Saturday, September 27, 2008

Knitting Content

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These are the Francie Sock. I found the pattern here, and I really enjoyed knitting them. I used Valley Yarn's Huntington from WEBS. They are different -- there's a textured foot, and the gusset decreases were done from the bottom of the foot rather than from the instep. I knit them exactly as the pattern was written. I only did 1.5 repeats for the leg, and they fit perfectly. I wear an 8.5 wide shoe and have very thick ankles and calves. I haven't worn them yet as it hasn't been wool sock weather just yet, but I am looking forward to wearing them a lot.

Don't Read -- It's too depressing

It's been a long, exhausting, emotionally-draining, and spirit-deadening week. On Monday I was told that starting in mid October I will now have another prep -- this time, a math skills group to teach every day. It's not just me, all the teachers in my school will have to teach math skills during our mandated skills block. I guess that ordinarily I wouldn't fuss so much, but I'm already teaching 2 classes outside my area, and am spending most of my time prepping for a new curriculum area for me. I'm not sure where I'll fit the math prep in. I'm now teaching 2 science classes, 2 reading/language arts classes, and now will add the math class. I am certified as an elementary teacher, but I teach in a 6-8 middle school. For 15 years I've taught reading/language arts and social studies --- my specialty areas, and in addition to my elementary certification, I'm HQT in both. Math isn't my strong suit, but I did take 4 college math courses, plus my math methods course, so at least I feel comfortable with doing that. But we have teachers who hold secondary certification in social studies or language art who have NEVER taught math, so they are spooked!

We also had to deal with the sudden death of an elementary student in one of the district schools. We live in a small community so that hits us all hard. Last winter a high school student died in an accident, and then we had a middle school student die from flu complications last spring. So this week took quite a toll on many of us emotionally.

And then of course, all the usual stuff --- too much paperwork, too much grading, too many students needing too much attention. It wears you down, sometimes.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Book #80

Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key (Joey Pigza Books) Joey Pigza Swallowed the Key by Jack Gantos

My review

rating: 4 of 5 stars
Laugh out loud funny, and yet there is an undertone of sadness. My 6th graders love this book which I'm reading to them now as a read-aloud. Joey had ADHD and is constantly getting into trouble in school. Quite accidentally he injures another student and is sent to a special school "to learn how to behave." The sadness for me, comes from the fact that so many of our kids today face the realities that Joey faces -- a single parent, dysfunctional family life, alcoholic parents. Yet Jack Gantos handles these realities with a light touch, and kids can identify with Joey who sometimes feels like a warm Coke bottle that has been shaken up and might burst. (a paraphrase, since my copy of the book is at school.) It elicits some good discussion about special ed programs too.

View all my reviews.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Back to School Friday Five -- even if it's Sunday

From the RevGalPals
It's time for a Back-To-School Friday Five!

1. Is anyone going back to school, as a student or teacher, at your house? How's it going so far?

I'm a teacher so I am back to school as usual. It's been a tougher than usual return. I'm in a new room, with a new teaching partner (who is terrific, thank goodness!) and I'm teaching a whole new subject for me. I've always taught social studies and reading/language arts. This year I'm teaching science and reading/language arts. I'm not happy about the change, and I'm really struggling with not teaching my favorite subject in the world. And I'm also struggling with teaching a subject I don't know very well. We also have a new schedule including a Skills block to prep for, as well as new curriculum for our Academy block. Too many new things over which I have no control. The kids are really nice, but VERY needy academically and socially.

2. Were you glad or sad when back-to-school time came as a kid?

I always loved school! While I loved vacation, I loved being in school as much.

3. Did your family of origin have any rituals to mark this time of year? How about now?
When I was really young, my mom took "back to school" pictures of us, dressed in our new clothes. She continued with this tradition, probably til my youngest sibling (11 years younger than me) went to first grade.

4. Favorite memories of back-to-school outfits, lunchboxes, etc?

I remember a gorgeous maroon and plaid flannel dress I wore the first day of 4th grade. I loved the dress and insisted on wearing it on my first day in a new school in the community we'd just moved to. However, as is usual, that first day was about 90 ° and I roasted. I also got off at the wrong bus stop (1st time I'd ridden a school bus) and had to walk about 3 miles home in the heat. I always had a new lunchbox, too, with a thermos. I kind of miss the old metal lunchboxes!

I also remember wearing rubber boots and rubbers to school on rainy days. Remember the sucking sound your rubbers made as you tried to pull them off your shoes?? I graduated high school in 1972, so we weren't allowed to wear pants for almost all of my school years. I think pants began to be allowed when I was a junior in high school.

5. What was your best year of school?

I think I'd have to say freshman and sophomore years of high school. I'd found a niche with a small group of friends - kind of nerdy but not techno-nerd, rather more like literature nerds. We spent our free time in the library, writing notes to each other in Elvish, and spouting great bits of 1776, Shakespeare, and Ray Bradbury at each other. . . .

Saturday, September 6, 2008

School Daze

We've completed 7 days of school. Of course, we've had 7 brilliantly sunny, warm, gorgeous days --- after a summer of rain, rain, and more rain. That's usually what happens. The first September of retirement (2014?) I plan to take a vacation sometime during the first or 2nd week of school because I can count on great weather!

I'm settling into my new classroom. There's more floor space than I expected, and the room is actually almost square shaped. I have one wall of solid windows, another wall of fake whiteboard (shower stall sheets) and 2 cinder block walls. There is no storage space of any kind, so I have a collection of scavenged bookshelves, tables, and crates, some filing cabinets, and lots of boxes under tables. The biggest challenge right now is the fact the windows are south-facing and there are no shades. It's so bright that I can't use any sort of projection device which totally changes how I teach. Plus, it's hot. I've been keeping track of the heat because we just spent almost $10 million to build an addition, renovate existing space, and upgrade ventilation systems. Only 2 of my windows open. On Thursday, at 6:15 am my classroom was 78°F -- and I'd purposely left my windows open overnight. By 8 am my classroom was 85°F and at noon it was 89°. And that reading comes from the wall thermostat on the hallway side of my room where the direct sun doesn't reach. The cheap thermometer I bought at the dollar store on Tuesday over by the window side of my room was 5-7° warmer at any given time. On the positive side, I made administration aware of the problem, and they're trying to resolve it. I just wish the architect had asked the teachers who inhabit the classrooms what they needed!

Monday is science lab experience #1 for me. It's an easy experiment, but it's the first time I've ever done a lab with kids. I don't need a lot of materials -- ice, hot water, thermometers. I got creative --- since I don't have a sink in my room, I brought in a large coffee urn to heat the water, and I will bring in a small cooler with ice. I have a bucket to fill from the sink in the hall. So all I have to do is set up the 5 lab stations for each class, instruct the kids on safety procedures, and then . . . have at it! Wish me luck!

I just finished looking over assessment data on my kids, and I realized I have to have 3 spelling groups this year. About half my kids can use the regular 6th grade spelling program, but I will have to either greatly modify the program for about 1/4 of them or find something else for them. The other 1/4 will need something quite advanced -- I'll probably have them use a vocabulary program I have. They are above grade level by 3-5 years, while the lower group is 3 years below grade level. I'm teaching 2 sections of reading/language arts this year so I'm dealing with just under 40 kids. I run a reading workshop in my classroom, so it's a little easier to differentiate the reading than it is the "formal" spelling. What's tricky for me this year is that I have only 50 minutes daily to teach reading, writing, and spelling.

Oh and finally --- a sight that probably won't be seen again soon -- a clean desk!