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April 6th, 2011

07:19 pm - This is Why I Teach
Writing prompt to work on comma splices, run-ons, and sentence fragments in freshmen composition: "Write a paragraph that describes the person that you are closest to. Who is it? What makes them so special to you? How do they impact your life? What have you learned from them that makes you a better person?"

Answer by Aaliyah M.: "The person that I am closest to is Ms. Eggert. Ms. Eggert is my 9th grade Agile mind teacher, but she is more than that to me. To me, our relationship is more than a teacher and student, it's more like a mother and daughter bond. Because theres days when she irrates [irritates] me, and I know theres days when I irrate her, But we still love and respect each other. Ms. Eggert is: cool, funny, nice, enthusiastic, smart, and more, but overall, shes a great teacher, let alone a wonderful mother."

I do love her. I wish I could take everything bad out of her life. And out of all of my kids' lives.
Current Mood: lovedloved

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September 14th, 2010

07:02 pm - I have the best job in the world.
I work so damn hard, but I can't imagine anything being this rewarding. My kids are amazing.

That is all I have time to say.

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September 19th, 2008

10:32 pm
Jeff and I are engaged. And I love my job.
Current Mood: contentcontent

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August 23rd, 2008

11:19 pm
My schedule this year (as of now):

-DEAR (Drop Everything And Read) class, co-taught with Julia: Students read silently for 30 minutes while eating breakfast
-7th grade Math class, 90 min, co-taught with Julia
-Prep (45 min)
-Advantage hour, high school math--I go up to the high school (they're on the third floor of our building) and teach a small section of specialized math for 45 min.
-Prep (45 min)
-Lunch (30 min)
-Advantage hour, high school math--same as earlier in the day, but with a different group of kids
-7th grade math class, 90 min.

My schedule is AWESOME. I am so excited that I get to co-teach with Julia; she is also TFA, we have similar work styles and we're good friends. It should be fun to share a classroom. I am also really happy that I get to work with high school students as well. I love working with older students. We start a week from Tuesday, after labor day, and I am getting pumped. My math team is awesome, my principal is competent, and...well, I'm sure the year will be a mess, but at least it will be better than last year. It can't be worse. I am taking grad classes two nights a week, but Julia and I are going to carpool so we don't have to waste as much gas. I already have my first week planned, and we have written our first pre-assessment. We've got a management system, and the construction in our building should be done in time. Our school is an amazing, old, slightly run-down CPS building built in the 1920s.
Current Mood: optimisticoptimistic

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July 29th, 2008

10:14 am
My summer break comes to an end tomorrow. It has been absolutely wonderful. I don't think I have enjoyed a summer this much since the summer I graduated high school. Some of the things I have done:
-Read 10 books (I read exactly zero...well, maybe one during the school year)
-Spend numerous afternoons at coffee shops/walking around Hyde Park (including semi-stalking Barack Obama--I mean, his house is 2 blocks away, making it very easy to find a reason to walk by. The payoff: Um, I once saw Michelle standing on the front porch.)
-Went to Ravinia twice
-Went to the Blues Festival
-Saw old friends that I haven't seen in forever (Beth Wallach, Brian Moschel, Ellen Kulieke)
-Spent a week in Philadelphia visiting family, which basically consisted of drinking, sitting on the porch reading, and swimming
-Drank a lot
-Went bowling a few times
-Saw a lot of movies
-Shopped on Michigan Ave
-Went to Champaign
-Went to IKEA
-Hung around with TFA friends
-Spent time with my sister (who is back in Chicago, yay) and brother
-Actually saw Jeff!
-Caught up with my New Yorker reading
-Avoided reading about the presidential race

...and I did all of this while getting paid.

Although I am not quite ready to go back to work, I am really excited to start my new job. I am going to miss all of my old students a lot, but I just think this will be such a better environment. Besides, it is exactly 6.8 miles from my apartment. I am also excited that this is a middle school only--most schools in Chicago are K-8, which is pretty ridiculous. Our middle school is in an old CPS building that we share with the high school and the tech high school. Our math department consists of four 7th grade math teachers and four 8th grade math teachers so there will be a lot of support and collaboration. It will be amazing to have to plan only one lesson a day.

My school's website:

At the end of the school year, I finally answered one of the hottest topics among my 8th graders: Did I have a boyfriend and if yes, who was it? They speculated all year that I was dating Mr. D. (even though he eventually left the school AND he told them he was dating Ms. Smith, a 2nd grade teacher) or Mr. Phillips (who was married). I told Leishly (knowing she would spread the word) that I do indeed have a boyfriend. Her response: "Oh, if you get married, will you invite me to the wedding?? I promise I won't be too ghetto."

It makes me think of how silly I was in junior high and high school to speculate on dating teachers. Of course, in the case of Betsy and Jason, we were right. Oh, I meant to call them this summer...I am sure they are missing our garish gifts from Target.
Current Location: my couch, Hyde Park
Current Mood: optimisticoptimistic

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June 17th, 2008

07:21 am - The End (almost)
My 8th graders graduated Thursday. They looked lovely and I already miss them.
Went to Navy Pier with them on Friday. They were very well behaved.
Cleaned out part of my classroom today, since I now have 3 hours free in the morning.
Opened the time capsules with the 7th grade.
Finished grades.
I am figuring out how to tell my kids I won't be there next year.
Field Day this week.
3 1/2 days left.

I'll have 5 free weeks for summer break. Yay.

******Addendum: 7:10 a.m.******

Something that I have learned from this year is middle school kids are always going to complain and tell you sometimes how much they hate you and they hate class. But, then, they let their true feelings show at the end of the year. I had my 7th grade kids write letters to the 7th grade class next year to tell them everything they need to know to be successful in my math class. I told them to be honest. Here are some excerpts from the letters (their spelling and grammar preserved):

"To all of the future 7th graders. Try your best and work hard. That's what she expects."
"What your going to expect from Ms. Eggert is Math and she's going to help you accomplish your goal then you can make a roller coaster as a project."
"Dear 7th grader, you is not gone like it. Y'all not gon have no fun. She will beat you withe a ruler. Her head spins in circles. lol."
"Dear 7th graders, BEWARE! You are a class of tourcher please transfer if you can I'm surprised I survived, many didn't. Just kidding! This class is cool and fun and fair! Have fun!"
"Dear 7th graders, Well this letter is to inform you on how math is going to be for yall. You learn a lot of things but you can still have fun. P.S. Watch out for the rest of the teachers because they steal lolz."
"She is going to make you learn a lot not that learning is bad."
"Dear 7th graders, Whatch out for Ms. Clemens. But Ms. Eggert expect for her to make you work. But our class is real fun"
"Dear 7th graders, When you walk in this math class, you will expect a lot of things. Ms. Eggert is a very intelligent teacher. You need to be quiet to learn good things. Also behave. We do fun projects and have fun math games."
"Dear 7th graders, I think that you should expect a lot of work from Ms. Eggert, but she does it for a reason. You need to make sure that you take a lot of notes and pay attention, because Ms. Eggert does a lot of tricks. You can do alot of projects. This year we made a rollercoaster and redesigned a pop can."
"They should expect you to be sometimes nice and that you don't play. They should expect to not play about their work and if the children play they will get in trouble. You will teach them other things than math too."
"Dear 7th grader, When you walk in the class you should be ready to work. You need to pay attention in class. I like this class. It is fun."

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May 20th, 2008

11:46 am - I am going to make it...
I'm sick again, so I suppose it is time to reflect on the year. There are less than five weeks of school left; my 8th graders graduate in less than four. I haven't told anyone at my school that I'm leaving yet; the only ones I dread telling are Ms. Clemens (my fellow teacher who stayed the whole year) and the student. I don't think I understood how attached to them I would feel. Sure, I felt relatively attached to my summer school kids, but I only had them for five weeks and they were 1st graders--I just can't get attached to younger kids in the same way. Sure, there are students I don't like, but they are few and far between.

There's one student that I have named Aris. She started off the year in 7th grade; she is in special education, and she is very socially awkward. Well, not awkward so much as MEAN. For the first month of school, she spent most of the twenty minutes in my classroom cursing out other students. She flashed gang signs and threatened to shoot another student after school, and I was genuinely concerned that she meant it (of course, the administration didn't seem to care). I just didn't like having her in my classroom because she was so disruptive. Our school tried to skip her ahead to high school because she is 15, but the high school wouldn't have it, and sent her back to us after one day. My school's solution? Put her in 8th grade so that we would be "rid" of her in one year (hard to see why she might not like school, huh?). Well, I decided to mask my feelings for her and kill her with kindness. I would let her come into my classroom in the morning and help me out. I would talk to her in particular and always smile at her and say how happy I was to see her. When she ate lunch in my room, I would sit with her and talk to her because otherwise she sat alone. Sure, she started out by saying I was lame and having the same chip on her shoulder (I mean, who wouldn't when her other teachers would say in her presence, "I just don't know what to do with Aris"?), but she slowly warmed to me. It has gotten to the point where she will do any favor for me, I never hear her cursing (well, the other day she said, "What the hell?" and looked really horrified she had said that in my presence and apologized), and she is never a behavior issue for me. It's gratifying.

Another student who has meant a lot to me is Markeesha (and her younger brother, Sam). She missed the first day of school, and when she swaggered in the next day, I was actually a little afraid of her. The first day of school had gone so well, and I could tell she had an attitude; she was ready to give me attitude the first moment I laid eyes on her. At the beginning of the year, we had SOOOO many clashes. She would complain about class, talk constantly, and she made me doubt my teaching abilities when she said, "You don't even teach us nothing. You just talk. We don't learn when you talk." The first sign that things were getting better between us was when I started seeing her class at the end of the day instead of at the beginning and she told me she missed me. Now, she always tells the administration that I am the only teacher that teaches anything. A few weeks ago, we did an activity where I had them writing compliments to each other (and me). She wrote, "I love you Ms. Eggert" (no apostrophe, of course), and I have driven her home a number of times. On Friday morning, she came to school early and said she needed to talk. She apologized for her recent attitude and behavior (it has been getting pretty bad) and told me she hoped it wasn't too late to change. She promised to do better, we hugged, and she's had two good days in a row. She's so smart, she's such a good athlete, and she has such a strong will and powerful personality. I hope to God she makes it through life--she has so many odds against her. She has talked openly about watching Sam's father rape and beat her mother, she lives in a very small, run-down house, her mom is gone most nights working in Chicago, and she has an attitude that can get her into trouble. Sometimes, I wish I could just take her in and have her live with me so that she could see what a calm, stable life is like. I want her to know quiet and to know success, and I don't know if that is possible for her in Gary. She might move to Chicago next year to live with an aunt, but I don't know if that will be any better.

Another compliment that I received was from an 8th grader, Kayla. She is extremely smart and talented in math, but she has told me since the beginning of the year how much she hates math. Well, recently she said, "Ms. Eggert, you've made me actually LIKE math."

Eddie's aunt, who now takes care of him and his younger sister because his mom is in jail, came to talk to me and Ms. Clemens yesterday. She just wanted to say how pleased she is with the progress Eddie has made this year. When Ms. Clemens told her that she and I were going to be the two middle school teachers next year, his aunt was so happy that she said, "Well, I've been debating if I was going to keep him and his sister here, but I think I will now." Oh, that made me feel guilty. I should probably announce my resignation soon.

Note: I still feel like I suck at my job. Horribly. Every day, I leave school feeling like a failure, and I have to admit, it's been tough doing something for a full year that I feel unable to do--I'm not used to this feeling. I am used to feeling somewhat successful. I usually avoid things I know I can't do. Yet, there are sometimes glimmers from other people that I don't suck, and I have been trying to hold onto those comments.

There was a lock down at my school last week. There was an announcement suddenly, "This is a lock down. Turn off your lights, make sure your windows and doors are locked, and get under the desks." I thought it was strange that we were practicing our first lock down without being informed of it. Well, a moment or two later, the assistant dean came by and said, "This is NOT a drill. Y'all need to be silent," which really did shut my 7th graders up. We sat like that, on the floor in the dark, for about 45 minutes. Turns out that there was a drug bust gone bad right outside the school and it had turned into a shoot-out. You could hear the shots from the front of the school, though you couldn't hear it from my room. Lovely. We started out the year with a triple homicide in the apartments next to the school and end with that. There was a 3-year-old shot and killed three blocks from my new school last week.
Current Location: Hyde Park
Current Mood: sicksick

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April 27th, 2008

06:32 pm
Sometimes, I really like my job. Not now; I almost always hate my job on Sundays as I prepare for the week ahead. I also hate my job when I wake up at 4:50 in the morning. I hate my job when I go to class on Tuesdays night. But, on Friday, I had a really good day with my kids, and I enjoyed myself immensely.

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March 8th, 2008

12:19 pm
I really wish I had kept a better record of the year somewhere. I am looking out our sun room windows once again watching snow fall. I am so tired or snow and ice and winter and cold and wind that I could scream.

I can't tell yet if teaching is something I want to do, or if I want to go back to graduate school and get my PhD in something.
Current Mood: workingworking

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November 28th, 2007

03:23 pm - "I live somewhere where you never want to go"
I took a sick day (because I am sick), so I thought I would be reflective about my life teaching for a moment. I am fairly disappointed in myself for not writing more about this experience, because every day I can hardly believe my own life. All of these moments are blending together, and I am sure there are many priceless stories that I have already forgotten. The worst part of taking a sick day is that all day I am wishing that I wasn't taking a sick day. I am concerned about falling behind the schedule I set for my classes, I am concerned there will be another fight (The only other time I missed school, there was a big fight with blood in my room), and I am worried that my room will be a disaster when I come into work tomorrow. Ugh.

Teaching is NOT what I thought it would be. I thought it would be hard, but it is literally the hardest thing I have ever done, in a soul-crushing kind of way. Of course there are moments that lift my spirits, such as when something excites students (Tim, after we first started Algebra, said to me, "Ms. Eggert, this is so cool, what we did today. It is so cool.") or when a student has an insight and pushes past what I am even teaching. My classes at Dominican are an absolute joke, a complete waste of time. The only positive is sitting around with other TFA teachers and getting to share ideas, vent, etc. I have only 6 of my 50 8th grade students on grade level. Only 10 total are at a 6th grade level or above. The rest are far, far below. I have some kids at a first or second grade level. Even my most advanced students still struggle with their multiplication tables. I help them through a problem and say, "What is 11 plus 7?" and I will probably get two wrong answers before I finally hear 18. I got some good news (sort of)--the 8th grade doubled the number of students who passed the state standardized test that we took in September. What does that mean? We went from having 10% of 8th graders meeting or exceeding standards to 25% of students meeting or exceeding standards.

The worst part of the job (maybe) is that my work is never done. There are usually 100 more things I could do every night. I work my ass off until 11 p.m. every night, and still, I could be doing so many more things to be a better teacher. I could be so much more organized. I could be preparing more interesting lessons, giving kids extra work, making the space in the classroom work more effectively, getting more work done for Dominican, doing more grading, etc. Always.

I'm not sorry I did this, I don't think, but my life is a blur, and I have very little time to myself or for myself. Any time I am not doing work, I am thinking about all the work I should be doing. Like right now. I have 100 tests I should be grading. I should be making overheads for tomorrow. I should be planning Friday. I should be making lesson plans for next week. But, I am sitting here, with an enormous headache.

Also, I have decided that, on the whole, I hate U of C students. They are annoying, vapid, and oozing with the desire to have something intellectually exciting to say. Hearing the student reaction to a rash of crime in and around Hyde Park made me sick to my stomach ("The university needs to expand itself more rapidly so all the poor people are kicked out"). The lack of compassion and the un-reality of their lives really annoys me. The fact that this privilege is surrounded by so many broken things ought to urge these students to act, but instead they want to make their bubble bigger and more impenetrable. These people annoy the crap out of me. Also, they treat my part of the neighborhood like it's really scary, but no one has been shot, murdered, or robbed around my apartment, and I have never felt anything but completely safe (well, except when my crazy neighbor took off his shoes, socks, coat, and pants and spend hours standing by my car. But then the police arrived and helped him out). Sure, I don't take long walks at night, but that would just be stupid.

I live 3 blocks from Obama. If that. The security around his house includes someone constantly parked on the road in front of the driveway. The car is always on, and the person just sits there. It's not always the same car, but it's always there. Now that I know it's his house, it's very obvious, but I never noticed the car sitting there all the time until Jeff and I took a walk and passed his house a few weeks ago. I really think that any of the front runners on the Democratic ticket would make a fine president (or at least a better president), but I know I am going to be unhappy with the process by which the nominee is chosen, so I don't really want to be a part of it (which is convenient, seeing as how Illinois is still relatively irrelevant in the process).
Current Location: Hyde Park
Current Mood: sicksick

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