Why is it that planning for a sub takes like 3 times as long as planning for teaching your own lesson?!

Well, I guess it’d help if you’d planned the lesson out very well, and very much in advance.

And, I guess it’d get easier if I had a more thorough go to basic overview.

And, it would definitely be easier if I were in my own, long-term classroom.

Maybe I shouldn’t give up on teaching just yet, but, man, it is so much harder to plan for a sub- it almost makes it so you can’t enjoy having the time off. And if it’s due to sickness, that’s even worse. Being home sick and not enjoying yourself is the worse, and then coming back to more work.

But seriously, planning for a sub can take MASSIVE amounts of your time. Here are some tips to help make it a lot easier for yourself:

-Have a student info quick overview

-Have a basic information page

-If your school doesn’t have you make an individualized sub folder with all the goodies (schedule, info sheets, etc…), make one!

-More to come later, I’m still recovering from my 12+ hour AT THE SCHOOL day (I’ve been having a lot of those!!!)

What to Do When Students Aren’t Even Getting Basic Needs

Sometimes I’m dumbfounded by my current high school student’s lack of ability to grasp some of the ideas of the French language I’m explaining to them in a number of ways, using a variety of “intelligences” (like what a subject and verb are, or a conjugated verb versus an infinitive).

And then I see their English! Kids these days!!

But the lack of prior quality education is very different than situations where students are not getting their basic needs met, thus interfering with Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs (well…is it? Sometimes the student’s inability to focus, take in information, and recall are blocked because of a lack of basic needs being met).

I have an interesting mix of rich, can-be-quite-snooty-at-times kids, and poor, “underprivileged” kids (don’t have a computer or internet at their house, and more serious things too), because the school district comprises a huge range of socioeconomic status. For example, when we were talking about houses and how many rooms each student has in their house, I had one student who lived in a trailer park (though, she was surprised that there were as many as five or six rooms within!), and another who had trouble counting and guessed it was definitely something over 20!

And then there’s this sweet, respectful young man who has  been going through a battle of guardianship due to a domestic violence situation (definitely lacking safety needs– he has not family security, and no protection). I had no idea that was going on all last marking period, and now I see why he wasn’t bringing in stuff, and had to often be reminded to stay on task and not get distracted chatting with other students. Not just some of the time. More like all the time. And I’m currently not even sure what to do. He barely passed last semester, and I’m having trouble getting him to do the work. But. I can be compassionate, and at the same time, still expect him to do work. I’m definitely being lenient enough to allow for him to pass if he puts in an effort.

But back to those needs. I know I would have a hard time coming to school if I were facing some of the challenges my students are. I have an even harder time thinking about teaching in an “inner-city school” because I know, as such an empathetic individual, I couldn’t get over the injustice of the lack of funds/supplies in school, and then even more difficult home conditions for students. (I imagine I would be dealing with more students who were facing a lack of both physiological and safety needs).

Maybe the “kids these days” statement actually does have something to do with it. I think times are tougher than ever in some ways. Recently, with the economy, a lot more parents have lost jobs, so that could be seriously changing the home situation. And, because of technology, there is less of an emphasis (and need) for the old skills, like, I don’t know, good penmanship? But there is always a use for learning how to speak and write correctly, which, lol, imho, I rotfl at some of what the kids say and write these days. Parents themselves may not have a good education and might not be able to help their son or daughter with their work- they may not care enough to either. (So, the social needs– belonging, friendship, and LOVE, are also in jeopardy in a lot of homes).

Families are rather diverse these days, with so many single/divorced/remarried parents, and the like. I was surprised to see how few of my students checked off “living with both parents”. Times have changed.

And, when I think about some people I know my age having kids, I get a little scared to think that they’re going to be raising youngins’ that will enter (or are entering) the school systems. Then again, it can go both ways. You could argue that with technology we are more equipped and have better lives. Some of us, anyway.

I’m kind of on and off topic here, and I’m just procrastinating my work right now to write about these thoughts I’ve been having, but  I think it’s worth saying something more about students’ needs.

How are kids these days ever going to reach “self-actualization” if they don’t have manipulatives and toys that use imagination and physical movement (vs. electronic) like we used to? How about if they have alcoholic, abusive, or absent parents who don’t even give them any toys or time? There should be a test to pass in order to have children!

And even for students who don’t come from “broken homes”, it seems there is a lack of needs being met emotionally and intellectually. I know there are some pros to the wonder-of-the-world-wide-web-we-weave, but it leaves less time for old fashioned values. Like familiy dinner, creative, higher-functioning thinking, and the beauty of readin’, ‘ritin’, and ‘rhythmatic, n’est-ce pas?!

How are students ever going to to “feel complete & valid in all aspects of self, to feel confident in being oneself” when they don’t have their needs met, and they don’t have good role models?

What do I bring to the table on this topic? My two cents are that creating a “safe classroom environment” is more important than ever (and another one of those great challenges). Perhaps we can help appropriately provide some of those “needs” for the child that aren’t being fulfilled in their home lives. To close- one of those touching teacher moments. When the boy I mentioned above (dealing with the abusive parent and custody battle) came into class one day after sharing that with me, he said aloud to himself as he came into class “I love French class”, and it just melted my heart. I hope I can give students hope for getting their needs met, and create experiences that help fulfill things higher on the scale than physiological and safety needs- the social and esteem needs.

The 12 Days ‘Til Christmas

That’s one thing I do miss about teaching at the religious school- I got to do a lot of fun Christmas-related activities which made everyone happy (and make time go more quickly, as, let’s face it, everyone wants Christmas vacation), and, it got me in the Christmas spirit. Right now, my state of mind is pretty wretched. I’ve been wanting to quit, which is ludicrous, but it is also ludicrous how stressed I’ve felt at times as well.

I can teach about Christmas-related stuff, as Noel is a French term, and there’s culture involved in it because ~97% of French people are Catholic. So, I’ll keep it PC and focus on the French, and add in a little something for everyone. And we can always get secular, n’est-ce pas?!

So I’m going to try and blog for the next 12 days, with a goal of getting somewhat closer to a state of a festive spirit. And, I’m hoping to inspire the children as well, whether they celebrate Hannukah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, or Festivus or something else!

Today I didn’t do anything at school geared toward the holidays. It was a difficult day. Wait, scratch that, I started to put up a long-delayed bulletin board with various posters of things talking about Christmas in France.

So that was a start, and this blogging kicks off (and up) some good cheer for me. Tomorrow, I’ll go over the “Holiday Wish” vocabulary sheet I handed out to one class on Friday. And I’ll finish that bulletin board!

I Nearly Quit Today, in the Middle of the Day

I know part of it was from me not getting enough sleep and feeling emotionally off-balance, so I wasn’t able to handle the annoying behaviors of some of my students on this Monday morning. And, the problem that’s been growing worse, is my lack of will-power to effectively manage my classroom- both in behavior and in planning.

Depression has been an issue. Some personal things in my life, but, mostly, I’m at the end of my wire. I’m going to be one of those “in less than 5 year teacher burnouts”.

It’s been roughly about 3 and a half years if you include the student teaching. I think switching schools was a good and a bad thing.

The public school, but especially with 90 minute classes of large sizes, with wildly unmotivated and diverse (trying to avoid using words about their intelligence or lack-thereof) learners, is not just a challenge in itself, but there is all the paperwork.

They weren’t kidding about that.

I need to blog a river instead of crying one. Alas, I don’t have enough time. And I will blog. I’m hoping to get different jobs come February (as I will be out of a teaching job if I don’t find one before that!). But I had to share this frustration, and maybe there’s a teacher out there today who thought they couldn’t make it through the day, and they will now because of reading this and feeling connected. Or maybe a teacher years down the road.

Teachers need to keep their personal lives balanced, and it’s a real challenge, to balance all life can bring sometimes, with the fluctuating (but ever-present) real challenges of teaching.

I guess more experience could someday get me on more solid footing, but, alas, I don’t have the tools. More on all this later.

I’m not giving up, I’m getting myself into a better place. It may involve teaching, we’ll see. But I did recently turn down another short-term job.

Ejected the first student from class, ironically, long day. LONG.

A student made a few derogatory comments, culminating in a statement about teachers (or maybe just me) getting paid for doing @#$%. As in nothing.

I calmly told her to head down to the main office.

The irony of this situation is that not only have I been spending most of my waking time doing school stuff (and not getting enough sleeping time), but, especially because today was the “parents come to the school and meet the teacher yada yada” night, and here is my schedule:

5:20 am  –  get up. seriously!? yes, i have been getting up before 6, all the time.

before 6:00 am  –  at school. yes, over an hour before i have to be there. why? always more work i could have done, and who knows if the photocopier will be broken again?

7:15-2:15 –  school, including the disrespectful incident where the student insinuated i might be gettin’ paid for doin’ nothing…and she was the one trying to sleep, repeatedly, after my kind warnings.

3-6:30  –  who knows how that time flew so fast without me getting all my grading and prepping and everything else done, but it came and went, and suddenly…

7pm  –  parent come and meet the teacher night started.

915 pm  –  parent night thing over. exhausted. but made it through, relatively unscathed. although, i did learn about a few more things i have to do, emails, precautionary measures, etc…

i didn’t leave until 945pm, and, i have a little commute.

and now i still have a wee bit of planning, and however much grading i can get done, before i pass out, only to get up 5 hours later to start it all over again. luckily, minus the whole parent night thing.

anybody who says teachers get paid too much should try teaching for a month. because even just teaching alone takes a ton of time and energy.

and being a good teacher? a quality, professional educator?! i quit.

just kidding. i do it for the kids.

most of ’em.


Livin’ for the Weekend!

Oh, boy, am I excited for this weekend.

That’s an understatement.

I also woke up about 10 times this early morning, alternating between the thinking: what time do I have to get up? with, Oh no! Am I late for school?! But I had nothing to do but sleep in.

I’m so appreciative of this weekend in particular because I’ve gone away for the last two weekends. Although that means I am very fortunate, and I do appreciate what I did on those weekends, the last one involved me being away from school on Friday, so I felt EXTRA behind.

I was pulling 10-12 hour AT SCHOOL days all week. Getting up before 6 a.m. Wondering if I could just quit right now 🙂 But I made it through my 1st official 5-day week. 2 weeks ago, it was due to Jewish holidays, and last week, I took Friday off for a very important wedding.

It was tough. A lot of time and energy above those 10-12 hour days at school.

One night I went to bed at 7:30pm! But the other nights I hardly got adequate sleep.

I did get an encouraging talk with a teacher who overheard me talking to a friend of mine working at a cafe where I was picking up food hurriedly one day. She told me I should still hang in there.

Teaching is not easy. Year 3 has been the hardest in some ways. Maybe if I’d stayed at the same school, and had the same material, it would be easier. But, what can I say, I like a challenge? I guess?

That’s an understatement!

A new job, a new year

After two years at a small private Christian school, I was ready to try something new. I had way too many responsibilities there, on top of teaching (which takes a lot of work, time, and energy), and improving the French classes there!

So I have a new job at a public school. It’s a wonderful school district. But, people said there’d be more paperwork, and I thought, “No problem, I’m a quick multitasker”. I see what they mean now, 2 weeks into the year. I have to come up with better, more strict, and multi-layered organizational techniques. It’s exhausting. But- we get more random holidays, so the upside is that I have the time to post write now.

Teaching is a whole-time job, not just a full-time job.

Unless you don’t care, or are a bad teacher. Eventually it may get easier, but you still have to put a lot of time and energy in- there’s always grading to be done, and credits to be earned to keep your teaching certificate current!

Stay Tuned…for a while…

School is overwhelmingly busy. So, so, so, so, so much time invested in all the processes.

Stay Tuned for Where I Spend Most of My Day, pt. 2 (it looks better now). It will be even better when I get a mounted Smartboard.

I do feel thankful for a lot of things, but I could certainly use 4-6 more hours in every day, and, I bet that still wouldn’t be enough! 🙂

It’s going…it’s going……

A Turn for the Better

Sometimes life really is about how you approach it. I also believe in the philosophy of The Secret– the more energy you put into thinking about something (negatively or positively), the more will come out of it (negatively or positively, depending on what your stance is). The old “what you resist, persists”. I was starting to get in a bad mood about this year, before it began, based on some of the troubles of last year. And part of it has to do with personal matters which have caused me to lack enthusiasm for the upcoming year.

However, I know that, once it starts, I will remember the charm of those wacky high school students and their voyage into learning a wonderful foreign language. (I will also be reminded of why I hated them at times too).

Anyway, because of my lack of interest in thinking about school this Summer (natural for most teachers, isn’t it?!), I wasn’t on top of my setting-things-up game. I was preparing, but not attentively. Planning, but not adequately. I was scared because there weren’t even chairs in my classroom and it was mid-August!!!

And then I got chairs. And though I didn’t have bookshelves (moved into a new classroom), I’m going to get them tomorrow. And because I got up the guts to ask around, I will get a Smartboard for the beginning of school while I wait for one to be mounted and installed in my room.

Some teachers who stumble across this blog might be flabbergasted that I was upset about not having a Smartboard for a few weeks when they don’t even have enough chairs or books for their students. And I do sympathize with the upset feelings that can come with education, schools, funding and all of that unfairness. I am teaching in a private school (same school as last year), and every school has its ups and downs.

So I’m happy. I kicked this good thinking, good feeling stint off by marching over to the office where you get your keys (the guy was on vacation), and I got keys. I thought since he was out of the office I wouldn’t get any, but I wanted to see if his assistant knew if or when I could get them. And lo and behold, he was actually there! And I got keys that day!

I wonder how many teachers out there feel like nothing ever goes right for them, and how much that expectation sets them up for the same scenario to be recreated? Just like having low expectations (or even worse, biased expectations) can predict learning outcomes?

I know I may be getting a little too far into the mind-body-spirit side of things, but I’m just trying to remind other fellow teachers that you never know what might happen this year!

Today was a huge shift of attitude about this year, and it all started with moving a filing cabinet, sending an email or two, and a spark of belief somewhere in me that knows that it will most likely be an easier year than last year in many ways.

(Yes, I do still need to do some last minute cramming planning and classroom prep, but I know it’ll all pull itself together enough at least to get through the first few days until I can get a small break around Labor Day!)