Tuesday, May 31, 2005


I feel even worse about it now. I can't get the sour taste out of my mouth. Give me one reason I should drag myself to work tomorrow.

I am a hypocrite

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.

Monday, May 30, 2005

$2.75 Coprolite

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.

Sunday, May 29, 2005

Lawn nonsense

I was just cutting my lawn. Man, what a waste of time. I'm not sure what purpose a lawn serves. It certainly eats into my life and drives me crazy.

More to cut tomorrow. I'll never let it get this high again.

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Give blood

I gave blood this morning and it's catching up to me now. I can barely stay awake. However, I encourage everyone to give blood every 56 days.

Friday, May 27, 2005


Another week down. I'm closer to my ultimate goal. It's a beautiful day and my daughter is with Grandma. Time for dinner and a movie.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Federal Cufflink

"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.

No prep and no recess. Kids all the time. I'm superduper tired and miles to go before I sleep.

Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Missing You

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.

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Summer vacation, please?

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.

Monday, May 23, 2005

Cup of coffee

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.

My wife makes excellent Mint Juleps.

Jim Beam makes a most delicious Bourbon. Just thought you readers ought to know that. Got to go to bed now. Kids in a few hours. Still time for one more?

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Riding out May.

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.

Saturday, May 21, 2005

I love the smell of antifreeze in the evening.

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?

Friday, May 20, 2005

All your base are belong to us

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.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Laughter is contagious

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.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

Just going through the motions

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.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Motivating my boys

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?

Monday, May 16, 2005

Calgon, take me away!

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?

Sunday, May 15, 2005

Eighteen kids

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.

Saturday, May 14, 2005


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, May 13, 2005

You teachers have it easy!

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.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

Does not compute

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.

Perhaps my lack of understanding is the key?

Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Skating preschoolstyle

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.

Simple pleasures

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?

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Hanging in there

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.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Uncontrollable urge

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.

Hazing, it's not for breakfast anymore

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.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Mother's Day

My wife and I went to a Kentucky Derby party last night. They served the most delicious Mint Juleps. If there is a more delicious way to serve Bourbon, please let me know.

There is a downside to excess, those juleps threw me into a funk today. My ass has been dragging all day.

To all the Moms out there, a tip of the Rookie Schoolteacher chapeau to you.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Something to think about.

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.

Friday, May 06, 2005

Sweet Jesus, we've entered May!

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.

Thursday, May 05, 2005


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?

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Weird Behaviors

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.

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

iPod Mini

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?

Man, I'm so damn tired of lazy parents.

Monday, May 02, 2005


My night class is so useless. The only good thing about the class is that it occurs in West Philly. Usually, I can hit a bookstore or Indian restaurant before or after class. I wish there was an Ethiopan restaurant closeby but they're all out on Baltimore Avenue or beyond. Too far to go before class begins, plus if I started eating the delicious Ethiopian and drinking beers I'd never get to class. I digress. I bought a book for the boys in my class called Guys Write for Guys Read by Jon Scieszka. The boys in my class don't read anything and I have so much trouble with them. Independent reading time is a bitch. The boys just talk and screw around instead of reading. I bought this book to perhaps interest them. I'm going to bring this out of my secret stash and bestow it on one of my boys to check out. Make a big production. Hopefully it will inspire some of them. There's a wide variety of stories in the book and perhaps a few will stick.

I wish that more of my students would read for pleasure. I used to read like crazy when I was in elementary school. I still read as much as possible but work, family, and sleep steal my reading time. I can't wait for the summer and the uninterrupted reading time.

The wheels came off today, the kids were horrible.

Sunday, May 01, 2005


Two years ago today President Bush declared "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq. What a joke. Too bad the joke is on us. Thank God Bush can't be "elected" again.