and all my students are sick and/or in therapy for the afternoon, and I don’t have a 7th period!!!
the nitty gritty details of life in American public schools
and all my students are sick and/or in therapy for the afternoon, and I don’t have a 7th period!!!
Are they silly? Or do I look old?
In other news, these kids are finally starting to grow on me. It has helped that our classes got redistributed and I have a more even load of seventh graders—there are some massive behavioral problems in this grade, but with only four or five per class period of fifty minutes, it is totally manageable. Even fun. This week was Operation: Run Like A Machine, and we finally got to get out of our seats and run stations. Almost a real class!
Ms. Basye, can you take off that green sweater? It ruins your outfit, and I can NOT look at you all period like that.
So, I’ve gotten over thirty new Tumblr followers this week. I’m not sure why, but I’ll go with it and do the proper thing—
Welcome! Here is a little bit about me and my blog.
I am 24, from Kansas. I am a second-year teacher in the worst school in San Francisco that will be closing at the end of the year. I teach a middle school self-contained Special Ed. class—the same kids two years in a row. I am in Teach for America and will be moving to Brooklyn to teach at Achievement First charter school after this year. I wasn’t going to teach after my two or three years in TFA, but after what I’ve seen, I am incensed about the state of our public schools for poor kids, minority kids, and Special Ed. kids, and I want to sink an indefinite chunk of my life in it.
Opinionated Side Notes—
Anyway, my blog is called Grit In The Gap, because I find that I have a lot more, healthy relationships when I save for my blog the nitty, gritty details of teaching within the worst part of the achievement gap—rather than the dinner table or the bar.
I’ve kept this blog since Day One, so if you’re interested in ev-er-y detail of my first year of teaching, check out my #teaching tag and just go back, back, back. This year, as things in my classroom became more and more routine, I had to make an effort to keep track of my experiences, so most days, I try to run themes.
And that is that. Things will be looking differently soon, as summer is approaching, and as a major shift in my environment, expectations, and support will occur in the Fall. I have a feeling it won’t be so gritty, but I might be able to contribute to the Education tag in legit, curriculum and pedagogical ways and not kids-in-my-school-have-formed-milk-gangs-and-my-students-got-hit-and-were-too-bruised-to-learn-today ways.
Now tell me, is there anything else you’d like to know?
Fun Friday: in the Photobooth
I got a new MacBook Pro and brought it to school for the first time. Needless to say, we got distracted with Photobooth. Oops :)
Fun Friday: Progress!
So, do you remember Kishawn’s state testing freak out?
Well, right now, I am working with my high group on multi-step problems with decimals/money and percentages. They are completely solid on those skills separately, so now I’m just working on the sequence and logic of real-life situations. Anyway, we just started last week, so I wasn’t expecting fantastic results on Thursday’s quiz. I was right, I didn’t get them, but I did get a surprise from Kishawn. He did his quiz in about fifteen minutes, and while he messed up the first problem, he whipped the second one out like no big deal.
Check that out! That is harder than anything on the state test by about three steps, AND it is a whole year coming. They have learned each and every thing this year—down to the long division and lining up the decimals.
So, so, so proud :)
So, testing is over, and it’s not like we are finished being productive, but I have definitely been more relaxed. Last year, I made them a movie of our school year, and now, as the year is ending, it is all they are thinking about. The rest of this year will be spent on a video reflection project/video yearbook about what we’ve learned and how we’ve learned it, and they are so excited that we spend a lot of time spontaneously reflecting.
I’m letting people who are not in groups have out their iPods to record these conversations in class, which was fortunate today, because reflecting on why we need endorphins and how we get endorphins devolved into acting out what happens when we each have cortisol/are angry—
I have an entire hour of video in which every single person acts out every single emotion of every single other person in the room.
"Do Ms. Basye when she happy…’
'Do Kishawn when he mad…'
"Do Brittnae when she excited…"
It is hilarious what they pick up, I’m surprised how much they did pick up, but I realize that I shouldn’t be surprised—we have been trapped in this freaking room with each other for 8 hours a day for almost two years now! Too much!
Since I have been consciously enjoying my kids—and by consciously, I mean I am literally telling myself to do it—I have been, well…enjoying them.
They did really well on their state tests this week. I have no illusions that they are Proficient or Advanced, but from what I saw, they did better than I had been feeling they would do. I was proud about how willing they were to take it and how cocky they were afterwards. I have a tendency to be hard on me and mine, and I guess I shouldn’t have been as surprised as I am. Sometimes I should forget my feelings and trust my numbers.
Anyway, we had fun these few days. We listened to Don’t Worry, Be Happy, did breathing exercises, regular exercises, and made ourselves laugh before the test everyday (for maximum endorphins of course), and it was a good reminder of some strong points of our class culture. Then, because the schedule was weird, and they were in my room for WAY too long, we went outside and played basketball as sort of a recess. Which I always won. Duh.
So, testing is finished! We’re going to keep learning Math, but ELA is going to be turned into a writing/video reflection project about everything we have learned and how we learned it.
Is getting up at 1:00pm, wandering around DC, drinking on TFA’s dime and seeing old friends who live in the area. Let’s just hope the keyboard on my laptop starts working soon. :/
It smells like my shin guards!
— Kishawn, in reference to the Feelings Bottle
Fun Friday was when another student came in our class for E.L.A. and asked us what this bottle was for. It has just been sitting there since the beginning of the year, and we had all kind of forgotten about it, even though, strangely, it was one of the kids’ favorite things to talk about.
It is our feelings bottle! haha. We started with water, because water is good for you—just like feelings (especially anger) are good for you. It’s what you do with the anger though, so when you put cuss words and mean names, and when you throw things—which was represented by putting coffee, cereal, pencil shavings, and all things nasty in there—you make you and your anger something nasty that no one wants to deal with.
Annnnyway, what happens when all that stuff sits in a bottle for a few months? Well, we told the student all about it, and then she wanted to open it. But it has basically been digesting for a few months, so it let all this nasty gas out that smelled like vomit. And made our room smell like vomit. And made me and a kid gag. And got itself thrown in the trash.
It was gross, but we definitely had a good laugh.
Fun Friday: Let’s get stronger, everyone now
So, before Christmas, I tried to do a push up in front of my roommates and failed. It was embarrassing, because I’ve never not been able to do like, ten push ups. I didn’t realize how out of shape I was. The problem is though, that after work, I only have a precious half an hour to four hours of energy, depending on the day, and I often have a hard time spending it on working out. Part of my solution was to find a simple workout program I could do in my classroom after school, and part of it was to work it into school. So here it goes—
Since everyone has been more independent and internally motivated, it’s been increasingly possible to truly individualize instruction, at least in math. Part of what is driving their independence is my new tracking system for math that they are pretty excited about.
I boiled down the 7th grade standards for California into six categories—add, subtract, multiply, divide, solve and simplify. Quantitatively, we only got to fractions, decimals, and percents this semester—but we got to them deeply and thoroughly, and so qualitatively, their number sense has improved greatly.
I hesitantly kind of threw it out there before I started mid-year testing them to see how it would go. Hesitantly because I’m sick of trying these kinds of things that usually rely a lot on a degree of structure and consistency that my school doesn’t have, having me and them fail, and then coasting for awhile before having to try something else. Anyway, as I was testing them, they would pass a skill, we would color up a level, and they would be really motivated to try the next level.
The way it works, is that while we learn new things at Level One in class, they are working on getting to higher levels with old things on their homework. So, right now, for example, the whole class is learning to add, subtract, multiply, and divide integers in class, while AJ, Marshan, and Karla are working on dividing with decimals, Level One on their homework, James is working on Multiplying, and Kishawn and Brittnae are on to Percents, Level Two.
Why it is good, is that rather than stressing out because they don’t achieve a high level in a 4-week unit, not moving on because of it and then not covering enough material, they all pass the numbers-only, rote-memory, skill of Level One together and then all have the varied time and space they need to master the language of word problems and logic of multi-step problems.
So, when it comes to the remedial and review skills, the individuals have been driving the groups, rather than the other way around. I’ve been able to have individual conferences with every student two to three times a week in which we talk about progress, set goals, and determine focus for the next few days.
It has all been fun and liberating for them. And for me, as a teacher. But as a person, I kind of feel like I’m missing out. So, I decided to join in, with my own plan. I made a deal with them. Every time they get a math problem right in class, I have to do a push up. This week, I was doing thirty to fifty knee push ups a day, with a goal to do one regular, toe push up by Thursday, and five by the end of the month.
We forgot to test me on Thursday, but I did it Friday, and what do you know? I could do two! They were proud of me. It was fun. :)