Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Why Must Wednesdays Be So Long?!

Wednesdays are my long days. My days without prep. My days without alone time. My days where I don't generally leave campus until 4:30. My days that, sometimes, suck.

Don't get me wrong. I love me my second period prep. I love that on most days, I teach one period, get a break to regroup, have breakfast, make copies, and do everything else I need to do, and then teach the rest of my day. I had fourth period prep once; I hated it. I dislike afternoon free time because I don't generally use it effectively. I'm too tired by then to do anything productive and spent lots of it eating my lunch, reading the news, or milling around my classroom picking up stuff. But second period prep is awesome. But there's also no way around one day a week being incredibly long since the way our schedule works, Wednesdays and Thursdays each only have half our classes in block periods: Wednesdays are periods 1, 3, and 5, and Thursdays are periods 2, 4, and 6. So Wednesdays, I teach from 7:30 to 2:10 straight, with just a ten minute nutrition break and a half an hour lunch to break it up. Then 2:10 to 2:35 is Tutorial (which was PACKED today), and then 2:37 to 3:37 is Speech and Debate. Which, for us, was packed today, too. Which is excited. But still. The last Speech and Debaters left around 4:00 (they like to hang around. Which is cute. Sometimes.) Then I decided to try to speed-straighten up my classroom, which I do by setting a timer and blitz cleaning until it goes off. It was rather successful today, but I ended up leaving at about 4:40.

At least at that point I got to be alone.

Since I've been home (after a detour to Target and Trader Joe's), I've had dinner, assembled my outfit for the morP fashion show (why do I get talked into these things?!) (legwarmers, for cryin' out loud!), and baked some baby donut muffins (nom). I still need to make my lunch and pack my gym back for tomorrow, but that can be done as soon as I finish this.

But holy moly am I exhausted. Six straight hours of teaching is exhausting, even if two of my three classes today spent 30 minutes at the end of the 2 hour block writing an in-class essay. I still had to get them through rhetorical precis with a really stunningly challenging article from Time magazine called "Tickle Me Obama." They all completely missed the author's purpose of the article, so there was a lot of 'splainin' I had to do to get them through it. And I was a little mean to a student when she biffed it. I felt bad. But sometimes (and it's soooo rare in my classroom), you just have to tell a kid they're wrong. (I don't generally enjoy telling kids in an English class that they're wrong, because in my opinion, there's rarely a wrong answer. But with non-fiction, the rules are a little different and sometimes, you're wrong.) (Ugh politics cloud everything, too...)

Then in my fifth period class, there was a lot of silence, which annoys me on a fundamental level during a class discussion, but I need to get better about using my calling-on-kids-cards. I need to be training them better. I also need to not be behind in my sophomore curriculum! Oh well. All of next week will be devoted to writing instruction to prepare them for their essays. Huzzah writing instruction.

Feeling like I'm starting to hit the wall now -- sooo tired. And even propped up, my feet hurt. I must have done twelve laps around my classroom in each APEL period just passing back their summer assignments... but on the plus side, it's forcing me to learn names! Faster than ever! And with the biggest classes ever! Can't say I don't rise to a challenge.

Must go pack lunch and get right with the world before I collapse into bed momentarily. And yes, it's only 8:15 pm. What? I'm a teacher. It happens.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Two Weeks Down, only Sixteen To Go

Well, sixteen weeks until the end of the first semester, that is. And that doesn't count the three weeks we have of vacations in the midst of those sixteen weeks.

But look what happened: it's been nearly a week (or possibly more; I didn't double-check my last posting date before I hopped into editing) since I last blogged... welcome to what happens when you're a teacher: you have all of your free time sucked away either by work, exhaustion, or the sheer desperation to live like a real human once in awhile and therefore forget to set aside time to hold up your end of the blogging bargain.

Interestingly, last week didn't necessarily feel that long, even though it was the first full week of school of the year. I don't know if it's because we're still in the honeymoon period, or if I really just like the way my schedule worked out this year (all of my AP classes before lunch, my two sophomores classes after lunch). Not that I'm unhappy that this is a three day weekend -- it's a lovely little reward for surviving the first eight days back. But this last week didn't feel like an eternity.

Let's see. What is there of note to report about this week? Well, there's the ongoing drama of the potential gas leak in our building. Now, I think there are two kinds of people: Those who are naturally alarmist about these kinds of things, and those who are naturally apathetic. I fall into the "naturally apathetic" category, if only because I generally tend to feel that I have way better things to expend my energy on than chasing people around to make them come and smell my classroom. Yet several of my teaching homies seem to fall into the "naturally alarmist" category, and this is probably because they are older and wiser than I. So all together, we've sort of whipped ourselves into a frenzy about the issue.

To backtrack, our rooms smell of natural gas often. And as one of our science teachers pointed out, if there's enough of it that you can smell it, then there's potentially a problem, because as Ross Gellar explains in the episode of Friends called "The One Where Ross Flirts," they actually add a scent to gas so that you know when it's leaking. Marie and I have been smelling it pretty much since we moved into our rooms, but lately it's been really bad. When we asked about it, and when the district looked into it, they basically waved it off as being no big deal. Something about the A/C units having a gas ignition and so when it's a cooler morning, we'll smell it. But most of us aren't buying that.

The thing is, I've had all kinds of very bizarre health things happen since I've been working at Poway. Generally, I have passed them off as being stress-fueled, or genetic (I tend to pass off all stomach-related issues as being genetic), but now I'm starting to rethink this. I have had vertigo off and on for about two years now, and though the doctor and I had chalked it up to stress and dehydration, I'm starting to think that my bouts of headaches and dizziness might be due to this gas leak. And Peter said that he's already been getting headaches and he's new to that room this year. So ... yeah. We've all been trying to convince the powers that be that there's potentially a real issue happening in the building, but they've decided that they've looked at it enough.

What makes matters more interesting, though, is that I actually had the first student smell it and comment on it; I've never had a student notice it before, as generally it is strongest in the morning when I first get there and then because I open and shut the door several times before school starts, it usually dissipates by the time they're in there. So I was surprised they said something, and this was enough to make me think that perhaps we need to look into it further.

Other than that ongoing drama, though, there's not much else to report. Had to stay late on Wednesday for a department chair meeting, which though informational, sometimes make me want to jam my pen in my eye. Most of the time it's productive and produces good conversation, but other times, I wonder why it seems like others aren't as anxious to go home as I am. I don't even think I would be annoyed with anyone ever if they really thought carefully about what they were going to say before they said it, but then again, I think that might be a lesson we all need to learn.

Have had a few kid-related issues so far; hopefully these aren't a preview of my year, but one of them involved a parent angry when they didn't hear from their child's teachers, when actually none of us received the email because our spam filter ate it for some reason I've yet to determine. (Their email address was from a legitimate carrier and all that stuff..). Thankfully I'm savvy and can go through the spam filter reports and find things, but it also makes me start to wonder how little email people are getting if they don't know that if you don't get a response after a first email, that you should always send a second polite email. After two, you're allowed to get mad. But let's make this more concrete: last year, I had a parent really, really angry with me because I didn't respond to an email in a speed that satisfied them. So after one email, they went straight to anger, when I hadn't even seen the original email. Turns out it had gotten lost in a swirl of all-department emails about some really contentious issue that I can't recall now -- probably about the schedule changing discussion we were having last year. So I was getting three or four emails every four minutes as my department attempted to provide their perspectives and feedback on whether or not to pursue a change in schedule at this time. So this one email was sandwiched between about fifteen or sixteen emails generated by my department. I simply hadn't seen it. But instead of recognizing that possibly it just didn't reach me or didn't get read somehow, and writing a polite but firm follow up along the lines of "I emailed a few days ago; just wanting to make sure you read it and have had a chance to think of a response. Thanks," they go straight to anger and snark and that's just no fun for anyone. I will email you back. I'm actually really good at it. Sometimes it'll even be from my BlackBerry if the answer to your email can be short. But sometimes, they physically don't make it to me, and sometimes, they just get missed.

On that note, it's Sunday night and I've been grading and am sleepy. I'll continue catching up tomorrow.

Friday, August 27, 2010

43 Is My Magic Number, or, Fail Friday

"I'll take 'Numbers and Figures for $200, Alex."
"What is, the number of students in my first period APEL class?"
"That is correct!"

... ::whimper:: 43 arrived yesterday, after the 42nd student took the last seating available. 43 ended up having to use my teacher chair. And opted to sit kind of in the front of the room. It was awkward. I guess I will have to break down and request some more desks, though 43 seems like a scary number to me. My OCD-leaning brain has real problems with "messy" numbers like 9 and 18 and 43. I'd explain why they're messy, but revealing how my brain works isn't really the point of this whole blog adventure.

Back to the whole teaching part.

We've been back in school for three days. Just three days. We've spent three hours with each class of kids. And it already feels like we've been back for months. Especially since the amount of work I've already collected is giving me fits -- stacks and stacks! 203 summer assignments from APEL. Paragraphs and diagnostic essays from my sophomores. I finally broke down the put grade recording sheets together today because I didn't want to get even MORE backlogged than I already am. I'm even contemplating a little grading right now, though that might be unlikely.

Spent my entire prep period photocopying. And I mean the entire period. ALmost an hour. There were two working machine, and so I camped out on one of them and make probably 1,000 copies -- which sounds obscene, but it's everything I will need for the next three weeks. I am never planned this far in advance! But anyway, there are five or six RISO machines in our copy room, and while I was there, the RISO fixer dude appeared to nurse the other ones back to health. He's a very dapper dude, the RISO fixer guy. White oxford shirt. Tie. Black slacks. Fancy loafers. Seems funny to me for a job that requires sticking your arms up into the innards of a machine that, when you think about it, is nothing but ink and roller. I mean, emptying the master disposal box can get you filthy. And he was wearing white! I commend him, that's for sure. Plus, I lucked out I think, because I am pretty sure I had NO problems with my machine because he was there. I'm convinced the machine didn't want to break down while Fixer Guy was watching, like students don't misbehave when the principal is around. I didn't *quite* finish the whole copying project, though; the major drawback to the RISO machines is that they don't collate or staple or handle packets. It's one sheet, one side at a time. So after an hour, I had about 11 piles of paper of what I wanted to turn into a packet. And we have a desktop commercial collator, but it only holds 8 sheets... which means two rounds of collating, and then collating the collated piles.... which I had planned to do right after school. I figured I had about two hours of work to do, but that meant getting to go home around 4:30. Alas, why have I not yet learned that nothing ever goes as planned?

Essentially, the world fell apart when my principal sent an email about closing down one fo the two classes of READ 180, which is really the only English support we have left for our students. [Sidenote: READ 180 is a curriculum/course used to help develop students' reading abilities, so it sets them up for success in all of their classes through the rest of high school.] But since one of the classes (which actually takes two class periods in the day) only had fifteen enrolled, the district is coming donw hard on it. District wide, they're not really letting anything run under ... well, I'm not sure what the exact number is, but it's somewhere in the neighborhood of 30. I'm thinking it's more like 32 or 33.... so 15 was just a no-go. But, frustratingly, this is the LAST opportunity we have on our campus to help students who have already been identified as having reading issues; the effects of this decision will obviously be cumulative. It's just sad.

So I spent about an hour or so in my principal's office with the two READ 180 teachers and one of our APs trying to figure out what to do. We have to drop the sections; there's really no way around that. But the domino effect that puts into place just makes my head swirl and my stomach hurt.

Suddenly, it was 4:45 and I was in my classroom, still needing to finish this packet adventure and clean up. I left school at 6:00. Usually I wait until I'm back in school a few weeks before I do that ... :/ But havingthe packet be done is completely worth it because it means ALL of my copying is already done. At least for the sophomores. So that's good.

But dear me. I'm tired. It's Friday. I feel like I've been hit by a bus full of tiredness, and so I will sign off now.

... yeah, I won't be grading tonight. It's not safe. For anyone.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

The First Day of School! Or, "Ack! There are ants on the toilet!"

So, it's really, really tempting right now to say something like "zomg! ::dramatic wilt:: I didn't know it was POSSIBLE to be THIS tired." But that would be a lie. I've been more tired than this, to be perfectly truthful, but I am really, really dang tired right now. My feet are aching as if I've been wandering around Disneyland all day wearing old flip-flops (that's what I get for opting for cute shoes that flatter my legs in the skirt I picked to wear today, rather than the shoes that wouldn't have really matched but would have been WAY more comfortable...), I'm sleepy because I've been awake since about 4:00 am, and I'm drained from the first day of mostly-faked first day enthusiasm (not to mention emotionally bruised from having my new first day of sophomore English lesson pretty much bomb out. Twice. Not good for the ego. Anyway...). Plus, today was supposedly going to be the hottest day of this heat wave we're dealing with, and though thankfully my school is air conditioned, a quick trip to the bathroom or the job of holding the door open to greet the kiddos on their way in quickly negates the comfort of the A/C.

Overall, things were better than I could have anticipated. 40+ kids in every class is every bit as overwhelming as you might imagine, but really only TRULY overwhelming as they're entering class or leaving class, or if they are submitting an assignment at the beginning of class. But my room didn't feel as crowded and stuffy as I thought it might, but I won't get my hopes up too high that that feeling will last... wait until the first time I try to have them move around ... ::shudder::

Then there were the ants in the bathroom. I mentioned the ants in my classroom, which, because I live in there, I was able to manage on my own, but a common space like a bathroom is a whole different ball of wax. There are ants running in circles around our staff bathroom (at least, the one that is closest to my classroom) and though this isn't exactly a new problem, or the first time they've found their way in there, it IS the first time the wily ants have made their way down to the floor and have consequently found the porcelain... both toilets can be found as an exploration spot for several ants. They're not swarming the toilet seats or anything, but there were definitely enough on there when I went in after school that I had to carefully clean them up and make sure no others were in the process of making their way up to the top of the toilet, so as to avoid the lovely sensation of having them crawling on me. Ew. I have to stop thinking about this. It's too gross.

I have several former students back, and, weirdly, in one of my classes, where there are about four or five of them, they all sat in their former seats! It was so bizarre to be looking out into the sea of faces and not just seeing familiar faces, but seeing them in familiar places in the classroom. It was too weird to ignore, so I definitely commented on it. :) That's just how I roll. I was very excited to have some of these students back this year -- they're awesome, awesome kids, and if the rest of my AP kids are like them, I will love my life with them. It is a little weird that all of my AP sections are all in a row, so I do the same thing three times in a row. Though I do have my prep in between the first two, it's still the same thing until lunch. Which is GREAT for materials, but also totally a trip because by the third straight time, I barely know who I am or what I'm doing. SO that part will be interesting.

And as I mentioned earlier, I totally bombed out my first day lesson with my sophomores, which is really a shame. I had such lofty ambitions about it, but I think it's a topic better suited for something much later in the school year, after we've established some rapport together. Le sigh. Hopefully I can make it up to them by the time we get fully entrenched in the Technology Unit. Tomorrow and Friday, they're doing diagnostic tests and stuff, so I won't have much time to win them over... but so far, they might be better than last year's crop of sophomores... ::fingers crossed::

Now, I'm already in bed and it's not even 9:30 yet, and as soon as I wrap up this blog post, I'm going to scoot myself down and probably be completely asleep in ten seconds flat.

All in all, it was a really good day, considering the really scary anticipate of these monstrous class sizes. Honestly, I really do love my job. I love every second of what I do. (... Okay, maybe not EVERY second, but a fair portion of them). I do believe teaching is a calling; otherwise, why would anyone put up with what we go through? And "what we go through" can be interpreted any way you choose.

Goodnight, first day of school. Here's to 174 more. Cheers.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Monday Madness -- T minus 2 days

Oh Monday. How I both welcomed you and feared you.

Today was our first day back at school -- just the teachers. The students don't start school until Wednesday. And what a doozie it was.

I got up at 6:00 (no amount of preparation the night before can prepare you to get up when it's still dark) and was out of the house by 6:15. Got to school at 6:30, excited to get a little planning and editing and printing done for the first few days. You know, enjoy my nice hot Chai latte, listen to a little music, chill in my air conditioned classroom.

Alas, twas not to be. I was barely inside the door of my classroom with the lights on when I noticed a lovely writhing black entity on the wall of my classroom. Ants! Pouring out of the ceiling tiles and down into my classroom. Onto my front table. Onto my file box. Onto my white board. Under the chalk rail and across my classroom to my desk. Once they hit the carpet, they're IMPOSSIBLE to see, so all day I was killing ants on my desk. Having battled ants all summer at my house, I was in no mood to just leave them there and deal with them later. I can't. I feel too violated with ants around. So I rather unceremoniously just dumped the box I was carrying on the floor and grabbed my bottle of Fantastik and went to work killing and cleaning. Just. Ew. The walls of my classroom are textured juuuuust enough that the ants just smeared all over them. And when I lifted up the ceiling tiles, I discovered they were up in the rafters of my room. Just plain disgusting. All day I battled them. I cleaned up the majority of them, and for the rest of the morning, they were scattered, confused, all over the front wall, but by the end of the day, they apparently figured out they were no longer welcome and there were only a few little stragglers left. I'm sure it's the heat -- the ants were all over campus -- but seriously? I was in my classroom every day last week and except for a few random ones inside my door that I promptly cleaned up with my Fantastik, there were no where near the number that were there to greet me this morning. Why, ants? Why this morning?

So I pretty much got nothing accomplished before our staff breakfast and staff meeting today. :/ And I'm most productive first thing in the morning, too, so that was the biggest irritation.

THen staff breakfast, which is always lovely, then a staff meeting that felt interminable, except I don't think it was really any longer than usual. Although I am at a loss as to what our meeting tomorrow will be about, if we've already covered so much stuff today. Hopefully not too much of the happy hoopla ... I'm not a fan of hoopla when I have classroom prep to be doing.

After the meeting, I did some more cleaning up of ants, some emailing, some technology stuff, delivered most of my Survival Kits to my English teachers (though I ended up getting waaaay too hot and sweaty to finish this project... I'll do the rest tomorrow).

I then met a former student who is off to college next week for lunch. It was lovely. I'm oddly jealous of all my former kiddos going off to college this year. FOr some reason, this year is harder than it's been in the past. I miss college every day; perhaps that's one of the reasons I love being a high school teacher so much: being near kids with boundless opportunity.

Then I went BACK to school (mind you, this was at about 4:00 pm) and was there until about 6:00 ... but was pretty productive during this time. Printed out almost everything I need for the first few days of school, labeled them with copy numbers and instructions for myself. I dug out my diagnostic tests. I feel pretty set to do a ton of photocopying tomorrow morning.

Hopefully the ants will not have come back. They are most unwelcome.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

File cabinets, piles, and desk drawers: Oh my!

Today, I undertook the task I've been avoiding all week, and, to be honest, all summer (I had my keys... I could have been working on it bit by bit on weekends... ). And what task is that? The Great Filing Cabinet and Pile Cleanout of 2010.

I am not by nature an organized person. Well, maybe that's not true. I have organized the daylights out of my office at home, and am good with things like bookshelves and DVD shelves and similar such things that are fairly low traffic and able to be organized. But when it comes to files and papers and curriculum materials I amass at a rate that is unfathomable to me, I am a complete disaster. As Jack McFarland would say, "D. I. Saster." And in the four years I've been at Poway, it hasn't really helped much that I've been either in deer-in-headlights-new-prep mode, or tweak-it-until-its-right mode, and so I haven't really been taking the time or making the effort to create and enforce an organizational strategy that works for me. Plus, and though this is certainly a lazy person's excuse, it was a very real reason for why I remained until today a criminally negligent filer: my one good filing cabinet (well, and the other two crummy ones) are all in the back corners of the room, blocked fairly effectively by student desks. So when most of my work goes on at my front tables and my desk, which is in the front of the room, I rarely take the time to simply place my instructional materials into a neatly labeled file in a drawer. But towards the very end of the year last year, I basically bit the bullet and heaved my good filing cabinet back behind my desk in the front corner of the room. I am hoping with every well-intentioned fiber of my being that this move will keep me better organized.

Flash forward to today: the *actual* cleanout. [Now, I did do a huge clean out three summers ago when I taught summer school, but that was in many ways simply an aesthetic cleanout. Throwing away multiple copies, ditching things for curricula I don't teach any more, tossing out old student work that is just plain silly to keep. I think it was about ten boxes of recycling. Then this year, during some of the standardizing testing lulls and AP testing doldrums, I started to think carefully about how best to approach my filing. I did some more cleaning out, got my class sets of things (particularly exams and benchmarks) organized, and labeled piles for a second go through.

But today. Today was glorious. I left feeling so exhilarated, which is so dweeby and silly, but I am so, so excited that I am *thisclose* to being completely organized. I started today by sitting down at a student desk (away from the distraction of my computer) and thought carefully about what kinds of folders I would need for APEL. I decided on them, neatly wrote the labels, and labeled all of my hanging folders. I removed everything from the drawer I wanted to appoint as my APEL drawer, installed the folders, and started sorting. Some of the folders are empty, but I KNOW that there will be other things to add; basically what I have discovered I have done is created parking spaces for things I accumulate this year.

I repeated this process with my HSE 3/4 curriculum, and even went through my American Lit drawer, recycled things I really don't need, and annexed to a bank box the rest of the stuff that I don't want to part with juuuuuuust in case I ever need to teach American Lit again. I ended up with an almost-completely empty drawer (which I have appointed for stashing my food (protein bars, emergency chocolate, almonds, etc.), and an entire drawer devoted to the non-teaching-related-but-still-super-important documents I have: pay stubs, time sheets, benefits info, evaluations and observations, test score information, professional development materials, IEPs and 504s (empty, but finally have an official place to put them), and my pink slips, reinstatement letters and, because I found it today, the letter announcing the granting of my tenure.

This is probably boring to most people, but to me this is nothing short of a personal triumph. Order out of chaos. Imposing a system to offset my penchant for piles. I just kept feeling happier and happier and more and more exhilarated that I was purging old things, making room for new things, and realizing that my new system is no-nonsense and no-excuses.

I have one fairly giant pile left to go through to actually sort (we're talking paper by paper... it's an assortment of APEL things, HSE 3/4 things, and random lurking student work) and another pile of test materials that seem to have mated and taken over this summer. These will be sorted and possibly recycled. This will happen tomorrow. I can't wait to be completely done, step back and soak it all in.

Now I just need to hold myself to actually keeping all of it organized...

Among the other things I did today, just because I like the listing...

* Cleaned off and redid my calendar.
* Had two phone conversations with my principal (and department administrator) about a new development.
* Had a phone conversation with an English colleague about their schedule.
* Emailed one of the vice principals about the same new development discussed with the principal.
* Cleaned out my bottom, big desk drawer.
* Installed a lamp on my desk.
* Installed the random human things (ibuprofen, Benadryl, toothbrush, toothpaste, and deodorant) I bought at Target today in my desk drawer.
* Organized my food-making materials on my microwave.
* Went through and organized, and then re-hung, my paper flair (picture of Spock, random comics, cards and notes from students and colleagues, and my I <3>
* Had a conversation with a Social Science colleague about our shared AP predicaments.
* Started to train myself in using our new attendance system.

But really, the majority of my time was spent sorting paper. And more paper. And file folders. And more paper.

Tomorrow, I will conquer completely.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

One week from RIGHT NOW, the first day of school will already be over...

... and isn't that a rather terrifying thought?

I arrived this morning at 8:00 am after a terrible night's sleep. It's finally hot here in San Diego, and the air was so heavy last night that I kept waking up. At 7:15 when my phone alarm went off, I decided to cut my losses on my sleeplessness, get up, get dressed, and head to school, where at least there, there is air conditioning.

As soon as I stepped into my room and my lights were blinking on, I knew something was afoot in my classroom. All twas not as I left it ... and then, in a twinkling, I realized what it was: those promised five extra desks to accommodate for 40, the size of my biggest class, had arrived. And those sneaky custodians *tried* to add them to already-existing rows, as if I *might* not notice there were now FORTY desks crammed into my classroom. But I did. And promptly went to work depositing everything I was carrying into the classroom onto the floor and rearranging the furniture. I now have essentially the same layout as I ended last year with, just with some extra rows. Four rows of three on each the left and right sides of my room, six rows of two along the back of the room, and two rows of two in the smack middle. So, weirdly, it doesn't look that overwhelming right now, but of course, once there are 40 junior-sized humans in ALL of those desks, I'll be singing a VERY different tune. But silver lining (which I must attempt for my own sanity): now that the desks have actually appeared, I have dealt with them, have a room arrangement I can deal with right now, and can stop worrying about it and move on.

After I did that, I set to work making my blackout curtains. Apparently, my at-home cutting job that I thought I'd botched was perfect (or, well, perfect enough) and all I had to do was heat up my hot glue gun and glue the very strong magnets to the corners. The bonus I discovered later? The blacking out of the sun through the door-windows also helped keep my classroom cooler, which, on a 100 degree day, is clearly a bonus.

Since then, I've done a myriad of things, including:

* going through a few giant piles to sort for "keep" and "recycle," gone through about fifteen random spiral notebooks (taking up now-important real estate on one of my bookshelves) to either recycle, annex, or keep them.
* unpacking the two boxes of random books and materials I had taken home and brought back today, which then necessitated rearranging a bookshelf to accommodate everything.
* Moving a few storage options around (and cleaning them off... ew).
* Going through and purging old Speech and Debate trophies (I am using 'classroom real estate' as my excuse for actually getting rid of Speech trophies garnered while I myself was a high school student ... ) and then dealing with the ones I can't really throw away because they've been earned during my tenure as Speech and Debate coach.
* killing many ants and not quite yet discovering their origin...
* unwrapping six new rulers
* dusting the top of my metal cabinet (um. ew. I'm pretty sure some of that stuff up there was ask from the fires ... )
* making labels for the four magnetic pockets I bought at Lakeshore this summer (which, if they work, are officially my new favorite part of my classroom organizational strategy...)

I also met a former student, who leaves for college on Friday, for a bagel and schmear at a local bagel chain, and chatted for about two hours. It was a lovely break in my disgusting work of cleaning and dusting and organizing.

Currently, I'm sitting at my teacher desk, it is 4:09 pm, and I am trying to decide if I want to start another project (basically all that is left is what I'm writing this blog entry to avoid: The Filing Cabinet Organization Project of 2010), or, head home, flop on the couch and watch some TV before starting said hideous project tomorrow. But there's A/C here. And not at home. Right now, working here is winning, which, sad though it is, at least is productive.

I'm feeling my second wind coming on ... let's see how much I can get done before my tummy tells me I HAVE to leave so that I can feed myself.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

T-minus 8 Days

Spent yesterday and today in my classroom, gearing up for the new school year. My entire goal? Be ready. Ready for forty students in my APEL classes. Ready to manage new late work policies (er, in reality, ready to manage attendance and leftover papers due to absentees better so that those new late work policies actually work). Ready to be a better teacher than I was last year. I was so off of my game almost all of last year it's almost embarrassing. But I think I have the wind back in my sails after a summer of doing basically nothing but thinking about how to be a better teacher to all of my curriculum.

Yesterday was the first day I cracked the seal on my classroom and made a lot of progress unpacking everything I had to pack up for summer school. And when I say everything, I mean ... everything. I left my desk completely empty, all of my flair was packed up in boxes, and I hid behind locked cabinet doors all of the school supplies that I have spent my own hard-earned money on, like my actual Swingline stapler and my two Swingline hole punches, among other things. I'm a stickler about good materials and supplies, and believe that they last longer (case in point: Crayola markers versus other brands. I'm convinced Crayola markers last nearly forever), so I spend my own money, rather than running to the English department supply closet every three weeks for a new, lower-quality stapler.

But anyway, I unpacked about ten boxes/drawers worth of stuff and my room is looking much more hospitable. I also did some good unhoarding work, throwing away things I've had since my first year of teaching at Gompers and things I know I don't, won't, and have never used. It feels really good -- cathartic, almost -- to throw things away from a previous year, and it always leaves me wondering why I hold onto things in which I have no true emotional investment, like old students work and highlighters that don't work. It's sad, really.

What's also sad is how important classroom environment is. It's probably something that most students, in their first few weeks of their teaching program, roll their eyes at when they are told: "Have a nice classroom environment and students will learn." Now, I'm not 100% convinced that students learn BECAUSE of the environment, but it does make them generally happy to be there. And really, I makes ME happy to be there. I mean, I spend nearly 12 hours a day in there, give or take a few hours (but 6 am to almost 6 pm sounds about right), so for 60 hours a week, I want my classroom to look hospitable. Before I unpacked yesterday, my classroom looked almost unrecognizable. But slowly but surely things are looking better. I have my flair up, have hung my new maps (one of the United States and one of the world, both of which are emblazoned on the sides with flags of states or countries), and have moved around a bit of furniture to accommodate the five extra desks whose arrival is impending. (Ugh.)

Today I was a little less enthusiastic about my classroom preparation, but I did do a lot more purging of old junk and reorganizing of my piddly little storage situations. And MAN do I have a zillion stacks of Post-Its! Apparently I've been secretly hoarding them. But I'm totally okay with this. A real stack of Post-Its is like gold to an English teacher.

And today, because I was dealing with surfaces and places near the door, I had to do some rather disgusting cleaning, despite leaving my classroom spotless in June. We're talking hands and knees, bottle of Fantastik and roll of paper towels in hand, scrubbing the bottom shelf of the bookshelf that's right inside the door to my classroom. Three dead spiders, four paper towels, and some elbow grease later, they were clean. I then took my plastic buckets (Rubbermaid dishpans, to be exact) outside to clean them off -- had there been a hose nearby, I'd have used that, but alas, no. I had to settle for drowning them in Fantastik and scrubbing them outside in the 100 degree heat. By the time I was done cleaning all of the furniture in the front, I was properly filthy (I didn't even notice until I was home that I ended up with some rather suspicious black sticky gunk on the underside of my left forearm... I honestly don't even want to know where it came from.

Tomorrow, I will probably start the lesson planning stuff -- not that I haven't already worked on that, but I need to print things out and get organized. Also need to experiment with desk arrangements and possibly rearrange some things in filing cabinets. I'm loathe to get rid of one of them, but if Scott does end up appointing a spare classroom for a filing cabinet annex, I might consider banishing one of mine out there. We'll see, though. We'll see.

Tomorrow's other project is to finish my blackout curtains for the windows on my doors. I bought the fabric about a month ago at JoAnn's, but despite having taken window measurements before I left for summer, I decided that it would ultimately be wiser to make them AT school to ensure a perfectly proper fit. I'm stocked about these curtains. The door-windows are so annoying because somehow I have a bum projector that doesn't project as brightly as others. (I learned this for sure when I had a back-up projector for a few weeks and it was SUPER bright. ::sigh:: At least I have one.)

Hopefully, the rest of the week will be as productive as it has started.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Fall 2010 Approaches...

School starts in less than two weeks. And you know how I know? Our annual letter from our principal arrived today in the mail. A few troubling things about it -- namely, that he anticipates no problems with our new student management software, when in fact, I know from my mom's experience at her school so far that it's going to be a nightmare of gargantuan proportions. Otherwise, the only real troubing thing is that we have only two days before school starts to prepare for students. We knew this all summer, of course, but it still doesn't make it easier to wrap my head around.

Thus, what have I been doing today? Planning. Nothing intense, really. But since about 11 this morning (it approaches 11 in the evening), I've been planning, re-planning, and un-planning my sophomore curriculum. Most of it has been fun, but some of it has been frustrating. I've been all over the map today in terms of WHAT I've actually been working on. I've worked on long-term planning and due dates. I've worked on day-to-day sequencing and planning. I've worked on retooling my syllabus, my first day assignment, and writing what ended up being a Manifesto Against Late Work. This last thing was cathartic, sure, but probably not necessarily going to achieve what I want. Maybe I just need to read it into my webcam and post it on my school website. Or not. But I know that I need to make my late work policy much more clear and really REALLY stick to it. This, however, requires a little more organization than I can usually manage. Hence the actual, real desire to do the work I've done today. I figure if I can nail down 85% of what I think I will *actually* assign, I'll be better about collecting it and better about dealing with late work.

I will also need to spend some time soon packing up all the junk I brought home for the summer that I really haven't touched. High hopes. Low desire. It's a great combination.

I'm interested to see what happens this year. We're all preparing for rough seas, that's for sure. The front office was afrenzy the other day with preparations to count desks and make sure each classroom had 40 -- 40! This is just insane. IN. SANE. FORTY?! I can barely wrap my head around this. But it seems like at least my administration is keenly aware that this is uncharted territory for a lot of people and I am optimistic that they will be sensitive to the issues that arise as a result. And, yet again, the reason for my new, hardcore latework policy.

We'll just have to see what happens. I also need to think about Speech and Debate recruitment... I NEED A TEAM THIS YEAR! I think I'm finally ready to embrace Speech and Debate as something I want to be good at -- I want my kids to be good at. So I think I'll go around and advertise to all the English classrooms. Maybe I'll try to have someone cover me for a day within the first week. We'll see.