Saturday, December 20, 2008

You Might Think That Being a Blogger in a Niche Industry with a Readership of 50 Pays the Bills.....

....but, sadly, it does not, even for an eerily prescient man-of-the-future like myself. Some thoughts, then, from the job that pays my bills: teaching first grade!

  • I had a biiiiiiiiig blowup earlier this year with the LASER science coordinators from my ESD. I'm getting trained in one of the kits for first graders, on solids and liquids, which requires three days out of the classroom. Given that I had a student teacher at the time, not a big deal.

    The big deal comes, though, when the The presenter skipped around from unit to unit with little cohesion; instead of getting the "big picture" of what the kit was, we instead got little snapshots of the things that she found cool. It was the exact sort of training that I despise, when someone who hasn't seen the classroom in years is doing a poor, poor job of trying to tell me what to do in the classroom, so before my sarcastic, antagonistic side could take hold and say something regrettable, I left.

    The next day my principal gets a phone call. Early on in my career that would have scared me; now, not so much. At the end of the saga the two main science ladies from the ESD ended up coming out and meeting with teachers from my district to talk about why LASER isn't working, and my most fervent hope given our ongoing budget crisis is that I can pull us out of the whole damn co-op entirely.

    If your district is considering LASER, run the other way. Madness lies down that path.

  • I've got this kid in my class, L. Energetic, 7 year old boy. The problem is that I've yet to find his soul.

    I like my classroom to be a happy place where the kids are engaged. There's a certain amount of noise, but that's OK--I have to look a little askew at those teachers who always manage to keep their classes silent, because that's not the natural state of the primary-age child. The trouble with L, though, is that he can't handle any freedom, at all, and I haven't found his motivator.

    We started positive: do the right thing and I'll play a game with you. Do the right thing and you can choose to use the computer during recess. Do the right thing and you'll earn a sticker, and those stickers can be traded for points. Do the right thing and these great things will happen.

    He didn't care.

    We went negative: do the right thing, or you'll miss recess. Do the right thing, or you'll turn your card. Do the right thing, or you'll have to sit by yourself during lunch. Do the right thing, or I'm taking away everything in your desk.

    He still didn't care.

    The kids I struggle with the most are the kids who don't respond to anything. Positive, negative, whatever--they're going to do what the hell they want to do, and they don't care what you think. They have great fun at school, because there is no consequence that you can offer that will make them stop and think about what they're doing. That's how L is.

    The other problem I have with him is the pervasiveness of his behaviors. There's never a break; he's always up to something. It's kids like him that can ruin a class faster than any other, because when you have a class of 24 and you have to invest 80% of your effort into one child, the rest of the kids aren't getting the attention they need or deserve. For the struggling academic students, they're not getting the one-on-one time they need. For behaviors it's worse, because kids who could be stopped at step one are usually three or four steps down the line before you can catch them, because of the effort you have to put into the one.

    I had never done this before in my 8 years of teaching, but I went to my principal and asked her to move the kid out of my room. We don't have a relationship worth salvaging, so there's no concern there, and in a different room with less kids, maybe he can succeed. I hope so, for his sake.

  • The problem with having a tough class is that you can redirect those negative emotions the wrong way, if you're not thoughtful about it. Wednesday morning I had one of those moments; the principal had emailed to tell us all to come to a staff meeting, and that staff meeting was going to start early because there was so much to go over. I leave for work early, thinking about what I'm going to do with the kids the entire way, and set up the room a little bit before heading down to the staff meeting....

    ....which turned out to be a surprise breakfast put on by the Social Committee.

    "This is it?" I asked. "This is why we're here?"

    "Oh yeah!" replied the 6th grade teacher at the door, cheerfully passing out door prize tickets.

    I think the look on my face gave her pause.

    "....but you don't have to stay if you don't want," she quickly added.

    I didn't stay very long.

    I think part of it, sometimes, is being the only male staff member in the building. The things that sound really, really great to the girls, all 49 of them, aren't all that interesting, sometimes, to the one guy. Thank God for the custodial staff, at least.

  • I'm kind of obsessed with the state budget. As president of my local I'm at the intersection of a number of different special interests: the Uniserv, the WEA, my principals, the district office, my teachers (all 130 of them), the community writ large, the media, and more. With my district looking at a potential $700,000 hole, I'm worried. My goal is to avoid layoffs at all costs, because any teacher released into this economy isn't getting hired anywhere else anytime soon, but the district budget can only be sliced so many ways before my people get hit.

    That's probably going to be my biggest project this spring. The worst thing that could happen--the absolute worst--would be for the legislature to run long, because then the district would almost have to layoff people. At one point Senator Zarelli out of Ridgefield in SW Washington said that he thought there was a chance it could not get done until June, and that would be devastating. Stay tuned.
And for all the readers out there, thank you for sticking with ITAT, and I wish you all a wonderful holiday season!

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Blogger The Science Goddess said...

It will be interesting to see if LASER survives the legislative budget, won't it?

7:27 PM  

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