Thursday, July 31, 2014


They get to pick their own color!
      I can't put it off any longer. It is time to format "The Notebook." I usually put this chore off until the very last days of my summer. I say chore because it take 3-4 hours out of my life; one entire evening. But it is a necessary part of my curriculum and in the long run saves me hours of grading every month. So I guess it is worth it.
     The first 2 years I was teaching I had to go through a program called BTSA  so that I would be eligible to make my state issued teaching credential a "clear" credential. Having a clear credential means that you have your credential to teach for life, (as long as you pay the state to renew it every 5 years.) Anyway, I was in a seminar one meeting that I visited an elementary school teacher's classroom and saw what she called her "Common Notebooks." She was using then specifically for science.
     Each student was issued a 70 page, 1 subject, wide ruled, spiral notebook. Throughout the year they would draw, make experiments, write their findings, take notes, etc... What a great idea! She said they saved her a ton of time; everything was in one confined space, and it cut down of paper everywhere (every teacher's bane of existence: paper.)
     I took that idea and ran with it. I go to Walmart every year and buy a 70 pg., college ruled notebook for each of my students (125-150 ea. year.) Then I format one as an example so that they can format theirs. This one notebook contains sections for all 36 weeks of reading logs (5 ea. week) all their journals (25) class and unit notes, Literary terms and lastly a chapter summary section for one of the two novels we read during the year. It takes the kids almost a week to format every page of this book, in pencil, by hand. It is a lesson in being precise and following directions. By the end of the year every one of the 140 pages, back and front, are full. When I want to grade, say, reading logs, I just have them turn to a certain week (wherever we are at the time) and hand them forward. It is so easy to grade and input into the grade book. Each year I have perfected the format: less pages for vocabulary, more for journals or more for class notes, less for chapter summaries. And at the end of the year the students get an actual grade for the notebook as a whole. If they lose the notebook (which I have had a couple of students do) they have to recreate them and everything in them to get the grade. Needless to say, these notebooks become very precious to the  kids.
     But before they format theirs, I must format the original. I do mine in pen (no mistakes allowed) so they can see each page on the LCD overhead as they copy the different sections. It is laborious. My hand hurts when I get done. But like I said, it saves me so much time, it will be all worth it.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Little Surprise

     I went to visit my class room. I do this at least once during the summer. Teachers are continuously gathering class room decorations, ideas, and supplies. These things know no calendar. My first trip was in the beginning of July.
So, this was my second visit just to see what the maintenance people had been up to. They take advantage of a deserted campus to get all the upkeep done. In different years they have painted, repaired walkways and awnings, etc... but they always take the opportunity to clean the carpets in the portables. I have a portable, so when I walked in all the lights were on, the windows open and everything was up off the floor except for a huge fan drying the carpet.
     Well, you say, "How nice for you. Clean carpet." But the stuff on my desk was piled up so high I couldn't see over it. Now, I must preface this bit of information with the fact that before I left for the summer I cleaned everything possible item, unnecessary chair, books, boxes, everything, up off the floor on tables and desks because I knew they would clean the carpet. But this year they not only decided that they would move the desks out, they would also move all the chairs and tables out to clean the carpet. And so EVERYTHING ended up piled on the only piece of furniture that doesn't move (too heavy) MY DESK!

     Then, and here comes the surprise, they moved in new desks. I'm talking brand new desks, some of them still in the wrappers. I now have 20 new desks and 7 stacks of new chairs to go with them, 4 to a stack. Yes, do the math. I now have 20 desks and 28 chairs. I have 25 kids in each of my classes. This is not going to work. The funny thing is that last summer, when they cleaned the carpet, they tagged all my desks with blue tape when they moved them outside to clean. Cool idea. 23 blue tagged desks went outside my portable. 17 came back in. What? How did they lose 6 desks? The morning the kids came back I arrived to find 6 desks piled inside the door of my classroom. Where had they gone? And where did they steal these from to replace mine? Was there someone out there missing desks? I didn't ask. Mine now! It will be interesting to see what they do between now and the first day of school. I need 5 more desks and need to lose 3 chairs. At least I won't have kids sitting on the floor. They just won't have anything to write on.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


     It is two weeks until the beginning of a new school year. I teach English at Santa Maria High School on the Central Coast of California. I started teaching in 2007, at the age of 51. I had many other jobs before I took my 46 year old brain back to school, got my BA in English from the University of Maryland University College and my Single Subject teaching credential from Chapman University in California. I had wanted to be a teacher as long as I could remember, but life has a way of getting in the way. And so I was quite old when I came into this profession.
     When I tell people what I do for a living I get one of two responses. The first one goes something like, "Wow, that's great. We really need dedicated teachers!" The second, and universally more popular response, is, "What? Are you crazy? I would never want to be around that many teenagers! Never!"
     But I truly believe that teenagers are the best people in the world. They are funny and smart and opinionated. They are becoming aware of their individual talents and are passionate about them, whether that talent is art or music or soccer or any of the other thousands of pastimes they fill their days with. They can be the best, loyal, true friends and the worst, ugly, meanest enemies to each other. They are tolerant, creative, sleepy, hyper-active, talkative, quiet, studious and sometimes even the best of them succumb to the choice to fail.
      I know there are many people out in the world that do not teach. Many think we have a cushy profession (look ma: no weekends, no summers, no nights, a 185 day work year.)
     I am beginning this blog in the hopes of sharing my year as a high school teacher. For those of you that teach, I hope you find this blog to be true and entertaining. I also hope that the people who do not teach will find this blog enlightening and...entertaining also. I want to give you a daily look into the real world of high school from a teacher's perspective. The stories and comments you will read will be true, good or bad.
     In the next two weeks I will write about the yearly prep I, and other teachers go through. We really don't get the whole summer off, by the way.
     I hope you will join me in this journey. It always is an interesting year!