Sunday, September 29, 2013

Let's look at the positive side...

I've been blah-blah-blahing about the downside of working in an inner-city school. It's difficult, yes, but it also has its shining moments. Today, let me share some of those.

Friday, during my last class, after a hard day, I was reviewing vocabulary through a translation exercise. I had created 10 sentences in French, using vocabulary I've given them since Day 1. The class and I were working through the sentences--when, voila!, I realized I did not have to tell them a single word. They translated all ten sentences themselves! Let me declare my amazement, my happiness, and their utter delight! This is a class of 30 students. I would say that half were engaged and participating while the other half, no, wait, I'll not go there. Half were engaged and reading French! That's truly what I want to share!

After they translated from French into English, they had to put five English sentences into French. They did that, also. My students are reading and writing in French!

(Note: pronunciation still comes as a problem, although face-to-face, I can get the student with the most twisted tongue to pronounce to my satisfaction. Shoot, my family has exactly the same pronunciation problems--IF I can get them to repeat anything! Speaking a new language after puberty is difficult for anyone. It's too embarrassing, but I'm saying that ALL my students at least try even if they forget it ten seconds later. It is difficult to pronounce sounds and words in a, dare
I say?--"foreign" language!)

On another note, the faculty at my school is so multicultural. One librarian is Chinese, there are about a dozen men and women from the Philippines who teach various subjects. I would say that a third of the faculty is Caucasian, the rest being African-American. I'm guessing that the faculty is about half and half in gender, that being a real deviation from a majority of teachers as female. All ages are represented from the brand shiny new teachers to two of us who came out of retirement to teach this year. And, of course, all our teachers are American.

Sunday, September 8, 2013


I'm posting here rather than Facebook about the demands of my new job. That way I can write about what's real rather than covering up. After all, who reads this?I teach French to 9th through 12th grade students in a long-time "failing" school. If you picture those inner city schools in movies with forceful kids dominating hallways and classrooms, you would see only a snippet of what is actually true. My school is clean, polished, and looks successful. The principal, who has directed the school for one year now, is gradually turning it around. He looks for success in any way he can find it. He demands adherence to the rules for students. After all, establishing procedure, following successful practices--these are the groundwork for success. You would think creativity, high energy, working outside the box--that these would produce a successful school. But first, but first, there must be order drilled and instilled into students. A creative, innovative teacher cannot work in chaos when only a handful of students are interested and the others intent on making sure that success does NOT happen. Why would that be? Why would they want failure? Just listening to other teachers talk about their experiences makes me brace up, buck up, anything to rage, rage, (not literally) against the chaos of the lives of these students. Truthfully, there are only a few that I have problems liking and only because they are belligerent. Belligerence does not beget a happy teacher.

So Friday, here's what happened: Last class of the day, filled to the brim with students. Oh, sure, here comes a transfer into a class of 30. Now we have 31. This is the class with four girls, three of whom have bellowing voices. They talk in those voices to each other and across the room. "Boy, don't you touch me again. You touch me, I'm gonna come over there and punch you," bellows the ringleader to some boy who did not touch her. She's just showing whose boss of the classroom. I tell her to do her work. "What do you think I'm doing?" she bellows. But there's that cell phone, the presence of which is against all rules. "Hey, girl!" she shouts across the room. "Blah blah blah," hollers to her friend over there. "Sudie (not real name), you need to put that phone away, get your paper out, and pay attention." "You not taking my phone," she lets me know. You might think this girl dresses like a hoodie, but, no, she always is dressed to the nines, even in school uniform. Her hair is immaculately styled. She looks like a "good" student in all sense of the word. But no, she is a problem. Finally, after an hour of their bellowing, I buzz for security. The students who are trying cannot hear me nor can I hear them over the loud talking of these girls. Why did I wait so long? Because I am supposed to follow a precise procedure, in order, including calling parents, before I send students out of class. However, I'm having them removed because they are seriously disturbing the learning process. The students and I cannot avoid hearing their conversation because it is SO loud AND learning is difficult in this situation. Know what these girls said to me and security: (1) You better not be sending us out of this class (2) I don't want to be here any way (3) We better not be the only ones being sent out. Everyone else is talking, too. I sent four out, the loudest ones with the most prolonged talking/bellowing. As they stormed past me, I wanted to throw up, not out of nervousness, but out of disgust at such behavior. Me, me, me, me--there must be a reason why.

Evaluations start this week. Not only have I not mastered the lesson plan style with all its jargon, most importantly, I have not mastered the classes. I jumped into this job like a pit bull (not that I am one) dropped into a pit of bears. So, the bears are working hard to destroy me, but the pit bull was still alive at the end of the day. Bloodied, sure, limping, yes, but I was still in the game. I went to see the new friend I made the first day I was there--the Spanish teacher. I cried on her shoulder. For a woman of many words, after I told my story, she looked at me, then said, "I got nothing. I don't know what to say." Then another teacher came in, then one of the security guys. They closed the door and we had a real heart-to-heart. They gave me a new perspective. I won't share those thoughts at this time, but I feel I understand things a little better.

Anyway, all weekend, as I drive along, I find myself bellowing comments out loud like those girls. I know I don't have control of this situation, so I am reliving it. What do I do? I know I'm calling parents this afternoon and doing all that documenting the discipline administrator wants. And planning! You bet!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

New job...

Guess what I'm doing?! I left the leisure of retirement behind and jumped head first in medias res to teaching French in an inner city school. I was hired one week after school started and could not begin until two and one-half weeks into the school year. Things were established and I was not part of the plan. Most of the students embraced having a certified teacher, some absolutely don't care one way or the other, nor do they care whether their classmates learn. The situation is actually much better than I anticipated, but it still hurts to be treated so badly. Anyway, the discipline principal is working with me and neighbors around me have been helpful and encouraging. We'll get this thing under control, sooner or later (most hopefully sooner!). It's a struggle for some students to get their mouths and tongues around the sounds of the French language, but we're working on it.

Just posting about the job...more later...

A favorite souvenir

A favorite souvenir
These are my two girls from Ireland!

Judy's shared items

Books on my very ambitious TBR list (*denotes read)

  • *Reading Magic: Why Reading Aloud to our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever by Mem Fox
  • The Odd Women by George Gissing
  • The Zen of Fish by Trevor Corson
  • How to Get Your Child to Love Reading by Esme Raji Codell
  • The Cod Tale by Mark Kurlansky
  • In This House of Brede by Rumer Godden
  • *Joan of Arc by Mark Twain
  • Dag Hammarskjold by Elizabeth Rider Montgomery
  • The Wisdom in the Hebrew Alphabet by Rabbi Michael L. Munk
  • Children of Strangers by Lyle Saxon
  • Spiritual Writings by Flannery O'Connor
  • Nightmares and Visions: Flannery O'Connor and the Catholic Grotesque by Gilbert H. Muller
  • The Violent Bear It Away by Flannery O'Connor
  • Flannery O'Connor's South by Robert Coles
  • Wise Blood by Flannery O'Connor
  • Sylvanus Now by Donna Morrissey
  • *Vincent de Paul by Margaret Ann Hubbard
  • Reading Lolita in Tehran by Azar Nafisi
  • A Briefer History of Time by Stephen Hawking
  • The Library at Night by Alberto Manguel
  • Readicide by Kelly Gallagher
  • *Ruined by Paula Morris
  • Say You're Not One of Them by Uwem Akpan
  • Wandering Star by J.M.G. Le Clezio
  • Silence by Shusaku Endo
  • *The Assault by Harry Mulisch
  • Kari's Saga by Robert Jansson
  • *The German Mujahid by Boualem Sansal
  • Western Skies by Joseph Conrad
  • *The Giver by Lois Lowery
  • *Imperium by Ryszard Kapuscinski

School Library Journal - NeverEndingSearch


A semester course in one book about the Soviet Union. Click on image for my review.