Monday, September 10, 2007


No voice left.

Not because I was yelling at my students--though there was a little of that today... Not really yelling, just couldn't be heard if I spoke regularly. Yes, now that is a bad thing. I love my students to death, and I sometimes think that day may be close.

No, today's lack of voice is due to the freshman volleyball practice.

Today was my first day of coaching freshmen volleyball. The team was in the same gym as the JV and Varsity and the football team. Yes, the football team was in the gym with us because it was raining buckets (for about an hour, as it tends to do). We have our second game of the season tomorrow. I'm going to try to stay positive and use it as a learning experience for the girls. I hope I can get some game footage to use in practice. We'll see. Today we drilled. I used some from my own days under a fabulous and (we thought) cruel high school coach. She actually heard through the grapevine that I was coaching, and she sent me a good-luck email with suggestions. I do not know what I would have done without her help, and I will likely be calling on it again. In the meantime, we'll see what tomorrow holds. To say the least, it was not the most promising end to a day.

Then miraculously, it was beautifully clear on the way home. I saw a rainbow in a blue sky, and heard some of my favorite country songs, so I sang along with what was left of my voice and my 32oz. of sweet tea.

Now that I'm done venting and am in a better mood, having reminisced on the pleasant ride home, I have to get back to work. Grades are due tomorrow, and I still have a week and a half of homework to check. On top of that, I still need to figure out how to entertain and educate 80 students in a computer lab for an hour and a half when I have nothing for them to do. I was supposed to give a computer-based test tomorrow, and the program managers cannot get the program to download through the school firewall. I'm stumped... Need to find websites and brain teasers... Need to find something to teach them in the meantime... So what am I doing chatting?!

Much love and appreciation. Goodnight to all who still see the promise tomorrow holds.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Long overdue

Dear friends and family,

Please forgive me. Not to make excuses, but as an explanation, you know how well I manage time... When teaching started, all else went out the window. Stacks of papers (fairly organized) lie all around my desk at home, in the living room, in front of the TV, in the stacking drawers I have for each class, in the box next to my desk, in a bin that serves as my storage closet at school, and in each of the 3 classrooms into which I float during the day. Yes, I "float." I have no classroom of my own, but I use the rooms of teachers during their planning periods.

School starts at 7:10 every morning, which means that morning duty starts at 6:30. For those of us driving in from New Orleans every morning, that means we leave around 5:30. The first period of the day is my planning period. I truly use this for last-minute planning, copying, writing overheads, etc. Without this time, I am sure I would be much more sleep-deprived than I am. Then I have three classes back to back, with only 5 min. between each. I pack up my stacking drawers and papers to pass out, my can of markers and tickets that I give for volunteering answers, my Kleenex, my computer and my clipboard with lesson plans, old homework, hand-outs and the bell schedule attached. Each class is 1.5 hours long. It is amazing how the time flies when there is much you have to get done. Third period, my second class of the day, is split over a 30-min. lunch break. My students have to rush madly to use the restroom and get in line for lunch, or they end up not making it through the line before class has to start again.

My students--what can I say? I love them to pieces, but I don't think it's highly reciprocated. Some do their homework, keep their heads up in class, maybe even study before our weekly quizzes, answer questions in class; but most don't. Unfortunately, the progress reports I have to hand out were not well-received. At all. I hoped for some it would be a wake-up call. For some, it might have been. For most, we are going to have to have a talk. These students have not been assigned homework for years, some say. They have never been expected to turn work in. They have devised more and more creative ways of copying and cheating, or they simply do it blatantly during lecture. I cannot get them to take notes, even when I give them hand-outs with blanks for all the important terms.

I will try again, though. That is my job. My goal. My life revolves around these 80-some students--trying to get them to believe they can do this work; trying to convince them that practice is important; trying to give them every possible resource and scrap of information I can to help them succeed.

Week in and week out, I look forward to Fridays as much as the students, though even then I am not as productive as I'd like. I usually end up lesson-planning at late hours, copying homework an hour before I have to pass it out, etc. I aim to be a few lessons ahead by this evening--thank the Lord for Labor Day. So much to do that I feel I have to cut this short.

Do not believe this is as wearying as it seems--well maybe wearying, but worth it, just as everyone told me. There are some shining moments that make the sleepless nights bearable. One student told me for days that he would come in after class to make up a test. The week passed, and Friday afternoon, I'm packing up my materials. He pokes his head around the corner, and says, "Here I am." I stood perfectly still for a split second, not registering what he needed... Then with a thrill in my heart, I pulled out a make-up quiz and told him I was so glad he came in. He worked for an hour on that bloomin' piece of paper, and he tried so hard. He asked questions, he made sure he understood what each question was asking, and even if he didn't know exactly, he told me what he did know--and he improved greatly. I was so proud that I could hardly speak. No other single event could have lifted my spirits so much. Three other times have students come in to make up quizzes, and I still feel the pride welling up at their effort and commitment. This is why I teach.

This week's quizzes were much improved, so I really feel like I taught them something, that they retained it somewhat. Now what do I need for tomorrow...

With love and gratitude, goodbye for now.