Wednesday, October 28, 2009

World Serious

We've been talking about baseball and the world series in my classroom. Mostly it's been me. I love baseball. The kids don't like baseball. They don't understand it. Don't understand the slow pace. Don't understand the complexity of the game. Don't know the history. Don't recognize the beauty of the game. It's not their fault. They haven't been taught the game. In my neighborhood, what you don't understand, you must hate. It's sad because the Phillies are in the World Series again. They're in back to back World Series and that's special for a lot of reasons. From a Phillies perspective, this just never happens. We've only won the world series twice. Now we're in back to back championships and we get to go against the Yankees. Our team is fantastic. I keep talking about the success we're having and keep trying to tie it to our success as a class. It falls flat every time.

One of my kids kind of likes baseball. He wrote in his journal "The Phillies are going to play in the World Serious against the Yunkees I think." Casey Stengel talked about the World Serious. My student could be channeling this. He also wrote "You should see the look on their feces." in another journal entry. I think he meant faces instead of feces. These spelling errors made my day when I read them. Small things like this can mean a lot.

Go Phils!!!!!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Musings at midnight after a sh%t day.

Good golly, I'm in a bad mood tonight, Miss Molly. This was a lame Monday. I don't enjoy being in my room sometimes. Mostly on Mondays and Fridays. My students are so mean to each other and that gets me down. They are so negative and it seeps into my bones. I'm with my students more than I'm with anyone. To be around such negativity is rough on me. I'm not really that negative a person. I defy anyone to shrug off the negative waves that I'm immersed in.

I'm up to my neck in grades, paperwork, and meetings. I go to so many stupid meetings each week. The meetings are almost always with administrators who know nothing. Today's meeting was an hour out of my day to sit with a lady with a stack of papers in front of her. Paper lady hadn't read any of the papers in her stack. She expected me to read her the highlights. This lady makes probably $10 - 15,000 more than me a year and teaches no classes. I'm expected to teach my load and perform statistical analysis, too. The meat and potatoes of this meeting: the students are having trouble in language arts and math. How do we motivate them? Hmm? We needed to have a face to face meeting about this? How about letting me alone to do my paperwork? Please? How about letting me alone so I can decompress after my sh%t day of disciplining kids?

I'm really pissed off about my day, actually. What puts it in perspective is talking to the other teachers on my floor. They're all just as pissed off as me. I was cleaning the room after my meeting and thinking about how much I hate my job some days. I was fantasizing about how much better my year would be if some of my students had manners. Fantasizing about how much better my year would be if some of my students were transferred to reform school. I packed up and walked to my car and ran into some teachers who were talking about how they want to write their resignations and email them to the principal. They want to resign because they're so pissed about the lack of concern for the teachers, the lack of direction in the school, the senseless workload, the nonresponsive administration, the lack of support, the kids, the neighborhood, and the deluge of paperwork. It was nice to hear teachers that I thought had their program squared away talking about walking away and never coming back.

I'm not walking anywhere, but I'm going to try again to get the hell out of the inner city. I'm losing power. I'm not sure that I'm making any difference at all. I know this, that the inner city is changing me into someone that I'm not sure that I like very much. I've spent my time here. Done some great things. I've been teacher of the month. I've been the golden boy and I've been a horse's ass. I need a change. At least a different school where perhaps there's some morale?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Just thinking.

Today was a great day off. I'm tired. I've been relaxing, watching baseball, getting a few papers graded, and unwinding.

It's officially fall, a beautiful chill in the air, dappled sunlight and falling leaves everywhere. Fall even makes the abandoned buildings across the street from school look good. The paperwork never stops in the classroom. I'm thinking about a few random things. It would be helpful to have a classroom aide to assist in the grading and organizing. It's never going to happen. I wish that some of the highly paid literacy coaches and math coaches could help out with the load. I'll pause while the teachers reading this laugh. They aren't going to help with anything other than adding junk to my schedule to eat up my time. Coaches don't do any work that they can't pass off on someone else. There are so many highly paid people in education that don't do anything. Why are they here? They can't be fired because of the union. They can come into your classroom and wreck your day at any time. They could do things to help out in the classroom. They could teach small groups, teach demonstration lessons, write lessons, etc. Why are they here? In my school, these people are always talking, eating breakfast, and drinking coffee in the hallway.

I need to go back to watching the Phillies and correcting papers. Thinking about waste is going to make me crazy. I can't do anything about it until I get a job as a principal.

Friday, October 09, 2009


I was interviewed for another blog. This is a first for me. Excitement! Perhaps my thoughts will help another would be teacher out there. Here's hoping.

Today was an enjoyable day. The kids were ok. It's Friday. I'm starring in another blog. I'm off to bask in the glow. Tomorrow it's time to grade papers while the little one is at a skating party.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

It's easy. Become a teacher. Live the high life.

I got home tonight and helped with homework, ate dinner, and went running. I'm grumpy. I'm not feeling it right now. I've got to write these enormous lesson plans because we have a new system at school. It takes me like 8-10 hours to write these things. I don't have time to correct the work from the kids. I don't even want to look at their work after writing these lesson plans. The kicker is, I hardly use them anyway. I already know pretty much what I'm going to be teaching. Our administrators have to have these plans. We don't make AYP and we're under the gun from the state and having enormous lesson plans is going to help our kids make AYP.
I want to make AYP. You're goddamn right I do. This isn't the way to do it.

Friggin' waste of time. I'm tired. I can't look at another thing and I'm going to bed. Mad. Being a teacher is really easy.

Sunday, October 04, 2009


I've started taking classes again. In a couple years I'll be able to be a principal. I just spent a weekend in a class about supervising. I've been reflecting the entire weekend about how rotten our principals are. Supervising is supposed to be reflective and developmental. Our principals don't do anything to help us become better at teaching. I would like to become better at my craft. Our principals are all about gotcha! Their emphasis is punitive and always comes from that negative place. It sucks because helping the teachers get better improves instruction. Improving instruction is the most important way to improve student learning. Beating up the teachers destroys the school from the inside out. I'm hoping to reverse this negative idiocy.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A month in.

I've been meaning to write and there's been a lot to write about. Between issues with students, the new workload at my school, my coursework, and the whole political scene there's more than enough to keep my fingers busy.

My school is requiring new ultra detailed lesson plans and they have to be in by Friday morning each week. The plans take me a lot of time and they're making me nuts. I get home from work 3 nights a week and write the damn things. I don't have enough time to correct papers any more. This was my year to get that stuff under control. I was finally going to stop procrastinating. I'm not procrastinating. I'm just not doing them. No time.

My new classes for my grad school program in supervision have added a lot of reading to my schedule. That's taking my time. At least the reading makes me smarter. Doing the plans just eats my brain. Filling in the grids, triple checking the work, sending it to about 12 different administrators.

The kids are OK. There are a few who are definite behavior problems. There are a few with profound learning difficulties. Hopefully they'll get on track. Experience tells me that probably won't happen. I experiment on different methods to get them on track and learning. We'll see.

Did you see Gingrich and Sharpton in Philly? They like Mastery Charter School. Big deal. Charter schools aren't the answer. A question. What happens when they've converted so many regular schools to charters that they can't cherry pick any more kids? They'll have to take regular kids - regular, unmotivated, angry kids. It will be deja vu all over again.

Just a few thoughts before bed. I'm going to get my blog back in my schedule. I've got lots to write and think about and share. Now sleep. I'm exhausted.

Monday, August 31, 2009

First day. 2000 more to go.

We started school today. My class seems to be a pretty good group. A bit sleepy. More than half hadn't eaten breakfast. One of my fabulous games sussed out that factoid. A bit reluctant to work together. That's pretty normal. All in all a good day. Nobody had any problems. I can tell a few students that may be trouble later. I've got my teacher eye on them. We'll see.

It's all routines at this point. How do we sharpen our pencils? How do we ask to go to the bathroom? And so it goes. The thing is, teaching this stuff and team building is the most important thing now. You give up some time but get so much more back later because you don't have to keep teaching and practicing stuff that should be basic. No matter how many years I've done it, there's an impatient voice in the back of my head saying "ok, let's move on." I ignore that voice for a long time.

The funniest thing that happened was long after they left. I was reading the 3/5 cards they filled out. I asked them to tell me if they're allergic to anything. Most wrote nothing. The others wrote things like bugs or pollen. Jennifer wrote "cheap jewelry." I bust a gut laughing. I guess it's ok to surprise them with a treat here or there without worrying about food allergies. Just no cheap jewelry surprises. Someone will turn green.

Friday, August 28, 2009

The Room is Ready!

I can start teaching. The room is ready. It's not complete and that's ok. My room is always a work in progress. It's always good to have somewhere to go anyhow in terms of decoration and arrangements. You don't have any idea how the room will work until the students start to use it. You see after a few days that certain things don't work where they are and need to be moved. The kids usually take up more space than you imagine and that blows apart your perfect floor design. The "perfect room" doesn't exist anyhow. Johnny can't sit next to Sammy and Brenda decides she hates both of them and is allergic to peanuts. Suddenly there's a room change. Desks move and it's all gone. Same with the wall stuff. The district or the teaching coaches decide you must have rubrics. Ok, then, these giant rubrics take up a hell of a lot of space. Already have the word wall, number line, job chart, and everything else up. Guess I'll have to take down some stuff.
I have to say the smartest thing I've done this year is to bring in a small level. $2 from Home Depot and it's magnetic. Saves the "Is this straight?" problem. I'm always working alone putting the room together and for years have put things up and got down off the ladder and it was crooked. Up and down. Up and down. This year the level makes it one and done. Much faster wall hanging. Working smart Rookie Schoolteacherstyle.

Here's hoping my community building activities get the year off to a good start. It all begins in a few days. Hopefully, these ladies will like my teaching as much as they liked my room during their visit.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Beware of morons with 2-cycle engines.

I forgot about the people who ride motorcycles, scooters, and ATVs. Let me explain. I'm out of practice after a summer away from my hood. When it gets warm people in the inner city start riding dirt bikes, scooters, ATVs all over the place. I'm not exaggerating and it's scary and dangerous. They ride the wrong way down the middle of the street, on the sidewalk, weave in and out of traffic, and dart into your lane from anywhere. Sometimes these are kids but usually these are grown adults. Almost all of them have no license plates and wear no helmets. I usually leave work with the windows down because you can hear the note of the exhaust pipe before you see them. That split second warning helps you avoid having one of these idiots as your hood ornament. Yesterday, I was driving home and a guy rounds a corner and rides up the middle of the street on a dirt bike toward me. He's going the wrong way down the middle of a one way street at 30 miles an hour. He's wearing a pair of shorts and a grin. Lucky for me I saw him and had some grace under pressure or he would have been a goner. How stupid can you get? For those novice teachers reading, be careful.

I've been taking things to work and doing the room in between the meetings. The meetings are winning, by the way. Our administration wants to get the safe harbor and we're all about the meetings. We're always trying to make AYP, safe harbor, you name it, and always under the gun. Meetings, meetings, and more meetings. My favorites are the meetings were we meet and report out about the meetings. That way you get to have a meeting and at the same time double or triple your pleasure by virtually attending more meetings.

Anyway, it would be nice to have more time to get stuff put up and put away. I'm just thankful for my hand truck. The best $20 I ever spent. Another bit of advice for you newbies, get a cheap durable hand truck at Harbor Freight and save your back. It will also save you time because you won't have to wait around for the school's hand truck as it goes from teacher to teacher. You'll look smart and make friends when you invariably lend it to a beleaguered colleague.

Enough for today. I don't have any school homework and I'm going to the gym.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Back at work.

I sat in meetings all day. Meetings about a whole lot of nothing. Some new folks on the staff seem nice. I wonder how long they'll last. A few were putting down bets on who'll resign first. I don't play those games because bad stuff happens on the way to good teaching. The classes we're dealt will play a huge part in the way the year goes. I've seen good folks eaten alive because of all kinds of factors. Sometimes you eat the bar and sometimes the bar eats you. Words to live by. I've done both.

I'm whipped and heading to bed. Sitting listening to blowhards blow is tiring. I'm bringing in a lot of boxes of teaching goodness to my classroom tomorrow. Going to get my set up done in between all the important meetings.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Going back tomorrow.

It's been a while. The summer is winding up. I'm going in tomorrow for classroom setup and some meetings. School begins soon. I'm a bit grumpy about sitting in meetings tomorrow. I find most meetings to be tedious and unnecessary. Hopefully, they will be short and I can get on with the important things concerning setting up the room for the best possible learning space.

I never properly finished up the last year where the blog is concerned. I'm sorry about that. Nothing happened to me or anything. This year's finish up was more involved than most. I had to plan a ceremony for the kids to move up to the next grade and it took up a lot of time. Those that teach know the end of the year is hectic enough without creating a ceremony from scratch involving speakers, songs, music, parents, programs, and food. Not more than 5 minutes of help from any administrator on the ceremonies. Not one word of encouragement or thanks from an administrator after it was finished successfully. Needless to say, I was happy to pack my sh%$ up, hand in my keys, and go home when the contract said the year was over.

This year, hopefully, will be my best ever. I say that every year, but this is the one. I'm still a rookie and this is my 6th year. I'm working my way through Mosaics of Thought to get some new ideas to rev up the teaching through all of the subjects. Read a great book from the ASCD called Rethinking Homework the other day. Lots of good ideas going through my brain now.

Got to sleep and recharge.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

The President's views on education.

I'm an Obama man but on the subject of education we differ. Mr. Obama is on the side of merit pay, charter schools, and school reorganization at the expense of the teacher's unions. Reading this article by Dana Goldstein in the Nation didn't change my opinion. It put into words all the things that have been floating around my brain these days. Take a read and see what you think. Why must we destroy the existing system and replace it with a worse one? Why is Mr. Obama not meeting with anyone from the other side of the equation? As the article points out, most students are going to be taught by unionized public school teachers regardless of the reforms. Every school in the nation isn't going to be replaced by a charter school. Why isn't he talking to anyone from the other side? What's really going on here?

Monday, June 08, 2009

What a day. It's over.

Wow. What a day. One of the teachers on my team was out and her students were doubled up in my room and the rooms of the others on the team. It's hard enough to teach my students at this point in the year. It's really hard to teach and motivate students that you barely know along with your own. I'm tired and angry, but it helps to do something else after teaching. It's important to forget. To cleanse yourself. To let it all go so it doesn't poison the rest of your day. I'm having a cleansing ice cream sandwich. I read outside on the hammock instead of cutting the lawn. Reading restores me. I'm about to grade some stuff. It's good to know that it will be over soon. There's not much left in the year. Soon, I'll be off. I'll do what I want for a while.

The summer will be a refreshing change before I go back to school and to grad school in the fall. I'm going back to get a supervisor's certificate. I'm psyched about grad school again.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Headaches, mutiny, the usual.

A lot has been happening at school. Most of it is pretty annoying. My administration is piling on the end of the year work. I have so many forms to fill out and things to find before they'll let me turn in my key for the summer. I'll get it done. My students are pretty annoying too. It's sad that I'm wishing for last year's class and the year with my current bunch is almost over. Some years are like this, it's sad to say, and it comes down to the luck of the draw. This current class just never has it together. They're mean and ill mannered as well. It's rough going now in June. They can't be quiet for very long. They bring so much crap to school that they aren't supposed to have. They don't wear their uniforms properly. As a teacher at this point I just want to put the days in the book and get it done. I'm overlooking a lot so this can happen. That being said, there's no way I can overlook the kid attempting to do her nails in the second seat. I can't, honey, I just can't. I know, you're pissed, but you can't do your nails here. No matter how many times you scream at me you can't do it. I'm not going to let you when you call me a motherfu%$er either. Nope. Won't do it. You think I'm making this up. Wish I was.

Some of it is funny. The other day we were writing a journal entry. A hand goes up. "Mr? Is douchebag a curse word?" "Why yes it is." It was all I could do not to bust out laughing.

Some of it is not. Our gym teacher had the kids outside today. They came back early because they were throwing rocks at him. As they entered the classroom they were very happy. "We had a riot, Mr." Huh?

I just want to get through this. I'm hoping next year's class will be better.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Space is the place

We're learning about the Moon and the Solar System. We watched a few documentaries on the Apollo program and the manned trips to the Moon. It's neat to turn the kids on to stuff that they don't know about. That's why it can be so much fun to teach. There's a comedic side and a frustration side that run with the enjoyability portion of teaching. I guess this is a three-sided model of teaching. (This is the theory part that will be taught in education grad schools from now on.) Anyhow, we were watching a pretty interesting and pretty cool documentary about the Apollo 11 mission and my kids just can't help themselves from talking. It's just the most bizarre stuff. "Look...he's wearing a spacesuit!" Yes. That's what astronauts wear. "That thing blew up! Why did it blow up?" It's a rocket. Rockets are filled with explosive materials. They are really friggin' dangerous. They just told you that before the footage of all the rockets blowing up. "He in a black hole!" No. He's in space. Space is that dark black color. "He's wearing a spacesuit and hopping around." Yes. He's on the Moon. He'd be a dead man without that suit. He's hopping because there's less gravity on the Moon. "Gravity? There's gravity on the Moon?" Yes. If there wasn't any, they wouldn't be sticking to the surface. "That looks like it's burnt up." Yes. They just told you that Apollo 1 had a problem and all three crewmen burnt alive. "What's that black pile of stuff?" That's Apollo 1. "They're on the moon?" No they died. It was a catastrophe. "So what did they say when they got back from the moon?" They didn't say anything. They died. "But Gus Grissom was walking around. I thought you said he was dead?" They took the film before he died. "So he's dead?" Yes. "Did he go on the Space Shuttle?" No. "Mr. Who was that man who died?" Gus Grissom. "What's that thing that looks like fried chicken?" The crew of the Apollo 1. "That pile of stuff?" Yes. "Burnt up like fried chicken?" Yes. "Mr... chicken is so good. I'm hungry for chicken...." And so it went.

It's fun to teach. It's also so sad and frustrating. Humorous too. I feel sad that my kids have no prior knowledge of the simplest things. The space program was 40 years ago. I don't expect them to know that much. I wish they could be a bit more reverent. I got choked up when the Apollo 11 crew walked on the Moon in our documentary. My kids were talking through it. It's not a bad thing to believe in your country and to be emotional about the good things we do. Even from an engineering perspective it was awesome. The Saturn V rocket worked perfectly. Awesome. I'm not sure how we get that feeling of emotion to happen in our students.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Almost a goner.

Yesterday, I was unpacking and setting up for the day. I took my cold pills with a swig of coffee. The first pill went down but the second lodged sideways in my throat. It was really painful. I swallowed and it wasn't going anywhere. At the same time there's a student tugging at my sleeve. "Mr? Mr?" I swallow and think. "Is it in my throat or is it in my windpipe? Am I going to choke to death right here at 7:50 am with a kid tugging at me and in front of a classroom of noisy, oblivious kids who are talking and running amok instead of putting their things away? This isn't the way I want to kick off. What am I going to do?" Lucky for me the next swig of coffee dislodged the Dayquil. The student went away. I lived to give another standardized test.

It makes you think about your own mortality. I spend more time with my students than I spend with anyone else. Seemingly, they would dance around the room for joy if I had dropped dead.

Ugh. We teachers do a pretty thankless job. I try hard. We all try hard. Here's to all the teachers out there that made it through another trying day. They're all going to be harder the closer we get to the end of the year.

Sorry to be so maudlin.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Three Awesome Goals.

One of my students was doing some writing about himself and I learned that he has three goals: 1. To fly, 2. To have super powers, and 3. To get an electric guitar. He's a wacky kid but I can't argue with those goals. What could be better than to have super powers, to be able to fly, and to rock out on electric guitar? I want the same three things. I'm turning my amp up to 11.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Smoke them if you've got them.

I was teaching my students about how to divide fractions today. I couldn't believe how frustrating it was. In the middle of that I'm leaving my body and my mind is thinking about how good a cigarette would be. I'm tasting pure tobacco goodness. Then I'm back to reality and to getting them to change the sign and make the second fraction a reciprocal. It's wild what you think about while teaching. Where your mind floats as you fight your way through a frustrating day.

I guess it was more frustrating than I thought if my body was craving a cigarette to unwind. I haven't had a cigarette in more than 13 years. I'm not going to smoke. I'll never smoke again. I am going to enjoy a Mexican beer (or three) with dinner in honor of Cinco de Mayo. A couple of my kids knew what it was about. A first. Most classes think it's in honor of the dead rising from the grave or something. One year a kid said "Cinco de Mayo means the devil is rising from the dead!" Hmm, no, sorry. Wrong answer.

I have to get through to June. I can do it but it isn't going to be easy. After the standardized testing the kids have no incentive to do anything. To them the year is over. There's a lot of time left.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

I'm back. Sorry for the hiatus. I was addicted to Facebook.

It's been a while. I've been meaning to write. There was a lot of paperwork to complete since last we spoke. Grading is a bitch. At least for me it is. I'm not as on top of things as I should be. So what's new? I'm more on top of things than in previous years, however.

My class is irritating. We have a huge field trip scheduled. We're supposed to go to Washington, DC. The students are slowly winnowing themselves down. Our grade came up with a very generous rubric for inclusion on the trip: 4 detentions or 1 suspension result in a loss of the trip. Within 2 days, I had a student that couldn't go. At least 4 others are almost there. We go next month. By then it will be me and 3 of my students left. The others will be on the outside looking in. The boy that won't be joining us told me the classic "I go to DC all the time. I was going there this weekend, anyway." He has to tell me this to save face. It's sad because he could have had such a great time there and instead can't go. He's always being excluded. His whole life is about exclusion. So I've excluded him and now I've fed into the whole cycle. It sucks for everyone.

I'm not pleased with Obama's ideas for education so far. He wants to weaken unions, support charter schools, extend the school year, extend the day, and increase merit pay. Wow! I don't support one of those ideas. What I do support is funding the system we already have. I also support feeding our children, getting them healthcare, getting their families counseling, getting their families jobs, cleaning up the neighborhoods, getting rid of drugs and crime, and getting some hope in these dangerous, depressing neighborhoods where I teach. If we did some of this - addressing Maslow's hierarchy of needs - we would be so much better off. Until you do that, there aren't going to be gains. Not really. The Rookie Schoolteacher plan is much harder but better. Write a letter to Obama like I did. Tell him what you think. I'll let you know if I hear anything about mine. Let me know if you hear anything from yours.

Monday, February 09, 2009


I'm still angry about my day and it's very late now. Mondays are always tough but I just want some manners. Is that too much to ask? Apparently it is. Apparently my class thinks I am their punching bag. Have I mentioned lately how much I haven't bonded with this class? They can't walk in a straight line, they never stop talking, they push and shove, they follow no directions, they haven't learned their multiplication tables, they can't spell, they can barely speak/read the English language, they're lazy, they're crybabies, and their attitudes suck.

I have a lot of time left with these little @#&%ers. I need another beer.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Fiddler's damn

It's been a while. Sorry about that. Hopefully, your holidays were wonderful. I came back all refreshed. Things were great for about a week. I think my kids were sated with long vacations, horror movies, running wild, and playing video games. There weren't any problems. I actually was beginning to feel thoughts of love and bonding with them.

I say "was" because things have gone back to the way they were. My kids have resumed their lack of care. They are lazy and angry. More than I've ever seen them. It's only January. I don't get it.

I wish I could say that they were excited and thrilled about the Obama inauguration. They don't seem to give a fiddler's damn. Fiddler's damn. I read that in Revolutionary Road the other day. People just don't use terms like that anymore. I've been waiting for a chance to use it. There you go. Anyhow, I write from the front lines and I wish I could say the kids are excited, ready, and willing to learn. In fact it's just the same as it ever was. My kids don't give a fiddler's damn. I, however, do and will continue to work my ass off. Obama said yesterday that we've got to work hard because no one else is going to do it. Well, I'm doing it. It would be nice if my kids got that message. Mr. Obama, if you're reading, please come by any day between 8 and 3. Lend a hand. I can use it.