Tuesday, April 26, 2011

BBQ Chicken and R. Kelly

My students are funny.  They don't necessarily mean to be.  Let's just say many times I am laughing at them, not with them, and today was a prime example.

To ease them (and let's be honest, myself) back into thinking and working, I thought we'd do a fairly easy lesson of Shakespearean sonnets. My hook for this was a journal prompt about romance.  Shakespeare knew how to talk to a woman.  The oft quoted line "My mistress' eyes are nothing like the sun..." is about how he loves his woman for other reasons than her beauty.  He spends three quatrains saying "Yeah, she's not particularly beautiful, her hair's not that great, lips aren't particularly red, cheeks aren't rosey so much, kinda has bad breath....", but then he moves in with the good stuff in the ending couplet!  He says that he is certain he loves his woman much more than all the posers out there who go on and on about how gorgeous their women are.  Good stuff!

With this in mind, I asked my students to write a paragraph about romance.  Real, as I put it, "above the waist romance".  Ladies, how does a man show he cares about you?  Gentlemen, how do you show a woman that you truly love her, not just want to get something from her?  Instantly, the girls started writing.  The guys took a little longer, looking perplexed about the very nature of the question. The girls, for the most part, had it right and to be honest, I was impressed by their self-respect.  They talked about wanting someone who cared about them, was respectful, listened to them,  and took the time to make them feel special.

"Let's hear from one of the boys!"  I said.  Remember DeWayne and DeShaun the twins?  The "Good Christian Boys"?  Well, DeWayne was removed from my class and put into remediation after he so miserably failed the SOLs, it was determined he needed to be in a special class that addressed an 11th grader who apparently can barely read.  He was actually the lesser thorn in my side, but it is somewhat better without him there to feed off his brother.  Anyway, DeShaun raises his hand and says, with total seriousness and confidence,

"First I would walk in the room with my head high and a lean in my step <think the pimp walk> and I would put on some smooth jams, like R. Kelly."  Okay, I'm going to stop right there for a second.  I heard R. Kelly mentioned several times today.  Is he not the disgusting individual who enjoyed urinating on under-age girls???  Anyhoo...DeShaun went on, "Then I would tell her I was a love machine and I only worked for her,"  I'm sure The Miracles are somewhere filing a lawsuit, "and I would tell her that her eyes are so bright they are like a flashlight, lightin' up the room," nice cheesy simile, but I was still trying not to judge until he ended with, "and then I would say, 'Now let's go get some BBQ chicken and then get busy!'"

The girls were horrified.  They made all kinds of disgusted comments.  Even the guys were shaking their heads.  Meanwhile, poor clueless DeShaun had a look of total bewilderment on his face.  There isn't enough R. Kelly in the world to make up for that kind of cluelessness!

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Wish I Knew Then, What I Know Now!

Friday was the last day of the third nine weeks, which means I have just nine weeks left of the school year.  I can not believe it.  It truly has gone so fast.  I do not exaggerate when I say that I have learned this year far more than I have taught (or at least more than my students have learned, based on the grades I submitted on Friday!).  Here are a few things that I wish someone had told me before I started teaching:

1.  Its not enough to review the rules and expectations only the first day of school.  I thought I had done a really great job by reviewing the rules and having the parents and students sign it.  I did it again at the start of the new semester.  Not enough.  I am going to post them, give a quiz on them and then review them DAILY for the first month of school.  Then there will be regular reviews of them throughout the first semester until it is drilled in their little heads!

2.  Start with incentives from Day One.  I only started this about a month into the school year.  Incentives have been my savior this year.

3.  Recognize that once a confrontation has started, I've already lost.  Do not engage.  Period.  I am learning not to explain, justify, or God forbid, get defensive about anything.  What I say goes in the classroom.  Argue if you want, but I'm not listening. This rule also applies to speaking with parents and administrators.

4.  Kids love attention, positive or negative--give them tons of positive attention and they won't work so hard to get negative attention.  This is difficult, especially when the kids do everything they can to be completely unlikable. I meet them at the door every day, greet them by name, compliment them, say I am glad to seem them, ask how their weekend was, etc.  I mother them constantly.  Believe it or not, they want this and the more I do it, the less trouble I get out of them.

5.  Never, ever give out grades during class time.  I just made this rule for myself last week.  First off, if you do it once, you will forever be interrupted in the middle of teaching with "Miz Nilknarf, can I see my grade?"  Second, if they don't like the grade, it gives them an opportunity to pontificate for the class's benefit.  From now on, the rule is "You can find out your grade any time by logging onto your student account or by getting a pass to see me during study hall."

6.  Don't take work home if you can help it and don't work beyond contract hours.    Make the most of your time at school.  Work through lunch if you need to.  Grade papers during tests.  Use your planning time wisely.  Check out the Internet for awesome lesson plans before you waste time making your own.  Ask other teachers to share theirs (my coworkers are awesome about this). Walk out that door when your contract hours are over and forget about school until the next morning.  Don't bring work home, don't call parents from home if you can help it (this only puts you in a crappy mood if the conversation doesn't go well), and by all means don't check your email.

7.  Don't take anything personally.    This has been difficult for me.  I work hard to create good lesson plans.  Unlike many teachers I have seen, I am a dynamic teacher.  I work the classroom--I put on a show!  It can be disheartening, to say the least, when someone sleeps through my class or completely bombs a test on something I have worked hard to teach.  That said, I can only do so much.  If they don't learn, its not because I haven't given 100%, its because they haven't.

8.  I have the best job in the world.  Even at  this school, with these kids, and questionable administrators, this job can not be beat.  I get to be creative, meet all kinds of people, teach a subject that I love and work an amazing schedule.  I am home with my kids every afternoon, every snow day, and most days when they are off from school.  While the rest of the world is at work this summer, I'll be sleeping in, going to the pool, and getting a paycheck for it!  I also have great benefits, retirement, and I can work anywhere in the country.

This year has kicked my ass, but I am coming back better and wiser next year!