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.