return to “Big J in Greater New Orleans” index

previous entry .......... next entry

Rambling Randomness

written Sunday, 12/10/2006

Teacher Work Sample $#!&

The last time I updated this journal, I was motivated by the desire to find a procrastination activity. I was less then a week away from the deadline for the “Teacher Work Sample” (TWS), the last assignment for this semester’s TGNO class. For the record, next semester’s class at UNO will be the last one for my certification.

This TWS was supposed to focus on a 1-3 week lesson in our classrooms, documenting how we’re dutifully employing all the practices and techniques that make us super-awesome teachers. The assignment was clumsily sprung on us in October, and many of us were outraged that this was suddenly being plopped on top of our already-stressful workloads. I literally don’t know a single person who even looked at the TWS prior to late November.

By Thanksgiving morning, I had still not yet started my TWS. I drove over to see Nat & Joan in the afternoon, intending only to pop in for a brief hello. Joan’s mom was visiting from Wisconsin, and convinced me to stay for a few hours. They also had a young couple and their infant son over, who they knew through their Baha’i faith. I enjoyed a pleasant evening, and thanked them for foiling my original plans to spend the entire day alone in my apartment.

That evening I started looking at the requirements for the TWS. As I began to write the first section, I became increasingly agitated over the prospect of ruining the remainder of my Thanksgiving break with this assignment. Friday morning I awoke, and immediately decided that I would not let this task last into the weekend. I sat at my computer and worked feverishly all day long. Thirteen hours later, I had spewed out 39 pages of the worst crap that I’ve ever written in my academic career.

Somehow I had managed to temporarily suspend my tendencies towards perfectionism, and I simply felt relieved to be finished.

I had started writing the Reflection and Self Evaluation section about eleven hours into the day, and my self-censoring sensibilities had clearly diminished. The final paragraph of this section reads:

I’m hoping that the completion of my certification activities will allow me more time to address these issues. I understand and appreciate the commitments I signed up for upon entering an alternative certification program. Unfortunately though, these commitments coupled with the demands of teaching three new subjects in a growing charter school have become overwhelming. When deciding how to allocate my time between my duties as a teacher and my duties as an education student, the teacher activities always take precedence. I’ve started viewing my education student duties as a burdensome nuisance that in most cases just receives a half-hearted effort on my part. I see the potential for assignments such as this Teacher Work Sample to be an insightful learning tool and a valuable component in a professional portfolio. Unfortunately, the short timeline and my inability to clearly understand the expectations have produced a deep resentment towards this assignment, and a questionable attitude towards the teaching profession in general. I’m not quitting yet. A genuine interest in seeing my students succeed, and my expectations that things will get better once I get all this certification stuff out of the way are what keeps me going.

As I neared the end of the paper, I sunk to new depths of punchiness with lines such as, “Holy crap, I can’t believe I’m on the verge of finishing this #$%’n thing!” Perhaps a wiser man would have made time to proofread after a good night’s rest, but I could not break my promise to myself: The TWS shall not spoil any part of my weekend!

Having astonishingly finished a few days early, I emailed my TWS to fellow cohort members who had put off starting even longer than I had. We had been provided Internet links to some “exemplary” TWS papers written by students from other universities in previous years, but I thought my friends might appreciate an example with much lower standards.

Monday evening I went to Michelle’s apartment to help her complete her TWS. She also allowed her cynicism to emerge in her writing. In a section intended to demonstrate how “the teacher uses inquiry and reflection to improve practice,” Michelle responded as follows:

I do reflect quite often. Although these reflections are not usually formal, I do like to sit and &*%$ sometimes to my fellow cohort members and teaching colleagues. I am also considering starting a blog.

In another section intended to demonstrate how “The teacher plans for professional development, Michelle wrote:

I have attended many professional development activities and they have been somewhat beneficial and somewhat a complete and utter waste of my time. However, like this TWS, I suppose not everything we do to enrich us as teachers necessarily fulfills its purpose. I look forward to a time when professional development means I will actually develop as a professional.

In contrast to how I aspire to be a positive role model for my students, I was thrilled that I could serve as such a negative influence for my good friend Michelle. I’m so proud of her!

Just watch… I bet we’ll both get an A for the semester (Seriously!)

When did this happen?

For as long as I could remember, I’ve always hated having my picture taken. Then, last year’s school photo at Bonnabel caused me pause. It was one of the first photos of me that I thought was truly flattering. A fluke, perhaps?
This year’s glam shot

Well, I just received this year’s school photo, and I don’t believe lightning strikes twice.

I’m not sure exactly when this happened, but at some point over the years I became stunningly hot. I mean really, take a good look at this thing. Check out those dreamy big brown eyes. Admire that warm, coy smile. Behold that sexy shine gleaming off the top of my dome. Marvel at those perkily pointed ears, which subtly draw the viewer’s eye towards two perfectly chiseled cheekbones and a finely sculpted moustache/goatee combo.

Goodness gracious, if I were a woman, I’d totally want to objectify me. How have all the young foxy mamas managed to pass this up for so long? Seriously ladies, WTF?

Moments of brightness

In a school year that’s been more stressful than anticipated, the bright moments are that much more special.

A couple weeks ago Mr. Depp, one of the high school English Teachers, organized a Junior class “feast” on a Friday afternoon. Our Junior class includes only about four dozen students, and the event centered around a family style meal at a long table in the school’s band room. The students provided the dishes, and a couple professional chefs spoke and offered demonstrations for the students. Dress was formal, and a quartet from the strings ensemble provided music.

I still don’t fully understand how this fit into the English curriculum, but “the feast” proved to be enormously popular amongst the students involved. I was initially bothered that Mr. Depp had forgotten to notify the rest of the faculty that all the Juniors would be attending the event all Friday afternoon. I found out two days in advance, and had to scramble to rearrange my lesson plans and a scheduled quiz accordingly.

However, any harsh feelings quickly faded when I broke away from my afternoon classes to drop in on the party. The Tulane student who helps tutor many of my students after school showed up that day and watched the few students who remained in my classroom.

I thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity to sit with my students outside of the typical math class context. The kids were eager to share the dishes they had prepared. While I still politely declined the meat dishes, this was a rare moment when I relaxed my usual vegan restrictions. I chatted with my students about various nonsense, and got to learn more about their other interests. What a pleasure to see them laugh and smile, and not let grades get in the way of having a good time. I only wish I could find a better balance that would allow me to have this kind of interaction with them more often without compromising the curriculum that I was hired to teach them.

The following evening, I attended the fundraiser “La Soirée Musicale,” featuring the Lusher Jazz Band. The event was held at Tipitina’s, and once again I got to appreciate the outside interests that some of my students enjoy. I was truly astonished by the talents of the kids. A few of them are widely believed among the faculty to have promising music careers ahead of them. Numerous times throughout the evening I focused on students who I teach and thought, “So that’s why he/she doesn’t seem to ever complete the math homework!” I can appreciate that many teenagers (and adults) have not yet learned to prioritize their tasks and balance work vs. play. I suppose part of my job is to constantly remind them to make time for the unpleasant but important things in life, such as math homework.

Old friend

Almost ten years ago I gradually drifted apart from my ol’ buddy Prozac. At that time it was undeniably uncool to be affiliated with him and those of his ilk, yet nowadays much of that stigma seems to have disappeared. Is it a sign of the times? Or a teacher thing? Did Katrina have a local effect on his acceptance? So many of my friends and associates openly associate with Prozac or one of his up-and-coming family members, that I’m no longer embarrassed to get reacquainted with him. I gotta admit, he helped me get through some rough times in high school and college. I took the day off on Friday (my second in just over a month!) to go arrange a reunion. I wonder if we’ll hit it off, just like old times, or if we’ll experience that awkwardness people feel when they realize they no longer have anything in common with an old friend. I hope Prozac and I can become good friends again. If not, maybe I’ll shack up with one of his sisters.

Future Poet Laureate

After a long hiatus, my inner bard spontaneously reemerged as I sent in my weekly lesson plans a few weeks ago. A shamelessly egotistical part of me truly believes that I will someday be revered as a phenomenally talented lyricist. I want to give my friends and family the opportunity to appreciate my early work before I become famous and forget all of them.

11/26/06 No happy smiles, and no elation
No cheers of joy, no loud ovation
So simple is the explanation:
Today's the end of our vacation
12/3/06 Soirée was great, so was "the feast"
Enjoyed them both to say the least
But pleasantries have now deceased
Exams ahead – what a beast!
12/10/06 Lessons to plan, exams to design
My yearly course plan is way off the line
Some kids can't compute the square root of nine
Will GEE test scores be on the decline?
~ ~ ~
At the faculty party, drank plenty of wine
For a brief fleeting moment, everything seemed just fine!