Friday, February 27, 2015

Progress

     Although my students are taller than this (and many of them taller than me!) this cartoon still stands true to form for my classes' grades. Currently I have 117 students. At the semester break I lost many of my juniors to Independent Study, Delta High School (which is a continuation h.s.) and other teaching programs we offer in the district.
     Progress report grades are due in today. I have had final grades posted on my wall since Monday. I always give the students an opportunity to see if I missed something or they missed something. I have been known to make a mistake but the fault usually falls in their court.
     So, here's the count for this 1st progress report of the semester:
A's: 39   B's: 20   C's: 14   D's: 14   F's: 30
     I was hoping for a much lower number of D's and F's, combined number 44, which is the grades Admin. looks at. I don't know exactly why they look at them. I don't know what they do with the information since we cannot be judged by our students' grades. And they are not my main concern here. Since all of my low grades stem from work not done, I wish I saw more high level grades because that means that the kids are actually doing the work and getting the most out of their education.
     Luckily they still have time to "get with the program" before these all important junior-year grades go on their transcripts.
    

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Bell to Bell


     We have a policy here at SMHS about teaching "bell to bell". This means that the second the bell rings to begin class, we start teaching and end teaching when the bell rings at the end of the period.
     Obviously the people who decided on this policy are clueless. We have a campus that takes a full 8 minutes to walk across, and longer if a students gets stuck in a backpack jam or has to use the bathroom or wants to get a drink of water. Many of my kids come flying through the door as the last bell rings (after a 3 minute warning bell) and are never in their seats, ready to proceed.
     Obviously the people who decided on this policy are not familiar with teenagers. They don't do anything in a hurry! A 5 minute walk to the library turns into a 10 minute stroll. Once they do get where they're going they have to unplug (earbuds) and put their phone away and then get their stuff and then look at pictures on their friend's phone and then maybe sit down, all the time talking about the latest soccer game or cars or the cutest boy, or homework from another class.
     And without a word from me, I start losing them 5 minutes before the end of class. Most of the time I hold their attention, (my "mom look" comes in handy) but I think for the most part teaching bell to bell is a nice concept but not very doable.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Hot and Cold

     Every day I look out my kitchen window as I make breakfast and decide what to wear that day. It is now the last week of February. According to our National Weather Almanac our average temperature this time of year is 64*This morning as I was driving to school the thermometer in my car read 43* and the forecast for today's is that temperatures are supposed to get into the mid 70's. But I know it is hotter than that out there. Students start complaining about the heat about 75* and they have been complaining since 4th period which starts at only10:30.
     This has been an on-going, up and down cycle since the beginning of the school year. The kids never know what to wear. I see tank tops and sandals when it's only 62* and heavy sweatshirts, nice and warm in the morning but way too hot by lunch. Because we don't have lockers, the kids are reluctant to wear layers because they have to lug them around all day. I may have to break down and bring in a fan this year. Research shows that optimal learning temperature in a class room is 67*. We rarely hit 67* as our heat comes on at 68*and our air conditioning doesn't come on until 78* It is a never ending battle that we will never win.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Sports

     Excuse me while I put a short rant out into the universe. It has to do with sports at school. When I was in school an athlete had to maintain a 2.0 average GPA in every class. It has always bothered me that now, at least in our district, the school athletes only have to maintain a 2.0 GPA overall. This means that they can fail a couple of their classes and still play on the school teams. This just doesn't seem right to me. I have students every grade-posting time come to me and ask if they can do anything to bring up their grade. I ask them how they are doing in all their other classes. Most of the time they are failing as many as they can get away with but, if I give them a better grade or take that missed assignment or that late paper, they can go ahead and play.
     Today I had a young man come to me and ask if I would give him credit for work he did but didn't hand in on time. I have a strict no-late-work policy. I am trying to establish a routine of responsibility, especially this year since my juniors are almost seniors. His grades in all his classes were: 2 (maybe 3) F's, 4 C's, and an A (in art, in case you were wondering.) so he has 4 points for the A, 2 points each for the 4 C's and nothing for the F's, which leave him a total of 12 points divided by 7 classes = 1.71 GPA. If that one C becomes an F ( and it looks like it will be) he will only have 10 points divided by 7 = 1.42 GPA.
He: "I really need to be sure I get a 1.5 GPA. Will you accept my late journals?"
Me: "Why should I accept yours when I don't accept work from any one else?"
He: "Because they don't care. They're not in here asking for it."
Me: "Sorry I won't take the late work. It's not fair for everyone that got their work in on time."
He: "But I NEED to get a 1.5 to play volleyball!"
Me: "You mean a 2.0."
He: "No. If I can get my teachers to give me a 1.5 I can apply for a waiver."
Me: "You mean you can apply for a grade waiver?"
He: "Yeah."
Me getting kind of mad: "Sorry. If you want to play you should have worked for a better grade. I suggest you do all your work for the next two weeks before they start practice and maybe you can bring your grade to a D instead of an F." (His grade in my class is an F.)
He walked away, with nothing more to say to me and from my observation, didn't bother to do his work in class. He'll probably hit all his teachers and ask for the same favor.
     So here's the rant. What is this district thinking by letting the kids play on a team with a 1.5 GPA and a waiver? What message are they sending? Not a good one. We are telling them they only have to be mediocre to represent our schools. And that it is more important to play on a team right now than to want to get good grades so hopefully they can go to college.
     2.0 overall is bad enough! Waivers. I'm disgusted. And I hope none of this student's other teachers give in.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Sick Day

     Today I am home with my husband who has been sick since Saturday. I hate to take the day off when I'm not sick but it is scary when he has been so sick he cannot keep his heart medication down! So, I am here; quietly watching over him while he sleeps and making sure he has what he needs.
     I'm sure my students are missing me. Hey! I heard that laugh! Actually, I think they are getting sick of having subs in the class. I have been to too many professional development days this year and because I can't trust the subs to work a lesson plan I always have the kids do the same thing. SSR/Log and if it is a regular day they also do a journal. But today happens to be an early-out day so they will only have time, in the 30 minutes of class, to read and log. It's good for them!
     And now I am glad that I worked so hard last week to input grades because progress report grades are due Friday. I have been stricter with my deadlines and assignments since the first of the semester. My students are almost seniors now, they need to get serious. I'll let you know how that's working for me later in the week...
     Tomorrow my husband will be better, I hope. and I can return to my reality. But for the rest of the day, I am going to sit and read and fill his juice glass and cover him when he gets cold. Oh, and because it's Monday I will have to take the trash out for collection tomorrow morning. It's days like this that make me realize just how spoiled I am!

Friday, February 20, 2015

What's up?

   Well, I was wondering what was happening when I got to school this morning
. The entire practice field was roped off. And over the course of the morning the field became filled with cars. Come to find out, our campus is hosting the CIF Wrestling matches. We have always had a good wrestling team but this year and last year we have excelled. I am hoping we rank and place this year at the top!
In other news...updates...
We have not had any further instructions on our new phone system. I still have two phones on my desk and, taking the advice of the tech department, I answer the one that rings.
We have not had any training for the tablets we got the first day back, in January. Hmmm...this does not bode well. Mine is still in my box.
Grades are up for this semester's first progress report. I have 38 A's (out of 130+/- students) and 40 F's. Yes, that's an improvement from last semester.
 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

The Book Battle

     My students are responsible to read each day and by the end of the week they are to have 5 reading logs to turn in. I grade them each Monday. On Monday and usually Friday I give them time to do reading and logging so that the homework doesn't pile up.
     This last week, while I was walking the classroom, grading and checking on their last week's reading logs, I noticed that one of my students was logging about 50 Shades of Grey. Ack! What the heck? He's 15.
Me: "Are you reading this book?"
Him: "Yeah."
Me: "Do your parents know you're reading this book?"
Him: "Yeah. Well, um...no."
Me: "Do you think they would want you to read this book?"
Girl sitting next to Him: "My sister saw the movie. She said it was boring."
Me to Her: "Not the point."
Me to Him: "I would prefer you not read this book, mainly because I don't want to read it and I don't want to have to read about it in your logs." "And," I said with a stern look, "You shouldn't be reading this book. It's too old for you."
On I go, down the aisles till I come to another student who is reading a totally inappropriate book for his age level also: The Diary of a Whimpy Kid.
I just can't win this battle!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Hats are back!

Hats are back this spring and with any fashion statement, teenagers are the first to embrace it. This young lady is one of my students and she looks very cute in hers.

Araceli
     But several years ago we banned baseball hats from campus. Gangs were using the hats as symbols for gang membership. I don't think it was a big issue with anything but baseball caps, especially the ones with team names on them, i.e the Raiders. But with anything one does with children, if you give them an inch, they take a mile. So now, after several years, baseball hats are starting to filter back onto the campus. Granted they are not as common as they once were, but you can look out at break and lunch and see a couple here and there. Two of my students wear one every day, even though I make them take them off and put them in their backpacks. And I have no doubt that before long all the kids will be wearing them, just like they did before. Teenagers...gotta love 'em!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Higher Level Thinking

"Hey!" One kid says to another as they look at the phone screen. "That's who you're talking about? I heard she's back on the market!"
"What?" I asked one of them. "Did you just say someone was 'back on the market'?
He: "Yeah. This really cute girl."
Me: "Really? You couldn't come up with a more appropriate way to say that? Back on the market? What is she? A piece of meat?" I asked.
He: "No! Mrs. Nelson! Geesh!" he stammered. "That's not what I meant! You always think at a higher level!"
Me: "Yes. That's what I get paid to do: think at a higher level."
He: "Does that make your brain hurt?"
Me: "No. I'm used to it."


Thursday, February 12, 2015

BFF


This is a picture of Lesley Riley, my BFF on this campus. She has worked in the computer lab for 29 years here at Santa Maria High School. Lesley has been such a help to me in the 7 years I've worked here. Being a computer technician, she has helped me and my students out of, and through, a myriad of computer problems. If a student can't get their email I tell them to go see Mrs. Riley. When they come to me and say they've "lost" their essays, I tell them to go to go talk to Mrs. Riley! And they do. And she helps them. Always with a smile! And she has even come to my class room and helped me with my computers, which let me tell you shows a dedication because it's a serious hike to my class room from her computer lab! And I would like to add to this blog post that the only way we teachers can function and do our job is because all the classified staff, like Lesley, who help us. Joyce, who does the Xeroxing. Jevi who is the secretary for the maintenance department, Rocia who mans the information desk, not to mention all the Administrative Assistants who keep the front office running smoothly. Thank you to all, but especially Lesley!
Lesley Riley, Spring 2015

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Lookin' Good

One of my students commented on the skirt I am wearing today.
"I like your skirt Mrs. Nelson. Good choice of pattern and color!" (Yes, those were his exact words.)
"Well," I said, "I get lucky every once in awhile."
"Oh! we're talking about THAT too?" He smiles. (Quite the joker, this one.)
"No." I pointed to him. "We are NOT going there! Get back to work!"
"Sure, Mrs. Nelson. Anything you say!" He says, still smiling.
I should have gone with a simple thank you.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Pajamas!

   Everybody is wearing pajamas today! It is the beginning of another Spirit Week! We have them several times a year and this one is always pretty popular. As one of my students said, "We should make EVERY Monday a pajama day! I bet more kids would come to school if they could just pop up out of bed and wear their pajamas to school!" She's probably right. (And yes, I know today is Tuesday but it feels just like a Monday because we had a holiday yesterday.) The most popular pattern for pajama pants today has been super heroes with Superman #1. Tomorrow is Neon Day. I don't think we have ever had that one before so it will be exciting to see what the kids will come up with. 

Friday, February 6, 2015

Music for a Friday

  The students' taste in music never ceases to amaze me. It is pretty eclectic ranging from Reggae to Hispanic/Latino songs, with a lot of Rap thrown in.
Today one of my students was singing to a song through his ear buds that I could not hear.
"Mrs. Nelson," he said, "I found the most beautiful song! Want to hear it?"
"Sure." I said.
He proceeded to pull his ear buds out and turn up the volume so I could hear it.
I don't really know what I expected...
But it wasn't what he played for me.
I found myself listening to a piece of Jazz music from the 1930's: the full rendition of "I Want to be Loved by You." You know...the one Betty Boop used to sing? (Did I just date myself? Really, I'm not that old but you can't live for almost 60 years and not have heard that song...)
He was amazed I knew the words! We sang a line or two together to the music and then he put his ear buds back in and walked off; smiling.
     

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Frustration!

     Oh, it used to be so simple! In all the time that schools have existed, teachers have been keeping track of students' work and progress in grade books. When I started teaching 8 years ago, everyone, (well, to be truthful, not everyone. There are other programs that were used and some people even still made hard copy grade books) in our district used a computer program called Aeries, which I was shown how to use and used successfully. I thought it was a good grade book system; maybe it didn't provide everything for every circumstance, but it was fairly user friendly and it and I got along well. When this school year started our district decided to have everyone do their grades on Aeries.net, a web based, updated version of the old Aeries. They gave us some minimal training and gave us some phone numbers to call if we needed help. With that training I was able to set up my grade books this last fall. So, fast forward to January. I knew I was going to have to set up new grade books but what to do about the old ones?
     I worked on it by myself for a week, every spare moment I could. But it was all too much for me and I eventually ended up calling the District Office for some tech help. When I was done with that phone call, I had the grade books set up and the students enrolled and now all I had to do was input the assignments. The next day, I did that boring task. Saved. Done. YAY!
     Feeling accomplished, I closed the program, knowing it would be ready for me to put in grades.
     Which was today.
     For whatever reason, when I opened the program this morning, all the assignments were gone.
Gone. All that work.
Now I have to do it all over again.
No. I don't know where they went, or why they disappeared.
Gone...(heavy sigh...)
      

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Really Old!

     I introduced the Persuasive Essay today. When I got done telling the students the purpose of the Persuasive Essay, (now called the Argumentative Essay; I don't know why. People just can't leave well enough alone) I transitioned into the different topics they would be able to choose from for their individual essays. About half way down the list there was the topic of "Early School Days." I got quizzical looks about that one. The subject is referring to how early the school day starts vs. how early the teenage brain begins working. (Our school day begins at 7:30 a.m. for a lot of kids, and research shows that their brains really don't start functioning well until about 9:00 a.m.)  I went on to explain that research has been done for many years on this subject; even way back when I was in high school, and I stated, "Which, by the way, was a REALLY long time ago!
     And sure enough from the back of the room I heard, "When there were dinosaurs?"
The first time I heard it I said, rather matter-of-factually, "Not quite that far."
The second time I heard almost the exact same words in the next period. Clever children. I said, "Yes, that far back."
Then it was 5th period and I waited for the same mumble from the crowd. Yep! There it was. I was batting 100% so far. And 6th period didn't disappoint.
When 7th period rolled around I expected to hear it again to round out the day with a perfect score.
I got into my spiel and approached the topic...
"...which by the way, was a REALLY long time ago!"
"Mrs, Nelson," I waited... "You're REALLY old!"
Thanks, Juan, for changing up my day! (oh, and, dinosaurs not withstanding, stating the obvious!)



Monday, February 2, 2015

Handwriting


     When I was going to elementary school it was a big deal when they taught us how to write. In first grade they taught us how to print on that special paper with big lines. We learned to write the ABC's and once we learned to do that (it took several months) they taught us how to write our names. It was exciting and I loved to practice the letters over and over again at school and as homework.
     I don't think they actually taught us to write cursive until 5th grade. The practice, I remember, was brutal. Pages and pages of loopy letters formed just right. Handwriting was taught with as much fervor as math or reading. Of, course, then and for as long as my teachers could imagine into the foreseeable future, handwriting would be the only way we would communicate with the world, especially at school.
     From what I gather from friends who teach elementary school, cursive writing isn't really taught now. I guess they assume most kids will be communicating with technology and won't really have to need to know how to write legibly. I can tell. Unfortunately, almost everything for my class is still handwritten: reading logs, journals, short essays, like the ones above. Maybe once the kids get the tablets the District Office is buying them, I can try to convert some of this handwritten work to files on their tablets. I don't know exactly just how that is going to work but I do know that after 8 years of reading some really bad handwriting, my eyes will thank me for the effort!