Monday, February 20, 2017

Can you feel the love, uh, today?

So I got this today:

“We are unable to find your completed lesson plans in Eduphoria in the Gradual Release Lesson Cycle format.”

The reason the administration can't find it might be because they just uploaded the format today and didn’t look at what I put in, but we all make mistakes, right?

“In addition, please be reminded that in order to receive a rating of potential for Professional Responsibilities the following must hold true: The teacher performs duties, participates in meetings, and adheres to deadlines.  Failure to perform duties, participate in meetings, or adhere to deadlines are isolated incidents that do not reoccur. The teacher is compliant with all school, district, state and federal policies.”

I guess we do all make mistakes, especially grammatical ones, particularly when we write emails that will go out to the entire staff.  But the threat gives it a personalized touch.

“Lesson plans are due each Thursday at 4:00 pm please upload your lesson plans to Eduphoria by noon, February 14, 2017.  If you feel that this is an error please let us know where we may find your lesson plans.”

Yes, I’ll tell you EXACTLY where you can find my lesson plans.  My emailed response will be very concise, yet descriptive, and totally in keeping with the "love" theme of Valentine's Day. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

A not so worthy substitute

“Hi Y'all, Mrs. Levinson had to leave for an appointment, so I’m covering her class today.  The first thing we need to do is collect your–“

“Ms. Marlowe?  Ms. Marlowe?”  A hand waves frantically in the air, attached to a freshman with mussed hair.  “I’m supposed to have an extra day to finish my project because I was absent on Thursday.” 

“Well, fine, as long as you’ve cleared it with Mrs. Levinson, but I suppose she’ll talk to you about it tomorrow.  The rest of you, please put your finished poster over here.”  Most of the class gets up to take their posters to the back table, but the rumpled freshman is trying to get my attention again.

“Um, can you tell Mrs. Levinson that I’ll have my project on Monday?  My family is going out of town, and I’ll be gone tomorrow.”  He smiles in what I’m sure he thinks is an encouraging way.

“No, Todd, I’m not going to do that.  You have email, and so does she, and you can and should email her about this yourself.  Besides, I understand this project was assigned a week and a half ago,” I tell him firmly.  I’m not going to act as a messenger, plus this isn’t my class.  He can take care of this himself.  I’m sure the teacher won’t be surprised by this.  I’m not.

“But –“ he starts to plead.

“Sit down, Todd,” I say.  “Take this up with her.  I need to get class started.”

He mutters as he sits down.  Class members wander back to their seats.  I go to the board and look at the clipboard I’m holding, which the teacher left for me with instructions on it. 

“Now, put everything away and get out a pen.  I’ll hand out the quiz…”  Collective groans fill the air.  Someone from the back whines, “Do we have to?”

I blink.  “Uh, yes, because she said you do.  Put your books away.”

“Can’t we just have fun today?”  This comes from a smarmy looking boy who’s leaning back and has one foot resting on the top of his desk.

I roll my eyes.  “No.  This is school.  It’s not about having fun.  And take your feet off the desk; that’s rude.”  He does so reluctantly as I start handing out the quiz.

“But we can have fun at school!” the whiner in the back opines as I make my way through the room.

“Boy, that’s news to me.  I was told otherwise when I took teacher training,” I deadpan.  “So since I believe what I’m told, get to work.  If I see you talking or communicating with other people during the quiz, I’m going to take it, and you’ll get a zero.”  I look at the clock.  “You have fifteen minutes, starting now.”  Most of the students bend their heads and start reading the page. 

Another hand goes up, this time from the side of the room.  “I don’t understand this first question.” 
I look at her.  “Okay,” I say slowly.  I walk over and read the question.  “What don’t you understand about it?”

“This part,” she says, pointing to basically, the entire question. 

I sigh inwardly.  “I really don’t know if I can help you with that because I don’t know what she covered in class.  Just do the best you can, and maybe you can ask her about it tomorrow.”  The student looked disappointed and shrugs. 

Fifteen minutes passes, and I ask the students to turn in their quizzes.  I hear a few groans and “But I’m not done!” from the back of the room.

“Sorry, you have to turn it in anyway.” I walk around to start collecting the papers.  One student is still writing frantically.

I grab the edge.  “Kyle, you’re done.  Hand it over.”  He lets go and huffs loudly.

“Mrs. Levinson always lets us finish,” he complains, rubbing the back of his neck.

“Uh-huh,” I say as I take the other papers.

“Seriously, Ms. Marlowe, why don’t you just let him finish?” asks Trina, who’s on the other side of the room.

“This really doesn’t concern you, Trina, does it?” I ask her pointedly. 

“But Mrs. Levinson always –“

Now I’m highly irritated.  “I’m not Mrs. Levinson, and I’m simply following the directions she left.  If you have a problem with it, take it up with her.  Now open your books to page 763, so we can look at the spread of the Byzantine empire.”

More groans and grumblings as everyone pulls out their books. 

Yeah, I hate subbing as much as they hate having me.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Livin' el libro loca! (I think that's how you say it.)

I’d really like to be a librarian.

I’ve run the library at two of the schools I worked at, but unfortunately, I wasn’t an official librarian.  What makes an official librarian, you may ask if you’re bored and have nothing else to read and decided to respond to my semi-coherent assertion? 

According to the state of Texas, an official librarian is one who has a master’s degree in library science and holds librarian certification from the state.  So you can see the problem for those of us who would like this job but have neither the time, money, or inclination to get the education and documentation we need to actually DO the job. 

Except I actually have done the job.  Seriously, librarians, I love you, but having worked in a library, I know how to do your job.  I know how to automate the library, maintain the database, do inventory, introduce students to many other scholarly databases, create web pages and the like.  I know the Dewey Decimal system better than most “official” librarians.  I even know the Library of Congress classifications better.  And frankly, I’ve read a whole lot more young adult, middle-grade and elementary books than you have, so I know what to recommend to them, based both on their interest and reading levels.  Quit directing kids to Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.  No one reads that anymore.  They read The Graveyard Book or Divergent and love them.

Someday I’ll apply to graduate school and do what it takes to actually be a librarian, but I wonder if it’ll be too late by that time.  I mean, I’ve read about how libraries everywhere are closing.  School libraries are frequently staffed by people like me who aren’t “official” but who aren’t averse to keeping track of the books.  Is it really worth it?  Is it a dying profession?  Plus, librarians really don’t make much more money than teachers, so why should I pursue more education if it doesn’t financially pay off?

You may say, “Because then you can do what you love!”  I actually agree.  My problem is that it shouldn’t take so much time and money to do what I love when I can realistically do all that right now, without investing any hours or dollars. 

Honestly, I’d love to be a librarian, but I think I’d miss working with the students.  I get more satisfaction out of seeing students grow and improve than I did about recommending a book to a student that he or she ended up loving.  When I moved full-time into the classroom, I was surprised by how much I ended up enjoying it. 

But it’s the New Year, and I’m thinking about my goals for the future.  What do I want to accomplish?  Is this the year I finally take the plunge and try to up my education in some area?  Or do I just try and give up Coke Zero again?  That resolution hasn’t gone well, for the simple fact that I don’t want to give it up yet.  So in one case, I don’t want to start, and in the other case, I don’t want to stop. 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

IWSG - Time to rock that boat

I haven't posted much, as I've been super, super, SUPER busy (don't I sound important?)  But of course, I knew I couldn't miss IWSG posting time.  So here I am, fulfilling my obligations and hoping some of you missed me while I was gone.  If you didn't, you could lie to me - it's the thought that counts.

This month's question asks how being a writer changed my (or our) experiences as a reader.  I'd like to think it makes me more understanding, but in fact, I think it's made me more critical.  I'm also less likely to argue with those who are critical of certain books.

To give an example, I was working with a student on an analytical paper.  The subject was the book "Pride and Prejudice."  The student, Tina, said, "I don't know why Wickham would have run off with Lydia.  It makes no sense to me."

Of course, you all know I love me some P&P, and I wasn't about to let her criticize it, but I did semi-politely ask her to explain.   "It says he wanted to marry a woman of fortune.  Unless he's a creepy pedo-perv who likes young girls, she has no money!  It's a bigger problem for him to run off with her, and he doesn't need any more problems.  The Bennets like him, so why would he want to ruin that?"

Honestly, I was stumped.  "Um, well, maybe Wickham is a pedo-perv.  He tried to run off with Georgiana, right?"

"Only because she had money.  I mean, he was trying to get that King girl to marry him too, even though she was not that hot because she had money.  She wasn't 15 or 16.  It doesn't fit with his character.  He's a guy who wants ready access to money, not having that access cut off by word getting around about his creepy behavior."s

I couldn't explain it because she was right.  Wickham didn't even seem to like Lydia that much earlier in the book.  "Maybe the author needed a way to show he was untrustworthy, and how bad Lydia's behavior was."

"But why this way?  Is that just a weakness in the writing?"

I think sometimes we do put in plot events that don't work for the characters, just to move the plot along.  That would make Tina correct - it's a weakness in the writing.  The writer is more interested in the story than being true to the characters.

Since then, I've seen lots of evidence of weakness in writing, in works of great literature, even (I'm looking at you, Great Gatsby!)  No book is perfect, and we all know how hard it is to try and write the perfect story.  Some criticism isn't unwarranted, even (and especially) from other writers.