I feel like a character from a Frances Hodgson Burnett story.

A week ago I came down with what I assumed was just another cold. A nasty one, sure, and in some ways poorly timed (although my big vacation plans involved a lot of sleeping and reading and hanging out, and my actual vacation activities have now consisted of those, plus drinking a lot of tea, so not that different), but pretty standard.

Today I was diagnosed with bronchitis and croup. Yes,
croup. Commonly contracted by the under-five crowd, particularly those living in Victorian novels, and me. I now have an inhaler, and cough syrup with codeine, and some antibiotics (just in case it's bacterial bronchitis in addition to the viral croup, since I'm on day 8 without getting much better).

At least Hulu has the first three seasons of 21 Jump Street. I heart Johnny Depp.

(Image credit to

Support our schools and our students.

Bill Ferriter of The Tempered Radical has a great post up about how the public thinks they know just what to do to fix this giant sloppy mess that is education....but how they really have no idea. Bill focuses on specifically the idea that a level playing field at the school level (funding, supplies, teachers) is all that any kid needs to learn.

Boy, wouldn't that be great? Wouldn't that be freakin' AWESOME?

Because that would mean that home environments and external concerns don't affect student learning, and it would be so nice to believe that. I'd love to think that these kinds of stories don't impact what happens inside the school.

I could stop worrying so much then, stop feeling so much responsibility, just teach 'em about reading'n'writing and not have conversations about how crappy it is that their favorite cousin just got shot in the face, or that their brother got arrested last night, or that their sister is pregnant and has run away from home (all of these have happened in the last month. Not exaggerating even slightly).

Because those things wouldn't affect their learning - they could just ignore them and focus on how sometimes off is an adverb and sometimes it's a preposition and it just depends on how it's being used. And then we could all laugh about how wacky the English language is and skip lightly off to lunch, chatting and singing songs about how wonderful life is. Tra la! Tra lay!

As is. Not so much.

I left a comment on Bill's site about how it's not just the general public who judges kids in poverty and doesn't want them around their precious little darlings - teachers do it too. Sometimes it's teachers from other schools, sometimes from my own. I know a teacher who is very vocal about how she wouldn't send her son to our school because of the bad influences and how academically low our kids are. I think if she wouldn't send her son, she shouldn't come herself.

A student asked me a few days ago why the kids from other schools don't like us. This big tough eighth grade boy, someone who looks a little scary, who might make people cross the street if he was walking toward them late at night, genuinely wondered and was genuinely hurt by it. His voice cracked as he asked me.

Whenever you hear someone speaking disparagingly of students like mine, or questioning why the teachers in high-poverty schools struggle to raise scores as high as those in middle- and upper-middle class schools, please remind them a lot of factors influence education, and that we do the best we can to make things better for our kids. It's not about making excuses for them - God knows I don't want to do that. Education is their only way out, their only chance to escape the generational poverty that so many of them are born into. And so I'm hard on them, I push them, I love them. But I need a little understanding from the public that what I'm doing is worth it, that these kids are worth it, and that they can do everything that anyone else can do but it might take them a little longer and a little extra support to get there.

(Image credit to Travelin' John)

A pause to say goodbye.

We have three days left. Three days to get through, to try to keep them focused, to do some sort of learning and not just completely give up on everything.

They're losing it a little bit. Honestly, some of them, more than a little bit. It's not just the end-of-term-right-before-a-long-break-with-little-stability that we usually get at this time of year (because we do - ohhhh did my 8th period get wacky last year), it's that it's basically the end of a school year. When we come back, kids are going to be in new classes with at least some new teachers. They may or may not have classes with their friends. They may or may not have classes with the teachers they like and respect. They're beyond apprehensive about this change - some of them are flat out terrified. And so they're acting out.

I can't really blame them. I'm nervous too. But we're going to get through the next three days. We're going to finish our current unit (commentaries, which they are rocking), and we're going to have a celebration of the year. We're going to stay in class, and learn, and grow, and share, and we're going to feel better for it.

In every class over the last week or so, I've taken a class picture. I'm going to get copies made and give each student one. We'll honor what we've done and who we've been before we move on. The new might be just as good - for some students, it might be better. But we need to say goodbye to the old before we can consider welcoming the new.

(Photo credit to Peter Kaminski)

So looking forward to explaining this to admin.

Awesome: Hearing the lockdown siren go off right at the beginning of my worst-behaved class and immediately going into action mode. Herding all kids to the front of the room, closing the door, turning off the lights, getting them seated and keeping them SILENT.

Less awesome: Realizing ten minutes later that oh, wait, that's not the lockdown siren, it's the new fire alarm, and we've spent the last ten minutes barricaded in our classroom rather than evacuating.


Four more days.

I feel pretty fancy here, I tell you what.

A couple of weeks ago, Sarah Ebner of School Gate very kindly nominated me for Best New Blog in the Edublogs awards. Obviously, I'm super honored, and now all the nominations are up. I'm in good company, I'm sure - I don't actually recognize any of the other new blogs (though I read a number of the ones in other categories), so I'm looking forward to the opportunity to check them out! (You know, with all that free time teachers have. Well, winter break is coming, at least....)

If you are so inclined, I'd be pretty psyched if you'd go check out the noms and maybe even vote for me? I'm listed about two-thirds of the way down the page. Of course, if you think another nominee is better, vote for them! And then tell me who they are so I can start reading them too. :)

Sarah, thanks again for the nomination!

Timing is everything.

One of my kids is in trouble.

He said something really dumb to another teacher and he was suspended for five days pending a threat assessment - funny how schools frown on students threatening violence to their instructors.

This is a kid who is generally pretty dang good for me. He does his homework, works in class, is usually polite.....we just work well together. I'm the exception - the teacher he threatened is the rule. He's a kid about whom I've been a little concerned with The Change as I'm probably the only teacher he likes.

Because of the suspension, he hadn't heard about the change until his threat assessment today. It came back low, and it's not going to go any further at this point, but his schedule will change immediately to remove him from that class. His only concern was if he could still be in my class.

For everyone else, the answer is a resounding "depends on what the computers do." For him, now, because the school's worried about him, because I'm his sole connection, because they want to make sure he doesn't deteriorate....for him, the answer is yes. He'll be hand-scheduled into it.

He chose the right time to do this; a few weeks later and he'd be in whatever class he was put in. At that point I'm not sure if they would have moved him back had he been placed elsewhere.

(Image credit to JDS303)

Change is in the air.

We told the students about the schedule change today.

We put the best possible spin on it, talking about how going to blocks is good for learning, how they'll have fewer transitions, how they'll get the same amount of learning time in each class but just grouped differently....

They are not happy. Not happy at all.

Some actually proposed striking - making signs and having a picket line. (Which is kind of awesome, and if they do it, rock on.)

A lot of them aren't particularly excited about the change to blocks - 90 minutes sounds awfully long to them (which I get - it IS a long time). But more, they're upset about the teacher change. Odds are some of them will get their exact same teachers, some will get some of the same and some new, and some will get entirely new. And they are not pleased.

I can't put a good spin on that side, not really, not if it's something you're upset about. It sucks to think that you'll lose those relationships that you've been building. And I acknowledged that. I told them that while I'm super excited about the blocks, because I do think having that chunk of time will be great, I'm unhappy about losing so many of them - that if I could, I would keep each and every one. But I can't, and I told them how sad I am about that.

The most positive thing I could say was that they'd potentially (not definitely - possibly) have the opportunity for a fresh start if they currently have a teacher that they don't really get along with. I said I was sure that some of them were really excited about the possibility of not having me anymore, and that was okay, but even if they end up with me again, they'd at least get the chance to have a fresh start in a fresh group of kids. To their credit, not one kid did any sort of fist pump and whispered "yesssssss" to that, which I thought awfully polite. :)

Actually, several of them broke my heart just a touch - they asked if I could make sure that I still had them. And while realistically I probably can (and will) for a handful, I certainly can't for all of them. It just sucks. There's no way around that.

We have two weeks left together now. Nine more class periods before the change. We'll get through our current unit and end with a celebration of our time together. In each class over the next two weeks, I'll be taking pictures. I want them each to get a class photo of their current group. It's important to remember what we've had. Important to honor it. Important to hold it in our hearts and cherish it. Yes, we'll move forward - but our past won't leave us and we'll keep it close.

(Image credit to David Reece)

PS Hi! Sorry I've been MIA - my computer broke (suddenly it didn't think it had a hard drive....) and I just got it back. Round of applause for the Apple Genius Bar!
"I'm a dreamer but I ain't the only one Got problems but we love to have fun" -K'naan, "Dreamer"

I teach eighth grade Language Arts at an urban school. My kids kick ass and will change the world. I want everyone to know.
Copyright 2009 I'm a Dreamer All rights reserved.
Blogger Templates created by Deluxe Templates
Wordpress Theme by EZwpthemes