Friday, August 29, 2008
I've been trying to type up notes from our college visits and format them with pictures so we can make nice little hand-outs for our students since about 8:30am.
Life lesson: I HATE FORMATTING SO MUCH IT MAKES MY EYES BLEED.
Perhaps I should reconsider my job future job-o-awesome in web design. It was a nice pipe-dream while it lasted. By "while it lasted" I think I mean "since Tuesday."
Thursday, August 28, 2008
Truth about life: the more you put ANYTHING off, the harder it becomes…unless we’re talking, like, eating a fruit. In the case of fruit-eating, the fruit might become SOFTER, due to rotting and nefarious invasion by THE REALLY ANNOYING FRUIT FLIES THAT LIVE IN MY KITCHEN SOMETIMES. I guess that still makes “eating the fruit” harder, because now it is the picture of gross and disgusting things, but the fruit itself has, in fact, softened. MY ANALOGY IS PRICELESS AND WORKABLE.
Other truth about blogging: "blogging" is a stupid word and I feel sort of dirty whenever I write it. I do. Dirty. Drrrrrty, Xtina style, even. That reference will never get old.
Despite the fact that the students don't arrive until Tuesday, this past week has been an exercise in things that are harder than they seem like they'll be. I can only imagine how hard our job, which we already anticipate rating fairly high on the difficulty scale, will prove to be.
Examples of things with unexpected difficulty levels:
- Visiting Colleges: For the last week or so, Mary and I have been spending our days traipsing around the Roanoke Valley area visiting local colleges and universities. Our mission - introduce ourselves and make solid contacts, tell schools what we're all about, learn what schools are all about. Learn where to send our students, and how we can get our students into these institutions. This is difficult and exhausting for several reasons. Firstly, this requires Being On All The Time for lots of hours, with travel time in between. Also, despite it seeming like an organic relationship to form, the relationship we're aiming for is actually a weird one. It's hard to not seem like we're some how either in an adversarial relationship or making a business deal. Lastly, absorbing facts and figures, along with "soft factors" quickly, efficiently, and while also trying to think of relevant questions to ask just becomes exhausting sooner than anticipated. By "sooner than anticipated" I mean "within moments." Dear College Guides: HOW I ENVY YOUR SUPPORT NETWORK.
- Telling People What Our Job Is: Under this category, really, fall several things. Thing one: convincing people that we do, in fact, work at their school. Thing two: convincing people that we are full-time employees, not interns. Thing three: convincing people that we do, indeed, have a niche distinct from (or, rather, taking over one of the burdens of) a normal guidance counselor. Thing four: convincing people that we work for Roanoke City, not any college. No, no, we graduated from UVa, but we're not with UVa. No...no, see, we're working for Roanoke City so that means we really report to the Central Administration office - but we're on-site to work directly with the students. Um, actually, we're not so much interns...
- Painting cinderblock walls: Our office/hole of despair and no return at one of the high schools we're working with, William Fleming, is a little dreary. Basically, Fleming is slated to be torn down in a year, and they've already started construction on the New, Shiny, Fancy School, so the Old Not Shiny School is being allowed to fall into even greater disrepair than might otherwise be the case. Our office is a rectangle with no windows and cinderblock walls and water leaking through the roof and the smell of mold and despair. Mary, being industrious, suggested that we paint the room (an action we got permission from the principal to undertake). Now, if you know Mary, you know "Mary blue" and you also know that the girl is the most understanding, amazing, loving, caring person you'll ever meet - but she's a stickler when it comes to room colors. Let's...let's just say that our room is now bright turquoise with some darker turquoise accent walls. Really, we had brightening, calming ideas in mind. Instead, managed to decorate our room MERMAID. Fo' serious. Also, painting cinderblock is HATEFUL AND DIFFICULT. We're planning on painting inspriational quotations on top of the darker green accent walls, in an effort to cover up the fact that it is impossible to get an even coat of that darn stuff. We, darlings, are obviously professionals. We're also going to sponge some of the darker turquoise over the lighter, in an effort to counteract the feeling of a 90s TV special.
In short: this whole dealy has a few speed-bumps, but we do not intend to become deterred. We are strong. We are UVa women. We don't take no for an answer! We, yes we are the kind of women who can make mermaid walls work for us. Look out, students - we're getting ready to infuse you with idealism and energy.
Ready or not, difficult and exhausting tasks - we conquored hateful cinderblock walls already, we can take anything else down in our path too.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
Warning: this post contains lots of information about my new job, but very little of it is snarky or humorous! There are almost no exclamation marks after the third paragraph! Read warily and forewarned-ly!
It’s official – we are working in the school system. How do I know? There is a small gift bag sitting on my desk right now. Said small gift bag is decorated with pictures of pencils, rulers, stars, and apples and says “Teachers RULE” and inside has a bunch of small, symbolic, inspirational things.
I imagine my writing voice sounds like it’s dripping with “so over it” style sarcasm. It is. But, if you know me, you know this is all a front. I love “teachers RULE” and symbolic inspirational things and power points with high-fiving stick figures. I love “move around the room” activities and learning about the power of small groups. I have, in short, loved the past two days of new teacher orientation.
Simple - and perhaps hyperbolic - love aside, these past two days were the beginning of Actually Having A Job In The Real World. Roanoke City requires all new teachers (new to teaching and new to the school system) attend the New Teacher Orientation in order to be…oriented. After only two days, I feel that we’ve been given an interesting and clear look at the administrative attitude within Roanoke City: energized, focused, and in crisis mode.
Day one consisted, in large part, of training based on and around Ruby Payne’s A Framework for Understanding Poverty – basically “class diversity” training. Now, this is interesting for several reasons. First and foremost, it drives home the attitude that the Roanoke City school system is an “urban” system, versus a suburban or rural system, which faces issues of class differentiation and poverty in a very urban sense of the terms. I just spent the last chunk of my life googling Payne reviews and while I think that there may be some deeply flawed assumptions her theory asks the educator to accept in a large Cultural Studies sense, I actually think the practical aspects of the theory seem sound. (Interestingly, a huge criticism of Payne's work, a work explicitly ON class, is that it is classist.) The basic rules that our training wanted to impart upon us seem to be these:
- Do not assume that all students come from similar backgrounds - either to each other, or to you. Furthermore, do not assume that they come from a background in which the school paradigms are universal norms.
- All effective teaching/counseling is based on effective relationships with students.
- All effective relationships with students are based on mutual respect.
- Respect is something a teacher must give in order to receive, but must also expect.
- School systems are based on middle class norms and values. If a student does not arrive with middle class norms or values from the home, the educator should do the best to both understand and teach that there can be multiple "languages" or sets of rules for multiple different settings. (This is, understandably, the piece with which reviewers have the most difficulty.)
Our presentations today focused mostly around reinforcing reading ("Reading is Everyone's Responsibility") and understanding/dealing with mainstreamed learning disabled children in classrooms. Now, as the product of mainstreaming, I have some pretty strong feelings about LD students and mainstreaming - but those are probably for another day. All this training really reinforces one major point: you are the first and last line of defense.
Like I said: crisis mode. Roanoke City Schools is really trying to pull itself up by its bootstraps, and the tactic it appears to be employing is this: everyone needs to think they're fighting for the system's life.
Starting a new program within this sort of battle zone is certainly going to be an interesting experience - especially our kind of program. We're focusing, hopefully, on retention (keeping kids in high school because they have post-high school options) but also on elevating the system nationally (as we elevate our college stats) and providing for students AFTER they leave a system which identifies itself as in crisis. Ultimately, while I think we're going to be up against some unique challenges, I'm excited. I love the energy everyone from the Central Administration Office carries with her (or him). I love the loyalty you can feel for the superintendent. I love feeling like we're gearing up for war - because I think we're going to win.
We're also making friends with all manner of Sassy Young Teachers (SYTs) and the like. Hopefully we're going to host a SYT dinner party on Friday.
Tomorrow we start visiting colleges. Adventure!
Friday, August 15, 2008
Attention Bad Guys who planned on kidnapping me, in order to make me participate in nefarious capers: I am about to “go on the record!"
Truth: I do not know if “on the record” is actually slang for anything!
Other truth: I’m about to get finger-printed for my job! Now, to the best of my knowledge, my finger prints will be in the system FOR EVER.
Hear that, Bad Guys? If you kidnap me, assuming you will use my DASHING GOOD LOOKS and YOUTHFUL NIEVATE to commit your crimes because there is NO WAY a girl this DASHINGLY GOOD LOOKING AND YOUTHFULLY NAIEVE could possibly have her prints in the system, thus, your scene will be clean – think again!
Finger prints, ID badges, and lots of official paper work: an auspicious beginning to the job, indeed!
In other news, Mary arrived yesterday afternoon with our third half, Corelyn, in tow. (Three halves work, I promise – our math is just a little TOO advanced for most.) My life is no longer craigslist-readingly boring! It’s amazing, really. I…I actually can’t think of a way to appropriately describe how astronomically my quality of life just rose – just take my word for it?
In third, and other OTHER news, Georgia (the puppers) went in yesterday to be spayed. And I hate my vet. And I get to pick her up today. And I feel like a HORRIBLE PERSON for sending her under the knife but – let’s be honest – it’s the better option. I hadn’t realized how intensely bonded to that dog I am, though. Not having her around for 24 hours, even with the arrival of Mary and Corelyn has been cause for intense distress, let me tell you.
Now - off to Official Administrative Business!
Wednesday, August 13, 2008
So anyway, I'm white, into film, well traveled, about 5,9 but sometimes my hair, which is thick and brown, gets a little wavy (70's style) and makes me taller! No kids, no ex wives or anything, and I don't smell weird.
I assume you are bored with eating out with your parents or that one friend that talks about her bf/husband non-stop. Maybe you are a student but want something more than just books to spend time with. Whatever, just be sane please... no more than two cats.
If you don't go out much, that's fine with me. I'm really easy to talk to and specialize in shy people, or at least they gravitate toward me for some reason... so maybe I've got a niche!"
Now - this person sounds adorable. His pick-up line is, in essence, "I can properly manipulate homonyms!" And he says he doesn't smell weird! And...and he acknowledges the existence of cat ladies! How cute! How appropriately adorable and witty! How perfect a match!