Sunday, March 18, 2012

Please read to the end!

Wow, I haven't posted for awhile again!!!  I just don't seem to have enough time in a day to keep this up to date.  I am envious of those who religiously update daily and are always adding pictures, etc.

I have been trying to get everything done with my class before the end of the quarter.  Friday was it, and some of my kids still did not finish all their required work.  By this time in sixth grade they should know time management.  Plus, I am on them constantly!  I was happy with some of the work that came in, but that was from the students that I expected to do well.  I had one student out all week so I just have to figure her grades on what she already had in, which wasn't much and wasn't done well.  Just when I think I am making progress with this group, something like this happens and I wonder if ANYTHING I do makes a difference. 

I was also working on a proposal for interactive whiteboards for our school.  An anonymous donor wants to donate money so that we can purchase some and I had to do the research to find the best boards that would do what we wanted them to do.  On top of that, I had to research what we needed to replace our server since it is archaic and won't survive to do the job we need it to do if we get these whiteboards.  Mind you, I am not the tech person, just a plain, old, sixth grade teacher so all of this was Greek to me!  With the help of my husband, a friend of his who is an IT person, the people at CDW and the Poly Vision rep, I finally got it all together and submitted the proposal on Friday.  Now we just wait to see if the donor approves and gives us the money. 

My next job is trying to find ways to raise tons of money for our school.  You see, we are a small Catholic school in a very depressed community and many of our parents cannot pay full tuition.  Our public school system is overcrowded and rife with problems.  Our parents want to have their children at our school because we offer a safe environment and a better education.  Many of our students are first generation Mexican Americans whose parents want better for them they what they have had.  They are willing to sacrifice, but they can barely put food on the table much less pay tuition.  It is not uncommon to find more than one family living in the same house because they just can't afford anything else. 

Like everywhere, our school has fallen on big financial woes.  The parish can't/won't support the school at the amount of money that we need and the archdiocese doesn't look kindly on giving out big loans.  If we don't find a source of money, and soon, our little school will be closed and these children will have nowhere to go except the public school system.  Our parents don't want that.  Students are drafted into gangs as early as 4th grade.  It is just not a good environment to be in.  So, I am wracking my brain trying to figure out to whom I can plead our case. 

It is sad that we can't apply for so many of the grants that are available for education because we are a Catholic school.  We accept students of all denominations.  We even have Hindu and Jewish students in our school.  We don't discriminate against anyone and we offer a better product than the public school on MUCH less money.  Our students graduate and go on to the public high school far ahead of their public school peers.  Most of our students enter honors classes.  This is the advantage that our parents want for their children, yet without help, it might not be available for much longer. 

So if anyone out there has any great ideas, I'd appreciate it if you would share them with me.  If anyone would like to send donations to our school, they can be sent to:
St. Joseph Elementary School
118 Lincoln Ave.
Round Lake, IL  60073

Thanks to anyone who can give us any support or advice.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Are You Kidding Me????

Ok, so we are reading The Hunger Games in class.  When we started the book, I emphasized how important it was that NO ONE read ahead.  We are using this novel as our teaching novel and since it has so much symbolism and so many themes interspersed in it, I explained to the students that we needed to walk through it together.  It also has quite a bit of difficult vocabulary, so I need to make sure they understand the words to fully understand the novel. 
Anyway, every child in the room was fully aware of my instructions.  Now, we have readers workshop so they have lots and lots of time to read ANYTHING they would like to read, they just can't read ahead in The Hunger Games.  Seems simple enough, right?

Well, this past week, I found out that 7 of my students decided to finish the novel, brag about it to their classmates, yet sit in class and act as though they hadn't gone ahead at all.  I wondered why some of these same students were so spot on with certain answers and predictions.  Well, come to find out it was because they did EXACTLY  what I told them NOT  to do. 

Ok, so I call them out on it.  First, I called them out on the fact that when I had asked them point blank, if they had read ahead, they told me no.  That is what is called a LIE.  There is no other way around it, they lied to me.  Secondly, I called them out on the fact that they had an unfair advantage over the students who had not read ahead.  They could make better predictions (of course they could, they already knew what would happen) and could design better responses to essay questions since they knew exactly what was going to happen next.  (like I said, I wondered about their ability to be so spot on with their responses)  To me, when you have an unfair advantage over another student, that is cheating. 
So, because they decided to do EXACTLY what I instructed them not to do, and because they lied about it, I told them they didn't need me.  They were obviously way ahead of everyone else so they could take the final test on Monday and then I would give them other reading assignments because I wouldn't want to bore them with going through the novel again. 
I also told them that they needed to write an explanation of what they had done and why it was wrong and have their parents sign it.  Silly me, I figured parents would want to know that their child disobeyed their teacher and lied about it. 

Now the good part!  I get an email from a parent upset that I called their son out on this.  First they said that he didn't know he wasn't supposed to read ahead, which is a bold faced LIE, then they said they told him it was ok to read ahead, just don't tell anyone.  Well, if it was ok, and you weren't doing something you knew you shouldn't be doing, why not tell people?  These people are actually encouraging their child to NOT listen to the teacher, disregard what she says and lie about it.  To me, doing something you know you aren't supposed to do and then not saying anything about it, is tantamount to lieing.  They actually think this is ok.  Then they are trying to shift the blame to me. 
They say they can't understand why I would punish a child for reading.  I AM NOT PUNISHING A CHILD FOR READING!!!  I am giving a CONSEQUENCE TO A CHILD FOR DISREGARDING MY EXPLICIT INSTRUCTIONS!  I do nothing but encourage reading in my class.  I buy books out of my own money, I have book talks to get kids excited about books, I obtain for my students any books they show interest in reading.  I have nearly killed myself this year trying to get this group excited about anything.  And these parents have the gall to try to turn this situation around on me. 

In their email to me, they put it in such a way that they would give me a chance to tell my side of the story.  HA!  They don't want to hear anything, they just want their son to not be made to deal with the consequences of his actions.  It is not like I am giving detentions or anything.  All I am doing is giving them the same test all the other students will take when we finish the novel, just earlier than the rest of the class.  After all, they are done with the novel so they should be ready for the test.  AND, I can't very well have them continue with the activities that we are doing as a class with the novel because they already know what it going to happen, so I am giving them alternate reading assignments.  I still want them to be learning, they just have to do it with a different piece of work.  IN FACT, I am actually making MORE work for myself by having to come up with different lessons for these students. 

But, I am the bad guy here.  When will parents ever learn that making excuses for your child will NOT  help them in the future????

Luckily, my principal knows all about what occurred and how I handled it, so when this crazy parent contacts her she won't be caught off guard.  I just hate that she has to deal with it right now.  She has some serious health issues and she doesn't need any more stress. 

Anyone out there have CRAZY parents to deal with besides me?  I bet that is a silly question!  What teacher has not had at least one parent who was difficult, right?