Saturday, August 30, 2008

I finally get a chance to sit down and relax!

The first week of classes is over. Hallelujah! My feet, especially my heels, were killing me all week long. I got a pair of supportive shoes that I found to be very good to my feet 2 years ago. When last year started I bought the same shoe style, and the support fell apart in less than a month. I went through the year with them anyway, but I never took the time to contact the manufacturer and complain. I thought what happened to them last year was a fluke, so I bought the same style again this year. The support is already breaking down. Thanks to my mother's late birthday present to me, I will be able to buy new shoes this weekend, and I will definitely not buy any made by that manufacturer!

The main problem with teaching is that I spend almost all of my day on my feet with not much movement around the room. Ouch! I have been doing a new set of exercises over the past 2 weeks that have helped, especially in my posture and balance, but the shoes are extremely important. If you ever wondered why middle-aged school teachers wear "old lady" shoes, it's because we have to keep up with much younger people even when our feet hurt.

Having a freshman homeroom is just as time-consuming as I figured it would be. I did save myself a lot of hassle with assigning seats before any of my students walked into my classroom. I also have my "Always use good manners in this classroom" sign up on the front wall where I can point it out any time one of my students start using bad manners. That is working out very well. Yea! It also helps me to wear more conservative business attire for teaching because I know from my past that I tend to behave in a more serious manner when I am dressed that way. It's like putting on a suit of armor before going out to joust.

I was on the move all day, every day, at the school last week. I really had little time to slow down with preparing 4 subjects for 6 class periods plus helping the other faculty with computer problems. Next week I will be showing a few educational DVDs which will give me a bit more time to fix stuff up while the students learn.

I didn't post on Monday because my feet really hurt and it was our 35th wedding anniversary. We went out to celebrate, and I went to bed when we returned. Tuesday, I took a nap, ate, exercised, and worked on lesson plans. Ditto for Wednesday and Thursday. Yesterday, I did all of the same except I did not exercise but I did stay up to see The Daily Show for their last DNC convention "coverage" as a result of a promise to my son.

With Monday being a holiday, I expect to be in better shape next week. I really want to keep this up on an almost daily basis because it's nice to vent and explain. It helps me, at least.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Last day before students return

Well, I got my classroom straightened up at least. I took the quick and dirty method with my desk and made about 2 piles of papers that still need to be handled, but the room looks neat.

After being nice last year to the building plant manager and starting out with tables instead of desks until the new desks arrived, I decided to start out rather harshly this year and assigned desks for every single class plus my homeroom. Due to the niceties of computer software, I cut and pasted the students' names from the online grading system to PowerPoint slides of my classroom setup. It took very little effort to do, and I will have my computer projection of each class' slide on the screen when the students come to class. By starting the year this way, my students will have the knowledge that I assign seats; I will accept no question on that!

As I noted before, this my first time in my teaching career of having a freshman homeroom. What this means is that the start of the year is heavy on teaching them the ways of our school. Tomorrow I have to take them to the Freshman Hall where their lockers are and help them figure out the locks. Then, back to my classroom where I cover everything else needed for today.

Also, I have had the teacher's edition of the stat book all summer, and I still haven't cracked it open to plan for the year. I borrowed the former teacher's syllabus and grading system, plus I did get a B.S. in statistics, so I am "okay" for the time being, but I really need to do some serious work today. At least I have the experience of knowing that most of my students will be tired all day because they didn't practice getting up early last week. On to work!

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Teacher Workweek -- Days 4,5 ... and 6

I am writing this while waiting for the school to open on a Saturday so I can finish preparing for Monday. I spent so much time in meetings and helping the other teachers with software requirements and training that I had little time for my own stuff. Also, I did the almost fool thing of volunteering without being asked or suggested of coming to the new parent meeting Thursday night to train new parents on how to get to the homework pages and students' grades by way of the school's website. It went well, but I was exhausted when I got home, and I never did feel very awake all day Friday. I'm off to do what I can in the next 4 hours, then everything else I do in preparation will take place at home.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Teacher workweek - day 3

Successful day for my users/fellow teachers. Semi-successful day for me. I started bringing my syllabi up to the new official standards at 8 a.m., was caught by another teacher for help, and spent the remaining time available helping other teachers put their syllabi on their websites. Then to 2 hours of religious mini-retreat and serious reflection ... which was so good and definitely not a waste of anyone's time. Nice way to prepare for the school year.

After lunch I spent my remaining time training 2 new teachers on the homework website and helping several other teachers with their syllabi. I made it to my classroom once after I started helping other teachers early in the morning, and that was just to leave myself a copy of Thursday departmental meeting agenda. My syllabi are screaming for me, and I still have one more new teacher to train.

At least, I'm not bored.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Teacher workweek -- day 2

As usual the all-day meeting lasted longer than the principal had planned. We started at 10, but I was already initiating another new teacher into the mysterious ways of her homework website. (Read "the Force" for website, and you can understand why I am the Yoda of Math. ;-)) I think I have 2 more teachers to train.

Anyhow, everything that was needed to start out the year except for the learning support department (some of you would know it as "special education" or "exceptional children" department) was covered. I felt stupid on occasion because I said some things that the principal caught; one time it was an aside that he felt moved to address to the entire staff so that I didn't start an erroneous rumor. Ouch! Live and learn ... or, as I tell my students, that's why the adage says "to err is human". My own part went well excepting for the points at which I had to stop to remember the words I needed to use. Being a visual and tactile thinker, I can see the object in my head and shape the object with my hands, but I really must reach somewhere else in my brain for the vocabulary. No wonder I deal well with "exceptional children", i.e. children who think like me, not like other faculty.

Next up, a morning of faculty and staff religious reflection, lunch provided by the school, and an afternoon of preparing our classrooms which means more training of new teachers for me. All this training is the very reason that I wanted to get my classroom in shape before this week. Sometimes real life just messes up our plans.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Teacher Workweek -- Day 1

We started out with OSHA training on blood-born pathogens, followed by anaphylactic (spelling?) shock and use of the EpiPen at 10 this morning. Yes, there was CPR training, but since I do not coach athletics nor teach P.E. I got to forgo it. Back home early for lunch, then off to the high school ...

... where I found that my furniture had been put back in place, but all my electronics had been unplugged and the cables were just stacked in a big mess beside my computer. I spent much of the afternoon sorting out the mess and plugging things back where they belonged whilst finally putting labels on the ends of the cables so that I don't spend much time this year trying to figure out which cable is which. I also hooked in my phone and a few other teachers' phones. In other words, every classroom had the same situation that mine had: unplugged electronics with the cables just piled up in a mess. My son is spending the rest of the week at the school helping the technology coordinator fix the classroom electronics messes plus anything else technology-oriented needed. The faculty is so happy to know that he's coming because they really like him and his work.

Meantime, I met several of our new teachers and talked with them about getting together with me to learn how to use our homework web pages. I did teach one person last week, and I taught another today, so I have about 3 left to go. The biggest problem of doing this is the level of computer use competency of the individual teacher. For example, today's teacher used to work on computer databases, so I just needed to do a little bit of showing him around and giving him some advice, and he was good to go. Unfortunately, I know that not all of them will be that easy. I originally planned to get the new teachers up to speed today, but I did not count on a "hardware failure", i.e. the electronic messes in all the classrooms.

Tomorrow is a full day of the annual full faculty and staff meeting. I get to do my bit on the homework web pages and the computer lab sign-up sheets at the end of the meeting. I wonder how many people will still be attentive and functioning after all those hours?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

It all starts again tomorrow!

Today ends my summer vacation. I went to 2 office supply teacher appreciation events yesterday and picked up some stuff for my classroom. While waiting in line for the first store to open another teacher and I were lamenting the end of freedom for another year. Then a teacher behind us said that she could not wait for school to start up again because her father died at the beginning of summer break which made it a bad time for her. Sometimes reality sucks.

I planned to go to the school on Friday, but I ended up donating blood instead. I had wanted to see if my room was finally put back together because I have not had access to my computer nor my bookshelves due to painting and working on the carpet. I still have so much to do to get ready. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that everything is in place when I return there tomorrow afternoon.

The faculty and staff must be at an OSHA training session in a building near my home tomorrow morning so I will not waste gas to go to the school until after lunch. Our principal has this thing about wearing "business casual" whenever we are at some inservice, etc. situation involving other schools, but I plan to wear jeans and a shirt because OSHA training sometimes requires CPR practice and the like. Besides, the principal has not put out his usual warning of his dress expectations. I've already checked my school email for the day, so he's out of luck if he thinks I'll check it again before tomorrow. "My mama never raised no fools!"

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Last week of "freedom"

I have been busy getting ready for next week when the faculty and staff prepare for the students returning on August 25. Up north many schools do not start before Labor Day, but down here, people have trouble keeping the public schools from starting earlier, like early August which happened for a few years here. I guess that's why we have state legislatures, to insure that the public schools, which the private schools follow, have sane school calendars. Although it would be nice to be an 11-month employee rather than a 10-month employee, both public and private schools could not afford the increase in teacher pay. Reality check, folks.

My husband claims that I'm an overachiever, which may be true, but I need to have a sense of accomplishment and readiness when summer break is over. So, I finished the 2 items of clothing I made, I am hemming my new dress pants, and I am cleaning out my closet and drawers of no-longer-worn clothes to give to charity. Plus I was at the school yesterday to work on my classroom and train any new teachers available on their homework web pages. (One down, 5 or so to go.)

This year will be better, though, since I dropped the department chairmanship. I still don't know if the principal convinced anyone into the slot, but it's not my problem anymore. I just need to work on my teaching, the school's instructional technology, and the junior class (I'm their moderator ... and why are we called "moderators" rather than "sponsors" in our school?). I may actually be able to work on decreasing my weight and my cholesterol this year! That would definitely make my doctor happy.

Thursday, August 7, 2008


I found myself with a cooler day and a desire to update my profile. It started out with explaining where I got the name "the Yoda of Math" and went on from there. I will admit that it was a little cheap of me to use a picture of me walking through the woods from the back, but I was tired of not having a picture and I liked that one.

I am currently involved in one problem with not having air conditioning. Not only is it hard to deal with the 95+ degrees Fahrenheit, but mosquitoes will find a way into the house. My husband doesn't care because they do not like him, but they see me and think "dinner time, ladies!". We really don't have that much space for them to get in, but it is enough to add irritation to my life. I guess one must always have something about which to complain. Now, back to my sewing!

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

No chairman yet.

I spoke with my principal yesterday. Our choice for the math dept. chairman said "no", so he tells me that it's just not settled yet. Ha! Although I am not longer receiving the chairman stipend in my pay, he and the guidance department are still calling upon me to help. To paraphrase LB Johnson, I will not seek the chairmanship, nor, if asked, will I take it. I really need to concentrate on other school issues like the state of computer science classes, currently electives, in my high school and state plus other technology concerns for the faculty (I need to do something with my masters and my specialized license.). I'll be at the school tomorrow for a few hours, and I'll talk with the principal more then. It's really his problem, but the department suffers when the leadership is not there.

I did work on my shirt more yesterday while watching the History channel's 3-hour show on China's first emperor. I did not realize that it would end at midnight, but it was worth the time. During the school year I usually go to bed between 9 and 10 and get up between 5:15 and 5:45, so even in the summer I am not inclined to be awake past 11 at night. I made some serious inroads on the shirt, so I am up to the sleeves. Nothing worth doing is ever easy, but it can be satisfying. I'd love to get that idea into the brains of my students, but it is difficult.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Three weeks to classes

I am cooling off in front of a fan after doing my almost-daily morning walk. The hardest part of the walk is getting myself started. It's one of those "I don't want to, I don't have to, and you can't make me" moments. I experience all the benefits of regular exercise so I really have no excuse. I just do not want to walk. I do like to dance, so that would be easier for me, but my husband likes dances only on occasion. Ah, well. That's one of the prices of a successful marriage.

I did some sewing between breakfast and walking, so my shirt is taking shape. One thing I like is going on the fire escape landing outside my sewing room. It's cool, shaded, and has one of the best views around. I think I need to fix it up more as a small balcony because it's such a great space. What this has to do with sewing is the fact that I sat at the top of the fire escape stairs whenever I had to pin pieces of fabric together. It made for a pleasant experience.

I've already received an email from my principal about a trial offer of some math software and videos on the internet for the fall. I thought that I ceded the position of math department chair. Maybe the person he asked said "no", or maybe he hasn't asked anyone else yet. I march on to the new school year slowly but surely.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Tax-free weekend

Today I went to the local big-box store to buy clothes since it is the start of the state's tax-free weekend in anticipation of school starting. I hate to admit that most of what I bought was made in China, but it was. For about $150 I ended up with 3 blazers, 3 pairs of pants, and 1 pair of shoes. Why spend the money when I can sew? Because I am changing my clothing style for teaching slowly. Although I love wearing jumpers with blouses for comfort, I need to change out from wearing nylons. I expect the price of nylons to jump sometime soon even at the outlet store where I buy mine. Besides, I hate to shave my legs, and nylons require leg shaving.

I am in the midst of working on a white button-down shirt. If there is one thing that either costs too much in my view or is not made the way I like it, it is the button-down oxford-style shirt for women. I like full-length sleeves, a cotton or silk woven fabric, no stretch in said fabric, and a nice fit that doesn't make me feel squeezed into it. Big box stores do not seem to have that, and the thrift stores run out of them quickly. Mall stores and the like are out of my financial reach since I teach at a non-public school where the pay is thousands less than in the public schools. When was the last time you heard of a K-12 teacher making a six-figure salary, let alone more than $50,000 per year. The latter is coming quickly, though, due to inflation.