Friday, September 25, 2009

A Pleasant Day overall

Another big day in Teacherland yesterday. I had my pre-evaluation meeting with the Principal and it was also Parent Open House. I wasn't nervous about either per say, but both events definitely occupied a good part of my thinking for the last several days.

I began my day arriving early to make copies (which seems to be my morning ritual). I have one student out all next week and few other students missing class so I wanted to get ahead on the copying. Students who are in the halls without passes or late to class get assigned to detentions. It happens for other reasons to but one way of dealing with detentions is assigning kids to DRA, Deans Restricted Assignment. I have had at least 1 student in there every day. I'm finding that fairly frustrating because it is often the students who can't afford to miss a class that are in there and also the ones who don't ask for what they missed. So there I was back in the copy room trying to get things ready to send to them in the DRA room.

At 7:30 I had a student come in to make up a quiz for Law class. I haven't graded her quiz yet but she's one of my better students and also one who has missed a week+ of class due to illness. 

Classes yesterday went fairly well, being a Thursday and a long one. Coop worked on review sheets for their business writing skills test tomorrow. Law wrapped up their crime unit (let's just say there are a TON of questions this class asks that I don't know). They will be starting their review today and quiz will be Tuesday. I don't like giving exams on Monday so they'll get 2 review days. Hopefully that will help the kids who aren't doing so well.

Midterm grades are due on Monday. I ended my 4th hour class discovering that while the school has fixed a problem I had on the online gradebook regarding how my students were set up in Coop they had somehow taken away all of the grades I had put in for my 4th hour class and my single student in 2nd hour who is now considered a 2nd year Coop student since she took it last year. (Long story. I'll elaborate another time.) Of course, this all went down as I finalized preparation for my pre-evaluation meeting. 

With grades due monday, I'm fairly concerned. The associate principal told me it will be fixed, not to worry. He's a very reassuring guy but with no written back up (I will starting today!) I am worried! There is hope though. The averages are still there for each assignment which means a way must be possible. I'm getting a visit from our tech guy during my study hall 1st hour.

The pre-eval meanwhile went well. We talked for a full hour. She liked some of the creative things I have been doing. She liked the research I've done to make those new assignments. She also was pleased that I was changing the course so much so that assessment didn't mean multiple choice tests! She said when I have my evaluation next Wednesday it is possible that I will get a few exceptional but no new teacher has ever gotten an overall exceptional. I like challenges and often try to conquer them. I'd love to get them but also don't want to overdo myself. Perhaps for the mid-year eval!

Parent Open House went well too. I ran home for a brief time to eat dinner. I came back at at 6 was ready for parents. I shared a room with a fellow new teacher in my department. (Since I have 4 classes in a row, each in a different classroom, I think some parents had trouble finding me since I wasn't in a room I normally teach in). I did have 4 parents come see me. The first was for a coop student who wasn't doing well. The other 3 were for law students, 2 of whom were doing well and one who was not but whose grade was considered "good news." Wow. There were 7 of us who went to Applebee's afterwards - almost exclusively from the Math & Business departments but one of the football coaches came too. We indulged in appetizers and beverages and then went home by 9:30, exhausted.

I'm looking forward to tonight's football game. I hope we win. I'll settle for a close game. Even crossing the 50 yard line a few times. My new friend from Pakistan is coming which I'm excited about! Let's hope it doesn't rain.

It's been a long note, but a good one to write down for posterity. Have a great friday everyone. 


Thursday, September 17, 2009

It's Beginning To Look A Lot Like Friendship...

....Everywhere I go...

Corny but true. The newbies have become a fixture at Applebee's as of late. We had a fantastic time there last night. What started out as a pair became a quartet and folks, the laughter was constant! Food was great, our server must have thought we were nutty but when we said we'd come back tonight to, she told us this was always her section and that she'd be looking for us!

What's great about our newbie group is that we are diverse in age, background, race and teaching discipline but when it comes down to it, we all have similar personalities but different strengths and it's been awesome to just bond so quickly. I'm lucky.

On the other side of my life, the non-work side is the apartment complex. This week is Resident Appreciation week. Now, they had these in Chicago but were single day affairs. This one is a whole week! On Monday they set up a station so that as you exited the complex it was like going through a drive-through/tailgate tent. We were given muffins and a choice of juice on our way to work. I'm guessing they were out there for a while. I left at 7am and I'm sure there are folks that don't leave till 9am. Tuesday was free lunch. Yesterday was a free newspaper and something else. Tomorrow is garbage pick up. WOW! 

Tonight was happy hour on the pool deck. There were about 25-30 people out during the evening. One was my new friend, Afifa, who I haven't seen in weeks. It is Ramadan so she has been fasting and also starting school. She was so happy to see me and I her. I've been wondering how she was doing, coming to America and knowing no one and having a brand new husband who works a lot of nights. Her in-laws were in Champaign from Pakistan. What a cute couple and very personable. We took a bunch of pictures. Hopefully I can post them soon. I'm sure we'll do something together eventually. 

I've got about an hour and 1/2 to spend until I meet up the newbie club at Applebee's again. I have no "homework" tonight. All the grading is done. Test being given tomorrow for Law and my Coop kids are writing their resumes, which I won't get until Monday. Easy weekend - just prepping my plans!

In other news, I'm getting over my first sinus infection of the fall and hopefully the last. I did glean some important information from the doctor today who told me that mold counts increase by a lot during harvest time, which is just a few weeks away. I've never dealt with harvest time but I'm excited to see how my body handles the challenge.

ALSO...the book I've been waiting nearly 2 years to be released comes out next Tuesday. If you haven't read Diana Gabaldon's Outlander, I highly recommend it. The book about to be released is the 7th in the series. I found out about it from a coworker at Barnes & Noble a few years ago and was hooked almost instantly. Every person I've told about the book since then has also been hooked, at least on the first book. I can't wait to have something to read for pleasure. 

And, I'm collecting change for Lyrics For Life, a charity that raises awareness and funds for childhood cancer. If you'd like to donate anything please send me an email. Or check out this video from founder, Ken Block.

Well, I'm gonna veg on the couch for a bit. I'm loving life right now. I haven't said that wholeheartedly since my last real paycheck in 2007. Money may not buy happiness but it does provide assurance. Love you all!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Lessons and Football

I sit here on the couch tonight with the Bears/Packers game about to start. But the lessons have all been planned, despite having the premier of my annual fall sinus infection. I've got some spicy Chinese food on a plate on my lap hoping to burn the infection out of my head. And everything on the tv guide points to the fact that there is nothing else on tv except this game. Okay, Return of the King is on, but I watched part of the Lord of the Rings trilogy yesterday while on the couch trying to recuperate. The fact is I've never really been into football. There are so few games in the season and most of those, at least in Chicago, are played in inclement conditions so I've never really fallen in love with the Bears, or football for that matter.  

Yet now I am in Champaign. A new friend is our high school football coach. U of IL football has been the top news story since I moved down here, except for the week when Extreme Makeover Home Edition was here. And now everyone I know on Facebook that lives in Chicago is either watching the Bears game or at U2's kickoff tour in Soldier Field, home of the Bears.

So I sit here tonight, lesson planning done for the week and am watching football. I know the game well enough. I admit I won't be able to tell you what happened when flags are thrown. I DO know Bears legend Dick Butkis went to U of IL.  Shoot, I CAN tell you it's Faith Hill singing the NFL NBC theme song. And it's nice to see Bob Costas on tv again, who I love during Olympic "season." So here I go, hoping to get a little excited about this tough sport. It's 79 degrees in Green Bay, WI. The lights are on the field. The sun has set here in C-U. And people all over the bi-state area are tuned into the tv just like me.

So Bear Down Chicago. Let's hope the Bears win. Happy middle of September everyone!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Newbies Unite

My 3rd week of teaching has begun with a New Teacher meeting at 7:25 this morning. We've become a tight-knit group, us newbies, and I think overall we've all had a smooth first few weeks on the job. We've been at the football games (home and away) to cheer on our students. Some have offered extra credit if they come out and support the team. I am fairly certain we'll be doing something again this Friday too. Those on 5th period lunch have begun smoothie Friday, although that's more Coach's doing than the rest of us. A few of us even had what we now call "Lunch" after work on Friday to de-stress and discuss our frustrations and joys of our new workplace and "clients."

And I really can't believe I'm going to say this, and may look back at this by December and say, "what the heck!" but I truly feel like I'm doing well. Sure, I spend a good part of my weekend putting PowerPoints together and putting together lesson plans for my binder so that when I'm evaluated they're all in one spot, nicely typed up. But I've been able to stay busy (Italian class, DAR searching, trying to locate stuff for dual citizenship, you know, the usual) and still get everything done and feel like my students are learning what they should be.

I've had some successes this week. I'm planning a Mock Interview Day on October 2nd and already have 2 community employers who are willing to come interview students for me. One is the local Ann Taylor LOFT manager who I met shopping yesterday and the other is an HR director at a local hospital that I talked to today. Now I just need about 10-12 more people! At this rate I could have them set in 12 days!

I've also had students put some serious thought into their long-term career plans. I created a plan document based on other's I'd seen. I took my Coop students to the library to look at the career books and pull information on salary, outlook in the job market, skills needed, education needed and THEN they plotted out what steps they need to do over the next 2 years, 2-7 years and 8-12 years. Most did a great job. Some didn't try. 1-2 students really have no idea what they want to do and so haven't done anything. Which is too bad, because instead of investigating one of their possibilities they just shut down and get a zero. I've got to figure out how to get through to those kids. But I had one kid completely go from one career to another and is dedicated right now. A few want to find new jobs to fit their career plans. Great!

My business law class just took their first quiz. They earned mostly A's and B's with a few really bad scores. I'll give them a few more days to see if they turn in the next few assignments. If not, we'll have a little chat and explain the importance of doing work and succeeding.

Speaking of, I thought Obama's speech did just that today. I read the text before I went to work this morning. It was very inspirational. In fact, if I was in late elementary school or middle school and heard that speech I would have been fired up! (a reference to yesterday's speech he gave in Ohio).  Some of the older kids too, perhaps. When you tell kids that Michael Jordan was cut from basketball in high school and even as a professional lost hundreds of game and missed hundreds of makes them stop and think. This amazing athlete did some stuff wrong but the point was he tried. Success is full of curvy letters for a reason. There are few straight lines that lead to it. It's a lot of curve balls, winding roads and ups and downs before you get there. 

I've always loved the line in National Treasure that discusses Thomas Edison. The dialogue talks about how Thomas Edison tried and failed a hundreds ways to make a light bulb. But it only took one of those tries to be a success. I'm sure Mr. Edison slapped the table a few times. He probably shattered several pieces of glass. He was probably in a glum mood on days before or after a failed experiment. We've all been there. Even on the days you think it's going to go right, the bubble can burst and you feel like you are taking a few steps back.

But with all that effort comes knowledge on what not to do. That's where success plants roots and begins to sprout. That's exactly what I'm doing with my students. I haven't had a day yet where I slammed the car door or yelled at the top of my lungs in the weed-choked field behind my home. But they will come. And I'll be stronger for it.

And I'm not alone in it either. There is the Newbie group. We're in this together in a way.

It reminds me of a great verse. "No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he'll never let you be pushed past your limit; he'll always be there to help you come through it." - (The Message) Paul's 1st letter to the Corinthians, 10:13


Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Funny Thing About Being Ms. B...

I was told something funny today and thought it would be perfect fodder to write about to recap my week. It's been a great week. I had the whole week planned out as of last weekend. With the exception of finding transparency sheets and making copies, it's gone smoothly. Students have slowly gotten into a routine. School spirit has been a big push, more for the faculty than the students but we've all been voting for Urbana for the rivalry week school spirit poll online. The only big thing I can't check off my to-do list is find jobs for the final 6 students in my Coop class that do not have them. 

I've been out and about in the community on a number of different days in the last week. I'm hoping to create a binder full of applications that kids can come and pick up should they lose their job or want a different job. I've also begun an Area Employer Database, something that did not exist prior to my arrival. When students come see me they can look through either binder and get information to tackle their job search.

It's taken several forms of action to get my remaining students into my office. The first attempt was to tell them during class to see me when they are done with classes (they get out early in order to get to work). One came. Many did not. Attempt #2 was to create a sign-up sheet for Tues/Wed for students to come to the office. They all signed up but only 2 came that signed up. I can see who is trying and who isn't at this point. My final attempt was today. I told them in class that if you don't have a job today is a must or you will be booted out of the program. Two of my final 3 holdouts came today and I was able to give them some info and a plan of attack. Let's hope they do it.

What's so funny you may be asking? Well, the funny part about this whole process was pointed out today by my department chair. To paint the picture, Our business dept. office is tucked away inside one of the classrooms. I've been sticking close to my desk after teaching my 4 classes in a row to accommodate students who should be stopping by. Since the students all call me "Ms. B" they come into the classroom and start out saying something like, "Umm, is Mrs. Ba...." They don't know how to say my full name despite my going over how to say it. They also say Misses, to which someone in the office said, "Well, she's not married as far as I know but if you are looking for Ms. Bartholomew she's back there..." Perhaps you don't find it as funny as I do but I think it's hilarious. 

Anyway, Mrs. Ba....or Bart....or whatever is going to edit a test now. Maybe for Coop I'll ask them the question: what is my full name? 2 points extra credit if it's spelled correctly.