Archive for September, 2010

My First Tears 9/29

Well, it happened. After 5 weeks of good days, today was not so great and my frustration boiled over to tears after the school day was over.

My freshman have been totally disrespectful. I don’t mind students being chatty, but they have been blatantly rude. After speaking with a veteran teacher, I started implementing some new classroom management tools. Only complicating the issue further, homecoming is this Saturday and it’s almost as important as prom here. Needless to say, even my best students are distracted. I’ve just got to figure out how to deal with it until next week.

Physics has been a challenge in an entirely different way. About half of my students are only just taking Algebra II, some are in Trig, and very few are in Calculus. I am actually excited that my kids are not the typical physics kids – I love that they are working hard to learn material that science education culture dictates is only for a certain group of elite students. However, I find myself stuck in that hard place trying to teach students the content dictated by the state when the state has left no wiggle room for students without certain math credits.

My school is only in its second year, so many of the issues we struggle with have to do with students, faculty, and administrators still settling in. The athletic teams are young, so most are not having winning seasons and the students refuse to be proud of a school that can not win. On the other hand, many students are in school because it is safer than home – gangs and drugs are a huge part of their community.

I am definitely not in an impossible situation. I know there is a solution out there; I just haven’t found my “sweet spot” when it comes to classroom management with the younger crowd.

Anywho – it’s spirit week and it’s been a blast:


CrAzY hAiR dAy!

I tried to be Ms Frizzle for nerd day, but the dress didn't quite work out.

Awesome 80s for Blast from the Past Day!

Excited for Super Hero Day tomorrow, homecoming assembly, and the homecoming football game! More to come…

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Donors Choose

I just submitted my first Donors Choose project! I am requesting one caddy of scientific calculators since my kids do not have their own. We’ll see what happens – I’m hoping for a class set eventually!

Check out my Donors Choose page here: http://www.donorschoose.org/mccoy1007

Mid Week Thoughts 9/21

Well, technically today is the first day of my school week, but I’ve been thinking about school so much it feels like the middle of the week.

Tomorrow is the first day I’ll be in the room on my own since my contract has been finalized and Ben (the best long term sub EVER) is now leaving me. I’ve really enjoyed team teaching with Ben and have learned so much just from working with him! I’m a bit nervous about handling the freshmen classes alone since the rowdy boys have responded so well to having a male teacher. I’m definitely going to miss having somebody to laugh with over silly student comments and behaviors.

I’m also preoccupied with nerves over administering my first test tomorrow. I have intentionally given them a test much easier than things we have discussed in class because the kids are struggling with so many deep-seeded confidence issues that they need to prove to themselves they can do it. They have been giving up on assignments if they don’t understand or get frustrated, so I am encouraging them to at least try everything once and then come to me for help instead of just giving up. These kids have never been held to a high standard, so they have never learned how to work hard and with perseverance. I’ve already made it clear that those attitudes are not acceptable in my classroom.

Since most of our kids are at or below the poverty line, I have felt a huge burden to help them find financially viable college options. This has led me to assume the responsibility of military academy liason – I am organizing and running several events to help kids apply to the military academies. The deadlines are coming up quickly (all congressional recommendations must be submitted by October 31), so there is a lot of pressure to get this off the ground immediately. Last year was the inaugural year for the school and they did not have a 12th grade class, so this is the first year any college and career related events are necessary.

My Adopt-A-Classroom page has been an extreme blessing. Room 1007 has received way more money than I had ever expected. I am so honored that you would invest in us and I have many plans for purchasing supplies and equipment to assist the growth of my students (a class set of calculators is high on the list!).

Going into the fourth week of my first year, I’ve been doing some cognitive assessment – how am I doing? Am I managing the stress well? Where can I improve? Am I doing a good job reaching out to all my students? I am pleasantly surprised that stress has not really been a part of the last 3 weeks (other than not getting paid). I have been able to consistently plan almost a week ahead and my planning for students understanding has been right on. I need to continue to set high expectations for my kids and hold them responsible for their academic decisions. There are a handful of students I need to initiate relationships with because I still don’t know anything about them. But on the whole, I do not feel the overwhelming anxiety I was told to expect during my first year and did experience during student teaching. When I’m with my kids I’m in my happy, comfortable place.

Thanks for following and reading my mid-week thoughts – it is so helpful to have a group of educators to chat with over the daily joys and trials of teaching.

Next week is spirit week, so I think on Nerd Day I might dress up as Ms Frizzle – any suggestions as to where to find a crazy dress?!

First Year Teacher Series Week 3

Wow, the third week of school already; the week flew by so quickly I can barely remember what happened!

In Physics, the kids are finishing up linear motion and getting ready for their first test. They have been working very hard to catch up with the math they are behind on (most are just taking Algebra 2) and are starting to think like Physicists! We are having so much fun. My biggest goal for them is to learn to work harder – they all tend to be extremely lazy and refuse to believe that they will learn and grow if they practice. I am pretty confident the source of this attitude is from growing up with teachers with low expectations.

The other struggle we’ve had is understanding the concept of “units”. We spent almost an entire class period working out the difference between quantity (the thing being measured), unit (the type of measurement), and the relevant equations. I think they’re starting to get it.

My freshman course is pretty funny. They are not as much of a handful as I had anticipated, just young and immature. We have been discussing renewable and non-renewable energy sources and essential materials for survival. It’s a spiralling curriculum, so all of the content we’ll cover is related to sustainability. It will also prepare them for the state science proficiency exam they will take in 11th grade. I like that the class can be more of a seminar and less lecture. My goal for these students is to teach them to be more responsible – they see homework as an optional extracurricular activity. We’ll get there!

I saw this video on a blog I read the other day and it made me laugh because it is exactly how I feel keeping a class of thirty-something 9th graders on task:

In other news, my background check finally cleared, so I can get put on payroll this week!! A million thanks to my principal for getting that pushed through :)

Quck update 9/15

Since this blog was conceived, I have wanted it to be a place for open communication between teachers; it’s been a week of ups and downs, so I feel the need to be honest about my joys and frustrations.

MONDAY – the kids were all focused and we had a fabulous time doing a free fall experiment. It was the best day of the last few weeks!

TUESDAY – every single one of my kids must have taken crazy pills, because every class was so uncharacteristically chatty that I went hoarse trying to keep the class engaged – was quite a feat since I’m not a yeller!

WEDNESDAY – the kids were back to their normal selves, but I still have not found the results of my background clearance, so I am still not getting paid.

It is so discouraging to want to provide for my students, but be run down by the non-curricular frustrations of being a teacher. I refuse to become a cynical teacher!!

Units and measurement

My kids have far surpassed my expectations. Many of them haven’t taken trig yet, but they have been working so hard to catch up in physics. They come to class prepared and are learning to ask more questions and use each other as a resource.

However, they can’t seem to understand the concept of units. If anyone has had this issue please let me know!!

First 2 Weeks

It’s the end of my first two weeks and I am exhausted. Here are some of the highlights:

  • I have incredible students that I miss when I’m not there.

    Go Miners!

  • My schedule got changed so now I’m teaching two sections of 9th grade general science.
  • On football game days, the guys aren’t allowed to wear their jerseys to school, so they ask a teacher to wear their jersey. One of my physics students gave me his; it was a huge honor because I soon realized most teachers weren’t wearing jerseys!!
  • I haven’t been nearly as stressed as expected.
  • I love being a high school teacher!
  • When you give my kids the opportunity to use their cell phone as a tool during class, they take the responsibility seriously and don’t take advantage of you.
  • I appreciate teacher friends who are optimistic and have a good sense of humor :)
  • I’ve got my work cut out for me convincing teachers and students that physics isn’t only for crazy smart kids.
  • I am determined to like 9th graders.
  • My sarcasm level has increased exponentially since the first day of school.
  • I can never get enough color or music in my classroom.
  • My blood run Teachers College blue – every staff meeting I attend, I get incredibly frustrated with the satisfaction with antique ideas about education. Can’t wait to get more literacy going in my room!

I’ll try and post more regularly, but for now, I’m going to finish getting lessons ready for next week…