Friday, February 26, 2010

Snow day today!

Considering last year was the first snow day in 11 years for NYC teachers, having 2 in the same month is a real treat! It is pretty bad out there though, and my commute home yesterday was treacherous. It wasn't looking at all hopeful for a snow day today, considering the mayor announced yesterday at noon that school would definitely be in session today. Luckily, sometimes, the higher ups are wrong about nature and snow can fall differently than expected.

I woke up around 30 minutes before I do normally, checked the DOE website and saw the announcement: "Schools are Closed today." Outstanding. I woke up my roommate just to verify that I wasn't in a half-asleep fantasy, fabricating a snow day. Within 5 minutes, a bunch of my colleagues and teacher friends had texted me saying we had off. Yay!

Today would be absolutely perfect if I had some more hot chocolate.

I drank my last packet this morning!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Some motivation, a poem read to me on my first day of grad school.

A friend just posted this, reminding me that it existed. I'm reposting it here for people who may not have read it yet.

I am a New York City public high school teacher
Do not look surprised.
Do not feel sorry for me.
Do not pity me.
Do not offer me your condolences.
Do not pat me on the back, shake my hand,
Cross yourself or speak of my bravery.
Do not ask me if I receive combat pay
Or wear a bulletproof vest.
Do not ask me when I plan to get a real job,
Apply to law school,
Or what my first career choice was.
Do not assume my head is in the clouds
And I have no grasp on reality.
Do not sympathize, empathize,
Or tell me about the job opening in your cousin's business.
Do not suggest that I join the Peace Corps.
Do not ask if my parents were teachers.
Do not ask if my parents were hippies.
Do not assume that I am a saint, naive, innocent,
Searching for my childhood,
Living for summers off,
Home by 2:15,
Use a red pen,
Play the Lotto,
Wish for the glory days of the past
Or would rather teach in the suburbs where I could *really* teach.

I am a New York City public high school teacher
Ask me why I chose to be a teacher.
Ask me if my students have books, supplies, and chairs.
Ask me my opinion of Giuliani, Pataki, and Crew.
Reminisce with me about your favorite teachers,
Share with me the qualities that made them admirable.
Tell me about your favorite projects and trips.
Ask me what my students are working on now.
Gasp when I say how many students are in each of my classes.
Gasp when I say how many I see in a week.
Cry with me about Marc sleeping in the subway,
Simone losing her father,
Maria thinking she's pregnant,
And Rick dropping out of school.
Laugh with me about Kenny (caught in the act) insisting it was the "Stalin in him,"
My classroom being toilet papered,
And the Great All-Out-Classroom Trash Throwing War of '94
(fought just to get Sharon to smile on the last day of school)
Marvel with me over my students' intelligence
Achievements, diligence, creativity, and strength.
Cheer with me as they write their college essays and take their S.A.T.'s.
Soar with me as they get their college acceptance letters.
Ask me how to create a scholarship,
Ask me how to volunteer,
Ask me about the qualities needed to become
A New York City public high school teacher.

by Lisa Lauritzen, in the New York Times, September 9, 1997

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Catching a cheater

I always have mixed feelings after catching kids cheating on tests and quizzes. While I always feel like I have awesome detective skills (I love a "Gotcha!" moment), after that initial thrill I am always left feeling insulted, really, you didn't think I'd figure out these are copied answers?

I was grading vocabulary quizzes last night. I graded one quiz, with some really bogus answers. Not only were there misspellings all over the place, but weird answers to the sentence completion section. (Really? The best answer to: Where are you going to go after you finish high school is "The Airport"? We did learn the word "University" ya know...) I finished grading the quiz, and this person ended up with a very low score. I moved on to the next in the stack, the front started off okay, but once I flipped to the back a pattern had emerged. The same bogus answers as the quiz I had just graded. Wow...really? Unless you two are going on the same post graduation trip after you finish high school, I doubt this is just a coincidence.

I was fully dramatic today as I gave back quizzes. I announced, "Some of you won't be getting a quiz back as your answers suspiciously matched another students answers." There were many anxious looks. I followed with "If you'd like to plead your case, come see me at the end of the period to please your case." The two girls came up, asking for their quizzes. They seemed so appalled that I would suspect them of cheating. So appalled. They whined about it and said "So that's it, we're getting a zero?" I told them I'd be calling their parents and that we would finish the conversation tomorrow, since my next class was coming in.

How do you handle cheating? I'm considering allowing them to re-take the quiz to see what answers they each come up with.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Ode to the Snow Day

Pablo Neruda has a series of "Odas". Poems he has written in order to praise the parts of life most people deem ordinary, but that he regards as fantastic. While not in the form of a poem, consider this my "Ode" to the snow day.

The Northeast is currently being pounded by a blizzard and even though yesterday was calm and even a bit sunny, my boss the chancellor announced before 12 pm that today would be a snow day. Awesome. I feel completely guilt and pressure free about snow days. Naturally, I had an idea of what I was going to teach today, so that will become my lesson for tomorrow instead. Thursday and Friday will be combined (Friday was going to be light anyway, since it's the day before our mid-winter recess) and voila, the week is over with minimal planning.

Don't get me wrong, I love a vacation from school. I love relaxing, having time to go to eye doctor and dentist appointments, and of course being able to go out on what would normally be a "school night". There comes a time during the break however, when the feeling of impending doom starts to invade. I start to think about what lessons I am going to teach after the break, projects I'm going to assign, and of course all the papers I have managed to avoid grading. Sometimes, I even have dreams. Horrible dreams in which I come back from vacation only to realize my entire class has been replaced with monsters.

But, none of that happens on a day like today: a fantastic and absolutely relaxing day: A Snow Day.