lit lover book

reflections of an ever-evolving educator

Saturday, October 09, 2004

the good, the bad, the ugly

The good:
I feel like I'm doing a really good job with my ninth graders, although it's driving me a little bit batty. I realized as I was defining literary analysis for them Thursday, that I've never had to define it before--incredible considering I've been teaching 18 years now. But most of that time was spent teaching upperclassmen who were familiar with the term. I do think, however, that all that time spent teaching upperclassmen has prepared me well for teaching the freshmen. I really KNOW what it is they need to be learning and I know all the things that they SHOULDN'T be taught because it just makes it so much harder for their later teachers to unteach it. Case in point: the 5 paragraph essay. I am working very hard at erasing the magical, mystical quality of the number 5 from their minds. It's not the concept of the essay and its organization I have problems with; it's the way the kids latch onto it as if it is THE formula for successful writing. It prevents them from thinking in terms of their actual content, and from tailoring the form to meet the needs of their content. All in all, the 5 paragraph format is not really functional in real world or college writing. All the arguments say it helps them learn to organize their ideas, but you don't have to use a certain number in order to do that. All they really need to know is beginning (with thesis), middle, and end. End of lecture.

The bad:
I am "friends" with a particular administrator at my school (i.e., I helped him with a particular task once that no one else wanted to do so he loves me now). I'm beginning to realize, however, that such friendship comes at a price.

He is in charge of conducting my evaluation this year, as he was last year. There are basically three levels one can achieve on the evaluation 1) does not meet standards (for those who sell drugs or openly sleep with their students); 2) meets standards and 3) exceeds standards. Up until last year, I have always been in the third category, exceeds standards. However, beginning last year, all sorts of additional documentation and hoop-jumping was added to the exceeds standards criteria. This additonal work requires more of me, but also more of my evaluator (are you starting to see the picture?) This is work my evaluator flatly does not want to do. He also sees nothing wrong with a "meets standards" rating. Hence the dilemma: do you antagonize your evaluator by requiring him to do extra work? It seems an impossible situation. I don't particularly want to do the extra work either, but it is a matter of pride. I know that I do EXCEED STANDARDS. And yet, I have gotten real pressure from this administrator to make life easier on us both by not striving for the higher ratiing. To me, it feels like a lose-lose situation.

The ugly:
If only I had taken a picture of my desk to post here. I am drowning in paperwork. I have buckets of homework to score on To Kill a Mockingbird, reflective essays to grade and yearbook deadline is next Fri. I was at work until 7 last night, till 6 the night before, and till 6:30 Mon. And that was just to deal with yearbook. None of that time was spent planning or grading for my ninth graders. Thurs. I got home a little before 7 and ended up grading until 10. And I didn't even make a dent. Where's the light at the end of this?

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

meeting hell

Wow, this last week has been overwhelming. I kept meaning to write here, but I've been so busy. I've been staying so late at work as yearbook gets increasingly intense and behind, I feel like my name ought to be on most of the pages so far. Plus, the work is piling in from my ninth graders and I'm hitting that wall where I don't have time to grade because I'm too busy with yearbook.

Yesterday was the superlative field trip. After it was all over, I came home and took an hour and a half nap. And still I was able to sleep last night. I used to enjoy that field trip every year, but now it just feels like one more opportunity to screw up and get blamed for something by this administration. Luckily, everything went well--no mishaps. But I'm so relieved the whole thing's over.

My ninth grade classes have been going well. We're studying To Kill a Mockingbird now--a great novel, but teaching it is new to me. Tomorrow their reflective essays come in. My lesson introducing the essay last week went so well it was scary--I actually felt excited afterwards. Let's hope their products are just as good.

Today was early release day--meetings, meetings and more meetings. Jesus. The last one was over 90 minutes and didn't end till almost 5:30. I'm so very tired of MEETINGS!