Hiding Out

It’s Halloween.  I’m hiding out.  I’m sitting toward the back of the house with minimal lights on.  By now I can probably get back to normal…

I used to hand out candy for Halloween.  I’d get a bunch, put it in a bowl and eagerly wait trick-or-treaters.  Guess what?  I live in a neighborhood of retirees.  There are no little kids in my ‘hood.  I ended up with tons of candy left over.  Although that is a yummy situation, it’s not so good for the waistline.

One year, I had maybe, three rings of the doorbell.  The kids started reaching into my bowl to grab handfuls of candy.  Greedy bastards.  Then, I had a rather tall trick-or-treater that was a ghost.  When I gave him candy I was thinking that he was too old to be coming around begging for candy.  As he turned to leave, I saw him reach his hand around which was holding a lit cigarette, taking a drag as he walked down my driveway.

That was the end of my Halloweens handing out candy.

Ding-A-Ling

What more do we get to do besides teach?   Learn a new phone system.  My district decided to go with a phone system that uses the internet lines.  Over the past few weeks there have been non-teacher people wandering around the building installing phones.  I actually got a brand new phone  2 months ago because my old one wasn’t working.  Apparently that new phone will be gone over our long weekend and on Monday we will have the new system in place.

Last Tuesday we had a faculty meeting to train us on the new phone system.  It was larger than a faculty meeting because everyone that uses a phone needed to be there.  Several of those that are never at faculty meetings squeezed into the room.  It was actually quite a sight to see all of those people who make our building run all in the same room.

We have a tech guy in the district who is absolutely awesome.  He was our building coach for the technology initiative for when I got this computer.  His job description has changed a bit and now he gets to train us in the phone system.  I felt sorry for Ivan, passing on the information for whomever made this brilliant decision for the new system.

So…  here goes the description of the new system…

Each teacher, EA, TA, administrator, etc. has their own 5 digit number and phone in the entire district.  Apparently we can use the 5 digit number to reach whomever we want to.  The phones have big display screens that show when you have a voicemail and you can do loads of things with these phones.  You now have a direct-dial number too.  The suggestion is that you give that out to your family for when you’re working late.  Parents should still be given the main school number and calls will be routed to you through the office.

The phone will ring three times before it goes to your voicemail.  There is a DND (DO NOT DISTURB) button that you can push while you’re teaching so you’re not interrupted.  Can you imagine the collective excitement in the room when we heard about that feature?  But then, Ivan burst our bubble and told us that the office can over-ride that feature and come through the phone on an intercom and say “Ms B, pick up the phone.”  From the audience a comment came, “So DND, really doesn’t work, huh?”

When they installed my phone, they first put it in the location of the old phone which is up in the front where I teach.  I came in one morning to find it moved back to near my desk.  That’s nice and all, for when it rings while I’m at my desk.  With my new Promethean board, I’m trapped behind a big counter because I’m in an old science room.  Can you imagine me, teaching away, phone rings, drop everything, get around the counter, weave my way between all of the desks, jump over backpacks on the floor, and sprint toward the back of the room to reach the phone before the 3rd ring?  As I get older I do recognize my limitations and what is clearly asinine.  I’m not going to get injured just to answer the phone.  But then again, worker comp…  time off… hmm…

Back to the training…

Each phone is now associated with a person, NOT a room.  One teacher raised his hand and innocently asked, “So what if I float around to different rooms during the day?”  Another teacher says under her breath, “Put the phone on the cart John, put it on the cart!”  I believe Ivan’s answer to the question had something to do with those teachers needing to check their voicemail more often.  But in reality, if the office needs to reach a student, they’ll need to look up 1) where the kid is, 2) what teacher they have, 3) if the teacher is in their own room, 4) if not, look up whose room they’re in, and 5) dial the extension for the other teacher.

And in this era of reconstituting schools and the fruit-basket-upset with staff that occurs…  if you move to another room or even another building, guess what?  The phone moves with you!

We were all sent back to our rooms to set up our voicemail accounts.  Mine actually worked.  There were several people who pushed the “envelope” button and couldn’t do anything.  They’ll probably have to send in an e-ticket for technology mishaps and wait a few weeks for a fix.

If I want to really learn about the phone, I can watch twenty-seven (yes, 27) separate tutorials online.

So…  Who was the Ding-A-Ling downtown that made this decision?

That Big Bright Thing in the Sky…

It has been a little over a year since I first had a skin scan and had a melanoma in situ.  I’ve now had a total of 3 skin scans and 14 moles removed.  Of the 14 moles, one melanoma in situ and two that each needed 1 cm punch excisions, complete with stitches.  The rest were deemed odd-shaped, but fine.

After arming myself with large brimmed hats and rashguard shirts, I made it through the summer.  But I realized that I made a point to be inside or out of the sun during peak shine times.  I rarely wore anything sleeveless and automatically wear sunblock.  I’ve been taking a vitamin D supplement since last winter.

Guess what?  I really like being outside.  I like to hike and go for long walks.  I like nature and need to be active.  Because I kept to the shade of the indoors, I really missed out on nature this summer.  I’ve literally been afraid of the sun.  I didn’t realize it until a few weeks ago.  Being afraid of the sun is not a fun way to live.  Things are going to change.

Breakfast to Go

My job description has something new added this year. Taking out the trash. Yes, I have a Master’s degree for this.

We have a new program in our school. Because we have close to 80% of our students qualifying for free-or-reduced lunch, they all get breakfast for free. They’ve actually been getting free breakfast for several years now. But breakfast has been where it belongs, in the cafeteria. In order to force up the participation in the breakfast program we now have Breakfast to Go (B2G).

There are several stations set up around the building. When kids arrive in school, they pick up a breakfast and they bring it to their first hour classroom. They can take a minimum of three items and a maximum of five.

I was prepared to hate the B2G program. Food in my classroom? Spills, smells, dirty desks, mice… ick. So far I haven’t seen any mice in my room. The kids are pretty good at not making a mess. They actually seem to make it to class on time much easier. There’s not a mad dash to get to class at 7:29:30am. The halls are quite clear when they used to be very congested. But there is one part I do dislike. Taking out the trash.

Each morning I have to put a special trash bag in my trash can. Hopefully the kids are good at getting all of their breakfast trash into that particular bag. If they don’t, then I have to deal with spilled milk, corn flakes, juice, fruit or whatever when I tie up the bag and put it in the hallway.

I don’t always remember to take out the trash. Some days I hear the custodian rolling the trash bin in the hallway and have stop teaching and make a mad dash to tie up and take out the trash.

The other consequence of this is that my student supervision time starts 15 minutes earlier each day. That means if I need to make copies in the morning I need to get to school much earlier. It also translates into about 46 hours for the entire year of extra student contact time. Fifteen minutes a day doesn’t seem like a lot to ask for, but when you consider everything we’re expected to do and the little time we’re given to do it, 15 minutes a day is a lot.

My Latest Read

I tried to read this series a few years ago.  For some reason I just wasn’t able to get into the first book.  I put it on the shelf and went on to reading other things.  In August, I tried my luck again.  I’ve been reading the series ever since.  I just finished the last one about a week ago.  Now I’m going through withdrawal.  Even though I borrowed most of the books from a friend, I know I’ll want to read them again and again.  Which series is this?  Why, Harry Potter of course!

I have thoroughly enjoyed each book.  The amount of detail and creativity is fantastic.  I had already seen the movies, but it’s fun watching them after reading the books.

I wish I could wave a wand like Dumbledore and my house would be cleaned.  I would love to have Hermione’s beaded bag.  Just think, I could travel with everything I want and only carry a little bag!  That little time changer thing would be helpful too.

When I first started school I talked to my students about Harry Potter.  If they hadn’t heard of Dementors I explained that they were the guards of the wizard prison, Azkaban.  They suck all of the joy, hope and life out of you.  You know people like that right?  Bad attitude, always negative, real downers.  So the message?  Don’t be a Dementor!

With all of the latest teacher bashing and talk of teacher evaluation you can’t help but think of Delores Umbridge?  Drive by evaluation with a gotcha form?  I bet that any of my educator readers can relate.

So like many others, I too am looking forward to the release of the final two movies.  I’m curious where they’ll make the split for the seventh book.  I’ve never seen a Harry Potter film in a theater.  But I’m definitely ready!

 

GANAG

Ga-what?  This is an acronym that is being tossed around in every classroom in my district.  What’s it being used for, you may ask?  Why, teacher evaluation, of course.

I am not opposed to teacher evaluation.  I teach with my door open and am completely fine with any colleague or administrator coming in.  I do my job.  I have a plan each and every day.  My classroom has kids learning, working, asking questions and generally enjoying themselves.  It’s a friendly environment where we sometimes have conversations about life intermixed with our math topic of the day.

So back to this GANAG thing…  There is a form that is being used in each school to measure how good of a teacher we all are.  Here’s what GANAG stands for:

Goal: Set the learning goal/benchmark or objective.

Access: Access students’ prior knowledge building engagement through establishing immediate relevancy; a “hook” that is a short introduction to the lesson.

New Information:  Acquire new information – declarative and/or procedural.

Apply: Apply a thinking skill or use the knowledge in the new situation.  Opportunity for feedback provided.

Generalize:  Generalize what has been taught.

For now they are only concerned that every teacher in the district (yes, all 3000+ of us) has implemented the first G.  How do they measure this?  We all have to have standards, overarching questions and guiding questions posted in the room.  Yes, I’m a good teacher if I have all of this crap stuff posted on my walls.

This is all fine and dandy if you teach the same class every period.  But if you have multiple preps and travel to a different room, you’re spending all of this extra time on stuff that I don’t think the kids really care about.  The guiding question is good.  The first page of my flipchart always has the title of the section of the book and the objectives have been turned into guiding questions.  During the lesson, I refer to the questions and after I’m done presenting my stuff, we go back to the original questions and talk about them.

Standards?  Yes, we need to know the standards that we’re teaching, but they have changed each year lately and they certainly aren’t in kid-friendly language.  They’re long and trying to post them all in your room is ridiculous.  It’s not like you can get a font big enough (and printed out) for kids to read from their desks.  And there’s no better answer to the question; “Why do we have to learn this?” than, “the state says so.”  That certainly will hook them into the lesson.

To complicate matters even more…  My school is so full this year that every room is used every period of the day.  We have 34 teachers that travel to other rooms at least one period of the day, if not all of them.  If you’re traveling to a room in your subject area, chances are that your standards will be posted in that room.  But what if you teach English and you’re in a Social Studies room?  Ugh.

With my new technology I thought that putting the guiding questions on the first slide of my flipchart would solve the problem.  I make several of these presentations at a time.  I plug-in the computer and it’s all set.  But what if a district person comes to observe me and they missed the first slide?  No guiding question is posted.  Shame on me.  I could be obnoxious and use the ticker tape feature with the guiding question and annoy the heck out of my students. But I respect them too much to deliberately bug them like that.

So even though I feel like I am actually presenting more focused and cohesive lessons by using the guiding questions (and already doing the whole GANAG thing), I’ll probably get my wrist slapped because they are not posted.  Part of me wants to be defiant to prove how stupid they are being.  But I’m not quite sure how to make that point.

Staying Ahead of the Game

Guess what? I haven’t written much lately. Well… maybe you already knew that. 😉

The very last day of school last year there was new technology installed in all of the math and science rooms. That includes me. We all have these smartboard-type things. The brand is “Promethean.” We’re using Active Inspire software. It’s actually pretty cool. But it’s one helluva lot of work. I’m in the process of transferring my lessons into the software. So trying to stay a few days ahead of the game is all I’ve had time for lately.

So far [knock on wood] I haven’t had any major problems with the technology. If it doesn’t recognize your computer you’re screwed. There was one day where it wasn’t recognizing the pen. So I used the overhead projector to write over the top of the presentation. Yeah… pretty ghetto. Then I realized that I had forgotten to plug in the USB port. Operator error. Oops.

The kids have fun writing on the board and doing problems. On Friday I played a game with my 2 Pre Calc classes. When they ran out of space they figured out how to shrink their writing so they had more space. It was pretty cool to see how efficient they were getting with the board. We’re going to continue the game tomorrow.

Hopefully I’ll have some time this week to tell a few stories… Sorry for my lack of writing. I didn’t want you to think that I stopped.