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Why Teachers Kick Ass January 12, 2012

Posted by alwaysjan in Teaching, Uncategorized.
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9 comments

Thanks to Michelle, my former student teacher who is now gainfully employed, for sharing this. Today was a very long day and even though I’ve heard versions of this, with the graphics and the voiceover, it was just what I needed after another day of “making a difference.”

“How was it coming back after break,” some idiot asked. Well, actually, it was like getting slapped in the face with a cold fish. It didn’t help that no sooner had school started than Student #32 was dropped off on my doorstep. He’s from Korea and doesn’t know a word of English. I didn’t have a desk for him and ended up rearranging the entire classroom to handle what is beginning to resemble a small city of rather small people.

Here’s the difference I’ve made in the three days I’ve been back.
1)  Said student from Korea can now say, “Teacher!” I’ve had to discourage him from getting other students’ attention by pinching them. (Though it DOES do the trick.) He’s obviously bright, so I pull out my iPhone and use my translation app for words like “crazy.” I’ve taught my students what the expression “lightning in a bottle” means, as I believe this best describes the new kid. He’s got a ready smile and the gung ho enthusiasm of a puppy.

2) Nature Club, my resident group of tree huggers, was elated today to hear they would not lose their beloved clubhouse. Their “clubhouse” is actually a narrow passage behind the chain link backstop on the baseball diamond. (I hesitate even calling it this, as it implies there’s some sort of diamond – there’s not.) I’m not exactly sure what it is that Nature Club does. I do know it involves carrying a basket of seed pods and twigs out to the playground to decorate the “clubhouse.” They had been told by a yard supervisor that they would have to move and were outraged. They asked me about getting a lawyer. I convinced them that a persuasive letter was more in their price range. They got to writing. I was so glad to hear today that they got their “clubhouse” back, as I was envisioning a peaceful protest involving them dressed as leaves. I’m counting that as one more crisis averted. Did I mention that they keep logs in my classroom?

I could go on and on, but you get the picture. For friends who’ve asked, I’m once again posting my a favorite video Ideal Class Size from my post The Rising Body Count. Notice how things start to go downhill after 23. Oh yeah…

The Rising Body Count November 14, 2010

Posted by alwaysjan in Teaching.
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8 comments

Okay, if I had more time, I'd make this pile o' babies look more multicultural like my own students.

I’m afraid blogging has taken a back seat to crowd control. Yes, I started the year with eight additional students. Those eight extra students might as well be 20. Forget Octo-mom. I’m Octo-teacher!

I’m not alone in feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number of students. When two third grade classes got off the bus to go swimming, the kids just kept a comin’.  It was like the clown car at the circus.

Reluctantly, I’ve switched to two lines. Some teachers do separate lines for boys and girls, but we know which line will always be ready to roll. I’ve tried to equal the odds – literally. Since all students have a class number based on their first name, the odds and evens have their own lines.

The first few weeks, I thought the odds were I was going to go insane just trying to maneuver my class from Point A to Point B. I’ve taken to walking backwards, my hands holding up one finger for the odds and two for the evens. It feels like I’m guiding a jumbo jet to the gate. I have to stand in the middle to keep the lines separate, as the children seem to be magnetically attracted to each other. Once they’ve passed and are standing in two orderly lines, I “take a walk down the aisle.”  “Don’t spoil my wedding!” I say to the kids oozing into my space. My students have taken to humming the wedding march as I move between the lines. You gotta love third graders.

The extra kids mean two more tables of students sitting where I used to store supplies. The supplies now sit in bins in front of my desk. I covered them with pillows and allow those lucky few to “sit in the balcony,” as my entire class can no longer fit on the rug when I do the Word Knowledge lesson.

I began teaching in 1997, the year after class-size reduction went into effect in California. Though a little long in the tooth, I’ve never taught a class of 35 squirrelly first graders doing the potty dance. The teachers in 4th and 5th grade have dealt with larger numbers for years. In theory, the older kids are able to sit still longer. Hey, I said “in theory!” At least they’re no longer wetting their pants (in theory).

But I’ll tell you this. As hard as I try, there’s just no way I can give each one of those students the individual attention they need and deserve. More papers to copy, more papers to correct, more report cards to write, more parents to conference with. This is a case where more is less. Some of the best teachers I know are straining under the weight of additional students. It’s like being a waitress during rush hour when someone has called in sick. There’s no silver lining. And there’s no tips.

Today’s students are not the same students I went to school with in the suburban Midwest. These are kids who too often have received the short end of the stick before they ever set foot in school. We’ve got children in kindergarten who have IEPs (Individual Education Plans) due to severe emotional disturbance and a host of other disorders, some diagnosed, others not. Fractured families and families with both parents working just to make ends meet. I just conferenced with many of my parents and was amazed at how many are under incredible stress, but still confident that I will somehow work miracles with their child. Do they know something I don’t know? Oh yeah, I’m Octo-Teacher.

I came across a hilarious video from The Saturday Night Armistice out of the U.K. Enjoy.

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