Saturday, December 22, 2007

Literacy coaches are a waste of tax money.

I was raking the lawn today and it gave me some time to reflect. I am so busy as a teacher that it is hard to find quality time to be reflective. That was one of the things I was thinking about as I raked. I thought back to the meetings of the past week. Lots of meetings where administrators asked us teachers to complete huge forms identifying problem areas in our teaching and other forms describing all of the new strategies we will use to improve all the weaknesses in our students. These meetings make me miserable. The district has all of these administrators and coaches that do no classroom teaching. They make a lot more money than a lowly classroom teacher like the rookie schoolteacher. These people run these meetings where they literally sit on the teachers until they produce these documents. Why don't these people do their jobs?

I am a classroom teacher. I'm in the trenches fighting the good fight. I am not a general with an overview of the battle. I cannot formulate strategy. I'm trying to survive. I'm trying to keep my soldiers alive. That's it. The literacy coaches, math coaches, and principals all have the experience, courses, and time to analyze data and invent strategies for us to use. Why don't we teachers band together in these meetings and tell these lazy people to do their jobs? It really makes me sick. The coaches in my school never teach anything to anyone. They are always too busy to help you plan a lesson, teach a sample lesson, or help you figure out how to use the textbooks and all the materials that go with them. They are usually busy drinking coffee, running errands for the principal, or just missing in action. These people could be analyzing data. They simply are wasting time and they make classroom teachers do the work instead. Literacy coaches and math coaches are a waste of tax money.

I sure don't understand. Just some thoughts about the layers of unaccountability between my classroom and the door to the parking lot. Being reflective helped me rake the lawn. It sure looks nice except for those bare patches where the leaves wrecked the grass. Being a teacher just doesn't allow for much time for domestic chores during the teaching part of the year.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Merry, merry, merry!

Hi. Merry Christmas from the Rookie Schoolteacher Classroom to you and yours. Just a few notes on the day. The kids have gone. They partied down and ate a metric ton of sugar. They bounced around the school like pinballs. They left. Spent the afternoon partying down with professional development paperwork. That took friggin' forever. It's all over and all submitted and the administrative yen for mindless bull crap has been satisfied. Many trees have died and been put into yet another file cabinet never to be seen or read again. But, it's done. I feel a sense of accomplishment. A sense of peace. About half the year is done. I have time now to do some relaxation, catch up on paperwork, see the family, eat a metric ton of sugar, and perhaps do a 5k on the first of the year. We will see.

Do enjoy the holidays and enjoy whatever holiday you do. Remember, in the immortal words of Jake Blues, to "keep both feet on the wheel and do what you feel."

My early Xmas gift is a link to an appropriate Xmas video.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

We built this city.

I was listening to the radio in the car this morning and "We built this city" by Starship came on. I listened for more than a few just astounded at what a blast from the past piece of steaming poop this song really is. Wow. Drugs are bad. Don't take them. That is the true message of Starship. This band was Jefferson Airplane and really cooked back about the time I was being born. Compare the two. One is protopunk and the other is a dog's dinner.

My kids are really starting to get nutty because of the impending arrival of Santa. Their behavior both socially and academically is taking a nosedive. The dive becomes deeper with each day. Some of my kids celebrate no holidays at all. I feel particularly bad for them. They are already marginalized by factors beyond their control and then celebrate religions that further separate them from everything. To be young, poor, and minority is bad enough. You have the shaft already. No xmas or substitute is so sad.

I'm returning to my pile of Saturday papers to grade. Much of it is junk. I need to reteach what isn't getting through. Their nuttiness doesn't permit much learning to get through. Thankfully, the holidays begin at the end of next week. I need to get to my work. I also need to turn up the thermostat. My fingers aren't typing too well. Snow and sleet is on the way. Come on snow and sleet. Work your magic. Put the whammy on Monday.

Monday, December 10, 2007

I pity the fool.

I was watching TV yesterday and saw this commercial. I love Mr. T. Check this out. I wish Mr. T was working in my school.

My students are up and down today. They really want to pick on each other lately. It's a shame. They take so much joy in hurting others. My school is superdisfunctional lately. There's no communication lately. Everything is just expected of us as teachers. The administration is accountable to nobody. We're running out of everything. Who's ordering supplies? I can't wait for next Friday. I can cruise to the 21st and then a sweet break. I need a break. I'm running on fumes.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Roky by way of Darcy

Roky Erickson is just the man. I bring this up because my friend Darcy sent me some You Tube links to cool songs and I started looking around. It's really easy to burn an hour on You Tube because one thing leads to another and you realize you've been watching the Skeletor Show for 45 minutes. Anyhow, Roky Erickson has a bunch of clips and he's just so much fun. Check out White Faces and then go nuts. I hope he plays Philly soon. I'll take my school kids... or not.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

George Bush is Insane!

George Bush is bat shit crazy. He's just determined to go after Iran. He needs to be impeached. Iraq and the rest is more than enough for impeachment. More than enough to send him and the rest of his administration to jail. We as a people need to step up and say something.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Lesson plans cue the memories.

I'm doing my plans and listening to WFMU online. Some excellent punk rock makes the plans go faster. I noticed this wonderful shirt when I checked their site for a playlist from the show. $12. I'm going to get one of these. I used to listen to WFMU when I was at Seton Hall. I was on a dj on their radio station WSOU but I really wanted to be on 'FMU. WSOU was all metal at the time. It was 1986. Big hair was king. I was not about the hair but I wanted to spin records. I played what sort of sounded as unlike metal as possible. Stuff like "Ace of Spades" by Motorhead. I almost got thrown off the station because I played a song that wasn't metal. The guy that almost threw me off went on to work at B101. He's still there condemned to play Rick Astley for all eternity. "Never Gonna Give You Up..." Anyway, I digress into my ideal version of the past. I wanted to share a funny shirt. My avatar will be sporting this in some chat room for old college djs. Look for me. My head will look like Ira Kaplan's from Yo La Tengo. Gotta go. "Back in the New York Groove" by Ace Frehley is playing.

Welcome to December!

I finished my novel. I wrote 50,100 words from November 1-November 30. I fell off my word count around Thanksgiving and couldn't seem to get past 30,000 for a while and then whoosh it all came out. I wrote 10,000 words in two days and finished up about 8:00 last night! So I feel relieved and exhilarated and like a champion, baby! My novel is about the teaching life. I'm going to set it aside a few days and then read it and edit it and who knows? I'm going to send it out into the world and see what happens. National novel editing month is coming!

Hope everything is great with you. Thanks for reading. More posts to come. I'm back, baby!

I need to go because my daughter is running around singing "25 days until Christmas!" It's too funny.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

Hey, happy Thanksgiving to everyone. Thanks for reading. I've been making pumpkin pies this morning and locating giblets inside our turkey carcass. At least I think they're giblets.

Not that many days to Christmas break! Yipee!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Mr? He mean!

I received a wonderful teacher compliment from a student. "Mr. is mean. Well, he's not mean, he's strict. He's nice, too." I'd like to be known as strict but nice at the same time. I don't know what I've been lately. I'm so full of mucus and sluggish. I really want to call out tomorrow but it always looks bad when you call out on a Friday. Plus, I'll sure as hell pay for it on Monday. A moment's pleasure and some cold recovery will turn into unbelievable torture come Monday. Just need to get through tomorrow. Sleep in Saturday and Sunday and then do three days and I cash in a 4-day weekend. I can do it!

On a positive note, the novel (about teaching, big surprise!) is coming along. To do 50,000 words in a month you've got to do 1667 words a day. I'm on it!

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Cathartic Shredding Scissors

I was reading a teaching magazine today and came across some photos of a particularly vile ex-principal of mine. I took out these new shredding scissors my wife just bought at the Container Store and chopped the sh*t out of him. It was so cathartic. It would be nice if more of the people who have been horrible to me would show up in the day's mail. A few snips of their pictures into the recycling bin feels so good.

I have a day off for election day and it's been wonderful. The only problem is I have to go in tomorrow. My mood is disintegrating. My patience is evaporating because I deep down just want to stay in bed tomorrow instead of driving in to school to shape young minds. I haven't missed a day and won't until it's necessary but another day off would be sweet. It's ironic that teaching makes me less patient. It should be the other way around.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Platitudes and Pablum

What are the churches so afraid of when it comes to Halloween? "We can't celebrate Halloween because we're Christians!" This is a bunch of malarkey. There's nothing in the bible about celebrating or not celebrating Halloween. Let the kids have their parties, sweets, etc. Everything is so watered down and dumbed down and safe. No thinking needs to happen because here's everything you need in a nice box. Put a helmet, flak jacket, and thick oven mitts on while you open it up. Don't think so much or at all. We did it for you. Open up wide and eat every bite. Ugh!

It's like that lately. My kids need to know things. We teach to benchmark tests. Who cares if the country is at war? Is it the Iraq war or is it Vietnam? I don't know. I don't care. What does it matter anyway, Teach? We only teach about Literacy and Math. Science? Social Studies? Don't even get me started.

Sorry for the venting. So much to vent about. We aren't allowed to think any more. We're just expected to spout platitudes and pablum.

At least National Novel Writing Month has begun! I've started mine!

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

No Halloween!

Our school does not celebrate Halloween. There's no mentioning the holiday, no candy, no costumes, no nothing. I understand the need to keep all of the commotion and time wasting away from the school day. I've taught at other schools with Halloween parties and parades. Lots of upset to the school day and no learning happens. Still, keeping Halloween from our kids stirred them up something awful. They got worse when they realized I was serious about no Halloween of any kind and no candy either. Some of my colleagues gave out pumpkin or witch word searches and things. I'm not losing my job over a dumbass policy so there were no treats like that in my room.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Rainy Days and Laundry Always Make Me High!

It's a rainy Saturday. Here's the plan for today: Out for breakfast at the local place for a little pancakes and family bonding. Get on the computer for about 3 hours of planning, if we are lucky and the school-supplied laptop doesn't fail like it did last weekend. Wash and dry as much clothing as possible, if we don't run out of detergent. Clean up anything that needs to be cleaned up along the way. Drink coffee at all times to stay awake during planning, folding, and cleaning. Hopefully, things will work out and there will be clean, unwrinkled clothes to wear on Monday as we teach our delicious lessons to a greatful audience.

Shout outs to my friends Bob and Tim.

Bob has an utterly fantastic blog - Art Blog by Bob. Check him out. Bob is one of the smartest coolest dudes you'll ever run into. I'm thinking you might spot him nibbling a muffin at the Whitney sometime.

Tim does the zine Dagger and he's got a new website. His site is awesome and is lightyears away from the photocopies and staples and LPs of 20 years ago. Has it been that long? It seems like yesterday I'd sell a few for him and try to pick up punk girls at City Gardens.

Monday, October 22, 2007

I take bus #1! Really, I do!

Today was a good and bad day. I was observed and my observation notes were some of the best I've received in years. My teaching was seen to be proficient in all sorts of ways. It's good to be appreciated as a professional by others on the staff. The bad part was I didn't perceive my day as being that great. My kids are getting really surly and disrespectful and it's bugging me. I hate having to deal with disrespectful kids that don't change their behaviors. I spoke to a few parents at dismissal time. That was fun. One of my new boys said "I don't care!" each time I corrected him on anything. He lost his recess and then lost it from another teacher during his special. I said to him that I'd see his parent at dismissal time and take care of him. "I take bus 1!" "Ok. I'll see you at dismissal," I said knowing full well he doesn't take a bus. Well, new boy ran to Mommy at dismissal time instead of the mysterious bus 1. I ran and caught them and told Mom all about his "I don't care." Those tears flowed like Niagra Falls as Mom put his ear in her vice-like grip and pulled him out of the parking lot. I wonder if he'll give me the same crap tomorrow.

Probably. My years of experience tell me, probably.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Weird Tales Inside the Goldmine

If you're expecting a Doors post because of my weird non sequitur head, please look elsewhere. If you are here for cutting-edge news you can use from education's top mind then read on.

President Bush is giving the Dalai Lama a Congressional Gold Medal today. I imagine it went something like "I want to award this Congressional Medal of Honor to the Dalai Lama, his heroism under fire was remarkable. He took on an entire company of Red Chinese at the Chosin Reservoir. He kept firing his trusty M-1. His ammo ran out and he used his rifle as a club. He singlehandedly destroyed two machine gun nests using only piano wire and a broken Ortega taco shell. He pulled out a man's heart and showed it to him before he died. When it was over he was covered in blood, wreathed in smoke, and surrounded by hundreds of Red Chinese and North Korean corpses. Thank you for your service. You are an inspiration." I'm sure there was a lot of awkward silence after they told him that the Dalai Lama is a man of God, not a Korean War vet. Perhaps they'll have feed from it on tonight's Letterman show. Every night they have funny footage of Bush putting his foot in his mouth.

I've received two weird and disconcerting Chinese fortune cookie messages in the past two days. "You make enough money that you should be able to hang on to some." "You will soon be taking a trip across great waters." One is an admonishment for my financial state. The other is an ominous warning of my impending death. I hope not. I don't want to die and I don't want to go to debtor's prison. We teachers don't make too much money. I will happily take any donations for my classroom. I'm not ready for a dirt nap, however.

My school is very disorganized lately and I continue to get new students on a daily basis. Hello? Powers that be? Yeah it's the teacher. Lay off. Enough already. I'm out of desks. Exnay on the udentstay.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Booze and Cigarettes

"It smells like booze and cigarettes out here!" Words from a 4th grader at 7:50 am.

Out of the mouths of babes.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Math Woes

There's a lot of negativity in my kids lately and it's getting me down. I try to stay on the bright side but it is hard when so much of what the kids bring is so negative. It is hard to be positive.
I walk around my part of the school on my breaks and hear what goes on. Most of the teachers sound like me. They have their good parts and bad parts. They are all dealing with the same problems and behaviors. It's remarkable how much we sound alike at times. I laugh as I hear what sounds like my stage patter coming out of a teacher totally different from me. Obviously, not as different as I thought. So much of teaching is like some Zen koan. If you see it then you don't see it, young grasshopper. Perhaps we are all tapped into some cosmic teacher consciousness? A consciousness that gives you those proverbial eyes in the back of the head. Kind of like that magical third eye that comes after decades of meditation? Holy crap. It all makes sense now.

My kids flat out cannot do math. WOW is it bad. I'm going to fail the lot of them. That can't happen. I've got to figure out what's going wrong with my teaching. From what I see, after teaching for more than a month, it comes down to not reading directions, going too fast, not paying attention, and not studying. The actual material and knowing it isn't even on the list, it's so friggin' far down! What are we going to do? I go fast and they don't get it. I go like a frozen amoeba on the back of a frozen turtle and they still don't get it. I go just right and they don't get it. Word problems just kill us because we don't read them at all. We just shut down and write down anything. UGHHHHHHH!!! Why can't we just try to read them? Why? Einstein couldn't have solved a problem without reading it. No one can. Why don't these kids help themselves? Help me, St. Jude! This is a hopeless case!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

200 miles to Yuma

I haven't been feeling so good this week. Feeling a bit more like myself tonight. It's hard to be a teacher. I'm running on fumes lately and so is everyone else at my school. It's only October and we could all use a vacation. Try doing a performance without break every day for months on end. The curtain never goes down. There are no do overs. The set will break. People miss their cues. Emotions become frayed. Voices get lost. The audience falls asleep and then reawakens and cries like a baby in a soiled diaper...and keeps crying. You try to turn off the baby but the volume knob breaks off in your hand and you just turned it to 11 by mistake. The toilet is overflowing and water is dripping through the ceiling from upstairs. Toast is burning in the toaster. There's no way out. That's sort of what's happening now on October 10.

It will get better. Next month there's about a hundred days off!

This is my 200th post. A new milestone for the rookie schoolteacher. See you tomorrow.

Monday, October 08, 2007

Cold weather, please!

I'm feeling like crap. I have a splitting headache. I think it's related to this superhot weather we are having. I cleaned the gutters today and that combined with the 90 degree weather did me in. I'm going to bed soon.

This global warming sucks. There's no reason for it to be 90 in October. It should be in the 60s. Give me cold weather! I shouldn't be running my A/C now.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Thanks Columbus!

I'm so happy there was a Columbus. Thanks to that politically incorrect sob, I get a lovely day off. I can so use it. I am dragging ass this week. Right now it's time to play along on the drums to some Big Star. I bid you a wonderful Pabst Blue Ribbon fueled weekend. Enjoy.

P.S. I was watching Anchorman the other day. "Knights of Columbus that hurt!" What a great line and totally in keeping with my Columbus-thanking mood.

Thursday, October 04, 2007

I need to get mad skills!

I just stopped reading some papers my kids wrote. Almost all of them are cribbed from the internet. Ah, the internet. They had two weeks to do this writing and instead they just stole it from the net. "Martin Luther King's speech at Little Rock was a facile representation of the paradigm shift of ...." Boy, what a smart elementary student you are. I'm going to staple the wikipedia printouts to their papers. I can hear the moans and groans already.

I got out of my car and the air smelled thick of sewage, at least I think it must have been sewage. It was awful, whatever it was. It was redolent of the smell of death. The inner city is a great place to score some dope, dump a hot car, dump a steamship full of sh@t. What are poor people going to do about it? It's disgusting what we do in the inner city.

One of my girls is giving me a lot of trouble. She's crying out for help, actually. I found out that she's basically raising herself and her two young siblings because mom is too busy with her new boyfriend and the new baby on its way. I feel bad because I've been a bit hard on this young lady. That comes with the territory when you disrupt my class. It's hard to be a teacher. Sometimes you come hard and it's too hard. Sometimes you go soft and it's too soft. I make mistakes all the time. I wish I didn't. I'm human and the game I play has no rules and they change constantly. I have to get better at my job. The consequences are severe because these are people not game pieces. They are damaged and fragile when I get them. I don't want to damage them any more. It's so hard.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Caught in the open with shells bursting all around.

My kids were really annoying today. I changed all their seats after they left for the day. I changed the whole room around. I don't deal well with attitude and there was loads of it today. I basically tell them to shove the attitude sideways up their keisters.

They are kids and it is important to remember that and put it all in perspective. Plus, as annoying as it was today in the afternoon, it was nothing like it was in my previous schools. I also have a lot more experience than I did when I started.

Tomorrow will be better. I haven't yet wanted to throw my desk or a kid out the window. It's October and things are still going great. In October of my first year I wanted to quit. I would have gladly left everything in the room and just walked off into the sunset. It was horrible. The kids were literally trying to kill me. I contemplated killing myself. I wouldn't have but it was awful. I was so depressed. I have never been that low before and hope never to be there again. There was no way out, no bright spots, no hope, nothing. It was relentless. The misery. I never gave up, though. Why? I have no idea. I got no medals. I should have received the Iron Cross with Oak Leaf Clusters from Dante himself for successfully transiting hell. I didn't start smoking again either. I probably should have since I was literally on the front lines caught in the open with shells bursting all around.

Seriously, those early couple of years really messed me up for a while. I got into teaching to help kids. It sucks when they can't accept your help because they are so screwed up and their life is so screwed up.

I'm glad it's getting better.

Have you been watching Ken Burns's The War? I've watched some each night as I correct papers. It's really moving. I can't get over how harrowing the battle footage is. I wish my grandfather was still alive. I'd like to ask him about his time on the battleship New Mexico. He saw some stuff.

Monday, October 01, 2007

Go Phils!

3 things. First, go Phils. First time in the playoffs in 14 years! Hopefully, we will pull out a world series win. Let's get #2!

Second, I'm thinking of going back for a doctorate. I'm going to start my application tomorrow. "Doctor" would sound pretty sweet. This rookie schoolteacher needs to move into rookie assistant principal mode. I'm not getting any younger. Plus, I miss grad school. More diplomas. I've got a masters, might as well go for a full doctorate. Just like when I was a boy scout. Might as well go for Eagle.

Third, get the new Stereo Total record. Do yourself a favor. You won't regret it.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Watching and learning

I've seen a lot of things that suburbanites don't usually see this week. I was writing about yelling last week and how I thought things might escalate into shooting. This was a traffic stop that I was witnessing. I heard loud shouting and thought "fight." Well, it was but between a guy in a car with the window down and the cop with the ticket book looking down on him. There was a Philly cop that was shot in the face with a sawed-off shotgun at a traffic stop the day before. It was on my mind as I watched the shouting before I got away from there. My kids talk about their parents and their exchanges with police. Usually, they talk about rude behavior, screaming, disrespect, and sometimes watching their parent leave in the police car. They describe the things they say or family and friends say in low-risk situations like being pulled over. The things they say are things I don't even think when around police. It's no wonder they get a nightstick in the kisser or a free ride in the police car. Their words turn a simple situation into an enormous confrontation. I'm like, "Yes sir, I was very wrong sir, yes sir, you want my license, no problem, anything you want, sorry I'm so slow, thanks for the expensive ticket, may I have another?" I'm not excusing bad behavior, bad behavior on the part of police sometimes, or having a police record. I'm just a white boy finding meaning in a world I visit for teaching but a world that is now a bit of me. I'm slowly learning.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Beauty of the Guided Reading Folder

I wrote a song in honor of my successful week: "The Beauty of the Guided Reading Folder". I'm going to put up an MPEG of it when I can.

The beauty of the guided reading folder. (2x)

Em G D Em

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. (2x)

Em G D Em

Turn it up to 11 and make it stupid, dirty, and repetitious.

I'm in a fabulous mood. Of course there's too much work, but that's the teacher's lot, right? I'm taking a break from paperwork to write to you, the lovely readers of my blog. I'm enjoying my new school. I'm getting a modicum of respect. I'll jump through a hoop of fire for a bit of respect from a supervisor. I don't need more money. I just need a kind word or a knowing tip of the hat. Why don't more people understand that? I see it every day with my kids. Give a kid a bit of a break or a job or a kind word and they change a bit. Browbeat them, intimidate them, put your hands on them, or yell at them and you've blown the whole thing. It's very easy as a newbie to yell. New teachers yell much more than veterans. Once you gain that perspective and get ahead of the wave, you get better. The administrators that make intimidation, shame, and physicality their currency are that floating stuff that needs to be flushed down.

Back to the paperwork. Thanks for reading. Enjoy my song and send your royalties right here.

The Irony!

I drove up to North Jersey the other night for a meeting at Seton Hall about charter schools. I was stuck in traffic on South Orange Avenue and this man begins backing through the four lanes of traffic. He's on foot coming from the basketball courts across the way. I'm wondering why this guy is backing up and hoping that I don't run him over and then I look over and see the reason the guy's backing is the man in front of him is brandishing a big knife. He doesn't want to turn his back because he doesn't want that knife in his back. I'm inching toward this. There's nowhere to go. I just start laughing at the irony. What else to do? I've driven from my school's dangerous inner city neighborhood to Newark only to be involved in more inner city mayhem. I've actually driven 95 miles and paid turnpike and parkway tolls to get to this spot. What a life I lead as a teacher. I escaped from the knife wielding maniacs and got to my meeting in time to buy a Seton Hall t-shirt and score a beer and some hot dog bites. Ate some White Castle on the way back.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

On the way to work...

I was driving to work this morning and about a block from my school there's a lady walking down the street. She is looking from side to side and dressed in a belly shirt. She looks out of place and looks suspicious. There's been this BMW driving erratically around me on the way in as well. The BMW has been driving slowly, weaving in and out of the lane, speeding up, and driving up to the curb. So I pass this woman and the BMW slows. I look in my rear view mirror and the woman is talking to the BMW. Hmm. A little prostitution? It's not just for breakfast anymore. What a neighborhood. This is about 500 feet from the school. I haven't seen any drug busts lately. In the past I've had to slow to allow the squad of ATF men to run across the street with battering ram. Someone was about to get arrested. Later today, there was a huge altercation across the street from where I park. I was leaving and in the corners of my mind there's this voice saying "get ready to hit the deck if this stuff gets out of hand." What an environment to work in. I only work here. My kids inhabit this environment.

On another front, I am so tired lately. I'm burning the candle at both ends. I can't catch myself up this week. Meetings, meetings, and more meetings to eat our time, too. Enough with the meetings, administration!

Sunday, September 23, 2007


Another Sunday night turning into Monday morning and not being able to get to sleep....

Why? I'm ready for tomorrow. Just can't seem to shut down....

Saturday, September 22, 2007


Another week in the books. My kids are still pretty good. There's some annoying behavior starting to surface, especially from the girls in the class. Girls love the drama. Everything is turned up to 11. Everything. My theory is they are imitating what they see at home and in their neighborhood environment. Everything there is street Shakespeare-style high drama at high volume - sex, drugs, guns, fire trucks, big chains, loud music, and big rims.

There is much to celebrate, though. Things are still very positive. My kids love to read. They beg for their independent reading time. The essential question is how do we keep that positivity and keep reading when it isn't material that they care about: eg, the curriculum? How do we keep it positive when reading is the essential part of understanding word problems? Word problems bring up another important set of questions that stem from the basic red-pen diagnostic. My kids read but their comprehension skills are absolutely not there. Their vocabulary skills are not there. They are good word callers but they don't understand what they are reading. How do I get their comp skills up and not destroy their natural interest in reading?

On another note, I'm transferring vinyl records to my iTunes as I work on this blog and other things. I'm listening to a record called Smallmouth by an under appreciated Columbus band, Scrawl. I haven't listened to this record in about 15 years. I forgot how good it is. Brings back wonderful cigarette hazy memories of the Khyber Pass. This ought to be available on CD. Are you listening Rough Trade?

Monday, September 17, 2007

A good Monday.

My kids were good today. Mondays are tough because it's hard for the children to transition from their world back to the shared school world. I'm happy that they can be so good. My classes in previous schools were not so great on Monday's or any other days for that matter.

I'm getting nervous about upcoming observations. I have nothing to worry about but it still gets to you. Some stage fright. Dread of administrators, too. I have very little positive experience to draw from where administrators come in.

Time for bed. I'll dream sweet dreams of completed homework and delicious sloppy joes.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Savoring it.

I'm up too late tonight, but my work is done. I've corrected my papers. Things are looking up. I'm on top of my endless wave of student work. I'm soaking this moment in. It could be the last time this year. Eventually, the work buries you.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Lesson Plans in the Can!

I just finished up my lesson plans. It was a beautiful day. I viewed it though the window as I typed on the laptop. I set up a wireless network at my house first. So it is a bittersweet day. I was able to type in my sunny back room instead of in the dungeon-like office. The magic of wireless internet service is the bomb. The data just zooms invisibly through the air. Amazing! God, I sound like a friggin' dummy. I'm sure someone's reading this saying "that rookie schoolteacher's brain must be made of cornmeal mush." Writing lessons for five hours kind of has that effect. I am done on a Saturday and that's a great thing. I can enjoy the rest of my precious weekend. In previous years, I was grumpily writing lessons until the wee hours of Monday morning. I wouldn't teach half of the stuff anyhow because the awful behavior of the kids derailed most of the lessons.

Tomorrow will be fun. I'm going to hunt for used books for the classroom library. My kids read and have requests. I'm looking for basketball stuff, some basic stuff for my low reader, Super Diaper Baby and Captain Underpants, any relationship fiction stuff for girls, and High School Musical. What's more fun than buying books?

Friday, September 14, 2007

It's the weekend.

Hello, everyone. I've had a wonderful week with my kids. I haven't said that in years. I have a great group of kids. I enjoy teaching them. I can't wait to get back and try new things with them. Having students that don't want to kill me is a soothing tonic. No one throws desks at me. No one throws punches at me. I'm not used to this.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Almost nostalgic

I was at work much too long today. We had afterschool meetings. I was going to do lesson planning tonight but instead I drank a beer and watched TV with the wife. A dumb movie and a beer is a great thing after a long day. Yes, I know, I should have planned the whole next week's lessons and then read Proust. Sorry, Margaret Spellings.

I am impressed with my kids. I've never had such a smart class. Not since student teaching in the suburbs. These kids know stuff. We worked on subjects and predicates today. Classes in the past would look at me like I'd sprouted another head when we'd go over this stuff. "Predicate? His sister live up around the way. Predicate use to go up at Stetson. Got his ass thrown out." My kids are different. "Ate is the predicate. Ate the sandwich is the complete predicate." My new school is a whole different ballgame. I'm not used to somewhat respectful kids with prior knowledge. To quote from the book of parentspeak, "I think I done died and gone to heaven." I'm almost bit nostalgic for being told to go f@#% myself before I lock up my car in the parking lot. Almost.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

There's not enough time in the world...

I have so many ideas and so many things to do and not enough time. Being a teacher is a major undertaking. The old saw is teachers have it easy. Let me disabuse you of that line of thinking right now. We have so many things to do. I teach all the subjects and that means planning, teaching, and grading all the subjects. That's about a zillion papers over the course of the year. Add in all the other business to keep up on and now you're up to a jillion papers. There's meetings, parent nights, phone calls home, pretzel sales, etc. Each of these requires a file and papers and more meetings. Remember that big warehouse at the end of the first Indiana Jones movie? That's where it all goes at the end of the year.

Seriously, I have about 500 things a day to keep up on and if I get to 100 then it's a pretty good day. If you see a teacher give them a big kiss on the lips and then say "let's get you to Staples, the copies and supplies are on me." You'll be doing a big service.

Over and out. Time to correct more papers.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

I'm Back, Baby!

It's official. I have returned to write more missives from the belly of the beast that is public school education. I'm at a different school. No more yucky principal from Hell busting my balls. Thank God I don't have to hear the wind whistling through that moron's bald head anymore. I'm reading a cool kid's book tonight, The Flunking of Joshua T. Bates by Susan Shreve. I love kid's lit.

I'm really tired the past few days. I haven't been sleeping too well for whatever reason and once you get behind that's it.

My class is pretty good. I have a few talkative girls. There's also some self esteem issues specific to the inner city. We are reluctant to start work. We mumble. We pout. We must get in the last word. It's manageable. We need to get pumped up and motivated. We'll do it.

Ah, it's good to be back. Now on to planning my lessons for next week.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

So that's it

I was told today that my contract won't be renewed. I was told that I'm not inspiring enough. I was told this by the biggest phoney there is on God's green earth - my friggin' principal!! Talk about something that can't be quantified! How do you figure out if someone is or isn't inspiring?!!

I have a pretty sensitive BS detector. It's been going off since I met my principal and he told me he's an educator. Anyone who refers to himself as an educator is a douchebag. Over the summer, I realized after about 10 minutes with him that (1) he didn't like me and (2) wouldn't have hired me if he'd been hired and in place when I was interviewed months earlier. I'm not surprised to be on the losing end of equation at contract time.

I am surprised that nothing has ever been given to me in writing. There are no observation records of any kind. I've never had to sign anything. I've never been written up for anything. I've never had any discipline proceedings. I've never even been late. Everything is verbal. No paper trail.

Even if I do get a new contract, because that was held out as a very slim possiblity, I wouldn't want to work here. Charter schools suck. WE HAVE NO CURRICULUM! THEY WORK US LIKE SLAVES! WE HAVE NO CHANCE IN HELL OF MAKING AYP! IT'S ALL FOR SHOW! THERE'S NO THERE THERE!

Sorry to yell, but Charter schools suck. Don't be fooled. There must be some good ones, but all the ones that I've worked in are jokes. There isn't any high-quality anything happening. What is happening is a great deal of public money and trust is being flushed down the friggin' toilet. The kids lose, the public loses (especially those conservative creeps that seem to think school choice and vouchers are the Holy Grail), and the teachers really lose. Try working from 7 am to 3:45 without a break of any kind. Work for much, much less than a public teacher with a union makes. Work with a smile. Be inspiring! Inspire this!!

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Too much monkey business.

I've run out of steam and goodwill and every other goddamn thing. I'm very very tired. Too much paperwork. Too much professional development. Too many meetings. Meetings, meetings, meetings, and meetings.

I'm burning out because there's too much that we're expected to do and our administrators don't see anything. They just expect more.

Every teacher in my school is under the same pressure and the principal just dumps more on us. More duties. More expectations. More frigging meetings. Do this paperwork. Have it all in triplicate by tomorrow. Oh, and we need to meet after school and during your prep and during your lunch. UNION! We need a UNION! If we had one this might be a bit more bearable. At least our pay would be better.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Wasting time blows

So it's the new year. I'm struggling this week. I have so much to do and no time to do it. The teacher's lot, right? Still, there's only so much work that I can do in a day. I've been up to 2 am for nights on end now doing paperwork, knocking out grades, etc. For all the work, I'm still behind and can't seem to catch myself up. We're all up against it at school and the administration just keeps us in meetings wasting our time. They don't care. They don't value our time. Meetings blow. Time wasting blows.