Guest Speakers: Aren’t they just adorable?

Just the other day my school held a “title one” training. We had a guest speaker who was from some North Western state and use to teach.

He spoke to us about the new Marzano evaluation standards and did some activities with us that we could do with our class….supposedly.

No offense to the school district, but why is it we bring in guest speakers and “education experts” from other states, who clearly have a different demographic than our school, and expect their strategies and experiences to work on our students?

1385471This guy was adamant that no more than 20% of the students in a class can be the ones unengaged and be the behavior issues…Please sir, if you had come sit in my 8th period class last year…I would say your percentage was extremely incorrect.

It just seems silly to pay butt-loads of money out of our school’s title one fund to have a speaker come in and tell us things that we can’t really take away with us at the end of the day.

Don’t get me wrong, the information he gave us about the new evaluation scale (which I will save for another post) was helpful. I like knowing just what I will be evaluated on. However, don’t try to relate to our school if you have not experiences it first hand.

Yes, the way I connect and deal with my students would vary if I taught on “the other side of the tracks” as the speaker so nicely put it at the training. But let’s be real. I don’t teach at a school that has amazing parent involvement and student engagement. I teach at a turn around, title one school where a majority of my students come from low-income families who, at the end of the day, don’t care about their education.

I would love to have a guest speaker who understood the school I was working at and the students I was teaching and could give me some real-life examples of strategies and activities that made gains as well as built that student/teacher relationship.

Because at the end of the day, you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make them drink. I can attempt to add more rigor to my curriculum, but if the kids can’t even grasp the basics, how do you expect them to do anything on or above grade level? bullying-teachers

The entire training this guy was attempting to tell us how to become a 90 percentile teacher… well, hate to break it to you sir, but unless you have students who can actually perform on grade level and fart candy, I just don’t think any teachers at a rough school could live up to that percentile.

Thank you though, for 7 hours of training and making me feel worse about myself as an educator, it was super cute how you tried to relate your experiences and “expertise” to what we are going through at my school. Hope you made some good money adding to the list of reasons why I dislike the education system.

The joke known as “summer school”

 Let me just enjoy this moment in venting about the uselessness of summer school and how much of a complete joke it is.

First off. Why do we lower the bar for our students in such a way that they only come to summer school if they LITERALLY receive all F’s, but one D will gladly make them pass to the next grade.

Also, you can attend summer school even if you failed 3 out of 4 of your core subjects.

To me, as a teacher and a summer school (glorified) babysitter, it seems like the education system is saying to these kids, “Oh, you slept through the entire school year and failed miserably, please come enjoy summer school to make up your credits (for math, science, English or social studies). Then, go on to 9th grade and stop being our problem.”

As if we don’t lower the bar enough, then we allow students to do a credit recovery program for summer school. This program is on the computer and suppose to catch kids up on the standards they were meant to learn during the year.

Here is how the program works. Kids have multiple modules for each subject they are needing to take. Each module has anywhere from 2-5 mini lessons.

Kids start off each lesson by taking a pretest. If students manage to get an 80% or higher on the pretest, they no longer have to complete the lesson and move on to the next. Perfect. If kids do poorly on the pretest they have to work their way through the lesson, which has mini quizzes along the way. These quizzes don’t really count, so most just guess their way through it.

Finally, after each lesson there is a post test. Students CANNOT move on to the next lesson without passing the post test. You need a 70% to pass and are allowed two computer attempts. And because all the children in summer school are so fantastic, they all try their hardest to pass the posttest…HA! Instead, when they bomb twice, the fun begins for me.

Being an English teacher and hating the laziness of the students, I make the students go back and take notes on the lesson they failed (twice) and then print them a copy of the test. This way I am able to see what they are missing and help them out.

The program itself is not too bad, other than you get some children flying through and finish in two days. Which, to be honest, is a bit of a slap in the face to your teachers.

We spend all year preparing lessons, grading papers, and teaching the students in a way that makes sure they are ready to succeed in next grade…and then they fail, causing them to go to summer school which is so easy that it is not even seen as  a punishment.

Don’t get me wrong, I am glad we have a program like this to help out the kids who are just not getting it and need the extra help before going off to the next grade.

However, for those students who are lazy, unmotivated, and disrespectful throughout the entire school year and then come to summer school, sleep and (attempt) to play on their phones and they get to still pass…

Seems legit, right?

Things I learned in my 2nd year teaching

So today was the day. The last day of the year and I couldn’t be happier.

This year has had ups and downs. I never thought this year could be tougher than my 1st… I was wrong.

However, live and learn is a good motto to live by. Here are a few things I learned this school year.img_2974

  • When mistakes happen… Sometimes you can’t control their outcome. 

This year I was in charge of the yearbook for the first time. I figured it wouldn’t be too bad.

It was HELL.

I found out (important) things last minute and we ended up accidentally publishing a photo with a few kids giving the camera the middle finger (yup..not good)!

We ended up fixing it…but it added so much extra drama that was unnecessary for the end of the year.

But hey, The cover turned out pretty amazing! No big deal.

  • You win some, you lose some. 

Not all children will connect with you. Some will despise you, and even without a good reason.

This year I had a harder time connecting with some of my kids.. But some kids don’t want to connect with teachers.

I got over it quickly. Especially when kids are jerks for fun.

  • District standards > your standards

So you expect students to pass your class with a C or higher? Well, with our great grading system..

Kids can FAIL 3 out of 4 quarters, get a D in one of them… And PASS the class!

Are you kidding me?!

Nope, no jokes here. So, expect the kids to know the minimum they can do to pass and not see your face again.

  • Summer school. To work or not to work.

So, you apply to work summer school because you like the idea of getting paid $25/hr to babysit the darlings you failed…

Plus, what does summer school really teach them? Oh hey kids, you can slack off and fail all year…just show up to summer school, finish the online credit recovery program in three days, then you are free.

I am really sure they learned the skills they needed to be successful in high school. *Claps for this brilliant system*

Well, this one is your choice. I am hoping I don’t regret my decision to give up my summer for the extra cash.

Although being the smirking face students will see in the morning will be fun. Should have passed my class the first go-around!

  • The education system is ruining lives and it doesn’t even know it!

Our education system passes kids who won’t succeed in the next grade, wares out its teachers, and is too political.

And we wonder why the USA has one of the worst education systems in the WORLD!

We over test our kids, and for what? Useless data that inaccurately measures how the kids are learning… Because no kids ever “Christmas tree” their exams. *Laughs*

We underpay and don’t support our teachers. We tell them they are not effective at their job to “show improvement” but then continue to overload classes, turn a blind eye to behavior problems, and expect teachers to not give up the fight because they LOVE the kids.

HA! Get real!

After all that we then pass students along until they fail so badly they give up and drop out. I had students who are 14 and read at a 2nd grade reading level! You really think they are ready to be successful in high school?

Why is this even happening?!

With all the things I have learned this year, I realize more and more how much teaching is not for me…or for anyone when you think of it.

However, luckily I have a soft spot for the kids I teach, they are the only reason I stick with it for now.

I promised to get my babies (you know who you are) through middle school…and I will! They make the crazy days, drama and stress worth it 🙂

How I told my students I was expecting

If you are a younger teacher, you are constantly hearing things like, “When are you having kids?”, “Do you want kids?”, and many other baby related questions.

Finally, all my kids’ wishes came true and the hubby and I are expecting! (YAY!)

However, I waiting till the first trimester was over and came up with a cute little plan to tell my students I was having a baby.

I decided to tell my 5th period, journalism class first, because I was able to make it into a news writing assignment as well as I then was able to tell some of my babies I have had for 2 years in a row. 🙂

Here is the link I created for the Powerpoint I used as the journalism assignment. BabyNewsstoryPPT

It went over adorably! And the key part of the assignment was no talking the entire time till the questioning part of the activity.

How did the students respond to the story tips? Well, with the fetal heartbeat, some students thought it was a train, others a washing machine, and a few guessed heartbeat. More students were able to guess that the photo was og an ultrasound and then the date they guessed it was a birth date.

When it came to questions they were not allowed to make assumptions, so they were not allowed to ask if the child was mine, which made for an interesting Q&A session.

However, once i revealed the actual 5Ws, they FREAKED OUT! I have never seen so many excited faces and so many questions with real interest from these kids all year. It was well worth the wait and telling this class first.

Although once one class found out the news, the rest of the student body soon found out as students walked through the halls yelling I was pregnant. As the day went on the “rumor” (as my kids called it) spread from all the little mouths to little ears and more and more students popped into my room to ask questions, congratulate, and hug their pregnant teacher.

Some teachers may not have told their students…but I know mine would be too excited and like knowing about a bit of their teachers’ lives…especially when it comes to pregnancy.

Please note, I did have to make a rule really quick stating, “NO TOUCHING THE BELLY UNTIL IT IS ACTUALLY VISIBLE!” haha silly kids, just can’t help themselves.

“I get by with a little help from my friends.”

“I get by with a little help from my friends.”

That statement means more and more to me being in the teaching field. As I have mentioned in the past, I work at a title 1 school. Meaning, a majority of our kids come from lower-income families. So, needless to say, we have our fair share of discipline problems and some days are a lot harder than others.

Last year, I started out with a great group of teacher friends who helped me settle in the teacher life and gave me guidance along the way. This year, we have a new group of teachers who I can help and give advice to.

unnamedWe plan together (and try to help if we are different grade levels or subjects), we eat lunch together, we hang out on weekends. This is what we do.

Recently, I have had some really rough days in general, not just with teaching. These select few ladies and gentlemen I work with help me keep my head held high and a smile on my face.

Without them, I truly believe the teaching life would have gobbled me up and spit me out, right on my tush.

I hear of friends who work at other schools and say they don’t really get along with or get to know their coworkers. That baffles me. Perhaps it is just certain schools hiring like minds, but my school has an amazing staff that help everyone and keep everyone sane, especially when middle school drama is around every corner.

So, this short little blog post is to say thank you to my teacher friends who keep me sane and support me more than I deserve! You are the best and I am truly thankful to have you in my life. ❤

*Also, Stephanie forgive me…but the Grumpy Cat photo was going to waste so I figured this was a good opportunity to use it.

Finally, I can almost taste the success!

So, as an out-of-field teacher, life has been challenging; Start working at a job you have NO IDEA about how to do, taking a teaching training course to make up for the things you did not learn in college, and then taking extra courses that you have to take to add to your certificate.

(Not including the countless amount of time and $$$ you spend on taking your official teaching tests so that you are somewhat legit.)

Luckily, my county has a great program where I can get my real teaching certificate through their classes. This program is called TTT (Transition to Teaching). Which, not going to lie, has been way better and cheaper than spending my days at an actual college with 18 year olds.  

However, today is THE DAY. I finally finished uploading and editing up every piece of paper, rubric and video i needed to say, “I have completed the program…GIVE ME THAT CERTIFICATE!”

It is crazy for me to think how 2 years ago I would have been sitting at home, talking to my mom about needing a real job (but finding something not freelance, that you LOVE in journalism is harder than it sounds) and her suggesting teaching. I know I looked at her like she was crazy, but because I love her, I humored her and sent off my transcripts to the DOE.

BAM!

Temporarily certified middle school teacher! WOAH!

Even though the past two school years have not been the easiest, I certainly have learned a lot. Of course, I also would not change a thing because I love knowing I am helping kids…even if it is in the slightest way.

However, at this exact moment, all I can think about is how far I have come and grown up in the past two years. Teaching has helped me do that. And now, with the help of my friends and family, I am finally going to get me Teaching Certificate and have no excuse to call myself “out-of-field”.

This may be one tiny step in the right direction, but this achievement is one giant leap for my career. 🙂

Fairy tales for EVERY lesson!

Who doesn’t love a good fairy tale? Seriously, don’t lie to yourselves…you love them.

Well, so do I!

I am one of those teachers who likes to pull things that the kids have known since they were little(r) and put it into classroom lessons.

Let’s be real for a minute. Any excuse to put something Disney-like into my lessons…I just like to add a little pixie dust and fantasy into my lesson plans.

My 8th grade students had a great time making a poster after researching Cinderella stories in other cultures. They quickly found out that, in some culture, the Cinderella story is not as lovely and magical as the version they grew up knowing.

Another way of bringing childhood fairy tales into the classroom is by using them to teach writing techniques. Along with teaching English, I also teach Journalism.

My journalism students are needing to learn how to turn fluffy, soft news into hard-hitting news.

Firstly, I am having them summarize popular fairy tales in one sentence. For example: Three Little Pigs.

“Two our of three pigs died when their houses were blown down by a wolf.”

Sounds a little less kid friendly, but this is what happened. Think about it.

Once, as a class, we have discussed and summarized the fairy tales, then I give them a couple more, this time they must create a 150 word news story about the story, all while keeping it news sounding.

Pretty fun huh?

My thoughts on this method is that most students know things such as fairy tales from when they were really little. So, why not make the learning seem less scary and hard by using something they already know that they do not find intimidating?

This can be done with anything the kids know well. Just a thought for those teachers who are looking for ways to change things up for their kiddos. Try something they like, know, and find “simple”.

Remember, all any of us need is a little FAITH, TRUST, & PIXIE DUST.