Polski3's View from Here

Quote of some personal revelence: "Is a dream a lie, that don't come true, or is it something worse?"

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Some folks value their Teachers

One of our local school districts has parents who support their school and teachers. This was in our local newspapers "letters to the editor" :

"The teaching staff at McCabe School in El Centro would like to send many thank yous to the McCabe P.T.O. for our wonderful, restful Teacher’s Appreciation Week.

Our week began Monday morning when the staff lounge was transformed into a soothing, relaxing and quiet haven. The tables were covered in linen, there were bubbling fountains and calming lights hanging from the ceiling. The cabinets in which we store coffee cups and kitchen supplies were rearranged with new organizers. There were sparkling new glass containers for the coffee, sugar and creamers. Even our restrooms were decorated with lovely soaps and lotions. Each of us was give a compact disc of relaxing classical music along with a lovely breakfast.

Tuesday morning we were greeted with another soothing gift. Wednesday we were given yummy chocolates and shoulder massages. Thursday we had incense to take home and Cold Stone ice cream with toppings. Friday, in addition to bath salts, we were treated to a beautiful elegant luncheon of delicious salads, freshly baked bread and decadent desserts.

We truly are a fortunate group of teachers to have such generous, caring and supportive parents. We thank you, McCabe P.T.O., for everything you do."

Just a note: This school has some of the highest standardized test scores in our county. Students at this school come from some of the higher socio-economic, higher educated parents in the county. They are often considered "pickier" about the teachers they hire. I wonder, if there is any link between such parents, their expectations and high test scores???? Wadda ya think ?

But our tacos were nice.

Thanks for reading my blog.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Not quite Vlad the Impaler.....

I couldn't resist posting this. THIS has gotten more laughs at my school site than anything I have seen in years.

Our 8th Grade science teachers are currently doing the dreaded "Flour Baby" activity with some of their students. The rules, of course, are strict. One of our teachers, who is teaching in an old science classroom, is keeping the heads of the flour babies who "die" or are otherwise terminated in his classroom. And, he is sticking these flour baby heads on poles set up on one of the old lab tables in the classroom.

It is a bit bizarre and maybe disturbing, to enter this classroom and see heads of deceased flour baby's on poles. But hey, you gotta be a bit bizarre and maybe disturbed to teach junior high, eh?

( for those of you not familiar with flour babies, their bodies are a duct taped wrapped five pound bag of flour and their heads are baby doll heads.)

Thanks for reading my blog.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

History Music

Do you ever use music while teaching History ? Use of music in teaching US History is easy, there is a ton of super stuff to use. But what about World History ?
I teach History of the Middle Ages. It is much harder to find music to help with this segment of history. What junior high student can handle Gregorian chants? Heck, I can't even handle Gregorian Chants. But, I recently discovered a "new" song to use in at least one of my units.

At the beginning of my Viking unit, I play Wagner's "Flight of the Valkyries". IMO, it is a great piece of music, from Wagner's Ring Trilogy Opera. Many of the kids have heard it, usually played as music on some TV commercial. After it is played, I ask them, "What is a Valkyrie?" Now, I have another song to add to my Viking Unit opening tunes......one I have heard before and a number of times over the past thirty or so years, but lets just say I discovered the lyrics. Its Led Zepplin's "Immigrant Song". Here are the lyrics:

Immigrant Song (Page/Plant )
Two, three, four
Ah-ah-ahh-ah, ah-ah-ahh-ah
We come from the land of the ice and snow
from the midnight sun where the hot springs blow

The hammer of the gods will drive our ships to new lands
To fight the horde and sing and cry, "Valhalla, I am coming"

On we sweep with, with threshing oar
Our only goal will be the western shore

Ah-ah-ahh-ah, ah-ah-ahh-ah
We come from the land of the ice and snow
from the midnight sun where the hot springs blow

How soft your fields, so green
can whisper tales of gore, of how we calmed the tides of war
We are your overlords

On we sweep with threshing oar
Our only goal will be the western shore

S-so now you better stop and rebuild all your ruins
for peace and trust can win the day despite of all you're losin'
Ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh
Ahh, ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh
Ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh, ooh-ooh

I know this will go over with some of my rocker kids. I will play the song and then pass out copies of the lyrics. Then ask my students what this song says about the Vikings. Then we'll get on with the unit.

If you'd like to hear this song, go to YouTube and search the video section with the song title (warning: It is easy to get sidetracked checking out your favorate tunes here.) There is also a funny spoof of Immigrant Song that is worth seeing/hearing.

Are there any songs/music you use for teaching Middle Ages History ? If so, please share it/them with us.

Thanks for reading my blog.

Teacher Week Sometime or Another....

So, when was or is Teacher Appreciation Week ? According to my CTA pocket calendar, National Teacher Appreciation Week was May 6 - 12. California Day of the Teacher was Wednesday, May 9. Whatever.

Found in my mailbox last week was a plastic sandwich bag with the following items: a "thank you teachers" magnetic plastic clips and a broken spring neck plastic bobblethingie from (local teachers association), a "teachers are appreciated" pencil and, get this, a ball point pen celebration "DAY OF THE TEACHER 2003". HEY LOCAL TEACHERS ASSOCIATION AND CTA.....HOW ABOUT NOT BUYING ME SUCH "APPRECIATION" AND REDUCING MY UNION DUES ?????

Our school did not formally do anything for their teachers last week, because it was state testing week. However, in the crowded room where we picked up our testing material boxes each morning, there was some breakfast stuff; juice, coffee, bagels and warm cream cheese and on two mornings, a variety of breakfast burritos. I wonder if the breakfast stuff was a result of someone jokingly saying something about picking up testing material boxes AND breakfast at the faculty meeting about the testing.

But today, we had a free lunch. Two ladies from our school site council were there to welcome us and encourage us to eat all we wanted. We had tacos. Carne Asada and Pollo Asada (marinated flank steak and marinated chicken) tacos. One of our local "taco cart guys" was engaged to feed us. It was good. Polski3 LOVES Tacos. There was guacamole and a variety of salsa toppings, pickled onions, roasted hot peppers, shredded cabbage, lime slices, beans, rice, a variety of cookies, water and sodas. The Taco cart guy set up his stand ( table and grill ) in the outdoor central corridor between two of our school buildings. From my classroom,I could smell it an hour before lunch. I am positive it was torture for our students, to be smelling grilling carne asada and pollo asada and know that some crappy half cold chicken nuggets were awaiting them for their school lunch. Alas, as much as Polski3 LOVES tacos, I did not overeat. I exhibited superb self-control today. And, I did my students two favors; I avoided the beans and between period 5 and 6, I went over to the taco cart and got six or seven tortillas which I tore into bits and passed them out to my period 6 kids. They devoured them, as I expected. These kids are always hungry. Anyhow.....

Later today, I personally thanked our three administrators for the taco lunch.

Later this month, we teachers at my school might be treated to more Mexican food, as Mexican Teacher Appreciation Day is later in May. One of our teachers usually gets ( I don't know if that is the correct word, but.....) the parents of her students to fix a variety of Mexican foods for the teachers. It is a good feed. There are some advantages to living near the border.

Lastly, let me just say, that it's nice to get away, once in awhile, from the usual sandwich or microwaved leftovers, yogurt and fruit type lunch I usually cart to school each day.

How were you appreciated ?

Thanks for reading my blog.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Lessons about State Testing

Hello, yes, its been awhile. Not much, How about you? Polski3 hasn't been blogging much. We had our state testing last week. Here are a few things I learned:

Lesson No. One: If you take meds for blood pressure, delay taking them if you can, on testing days. My BP med speeds up my getting rid of liquids. This is hard to do when you are stuck with a bunch of kids taking their state tests. Our administration said if something comes up, just call the office. The problem is, 75% of the time when I call the office for anything, the phone just rings and rings and rings. Someone in the office is always on the phone.

Lesson No. Two: Have some good quality erasers handy for testing. I made it a point in a pre-testing faculty meeting to ask if the pencils that were being put into our boxes of testing materials would have good quality erasers. I was assured that our school bought pencils with the best erasers on them. Well, lo and behold, many of them didn't erase too well. Fortunately, none of my students tore their answer sheets trying to erase something, and I had on hand a couple of high quality erasers for them to use.

Lesson No. Three: Stray pencil mark prevention can be achieved by having students put a clean sheet of paper under their answer sheet or between the pages of their answer sheet. For whatever reason, when the kids are bubbling in their answers, marks will appear on pages underneath of where they are bubbling. The clean piece of paper catches these stray marks and saves someone from having to go through every test answer sheet and erase all those stray marks.

Lesson No. Four: Even though the principal told our students to be sure to have their AR book for those times when they are finished with a test and need something quiet to do, many of them do not have any book or quiet activity. So, I made up some find-a-word puzzles that had lots of words for students to hunt for. A number of them did these find-a-word activities and it helped keep them quiet when they had to be quiet.

Lesson No. Five: Don't load up your students with homework during testing week. Many of them won't do it. My turn in rate for the small project I assigned for homework was, lets just say, very poor. (the project was to create a map showing at least ten physical geographic features of Europe). And in regular classes, I find that having several small activities is better than trying to have them concentrate on any activity that will require much mental effort.

What are some of the lessons you have learned about dealing with State Testing? Please share them with us!

Thanks for reading my blog! I welcome your comments !

Sunday, May 06, 2007

So, what to do during testing downtime......

As I previously wrote, my 7th graders will have too much down time during our mandated testing next week. Since many won't read AR books, I will have some other things available for them.

We have two types of "downtime," the time each student is finished with a section of their test and must quietly wait for their classmates to either finish or for the allotted time to expire. For these times, I have created some "find a word" activities for them to do, if they choose. They can read their AR book or just sit and mutely vegetate as too many of them seem to prefer. These 'find a word' activities were created by using the free puzzle maker program found via "Kathy Schrock's Guide for Educators" found at Discovery.com. These activities feature words about "Mexico," "Geography and History of East Asia," "Geographic Features of Europe," "Major Cities of Europe," "Islands of the World," and "World Mountains."

The second type of "downtime" is the time they have when their testing is finished for the day, but they have to wait, in class, for the 8th graders to finish their expanded testing before everyone is dismissed for lunch or to go to their next class.
For these times, I have some activities from our old discarded Advisory class materials about rules, feelings, choices/decisions and stuff like that. I also have some small group activities in which teams read a "Dear Abby" type question (tailored to the junior high life), and they come up with ideas or possible solutions to the dilemma. I also have individual or small team Geography "Where am I" type questions which they have to figure out were the person is and correctly label the place on a blank world map. I also just received a free DVD about the Bengali economist who just won a Nobel Prize for his economics idea of micro-loans to provide poor people seed money for some small individual or family business.
I also might offer to do a 'read aloud' in class of Cathy Cushman's "The Midwife's Apprentice," which is an AR book and current for the history most 7th graders are now studying. I have a class set of this novel.

What do you do with your students during mandated testing "downtimes" ?

Thanks for reading my blog. I hope to read your comments.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Testing Week......not gonna be fun.....

At my school, we have our testing next week. We are attempting to do it in four days. They will be four long, trying days for our students. And us teachers. Especially us Grade 7 teachers.

It was decided that everyone would test the same four days, two days for each of the two sets of tests. To me, a big problem is that there is such an unbalance in the testing for Grades 7 and 8. As currently scheduled by our school administration, our 7th Graders will have about 40 minutes of "down time" between tests on the first two days of testing. Then, later in the week, when they are tired of testing and being stuck in their advisory classes (homeroom), get this, they will be spending over 90 minutes each day after they finished their tests, before they can be released. It is up to us individual teachers to deal with them. On those days, the 8th Graders also take their tests in Science and Social Studies.

Our school advisory classes have no real curriculum, other than "read your AR books and clean out your backpacks." I have students in my advisory class whom I do not have in my history classes. In my advisory class, several students rarely bring an AR book to read, or any sort of book. I have one student who meets their AR goal. The rest just don't want to do it, don't care or just know that it does not matter if they do it or not because after two years at our facility of learning, they will probably be sent to high school regardless of what they do or don't do. I have in past times, tried to do things with this group, discussions about all kinds of life stuff, reading and taking about articles, providing them with books to read, digging through the old advisory class curriculum that was tossed and trying to get them to do something. Oh, I have even tried providing make up work for those in my advisory who are in my history classes. They won't do it or even make an attempt to do it, nor do they have any appreciation for the second and third attempts they were offered to improve their grade in my class. ( yep, as you can probably guess, my advisory class' gpas are on the low side. Several of them have less than a 1.0 gpa.)
They are not interested in any video/dvd that we can show at school. They won't play games such as checkers, chess, go, parchesi......They do like to graffiti on my chalkboards, desks......

I am not looking forward to this. IF we do not do well on these tests, we will be a year five failing school.

How goes your Spring testing ?

Thanks for reading my blog. I enjoy reading your comments.