taylweaver: (Default)
Last night, I was walking home from a break-fast meal at [livejournal.com profile] mysticengineer's apartment and I was able to experience first-hand a thunderstorm so intense that even the sidewalks were flooded. My skirt was soaked up past my knees by the tiem I got home, but it was so amazing to see - the water flowing swiftly past the edge of the sidewalk as I searched in vain for stepping stones before giving in to the sodden socks. And the lightning flashed so often, I couldn't match each burst of light with any one crack or rumble of thunder.

Good thing it happened on the way home from dinner, though, and not on the way there...

I realize I have not posted in over a week. Closer to two weeks, really.

Life has been busy. The roommate hunt continues, but I am a bit less stressed out about it. There are possibilities. At least the apartment hunt is long over.

Meanwhile, summer school has ended - at last, a brief vacation. And today, all I got done was laundry.

As for the end of school, I felt like I finished up pretty well - at least with some of my classes. The fifth graders got to have a debate about railroads in social studies, and then in writing, I hung up the final drafts of all of their descriptive paragraphs, like a museum, and students walked around and commented on each other's writing. They really enjoyed it, I think - and I enjoyed seeing them do it. The fourth graders did one last probability activity in math. The older kids, well, the high school students had to write another essay - we did not finish up well. But the eighth graders shared their creative writing. So that went okay.

And I got to see a drama performance in the afternoon. Of course, I was not impressed. I got nearly as much out of them in my weekly Friday activity with them - the fourth graders performed for the second graders on Friday, and all enjoyed it. But in the school performance, it was stuff they had been practicing four days a week - and it was anything but polished. Oh well.

And then a good weekend - I gave the d'var Torah in shul. It was apparently precisely 15 minutes long, but I enjoyed speaking, and I hope that everyone there enjoyed listening. I spoke from an outline, so I can't post it here without putting in a lot of work.

Then the fast of Tisha B'av (The ninth day of the Jewish month of Av, the day the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed - twice.). Mostly, it was okay - except for the migraine. But a certain friend talked me into taking Advil - not that this involved much convincing - and I eventually felt better. I also got in a whole lot of Jewish learning and a really strange dream in which a girl was standing by the doorway to a balcony, only there was no balcony - only a ladder going down to an internal courtyard surrounded by the other sides of the brick building. She was really enjoying standing there at the edge of the doorway, and seemed to feel perfectly safe there.

And that about sums it up.
taylweaver: (Default)
Something I didn't take into account while teaching students how to give examples in persuasive essays: taking examples from literature often means taking examples from Harry Potter.

Today, while writing an essay about whether or not people are gullible, more than one student used Harry Potter. One of them used Halfblood Prince.

Which was bad. Because I saw a couple of names and a couple of words in her outline...

The good news is, since the topic was gullibility, I don't know whether the event I though I saw actually happened, or was only believed to have happened. Still. it is disappointing after I tried so hard to stay away from any hint of spoilers.

Which meant I did something very unprofessional. I skipped that paragraph of her essay. (I let her know that I did so.)

Good thing they weren't getting graded on this one...

New rule in my classroom: No using HBP for examples.
Of course, I am not sure it will reflect well on them in the eyes of the essay readers if they use Harry Potter to begin with...

Ah well, off to spend another hour reading over the second stack of essays...
taylweaver: (Default)
So a certain friend once noted that perhaps part of the reason that teachers make less money is because they work a shorter day. Well, all I have to say to that is, if teachers got paid for every hour we *really* work, we would be a whole lot richer.

Take, for example, yesterday:

Hours of instruction: 4
Hours of supervision (lunch and homework time):2
Total paid hours: 6
Hours spent in the school building: 9 (6 teaching hours plus 3 prep hours)
Lunch break: none (I eat with the kids - see above)
Hours spent preparing before class: 15 minutes reading train books for social studies while eating breakfast
Break I took for dinner: 1 hour?
Time on the phone with friends: 1/2 hour
Time spent preparing lessons: The remainder of my evening (2 hours?)
Plus, throw some commute time in there. I may or may not have graded papers on the train yesterday - I can't recall.

So I spend nearly every waking hour of nearly every weekday working.

Oh, and did I mention that last night, I was even teaching in my sleep? Or maybe sleep is the wrong word considering the restless night I had... I kept dreaming about grading papers, so that I woke up feeling like I had hardly gotten any rest at all.

My job - a summer job, no less - is eating up nearly all of my time.

This frustrates me.

Especially because I am being paid very little for my actual teaching hours as it is.

Maybe the reason there is such a shortage of teachers in this country is that there is this sense that teaching is an "easy" job, with less hours. Well, it is if you don't spent any time preparing to teach your kids...

And now I am off to - can you guess? Yep- plan some more for tomorrow.
taylweaver: (Default)
Again, related to violence, but this time closer to home. Yesterday, one of my students, whom I shall call J, closed a door on the finger of one of my other students (in a different class), whom I will call F. F had to leave school, because the cut was so deep she got stitches. Today, she came in with a thick gauze bandage on her finger. I eat lunch with the fourth graders, including F, and often end up conversing with them. F and B (her friend, whom J teases) told me that they are scared of J. I was not there when the incident happened. I do not know what J's intentions were, or if he really wanted to hurt F. I had no idea what to say when she told me she was afraid of him. She feels threatened by him. He is also a student, so I feel like I can't say anything negative about him to her. All I could say was, "I understand why you are afraid of him." In a way, F's comments were harder to deal with than the questions of the students the other day.

Of course, I also got some interesting questions in my folktales/drama games class. I was explaining a bit about what folktales are, and some kid asked me if Jesus was real. I had an answer for this, but it probably went over their heads (fifth grade.) I answered that we know he existed, historically, and that he was crucified, but whether or not he came back to life depends on what you believe. I said that different people believe different things, and that a belief is different from a fact, because a fact can be proven, and a belief can't, which is why different people can believe different things. But, as I said, it probably went over their heads.

Today, I also made a kid cry - because he made another kid cry. H made L cry, from what I can tell. This, based on the story the other kids told me - that H and C caused L to cry. C blamed it on H, and so did A, who was also there. It seems H did not want L to look at C's gameboy, so he pushed L away. H claims he neither said anything nor pushed anyone, but the fact that he then called L a crybaby - I did not witness this either, but enough other students told me this - leads me to believe that he was not being truthful with me. I asked him to leave the crowd looking at C's gameboy. I explained that he and L needed to be in different places. His response was to feel that I was yelling at him, and to feel that I had punished him by sending him outside. Then he was crying and wouldn't stop. I told him I was not punishing him and that I was not angry. Throughout all of this, I did not raise my voice. I don't think that made much of a difference, though. He was crying, and nothing I said would calm him down, so I left him there to calm down on his own, which didn't work either. I couldn't think of anything else that I could do about it.

Teaching is quite the experience. So many unexpected thoughts, reactions and questions. Every day I am surprised. But it's such a wonderful challenge.
taylweaver: (Default)
Over the past few days, I have come to realize just how much responsibility teaching puts on my shoulders. On Monday, I had to grade papers for the first time. With math, this is not so difficult - the answer is either right or wrong, and the questions I asked did not really lend themselves to partial credit - though that will complicate things next time. But when grading essays, things get much harder. There is no objective way to say which paper is better than another. I tried to quantify it. I tried to use a rubric.

For those who don't know what a rubric is - I sometimes forget that it is not part of everyone's everyday vocabulary - just mine - it looks something like this:

Outline Organization

1 Missing Poor

2 Incomplete Getting there

3 Great Wonderful

But add a few more categories, and a better description for each number.

So I tried that system, but I realized it did not quite match with my idea of which students were writing "good" essays. And then I had to tweak the system. And I had to read each paper multiple times. And it took me hours.

After all that, I still end up feeling like some of my decisions were a bit arbitrary. And these possibly arbitrary decisions determine what grades some of my students got - the difference between an A and a B, a B and a C. This is a big responsibility.

But I have learned that teachers also bear a different kind of weight. Teachers get approached with many questions. Some of these questions reach beyond the realm of education.

Yesterday, a ten-year-old asked: "What's a suicide bomber?" She then added, "What's suicide? So-and-so told me I should know already."

Without really thinking, I answered something along the lines of: "Suicide is when a person kills themself. A suicide bomber is someone who wants to kill other people so badly that he is willing to kill himself along with them."

It was only afterward that I paused to think about whether or not I should have answered at all - though, upon reflection, I decided that if she was asking, I should answer. She knew the context - she asked me if I had heard about what happened in London - and she had read the phrase in a newspaper - I am guessing it was in a headline.

What to say after answering is an even tougher call. Do I reassure her? Do I tell her these are very bad people? I didn't say anything of substance. In retrospect, I think I should have asked how hearing the definition made her feel, what was going through her head. Maybe then I would have know what she needed to hear next.

I suppose teachers are not the only ones who face these questions and decisions. Parents do too, of course. But in some ways, it's more complicated as a teacher. For one thing, I have known my students for little more than a week. And then there are the parents themselves - if I make a bad decision, or a decision that they think is wrong, I have them to answer to.
taylweaver: (Default)
I am going to hazzard a guess that attributing speech to yet another inanimate piece of technology in the office is a sign that it is a very good thing tomorrow is my last day. Well, really, today was, but I didn't quite finish, so I am going back in tomorrow to get those last few things done.

And I found out a bit more about what I am teaching starting on Tuesday - apparently, very little math. But lots of writing. Which, I have decided, is just fine.

The amazing thing is, I suddenly have so much more energy. I can't quite say why, but I am thankful for it after the way I have been feeling for at least the past few days. I actually began to clean my room tonight! This is a big improvement over staring at the mess and feeling completely overwhelmed.

Did I mention that my room was supposed to get cleaned about a month and a half ago?

I feel so much better now.
taylweaver: (Default)
So it's been another eventful day at the office...

Thankfully, no more photocopying - though apparently the machine smelled like something was burning today. It needs a vacation.

So today, I had to enter the building through the freight entrance, because of work they are doing on the front of the building. This work involved a lot of water - don't ask me why. This water managed to mess with the old intercom system, which shouldn't even be connected anymore, because we got a new and better one. (the intercom being how one gets in through the front door which is currently not accessible).

So what did the old intercom - which has apparently not been disconnected yet - do? It made evil noises. For over an hour. Someone in the office said it sounded like a dentist drill. Thankfully, I don't remember how that sounds, but it was rather grating. And loud. And disruptive. And coming from two different places in the office.

And we had absolutely no way to shut the thing off. we tried unplugging it, but there is no plug. Just a cord that goes into the wall or ceiling. We considered cutting it - no, not my idea - but someone pointed out the potential danger in that. We tried to unscrew the top of it with a secretary's screwdriver - but the screws were not normal screws.

The assistant director tried holding the thing by the cord and banging it against the floor - well, maybe that was more a way to let out frustration... anyway, it didn't work either.

Then another person who works in the office had an even better idea. He gave each intercom a good, hard stomp. It worked like a charm.

Hooray for peace and quiet.

Relatively speaking.
taylweaver: (Default)
So yesterday at work, as usual, I got free lunch. Because those of us in the office have eaten pizza way too many times, it was not pizza. For reasons that will becoem clear shortly, it needed to be dairy. So they ordered from Circa. Yay Circa!

Then we had free dessert - we all got called into the conference room for a "meeting" - then, as many of us expected, the lights went out and a birthday cake arrived, complete with candle. It was Carvel. Very enjoyable - especially the crunchies in the middle.

Then I stayed late, and also got free dinner.

These past few days have been very mindless at work - further photocopying - the machine ran out of toner, then got new toner, then started making the grinding noise again - this time, without anything heavy sitting on it - and the "photocopy man" has yet to return to look at it." I have spent way too many hours in that room... On the upside, the vast majority of the medical forms are done now...

I also got to sort crackers. Peanut allergies make life complicated. We have five groups that need snacks and two have peanut allergy kids who can be around peanuts but can't eat them, and two groups have kids who can't even be around them. We got snack crackers in variety packs, and of seven flavors, two were peanut - and in twice the quantities of the other flavors - and one was cheese - with possible traces of peanut. We decided the cheese crackers were more dangerous - because they were less obvious. So this meant repacking the crackers.

For this part, I did get to think - and play on excel - I love it when it changes numbers for me. Two groups got peanut butter crackers but no cheese crackers, two groups got only the four totally non-peanut flavors - and one got all the cheese crackers. Plus some that were peanut butter - but I did kind of feel bad for that group...

Then I got to do more mindless work - actually sorting the crackers.

So I think I am ready now for a job that involves actual thinking....

The proof: I was bored enough that I found the thumbtacks in the elevator to be entertaining. I would rearrange them on the bulletin board every time I rode up or down - and someone else was doing it too - and riding up and down at least as often as I was - and I was up and down a lot, because all of the snacks were on a different floor - it was somehow a very entertaining game. I feel like that is not a good sign....
taylweaver: (Default)
So I have become rather intimate with the office photocopier, having spent literally hours over the past few days photocopying summer program medical forms, one page at a time. I have gradually learned all sorts of interesting tricks, from how to use the automatic feeder to my best advantage to how to make the copier do two-sided to two-sided or punch holes.

Today, I learned a bit of photocopier-ese. Here, with help from the "photocopy man" who came to do some repairs, is a rough English translation:

Photocopier: "click-click, click-click, click-click"
Rough translation: "You are making a lot of copies. That means I need to add more toner. Don't worry - this noise means I am doing what I need to in order to give you quality copies."

Photocopier: "Grind, grind, grind." (from where the paper comes out)
Rough translation: "Stop putting heavy things like books and file folders full of medical forms on top of the paper sorter (or whatever the place where the papers come out of is called)!"

Reply from those of us in the office: "But we have nowhere else to put it!"

Problem: There is no other good surface in the photocopy room for putting stuff down when making lots of copies
My suggested solution: Put a table in there
Problems with my solution:
- a) there is no room for a table
- b) even if there were room, we have no table to put in there, nor are we likely to get one any time soon - that is, ever
Solution to the first problem with the solution: We need something the size of a tray table - that, we should have room for
Solution to the second problem with the solution: If we don't have a table, why not make one - here is a garbage can that has flat sides, and has an open top about the size of a try table, if a bit narrower - and over there, I see a paper cutter - which is the perfect top for our trashcan table.

It worked beautifully. I am pleased to report that the paper cutter's surface was the perfect size not only to cover the garbage can - and even leave a little space at the side for when I needed to throw things away - but also to hold an open file folder.

Of course, then there is the problem with the solution to the problem with the solition to the problem....

Problem: The maintenance guy might think i am trying to throw away the paper cutter
Solution: Take the paper cutter off the top of the garbage can at the end of the day
Problem: I didn't

So we will see what happens tomorrow. Meanwhile, if anyone wants to suggest a solution to the problem I have with my solution to the problem with the solution to the problem...

Overall, however, I have a feeling the trash guys are intelligent people, so i am expecting the paper cutter to still be where I left it when I return tomorrow - especially considering that I was probably at work later than most of the maintenance guys anyway...

And if this is what happens to me after two hours of copying today (which followed at least three hours on Friday), just imagine how my blog entries will look a few days from now... I have at least four more hours to go...
taylweaver: (Default)
So I have spent a good chunk of this past week working on putting together a mailing that needs to go out to twelve USY groups that are going to Israel in two shifts. I have spent just as big a chunk of time not preparing this mailing - which has a rather urgent need to be in the mail by tomorrow.

Why is this, you ask? Because in order to make corrections, I need to get to a computer. And there aren't any spare ones. That's one reason.

What's the other reason, you ask? (or maybe you just don't want to know) Because the people who need to give the papers a second read-through are too busy doing other urgent stuff. So I spent three days mostly waiting for other people.

But now most of the pieces are ready to go, so tomorrow should be fun - hooray for stuffing envelopes.

Things can get tense when beaurocracy makes messes.

In other news, I did get free dinner. It's fun to work for a Jewish organization...
taylweaver: (Default)
Not sure I want to work there...

But the school in Chinatown e-mailed me to say they are interested, and want me to come to a staff meeting - alas, it will be late Friday afternoon next week, but still...

At least it's something.

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