27 September 2011

Plumbing, Math, and some other Disassociations

1. The plumber came by today. It seems that the leak under the old rat pool has extended to underneath the kitchen and bedrooms as well, so the plumber will be making a return trip tomorrow morning to work on that. I would like to take my kids on a field trip to our back patio to observe, as I have no idea how someone gets beneath a house that appears to be sitting on a solid cement foundation, sans basement. Also, I might need to take a field trip to a friend's washer and dryer, or my kids are going to start thinking that my clothes have taken their own field trip to an animal farm.

2. I taught math in English class yesterday. Yep. Math. When I handed out personal bathroom passes, explaining that these would help cultivate responsibility, my sixth grade girl sighed and asked, "Why are adults always trying to get us to do responsible things?"

"Well, let me tell you!" And so I told the fairy tale about the princess who didn't pay her credit card bills on time and racked up lots of late fees and couldn't get school loans. (What? You haven't heard that one? I guess most children haven't; it's quite scary.) To my surprise, their eyes didn't glaze over like day-old Krispy Kremes. Instead, they asked whether credit or debit cards were better, and we had this 10-minute talk about using money wisely. Even though doing math is about as fun for me as sweeping a room with my tongue, this discussion was particularly enjoyable! It seemed like something worth sparing 10 minutes for, particularly when the most practical lesson from the daily lit. book reading was "Don't stop your car to talk to ghosts when you pass through Gettysburg." Our school is still looking for a full-time math teacher, but don't get any ideas. I'm done channeling Dave Ramsey.

3. I think this whole planning thing is becoming more manageable! I finally feel like I'm making headway, like I don't have to bring a mat and pillow to school just in case. This is partially due to a color-coded chart I forced myself to make last weekend, and mostly due to a caring veteran teacher who spent two hours with me on Friday, offering tips and strategies and letting me cry a little bit about my fear that the kids will drop everything they've learned in the trash can as they walk out the door in May.

"You are not the only English teacher to say that to me," she consoled. "You probably think, 'I'll send them to her class, and she'll wonder why I didn't teach them this.' But you know, they will leave my class and go to [another English teacher's] class, and she probably wonders why I didn't teach them this.'"And so I feel a little better, knowing that every year, teachers fight for periods at the ends of sentences and paragraphs that actually make sense. If nothing else, they will finish these 9 months having read more books than they've probably read in their whole lives, and I'm okay with that.

Just today, a boy told me, "Last year, I never liked to read. But this year, I am really enjoying it." It has nothing to do with me; the kid is just finding books that he connects with! Still, I'm stoked. Even if your brain is paste in my classroom, you will, by reading, intrinsically absorb the intricacies of English. I was about to say, "You will, while reading, learn by osmosis," but osmosis involves water, and that is why language is important--because you have to know what words mean before you can use them. It would be fun to hear someone say they're going to do something by osmosis and then pour water on them. Not that I will try it.

4. When you teach international students, you can't assume anything. You can't assume that they will all know Hansel and Gretel, because they don't. You can't assume they know where Gettysburg is or why it's important, and you have to remember that it's okay if they write colour or recognise or if their president is Zapatero instead of Obama. And they will think you are old because you grew up without the internet. Oh, wait. That is not because they are international! That is because they were born in 1998.

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