Monday, April 2, 2007

as complex as DGP...kudos to Ms. Daugherty

DGP stands for Daily Grammar Practice. It's something I do in my classroom that my students abhor. This blog is a refresher for why I am a read no further if you don't want to know.

Being in the classroom trenches everyday below mounds of papers and lesson planning, I sometimes get down in the dumps and think..."Why, exactly, do I teach?" But, as I've said since I came out of my retirement, I do love my job. I love my students. I love my classroom. I think public education is the best gig in town.

A few days ago someone asked me how my students would describe me and my teaching. I answered with a variety of things, but it made me realize that I wasn't really sure what my students would say...and that's frightening. I always have my students write me evaluation letters about assignments...about projects...about the classroom...but never about me. So today I put them to the task and posed the question, "What three words would you use to describe me, my teaching style, and my classroom?" This falls right in line with my teaching philosophy that tomorrow I will be a better teacher than I was today.

Yikes. Scary. I wasn't sure I wanted to know all they wanted to say. And it was a hard challenge for them...coming up with the three words. And one student even said, "I can't do it...I need three paragraphs."

Some wrote three words, some wrote three sentences. Many wrote a word and then followed up with a detail or example---the true mark of a writer. :)

Below are some of my favorites, with my personal comments added in parentheses. I'll be adding these notes to my YES! file soon (a file I keep of notes, letters, and cards from my students that I get out when I'm in one of those I-hate-teaching modes.)

1. Energetic (I have teacher ADHD.)
2. Outgoing (Never met a stranger...student or adult.)
3. Stern (We have procedures for things and you have manners...use them!)
4. Kind (I try.)
5. Trustworthy (Interesting. I had no idea some students saw me as this because no student ever tells me anything I need to keep secret.)
6. Laid back (Life is way too much fun to be serious all the time.)
7. Successful (I'm glad I am "just" a teacher and my students think I'm successful.)
8. Thinks outside the box (I don't know that I do this much, but I encourage students to get out of their comfort zones.)
9. Pushes the limits (Causes growth.)
10. Challenges the norm (Causes more growth.)
11. Creative (I love the spark of creativity!)
12. Imaginative (Just imagine all we can achieve!)
13. Stresses me out (That's my job!)
14. Cheerful (You have to be consistent when you read essays like I read today!)
15. Understanding--she knows we need to sit back and smell the roses once in a while. (Learned that from Ferris Bueller.)
16. Great writer...(WOW! I had about 10 of these....I love it when students compliment my work...I bet they love it when I compliment theirs...I need to do that more often rather than always being the critical eye.)
17. Actually helps when help is needed. (As opposed to saying "Go away you scathing, bubbling idiot, find your help elsewhere.")
18. Amazing (of course some students are going to say's the word of the decade like "Totally Cool" was my decade word.)
19. Works hard for student success (I do that. Seriously. I want my students to be and feel successful...I know the pleasure of that feeling.)
20. Likes to keep the class in a good mood with exciting projects. (Yes, I do that. No one wants a classroom of 18-year-olds in bad moods...they can be downright hateful.)
21. She's a good kid. (Really? I'll take it as a compliment, but they could be referring to me as a young goat.)
22. Witty. (I'm rarely at a loss of something to say. In fact, one student wrote an essay on my "comebacks" in class.
23. She allows our creative minds to flourish...and because of that, I value her as a teacher. (Ooohh....I've got idea AND detail all in one thought! I love teaching writing!)
24. Sets high expectations. (A must!)
25. Teaches with loads of energy. (Don't have a clue where this comes from, unless it's McDonald's coffee...I just love life so I'm energetic.)
26. Knowledgeable (I'm a human wiki...people constantly feed me information that I spew out when tapped into. Seriously though, if I don't know the answer, I'll make up a believable one...or I'll give you the resources to find the right answer.)
27. Ms. Daugherty can't be summed up in three words or less. She is as complex as the DGP she makes us understand. Her desire is not only for us to learn, but also for us to grow as individuals! (Yes...the truth comes out...tomorrow I think I'll make them diagram that sentence!) :)

Okay, so the comments were all positive. One student, who is ALWAYS negative said, "Ms. Daugherty, I'm really, really trying here."
"Trying what, Tony?"
"Trying to be negative...and I can't think of one single thing." A look of shock and disappointment crosses my face I'm sure. "Seriously....I can't think of anything."

if i stop stop reading...

Funny how that works.

I'm swamped and haven't spent the time I would like keeping my blog up to date. And a lot of things have happened since March 15, the last blog entry. Every day one or more of my students will make a comment like, "Oh, Ms. Daugherty...that's got to go in the blog!" One of the most humorous recent classroom happenings was when Joe, one of my favorite conversationalist, told me he was getting a new tattoo of Michelangelo playing the drums. So, to me, I envision an aging artist from the 1500's with a pointy gray beard wearing a regalia bonnet and Gothic velvet robes and hosiery from the Renaissance.

Knowing Joe, this all makes perfect sense. He's a drummer. He's an artist. I can see his eclectic tastes in tattoos leading him to make a choice to tattoo one of the most famous artists and sculptors of all time on his body playing his most favorite musical instrument.

No. I couldn't have been further from the truth. Joe is 18. Michelangelo to Joe is a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle, and his hero from his Saturday morning childhood.

Knowing Joe, that all makes perfect sense.

I saw the drawing. And I used my own processing skills to put it all together. It was obvious. On Joe's sketch book was a beautiful, intricately drawn Michelangelo...complete with a jumpsuit, turtle shell and mask, playing a set of drums like a patriotic Civil War drummer boy.

I couldn't believe it. The sad thing, no one in the room thought of Michelangelo the artist. With the recent release of the new TMNT movie (that's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles for all of you who aren't in the know), and Joe's obsession with the four pre-historic pop culture heroes, everyone automatically thought about the surfer-loving turtle who claims pizza as his favorite food.

Although it was funny, I am sad. I've seen St. Peter's Basilica. I stared at the ceiling in the Sistine Chapel. I stood mesmerized in front of the statue of David. I've walked all over Florence and Rome seeing bits and pieces of Michelangelo's work and never once thought about a green turtle.

This story also relates to a piece of literature I teach in my English classes. Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales is a collection of narrative poems about a group of pilgrims on their way to Canterbury, England to pay homage to a saint. The narrator challenges the group members to each tell a story on the journey, and a winner will be chosen at the end. The Nun's Priest recites a fable about a rooster names Chanticleer and his lovely lady Pertelote.
"Chanticleer!?" My students always quote with disbelief. "Like in RockaDoodle?"
"What's RockaDoodle?" I ask.

And then my students freak out on me and my incomplete life.