Archive for February, 2013

Summer school…

February 16, 2013

Yesterday, my principal asked me what I was doing this summer.  He wants me to work summer school.  He said that I will be “watching a computer lab.”  I have never worked summer school before, but they must be doing it online, probably through Nova Net.  Nova Net is the online software that they use for credit recovery.  This will make it very easy, as I will not have to do any prep work.

Before he asked me, I was considering working summer school.  Like I said, I have never worked summer school before, but I wanted to look into it, mostly for the extra money.

When he asked me to work summer school, he made a comment that he wanted his best teachers to work it.  That made me feel good.  My principal is hard to read and I never knew his opinion of me.  Obviously, I am awesome at everything I do, but my principal can be hard to please.  I know some of the other teachers he asked are good teachers and that he likes them.  I do not talk to him much, but it was nice to know that he thinks I am doing a good job.



Sick day…

February 13, 2013

I am out sick today. I went to the doctor yesterday and she said I have the flu, at least it is a mild strain. This is the first time that I have taken a sick day since I have been teaching. I have been sick before but only on holidays and weekends. I hate missing work, but I needed this day to recover. I am feeling much better and should be back tomorrow.


Once again…

February 10, 2013

…I am so glad to be teaching the course for the second time. 

Yesterday I worked the ACT.  I used that time to work on my lesson plans for this week.  It came so much easier that it did last year.  I am reusing some of the lessons that I created last year, but I am still doing a lot of new things.  Even on the lessons that I am keeping, I am changing them.  There is very little that I am keeping without modification.

I can’t explain it but it came so easy to me.  Even when I was planning for my 8th grade classes after the first year, coming up with new things was never this easy (I will come back to that in a second).  Now, I did not do it super fast, but the ideas came easily.  I feel like I am starting to get a good grip on the curriculum.  My work is by no means perfect, but I am much more satisfied with my lessons thus far than I was last semester.  They say the first year is just survival.  And, once again, only having one course to prep for helps.

I have adopted a lesson cycle that I think will work much better and so far it has.  My principal does not like lectures.  For a social studies teacher, this is hard to do.  I do not worry about it too much in my AP classes, but I do in my on-level classes, especially since they will not sit through a lecture.

On most days, I start with a short lecture.  Usually I try to keep it to 20 minutes or less, depending on the topic.  After the lecture, we do an activity over the information from the lecture.  One of the big advantages to this is that if someone does come in my room to observe (and they do about once a week), they do not usually come at the beginning and they do not see the lecture, only the “cooperative learning”. 

Another thing that I do is create a vocabulary packet for each unit.  There are a lot of terms in government that they are not familiar with and many times the vocabulary terms is half the battle in understanding the concepts.  It gives them something to work on if a lesson does not last the entire class period or they finish early.  I also give vocabulary quizzes periodically to encourage them to not wait until the last minute to complete the packets.  I had hoped the quizzes would be enough to motivate them to work on the packets and give them an easy 100, but that has yet to be the case for a number of the students.

I would like to go back to what I had mentioned before about planning for my 8th grade classes.  One of the teachers I worked with has been teaching the course for maybe 7 or 8 years.  She worked with a teacher who had taught it for a very long time and each year would recycle everything.  This was nice because planning did not take long.  However, after my first year, I wanted to start changing some things.  There were things that I hated, some things that I wanted to improve on, and some things that did not fit my teaching style (or classroom management style, for that matter).  That one colleague would agree to some changes, but not many, but that is a different story.

Even I did not want to change everything. Lesson planning never came easy to me there.  I think there are several reasons for that including that I like the subject more and that I am dealing with older students, but I think one of the biggest reasons is that I am doing everything from scratch.  Trying to keep some of the old lessons that I did not create while trying to plan some new things remind me of playing Jenga.  It is hard to remove some part and add things in while making it work.

Another good thing is that I am able to design my lessons to meet the standards that my principal has set.  And, needless to say, my lessons than I plan are more in line with my teaching style. 

Not worrying about a state test is nice too.  I do have to prepare my AP students for their AP test, but that is voluntary and they are the top students.  I can put a lot of responsibility on their shoulders.  I often remind them that I teach what I can fit in the allotted class time, but they must study on their own to learn the rest.  By “the rest,” I mostly mean the things I did not teach, did not teach well, or whatever the case may be.


Just try to outsmart me…

February 10, 2013

…I dare you.  At least this time.

On Thursday, I gave my students their first test of the semester.  On test day, I had one student who was begging me to let him take it on Friday.

Before I continue, let me describe this student to you.  Although the semester has just recently begun, he is my least favorite student, by far.  He will not shut up in class and he does nothing in class, except, well, talk.  I already have a feeling that he is a pathological liar.

I do not know why I did not make him take the test that day, but I let him take it the next day.  I even told him, “I do not know why I am so nice to you.”  I told him that he would have to spend that day working on his missing assignments and he said he would.  I hope that giving him an extra day would help him do better on his test.  Guess what?  He didn’t do his work.  I guess to be fair, I should say, he wrote the definition of about five of his vocabulary words.

Later that evening, a thought came over me.  I decided to make him a different version of the test.  This year I have started to make my tests using a test generator.  It is wonderful because I can easily create different versions of my tests (and if you have seen how my room is setup, you will understand why this is important).  When I got to school on Friday morning, I opened on the software, scrambled the questions, and printed him his very own version.  I am very glad I did.

During class, he wanted to take his test in the hall.  I agreed, because I knew it would not be quiet in class that day.  I did, however, make him sit to where I could see him from the door.  The test was on scantron, but I told him just to mark his answers on his test so I could grade it easier in class after he finished.  Plus, since he had his own version, I did not want to bubble in a scantron key for just one test.  He told me that he wanted to do it on the scantron only and I did not think anything of it.

When he turned in the test, I graded it.  His grade was somewhere around a 34.  When I showed him his grade, he could not believe that he scored that low, but I could.  He wanted me to check to make sure that I used the correct key.  I told him that I needed his test to double check.  He told me that he turned it in, but he did not.  I never found his test and I checked everywhere.

He swore up and down that he turned in his test, but I know he did not.  He still wanted me to grade it with a different key and I told him I would as soon as I got his test back.  Then I told him that I gave him a different version from everyone else.  It had the same questions, but in a different order.  He took version C while everyone else took either version A or B.

As I was grading his test, I was glad that I have him a different version.  I think you have figured out by this point what happened; it was pretty obvious what he did.  There was one five question section on the quiz that only had two answer choices and another five question section that had five answer choices.  It was interesting how he only chose A’s and B’s on part where my key had C’s, D’s, and E’s.  At the same time, he had some C’s, D’s, and E’s where my key only had A’s and B’s.

We never found his test.  I bet if I were to grade it with a different key, his grade would have been much higher, but I know for a fact he had version C.  As soon as I printer it, I wrote his name on it and took it to my room.

Point: me.


The bistro…

February 2, 2013

The campus that I work at is amazing.  In designing the campus, they went all out, especially for the career programs.  Unfortunately due to budget cuts, they have not been able to staff all of the programs, including the fire academy and the wood shop.

One program that is up and running is the culinary arts program.  A few weeks ago, they opened, serving sandwiches, soups and salads at lunch. We can pre-order and they will deliver inside the building.  The prices are great.

This past week, they opened up the full bistro, including the full menu and wait service.  The full menu includes hamburgers, wraps, pasta and several other things.  Here is a picture of my lunch from Friday.


My burger had queso, guacamole, and fried jalepenos, among other things.  It was great.

I did not plan on ordering dessert, but I caved.  I ate every last bite and it was glorious.  It was a good decision and a bad decision at the same time.



The bistro is open to teachers as well as the public.  The students are not too happy because they cannot eat there.  I would be too.  Hopefully this will not make me fat.  Unfortunately, I have too many temptations.  I have many of the culinary arts students in my classes who pressure me into eating there and I have to walk by the bistro every day.

We have some other great programs too, including an A/V program that produces a weekly newscast and a business program that runs a school store in the cafeteria.