Monday, September 28, 2015

A picture is worth a few words, probably very few.

I take photos of students when they fall asleep during lessons.  I print them out and put them on a bulletin board in my classroom.

Why would I do such a thing?  Allow me to give my educational-sounding explanation first.

I teach yearbook and journalism, so photography is part of what I teach.  Students need to understand that to be a photojournalist, they must constantly be ready for anything.  Interesting events happen all the time around the school, so it’s important to document them.

“But why photos of sleeping students?  That’s not very interesting,” you may say.  My response to that is that taking photos of someone snoozing in class is good practice.  You learn how lighting, angles and shadows affect your subject.  You learn how to take the shot without disturbing your subject, and candid shots are always better than posed ones.  Some photos of sleepers can be hilarious, or even artistic.  What better way to demonstrate to the students how to practice than to have them shoot something they see every day, which is a teen falling asleep in class?  That's why the camera is always ready on my desk. 

That’s the explanation I give to administrators and sometimes to parents.

The students already know the purpose of the sleeping pictures: public humiliation.  As the teacher, I’m documenting how many times a student is out of it in my class, while capturing the bobbing head and trail of drool at the same time.  It’s fun when parents come in to talk about their child’s performance in my class and look up to see a photo of their angel snoring away.  

“Ms. Marlowe, you CAN’T put my photo up!  That’s not fair!  I didn’t give you permission!” students will sometimes protest, thinking that the rules of social media apply here.  I kindly point out that this is MY classroom, MY camera, it’s a PUBLIC space, and that any photos I take are the property of the school and me, so tough luck.  Some students have tried to tear down their pictures, but most just stop complaining when they see they’re in good company.  The rest try harder to stay alert.  I’m an equal opportunity shamer, and I'll get a shot of anyone who's napping.   

The real reason?  It’s funny and injects some much-needed humor into the classroom.  So allow me to end with a few choice photos of former students.

Monday, September 21, 2015

My kingdom for a different horse right now!

“I don’t get this word.”

I was teaching a seventh-grade class, and we were reading the John Steinbeck story “The Red Pony.”  The students had to do a certain amount of reading on their own, but since many of them struggled to read at grade level, we also did some reading in class.

“What word are you talking about, Eduardo?” I asked.

“Umm, this word,” he says, pointing.  “Gel-ding.”

“No, it’s JEL-ding,” Samantha corrected him. 

“Actually, it’s GEL, with a hard G,” I said.  “But Samantha, do you want to explain what it means?”  If she knew, that’s fine, because I liked to have the students instructing each other.

She shook her head.  “I don’t know what it means.  But my brother said he thought it had a juh sound.”

“Okay, well, a gelding is a young male horse that’s been, uh, castrated.”  Suddenly I realized the mess I walked into when I answered the question because you know what the students asked next. 

“What does castrated mean?” This question came from a group of boys who looked VERY interested.  One added, “Yeah, I’ve heard the word, but I don’t know what it means.”

Wow, this was not what I wanted to explain to a group of 12-13-year-olds.  I thought frantically to try and come up with a generic answer, but I knew it wouldn’t work and would just provoke more questions. 

I took a deep breath.  “Castration is the process of removing the horse’s testicles to –“

Just then the principal walked into the room.  She stopped when she heard the word “testicles” and turned her head toward me expectantly.  I, um, kind of trailed off.

In my defense, I wasn’t doing anything wrong, as I kept pointing out to her later when she told the story to the entire teacher’s lounge at lunch.  I was imparting knowledge.  KNOWLEDGE. 

Monday, September 14, 2015

Whine, teenagers and song - it's as bad as it sounds

Sometimes the hardest part of the day for a teacher isn’t all the paperwork, or ridiculous requirements from the district, or the non-understanding of the administration.  For some teachers, first period is a nightmare, because they’re trying to get students to wake up and respond.  For others, Fridays means either general restlessness or apathy. Or a teacher may have a hard time handling group work, or long tests.  

I can handle all that pretty well.  For me, the most difficult thing to handle is when students begin to whine and complain about whatever it is we’re doing.

“But Miss, I don’t like writing!”

“But Miss, I hate group work!”

“But I don’t FEEL like doing this!  It’s too hard!”

“Why do you have to give us writing assignments?  I’m not good at writing!”

“But Miss, can’t you give us something easier?”

“But Miss, how come you never let us watch a movie?” 

When kids are around, there’s sure to be whining.  It doesn’t matter what the age is.  Most veteran parents know this.  They either become deaf to it or turn themselves inside out trying to reason with a kid.  

For me, whining causes me to become homicidal.  I really don't care what the opinions are on the classwork because it's got to be done, so I feel they should shut up and do it.  Sometimes I can reason the students out of the complaints.  Other times I can feel myself getting mean.  Teenagers are old enough to listen and understand logic, but younger kids – not so much.  I do wonder if a teacher can turn it around with the students, sort of in a reverse psychology way.

For example, today I had several students who felt that it was the perfect day to complain about absolutely everything we had to do in class.  I didn’t check to see if there was a full moon, but maybe that would explain it.  In most of my classes, I just pretended to be deaf and repeated the directions, though my voice was getting steadily louder.  Then I wondered if the students would like a taste of their own medicine.  How do you think it would work if my voice went up two octaves, and I started saying things like this:

“But WHY can’t you turn in your work on time?”

“I don’t LIKE it when students don’t put their names on their papers!”

“I HATE incomplete work!”

“Why won’t you ever listen to me??!!”

“But I don’t FEEL like grading this!  It’s crap!” 

I think all of these would probably work well if I stomped my feet and threw papers on the floor, don’t you?

Anyway, I’m curious to know if any other teachers have a way to end the nonstop complaints.  I’m all ears, unless I just don’t FEEL like it!  *stomp stomp*

Monday, September 7, 2015

We're loosing the war, literally.

Ah, bad writing.  Where would we be without it?  What else can quickly bring together snarky bloggers, writers and teachers so they can loudly condemn it? 

Look, most students are trying their best when they write essays, believe me, they are.  But sometimes teachers have students who write sentences like the ones you’ll read below and as a result, those teachers weep loudly for the future of humanity.  You can probably hear them now.

I used to think horrible writing was the result of students not knowing the rules of good grammar and sentence structure.  Then I got emails from the parents of these students, and I realized the apple that fell from the tree hit the entire family hard enough to cause brain damage.  At least I hope that’s what happened.  One of the parents is a radiologist.  

I’ll say no more, but instead I’ll let Junior's writing do the talking.

Most celebrities these day's makes millions of dollars. Some deserves the money others don't.

A profession is a vocation a person chooses in specializing academically to train for the job that they want to have.

Professions are not worth more than others because most people chooses what they want to do and others just do it to explore new things in life and sometimes succed in it.

Celebraties make too much money than they shoul. For example singers charge to much money for a cople of hours in a private concert. One good example would be the amount of money that my cousin had to pay so that she had a private concert for her 15th party. She had to pay around two thousand so that her favorite group could sing her some songs.

Everyone is worrying about how they're going to pay for their expenses, but I think life wouldnt have much meaning if everything was at your fingertips.

Celebrities make an exceeding amount for what they do.

Others may even have a uncomparable education when it comes to celebrities and still not make anywhere near one-fifth of what celebrities makes a month.

Making someone laugh or smile may be great job that helps others, but when it comes to the matter of importance, celebrities are completely void in the matter.

all celebrities are paid depending on the movie, their espression, their movement, but mostly if they can be and act

The harshful comments and reviews from critics and the people?

I’m not sure what that last semi-sentence meant, but I would agree that the question mark at the end of it was warranted. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

IWSG - Clothes make this woman mad

I’ve got to upgrade my wardrobe.

Since starting at Debut Academy, I’ve realized that I dress like a homeless person.  My lack of fashion wasn’t an issue when I worked at TCS or Low Expectations High, because… well, look at the names.  Plus, if you dressed up you were a target, either of the students or the administration.  Wearing nice clothes screamed “rookie!” and you might find yourself either getting sucker-punched in the back of the head or given “extra duties” thanks to your exemplary attire.

I’m sort of kidding about the student part, mostly, but teachers try to dress as comfortably as they can because they have to deal with students all day.  Teachers can expect to get dirty, even if they don’t teach science or art, and they need comfortable shoes and elastic waists to accommodate the stress eating.

My insecurity for this month’s IWSG post is over my wardrobe.  I’m lazy enough that I want to dress like a writer, however that is (I assume it involves sweatpants – fingers crossed!).  But since Debut has an upper middle class to VERY upper-class student population, my schlubby Title I school clothes aren’t cutting it. 

The problem is that unlike most women, I absolutely HATE to shop for clothing.  I hate to shop for most things, but clothes shopping is particularly awful.  I’m not a weird size or clueless about what looks good on me (although I could stand to drop at least 10 pounds, thanks to CISD, because I feel like blaming the district for my lack of self-control); it’s just something I really hate doing.  I resent the fact that I need to buy nicer things.

So I’ve gritted my teeth and walked through a few stores, but it’s hard to buy nice clothes on a teacher’s salary.  I can afford things at lower end stores, but the quality is terrible, and the items won’t last through more than two or three washings.  Now I’m trying to figure out a “uniform” of sorts so that I don’t have to think about what I wear.  Maybe I should buy four pairs of black pants and the same blouse in four different colors.  If students and other teachers think I wear the same stuff all the time, that’s fine by me.  I just have to get through the week without having to do laundry multiple times or without stinking.