that I can’t. And I wish some teachers would stop making excuses for the not good pay. If I wanted to work with kids for free, I’d volunteer. Which I do, in addition to teaching! If we don’t think we deserve more, why should anyone else?)

Before I Die, I Want To…

Today, I will do the quick write from yesterday’s (whoops) Teachers Write. So, here is the first part where I just write down what comes to mind.

Before I die, I want to:

  • see the pyramids in Egypt
  • Go to Spain (should be going during Spring Break, so yay!)
  • travel to many many MANY more places, both within the US and out
  • be a little more spur-of-the-moment
  • buy a house I love (or make it into a house I love)
  • find someone I want to marry, and get married
  • have kids
  • take a LOT more classes. I especially want to do more writing, reading, history, and anthropology classes.
  • take a photography class (or more)
  • take pictures that I want to hang up and show off!
  • find the grade/age level and subject I absolutely love and teach that
  • become more involved in my community
  • find more hobbies
  • get back into running, and run more races
  • get to a place where I feel financially comfortable
  • stop buying things I can afford, and buy things that I want (but I will still be able to afford them!)
  • be able to say that I am HAPPY, and not just content

This is definitely a quick write that I hope that I revisit. I think that it is easy to just spill out a bunch of things that sound fun, but will I really be able to do this stuff? For example, right now I’m looking at six more years of student loans and a car loan. My paycheck hasn’t changed in these past four years, but ALL of my bills have grown. So, while it sounds great to travel, it’s not really realistic right now (I’m going on a school trip to Spain, so it’s free for me. Definitely won’t be my turn to go again for a LONG while!). I don’t want this list to be filled with a bunch of things I will not be able to do. So, hopefully later I will be able to come back and maybe pick a few realistic things at a time? Or maybe things will happen in my life and my list will change drastically. Hopefully I can keep this a fun thing and not a stressful, look at what I can’t do thing. 🙂