Thursday, September 27, 2007

Out of the mouths of babes.

I'm a shoddy blogger. I'm sorry. Thank you to everyone that suffers through it, whomever you are.

I do have something fun to share today. Today was my last day with my first through fourth period kids. I had them all fill out a quick evaluation of my teaching skills. The results were varied, at times touching, and sometimes downright insulting. I had lots of good laughs to overpower my confusion or hurt, though. And although anonymous, I can figure out almost exactly who wrote what. Very fun.

The evaluation I put up on the overhead was as follows:

1. How do you think I managed the class on days when I was in charge? Was I too strict or not strict enough? What can I do to improve in this area?
2. What do you think of my teaching style? Was I interesting, boring, or somewhere in between? What can I do to improve in this area?
3. What do you wish I had done to make class more fun?
4. Please tell me what else I can do to be the best teacher possible!

Here's what they wrote. And I mean, EXACTLY what they wrote.

Period #1: ESOL

A. I think u managed the class good!
you were kool i guess every teacher has
to be kinda of strict But you werent that
like i think you should work on like having more
conversation with us and getting to know us
your teacher style was good i learned some/
thing new everyday
We just should of gotten to get the chance
to know each other.
Other then that u' were a chill & cool
teacher!! u were off
da BOMb
ama miss

B. you did good could of been better
you need to have fun wit it but
dont loose control...

C. Perfectly Stict Don't need to work on
you were interesting
I Don't Know
nothinG *derrogatory racial comment scratched out by author, although why you'd belittle your own race is beyond me*
*a booger appears here*

D. You weren't really strict
but you teached us really well.
You would be really interesting
on your teaching.
You could of done more
I really think that you
are a great teather.
Think you for helping me
when I need help.
I'm really going to miss
You Good Luck!

E. Dear Hilary
I'am give you a 10 because you
did a great Job There nothing To
change you are going
To be a great Teacher and hope
you will come back again it was
Fun having you here.

F. You were perfectly managed the class, not to
strict and and not too little.
Some where in between.
Write down what your teaching.
Made it easyer.
Make something more easy.

G. How do you think I managed the class
on days when I was in charge? you were
a. you were not strict
b. nothing your great how you are
Your teaching style is perfect.
a. You are interesting
b. nothing your perfect the way you are
nothing because class is no fun
nothing, I don't know

H. I think you were strict enough
because I guess to be a good teacher
you can't be too soft or too hard
I think you were really good, just
pay attention when someone is behind
so every student can be on track
I think you were really helpful
I think you are an interesting
teacher but also you can be like
an understanding teacher,

Period #2: Containment

A. You were great

B. I think you did good
We didn't reallly get to
see your style you werent
here to long
hands on
come back

C. your were not stick
you were interesting
bring more Kandy!

D. 100%
great Awsome
Perfect Just keep
goin the way you are.

E. You were strict But not to strict
You are in Betwen
Been her longer
Stay the same.

F. you did pretty good when
you were in charge

G. good, you werent too strict.
you rock!!!
Lots of candies
Just be yourself.

H. I really liked it becdause I'm
tired of being bossed around
and you asked kindly and people
respect that. I don't think
you need to work on anything.
I think your just average nothing
too special.
maybe we could have done more
hands on things.
Have fun and be strict when you
need to be.

I. you are a Decent
teacher you Just Need
more experance.
I Dont Know
what your teaching style is
Pepole fear what they
Dont understand
so lern about your
students so you understand

Period #4: Freshman English

A. I thought You were fine
in between
Play dodge ball on fridays
I thought you were fine

B. really Good. Not really Stricked
Good-and I loved the teaching
Play games or do Jokes
make the assignments
a little fun.

C. Good
Awsome, interesting
*The phrase "Give more candy" is scratched out here because I gave each of my fourth period kids 3 Oreos for being so good while my professor evaluated me yesterday.*
tell jokes.
Thats all

D. I thought you where
just fine
somewhere in Between
Let us Play more games
I think you where fine

E. You weren't strict you were nice
when you ask for our attention
we gave it to you & thats good
Your normal you always give examples
& say things that have happend to you
You did good you just need to speak louder
Nothing just make things more
fun!! and you'll do great

F. You were really nice &
controlled the class really well
it was a Lil boring but most
of the time pretty fun
i don't know.
Your nice! :)

G. no not strict at all but can work on
being striced
You are cool and can talk to
and you R Polite
Let us Play dogeball
to us you are the best
(if you're nice)
we'll miss you!!!!

H. you were fun.
just right

I. I thought you were a good teacher.
I liked your teaching style. It was
really cool.
Like if we have quizes after we
learn, you could give candy
for the people who get the
right awnser.
you could be a little more

J. I think you was great. Because
you wern't to nice or 2 strict.
You somewhere in between.
But I understand you.
Have music.
You can get more intersting
facs about what we are

K. I think you did very well.
To be just right?.. umm i don't
think you should change a thing
sometimes you were boring... but
then again i think it was the
i think you should show your
personality more.
You'll be great.

L. Good I really liked it. No it was
Perfect Not too strict
& Well yeah you were a really
good teacher You are Interesting.
You teach Really good.
Nothing. It's just right.
You did a Good Job Hilary!
We'll Miss You! :)

M. You were pretty cool and chill so I
liked that
we should have
You were a good teacher
and stay way chill! for
real chill teachers are dope

Oh these kids... Even the booger paper will be cherished. I cried in fourth period today. I'm so sad to leave my kids.

I'm exhausted, but hopefully I'll get more about today down... some other time.

The moral of the story: chill teachers are dope dude!

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Pandamonium and publication.

Well, I survived yesterday without Shule just fine. I'm not sure about her sub, though.

I taught ESOL first period. The kids were pretty ornery. Oh well, water under the bridge. We got through it.

Containment was exceptionally good. I gave most of them the full 10 participation points for the day. A couple of guys fell asleep, so... No dice, kids. That class only has two girls in it. One regularly doesn't show, but the last one hasn't been coming the last few days either, so I hope she didn't drop out. Also, I learned a new drug term the other day, specifically, the term "420," and was tickled (if I'm allowed to be?) to see that a student had it emblazoned proudly on his right wrist, like a fake tattoo watch. Hopefully my class is not 4:20 time...

Third period, normally the harriest part of the morning, behaved themselves too. I had a nice chat with the sub, a first-timer fresh off an LDS mission. Green in so many ways, but pleasant nonetheless. If only he knew what was in store for him.

I offered him fourth period as a test run for the rest of the day. I had already modeled the lesson in second period, and I knew that my fourth period kids would behave for him. They did, and he was actually quite charming and had them eating out of his hand! I was kind of jealous. Here I am, with a passion and drive to teach, and Joe California shows up and knocks one out of the park! I felt better about bailing at lunch, though, knowing that he could handle these kids. At least, that's what I thought.

I looked over his notes on the attendance for the last 3 classes. I knew fifth was a big class, and prone to acting up, but it went alright from his brief notes. Sixth is small and decently manageable. Seventh though... Oi vey. Seventh period, a paper fight broke out, and the black button was pushed. The black button, you ask? A feature of the classroom I had failed to notice before, apparently. When kids get really out of hand, you can push a panic button of sorts and have reinforcements at your door in mere seconds. Incredible. I guess kids started jumping on each other, and so Sub had to call for back-up. Poor guy. That was probably the worst $50 he's ever made. Welcome to education.

Today was pretty normal, but a few things stick out that I want to mention. One of Shule's students from last year was hanging around her room before the bell yesterday, looking for someone to listen to her poem. Shule was trying to finish her lesson plans before heading out to a training meeting, so this student was passed on to me. Poet read me a rather angsty piece about her boyfriend, who moved north and avoids her calls now. Quite a lengthy composition, a sheet of lined paper, double sided. No recognizable trace of meter, no rhyme scheme. She did use the word "inscrutable" though, which does merit a nod. Still, I was so pleased that she had found a way to express herself constructively, instead of, as she put it, "tracking him down and screaming, and probably breaking something in the process." Too true. She then showed me the rest of her binder, about 300 handwritten pages of a novel. Already 28 chapters! I say this rather cheekily, but I really am impressed with her dedication. Apparently she has already finished another novel. Think Tolkienian scope of a new world and language system(s), with a dash of her own personal love life (strictly autobiographical), in another galaxy, with Leonardo DaVinci as the mentor figure, under the watchful tutelage of a tenth-grade editor, and voila! The novel. She's planning on mailing it to a publishing company in New York. I hope the rejection process doesn't discourage her too much. She did seem aware of the competition and the high standards of the industry. I just hope they go easy on her.

It got me thinking, though, about helping some students start up a literary magazine. My sister and I were involved with our high school's literary magazine back east, and loved our time listening to and voting on student submissions. Just knowing that some of these kids are writing and don't have a forum in which to share it kills the part of me that's seeking some unrealistic measure of justice. I might not even be in Provo after December, though, and I wonder how fair it is to start something in these students' lives that may be taken away from them so soon, not unlike other arenas of their lives. Still, if I could recruit a teacher to oversee the group, and teach them how to pass judgment fairly on others' writings... It could really be something productive and cathartic. Then again, I don't know how the school does clubs, if they do at all. The curse of dreaming big...

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Back from prison? And the football incident.

It's another week of interning wonders! I am especially wiped out today, so this will be brief.

Our ESOL kids are so darn smart. They learned the word "boycott" today, and my afro-coiffed student (although it is freshly braided to the crown of his head) said, "Boycott... Like you mean with the lead stuff from China?" He reads the news?!? I had to hear about that from my mom, and here was this kid who had actually picked up a newspaper or hovered on a news station long enough to get the gist of what was going on. Score one for the educational system! The class then proceeded to work in groups, discussing various ways boycott might be used in a sentence. When they reconvened to present to the class, almost everyone started off on a tirade against "whites" and the foolishness of those dumb and lazy white people who don't want to work, but want to deport their workers back to Central and South America. Now, I understand that these students have faced a lot of racism in their lives, far more than I have ever dealt with or will have to deal with. However, I spend a lot of time and energy helping to break down stereotypes against Latinos/as, and it's a little hurtful to hear my own race so tidily belittled and scoffed at. I'm not really sure how to deal with it. I kept my mouth shut in class. Shule tried to brush it off, saying things like, "That's not true..." but the kids were rather vocal. I felt hurt. It cuts both ways, people. Today was my most disappointing first period thus far.

Containment was same old. My flirty friend is back. I don't think he actually went to prison, but the kids sure thought it was great that a classmate might be in the slammer. He was not so bold today. He only said "thank you" to me when I brought him the reading chart he missed last week. So something happened. I'm having a hard time staying emotionally detached from the students. I worry about them all, and some are clearly having a harder time getting by financially and emotionally than others. So I hope my alleged jailbird didn't have too rough of a weekend.

No third period today because Tuesdays are shorter days for teacher in-service. Woo-hoo!

And last but not least, my beloved fourth period freshmen. I graded their paragraphs they wrote last week for a school-mandated prompt. The paragraphs are graded on a 1 to 4 scale, with 4 being exceptional. A 3 is a school-wide goal for our students. The school assumes they will hit about a 2 on their first shot, and many students will get a 1 if they don't really try at all. Well, I taught my kids exactly what they would need to do to get a 3, and though that felt odd at first and I wanted to "teach to the 4!" I knew I had to be realistic. Well, I had to give my whole class 2s, and I gave them good reasons for the scores they received, so the revisions should turn out really well. Anyway, one lone student, a shy girl from the left corner of the class, wrote a solid 3 paragraph. I was so proud! I asked her if she would read it to the class, but she said she would prefer if I just read it. I did, and her neighbors figured out that it was hers and made a fuss. To see her straighten up and look proud, if a little sheepish, was awesome. I wish all of my students could feel like that every day. I try to make them feel like they can do anything if they try hard enough, but sometimes I feel spread so thin that I worry I'm not reaching them all. And I only really have one class! Still, they're "mine," and I hope I don't lose their interest over the next couple of weeks...

No Shule tomorrow, so it's me and the sub to keep everyone in line! I'm terrified, but Shule emailed me the lesson plan, so hopefully nothing too catastrophic shall pass between 7:30 and 11:30 tomorrow morning.

Oh, the football incident. I almost forgot. Because Tuesdays are shorter, I also saw Shule's fifth and sixth period classes today. I can't remember which class, but one of the boys had a football and was hucking it to another kid a few seats behind him. I went over and asked him his name. "Juan." Conveniently, after I had called him Juan 17 times, I learned his real name, which was not Juan. Anyway, regardless of his name, I asked him to put the football in his backpack. He responded, "It doesn't fit." I said, "Then give it to me." Aaaand blank stares. Okay. I tried again with his two options. Stares. Hmm...Some teenagers are just indiscriminately mean. I certainly didn't want to stand there hovering over a football, calling a kid by someone else's name, looking like an inept idiot. I feel like I'm reliving eighth grade... Ouch. :(

Thursday, September 13, 2007

"This is soooo ghetto..."

Everything with these kids is "ghetto" or "gay." A friend told me on the phone today that I should have an activity in which they actually have to discover new adjectives that actually do something crazy - describe the object about which they are speaking! Handouts are not ghetto. Overheads are not gay. Geeze.

I also managed to steer clear of the overhead pens today. Yesterday, I came home up to my elbows in ink, and because I nervously touch my neck when I teach, I had blue smudges all around my hairline. Only minorly embarrassing...

School was pretty routine today. Some of my ESOL kids are getting excited about the letters to Senator Hatch they are currently drafting. I showed them how to create an appropriate heading for a business letter. They were so excited by how professional their letters looked once they changed the font from size 18 Curly to standard size 12 Times New Roman and slapped a few addresses and the date at the top. Amazing. My mom-student's letter is quite good. She is so proud of her work, which makes me want to burst. That's one of the most satisfying feelings I have ever experienced. Weird thing of the day: some of my kids freaked out when their letters overflowed to a second page. Somehow they had it in their heads that a letter should only be a page long. Oh, the panicked margin adjusting I saw today... I think psychologically it worries them that they're actually creating something substantial. It makes them more accountable for what they write, I think.

A note about Containment: I learned the other day that students are only put in Containment after fair warning, and can work their way out with good behavior. The school has students from a girls' home and a boys' home. Those kids and Containment kids have a special lunch so they can't interact with other students. The isolation is really unpleasant for them, so most of the students in Containment want to work well so they can be with their friends again. That's probably what makes that class one of Shule's easiest to deal with, surprisingly. Today was no exception. Incidentally, the boy that was sort of checking me out yesterday went to court after school, and rumor has it that he's in jail now. So maybe that won't be an issue anymore...

Third period was hard again, as usual. The whiny girl sets off the rest of the class like a spark and... The analogy escapes me. Anyway, she is seriously getting under my skin, in a bad way. Shule, bless her, has a hard time being disciplinarian in that class because there are a lot of demands on her attention. Whiny Girl was painting her nails during class, and Shule had a hard time following up with her about putting away the bottle of polish. I didn't want to disrepect Shule's control (because I generally sit back in that class and observe), but I seriously wanted to give that girl a piece of my mind. For a lot of students, they just want to do their thing for their own purposes; getting caught is an unfortunate hazard of that. Whiny Girl, however, wants to cause a scene. Well, if it's a scene she wants...

And fourth period... My class! Again, today was a great day. I'm really lucky, they are a great group of kids. Plus, freshmen still have a spark of innocence in them and actually thrive with praise. Some of the older kids here wouldn't bat an eyelash if you cut them a check for $5k right then and there. I got all their names today, too, which made for better inclusion and more responsive kids. I feel like they are starting to trust me. It goes both ways, they tested me a bit more today, but they also got into group work much more enthusiastically. They love showing me how they can problem solve and how detail-oriented they can be without being told to be. One girl with Cleopatra eye make-up got her whole group to box up this part of the paragraph, and underline that part, and circle errors... Who is this child?!? The great thing about a school setting such as this is that these kids get a chance to be leaders in ways that were never an option for them in their mainstream schools. One of my brightest and most motivated ESOL kids told me this morning that he's running for Student Council here. His face was GLOWING! Here he is truly among his peers, and he stands a shot at actually feeling the rush of participating in change and in earning the respect of other people.

Spark in a tinderbox. Is that the analogy?

No school tomorrow, because of teacher in-service, which means I can sleep in tomorrow. Yay!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

My first class ever, and the misapplication of the term "racist."

Today I did not encounter any tow trucks, so that right there made today a better day than yesterday.

I already taught my first class today. Shule is a jump-right-in kind of gal, and when she asked me if I felt like getting up in front of her fourth period class, who was I to say no? But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The day began as usual with ESOL, which is becoming my favorite class already. Maybe it's too early for my kids to be rowdy, but generally first period is calm and productive. I'm a little biased anyway, since I find ESL is a really interesting and growing field of education. This class has students from all grades (9-12 here, which is unusual for Utah), and the freshman tend to be very overwhelmed with the prospect of writing an entire letter. It's not that the English is difficult, although it is an ever-present concern and challenge. These kids aren't used to anyone asking them to do anything incredibly difficult. Yesterday I reviewed, corrected, and commented on all their letters. Some were remarkably good. Others struggled to get anything down on paper. I wrote on many of these letters that they were missing conclusion paragraphs. After brainstorming out loud with some of my froshies, I then turned the task over to them.

Four kids, independent of each other, listened to my huge long explanation of conclusion paragraphs and my suggestions for improvement, then turned to their keyboards and asked, "Sooo... What do I write?" I learned a valuable lesson today: Sometimes you have to walk away, or your kids will finagle a way for you to do the work for them. So I did a lot of walking away today.

Second period brought Shule and me out to Containment. Something about that room... It reeks to high heaven. It smells like stale incense mixed with moldy crackers or something. Now, the kids might just stink, especially since they are not allowed to leave the portable except for lunch. That's a lot of teenage boy smell floating around in a small space. There are also a number of large bluish black stains on the carpet. What they are, I don't care to find out, but they are highly suspect. Regardless of the stench, Shule's lesson went really well, and it was on that lesson I would model my own lesson in fourth period. I worry about some of the kids in Containment. Two of them fell asleep every few minutes, sitting straight up in their seats. Now, that makes me wonder what is going on outside of school with these kids. They might just be staying up late, but my mind goes to all the wild possibilities that might keep teenage boys awake in bed, including family troubles, sleeping disorders, or fear. I hope they're okay. Some of the aids were getting cranky that the two boys wouldn't keep alert, but I know that it's not always a respect issue. Then again, sometimes it is. I guess I'll never know.

Containment also afforded what I hope does not become a recurring experience in my early teaching years. One of the students, a very handsome (minus the barbed wire earrings) and well-built junior, was cracking some very friendly jokes with Shule at the start of class that I thought were exceptionally clever and good-natured, both qualities I wasn't expecting from him. Well, I was all smiles and appreciative laughter, but I definitely encouraged something that I shouldn't have. The rest of the class, I felt his eyes glued to me. I tried very hard to avoid his gaze. Admittedly, it got him really involved in the lesson, because he wanted me to look at him and smile or something, I don't know. We were warned about this at the start of the internship, that our male students might find something very exciting about "mature" older women who also happen to have access to grades. I will, of course, deflect any advances he may make in the future. I will not be an accessory to grade tampering!

Third period was kind of a wreck. Every teacher has an SEOP group third period, a group of students he/she sticks with for all four years. Shule's kids are juniors, and no one seems to take SEOP too seriously. Shule and my challenge is to come up with an activity to get them thinking about the reality and possibility of graduation. We're fine-tuning a collage project, with a written assignment of a letter to themselves for graduation day. We'll see how that goes down. These kids are hard to engage. The funniest part of the day happened here though. One of the kids, a redhead, had his pants ripped by another student today, and the FACS teacher offered to sew them up for him. Meanwhile the kid sat, humiliated, in gym shorts about two sizes too small for him. Another student, a girl with horribly dyed black hair, kept whiny to Shule about wanting to go to her locker, an activity clearly restricted to passing time. After this girl had a minor tantrum, Shule let the redhead go get his shorts so as to better cover himself and end his misery. Well, that just sent the whiny girl off the edge. Her next declaration went something like this:

"Shule, you let Redhead leave the class! You hate me, don't you? You're so racist!" Now, Shule is Latina, and the other two kids are Anglo. That is about the only place race factors in. If the girl with the awful black hair had said "sexist" instead of "racist," she might have had a better case, somehow suggesting that Shule hates her own gender, and therefore let the boy leave and not the girl. So a better case by just by a little bit. But even that is confounded by Shule's being a fairly empowered woman. So, I have no response to dyed-hair girl. Ah, kids...

Finally, fourth period. What a dream! It is amazing the adrenalin rush I got as soon as I stood up. I had about five minutes to draft out my version of Shule's lesson, but surprisingly everything went off without a hitch. I got these kids thinking, helping me. The only thing that slowed me down was not knowing names. But it's only my second day, so I won't be too hard on myself. I felt like I neglected about a half of the class because I didn't have time to get names. These kids are bullet trains; if you don't keep up with them, they derail in an instant, and then the whole class is a waste and impossible to reclaim. So even without getting to every student, I still communicated what I needed to. Shule's comments: very natural in front of the class, said "thank you" and built good rapport with students that way, called on one kid for not taking notes, didn't let kids shout out answers, steered tangents back to lesson material well... Yay! I get warm-fuzzies knowing that the lesson felt as good on the receiving end as I felt giving it.

After I taught, Shule and I debriefed and planned for tomorrow, and then I headed outside to my car. I opened my door, sat down, and started shaking. I didn't realize how exhausted I was. I put every ounce of my emotional and mental energy into that class period. Once I was off-duty, my body was ready to collapse. I don't know how to best deal with that. I'm sure it'll be an evolving experience. I teach again tomorrow, so hopefully I'll get used to this demand on my system to perform.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

"Have a better day!" and "Are you nervous?"

I thought today was going to be hard. This was the first on-site day of my 20 hour per week internship course, the first three weeks of which I will aid and teach at a high school for at-risk students and disciplinary cases here in Provo. I expected the dregs. I braced myself all weekend for an inevitable barage of obscenity, drugs, cruelty, promiscuity, insert favorite social depravity here. Quite tragically, my difficulties began much earlier than the morning bell today, let me tell you.

I had to be at my assigned school by 7:40 this morning, 15 minutes before the first period bell rang. I didn't sleep well last night, but I did leave myself enough time in the morning to run up to the Y to print off my resume for my mentor. Of course, the printing network was down. Campus-wide. So I hopped back in my rusty-chic Acura Legend and frantically called my roommates to see who had bothered to hook up a printer since we moved in. Bless her, Katie had, so I careened down 700 E., narrowly dodging the UTA buses that crash indifferently around Provo. Now, the aforementioned rusty-chic Acura Legend is quite stylish, and so sits rather low to the ground. It is also about as broad and long as a sedan can be legally, if legal limits exist, which is an argument for another time. Anyway, actually getting my car into and then parking it in our basement garage is such a headache, involving a complicated maneuver of pulling in and backing up about seven times. Thinking this would be a quick trip inside, I parked my Acura in front of the dumpster just south of my building. I flew up the stairs, burst into Katie's room in a whirlwind, waited for my overburdened iBook G4 to wake up, waited for the computer to recognize the printer, waited for the print job to send... A hurry up and wait situation. I was looking at 7:35 by that point. If I floored it, I would be just a minute or two late. I turned around, ran out of my place and down the two flights of stairs, only to see my beauty of a car hooked up to a tow truck. Argh...

Of course, there is a wonderful thing called a "half tow," so the guy dropped my car for $60.50. Now, I needed my car, but I hate throwing away money like that, especially because of my own stupidity. $60.50 is 7.5625 untaxed work hours for me. I still feel sick about it, but at that point, what could I have done? The poor tow guy was so sweet; he asked me if I was late for work, which was admittedly an awkward and somewhat unnecessary question, as I was standing there in gray slacks, a white button-down shirt, pearl earrings, and black dress shoes. I even blow-dried and straightened my hair today! C'mon. Duh. At least he was trying to soothe my obviously flustered soul. It wasn't much of a balm, but then beggars can't be choosers.

"No," I answered, "First day of an internship." This is going to sound masochistic, but I was kind of pleased with the gravity of my response. This was serious business. I was really impressed with how quickly he worked to get my car free from the blasted truck. His parting shot: "Have a better day!" I think it's one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me. He wasn't much older than me, and my one prior experience with a tow guy was less than agreeable. I think I'm going to write University Parking Enforcement a note asking them to thank that kid for me. Nobody is happy to see a tow truck, but he had the perfect demeanor for a tow truck driver/operator. Not many people can claim that, you know.

Alright, so on to the school. Though I was 10 minutes late for the first day, the other girl from BYU with the same school assignment had been on time but had only sat there in the main office, so I felt the clouds begin to part a bit. Almost as soon as I stepped into the office and announced myself, I was hustled out to my mentor's classroom. Fate worked her magic once again. I have been placed with the embodiment (albeit Latina, and I am very, if not lamentably, Anglo) of my vision for myself as a teacher. Shule (pronounced SOO-lay) is a perfect mentor for me. I'll be helping with her first four periods. Her first class of the day is ESOL, which is what I am studying for my minor (TESOL K-12). Ahhh-leluia! It's going to be a good way for me to brush up on my Spanish and continue my ESL work. Second period requires us to migrate to "Containment," which I'll explain in a moment. Third period is a school wide study hall period. They run announcements and Channel One (a national adolescent news channel broadcast in schools), and let everyone catch his/her breath and get themselves caught up on work. A great idea, especially when the school day is disproportionately split around lunch. Fourth period is standard freshman English. Well, standard for this school. I guess it's pretty unique held against the rest of the school district.

Okay, so "Containment" is an interesting thing. You would think that isolating these students in a special school for their specific behavioral needs would be extreme enough to create a constructive environment for learning. Apparently, not so for some students. This school has a portable classroom called "Containment" that is for students who, even in the "last straw" school, have found a way to label themselves as the troubled students. I was a little disturbed by the concept, especially when these students were very pleasant to me. Sure, everyone looked a bit rough around the edges, but no one was outwardly offensive. Oh well, trust the system I s'pose.

I've been interested to learn that students at this school are placed here for a variety of reasons. One of my ESOL students, at the ripe old age of 17, has a baby boy, and was transferred to this school to help spare her from her peers at her mainstream high school during her pregnancy, as well as to accomodate her schedule now, as she needs to nurse and somehow be a mother, even though I thought she was a freshman when I first saw her. I read some of her written work today. I was so moved and frustrated at the same time. If the strain of being a single teenage mother isn't enough already, add the stress of being the only illegal alien in your family. Her parents and brother's papers have all been processed, but hers hasn't gone through yet. She wanted to marry her baby's father, but the INS told her they would cancel her paperwork and she would have to start over if she did. And yet this girl has dreams of being a Registered Nurse, loves to get involved in Student Council, and has already started courses at a junior college. These kids are bright and have incredible potential. Some have met uncontrollable road blocks, and many more have made a few major mistakes that have dead-ended them. I don't know where to start. Grammar and formal letter structure seem so trivial. These kids need serious life coaching, life overhaul. But I guess that's what these teachers are doing, in a way. Shule is a great example of providing safe, constructive outlets for the anger many of these students feel about where both life and mistakes have brought them. It's therapeutic, and the intimate classes (8-18 students) allow for a high level of interaction and purposeful exchange of ideas.

Put your hands up and step away from the soapbox. One of my first period kids raised his hand after I introduced myself and asked me, with a smirk, "Are you nervous?" How subtly he tested my boundaries... I looked him square in the eyes and said, loudly, "NO." I really wasn't. I'm kind of glad my car almost got towed. I was so freaked out about that, I didn't have the energy to waste on jitters. I just marched in, got pushed in front of a class, and set off running.

I love what I have decided to do with my life. Day 1 done.