Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Sick Day Blues

Last Friday, one of my students went home sick with fever, sore throat, etc. By Friday night, I had a scratchy throat. I went in to teach Saturday school and, aside from my sore throat, the only symptom I could pinpoint that I had was that I felt insane. One of the kiddos stared at me and said, "Ms. G├╝erita, you look like you fixin' ta cry." I immediately burst into tears. I made it to the end of the session and my friend/co-worker was going to drive me home. Only, she herded me near the principal's office on a pretense and they all ambushed me and made me to go the emergency care. I ended up sobbing in front of everyone and I might be a little mortified.

At the emergency care, they did exactly what I predicted and ran a strep test and wrote me a scrip for antibiotics. I was negative for strep, so the antibiotics were of no use. I was pronounced a sad victim of the flu and told to lie down and drink a lot and please make your co-pay now. I am so broke. At least I know why I felt insane. My temperature was 102.

Anyway, I meant to update this thing days ago, but today is the first day I have been able to walk. I am not going to school until Friday. Esperanza just called me because she does not believe the other teachers' updates on my wellbeing and needed to check for herself. She is very impressed by my croaking voice and says she will give a full report to the 4th grade. I love that kid.

Last week, pre-plague, was interesting. We had a serious Mean Girls problem with the girls. It culminated with me rounding up all the girls in 4th grade during ancillary and taking them to my room for a discussion. I told them some of the things other girls had said to me/about me when I was their age, and then I told them some of the horrible things I had said to/about other girls in return. And how ashamed I was and how much I regretted it. I don't think anyone has ever tried this particular tactic on them before. Half seemed shocked, and the other half cried. They all ended up apologizing and Esperanza (who was, of course, at the center of the conflict) wrote me a letter the next day. The letter was the most interesting part, for me. She said that she liked how I try to help them solve their problems instead of just getting them in trouble. I don't think that my discussion with them was particularly life-altering or inspiring or anything, but that was a nice letter to get.

I just got a phone call informing me that three of my kiddos were suspended today. Dammit.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Request

On top of teaching 4th grade, I teach the 5th grade reading and language arts. As I mentioned a couple months ago, I am discouraged by the powers that be from teaching novels. Instead of using nothing but short, boring test prep passages, I would like to use songs. I used Nick Cave's Where the Wild Roses Grow to teach the elements of a narrrative and point of view. Next week I'm using the Decemberists Yankee Bayonet and The Mariner's Revenge to teach drawing inferences and conclusions. The latter has a semi-naughty word in it that none of the kids will be able to pick up by listening and I could just omit from the lyric sheet. I hate it that I have to do that, but it's either that or not use the song.

So my request is this: Do you know of any songs that tell stories? Songs that I could use in a classroom full of 5th graders, that would be enjoyable but not get me in trouble? I like using the indie rock ballads a lot because they'd never hear anything like that otherwise. But I'd also love to find some hiphop I could use. So far, every time I think I find a good hiphop song, there ends up being something in the language that I can't cover up that disqualifies it. Anyway, I'd love to see some suggestions. Anything that keeps the kids from having to read about Milton Snavely Hershey or whatever.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Made my goddamn week!

I mentioned Tara in other entries. She's not my student, technically, she's on the other 4th grade teacher's roster. But that doesn't mean a thing. I am pretty much teaching the entire 4th grade now. Anyway, Tara is almost 13 and this is her third time in 4th grade. She has a very obvious learning disability.

She was tested (finally!) and since her teacher was performing administrative duties, I was called down to the meeting with her mother and the special ed committee to discuss the results and her placement. I have no idea wtf I am doing at these meetings. Seriously, the special ed system and procedures are draconian and strange. There are so many legal issues to deal with. So I always feel like I'm talking out my ass. A few minutes into the meeting, after we were informed that Tara did indeed qualify for special services, I said, "I have no idea if this is inappropriate, but since she qualifies for resource, can't we advance her to her own grade level and finally put her in middle school where she belongs?" Her mother actually cheered. It got kind of quiet for a little bit, and then the committee members said they didn't see why that would be a problem.

Tara starts middle school Tuesday. They let me be the one to tell her. I took her out in the hall and she started crying and then reached out and hugged me. She has a chance to make it through high school, now. Sometimes things work out.

Friday, January 05, 2007

Sometimes

I am having one of those days where I think about my job and start trembling and my eyes start tearing up. I can't get over this fucking rat thing. This isn't one rat. Or two. Or twenty. This is a goddamn motherfucking RAT COLONY. We have roaches, too. I saw some on the staircase today. WTF is going to happen if one of my kiddos gets bitten? Our principal is genuinely phobic of rodents and she is about to lose it. She is doing everything she can to eliminate the problem. It's just that rat-removal is not exactly her field of expertise, nor should it have to be. I am not a baby about creepy crawlies, but this is a fucking rat army that produces turds that make me wonder exactly how big are the rats that only come out at night.

We have a significant number of kiddos who I despair over them passing the standardized testing that is coming up next month. It seems like every week I learn something new about the intricacies of the testing system and I can't help but conclude that the system is just set up to ensure that the maximum number of students fall on their asses. Here is the latest example: The standardized testing in math is not simply numbers. It is heavily based on using reading comprehension skills to solve complex, often multi-step word problems. When a student is working far, far below their grade level and is experiencing serious difficulties, we refer them for diagnostic testing. This serves two purposes. First, the student will get the help and specialized services they need. Second, it protects the school from not meeting their AYP (adequate yearly progress) and accountability standards when the child fails a test that they simply did not have the ability to pass. The problem is that we are having kids bounce right back from the diagnostic testing with the verdict that they are doing just fine in math. The reason? The diagnostic testing is nothing like the standardized testing. It's all straight up simple numbers operations, no reading comprehension necessary. So the kids pass the diagnostics, then fail the hell out of the high stakes standardized tests. This is just one of the many ways the educational system sets these kids up for miserable failures.

Every Saturday from now until... April?... we are having Saturday school. I feel a little unhinged at this point.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

My campus the horror flick

Our campus is full of rats. No, this isn't an oh so (un)clever metaphor or anything like that. The buildings are massively rat infested. It's so bad that they are devouring (and shitting all over) classroom materials, like books. Since rats can't control their bladders, they are pissing all over everything as they crawl around. I've seen them. The kids have seen them. Everyone has seen the fucking rats. They have no fear of humans. We can't keep any food in our rooms, even packaged items stored in thick bins. The rats chew through them. They eat right through tupperware, no matter how sturdy.

They eat they kids' art work.

It's finally gotten bad enough that our district has made it a priority to exterminate. Usually it takes a long time for the district to send someone, but we got someone today. He said our rats drag food along with them and hoard it in hidden places. It all gives me crazy visions inspired by role-playing games of wererats with disease-spreading bite attacks.

My kiddos don't deserve to go to school with rats. They don't deserve to live in a neighborhood that is so rat-infested, either, but, goddammit, school is their haven and it shouldn't have a teeming mass of shitting rodentia.

Monday, January 01, 2007

Bien orgullosa de ella

Esperanza calls me every break/holiday. She called today to tell me she missed me and missed school. She did all her homework and checked it to make sure it was her best work. For Christmas, she got a telescope and has been using it to look at the moon. It's almost a full moon, she told me, and it's just so big in the sky.

I love her so much my chest is aching with it.