Tuesday, October 13, 2015

This shouldn't be my first reaction

Imagine this, if you will.

You are sitting in your office during prep time, eating a quick snack and checking e-mails.  Suddenly, out of the silence, you hear screams.  Terrified screams.

Your heart leaps into your throat.  In this day and age with all of the school shootings, you imagine the worse.  Someone has a gun in your building.

You freeze.  You don't know where the screams are coming from.  Do you barricade yourself in your office?  Do you try and make a quick getaway down the stairs that are across the hall?  Has the unthinkable actually happened to your school?  You wait for the unmistakable pop of gunshot.

Then you hear laughter.  You calm down and realize that there is no threat and everything is safe. 

This scenario happened to me today.  My office is on the second floor of our three story building, directly across from the stairwell.  Upon further investigation of this scenario I discovered that the students in the computer lab on the third floor directly above you are playing pranks on one another on the computers with scary Halloween stuff.  All is fine.

All I could do is shake my head.  Why is it that my first reaction upon hearing terrified screams is that there is someone with a gun in our building?  It shouldn't be my first reaction but in this day and age, it is.  As of four days ago, there have been 52 school shootings this year in this country.  52.  That's roughly 1 1/2 shootings per week on average.

When is something going to be done about this?

Before I delve any further, let me say that I am a proud supporter of the 2nd amendment.  I believe in the right to bear arms if you are a law abiding citizen.  My family hunts and we fully have every intent of purchasing a handgun to eventually have for protection.  All firearms in my house are locked away and the key's location will be known only to my husband and myself.

What I don't understand, though is why nothing is being done about this.  So many politicians are raging against our current system yet few have done anything.

What I also don't understand is why it has to be so black and white.  Many who support the second amendment feel that any restrictions take away their rights, therefore there shouldn't be any regulations.  Many who don't support it feel that all guns should be banned.  Neither is the answer.

As with anything nowadays, there needs to be middle ground.  Guns do serve a purpose when used properly.  Protection and for hunting are the major ones.  However, we are required to have licenses and registration for cars, why are people so afraid of that for guns? I agree that guns are not the problem.  People are the problem.  But because people are the problem, we need to be open to regulations of the requirements of gun ownership.

I'm not going to dive anymore into the political side of this problem because honestly it shouldn't be political.  Students (and teachers) should feel safe in the environment they spend the most time in other than home.

In reading this scenario, did your mind go to the same place mine did?  I had a few colleagues who heard the screams that had the same reaction. 

That is so messed up.  Think about it.  School shootings have become such a norm that hearing screams sends your mind there first.  School shootings should not be a norm.  They should be a rarity, even non-existent.

Something is wrong.  Something needs to be done.  We can't keep sticking our heads in the sand and wishing it goes away.  Imagine your school or your child's school is next.  Would you still hold the same beliefs?

I don't want to be scared anymore.

School shootings since 2013.  From vox.com

Friday, October 9, 2015

Cut us some slack, alright?

I'm getting to the age where many of my friends and old classmates have school-aged children.  One thing that always grinds my gears is when parents vent about their child's teacher on social media.  One because it's a very public call-out (even if names aren't given.. enough people know who you are talking about) and two because parents generally don't "get" it.

I had a colleague last year who dealt with this.  The student in question was a student who was caught cheating on their test.  Not only that, but the parents refused to acknowledge it despite the student admitting it.  The student was failing because they did not understand the material and was spending zero time studying at home.  Yet somehow, because "this student is an A/B student", the parents felt it was the teacher's fault for not teaching the student properly.  Said parents decided to blast this teacher all over facebook (of course leaving out the teacher's side of the story) and many parents got upset at this teacher.

A friend of mine on facebook was similarly (and vaguely) saying horrible things about her daughter's teacher last year.  Based on what she was saying and based on what I knew about teaching, there was easily a misunderstanding going on there.  When I asked her if she had talked to the teacher to clarify she said she hadn't because she was too mad.  I sent her a private message urging her to talk to the teacher before saying things all over the internet.  Sure enough, there had been a misunderstanding.

I got an e-mail from a parent last week whose daughter (we will call her A) came home crying because of my class.  She was upset because she thought I didn't want to help her figure out what her missing assignments were and that she would be stuck with them as zeroes in the grade book.  On the surface, it had appeared that I brushed her off.  But the story went much deeper.

As a traveling teacher, I arrive at my second school right before noon.  Just enough time to take 20 minutes to eat my lunch and take a quick mental break.  The bell for my next class rings at 12:23.  That day I had a fun activity planned that required me to do some setup in the room.  However, right as I was heating up my lunch, a student came to get some help on her lunch time.  So not only did I barely get to eat my lunch during my lunch time, I also didn't get a chance to set up for that class.  Once the bell rang for passing time, I quick went to my room and was scurrying around trying to set up.  As I'm setting up, A came up to me and said, "I have a few missing assignments and I don't know what they are."  I told her that I needed to set up and that wasn't the best time to be asking me.

The problem with this scenario was A didn't know that I had just spend the last 20 minutes trying to eat lunch and tutor a student at the same time.  She didn't know that I had to get stuff set up before the bell rang so I really couldn't help her with her assignment before then.  So she could only assume the worst.  As did her parents.  And this all wouldn't have happened if I hadn't given up my lunch break to help another student.

Thankfully I explained a little further what had happened and everything is fine.  If that parent had just assumed I was brushing her daughter off instead of clarifying with me, this poor student would still be sitting in my class thinking I had no desire to help her.

In this day and age of professional development requirements, technology requirements, extra duties, and more... not to mention personal lives like spouses, children, parents and hobbies.. the life of a teacher is hectic.  It's chaotic.  It's disorganized and messy. 

We are getting to the point where teachers are put on a pedestal.  The expectations are skyrocketing.  We must handle ourselves a certain way at all times because of the position we hold.  Teachers are expected to be teachers and ONLY teachers.  And when you're being a good teacher to someone else's kid, then you're not being a good enough teacher to another's.  We must be perfect all the time.  We must be willing to give up our free time to help students with little thanks to show for it.  If a teacher isn't a great teacher, we must publicly flog them.  Forget giving them the benefit of the doubt.  The general public obviously knows more about what a teacher needs to do than a teacher does (insert sarcastic face here).

That teacher who didn't reply to your e-mail by the end of the day? She was assessing all of her students one at a time and then had a doctor's appointment immediately after school.  That teacher who didn't put your missing assignment in the gradebook within a few days?  He has a stack of missing work to grade that is one inch thick because so many students turn their work in late.  That teacher who took a week and a half to grade your test and give it back to you?  She had a sick child at home and had to spend her spare time making sub plans to make up for the three days she'd spend at home taking care of him.

To any other perspective, the aforementioned situations would warrant major annoyance from any parent or student.  But to the teacher's perspective, he/she is giving it her all and then some just to get through the week.

So cut us some slack.  We're people too.  And when in doubt, talk it out.  Privately.  I can almost guarantee you there's more to a situation than you think.

photo from aplacecalledkindergarten.com

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Living Vocabulary

Ah vocabulary.  One of the most tedious things in the foreign language classroom.  At the end of the day it is pure memorization.  The hard part is making the memorization easier on the kids.

An awesome way to reinforce vocabulary, I have found, is what I like to call "living vocabulary".  Living can go in more than one direction depending on how you look at it.  As a verb, it can be that students are living their vocabulary. As an adjective, the living describes the vocabulary: it's alive.

Living vocabulary is applying vocabulary to real life in some way.  Rather than seeing photos or doing flashcards, students match the vocabulary to the actual thing.

For example, my French 1s are currently learning about classroom vocabulary.  One day they walked in the room and there were letters everywhere attached to different items.  They spent the hour walking around the room and identifying each object.

Another example would be with my French 2s.  They are working on body parts and daily routine.  They are given different labels that talk about body parts (les oreilles, le ventre, la jambe, etc) and had to attach it correctly to their partner.

Doing a unit on housing? Make them label different rooms and items in their house with post-its (or something that will stick) and keep them labeled for a week. Food unit?  Find some plastic food and keep it on hand.  Make them pick a piece out of the box and tell you what it is.

By associating vocabulary to it's actual item, vocabulary comes alive for students and they are able to better retain it.