Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Month in Review

As Thanksgiving is upon us (yay yay yay!) and the month is drawing to a close, thought I'd update you on a few exciting events at work. Things just get more and more exciting.

Report Card Pickup Day was November 13. That is the way CPS handles Parent Teacher conferences. Teachers are at school from 1:00 - 6:00 so that parents can pick up their children's report cards. Out of approximately 130 students (all of whom presumably have parents or guardians), I had visits from 21 parents. Most of the parents were there just to pick up the report card for their child, and not to discuss grades. I have 26 Division students (homeroom), so I had their report cards. I had less than ten parents who wanted to discuss grades. Which meant I spent a lot of time reading online and looking at my watch.

It went ok, considering. One parent cursed me out, because I did not have her daughter's report card. I didn't have it because according to our school, her daughter had not paid all her school fees. I have no control over this, nor do I have any idea of who has paid school fees. I just hand out the report cards. So this mom, who is a CPS teacher, so you think she'd know better, starts yelling and cursing at me. That was fun. I just said, "You'll have to talk to someone else; I'm afraid I cannot help you." She did come by later and apologize.

And one mom (who I have met before, as I was her son's English teacher last year when he was a sophomore) was very upset about the fact that her son had no teacher for seven weeks, then got me, and now I'll be leaving for maternity leave. I don't blame her for being upset -- it's ridiculous the way the situation has been handled. I tried to assure her that my replacement was a certified teacher and hopefully that would be the last English teacher her son will have this year. She was not impressed.

Speaking of my upcoming maternity leave (I'm counting down the days!), I finally realized why my students are so bad. They think I'm a sub. Being a sub in CPS is way worse than being a teacher. The students are horrific to subs. Lots of retired teachers go back and sub, but I've told my husband that should I make it to retirement age in CPS, I will not sub! So he better be making some good investments.

At any rate, the policy at my school (I don't think it's official CPS policy, and I'm pretty sure it's not in writing anywhere, but it's definitely the rule) is that a sub cannot fail a student. Even if the sub is a fully certified teacher. Even if the student doesn't come to class or do any work, ever. If the class is being taught by a sub, the student has to pass. Somehow the students know about this.

They've figured out that my maternity leave starts January 5, 2009 (the first day back from winter break). The second quarter doesn't end until January 23. So I won't be the teacher entering grades for second quarter. They believe that means that I'm basically not their real teacher, so they can just put up with me (and behave as terribly as possible, it seems) and then they'll have a new teacher who can't fail them.

This makes things really fun for me. I've never had classroom management issues like these before. This is my sixth year teaching, and never has it been this bad. I'm so sorry I ever complained about past classes, for I had no idea what I had coming to me. In my third period freshmen class, the students yell and curse and laugh the entire class period. When I talk, it's like I'm not even there. I have to just write the assignment on the board and just stare at them. It's excruciating.

My fifth and sixth period classes are better. Fifth is really quite good -- they are the class that gets me through the day. Sixth period has four thug boys who have been coming lately, which makes that class less pleasant. And that's the class where a girl announced that I wasn't even a real teacher, since I wouldn't be there to give grades at second quarter and semester.

I have lunch seventh period (always a highlight). Then I have to endure eighth and ninth periods. Eighth period is an inclusion class, so I have a special ed teacher who assists me and works with the three special ed kids in the class. The special ed teacher was the teacher subbing for that class the first seven weeks of school. She doesn't seem to mind the students screaming and yelling the whole period. The students all consider her the real teacher and completely ignore me. So again, I have to just write the assignment on the board and stare at them. And take many, many deep breaths. One of the students asked why I kept making that noise. I said, "I'm taking deep breaths so I can get through your class."

Ninth period (last period of the day!) is no picnic, either. In that class, 28 students are enrolled. About seven show up each day. And no one comes on time. They trickle in from ten minutes past the start of class, and keep coming until the end. They pay me no attention whatsoever. They don't scream or yell, for the most part -- they are pretty quiet. But it's really as if I'm not there.

There is one kid in that class who comes in and stands with his head out of the window the whole class period. He asked me one day how he could pass my class. I said he'd have to come and actually do some work (he's never turned in an assignment). I then assigned that class their Beowulf books. He refused to take a book, since he said he wouldn't use it. I told him that would not assist in his efforts to pass my class. He then left the room. But he knows that when the sub takes over for me, he'll pass. That is crazy and so unfair!

OK, one more update. My Division students got their PLAN test scores back today. The PLAN test is made by the College Board -- it's a mini-ACT test, and the scores are a predictor of a student's future ACT score. The average ACT score at my high school is a 15. My students received the following scores: one 19, one 18, two 17s, one 16, two 15s, six 14s, six 13s, and four 11s. 11s! CPS has a goal of every student achieving a 20 on the ACT. But until the elementary schools in Chicago can figure out how to teach basic literacy and math to struggling students, I don't see how that can happen. If you make it to ninth grade and still don't have basic math and literacy skills, what are you supposed to do? What am I supposed to do? We need to completely restructure the schools in this city.

I'm sure there are more things I wanted to share, but that's all I can think of right now.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I don't understand how the h.s. teachers are supposed to get the ACT scores up to 20 when we need to start teaching lower level grade skills. The curriculum is ridiculous. It preaches "make your lessons relevant to your students" while using teaching examples that involve golf, a soccer club selling roses and tiling the fish pool in a backyard. My guess is that not one of my kids has ever golfed, the school has no soccer team and none has seen a little fish pond in their back yard. Madness.