Saturday, December 7, 2013

Diary of an old new teacher

I started this running commentary on my Face book page and decided today (Dec. 7) to include it here in my blog. I am an older white woman, twice out of retirement. This diary concerns students at an inner city type school, 98% African American with a handful of whites.
August 30
I finally have a job!!!! I am teaching French at Fair Park High School. I am so thankful! What one hears about FP is simply not true. It is a clean, well-run school. The administrative staff is fantastic--from principal on down to office staff. I started Wednesday and, at the end of the day, I felt I was in the belly of Jonah's whale, but Thursday was actually a good day. Students left my class on their first day knowing a little conversation and how to write simple sentences. I was very pleased. There are some really good teens in my classes and some who need work. The same is true at any school.

Labor Day
Labor Day--an odd name for a holiday celebrating the good activity known as labor, something which gives us pride, a sense of accomplishment, a means of supporting ourselves and family, a way of giving to the world, and a meaningful use of time. However, we don't labor on Labor Day (ha ha, I know many of us do!) I will spend time with family but take my school work with me. I have a stack of French sentences and drawings to check, grades to record, seating charts to make, and, what else?--oh yeah, lesson plans. I have a mental map of what I'm doing tomorrow, but forces that be require that they are written/typed on paper and in educationese language.
Anyway, I hope everyone enjoys his/her Labor Day!

Sept 14
Well, let me declare hallejah! I had an absolutely great day Friday. I had 3 block classes that could not have been better. I really like half of my students who really want to learn. They are kind, polite, attentive, and most importantly, don't yell across the room. I have actually stopped that--with help from "higher ups." I had a melt-down after school on Wednesday after I had three horrible classes. I "melted" all night and still was upset Thursday morning. My principal, bless him, got me a sub. I spent the day regrouping. My mother prayed over me Friday morning and voila! I had a great Friday. You cannot believe how happy I was at the end of the day when I could say "What a great day I had!"

Sept 20
I took brie cheese, French bread, butter, grapes and French cookies yesterday for my classes to sample. They were so polite about everything. We would have had cafe au lait but someone forgot to bring the coffee! (moi)

Oct 6
Update: Twice now I have had such bad days that I fully intend going in the next day to resign. Each time my mother has prayed that I have good days and each time I do have good days. We talked this last time about specific things to remember about good days that make me actually laugh and feel really great about what I'm doing. Friday I acted out some of Lady Macbeth's lines in Macbeth. They wer...e laughing and laughing at me, well, not me, but my wild, dramatic acting. That's one thing. Then I start telling my family about specific ones that I really think the world of. Some of the young men are so kind and polite and thoughtful. Truly. There's one young lady with whom I have bonded. On those good days, I really enjoy my work. Perhaps the telling act is when I get home and try to put the work key into my home lock. I take it that I maybe look forward to my job. Is it a Freudian slip? 

Oct 20
On Friday I was evaluated by two "master" teachers. Let's see: what could go wrong? I'm gonna make a list: 1) full moon--that in itself is enough for a disaster (2) Students kept piling in after the bell rang, (3) then stood around yakking as if they were at a party (4) Noisy, loud, and obnoxious--besides this is my most difficult class (5) it was report card day and many had made F's, so I had to... deal with that issue, and (6) I was standing like a deer transfixed by headlights (7) I seriously entertained running right out of that room and leaving their teeming masses abandonned. But I did not. I stuck it through, humiliating as the experience was.

The good part is that during each part of my three-prong lesson, students cooperated and did surprisingly well. So perhaps I am making a difference?

After I got home Friday, I called my wise mother and whined about my experience. Then she told me about things going on with my niece and her children. That totally changed my perspective. My life is easy by comparison. So let me get on with this French speaking teaching. Everyone tells me I must be making a difference, but I'm not seeing it. However, when I was absent two days last week, students... came by demanding to know where I was. "Did you miss me," I asked them. "Yes," they all told me. One girl even told me she didn't want to have to come to my house and snatch up my red hair to this school to teach French. I must say I laughed until I hurt!! I told one boy that I missed him when he was absent because he is the best responder. He said, "a'ight," he would be there. So we're coming to an understanding, those kids and I.

Nov 16
Friday was enjoyable--every class, every hour. There were many absences with students going to New Orleans for our playoff game (we did not win--so disappointing), so I devised a number of games emphasizing French and gave bonus points to everyone who participated. It was nearly 100%. I took one French II class to the library to work on their tourist brochures. They are designing promotional broch...ures for some tourist attraction in France or Montreal (French speaking areas). Every single student worked the entire hour and 15 minutes and with gusto! I was shocked. No one complained and most even enjoyed working on them. We'll go back next week to finish. I am very pleased with all efforts! BTW, the topics of these brochures are the Eiffel Tower, Versailles, Montreal's Ice Festival, Disney Land in France, the lavender fields of southern France (so beautiful!), the destruction of the Bastille Prison during the French Revolution, Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, and famous meat dishes found in France (ex, coq au vin).

Nov 24
I should write down some of the hilarious things my students have said to me. One thing I have discovered and was delighted to discover it--I can be myself with these students, say outrageous things, make them laugh, and so on. During the showing of Phantom (of the Opera), I would sing some of the songs. They would tell me to stop singing or they would talk. I tried not to sing, but I know this musical so well I... was compelled. Once they threatened to lock me out or call security to come get me. Of course, they were laughing about it. Several girls told me they went home and rented Phantom because they could not wait to see the end.

I like to keep my room on the cool side to keep nasal passages moist (I hate hot rooms). They complained about the cold, so I went to Joanns's during a fleece sale and bought about 10 pieces, each a yard and half, so they could wrap up in one to keep warm. They were very pleased about this. Four cheerleaders even checked out a fleece to take on the bus to our first finals game (sorry, we lost). So yeah I've scored points.

What pleases me most is the fondness they are showing toward me. One day I called security on this one boy who has been a pain since day one. A girl was laughing with him until S. arrived, so I sent her too. The next day she would not speak to me (both had to stay after school for two days), but then the day after that, she came by during the day to give me a hug and say she got over it, that she was wrong, blah blah. I congratulated her on her maturity, and we both went on our merry ways.

Dec 2
I've been thinking--instead of this thing that God sent me to these kids as a blessing--I think it is the other way around. I (bold emphasis!) have been blessed. I have come to know some very fine young people--and, of course, not all can be described that way. I listen to four sermons every Sunday: Bishop Millicent Hunter out of Philadelphia, John Hagee in San Antonio, Joel Osteen in Houston, and Jeff Schreve in Texarkana. Each had something to say to me Sunday. Joel encouraged people to look at your successes and forget your failures. I was a failure at the beginning of my time at Fair Park. Nothing I did was right or successful. Their behavior and actions made me seek success, to find ways to reach those kids, not just in speaking French, but in positive human interactions. However, the meaningful sermon point--and I don't remember which one used it--is that thorn in Paul's being. God made me feel the thorn as a blessing, not a hindrance, to fight the fight with renewed vigor and determination. Of course, our quests are different, but the intention is similar: to seek the best for our audience. 
The newest: it's kind of to keep me humble, I do believe. Here I've been bragging/telling about the positive (thanks, Joel) and Friday comes. It's the weather change, I am sure. Natural phenomenon directly affects student (and teacher) behavior. By the end of the day my hip and leg were rubbing sticks together and dragging barbed wire over that, so I was in deep deep pain. There are four boys in this class that I have to stand watch over because of their loose lips and tongues (being VERY talkative). Oh my, they were at their best/worst Friday and would NOT stop talking. Finally, I called security to get those yakkers out of there. Oh my gosh, it was so quiet then. Just sayin'.....

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.