Wednesday, August 31, 2005

 

Katrina: Day 3

I feel a little bit like Jonah. I've lived in Florida for years, and hurricanes are no big deal for me. Then, out of the blue, my house in Orlando gets hit directly by three storms last summer, a hurricane comes up to Oxford this summer, and Katrina heads, more or less, right for me on Monday. A part of me can't help but feel it's partially my fault. In all seriousness, though, this hurricane was the worst I've ever seen. Worse than Andrew, worse than Hugo. By now most of you have seen the reports of devestation and loss. It's incredible.

As a science buff, I'm fascinated by the storm. Visually, they are beautiful. So symmetric and powerful; hurricanes are giant water pumps churning across the tropics. I have decided to have an entire day devoted to the science of hurricane formation and evolution. I guess this is the ultimate teachable moment. Far enough away to escape damage, but close enough to home to feel the danger.

It's weird, my grandparents in south Florida told me about Katrina a day or so after it hit them as a weak hurricane. They were without power and more or less annoyed and inconvenienced, but nothing like the Gulf Coast. Meteorologically, Katrina is quite phenomenal. I've never seen a storm increase in size and strength in such a short amount of time. Had it hit twelve hours sooner, I'm convinced there would be no New Orleans or Gulf Port or Biloxi to speak of. As bad as she was, Katrina weaked substantially before coming ashore.

I have no TV so all my reports are coming by radio or online newspapers. Schools here were closed on Tuesday, so I read the updates every 30 minutes online. It was stunning and sobering. Maybe it's time I be thrown overboard.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

 

first weeks

I'm in my second full week now and it's been going great, except for today. I'm taking a break from grading quizzes because I'm so disappointed in their scores. It's not so much that they have trouble adding and dividing - in a way, I was expecting that. What really bothers me is that nobody - nobody - asks for help. We're finishing up the measures of central tendency (mean, median, and mode) and I gave them a pop quiz today. Right before, I reviewed everything again and again and again. I called on a wide range of students, asked how and why questions, and had them make predictions. There didn't seem to be any problems. When I asked the class to ask for clarifications on anything they didn't understand, nobody said anything. I even asked if they would all get 100s if I gave a pop quiz and everybody said yes. So far in my grading, about 3/4 of them are going to fail.

Today's disastrous quiz aside, I love it in Quitman County. The students are a lot of fun and for the most part respectful. The real problem students have been removed from my classroom and the special ed teacher has taken it upon himself to become my mentor, which is fine by me. My classroom management has been great. I'm teaching 7th grade, so the age gap is a bit larger. I have to say, I like the arbitrary power I have over them. So far, no student has explicitly refused any of my requests or demands. When I say "sit", they sit. When I say "move", they move. My 6th and 7th periods have a tendancy to get loud and are distracted easily, I think this is due to the fact that it is the end of the day. The 7th graders are locked into "class groups". Although they change classes, the students within the groups do not change. From the students' point of view, there are only 20 or so classmates. The general trend us 7th grade teachers have seen is that as the day progresses, the classes start to get more out of hand. But my first three periods are amazingly well behaved.

About four days in I broke up my first fight. It was 7th period during the afternoon announcements. This kid, Melvin Wise, who thankfully is no longer in my class, was sitting down in a desk and swung at this tiny kid, Jerry. Melvin hit him in the mouth and then slammed him against my door. He was about to hit him again, but I grabbed him by the shoulders and quite forcefully threw him back in his desk. I stood over him, leaving only one or two inches between us while the janitor got the assistant principal. I didn't really think about what was happening, I just reacted. But now I feel like a delta teacher.

A few things I've noticed about my students:
They have this pressing need to throw away their trash...immediately. Almost as if it pains them to have to look at it. Every single day, I'll get a dozen requests per class to throw away their trash. After a few days of this, I announced to the class that trash will be thrown away at the end of class as they walk out the door. Since then, I've ignored all other requests to throw away trash. It's not even like they are sitting at small desks. They're four to a picnic table!
They are also all guilty of excessive pencil sharpening, and they aren't very good at it either. Pencils can't just write, they must have the ability to inflict bodily harm with their points. Nothing is more important to my students than having the sharpest pencil in class. And that's real annoying.

Now I'm just rambling...

One day I heard a loud, intermittent whacking noise coming from the hall. I tried to ignore it but it was real loud. I asked my students if they heard it too, and they laughed. They clearly knew something I did not. It turns out a bunch of students were being beaten out in the hall by the assistant principal. This is my first experience with corporal punishment and I'm shocked at how hard these kids are hit. I hate that it is the policy at my school because I don't want to send students to the office, but sometimes they are just so unruly. I was even told to make my own paddle so I could beat my own kids.

Our school was victim to a break in last week. As if we didn't have enough problems...

Oh, I almost forgot. I'm the girls softball head coach. This is definitely the coolest part of my day. The team is 7th - 12th graders and the field is over at the high school. I like being called Coach Couzo. I just think that sounds so cool. We're 3-0.

That's about it. I went to a blues festival with Rob in Clarksdale last weekend. I'm sure he blogged about it. I'm done. Peace.

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