Friday, September 30, 2011

Rest In Peace

A junior from our high school was hit and killed by a train last night. Please keep her family and friends in your prayers.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

see, I put my major to work!

Sorry it's been a while, I've been crazy busy. Monday after school I had a meeting for the Extended Learning Coordinator (thats my job, aside from working in the classrooms I also plan after school homework help and clubs that the student body wants to start) So I didn't get home until about 8:45 and was able to clock in a 12 hour day. Tuesday was similar, I had a meeting for Corps Council, a job I signed up to do, my job is to take the "pulse" of the team and make sure that the moral remains a good one. Once again I had a 12 hour work day, up at 5:30 home at 8:45. Finally yesterday we had a team meeting that went late and I was home around 7:30 (11 hour work day) so I'm a tad sleepy.
Update on a teacher for 3 of my classes -no one has been hired and we have a different sub everyday and they come late, like 40min to an hour late and they just sit behind the desk and won't help me. So today I decided to get to the bottom of the matter. I feel like I'm being taken advantage of,  yesterday 12 more students were moved to my class, making it 30 students vs me. If I wasn't there where would those students go? I can't do my job affectively, or at all without a teacher.
How did I get to the bottom of it? By just asking around, I had a meeting with a lady who is in charge of a program called "culture of calm". She told me why a permanent teacher hasn't been hired-
"this is off the record: They are looking for a teacher that has less teaching experience than any other teacher here at our school, because if we have to fire teachers again, its a requirement that we fire the teachers with the least amount of teaching experience. So if we hire a teacher that has 20 years experience but has no knowledge of how to deal with our students or work with our staff and we go through another firing of teachers we would have to  fire a teacher who has been with us for 10 years instead of the new (to our high school) teacher."
In other words there is no end in sight, as far as the issue with late substitute teachers; apparently that is also out of the schools control. However, if I have another substitute that comes in and just reads a library book, then I can report it and that sub won't be hired again.
What the school is doing for me is ordering me a packet that I think is normally for subs. It gives me a curriculum to work with and has a script of what to say to the class and how to do the different math problems.  The only thing is, the wrong problem is being fixed. The students already know I'm not a teacher, I don't have a teaching degree and I've never been trained for any of this.
As far a I know this is a situation that has never happened before with our company. Scary? yes, but also exciting. If I could make one prayer request it would be that these students have a real teacher soon, one that is qualified and won't let the students fail.  As much as I may feel that I'm in a tough situation, its nothing compared to what's happening to these students, every day they get more and more left behind.
On a brighter note, I'm starting a drama club! and I have permission to put on a play at the end of the year! I already have 30 students signed up and they are excited; I'm just not sure they are as excited as I am. I AM THRILLED!
God Bless and love to you all!

Thursday, September 22, 2011

We can work it out

Still no permanent teacher in my algebra class, so yesterday I came prepared with a lesson plan, first I passed out a worksheet with simple times tables (just to get an idea of where they are) and gave them 90 sec. to do as many as possible and said they would all get 10 pts. if there was no talking, calculators or phones out (All of those things are a constant problem) but they listened to me!!!! They did their work and one girl even completed all 60 problems. I also gave the incentive that whoever did the best would get their favorite snack the next time they came to my class, so I’ve got to remember to get my brainiest student twix!
This morning was not quite as successful, at one point students were running across the desk tops, students were stealing from other students and the language was rated R. by the end of class I got them to quiet down enough I could address their appalling behavior. I told I was there to help them graduate, and that I know how frustrating it is for them not to have a real teacher. I think they actually took some of what I said to heart.
The question was raised, “has the principal gotten involved?” The principal and the school are aware of the situation and they are working hard to solve a million problems at this school (the principal graduated from here and is one of the greatest guys I’ve met).
Some board downtown who is in charge of CPS (Chicago public schools) made the choice to let go of all the substitutes. I think they assumed that we would be able to get a permanent teacher right away, but that’s not happening.
And I wish I could take over the class at some points! But that would take away the point of my job, which is to focus on specific students who are struggling academically. (Lunch periods I spend time with students who are struggling with behavior and I have another group of students who struggle with coming to school on time or at all)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

but it'll be fine...

came to my first hour class (freshman algebra)this morning and my teacher was late, I thought that was odd because he's normally on top of everything. He came in about 5 min. later and said he was no longer the sub, our high school had hired him on a day to day basis and after working with the students for over a month he now has to find other work. The students were just beginning to show signs that they would behave and be willing to somewhat participate in class.
So when they found out that he was gone I was left alone in the class for about 10 more min and I was able to calm them down for the most part. I wasn't about to try teaching a lesson because that could mess them up forever! Then a new teacher came in...also a substitute, he doesn't even know if he'll be here tomorrow, it might be another sub. There was no lesson plan for him to go off of so he just started teaching the FOIL method; a new concept to the students. They weren't having it, complete chaos for an hour and forty min. I tried to reason with some of the students who. over the past few days, started being respectful and doing their work. They are just as frustrated as I am. How are they supposed to learn anything if there is no structure? They have given up. They have decided that doing any work is hopeless because there is no teacher to grade their papers or keep a consistent curriculum.
If you could just sit in this class for a day you might understand how bleak the situation is.  Take any movie you've seen about a teacher coming into an urban school and trying to make a difference. This class is more out of sorts. more later, lots to do. God Bless! love you all!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

a little college talk...

So I don't know if I mentioned this yet but my US history class is a Senior class, so if things didn't seem a little intimidating before... they still don't. The Senior class is a bit more well behaved than the freshman algebra class (especially first hour freshman...whew). I think I am going to like the history class. Friday a handout was given asking questions like "what would the  benefits be to going to a traditionally black college?" and "what would the disadvantages be to going to a traditionally black college?"
The desks are set up in little pods and I joined the most rambunctious one to try and keep the students on task, not an easy job. Being the only white person in the room (other than the teacher, most teachers are black, but the two I work with are white males) and given the fact that the students had no intention of doing their work I decided to give them a white persons perspective on the matter. In the discussion I earned at least a little respect, one student commented on how he was surprised with how real I was being with him and said he said he respected that.
I let them know that I came from a predominately white community and I have very little experience with other cultures and that being in an environment like theirs could be very intimidating, but that I'm adjusting quickly and think that learning about other cultures will strengthen me as a person. I encouraged them to do the same; even though they are not used to working with or even seeing people of other races its important for them to get used to the idea if they ever want to leave their community. (their town is a very poor one, about 99% black, almost all below the poverty line)
Chicago is the second most segregated place in the entire United States. This is no accident, from a very early time the government was very strategic about separating whites from all other ethnicities. Most of the money Chicago takes from taxes goes to the "nice" part of Chicago, the place where everyone visits, while other areas are left forgotten. Of course all of the US used to be like this when black people couldn't attend the same schools or live in the same neighborhoods as white people. But Chicago has continued this tradition by how they spend tax dollars. Upper and middle class Chicago all live in the center and as you reach the outskirts (before the suburbs) is where you'll find everyone else. Of course I don't know how all the politics work, but like I said it is not by chance. So in order for the students I'm working with to break this pattern they need to know how to get out of their comfort zone and explore other areas. Of the students I talked to they all get nervous and/or uncomfortable when in a group of white people.
In other news I am currently working on a video for an attendance rally that we are hosting at the high school, it's taken me a while because I'm teaching myself how to use imovie but it's a pretty simple system. I'm using imovie '08 and from what I've seen imovie '11 is light years ahead, but I'm still having a good time with it and it will certainly work for what I'm trying to do. Again, any questions, please feel free to leave a comment! love you all!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011


So yesterday we all left school early to listen to the CEO of our company, pretty inspiring stuff.  He is almost 50 and started the company when he was attending Yale. It was nice to see that even though he now has meetings at the white house and has started city year in other countries he is still down to earth and hasn't forgotten why he started the program in the first place, to lower the dropout rate of students.
My schedule has changed a bit, now I have algebra every morning at 1st hour and on B days (there are A and B days here, the schedule is a bit like college...but not really) I also have US history 4th and 5th hour and algebra again 6th hour.
It looks like I'm going to have algebra homework every night because I need a refresher on what I did way back in 2002, the good news is it seems a lot simpler than when I was a freshman in high school, but I still wouldn't say it comes easy to me by any means. (and I'm sure you all thought, like I did, that I would spend  my post school years running away from math) at least this way my brain won't shrivel to nothing! And I think the students like seeing me work hard to help them find the answers, because I don't know them either so we can work together on them. That's not to say the students all love me. I'll share stories soon enough, but now it's time for my second first high school US history class! God Bless and love to you all!

Monday, September 12, 2011

so it aint tuesday but...

Hello again, I'm at my school right now so I don't really have much time to blog but I feel like I'm always going to be behind on this thing until I get my own computer. Here is a quick summary of last week.
We went to the high school Tue. morning only to find out that we would not be allowed in the classes because about 10 teachers were being let go that day, here's why-
At the beginning of the year in CPS (Chicago public schools) the amount of teachers hired is based off of the number of students the previous year. If after 20 days there are too many teachers than they will fire the teachers with the least amount of experience. Here's the problem (other than firing a number of teachers); there have been a number of Charter schools built in the area so a lot of students are attending those schools instead. A charter school will accept any student, but they are also quick to kick a student out. A student can get kicked out for bad grades, low attendance, bad behavior etc. So within a few months more and more students will be joining our high school (my class has already gained 3 new students).
And the class I will be helping with, my personal favorite...algebra! I'm only in the class for the first hour and then I spend the rest of my school day preparing for my other job which I will get into later. Feel free to ask me questions, I forget what you all know and what you don't know. Love you all!

Saturday, September 3, 2011

blog to start on tuesday

Ok! so the good news is I now have Internet at my place, the bad news is my phone is broken (nothing comes up on the screen anymore, I cannot make or receive text, and I can't make not to worry, my job will be providing me with a phone, I just don't know when.
I have run into too many obstacles to count since I've joined this company, but there is no point in listing all of them because that may bore you and frustrate me seeing them all written down in one place. 
Training is over! no more will I be watching power point after power point! I start the real work on Tuesday; my team has visited the school a couple of times already, one of the days we split up in pairs and sat in on some classes. It was enlightening to say the least. I will go more into detail when the real fun begins. Since I've been away from the blog forever I don't know what to write about, I have plenty of ideas everyday but now that I'm weeks behind trying to catch up seems pretty daunting...I'll start fresh Tuesday. I hope everyone enjoys labour day, I'm going to a Jazz Festival!