Wednesday, September 5, 2012

a little off

I'm starting to think that my last post was a little unfair to my generation.  Sure we have a lot of issues and we have a lot of problems that need to be fixed.  While I may disagree with some of what my coworkers and other peers say and do; there has not been a shortage of young people signing up to do hard, underpaid and under appreciated work.  So I say kudos to us for trying, and I hope that we don't stop anytime soon.

On another note, my job hunt has gotten serious.  I've been only working 3 hours a day for two weeks now and I'm really getting antsy.  Good news is that I have a job interview coming up on tuesday with another americorps program, and may be setting up another interview  to work as an intern at my roommates place of business.

I suddenly got really hungry and must get something to eat, I'll tell you more about the two jobs next time.  For now all I really wanted to say was I wrong in my last post!

Peace, love and lunchtime!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Did you think I was done?

I haven't looked over my previous posts yet but it's hard to believe I started this blog just over a year ago.  I'm not really sure if I'm ready to continue my blog but I think that my kids' music video has been the focal point long enough.  Man I miss them, if you're friends with me on facebook you'll see that a friend of mine posted a lot of pictures over the past year, it's a good thing too because I was terrible at documenting the year with pictures.

Here's a quick update of my summer-
I worked at the YMCA for 10 weeks as a "unit leader" which I guess is a glorified camp councilor, although I'm not sure how glorified it was.  I was in charge of forty 6-8 year olds and 4 camp councilors.  It was a daily headache but I had a good time, but we councilors did feel pretty out numbered.  It may not have seemed so bad if I could have gotten some of my councilors to stop texting on their phones and hiding in the corner of the room trying to avoid any interaction with the kids.  What is wrong with people my age? I was talking about this with my parents trying to figure out if its me or everyone else but it seems that people in their early 20's have a lot of issues

-short attention spans
-inappropriate at the most inappropriate times
-no work ethic
-can't hold a real conversation that doesn't center around them

I fear I'm an old man and I've only been around for just under a quarter of a century.  It's not that I don't like people, I love people, which is why I continue to find jobs where I'm surrounded by them.  I guess I just need to find my kind of people or my niche.  I even like people who suffer from all the ailments listed above; it can just get very tiresome...I'm sorry this is turning into a very whiney post, probably has something to do with the fact that I am currently jobless (well I still get 15 hours a week at the Y) and this past week has almost bored me to death.  So if you are reading this, live in Chicago and have any job openings, post something in the comments section and I'll send you my resume (worth a shot right dad?)

wow. I need to shower, just lifted my arms and my body oder was enough to make eyes water, too much information?  Just be glad you can't smell me.

peace, love and proper hygiene

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

here's something new

So this was a music video that my team made, the male voice is Mike who came up with the lyrics (this is a remake of a very inappropriate yet very popular song) the female voice is a student of ours.  Another teammate, Justin  and I recorded random happenings throughout the school and I downloaded it all on my computer and edited this little video together.  We showed it to the freshman class at an assembly we had and the kids loved it, made my day! I can't wait to watch this with you all so I can tell you about all the students in the video. As you can see many of the students are camera shy and try to act all cute...don't be fooled! :) no they are all wonderful and I can't believe its almost over.
Love you!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Great news all, I got the job at the YMCA as a Unit Leader! I don’t know all the specifics yet but my soon to be boss said that it’s much like a supervisor.  I have a meeting this weekend about what I want the summer program to look like (or at least I’ll have a chance to have some input) and I’ll learn more about what is expected of me.  The problem is I may not be able to make this first meeting because I have some prior obligations to my current job… oh whatever I’ll say the name there’s only three weeks left anyway, City Year. I work for City Year.
Speaking of City Year, after today I will have only 9 days left working in the school, it’s crazy to think about.  Some of the students are shutting down a little bit and others are becoming more attached, it really depends on the day.  I come into work either almost completely ignored or smothered by my kids.  I’m no longer walking around the class as much making sure the students are doing their work; they need to be able to do it without me.  If they want to come to me for questions, great, but babying them now will only hurt them more in the long run.  I’m ready for City Year to be over, I feel too old for this job.  City Year tries to treat 18 year olds and 24 year olds the same and it just doesn’t work.  What I’m not ready for is not coming back to Englewood. It’s really been almost 10 months…crazy…
Love you and God bless!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

looking ahead

So I have less than a month to work with my students and it’s not going to be easy to say goodbye, I don’t really want to think about it just yet and I’m sure I’ll have more to say about it later so I’ll hold off for a few weeks. 
My relationship with the students is still going to new places; I have to be careful not to be too much of a “friend” to some of them.  It’s gotten to the point however when I go to talk with students during their lunch period we spend much of the time joking around and having fun, which of course I enjoy but then in the class room some seem to be a little thrown off when I tell them not to use certain language or to be respectful to the teacher. I think I’ve said this a few times before but these kids are so grown up in some ways, in what they have to deal with outside of school, yet so immature in others, for instance many students still suck their thumbs and use infantile tactics to get attention. 
This summer I am hoping to get a job at a YMCA that is only about a 3/4ths a mile away.  I applied for a couple of summer jobs there; either a camp councilor or a unit leader.  While a camp councilor job would be fun working with younger kids, playing sports games and doing crafts.  I think the unit leader job is more appropriate for my age and what I am capable of (not to mention the pay is better).
A unit leader would be in charge of the camp councilors and making sure that they are doing their jobs efficiently.   I would be resolving conflicts not only among the children but dealing with adult issues also. 
Part 2 of my job interview is on the 29th and I think part 1 went very well.  It was hard for me to express just how qualified  (perhaps even over-qualified) I feel I am for this job and how not only would I love it, but I would excel at it.  This has been the first time in my life that I felt extremely capable of accomplishing a task with excellence that I hope I’m not being overly confident.  I’m finding that my drive to be a hard worker improves a lot when younger people are depending on me to do my job well. 
Anyway, if some prayers could be sent my way as I hunt for a new job that would be wonderful.  I think I may be in Chicago for a little while longer.
As always, love you!
(grandpa this blog was for you, I know you are my biggest blog fan and that means a lot to me, thank you!)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

To Kill A Mockingbird

There’s a young sophomore boy who I got off to a very bad start with early in the year when he was in our workroom pushing a female student so I intervened and asked him to leave.  When he wouldn’t I stepped in between the two students and he bumped into me and almost fell over (he’s very small). So he stood up and started cussing me out leaving the room in a huff. It turned out he and the student he was pushing were very good friends and just playing around.  At this point I wasn’t used to how violently the play and thought a real fight was breaking out (it can still be hard to tell the difference between a real fight and a play fight).  I apologized to the young man but tried to explain that we can’t allow that kind of playing.
For months and months this boy hated me. He would make fun of anything he could about me. My hair, my nose, the way I spoke whatever. I couldn’t stand him! He would come to our workroom every morning before school and come every day after.  Sometimes it seemed just to harass me.
In the past month and a half things have gotten better, his insults are in a much more joking fashion and not nearly as brutal. I can joke back with him without him getting offended or mad.  He talks to me all the time now and is always pretending to steal from me.  Don’t get me wrong the kid is still extremely obnoxious but on days when I would get annoyed with him I had to remind myself that he must feel safe with us because he spends all of his free time in our room and will even try to skip class to hang out with us. 
This student has been jumped a few times and feels threatened very easily because of his size. He used to always try and get me upset.  In our training we were told this behavior is very common among some students because they want to test us and see if we will leave them or stop talking to them, a lot of trust issues with our kids.

So I started to read To Kill A Mockingbird once again, it’s one of my all time favorite books.  I guess that this same student saw me reading it because today he came up to me and said “hey Mr. Vinegar” (another way he teases me) and pulled out of his backpack a copy of To Kill A Mockingbird.  “Are you reading that in class or on your own?” I asked. “On my own, I’m finna start reading it tonight”
I have not been this touched in a long time.  Our students never read; especially if it’s not even an assignment.  I don’t know if he will read the whole book, it may be a bit past his reading level. But the thought that he went out of his way to check out a book from the library because I was reading the same book is bringing tears to my eyes. This guy hated me, and now he’s copying me in the best way he could, by educating himself.  What a great day.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

great day

ok so I spent the last blog complaining, but this time it's all good news! So just as a refresher here is part of what I do with this job...
I have a list of 11 students (everyone's list is different ranging from 5 to 13) and it is my job to keep these students on track to graduate or at least to pass the algebra class I tutor in.  To do this, corporate has asked that we log 15 hours with each student before May 18.  I didn't get my list of students until late November and I still have dozens of other kids who ask for my help. So to try and get 165 hours has been daunting and my entire team is behind on meeting that goal so it's been frustrating at times (i.e previous post).
today I was pretty nervous when the TL (team leader) asked to speak with me about some things including my students.  It was all good news, of my team I am the only one who currently has 0 failing students. I was not expecting that to be the results
2 D's
4 C's
1 B
3 A's
 With 6 students under a B I have my work cut out for me, especially those D's. In Chicago a D is still passing, and with these particular two all they care about is going on to sophomore year. If a D is good enough for CPS its good enough for them.
Also one of my C students should easily have an A, his confidence in his work went up so much that he just stopped working in class, not realizing that 3 or 4 zeros in the grade book is going to rapidly drop his grade.  So I had a chat with him and we are going to make up all his missing assignments and I'm going to bug him to death everyday until he does his work!

Now for the success stories- the student with a B!  At one point this year she was failing almost all of her classes and I have been working my tail off to get her to behave.  If you'll remember one of my posts from the beginning of the year about a student who ran across the desks in the middle of class...that was was her.  In the past two months I have had multiple conversations with her trying to get her to not: cuss out teachers, get in fights, throw things at people, scream for no reason etc. etc.
Well something has happened because this crazy kid is passing all of her classes, I will probably tell you more about this 360 turnaround later, I just hope it keeps up.

The other success story is 1of those 3 A's, another female who is very nice...if she likes you.  If she doesn't than watch out, because if she doesn't fight you her older brother will.  This student got 10 days of out of school suspension and I figured it was a lost cause because she wasn't doing to hot in algebra to begin with; she was caught up in the wrong crowd and just didn't give a care about anything.
However when she got back from her suspension I worked with her for a couple hours to get her caught up in class.  I can't take much credit because she was so self motivated she did a lot of it on her own.
In fact I can't take to much credit on any of these good grades because when it comes down to it, it's these kids putting in the work, I'm just the guy who nags them.  I say it all the time, but there is so much more going on in their lives it's amazing when they put school high on their priority list.  I am so very proud of these guys and I tell them everyday because I will never understand what it is they go through.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

doing the best i can

Well I’m probably not going to finish the day I started to describe, I know it was going somewhere I just don’t remember what happened that day anymore.  Whenever I feel inspired to write something on my blog I’m way too busy and then I forget about it.
I must admit I have reached the point where I am over this job. Not the students, but with the organization.  This year they have tried all these new initiatives and some of them are simply not working.  I am going to do what is asked of me and do my best to help them fulfill all these initiatives, but it is simply impossible.  I’m not going to go into great detail because I’m not about to bore anyone with that, just know its ridiculous.  Normally when it comes to judging myself I’m pretty harsh but I know that I am giving this job my all and my company isn’t going to make me feel otherwise just because their initiatives aren’t working out the way they wanted.  I’m more qualified to come up with a template on what students need to be tutored and how because I’m actually doing it!
Its crazy how headquarters thinks they can come up with how my teammates and I should work in this school. Headquarters is in Boston and they think they can come up with a plan that will work with all non-functioning schools across America? Honestly, all the schools we work with in Chicago alone change drastically from school to school.
While I’m frustrated I have reached a point of contentment, I’m working harder than ever and seeing results, I’m done stressing myself out over situations that are out of my hands.  And what’s more is that the weather is getting slightly warmer and the days slightly longer…who doesn’t enjoy that?!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

leap day!

So I have to put in a post today because today only happens every 4 years! Because I don’t really know what to write about anymore I’ll just walk you through today.
Went to bed last night around 11:30 having fun conversations with my roommates talking about our kids, what we want to do this weekend and complaining about some of the issues we have with our job.
This morning I overslept a little and was up at 5:30 but still caught the bus in time to get on the train (a 45 min ride) this is where I normally catch up on sleep, some how I always seem to wake up just in time to get off at my stop. Today however I woke up with a ton of energy and listened to music on the way to work and when I got off the train I heard the same evangelist that is always at the train stop rain or shine yelling “Proverbs twenty-nine twooooooo!!” over and over again.  Instead of taking the bus to the high school I decided to walk because it was a beautiful morning.
In the morning my team stands in a circle and makes announcements and we all check in to see how everyone is feeling, then at around 7:40 we head downstairs to welcome all the students and staff.  We even have songs we sing to them if it’s a big enough group walking in. Its pretty goofy but fun and we always get mixed reviews from the students, more of them like it now than they did at the beginning of the year when they didn’t know what to think of us.
At 8:00 I went to my first hour class and got stopped by one of my favorite students who I don’t have in any of my classes because she’s a Junior but she told me about how last night a student was shot a dozen time in a gang related jumping.  He was also a Junior but was in some freshman classes, I didn’t know him but he was in one of my teammates classes and I guess he was quite the character, all the teachers had already written him off.  This is the first time this year we’ve lost a student to a gang altercation and the school ran as normal which seemed very bizarre to me.
My math class went well today we were reviewing percentages, combining like terms and fractions.  Not to long ago I showed my students a wonderful dance Alan (my brother) taught me.  Its has been a major hit. All the students are asking me to do and to show them how to do it. When they finish there work I treat them to it, it’s pretty darn funny and now some of the students call me “Mr. Vending machine” (vending machine is the name of the dance)
After hours 1,2 and 3 which lasts from 8-11:25 I headed downstairs and overheard a student say he was going to kick the teacher I work with “in the teeth” and I said really your going to kick Mr.______ in the teeth?”, “Yeah!” he said “and I’m finna kick you in the teeth too!” He obviously was not in a good mood but I couldn’t just walk away and leave the conversation on such a negative note, especially with a student I’d never met before “Really, you think you can kick that high?” “I know I can!” he yelled at me “ok” I said and lifted my hand up “see if you can kick my hand” so he tried it and sure enough he could kick that high “Uh oh, I guess I should have  a mouth guard in around you” His demeanor changed pretty quick and he laughed, “naw, don’t worry about it we good” so we bumped fists and went to class.
I’ve found that the quickest way to change a students mood is to surprise them. So many of them have plenty of reasons to be angry, so they are always looking for a fight or a reason to laugh…I prefer the latter J
Well I have to go I will continue walking through my day later, God Bless! 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

the other story

Here’s a story about another once very difficult child, we’ll call him Fred.  Fred refused to work with me, he is on my “academic focus list” if you’ll remember that means I work with this student individually to make sure he stays on task and gets his grades up.  Day after day I would ask Fred if he would like help on his math and he would either pretend I wasn’t there or say something to the effect of “leave me alone, I aint stupid!”
After a while I realized I would have to change my tactic, so every day I would bring him a pencil and paper, place it on his desk and say “Here ya go Fred, the problems are on the board” most of the time he would ignore me, other times he would say “Man you know I aint finna do this” and to that I would respond, “well that’s too bad Fred, I guess you’ll be taking this class again next year”.
One day we had the same short discussion and he said “I won’t be in this class next year I’m transferring I’m finna move to New York to live with my sister”, “oh that’s nice” I responded “ but you’ll still have to take this class, your grades transfer with you ya know”. “Not if you move out of state!” was his rebuttal.
 Well after I let him know that it doesn’t matter where he goes if he wants to graduate he’s going to have to pass algebra at some point he seemed pretty disappointed. So the next day when I gave him some paper and pencil he sad rather rudely “Hey! How you do this?” So I sat with him and showed him how to do multiple math problems for the next 20 min. I didn’t get him to do any work himself but he watched very closely and wasn’t distracted by anything or anybody even though it was an extraordinarily loud day in class. 
I told the rest of the team about the sudden progress and with there help, in less than a week he was coming to our room almost everyday after school to homework help, not doing to much work but at least he no longer hates us! One day after school he waited outside and jumped me, pelting me with snowballs (there were about 4 other boys too) so we had a nice snowball fight and Fred is much more likely now to do his work in class…if I nag him for a couple of minutes.
He hasn’t been around lately, I’m pretty sure he’s been suspended for whatever reason. Well I better get back to work, its never a boring day! God Bless