Wednesday, October 28, 2009

2 more referrals

Greetings from a scarce dry day in east-central illinois.
As teachers and people go, I'm probably one of the most lenient and willing to give someone a 2nd chance to make a better impression, say the right thing, or prove they are trustworthy. My father taught much the same way (I asked him last night) and so it comes naturally. I like to believe everyone is good and somewhere deep down know that the right way really is the right way.

It's a true fact that teenage brains are still developing. The Y generation is the NOW generation. They want things to be done instantly and want to react instantly. I know it but I have hope that at least a few of my students know when to rein it in. Naive? Maybe. But if I'm teaching as well as I think I am, by the end of the year some of these students will have learned patience and how to bite their tongue.

For now though, we have a long way to go. I have one student who has repeatedly acted defiantly towards me. She didn't have a job for a while. Then she got one after a ton of medical tests required for pre-employment (it was a hospital) and finally after a week of work and complaining how gross the patients could be and how rough washing floors could be, she was fired. There were a few positives in her daily input in class such as how much more over minimum wage those in her position make. Since that firing, she's used every excuse she could give me as to why she can't get a job. She's also missed several days. On top if it all, there is animosity between this student and the others in the class. Typical teenage stuff without any budging from how one feels about the other. Now my fired student has made great strides in trying to communicate and work with the rest in the class (coincidentally my smallest class of students at 7). The other folks not so much. All of these factors erupted into a week of explosions from both groups of students in my little class.

On Tuesday when I went over grades with my students, my fired student told me her excuses and I offered to even sit with her and help her fill out apps on the computer in my office. She had none of it. I was told after a few semi-pleasant exchanges, "kiss my a**". My student then stormed out of the room. I've made a little headway into helping this student feel better about herself. I've praised her writing which is among the best of all my students. I've praised her work ethic when she actually turns assignments in. I've also explained the things she needs to take on herself to succeed. And that's where the rub is apparently. I really, really dislike swearing. I think it's a form of speech that is unnecessary and has lost meaning. Those words you say need not be said and other, more powerful words make more sense than swear words. Check the dictionary. Improve your vocabulary.

Round two of the explosions was yesterday. My student was back and the class was down to 4 that day. We were talking about life lessons. One in particular was that if you think your teachers are tough, wait till you meet your first full-time boss. One of my male students who had been in a tiff with his mother (also his boss) said how he hated his boss right now. My normally quiet, fired student piped up that she thought his mom was a good boss when she worked for her. Well, my male student was like a match lit near a gas pump. He swore at her and said she didn't know what she was talking about. My fired student stormed out of the room for the 2nd day in a row and thus began a 15 minute lecture on my key life lesson: Think before you open your mouth. It's better to fill the air with potpourri than cow pies.

Neither student was in class today. I had submitted a referral for both yesterday afternoon. My fired student was suspended for speaking to me the way she did. The other got saturday detention and a day in dean's restricted assignment. It frustrates me because now both are missing class. And neither are likely learn their lesson or change their ways in the next few days. 

I'm sure there will be a future blog related to this week. I'll let you all know when it arises. In the meantime, I am trying to get every kid a job - even the fired ones. It's holiday hiring season. There are NO excuses. I think some of those sociologists are right. The Y generation is also the Lazy generation. Too much coddling and helping get by. Technology making everything easier. Perhaps that should be my other big life lesson. Paychecks list your "earnings" for a reason.


Sunday, October 25, 2009

My First Really Big Teaching Success Story

Since the start of the school year I wanted to set up an Interview Seminar for my students. Sort of a way for them to get interview practice. Over the last 2 years I've done probably 10 real job interviews and another 100 mini-interviews at job fairs. I've learned some extremely important things that I wouldn't have known without having done so many interviews.

Over the last few weeks I've been talking to employers that currently employ my students and to other people in the community. I had a ton of interest and just didn't know if I could pull it off in time to coincide with our unit on preparing for jobs. My coworker, Tammy, who teaches a similar course for students 14-15 years old thought it would be a good thing for her students to do and she jumped on the bandwagon. Together, I think we pulled off an amazing event.

On Friday morning, during the 1st two periods of the day, about 40 students, most of them dressed professionally as required, began to sat at tables with representatives in the community. I had people from ConAir (of hairdryer fame who is one of Champaign County's largest employers), City of Urbana, Busey Bank, Carle Hospital, U of IL and more. 

Some of my students now have internship and job leads for post-high school. Some of these students will graduate in January and others in June and will hopefully be able to snatch up these opportunities. Some of them impressed the "Interview Specialists" so much that I was told they interviewed better than some of the adults that come through the door for real interviews. 

It was a very successful day and I can't wait to host the 2nd annual Interview Seminar next fall. It will be even bigger and better. Many of the people who wanted to be an "Interview Specialist' were hit by H1N1 at their office or had meetings that prevented them from coming in on Friday. Next year, I'll be able to plan this further in advance and make this a really, big deal. 

I'm so happy this went well. Now if only I can get these kids to take their future's seriously. Some I think began to get how big an interview will be for their future. Some just did extra interviews to get the extra credit I was offering. With a recent study out last week stating that 1 in 4 18-19 year olds will not have a job, my biggest task is to make these kids employable and make them see that what I'm teaching them REALLY DOES apply to the real world.

Monday is on the horizon. The goal remains. The outcome is still unknown. This Tuesday marks 1/4 complete in the school year. 1st Quarter grades in and over with. I've probably lost that 25 percent of kids that won't get the job after high school. Honestly, I've got 4 F's and 1 D in my Coop classes. The ones that aren't coming to school and aren't turning things in. Not much more I can do there but keep calling parents and keep emphasizing work ethics. I've got 3/4 of a year to go to convince the other 3/4 of the kids in my classes that WILL get those jobs to work for it. 

You think your Monday's are tough? 

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Always Extracurricular!

With the Homecoming festivities over I thought I'd settle into a normal week. Monday went smoothly but I've discovered pretty quickly today that I'm in for another busy week! First a quick recap on the last few days...

1)Friday 10/16 - Freshmen, my freshmen, won 2nd place for our Homecoming Float. 

2)Tailgreat (the party before the football game) happened just after the parade of floats and teams. We broke even on our Walking Taco sales. (Walking tacos are individual-sized bags of Fritos/Doritos that you scoop taco meat and the fixings into and then add a spoon). We sold them for $2.50 only to find out someone else had been approved to sell them and was selling for $1. Not bad considering we broke even. I think the "combo meal" with Capri Sun helped!

3) Football Game - our sad football team hit the field with high hopes. It was the most packed crowd yet. I left just after half time, once I assisted in getting the Homecoming Court on the field. The score then was 31 to 2 (yes, we got a safety and 2 points without even touching the ball). The final was 52-2. Ouch.

4) Saturday 10/17 Homecoming Dance - The Commons (lunchroom) is festooned with club lights along the ceiling that can be set on several settings. It reminded me of a club in Europe. Kids had fun. I basically watched them dance. If you can call it dancing, that is. I've learned that rock is dead, hip-hop and rap are the coolest thing to listen to, although Taylor Swift somehow figures into the mix. And Mariah Carey's remix of an old Foreigner song. I may have been the only one there to know who the original singer was. Home by midnight and sound asleep. Wow.

Sunday I hosted left over taco night. Had a few folks over. Good times. And more football. Teams tend to lose when I watch. No wonder I never got into this game.

Yesterday, I had a good work day. Meeting after school which covered everything from asthma to professional development.  I spent the evening doing a bit of work then headed to Parkland College to Part 2 of Italian. No one showed. I think it was cancelled but there was no notice. Bummer. I'll have to stay in the know till I head to Italy this summer for language courses!

Today, a busy work day. My alarm didn't go off so I was a bit befuddled this morning.  (First I use festooned and now befuddled. Am I living in 1860 Georgia?). Prepping for my big Interview Seminar on Friday. It's not turning out the way I wanted. Lots of my key interview folks have people out with H1N1 at work and can't make it. Hopefully it still turns out cool. If not, I have lots of people really interested in helping next year. Ya gotta start somewhere! 

Anyway, After school was a new teacher meeting. That went well. I took a 1 hour 15 min workout time at the gym which was great - abs and thighs targeting. I will have trouble walking tomorrow. After that I went to watch the Champaign-Urbana swim tournament. My 2nd swim meet this year. We need to work on flip turns. I left 2/3 through the swim meet to check out the Volley For the Cure tournament between Champaign & Urbana also taking place. I got to watch my 2 favorite sports in one night. How lucky am I? I got home around 9pm (nearly bedtime) and did work on a powerpoint for law tomorrow. It started out at 64 slides and I've got it down to 30. Now THAT is what I call work.

Enjoy the recap. It's a bit dry this week but I'm sure the next one will have more interest. And I'll get parade float photos up soon.  Buonanotte.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Homecoming: Also known as how do I fit all this stuff into 5 days?

I was going to wait until the end of the weekend to write this blog but I'm quickly discovering there is just too much going on to wait until after Sunday.

It's Homecoming week. As a new teacher, I'm finding out that this means lots of odd outfits (more so than in Hinsdale or Orland Park) and intense class battles, class color t-shirts and apparently chanting this coming Friday at the assembly.

The last 2 evenings I've spent at the public transit bus depot building a float with my freshmen. Last night went well. Most everyone worked hard and most got along well. They downed nearly 10 whole pizzas and lots of Capri Sun. 4 hours of work seemed to produce greater progress than the other 3 classes and we had more students than the rest. At right is our Tiger who is singing (Tiger Idol is our float theme).

Yesterday was also Celebrity Tuesday. I had a variety of "people" in class. Today was Animal day. I'm not sure what some of my kids were dressed as.

Tomorrow I hear is the craziest day of the year. Lots of yelling. I plan on teaching then leaving to buy supplies for the student tailgate tomorrow. The Freshmen class is making walking tacos as a fundraiser at "tailgreat" and I'm the one with a free schedule in the afternoon so I'm gonna go buy. Good luck to me! Tomorrow night is our last night of float building. We have a ways to go but I think we can do it in our 2 hour time frame. I'll be sure to snap a photo in the parade on Friday.

Friday is class, then assembly then the parade followed by tailgreat and football game. Saturday is the Homecoming Dance which I am required to chaperon. Should be interesting. 

I've got to sleep now. You can tell from the randomness of this post that I'm tired. Expect more of the same on the next one!


Friday, October 9, 2009

Breaking the Rules Can Be Dangerous

I woke up yesterday and just felt - different. It was pouring rain outside. Okay, to be honest it was about to pour rain outside, according to our local meteorologist who I believe is younger than I am. Anyway, I decided to get ready as quick as I could and head to work before the rain really set in.

As soon as I put my foot on the ground after watching the weather I knew in my head I was not going to obey any of my rainy day rules. I don't know why. I'm usually really strict with my rules and any rule in general. That habit in and of itself can be dangerous, when you aren't willing to sway from the line. But here are the rules I broke that I never break.
1) Don't wear white on days it rains. I don't think I need to go into detail there. 
2) Don't wear jeans on days it is going to precipitate. I learned that lesson at Great America in 5th grade.
3) Don't straighten your hair on wet days. It's going to fight its way back to curl all day.

So there you are. My 3 top rainy day rules. And I wore jeans, a white shirt with my pink blazer and straightened my hair because it is getting to long and has become a replica of Medusa minus the snakes.

I suppose you could argue I was paid back for my nonchalance. I wrote my first student referral yesterday. I had 2 female students go to the hallway to make up a business law quiz. It is never my first choice, since I don't think students should miss class time but they had both already made up another quiz earlier in the week. My custom is to typically poke my head into the hall to make sure no one is discussing answers, to ensure other students walking by don't stop to chat and to make sure students aren't cheating in some other form. 

Unfortunately for me, one of the girls had slipped a folder out in the hall with her quiz and I looked at the moment she opened the folder part-way to look at a sheet of paper inside. On that paper were notes for the chapter the quiz covered. I hated to take both items away but, being the rule stickler I am, took both and issued the zero grade. She seems like a good kid. Full of energy and always willing to participate in discussion. It may have broke my heart more than hers. 

I found the girl later in the day and gave her back her notes so she could study this weekend for the Unit Test. I have a feeling I'm supposed to impact this girl's life in a positive way. I learned a bit more about her yesterday and I want to be a person she can come to. That's my new goal.

Also in the category of payback, I got into my car at 3:15 yesterday and began a drive to a student's worksite.  Less than 2 minutes into the drive I realized my rear end was soaking wet. My seat was completely soaked through but the rest of the interior in my car was dry as California brush. It took me an hour in my car between the worksite, home, the gym then home again to realize the seal on my windshield was leaking. 

It has rained for 2 days straight. I sat during meetings today and watched it fall while sitting in the library. It was beautiful. Straight down rain, like a shower on a weak spray setting that happens to cover a huge swath of land. 

Tomorrow I will wake up without any rain and head up to Chicago. My car will have a few days to dry out (I hope). I'll be dry and have almost all my "homework" completed and ready to go for next week. I need this trip north. Next week is Homecoming and there will be very little time for me to enjoy the week with float building every night, Italian class, football game and the Dance on Saturday evening. 

Home. I'm in a place where this place, Champaign-Urbana, feels like home. But Chicago is home too and one I haven't seen in nearly 2 months. I wonder what kind of home it will feel like? I'm excited to experience it. I'm also looking forward to the business of next week. 

I'll be sure to follow the rules.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Ins and Outs of Early October

I'm long overdue for a blog post and as I lay in bed here in the early hours of night I decided to pop back out of bed and put a few thoughts down on this past week.

First of all, I had my evaluation and post-evaluation meeting. I believe it went well. Basically I need to do a better job of checking for understanding during class. I was told to use the popsicle stick method to call on names. I've decided that a great time to do that is just after the Unit Test this week. Or perhaps while studying for the Unit Test. I'll play around with it. First I need to go buy some popsicle sticks. I'm not really good at asking questions and didn't have many to ask. I'm lucky though. Our principal is one who is very approachable and I think that as I do develop questions through the year I've got a wealth of people I can call on to help me out.

The next topic is one I am sad to report. My beloved city, Chicago, failed in their chance to win the bid for the 2016 Olympic Games. Despite my small involvement from the 100 degree temps at the 2007 marathon to the icy chill and hail of this past spring when the IOC came for their visit, I was thrilled to be a part of something I knew could be big and have a lasting impact on this city. I believe in my heart Chicago will get the Olympics someday. What we need to do is use the leverage we've got already in our bid. Baron de Coubertin who began the Modern Olympic Movement in 1896 wanted Chicago to host the games. He was impressed with our city, after attending the 1892 World's Fair. We should have had the games in 1904 but gave them to St. Louis with barely a fight. And this time around we gave them to Brazil with our pathetic pitch to the IOC on legacy for the youth of the city.

What failed our city was the final marketing strategy. We focused on what would happen after the Games came to Chicago rather than what the Games would do for the athletes and the Movement itself. Yes our President and First Lady were there. Impressive. But so was every other dignitary. Watching the presentation I knew we had lost. There was no passion. There was rhetoric. It was as though these people had championed the cause for so long they'd lost site of the prize itself.

I sit here tonight wondering if all the death and violence amongst the youth of Chicago was the reason we pitched the Games as a way to galvanize Chicago's youth to focus on sport. We don't need the Games to do that. We need communities to do that. We need parents to step up. We need people to support the charities that exist, like Here's Life Inner City. We need kids to realize that by extinguishing the flame of someone else's future they are burning their own to the ground.  That the burned out shell that is left behind will remain inside them until they take control and turn their lives down a path that builds up rather than breaks down.

Sports will continue in Chicago. Baseball, well, we'll wait till next year to see how that goes on any side of town. Football, doing well so far this year (not the same can be said about the teams down here). Basketball, too early to tell. The Chicago Marathon is next weekend. I think this one will finally be in perfect runner weather. I'll be bundled up though. 

I'm excited to head back to Chi-town. It's been a long time and the last was a quick swing into town to get allergy shots. I have a lot of friends there, many of whom call me on a weekly basis or I call them. Some I don't think realize I've moved away, like life is moving on as it always did for them. Hopefully we can all take the time and support each other. 

I love cheering the runners on in the marathon. It is a worthy goal to run a race that killed the first person who did it. None the less, I will be there as I have at nearly every marathon the last 8 years, ringing my cowbell and yelling for people whose names are on their shirts. I stop at around 5 different places around the route each time. 

Who are you cheering on this week? Who do you support and do they know it? Or are you just standing on the side lines? Life is worth living, sure, but it is so much more fun when you live it weaved into the tapestry of the people around you. Give someone a high five. Give 'em a ring. Heck, wave that cowbell and yell for all you are worth. Be a buddy. 

Sweet dreams.