Friday, June 04, 2010

The Class that Satan Put Together

I cannot wait until the year is over. I've been teaching for years. There have been good times and bad. This class is just bad. I've had horrible students over the years. No matter how bad their behavior or whatever, I've usually found good in them and found a common ground. It sometimes took a year or two but it has usually happened. This class is different. I really never want to see them again. It makes me sad to say this but it's just the way it is.

I had a student named Timothy a few years ago. Timothy was described to me as a happy go lucky boy with a delightful playful side. Timothy in reality was an ax murderer dressed in 4th grade regalia. After a year of Timothy's playful yelling, abuse, arson, and petty larceny, we took a trip to a museum on a field trip and he sat next to me on the bus. I'm not sure why he sat next to me but he did. That was all it took. For the rest of the month we were friends. I still see Timothy and we are still friends. We have bonded. It happens that way with almost all of my kids. I call them my kids because they are. My kids are mine. This class is just not like that. We haven't bonded and it isn't going to happen. I'm counting the minutes until they become someone else's problem. It makes me sad as a teacher to say this but it's just the way it is. Some years are like this. You can't do anything about it.

This is why I think the whole merit pay for teachers idea is a crock of poop. You must play the hand you're dealt as a teacher. My class from last year wasn't the best but I would have made a couple of merit pay cents on them. This class wouldn't make me a cent. I'd be eating Alpo instead of collecting a check if merit pay applied. There are so many ideas that are wrong about education and they are posited by people who've never set foot in a classroom. My class that Satan put together would defy anyone.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

I'll have with a side of assault and battery.

My students have discovered They are clever. They have also discovered that has a feature where the computer will pronounce the word. So far so good. They have such a thirst for knowledge. Looking up words is important for meaning and proper spelling. Some of my boys have discovered will say most anything if you type it in. I have to laugh in the privacy of my room as I write this. Kids will find ways to tweak and twist things just enough to steal some humor or create some mayhem. The humor part is OK but the mayhem part is not. The other day some of the boys got the computer to say a girl's name and then a rude thing you could do with/to a girl. Her reaction was to punch a boy dead in the face and then attempt to strangle him. Game, set, and match. Clever boy saw none of this coming.

I was out the other day for breakfast and ran into a former colleague. She told me of her new life of teaching. "It isn't anything like what we used to deal with. Please! My job is simple. The kids sit there with their hands folded. A 'problem' is when a kid talks to his neighbor during a test." What no kids getting the computer to say "back that thing up" with a side of strangulation?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Violence is just another thing...

I reflect on my life in the inner city a lot, of course. I've been doing this a long time and I wonder about myself. I accept a lot of things as normal now. Strange things. I drove around the corner from school today and the street was taped off and there were a bunch of cop cars parked at crazy angles. There were numerous little red numbers spaced all over the street. Someone was shot or shot at a whole bunch of times. This was a block from school. Didn't hear it while I was there. Didn't hear the sirens either. I kept on driving. A couple of weeks ago, a colleague and I were talking after school. We heard a whole bunch of what we thought at first was fireworks. We realized "drive by shooting" at the same time. We exchanged knowing looks and kept on working. Just another normal day.

It's strange that it doesn't make much of an impression. It reminds me of a passage in a Celine book where an officer is standing in the middle of a road during a battle and is giving orders and the bullets are flying by and the officer just keeps giving orders and not even noticing the bullets. The danger is everywhere and he is immersed in it without concern. I work in a dangerous place and sometimes the danger is closer than ever. The last few weeks my students have been involved in lots of outside violence with kids from other schools. Some of the students are coming to my school to start fights. Our security guards have been heading most of the kids off at the pass. It's hairy, though. There are minor things all the time. I hope it doesn't escalate. Who knows if the violent evidence that I saw today is connected with the school violence in the neighborhood. It's not good and it's only going to get worse as the weather gets warmer.

I got a call about an interview at another school today. Hopefully, some good will come of this.

My kids are getting worse and worse. I have my good days and bad. They are mostly bad the past few weeks. I wonder why the Hell I do this. My kids just want to fight with each other, insult each other, and annoy each other. I've been teaching these kids since September and what have I done. They're just as violent and disrespectful now as they were when I met them. Ugh!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Cologne is not just a city in Germany.

I have a student who has discovered cologne. He was very excited the other morning. "Mr! Mr! have you heard of 'Cuba'?" "Yes. The country?"
"It's a cologne. I'm wearing it."
As he's saying this I'm realizing that I'm inside a smell. I've climbed inside without realizing it. My student has put on so much cologne, I'm tasting "Cuba." Thank goodness there weren't any open flames around.
This kid is an interesting case. He's discovered girls in a major way but has no idea what to do. He's calling girls in class and harassing them. He tells them inappropriate things that he'd like to do. Everything is just a bit off because he doesn't actually have all the information he needs. It's sad. We're all trying to "reprogram" him. Hopefully, it works. He's a good kid but all mixed up. A steady diet of "back that thing up" doesn't help.


On another front, I'm sure you're noticing the major negativity coming toward teachers from everywhere lately. Obama's got it out for us. New Jersey is cutting a billion dollars out of education. Detroit is cutting days out of the school week because they're out of money. It's all the teacher's fault and specifically the teacher's unions. Where is this going to end? More on this to come. I'm reading Diane Ravich's book The Death and Life of the Great American School System. It deals with a lot of the stuff going on. It's nice to see Diane has come around to what most teachers would say - NCLB and relentless testing is wrong. It sucks that Obama hasn't.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

My People.

I have been so busy this year. I apologize for not writing. I'm taking grad school classes and it's taking a lot of my brain this semester. Both classes require a ton of reading and some is the most boring stuff imaginable. I'm taking a leadership class and one of the books is geared to the business world. This book requires me to ride the exercise bike in my basement while I read. If I don't ride, the book puts me to sleep immediately. I've biked to Harrisburg and back while reading this week. Ahh!!! Still, I love my grad school. I really do. It keeps me sane and helps me realize that I'm capable of doing things and being an adult.

On the teaching front, my class is ridiculous. They will not stop talking this week. What do you do when all else fails? I call home, give detentions, give lunch detentions, send them to counselors, send them to administrators, have principal's conferences, enact behavior plans, keep copious anecdotal data, and do every other f@cking thing that a good teacher should and it's still bananas. I don't know.

This class is very low in maturity and skills. Their maturity issues are getting the better of me and every other teacher right now. They can't follow simple instructions and they can't get along with each other. I want to cry.

Yesterday, one of my girls was working on her current event in the computer lab. This girl, "Annabelle" says she has a story. It's a story about a 11-year-old kid being butchered in a holdup. We've been doing current events for a month and I'm tired of articles like this. There's more news than murder, mayhem, and Justin Beiber's dog. I ask her to find something else. She's in the Philadelphia Inquirer's website, there's dozens of articles to choose.
"This is the only article, Mr."

"No, there's a lot of articles online. Take another look."

"This is the only one."

"The entire Internet is there for you. Take another look."

"Guess he only wants news about his people."

"Excuse me?"

"Oh, nothing."

My people. Yes. My people. Apparently, I only accept news articles about white guys who like punk rock and roast pork sandwiches. Christ on a crutch. I'm sick of kids who just say anything. I'm at a low ebb in the teaching year. I'm wishing for June.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Sigh and explode.

I can't seem to get a handle on this 2010. My kids have been off the hook since we got back from break. We have had lots of teachers out and there are never any subs so my room has had extra kids in it almost every day. It's pretty hard to get in a groove when you have kids in your room that aren't yours and they're just out to cause mayhem. The days that have been my kids alone have been days spent reclaiming what was mine. I'm very frustrated. It's always a struggle getting in the groove again with the turn of the year, but this year is particularly heinous.

Today was a struggle. It started in the yard when I picked them up and it didn't stop until I dropped them in the yard at 3. It isn't easy to teach in the 'hood. It sure isn't a game for sissies. I wish that I had some answers. Actually, I do. They might even be the silver bullets that could kill the inner city madness that I teach in. It's all Maslow's hierarchy of needs. I could get so much more done if I could help the girl in my room with the rotten teeth that keep bothering her, if I could fill the empty bellies of the boys in my room who never have enough, if I could get winter coats for the kids who have only sweatshirts to wear, and if I could get solid jobs for the parents in my class that keep losing them. It's pretty hard to concentrate when you didn't sleep in your bed last night, you slept in the train station waiting for your father. Fixing all of these things would allow us to start to teach something. Doing this is a hell of a lot harder than filling bubbles in on standardized tests.

I'm in a cynical mood, however, and I know that no one is listening who will do a goddamn thing. The Supreme Court just gave away our country to corporations and Massachusetts put the last nail in the coffin on health care. My lillylivered Democratic Party is going to slink away in defeat without attempting to do anything. Sigh.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

I'm still here. Happy New Year!

Yes, the reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated. I didn't die, although a very heavy bag of student paperwork nearly dislocated my shoulder in December. Happy 2010 to you and yours. I'm pleased to be teaching in 2010. I'm still in the inner city. Still teaching and trying to teach in the midst of chaos and confusion. Most of the chaos and confusion is happening in my school, at present, although I do have a few beauties in classroom that are giving me fits since we got back from Christmas break.

I wish I could report more than the usual. I don't have much. It's a rough job teaching where I work. I was reflecting today that I've lasted longer than the average new teacher. Something like half of us leave after 5 years according to I haven't left. I am trying to leave my current school. I have a couple of things going in that respect. I'll keep everyone posted.

Morale remains abysmal at my school. It's not good for the soul when everyone around you is miserable and looking for a way out. Our administration could do so much to help things and they don't care. Simple communication would do the trick, yet they don't talk to us.

On a positive note, my first semester's classes went well. I've got a 4.0. A principal's position is hopefully in my future.