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.