Monday, September 29, 2008

The One where I am at a loss for words...

Last night the father of one of my students was murdered. It was random, as if that is supposed to make me feel better. And he was sent to school today. WTF?? We were getting ready to start our day and he said "Mrs. Barker, guess what happened last night." I was half-listening as I passed out papers and checked agendas...."Did he just say his Dad was shot?" I asked him to repeat what he had just said. The cynical teacher in me was wondering if he had seen this on TV this morning and was somehow trying to understand it by making it his own...then the parent/mother cub/protective teacher kicked into overdrive. I hugged him and said let's go take a walk. I asked a colleague to keep an eye on my class and we walked together down to the office to find someone who could handle this way better that I could.
AT the same time my principal was looking for me because she had already heard, knew it was one of our kids, and knew he was one of mine. Not finding a counselor (or social worker, or mental health counselor--we have all three in house)...I headed to find one of our ESOL teachers. That was when my principal found me. Immediately she activated the Crisis Team from our school district and took the student back into her office. I headed back to class to check on the rest of my boys who were in mid-discussion about this, as many had either heard about it on the bus or in the car line.
Without going into much detail let me tell you this is the second time in 3 months that we have had to deal with a senseless death (an 8 year old student from our school had been raped and murdered in July by a 14 y.o. neighbor).
The crisis team came and talked to my class, the student was still at school when we went to lunch so he came and ate with us. And afterschool I made a home-visit to the student and his family (they were at an aunt's house) with our translator, an ESOL teacher and one of our counselors. My principal and the office staff kept a close tab on my class and I all day...for which I am very grateful. My Principal also insisted that I talk to one of the grief counselors. I am fine..I have not processed it all yet, so I am not sure when I will really deal with it...I just need to know that this boy is going to be okay...that is all I want for all my studetns. But his life is now changed forever...he will come back to school a diferent kid, beause now he has no Dad.
It certainly puts things in perspective...and make some things like handing in homework and having their agenda sign nightly, seem so trivial.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

The one where I have 14 Parent Teacher Conferences in one week!!

Yes friends, its coming..the week where I have to meet with all the parents of all my boys. So you know what I am doing this weekend...looking at standardized test scores from last year, looking at grades, behavior charts, writing samples..and trying to get everything together. I am also putting together some FAQs about Single Gender education, including the latest research and some data from our state to educate my student's parents on the program their child is enrolled in.

I have a love/hate relationship with Parent Teacher conferences. Yes, they take a long time to prepare for, yet we are supposed to keep each meeting under 30 minutes (I have a sneaky suspicion they will go long). A lot of the data I present (test scores, etc) goes over these parents heads...all they really want to hear is how cute, sweet, smart, well-behaved their child is. Hell, that is all I REALLY want to hear when I go to a conference with my son's teacher! But I love telling a parent how cute, sweet, smart and well behaved their child is...problem is not all my students are. So I try to keep the 3 to 1 ration of positives to negatives and suggest some ways to improve their grades and/or behavior. is going to be a fun week!!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The One Where I Found The BEST Survival Book...

This summer I went to a seminar given by Dr. Paul Slocumb. If you ever get the chance to hear him present--GO!! He is very knowledgeable about educating boys, especially boys growing up in poverty. Alot of his teachings dove-tail with Ruby Payne's research about the effects of poverty on children.

The book he teaches from is his own called Hear Our Cry, Boys in Crisis. I highly recommend it, especially for teachers in Title I schools, or anyone teaching children growing up in poverty.

Needless to say, I was having a rough week so I pull out this book the other night to see why a few of my boys were not responding well to me...I have been journaling each day (to document things for a variety of reasons) and I came across a passage in the book that I had underlined during the seminar....I was teaching in my parent voice alot this week and the book literally says " Boys perceive female teachers with a strong parent voice as just one more "bitchy" mother." WOW!! What an epiphany that was....the book also talked about a great strategy called H.E.A.T. which stands for Hear, Empathize, Apologize, Take Action.

So that is what I am going to try next week and see if I can turn things around!!!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

The One Where I Seriously Think I Was On Something When They Asked Me To Do This....

...whew...Week 3 is almost over. We are actually getting things done...little things...but things none the less. This week we started MAP testing, and we started with Math. I explained the instructions for the test a zillion times (bring a book, pencil and scratch paper with you)...and only had to remind them again what to bring oh, half a zillion times. I was starting to think it was me...maybe I am a bad communicator..then I pulled out my trusty "Gender Matters" book and to my amazement...boys don't follow directions as well as girls. And I already know they don't hear as well as girls. I am considering buying an old fashioned tape recorder, recording my instructions for the day, then they I can just re-wind and push play and voila----I don't have to say everything a zillion times. Seriously, I am going to experiment with some things including having them echo back the instructions to me.
I also wrote my first two referrals kid threatened another while they were in the bathroom. I got a note from Kid A's Mom- the threatenee, had a talk with both Kids. Kid B--the threatener denies any involvement. Mom also called my principal who came running out of the office as we were leaving the cafeteria- relayed the conversation she had with Kid A's mom, assured me Kid A's Mom LOOOOVED ME (we had a long conversation last week about her child--totally different topic).
That was one referral. The second was for a boy who cannot handle discipline in any form. If he is not following the rules and I ask him to turn a card (after several warnings) he completely WIGS OUT...lots of eye rolling, hands on hips, sucking the teeth, BIG OL ATTITUDE. This happens about every other day so I had finally had enough and I wrote him up...We'll see what kind of note I get from his Momma tomorrow.

Back to the Lesson Plans.....