Sunday, September 30, 2007

i can only say your name

Last night marked DMB concert number 5 (6? 7? I've lost track) and it was awesome as always. The set list was one of the best I've heard - super mellow with some rare stuff mixed in with classic Dave and some of my favorites:

Sugar Will (tease)
A Dream So Real
Two Step
Eh Hee
You Might Die Trying
The Dreaming Tree
Grace is Gone
Louisianna Bayou
Corn Bread
The Idea of You
Jimi Thing
Grey Street

So Damn Lucky
American Baby Intro
Ants Marching

Like I said: awesome. I love concerts at Shoreline, but for Dave shows I'm starting to wonder why I pay so much money to just come home dizzy and smelling like pot. Maybe I'm just getting old, but it didn't used to bother me as much as it did last night.

Anyway, before driving down yesterday afternoon, I took a class with the Area Three Writing Project up in Davis about reading comprehension at the secondary level and I'm excited to use some of the strategies they taught us. I just wish my students were as excited to use the strategies I teach them as I am to use the strategies I learn in my classes... Is that what we mean when we talk about "lifelong learners"?

In completely unrelated and non-academic news, I got on the scale this morning (I don't own a scale in Davis), and I have lost almost 10 pounds since school started! I now officially weigh less than the weight I lied about on my driver's license. If that's not cause for victory, I don't know what is.

Friday, September 28, 2007

march into the sea

I nailed a couple of kids for cheating on their homework today. They were shocked. Not that I had caught them, but that I told them it was totally not OK and that they would be getting a "zero" on the assignment as a result.

I'm just sort of amazed at a lot of my students' attitudes about school. Mainly, that their education is not a priority and that I'm being unreasonable by expecting them to learn something. When complaining about the homework assignment the other day (oh, the complaining. The constant complaining), one girl actually said, "We have lives you know, Miss Garcia. Do you expect us not to have a life?"

Well, you can probably imagine that I lost it at that and gave a lengthly discourse on how their lives are wholly dependent on their education and how their job is school right now and if they don't take this job seriously, they won't ever have a job to take seriously again.

They looked at me like I was speaking Greek.

They probably don't even know where Greek is spoken.

I couldn't import the charts I made (yes, I made them), but the breakdown, percentage-wise, of grades in my two 9th grade classes looks a little bit like this:

Period 1
A - 5%
B - 33%
C - 43%
D - 5%
F - 14%

Period 6
A - 5%
B - 19%
C - 24%
D - 14%
F - 38%

At least Period 1 has a slightly modified bell curve, but Period 6 has a serious "group think" problem. Once one fails, all the rest follow. Lemmings, the whole lot of them...

Thursday, September 27, 2007

starting at zero

Tons, tons TONS to write about, but let me just say that The Reflective Teacher's "Scream" compare/contrast exercise paired with the stuff I learned at my Write Institute training yesterday have me SUPER excited to really dive into process writing with my 9th graders and my ELs.

Also, 6-week progress reports are due this week. Maybe it's the MA talking, but I really want to make some graphs showing the trends in my classes, especially my two 9th grade periods. I have a feeling some kids are going to get grounded next week...

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

im a twentysomething

"All college towns are essentially the same. There is something strange about the roots of people settled in a place where everyone else passes through."
-Anna Quindlen, "One True Thing"

Sunday, September 23, 2007

hopes and expectations

I'm at home again (are we noticing a trend? More on that later), supposedly sitting down to do serious data analysis, but I just can't seem to get down to work. My coffee is too cold and we have no muffins for breakfast and it's freezing and I'm distracted by the fact that I was a dummy and left a whole class-set of essays that needed to be graded on my desk at school.

I attended Max and Monica's wedding yesterday at Mission San Jose's Palmdale Estates and it was beautiful and tons of fun. I have been especially enjoying events lately where I get to see old friends and catch up and talk about life (as opposed to talking about sorority drama and the ilk). We sat at a seriously all-star table with the likes of Dan Neiman, Steve Doo, Joel & Emma, and Alex, ate fantastic food, and whiled away a rainy afternoon with awesome conversation and good times. I did not take a single picture because I was having such a phenomenal time eating and laughing and celebrating a wedding that I was genuinely excited to see happen. Congratulations, Max.

So yes, I'm home again. I was thinking the other day about how I still refer to the Bay as home, no matter how long I have been away and how often I try to call Davis "home" and the Bay "my parents' home". I have, actually, lived in Davis longer than my parents have lived in their house here in Los Altos, so for all intents and purposes, Davis is more home than Los Altos will ever be. Then I started thinking about how often I come home and realized, for a 23 year old, I sure come home an awful lot. What's up with that? I finally told my parents last night, "I just would prefer to do nothing on the weekend here than to do nothing on the weekend in Davis. I never intended to stay in Davis for this long in the first place."

Now, this is not to say that I am in any hurry to move back in with my parents. I'm pretty adament about that. It does mean, however, that I'm in no hurry to stay in Davis once this degree is over (if it's ever over, seeing how long it's taking me to get any work done...).

This brings up lots of issues, of course, that I'm not really willing to think about right now, but I guess I sort of always knew this was coming. No one expected me to go to Davis in the first place, let alone stay there for all of my undergrad, then do my graduate work there, and then live and work there once I was done. As for my high school? Well, it's serving a purpose right now and I'm enjoying myself and my students for the most part (4th and 5th period aside, of course), but there isn't anything concrete holding me there. BTSA will follow me (joy) and then I can start building tenure in a district I intend to stay with for some time.


I've been listening to a lot of Muse lately. Why haven't I listened to them before? Rock on.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

this ship is taking me far away

(*names changed to protect the innocent)

Today my ninth graders took their nouns test. What I thought would be a straightforward and simple assessment (since we drilled proper, common, abstract, concrete, compound, and collective nouns daily for the past three weeks) turned into a nightmare.

When I review common and proper nouns in class, I typically name a common noun (like "dog") and have students list as many corresponding proper nouns as they can think of ("Schnauzer", "German Shepherd", "Golden Retriever", "Chihuahua", etc). I do this because, honestly, how hard are common and proper nouns? Proper nouns begin with a capital letter. They name a specific noun. End of story.

So, on the test, I listed five common nouns and asked the students to list three corresponding proper nouns for each. The nouns were "man", "actress", "president", "country", and "national landmark". I didn't think this would be difficult, but apparently.... well... the following dialogue took place in first period (during the test, mind you):

Lisa: "Miss Garcia, what's a country?
Miss Garcia: "Um. Well a country is... you know... a country." (well honestly, what did she expect me to say?)
Lisa: So, like, Woodland, right?
Miss Garcia: No.... Woodland is a city.
Lisa: Sooo.... California?
(remember, the class is taking a test)
Miss Garcia: No. California is a state.
Chris: Mexico, right?
Alice: No, dummy! Mexico isn't a country!
Miss Garcia: Actually, yes. Mexico is a country.
Brynn: Miss Garcia, this is hard! I don't know any countries!

It went on like this for some time, with my students insisting that they didn't know the names of any countries (including the one we live in? Seriously?) and me refusing to give them the answers. Finally, I lost it.

Miss Garcia: "OK folks. Countries. You know, Canada, Mexico, China, England, The United States-"
Students: "Thank you!" (they begin scribbling furiously)
Miss Garcia: "Oh no. You don't get to use the ones I just told you. There are hundreds more. Come up with your own."

...I still received several blank exams.

I just want to know how, on the long road to high school, these kids somehow missed the whole concept of geography. Like, basic geography.

No kids, Woodland is not a country, no matter how much you love it.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

coming to an end

Last week was really long. Meetings meetings, and more meetings. And then on Thursday, I thought I didn't have a meeting, but then I did! I decided at the last minute to drive home last night and enjoy some time with my family and grade papers at my Mom's giant breakfast table with a never-ending cup of coffee on Sunday morning, which I'm hugely looking forward to.

Despite the exhaustion, last week was also really good. It's such a nice feeling to not be student teaching anymore, to have my own classroom with my own rules and my own procedures. It's nice to get to know kids from the beginning and it's really nice to feel my lessons start to flow effortlessly and to not feel so much pressure and anxiety every morning before a class starts. It hit me this week, "Hey, I'm actually kind of good at this."

I also finally got kids in my ELD class, which is both good and bad, I guess. I was hoping they would close the class if there were no Level 2s and give me some of the 9th grade overflow, but no dice. I have 10 kids in 4th/5th now and they're mostly really great. ELD is just a big committment though, and not one I was particularly excited or willing to make and now, of course, I have the Learning Center breathing down my neck about peer tutors and supplemental materials and it's just a lot more pressure than teaching mainstream classes. Fortunately, we're piloting a really awesome new curriculum that actually does a lot of the work for me, so lesson planning isn't as difficult as it was last year. It's just a long two hours in the middle of my day...

I'm reading Steven King's Cell and it's not nearly as good as I had hoped (nor nearly as good as Twilight, but I'm just going to have to shut up about that until spring at least). I also really need to get to work on my MA stuff, but after turning in WARP 1, I'm kind of burned out (not good) and I need to get back to research and data collection.

And now, I have to take the dog for a walk. It's nice to be home.

Friday, September 07, 2007

impossible to ignore you

I've been so blog- quiet lately that you're probably going to hate me for this entry but... it's just been on my mind.

I'm feeling depressed today. A deep sense of sadness and loss really because... I finished the third book in a series that I've really been enjoying and the fourth book won't be out until May of 2008. And really, all I want to do right now is sit down and read about Edward and Bella and Jacob and I can't because I read three 600 page books in one week and ruined it for myself until May.


I'll back up.

All the way back to when Katie send me that 50-pound box of books. There were a few that I wasn't familiar with, so I took them home to read so that I would know what they were about if a student asked. One of those books was Twilight. I'm almost ashamed to admit that I began reading it on Friday afternoon and finished it around 2 that morning. It was just that good. (And, it's YA fiction, so even at 600 pages, it was a quick read. Well, for me at least.) And yes, it's about vampires but that's not why I loved it. The characters were just so... real. And, as is often the case after I read a really great character-driven book, I had two enormous desires:

1. start writing a really great character-driven story
2. read more about these amazing characters

Twilight was Stephenie Meyer's first novel, so I doubted that there was a sequel yet or anything, but I Amazoned it anyway and found not one, but two sequels (New Moon and Eclipse)! I was thrilled. I ordered them right away (in hardback, no less, which is a huge deal for me because I hate reading books in hardback) and devoured them. And now they are done. And I am sad.

Because I'm tired and just totally worn out physically and emotionally and mentally from a tough week of teaching (and it was only four days) and I don't have any books to read.

Man am I a nerd.