Sunday, August 30, 2009

ah, the first days...

let's recap my first week of teaching this year:

by the second day of school, 3 of my boys and one of my girls had seen the principal at least once, some twice.

i have exercised my shouting voice at least 3 times each day. this doesn't include shouting for effect during a read aloud. i should note that i do my best not to shout at school and do not enjoy it when it happens.

my kids have spent at least 50% of their recess time walking laps in reparation for offenses in the classroom.

they have spent probably 30% of their total time at school practicing walking up and down the hallway because we just can't seem to get it right.

i have already earned an almost brand new pack of my favorite american gum. ah, fringe benefits.

we have spent half an hour with our heads down trying to figure out who thought they should leave said gum on the enrichment teacher's rug.

and, finally, the same 3 boys mentioned previously have already managed their first in-school suspension for getting in a fist fight in the hallway/bathroom. yay! the upside of this is that the rest of the class had a surprisingly productive day after they left.

i should also mention that i'm referring to only one class, which has managed all of this in the half of the day that they spend with me. i can only imagine what else they've accomplished in mr. rollins class.

i predict that i will learn a lot this year, even if my kids do not.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

oh, public education...

today was: the beginning of the discovery of the extent to which education is ruled by bureaucracy and bullshit. why do we suck so much at this game?

i'm not saying i have all the answers. and i'm not saying we are necessarily worse than anyone else. but something has got to give. the way things are now, is not helping kids be better. it's not helping teachers be better. it is making it difficult for good teachers to be good teachers.

i want to teach kids. i don't want to waste my time turning in bullshit paperwork under the facade of accountability. that is time i could be spending helping kids.

i think part of what really bothers me, is that we have all of these rules and regulations and guidelines and policies. and we all put up a good front. we smile and nod and turn in the things we're asked for. but when we go into our rooms and close our doors, almost every teacher is picking and choosing, following just enough to not get in trouble and disregarding the rest. our focus is getting the kids what they need. sometimes the district is really helpful in that regard. sometimes it is really not.

what bothers me about this is that it's such a facade. if no one is really following all of these things anyway, then what's the point? can we set it up somehow so that there are the guidelines and support that are needed, but in a way that teachers can really use and follow? actually follow. what are teachers already doing that will tell the policy-makers the things they need to know, without requiring extra asinine paperwork that is supposed to tell you what we are doing, but essentially means nothing? can we please align these things a bit more? is anyone even asking the teachers? it's unfortunate that not a lot of teachers feel inclined to go into politics. (really, i find politics to be kind of unfortunate in and of itself, but that's another rant.)

now, i don't want anyone to think that i'm proposing that we have no restraints or guidelines for our education system. even good teachers need support and guidelines to help inform their practice. and i understand that having district or schoolwide policies in place is important in saving everyone from a lot of legal trouble (which is also a rant for another day). there are also quality control issues to consider. i fully support accountability of teachers. i just want it to be authentic and meaningful. i'm more than happy to turn in and do things that are actually helpful and meaningful for my job. which is to teach children and create good citizens. but i don't want to waste my time on things that, in the end, are nothing but not helpful b.s.

is there a way to balance the accountability and guidelines of a district with the freedom teachers need to be really stellar?

see also this TED talk about rules gone bad:
Paul Romer is discussing cities, but i can't help relating his ideas about unfortunate policy to the educational system. i'm not sure about applying his solution to education on a widescale. charter schools come with their own problems. though it's something i'm willing to consider.

Monday, August 17, 2009

being slowly

s l o w . d o w n .
no reason to rush.
life is here.
it will be here.
enjoy it.
take each moment and enjoy it.

there is no point
in rushing to the next thing
so you can rush through it
to get to the next thing.
s l o w . d o w n .

why do anything at all
if you don't appreciate it while you are there?
anything worth doing
is worth the time it takes.
enjoy it.
value it.
all of it.

take it all in
savor life.
every moment.
every touch, every taste, every sound.
the sights and the smells.
you only get this combo once
be with it.
really with it.
let. the rest. Go.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

home is the prairie

i'm having trouble remembering why i decided to come here. i think maybe it was for my friends. or the city? i'm not really sure.

when i left last summer i was surprised to find that houston had almost become more home than lincoln. all my friends and favorite restaurants were here. plus the driving. oh, i loved the driving. all that was left for me in nebraska was my mom, ivannacone and a handful of friends. not nearly enough to satisfy my adventurous soul. i couldn't possibly imagine staying there for more than just a visit.

but somewhere along the way, something changed, as things inevitably do, and my assumptions about myself and my life started to go out the window (a fact i have also found to be inevitable). and, as it turns out, i kind of really like nebraska. there is something about it that just feels good. there is something in the landscape that speaks to my soul and makes me happy. and you know what, i kind of like lincoln. i like that people are friendly. i like knowing my way around. i like that we have things like movies on the green and pinewood bowl and jazz in june. they make me happy.

and while i still can't believe that i can say this, i could maybe even live there one day. not now and not forever. i've got a lot of traveling to do. but you know what, somewhere down the line, it might be a good place to raise a family. when i get to that stage in my life, of course.

now, it's fair to note that i am probably suffering, in some part, from the-grass-is-always-greener syndrome. so far things in houston haven't quite been...ideal. this isn't quite the job i had envisioned for myself when i decided to come here. nor is our house quite what i was expecting, though it is adorable. and, of course, we have the TAKS. the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, also known as the bane of my existence and the reason i never wanted to teach in texas. yet, somehow, here i am.

i know that things will calm down. as i get my classroom in order and we finish unpacking our house, i will feel less and less unsettled. and soon i will have some time to rediscover all of the things i loved about houston. who knows, months from now i may never want to leave again.

for now, though i am representin' for you, nebraska, and sending much love northward. you've wormed your way into my soul and i'm fairly certain that no matter where i go, a part of me will always find comfort and solace in your wide open arms.