Today was somewhat better. It's never easy and I'm coming down with a cold. Having a cold sapping your strength isn't much fun when you are in the classroom teaching all day. There's not much time to regroup and catch your breath. We don't have a coffee machine either. Hot beverages help you feel better when you're sick and we don't have access to any. No coffee shop or quickie mart in our neighborhood either. I work in a bad end of town. My voice is going, my throat is sore, and my nose is running. I hope that I can shake this for the weekend. I'd like to be healthy and happy on Christmas morning.
My wife just gave me a big hug. I needed one and she magically appeared. My teaching life has been in the toilet lately, each day worse than before, and I have lost perspective. I do have a wife and family that loves me. I have friends. I have a life. I need to let it go.
On the way home from school today I turned off the radio and reflected in silence about all the stuff that happened today. I spoke to God for a moment. I'm not much for praying or religion but the question needed to be asked: Is there a reason why this is happening to me? I've been in a nightmare teaching situation for two years. I've been on the wrong end of the stick for the entire time. Why? What is accomplished by all this misery?
Why didn't I go to law school or something? At least I would know how to do something and perhaps have something to show for it. I'm tens of thousands in debt for my postgraduate work and for what? So every day I can go home feeling like death warmed over? So every day I can fight with the same dummies? I'm sick of this. I've got to get out of the friggin' inner city. My teaching is not teaching. My school is not a school. I cry in my car on the way home from work almost every day lately. This is not the way it should be.
Every five minutes the phone rings in my classroom with stupid questions from the main office. Every six minutes one of my wonderful students erupts in rage and begins pummeling another student. The kids run wild in the hallways. The fire alarms are constantly shrieking. There's someone constantly yelling or howling out in the halls. The bulletin boards in the halls are being destroyed on a daily basis. The kids never shut up. They're always talking. Always disrespecting you. I'm sick to death of it. I work in hell. The demons run the classrooms, the hallways, the bathrooms, and the stairwells. They torment us.
Christmas vacation cannot get here soon enough. One question for the boneheads who run our crummy school district: Why couldn't you make this week the report card conference week? We could have half days for the end of this week when we need them. You know that no one is going to want to work a full day on December 23. What would a half day matter anyway? None of this matters. None of this s%&t matters. No one is learning a damn thing in my school. Our school is just a K-8 babysitter.
I'm not getting many parents to show up for their report card conferences. It's not a surprise. Most don't answer the phone or do anything when I phone home. It's not like it's important or anything. I'm only their child's teacher with information about their child. Nothing important and sorry to waste their time.
My experiences of waiting around in a freezing cold classroom for parents are a sad commentary of the state of education in my school and likely in the neighborhood. Education is not valued and the kids know it; hence, they treat us like dirt. A shame since education is the only way to have a chance at a good job. These kids and their parents can't see that.
I'm in the middle of another horrible week. My kids don't stop talking or yelling or running around or anything else. It's like I don't exist. Will someone tell me what the point of this is? No Child Left Behind says we have to educate every kid. Please oh smart ones in the Bush Administration tell me how I educate monsters that would like to kill me? Monsters that think books are for throwing, paper is for eating, and pencils are for snapping. Tell me swami how I educate kids that would rather smear ink all over their faces than try and use a pen for its true purpose. How the f*ck do I teach these goddamn kids?
My wonderful weekend is drawing to a close and I have not accomplished half of what I wanted to do. I did go sledding and got the house cleaned up a bit. My laundry is washing. I'm not looking forward to being at school tomorrow. It is a shortened week, though, because we've got report card conferences on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday. Those are all half days, thank God.
I've been thinking about my class a lot over the weekend. They've been out of hand over the past week. One of our administrators likes to tell me that everything is my fault. My kids are horrible because I am a rotten teacher, etc. I am the quintessential rookie schoolteacher but that's only a small part of what goes on in our school and my classroom. It isn't all my fault in there. My students need to accept some blame too. They act like animals and have for the entire time they've been my students. They have acted like this since they came to school as kindergarteners. The class has never been broken up (a problem at our school) and they've always acted like wild animals, yet some want to bust my chops because my class is rambunctious. Bullsh%t!
I refilled my fountain pen the other day and have been filling my journal with bright blue ink. Why did I wait so long to refill it? My Pelikan glides so easily over the creamy white pages of my journal. Last night the wife and I ate Ethiopian with friends we haven't seen in more than a year. The food was excellent and we all delighted in each other. Why did I deny myself the pleasure of their company and the deliciousness of Ethiopian cuisine? Life is too short to deny oneself a good woman, a good pen, a good meal, a good book, a manual transmission, the laughter of a child, or a stiff drink. In the course of my often horrendous inner-city school teaching life I lose track of the important things.
I got that snow day I've been wanting and it is F-ing sweet. I haven't seen a kid all day except my own. I need some time to regroup and recharge and catch up on my laundry. It's really nice to be home instead of being yelled at by kids that should be chained up and breaking rocks for use in our nation's cement industry. It's almost cocktail hour.
Here's to everyone who got a snow day today. I hoist my glass in honor of you!
I'm depressed and tired and dejected. I'll be back tomorrow for more but there has to be a better way. I try so hard and it all blows up in my face. The same kids treat me like sh%t every day and do exactly the same irritating behaviors. What do you do with kids that crawl on the floor and won't get up or stop; shriek like banshees; eat and spit paper; cry at the drop of a hat; shout obscenities; throw books, crayons, pencils, pens, and everything else; steal everything that isn't nailed down; and fight without warning? Someone please tell me because this is F-ing crazy. My students are demons straight from Hell. HELP! I've had enough for a week. Can't we have a snow day tomorrow? Please? I hope it snows five feet. I want to hear those magic words on KYW: "All Philadelphia public and parochial schools are closed." Do demons worry about snow? Does it effect them?
On another subject, not one of my students knew about Pearl Harbor.
"I'll give you a hint, 12/7/41 had to do with World War 2."
I think about my kids all the time. They treat me like sh%t and do no work. They think that they own the world and need to listen to nothing. It's a shame that they are so stupid. They don't have any idea what time it is. They don't realize that racist America wants them to do exactly what they are doing. They want them to screw up their lives and stay in the ghetto. They want these kids to stay exactly where they are. Out of sight and out of mind and ready for prison when they get out of hand. The most radical thing they could do is to get an education and really stick it to the man. Instead they act like knuckleheads and go nowhere. How can I motivate them to want more? To try to be more? Why don't they listen to a word I say? Is it as simple as "you're white" as one teacher told me the other day? If so then I really am sunk. I have no idea how to deal with their racism.
The last few days have been terrible; actually they've all been terrible since returning from Thanksgiving. I'm feeling hopeless. The kids don't want to do anything. Their attitudes are piss poor. Their benchmark tests are a blight upon the city of Philadelphia. I'm not sure what to try next. What do you try when nothing works? How do you try new things with kids that don't want to try anything? How do you motivate them? How do you do this?
My mantra is I will try to help one person every day. That's all I can do. I'm in a huge school filled with an insurmountable amount of problems and an administration that beats up the teachers. I'm trying my best and that's all I can do. Oh, and where was our snow day today? I sure as Hell could have used it. Perhaps Friday will amount to some real snow.
I got back from a wonderful Thanksgiving vacation. It was so wonderful to have some extra time with my family. Truly refreshing. I had no interest in coming to work this morning. Forgot my coffee. Everything was off. The kids were horrible. Mondays are always rough but Mondays after a break are the worst. It was like I wasn't there. Horrible.
On a brighter note, I wrote a novel in one month! I had to burn the candle at both ends to do it and annoyed my family to no end but I did it! Nanowrimo is awesome! I recommend it to everyone. I just downloaded and printed my certificate. Sweet! I'm drinking an Iron City Beer to celebrate. Good night faithful readers.
A little bit better today. It seems this year I get one good day a week. Last year I got none. Perhaps next year I'll get two? A man can dream. Just wanted to write something positive for a change. I realize that this year's posts have been rather negative and I'm not a negative guy, far from it, actually. I just wish I could shake my cold. It's just refusing to go away. If it would go then things would be great.
I'm psyched that cold weather might be here. It was about 100 degrees in my room this afternoon. I was soaked in sweat. Disgusting. It shouldn't be 70 degrees in November in Philadelphia. This time of year should be crisp and cold. I walked outside this morning and it felt so wrong to have an extra warm breeze in my face. Supposedly it will be 40 tomorrow. Let's get it on! I want to freeze my ass off and wear jackets and perhaps see the snow fly. Thanksgiving is 8 days away. It needs to be cold.
I need to immerse myself in paperwork before I fall asleep. I'm already drowsy.
On an unrelated topic, can Cheney's poll numbers dip below 20? I'm betting they can and hoping Bush's keep dipping too.
I'm still trying to get myself back on track after being sick for a few days. I got nothing done this past weekend. Instead, I was curled in a ball holding my aching stomach or retching. My paperwork languished as did my homework for my grad class. I just got all the homework finished at 1:30 am this morning. Now I'm digging into all the paperwork that I haven't done. I hope to be in bed early, however. I can't be up all night and yelling all day (if it's a typical one). I'll kill myself.
I've already dropped my exercise routine for the past month. Not by choice, I'm just too busy and exhausted. I'm really wondering what the point is in all this bulls&*t that I endure. Is it worth my wife and family? I hardly see them because of all the crap I do at night. Is it worth giving up a serious chunk of every weekend? Is it worth all the negative vibes that I get? Is it worth the way it makes me feel most of the time. My feelings of dread and utter hopelessness are beginning to pervade the rest of my life. I am with these f@#&ing kids and my f@#&ing school more than I am anywhere else. Why should it be this way? I try every day to make it better and to teach them better ways to be and behave and it gets me nowhere. I'm Sisyphus pushing a giant textbook up the hill and it never stops rolling back.
I wrote a lot of detentions today. This exchange tells you what kind of day I had. "Jody, this detention is for you telling me to f@*% off this morning." "Mr. I didn't tell you that, I told you to shut the f@*% up."
I'm so tired of being yelled at by kids. I don't take any of it but it doesn't stop them and I don't really know what to do anymore. There needs to be some kind of buy in and cooperation from these kids and that's not happening. Also there needs to be some kind of improvement in behavior when you correct them and when you take the next steps of calling home and giving detentions and suspensions. They don't behave any better now and I've been working with them for three months. It's so frustrating and exhausting. My eyes are closing as I write this and I still have miles to go before I sleep.
Oh, to sleep. Beautiful sleep. I really want to just drink myself into oblivion and sleep and sleep. These friggin' kids are driving me crazy.
Today was a little better than yesterday. My school is out of control, though. The kids are running it and they are running amok. It's annoying and dangerous. My room was halfway decent until the end. It's always something though. My gripe today is the classroom phone. It just never stops ringing. How are we able to teach when the phone rings all the damn time? I just start talking and the kids are quiet and the phone rings. Then it rings again and again and again. At least fifteen times after lunch. Every time it was about something stupid and unnecessary. Why?
No Child Left Behind meet the classroom phone. You aren't able to teach when that phone rings every five minutes. Not going to happen.
I am really unhappy with my performance today. I feel rotten about what happened in my room today. I said some things that I would like to take back. It is so frustrating to deal with the same awful behaviors day after day after day and to be alone in a self-contained room. I am so tired of being yelled at by kids and being ignored. I am tired of them destroying the room. I am tired of their lousy attitudes. I am tired of their lousy, neglectful parents.
I went home fuming and depressed and dejected. I'm still feeling this way and it's many hours later. I regret getting so angry and letting my mouth get ahead of my brain. I was sarcastic. I was vindictive. I was f*&@ing frustrated. I'm so tired of being a failure as a teacher. Hell, I'm not really a teacher. Teachers teach. I don't teach very much. I can't even get them to stop talking. I am tired of being a failure. I'm tired of being a punching bag. I'm starting to hate children. I used to like them and want to help them. I'm closing down. I'm starting to want to get out. I'm angry. I'm turning hard inside. I'm beginning not to care. I'm becoming someone I don't even know and I don't like it. Why is it so hard? Why are new teachers left to twist in the wind like this? This is my second year of the longest fraternity hazing in history. This is bull@%*%!
My kids were the worst this afternoon. Actually, they weren't that good before lunch either. Every day the same kids do the exact same things. They don't change. Every day it's the same tantrums and bellyaching from the same kids. They drive me nuts. I have so little patience for kids like this. Someone should have taught them the right way to behave a long, long time ago.
On a happier note. My certification is going to Level 1. I'm becoming a lot more marketable. No one wants to talk to a rookie schoolteacher about a job. Now I can shoot for better jobs. Perhaps I can get one where I can teach instead of yell all day? A rookie can dream.
Happy Halloween. Don't eat too much candy. I've got to start correcting papers before I fall asleep. A teacher's work is never done.
I'm so tired tonight. The kids wore me down today. I just woke up after falling asleep after dinner. I've woken up to go back to sleep. I didn't get to call many parents tonight. I'm just whipped. Teaching is exhausting.
I'm feeling down and depressed about the way things are going in my classroom. My kids bitch and moan and throw tantrums and talk all day long. They push and shove and slap and throw things and never stop. I'm pulling my hair out. I'm not giving up but there has to be an easier way. I call a dozen houses a night. It does nothing. I give detentions. It does nothing. Kids get suspended. It does nothing. Doing nothing does nothing. Doing something does nothing. It makes no sense. It makes no sense. Down is up. Up is down.
This is my last year in the inner city unless some kind of magic happens. I hope that I can make some. I want to make some magic. I try so hard and it all blows up in my face every goddamn time. I'm so sick of taking s@&t.
I used my day off to catch up on a hell of a lot of paperwork. It feels good to get the laundry done and get a stack of papers graded. If only it would stop raining. It's depressing. Rain and gloom. Each time it rains we lose 15 minutes of recess and that's depressing too. I want those students in that lunchroom. I don't want to lose 15 minutes of downtime. Yesterday was really f&*@ing hard. The kids were just awful. Disrespectful, angry, screaming, fractious, and cantankerous. I get so tired of their crap. Why in the hell are they so f&*@ing terrible? It's not just the inner city. That's a goddamn cop out. These kids are just the worst and their parents are to blame. Not the system. Not the inner city. It's the parents. They don't instill any values of any kind. They expect nothing from their children. They demand nothing. I'm left holding the bag.
Sorry to be so negative but negative is telling things straight up. I'm not sugarcoating this. I'm pissed! I'm way out of my element here. Rear your goddamn children, you freaks!
Did you happen to check out Bush's utterly fake teleconference today? Rubbish. Complete and total propaganda of the worst and most inept kind. Isn't it time to get rid of this corrupt administration? Impeach these liars. Let's get it on! Clinton got impeached for oral sex. WTF? Bush lied us into an unwinnable war and continues to lie. Bushworld is fantasyland. Impeachment! Say it with me!
I've been off for two days because of Rosh Hashanah and Ramadan. Yippie! It's been so nice to be away from the kids. Next week we've got Columbus Day and Yom Kippur. Fantastic!
I really don't want to go back tomorrow. I've had such a nice time off. There isn't any point in going back anyhow. I predict the students will be insane. Another Monday for them and then it will be Friday and Fridays are a waste of time. So, what's the point? Hopefully, it won't be that bad. I need to string together some good days. If I can get on a roll things will be a lot better. At the moment I'm so depressed I can't think straight or work up the enthusiasm necessary to do anything beyond the bare minimum. I don't want to be like this. Unless you've taught there is no way for the uninitiated to know how awful teaching can be when it isn't going right.
Today was a day from Hell. Every Monday is hard because the kids seemingly forget everything over the weekend. This one was doubly hard because we are off tomorrow and Wednesday for religious holidays. What was the point in coming in today? The kids did nothing but screw around. No learning happened in my class today. Lots of temper tantrums, hurt feelings, paper throwing, crying, and some pointless rolling around on the floor. What the @&%*?
I'm in the wrong school. This is my second year in the inner city. I am not suited for this. I do very little substantive teaching. I do lots and lots of nothing. Nothing but managing the behavior of monsters. Well, managing makes me seem like I can actually do something. More like enduring the behavior of monsters who ignore me and every other adult. I'm sick of this. Sick of this. When will the moments of teaching ever happen for me? My life is enduring bull@*&% from monsters and filling out paperwork from indifferent administrators. I'm getting out of here. After this year I'll have two years of teaching under my belt, a masters, and Level 1 certification in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware. That's three states to choose from and there must be a better job in a better elementary school somewhere. I should not have to feel abused, disgusted, and demoralized 90% of the time. Life is too short.
I would like to work somewhere where I felt supported by my administration. A place where my calls for help are answered. Today I must have asked for assistance in my classroom 7 times after lunch. Not once did anyone come to my aid. I'm happy that I wasn't in danger but what if I was? I would have been in big trouble. This is an everyday occurrence in my school. No one is getting any help from school police or the NTAs. This happened last year too. It's dangerous and unacceptable.
I'm getting out after this year. I'm not making a difference. I'm wasting my life.
I like my kids but they really disappoint me. They make kooky decisions because they are kids. It bugs me some days more than others. Days like today that went halfway decent are still infuriating. I get home late after staying after doing paperwork and rearranging seats and whatnot. I buy stuff at the dollar store for the kids (spending money that I don't really have) and then head home late to see my own family. I scarf down a fast food dinner and then pick up the phone to call parents that aren't there and don't care anyway. The ones that pick up put the kid on the phone with me. Why? I have no freakin' idea. Explains a lot about why they can't do anything in my classroom. After wasting an hour on useless phone calls, I put my own children to bed and then start more paperwork. In a few hours I'll be back in the classroom doing it all over again.
Things are better this year but it is never ever easy. I'm tired and perpetually behind. Mostly, I marvel at the strangeness of the students in my school. They do not seem to get it. The same negative behaviors and values are inculcated in these kids before they get to me and, no matter how hard we try, they can't be eradicated.
This has nothing to do with anything, but the first Smiths record is wonderful. I haven't played it in years and it still holds up. Good rookie schoolteacher music.
My depression from earlier in the week has lifted. Thursday and Friday were wonderful. I instituted some new incentives and they seemed to have worked some magic for some of the kids. They had some fun and got their work done and we all went home with a smile. I really like these kids and they are coming around. Hopefully, we can continue on Monday. Weekends are always tough on the classroom because they break the positive momentum. I have a warm glow and it's not alcohol-based for a change. I was actually teaching and enjoying the kids. That's why I got into this in the first place.
I'm listening to Doug Gillard's Salamander as I write this. Sublime. I wish the records he made with Death of Samantha weren't out of print. I wish I could go back to the mid 80's and buy a lot records.
These last few days have been horrendous. I have a lot of students in my class who just can't stop fighting, sleeping, disrupting, and being negative. It's so exhausting to try your best and have it all unravel because a bunch of spoiled kids with no boundaries want to f*@% it all up. At the moment, I'm stinking up the joint in terms of being a teacher. My class doesn't follow instructions. They complain all the time. They don't want to do anything but eat their goddamn books, fight, and throw temper tantrums. I'm going to ask my masters program for a refund because I was sold a bill of goods. Not once has anyone taught us diddley squat about discipline and classroom management. Not once. I've been taught about every damn thing but nothing about discipline. The most important part of teaching is the classroom management stuff!!! It's the 900 pound gorilla in the room. No one talks about it in grad school. No one talks about it in the school district of Philadelphia. There are never any professional developments about it. The union never talks about it. IT'S THE MOST IMPORTANT THING! F*@% the curriculum. If there's no discipline there is no learning. Might as well heat the building with the textbooks.
I'm working hard, as usual, but my work could be simpler if there were books and teacher's manuals for two of my subjects. It's a real pain in the ass to create lessons out of whole cloth. I'm not a scientist or historian. I know a lot about both subjects but not enough to create curriculum and materials for them. Why would the school district do this? So I've been cutting and pasting everything I can find to create weeks of lessons. It's really aggravating because I don't have the time to do this work. I've got enough on my plate with teaching and classroom management. There's no time left for me to become a researcher too. Still, I've got to do it or face the wrath of the administration.
I don't understand parents that don't give their children prescribed medications. I have a number of students that should be on ritalin or similar drugs and their parents refuse to give them the pills. Why? Some of the parents think they are doing the kid a favor. They aren't. The reason I say this is because I see it from the inside. These kids with ADHD and other conditions are dangerous at times to themselves and to others. They aren't having fun in school. They aren't fitting in with their peers. At times they are the butt of jokes from insensitive and cruel peers and staff. They are physically disruptive and destructive and run the risk of injury and perhaps a free ride in the police car. Why do these parents decide to withhold drugs prescribed by a doctor? Some think this is some kind of experiment. I had a parent last year who thought she'd just stop the pills because he must be cured after taking them for a week. No one is cured. It doesn't work that way. Not at my school.
My students are a handful this year. So what else is new in the inner city. I was pretty depressed yesterday evening after my Monday. I should have remembered that it was Monday after all. The kids were just atrocious yesterday afternoon. Today they weren't so bad. I left feeling a lot better. This teaching thing is that way. You're up and then you're down. One day everything is wrong and the next most everything is right. I called 15 parents last evening too. I think that may have lit a fire under a few of my students. Whatever works to help them see the light. I'm not the enemy. I'm just trying to teach some school. Easy now, big fella.
Well, tomorrow I'm back at it. My students will get better at their routines. I know they will. I'm thrilled to be going to work tomorrow. I wasn't able to say that too much last year. This year is just as hard but different. I feel more at home in my school and in the district. I feel more secure about my place. I know the curriculum. I know the resources available to me. Things are better in so many ways. I'm getting more sleep. Last year I was pulled in so many directions at once. I was taking courses for my masters, taking mandatory new teacher classes from the district, doing all the work of running a classroom, and trying to be a good husband and father. I was dead before I even got out of bed last year. This year I have just one more course to take. I'll be done with it by Thanksgiving! No new teacher class! I just teach and teaching is enough; it consumes every part of you. "Take Five" by Dave Brubeck is the RealPlayer as I write this. Mmm. Time to sign off and go to bed.
I was just speaking to a parent. She mentioned that she'd speak to her son about his behavior in the morning. He went to sleep at 7:30, his usual bedtime. Hmm. No wonder he's so full of beans in my class! He's getting about 15 hours of sleep a night! I'd be shot out of a cannon, too, if I was consistently getting 15 hours of sleep a night. Perhaps he can start drinking coffee? I'll give Mom a pound of fresh-ground Blue Mountain.
Could the Bush family be any more tone deaf? Barbara Bush says that the poor people displaced by the flooding in New Orleans are better off. What the hell is she talking about? People are looking for family members. Bodies are rotting in the streets. New Orleans is dying and Barbara Bush says these people are getting a wonderful opportunity to live in Texas? What?
I cannot understand for the life of me why these people haven't been run out of town on a rail.
I'm getting my kids used to the routines and procedures of school. They are rusty and unwilling to listen but I'll get them there. By next Friday they should be a lot better.
I have one boy who's on another planet. I'm starting paperwork on him right away. My motto is to get things documented early and often. Same with everything. It's too easy for things to get out of hand if you don't. Teachers need to document everything and backup everything. Got to CYA. Live it, learn it, eat it for breakfast - CYA.
Had a pretty good first day. We are working on our procedures and getting used to our rules. Some students take longer than others. Some want to test you. Some want to test you all the time.
In my second year I've developed a thicker skin. We follow my rules. That's the deal. End of story.
Tomorrow is another day. I'm not talking so much tomorrow. My voice is starting to fray and my legs are throbbing. The voice I can protect. I've got to get used to standing up all day because we aren't allowed to sit down. A few days will get me back in shape.
Got to get some stuff copied and get some other stuff ready for tomorrow. So much paperwork to do. I was up too late last night with last minute stuff. Tonight it is early to sleep.
Seriously, why would Republicans, who have traditionally opposed big government, encumber schools with the testing requirements attached to No Child Left Behind?
The kind of testing we are doing today is sociopathic in its repetitive and punitive nature. Its driving motive is to highlight failure in inner-city schools as dramatically as possible in order to create a ground swell of support for private vouchers or other privatizing schemes.
I bought a lot of stuff for my kids today. Lots of trips to Staples, the dollar stores, and the local teacher store. I got a lot of cool stuff and my room will be ready. I've got to make a few things for Tuesday. I'll do that tomorrow and firm up my lesson plans, too. Don't want to be caught with my pants down during an informal observation (certain to happen during the first week).
I read an interesting interview with Jonathan Kozol today in the New York Times magazine. I can't seem to find it to quote from it at the moment but his ideas about No Child Left Behind being a ruse to destroy public education. I'll have to get it and quote and link it up tomorrow. He has a new book coming out (The Shame of the Nation :The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America) and it looks to be just what an inner-city Rookie Schoolteacher ought to be reading.
My room is about ready for the first day of school on Tuesday. The school district is very strange, though. They want everything to be ready in time for the first day but there aren't enough textbooks, curriculum guides, materials, or desks. Yet, instruction must begin on Tuesday. It will happen but why isn't there any plan?
Speaking of no plan, Bush finally admitted he screwed up. We're into the second term and this is his first apology. He must be sweating it. 9/11, terrorism, and Iraq haven't cut into his mountain biking, vacationing, or fundraising with millionaire friends. Katrina has finally lit a fire under his ass. Too bad it took an unprecedented catastrophe to do it. He must hate Katrina more than anyone. Now he actually has to do something. He's actually going to have to become a leader. Can he do it? It's the second term. He needs to finally become a leader.
In terms of leadership, I have three ideas. (1) I hope that Bush can think big and get a CCC type plan together and have people work on rebuilding the devastated areas. This would provide jobs and hope to people who have lost all hope. (2) Hopefully, this disaster will lead to an examination of what we've been doing to our poor people. We've written them off and left them to their own devices in the inner cities for far too long. Any American city would have the same problem if it were destroyed. We have a small pocket of rich folks surrounded by poor as far as the eye can see in Philadelphia, Detroit, Chicago, Baltimore, New York, etc. Allowing this situation to continue unabated is to no one's benefit. It is hurting us not helping us as a society. Finally, (3) the Republicans and Democrats should stop building mountains of money for reelection campaigns. Instead, they should put that money to use for something positive. They should give it to the victims of Katrina. Everyone knows about the candidates. We don't need to know any more than editorials in the newspaper and on Meet the Press on Sunday. Let that be enough. Give the money away and shut up. No one cares anymore anyway. Not when an entire swath of the USA has been destroyed and dead bodies are literally piling up in the streets. We need to come together as a nation and heal those wounds. Heal all the wounds.
Can you believe how bad things are in New Orleans? Why is Bush on television talking about how he's dispatching ships to bring up the oil that can't get out of New Orleans by pipeline instead of dispatching ships to pick up refugees? I cannot for the life of me understand what this administration is thinking. Bush sounds like it is the fault of the victims. So callous, so unfeeling. Now it's shoot to kill for looters. The people have no food and water. They have nothing and the God Squad wants to shoot them in the streets. Criminal.
I guess it shouldn't be any surprise that the situation in New Orleans is FUBAR. More bright moves from the team that brought you Iraq and Afghanistan. We've been at war for years and the troops still don't have body armor. Those people in New Orleans are in big trouble. I'm writing a check to the Red Cross. Please join me whether or not you agree with my decidedly liberal point of view.
The new year has begun. A lot is new. A lot is the same. The grumpy people in my school didn't stop being grumpy. The nice people stayed nice.
I'm looking forward to a much happier year than my first year. All of that stuff is in the books. I'm on the way to a super year, I just need some time to put up stuff, put things away, receive my textbooks, and get my class list. Funny how there's lots of time for meetings but never any time for the important stuff in our meetings. About 95% of today was spent in useless meetings about nothing and about 5% in time for us to get our rooms ready for the kids. Why is this? Why couldn't an email be sent to us over the summer welcoming us, letting us know of opportunities to prepare our rooms, and updating us on staff changes and the like? We're only the teachers. Just a thought. Tomorrow every teacher in the district will be in useless professional development meetings for the entire day. Almost every teacher could put that day to use more effectively in their classroom. I would bet my paycheck that every teacher would agree. We have a long way to go to improve things in Philadelphia.
In a few short minutes my second year begins. I'm confident, nervous, and excited. This year is going to be a much better one. Got to get the room put together tomorrow! I'm going to be working like crazy. Feel free to stop by and lend a hand, gentle reader.
I can't believe the summer is winding down. I've been so busy taking classes. My masters is almost finished and that masters is going to be so sweet. I will immediately start making more money. Biggie said mo' money, mo' problems. I beg to differ. We teachers can't even afford to pay attention. Bring on a little long green. Bring it on!
"You teach a child to read, and he or her will be able to pass a literacy test." George W. Bush, February 21, 2001.
Wonderful quote from our bonehead in chief. Nice job his administration is doing with the Karl Rove stuff. What galls me the most about these people in the white house is how unimaginative they are. Two years ago most of us said the leak was probably from Karl Rove. Turns out to be a slam dunk. Same with the war. Most people said it looked like they were going to war with or without information or a casus belli. Guess what, a slam dunk. There was no reason they just wanted to do Iraq. Look at the Downing Street memos. Everything is this way. The Bush 2 Administration is the lamest in history. They were morons, automatons, sneaks, cowards, crooks, and snooks before they "won" and have remained the same throughout. Such a lack of growth. Such a lack of depth or dimension. If they were my students they'd flunk. No higher level thinking. No growth. A stunning lack of initiative.
It's wonderful to see this Karl Rove stuff blowing up. Fun to see the Republicans parse words fast enough to make Clinton's head spin. It will amount to a whole lot of nothing but it's fun to see. Such unbelievable hypocrites. If Clinton had lied us into a war we didn't need he would have been run out on a rail. That smirking chimp Bush just yucks it up. Creepy.
I'm hoisting my can of Pabst Blue Ribbon high to Karl Rove in handcuffs and a Bush impeachment. An honest rookie schoolteacher can dream.
I'm savoring my first day of vacation. I read a couple of stories to my daughter's pre-k class. Fun to be with my daughter and her smart friends. I realize how much I've missed my old life as a stay at home Dad after a morning of stories, styling Fairytopia Barbie's hair, and eating cupcakes. It's nice to reconnect and unwind with her.
This is going to be it for me for a little while. Rookie Schoolteacher is taking some time off. I will check in from time to time with education and personal life stuff. I'll be on everyday status again once my summer recess is over. Until then I'm going to live life slowly. Enjoy your summer everyone and thanks for reading. I would never have made it through the last months without this outlet for my frustrations.
It's officially over. I did the last of my paperwork and now it's time to relax. I'm a bit misty eyed over the whole thing. Relieved. Exhausted. I've made a lot of friends and come a long way. I'm going to relax and enjoy a fabulous rookie schoolteacher summer. I think the first thing to do is play some electric guitar. I don't know quite how to do that and it's about time to learn. Teachers are always learning and learning is good.
The kids are gone! The kids are gone! Sing with me now, the kids are gone!
A lot of the kids came back today. Almost all the horrible ones came for the last day. I'm pretty sure they came to start a foodfight in the cafeteria. I foiled their evil plot by eating lunch with them. In your face! Anyway we got through it. Now there's just some paperwork tomorrow and then we're done for the summer.
I survived although it was a constant battle to the end. I'm going to put this in the win column. This was the hardest year of my life.
Lots of cleaning up today. Lots of wasting time. About the same amount of kids. Just one more day with the kids. ONE! Oh, it will be freakin' sweet when it's over.
I'm already preparing for the next school year. I'm reflecting on what's worked and hasn't. I'm getting ready for my summer courses. I'm thinking about new things to try and buy for the room. A rookie schoolteacher's work is never ever done.
A half decent day today. About half the class showed up. Hopefully more students will drop off tomorrow. We aren't doing anything but putting things away, cleaning up, and waiting for the bell to ring. It's so nice and warm and sunny outside. I'm taking my daughter for a bicycle ride.
My rookie schoolteacher diploma arrived from the School District of Philadelphia in yesterday's mail. I can update my credentials! I can make more money! Soon my masters will be done and I'll jump up the payscale again. I can then funnel that extra cash into paying my student loans and regain some budget equilibrium.
Finishing some odds and ends. Listening to some Car Talk on the computer. Took a trip to the dollar store. They undercharged me. I have the feeling the dollar police might come and cart me away. Eating a Quarter Pounder now. Hope you are enjoying yourself out in the Blogosphere. I sure am.
My daughter went to Grandma's house and my wife and I just completed a bike ride. Such a beautiful sunny day outside. Hope you faithful readers are enjoying yourselves. I've started to unwind from the stress early. I'm worthless as a rookie schoolteacher and as a parent, husband, and friend if I don't take care of myself.
I just started reading a fun book, Battle Royale, by Koushun Takami. The premise is a group of junior high school students is selected to participate in the "program". They must fight to the death on a deserted island. The last student standing will receive a million dollars and a signed photo of the dictator. The action takes place in a futuristic facist Japanese alternate universe. So far it's just what I needed. A little fun pulp trash to unwind my unhinged brain.
I'm so relieved that this solid week is over. I felt horrible yesterday when I got home from school. I feel better today mostly because the week is done. Just three half days left. I've been told by more experienced teachers that lots of kids don't show for the last days because they think the half days don't matter. I'm holding my breath on that one. Every bit of advice concerning the children not showing for various reasons doesn't apply to my kids. My kids are so friggin' punctual. They come to school even when they're suspended. If they're true to form every one of them will be here for all three days.
They weren't as horrible today as they were yesterday but they are still infuriating. I guess this sounds horrible but a good many of my kids are smart enough academically but they're just morons when it comes to social development. There I said it. Education doublespeak be damned. They're morons, plain and simple. Coloring pages from a coloring book is not a contact sport. Everything turns into a contact sport in my classroom and I'm tired of it.
I'm signing off to find solace in a Klondike bar. It's muggy tonight. What'll you do for a Klondike bar? Play hooky from school??? I'll give you two.
I'm so tired and beat up. The kids were just horrible today. No prep. No recess. No breaks. I've had it with them. I feel like someone beat the Hell out of me.
I'm full of ibuprofen and beer. An icepack is soothing the tension in my neck. At least my worst boy got himself suspended. I'll take it any way I can get it.
Why don't they stay home? I guess some are afraid Mom and Dad will go to jail because of truancy. It could be a twofer though. Most of them hate school and hate their parents. No school and no parents would be an awesome summer break!
Please don't come. No one in my school is teaching anything. If you miss a game of hangman IT DOESN'T MATTER!!! Just get away from me. Your grades are in. It's over!
I haven't had a prep period in weeks. My pain translates into real cash money to the tune of $600! Thank God we have a union, otherwise all this extra work would translate into zilch. Those Republicans have a hard on for unions and they're likely coming for mine but until they do fair play is forced to rule the day! Fair play equals money for people who aren't rich (e.g. me)! Kiss it, Republicans!
Some extra money over the summer will come in handy for soccer shoes, tap dancing lessons, rollerskates, and Fairytopia Barbies. Little daughters have expensive needs.
Five more days. I can sure as Hell do it. They don't make it easy, though. One of my boys has a real need for mood-leavening medication. His Mom conveniently forgets to get it for him (along with forgetting to feed, clothe, and bathe him). Consequently, he is literally bouncing off the walls in the classroom. He would eat the friggin' desk if I didn't keep an eye on him. Couldn't he just cut? Please? Pretty please with sugar on top? I know, I know he deserves his God given right to an American public education. The thing is he's not learning anything anyhow. He's out of his gourd, not getting his services because there aren't any, and he's beating the crap out of innocent kids who are unlucky enough to get in his way. He needs to cut. To quote the great Alice Cooper: school's out for summer.
"One reason I like to highlight reading is, reading is the beginnings of the ability to be a good student. And if you can't read, it's going to be hard to realize dreams; it's going to be hard to go to college. So when your teachers say, read - you ought to listen to her." George W. Bush, Nalle Elementary School, Washington, D.C., February 9, 2001.
Exactly, I couldn't have said it better myself my superduper President.
I'm writing from the dumbass evaluation section of Rookie Schoolteacher Central. I figured I couldn't miss with a quote from one of the true dumbasses of our time. Let's get to my beef. I have a problem student, she won't come into my room anymore. She roams the halls. When she is in the room she starts fights. Today she's delivered by the school police officer. Barely a minute passes before she's out of the room again. This is 8:45 a.m. The girl roams the halls all day long. Nothing is done although I call security. After lunch I get a call on the classroom phone. It's our dean of discipline. "Tell me the problem with this student." "She refuses to come into the room." "Hang on, you're on speakerphone. I've got Montel from your room here with me. Tell me what happened." (Steam is coming out of my ears at this point. I'm on the goddamn speaker phone? At least a dozen poorly behaved students are in the discipline room along with her. The worst behaved student is going to corroborate my testimony?) "She came in with the school police officer. She left the room immediately. She wasn't even here a minute." "Wait... Hmm... OK... Montel says she came in and then left the room." "That's what I just said." "Mmm... Wait... Montel says she was there with the school police officer." "That's what I said." (She's calling balls and strikes with me with the worst kid in my class!) "Hmm. Well, she needs to stay in your room." "How am I supposed to do that? She won't sit in a seat and she leaves immediately." Click.
So that's the end of that one but let's recap. This woman puts me on speaker phone and second guesses me with the worst student in my class. I think I have a right to be pissed. I'm sick of this bush league s*&%. I've had enough. WHAT HAS THIS WOMAN DONE FOR ME? WHAT DOES SHE DO? NOTHING! NOTHING BUT CONSISTENTLY MAKE ME LOOK LIKE AN IDIOT IN FRONT OF MY KIDS!
Today one of my girls asked if she could talk to me. I said ok and we stepped into the hallway. "Mr. Over the weekend my Mom, sister, and I went over to my Dad's house. We tried to get our stuff out of the house and he wouldn't let my Mom have it. He wouldn't even let my Mom have the stuff my Grandfather gave her before he died. All our stuff is down in his basement."
How do you answer that? God, I felt awful for her.
Only seven more days! I'm going to make it. If only the truly incorrigible students would get the message and stay home. I flat out told them "There's not that much going on guys. You can stay home. We aren't teaching anything and you know it." My wife thinks I'm crazy for saying stuff like this but damn it they aren't learning anything and they are getting into trouble in school. One of these hammerheads in my classroom is going to end up putting someone in the hospital. They should just stay home and avoid the problems. Some of them are so out of their minds they don't even know what they are doing. The administration has been slowly winding down on supporting us with discipline. They threw in the towel early today. All students were sent back to class instead of meeting with counselors. All students were excused from detention. Discipline is over. So all knuckleheads within the sound of my voice STAY HOME!
Neat that Mark Felt announced that he was Deep Throat. I can't get enough of Watergate and Nixon. I hope that a lot more stuff comes out about it. Sad though that all this press attention is directed at Nixon and stuff that happened 30 years ago. The Bush White House is doing stuff that Nixon would never do and nothing is happening. The press is too busy kissing ass. Hell, even Bob Woodward wrote a book about Bush. Why is it that the British papers reported that the Iraq war was a go whether or not there was a justification and our press has nothing? I'll just set it on the tee for the U.S. press to hit one out. Click here for the secret Downing Street memo.
My neck hurts. I would guess it's the tension. There's only eight more days. Three of them are half days.
Each day the kids who are nuts become just a little more nuts. There's no reaching them. I don't have the skills. I'm becoming more and more convinced that most humans don't have the skills. Your level of training can't cut any ice with this.
I know I'm way outmatched here. I feel no shame in saying this. I haven't got the skills to deal with many of the problems that face me. Most teachers don't. Most wouldn't come here on a bet.
This is one of the dirty truths about the U.S. school system. All that NCLB bulls#*% means nothing. Rookie teachers are routinely given the classrooms with the worst students. We are given the most students. Classrooms with 38 or 40 students. Do you have any idea how hard it is to control 40 people? Do you know how hard it is to keep track of a week's academic production from 40 people? An expert teacher would be up against it with these kinds of odds. Do you think much learning is happening in a classroom like this? It's the norm and not the exception. Throw the rookies to the wolves.
I'm going to survive my first year and I'm coming back for more. I need my head examined.
One of my boys told me he was going to kill my family. Nice. I threw his butt out of class and 20 minutes later he's back. "I'm sorry, Mr."
Another boy sticks his tongue out and waggles it all day long.
Another talks about farting and makes noises.
Another describes how "easy" Josephine is.
Another breaks his pens and smears ink all over his face, hands, neck, chest, desk, and chair.
I swear one ate most of a plastic pencil sharpener.
Do they have to keep coming? The grades are in. They all passed. Can they just go away? They can be belligerent out in the street. They can be destructive out in the street. They can do whatever they want out there.
Oh great and powerful School District of Philadelphia, I implore you. Please end the charade now. Just lock the doors and send them home. Summer is here.
It's so frustrating. The same kids do the exact same things they came in doing. The same kids begin or end every social interaction with a foul remark and a headslap. The same kids destroy everything they come in contact with. The same kids insult everyone. The same kids do the same everything. They don't learn and they don't care. How can anyone be so self-destructive? How can anyone so young be so messed up?
Down is up, up is down. The school is a nuthouse.
I'll be there next year. Got my grade assignment. Moving to a different one. Not sure if that's good or bad. There are no easy grades in my school. A kindergartener would smoke you. Doesn't matter.
We turn in things every day. By next week we will have nothing in our classrooms. An entire school without books, curriculums, or equipment of any kind. Everything locked up. I guess we are going to do worksheets. We are going to babysit.
Sorry to be so down about stuff lately but I really don't give a s&%$ anymore. I want the year to be over. I fight with the students in my room from the moment we get there until we go home and for what? The students run the place. They know how empty we are at the core. How powerless we are. Someone likes it like this....
There was one bright spot. One of my girls came up and silently dropped a dandelion blossom on my desk as I was working. She will never know how much that meant.
Ok, here's my question - Why do I teach? I'm asking because my grades were submitted and my principal changed five of them. Five of my kids should repeat the grade and my principal nullified my work with a stroke of her magic pen. Straight F's change instantly to parent- and NCLB data-friendly C's. Nice.
My principal has many more years of expertise but she hasn't taught these kids a lick. Jeremy can't read on a kindergarten level. Tito doesn't understand math involves numbers. Renee would have to cram to pass the fogged mirror test. Caesar doesn't know my name let alone his schoolwork. Andujar is on another planet when he's at school (he's never there). My principal shouldn't pass kids when she has no first-hand knowledge of their work or capabilities. These kids are on the absolute bottom.
It's a big joke on everyone and I'm a participant whether I want to be or not. Integrity. Accountability. Honesty. Come on?
In a few days we'll turn in everything and there will be at least 10 days of school without curriculum, books, or materials. Why? Today was a nightmare but at least we had textbooks. There's a hell of a lot of hypocrisy in education. Let's start at the root. I am a hypocrite by participating in this sham. I thought I was a grownup when I started this career. I've grown up more in these months than I ever thought possible. The growth has twisted and distorted me. That's not good.
I took my daughter to the Franklin Institute and we had a great time. We made paper, walked through the giant heart, rode on the locomotive, surfed, and sat in an airplane. I wish I had bought one of the dinosaur coprolites for $2.75. It slipped my mind on the way out. Oh well.
The look on a 4-year-old's face when you explain a rock is actually a fossilized piece of crap is priceless. I'll remember her laughter and beautiful smile when I'm back at it tomorrow morning.
Got to input some grades into the school district computer. Lovely.
"We want our teachers to be trained so they can meet the obligations, their obligations as teachers. We want them to know how to teach the science of reading. In order to make sure there's not this kind of federal -- federal cufflink." George W. Bush, Fritsche Middle School, Milwaukee, WI, March 30, 2000. What the hell does that Bush quote mean? Federal cufflink? Couldn't the right-wing special interests have purchased a smarter president? Don't Republicans get tired of making excuses for this guy? Just a question to ponder on a moist, chilly Philadelphia day.
It seldom occurs to me that the kids like our school and are happy to be there. They are. It makes no sense to me when I'm surrounded by chaos but they do love it. Even the ones that say they hate it. One of my boys, Mo, was reading the calendar for June. "Mr., we get out of school on the 15th and then we're back on September 6th. That's too much time. I'm going to miss this place because I like it so much. I don't want to be away for that long." I had to smile and I felt a pang of sadness. Mo seems like such a tough guy and all this time he's sad inside because he'll be missing us.
I'm going to miss them, too. I regret the fact that I haven't been able to spend enough time with each of them. I've tried but there's too many. Thirty-eight kids by myself is not an easy thing to swing. They are good kids and they have awful hard lives. I'll never let them off the hook academically, but they're aces in my book for just getting up and coming to school. They do so much just to survive. What do I do? I eat three squares a day, live in a decent house, and have a wife and daughter who love me. I have nothing to complain about.
One of my boys told me about his weekend trip to Delaware. "Mr., You can go outside at night and see all the stars. It's so quiet, you can hear the bugs. If you leave your bike outside no one will steal it. If you walk around there's no police or guns or drugs. It's nice up there." Why doesn't Tino get to live in a place like that? Why is he stuck in a broken down rowhome in a drug-infested neighborhood? It breaks my heart.
I'm coming back to my school next year. I want my kids to succeed.
Yesterday wasn't bad as Mondays go and I guess I got cocky. I forgot about something we in the business call "Tuesday". Tuesday hit like a sucker punch. The kids were just off the hook. This would have been enough but the ways they were off the hook were just amazing. Out of my 38 there were at least 14 throwing stuff at different points of the day. Probably 32 were talking constantly. Perhaps 20 were tearing out pages of their notebooks, textbooks, whatever, and tossing ripped pages on the floor, creating paperballs, eating the friggin' paper, or doing all three. Fifteen of them were yelling at me, cursing, fighting, walking around the room, you name it.
This still could have been somewhat bearable if our administration was supporting the teachers but they aren't. If I send a kid to the disciplinarian the kid returns in 15 minutes. Usually with a smug grin on his face. If I send a kid to the assistant principal of discipline the kid comes back even faster and with a bigger grin. Our principal doesn't suspend anyone anymore. "Have you prepared a CSAP?" A yes gets a "Let's wait for the paperwork to take effect." A no gets a "Well, you need to do the paperwork first." Oh, and they are going to observe the teachers and write informal notes on performance and hallway behavior and the rest. Hello! The kids are out of control. Stop beating up the teachers, you morons! Suspend some kids. Make their neglectful parents come in and find out about their horrible kids.
This isn't going to happen. Our principal isn't suspending anyone anymore. It would require work. Our assistant principal isn't disciplining anyone anymore. The friggin' inmates are running the asylum. Every kid knows this and they're getting worse because they know nothing will happen to them. What's it going to take? Perhaps a teacher needs to get seriously injured? A colleague of mine in another school practically got his leg broken when a kid threw a desk at him. He can't walk without a cane right now. I don't want that to happen to me. My students are capable of stuff like that. I see their anger. They are so angry. So angry they don't even know what they are angry about.
Just let me get to the finish line. That's all I'm asking for. I'm so friggin' exhausted and just a little scared. Perhaps a novena to St. Jude will help? I'm a hopeless case if there ever was one and I just want the summer vacation.
Classes in the school district are much like baseball teams. Students drop out due to injury, some are traded, some come up for a cup of coffee and vanish into obscurity, some hit for power, and others hit for average. Students come in and out of our roster all the time. Our population is unbelievably transient. A look at a child's pocket (personal file) reveals dozens of addresses for a typical student. A student might have 15 addresses by the time they reach 8th grade. Those addresses could canvass the city and include a few states and perhaps a foreign country or two.
There are so many issues of trust, neglect, accountability, interest level, hostility, ability, and parental involvement going on here in this reality. How can someone make a go of learning when they have three addresses and three different schools in one year? How can someone make a go of learning when they don't know where Mom or Dad is or where their next meal is coming from? Perhaps they don't have a bed to sleep on. Perhaps they have no one to talk to at home?
A student came back to class. He'd left in November because Dad went to prison. He went to live with other relatives in the Florida Keys while Dad was incarcerated. Now Dad's out and my student is back with me. Tan and unhappy. Never did find out what Dad did, none of my business anyway.
All of my students know someone in prison. This is a weird world.
The weekends go too fast. I've been working hard on all sorts of projects and there isn't enough time to finish any of them. Why? There must be some law of the universe to explain this one. I know it's not Ohm's or Murphy's. Perhaps it's a principle? Hmm....
Silent Alarm from Bloc Party is a good soundtrack for not completing anything. I've been listening to it all day. I wonder if my students would rock to it? We're at polar opposites on music. They love Eminem. I don't. Enough said.
Here's hoping for a quick, sunny week with lots of preps and lots of student absences.
I have to get a new car. I was driving to pick up my daughter last night and it was cold and rainy. I was freezing my ass off and remembered "Hey, I have heat!" I turned on the heater and was greeted with the acrid fumes of antifreeze mixed with a hint of 10w/40. Some heat came out, too, and my windows miraculously defrosted. I'm not sure what effects breathing this melange of chemicals has on my body but it can't be good for me or my passengers. My daughter rides with me. Enough said.
I'm not much of a car nut but I do want a stick. My current ride is an automatic and I miss a 5 speed. Something between $8,000 and $15,000 should do the trick. Lastly, it should be funky, reliable, and get good gas mileage. What should I get?
Things are good at rookie schoolteacher central for the time being. For some reason the kids were great. They were good yesterday as well. I've learned that this is unpredictable at best. There are up days and down days and some days that never happen again. I do love the kids. More and more of them know me and say hi and it makes me happy. My school is an impossible place to work and the best place to work. I am needed here. I am making a difference.
My body is feeling the strain of the year. My knees are tired of standing. My back is too. My right knee feels horrible and I think I should go to the doctor. Soon there will be time for all these things. Time.
I'm drinking a Mexican Coca Cola as I write this. They use real sugar and a glass bottle. This is the way a Coke should taste. Takes me back to the old days when I'd buy the 8 oz. bottle out of the machine after baseball practice. Best quarters I ever spent in my life. This Coke for a $1.19 at the Indian grocery is the best $1.19 I ever spent for sure.
We don't laugh enough in my classroom. We don't laugh enough in my school. The students don't laugh enough. It's such a shame because laughter is so good at building community, cementing friendships, and defusing tension. Laughing is just not part of the equation. Everyone is hard. No one is weak. It's so sad.
This afternoon my students started to smile. One student smiled and then another. People whispered to others. More smiles broke out and giggles too. They were all looking at me. I knew I was doing something funny but what? I was sharpening a pencil. What's funny about that? Perhaps something awful was hanging out of my nose? My fly was open? "Is my sharpening that funny?" "Mr., your face as you were sharpening. You looked so serious. It was funny!" We all busted up laughing. It was wonderful. I needed it so much. They did too. I love them in moments like this more than they know.
I'm beginning to feel the end coming. As bad as it can be sometimes, I am going to miss them when they move on to the next grade. We had a wonderful math class and they were so smart today. Even students that never participate were getting things right and enjoying it. It literally brought tears to my eyes. I'm missing them already.
We should have finished our grading on May 12. This came down in a delightful missive from our administration on May 13. No advance warning as usual. We must enter our grades into the almighty school district report card computer system by May 26. Our last day of school is June 15. So we are committed to excellence in education but we finish our grading a month before school concludes.
The School District of Philadelphia is a joke and a sham. Trouble is I'm not laughing. We close our books a month before the school year is over. Why? We aren't committed to quality instruction. We shut down a month early. We're just going through the motions. The kids know it, too. They barely cared when the work counted. Do you think they care now when they know instruction is meaningless? Accountability my ass. Quality instruction my ass.
I am so sick of the lies. We had visitors today in our school. We spruced up and made everything look spiffy and locked away all the problem kids. Those visitors saw such a sanitized version of the school. It makes me sick. I have so many kids that need so much and I have no way to give it to them. Lots of self-important educators marched around my building observing things, though. They should dump their clipboards and briefcases, take off their ties and jewelry, and start teaching. Teaching is the last thing we care about. Push that paper, make sure your bulletin board is beautiful, and enter the grades. Oh, and smile while I criticize you and belittle your status as a rookie. Smile rookie schoolteacher, smile.
I have no solutions. I just call 'em like I see 'em.
The kids just want me to spoon the knowledge right into their heads. Better yet, I should skip the middleman and write the projects for them. It's really frustrating. We are to push literacy for 120 minutes a day. Reading and writing. The kids HATE it, especially the writing. They would rather crawl on their knees through glass than write. If you combine research with writing they would rather crawl through a glass minefield. They never want to read anything. Never.
It's so sad. The boys are particularly sad specimens. They don't care about school because they will get good paying factory or construction work; become drug lords; become basketball, football, or baseball stars; or become the next 50 Cent. The odds of becoming a major-league athlete are astronomical. You'll have better luck getting struck by lightning while winning Powerball. Same with becoming 50 Cent. Drug lord could happen but most likely you'll end up dead or in prison. The factory jobs have all gone to Mexico. Construction is cyclical. Who can tell?
I heard a great story on the way in this morning about girls outperforming boys in academics. Girls are getting more bachelors and masters degrees than boys by a large margin. What is wrong with the way we are teaching boys? Interesting question. What is wrong with boys? They are going to be left behind. Way behind.
I want my boys to succeed and I grieve for their futures but how can I motivate them? How can I make school cool?
Why is it every time you arrive in a good mood the whole thing just takes a nosedive? I arrived on time this morning despite the horrible and inscrutable traffic slowdowns on my commute. I felt great, happy to be alive, happy to see the kids, and basking in the glow of the hot morning sun. All of this good feeling evaporated in about 15 minutes of being with the kids. My glow disappeared and in came the Monday from Hell. I want to forget it ever happened.
My kids never stopped talking and they never stopped with their snide comments. That touched off a number of bad tempers and the fun just never stopped.
The hissy fits from my boys kept coming and coming. Just an aside, but they don't make boys like they used to. They are as fragile as newborn snowflakes.
The classroom phone rang about 38,000 times this afternoon. Lots of quality instruction is going on when the class phone interrupts everything.
One of my boys just up and vomited over everything at about 1:30 pm. That tore it for me.
My voice is gone from yelling, pleading, cajoling, and imploring. How many times can you ask a class to do the normal things like get out a pencil and paper? My head hurts. I'm exhausted. The room smells like a foot. I've got to get out of here.
I'm doing my best up here in my room although to the outsider it might appear that I haven't a clue. Still, I'm trying my best. On a day like today the great John Dewey himself would have thrown in the towel.
Will there ever be a day when I actually have a great time doing this? When I actually laugh at something? When I let my guard down? When my kids have fun?
I ran into my cooperating teacher from my student teaching days. We were both shopping at Lowe's. He has 18 children in his 4th-grade class. If I had 18 kids things would be so much different.... I want to keep teaching in the city, though. This is where I should be. These kids need committed teachers. If I give up and go to the fabulous suburbs then what have I done? Politically I believe that education in the inner cities will only get better when people like me commit to working and changing things there. Politics. Man, my politics really bite me in the ass sometimes. If I were a Republican I would be smoking a big cigar while driving a Hummer over some unfortunate hippie's VW microbus. Fun. Well, I'd rather work in the Hell of the inner city than burn in Hell for being a Republican.
The wife and I saw Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room last night. What a well-made and entertaining documentary. I never had so much fun watching arrogance and greed. Highly recommended.
Watching it made me think about how many "business people" are friends of the Bush Administration. I put that in quotes because most of them weren't very good at business (Enron, Global Crossing, and WorldCom). They were very good at bilking investors and creating money laundering schemes that seemed to be businesses. They were very good con artists. Smoke and mirrors. The essense of the Bush Administration. Fudged Enron-like numbers and information to substantiate an invasion of Iraq that was unnecessary. More stories this week about how the Bush Administration invented the entire thing. Fudged Enron-like numbers in Houston to get the No Child Left Behind law going. States are rebelling. The real numbers don't add up and yet we are saddled with a law that demands we meet impossible goals. Goals built on lies.
The Bush Administration is all a house of cons built on Church Lady rightiousness. Behind it all is nothing but smoke, mirrors, and insatiable lust for power at the expense of everything - the United States of America, the environment, lives, and, yes, even religion. Their rightiousness has made the average American look over their shoulder for even thinking these things. Thought crime just makes our enemies stronger. Unbelievable, but thank God we're safe from gay marriage. Maybe things are getting better? Social Security reform is DOA. Bush's fake war is very unpopular and getting more unpopular by the day. His poll numbers are sinking lower and lower and lower.
I'm glad I left corporate America for teaching. Too bad the greedhead jackasses of corporate America think they can squeeze profits out of schools and have followed me. Let's run schools like businesses. Right. Let's run everything like a business. Let Adam Smith's friggin' invisible hand move everything. The only problem is schools lose money because they can't be efficient businesses. People don't learn efficiently in tight time frames. Things aren't always quantifiable. This isn't shirking accountability. This is reality. Learning is messy. The world is inherently messy.
Schools can't be businesses and shouldn't be. Everything is not up for privatization. Some things, like schools, that are good will lose money and should be left alone to lose money because they are valuable. Public transit is another one. Power plants are another. Social Security is another.
Friday the 13th has come and gone in my classroom. I'm so happy the week is over. Only 23 days left.
I was talking to my colleagues this morning about the things that go on in our school. No one understands what we are talking about when we describe our classrooms. Civilians think we are making up stories.
I don't think it is possible to understand how weird or horrible things can be in a classroom until you are immersed in one. It's not possible to understand the crushing amount of responsibility.
The constant beating up on teachers comes from lack of respect and understanding about what teachers do. "Oh, you teachers have it easy. You get the summers off and get out at 3 every afternoon." Yeah, we have it easy. Right. We get off at 3 but we start at 7:45. We don't get breaks on the days the prep teacher is sick or covering another class. We don't get recess breaks during the winter or rainy days. We can't leave the classroom for emergency bathroom or sick breaks. We are locked into our classrooms because an open door invites dangerous visitors. We work every night and weekend on endless paperwork. Our free time all year long is filled with mandatory course work. If we don't keep up with the courses we lose our jobs. Our schools are often located in the most dangerous neighborhoods and the schools themselves are dilapidated and filled with surly kids sired by even surlier parents. Oh, and on top of this we are underpaid and suffer from morons constantly telling us to shut up because we get the summers off. Yeah, we have it so easy. Give me a break.
You wouldn't be reading this without the help of a teacher.
How can you figure these kids out? They don't respond to things most kids respond to. They eat negative for lunch. They lap up punishments like a cat laps milk. They don't respond to positives either. What do I do? Taking away recess doesn't work. Eating lunch in the room instead of the cafeteria doesn't work. Giving out prizes doesn't work. Nothing works for long. Yelling at the top of your lungs doesn't work. Being silent doesn't work. Being consistent doesn't work. Off the cuff doesn't work. I don't understand it.
What else don't I understand? My kids have trouble with Mr. and Ms. They all do and it's pervasive in this school. I thought at first that it was a respect thing or that they were messing with me because I'm a rookie. Slowly, I realized that every class is the same. When you have the same kids doing the same thing throughout the school every day of the year and it doesn't change you begin to wonder. Why don't they pick this up? If I correct you once or twice or three times that should be enough to get the concept down. The same kids call me Ms. every day. This is throughout the school. They call the females Mr. more often than not. This is an elemental concept similar to breathing and yet they can't master it. You've got to wonder.
They cannot stop clustering around me. They are out of their seats all the time over everything. They are always up. The same kids again and again and again. No matter how many times a test is given they still get up to ask me questions and still tell me "Mr., I'm done!" when they are finished. How many times have I worked with them on this?
Two fistfights in the room today. One drew blood. How many times have I worked with them on calming down and not taking matters into their own hands. Those classes on anger management were just a waste of time. I don't get it. I hate to see them hurt each other and it's always over nothing. Always.
I just got finished rollerskating with my daughter. It's a wonderful thing to skate with a preschooler. "You are doing really good, Dad. I don't think you are going to fall down today." We skated until it was too dark to see and she was right, I didn't fall down today.
Sometimes being a teacher is so much fun. We give detentions to tardy students and students that come without uniforms. Two of my boys got detentions for being late. At the end of the day I reminded Larry and Shemp that they needed to come with me to the detention room. These two boys had been behavior problems all day long. "I'm not going, I've got places to go," said Larry. "F&*$ you," said Shemp. I reminded them that the rules apply to them whether they are gangsta or not. Much bitching and moaning ensued. Both tried to bolt when we got to the lobby but I stood my ground and got them down the hall to the detention room. The looks on their faces. They were so angry. Man did it feel good to successfully deliver them and make good on my promises!
You spend all day with the same kids and they think they can do whatever the Hell they want. They think they own the place. They have no rules or consequences at home. They listen to nothing and they respect nothing. The thing is it's true (almost). I face these students day after day and nothing I try makes it better. I love it when a simple thing like ruining a horrible child's afternoon feels so good. Does that make me a terrible person? If so then so be it. In a job without many pleasures, I'll take any I can get.
Sad. I want it to be so different in my classroom (and school) and it almost never is. I am fair and calm and supportive with the students (even the ones who tell me to F*&$ off know that I'll be there to help them if they need it). I know that I'm reaching some. Students from other classes seek me out in the hallways. They know I care, but damn this is a hard job. I will be here tomorrow but does it always have to be a streetfight in this place? Will it ever get any better?
I am so frustrated. The children just keep talking and talking and talking. They want to do nothing but talk. They don't care about consequences. They don't care about rules. They ignore me.
The administration just beats me up. They are on my back about paperwork and about keeping my class in very straight lines. They never offer useful tips or suggest helpful ideas, it's always "Where's the file? Where's the paper? Where's your student?" They are always ready to stick yet another student in my room. When it's time to do something for one of my students it's the runaround, though. It's so discouraging.
How is it possible for things to be this messed up? How did it get this bad? I am tired of getting beaten up and tired of handing out discipline slips. I wish that it was possible to teach something in my school. I'd like to discuss things in my classroom instead of shout them. Why is it this bad? It's not just the rookie having trouble in my school. Practically every teacher in my school is fighting to stay alive. The kids have no interest in anything and never did. All they want is a free pass, for the teacher to do the work for them.
I'm not giving up. I'm going to keep going no matter how frustrating it is because this is my life. I'm playing for keeps.
In my class tonight we were talking about urban students and the violence they see. My professor said that the violence and mayhem become like an addictive drug. The kids can't pull away from the excitement of the street. It's too strong an attraction. Her point makes a lot of sense. I never thought about it that way before. Something usable had to come out of this class.
This was a hard day. The room was like an oven, the kids were bananas, and the day lasted about three days. I'm drenched in sweat, stinky, and dirty. I wish there was an alarm clock here because I could really use a nap before my class. Oh, who cares, I'll just sleep in class. I won't miss anything because we don't do anything.
I hope tomorrow is better. Every day lately is the first day of school with these kids. You practically have to say, "This is a chair, you park your rear on it. This is a book, it's made of paper. Never heard of paper? It's made from trees." It's so aggravating. Why are they like this?
I took their recess time because they were so horrible on Friday. The problem with taking their recess is that it punishes me. I have to stay with them and punish them with a writing assignment. (How counterproductive is that? I need to encourage their lack of interest in writing at every other point in the day.) Listening to 38 kids bitching when I could be eating a quiet lunch is enough to make you want to take the gas pipe. I hope I don't have to take their recess again but I probably will. They are incorrigible.
On a happier note, my new copy of Educational Leadership arrived and there's an article about hazing that is dead on. The article notes that many new teachers leave the profession because of hazing. New teachers are routinely given the hardest assignments with the worst support and supplies. New teachers are routinely given the runaround about everything. New teachers are given the worst classrooms, parking spaces, and prep times. New teachers drop out because they are tired of the pettiness. Right on! Finally an article that speaks my language. My ASCD membership is paying off!
My first year has been the longest hazing of my life and it isn't over yet. The kids are hard enough, but I have met so many awful people during this year. People who exist to bust balls and break your spirit. It sucks that these people are your fellow teachers and administrators. There are a lot of great people in education (and thank you for being great!) but there are a hell of a lot of cranks. If you are reading this and are saying to yourself, "Not me!" think for a moment. Have you ever ripped a rookie for something stupid like being a moment late with a memo, coming in the out door, parking in the wrong numbered spot, making too many copies, forgetting to attend a useless meeting, having a noisy classroom, or teaching a lesson at the wrong time of day? Come on, was your tirade that important? Did it make you feel good? Did it serve any purpose other than making sure the rookie knew and will always know who's the boss? If you found yourself answering yes to a lot of these questions then you should find the time for some sensitivity training or a new profession. Perhaps work at the DMV is for you? You should not be with fragile youth or equally fragile rookie schoolteachers.
According to today's New York Times, North Korea is well on its way to nuclear tests. Our government says that a test would be a "provocative act." Provocative in what way? Will we attack them? With what army?
Bush and Co. have bogged us down in a shooting war in Iraq that was based on lies and kept us busy in Afghanistan. If North Korea decides to attack South Korea or Japan then we're caught with our pants down. Thank God Bush is protecting us against one horse countries like Iraq and Afghanistan and keeping us safe from gays getting married. Just something to think about on a sunny Saturday.
On a happier note, the Rookie Schoolteacher iPod is playing some Big Star. Sublime.
It's Mother's Day and we made cards before we left. Here's a sample:
Dear Mom I love you so much. You are the prettyiest Mom in the whole world. You are so pretty. When a man sees you he will want to go out with you.
Not bad on the structure. Some spelling help needed but not too bad. Perhaps they are learning? I'm counting legible English as learning.
We didn't have any fistfights today although three of my kids were suspended for misbehavior. They make such dumbass decisions. A child will go from zero to breaking your face in a millisecond and it's always over nothing. "She looked at me!" is the most popular reason for mayhem today. "She looked at me!" got a lot of people suspended.
I'm so happy this week is done. I'm beyond tired. My plans are to go home and soak myself in the tub and read a good book. After the soak it's time for some food with the wife. What will it be? Mexican? Chinese? Thai? Vietnamese? A delicious Pho would open my allergy-blocked sinuses as would a hot-mustard-dipped egg roll.
I've calmed down a bit. My daughter is asleep and I'm medicating myself with a delicious Rogue Chipotle Ale in honor of Cinco de Mayo. Mmm. It's mingling with the Claritin in my system and making me feel mighty nice. Teacher Appreciation Day is finally happening. Too bad I have to write lesson plans.
The Battle of Puebla must have been a hellish experience. At one point the French are stampeded by cattle and set upon by machete wielding Indians in a nighttime thunderstorm! I want to see the movie.
My iPod couldn't have arrived at a better moment. The WHYY pledge drive started Wednesday and so did my iPod. I have heard none of their pleas for cash. Wonderful. I hate pledge drives, especially because I sent in my membership money months ago. I'll take Forever Changes over desperate pleas for long green anytime.
We had a fistfight at the end of the day. One of my girls beat the piss out of another girl in the hallway. This happened as she was returning from the discipline room. I was attempting to give a spelling test and had no idea this was happening until one of my boys yelled "Fight!" and the entire class got up and stampeded into the hall to watch. How they knew a fight was happening behind a closed solid wood door, I'll never know. It's as if they can smell a fight like a shark smells blood in the water.
I get outside and it's on. Two little girls beating the Hell out of each other and my students are in a ring around this fight yelling "Kick her ass! Knock her the f#@k out!" I can't separate them and I can't raise security on the class phone. Finally, I'm able to get my class back in the room and the school police arrive and stop the fight.
I shut my door and told my kids to put their heads down and be quiet. I told them how disappointed in them I was. I told them how disgusting their behavior was. I told them how sad it was that they revert to the same behaviors they arrived with in September every time something happens. I told them how sad I was for them that they run to the fights and revel in violence and chaos at every turn and piss all over everyone who tries to do anything positive for them. I told them that they need to start to reflect on different ways of behavior because their ways are wrong. Flat out wrong.
I've been working with these kids since September and it's for nothing. Every time there is any sort of violence or negative act these kids run to it like moths to a flame. What am I doing here? I am doing no good. Pissing in the wind. Swimming against a tsunami. Why?
I get so frustrated with my students, especially when they hurt each other. They get so much pleasure from cruelty. Everything is upside down and inside out and wrong.
Speaking of wrong, we had a teacher appreciation luncheon today and the secretaries, administrators, janitors, police, and lunchroom aides ate it all. They descended on the spread like locusts and devoured it in about 20 minutes. I got one tortilla chip in honor of Cinco de Mayo. A teacher appreciation lunch eaten by the support staff? What the Hell?
My kids today were just horrible. What a day. They never stopped fighting with each other, never stopped talking, and never listened to anything. They destroyed papers and stole things from each other and my desk.
There are behaviors that I've noted with my students that seem to be pervasive in this school. Maybe the district as well. Some students are content to sharpen pencils the entire day. They will stand in a sharpening fugue, eyes glazed, pleasant half grin on their face. Some students will pester you with one question the entire day. They will ask "Mr., can I get a drink?" 10,000 times. Any question will do and they will ask it all day like it's a mantra. "Can I get a drink? Can I get a drink? Can I get a drink?" Endless pestering. Some students will get up to throw away paper balls. When you tell them to sit they are right back at it as soon as your back is turned, all day long. Others will throw things. When you catch them they say, "I was just giving something to Josephine!" and roll their eyes. Five minutes later they do it again. Some students will want to open the classroom door. All day long they are opening the door. Some students want to clean up with the broom and dustpan. They sweep in state of bliss and will do it until you physically take the broom from their clenched fist. The students cannot sit for long. All day long they are up like popcorn. Testing is a survey course in strange behaviors. The students will ask you to come and help with a problem. If you do not do the problem for them they curse you. "You didn't teach us this...this is too damn hard." If they have the answer they want to know if it's right. "Mr., is this the one?" When you don't tell them they pout or worse. Some will rip the test up and say "If you aren't going to tell me then how am I supposed to get a good grade?" Others will sit and wait. They want you to walk them through the entire thing. They won't answer anything and then blame you for their incomplete paper. Some play during the test and then attempt to do the entire thing in the last minute. They literally hold the test with a death grip when you try to collect it.
Weird stuff. Weird behaviors. Why are they like this? I've worked in many schools but have never met children like this. Why am I not able to deprogram them from this behavior? You would think a year would be a good start. It isn't. They still do all the same stupid stuff that they have since September. I'm astonished at how deep their behaviors are rooted. How can I do something about this? Their lives don't have to be this counterproductive.
That's the real thing I reflect on constantly. Their lives. My students deserve a chance and some are done already. They have thrown in the towel in elementary school. What will their adult lives be like? I don't want them to live perpetual lives of pain, disillusionment, and depression but that seems to be all they know or expect out of life. It cuts me to the bone when I dwell on it. I'm flushed with feeling. At least you can't see my tears, that would be too embarrassing. I'm signing off because I need some tissues.
My iPod Mini came and it is freakin' sweet! So mini, so wonderful, and so easy to use. I can't wait to bring it tomorrow. I'm in love. I feel so happy on National Teacher Day. What shall I listen to first?
I'm a very bad man. Today my boys did the usual nonsense. They hit each other, pulled each other's clothes, stole things from each other, and attempted wrestling moves. Someone gets hurt or ends up in tears every time. This afternoon three boys ganged up on a very small boy. They picked him up, slammed him on the ground, and then the three sat on the boy. Wrestling!
Needless to say, after we returned to the classroom I went a little crazy. "I'm tired of the boys in this class touching each other, taking stuff from each other, hurting each other, and trying wrestling moves on each other!!! You are not to touch each other! You are not to hurt each other! You are not to touch things that don't belong to you! You are not to attempt wrestling moves on each other! You are not wrestlers! You have no idea what you are doing!" Then came the kicker. "Let me repeat, you are not wrestlers!!! Wrestling on TV is fake and the moves are fake! They are professionals! You are not! You have no idea what you are doing and someone is going to get hurt! Stop it! Stop the wrestling now and for good!"
As I was saying "Wrestling is fake!" you should have seen the looks on the faces of the boys. Priceless. Their faces fell. I felt triumphant and awful all at once. I might as well have said that Santa, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy, and God don't exist and then kicked them in the balls. Telling them the Rock is a crock felt so good. I don't like to stomp anyone's favorite thing but wrestling gets the boys so fired up. Fake or not it's impacting my classroom. I'm so sick of piledrivers, suplexes, and headlocks. "Mr., do you think the Rock can beat El Misterio in a Texas cage match?" Ugh. Can they take wrestling off the air during the school year? Please? Oh, by the way, "It's fake!"
My morning was interesting, too. A mother came to speak to me in the schoolyard. Her son is always dressed in tatters. His clothes are filthy. His body is as well. It seems the children are making fun of him. Making fun of his clothes and condition. She's mad at me because she says I'm not doing anything about it. Her son may be getting razzed about his filthiness. I never noticed. He never said anything to me about it either. I feel bad for him but his mother never responded to my calls and letters about his filthy clothes. What has she been doing? Why is he so damn dirty and smelly? It's a crime. Can't she wash his clothes? Can't she return calls and letters?