Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Get me the F out. Santa needs me.

I'm sorry that it's taken so long to write. So much is going on in my life. It's just so busy right now with the holidays and the work and I'm tired. My kids are just off the hook lately. They don't know what to do with the impending presents or lack of presents, the bit of snow in the air, the performances and practices for the holiday shows and caroling, and the approaching end of the school year and end of the marking period.

Needless to say it's discipline paper city. I'm writing pink slips and holding detentions like they're going out of style. Administrators and counselors are nowhere to be seen. There's not a hint of help for us on the front line. I can't wait to get to the break because I can't do this for much longer. I'm tired of angry kids yelling at me and yelling at everyone else in the building. I'm f#$king tired. Get me to Christmas. Let me do my f#$king paperwork. Let me alone. I'm tired of noise. I want out.

Monday, December 01, 2008

I'm having a rough day. Please observe me.

I've had a rough day. Mondays suck but they suck harder when they follow a holiday break. I haven't bonded with this year's class yet. They didn't help me bond today with their surly behavior. I have a few boys who come to work just to get into mischief. One got suspended by our gym teacher. Two others kept up their insanity for most of the day. At least they hadn't started their misbehavior until after gym class. It didn't impact my observation during my literacy lesson this morning. Yes, the best times for observations in my school are just before or after a holiday, Fridays after lunch, and half days. Let's observe you when absolutely none of your students will give a crap about the lesson. Ugh. All in all, I think the lesson went OK. Not my best but good enough. I wasn't exactly at my best after 5 days off either. We'll see.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Coloring instead of rioting.

So we're doing an art project in the classroom and the kids are coloring and talking and things are going well for a change. Peace has broken out. Students are working together. Then...."If Obama had lost we were going to the Gallery to burn it down. Yeah, we were going to bust windows up on Lehigh Avenue and take a big television. My Dad was going to shoot some people. Oh, snap, if he hadn't won we were going to set everything on fire. We weren't coming to school on Wednesday." Oh, if only teaching wasn't so full of life lessons and challenges that crop up at every goddamn minute. "Excuse me. I need your attention. I'm not going to sit here and listen to this. If your candidate loses then you feel sad and try again next time. Feeling sad is normal. Feeling sad isn't an excuse for burning down the Gallery and running off through the mayhem with a plasma screen and Air Jordans tucked under each arm." And so it goes. The teaching and reprogramming continues. Reprogramming. Just another job that I do as your friendly neighborhood rookie schoolteacher. Oh, and it's on me. I can work for free without a union to watch my back. Just remember my reprogramming might be the only thing saving your plasma screen. Isn't that important when my contract is up?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I'm in the doldrums.

Teaching the entire year is similar to playing the entire baseball season. It's long and tiring. I'm in one of the low patches in the year. I'll get out of it but it's just paperwork, paperwork, and more stupid paperwork combined with unruly kids, unavailable parents, incredulous administrators, and stupid sh*t that keeps me from doing what I was hired to do - teach.

This week at school we're doing all sorts of spirit stuff for school spirit week. It's like color wars at summer camp. We should be preparing for benchmark testing but instead we're wasting miles of colored paper to make hall decorations and floats. It should be fun and it isn't and I'll tell you why. Almost all of the time the kids wear uniforms and there's no fun, not even candy, allowed in the school. It's depressing. The kids are miserable. It's like jail without the drugs. Anyway, this spirit week comes and now we can wear different clothes, we don't do much schoolwork, we do art stuff, and the kids go f*$%ing bananas because they don't know what to do with themselves. Fun is sort of a foreign concept to them. They don't have fun like everyone else. I'm not trying to condescend, they don't know what it is. Fun isn't laughter and good times. Fun for a lot of the students is calling each other ugly, poking each other with scissors, and stomping on the floor like it's a step dance competition. Needless to say, the fun I'm having is mostly reigning in the kids and trying to keep people from getting into fistfights. This spirit week crap is going to be the death of me. I hope we never do this again. I know, I sound like an old bitter grandma but damn it, this stuff is tougher than teaching. I'm running out of energy.

Thanksgiving can't come soon enough. There's only about 20 teaching days left for the year. Not than I'm counting or anything. I've got to recharge. I've got to recharge.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Do I have to?

I've been off and it's been nice. I so don't want to go in tomorrow. One of my teachers on my team is out for the rest of the week because of personal business. That means her class may or may not have a sub. If there's no sub the kids will be split into my class and other classes. That will create complete chaos. My class will show off for the new kids introduced into mine. Her students will show off for everyone because they will. I'm dreading it. Do I have to go?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Yes we can! Thanks America!

Thanks America! Thank you for electing a man who can speak and think. An author. This man writes his own speeches. He writes books. Thank you for electing a man with a brain. He actually uses the brain in his head. Thank you for electing an African American. We finally did it. Everything is possible in the United States of America and this election proves it.

Yes we can and we did. I really am inspired. Now I have to go teach the meaning of that word to my class. Get out your vocabulary notebooks....

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

I voted early and often.

I've been voting all day and it seems to have paid off; at least in the tri-state area. I'm hoping an Obama win is in the cards. It's looking great at 9:41 pm but who knows? The last 8 years have been a shitstorm of dirty tricks from the trickiest bunch to ever occupy the White House. We'll see. Satan, I mean Karl Rove, said it was over hours ago and gave it to Obama. Let's hope he's right.

I'm going to drink myself into oblivion if Obama loses. I'm not going to be in any shape to teach if that happens, regardless. I won't be the only one in a horrible hungover state at school tomorrow if Obama loses.

Do I really want to go into my inner city neighborhood to teach if Obama loses? I might want to wear my WW2 army helmet. There might be some anger.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

World Serious

We finally won the world series. I couldn't be happier. I'd love to take off for the parade and maybe I will. Everyone will know where I am and that could pose problems with the principal. The kids will know, too. That will pose problems with discipline. I'm supposed to be the example. IT'S THE WORLD SERIES! Oh, well. We teachers have to uphold the virtues of responsibility and accountability.

I'm happy we won because it helps out a rather awful week. We're deep into the workload. My kids are way behind in everything and the administration wants us to fill out those graphs, spreadsheets, and reflections. Hours of time to do this. Almost all of those hours are unpaid and spent at home at night. We teachers have it easy, though.

My kids are horrible the past few days. They just keep talking and whining. It's getting old. It's hard to adjust to your new class each year. This class is not a lot of fun. They whine too much for me. I have little patience for whiners.

I have little patience for excuses and the people who make them. One of our administrators has changed this year. Last year he was all about accountability from the kids. "Kids need to do their work, maintain discipline, and get passing grades." That was last year. This year he is all about excuses. "These kids have lots of problems. Their home life sucks. Can't you give them another chance? Can't you give the student more time to complete his test? Can't you give a simpler quiz?" Everything is the teacher's fault and not the parent or child's. This excuse making is setting them up for failure. The world doesn't care that Joe has an IEP that says he can't write a paragraph. Making excuses doesn't do any favors. This administrator is changing everything in midstream. It's confusing everyone. No one knows the rules anymore.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Go Phils! Down with stupid paperwork and ridiculous meetings!

I'm so busy with grading, report cards, and stupid meetings. Our administration just wants to use up our available time. I have to be in the classroom teaching all day. Then I'm up all night for days in a row putting grades into the computer until my eyes cross and my head hits the keyboard. Every day this week my principal has meetings for me. Today I went to two. Everything needs to be done now. Let's look at benchmark results. Let's meet about last year's test results. Let's meet about strategies to integrate technology. Let's meet about strategies to improve metacognition. Let's meet about .... How about you let us teachers get our work done? I have about 15,000 little boxes to tick on the stupid computerized report card. I also have lessons to plan and write. I have a stack of papers to grade. I have detentions to supervise and write up. I have parents to call. I have a teacher I'm mentoring. I have lots to do. Let me do it!

Why do administrators forget what it's like to be a teacher when they become administrators? It's some law of human nature. It happens in all professions. Rare is the boss that remembers what it was like to be a grunt in the trenches. If only they would remember. The world would be so much more pleasant. So maybe paperwork would take a few extra days to complete? The world won't mind.

On another more pressing matter, GO PHILS! Cole Hamels pitched a gem tonight. If only we'd stop leaving people on base. We could have scored a hell of a lot more runs. Thank goodness 3 runs did it. Tomorrow I'm teaching in a Phillies cap and a strategically placed rally towel. So comfy. My principal is going to love it.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Rollin' Maverick-Style with Obama/Ayers.

I'm really tired of hearing about William Ayers. McCain was talking about it yet again in last night's debate. It's one of the few things he's got at this point. I first learned about William Ayers when I took my first education class at Drexel. My professor assigned the book To Teach by William Ayers. I read it, got some teaching insight, and moved on. A few years passed and I read a review of the book lambasting the author for his time with the Weathermen. I looked it up and low and behold the guy was in the Weathermen. Strange coincidence. I moved on again. More years have passed and now Obama is a terrorist sympathizer because he knows this guy. I guess I'm a terrorist sympathizer because I read his book and got a few teaching insights? Is Teachers College Press at Columbia fomenting terrorism? Drexel University? Professor Brown? I don't think so. Any thinking person wouldn't. Thank God thinking people are concerned about actual issues. The economy is in the tank. My paltry 403b plan is getting carpetbombed. McCain is down double digits. Watching that creep squirm as I watched the playback of last night's debate before work was just delicious.

Perhaps Obama was being a little too maverick for the maverick by hanging with Ayers? Am I? I still have this book. I haven't thrown it on the bonfire. I am so maverick.

Obama in Philly

Here are some photos of Obama I took last Saturday in Philly. I took the family up to Progress Plaza in North Philly to check him out. It was awesome. Lots and lots of nice people were there. I'm very hopeful for the future. I had a picture of William Ayers French kissing Obama but it didn't come out. Sorry. (Wouldn't a pic like that make McCain's Republican base explode? It would have lots of their favorite flavors of red meat: French stuff, homosexuality, terrorism, hippie residue, and a union teacher.)

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Cole Hamels for President/Shane Victorino for Vice President!

Go Phils! National League Champions! Kiss it, McCarver! This beer-soaked Rookie Schoolteacher is blogging live on the street at Broad and Pattison with thousands of others. It's been a long time coming! Too bad there's school tomorrow. Perhaps a day off when we take the World Series?

Monday, October 13, 2008


I hate Tim McCarver, Randy Newman, and Manny Ramirez like poison. I'm watching the game and correcting papers at the same time and just thought you ought to know. I'm going to throw a beer bottle through the TV if they play that damn "I love LA" song again. Could Fox have given us a worse pair of announcers than Joe Buck and McCarver? They never have anything good to say about the Phils. I still haven't forgiven McCarver for his lack of respect for the '93 team during their playoff games. Shut up, McCarver! Stop playing Randy Newman, Fox!

Friday, October 03, 2008

Notes from the right side of my mind.

I was referencing the ALA website list of 100 frequently banned books 1990-2000 and a few other related pages on their website when I wrote the last post. I should have included it last night but left it out. Forgive me, I was drunk... drunk on Phillies 2 in a row over the Brewcrew Baby!!!!!! Also I wrote as I was yelling at the TV during the Vice Presidential debate. That Palin sets my teeth on edge. Sorry.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Happy Banned Books Week

Happy Banned Books Week to you and yours. I love reading and love reading those banned books. My classroom is stocked with quite a few - Harry Potter, Captain Underpants, Judy Blume, The Giver, How to Eat Fried Worms, Ulysses. I'm kidding about the Ulysses. Their brains would explode on James Joyce. I had a good discussion with my kids about banned books. They got it. "I would punch them in the face if they took my books!" It warmed my heart to see them run to Harriet the Spy when they found out it was a banned book.

What's your favorite banned book? Mine is The Autobiography of Malcolm X. It's very hard to choose. So many wonderful books have been banned. Feel free to write in with your fave banned books.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008


My kids were just horrible today. I'm not sure why. Lots of whining, talking, blaming, tattling, and laziness. I'm not sure why I haven't gone to bed. I'm exhausted.

I give a math test and a science test tomorrow. I'm thinking there's going to be a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth. Perhaps they'll pay attention when they get their grade and it sucks?
We'll see.

Sometimes you just wonder what it's all for.
(Clip art licensed from the Clip Art Gallery on DiscoverySchool.com)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Happy they are gone.

I'm unwinding from my day. I'm sitting in my classroom with the door open and listening to the school empty out. I can't believe how noisy it is. My kids were really talkative this afternoon. Some days are like this. You get your class back from lunch and they're a different bunch than you started with. I trace today's behaviors in the afternoon to the way my students were treated at lunch. They were yelled out by the lunch monitors and the lunch servers for the entire 45-minute period. They didn't go out to recess. They were made to sit longer and listen to more yelling when the period was over because of their behavior. They ate in silence. They weren't allowed to get up and move around. Some of this they earned because of bad choices. A few students were pushing others. A few were talking too loudly and wouldn't stop. That's pretty normal for lunch. Did it require a teacher yelling at them through a bullhorn for 45 minutes?

We talk a lot about discipline and breaking cycles of despair and defeat. We talk a lot about using new methods and restorative discipline. After all this talk, many people in my school just go back to doing the same old thing. Yelling at kids with a bullhorn is the wrong thing to do and results in my class becoming nutty for the rest of the the day. I have a super headache from them because they wouldn't stop talking. Sheesh.

Happy Rosh Hashanah to all of my Jewish friends and family.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Fail to plan, Plan to fail.

I'm concerned about the economy. This $700 million bailout frightens me, too. Think about how many screw ups the Bush Administration has gotten us into by telling us we have to act right now. Think about how many people have been maimed, imprisoned, or killed and think about how much money has been squandered. Every time Bush or an interchangeable Bush crony has said we have to act now. No time for debate or contract bids. No time for a plan. Is this what they teach at Harvard Business School?

This rookie schoolteacher gives this new plan and this administration an F. Teacher comments - Fail to plan. Plan to fail.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Isn't it ironic?

I'm always on my students to have their independent reading book with them and ready for action. Guess who forgot his independent reading book at school? I hate when I do that.

I don't have much time to read it anyway because of all the paperwork I have to do. I had a parent/student conference today and writing up my notes from that adds more paperwork to my day. If this boy would simply take his meds my life would be so easy. Before becoming a teacher and a parent, I thought medicating kids was a cruel joke and a crutch. Teaching for all this time has disabused me of that position. This boy Stanley is a case in point. Without his meds he's a holy terror. He's manic. He can't control himself physically and emotionally. With the medicine he's a calm, smart, sweet kid. He's trapped in his own body without meds. I can see the real Stanley peeking out as he's rolling on the floor without meds. So sad. Mom, if you're reading GIVE STANLEY HIS MEDS so he can learn in room 312 tomorrow!

My mountain of work awaits.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Diminishing returns

It's on. I'm overwhelmed with paperwork. The school is under the gun with making AYP and I don't see how we're going to do it. Our state test scores continue to drop instead of rise. This is the law of diminishing returns that I warned would be the result of NCLB. Anyway, raising our test scores is our mantra and I'm going to do it one ream of paper into the copier and then into the file cabinet at a time.

My new crop of kids aren't going to be setting the state tests on fire, unless they use a lighter. I will do everything once again to help them succeed. I hope it is enough. Everything is still the same, however. The kids are the same sullen mess. The parents have high hopes but have already disappeared after the first flurry of detention slips. I'm not sure how I'm going to do it. It's looking bleak as I grade the first math test of the year. Almost everyone bombed it - except for the kid who's repeating the grade.

On a brighter note, I'm mentoring a new teacher. I'm sure that I'll be better than my mentor. I don't ride a broom to work (rim shot).

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Thoughts at the beginning.

School has begun and let's catch up. I've gotten to know my class and I like them. I don't love them yet. I still pine for some of last year's bunch. It's that way at the beginning. I'll be loving this bunch about Thanksgiving time.

I've given out about 5 detentions so far. Detentions for stupid crap like fighting, talking too much, and not doing homework. Not bad. My other teachers are having varying degrees of success. Many are writing dozens of detentions, yelling, etc. Been there. Done that. Done with that.

I find it really funny how the new kids take the roles of the kids you had before. The teachers do it too. Last year there was a sullen kid that gave me attitude about everything. Everything was too much for him. Well, he's still in my room inhabiting another body. I have another kid who is the talkative one with the enabling mother. Another who believes all white people are racists and that's why she keeps getting Ds in math. Hmm....

The teachers do the same thing. I had two teachers leave my crew. Their replacements are almost the same. One is very concerned about leaving at 3 with the kids. She's not staying one minute longer and she's not doing any work off the clock. (Exactly like her predecessor.) The other is brand new and is struggling to stay afloat in her classroom. (Exactly like her predecessor.) It makes me smile. I smell a doctoral thesis topic.

I've been reading student journals tonight. Oh my God do I have a lot of teaching to do! These kids can't spell, punctuate, capitalize, or write coherent paragraphs. I'm not sure what their previous teachers did. It's unbelievable. Some of the writing touched my heart, though, because their heart shows through the penmanship and spelling. The boy who wrote about going to the corner store and coming back home to his family involved in a confused drunken argument. The girl who wrote with such skill about the sadness of an aunt's involvement in 9/11. I've got a lot of teaching to do with my new bunch. We'll get there.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Obama, take me away!

I'm watching the Republican Convention and I just can't believe how wacko they are. Holy crap! I'm getting scared. Obama has to win. The more I watch, the more nauseated I get. Each speaker is more delusional than the last. Obama! Win Obama! Please win. I can't take 4 years of Track, Willow, etc.

School is on. Got to get my sleep so I'm ready.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The waiting is the hardest part.

My classroom is becoming more like a home. I'm in a new place this year. I'm up for teaching. I feel rejuvenated. The kids will be here soon and, frankly, I can't wait.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Flush twice; it's a long way to the cafeteria.

School starts soon and I'm in meetings all day long. I really want to be in my classroom getting it ready. Instead, I'm sitting in meetings about how to sign in properly in the morning, how to log in on the school computer properly, and how to sign out and account for your curriculum and textbooks. I don't give a flying fig about any of this. I just want to hang up my posters and put away my teaching gear. Tomorrow we have important meetings scheduled about good stuff like how to put the id tag lanyard around your neck. I can't wait.

I'm calm about the whole thing, though. I know everything will be ready in time. If not, the kids won't know anyway. We don't use much school stuff during the first week. The first days of school are all about building the team. I'll be in front of my students soon and it will be great. My end of summer angst has faded. I'm looking forward to meeting my new kids. I'm excited to be teaching again.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Trying not to dwell on the upcoming year.

I'm sad because my summer is winding down. Soon, the meetings will begin in preparation for the school year to come. I love these summer days. It's wonderful to eat, drink, pee, and work on my schedule.

Here's to a few more days of peace.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

My Friend

Why do administrators set us up to fail? I ask this question because my friend is losing her teaching job. She is a Spanish teacher and works in a charter school. She signed her contract and went on summer vacation secure in the idea she'd be working in the Fall. On the last day of June she got call from the principal. "Sorry, Ms. Clemente, we're going to be moving in a different direction with Spanish. It's not you, it's the school. We need the Spanish to be more of the heart and soul of our program and we just weren't feeling your commitment." My friend said, "What?" That was it. She'd had glowing observations for all of her work. No problems or letters in her file. How can you fight "we weren't feeling your commitment?"

She had worked so hard on getting her students to learn. She'd done programs showcasing the Spanish for parent nights and the end of the year celebrations. She'd done much of it on her own because only the vaguest of guidelines were given by the administration. (#1 way administrators set us up.) Not one of the administrators came to any of the programs but the programs were a way of judging her "commitment." (#2 set up) She was given practically no materials (textbooks, paper, supplies) yet was expected to teach 400 kids from a mobile Spanish cart. (#3 set up)

I feel so sad for my friend. She made her own materials, set up programs, did everything without any help, taught 400 students mostly out of her own ingenuity and pocket. Now she's done. She wasn't "committed." They should commit some of these insane principals.

All teachers feel this sense of being set up from time to time and have seen it happen to others. Administrators pick people to ruin and everyone knows it. We watch as it happens. The blood is in the water from day one and no one steps in to help the person. We know they're a goner. I've had it happen to me and seen it happen. Neither way is good. One way you're death on a stick and the other way you're a coward. At least with the union you have someone to back you up. My charter school friend has nothing. She will collect unemployment but that's it. Another one bites the dust as an administrator laughs. This is a tough profession. Definitely not for the weak.

By the way, Charter schools are just a way to break unions and suck public money into private hands. That's all they are. Don't be fooled. Smart business people saw money they wanted and couldn't get. They manipulated the system until they got it. The teachers and students are just a cover to hide their money grab. Someday soon this won't be just Rookie Schoolteacher blogging, this will be on the cover of the NY Times. Follow the money.

Friday, June 27, 2008

A Response

ekmatth said...
Hello there, I am a pre-service teacher reading blogs for a class and your blog caught my attention. I have wanted to teach in an inner city school for some time, but reading your blogs make me think hard about it. Your last comment really struck me though. "There's so much they don't know. I wish I could have done a better job for them. Pouring my guts out every day wasn't enough." Doesn't that make you want to keep trying for the one chance that you might help someone? I never saw if you decided to stay or not at the school...what's the verdict?

Hello there pre-service teacher,

I don't want to discourage you from teaching in the inner city. Please come give us a hand. I write my blog to vent frustrations, give voice to the voiceless, make political commentary, fuss and fume, scream out to the gods, laugh at the system and myself, and occasionally to cry. I teach where I teach because I want to make a difference. I want to reach kids and help them succeed. This is not easy by any stretch of the imagination. Like a good magic trick, good teaching looks like something easy to do. Once you get to do it, you find it is the hardest thing to do properly. It is a constant learning process. My blog is sometimes misunderstood. My irreverence or profanity is sometimes taken for a lack of care or cynicism.

To answer your question, I am staying in my school. This was my most successful year yet. It is a slow process in the inner city, at least from my perspective, and there were lots of kids that found success in my classroom. My best year to date contained joys and sadness. Being a teacher in any school system or location gives you a mixture of all the emotions. My location gives me a lot to gripe about because it is so bleak. Last week there was a pre-service teacher murdered in Philly. He came to teach math and ended up being killed for his iPod. There was a student shot as the Strawberry Mansion High School graduation ceremonies were ending. (What is up with that?) There were two people murdered at a Chinese "store" just a block from my school last Wednesday night. I stop at this intersection almost every day because of the traffic light. I see and hear a lot in the inner city. I deal with the deficits in every area. My kids come to me behind in almost every way. I help them move up but where do they move to? It's a process. I don't have any solutions. I just try. Every day is a new day to try again. I do my best. Lots of the time I'm exhausted. Some of the exhaustion comes from normal teacher stuff. Some comes from all the extra stuff that comes with teaching inside the bottom of the barrel. My suburban colleagues don't have to fight all the battles I fight.

Hopefully, you will join me to fight the battles, too. It's going to be tough. The kids are going to give you a hell of a lot of sh$t. The parents will, too. The school will be insane. Like nothing you have ever seen before. The administrators will not have time to care. You will be lonely. You will be brave. You will cry. You will work your tail off. You will survive. Good luck. Check in to let me know how you are doing. I sure hope I haven't discouraged you.

The Teacher

Sunday, June 22, 2008

It's over!

I was watching The Love Bug the other day (the original, not the Lohan version) and a line or two sums up what some of the year was like for us all:

"I'm a prisoner, can you help me?"

"We all prisoners, Chicky Baby. We all locked in."

From the mouths of Hippies.


Check me out! I'm done, baby! The kids are gone! Hallelujah! The kids are gone! Can I get a witness?! Amen, brothers and sisters! Amen!

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Squelch it!

It's so close to being done. This is kind of a summary of how I feel today. The solo at 2:01 is an accurate view into my psyche.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

We're Having a Heat Wave!

Thank God for heat waves! This is the second day in a row of record heat and half day closings. We ought to stay on the half day schedule from here on out. The kids are getting worse. The staff is losing patience. It's all over anyway. Any administrators reading? Please let us out! Please let us pack up our boxes, take down our posters, and turn out the lights.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

If that diamond ring don't shine, Bo gonna take it to a Private Eye!

Bo Diddley died the other day and I'm sad. He was the best guitar player I think I've ever seen (Club Bene', Sayreville, NJ, 1987). Effortless. I just learned the song "Love is Strange" usually connected to Mickey and Sylvia was written by Bo. You learn new stuff every day. Listen to WMFU right now. It's all Bo tonight. Let's remember the master.

Some things...

Some things I've been thinking about. This timely message came from my union, the fantastic AFT:

Last night, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 3021, the 21st Century Green High-Performing Public School Facilities Act, by a vote of 250-164. Despite the issuance of a veto threat by President Bush, 27 members of his own party voted for the bill.

This is a tremendous victory for public schools, educators and children. The legislation authorizes $6.4 billion annually to help states and school districts address school conditions that compromise learning and teaching. The bill also creates more than 100,000 well-paying construction jobs and supports AFT efforts to promote green, sustainable schools.
This is important stuff because we need more school renovations, repairs, and new construction. Have you seen some of the conditions in the city schools? There are some scary school buildings.
I was teaching today and one of my students says to another student, "You think you're tough? My Mom is tough. She's been in jail at least 15 times for fighting. She'll mess you up and not even care!" So I'm listening to this. This Mom was here in the room this morning delivering her daughter's backpack. We've talked numerous times. She's a nice lady. It doesn't matter but it makes you think. I'm happy I'm on the woman's good side. How many places do you work where you are surrounded by people that have been incarcerated? Just a glimpse into my life for you, gentle reader.
The kids are getting nuttier by the minute. I wrote my share of referrals for detention today. All the teachers did. I notice as I wander the building how even the most patient and mild mannered of us have changed. Everyone has some steel in their voice. No one has any patience left. Thank goodness the year is almost done. Everyone is spent. The sad part is although I'm spent, the students are not ready for the next grade. There's so much they don't know. I wish I could have done a better job for them. Pouring my guts out every day wasn't enough.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

June 1st!

It's June 1st! Not long to go. I was reading the NY Times this morning and an essay by Joe Queenan resonated with me. He talks about how his reading of giant books has impacted his life. The household jobs pile up around Joe as he reads The Man Without Qualities by Robert Musil. I can identify. My tiny lawn needs cutting, the gutters need clearing, laundry needs doing, and all sorts of other things need to be done, but I have end of the year papers to grade, reports to file, files to stuff, boxes to pack, and all sorts of things to get done at school. The home life suffers a bit longer as this end of the year stuff is sorted. Plus, I'd rather be reading an engrossing book and not doing any of it. The end is neigh!

On another front, I was driving in on Thursday morning and heard a wonderful song on WKDU. "Amerika First" by the Gizmos. If you happen to be driving through the Philly area or happen to be driving the Internet on Thursdays check out Scott's show, Music for Your Methlab. He plays the best stuff. I tune in to get in the mood for teaching or whatever I'm doing on a Thursday.

Thursday, May 29, 2008


I was watching South Park last night and in the episode Cartman becomes a teacher and is sent to the inner city to teach at-risk children. (The reasons are too bizarre to get into.) He changes his appearance and looks like Jaime Escalante in Stand and Deliver. This episode was funny as hell but was surprisingly accurate in its view of the inner city classroom. I have been in places like the graffiti-tagged school he ends up in. The students he teaches were a lot like my first 7th-grade class. Also Kyle's warning to Cartman was so true: "Dude, you're a white boy giving orders... they're going to f&*$ing kill you." Throughout, Cartman turns to the audience and says "How do I reach these kids?" Something I say a million times, although without the Spanish accent Cartman was using. (Also Cartman tells them to cheat because that's what White people do. I can't get behind that sort of thing.) Anyhow, it was a wonderful way to laugh myself into bed. I've never quoted from South Park before. Cartman was so cute as a tiny Mr. Escalante.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Yes! Good times are coming.

It was really a tough day at school. The kids weren't very happy to be back and neither was I. Here's some advice to the students reading my blog. If you don't want to be at school keep your head down and keep a low profile. Getting in my face and calling me a mother%$*#ing racist is not a good way to go because I'm going to have you suspended. Just some advice.

The end of the year can't come fast enough for me or my wonderful scholars. Soon we'll all be relaxing on my deck with Cubans and snifters of brandy. Reflecting on the good times. Reflecting on the anger management yo yo team that came to school today with their message of "positivity" in the face of crack, AIDS, neglect, and grinding poverty. "Be positive people and spread positivity everywhere! You can do it! Now watch me walk the dog!" You can't eat a yo yo for a balanced breakfast and a yo yo sure doesn't listen to you gripe about your day or draw you a warm bath. Sorry to be so unpositive.

Saturday, May 24, 2008


The weekend is sweet. Monday is a day off. What a relief that the weekend is here. Raise your glass of limeade or handful of cheese doodles high with me! Happy Memorial Day Weekend to one and all and to all a good night! Now snuggle up with visions of sugarplums dancing in your head.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Coffee at the Faculty Lounge

I'm enjoying a coffee at the Rookie Schoolteacher Faculty Lounge. Decompressing a bit after my day. Mmm. Each sip is taking me deeper into caffeinated bliss. Memories of angry children are sloughing off. A friend of mine told me about her brother who works in the inner city schools. He liked teaching to a daily enema. I'm thinking more colonoscopy/dmv license renewal after today.

But it is better. I'm calling parents. Right now. Telephones are slick with tears. Respect must be paid.

Get me the Hell out of here! I mean now, damn it!

This is just a day from Hell. So bad that I needed to stop in the middle and write about it. I can't take the talking back. I'm sick of it. I'm tired of being called a racist because I tell students to stop talking during my lessons. I'm tired of this whole f$%#ing inner city mentality of I'm going to fight you every step of the way for everything. I'm done with it. I'm done. There's about an hour and a half left. I'll make it but I want to scream. I'm not working in a school today. It's a correctional facility. No learning is taking place. It's just a maelstrom of anger, hormones, and feces. Ugh.

(Yes, for the regular readers, someone is pooping in the halls again. Much love.)

Perhaps I'm not so sad about possibly leaving this?

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Here's hoping!

Well, thanks to those who've wished me well on my contract renewal. It means a lot. I'm now left with about 15 days to go. These 15 days will be the hardest of the year. The kids have thrown in the towel. The head cases are now officially off their rockers. It's grand, just grand.

I'm conflicted. I've been sending out resumes to many schools in hopes of moving to a safer, saner, and (hopefully) suburban school. I've done 4 years in the inner city. If things don't work out it will be 5 years. I feel hopeful that a new district will pick me up. I am a man with a masters degree. I have experience. I'm not burnt out. I have "mad skills" according to some of my students. The conflict is over the joy and hope that I feel. I don't want to turn my back on the kids and the horrible neighborhoods they inhabit. Still, I need to get out of here for my own health and sanity. I'm sad about this.

I don't want to leave any of the wonderful kids behind. I don't want to leave my friends behind. I teach with some cool people. Starting over will be hard.

There will be wonderful perks to moving to a better district though. I'll be able to walk through the halls without watching my back. I'll probably not be ripped off as much. I probably won't have my cellphone or car keys stolen. (I've never written about this pre-blog event. My keys were stolen my first semester of teaching. What a f$#king problem that was! I never found out who stole them but that was probably a good thing because I would have gone to jail and lost my license to teach if I had. The gloves would have been off. I'll have to tell that story from the past some day.) I might have history textbooks and a proper school library complete with librarian. I might have a science lab with science materials and a dedicated science teacher. My students might have access to musical instruments, sports, and extracurricular activities. It would be wonderful!

I don't want to get my hopes up; but I've got my hopes up.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Contract in hand at the microphone stand!

I have been offered a new contract! Oh happy day! I guess this time around my teaching was up to snuff. Also, I didn't run afoul of my principal. This year I kept my friggin' mouth shut and everything worked out just fine.

Last year's teaching was just as good as this year's. My principal from last year was just a strutting peacock inflated with the hot breath from the people kissing his big ass. Whatever I said gave him the impression (correctly!) that I saw right through him. I did too. I had his number from go. This dude is pretty well known. When you see him you'll look through him like window glass, too, if you are smart. You are smart or you wouldn't be reading my fabulous blog. Hopefully, you didn't pay him to speak at your conference.

There are quite a few charlatans in our business. They are the ones that make sure you know they have a doctorate or masters degree. They are the ones that strut around and politic and glad hand. When the going gets tough they say inspiring things like "teach math before lunch" and "be sure and sign in on time, you were late yesterday." They take home really big paychecks for nuggets of wisdom like this. Here's another - "You can get information about Gettysburg from the Internet." Thanks. My old principal told me that one day as we were gathering materials for a big project. This guy makes almost 6 figures. 6 friggin' figures! The toaster in the break room has more smarts and it can heat up frozen pizza!!

But I, hopefully, will never see him again. What am I going to do this summer? Should I work?

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Philly Schools are Dangerous! Who Knew?

I walked out the door and picked up the Philadelphia Inquirer and the top story is "Report: City schools unsafe, unjust." Hmm... seems familiar. There's a 70-page report detailing the problems with discipline and safety in Philly schools. Students aren't being expelled because of weapons violations. Students are being sent to alternative settings but it is a very small percentage of the worst offenders. Most discipline problems with children result in nothing and the students are returned to the classroom. To quote,"Philadelphia public schools are unsafe places where students who commit violent crimes are rarely punished and rehabilitated and with a discipline system that is 'dysfunctional and unjust,' according to a report by the district's safe schools advocate."

I've been writing about this stuff for years because I've been living it. It's depressing to be a teacher striving to make a difference in a place like this. Last year about this time the Inquirer was running stories about teachers that were attacked,etc. (I was interviewed but my story never appeared.) It seemed like things might be changing because one of us got his neck broken. Literally. But summer came and that was the end of it. On to writing about the next important thing - Amy Winehouse's funky, heroin-soaked beehive.

It's bad in the inner-city school. I've had students pretend to shoot me with their finger. They then say "You wait until next time." It chills you. Guns are as prevalent as Xbox in the inner city. You write it up and the disciplinarian laughs at you and shrugs. You forget about it. You remember the next day when you see the same kid. You wonder. Maybe your number is up? You think about what an f*&ked up situation is all is. You've come as a professional to provide an education that will help someone. Instead it doesn't matter. You wonder if you car will still have its tires when you leave at the end of the day. Will that kid be waiting in the spare tire compartment? Will you make it home to your own family? Then you think about the student loans that you repay every month. In reality you are paying cash money for this abuse. Down is up. Up is down.

Oh, sorry, I've been digressing. The Inquirer story is a great one. It illustrates yet again what a ridiculous system we have. Will it change anything? Who knows? I'm guessing it won't. There are new ideas out there that might make a difference in school climate. Will Okun's blog was recommended to me by my old friend JJ. He suggests in one of his posts that we pay the kids to come to school. Smart thinking from a Chicago teacher. Maybe he's on to something. My students have no interest in school. They might if we slid some cash their way. I'll pay them to try to learn. A little cash might prevent me from getting shanked on the playground. Either way it's a win/win solution.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Standardized mania

My kids have been taking standardized tests this week. My kids are either the sneakiest or the dumbest kids I have ever taught. We've had at least 4 incidents a day. Kids who've gone back to work on previous portions they weren't able to finish. Kids who've pulled out textbooks to consult during sections they don't understand. Kids who are writing essays in the wrong section of the book. Kids who have answered everything in the test book instead of on the answer sheet.
I have one student whose test is completely voided because he's a dumbass. I've never had a class like this.

My kids cannot follow the simplest directions. Following directions to the letter is an impossible task for them. It's amazing. Part of it is what they see around them. Hardly anyone follows directions in their homes and neighborhoods. It's very sad. What's going to become of these kids?

The testing is driving them bananas. They cannot deal with being quiet or sitting still for any time at all.

I'm strapped in for the ride to the end. I'm on the glide path. This is a good thing. If one more kid yells at me... What should I do? Maybe some sadistic torture. Read War and Peace over the weekend! Write a book report!

Monday, May 05, 2008

Teacher Appreciation Week

It's National Teacher Appreciation Week. Thank a teacher. Send them some flowers. Bring them some candy. Send them a substitute.

Teachers get the shaft, in my humble opinion.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008


My friend Darcy wrote about the Dead Milkmen and it brought this video to mind. Thanks YouTube. A nice time capsule of things that don't exist anymore in Philly, including the Dead Milkmen. Here's a link to Gnarls Barkley. My students don't know who they are. "Gnarls Barkley? Who that?"

Monday, April 21, 2008

Groove back?

It's been all out of control at Rookie schoolteacher central. The warm air has turned my students from surly punks to almost uncontrollable surly punks. At least some of them. I'm adrift in a sea of detention slips and suspension notices. It's so unnecessary. The kids that I teach are so ridiculously unsocialized. The heating of the Earth that makes Spring a flowerfilled adventure turns my children into frenzied bolts of hormone-fried lightning. They can't sit still, they can't stop moving, they can't stop talking, they can't stop fighting, and they don't feel like learning. Spring is so nice.

How do I deal with this, you might ask? Well, not very well so far these couple of weeks. Spring may have excited my little ones but it has yet to wake me from my winter lethargy. I have no energy to grade or discipline or anything else. I would like to watch a movie or something.

Still, the year is on its way to being over. It's almost May. Soon the kids will be moving on and summer will be in full effect.

I hope I get my groove back. Teaching is like the long baseball season. You get in the doldrums sometimes and it takes a while to get your swing back. Perhaps the new Gnarls Barkley record will help. I bought it yesterday and it is so very good.

Yes, I am a Gnarls Barkley aficionado. Aficionado was one of our vocabulary words today. I love those guys! If they didn't say the f word in one of the songs I might bring it in and play it for the kids. I should bring some of the clean stuff in. Maybe some Dead Milkmen too. Perhaps some Motorhead. "Ace of Spades" would be wonderful. "And don't forget the joker."

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Just 6 more years to proficiency!

I've been doing this blog since April 2005. It's April 2008. What a long strange trip it's been and yet I still feel like a Rookie Schoolteacher at this. Much wiser teachers than me have said it takes 10 years to really get this job down. I would agree. Here's to another 6 years of working to basic proficiency level.

I'm patting myself on the back.

Monday, April 07, 2008


So I'm walking out of the building and step into the stairwell with my class. Something squishy is under my heel. I look down and wonder of wonders, I'm stepping in human sh$t! Fu#%ing excellent! What a way to finish off a horrible Monday with my wonderful students. It's been a fun day of "I have a headache! I have to see the nurse! I have a stomachache! I have to see the nurse! I have a fingerache! I have to see the nurse! I have to blow my nose. I need to use the bathroom! I have to go to the bathroom! I have to go to the office to call my house I didn't tell my mom I have flugelhorn practice!" Everything at "I have to!" No. Actually, you don't have to do anything. And stop blowing your nose in your hand and wiping it all over your face. You're a big boy now.

Who is taking a dump in the goddamn stairwell? WTF? More likely someone is moving the poop from somewhere and dumping it in the stairwell. Again, WTF?

Maybe the stairwell dumper has a blog? I'll google it. Disgruntled teachers have blogs. Disgusting stairwell poopers probably have them too. Probably like this...

I was at school today and I got that urge. The urge to heh, heh, heh you know... That's right. I popped one out on the third floor landing. LOL! I was almost caught though. Why do people have to use the stairs for walking. WTF? I mean what do people even have to have feet for? Why walk on beautiful stairs with your cruddy feet? All you need is a set of well washed stairs and an excretory system.

I can only imagine the blogs. We teachers have it easy though. What's a little poop. I get the summers off, what am I complaining about?

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

April Fools

Ah, it's been such a great April so far and we're only on day 2. Many students are ready to finish out the end of the year strong. They are focused. Major tests will happen soon and they will do fine. These students are in the minority in my class and school. I have quite a few students that are completely "off the chain" since returning from Spring break.

Some recent moments have included a student threatening to beat me up because I made the mistake of asking him for his homework papers. A student screaming at me at the top of his lungs because I asked him to get out his Science book and stop talking. The same student throwing his desk and books on the floor and then storming out of the classroom. Of course he slammed the door as hard as he could. (The company that makes the safety glass with the wire inside sure makes it strong. That classroom window never cracked.) Lots of rolling of the eyes. Lots of not listening to anything. Lots of huffing and puffing. Lots of tears. Lots of anger.

It's frustrating.

The other day I stopped my science lesson and said "Thank you to those who are listening and taking part. The rest of you... how can I interest you? I mean this is our planet we're learning about. We only live here. I'm not teaching you about something that doesn't matter. How can I interest you...?" It makes me sad and mad, too. My students have so much against them. Many will succumb to the madness that surrounds us in the inner city. Less than 50% of Philadelphia public school kids will graduate from high school. This is very sad but many of these students sink themselves. Perhaps they will get it on their own with a GED in the future?

It's frustrating.

On a lighter note, I intercepted this love note the other day.

Is he very very very cute if he go out with he



What kind of response will this girl get? "If he go out with he?" Is she interested in a boy that likes boys? "If he go out with she?" He is going out with another girl? "Is he very very very cute if he go out with he?" He's really cute when he goes out with boys on a date? Kinky.

It makes me laugh but in a bittersweet kind of way when I read these love notes. They make no sense as letters. What have they done with all the letter writing practice we've done? How are they ever to fall in love if their letters can't be understood? There's always lots of fighting along with the courtship in the schools. Perhaps it's all due to written misunderstandings? Or maybe he is very cute when he dates a boy?

I got an advanced degree for this. Yeah!

Not one kid had any interest in April Fools Day. What's up with that?

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

The belly of the beast

I'm blogging from inside the belly of the beast. I'm in the cushy teacher's lounge. Of course I'm getting my nails manicured, checking my stock portfolio, and declining another serving of cracked crab.

Seriously, I'm feeling yucky today. I think a cold is moving into my system in time for the Easter holidays. Hopefully, some Nyquil substitute from Walgreens will fix me.

There's a lot of stuff out there now, as always, about how the teacher's unions are responsible for the situation in our schools. I need to put some links to this stuff because it is all a bunch of lies foisted by evil lobbyists. Maybe these smear campaigns are laying my immune system low.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Teaching reality check

One of my students had a close relative killed. I'm very bummed. All of my students navigate a world that my white graduate school ass could never navigate. I have to be tough to exist in my school but I almost cried in class when I got this news. I've been bummed since.

My afternoon consisted of talking to counselors, taking a trip to the drug store for a sympathy card, calling parents to express my sadness, and taking a trip to the record store for a pick me up CD.

I'm listening to some very loud punk rock and having a beer. I'm going to watch some funny stuff on the tube.

I'm going to give my kids a lot of time to process this stuff. Reality bites.


Idiots keep talking about how Obama is a Muslim sleeper agent. Why couldn't McCain be a North Vietnamese secret agent? Hmm. He was a prisoner for a long time. He kind of looks like Uncle Ho, too. Just a thought. A few months into the presidency and Donald Pleasance calls McCain and says "The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep. Remember Comrade, miles to go before I sleep." Then some real crazy stuff happens before Charles Bronson shows up to fix everything. Just a thought.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

English spoken here. Not!

I'm not sure why my students have such a hard time with the English language. We can't do verb tenses. We drop endings off verbs. We change the logical order. This is both in written and spoken English. They do it, their parents do it, and teachers from the same groups do it. My students are native English speakers and so are their parents. What is going on here? Why do my students from all minority groups have such trouble with their native tongue?

I've just got done grading a bunch of written projects. Can you tell? Why am I surprised that students in the inner city can't speak properly? People in my own family can't speak proper English either. Oh well. It's just frustrating to read my students' work and I really can't read a lot of it. It doesn't make sense. I go over proper grammar all the goddamn time. What the f#%&#?

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Pretty good for government work.

I've been having a nice few days at school. My kids have been pretty good. We might actually score 200 points for the week. If we can reach 200 the students will get a movie next Friday as a reward. I hope that we can do it. I've had this prize out there since December and we have yet to get it.

My students make their own problems. They have it good in my room. We shut the door on the rest of the nutty school and do our thing. I enjoy laughter in my classroom. I enjoy a game here and there. I like to make the learning fun. It can be so good to be in the room when things are cool. It's very irritating when the kids come at things the wrong way and make bad decisions. They have it pretty good in my school. I've taught in places where I probably should have been packing a bazooka. This school isn't that bad. The facilities are good. The teachers actually care. I guess it's human nature to want to screw things up. Maybe those kids will get it years from now when they remember the times they spent with the Rookie Schoolteacher?

Teachers like order. Teachers love people who want to learn. Teachers love kids.

I am a teacher.

Let's hope we get our 200. I want to watch a movie. I want to eat snacks. What should it be? Perhaps one of my favorites, The Blues Brothers? Perhaps when I want to get a new career?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Up to my neck in paperwork

Today was a horrible day. What's with the kids lately? No one wants to do anything. Everyone wants to fight. The whole school is like this.

On days like this I wish one of the many morons who like to kick teachers could teach science to my kids.

I'll smile as they eat you alive.

I need a smile but will settle for a beer.

My headache is raging and it's been hours since I was locked inside my roasting hot classroom.

I want to do something else. I want to go watch tv and relax. Instead, I'm up to my neck in paperwork and grades and report cards.

Tomorrow three of my worst kids are getting suspended. It will be like Christmas, Woodstock, and a trip to the liquor store all rolled into one.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Black History Month

I've been teaching all day and it's been frustrating. We're in the midst of Black History Month or African-American History Month or whatever you want to call it. My kids are learning about famous African Americans from all walks of life and time periods. My frustration is you'd think the kids might be respectful since we're learning about people who are like them. People who have similar backgrounds. People who look and feel like them. You'd think this would make a difference. It doesn't. I might as well be teaching about ancient Roman cisterns or slime molds or the devaluation of the Rupee. They don't give a damn about anything I have to say.

Who cares about Rosa Parks, George Washington Carver, Malcolm X, or Marcus Garvey? Obviously, none of this stuff is important to anyone but the Rookie Schoolteacher himself. "Mr.? We got to know this?"
"This stuff is whack! I know this stuff. I learned it already."
"Yes, we need to learn and know this stuff."
"Ahhhh man.... I ain't learning this...."
"Why can't we learn about Michael Jordan?"
"He's on the list."
"Ahhhh... I don't... I ain't...I...."
"I ain't doing any of this sh&%!"

And so it goes. It gets to me how everything is so negative in the environment where I teach. Seemingly, no one wants to know a goddamn thing. No one cares about anything. I'm a spaceman come to impart knowledge but no one heeds it. At the end of the day I blast off in my spaceship and go back to my home planet. The metaphor is me. I really am a friggin' spaceman. I live on what is effectively another planet.

These kids don't even give a crap about Barack Obama. How sad is that? How do I reach them?

I'm really hoping Barack wins, by the way. I love the guy and he will finish once and for all one of the gripes my students love to throw at me and all teachers - "No one is going to elect a black president." I can see it now. Barack takes the oath. A silly student says "They ain't going to let a black man do anything so I don't have to do this sh$% either!" "What are you talking about. We have a black president. Get out your pencil and notebook and GET TO WORK!!!!!!!!!!!"

I really love Black History Month. You know The Autobiography of Malcolm X is my favorite book? I love history. Ask my wife. When she leaves the room I switch to the History Channel. It bugs me that the kids take no joy in it. What do they take joy in?

I really have to get out of the inner city, someday.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Low reserves

This past week was tough. I'm not sure what's been eating me but my reservoir of patience is running low. I'll admit that some of my week's difficulties came from my lack of patience. The climate of the school is changing too. I notice less and less energy from my students. The energy has been replaced with smoldering anger. My students and the students in the general population from K-8 are beginning to go. We're all starting to lose them. Rookie schoolteachers and vets are all starting to see slippage. They are realizing spring means school's almost done. Voices are speaking deep inside saying "Stop listening! It's almost done!"

Say a prayer for all those people shot in Illinois. Classrooms shouldn't be shooting galleries. Enough said.

I'm going to enjoy my Presidents Day Weekend. Hope you enjoy yours. Think about Polk or Chester A. Arthur. They never get any play. Send one out to Benjamin Harrison or William Henry Harrison. Think about Tippicanoe and Tyler too. Party like a rockstar or even better like Andrew Jackson. Look it up.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Just another day filled with fluids.

I have a real problem with my kids and trips to the nurse. They literally pull out their teeth. I teach young ones and losing teeth is natural. It isn't natural to pull out a tooth that's kind of loose so you can take a trip to the nurse and get out of class for a while. A student this week said "Mr. my tooth is hurtin'." She went to the bathroom. Five minutes later she's back and there's blood everywhere. It's all over her blouse, it's on the door handle, it's everywhere! Ugh!!!!!!

In this day and age you can't be too careful. I have a thing about bodily fluids. I already put myself in jeopardy just to get to work. I don't want any of your goo on me. (That doesn't sound very teacher nurturing touchy feelie hippie dippy does it? Blow it out your pencil sharpener if it bothers you. I'm afraid of Hepatitis, HIV, Christian Conservatism, anything that's communicable.) I put on my school issued rubber gloves, the kids laugh, and I send this young lady to the nurse. I wash everything down with cleaner. I seethe inside because this didn't have to happen. That tooth wasn't that loose if all that blood came too. Just another thing we like to do in my room.

I think I could write a novella about the things the children do to get to go to the nurse/bathroom/front desk/water fountain.

A friend of mine has a student that poops his pants two times a day. Things could always be worse. They ought to carve that phrase on my teacher tombstone someday, that or "Wu Tang Forever."

I'm writing from deep inside my hazmat suit. Good day.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Keeping the maniacs at bay.

Wow, I didn't realize until logging in that my last post was my 222nd on January 22nd. Cool. The posts do accumulate over time.

I should have gone up to the Meadowlands to see Barack Obama today. The afternoon was very difficult. I don't like having extra kids in my room and that's what happened to me today. Many, many teachers were out and we can't get any subs in the inner city and that leaves us teachers on the hook with extra beligerent kids. Try doing your job when you have kids actively trying to undermine everything you are doing at every step of the way.

I ponder my life at these points. How in the Hell did I get into a career where I have to yell at people and fight with them all the time? Sure, I reason and use my smarts and my teacher training but sometimes you just have to go toe to toe. I fight with no one in my personal life and I love that about my life. I don't want to fight. Something is wrong here.

I used to have an office with a door and I could close that door. Oh, the sweet feeling of closing that door and getting my work done in peace. Now, my door is closed but it's closed out of concern for my safety. I'd rather be locked in with my students than be open and exposed to the other maniacs, uh, I mean students and parents and members of the general public who seem to be able to wander in at will.

I should have gone to see Obama. I would have been having fun. Instead I got a wicked headache from calming down insane children.

A shout out to all the good teachers that came to work today. Thank you! The rest of you slackers need to drag your sorry asses in to work tomorrow. I'm tired of holding your jock.


A tip of the Rookie Schoolteacher chapeau to my friend Darcy, owner and operator of Darx Unplugged. She's got it going on in Ohio. I predict she'll be knitting a yellow Devo jumpsuit soon in celebration of Mark Mothersbaugh's honorary doctorate at Kent State. Anyway, check her out at the link over there on the side margin. You see it over there. Give it a click for delightful banter about living off the grid, crockpot cookery, knitting needles, and delightful movie and book reviews. I've known her for about 18 years now more or less. You'll be in good hands.

Tuesday, January 22, 2008


I'm not in a very good mood tonight. We were off for MLK Day and as a result the kids were out of control today. I've had enough of sassy kids. I'm tired of obnoxious kids. I've had my fill.

I didn't have a chance to make any phone calls home tonight. I wanted to. I'll pay for that tomorrow.

My earache is back. I wish it would go away.

I was able to go running tonight. The running helped to alleviate some of the black cloud that's been lingering after my day. Writing this blog is helping to drain the rest of my frustration. Teaching isn't easy. It takes a special person to be a teacher. I'm not feeling so special tonight.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Bad Kids! Help!

I just finished calling a few parents about behavior problems today. I called Sam's house and spoke to his father (all names have been changed to protect the innocent).

Teach: "Hi, Sam's father? This is Sam's teacher."
Dad: "Oh, hello."
T: "I wanted to give you a call about Sam's behavior today in class."
D: "What did he do?"
T: "Well, he was disruptive, disrespectful, talkative, and angry. He wouldn't listen to me or to other teachers after lunch. He refused to get out his books. He didn't turn in any homework today and gave me attitude about it."
D: "SAM! Get your ass up! Shut off the damn Playstation, boy! What did you say he did? Talked back?"
T: "Yes sir."
D: "MOM, your son is in trouble! Get your ass in here! I got this, Mr. He won't be giving you any more worries." Click.

It's hard not to laugh as all hell breaks loose during your call to a problem kid's house. Of course I don't. It's Nagasaki and Hiroshima on Sam's ass over at his house. Or so it would seem. I hope they aren't too hard on him. I don't want the kid to get a beating. That's the common response to a call from the teacher. Not a spanking. A beating. That isn't going to change his behavior. It's very hard to reach a kid like "Sam" who's angry, distant, and has low skills. It's even harder if he associates you with a beat down from Dad. He also has a whole bunch of stuff that's happened to him that would knock a full-grown adult for a loop. I can understand why he's such a problem in my class. I'm sure he's a problem everywhere. That's not the point. How do I reach this kid? That's the point. What to do???? Help me No Child Left Behind!!!!!!!

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Banging my head in 2008.

Today was good and bad. A lot of kids came ready to learn. About 5 came ready to screw around. I'm making phone calls to parents. I'm ready to teach. I'm so tired of being a disciplinarian. So much of my inner-city teaching experience is spent dealing with discipline issues. It's one of the most cited answers that teachers give when asked "Why did you leave the exciting and profitable world of teaching?" I'm not leaving any time soon. It's a hell of a lot easier teaching after a few years in. I'm sure next year will be even easier. Still, it is exhausting. It's like banging your head against the wall. The same kids never seem to get it.

A bright note, Chinese New Year is coming. MLK day is coming. Christmas is coming. Avon is calling.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year!

Here's to the new year 2008. I wish everyone a happy new year and send good tidings your way. Can you feel them? That tingling that you thought was carpal tunnel syndrome. That's me baby. A little Rookie Schoolteacher coming at you.

Anyhow, I must work tomorrow. The teaching must happen. I wish there were a few more days of vacation time. To be honest, I have no interest in going in tomorrow. My students will be very hard to rein in. We will have to start as if it's the first day of school. Perhaps things will be OK? I will look on the bright side. Tomorrow is a new year. It's 2008. Everything is good. Everything is bright and new and the only way is up. Positive. Positive. I will be positive and my kids will be positive.

Well, I must pack my bag for tomorrow. I wish I had more corrected papers to put in. Teacher guilt. I did need a vacation, too. The papers will get corrected. Plus, there's a whole bunch of new stuff to correct coming in with my students. They all had projects to do over the break.