My Life After WU

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Dec 10 2007

Four more days to go!

I am less than a week away from my first winter break. We get three full weeks off, and I’ll be spending almost all of it in the midwest. I fly directly into St. Louis in less than a week; i’ll be there for a few days visiting friends before I drive to Kansas City to spend Christmas with my brother. I fly from St. Louis to Chicago for a week with college friends there, and I seriously can not wait.

Teaching wasn’t too bad this past week. My seniors are absolutely hysterical. I think I love them. Arevalo gave up on himself entirely last week. Friday during my conference I called Wyotech, a vocational school in Long Beach, to ask about requirements for admission and the process for receiving financial aid so that he could get the ball rolling on an after-highschool life plan (he’s not going to get his diploma…we’ve all accepted that now). When I gave him all the information, he seemed shocked. Today he was pretty awesome. Showed up late and still didn’t really do anything, but didn’t cause any problems and seemed rather jolly about the whole situation. Unfortunately, Arevalo AND 7 of my other students are suspended tomorrow. My school has a process of consequences: 3 tardies and you get Thursday detention (after school); no-show for Thursday detention means Saturday detention; no-show for Saturday detention means one-day suspension. Thus, 8 of my seniors are suspended. That’s almost half of my class. Do I still teach?

Many of my Algebra kids are still confused about how to combine like terms. It’s to a point that I can’t figure out why/how they are doing what they are doing in order to fix it. I spend most of today making them practice while I talked with students individually about their quizzes. The low was a 1/10; the high was 8/10. Most students got somewhere between 3 and 5 points. So not cool. They also thought for some reason (I have NO IDEA why) that they didn’t have to do anything this week. Just because it is the week prior to a 3 week vacation does NOT mean that they can do nothing for 5 straight days. I don’t have that kind of time to waste with them. The CST exam (California Standards Test) is 100 days from tomorrow. I want to do some sort of celebration, but I haven’t come up with an idea yet. I can not stress the importance of them doing well on this exam. I NEED all of these kids to score Proficient; I NEED at least some of them to be in the Advanced band. I started doing practice questions with them every day. The last 15 minutes of the class period they get into teams. They get 5 multiple choice questions that I photocopied off of the released test questions. They have to solve all the problems (showing work) and bring me the answers. If they get any of them wrong, I just say “Wrong.” They have to go back and figure out the correct answers. I time them, and there’s a huge poster on my wall now. It actually seems to be a pretty effective practice. I also told them that 4 of the 20 questions they receive during the week will be on their quiz on Fridays. Hopefully this will be effective enough to get them up in the Advanced band. We’ll see.

My 3rd period class is STRUGGLING. or maybe I’m struggling. I have to tell myself everyday not to give up on them. They are working 7th grade standards right now, and I just can’t quite make it seem relevant to them. There are still too many kids in that class that I haven’t quite reached. I did, however, get one of them to stay after school today for detention. He had to write standards: “I have no reason whatsoever to get out of my seat in Ms. Shirley’s class. I need to learn. I need to graduate. I need to be successful.” He covered the entire front and back of a page of notebook paper with this; it took just under 15 minutes. I’m just having problems getting them to pay attention and practice. I see that I’m not being very effective with them, I just can’t figure out how to make it better. Hopefully the spring will go better.

The Dave story: Dave was ridiculously off-task last week. I couldn’t hardly keep him in my classroom for more than 5 minutes. He would talk out so much that I’d have to ask him to leave, or he just wouldn’t show up in the first place. He was truant many days. Friday we had a little chat about how that wasn’t going to work out for him; we made a deal that Friday would be the last day for it. I allowed him to roam the halls and do nothing effective whatsoever on the grounds that it would be the last day for his off-task behavior. We shook on it. Today (monday) he came into class before the bell rang and sat down for his work. He started talking maybe 30 seconds later, still before the tardy bell ran, but I wasn’t ok with it. I simply said: “Dave, remember we made a deal last week.” He responded with “ok miss” and a head nod, then was angelic for the rest of the day. I was so impressed with the way he kept to his word like that and brought his behavior around. If he can be good for the rest of the week, I’ll be sure to call his mom and his probation officer (and anyone else he wants me to call). I KNOW he wants to be good and do well in school. I know he wants more for his life; I’m just still not entirely succesfful at bringing him around. Hopefully by the end of the year he will be a changed student.
Quote of the Day: “Miss, I need to tinkle my weiner.” – Trevon, 14 years old, freshman in high school.

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