The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Doctoral Student (and Full-Time Teacher)

September 30, 2009

Enter me in the hall of fame books!

Filed under: Uncategorized — rachaelski @ 10:45 pm

I don’t think non-teachers realize how much good teachers actually work. Sure, the typical teacher gets out of school at 3pm and has summers off. However, what people don’t realize is how much work teachers do during their “off” time. Grading, for example, is impossible to get done within the perimeters of a traditional planning period. Lesson planning, especially in the beginning years, takes quite a bit of time. Most teachers do not walk into the classroom, open the textbook and teach. We plan out our lessons.

Last year, I was working at an extended-day charter school. The school hours were from 7:30-5. I typically arrived at school around 6:30 and left around 5:30. That’s 11 hours. A day. That does not even take into account the grading I had to do once I arrived home. Add on another hour or two there. I averaged around 12-13 hours a day of work. In addition, the majority of my Sunday was consumed with lesson planning and creating materials (I was teaching Social Studies without a textbook). Add about 5 hours there. All in all, I worked around 60 hours a week. Wait! Saturday school! Every other week we had a 4 hour Saturday School session- every other week 65 hours. Whew.

For the sake of my sanity, and academic aspirations, I moved to a more traditional education setting. Our school day is from 8-3. That’s 7 hours. I typically get to school around 7:30 and leave (when I am not coaching) around 3:30. That’s 8 hours! However, with the wonderful community and professional support I get at my current school, I have been blessed with 2 planning periods a day, 3 days a week (1 planning period on Monday and no planning on Tuesdays, which are Mass days). With that time during the school day and my weekday evenings (planted in front of the tube), I am actually able to get my next week’s planning, grade 100 essays, 100 vocabulary projects, and 100 reading logs done before the weekend. That’s right teachers, this weekend I will not have any work from school to take home. Non-teachers, this is HUGE!

A professor told me that in the USA, teachers spend significantly more time in front of full classrooms than our cohorts from other countries. In other countries, teachers spend less time in front of a classroom and more time working with small groups and individuals. The average American teacher stays in education around 10 years, I believe. We are destined for burn-out. I think I have discovered my key to avoiding burnout!

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September 7, 2009

Obama’s School Speech is Shared

Filed under: Uncategorized — rachaelski @ 6:43 pm

Between facebook and a teacher discussion board I frequent, I am up to my ears in drama about Obama’s School Address tomorrow. You can read Obama’s speech as well as speeches given by Regan in 1988 and Bush in 1991. Taking the nasty politics out of the issue, I guess there was another problem looming: the lesson plan provided by the White House. The powers that be provided a lesson plan for teachers to use relating to Obama’s speech. Apparently, there was an oddly written question, something along the lines of, “What can you do to help President Obama?” The lesson plan was released before the speech, and people were up in arms, assuming that Obama had aspirations of creating a youth collation paralleling the Hitler Youth. When reading the text of the speech, it’s pretty clear that the question is asking what the kids can do to take responsibility for their own eduction.

Now, all the drama related to the lesson plan strikes me as funny. Providing lesson plans for teachers–underpaid, under-appreciated teachers! You would think that teachers would appreciate the sentiment!

Check out funny comic I found:

Jeffy After Obama's Address to Schools

Jeffy After Obama's Address to Schools

September 6, 2009

Seriously People!?!?

Filed under: Uncategorized — rachaelski @ 11:29 pm

I work in a private school with the majority of the student body being very well-to-do (think: plastic surgeon parents and homes with movie theaters). We began to hear rumblings of concern over Obama’s address to students being shown at the school. Fortunately for us, we do not have school on Tuesday, because of a teacher inservice. However, I am finding the debate about whether or not schools should show the address is ridiculous! Whether you like the man or not, whether you agree with his politics or not, whether you support universal healthcare or not, HE IS THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES! The man deserves some respect. Also, there is not any political motives here; he is talking to students about staying in school!

According to U.S. Department of Education National Center for Education Statistics (2009) nearly 9% of high school students are dropping out of high school. Now, that number does not sound that big, but in major urban areas that number raises to almost 50%. Nationally, nearly 21% of Hispanic students drop out before completing high school. It’s ridiculous! We as a country have to do something about this scary trend. It’s tough for people with college degrees to find work; imagine what that means for high school drop-outs.

Interestingly enough, President Bush (the former) addressed schools in 1991. I would love to think that my like minded politicians supported the President’s endeavors in 1991, seeing the merit in addressing American youth. I would be wrong. Bush received scoff from the Dems paralleling that which President Obama is receiving from his opponents.

I say let the kids watch the address. I do not believe there is a political angle to this address. Kids are smart, they form their own opinions (even if they differ from their parents). In addition, it is important to teach your children to respect the President, even if you don’t always agree with them.

September 4, 2009

AWESOME Teacher Website!!!

Filed under: Uncategorized — rachaelski @ 4:37 am

I am a huge fan of Sprout, an online store that sells secondhand teacher supplies. Sprout has a phenomenal selection of books. It’s cheap, it’s green, and shipping is snappy! Teachers, if you need books for your class, Sprout is where it’s at!

Empowering Readers

Filed under: Uncategorized — rachaelski @ 1:50 am

In this New York Times article, a teacher with a novel idea is highlighted…a teacher that lets her kids CHOOSE what books they want to read! Something so simple, yet so neglected invests kids in reading. I use the same method in my classroom, kids are selecting books based on their interests and wants. In my opinion, the most important part of reading is reading. The more engaged I can get kids in a book the better. In addition, we have classrooms full of students at various levels. We cannot expect ALL the kids to be ABLE to read the same text, nor are we going to find a book that invests all students at once.

My class amazes me. On our independent reading days, you could hear a pin drop in my room (well, if I didn’t have music playing). The kids are engaged in the books they are reading. I know it’s a good day when Andrew says, “I actually like this book. Can I take it home?” I do the same with writing, the kids are reading and writing whatever they are interested in. I have one kid who writes about Kobe Bryant every single day. However, he is enjoying his writing! He’s even to the point where he makes fun of himself in his writing.

It’s amazing to me that there have been those fighting the basal readers/textbooks since the 1980s(!?) and we STILL are trying to control what our kids are reading.

Blog Title

Filed under: Uncategorized — rachaelski @ 1:30 am

I have attempted blogging many time, but I don’t do a very good job (especially if talking about my personal life). However, being a graduate student once again and working in education full-time, I think that I have quite a bit to say about issues related to education, literacy, and books. We’ll see how it goes.

My blog title is a play on Sherman Alexie’s The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian, a book that I recently finished. The story is somewhat of a sad one, gifted Native American student wasting away at a poor Rez school. He is picked on for being different. A teacher convinces him to transfer to a farm community school, which Junior (the main character) does. He is initially ignored by his white counterparts, but is eventually accepted. However, he is essentially shunned from his rez community. This whole story is told with accompanying cartoons, as Junior is quite the cartoon artist. Junior has tragedies all through the story, but he sees the positive throughout the story.

Sherman Alexie, the author, is actually coming to Albuquerque on October 10 to speak about his newest book. I cannot wait to see him. He is an all around Renaissance Man! He does novels, poetry, film, and even stand-up comedy! He played a pretty big part in the making of Smoke Signals, a movie that won several awards.

In my store time in the ABQ, two different writers I admire have come to/are slotted to come to town! First Rafe Esquth, now Sherman Alexie. Both these authors were sponsored by this amazing local bookstore, Bookworks. It’s one of a dying breed: the local independent bookstore. This one has been in business for more than 20 years; I plan to help it stay open even longer.