Sunday, November 24, 2013

I Need Some Cheese With This Whiiiiine!

First, the title of this blog and its contents must be read with a whining voice. Now let the whining commence:

1.       I am an ELL (English Language Learner) teacher in the state of Arizona. In Arizona ELL students must be taught in English only. Even though, all research shows that if one is a fluent speaker, reader and writer in one’s native language, one can then learn a second language much more quickly.
2.       Also in Arizona ELL teachers must teach the “four-hour block” which includes an hour of reading, writing and grammar and a half hour of vocabulary and conversation. Vocabulary must be a separate entity; one can’t frontload vocabulary before a lesson, which would make sense. There are six and a half hours in a school day. Two hour of that six and a half hours is taken up by lunch, electives, and breakfast in the classroom. This leaves exactly four hours to teach a four-hour block. I am sure the reader is thinking the time works out perfectly, but please notices that there is no math, science or social studies in the four-hour block. Supposedly, science and social studies can be integrated into reading. But, what about math? Math isn’t important, not in the eyes of the Arizona Department of Education.
3.       The State Department is coming to make sure we are in compliance with all of the established rules of ELL classrooms. Apparently, the State Department doesn’t come into the classrooms and watch how one teaches, mainly, the only thing that is checked is the mounds of paper work. It is important that all the tees are crossed not that the students are getting a good education. Lesson plans are closely scrutinized but not for well-planned lessons. Lesson plans are scrutinized for correctly coded and written content standards, content objectives, ELP standards, and language objectives. I just spent two hours writing and correctly coding all my standards and objectives for my reading lesson plans. I still have to do my speaking and listening, vocabulary, grammar, writing, math, and science plans to do. It doesn’t matter if there isn’t any time to teach math and science in the four-hour block we still have to have correctly coded standards and objectives. If I could use the time I spent on correctly coding, wording and writing my content and language standards and objectives towards actually planning lessons, I would have some untouchable first best instruction.
4.       I wish teachers would enforce school rules. I’ve been fighting this one for 35 years. It doesn’t matter if a teacher doesn’t agree with a rule, follow it and expect students to follow it also. I have said this before but I do believe that sometimes I am the only thing that stands between civilized society and complete and utter chaos. I am a rule follower and I expect my students to follow the rules. Many always ask why my students behave so well? My answer is simple, I expect them to follow ALL the rules whether they like them or not. 
5.       When will I stop being forced to attend professional development that I have seen so many times before? It might be because I have taught for thirty-five years and education recycles ideas about every five years but I am over professional development. I might puke if, one more time:
·      I see the teaching and learning cycle, Bloom’s Taxonomy, how to write objectives or Kagan Structures.
·      I get a binder filled with papers that I’ve read a million times already. (Although, I have collected enough over the years to furnish my classes with binders.)
·      I am given an agenda with times that are never followed.
·      A presenter reads a PowerPoint presentation to me.
·      I have to “stand up, hand up, pair up”
·      I have to sit through a presentation on how to use technology, when all the technology in my classroom either doesn’t work or isn’t there.
·      I am given another “new” form and way for deconstructing standards.

My principal asked me to work with a group of teachers that wanted to revamp their behavior management structure. I did not do Kagen Structures with them or give them a binder! We did have a “whine” and cheese party. I gave them pieces of paper with wine glasses printed on them and asked them to write their “whines” on the wine glasses: one whine per glass because one should never mix one’s wines or whines. Then we went through the whines and put them into two piles: what we have control over and what we don’t have control over. We threw the “no control over” whines in the trash. Finally, as we did our revamping work we found, we matched up “cheese”, solutions, to our “whines”.

It’s time I practiced what I preach. I have no control over the State Department and its demands of the ELL classroom teachers. I’ll continue to spend weekends writing lesson plans while everyone else watches T.V., goes to the movies, plays golf or has lunch with friends. Although, someone did ask me what would happen if I didn’t do what I am suppose to do? I answered maybe I won’t be “allowed” to teach ELL anymore. Mmmmmm, there’s an idea.

I also, don’t have control over what other teachers do. I will continue to expect my students to follow all school rules. Other teachers will continue to comment on the behavior of my students. And I will continue to say it is because I expect them to follow school rules.

Again, I don’t have control over professional development. I will continue to attend these presentations, bob my head up and down and smile.

Well, all of my “whines” I don’t have control over. That does it! I better stop whining! But I do have control over, “I just want to teach”. No matter what, I love my job. I love to watch when a student finally gets it. I love to watch them become passionate readers. I love it when my students catch on and laugh at my stupid jokes. I love it when they beg me to read more of a book. I even love talking to the same student, about the same thing, for the ten thousandth time. I’ve loved my job for thirty-five years and if I were in charge, I’d love it for another thirty-five years.

Paco’s Perspective

I love when Auntie Caren shares her wine with me, especially, the reds!

The Flip Side

Dogs love cheese and I heard you say I am a dog, therefore, I infer I love cheese.  How’s that for an inference with evidence? Now, I would like to try some cheese to prove this theory.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Abracadabra! Poof! You're Well Behaved!

We have two new teachers in our sixth grade. Now, this sixth grade group happens to be a very tough group. I know I taught them in Saturday School last February. They were a handful and there were only ten of them. I couldn’t imagine them in a class of thirty-two. Colleen’s and my classrooms are next to the sixth grade classroom and it is not fun meeting them in the hallways, let alone, having to teach them all day.

The other day a couple of the sixth grade teachers were walking behind Colleen and I on the way to a meeting. The new teacher said, “Every time, I walk by your classroom your students are always quietly working and in the hallways they are perfectly quiet and walking in a straight line. You guys are magical!”

I replied, “Thanks, those are very kind words,” and continued walking down the hall. Of course Colleen and I had to stop in the bathroom on the way to the meeting because that is where we have our best conversations. When we got in the bathroom Colleen said,
that was really sweet what he just said but I don’t think he gets it.”

“Yea, I wanted to say, it’s not magic, darling. It’s hard work.”  

“I really believe people think we have a magic wand.”

“And fairy dust!”

“Throw a little fairy dust in their face, wave the magic wand, abracadabra, poof, you’re well behaved.”

Behavior management takes work. Colleen and I work very hard to have well-behaved classrooms:

1.             We follow school rules whether we agree with them or not. At Tomahawk the students called us the uniform-code Nazis. When students saw us coning they automatically checked to make sure that everything was tucked, tied, and pulled up.
2.             We expect all our students to behave. We explain to them at the beginning of every year that they were put into the best-behaved classrooms in the entire school and they need to work to make sure it stays that way. We have a quote by Martin Luther King that is outside our door, it states, “Those who walk through these doors never give up. They are the first in kindness, the first in moral excellence, and the first in generosity.”
3.             We have rules with consequences, both, positive and negative, and we never give in no matter how much someone whines or how inconvenient it is to us. “No, you’re not going to recess means no, you’re not going to recess no matter how many times you ask!” We spend every lunch in the room with students that must come in and those that want to come in.
4.             Be consistent. Students know when you aren’t and they will take advantage of that.
5.             We let our students know we are real people. I cry every time I read The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane where he finds Abilene after over twenty years.  
6.             We have fun! Many believe that because we are so strict that there is not one thread of fun in our classrooms but that’s not true. We have fun, lots of it, and our students know when it is time to stop having fun and get down to business. I wouldn’t be doing this job for over thirty-five years, if I weren’t having fun.

I know I do come on strong when it comes to behavior management. Sometimes I believe that I am all that stands between civilized society and chaos. So, here is a piece of advice to all the new first year teachers out there:
1.             Everything else falls into place once behavior management is established.
2.             It takes forty-five days to build a habit. Don’t give up on something you are trying for seven to nine weeks.
3.             You MUST work on behavior management every single day. There is no room for breathing.
4.             It’s not magic. It’s hard work. But so is teaching. Behavior management teaching goes hand-in-hand.

Paco’s Perspective

Be consistent. Give consequences. Expect them to behave. Hey! That’s like training a puppy. Do you rub their nose in it?

The Flip Side
I don’t know if anyone cares, but this is perfect lizard hunting weather.