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a days observation

What is the deal with time these days?   I feel like this summer crept along and then suddenly sped up to neck breaking speed for 3 weeks.  It slowed down for a little while to what seemed normal and now it’s preparing to take off again.  Exactly 3 weeks from today I will be boarding a plane and headed first to London and then to Prague where I will stay for one, sure to be exciting, difficult, learning-filled, scary, and amazing time earning my TEFL certification.  

I feel like I’m down to the wire and I’m not ready yet.  But at the same time, if I was to leave tomorrow I know I’d be fine. 

School started yesterday and I’ve been subbing and helping out every day.  It’s been good to see the students at the beginning of a year.  After having seen what 8th graders look like at the end of a school year, it is a drastic change.  And for that matter, the 6th graders are SO little.  Wow.  I can’t believe how little they are.  AND the variance of growth spurts within the grades is rather startling. 

When observing a class today I recognized the spark in the students that I have missed all summer.  I love watching kids choose learning.  I love it.

 
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Posted by on 14/08/2012 in Uncategorized

 

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The Surreal moment I just had

I just had a beautiful but surreal moment.  I went to the Washington Middle School 8th grade Graduation.  I was able to witness every one of the students I’ve been working with walk across the stage that not only completes their Middle School education but begins their High School career.

Only 12 days after my own graduation, it came at me like a wave of surrealist paint.  Like Paul Fleet’s An Eye With A View, I felt like I was looking at a scene of looking at a scene.  Another UNM graduate spoke at the ceremony, a UNM graduate who had once attended WMS.  She spoke to them of trying circumstances and not being asked to join groups during High School, but rather having to take a leap of faith, put the goal in front and just go join the Honor Societies, the soccer team, the academic clubs.  She had to take the initiative and because she did, she’s now a college graduate.

She spoke of the statistics these kids are bombarded with from every direction.  Half will drop out, 1/3 will become unwed parents, 2/3 will be arrested for something before 18.  I saw many not so dry eyes, because some of these kids are the first in their family to make it this far.  Some are the first to be headed to High School in America, the land of opportunity, as long as you’re not Mexican.  These kids are fighting the odds put against them, and winning it right now.

It made me think of all the things people said to me when they first found out I was going to teach at Washington, largely known as one of the toughest schools.  Wow, really, are you scared?  Oh my gawd are you trying to change placement?  Make sure and bring a whistle, it startles them.   These children are pre-teens, barely teenagers, and they are faced with obstacles that would make a lot of different people drop out, but they are doing it through those circumstances.

I know students who live with distant relatives because those relatives live in the US.  Their parents still live in a different country; Cuba, Mexico, Chile.  I know students whose parents are in jail, dead, or not part of their lives for various reasons.  These kids are just kids.  The various reasons they are in the situations they are in are not their fault.  But they are dealing with the stereotypes, the people telling them they can’t, the biased tests telling them their not smart enough to, the families that can only offer so much, and making their education important for themselves at the same time.

I see my own Middle School experiences, my lack of High School, and now my struggle and triumph with college.  It was hard, really hard for me.  I had to fight for every moment in College.  But I did it in a society that accepts me simply because of the color of skin I was born into.  I can’t help the skin I was born into any more than they can.  I can’t change the fact that there are privileges I have, that they will rarely have, for no other reason than being born with fair skin.

I too was born into a low income home.  I too dealt with abuses.  I rarely found moments in which I felt supported.  I often raised my siblings.  I didn’t finish High School, dropped out in 10th grade.  I was married too young, had children too young.  I connect to these kids on more levels than they will ever understand and fewer levels than I can understand.

It was surreal, these many thoughts running through my mind as I hugged every one of my students after they received their diploma.  I don’t know if I was technically allowed to, but I stood at the foot of the stage stairs like one of the faculty and hugged them all as they came down the stairs.  I know that life is about to hit them harder than they’ve ever known.  BUT I also know that this group has an outstanding chance.  Maybe it’s my bias because I taught them, talked with them and learned from them, but I feel like this group is really going to go somewhere amazing. They are fighters for their own education.

 
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Posted by on 24/05/2012 in art, being a student, teaching

 

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Link

Terry Davis’s Duke City Fix blog about my students

We’re actually into the story now and the students couldn’t be anticipating what is going to happen next any more!  I had 3 of them say they were going to rent one of the movies this weekend, 2 ask where they could get the book, and 1 borrow my copy.

Don’t ever tell me 8th graders won’t, because yes they will.

In all of my attempts to find ways to make this story come to life for them, I wrote to Popejoy Hall education department inquiring about a tour for the students that win the tickets.  I can’t believe the wonderful response I’ve been given.  The staff purchased another ticket for me so that I can take a student from each of my three classes!  The theatrical director is going to take us on a tour, and thanks to Terry Davis, we were featured in a blog on Duke City Fix!

http://www.dukecityfix.com/profiles/blogs/reading-frenzy

I am so inspired by my students and so grateful to Popejoy/ UNM for helping me to give these students an experience that can be a positive force for the rest of their lives.

Les Miserables is that one book, that one story that anyone can identify with, even if you are an 8th grader from Albuquerque.  I would hug Victor Hugo if I could!

 

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Teaching Les Miserables

It has to be one of the most rewarding experiences to work through an idea and then watch it unfold even better than you thought!  I am experiencing that right now, and I can’t be happier about it!

It is a lot of work and I’m pretty sure my family thinks I’m nuts, but I am actually getting through to my students and they are absolutely loving it.  I was told at the beginning of this that there was no way I was going to get them to do homework every night, I was making a mistake by not showing the whole movie and for using older versions of the movie.  I was actually laughed at when I said that we were going to have tests every week, and looked at it with dumbfounded exasperation when I said that I had purchased 3 tickets to go see the play when it comes to town in June.

But….  The students, my 8th grade ESL, underpriviliged students are “getting it”.  They are doing the homework, learning words like culpable, formidable, malady, suffrage and renounce, and watching movie versions from 1937 and 1952 in black and white with complete attention.  I have them writing in Dialogue Journals every day and am reading entries that show an incredible depth of understanding.  I knew these kids were awesome, but they are even blowing me away.

I think that this will become a foundational lesson in any classroom I’m in.  I can connect almost anything to it because of its universiality.

SO I’ve been riding the motorcycle again now that the weather is good.  Well, really the weather has been beautiful lately.  I’m still not ready to drive it, but I’m good with riding on the back for the time being.  Besides it’s helping to build up those neck muscles that you don’t realize are there until they are keeping your head from bouncing all over the place with the weight of a helmet. 

Does anyone have a suggestion for a helmet brand/type that isn’t heavy?  I have a full, shielded, 7# helmet right now, and it is a difficult choice between wearing it or not because of the extra strain on my neck vs, the death blow of pavement.  I know, that doesn’t sound like a real choice, but I don’t plan on crashing but I do have to deal with the neck pain each time.  It’s a real choice.

 

 

 
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Posted by on 14/04/2012 in Uncategorized

 

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