Friday, September 26, 2008

singing for freedom

I called a sub today, then slept in and drank coffee and planned for the next two weeks. I told my kids yesterday that I felt a strange, student-related illness coming on. One of my advanced students said, "I think that's called stress, Miss G."

Stress, indeed.

My job has been really hard lately and this week, for the first time since I started teaching, I actually didn't want to go to work. I realized yesterday afternoon though that I was allowing a select few students really ruin it for me, and that most of my kids are pretty awesome, even if they do drive me crazy and refuse to stop talking. Teaching in the Academy has been great because I have the support of three other teachers who are all having the same problems, but it also means we have a lot more meetings to deal with those problems and I feel like I am not getting enough prep/grading time most days.

It's frustrating, to say the least. Which is more critical - the management piece or the curriculum piece? Does the curriculum even matter if the management isn't there? Doesn't management kind of depend on keeping kids busy and thinking critically through well-planned curriculum? At the end of most days I feel like my head is about to explode.

And I'm still not getting enough sleep, but the main annoyance there is that I am too tired to go running when I get home and I'm feeling.... squishy.

This weather annoys me. 92 degrees? Still?

I am taking Brian to The Kitchen for his birthday next weekend. We're both really excited - me probably more than him because I've been dying to eat there for years. I think I'm also going to buy him a Carnivorous Desktop Plant Set. You know, because I can.

Brian and I have been talking about weddings lately, which actually does not terrify me for the first time in my entire life. I am rather taken with the idea of a late fall/early winter wedding, the colors evergreen, lavender, and shades of brown, the great outdoors and other rustic accents, a chuppa, a homemade cookie buffet, these seating "cards," and these invitations.

More to come - Brian and I are hitting the town tonight! (Mostly because this is the first Friday since school started that I haven't needed to take a nap)

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

the more i know you

I wore a sweater today. It was delicious.

I'm not getting enough sleep.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

feelings show

Here's the update on high school goings-on this week. I'm getting a massage today...

To start, our freshman class this year is.... more trouble than usual. We seem to have a lot more gang-related activity than last year and behavior management (which I've never really struggled with) has been an issue for all of us in the Academy. We chalked this up to immature and squirel-y freshmen but... we were a little off.

On Tuesday afternoon, there was a gang-related shooting at Campbell Park. We stepped up security on Wednesday, especially after we received news of an assault at the continuation high school. On Thursday, there were two incidents during lunch that were quickly extinguished by our VPs and the heightened security on campus. Nonetheless, were concerned about the rally that we had scheduled for Friday.

On a completely un-gang-related note, two students were suspended (expulsion pending) for having a gun and brass knuckles on campus last week as well. So things have been feeling a little out of control lately.

On Friday morning, my students came into 1st period asking about the bomb threat. I told them that there had been no bomb threat, so settle down. Then they wanted to know if I knew about the hostage situation downtown. I didn't, but I quickly got on my computer to see if I could get some details. This was unrelated to our school, but still had the kids upset, and definitely added to the chaos later in the day.

During 1st period, I received an email that the rally we had scheduled for 4th period had been canceled because of rumors that "something" would be going down. It was probably nothing, but as a precautionary measure we postponed the rally to keep our kids safe. Half the school in the gym with limited means of escape if something were to actually happen? A bad idea.

My students were bummed and when second period came in we had a brief discussion about the events that had been going on in the community and whether they felt safe or not (they didn't, big surprise). Halfway through second period, it was announced over the PA system that we were going into a Code Yellow (precautionary) lock-down as a result of the hostage situation downtown. It was really because students had been texting each other that someone had a gun on campus (my students told me). Normally, we would have chalked that up to just rumors, but with everything that had been going on, we wanted to be safe.

About 45 minutes later, I received official word via email that there might indeed be a gun on campus. I had my Advanced kids and we played Sudoku and did crossword puzzles and ate Dum-Dums. I allowed them to call/text their parents because we were releasing students (escorted by security) to their parents if they came early to get them. About half of my kids ended up leaving early.

Meanwhile, the office pulled in and searched several students who they believed might be the main culprits, but found nothing except drugs (awesome). During this time, they also heard (through students again), that since we canceled the rally and were keeping the students in the buildings, there would be a drive-by after school. We decided to release the students early, building-by-building, starting at noon.

In the end, the remainder of my students got to go home around 12:30. I escorted them to the office, not allowing them to go to their lockers or any other parking lots, and monitored them to make sure they met up with their parents or walked down the block to their houses.

When we finally got all the kids off campus, we had a huge faculty meeting to debrief and, rightly so, be outraged. Our police officer liaison explained that there has been an increase in gang-related activity in the entire city because a large number of Nortenos who had been arrested several years ago have recently been paroled back into the community and they have been recruiting hard to increase their numbers. She also told us that, unless we started changing things soon, we were on our way to a school shooting.

The main problem we have is that it's almost impossible to expel students in our district. High expulsion numbers look bad so we put students on stipulated expulsions in which they are eventually allowed back onto campus if they behave. We also have teachers who get in the middle of fights, but don't know the names of the students who are fighting, so the kids don't get documented. We also have teachers who do not report students for dress code violations (color-related), because they are afraid of the repercussions from those students. I disagree with this wholeheartedly. First, the kids really don't care about the teachers and are not going to reciprocate if we send them to the office for wearing blue. Second, by letting them sit through a full day of classes out of dress code we are telling them that A) it's OK, we don't really care that much or B) they have more power than we do. And neither of those is true.

I have a lot of really strong feelings about what has been going on since school started, but mostly I'm angry that my students feel so unsafe that they can't learn and that I have been so busy policing these little 14-year-old boys who think they are hardcore that I haven't been able to focus on my teaching. I entertained the thought of quitting yesterday if I didn't see changed made at both the site and district level, but I think it's more important that I'm there and advocating for the 99% of my students who are kind, sweet, and hardworking.

But I can't make any promises for next year.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

never too late

I hate that when I look at the weather and see that it will be 95 degrees today, my first thought is, "Oh, that's not so bad."

I have been living in Northern California for way too long.