Sunday, January 8, 2012

Pretty Well Settled

I had 12 students show up all week for lunch detention.  We finished Sherman Alexie's The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and all present agreed that it was the best book that they had ever read.  Six girls, six boys.  Most of them are low-level readers.  I am so happy.  Sometimes other teachers pop in at lunch just to behold the sight of these kids and I engrossed in our book and happily munching on cafeteria fare.  Some of these kids believe they will never be good readers.  Some of them don't follow the book so much as listen to my narration. That's ok too and that's also why I read it out loud.  They are interested in stories and in this book.  Every day they tell someone who was absent what is going on. It's normal and natural and this, I believe, is the way to encourage literacy. This part of the day is what reminds me why I got into teaching.  The big question is "What are we going to read next?!".  I offered the other Alexie book, Flight, and also The Hunger Games.  They picked Flight.  I'm not sure how they will like it since the story line is much different than the first book, so I offered to keep Hunger Games as a backup in case we decide to abandon the book.  I also tweeted Sherman Alexie to let him know how much we loved the book.

My regular classes are going well.  My 8th graders- cynical as they are- are just finishing and enjoying The Outsiders.  They like it and have done a good job so far.  They are impatient with reading and resist doing more than a chapter a day.  We are working on the attention span. I'm not sure if they know that part of it. Next up is Walter Dean Myers.  While Alexander Nazaryan may decry the usefulness of Myers, and insist that students would benefit more from Homer and Aristophanes, I advocate first getting children interested in reading.  Yes, perhaps Lysistrata with its overt sexual humor and Martial's epigrams are somehow elevated to high art and of benefit to readers, they can't get there from here.  I'm scaffolding.  Perhaps at the end of the year, as a reward. But until then, until my students understand how to approach a reading at all, I want them to learn to enjoy learning how to do that and Myers can help us farther along with his accessible language and stories that my students can identify with.

My 7th graders, having just finished up with an expository writing unit, are now eager to return to literature. They are perusing Virginia Hamilton novels and will seen become engrossed in the stories of early African Americans.  And for me, I have offered a school-wide initiative to help us get on the same page with vocabulary.  I'm selecting a word every week for the school, and we are putting it up on the marquis.  Then the word, definition and an example will be read every day with the morning announcements and the other teachers will join in to help reinforce the lesson.  I like it, overall. The faculty are seemingly behind the idea as well so we'll see how that pans out.  The first week was a success.

I have had some trouble with the construction.  I've had bronchitis twice since it began. I was sick over the whole holiday and have had to stop running.  Let me say that again: I had to stop running for the time being.  Running is how I stay in shape and it's how I keep my asthma in check. I cannot and should not be exposed to a dangerous work environment and I tried pretty hard to ignore or deny the implications.  But my last trip to my doctor- where he advised me to find a different job while giving me a steroid shot in the butt- that made me see the light.  The remodeling is going on all around us, and all precautions have been taken.  We are stuck with just dealing with the dust, mold and noise.  And probably some asbestos too.  There was a public meeting to address health problems for students and faculty and the companies told us we would need to transfer. That's what the environmental officer said, anyway. I met with my principal and we decided that if I can't get someone in one of the adjoining buildings to trade with me, he will transfer me to another school.  I'm just getting going in this school; why would I want to switch in the middle of the year? I feel as though I am part of things there and part of the force that will get us past the CRT gatekeepers at the end of the year. I'll keep you posted, but it's most important to be able to breathe and I'd rather just work with people rather than any litigious entities.

But what about my kids? Where can they go? How can they even know to ask?  To be continued...

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