I haven't written regularly in some time. I'm going to be checking in more often. I'm dismayed by the state of education in our nation. The blind are leading the blind. Bling, smoke, and mirrors rule the day. Do you understand the whole thing rides on the cooperation of the children? Merit pay, NCLB, and the Scholastic book order all ride on the cooperation of the children. You play the hand you're dealt. My students are dancing as fast as they can, but when it comes down to it none of them are making it. I have 2 out of 32 that would make it in a school outside of the inner city. I was watching a news story about Houston and their school district. They have merit pay and it is increasing the scores or so they say. Bull! That's what I say. It's all lies. Mark my words!
My life is improving. My teaching life is not hopeless. I see a future and that was not possible before. I have moments of occasional doubt but that's the same in any profession. What's life without a bit of doubt now and again? My biggest problems are organization, correcting a never ending avalanche of papers, and improving my teaching. Improving my chops. That's what I really need to do.
I have doubts about keeping my job. Am I good enough? How can I get better? How can I help my kids get better? I want them to learn. I want them to get better. How can that happen?
I don't want to let them down. I don't want to let my school down. I want a chance.
My new school is challenging me in new ways. I have some behavior problems that are slowly being fixed. Mostly, I need to improve my teaching. I was just staying alive in my last school. Now I need to get my skills up. I'm working and working and working. A teacher's work is never done.
It's already July 12th! Holy crap, Batman! Seriously, the summer is galloping away from me but it's good. So nice to be away from school. No masters degree work either. It's all good. I've been eating a lot of hot dogs, swimming as much as possible with my wife and daughter, and drinking a lot of cold beers. The good life. Time to get back to my book. It's so nice to read for pleasure again.
The kids are gone! The kids are gone! Lordy, Lordy, the kids are gone! Sing it with me!!!!
Thanks for singing with me. Yet another kooky inner-city teaching year is in the books. Just some clean up tomorrow and I am done. Man, there were a lot of hard days. Thanks for reading to whomever is out there reading this blog. I hope that you enjoyed some of this thing. I take great solace and pride in blowing off steam in this way. I'm sure that this has saved me from a couple of nervous breakdowns.
My kids had their party without any disasters. They were magnificent. I enjoyed having a few of them in my class and got to tell them personally about how much they meant to me. That was satisfying. Then they all went their separate ways. I wonder what their summers hold. Some of them have places to go and things to do. Some of them were making up what they were going to do. I stifled a sob when I heard one of my most obnoxious girls making up trips to Great Adventure, Chicago, Wildwood, New York City, and Sesame Place. Her mom's so poor she can't pay attention, let alone pay for a trip to Great Adventure. Susan is a hellion but I felt so sorry for her as she described her fantasy plans.
I just hope my kids are safe over the summer. The bullets are flying in Philly. Things are getting dangerous and kids are getting hurt. I hope none of mine get hurt and hope everyone else is safe too.
One more day to go. Today was a 1/2 day and it was rather enjoyable. I actually got to spend some time talking to my kids. Something I rarely have time to do during the day. Strange to say that isn't it? That's teaching in the inner city for you. You want to build relationships with the kids and it's impossible because there are too many of them and every one of them is SUPER NEEDY. Anyhow, next year I'll be teaching close to 40 of them and I already know 20 of them are identified special ed kids. The remainder will have probably 6-8 more unidentified special ed kids. Forget about having any time to talk or build quality relationships. Ugh!
I'm going to forget about next year and focus on one more day. Hurray!
On the post-teaching summer vacation front, I'm going to get a radio show again on my old college's radio station. I contacted them for the hell of it last night and will be able to do the summer! I'm psyched! I haven't been a dj in 15 years. A short refresher course and I'll be spinning records again on the actual airwaves. What I've wanted to do for sooooooo long! This is going to be an awesome summer vacation. Let's just get there. This is the longest friggin' week in history and it's only Tuesday. Help me, Jesus!
There's mouse sh@t all over my goddamn room! It's on practically every surface. Do you know how disgusting that is? My school is filthy. The mice don't even have the decency to stay hidden during the day. They come right out and grab stuff in the middle of class. The cockroaches are all over too. They just do what they want. One was inside of my Macintosh today. You could see its shadow moving around under the opaque surfaces. Another huge one just walked right through the middle of my lesson. I'm teaching about integers and suddenly this museum specimen sized roach is walking through. I stomped him and of course the class went crazy. Vermin.
Today was pretty rough. Just 7 days to go. I was looking forward to some downtime after work, instead I spent the afternoon with the plumber. I read a book as he put in a three handled faucet in my shower. It's always stressful when the plumber is here. The meter is running!
After 2 1/2 hours and almost $400 the problem isn't completely finished. I have to hunt down some stems and escutcheons for this damn American Standard faucet. Ugh! I thought plumbers were supposed to have all this stuff on their trucks to get the job done. Apparently that's not the case anymore.
Went to the 2 for 1 Scholastic Book Fair today. I love the book fair. Takes me back to my elementary school days. I love books. I bought a bunch today for me and my daughter. Each week I must buy 10-15 books from everywhere. My house is filling with books. It's a good thing. I have a problem. Bibliomania.
I really hate my job lately. I want this year to be over. My students don't want to do anything. NOTHING. We still have lots and lots of school left. The textbooks are being collected. Everything is winding down yet I have to maintain the illusion that any of it matters now. The grades are in. There's NOTHING left. Why? End the year early oh great School District of Philadelphia.
We need to get ready for next year anyhow. There will be more than 30 kids in every classroom, less kids, less resources, and less of everything except work, but we teachers have it easy. Remember that.
Wow were my kids awful today! I had the right idea this morning when I pressed the snooze button 300 times. I hope that a lot of them don't come in tomorrow. The 6/6/06 thing has them all freaked out. "The world is going to end, Mr!" "The devil is going to come!" Couldn't Hollywood make more scary ad campaigns with other dates in them? How about advertising a movie called January 1 - June 20? Really scare the sh@t out of them! A man can dream.
My kids ought to know quite a lot about the devil. Many of them are in league with the devil. It never fails to make me laugh when the worst behaved kids in the class begin to tell everyone else they are going to Hell. "You don't believe in God? You're going to Hell!"
A girl in one of my classes said "God gave me a mouth to use all I want." She was talking nonstop for the entire class. I said "God also says to obey your elders and to love your neighbor as yourself. Two things you are not doing - so quiet down!"
The worst behaved, most foul mouthed students are on intimate terms with God.
A friend of mine teaches in NYC. He doesn't get out until June 28th! Jesus H. Tapdancing Christ that's too friggin' long! I was just speaking to my wife about why oh why do we have to teach until the 20th. It's pointless now that the grades are done. I would seriously consider taking the gas pipe if I had to continue to the 28th. Thank the Lord for small favors.
I'm doing my grades tonight. They take forever. The school district computer system isn't the easiest system to navigate. You have to go through window after window after window and you can't see the entire card until you're finished. I have 25 kids. They each have about 15 things to enter on the card not including comments. Each card takes about 10 minutes. That's 250 minutes. That's more than 4 hours. Ugh.
The real problem is the grades are done now and we still have 14 days of instruction left. The kids know that the grades are done and they have no incentive to listen or care or do anything because they know they're untouchable. It will be even worse when we turn in all the textbooks next week. We'll be without any materials and still be required to teach. The kids will go apesh@t then. Why can't the school district input the grades during the week of the 12th? They can take away the books then too. The kids will have more of an incentive to work. At least the illusion of accountability will be there.
I'm just glad the whole damn thing is winding down. I'm tired and want to go on summer vacation. The pool is calling me and I need to soak in it and forget.
I just watched a story on the local news about dangers in Philadelphia elementary schools. They showed video footage of children playing in schoolyards. They were beating the sh*t out of each other - pulling hair, pummeling, punching, kicking, wrestling, and stomping. The reporter seemed surprised. The footage could have come from my school. This behavior is playing to my kids. It's all they know. I broke up two kids who were smacking the crap out of each other during recess. "Oh Mr. we just playing." Blood was pouring out of the kid's nose who told me this. The other kid had scratches and the knee torn out of his pants. WTF?
My kids are getting worse by the day. They sense the end of the school year. They think that nothing can touch them and they're mostly right. I'll never tell them that, however. My administrators have told me in no uncertain terms that I'm to pass my kids. To be honest it hardly matters. If I fail Jerry it will do him no good. All he does is roll on the floor, eat his pencils, and make curses and animal grunts. Keeping him in the same grade will do nothing. He's utterly irredeemable. He's been held back too many times anyhow. He's already ready to drive to elementary school.
My job is ridiculous. Thank God it's Spring. I just went out to get gelati. Mmm. Eighteen days left.
I'm sitting here on the weekend drinking a cold one and thanking God that there's only about 21 days left. I will make it. It's not going to be easy but nothing ever is at my school. Still, I will get through to the end. Right now I'm working for June. It will be here momentarily.
I hit Tony Luke's today for a roast pork Italian. Mmm that sandwich is fine. If you are ever in South Philly you should do yourself a favor and head to Tony's. Forget Pat's, Geno's, and Jim's. Forget cheesesteaks entirely. That's tourist fare. You need a pork with provalone and broccoli rabe.
I drove to work this morning and was struck with how Jacob Riis-like the hellhole neighborhood is where I work. Sometimes I drive and don't notice it at all but today I noticed everything and it made it that much more depressing. Half naked children bounding down tenement stairs into the clammy drizzle. No mother bounding out of the tumbledown place after them. Stumblebums, junkies, and pickpockets hugging the bricks, staying out of the rain. Emaciated dogs rooting through garbage in the gutter. Cars held together with chicken wire jostling for position at the stoplights. Angry looking men in pajamas, tattoos, and headwraps yelling at their women in the street. What a place. This is just a typical 8 am trip. All this to see and I have yet to take a swig of coffee or park the car.
Too much to see this morning.
On the bright side, the Phils swept the Reds! I hate the Big Red Machine!
I've been sick as a dog for the past five days. I hope that I get better soon. I think it's the flu. At least my fever has broken. It sucks when you are sick all weekend. I haven't had any downtime to relax or recharge or catch up on laundry or paperwork. My house is a mess. I have nothing to wear tomorrow and I'm still coughing up phlegm. Ah, the life of a teacher. Yeah, we have it easy.
Here's how easy it was on Friday. I'm sick as a dog in the classroom, the kids are running amok, no one is listening, I'm coughing up a lung. It's horrible. Finally it's time to leave. It's 3:09! They can leave! No one is f@%*ing listening to me! "Will you please just get in line? I just want you to line up so you can go home. Will you please do that?" It's 3:15. They're smacking each other in the head. They're eating their pencils. They're rolling on the linoleum in the pencil shavings near the trash can. No one is lining up. "Will you please for Christsakes act like human beings and show some compassion for someone else for once in your life?" No one listened or changed their behavior. Finally about 3:30 someone noticed that they could have left already. I was just watching them like it was Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom. After another 5 minutes we finally got them out the door. What is wrong here? How can one teacher be with these kids for an entire year and they behave the same way throughout? Every day is the first day of the year for these kids. They have no clue.
I'm so happy the year is winding down. I just hope I can get better and finish it out on my two feet. It's a goddamn streetfight every day with these kids.
I have been so tired these last few days. The kids have been horrible and I just can't keep up, especially in the afternoons. I'm physically tired and mentally fried, too. I just want to get through this week and collapse. I do not care anymore. There are about 30 working days left and I can't wait to get through. I've had enough. I need to rest up and prepare for next year.
This year is in the can anyway and all the kids are going to pass. My administrators conveyed that message to us all the other day. The principal told us to think hard about those kids that we want to fail. Is it fair to saddle another teacher with that kid for another year of sixth grade? Pass them. Get them the hell out of here.
What's the point? I have a reason be tired. What's the point?
I'm relaxing Cinco de Mayo style and eating some green tea mango ice cream from Turkey Hill. Mmm. They should sponsor this blog. Their Phillies graham slam is great too. Perhaps they want to split the sponsorship with the Yuengling brewery. Mmm. I'm going to reach for one of their products next. Enjoy the holiday and arrive alive, don't drink and drive.
My kids were absolutely horrible today. How do you reach kids that just don't care about anything? What do you do? You tell me?
I was reading the Philadelphia Inquirer today and there was an editorial about the 58% graduation rate in the Philadelphia high schools. The editorial mentioned that teachers who get results should get bonuses. I wonder if the writer has ever taught in the school district of Philadelphia or anywhere else? Teachers don't get to choose their classes. Teachers play the hand they're dealt. My kids care about nothing and respect nothing. They would be perfectly happy just hitting each other in the head all day or spitting spitballs and scratching themselves all day. I would end up paying for the privilege of teaching them if my pay was based on their academic progress. Thank God my pay isn't based on them! Thank God I will get another chance with another class next year. Hopefully one that isn't stocked chock full of maniacs.
Today one of my kids was completely off the wall. This kid hasn't done any real work since we got back from spring break. Today he was crazed. He's up, he's down, he's rolling on the floor, he's on the windowsill, he's spitting water like a porpoise. Anyway, about 2 I answer the class phone. "Donald to the front desk for early dismissal." "Thank you, thank you, thank you" just flew out of my lips. I couldn't help it. A Freudian slip. I felt a little bad about saying it in front of the kids and in front of Donald but I'm human. Thank God he left out the classroom door. I probably would have thrown him out our third floor window if he would have stayed for another hour and a half.
Hopefully your world is a sunny and bright as mine has been for the past few days. I went up to NYC for the big antiwar protest on Saturday. What a day! The sun was shining, the temperature was just right, and I had a blast with at least 100,000 of my friends. What a wonderful thing it is to be in the street fighting for what you believe in. Too bad the media didn't cover it. One small picture in the NYTimes on Sunday and no mention at all in the Philly Inquirer. I guess there were more important things to cover? Wait, Rush Limbaugh and his drug bust was much more important. Liberal Media my ass.
I ran 8 miles yesterday. I haven't done that in about 20 years. I'm running the Broad Street Run this Sunday, May 7th. I hope it doesn't rain. The last time I ran the Broad Street Run was in 1984. Reagan was president. Some of my student's parents weren't born yet! Talk about weird. That is weird!
My kids were manageable today. Will wonders never cease? I was hoping many of them would be out for the big protests today. I guess none of them read the papers?
Spell check wants me to replace Limbaugh with Lumbago. Should I do it?
Today wasn't so bad. I'm learning to pull back instead of yelling and getting visibly upset. Getting angry doesn't do anything anyhow. The kids tune out the yelling. An atomic bomb wouldn't stop some of the annoying behaviors that manifest in my room. These kids have teams of psychiatrists, psychologists, physicians, counselors, and teachers working on their individual cases and to no avail. What the hell am I going to do? It's not hopeless but it's very close. The problem is that these kids take no responsibility for anything they do. NONE. They get this attitude from their parents and friends and the almighty street. Can't forget the street. Nothing will change until some responsibility is taken.
A kid told me to f%&k off today. This kid came into my room for no reason and told me to f%&k off. He's not my student. I barely know this kid. He took no responsibility for his actions. His mom said "Tomas is good boy." That's all we could get out of her. Hmm. This "good boy" is on the wrong path. I hope this "good boy" isn't in jail in a couple of years.
Well, tomorrow is Wednesday. I need to get through this week. I don't feel good now. I'm tired and my tummy hurts. Teaching is exhausting, especially in our school. We've got way too many teachers out. It will only get worse as it gets closer to the end of the year. Consequently with all the teachers out things get chaotic. Kids run the halls. Classes are in uproar. No one listens to adults. Everything gets f&@$ed up.
I'm drinking a gin and tonic as I write to you. Springtime is here and a gin and tonic seems right. A tonic after my day in front of a blackboard. The kids were ok for the morning and then the wheels came off after lunch. The usual. Good stuff did happen today. My good kids were great. One of my girls has made a wonderful transition from behavior problem and apathetic student to A's and B's. I am making a difference. She was hell on wheels when I got her and now she's a super kid. I never gave up on her and it paid off. I know I'll never reach them all but if I get one or two then it makes up for everything else.
I've got to nail down my crazy kids. They are getting crazier by the day. I've got to get the kids through to June 21. Some conferences and tears are going to have to be shed. A few are not going to pass. I won't allow it. Things are going to get ugly.
First day back from Spring Break. I was expecting the worst and it wasn't that bad. Perhaps that's the secret to this?
I did miss my class and was very happy to see them today. I guess I'm not a complete failure. I love these kids in all honesty and I love being a teacher. I'm just not very good at it in my current situation.
One of the problems with coming back from vacation or weekends (or any day of the week, actually) is that teachers just don't come to work. Everything gets messed up when this happens. We don't get preps. The day gets much longer and harder. The kids get upset. Hopefully, more teachers will be here tomorrow.
I got through today but it wasn't pretty. I pitched every friggin' inning though. I am so sick of fighting with students. It's April and these children are just as evil and incorrigible as they were back in September. What really bugs me is how much I have not been able to teach them. I have failed my students because many of them are no better academically. Some are worse.
I haven't been writing much because I've been discouraged and disgusted by everything. We've been taking our PSSA tests for the past week and the kids don't know what to do with the changes in the schedule. They don't adapt well to change and lash out as a result. There are lots of angry kids in my classroom.
I've been watching them take their tests and their behaviors are very frustrating. I've been drilling them in test taking skills, essay writing, math, and literacy and I'll be damned if they don't go back to their original testing methods when the actual test begins; ie, they answer randomly, give one word essay answers, and finish the test modules in minutes instead of hours. It's so f@$%ing frustrating!!! I'll get the blame when my kids took a dump on the test. They don't care and no one will hold them responsible.
I've got to get out of the inner city. I'm tired of this sh%t! Can anyone tell me the point of this?
It's easy to forget in the midst of everything how awful the lives of my students can be. Many of them lead hellish lives. A mother came to school the other day high on angel dust. She was seeing visions and receiving messages from the televison. She was taken to the hospital and hasn't returned. My student is terrified, shocked, and embarrassed over what happened. Consequently, he's a holy terror in class.
My students suffer from neglect. I feel so bad for them. It makes my heart hurt to know that I cannot do much to help them, that I can't make much of a difference.
My daughter told me that she's a Democrat. We had a big discussion in the car about the differences between Republicans and Democrats. "Republicans sound mean, Daddy, I'm going to be a Democrat." Ahh, I can breathe easier now that my 5-year-old is on the same team. She's so smart.
Teaching in the inner city is a constant battle for me. It's more akin to a barroom brawl than a learning experience. That's why this snow day today is so sweet. Thanks Mother Nature for dumping a foot of snow on Philadelphia. THANK YOU!!!!!
Just finished my lesson plans and its almost midnight. I HATE writing them. I HATE having them read and critiqued on a weekly basis. All I do is paperwork. Working at an inner-city school is nothing but paperwork, paperwork, paperwork. Suck it John Stossel. You don't know jack about what teachers, Union teachers or otherwise, do for their kids. Now to bed. I feel like sh*t, yet I'm craving an Egg McMuffin. Strange.
Another delightful day spent fighting with kids. How I love it! I'm going to drink myself into oblivion while watching the liar's state of the union address. I'll pound one each time he mentions no child left behind.
I try to unwind with music after my stressful days of teaching. Some good stuff on my playlist right now is The Gossip - Standing in the Way of Control, Dinosaur Jr. - You're Living All Over Me, Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers - LAMF, and Sleater-Kinney - Call the Doctor. I found the Dinosaur Jr. in the used bin at my local record shop. What a find! Why the hell didn't I buy this great record when it came out in 1987? I should have been playing the hell out of it in my car and on my radio show. I was pretty broke as a college sophomore, then, that might explain it. I'm making up for lost time now. Do yourself a favor and buy all the aforementioned records and turn it up to 11 rookie schoolteacherstyle!
Why in the hell did I want to teach in the inner city? Oh, yeah, to make a difference. Difference? What difference am I making? My kids throw sh*t at me, yell curses, flip over desks, throw books, beat the sh*t out of each other for nothing, and refuse to do any work. I'm sick of it. Why did I choose to do this job? I went into debt to go back to school to get a new degree in education just to teach at this nuthouse where I work. I need to go to the nuthouse. I really have a few screws loose.
I'm most likely getting a bad review for my efforts. My principal thinks that my classroom management skills are lacking. Well, I view it this way. At least I'm not a lazy city employee hiding behind my desk. I'm in there working my ass off the entire time. Everything I touch might burst into flames but I'm not giving up or giving in. I give 200% every day. That bad review is proof that I'm in there every day trying to do my job.
At the moment it's hours since I left for the day and I could still pick my desk up and throw it out the window. I'm that angry. My students are horrible. Whatever I try to get things to work better just blows up in my face. I'm sick of my students cursing me out, etc.
I'm so sick of working in a place where no one is wanted, no one wants to be, and no one cares. The kids are miserable, the staff is miserable, and even the building is miserable. What is the point? I hate it. I hate this. I hate what I have become. I must have racked up one hell of a lot of bad karma to end up like this. I'm trapped inside of a nightmare. I'm trapped so deep that I'll never get out.
I was watching Stupid in America on 20/20 last night. I only caught the last 20 minutes but it was more than enough. John Stossel blames the teacher and the public school for all the problems. His thoughts are to privatize the schools, give vouchers, and eliminate the unions. This holy trinity will change everything resulting in fantastic grades for all. Is he serious? He's not the only one with these ideas, of course, but has he met the students I teach? Sheesh. He wouldn't last five minutes in my classroom. Comparing charter schools with public schools isn't fair. Charter schools can cherry pick the students. Public schools can't. Charter schools aren't performing any better than public schools anyway. Strangely he didn't mention any of that. I need to write a letter to ABC.
I was cleaning out papers and sorting things today and came across some student notes. "Suk my dick!" "Kak me hard!" "Your mam f*cks you brother. Write back if you can." I feel sorry for my students. They can't even spell the insults.
I've been back at work and too busy to write. I'm taking a break from my lesson planning to post this for my lovely readers. Hope your holidays were wonderful. I can't wait to pay my respects to MLK on Monday. A great man and also a chance to catch up on my paperwork. I used to do service on MLK day but teaching is so hectic that I can't spare the time.
Writing lesson plans sucks, especially at my school, because the administration reads and critiques them each week. I just get them done and it's time to write more, or so it seems. Our school is always under the gun. We teachers are observed all the time. Our plans, rooms, and work lives are picked apart for all to see. Worst of all the literature says that this micromanagement doesn't do any good anyway and will in most cases have a detrimental effect.
In other news, I jumped into the ocean on New Year's Day. It was cold and delightfully refreshing. A new tradition has been created. I went to Trenton on the 31st to watch the reenactments of the Battles of Trenton. Awesome. The Colonials, let by George Washington, fire a cannon at the Hessians and chase them through the streets. Car alarms go off everywhere with each cannon blast. I've been meaning to check this out for years and I'm so happy I finally got to see it. I'll be back again.