Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Just Because

Andy updated his blog today and acknowledged a recent lack of updates (I think it was maybe a 4-day gap). His reason for the lack of updates was "just because."

I like it. I think I'm going to steal it.

I haven't posted on here for a couple of months... just because.

Oh, I could go into all the details, but I don't think I come off as such a together guy when all the details are on the table. Of course, I don't think I come off as such a together guy when people first see me in any setting. Or when they second-thru-infinitieth see me. But why add fuel to that fire, eh?

Yes, the details would include the three-jobs-at-once thing, even though I still had some free time in there back when I had the three jobs. The details would include reminders that I have dial-up, and everything takes about five times as long as it does on what passes for a "normal" computer these days. The details might even include just some heavy thoughts that I've been avoiding these past several months. The details might even include this recent wave of more-numb-than-usual-ness that took over my life when I was at my busiest. But I have fallen in love with: just because.

Moving on to the update: I'm teaching Algebra I to high school students in XLT (read: Summer School). I'm one of the "2nd Semester" teachers. I took this job thinking these students need this credit, so they will be motivated to work hard and at least pass.

I'm an idiot.

It's not entirely their fault. They're young. For reasons known only to those in charge of scheduling, I was given 34 kids on my original roster. Joel, the other 7th grade math teacher at Eastgate--who is also teaching 2nd Semester Algebra I--had 17 students on his roster.

Because of time constraints, the rooms were assigned using a floor plan (and thus no idea of the room layouts). I was originally assigned a room with three round tables in it. Each table could seat 8 students. There were 4 chairs at a computer area, and one chair at a desk over in the corner. Do the math.

Luckily, before the first day with kids, I'd had my numbers lowered...

..to 31.

In case you need it explained, let me explain why round tables are a bad idea in a school setting: Student looks up, and immediately sees someone to socialize with. Socialization mode boots up and runs until outside input from the teacher causes an emergency shut down into indignant innocent victim mode. I thought this was merely a 7th-grade affliction, but I can now report it can also be seen in grades 9 through 11.

Luckily three of my students never showed up (28 now, if you're counting), one hasn't shown up after the first day (27...), and three were pulled out for another class halfway through the second day (24).

And this week I got to move to a room with actual desks in it. You probably don't believe it makes much of a difference, but it really does.

Now, twenty-four students isn't ideal, but it isn't the worst of all possible worlds. However, when you're covering an entire semester of Algebra I in five-hour blocks (with one 15-minute break) and no realistic expectation of practice outside the classroom... twenty-four is more than twice the number of students that should be in that room.

Also, it would help if the students who didn't want to be there would just stay home. Their parents, in an effort to either "punish" the student or get some free babysitting (but these kids are 15-18 years old, do they need a--wait, yes, some of them do) are making them come to Summer School.

Which is great for all the kids who either really want to get this credit, or want a whole lot to get the credit but have a hard time overcoming the urge to socialize with those students who are just there because they were forced to be there. It's fan-freakin-tastic!

I am really enjoying working with about 10 of the kids--the ones who are there to work and get the credit. There are another half dozen or so who would probably be okay if the 8 or so that are there for no reason would just stay home. Those middle-ground kids try for a while, then decide it's more fun to just mess around with the kids who are there to kill time.

I don't know. It's frustrating.

I want to know how the program is "marketed" to the students. I really don't think they're being told "You're covering a week of school each day, so if that pace is too much for you, you should wait until the next school year and take the class then."

I want to know the district's goal--or motivation, even--for the program. If it's for the kids to learn the material and get the credit, the district is going about it an odd way. I'm not saying that a person's (or an organization's) goal can be clearly understood by examining behavior, but it sure can shed a light on a few things.

So, I trudge on, day by day, running the mantra "I'm doing it for the money" through my head, much like when I was delivering pizza, but with more high blood pressure--but less wear and tear on my car.

Tomorrow we review and test over Chapter 6, Systems of Equations (and Inequalities). I love teaching this material. I'd love teaching it to a regular class even more, I think.

Since I haven't posted in a while, I'm going to make a list here of things I've been meaning to post about, but never did. Feel free to comment on occasion to remind me I've forgotten to post these:

1. A Bad Day for the Tree and Me
2. Bye-Bye Papa John's Pizza Pie
3. Less Mellow, More Drama
4. The Best Juke Box in the Known (by me) Universe

Goodnight everybody!

1 comment:

Tracy Crowe Jones said...

It's good to hear from you. I'm glad you aren't dead and need to deliver a casserole to your family.