Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A happy ending!

I am so pleased to report that my cart has been found! It wasn't stolen at all! Only claimed by another person working at my school. Awesome. A co-worker saw it in someone's office and said: "That's someone's cart, they have been looking for it!" and brought it back to my office.

I was so happy to see it this morning when I went into work!

Monday, September 28, 2009

Some of my favorite things

1. My IPhone has changed my life. I'm totally obsessed with it and in theory get things done more quickly because of it. I say "in theory" because while it helps me, it also distracts me.

2. Iced Caramel Macchiatos from Starbucks. This lovely beverage has been with me and supported me through the good times and the bad.

3. Post-it notes. You don't understand, I'm in love with post-its. Second to important people in my life, post-its are THE best thing to ever happen to me. When I enter the post-it aisle I get that funny first or second date excitement/giddiness. Yeah, it's that bad. I don't discriminate, I use all colors and shapes and sizes. I just invested in the post-it calendar, loving it so far!

4. www.Donorschoose.org THE best thing to happen to teachers in general, since I'm a teacher who has benefited and continues to benefit from the generosity of others, this site makes my list.

5. My indoor vegetable garden. I LOVE my indoor garden. I started this back in February and have successfully grown green beans, peas, edamame, basil and chives. I've grown tomato plants, but no tomatoes yet!

What are some of YOUR favorite things?

The week of the missing supplies and six too many students

I've enjoyed a relaxing and well deserved long weekend with my younger sister who was visiting from Ithaca. (Good times were had by all.) We have finished the first three weeks of school (woo hoo!), and it's looking like a Fantastic year! I'm glad we have tomorrow off for Yom Kippur because I still have SO much grading to do.

Why so much work you ask? I haven't been able to get as much done during my free periods as I would like. Granted, sometimes I get caught up in conversations with the ladies I share my office with (read: gossip, and google image searching shenanigans), but for the past couple weeks I've mainly been running around trying to track people down. The first drama was the case of the missing projection screen. I received a screen from www.donorschoose.org and it was apparently delivered to me at school in April. The delivery never made it to me, so I had to track it down. It took a couple days but the screen is now safely in my possession. The process to actually acquire the screen was intense though, having to talk to various administrators, but mostly having to wait to talk to them.

The second time sucker involved me fixing other people's mistakes. Sorry, but we need to be honest with each other: freshmen do not have any business taking AP classes. Because my class is set at 24 students (as there are only 24 books), someone decided the 11 extra seats could be used for 9th graders who had no other place to go. Fantastic. The AP required reading list covers rather intense topics: graphic sex, rape, death, suicide, etc. A little bit much for someone 13 or 14 years old. Last Friday I was awarded 6 freshmen. Hello. It took all week to resolve this issue and I'm not even sure it's fully resolved, we'll see how many show up tomorrow. It took a full week of 1. tracking people down, 2. being told it was someone else's fault and there was nothing anyone could do, 3. different people agreeing that there should not be freshmen in an AP literature class and it would be fixed, but that as a result the schedules of the entire student body would be changed.....all right. Since people forget about using telephones, most communication takes place via messenger or in-person meetings only, thus taking 8 years longer than necessary.

My 3rd drama isn't resolved yet, and is causing me a little bit of grief. I received a cart from donor's choose last year, a cart that was locked in what I thought was a safe place over the summer, which is now gone. Boo. I know things get stolen in our building (by adults, mind you) so I locked it in a book room (read: a locked bookroom, only one key in the building). This should be a pretty simple problem to resolve, should be. Except for the fact that I need to 1. track people down, 2. be passed around from person to person, 3. rinse and repeat to get anything done.

My goals for the coming week? I want to get my seating chart and grade book set up, grade tests, and track down my beloved cart! Trust me, there will be updates, possibly a missing cart sign.

For a reminder about Donors Choose, check out this old post.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Señorita in the City is on facebook!

Look to the right and click the link to become my friend on Facebook! You can also look below that for the link to follow me on twitter.

Señorita Ripped Pants

The success of my new stamp participation method has me moving a lot more all over my classroom. I'm crossing the room, crossing back, stopping to re-ink my stamp, traveling up and down aisles. I am everywhere. I had been keeping up with increased participation from students and I was on such a roll until...

On Wednesday morning I was seriously slowed down when my new corduroy (read: not as sturdy or trustworthy as jeans) pants caught onto a previously unnoticed jagged piece of closet. I know what you're thinking...jagged piece of closet? In a place where children are present? Sharp enough to rip pants? You read correctly folks, I apparently work in a place that requires one to wear clothes made of industrial strength fabric.

I unhooked myself from the closet to survey the damage. I was left with a sizable hole towards the top of the side of my pants. I assessed the situation and cheek was definitely visible. I quick sent a student to "please get a sweater" from my work bestie whose classroom is next door to mine. I pulled down my stretchy shirt until she got back, tied the sweater around my waist as a backup method, and was back on my merry way, stamping away the morning.

I was able to change into gray workout pants during lunch (strangely the same color as my corduroys) that I had brought with me for my after school trip to the gym. Due to quick action on the part of my student and my colleague, no one knew about the incident at all.

Since I'm a teacher and by default a huge fan of teachable moments I now realize the importance of a back-up method, be it extra pants, a sweater, who knows. I guess flexibility is also a plus.

Any embarrassing or potentially embarrassing classroom stories to share?

P.S. The corduroys were from Old Navy.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

One down, how many to go?

Yesterday was the end of our first week back at school. Even though it was only three days, it was crazy eventful! It was particularly productive for me because 1) I patched up a relationship with one of my colleagues and 2) I developed a new participation program that is rocking my student's worlds and taking our school by storm.

I tend not to have a lot of drama at school, but that's not to say that my co-workers don't go looking for drama. Last year, during what you might remember as The Great Copy Room Wars of 2008, I had an altercation with a co-worker (he'll be referred to as El Divo from here on out) that was just mended this week. During the time the copy machine in our office was down, he took it upon himself to tell everyone (including the woman in charge of THE copy room) that I was the one guilty of breaking it. Whaaaaat?! I heard this from another colleague who overheard El Divo's gossip. Later that day El Divo tried to make nice again and was cooing Hello at me, I simply ignored him. That's why he hadn't spoken to me since November 2008. This week however changed everything. We are sharing a classroom and are forced to converse, I told him I was teaching an AP class, the same class he advised me not to teach and dialogue commenced. Now he wants to collaborate and share resources and everything. Hmm. While it's nice not to have someone mad at me, It's a little weird.

Since I began teaching I have tried two different participation methods, neither of which worked very well for different reasons. The first method, which wasn't really a method at all, was to sort of just "eyeball" it based on how many times a particular student came to the board, raised their hand, and actually produced or attempted to produce correct answers. This process wasn't at all transparent to students thus quickly becoming a problem. The next method was the "Participation Rubric" which allowed students to basically grade themselves and I would give them feedback and sometimes change their grade (for better or worse) based on my own evaluation of their performance. Now, I will fully admit, both of these methods are bullshit. That's why I developed the stamp sheet.

The stamp sheet is a colorful paper with a grid of 25 boxes. Every time a student produces Spanish (either by writing on the board or speaking) they get a stamp. Participation is a quarter of their grade and their grade depends on how many stamps they earn on their stamp sheet. I am SO impressed by how well it is working. Students who traditionally do not participate and who would normally fall under the radar with my old "methods" are participating like mad.

I know that the novelty of stamps will eventually wear off, hopefully later than sooner. I'm still thinking of ways to keep it interesting and kick it up a notch. Whatever, all I can say is this is a truly excellent problem to have.

What a great way to start the new school year!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

My week as juror #10

I've spent the last week as a juror in an armed robbery trial. (I know, this all sounds very hard core.) We heard all of the testimony last week and started deliberations yesterday. All weekend I was thinking about how difficult of a decision this was going to be and how I hoped I wasn't the only one who felt the way I did about the defendant's guilt or innocence.

We weren't able to come to a decision yesterday, and were ordered back at 10 am this morning. Over the past week many jurors were having trouble showing up on time and today was no exception. 11 am rolled around and we were still missing one juror and an alternate (yesterday juror #3 was a no show so we needed to use another alternate to fill his spot). At around 11:15 the judge came to our room, first to thank us for being good citizens and not punking out with lame excuses as to why we couldn't do our civic duty, and then to inform us that we were officially being discharged and were free to go.

Woo hoo!

As we were exiting the court all of us assumed that the two missing jurors were the reason we weren't going to continue. (Thank you #1 and Alternate #2) We were wrong. Both sets of lawyers asked to speak to us. The defense attorney explained to us that the case was thrown out because it was discovered that juror #1 was friends with the defendant. Hello! The prosecuting attorneys asked us what our decision was leaning towards (not guilty) and what they could have done better. They also filled in something that had been missing during the trial: that the defendant had been arrested for shooting someone five days after the robbery.

I am so glad not to have been called during the school year. I really would not like to miss a full week of work. I am also glad that this ended up being a mistrial as we weren't given enough information to convict, and he would have been released. I would have felt bad saying guilty or not guilty. While I'm glad I got to experience a trial and being on a jury (ugh, I am always looking for a teachable moment, even at the expense of a week of summer vay-kay), I'm glad I didn't have to make a decision. I hope to never be selected again. There seems to me to be a lot of room for error in our system, and I'm sure that the guilty going free happens on a regular basis. While I believe this way is better than the submerging of suspects in water, I think it's far from perfect.