taylweaver: (Default)
No, I can't go find it again. One might even say it was stolen - except for the part where my coworker had every right to take it...

To begin at something vaguely resembling the beginning:

So on Monday, we had our last big meeting of the year, at which we do The Pick. Yes, that's what they call it, The Pick. Why? Because that's where we pick our caseloads for next year, in order of seniority. There are about 25-30 of us, and that number of caseloads. And so we go down the seniority list, and each person makes their pick. The caseloads are put together based on number of sessions and geographic proximity of schools, and can have anywhere from 3-10 schools on them.

Our caseloads don't belong to us. Every year, there is the possibility that someone else could take it (or that it could be split up and not look like the same caseload as students enter or graduate and numbers shift). Three years ago, I was at the bottom of the list. There was only one caseload, and I got it. It happened to be walking distance from where I live. I was incredibly lucky - and incredibly spoiled. ("Did I mention I can walk to work?" Remember me saying that? And blogging it?)

Two years ago, I totally expected someone else to take it, but no one did, so I chose it back.

Last year, I prepared myself to lose it, even though my coworker who works in the same neighborhood (yes, there are that many schools in the neighborhood - about three or four caseloads that all overlap in the same 30-block area) kept calling it mine as we discussed them. But I didn't lose it, and that was great.

This year, I figured that if no one wanted it last year, why would anyone want it this year?

Then, all of a sudden, three people before me, someone else called out the number of my caseload. Insert internal "whoa" here. The coworker mentioned above went, "oh." Mostly, people just pick back the same caseloads. So even the people near the bottom end up back where they were. But here she was, just three people ahead of me, and she called out mine.

The next two people on the list have bilingual caseloads so they pick from a different set. So, effectively, she was one person before me. Yes, it was that close a thing.

Last year, my coworker and friend who is just below me on the list lost her caseload to someone else, but that other person took her aside and gave her some warning. I didn't get any warning. All of a sudden, it was my turn - about a minute later - and I had to make an on-the-spot choice.

I was shaking. I was feeling lost and overwhelmed. I almost cried. But I didn't cry. I did what I often do when I am thrown off-balance - I gathered information. Three caseloads left. I got the locations and a bit of info on the schools. I began with, "I need a minute!" Of course, everyone understood. Then, I called out, "Where's caseload x?" (i.e. where are the schools located)

My supervisor called me up to discourage me from taking one of the three because of a difficult school on it - she wants the current hearing teacher there to keep it. But since I very much did not want that school, I assured her it wasn't an issue.

This left two caseloads, one south of me, one north of me. (Excuse the lack of more specific info. I wanted this to be a public post.) The one south of me belongs to that coworker/friend who lost her caseload last year. I really didn't want to do that to her again if I could help it. Besides, she told me she has a student who bites. And I don't like the neighborhood she works in.

Good thing the person who took my caseload had a caseload that I can get to on a single train, within half an hour. In a neighborhood that has things like kosher restaurants. And she tells me it's a wonderful caseload, but it took her over an hour to get there.

As I tell some of the staff in the other schools this story, they get angry at my coworker, but I have no hard feelings toward her. I don't think she specifically wanted my caseload. She was just ready to get rid of hers. She told me she stuck with the commute for five years because she likes the schools and the kids so much, but a bunch of them graduated this year, so it was time for a change. And I think she didn't give me warning because she didn't know which caseloads would be left by the time it got to her. I had three to choose from; she had four. And so she waited to see what was left.

So I have a commute next year. And all new schools. And it left me shaken. I was totally blindsided by it.

But it's okay now. I am saying good-bye to all of my current schools, and realizing that there were only a few students who would overlap from this year to next year anyway. About five of them. A bunch graduated, and the caseload shifted a bit, so one school I had isn't on there anymore. And one of my schools - my favorite one in terms of resources (a place to work, computer with printer and internet, phone to the outside, copier that works and doesn't need a code) is phasing out anyway, so half the staff is leaving, and those resources will disappear after next year, I am almost positive. So it was a good year for her to move, and a good year for me too.

This was my first caseload, and so it's good to step away from it and go to a new set of schools now that I have three years of experience under my belt.

So I'll have a commute. That's the bad news. But, overall, I feel kind of excited about the change.
taylweaver: (Default)
I want this to be a public post, so I am going to try my best to be vague enough that there is no identifying info in here about myself, my workplace, or my students. Please keep this in mind when you comment. (This does not apply to those commenting on the facebook feed - that is effectively friendslocked anyway)

So. As many of you know, I am a hearing teacher. This means I work with hard of hearing students one-on-one, kind of like a speech teacher, only I work with langauge reception rather than language production. My caseload averages about 16 students.

This year, I had a student in fourth grade who has had a very difficult life so far. He had a brain tumor around kindergarten or first grade and missed a year or two of school at a crucial time for him academically. He also had radiation therapy. His mom showed me where his hair is still missing from it (the bald spot is hidden under other hair on his head). He is an English Language Learner, which is to say that he speaks a different language at home. His mom speaks virtually no English. On top of that, he spent the past few years in foster care. This year, he is back with his mom - but living in a shelter. On top of that, he did not get an IEP (the document that gets a kid special ed services) until the middle of last year - probably because he was bouncing between schools while in foster care.

And so he comes in, academically behind, in a semi-appropriate academic setting for the first time in his life - but still without hearing aids. The school district can get him hearing aids, as part of his classroom FM unit, provided it is called for on his IEP - which requires medical clearance from an ENT or pediatrician, saying it is okay for him to wear an FM.

Well. This student has many specialists, but no regular pediatrician. And, on top of that, the mom was totally not getting that he still has a hearing loss. Each time I heard he was going to the doctor, I would try to send a note home. Nothing.

Then, the mom showed up to pick him up early one day, and the principal saw both of us, called us into his office, and tried to figure out what was needed. I can't recall the discussion, but I got the name of his endochrinologist.

Later, I went online and discovered that the endochrinologist was a pediatric endochrinologist, and therefore a board certified pediatrician. So, the next time he had an appointment, I sent a note.

In the meantime, the audiologist who evaluates kids for hearing services got his hearing tested - which took two appointments because they missed the first one. She also gave the mom a note to take to the doctor.

The kid came back from the doctor: no notes.

Then, I found out there was an IEP meeting coming up - and what a perfect opportunity. They were finally adding speech to his services - and he needs it. But it also meant we could piggyback on their meeting and not have to call another one to put the FM on.

So I called the audiologist who services the equipment and I dug out the phone number of the doctor when she asked for it. And, between both audiologists, they somehow got the medical clearance they needed.

The IEP meeting was last Thursday. Hopefully, the FM unit will come in by the start of the school year.

The family is working on getting housing that isn't the shelter, and he may end up going on to a new school if they find it. That means we succeeded just in the nick of time - because if we had not gotten this fixed for him, he'd be starting over from scratch in the new school. Now, no matter what, he will be getting the equipment he needs.

It took an entire year, and at least four adults working hard to make it happen, but it happened. And that feels good.
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So I started my summer Spanish class yesterday. My other class, on language assessment (related to ESL), began on Monday and I am really enjoying it.

My Spanish class? Not so much. How bad is it that I can sit there in class and explain how I know she is a bad teacher? I mean, she is friendly and well-meaning, and helpful in providing vocabulary and structure when students want to give individualized answers to questions in the text.

But then she deals with grammar.

Maybe it is the linguistics major inside me. Maybe I just can't stand it when a teacher gives an inaccurate description of why a certain grammar structure works the way it does. Like when she was explaining the Arabic influence on a certain Spanish construction:

"Me gusta el gato" is the equivalent of "I like the cat." It really translates to, "the cat pleases me." Word by word:
"me pleases the cat."

She was trying to explain why it is backwards, and she said it is because Arabic is written right to left.

I was so frustrated! It is a different grammar system - nothing to do with which direction they write!

Plus, other people are having such issues following the grammar stuff. I am not, because of many factors:
a) early experience with two very different grammar systems - English and Hebrew - leaves me more open to learning new grammars
b) I did learn some French - even if I have forgotten most of it
c) my linguistics background
d) I am just good at learning grammars
But other people don't have that, and they are struggling.

Anyway, it is frustrating.

That having been said, there is one convenient thing about the class:
We miss two instructional days to visit a museum and a restaurant on our own.
Next Tuesday, I will be going to a museum. (Lemme know if you want to come. I am thinking Museo del Barrio.)
The Tuesday after that, I will not be going to a restaurant.

Instead, I will be at home, relieved that I only have half a day of classes on a fast day. :)
So that is a very good thing.

As for the restaurant, well, I am going to try to find a kosher one that sells cuisine from a Spanish-speaking country (I am open to suggestions) and, barring that, I will just write up something about Jewish Sephardi foods instead. (which she said is okay. As I said, she is nice.)

As for the sunset part, well, twice a year, the sunset aligns with the east-west blocks in the city. Which, as we know, are not actually east and west. Anyway, it happens on May 28th and July 12th. (I am not crazy. I looked it up today on a website.) And today was sunny and gorgeous. And digital cameras are convenient because I could look at the viewscreen instead of the sun, and thus not hurt my eyes.

Anyway, I got some pictures.
taylweaver: (Default)
"Ladies and Gentlemen, I have just been informed that there is a foul odor in the borough of Manhattan."

Yes, that was how I began my day... turns out there was a gas leak in NJ - and the principal wanted us to close the windows.
taylweaver: (Default)
Here is why fire drills are like the SAT's:

For all the worth that people attach to them, SAT's primarily test one thing: how well a person can take the SAT's.

Today, I learned that fire drills also primarily test one thing: How quickly and efficiently a school can be evacuated in case of a fire drill.

Fire drills do very little to prepare the students for evacuation in case of an actual fire or emergency. And why is that, you ask? Am I saying that schools should not have fire drills, you ask? Well, preferably not during my lunch break, but I digress. Fire drills could and should prepare students to evacuate the building in a smooth and efficient way should there happen to be an actual emergency - but that doesn't quite work when the unexpected sounding of the fire alarm leads the school administration to conclude that this is not a scheduled fire drill, so therefore students should stay in their classrooms.

Excuse me?

Does this mean students can only evacuate the school in cases of planned emergencies?

Can you tell that there was a bit of confusion today in one of the schools where I work?

Basically, the alarm went off. Students started to evacuate. Then, maybe there was an announcement or maybe there wasn't, but teachers were told to return students to their classrooms - because this was not a fire drill. It took at least another few minutes for someone to get on the PA system and announce that this should be treated "like a fire drill."

We then stood outside for 20 minutes while the fire trucks came, the fire fighters looked around and confirmed that there was, indeed, no fire, and climbed back into their trucks and headed out.

Now doesn't that just inspire confidence in the ability of the school administration to handle emergency situations? "Oops, we didn't plan this. So it must be a false alarm."

In other words, I had an interesting lunch break.

Oh, and on the way home, I stopped at a school book sale. Hooray for $1 books. Yes, I came home with another bagful of children's literature. It just isn't safe to put me in a room with $1 children's books... my friends will have to be extra vigilant this Sunday (when there will be not one, but two book sales in my neighborhood!)
taylweaver: (Default)
It seems to me that there are a variety of ways to atone for sins. A very Jewish way to do that is repentance: you acknowledge your sin, you try to fix it (I think), you apologize, and you try very hard not to do it again.

A less Jewish way to atone for sins is what I think would be called penance - maybe I am using the wrong word, but this would be the idea of giving yourself some sort of consequences/punishment for the sin you did. (Along with the acknowleding the sin part, of course).

Well, what I did yesterday was a bit more like the latter. In my apartment, I am not so good about keeping my stuff out of the public spaces. I am not so good about doing my weekly cleaning job. People pick up the slack for me often.

I should try to work on that (repentance) - but it is hard! I do work on it... really... but not with much success.

So, instead, I cleaned the fridge. It took an hour and a half. And was desperately needed. And we were going to split it up among all of us, but really, there was no way to take out the bottom shelf without getting the top ones out of the way. So I did all of it. Took an hour and a half. But it needed it, my apartment mates deserved it, and I felt good when it was done.

Now, I just need to work on the actual problem: my own mess...

In other news, I saw an entire flock of Monarch butterflies yesterday. Twice. Something I have never seen before in my life. And here I am, in the middle of a major city...

I eat lunch in a community garden near one of my schools. They were all over this flower bush with purple flowers. Every time the wind stirred the bush, they'd all fly up and change places.

And then I got to see them again at the end of the day. That school has the class where I work with two students. The class has been doing a unit on moths and butterflies, because they caught a moth in the classroom. Well, the assistant teacher saw the butterflies on her own lunch break, and caught one. At the end of the day, the students let it go. And saw all the other butterflies. Very cool.
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So I had jury duty last week.

And I got on a jury.

And the trial ran Thursday to Monday. It was fascinating.

Alas, just when life gets interesting, it also gets equally busy - so I shall have to elaborate another time. Suffice it to say I kept the jury deliberating an extra two hours because I was asking a legitimate question (and I base its legitimacy on my discussion with the defense lawyer after the trial) and it was a battle just to get some - and not even all - of the other jurors to understand it, let alone address it.

Anyone surprised by this?

But we did get free lunch... (they got me kosher food, too)

And, in other, unrelated news, I currently have a job for September doing related service in Brooklyn - what I should have been doing next year - but my supervisor warned me after she said this that I could still get excessed (read downsized for all you non-NYC education folks) at some point over the summer.

And this, with me owing another year to the scholarship program - so I can't preemptively find another job.

But that will hopefully work out - ideally sooner than September first this time...
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Thank you to [livejournal.com profile] mysticengineer for a wonderful (free!) evening yesterday. Three of us went to a concert at the Cooper-Hewitt design museum thanks to the time and money [livejournal.com profile] mysticengineer put into buying Time Out NY and looking through it for ideas for stuff to do last night. We never did make it to museums during the day... (that had been our first plan) but this means my room is also a little cleaner.

Anyway, at the Cooper-Hewitt, they have an exhibit related to Israeli design. After the concert, we got to take a peak at part of the exhibit, even though the rest of the museum was closed. The general idea of the exhibit (not followed by all of the designers) seems to have been to take one useful thing and turn it into another useful thing.For example, the lamps made from plastic tubing - the spots that were shaved down let the light through - and they looked cool too. And many different kinds of chairs. One that was held together by strips of cloth (easily dismantled), one made from melted plastic straws, and one from a sliced up plastic trash can - we liked that one.

But the funniest one there had to be the tiffany lamp (their words, not mine) made from milk jugs. Why? Because not only was the date stamp still there, and not only was it in Hebrew, it also said (in Hebrew, but I don't know how to put Hebrew in my LJ) "kosher for Passover." We all had a good laugh over that one. Did someone drink a little too much milk over Pesach? Or get bored over their Pesach vacation? It was funny.

At some point, I'd like to see the rest of the exhibit - I am curious what we missed.

This museum was, for me, a highlight of the free museum night last June (what do they call that night? I forget) when they had the extreme textile exhibit. It was all about using textiles and textile techniques (such as knitting, weaving and even crocheting) to create new and useful things that might not ordinarily be made that way - like buildings. Well, here, again, was an interesting exhibit. I am really starting to like and appreciate this museum. It makes you think about possibilities.

Oh, and since I haven't posted for a while, some things I didn't get to comment on:

The teaching is a bit better (ask me if you want to here more - I won't say more in a public post). Of course, it helps that I now have this week off...

And last Sunday's snowstorm: the worst part was, it was a Sunday. So we didn't miss any school. But a bunch of us did go to Central Park, including [livejournal.com profile] wildblueyonder2 and [livejournal.com profile] nuqotw. There were seven of us in all. Afterward, I heard that this was the most snow that fell in Central Park in one day - close to 27 inches. Well, since we went late in the afternoon, we must have been standing in most of it - that's two feet of snow, plus a bit. It didn't feel at all unusual, though. Maybe because this stuff tends to accumulate. Getting one blast and then having it melt without any more falling is not the way things generally go. So it didn't feel so unusual, but the powdery nature of it made it easy to walk in - and an interesting challenge to make snowballs from. we had to really press the snow between our hands. Afterward, [livejournal.com profile] mysticengineer suggested we should have breathed on it. Leave it to the engineer to have a different solution.

Anyway, so that was fun.

Today, I am going to see the dentist. Not fun, per se, but I am hoping he won't find anything to worry about.

So that's my update.
taylweaver: (Default)
Nice thing about being a teacher instead of a student: less homework
Nice thing about less homework: time to hang out with friends (and occasionally give up a few hours of sleep to do so)

Benefit to being able to hang out on weeknights: saw HARRY POTTER last night.

Big thank you to [livejournal.com profile] mbarr for getting tickets to an advance screening. It was two days before it really hits theaters, and it didn't even have any coming attractions attached - not even a fandango ad or a cell phone warning. The screen turned on - and there it was.

No spoilers. Don't worry. I will only say it was a good movie. Well done. Wonderful job making a 700 page book into a 2.5 hour movie. In fact, I think I liked it better than the book.

Anyway, it was fun.

Another nice thing about being a teacher: on occasion, it feels really great to realize that I am actually good at it (at least in some ways).

Today, we had one of our new teacher orientations. Near the end, the presenter did an activity with us. After having discussed lesson planning, and doing last-minute lesson planning for related services (one on one with the kid - or a max of 3 kids, but usually one - for 30-40 minutes each session), she made us each take one of our handouts and put together/start teaching an on-the-spot lesson during which she played the role of the student.

After I went, I got all sorts of compliments.

They (the presenter and the supervisors present) said I came alive. They did not expect that - I guess my teacher mode is different from my interacting-with-adults mode. So that was interesting too - to know that I have a distinct teaching personality.

But anyway, it felt good to be complimented. It felt good to be able to pull off a lesson that way too, to know how to do it.

Oh, and one more nice thing: I discovered that my new (as in, from last year) eye doctor is on my insurance plan - so as long as I have a "medical" reason to see him, it will be covered.

Now I just need to make an appointment...
taylweaver: (Default)
So I got back from work tonight around six, having run a number of errands on the way home. (silly little things like depositing my paycheck) Then I had dinner. Then I realized that I have already planned tomorrow's lessons, and all the things I need to get done are both big and long-term.

So then I did nothing. Well, I read...

But I got nothing done.

Which left me a bit out of sorts, of course. Or maybe that is the time change.

Either way, it's been so long since I had a weekday evening...

It is also Halloween. The weather was beautiful enough that I got to see most of the costumes on the street without the impediment of a winter coat. I think I saw one that was hand-made; the rest were store-bought. I don't know what that says about upper west side culture - use money more freely than time, perhaps. Or maybe it just says that kids like brand name - that is, they need to not only dress up, but dress up as specific characters.
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Obviously, I have been busy.

The problem with being busy is that so much interesting stuff goes on that I want to blog about - and then I don't get the chance to update.

Work is work. I don't like talking about it because then I feel like I am still working. It's going okay... I don't have a fixed schedule yet, of course, and I am still a bit lacking in the training department. It looks like I will be teaching a third class at Murrow starting in mid-November when the cycle changes. And so that's the update there.

I was going to wish all of my Jewish friends a Shanah Tovah (happy new year) but did not get to, so now I will wish them G'mar Chatimah Tovah instead. A literal translation of that doesn't work so well, so I will just say that it mean/implies something along the lines of "may you be inscribed and sealed in the book of life" Basically, may you be destined to have a good year.

It is also customary at this time of year to ask for forgiveness from all those that I have wronged. Well, if I have wronged you in some way, let me know so that I can ask to be forgiven. Because this whole, "do you forgive me for anything I may have done wrong" thing doesn't feel so sincere. It's too general and done too casually. So if you think of something I need to be forgiven for, do let me know. This will also help me to not repeat the mistake.

In other news, I finally took a few more steps toward moving into my bedroom. Yes, yes, I know... I have had a month to move in... yeah, so I am still not done. But I am a bit closer... a little more of my floor is actually visible... But while I was going through my stuff, I found things I hadn't been able to find for a while - like an unused shower puff I was positive I had (which has now replaced my old one), the juggling balls I crocheted for myself at summer camp a few years back (nope. Still don't know how to juggle... would like to, though. Oh, wait. That would require spare time, wouldn't it...), and, in the outer pocket of a suitcase, the book I had bought two years ago to give to someone as a birthday gift. So I found that on Sunday.

Yesterday, I got a phone call from, guess who? Yes, the intended recipient of the gift. She was in the neighborhood, and wanted to take me and my sister out to dinner (did I mention my sister lives in the neighborhood now? It's so wonderful). As it happens, her birthday was also this past weekend. So I gave her the book - two years late - and managed to cover two birthdays at once! I also managed to spill her water all over her... oops. And, in honor of her birthday, the three of us ordered and shared three desserts.

Interesting thing about that: a few years ago, there is no way I would have been sticking my fork into other people's cake and letting them stick forks into mine. But now it doesn't bother me. And it was so much fun. (my dessert was the best...)

I feel like so much other stuff has happened as well - I am sure I have some interesting Rosh Hashanah stories, if only I could remember them...

A few nights ago, I was so exhausted that I put a pot of water up to boil for pasta - minus the water. Good thing Tashia noticed. It would have exploded rather nicely, I am sure.

And right now, I am supposed to be writing report cards - it seems like such a heavy responsibility. And my students did so poorly on the test... I feel like that reflects badly on my teaching - because it was so many of them.

Oh, and then there's all the other stuff I need to get done before I can go to sleep. Things like, say, packing for Yom Kippur? Lesson planning for tomorrow?

Well, off I go...
taylweaver: (Default)
So it's been a forever since I have updated - over a week. And so much has happened in this week. [livejournal.com profile] mysticengineer pointed out to me that two of the ten most stressful things one can do are move and start a new job. Well, I moved on Monday and began my job on Tuesday. I feel like there is so much to get done that I don't even know where to begin. At the same time, it is nice to know that I will soon be settled in to both my new apartment and my new job.

As for what's been going on...

First, infinite thanks to [livejournal.com profile] mbarr for helping us move in this past Monday - by which I mean he shlepped far more than the rest of us put together, and it is deeply appreciated. As an aside, he is now somewhere in the South - he was in Texas over the weekend but he thinks he is headed to Mississippi now - helping set up communications networks for Katrina victims. (Is it any surprise that the people in charge have no clue what to do with a group of people waiting to get networks set up?) So thank you.

So Monday was moving day. I think I went to bed at 1 AM? Maybe later. My room is a mess, but at least a few things have been put in their proper places... I have my own bedroom now, and it has these gorgeous windows - they let in so much light! Sometimes too much. But Iight is a good thing.

And, even better, our livingroom now has a window. Granted, they were supposed to build a wall for us before we moved in, and it is still not quite finished - it added a bedroom where half the livingroom once was - but it is there, and the livingroom is great. And we have two couches, and a sibling - not mine - who made them fit!

We even hosted dinner on Friday night for thirteen people, which was a wonderful way to start our tenure here.

And then there is my new job. That is still a big stress because I am still somewhat clueless. I am a related service provider for deaf and hard of hearing students. I am what is known as a hearing teacher. I pull them out of class - or go into class with them - and help them with their auditory (listening) and lipreading skills. I found out on Tuesday that I am working in the Coney Island area - a loooong commute - about an hour and fifteen minutes - but at least I know how to get there.

I had orientation on Wednesday, in which I got completely overwhelmed, but also met two other observant Jews - the people in charge bought two kosher bagels for them when they bought breakfast. (It looks like it will be very easy to be Jewish in this job.)

Then, on Thursday, a more experienced teacher took me around and showed me how to start things off in all the different schools - who to speak to, what to ask... I met a grand total of one of my students. Friday was more of the same - except that when I went to drop something off in one school office, I returned to her car to hear, "change of plans."

In the afternoon, I will still be doing related services. In the morning, I will be teaching high school math to deaf and hard of hearing ninth and tenth graders at - guess where, [livejournal.com profile] daphster - yes, your very own Murrow High. So that was even more overwhelming - I found out on Friday and I am starting on Monday. I spent the afternoon at Murrow, learning as much as I could about how things work, and what I will be doing there. They know I am not the best signer, so I will be teaching with an interpreter, but it makes me nervous not to speak the language. It also makes me nervous to teach high school - a new age for me. But at the same time, I am so excited. I am going to have two classes! I will be teaching math! I have no idea how my supervisor knew I could do that, but math is a subject I want to teach. So I had this nervous/excited grin plastered on my face all afternoon.

So that's what's new in my life.

And yes, I know, it has been a while since I updated [livejournal.com profile] taylwoven. I have a feeling the Verizon guy hasn't gotten her phone line set up yet.
taylweaver: (Default)
So the other night, I was in the supermarket, looking for kosher graham crackers - and I noticed the Keebler ones had a heksher (kosher symbol) on them. I looked further to the left, where the Keebler cookies are, and noticed that many of the cookies also had the symbol. I have been looking on and off for six years, since I got back from Israel, where Keebler has been kosher for a while. All I can say is, yay for another food I've been wanting to eat becoming kosher. (First M+M's, then Oreos, now Keebler... and people say keeping kosher can be a healthier way to eat?) Interestingly, most of the cookies had the heksher, but the ones I wanted most - the plain chocolate chip cookies - did not. Now, if the fancier chocolate chip cookies can have it, I am guessing there is nothing wrong with the plain ones, and that they just haven't used up the old packages - or the old packaging - yet. This says to me that the heksher is fairly recent.

My observations led to the following conversation - at least, this is how I remember it. Of course, I forget who the conversation was with...

Me: So I found out Keebler is now kosher
Other person: Keebler? You mean the elves?
Me; Yes, the elves are kosher. Well, not the actual elves - but their cookies are.

I also discovered more kosher food yesterday - of a much healthier variety - while on a quest for kosher rice cakes. I couldn't find them in the supermarket, because, of course, why should Quaker rice cakes, which have apparently taken over the rice cake world, be kosher? Oh well. So after visiting Associated and Food City and coming up empty-handed, I noticed/recalled the "Natural Foods" store across the street. Literally, right across the street. I can see it from my window. So I crossed the street. (There you have it - why did [livejournal.com profile] taylweaver cross the street? To get kosher rice cakes.) Anyway, it's amazing how much organic food is also kosher. Not all of it, of course, but a whole lot of it. And the word "organic" makes it sound all healthy and good for me. Anyway, all I bought were the rice cakes, but I think I will go back there and see what other healthy snacks they have to offer.

So that was a good find.

As for the tote bags... well, it's amazing how many tote bags a teacher can accumulate. I already have three, and I have only taught for six weeks. Granted, one is from my sister - and still my favorite - but I also got one when I began grad school - the Teachers College logo is beginning to peel - and yesterday, I got one for free at Staples - along with all sorts of other free goodies. Can I just say, yay free gifts! So I got a red Staples tote bag (I specify because they actually came in other colors, but by 3:30 PM, all that was left was red and orange - and the red looked much nicer) and it had all sorts of interesting stuff inside. Like a single marker and a single colored pencil - white, alas - and a pack of post-its and a pencil/crayon case and lots of smiley face stickers - scented ones. And a catalogue, of course.

But Staples is smart - after I got the tote bag, I stayed, and spent $20.

Which reminds me, I have a $10 online rebate to fill out...

And if anyone hears of someone looking for a place to live who is willing to share a room, please, please, please let me know...
taylweaver: (Default)
So an update on the situation with that student:

We decided to give him detention for lunch yesterday. I said he needed to write the essay that he didn't write the first time around. (For which he should have had detention regardless of what he drew - see previous entry for his "essay.") The person who sits at the front desk, who is sort of in charge (but not the principal) had him write me an apology.

He produced a full page without *too* much repetition. It was rather enlightening. He hadn't meant to offend - it just "popped into his head" so he drew it. He also seemed to think that it was only offensive if it was being seen by people who were Jewish or among other minority groups.

I gave him an assignment as well: I told him he needed to do research on the KKK and on swastikas, and that he needed to use at least two outside sources and write a page on each. Then, he needed to write a third page on why it was inappropriate to joke about either. He is also on probation - if he steps out of line at all, detention.

He handed in the paper today. I get the sense he copied word for word. I left the paper in school, which means I can't check if this is true, alas. (He had to list the sources he used). So I will need to do that tomorrow. If he did that, I will be rather angry at him.

In other news, we have to tell our building by Monday whether we are moving out. The apartment I was supposed to look at won't be ready to look at til Wednesday. The whole thing is rather stressful. Do I take a risk? Do I play it safe? Do I look at a 2-bedroom in this building that will convert to 4 and still not have a window in the livingroom, but be cheaper per person? It's all so up in the air...
taylweaver: (Default)
Today, I had my high school writing class write an in-class 20 minute essay. The question consisted of a quote and a question as follows:

"To err is human; to forgive, infrequent." - Franklin P. Jones
This quote implies that people are not quick to forgive, yet people frequently say, "oh, that's okay." Do you think people truly forgive others when they say they have?

Here is E's "essay": (as best as I can decipher)

"People don't forgive because they don't
want to forgive because if they forgive
they will not forgive themselves for forgiving which
means that forgiveness is not forgiveness really
but we do not forgive to forgive but to forgive and
forgive but doing that would result in not forgiving
the forgiveness."

He spent the rest of the 20 minutes frawing a picture that included the following:

- a cartoon (almost stick figure) with a cross on his body, crosses in his hands, and a pointy hat, captioned with the words, "KKK is all the way"
- a swastika
- a cartoon (again, almost a stick figure) with a skullcap and what look like peyot (for those who do not know Hebrew, those curly sidelocks) who is saying, "ahhh" and an arrow pointing to the cartoon that says "JEW"

My first response: There is a drawing on his essay. He should not be drawing on his essay (this is not the first time he has done so)

Then I looked at the drawing. My next response: Even if he were allowed to draw on his essay, this sort of drawing is NEVER appropriate.

I wrote him a note that said:
E (I wrote his name, in the original) -this is NOT acceptable. (double underline under "not")
a) You should NOT be drawing on your paper.
b) The subject of your drawing is offensive and inappropriate in any context (with "any" underlined.)

At first, I was not disturbed by this drawing. I thought that perhaps he was trying to cross lines and get a rise out of me. In the past, I have crossed out his drawings, written "not appropriate" and proceeded to comment on his writing - which usually has at least some substance to it, even if I can tell he puts in no effort.

E is smart. He does not act out because class is hard for him - it isn't. I can tell from his responses in class that if he put in some effort, he could excel. But he doesn't want to. I think it is a question of attitude. He simply does not want to be there. I figured he was trying to take things one step further.

But, after writing my comments, I went to show the person who sits at the front desk - who agreed that this was a serious thing. It occurred to me only then that I had not actually read his essay - which turned out to be him making an effort not to make an effort, as far as I can tell.

It was only after I said to them, "I'm Jewish. I don't know if he knows that." that it began to disturb me. I can't quite articulate why.

He could have drawn this for any number of reasons. It's even harder to make sense of his motivations when I don't know whether he knows I am Jewish. The younger students know I am Jewish. The three youngest age groups have Folk Tales and Drama Games with me on Fridays, and when I used a Jewish folktale in the first class, I explained that I know it because I am Jewish and so forth. But it has not come up with my older students, so unless they were chatting about it with younger students, the only way he would know is if he recognized my necklace as a Jewish symbol. (It's not a Star of David - he would need to recognize other Jewish symbols) So I really don't know whether this was directed at me, or just random doodling.

I am not sure which would disturb me more.

He may have done it to see how I would react.
He may have done it because it seems "cool."
He may have done it because he believes it - but I don't think that is the case, at least not in a conscious way. I think this is more subtle than that.

I really just don't know what to make of it.

His parents will be called, and I will need to speak with him tomorrow - but he will just laugh me off. I think he will stand there with a grin on his face, pretending to be contrite, "yeah, okay, sorry." But he won't mean it. He knows that there's nothing scary about a talking-to if you just don't listen. I think I will make him redo the assignment over lunch.

But that does not address the content of the picture.

I don't know what to say to him - I can't even decide if I should mention that I am Jewish, that this is personal to me. I feel like that might just encourage him - as in, ooh, look, I found something that hits a nerve. And, furthermore, it shouldn't matter whether I am Jewish or not. It is inappropriate regardless of who is his teacher.

I have come to expect jokes from him. I expect him to goof off and put in only minimal effort. I never expected him to do this.


Jul. 25th, 2005 07:10 pm
taylweaver: (Default)
So it's official. My mother called me to tell me that the certificates arrived in the mail today. Effective September 1, 2005, I am a certified teacher in the state of New York in deaf education and childhood (k-6) education.

Just wanted to share that.
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)

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