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if i could

a discussion in class about choices,

mistakes,

decisions,

second chances,

 

and if you could do it over

would you?

should you?

could you?

 

said many students

they’d love

they’d want

they’d die

 

me?

not sure

don’t think

no.

 

wishing when it happened,

that it had gone differently.

that I said something else.

that some things didn’t happen at all.

 

those moments with the pause

of shame

of frustration

of desperation

 

smiles not meaning happiness

but, sarcasm,

but, grief

but isolation

 

people ask,

“Why do bad things happen to good people?”

“Only the good die young”

“She’s so sweet, but suffers so”

 

the unsatisfactory answer:

they can handle it

G-d loves them

it’s a test

 

i don’t know

if i’m a “good” person

if i “handled” it

if i’ve passed

 

i do know i’m here

to-day

just now

this moment

 

because of what

i’ve done,

didn’t do,

gone though,

 

all is

for better or worse,

the good with the bad

the joy in the sorrow

 

i am me,

because

despite

contrary

 

of

it

them

all

 

and i kinda like me.

so no,

so sorry

so, whatever.

 

i choose

no reset

do over

groundhog day.

 
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Posted by on January 14, 2013 in Musings, Poems

 

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On Changing Roles and Relationships

Mazal tov!

No, I didn’t pop yet, but another one of my students are engaged. This is already number a lot. I could feel old, or acknowledge that teaching 11th grade when your 19, will lead to many married students (with babies) when you’re 24.

It’s kinda weird, I’ll admit it. I still think of myself as really young (and possibly dumb) and they, well infinitely younger, and definitely dumber (well, not dumb, but immature).

For a lot of my students, we’re kind of part if the same generation, even if I played a role that would put me one ahead of them. Think about it, I was really one of their “own”, on the other side, talking as if I knew (and I did –most of the time), telling them when their papers were due, and what was wrong with what they were doing till now (being that, is not grammatically correct, it does not sound “fancy”), and mostly, receiving respect that is usually reserved to the elder and wiser.

The playing field is leveled. And it probably will happen that one of my students’ children will be in the same class as my own, and possibly even befriend my child.

Our names have changed, so maybe we won’t realize it at first when we arrange a play-date, but Jewish Geography must be played, and the truth will out. I’m sure we’ll laugh, and there may be an awkward moment were remember out past relationship, me the venerable teacher, her the currying favor student, and now we’d be equals.

That’s what makes it so interesting – my students, who I taught, now being on par with me.

I never had any young teachers. They were always decades ahead of me, and no matter how much catch up I play, they’ll always be one step ahead of me, and remain – my teacher. A certain amount of respect and distance will always be there. But with my own students – the first few years at least, they can level with me, and I’m not sure if I find that cute or disturbing.

And I don’t know if that makes me vain and self-possessed, or just yearning for the good old days when teachers were always old and frumpy, respectable and respected.

 
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Posted by on June 4, 2012 in Teaching

 

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Which Came First

I think I may be the Grinch that stole high school. Well, I can’t really be, because I don’t have the authority, but that doesn’t stop me from voicing my opinion, and possibly impeding the world’s grand plans.

I hate extra-curricular. No, wait, I actually think they are brilliant and essential. However the way they are implemented in high schools is retarded and is a detriment to students. First and foremost is the curriculum, then comes the extra-curricular.

I fail to understand why my curriculum is constantly second to G.O, Chessed, Play, Yearbook, Mishmeres, and whatever other program that is supposed to be taken care of after hours. I fail to understand why my period are cut short or taken away, why half my student body is missing, why I can’t assign any homework or tests at certain times and why I have students calling me a night before my midterms requesting to be excuse of so much class time missed it would be impossible to make up all the work.

Look, I get it, extra-curricular are meant to give the girls an outlet, a diversion, a place to shine, be themselves, find deeper meaning, make friends, teach responsibility and all other very important social aspects of life. However, that is not the point and purpose of school. School is for education, and knowledge, development of thought, and character, all these goals can be achieved in the classroom, and lunchtime.

Extra-curricular is called that, because it is in fact –extra, a boost, not essential. It should be available only on extra – time, mainly after school. It should not interfere with the general schooling at all. Yes, I understand it is difficult for students to juggle both; they therefore need to make a choice, do they want to focus on their studies, or is what they’re gaining in extra-curricular worth a lower grade.  And lucky is the girl who can do it all without consequence.

School administration need to realize that they are in fact defeating a lot of their educational goals through the lofty aspirations of what extra-curricular is supposed to achieve.

My students are more whiny and complain when their schedule isn’t perfect,

“but we have to practice for Shabbaton.”

They are more likely to give excuses,

“I’m couldn’t do it, I’m a play head.”

And these things are validated in their minds because the school allows and promotes it.

They don’t learn the value and respect of education, rather just the importance of their own vanity – after all extra-curricular is supposed to make them feel good about themselves.

The school administration hands them their cake on a silver platter, lets them eat it in my class, and leaves me to sweep up the crumbs.

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2012 in Teaching

 

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Student of the Weak

Betonwerksteinskulptur "Lehrer-Student&qu...

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Every 3rd grade teacher has a reward system to keep the little brats in line, mine had “Student of the Week”. Thursday’s Mrs. Landau would announce who the best behaved student was for the week, and the following week, they would hold the prized position of “Student of the Week”.

The Student of the week had a lot of privileges. First, she got to sit in the second row, first seat, close to the teacher and door. She also got to run all of Mrs. Landau’s errands: go the office to pick up photocopies, get Mrs. Landau a drink of water, pass out papers and the like. Looking back, we were all just vying to be her personal slave, but back then, there wasn’t anything we wanted more.

Best of all privileges, the Student of the Week got to wear a pin with ribbons on it that read “Student of the Week”. Worn every day, all the girls in the class, grade, and anyone she’d meet in the school during the duration of her reign would know of her accomplishment, of her status.

I wanted everyone to know how great and special I was. I wanted to be Student of the Week. But it was so hard. Every week something happened that I knew would take me out of the running. Once, I came in late for recess, another time I called out. Other times, I whispered in class for my friend to give me a pencil, and then sometime, I didn’t have the right books on the right day, even if she gave us a chart telling us what we needed when. There were also those weeks that I was ok, but other girls were better than me.

Patiently, I waited my turn, waiting for the day where the sun would shine on me, and I would be among the chosen glorious.

Mrs. Landau said that every girl would have the opportunity to be Student of the Week at least once, before anyone got a second chance. So I knew, that even if I wouldn’t earn it, I’d one day, by default come into respect.  I kept a secret class list, and carefully maintained records of who was student of the week, who was still left, and when could I possibly secure my place and validity.

The weeks went by, and my name wasn’t called, but it was ok, there was still time. And then came the week where I knew I would have to be crowned, everyone else had had their moment in the sun. I behaved extra well that week, I wanted to deserve it, even though I knew it was coming to me. I kept myself in check. I didn’t push in line, I didn’t lose my place reading, I kept my desk neat, and none of my pencils rolled noisily off my desk. And on Thursday I waited for the inevitable confirmation.

It didn’t come.  

Mrs. Landau started off saying how excited she was to call this girl’s name, what a model student she was and how beautiful she conducted herself all week, and we should all learn from her. I leaned forward in my seat expectantly, so proud that I had really done it right. But then she said,

“Chani Green, come up!”

She called a different girl’s name, not mine. Not Brenda Stein. She called up a girl who had a chance early on in the year. A naturally sweet, angelic, organized, well-behaved girl. A girl who would have won have won every week if she were in the running. Won it without breaking a sweat, or giving a thought.

I slid down in my seat, embarrassed. She didn’t call me, she had ignored me, and all my efforts, passed me over. I had tried so hard, this was supposed to be my moment, but now it was another to enjoy, again. I was heartbroken, and hurt, I didn’t understand how this could have happened. I calculated correctly, there was no error, this title was supposed to be mine, except it wasn’t.

The next week, Chani Green took my seat in the second row, first seat. And she performed all of my duties. I didn’t try anymore. There was no effort to participate, to listen, to behave, to be. I was cheated out of my 3rd grade dream with no explanation.

The next year, I vowed to start fresh. I would behave, participate, be organized. I had a rough start the first week, but I was determined to make it work. On Monday of the second week of school, there was knock on my classroom door. A small girl with frizzy red hair popped her head in and requested that I come out. Puzzled, I exited the classroom, and when I looked at her, I didn’t see her large flaming hair, put was drawn to the pin on her chest, Mrs. Landau’s “Student of the Week” pin.

Mrs. Landau wanted me to erase my name that I had written in pencil (no pens allowed until 5th grade) in the back of several of my textbooks, the Student of the Week explained. She led me to stack of books and handed me an eraser.

The back staircase was cold on my bottom, where I sat erasing my name. There were other names of previous students written of the white canvas, but she called me. I was a failure of a student, I could never be a “Student of the Week” under any teacher. Having her current prized pupil pull me out of class and reprimand me on her behalf, was a slap in the face letting me know my worth.

There went my year.

And other teacher’s tried. They had their systems, their rewards, their different titles, but they were all the same to me – I never tried to be a Student of the Week again.

 
5 Comments

Posted by on July 17, 2011 in Memoir

 

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You’re Never Too Old

I met my eighth grade teacher yesterday. She had an appointment in the school that I teach in. I was sitting in the office marking papers, and I heard her voice.

 

All of a sudden I was back in her classroom. I could smell her musty clothes; see her sincere smile, wide with enamel stripped teeth. I didn’t like her classes, but I liked her. She was one of the good ones, those who cared, and even when they had no idea what to do with you, but still stuck around, when you slapped them in the face after all their efforts, were still there.

 

I haven’t seen her since 10th grade, when I met her while walking past my elementary school. We exchanged pleasantries, but not much more. Meeting her now was interesting; I’m a different person. I’ve made something of myself, I’ve come a long way since that purposefully annoying, inquisitive child that I was.

 

So she was standing right outside the office, and I heard her tell the secretary.

 

“I’m Mrs. Schwartz….”

 

My back was facing her, I turned around and said,

 

“Hi, I’m TooYoungToTeach, I don’t know…”

 

She cut me off,

 

“I knew you looked so familiar!” she paused with a small smile. “Don’t tell me you’re teaching here?!”

 

I smiled broadly and said, “Yup.”

 

“Wow.”

 

“Yeah,” I continued, “that’s the reaction most people have. Something’s gotta be wrong with the system if I’m teaching.

 

She shook her head,

 

“No I can see it, I can see it,” she repeated. “What do you teach?

 

“English and Writing, 10th and 11th

 

“That I can really see, right up your alley!”

 

I nodded fervently, like a little kid, lapping it up.

 

And then she went into meeting, and I went back to my marking.

 

We never grow old of approval.

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2008 in Teaching

 

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Pay your way to good grades

I was in Target today, looking at school supplies.

Actually, I was there just to pass the time so I wouldn’t focus on the fact that I hadn’t eaten all day, and still had three hours to go. So while I was there is spent most of my time drooling over the school supplies.

I have this thing with school supplies. They just look so important and efficient. I look at them and see “instant success” blinking on top of them. Of course I’m rational and logical, and know that post-it flags that I have no use for aren’t going to make me a better teacher or grad student. On second though, I just use that logic as a rationale of why I don’t actually buy any of these supplies. Because they are so darn EXPENSIVE!!!

Why does it cost $5 for two pads of paper, measuring 1 inch by 1 inch with a light adhesive covering about ¼ of the back!?!

And why does paper about as thin as my flimsy nails (I need a manicure!) cost a dollar a sheet?

Am I the only one who thinks these prices are retarded, or am I just ignorant (don’t answer that).

Who actually pays these prices? Because three days before school, I make a dash to Amazing Savings to fight to pay a whopping  99 cents for a stack of 200 post it notes to stick all viciously in my illegible handwriting all over my students papers.

Everyone else seems to be there too, picking up loose-leafs for a dollar, not five. Pens for a dollar and not three, two packages of lined paper a dollar not $2.50 each!

Anywhoo…Target didn’t have that good a selection anyway. They were highly biased in the lines they carried, and didn’t include some of the “ahem” better lines. You should go to Staples if you really want to see variety and go to School/office supplies heaven.

Which reminds me that Target had a really bad and limited selection of organizers, all they had was a whole bunch of stuff my this frank guy who apparently gives seminars on keeping yourself organized, but the stupid thing gives you know room to write anything to actually organize yourself. Where is my to-do list supposed to go….I liked the one I had this year…it was from Staples…I’m biased…I’m allowed to be…it’s my blog  =)

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 21, 2008 in Teaching

 

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