Saturday, August 28, 2010

i have got to start looking older...

conversation with current student this week:

"ms. wood, you're like a teenager!"
"um, ok. you know i went to college, right?"
"yeah, but you're like a teenager."
"ok, good?"
"yeah, you get us! you have the heart like a teenager!"
"ah. well, isn't it awesome!?"

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

it fits

it feels good to be back at school. it feels right. i still feel incredibly incompetent at quite a lot of aspects of my job but overall, being in education just fits. this is what i am. it's what i have always been.

this in no way negates my rant about public education. the system is a mess. but as far as educating people goes, i'm totally on it.

what to do with public education?

i'm kind of over the public education system. from what i can tell, its current state is a bit of a disaster. more specifically, it just feels like the system is incredibly broken and every time someone tries to fix it, it just gets more convoluted. i feel like everyone keeps adding more instead of maybe reexamining what we have or trying to think about things in new ways.

i know that my principal is with me on the fact that my kids, especially the kids i work with, need to learn social skills in order to be successful at school (and life). so is my partner (i team teach). but i also know that everyone, including my principal is watching our test scores very closely. and good test scores come from teaching testing strategies, not life skills. i think that standardized tests, as they stand right now, are a waste of everyone's time and, more importantly, their mental capacities. (i'm not discounting the possibility that good ones do or could exist.)

today i am particularly frustrated with the minutia and the paperwork. every single thing has to have a mandate. has to be micromanaged. we were trying to figure out the specific amount of minutes that are to be taught in english and spanish in each subject area and it was so ridiculous. we're getting down to 5 min here and 10 min there. on a practical level, that's silly. but, whether we follow it or not, we have to have it written down.

then we were trying to work out the details of this intervention period the district has mandated and the way our administrator was interpreting it didn't make any practical sense at all. he finally told us he would have to look into it and get back to it because we were all getting so confused in the details.

i understand the need for framework and i really appreciate having it. after having almost complete freedom in china, i appreciate having some structure. and i understand that, especially in a district as big as HISD, we want to control as many variables as possible in order to keep from having teachers that suck. my colleague also mentioned that we have a really high mobility rate among students, so the district wants things as standard as possible so that those kids don't miss a beat when they get to a new school. which i get. i don't know how that works on a practical level, but i get that. still, i think there needs to be some balance between framework and freedom.

there needs to be room for good teachers to be good teachers. the best teachers aren't the ones who are robots. the robots get the test scores and get rewarded. the good teachers sometimes do and sometimes don't, depending on the kids they work with. i feel like my kids are missing out on things they need to be successful in life because everyone is so worried about test scores and district mandates. and that just hurts my heart.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

i'm so emo!

in case i haven't seen you in awhile, i cut my hair this summer. it went from really long and straight to a short bob with lots of long bangs. i promise this is relevant.

i walked by a group of my former students today at lunch and one of the boys goes, "ms. wood, ms. wood! you cut your hair, are you emo now?" i heard him, but i couldn't pay much attention to him because i was getting my kids to lunch and it was kind of crazy so i kind of waved and kept going.

a little bit later i walked by their table again and the same kid goes, "ms. wood, you're emo now!"

so i stop and i go, "edward, i am not emo, i just cut my hair!"
"yes you are. you're emo. you have the haircut with the bangs all gelled in your eyes."
"honey, there's no gel in my hair, my hair just does this. this is just how it goes. i'm not trying to be emo." and then i keep walking because i have to get back to my class.

an hour or so later, we happened to be at recess at the same time and this same student comes up to me and goes, "you're the kind of emo where you just get the haircut and you don't use any gel."

and then he jogs away.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

fake it 'til you make it

today this guy was talking about how you don't necessarily have to feel an emotion before you do the behavior associated with it. sometimes if you just do the behavior, you'll start to feel the emotion. for example, people generally think they need a reason to laugh. they think they need to something to make them feel joyful first. but if you just start laughing for no reason, at first it is forced but very quickly it devolves into real laughter and when you are all done you feel a bit joyful. i find it works with smiling, too. (and probably some negative emotions as well.)

anyway, the point of this is that my first thought about this phenomenon was that it is an interesting glitch in our psychology that it can work essentially backwards. i'm not saying we shouldn't exploit it for all it's worth, it has some great applications. but i think it's an interesting way for things to be set up and i wonder whether it is something that was selected for or if it just happens to be an interesting side effect of how our emotions and behaviors are connected.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

teacher prep days

so not ready for school to start. i'm loving being in my classroom and finally being able to get that set up. i'm excited for my room - it's coming together fairly well. i still have some problems to solve which are keeping my mind plenty busy, but the major things are essentially taken care of.

the only problem is that taking care of my room is doing an excellent job of distracting me from the much more important questions about how i want things to run once the children are in it. i'm doing an excellent job of not thinking about the rules and procedures and behavior management plans that i need to be putting into place. i'm not thinking about what we are going to do the first week to ensure that we have a successful year full of learning. which seems to me to be kind of bad in that these things seem a bit more important in the grand scheme of things than the classroom. in all fairness, though, all i have done thus far is unpack and organize, which does seem inherently important in having a classroom that runs smoothly.

we'll have to see how the week plays out. i'm not sure if having such a short period of time to get ready will help the procrastinator in me kick it into high gear or if it will mean being less ready than i should be. sadly, given past experience, it probably means some mix of the two with at least a bit of the latter. but i can dream, can't i?

Friday, August 13, 2010

letters to intangibles

dear English,
please be more confusing and arbitrary. that would make my job much easier. thank you.


dear houston,
please help me make some friends. i don't mind getting lost if i end up where the cool people are. thanks.

p.s. i have cookies.

dear public education,
food for thought: more does not necessarily equal better. discuss.


dear computer,
please stop sucking. i'm tired of fixing you. and i don't want to call india anymore.


dear TED,
thank you for taking a vacation from posting talks. i appreciate being able to catch up.


dear kersten,
we need to find an outlet for our baking habit that is not my stomach. pretty pretty please? i'll put a cherry on top.


Wednesday, August 11, 2010

stolen lyric poetry

i sometimes collect song lyrics that i enjoy. bits of text and phrases that resonate with me for whatever reason. for some it's the meaning, for others i just like the way they sound. i've taken some of these lyrics and turned them into poems. i think the first one came out alright. the second one requires a little more mining for the meaning.

Let It Out
If you've got an impulse let it out
(With a smile)

Hear the bells are
Ringing joyful and triumphant

Be good to yourself today
Have no fear
Gamble everything

Go make out
Up in the balcony

The band's leaving
Old age is just around the bend

The Sound of Settling
Distance lends enchantment to the future;
but my bed's too big for just me.
So I hold you closer,
fumbling to make contact.
But when I'm leanin',
you just turn your head away.

We'd learn how our bodies worked;
think without boundaries;
be good to ourselves today.
But I always have to steal my kisses from you.

Can you tell I'm losing sleep?
Yeah, you make me merry,
but you just turn your head away.

So I learnt from you.

Goddamn the black night,
with all it's foul temptations.
When you turn your eyes,
I promise I won't care,
but my bed's too big for just me.

special thanks to the following artists for the use of their words:
Ra Ra Riot
random Indian man
Dove Chocolate wrapper
Ben Harper
Death Cab for Cutie
Kate Nash
Bright Eyes
Mike Doughty
Ben Lee