27 May 2010

Favorite Conversation of the Week

The Texan was trying to add an event to our evening that I hadn't planned on.

Texan: Come on. We should go. It will be fun.

RedHead: I don't know. I'm not really dressed for it...my hair's not done...

Texan: You still have four minutes. I've seen you work miracles in less time than that.

21 May 2010

If You're Going to Plagiarize...

As part of a final assignment each student had to write and "essay" about one decade in American History. Essay is in quotations because they only had to write 300 words. One student turned in the following as her essay about the 1940s:

"On December 7th, 1941, a date which will live in infamy, the United States of American was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan..."

Legal and ethical issues of plagiarism and academic dishonesty aside, I'm moderately offended that she didn't think I would recognize one of the most famous speeches ever made by a US president.

09 May 2010

Happy Mother's Day

I never wear shoes in the house. I get this habit from my mother. Friday morning I was trying to get to school early so that I could give my AP kids cinnamon rolls before they had to take a test. I was running a little late (which is a habit that I do not get from my mother) and ran out to the car in quite a hurry. I was well on my way to school before I realized that I was not wearing any shoes and would have to go back home to get some. I raced back home, ran inside, grabbed my shoes, and ran back to my car which I had left running. Unfortunately in my hurry I managed to accidentally lock my car. I had to go back inside and get the Texan's keys. I made it to school only 10 minutes before the AP test started. I handed all my kids a cinamon roll, whished them good luck, and sent them on their way.

I don't think my mom ever went to school without shoes, and she's a very on time kind of person, but it made me think of other habits I get from my mom.

1) I read the news during my lunch break. I remember my mom reading the newspaper every day. Sometimes I would sit on the floor and play with her feet while she would read the newspaper. Despite how annoying this sounds, she never kicked me, which I appreciate.

2) I love serving dishes. I remember packing up some dishes to go to college, and my mom pulled out an old yellow serving dish and asked me if I wanted to take it with me. I told her I didn't need it. She told me that sometimes it's nice to serve a meal in a dish that it was not cooked in, and packed the yellow serving dish for me. Ever since then I have been a firm believer in serving dishes. They are fun. Currently I have a set of white oval shaped serving bowls that I love.

3) I like to sew things. I only partly get this habit from my mom. She sews some amazing stuff. She made me a Christmas dress, and Easter dress, and a First-Day-of-School dress every year. She also made my dresses for prom and homecoming. My favorite dress is the lavendar prom dress she made for me based not on a pattern, but on a picture I drew. Which is even more impressive than it sounds when you take into account my remarkably poor drawing skills. I don't do fancy stuff like that, but I like to sew simple things like napkins and pillowcases. Occasionally I sew a project that involves a zipper, and then I feel quite accomplished.

4) I eat fruits and vegetables. I even crave things like broccoli. My mom would make my lunch for me to take to school every day. And every day that lunch would include a fruit or a vegetable. She also gave us vegetables at dinner every night. When it was my turn to make dinner I would try to get away with not making a vegetable, but she was pretty smart and I never got away with it. Now I don't feel like I've had a meal until I've eaten produce of some kind. I will feel hungry until I've eaten a vegetable. My current favorite is green beans.

Happy Mother's Day. I hope you have a good one.

01 May 2010

Testing Week

The TAKS test is an almost mystic event encompassing many deeply rooted customs and rituals. In its infinite wisdom and power the Texas Education Agency has decreed that only those holding current and valid Texas Educator Certificates should be allowed to participate in the most exclusive rites of test administration. I would be perfectly content to share the experience with my certificate free colleagues, but alas, TEA will not allow a paraprofessional, librarian, or office assistant to partake in the TAKS testing tradition. This is mainly because TEA needs a method of recourse. Should their sacredly held procedures be in some way violated resulting in a "testing irregularity" TEA can confiscate my teaching certificate. And so every year at the end of April I put my professional credentials on the line to participate in four days of fun-filled state mandated testing.

The most important part of the testing ritual is pacing. Test administrators must "actively monitor" the students. This means that over the course of 4 hours of testing I can walk about 6 miles all without leaving my classroom. Sitting down is a cardinal sin. The test are not timed. I am required to encourage each student to take as much time as they need to do whatever it takes for them to perform best on their test. Inevitably there is a student in the room who thinks he can perform best on the test by taking a 3 hour nap. After 24 students have already completed the exam, and I have alphabetized all of their answer documents, and organized test booklets by form number, this student will finally decide to wake up and start the test. I have to keep pacing, and all the other students are required to remain seated and silent until the final test is turned in. TAKS testing makes normally sane, reasonable, and competent people crazy.

In an effort to make sure the students take the test seriously, don't cheat, and are generally as miserable as their teachers, we don't let the kids sit by their friends, or even in their normal classrooms. Instead the entire grade level is seated in alphabetical order. In my classroom I had tenth graders from the "Garcia" section of the alphabet. Getting these kids in the appropriate seating order was slightly more complicated than I had anticipated. Not only did they all have the exact same last name, they all had similar first names as well. I had one girl named Jessica, and every other student in my room was named either Jesus, Jorge, Jose, or Juan. After learning every students full name, I finally got everyone sitting in the appropriate seat. As the final Juan took his seat at the end of the last row I giggled a little bit about the whole situation. One of the kids asked me what was funny to which I responded, "We could play twister in this room." The kids gave me blank stares, so I elaborated: "You know...right hand Jose, left foot Juan..." Blank stares continued.

Finally one kid spoke up. "Miss we can't play that game in this room. It's a white person game."