Friday, May 27, 2011

I've lost count of what day it is...

So I'm suffering through nasty respiratory infection #12 of the 2010-2011 school year, but I don't call out sick because my kids are hyper-engaged by the expedition we've created and I don't want to hand the reins over to a sub. I'm dragging my ass after school to events and thence to band rehearsals for a wedding gig Saturday. Can't croak a note of harmony, and don't know how I'ma sing lead at all, but somehow these things work out before gigs, and if they don't you say fuck it and lay it out on the stage.

So I'm run ragged, plum tuckered out, spent, and all those other folksy euphemisms for being one of the walking dead. I was so tired this morning that even though I woke up at the standard 4:30 am I stayed in bed until the alarm at 6:00, staring at the ceiling. When I got my shit together and went downstairs I poured a cup of coffee, left it on the counter, went over to the coffee maker and noticed there was no coffee in there, cursed myself for not setting up the machine the night before, made another run, and then tried to pour the new coffee into my already-filled cup, at which point I realized that I was fucking exhausted and probably should call out sick. Then I drove to work.

Back on Tuesday the boss was texting me to stay home. I got her text as I was setting up my classroom at 6:20am.

I don't know what to say about this year. It's been crazy, but different crazy--like I'm learning how to do this stuff. That doesn't mean I feel 100% confident, but I feel like I know what I'm doing as a social studies teacher, which I didn't before. I pushed very hard for us to do John Brown rather than the Civil War this trimester because I thought the kids would dig it. I pushed to use the painting the Tragic Prelude as a mystery piece and something to re-visit over and over. I pushed for our final product to be a Socratic Seminar about whether John Brown was a terrorist or martyr. I pushed for a field trip to Harper's Ferry over Gettysburg. My planning partner did amazing work once these topics were chosen: she astonishes me, and created fieldwork journals and classwork journals with interesting puzzles and protocols. We rocked it out. The kids don't want to leave my room, they want to stay and argue and look at evidence and ask questions. It's kind of weird!

I think I'm learning classroom management with urban kids, too. Yesterday I fought a 15-minute war with the 7th grade boys. We took over their building this year and turned their failed school into our hippie charter. They're used to stopping academic work in March and running the halls, but it ain't happening. They were in open revolt in my 90-degree swampy classroom last period, and I said "you keep it up I'll unplug the fans and put them in the closet." They kept it up, and I kept my word, and we sweated even harder for about 10 minutes before they shut up and became cooperative. Then I put the fans back out and my boss strolled in with a candidate for an open position next year. My kids were lying on the rug working, or sitting against the wall by the fan working, or researching Dred Scott in books. "These are the kids I told you about," she was saying quietly to her interviewee. "They wouldn't work at all at the beginning of the year. They used to cuss us out. Look at what Mr. Geoff has done." They toured around and asked the kids questions about John Brown's character and motivation and then left. They didn't see the battle we'd had a few minutes earlier--I'm not supposed to use threats or extrinsic motivation with my kids at this school! But I meet them where they are and move them forward. When they're in 8th grade we'll focus on intrinsic motivation...

I need to learn a few more guitar parts for the wedding gig tomorrow, but first I'ma drink some wine and take a long ass nap. I need to kick this virus so I can sing tomorrow. I have to sing a crazy high song by James and I need the cobwebs out my pipes ASAP. Not to mention all those harmony bits, and maybe "Sweet Dreams." Later!

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