Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Add it to the OED!

Today a student told me that he saved his Power Point presentation on his "chip card". That means flash drive. I think.

Friday, September 19, 2008

It's the Thought...

The object pictured here was given to me today by Veronica. She came up to me with a shy smile and said, "I got this, and I don't really want it, so, like, I wanted to give it to you." Hmm. Thanks, Veronica. I love it! How did you know I would love this so much? She says it's a donkey. I'm not so sure about that.

Two days ago, Veronica asked me, "Does plucking mean killing, or just taking the feathers out?" I explained, and then she explained that HER MOTHER ATE HER PARROT! WHAAAAAT? Her mother ate her parrot. Plucked it, cooked it, ate it. I asked if this parrot was a pet (I'm not sure what I was getting at here. What else would a parrot be?). Veronica said that, yes, it was a pet. It talked. I wondered aloud why her mother would eat her parrot. Veronica had no idea. She hadn't asked. I'm not sure I would ask my rabid, crazed, Glen Close of a mother either if I were Veronica. Geez!

Monday, September 15, 2008

Oh, I wish, I wish, I wish!

Students often approach me asking if I could buy a certain title, books by an author we don't carry, or more on a favorite topic. When a kid is a very regular library patron, and I know s/he is just dying to get the next book in a series, I usually just buy the book myself and consider it a donation. It's hard to keep track of what they want, though, and I have recently added a Make A Wish box to the library in which students can drop a slip of paper detailing their reading desires. As you can imagine, the large majority of their requests are completely bogus. Very few are actual titles or names of authors. Many are TV shows and characters. Plenty are highly inappropriate or lewd. The vast majority are related somehow to the Disney corporation. I love the Make a Wish box. Here are a few wishes that were made this week (I have been true to the students' spelling and spacing):
Tinker Bell
Pokemon Michel Jaskson
Stephen King: Cell
Pokemon Novel
Suite life of Zack and Cody
Holloween Poems
Jonas Brother
Jonas Brathers
Jonas Book
Scary Stories 3
Scary Stories !
family gay
UFO books seris (I think this is series?)
Jonas Brothers
Jonas Brothers
Jonas Brothers
Twel (I have no idea what this one is)
teletubies and barnie
Breaking Up!!!
InLove books
I wish I can take the Guinness world records 2008 (this book is non-circulating)
todal drama instand (my favorite, read as: Total Drama Instant!)
Pronale Ms Merfy (What? I would love to know what this says)

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Lame-Ass teaching

One of the many frills that comes with working in the library is that I am the Goddess of Lamination and Photocopying. Meaning, a half-broken laminating machine and an ancient Duplo machine are located in one of my work rooms, and I get the pleasure of teaching people to use them, change ink, change laminating film (although I leave this pain in the neck to my assistant), fix paper jams, etc. I'm very handy when it comes to Duplo repair. I also get to look at all of the items that people leave in the Duplo machine after they've made their copies and walked away. Most of the time, teachers are copying informational letters to send home to parents, or quizzes, or reading material for their students. Every once in a while, though, I get a glimpse of some hand-drawn chart or worksheet that a rushed, under prepared teacher has thrown together at the last minute. Usually, this is not a good thing. Usually, these are sloppy and meaningless. Today's example is both. Let's take a look at what is wrong with this "learning" activity, shall we?

1. If the teacher was making copies of this, that means the teacher planned to pass one out to each student. That means that the students were going to be asked to write their answers out on a sheet of paper. What do you want to bet that this teacher will also ask the students to write the questions along with the answers on that sheet of paper, thus making the activity take longer so the teacher has to do less actual teaching and can focus on something more important like reading the newspaper, surfing online, or balancing his/her checkbook? I am willing to bet a lot on this one.

2. The students are instructed to "Use pages 137-140" to complete this activity. That means that they will be asked to sit quietly with a textbook, looking for answers that correlate exactly with the questions. The questions are probably listed in sequence to go along with the text. The students will be asked to do zero thinking. They are only hunting for recognizable words and phrases.

3. The questions are poorly written. So poorly written, in fact, that if I wasn't sure that the students wouldn't need to understand what was being asked, I would worry that the students wouldn't understand what was being asked. Let's look at each question one at a time.
- 1) Why were most kids taught to read? I assume the teacher wants to know what was the main purpose of education during the Great Awakening. This phrasing, however, fails to ask that. I would tell a student who wrote this question that it lacks clarity and that the reader wonders which kids, where, when, what the heck are we talking about?
- 2) How did poor kids learn? Well, look. This is a question that just cannot be answered, even by the best experts in the fields of psychology, education, child development, etc. How do people learn? How does anyone learn, and what does being poor have to do with it? Again, the teacher doesn't actually want to spark that discussion here. The teacher wants the students to locate a sentence in the textbook that reads something like "Children from poor families usually learned by _________".
- 3) How was literacy rate measured in the colonies? Way to model proper use of the word the, Teach!
- 4) (Please note that on the original document, this question is indeed number 4, but is listed before number three.) The Primer contained what 2 things? Hmmm, let's see. Two things. Two things one might find in a book. Paper and ink? Page numbers and letters? Chapters and a table of contents? Once again, the teacher doesn't really care what was in the Primer. The students are only supposed to look for a sentence that says "In most cases, students would read from a Primer containing _____ and _____."

I don't know if I can go on. It's too painful. Let's just skip to my favorite.

- 7) The Great Awakening was a _________ movement. I'm going to say bowel. Wait, that can't be right. I'd like to change my answer. Especially since the teacher has helpfully mentioned that I'm looking for a nine letter word. How will I ever figure it out? Can't you just picture a room full of kids counting how many letters are in the words on pages 137 - 140? It was a squirrels' movement. No, a squelched movement. A stevedore movement. I've got it! A kowtowing movement. That's gotta be it!

Apart from the many questions this worksheet discovery demands that I ask myself about how our current system has failed this teacher and his students, I must also ask a more practical question. What, if anything, should I do about it? Do I alert the Social Studies department chair that someone is a lame-ass teacher and should be identified and provided with some sort of intervention? Should I show my Assistant Principal? Should I tape the page to the wall by the copier, which would both expose the teacher and allow that person to claim his distinguished work? Probably I should just file it away in my scrapbook to be used later in my memoirs. Sigh. I think this one is going to get away with it. Beware your child's tired, frazzled, hasty teacher, just looking for a little peace and quiet. The next thing you know, these kids are going to be dimming the lights for a round of Heads Up Seven Up so the teacher can get a little shut-eye.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Nothing Left for Me To Do

I have three volunteers who have taken over my library so thoroughly that I have nothing left to do. Well, not really. I could do a lot of work that I don't want to do. I could plan ahead, or reorganize my files, or begin massive projects that would benefit the entire school community but would take hours and hours of work on my part, not to mention the frustration and tedium of completing truly great massive projects. I could do that. Probably I will. For now, however, I am going to sit back and enjoy the fact that all of the clerical work that I normally need to do in order to stay afloat is, for once, pretty much done.

These three giggle monsters - Gaby, Cindy, and Veronica - are a dream come true. They're off track, which for most kids means that they're bored to tears at home for 8 weeks. So instead, they've started to come to the library to help customers, shelve books (this they do poorly, but I give them credit for trying), answer the phone, clean, and giggle like I've never heard people giggle before. It's constant and only a little irritating. Today one of them brought ham sandwiches on white bread and mangoes to share for their lunch. They sat in the work room in the back and ate in silence, only giggling once in a while. They were silent because a teacher was in the work room to laminate posters, and it turns out that they felt their conversation should be suspended in the presence of said teacher. I think that's pretty funny, since they never stop talking when they're behind the counter working for me.

So maybe I'll get to write on this blog more often now that these ladies are running the library. Or maybe I'll tackle some of these big 'ol projects that have been haunting my To Do lists for ages. Not today, though. I'm going to just enjoy this for today.