sarah_sensei: Midna: LoZ Twilight Princess (Default)
So, my day started out kinda crappy when some guy decided to play chicken with me on the highway xx; I was making a lane change from the right lane to the center lane. I looked all around me and no one was there, so I put my turn signal on and began to move over. I would say that I was about 90-95% in the center lane when some jackass in the fast lane decides that he too wants to be in the middle lane -- in the space that I was currently occupying! I swear that this person didn't even LOOK before they began to shove their SUV into my personal space. I swerved a little at first, wondering if I was just seeing things, but NO, This bastard was seriously trying to ram his right side into my driver's side door and front end! I quickly moved completely back into the right lane as the asshole took the spot that I was formerly occupying on the road. I wanted to blare my horn at him but I was too busy getting the hell out of the way! Then he proceeded to fly into the right lane to make an exit. I guess the asshole wanted to get off and didn't plan well for it 9_9 This was me, standing at the bottom of the mountain, looking up, and wondering how the hell I'm supposed to get to the top when things already suck. ;p

I think I reached a nice outcropping when I saw my 5th grade for the last time today. Like all classes this week, they felt like testing my patience (first grade sucked too this morning, but I, unfortunately, see them again tomorrow afternoon 9_9 ). One 5th grade boy in particular decided that today he'd be the most obnoxious piece of shit he can be. I already did their grades on Friday (the last week of school is a throw away week) and all I did was keep threatening to give them a failing grade as if I hadn't done them yet (I COULD still change them, but a lot of the report cards have been printed and it would be a hassle, but they don't need to know that). It was most certainly 45 minutes of torture... but the relief I felt when they walked OUT of my room today was somewhat euphoric ^_^ This was the mid-point of the mountain, where I felt like I actually accomplished something.

The high point came out of something I was actually dreading ^^; The base commander decided to have a little social gathering for all the teachers on the base. Our boss made it clear that he wanted us to attend and they even decided not to have a faculty meeting in order for us to go. I'm a hopeless introvert and I DO NOT like parties of ANY KIND. I especially do not like parties with tons of people that I DO NOT KNOW. I am ok in small groups and I prefer to have about 5-7 close friends over than to invite hundreds of acquaintances... My first two questions when I'm invited to a social function are: 1) How long will it last and 2) When can _I_ leave? :p

Anyhow, they had one of these last year, but they decided to start it when we were still at work :p I didn't go last year and I was not afraid to tell people that it was because, "They are holding a party, supposedly in our honor, but they are starting it 45 minutes before we even get off work. How is that party supposed to be about us?" Well, this year they scheduled it so that we didn't have that excuse.

So, I had a plan for where I was going to park and attempt to walk over to this party. I wasn't entirely sure of where it was being held (other than a street address), but I had a vague idea after studying a map on Google. When I saw the counselor in the parking lot and she offered to drive me over, I was happy to let her, since I hate driving. We parked at a school that was closer to the event and began walking in the general direction we thought we had to go. However, we made a small mistake and ended up about a block southwest of where we were supposed to be. As we were wandering around, trying to figure out where to go, we ran into another group of lost teachers (two from another school and one more from our school). One of the teachers said that the address we were trying to locate was supposedly the General's house (which surprised me and the counselor, we both thought it was being held at some other multi-purpose building). We all started talking on the corner trying to figure out how to get to the General's house when one of our Kindergarten teachers said, "I'm going to ask the next army guy who comes by where to go." About 3 seconds later a car is crossing the intersection and she shouts out: "Excuse me, do you know where the General's house is?"

Guy in Car: "I think so, I live there." ;}
Random Teacher: "Oh my God, it's the General!"
Kindergarten Teacher: "Oh great, the one guy I ask..." XD
General: "Hop in, I'll take you there, it's just around the corner. But you'll be embarrassed when you see how big it is. You'll wonder how you missed it." ^_~

So, all five of us lost teachers squeezed into his car XD I was worried about him getting a ticket but I guess the MPs wouldn't give him one ^^; He drove us over (and it really was just around the corner) and we became his opening joke when he asked all the lost teachers he rescued to raise their hands. XD Most of them, like the poor school counselor next to me and our Kindergarten teacher, hid their faces instead. But, I gave him a big wave. ^^;

Things got a little funnier when the school counselor realized that in her excitement of getting to ride in his car, she left her purse in his front seat! XD She begged me to come with her to ask him if he could open his car for her. So, I accompanied her and she said: "Sir, I have a personal favor to ask... in my moment of excitement about riding in your car, I left my purse in your front seat, may I get it?" He had a good laugh about it and gave her his keys so that she could retrieve it. ^^;

We also got to look at the downstairs portion of his big fancy house, which was really cool.

So, by the end of the day, I was feeling so much better and I felt like I got to the top of the mountain and was enjoying the view.

While I had some fun today, I hope tomorrow is less eventful. ^_^;
sarah_sensei: Midna: LoZ Twilight Princess (Default)
I love when people write articles for news organizations such as CNN and don't really back up anything they say with real data...

Today I came across an article called, "We need year-round school to compete globally," written by a guy who regularly writes for ESPN (I'm sure he's an education expert seeing as how sports are more important than academics in this country anyhow). He starts off with the usual shtick about American students being way behind their peers in other (usually Asian) countries. (Yeah, I remember the commercials in the late '80s/early 90's when I was a kid. The one where the teacher is calling roll and each of the top performing countries raise their hand and the American student in the back of the class is called on last. So, this whole "American Education Sucks" thing isn't new). What I found annoying about this particular article was that he really doesn't present any data to back up his claims (and honestly completely ignores some studies that contradict the claims made) and he doesn't take social factors into consideration at all.

This article by Education Week, while a little dated, presents a more well rounded view of what actual data is out there on the subject. The fact is, year round school has so far only been effective in certain situations and with certain groups of students. Many districts have had mixed results and some have even shown no gains at all. The notion that year round school would somehow increase test scores and academic achievement by large margins have simply failed in reality. There are probably many complex factors, but I'm willing to bet that the ones who did have significant gains were probably the students who would have had gains anyhow.

Let's drop the political correctness for a moment and talk about some real struggles that kids deal with and some of the cultural differences that may have an influence.

Poor kids are usually also hungry kids. Parents don't always have the money to feed their kids and they rely on school lunch programs to feed them. Some kids don't get any other regular meals. Hungry kids also don't perform well on tests. Would year round school cure their hunger? It might help, but it doesn't fix the underlying problems. Some gains have been seen in year round schools that are in poorer areas. Might it be because the kids are getting fed more regularly?

Parents leave the raising of their children to other people. Some parents dump their kids in childcare from the moment they are born. I know some people are single parents and don't have a lot of choices. It's either daycare or the bills don't get paid. However, we are seeing more and more kids who go home at night and do not get any help or additional instruction from their parents. Parents seem to assume that learning stops in the classroom, when it's really their responsibility to act as a partner and help the learning process continue outside of the school building. Parents also can help by exposing their children to as much history, culture and meaningful experiences as possible. This kind of "learning by experience" should begin the day they are born. If parents are so disinterested in their own kids, I don't see how year round school is going to help fix broken family dynamics or help kids get their parents more involved.

Now let's look at some cultural differences.

Asian cultures emphasize the family and community, not the individual. Most of the "high performing" Asian competition comes from countries in which shame is collective and shared by a whole family. Kids are taught from an early age that "if you do something wrong you shame the rest of us." There is a lot of pressure to conform and to bring honor to your family. Americans emphasize the individual and people do not see your failures as their failures. Getting back to the uninvolved parents, they feel no "shame" when their kid brings home bad test scores. In fact, recent generations like to play the blame game and try to turn it into a reflection on someone outside the family. It couldn't be that the student didn't care to study, it must be the fact that the teacher "didn't teach." No one seems to want to take responsibility for their actions. In our so called "successful" Asian counterparts the kids would be shamed by their own families and drilled incessantly until they improved. The parents see their children's failures as their own and correct it, immediately.

Many of the most successful Asian countries also go to extremes to ensure that their children are educated. Many parents shell out the equivalent of thousands of dollars to send their kids to after school programs where they essentially put in a second day of school after they finish their regular education. These programs are sometimes general studies, language programs, music programs and other activities that take up hours of their children's free time. Kids in Korea, for example, often don't go home until well after 8pm. I don't see too many parents in America lining up for anything outside of the usual sports fare. I also don't see too many families willing to pay for private tutoring programs and for-profit special schools.

Asian kids work HARD and are PUSHED HARD. They are also pressured to pass exams to prove that they are worthy of even a high school education. If you fail, you often cannot take the test again until the following year. In America, you practically just have to show up to school to pass thanks to counter productive laws like, "No Child Left Behind" where kids have essentially been pushed from one grade to the next. If you even consider holding one back you are met with tons of resistance.

The all or nothing attitude of Asian cultures puts tremendous pressure on the kids, which has its good and bad points.

One of the bad points is the high suicide rate among teenagers who can't pass that entrance exam, whether it be for high school or college. Failure is punished harshly and they are not given second chances. I cannot imagine this attitude working well in American society. The good news is that on paper, they appear to have higher success rates. Maybe all the "dumb kids" committed suicide.

Asian cultures also do more "drill and kill" exercises than American schools do. These days, in America, they frown upon children answering in unison, doing worksheets and memorizing facts. However, many Asian schools still do this quite extensively. There has been a lot of pressure on teachers in the US to get their students to think outside the box and get away from "meaningless exercises."

But maybe we really do need a better balance of "worksheets" and "creativity." Some of the practices I see in my own school seem to only serve to confuse the kids. For example, they are given "math exemplars" which are word problems that they have to solve using various techniques. They are graded with rubrics and students are graded higher if they show their work, do the problem in more than one way, explain their work, and make connections to other personal math experiences. First, of all, the last one sometimes distracts them from the real problem and often they write completely unrelated connections such as, "This reminds me of the time I had to measure flour to make cookies..." Ok, that wasn't the kind of connection we meant, we meant "what other problems have you solved like this?" They are also given points for solving the problem even if their answer is incorrect. I don't have a problem with partial credit, but what I do have a problem with is the fact that some problems are intentionally written in a manner that makes them appear more open ended when math generally is NOT open ended. There is usually a RIGHT answer and a WRONG answer. Creating the illusion of math being open ended through the use of poorly worded problems, that serve as better examples of the limitations of language than mathematical situations, do not help our kids with their struggles. Perhaps a little more drill and kill and a little less grammar problems in the math room would help us more than year round school.

A common misconception about year round school schedules is that the kids are getting "more school." They are often getting the same amount of school, just spread out all year. I personally think it would be more annoying, from a classroom management perspective, to have the kids going on vacation for 2 weeks every few months than dealing with "spring fever." Kids are always harder to manage after a break, even a shorter one. I think teachers would just have to spend a lot more time going back over the rules again each time the kids are off for a few weeks.

I think the article on CNN was way too simplistic and does not at all even begin to take into consideration what we are doing wrong, culturally speaking. I understand that it takes a village to raise a child, but you're not supposed to dump your kid in the middle of the village and hope for the best. A lot of American parents do just that when they don't help their kids "grow" at home when they are away from school. I'm willing to bet a few hours a day during the summer reading with mom or dad about various topics and doing some family activities would also help improve not just relationships at home, but school performance as well.

I don't believe that the borderline abusive practices in many Asian countries are healthy, but I do think there has to be a happy medium where kids can enjoy being kids and still succeed.
sarah_sensei: Midna: LoZ Twilight Princess (Default)
Since I rarely do art anymore that's not work related, I thought I'd share this sample I made for my first grade students. My brother recently introduced me to the art of Louis Wain. His work reminds me a lot of some of my own anthro work. So, I think I will have my first graders do anthro kitties. This one is modeled after my husband's cat Odes (his spelling not mine, pronounced O-dess).

pencil, permanent marker, crayons
sarah_sensei: Midna: LoZ Twilight Princess (Default)
My summer was pretty crazy:

- 4 weeks in Turkey
- a week in NJ
- 5 days in Pittsburgh to collect my things
- 1 day driving 14hrs. from Pittsburgh to Columbus, GA
- about 4 days of unpacking, cleaning dishes that were in the garage for 2 years, and repairing scratches on wood furniture
- a new laptop (what's up with the Windows 7 screen saver bug that makes you lose your task bar??? How the hell did they miss that one when beta testing?)
- converting my PA license into a GA one (I have to wait 2-4 weeks before they send me the new one, til then I have a lame paper print out 9_9 Also they made me take off my glasses for the photo-- I've worn glasses since I was EIGHT. I look WEIRD without them. WTF Georgia?!)

I still have a week left to do whatever before I have to go back to work. I kinda wish I had a little more time to goof off... next summer I want to spend more time at home, less time running around xx;

In the meantime, I think I'll work on Monster Hunter Tri. I like playing with my brother online, it's just awesome! XD With Wii Speak it's like he's in another room in the same house instead of 4 states away. I know he goes back to school pretty soon, I hope we can find some time to game once in a while.

Though, honestly, I probably OUGHT to be working on sorting, color correcting and formatting my 14 Gigs of pictures from Turkey --; (no it's not a typo, I took nearly 14 Gigs of pictures).

Games I need to buy in the near future: Mario Galaxy 2, Dragon Quest IX

Ugh sometime next week I should go through my school things and decide what I'm taking into the classroom at the beginning of the year... I think I kinda wanna start with Native Americans this year... Hopefully, this year will be a little more relaxed since we aren't being visited by the accreditation people.

Somehow, despite all the running around this summer felt long...
sarah_sensei: Midna: LoZ Twilight Princess (Default)
So, they pushed us to participate in that stupid drawing contest for Law Day last week. The theme was ridiculously hard for K-5 and was something like, "Law in the 2st Century: Enduring Values, Future Challenges." Someone goofed and we didn't hear about the contest til 2 days before the deadline. They begged me to turn in SOMETHING. So I got a few classes on it.

I was told today that two of my students actually WON. I could not believe it, because the stuff was so terrible. There must not have been very many entries ;p The one kid doesn't surprise me TOO much since it's a 1st grade girl who draws/colors like she's in 3rd. The other was a little bit of a surprise... The pictures had almost nothing to do with "laws" I told them to draw people helping other people. So, this should have been great news right?


Now they want me to go to this Law Day Luncheon with the kids and their parents. The Luncheon is this Thursday-- you know during the week of our big important visit? And it's right in the middle of the day, noon.

To complicate things further, the Luncheon isn't at the school, it isn't even on the base. It's going to be at the Columbus Trade Center... which is almost a 20-25min drive from my workplace on busy streets that I don't particularly care for. It's not a HARD drive as in it's not hard to find, it's just... obnoxious.

I am SO not looking forward to this. I mean no pressure eating with parents and kids right? x_x;;;

There was no indication of how LONG this event will be either... so they are getting me a sub for the afternoon-- possibly both classes I had scheduled. What REALLY annoys me is the fact that I JUST planned out the rest of the year this morning-- and now they are screwing up my schedule >:( I also now have to write sub plans, probably tomorrow morning because Wednesday SUCKS.

Whatever happened to giving them a stupid gift certificate or something? Why do they have to hassle me? The kids would probably enjoy a shopping trip more than lunch... especially if they read the boring essays/poems that they made the middle school kids do ;p

I just REALLY did NOT need another thing going on this week. Thursday was SUPPOSED to be the EASY day. Friday we have this dumb school wide field trip and they are probably making us go along for crowd control >:\ So, both of my "easy" days this week are now going to be almost as STRESSFUL as Wed. when I have to be interviewed by the visiting people.

I hate this week. I wish it were over already, I REALLY do.

And I still have 4 more weeks AFTER this week of being alone without Toygar ;_; It kills me that we aren't even halfway through that yet.

It just feels like I'm making no progress here :\


sarah_sensei: Midna: LoZ Twilight Princess (Default)

January 2015

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