Friday, September 30, 2011


I've been a bit on the busy side of things lately. Between my teaching job (which doesn't even fit into the 40 hour work week), the two classes I adjunct teach and this dissertation defense, I haven't had time to write much.  I'm stressed because this is the longest I've gone without posting.  My friend L.Bangs remarked the other night that I need to write more.  And believe me, friends, I have stuff to talk about.

I have finally gotten to a point with my students that I can begin moving them from dependent learners to independent learners.  For instance, students commonly ask me if they might sharpen their pencils. I put up a sign that reads: "Independent Learners may sharpen their pencils whenever they need to, as long as the teacher is not lecturing". My next step with them is to tackle responsible use of the bathroom pass.  I have scaffolded this with my 8th grade class. They have now earned the privilege of moving their desks into the groups they want and can do community work.  If they do well next week, they can be trusted to use the bathroom pass at their own discretion. I wanted them in the configurations they chose. I want them to learn respect and to be respected in turn and for our classroom to be a place of learning.

I gave new vocabulary words last week too. "Home Language" and "Standard English" and "Code-Switching" all came up. We discussed openly - in all of my classes- whether or not one language was better than another, the importance of code-switching and why we need to study English. It went well and the spirited ones are becoming more focused. The less interested ones seem to be paying a bit of attention.

What has helped too is the ESL teacher who is coming for two of my classes.  I make use of her and have her work with struggling readers/writers who seem to founder in language and are shy.  They like her because she is nice and quiet and a native speaker, so she is a safe person to ask if they need to in Spanish.  Let's face it- I am a good teacher but the ESL teacher is a great augmentation because she shares a language context that I do not.  And I am all about using that to help those kids. They need it. They deserve it.  Sometimes the languages get mixed up.

I was explaining the concept of quickwrites to my kids. Quickwrites are writing where we just put down our ideas on a topic or tell a story as quickly as possible without thinking too much about it.  It's the warm up to our class and is a great way to generate topics for further writing. I gave an analogy (and taught that word along with it) of stretching before playing a sport. "What does stretching do for you?" I asked. "Helps us not get..." said one of my students. "Get..?" I inquired. He looked puzzled. Sometimes my students will know a word in Spanish and not know how to translate it. "Calambres." He turned to his friend next to him. "Cramps." said the kid.  You stretch so  you don't get cramps.  "That's why we do quickwrites. Nobody wants calambres." Some of my girls giggled. They later told me that calambres are also associated with menstrual cramps.  Fortunately, this was first hour.  I practiced the word on all of my other classes.  I got it wrong a few times and students delighted in correcting my pronunciation.  "Hey, I have to get it wrong in order to get it right." It was a wonderful and teachable day.

Followed by a few days of mindless testing.
Two steps forward, one step back.

The day we discussed home language and code switching, I was also being observed by the principal. We used poetry to talk about verbs and more on the use of analogy.  He's been hitting us over the head about curriculum so I was nervous.  When we got a chance to meet about it, he mentioned how much the kids participated in the discussion and the writing and that they seemed to be learning.  It was a good evaluation.  At the end, I confessed that the exercise we did was not in the curriculum script that was handed me as I walked in the door. It went far beyond and he could see that this was true.  He didn't have much to say about that.

School seems to be leveling off. I'm working out issues one at a time. It's really my health that is in the front seat today. I've been going at it a little aggressively. This week in addition to teaching at the middle school, I also taught my Tuesday night class at Osu-Okc. Then I ended up back there until 8 on Wednesday night and subbed in on Thursday night for someone else. Three 12 hour days in a row is a little too much. And my dissertation defense is next Friday. One week from today. And I am not ready yet. And I haven't graded all of those papers. And I need to work out. I did work, despite the aching in my lungs. And it all came down on me today.

I had to go see my doctor after work.  I have been coughing and wheezing for two weeks. Then I got a sinus infection and a really sore throat. It's all from my asthma. The doc gave me a steroid shot in the butt, an antibiotic and some cough syrup made with codeine. And a strong admonition to come earlier next time so that it doesn't get that bad.

So I had my own calambres this week. I didn't warm up properly or get enough rest and paid that price.  I'm going too much, running too ragged and trying and failing to be Wonder Woman. I've been typing with one eye closed and pausing to yawn. So tomorrow I cancelled my plans to be in the parade and to help someone move and I'm going to sleep in instead.  Because next week is going to be a hell of a week.

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