Wednesday, September 28, 2005

It never friggin' stops!

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.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Good Times

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.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Classroom Management

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.

Sunday, September 18, 2005


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.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Drugs, not just for breakfast anymore.

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.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Up and Down

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.

Sunday, September 11, 2005


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.

Thursday, September 08, 2005


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.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Just plain tone deaf stupidity

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.

Practice makes perfect

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.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

First Day Back

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.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Red Cross

Please donate to the Red Cross. The victims of Katrina need your help. Give a pint of blood while you're at it. I did last week and you can too. Call 1 800 HELP NOW.

Jonathan Kozol

Here's that quote from Jonathan Kozol in today's NYT Magazine. I couldn't have answered better myself.

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.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Follow the money!

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.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Ready for Action

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.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

New Orleans Snafu

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.

Let the games begin.

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.