Geography Lady

This Year

is shaping up to be a really enjoyable one. All my students are MUCH better behaved than last year's ever thought about being. I have 2 Pre-AP classes, and they keep me hopping - the kids are pretty quick on the uptake, so we move right along, with much more discussion/opinion/comments.
My academic classes seem to be ok, some better than others, of course. One has a few kids who have already told me that reading the textbook at home is too much work, and they don't plan to do it. Maybe they will accidentally learn something in class, even if they don't pass.
I am having all my classes do basically the same thing - read the textbook at home and take notes, with a test each Thurs or Friday, depending on what block they are in. They get to use their notes on the test, if they take notes while reading or in class if I lecture. Each week is a new chapter in the book, which is 32 chapters in length. Since there are 36 weeks in the school year, we should cover the book. Class time will be the fun stuff, no worksheets, and not necessarily related to the text.
Hope it works,
geography lady


we go Back-to-School!

We, meaning several hundred teachers at DHS, spent the past week preparing to challenge our new students with meaningful and relevant work that will engage their hearts and minds. Plus preparing rooms, learning that the 9th grade Teams initiative isn't going to work as we hoped this year, and helping 61 new faculty members learn the ropes. Five of the new faculty are members of the geography group, all of them coaches; the four of us that stayed were the full-time geography teachers.
The full-timers are planning something new for our charges this year - the book will be read entirely at home. School time will be enrichment activities that relate to various topics. We are hoping that if we stick together (and stick to our guns) it will work. I feel fortunate to have 2 pre-AP classes. Generally those students do their assignments plus more. My academic classes are the ones I am worried about, but I think if I can make class -I hesitate to use the word 'fun' - maybe 'interesting' enough, then at least some of them will do the textbook reading outside of class.
Wish us luck
geography lady

Home At Last

I made it home after almost a month of traveling. The National Geographic Conference in DC was interesting and informtive. It was exciting to meet so many new people from around the country. We spent a whole week learning about Africa and ways to teach students about it. The evenings were spent socializing at the National Conference Center in Lansdowne, VA. The food was pretty good, too.
I got back to Dallas July 14, and on the 16th drove to Houston to attend the AP Summer Institute at Rice. I met more folks, and knew several from other trainings. Susan Hollier was awesome, and full of ideas for teaching Geography. She did a great job of modeling her teaching style for us. I would say I'm eager to try it out on my students but I am not sure if they are ready to work that hard.
I stayed inb Houston that Friday night to eat dinner with my parents, aunt, and cousins ho I don't see very often. My aunt reserved the private dining room at Carrabba's on Voss, and we had a wonderful time.
I got home Saturday the 22nd, and we left for Lake City, Colorado. We camped beside a lovely stream up near Slumgullion Pass. The dog loved it.

camping near Cathedral

We stayed at the Matterhorn Motel one night. My parents stayed there in the 40's, I went with my family in the 60's, we went in the 70's, and took our kids in the 80's and 90's. They were booked up or we would have stayed another night or 2. It rained really hard the night we stayed there - I'm glad we weren't camping that night.
We also camped up Nellie Creek, a tributary of Henson Creek. Up the creek is the trailhead of the hike to Uncompahgre mountain, one of 5 fourteeners in Hinsdale County.


Aftr several days in Colorado we drove south to new mexico and toured Chaco Canyon. Very stark landscape, with little natural vegetation or water.
Petroglyphs on the wall behind the great house

chaco petroglyphs

Pueblo Bonito

pueblo bonito

We're home, avoiding the heat. I have one week before I have to start back to school. My niece is coming up tomorrow to stay for a few days, so I will be busy with an almost 13 year old 7th grader. I hope I have enough energy.
geography lady

Sight-Seeing in DC

There is way too much to do in DC in just a couple days, but I tried my best to see it all. Friday I went to the Smithsonian Natural History Museum. The geology exhibit is impressive, with lots of huge meteorites, and a very good earthquake/volcano/tectonic plates display. They also have the [link= ]Hope diamond [/link] and lots of gems.


The remainder of the day I spent at the West Building of the National Gallery of Art, with El Greco, Monet, Titian, da Vinci, Rembrandt, Turner, Stuart, and just a few people. I couldn’t believe how many folks just ran through the galleries. I got run off at 5, and could have stayed several more hours, as I only saw ¾ of the collection on the main floor. This is one of my favorites.

Elisabeth Vigée-LeBrun

Saturday I went to the National Aquarium - not much there for adults, but I am sure kids would like it. I also visited the Smithsonian Museum of American History.

pentagon flag

This was the flag draped from the West wall of the Pentagon on September 12.

The Ruby Slippers from the Wizard of Oz
ruby slippers

I visited with theCodePink folks and got some fliers, then walked up to the National Geographic Museum at 17th and M streets. They had a fascinating display of Crusaders' castles and Moslem bazaars, with a huge model of Krak des Chevaliers.


After a short nap I had dinner at [i]Thai Tanic[/i], a small but excellent restaurant at 1236 14th St., NW.

I wish I had more time, but I'll be back

The Capital

I made it, no plane crash. I hate flying, so this was a big deal for me, but Oh, so worth it. Washington is fantastic, awesome, extraordinary. When I win the lottery I am so moving here. Plus, as a bonus, the DC United team was on the flight.


I walked from the hotel at 15th and Rhode Island down to the Mall Thursday morning. I made my way past the White House

me and the white house

and walked down the Mall past various memorials and the Washington Monument to The Wall. The memorial was emotionally overpowering. I stood there for awhile amid the crush of tourists and watched several groups find the names of loved ones on the Wall. People slowed to run their fingers over the names of the honored dead. My heart stops when I think of the over 2500 names that will someday be engraved on some future memorial to those killed in the War on Terror.
Next I took in the Lincoln Memorial. There were people from all over the world visiting this American version of a Greek temple, judging by the variety of languages I heard. All had come to pay homage to the great man who strove to

finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.

By this time I had walked a couple miles and was tired and hot, so I caught a tourmobile to make the trip across the Potomac on the Memorial Bridge.


Arlington National Cemetery is enormous, and as overwhelmingly emotional as The Wall. Headstones march across the vast expanse of Lee's former plantation, up and down across the hills, like a ghostly army lying in wait for the signal to rise up and fight again.
The first tour stop was the Kennedy Memorial and the Eternal Flame. The approach is big and marble, full of majesty befitting a president such as JFK, but the site itself is underwhelming. Four plain graves under plain flat markers, surrounded by plain stones with grass growing in-between. A short distance away is Bobby Kennedy's grave - a simple white wooden cross. If you look up from the marker you can see Lee's house at the top of the hill.
The bus' next stop was the Tomb of the Unknown, and I can't think of any place in my 50 years that's had more impact on me. I watched the Changing of the Guards and ran out of film. As I was about to leave I heard a Park Service policeman say that they were having a wreath-laying ceremony at 3. It was about 1:30, which gave me a little time to see Arlington House, Robert E. Lee's home until the Civil War.


I took the bus down to the Visitor’s Center, bought film, and hiked the ¾ mile uphill to the Tomb as the tour buses weren’t running because of security for the ceremony. Along the road around the hilltop soldiers in dress blues stood watch every 20 yards. The viewing area at the Tomb was packed, but I managed to find a good spot to take some pictures. (I’ll post them at my website when they’re developed.) We had to wait awhile, but the President of Georgia (I think) and an American general laid a wreath at the Tomb, and I got my picture taken afterwards with the Navy portion of the color guard.


I caught a bus back to the White House, and then walked back to the hotel. All told, about 5 miles, and all uphill.


I was on the phone with our oldest, discussing the long weekend, when BOOM! and I knew the local fireworks display had begun. We hung up and my husband and I went outside, along with all the neighbors, to watch a marvelous display.
Since we had an inch of rain this afternoon the air was clear and it felt almost cool (not really a possibility in north Texas this time of year, but you can pretend). The city set the fireworks off at the park, 3 blocks down the street from our house, so it was very loud. They shot up right at the end of the street, over the houses and between the trees. Robert and I reminisced about seeing them (separately) at Meyerland Plaza in Houston eons ago. My grandparents took me, my brothers, and sometimes our cousins. Robert went with his family. I don't know if they still have a display there anymore. For years it was a really rundown place but in recent years it has been rebuilt. Robert and I never met until high school, but we wonder....did we ever talk at Meyerland on the 4th of July?
When we lived in Austin we took the canoe out on Town Lake to watch the fireworks and listen to the symphony. I was hugely pregnant with our 3rd child, and the boys were 3 1/2 and 1 1/2 years old. When the cannon went off during the Souza piece 'Stars and Stripes Forever' the oldest panicked, and we almost overturned in the dark on the lake! Fortunately the fireworks started and he became engrossed in the display of bright lights overhead. A moment we'll never forget.
Last summer I was in Charleston, SC, on the 4th. Mom and I had gone to visit Grace, who has joined the Navy. We watched as the fireworks lit up the harbor where the first shots of our Civil War were fired.
Tomorrow I am leaving for Washington, DC, another historic place. I plan to visit The Wall and Arlington National Cemetery, then take part in CODEPINK's Troops Home Fast on Saturday. I want the President to know that although my daughter serves her country, and I support her, I believe he made the wrong decision and we need to bring the troops home.
Sunday I will be going to a week-long National Geographic Institute . Busy, busy, busy. Hopefully I'll have time to write while I'm in DC

back again

I can't believe they still have this space up, but my log-in worked, so maybe I will write again. I have moved across the state since the last post 1 1/2 years ago. This past year I taught all ninth grade geography at a south suburban Dallas district. My students were 85% African-American, with the remainder mostly Latino. I had 1 Anglo and 1 Korean exchange student.
Amazingly enough they wern't a lot different than the small-town kids. They all watch MTV and think they're going to be rap stars; they all wear baggy pants (when they can get away with it). The Af-Amer kids were louder, the Latino small-town more passive, but overall they do the same things.
I did have trouble with the African-American boys, especially. They really did not want to mind - be quiet, do their work, etc. It took most of the first semester to get a handle on them
Parents here are not much help - anybody that gives their kid an iPod even when he fails every class is a lousy parent, and we had lots of them. More who don't have phones, or move often, or change phones and don't give the school the new number. You try to get hold of them but it's a losing cause.
No technology access for the students here, either. 2 computer labs for 4000 students. No projectors for the teachers, altho we did have old laptops for attendance and grades.
I interviewed for a 6th grade position northeast of Houston last Friday. I am not sure how it went, so we'll see if they call me.
happy 4th, and enjoy Wimbledon

I'm Back, I Think

I am going to attempt to start posting again, since the lege is in session and trying hard to screw teachers again.
Altho we are at the bottom of the bucket in salary, raising pay would be too easy. The lege is thinking about tying salary to performance - not teachers performance, but students performance. If we all had the perfect student that would be great, but most of my students would rather do anything than school work. Front and center 5th period is Mr. 420, or at least that's what his tattoo says. 3rd period has the kid who can't sit still because he's snorted too much meth in the last couple of days, plus giggle-girl, who is always high on pot.
My district is thinking about instituting random drug testing next year, but my students say 'everyone' will end up at the 'disciplinary school' for testing positive. The failure rate for the freshman class has made the nightly news more than once. I and an English teacher have the highest failure rates, but if the kids can't pass the TAKs test they shouldn't be passing my class. If I passed them and then they failed the TAKs there would be hell to pay. Since they won't do their work or study they can't pass; vicious cycle. I have started making them get their tests signed by a parent, and they get after-school detention if they don't get it signed. It hasn't helped raise the passing rate, but at least the parents are aware.
Which is where the problem lies, in my opinion. My own kids weren't allowed to fail - there were odious consequences. I wan't allowed to fail (well, once in Spanish in 7th grade. I had to sit at the kitchen table every school night with my mom and study - no TV. It was the only F I ever made.) My students get yelled at, and a few get grounded for a couple of days, but I guess their parents either don't know how or don't care to make them pass.
The kids certainly aren't too stupid - they are perfectly capable of doing the work when they aren't loaded. So the lege will try to come up with some answers, but they won't because they are too chicken to institute an income tax, so it will be a piecmeal fix that doesn't address the real issues. And my students and their future will be the real losers.

3 Week Failure Reports

We are through with the third week of school, and progress reports went out to parents Friday. Only one person failing Honors Geography , and only because of a missing paper, no surprise there. But in my regular classes the passing rate goes from 25 to 40%. Over half of my students are failing , and I dropped their lowest grade! Without the dropped grade only 10% passed. So what does this mean?

I think there are several reasons for the high failure rate. First, I am dealing with 9th graders. That particular age group has a historically high failure rate. 9th grade boys are statistically the most likely to fail, and most of mine are failing at least 2 of their classes. Second, these students seem particularly untutored in reading, math, and science skills. I also believe parents are unable or unwilling to enforce the standards that mine did.

According the March 16, 2004 CSM "Among black, tribal American, and Hispanic students statewide (North Carolina), 1 in 4 now repeats (their) freshman year." The statistics are much the same for the rest of the nation. I think a lot of this has more to do with teenage boys than anything else. Its a tough age anyway, but being thrown into high school and having to deal with older, larger kids puts them at a disadvantage to begin with. Several districts are trying 'ninth grade schools' but they are so new and so few that there are few good statistics on their sucess. Separate classes for the sexes are also being tried, and may be a partial answer. The most successful strategies focus on smaller classes and more supportive environments for ninth graders. Our district has a grant-funded program called the 'ninth grade initiative' that removes the failing students from the regular school and places them in a small program where they have one-on-one help and assistance. Most of them are able to catch up and return to regular school in tenth grade.

'By the time they get to high school, many (students) are reading at levels far below what is expected of a teen-ager, ... "We're expecting ninth-graders, when they're really fifth-graders (or) sixth-graders," said Meghan Waldron, who teaches freshmen at Northwestern High School in Hyattsville, Md (Washington Post, May 15, 2004).' Last week one of my students asked what the word 'benefit' meant. This is typical. I kept a list of 'unknown words' through part of last year until I got so disgusted I threw it away. I do not know where the failure lies, but these kids are not being held to the same standards I was, either by my teachers or my parents. In my Integrated Physics and Chemistry classes they act like they have never used the metric system, and have no idea that speed=d/t. My geography students don't know the continents or oceans, although they have heard of the equator.
The problem is more than what they don't know, though. It is what they can't connect. Words apparently have no intrinsic meaning, because they can't connect equal and equator, or elevation and elevator. Apparently they are not held accountable for learning roots, prefixes or suffixes in elementary school. They look at me like I'm speaking Chinese when I ask them what the prefix sub means - as in submarine, subcontinent, etc. They are totally unable to relate words to each other; each word is a separate entity, a thing to itself with no meaning outside of the sentence its being used in.
I am not sure what the answers are. Texas has used state-wide testing as an accountability tool for several years, but judging by these kids it is a total failure. They have passed their tests, but don't know much about anything. It remains to be seen what will happen when these students can't pass the new, harder tests required for graduation. A large portion of the students will not graduate, and then what will we do?

First Day of School

Many years ago, when I was 6 or 7, that was something to look forward to. No more. Nowdays it is about checking to see if the guys have shaved and that the girls have their midriff covered. It's hall patrol and after school duty, and explaining all the rules.

We are on a modified block schedule, which means we have first and eighth periods every day, then 2,3 and 4 one day, and 5,6,7th the next. We started with 5-6-7, so I have not met all my students. The only class where all the students showed up was my honors Geography class. I have 25 desks and 31 students, so 6 sat on the floor. They said they all preregistered for honors last spring, so why the counselors thought we needed only one section is a mystery to me. I talked to the principal after I finished afternoon duty, and there is a chance some of them will be moved to 8th period, my smallest class. We'll rename it honors, and try to get 8 or 10 kids moved in there. I know there are some special ed kids already in 8th period that cannot do even the simplest work (I've had them before) so making the work more in-depth is not going to make any difference to them, and may inspire them to think differently (or at least think).

I do have one poor guy both 1st, for IPC, and 8th for geography. I had him one semester last year before I asked that he be removed from my class. Now he is back, and very unhappy about having me for 2 periods, especially ones that meet every day - little does he know he is not the only unhappy person in the room.

I read the riot act to 5th period - a large IPC class. Mrs Crisp said she heard me telling them " and you'll go straight to AEP (the disciplinary school)." I was pretty hard on them. I hope I made an impression on the 9th graders. Mean, strict, unyielding. We'll see if I pulled it off. I do have several kids that flunked my class last year, but most of them don't seem to mind. The majority have a different geography teacher.

Hope tomorrow goes as well as today. And I hope we get the honors classes straightened out - they seemed like a good group of kids, the kind I remember from school, who don't mind doing their work. Or even if they mind, they do it anyway.

  1 - 10 of 28 articles Next 10 Articles >> 

On This Site

  • About this site
  • Main Page
  • Most Recent Comments
  • Complete Article List
  • Sponsors

Search This Site

Syndicate this blog site

Powered by BlogEasy

Free Blog Hosting