Tag Archives: students

In the News

Standard

Yesterday my senior class was featured on the local 6 and 11 o’clock evening news!  The broadcast was also on the station’s website.  It was such a neat experience and I was really pleased with my kids!

I received an email about 15 minutes before my class started from the district’s spokeperson informing me that a camera crew was headed my way.  They wanted to spotlight a teacher who was addressing the significance of Obama’s nomination.  Apparently somebody told them about me!

They are writing letters to the presidential candidates to persuade them to give attention to the issues that they feel are essential to their future.  This is a project sponsered by Google and the National Writing Project (I am a teacher-consultant for our local chapter).  The letters will be published on an online forum for all the world to see. 

Next week I have representatives from our state’s Republican and Democratic offices coming to present .  This will provide the students with more insight about each political party and allow them to write a more detailed and knowledgable letter.

I received many job well done calls, texts, and emails from friends, family, and former students who saw us on the news.  It was actually a pretty indepth segment.

However, only three of my colleagues commented on the story–the principal nor the vice principal was one of them!  Over the span of six years my students and I have been in the newspaper twice and covered on the news two times as well.  I have to say that this one was the best.  The reporter did a great job on this story. 

I am really proud of my students!

Welcome Back!

Standard

Day 1: What a day it has been! Today was my first day of school.  It was a day of mass confusion and overall craziness.  A fight took place as soon as the doors opened.  Many of the kids were resentful to be back at school already.  I could hear Pink Floyd singing:

We don’t need no education
We don’t need no thought control
No dark sarcasm in the classroom
Teachers leave them kids alone
Hey! Teachers! Leave them kids alone!
All in all it’s just another brick in the wall.
All in all you’re just another brick in the wall.

Day 5:  Not much has changed from day one.  I have a class of 67 with a room that contains 30 desks!  We have masses of students who do not have a schedule, therefore it is safe to conclude that my other classes will swell as well. 

The majority of the students do not have lockers or ID’s.  Only a handful have text books.

We have a new ridiculously long lesson plan template that has already garnered over 300 complaints with the union.

We have a new principal who has his hands full.

We have added grades 7-8.  We also have a group of “under/over” students in grades 5 and 6.  They are ages 15-16 years old.

My back is strained terribly from lifting boxes, hauling the 70 literature and grammar tomes for my classroom set, and removing desks that were stacked on top of each other.  I mean seriously, I had to stay reclined over the weekend because my back felt so terrible.

Information and communication is not flowing very well between administration and teachers.  We are often told about things the morning of.  Case in point, I was told the day before school started that I was scheduled to teach a section of etymology. Had I known about this in advance, I could have spent time in the summer creating lessons for this provocative subject.  But no, that would have been too convenient for me!

I feel exhausted already!

But I still can see silver linings:

  • I have a helpful resource teacher for period 1
  • I have a job that I am healthy enough to attend daily
  • I have a fair amount of students who seem eager to learn
  • Yesterday a student gifted me with a composition notebook that she picked up specifically for me!
  • I am in a remodeled classroom
Welcome!

Welcome!

My bulletin boards, I reserved one for student work

My bulletin boards, I reserved one for student work

I love my dry erase boards!

I love my dry erase boards!

Reading, my favorite sport!

Reading, my favorite sport!

It Gets Greater Later

Standard

I often spend my Saturday mornings grocery shopping. The local shopping district that I utilize is routinely populated by students who attend the school where I teach. So it’s not unusual for me to run into students, both past and present during this time. The trip I made to the grocery store last weekend was no different. I was spotted by several former students. For the most part, I am always happy to see them. I love to see how they have grown and hear about the progress that they have made in life. Then other times I liken myself to a celebrity being chased by the paparazzi. I’m ashamed to admit that sometimes I dodge, hide, or dart down the aisles in order to avoid my current students. Because even the students who don’t like you as a teacher at school, love you when they see you in public and always want to talk to you. Of course, this makes me feel weird, but rest assured, I know that by Monday morning, they will be back to their old fickle selves. How comforting!

I was standing at the cold cuts case trying to find a suitable Lunchable for Nicholas’ lunch when I felt a slight touch to my lower back. I turned and faced Nina, a former student. Nina was a student from the beginning of my teaching career. She had a great personality, but was not really into school. I think she was there largely for the social aspect and eventually quit school altogether.  Over the years I saw her a couple of times at Skyline Chili where she worked.

We were both pleasantly surprised to see each other considering three years had passed since she had served Cincinnati’s famous chili. Nina shyly told me that she was working on getting her GED and that she had hopes of attending college. I told her about the new changes within our school system, like how all the teachers at our school had to re-interview for our jobs. I was among the first to be interviewed and had already received my position back. Nina gave me a quick smile before saying “I knew that they wouldn’t let you go because you are the best English teacher at AHS.” Having finally learned the art of replying to compliments with grace, I simply said thank you. However, I was somewhat surprised by her commendation. As I mentioned, she was not particularly studious and rarely did the assignments I gave. I had no idea that she held this view of me. But it did make me feel good.

After a little more small talk, we parted ways and continued our shopping. A little later in the day it dawned on me—being a stepparent is a lot like being a teacher. Oftentimes you don’t know the impact that you are having on your students until years later. Just when you think you have bombed and didn’t make a dent of difference in their lives, the exact opposite is true. I receive many letters, emails, and visits from former students who express their gratitude over lessons learned. I love this. This fuels my passion to perform better each year since I rarely get to see the immediate fruits of my Herculean effort that I put forth. I have no problem accepting this fact of life as a teacher. This is a hard concept for me to master as a stepmom. But listening to Nina gave me hope. And it’s not that I expect something in return from my stepsons for being a positive influence in their lives, however, just hearing that you somehow made a difference does feel mighty good.

What Was She Thinking?

Standard

            Last night my husband and I happened to turn to the news channel as they were featuring a story about a teacher who allegedly had sex with a student. Can you imagine the shock I felt when they displayed the mug shot of Evan’s teacher?  Evan’s teacher! Mrs. Vasquez, age 37, had been charged with 4 felony counts of sexual misconduct with a minor!  Here is an excerpt from the news paper article:

 

Investigators say she allegedly drove a 15-year-old male student to her home in the Castleton area May 1 and had sexual intercourse with him, said Sgt. Matthew Mount of the Metropolitan Police Department.


Vasquez, 37, faces preliminary charges of sexual misconduct with a minor, Mount said.

 

According to a police report, the student told authorities Vasquez first had engaged in flirtatious behavior with him.
The two eventually concocted a plan; the student told police, for Vasquez to arrange to take the student on a special lunch outing that would be described to administrators as a reward for recent improvements in the boy’s classroom performance. The two intended instead to go to the teacher’s home for sex, the boy told police.

 

 

            At the beginning of the year I filed a complaint against the school for not following Evan’s IEP.  One of my many issues was with the teacher, Mrs. Vasquez and her educational practices.  She had a variety of grade levels in one class, and therefore gave ALL of the kids the same assignments.  So while Evan was in 3rd grade and should have been doing 3rd grade work, he was doing 2nd work because she had more 2nd graders than any other grade.  This was confirmed when she had mixed up papers from other students in Evan’s folder. Grades 1-5 were all doing the same worksheets.  When I asked her about this, she acknowledged that she had trouble finding lessons for each grade level.  Her class only consisted of 6 students and she even had the help of an assistant and a therapist; it wasn’t like she was going at it alone.  But the number of students fluctuated often due to students moving, being transferred back to their home schools, being expelled, or like Evan, eventually placed in residential treatment. 

  Nor did she have any classroom management.  She got flustered very easily and was always a nervous wreck.  She used a point system to reward and punish behavior.  However, this was a random practice.  Some days she would use the system and other days she would not.  I asked her to email me his point sheet because Evan was very good at “losing” his.  She emailed me this information maybe once per week when it should have been a daily form of communication.   They did more watching movies and recess than actual assignments. 

My biggest problem with her was that she gave the kids the answers to their work.  When they could not solve a problem, rather than teaching them how to come up with the solution, she would just tell them.  This was done on a regular basis—even on tests.  I figured this out when I would give Evan work to do at home because of course, they never had homework.  I suspect that she did not want to experience the wrath of the volatile children when they could not do their work.  The very same standards that he was mastering at school he could not do in any form at home.  He finally told me that they “shared” work, especially when the students got angry.  Evan even got frustrated with me once because I didn’t “help” him like Mrs. Vasquez.   Overall she was not very consistent in any area—something especially needed when you are working at an alternative school for students with behavior problems.  

            When I requested a case conference, they did not address my concerns about Mrs. Vazquez.  I suppose they did not believe them to be valid because she was one of their own, even though I came well documented regarding my claims.  However, when I filed an official complaint with the department of education, my lengthy allegations were substantiated.  After Evan left for residential treatment, they finally placed her in another class of four eighth grade students.  This is where she met her victim. 

I am left to wonder if maybe this incident could have been prevented had the school been willing to monitor her more closely?  I also wonder if she was ever inappropriate with any of the other students such as my own stepson? It saddens and angers me as both a teacher and a parent that this happened.  I hope with all the hope I can muster that the allegations are just that.