Thursday, September 16, 2010

Limestone, Steel, and AluMINIUM...oh my!

Another week almost done. SCIENCE H. LOGIC! THANK GANESH. I don’t think I could possibly survive a six-day school week if I was forced to at gunpoint. I would have to show up drunk on the sixth day, just to make it through. For the most part, things are going well. I really like my Year 8 and 9 classes and LOVE my Year 7 classes. They have all responded quite well to my management style and have been quite enthusiastic about the content we are learning.

But, my Year 10 class (well, really about six kids in the class but there are only 20 total so they pretty much create a whole class nose dive) is so challenging that I have literally sobbed after they leave every single time I have them because I feel like such an absolutely horrible teacher. Fortunately, I only see them three days per week (once on Tuesdays and twice on Thursdays and Fridays) and so at least I have two days a week where I don’t cry at school in front of my whole department. Good times. These are kids who hate school, know they are in the lowest group, have low skills, are constantly in and out of in/out of school suspension, and have ZERO interest in the curriculum. I can understand that last part as I also have limited interest in this unit as well.

The unit is called “Products from Rocks” and it is all about limestone, steel, aluminum (ALUMINIUM here), and titanium. I could see it potentially being interesting (and I’m a science nerd) if you put the right spin on it. But, the parts they have to know (literally memorize in great detail for their giant national exam) are things like: the EXACT reactions when making quicklime, slaked lime, etc. What the hell is all that? Yeah, I asked myself the same thing before, during, and after “teaching” it.

I could see that the curriculum developers were trying to show that materials from the earth are used to make building materials and other things- somewhat relatable to everyone- but they literally SUCK OUT anything potentially interesting by making the tests just about memorizing the parts and reactions of an iron blast furnace or the molecular structure of wrought iron vs. cast iron. See why I’m struggling? There is no “so what?” The whole curriculum is all about the “what” with no implications as to WHY someone might need to know this information for anything other than a giant test. Obviously, if you are hanging on to being in school by a very thin thread, a giant test that you already know you won’t do well on is not very motivating to behave and learn.

I know that Love and Logic says that if you can’t get kids to do something for themselves, you should get them to love you and do it for you. I am not sure I’ll be able to get these kids to love me! They HATE me because I ask them to follow classroom expectations of my classroom and of the school. Case in point- four girls had nail polish on today. It is not allowed in the WHOLE SCHOOL. I just brought them some cotton balls and nail polish remover and put it on their desks today- tried not to make a big deal or a power struggle or anything- and then the rest of the class they were yelling, disruptive, and refusing to follow any of the procedures of the lab. Why I did a lab, I cannot tell you.

I have been trying a variety of different instructional strategies and anything with the tiniest bit of freedom of movement or choices in the classroom leads to COMPLETE MAYHEM. There was a FULL ON water fight in the classroom the other day. After that first day last week, everyone said to me, “oh don’t worry, it can’t be worse than it was today.” WRONG! It has gotten worse EVERY subsequent day. So, tomorrow, because I literally don’t know what else to do, we are doing book work (like- copy shit straight out of the book- kind of book work) and video clips. Fortunately, my discovery streaming still works here so I have free videos even if they are HELLA boring. (If anyone in Thompson Admin is reading this, PLEASE don’t cancel my account or I will die.)

I know that I am being dramatic. I am not used to ABSOLUTELY SUCKING at being a teacher. This is worse than when I was a student teacher and I really didn’t know what I was doing. I really need to take heart in the positive things that are happening- and there are a lot of positives- but I just dread those five hours per week.

On a lighter note, the Deputy Head Teacher (Assistant Principal) has coerced me into doing a “Games Club” with him at lunch on Fridays. I am going to be doing Scrabble and he will teach kids chess and bridge. More than 30 kids signed up today (was likely due to his promise of free candy!) but at least that is one thing fun. And, my Year 9 kids got to test their lung capacity the other day by blowing into some sort of monitoring tool. I had to use the word “blow” a lot to describe how to use it which then caused them to erupt into constant fits of giggling every time I used the word. Same problem as when I used to teach the word “homozygous” to 7th graders. Ah, teenagers. Funny though. I have one word for Kendra: Djibouti. Oh wait, one more: Bangkok.

Let me tell you though that it sucks not having a car because it takes me forever to get everywhere. This is a small town but it takes me almost an extra hour to go to the gym because I have such a long walk there and back. I wasn’t getting home until about 8 every night and then had to start my lesson planning after making/cleaning up dinner. I was going to bed close to midnight, which is not cutting it for me. I am going to have to do much more work on the weekends than I did last weekend. But, not on a Friday- I plan to begin swilling beers within 10 minutes of the final bell. I now have to drink on Fridays not just for fun, but for sanity maintenance. J

So, any advice on teaching the high school juvenile delinquents with low skills who are on the verge of being kicked out of school is greatly appreciated. I am sure there are those out there reading this (I can think of perhaps three of you right now!) who have. Yay for weekends. Holy schnikes.

I might have to stop following the news in the US. This Tea Party crap makes me utterly sick. (Sorry, just had to throw that in.) GO SOCIALISM! I love being a Pinko.

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