Friday, December 21, 2007

'Tisn't the Season

Even though this pyramidal shape could remind one of a christmas tree or, to be politically correct, "a holiday tree" it somehow doesn't, for me, this Christmas. We are having some major challenges to our "reason for the season". A testing one's faith and family commitments is on going.

It wasn't much better at my latest "guest teacher" (sub) assignment. I had promised a friend teacher that I would cover her class the 3 days that she helped produce an annual holiday show at her school and it, at times, was difficult. It wasn't the subject, Art, but the personnel and the administrative lack of support that made it all less than inspiring to that festive, holiday time usually experienced just before the annual two-week holiday haitus. Students at the middle school age are generally so into themselves and each other that they hardly give any signs that they are "festive" or joyful...even with "breeze assignments" in Art. The ones who would normally respond are far out-shouted by the two to three in each class that "take extra attention"...usually the negative kind. They come into class with their own agendas from the previous "passing period" and could care less what they are there for or assigned to do. They then force a confrontation which first involves warnings, chances to comply, then threats of "referral" usually 3X and then, with persistant refusal, and lots of time taken away from the "deserving students" they are given a note and asked to leave. This seems to be, more and more, standard M.O. with "subs". But not this one. Then on the next day when they see that "this one" is still there they don't want to come to class and report to the girl's V.P. in charge of discipline and complain with their calumny. This is where my sponsor teacher steps in and backs me and what I'm trying to teach/accomplish (her lesson plans) This works to a degree although they still wouldn't take any direction from me.

We got some beautiful projects from most of the students, 5 classes of Art with the same assignment: Make a small, black and white, newspaper collage to then decorate with pastels with copied or created pictures, landscapes or abstract designs. Most took to it and enjoyed doing the three-day process with friends, conversation and "tunes" in the background. They, of course, wanted "their choice of tunes" which never pleases everyone so the teacher had picked 4 or 5 CD's and we put them on "shuffle". I stuck in a holiday CD from "Manheim Steamroller"..."oo yuk" was the predominant response.

The one different class, "Yearbook" was asked to write a "critique" on the "show" or interview four of the kids ("student celebrities") who were in it and in their class. Here again we had to threaten a certain few who were trying their best to get out of the assignment or do the minimum; even when I made sure the assignment was from their regular teacher, not me. Finally I had to do the old "exit ticket" routine. i.e. "You get to leave the room when the assignment is given to me at the door with your name on it...even if it isn't a blank piece of paper with your name on it. We had a few that were close to that. When I tried to read and grade them it a rude awakening to what writing skills most lack and don't even know it.

Another "Snafu" transpired on the second day first period. The Art assignment had rotated to "Prep Period" which means no students. Wrong for subs...we have to be available to "cover" for last minute cancellations until they find another sub or a "staff" person covers. This time it was me and I was sent to an "Algebra" Class. The regular teacher was there and doing the last minute lesson plans on his computer. He then explained the to me and handed me the attached packet of individualized assignments. Then another sub come in and relieves me so I give her the packet and the explanations I had just received. I'm not back in the Art room for 5 minutes when I get the call to come back to "algebra" the releaving sub was wrongly sent. But she in the meantime had mislaid the packet and assignment and handed me some "work to return" . Even with a "T.A", who was busily correcting papers, we could not find the original assignment page or packet...even sending the TA to find her and ask her or it. With 5 mins. left in the period and two whole class refusal do do a "supplementary assignment" "Oh we've already done that one" Yes, you may have but you didn't pass it again...nope; we found the packet. I left copious notes to the regular teacher and praised the one student who tried to help me the whole time. I also stopped a girl from chasing another boy student around the room with scissors i.e. "running with scissors" and then she came up to my desk and threatenly operated the scissors rapidly and violently several time not two feet from my face. I wrote that up too. Her parting sarcastic comment as she left and the scissors were laying on the desk, pointing toward me..."Oh be careful, they might get you." Vicious! Most all the problem students, both classes, ones with real issues, were females who were performing for each other and the class.

It seems that at this level the females are much more socially "advanced?" and not really interested in assignments. Hormones are freshly flowing too and that's part of it. This is probably another school I will not return to unless requested by my Art Teacher Friend. She would like to get more of my "artsy ideas" and pick my brain for future she says. We'll see if my "rubrics", although older and tested, might help in what I see as an increasingly challenging scope and sequence of art curriculum. "Have you tried shrink art, simple origami or even napkin folding?" I have. RRR

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Row, Row, Row...Down Stream

The five snap shots above are there to remind me of the full, fascinating and fantastic week and a day I just had. We were coming from the depth of despair with a family member's problems and went to the heights of hope and hilarity in just that brief amount of time. Life is funny that way and it's good to remember that. It can change so quickly if you are open to it, flexible and ready to "keep on...keeping on".
Of course, I couldn't resist snapping the vulture looking down on us in "Club 33" in Disneyland while we ate our sumptuous feast/buffet in that exclusive, upstairs restaurant. We had been invited by some Club 33 Members to the annual "Candlelight Concert" of Xmas music and narrative in the Main Street Square. Mr. Vulture reminded me, as I took pause, of where I had been the previous week with my son. Somehow he and we must "muddle through" these hard times with the hope that healing will eventually come and the "vultures" of death will not win too soon.
I was taken with the beauty all around me at this "Happiest Place on Earth" when I snapped the center piece of peacock feathers at my table and the tiffany dragon fly lamp shade at the "Craftman" Hotel Californian in Downtown Disney. Beautiful images are all around with just the barest notice, if you try.
At the entrance to The California Adventure part of the Park there is this gigantic landscape/mosaic that I also snapped at the urging of my wife. We live in a beautiful state and are so lucky and priveledged to respond to its sights/sites and weather most of the year. We also Soared of California again, our favorite ride.
The concert last Sunday, though very cold for us thin-blooded Californians, was pure joy for me. This is probably the first year that I haven't been associated with a Chorus, Chorale or Choir and sung the traditional carols. I didn't realize how much I missed it. (tears to the eyes) This was a massive group of at least a dozen local choirs (chamber singers, madrigals etc.) plus an orchestra and the Hand Bell Choir from Claremont Congregational (the best, I knew some of the ringers) Then there was the Biblical Nativity Story read by Jane Seymour in her crystal clear English accent. (this time she did no "Dancing With the Stars") What fascinated me most during the whole, hour-long, performance was the American Sign Language Soloist up in front, near us in a spot light. Her movements were so graceful and calming for every spoken and sung word. This also helped me get perspective and forget our troubles for awhile. (it was dark, with spotlights, so no photos)
The next day I was scheduled to work at my favorite Elementary it turned out, all week. Four days in a great 4th grade class and one day in a 2nd. This was the first time I had decided to work/sub (as they call it "Guest Teach") for 5 straight days. Along about the 4th day I had to catch my second wind to stay focused and positive all day. The fifth day was a "rainy-day schedule" but hardly any different. No "stuck in the classroom" all day (recesses) with smelly little bodies. We got our usual breaks and the administration/staff did herculean duty.
It was a joy to be back with my favorite aged kids and explore some of my "pet rubrics" with them. They were shocked and pleasantly surprised at several of them. "Our regular teacher doesn't do it this way." Learning again (finally) became fun and challenging...even the 5, yes, FIVE, tests we had on Friday. We sang alot, played math baseball, did Venn Diagrams of the "!2 Days of Xmas" and the "Old Woman Who Lived in a Shoe" etc. We wrote about our dead pets when "Rontu died in Island of the Blue Dolphins". We did Victor Borge Punctuation (sound effects) on our Daily Bites. We had fun...or at least I did. Just before the 5 tests, I taught them my "new versions" of "Row, Row, Row Your Boat":(6 to be exact)
Read X3
A book
Best that you can find
Reading books
Is lots of fun
It helps improve
Your mind.
Write X3
Some words
Best that you can pen
Writing words is lots of fun
It makes you feel like
Ben (Franklin)
Play X3
Some games
Try so many sorts
Playing games is lots of fun
It helps to make
Good Sports
Ve X3
Rio abajo
Alegre X3
La Vida es su
Take X3
Your tests
Try all that are given
Taking tests (can be) lots of fun
It lets you know
You're livin'
Swim X3
Up stream
Make school hard and boring
Hating school is not much fun
What's only worse is
So I'm fully ready to continue to flow and row "down stream" and enjoy what time I have left. How about you? RRR