Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Secret's Out

Fourth block English 9 was really fun today....and I don't say that very often. Not that they're a "bad" group of kids because I'm actually very thankful for them. They all get along (for the most part), there are no punk/jerk/mean/bully types that make us all miserable, and everyone seems to be trying to do their least most days. But they are still 4th block freshmen, which means they are crazy, talkative, off-task, sometimes annoying teenagers who want nothing more than for my class to be over with.

Today was especially fun because a burning question was finally answered. At the beginning of class I noticed the second row whispering about something. "Joe" raised his hand. Joe is known for asking off-topic questions and making even little things into drama, so I always hold my breath a bit when I call on him.

"Remember at the beginning of the year when you said you wanted to have kids," he begins, "did you mean right away or not for a while."

"What?!?!" I reply, remembering that conversation and wondering how in the world it related to the embarrassing family moments that we had just journaled about and were now discussing.

"Well, do you and your husband want to have kids soon?"

Now I could see where this was going, so I decided to have a bit of fun, slightly at Joe's expense.

"What are you talking about?"

"Well, you know....." stutter, stutter, start to look awkward and slightly embarrassed in the way that only a squirrely freshman boy can.

"Why do you ask?" I move in for the kill.

Small pause. "Oh, uh, nothing, never mind." He tries to retreat.

"No seriously, why do you ask? Are you saying I look pregnant?" Pause just long enough for Joe to seriously consider that he may have just offended me and possibly should have kept his mouth shut...and then I couldn't let him squirm any longer, so I added, "...because I am."

Cheers, whoops, and hollers erupt around the room, along with "I told you so" and other comments. Apparently my recently apparent small baby bump has been the topic of several whispered classroom conversations this week.

"I thought so," another student pipes in. "We were talking about it yesterday but were too afraid to ask."

The best, though, were the two girls in the back of the room who I know "talk" during class by pushing a notebook back and forth between them. They know I see the notebook and sometimes I give them the evil eye, but they are good students, so I don't make a big deal about it. "We were just talking about it yesterday," one of the girls exclaims as she starts flipping through the notebook, trying to find the right page. The "conversation" note goes something like:
"and yeah, our teacher is pregnant!"
"I can't believe she's not saying anything"
"LOL, I know, it's so obvious, I don't know why she just doesn't admit it"

I must admit, I laughed out loud when I read it and asked if I could keep it for the baby book. They agreed, after ripping off the top part of the note which was about who-knows-what that I probably don't really want to know about.

After a few minutes of questions (when's it due, do you know if it's a boy or girl, I think you should name it....) I manage to get everyone back on task, or so I thought. After the 3:15 bell, three girls approach my desk. "We thought you'd like to see what we did in class," the quietest one says. She hands me a notebook with a list of each student's name and his/her guess at the birthday of the baby. "We passed it around during reading time." And here I thought we were all just silently reading our books like we should be. Man, I felt like an unobservant teacher...but at the same time it felt pretty good. Their excitement, chronicled in the note and list which now hold a place on the bulletin board by my desk, is contagious and was, hands down, the best part of my day.

Media Boycott

Riding an emotional roller coaster today. Most of what I feel like blogging about is fun, so in order to cleanse my emotional palate of the bad "taste" first, I'm going to rant for a moment. In fact, I'm just going to rant for this entire post, so if you want to get to the happier moments of the day, skip this.

I am considering a media boycott after watching yet another segment of NBC's "Education Nation" series that's everywhere this week. This segment was about Finland and it's amazing schools. Now, nothing against Finland. Could be a fun place to live, and teaching there sounds wonderful, but please, NBC news, stop comparing Finland to the United States in such a way that suddenly apples and oranges are the same thing.

Finland has 5 million Their economy is in a better state than ours at the moment. The report blatantly said that the country values education, values teachers, and has created a culture where students come to school ready to learn. Also, the report noted, there are three teachers in many classrooms: two for instruction and one to help struggling students. Can I tell you the material we could cover in my classes if there were two more bodies floating around the room? So, my first point...seems like a very different environment.

Second (I'm so angry that I'm slipping into using transitions that I tell my students to avoid because they are so can deduct points from my total score if you'd like...), the report said that all teachers in Finland are required to have Master's degrees. Before I offend any of my friends who hold Master's degrees, let me say that I wish I would've taken that route when I returned to Creighton for my teaching certificate. Hindsight is 20/20, I guess, but I didn't because I didn't want to get a Master's that I didn't think I would really use (one in general Secondary Education was the only option available at Creighton...I was thinking that I'd like to go the Guidance Counseling route instead). More than a few of my fellow teachers who hold Master's degrees have said that they didn't really learn material that made them a better teacher, but that they earned them for the pay raise and job opportunities that are unavailable without them. Several teachers have given me advice on which programs are the quickest and least painful. I don't want to be painting these individuals in a bad light. They are great teachers, but their comments reveal some insights when I think about the real value (besides extra pay) of many Master's degrees. I fail to see how requiring teachers to earn Masters would improve anything until the Master's programs actually contain material that teachers find genuinely useful, which doesn't seem to be the consensus among people that I talk to.

And finally, not that this is the last thing that frustrates me, but I should stop before my blood pressure rises (not good for the baby, you know), the NBC report pointed out that in the United States, teachers generally come from the bottom 10% of college graduating classes while in Finland the teachers come from the top 10%. I'd like to mail in my diploma with it's "Cum Laude" distinction to prove them wrong. Thank you, NBC, for making me feel like a stupid loser and for insulting the intelligence of my fellow teachers...not to mention the mistake of automatically assuming that being a good student yourself makes you a good teacher. I've found the opposite, sometimes, because since I was a "good student," I sometimes don't get why everyone can't be one.

Ok, enough. This is why I just shouldn't listen to the news. Instead, I need to think about the great teaching moments I had today (and there were several), continue to do my job to the best of my ability, and know that, somehow, I am making a difference. I have to believe that.