Monday, September 20, 2010

Joey Pigza Looses Control! And, Ms. Poulin gains control

I have offically started my second unit. My 7th and 8th grade students are all reading a book called "Joey Pigza Looses Contro," a great book about a middle school-aged boy who goes to spend the summer with is less than dad-of-the-year qualities for the first time. Joey's mother left his father Carter, for a number of reasons but mostly because he was just like Joey, wired (had ADHD), and refused to get anything to help himself out. It is a charming, bold, and fun book and so far everyone is at least interested in the story. Joey looses control of him himself at one point, as the title foreshadows, and mayhem ensues. I cannot wait until we get to these last few chapters as a class! Lots of great discussions are ahead of us.

Ms. Poulin has finally gained control of her classes. Control beyond the "I said sit down and raise your hand" and onto "wow! you are all really learning, and showing me how smart you are, let's see how far we can push since we're ahead of my schedule" (which is totally a is just good for them to feel like they are THAT smart sometimes. I'm still struggling with the enjoyment/ investment factor in my first class and my last class of the day. My 3 middle of the day classes and I have really started bonding and real work and effort is being put in by my students now too! Who knew?! My goal is to charm the hell out of 8C and 7C (first and last classes of the say) so that they want to come to my class when they're asleep or aching to go to football practice because I make it fun and interesting. Small steps, but i am determined to be successful in getting them to at least love learning enough to 1) come to class and 2) do thier work and 3) maybe learn enough to jump up from basic to proficient on the state end of course exam!

Overall, I am finally now truly enjoying some of my classes. I want to enjoy all of them equally, but then again...i teach in Marvell, not utopia. I'll keep teaching them all as they deserve...but i can't promise i won't have secret favorite periods. Oh! I'm also getting a guitar soon. I really really really have fallen hard for the blues and folk style music with modern twists...imma be a star! Or at least a tinker-er :)

Ciao, tutto mio amore

PS - Fellow 'Cuse kids. I'm visitng October 15th!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

I cannot believe that an ENTIRE month has gone by since I last wrote on here. Sooooo very much has happened in that time, so I will do my best to keep this as short and succinct as possible to catch everyone up to speed. Two important things have happened since I last wrote and they are:

1) I experienced my first in-service training at my new school with veteran and new teachers.

2) I have been teaching for 11 days...


This is training and education (health, stress management, classroom management, and stats about scores and places that need improvement, etc.)provided and mandated by the school district I teach in and in most districts. I enjoyed meeting the many faces and personalities that I am lucky to call my co-workers. I got a sense of the direction the superintendent wanted the district to head this year. And, I had my first real "Delta breakfast" during in-service. Never in my life did I think that I would look at a biscuit and a sausage patty and think, yeah that was really good. The kitchen ladies put some magic in those biscuits and some love on that patty because it was was also insanely heavy...but still awesome. I've befriended a few fellow teachers "old" and "novice" as we are all called by our administration and i am happy to say that I feel comfortable and confident when I walk the halls to my classroom in the middle school wing.

11 Days so far
I survived the first two days. Correction: We (my students and I) survived the first two days together. Weekend. Monday-Friday of week 2 and my students slowly came out of their shells, I was able to assess their reading levels, set up big goals for my students to strive for, and class expectations for behavior and academic success. I love everyone one of my students. Sometimes that love comes easily, sometimes that love comes with a little more effort...but I LOVE THEM ALL because they are really great kids.

These great kids of mine, have been failed though. Failed by a system that they didn't know was working against them. Today I had conferences with students about their individual reading and writing levels and their goals for the year and their goals for next quarter. 2 students nearly burst into tears. 1 student denied that what I was telling her was the truth several students immediately invested themselves in their own learning and focus. Most other students took me seriously and took my advice and returned to the in-class assignment. Why are these great students of mine having such reactions? I teach 7th and 8th grade English? My class average reading level for 7th grade is a reading level of 3rd-4th grade. My 2 8th grade classes read on about a 4th grade level. I don't know who, I don't understand entirely how, but I do know students have been failed, let down, dismissed, and not cared about enough my previous teachers. They have not been told honestly about their reading capabilities and they have been given tools to catch up or to succeed. I cannot save the world, i cannot get all my kids on grade level, but I'll be damned if a student of mine leaves in June and does not leave my classroom confident that they can make enormous gains, can read, and can push themselves harder than they've ever pushed before.

I, me, Ms. Poulin and invested in them and that is all I ever communicate to them. I'm not into frills and gimmicks to lure my kids into being invested in their education because I see things in the Delta like this. I am teaching in a low-income, high- region. People living below the poverty line are generally most concerned with 2 things: safety and having things taken from them. My investment strategy is simply this with my students. "I am going to give you something that no one can ever take from you. I have a car outside, if someone was feeling incredibly cruel...they could take it from me right? I have a purse...same case, right? Well, you know what no one can ever take from me? MY EDUCATION. In this class, in English this year I am going to give you the tools, knowledge and skills to develop your education. No one can ever take that from you. That is ENORMOUS control and POWER over yourself and your life. So class, when you come in, we work hard so we can educate ourselves and be something, somebody we're proud to be one day."

I also tell them to keep six feet on the floor at all times (chairs have 4 feet , they have 2...hahaha) because 1) i care about their safety in my class and 2) i don't have a broom in my room so, if they do fall over I'm not sweeping up the pile of student that lands all over my nice clean floor.

I got a little intense a few lines up, so I am going to rest here and say ciao! tutto mio amore (all my love) and I will be better about writing more often.

PS - every door in the school has "Success is our only option" above it because it is the new district wide slogan...yours truly is already making her mark on ol' Marvell, Arkansas ;)