Sunday, June 04, 2006

up the down staircase

For you teachers out there, if you haven't already, go immediately to the nearest library/bookstore and read Up the Down Staircase.

For those who aren't teachers, do the same thing.

This book was written in the mid-60s, but I read it my first year teaching and it is amazing how similar things are. It's written from the perspective of a young English teacher, and is "written" in a collection of memos, faculty meeting agendas, letters she wrote to her best friend, notes she finds crumpled on the floor, and papers her students turn in. It's unbelievable how applicable it is to today's teaching environment, despite 40-odd years of time passing.

So Friday was my last day of classes. I am winding down 7 years of teaching. Seven, where has the time gone? Feels like yesterday DaisyDuc and I were wreaking havoc at Miami U....

Seven years in a profession I almost left during the first. I had no idea what I was getting into. I had all these ideas what school would be my classroom would be an interactive haven of history learning...and then I had 168 students in 6 classes, so many IEPs/504s I couldn't keep count, a student who was totally blind (who amazed me then and now--what an inspiration--but a little daunting when you're 22), several students who couldn't speak English, a freshman girl on maternity leave, and about 9 kids (I can still tell you their names) who daily told me to F off.

Rude awakening. I had my OSU law school application filled out and with a stamp on it.

But I never put it in the mail. Thank God for that.

By the end of the year, when it was time for me to pack up my classroom since I accepted a job teaching in Cleveland, I cried the whole time I tore my classroom down. I still have the memory book those kids made for me.

They now range in ages from 21-25.

I'm 28.

This post has little to do with triathlon, but lots to do with who I am. So I guess, as a triathlete, who I am will have a great deal of effect upon my training, attitude, and Ironman. You never really forget your first year teaching. Those names are always with you. It hasn't been an easy road or career, but I guess that's why I love it so much. No day is the same day. Every single day is different and every student brings a new challenge. It's absolutely overwhelming trying to keep up with it all and succeed at reaching every kid. Sometimes I get so frustrated that I break down.

In a way, I guess the past 7 years of my career have been good mental training for Ironman.

So since the last day of classes was Friday, I had my kids fill out my annual Anonymous Exit Survey. I tell them that I always know what they DON'T like, as they just say it. (eg. "This sucks. I hate this. History is useless.") But I rarely hear the GOOD stuff--so now's a great time to tell me something that you liked. I ask them 4 simple questions. I have put the question down and have sorted through all 129 surveys. I've put some of my favorites down below. I have not changed any spelling or words. What you see is what you get. These are from 9th and 10th grade students at an affluent suburbian high school.

Someday, I always tell myself, I might use these collected surveys to make a sort of new "Up the Down Staircase" type book. As you can see, you never know what you're going to get when you make it anonymous...enjoy a little peek into my world. :)

Question 1: What was your favorite topic we studied, and why? Please be specific.

--French Revolution
--WWII, it is an intresting conflict
--Africa, b/c of the movie, and b/c I never knew 1/2 the stuff that happened
--Japan and China to 1800s, I liked the projects we did
--Africa because there was a lot of things that went on and things that are goin that I didn't know a lot about, but would good to learn about
--Vietnam because I never really understood it--you taught it really well and I understood it this year.
--Rwanda/Darfur: I didn't really know anything about these genocides. I was so suprised of what was going on, I had no idea. You made me want to help.
--Rawanda Genocide. Very interesting. That's pretty much it
--Wrawanda because it was resent and like IDK
--the revolutions in Africa because it was more recent
--the funnest one
--War of 1812= I liked it because of the time period
--Civil Rights Movement. It was interesting to learn about more African Americans again this year.
--Africa, I really thought it was very important to know what happened in Rhwanda and Sudan. Not to metion for once it was also good to hear things that have been good in Africa
--French Revolution--acting it out was fun because I was the king, but it wasn't fun in the end when I got killed
--Africa because it showed me alot about things that are occuring in Africa and in a way makes me want to help

Question 2: What was your favorite activity? Why?
--My favorite activity we did in class was the island. (*FYI--my note here--when introducing the Enlightenment I have the kids get in a huge circle and pretend they are deserted on an island and they have to make a government. It is very interesting...*) It showed how people could not get along in such a small environment.
--the island, cuz we named ours cheese whiz island
--stock market game--b/c I understood how the stock market works.
--the island
--My favorite activity was the treason trial of Jefferson Davis.
--Vietnam-->I just find it interesting even though I suck @ it.
--AFRICA--> Apartheid because it was interesting to learn how the same segregation took place in South Africa as it did in U.S.
--ummm anything after the great depression
--whatever my highest test score was

Question 3: What did you like BEST about class?
--the lectures really helped me a lot
--the rock hall trip it was fun
--When the Vietnam Veterans came in was cool. They were interesting.
--The decades projects--fun to learn about the era/Vietnam movie
--The mock trials b/c we got to put ourselves in their positions
--Arts of Aisa project, because we got to make food.
--Debates and court things, they were fun. Sorry I thought Harriet Tubman was a slave owner. I swear I meant to say DRIVER see what nerves do!
--Vietnam. I like shooting.
--The court thing. Trial. It was fun and interesting.

Question 4: If you could change one thing about class, what would it be?
--pick seats
--get Shawn out of class
--get the annoying girls in the back out of this class
--the study guide should have questions resembled on the test
--you should go more in depth.
--we should have class in the rock hall
--Do more mock trials because I and a lot of people like them. They were very fun.
--I hated sitting in the back. All I could see was the back of the kid's head in front of me and that made overheads and lectures really boring.
--I would make less projects cuz they got kinda old.
--That we could sing about muffins and babies before test/and not have alot of little activies
--no homework
--I hate busywork!!!
--I don't like the late policy. 50% off is a bit harsh, try something like Mr. Shuster's grade system (talk to him about it)
--The study guides did NOT help with the tests. Also, the tests were really hard
--More food! Less book reading. More notes
--that we could eat in class or like I have no clue. this class was fine with me. I thought it wasn't so bad.
--More notes
--Maybe a little less notes, I don't learn from them well
--more notes, it helps me better
--less notes, more movies
--your room is too hot--get air conditioning
--not as much maps and timelines, they were annoying
--there should be food in class. Eat in class.
--EVERYONE would get a sucker every 2nd Monday of the month. Because those days suck.

And lastly: Any other general comments or suggestions? Have a nice summer! Mrs. Z

--perfect class, not too easy and not too hard and i learned alot
--more group discussions. Make the students talk more.
--Sh#% happens when you party
--I hate Shawn
--Andy is smart you are a good runner
--I don't like history--BUT you were a great teacher and I really appreciate you being my teacher. I actually learned something in history this year.
--I liked it alot and your a good fun teacher and you like the Misfits
--get Sean out of this class
--no fan, only open windows, have a nice life. :)
--keep Sean quiet.
--I love this class
--I love Phil
--I liked this class very much, it was my favorite
--I think like you were a good teacher and didn't have much of a problem w/this class. it was alot of good laughs. I def wouldn't mind having you next year.
--I really enjoyed coming to class everyday because you made it REALLY fun and interesting, but we learned. :)
--Ur cool
--I would look forward to S.S. I could not wait to come for class. You made it very enjoyable.
--more teaching on WWII and Vietnam wars weapons
--I hope I get U next year (from the same kid who wrote, "NOTHING--Sorry.")
--the only history class that I actually learned in--you explained everything really well
--more games
--you are the best teacher and you taught everything real well and you were always enthusiastic
--I don't say much during class. It is an infirmity of mine. But through all of that. You are a wonderful teacher. I was always glad to come to this class. You brought the information to me well. Thank you so much for all you've done.
--No more OGT it SUCKS! (*stands for Ohio Graduation Test*)
--This class was very fun, I have learned way more than last year.
--Make the tests a LITTLE harder and keep the homework level the same.
--I LOVED your class! I really don't enjoy history, but your class was fun and entertaining, and I always felt involved. It was always a good time, and you made history come alive. Thanks for a phenominal year.
--too hard, grade nicer
--have a good summer, good luck at the iron man
--Apolo Anton Ohno's birthday is May 22, he turned 24 this year.
--your spirit and smile always cheered me up when I came to your class
--Gimme a WOOT WOOT for World History...WOOT WOOT!


teacherwoman said...

Teaching is SOOOO rewarding! I haven't had as much experience as you, but it will only be a matter of time. This was hard for me, as it was my first year teaching and I was so sad the last week of class! I am going to miss those little turkeys of mine so much!

The Little Pistol said...

I loved this one: --EVERYONE would get a sucker every 2nd Monday of the month. Because those days suck. This post was great, one of my favorites so far b/c it reminded me of my year of teaching (art in a public middle school). Unlike you, I only did the one year, but I think about going back all the time.

P.S. This is my first ever comment.I lurk on a lot of blogs, but never say anything. Yours is one of my favorites.

P.P.S. Who's Sean?

TryAthlete said...

Sounds like a good book. I'll have to check it out. Ever read John Holt's How Children Fail? It was written a while back as well, and same thing - the issues are still relevant in the present day.

I don't think there's any question your classes are interesting and enjoyable. I particularly like the "guest speaker" idea.

Teaching is mentally challenging, both from a "student" and "system" point of view. I think the challenges you face in the class do, in a way, prepare you for Wisconsin. I've decided to "retire" from the class because I don't think I can accept the "babysitting, not learning" mentality, or having to face the students' lack of discipline, but teachers who deal with that every day have my utmost respect.

Have a good summer away from school - you've more than earned it!

Habeela said...

See, this is what makes teaching so awesome! My sister sent me Up the Down Staircase to read the year I taught high school math and science in the Marshall Islands. Ahhh...the memories. But unlike you, I bailed after one year. Enjoy summer vacation!

Spence said...

Hilarious. Can you please elaborate about Shawn? ;)

Running Rabbit said...

You know you have done a great job teaching when you get a reply in the form of "Skeet skeet!"

Teachers are truly awesome!

Lance Notstrong said...

I have a friend who teaches English. At his graduation from college, the speaker said less than half the people on stage would actually get a job teaching and less than half of the ones who did would still be teaching 5 years from then. I guess it's harder than people think.

Siren said...

I loved this post. I wish I'd had you for history - maybe I wouldn't have hated it. I love to read, I love to learn, I revere the past and think it has things to teach us... it had to have been the teacher.

Eric said...

What an awesome post. It's great to know the kids have learned something over the year as well as learned something about you. The comments from the kids are not what I expected. You should be very proud of yourself. You are making a difference.

Rae said...

That is SO funny!! Sometimes I seriously worry about the future of this country!!

Ohio Graduation Prep said...

FYI... There is a new OGT prep tool built by Ohio teachers instead of a national company. It is located at: OGT Test Prep It is fairly easy to use...

Ohio Graduation Prep said...

It wuld be great to here more of why you do not like OGT. Since you mention the Ohio Graduation test on this blog posting, we placed a link on our Ohio Graduation test Blog. It is viewable at this post about the Ohio Graduation Test. We are looking for any comments or opinions on the OGT - including the best way to study for the OGT test.