Monday, October 31, 2011

Class in a Box

The ATR agreement, negotiated last year by the UFT and the DOE, has proven to be a money-saving bonanza for city high schools. For example, it appears schools no longer need to invest their precious budget dollars on art teachers. In fact, one high school now simply gives a box of assignments that can be handed out to kids by any ATR teacher--art, English, science, or whatever.

The teacher distributes the assignment, and the kids do it. Or they don't. Or they copy it from a kid who does do it. Or whatever. When they're finished, the assignment goes into the magic box. From there, all that happens is someone, somewhere, checks off a name, and Voila!  Instant art credit!

Think of the possibilities. Why should this process be limited to art? We could "teach" math, science, foreign languages, or whatever this same way. Why screen kids for AP classes? We could just put out the box, have them fill out the papers, right, wrong, whatever, and ZAP! Our kids now have college credit. And there'll be none of this nonsense about whether or not they're college ready. They'll already have the credit.

In fact, there's really no need for any teachers whatsoever under this system. We could simply pay anyone 8 bucks an hour to pass out the papers and dump them in the box. Think of the money this could save Mayor Bloomberg and his buds in taxes. Governor One Percent will be thrilled, and the Koch brothers will have even more money with which to decimate that pesky middle class.

Is this the goal of the "reformers?" Judging from the agreement that sends ATR teachers from school to school, from week to week, it's tough to dispute. It would be one thing if the ATR teachers were simply covering for absent teachers. But the fact that a system like this even exists indicates that vacancies are meant to remain vacant. Ask ATR teachers just how many kids they've met who haven't had a regular teacher since September.  Then ask the principals who've allowed the vacancies why they haven't hired ATR teachers.

After all, under this system, they get a full five days to watch them teach subjects they've probably not certified in before committing to retain and pay them for a full year. Or, after draconian budget cuts, they could save tens of thousands of dollars by leaving the positions vacant and hoping for the best. Who would be cynical enough to think many principals have opted for the latter, simply because many principals have opted for the latter?

I suppose the answer is---anyone who's watched this system in action. This is most certainly not a product of anyone who puts, "Children First, Always." Heads would roll, justifiably, if such nonsense were practiced in nearby suburbs. But Mayor4Life bought that law change and third term fair and square, has staked out his absolute power at the PEP, and can do pretty much whatever the hell he wants until and unless mayoral control is repealed.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

In America Today

Friday, October 28, 2011


Our copying machine has been humming along for some time now with no problem. We also have a Risograph, which enables us to do higher-volume copying. Sadly, the English Department next door has had no such luck. Consequently, they're always visiting us and our happy little machine.

Last week, a new machine appeared in our office. In fact, it was so new it was covered in plastic. Naturally, an expert from the company arrived to install it. It worked fine. Just like the old one.

The old machine was then placed in the spot the new machine had occupied, and one of my colleagues had an idea.

"Why don't you bring the old machine to the English Department?"

"Oh, we couldn't possibly do that."

"Why not? Theirs is broken and this one works."

"Well, they're not scheduled for a replacement."

"Doesn't it make sense to let them use it while they wait?"

"No, we've got to bring this machine back. That's the way we do things."

Further discussion yielded nothing. That's the way it's done, and it has to be done that way. So I guess the English teachers will be visiting us more frequently.

Sometimes I weary of things that make absolutely no sense whatsoever. But when you live in Mayor Bloomberg's New York, the best advice is to get used to it.

This Week's Pic

Running late this morning. Overslept after Open School Night. Leaving you with this profound image for now, but more later.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

When You Gotta Go, I Hope You're Not at Science Skills High School

One of my own biggest pet peeves as a high school student (back in the Dark Ages) was the disgusting state of my school's bathroom. Smoking was more popular when I was in school, so the bathrooms were usually smoky, as well as filthy and smelly. At one point in my school career, I had gone two entire years without using the bathrooms at my school. That's how bad they were.

Having popped into the bathrooms at TMS2 once or twice in need of paper towels or to investigate some yelping, I can say with confidence that the bathrooms here are a significant improvement over what I had, not that it takes much. Still, I can't say I was shocked to hear about the state of affairs at Science Skills High School, where 634 students were limited to one bathroom.

Surely this violates some kind of health and safety standard? Or if it doesn't, isn't it just an insult to human dignity? God knows I spend far too much of my career policing kids' bathroom usage, but still, there has to be a better solution than limiting 600+ students to one filthy bathroom. Those are the kind of conditions that would cause prison riots. Guantanamo Bay has a better sanitation situation.

As you may know if you're a regular NYC Educator reader, the school bathroom is a minor obsession of mine. And sure, it sounds funny to joke about. And I roll my eyes a little when the Freire disciples rant about the inhumanity of public schools. But I start to wonder if maybe they don't have a point when I hear stories like this. Where are we as a school system if we can't even figure out how to keep bathrooms clean and safe?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Notable and New

Check out The Traveling ATR for school ratings based on firsthand experience, as opposed to the torturous, convoluted and incomprehensible Tweed formulas.

Governor One Percent

NY Governor Andrew Cuomo does not much care for those who'd occupy Albany. So he directed the police to arrest them. No namby-pamby First Amendment tolerance for him. Oddly, the police, perhaps cognizant of the fact they are working people, decided it was a bad idea, and declined to follow up. The protesters moved and police decided provoking a riot might not ultimately prove beneficial, despite the Governor's druthers to the contrary.

Why is Governor Andy so miffed with the protesters? Well, it could be their new nickname for him, Governor One Percent. After all, Governor Andy has taken a principled stand against taxing the richest one percent, opting instead to cut schools, services for the poor, and cap salaries for people who actually need to work. After all, how will he get tens of thousands of dollars from the Koch brothers if he stands up for those unwashed working people?

It appears, though, that Governor Andy is a sensitive guy. He doesn't much care for people disagreeing with him, you know, democracy and all. If he could just lock up those darn protesters, maybe those local newspapers would stop covering them! But darn it, when he gets involved, they just keep, you know, writing about it. That damn freedom of the press thing has got to go, if Governor Andy is to govern in the style he chooses.

And this is curious, because then Attorney General Andrew Cuomo stated politics had no place in policing. The thing is, though, with ruthless opportunists like Governor Andy, neither politics nor principle can get in the way of an overriding philosophy like, "I'm me, I can do what I want, how I want, whenever I want."

It's pretty scary when people with such juvenile mindsets attain positions of such power.

Thanks to Reality-Based Educator

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Only Progress Report That Matters

So the high school progress reports were released yesterday. The principal here at TMS2 was, justifiably, excited about our results and sent out a warm all staff e-mail as soon as he got the report. Whatever you may think about the progress reports, and they remain controversial, no one's going to argue much with a good one, and doing well on it does typically mean less harassment from the higher-ups.

Anyway, when I got the e-mail, there were a few students in my room working on papers and reading, and I said to them, "Hey, our progress report came out. We did really well."

They asked how well, and I told them, having just talked about percentile ranks with them in regards to their recent taking of the PSATs. They knew, then, what the number meant.

"So we did really well," I said to them again.

They looked at me, mildly bemused. "Well, yeah. Duh. We know this is a really good school. Like, we complain about it and stuff, but it's good here."

And that, my friends, is the only progress report that really matters.

Monday, October 24, 2011

One Week

ATR teachers are now being rotated faster than the speed of light. Five days here, and ZAP! They're off to another school. This was a by-product of the agreement the UFT made with the DOE that precluded teacher layoffs (until next year).

UFT sources at the time told me they did not think the DOE had the wherewithal to carry out this plan. After all, they're inept. They hired Cathy Black. They can't give a coherent rationale that anything they do will actually improve education, if you actually look at, well, statistics, studies, reality, or any of that other stuff that Bill Gates and Arne Duncan can't be bothered with.

But now that the DOE is actually doing this, I'm hearing now that this will give principals wider exposure to ATR teachers. In a way, that's true. Last year, your school got only a handful of ATR teachers, but this year you can factor that by up to 40. So there's a wide assortment. You have to wonder, though, how many principals actually have the time to run around observing those teachers passing through their halls. After all, principals already have others to observe, sometimes in the hundreds, and it's possible that an extra 50% worth of observations may not be precisely what they're looking for.

On the other hand, last year the principals didn't have to pay ATR teachers out of their school budgets. This year, if they want to keep them around more than a week or two, it appears they do. With their budgets slashed for the last few years, principals may not be jumping on that ATR bandwagon so quickly. Thus, in the city that places "Children First, Always," the Spanish class might well be taught by the science teacher who doesn't speak a word of it today, and the English teacher who doesn't speak a word of it tomorrow. Maybe they'll have a real Spanish teacher next week, but the week after that? Are you kidding?

And then there are the ATR teachers themselves, wandering week to week, school to school, program to program. They're largely precluded from having regular classes, from developing meaningful teacher/ student relationships, pretty much from doing everything or anything that brings joy or professional fulfillment. And on top of that, they're now precluded from long-term friendships with peers, going into some strange lunchroom every day and leaving by the time they get to know anyone.

You'd think the DOE was trying to discourage them, demoralize them, and make them quit.

Gee, would Mayor Bloomberg really do such a thing?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Pic of the Week

Friday, October 21, 2011

Do Smartboards Make You Smarter?

There's a lot of controversy in my school over who gets rooms with Smartboards. Some people love them. Some fear them. Me, I can't afford to care one way or the other. After all, I'm trailer trash, and the only technology out there is the iPad I carry in my bag. And yes, I use it. I can't draw my way out of a paper bag, and when an ESL student asks me what a fax machine is I can pull out a picture on Google images and there you go.

If I had a Smartboard, I'd use that too. There would be an advantage in that I wouldn't have to walk around like a kindergarten teacher with a Dr. Seuss book showing the picture. And I'm sure with time I'd figure out other ways to use it too. But I don't need it. I don't need the iPad either, though I love it. I've drawn preposterous things on the board and then had kids come up and improve on them, showing me what they could do. They're usually delighted to mock my lack of artistic ability.

If I did actually need a Smartboard, I'd be less of a teacher. What the hell would I do in the inevitable instances the ancient DOE computers went down? Well, I could write on the board. And if I didn't have a board, I could buy some tape and tape paper to the wall. I think being a good teacher requires being able to improvise, to think on your feet. All the great teachers I've had were very smart, could argue their subjects in great detail, and none had or even imagined such a thing as a Smartboard.

How many crappy Powerpoint presentations have you been subject to? How many times have you sat through some tedious presentation of Lord knows what while some insipid so-called educational leader read it aloud to you? How many times have you wondered, "Geez, why doesn't that idiot print out this nonsense so I can read it in the 2 minutes it likely doesn't even merit before throwing it in the trash?"

Technology is a great tool, and I'll use it if it comes my way. I've seen creative and funny uses of tech. But it doesn't make you a better teacher. And it's still garbage in, garbage out if what the presenter offers happens to be garbage.

Yes you can use it. And yes, if you use it, it may help. But you can do well without it too. For those who can't, it likely won't matter what they come up with, no matter how cool they think it is.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Conversation with an ATR

We had an ATR teacher in our school for the first month, and I liked him. I chatted with him in the teachers' room and thought that he would be a a good fit for our school in the long run, and I hoped that the administration was considering him for something permanent. That was before the so-called "deal" with the ATRs that allowed them to be shuffled around on a daily basis. So now we have a revolving door of ATR teachers. I talked to this week's ATR on Tuesday.

As it turns out, this gentleman taught at my school a number of years ago and was displaced, I think, somewhere along the break-down-a-large-troubled-school-into-small-schools thing that was a thing a few years ago. He was frank in admitting that it was hard for him to walk the halls of his old school, see someone else teaching in his old classroom, and know that he'd be kicked out again Monday morning to be sent off somewhere else. So on one level, the new ATR system is painful and inconvenient for the teachers themselves, and disruptive to individual schools.

On a more global level, the ATRs' situation is complicated, and I don't mean to pretend that I know how I'd solve it, but there's got to be a better solution than this. I'm skeptical of the idea that wide swaths of the ATRs were mediocre teachers who got pushed out for bright-eyed young superstars from TfA and the Teaching Fellows; after all, there are very few brand-new teachers who are good enough right out of the gate to be better than a veteran teacher. That leaves us with the other explanation: the ATRs got to be too expensive and are being pushed out, the DOE knowing there's no case to fire them, to make room for younger and cheaper teachers.

Which brings me to my last point about this: Many of the younger teachers like myself are merrily accumulating their 30+ credits and funding their TDAs and buying homes. In a few years that aren't that far away in the grand scheme of things, we will be just as expensive as the ATRs are now. Soon we might be painted as mediocre and burned-out. And then what?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Andy Cuomo's Principles

Governor Andrew Cuomo is standing up. His Dad Mario felt very strongly that the death penalty was a moral outrage, and though public opinion was against him, he vetoed death penalty bills repeatedly. Andy has decided to do the same, except his issue is the millionaire's tax. Who will stand up and demand rich people not pay taxes? I guess it's the guy who took 87K from Tea Party zillionaire David Koch and his wife.

So we now have a governor, ostensibly a Democrat, who has no problem going after unions, but is willing to take a principled stand to save David Koch a little cash. As a lifelong Democrat, this is a little tough for me to take. I didn't vote for Governor Andy, throwing my vote to Howie Hawkins of the Green Party. Some of my friends told me I was wasting my vote. Sure, the Republican who ran against Andy appeared a little out of his mind. But as a teacher, a working person, a unionist, how can I vote for someone who swears to go after unions? With Democrats like those, who needs Republicans?

I'm going to call Governor Andy's office and express outrage that, with schools being cut, teachers being laid off, and working people suffering all over, that all he can worry about is saving David Koch another billion. I'll tell him I'm a lifelong Democrat and he won't be getting my vote in the future if he doesn't sharply reconsider his priorities.

Too bad, after not having a raise for the last 40 months, I haven't got $87,000 to persuade him further.

Thanks to Reality-Based Educator

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

I Need Independent Reading Time

It's really hard to do quality reading during the school year, especially if you're an English teacher and you have to stay on top of the texts you're reading with your students. Most evenings, it's all I can do to kick back with one of my dog-eared David Sedaris collections or the latest issue of New York or Time Out.

My students were doing independent reading today, and though most of them enjoy it (albeit secretly), a few complained strenuously about having to read. Now, true independent reading involves students reading--just reading--self-chosen texts, and that's how I roll. I maintain a sizeable classroom library for kids who don't have something of their own to read, and I'm happy to let kids read skateboarding magazines or comic books if that's what they're into.

And as I jotted down page counts and helped them choose books and conferred with them, I found myself feeling insanely, irrationally jealous. I need someone to sit me down, stare at me, and instruct me to do nothing but read for a period of time every day. And that person would say, "No, I will not assign you something. Here are several hundred books. You should choose one you like. No, don't write a paper about it. Just read." What a joy that would be. I hope that my students use the time to read something they enjoy and get some peace and pleasure from it. They don't have to admit it or be grateful for it, but I try very hard to at least make it not seem like a chore.

Ah, youth is wasted on the young, right?

Monday, October 17, 2011

Let's Do It

EdNotes offers an important idea--that of linking Occupy Wall Street to education. Readers of this blog know well that the billionaires are trying to work their magic on our careers, just as they did to the economy, and that even the supposed Democrat, Barack Obama, firmly supports their baseless hare-brained schemes. Arne Duncan can't wait to do whatever the hell Bill Gates tells him to.

If we can get our message out, that the same people who tossed the economy into the crapper want to do the same to our children, we'll have accomplished something truly worthwhile. This is a long-term project that can't be accomplished overnight. The occupiers of Wall Street had to wait weeks before even being acknowledged by the mainstream media, and we'll likely have to wait even longer, having been tarred and smeared ever since we propelled President Hopey Changey to his current position.

But it appears the public is growing weary of years of nonsense upon nonsense. Who will speak the truth? Teachers, of course. If we can tell kids how things are, why can't we tell adults as well? After all, we have the welfare of their kids in mind. Do we want our students growing up into a world where they have to have both parents working 200 hours a week to pay rent? Do parents want that? I know I don't.

Teaching is a political act. We're making young people smarter, better-informed, and that's a threat to the corporate interests currently running our country and pretending to be Democrats. Doubtless smarter and better-informed adults are even more of a threat--and that's precisely why we need them right now.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Photo of the Week

Friday, October 14, 2011

Good Help Is Hard to Find---But Good to Have

A kid in my level two ESL class doesn't really belong there. The second day of class I went to my supervisor and told her. He doesn't understand the work very well, and kind of sat there mystified. I thought it would be a good idea to move him down a level. But somehow, in summer school or someplace, he'd already passed.

I figured OK, I'll do the best I can and try to drag the kid where he should be. But then he cut the rest of the week, including a test, and things didn't work out. My class was at the end of the day, and learning English was of no evident importance to the kid, so he simply went home early---but--bad luck--somehow he got transferred to my midday class, and skipping out was no longer so convenient--he'd miss all those vital classes in his first language, the one he needed no instruction in whatsoever.

So he showed up on Tuesday. I gave him the leaflet I'd made up so he could do the work. At first, he responded. But he didn't like it when I made him repeat things. He didn't like it when I made him say things in an audible voice, and honestly, who the hell needs English in the United States of America anyway. So he walked up to my desk, dropped the leaflet there, and simply answered, "No English," when I called on him. That would teach me to waste his time with this ridiculous language nonsense.

It was pretty jarring to me. We have a two period class, and here's this teenager determined to do absolutely nothing. It made me tired watching him not answer questions, not mix with his classmates, and not do anything. I would not have the patience to sit and do nothing for 90 minutes, so in a way I have to give the kid props.

It's been a long time since I threw a kid out of class, and I toyed with the idea, but decided not to. I went to his guidance counselor, one who speaks his language, with a written description of his behavior. She told me he had come to her, complaining I was too strict, and saying he wanted to drop down a level. She told him he couldn't stay at level 1 forever, particularly since he'd already passed it.

The next day I was out, but she dragged the parents up for a conference. I don't know what she said or did, but the kid came in yesterday a new person. He's trying to do the work, trying to answer questions, and that defiance has disappeared absolutely. It's like she did magic while I was out.

I'm really lucky to know someone who can help me like that. And the kid is lucky to have her too, though he probably won't acknowledge it for a long, long time.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Is It Apathy?

Like all city high schools now, my school administered the PSATs to our sophomores and juniors yesterday. I proctored the first half of the exam, then switched with another teacher to take my lunch. In the staff lounge, a few other teachers who had recently been relieved were working.

I got to talking to Ms. C., a math teacher. She was proctoring a room of eleventh graders. I asked her how it was going. "Oh, you know," she said with a shrug. "Mostly okay. Two kids" [she named them] "looked at it, said it was too hard, put their heads down, and went to sleep."

Now I don't claim to know what causes kids to think and act in these ways. Maybe the test really was too hard (though what it suggests about our school system that eleventh graders are completely put off by the PSATs, I leave for you to ponder). Maybe they didn't understand why it was relevant, or maybe they were just tired. Heck, maybe it's not even wise to make every tenth and eleventh grader sit for the PSAT regardless of ability, motivation, or possibility of helpfulness to them.

It's just that stories like these make me wonder how I can possibly relate to some of the kids I teach, even 5+ years into my career. I cannot imagine just putting my head down on a test and giving up. If I had been the teacher in that room, I would have had a (silent) conniption. And yet I can't blame the kids, because obviously they've gotten the message over the years that the adults in their life will accept this kind of behavior, and that adults will accept that PSAT math is just too hard for eleventh graders.

But do we really want to accept that?

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wave of the Future

When I see stories like this one, I'm not remotely surprised. When you put a gun to the head of a principal and say, "Get higher grades or I'll kill you," that principal may just decide the hell with all that achievement nonsense--I'm just gonna pass everyone any damn way I can. Then, said principal will pressure staff to do the same.

In fact, this has been going on for years, in varying degrees, in just about every school in the city. Teachers are told it's their fault if kids fail, and run around trying to figure ways to pass every kid. So what if he's asleep every day. He passed that test three months ago. Sure he copied, but that showed initiative.

This mania for testing will not end well. It's not at all surprising that kids with apparently good grades are not college ready. But when it's entirely the fault of the school when kids fail, that's what you get. Who wants to have 500K per year Geoffrey Canada label you a "dropout factory." Canada doesn't tolerate such things, which is why he dumped an entire grade rather than have them make him look bad. And, of course, if we had such preposterous options, we'd always look good too.

It's a whole lot easier to blame teachers and schools than to eradicate poverty. In fact, the biggest "reformers," like Mayor4Life, while constantly bitching about those darn teachers, actively contribute to poverty by firing working people. At the same time, they insist millionaires can't spare another dime in taxes.

With such patently ridiculous values, if they can be called that, it's not surprising that they can't imagine anything to improve education other than constantly rising test scores, meaningless though they may be.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Life Without a School Aide, Day 1

We were welcomed back from the long weekend by not one, not two, but three malfunctioning copiers. Two were completely out of ink and a third was mysteriously and repeatedly jamming. As you can imagine, a school full of teachers anxious to hit the ground running on a new week and three malfunctioning copiers is not really a great combination.

We took some deep breaths. We prioritized and de-prioritized. We ran only as many copies on the one functioning machine as were absolutely necessary to get us through first period to make the line move quickly. We're grown-ups. We got through it.

But I wonder if Mayor Bloomberg or Chancellor Walcott ever has to wait to make copies on one functioning copier. Well, of course not; first of all, they have people to do those things for them, and something tells me their copiers stay in tip-top shape because their assistants won't be laid off.

Meanwhile, today is our school's first day without Alice, our school aide who was laid off last week. Alice doesn't know how she's going to make her mortgage payment this month, and we don't know how we're going to get through indefinitely with one functioning copier or who might fix the broken ones. See, that used to be Alice's job.

Should be a fun couple of weeks around here as we adjust to life without Alice, the obviously inessential school aide.

Monday, October 10, 2011

A Piece of Paper

Tenure is under attack all over. Chancellor Dennis Walcott doesn't support it, because Michael Bloomberg doesn't support it and New York's school chancellor is only permitted to support what Michael Bloomberg supports. Theoretically, a chancellor should represent schoolchildren, but under mayoral control, he represents a billionaire tycoon, as does our fake school board, the PEP.

Acquiring tenure, according to the "reformers," entails hanging around for a few years and being able to produce mist on a mirror. For me, it was not so simple. I could never find a position teaching in my license area, and actually had to change it. I think it took me at least six years. I have no idea when I actually received it.

A few years ago, a young teacher told me she thought she'd gotten tenure, and wanted to ask the principal. Would I come with her? It can be scary going to see the principal, so I said okay. The principal had no idea, but checking the dates it appeared she'd crossed the threshold. He wanted to do something for her, but had no idea what.

"Here, have this plant," he said, grabbing one of the potted plants the secretaries had lying around.

We've come a long way from those days. Now, the DOE sends out a certificate. I know because a young teacher showed me one the other day. This is a pretty nice thing to do, I think.

Perhaps it's the exception that proves the rule.

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Pic of the Week

Friday, October 07, 2011

Death of a Thousand Cuts

Mayor Bloomberg, because he puts Children First, is cutting school budgets by 2%, after having cut them even more extensively last year. Children are indeed the first to be cut, the next to be cut, and next year, it appears he'll cut them yet again.

Because jobs are important in Mayor Bloomberg's New York, he's firing 700 low-paid DC37 workers. This will make our city a better place. After all, we need money to make up for the millionaire's tax that's about to sunset. We're gonna lose 5 billion dollars a year. Those DC37 workers would likely have spent it on things like clothes, rent, food and other things that would keep other people working.

Fortunately, billionaires like Mayor Bloomberg know better what to do with money. They can invest it in companies that will pay out to top execs, who will invest it in something else, none of which will create jobs, encourage jobs, or help the unemployed DC37 get jobs. That's Mayor Bloomberg's genius, and that's why he needed that third term.

And every day Murdoch's lackeys at the Post wonder why Wall Street is occupied. I only wonder why it didn't happen years ago.

Thursday, October 06, 2011

How Do You Spell That?

The scene: Small group work in a 10th grade English class. Keep in mind that nearly all of these students had English together last year, and many of them went to middle school together, too.

STUDENT 1: We have to put all our names on the paper before we hand it in.

STUDENT 2: Okay, I'll write down everybody's names. [writes down names; indicates Student 3] What's her name?

STUDENT 3: Stephanie.

STUDENT 2: How do you spell that?

STUDENT 1: Like Stephanie! Jeez!

TEACHER: [doesn't know whether to laugh or cry]

End scene.

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

The New Kid

He strolled in 20 minutes late, like he owned the place. I had never seen him before.

"Excuse me?" I said. But he was too cool to answer.

He selected a seat and plopped down his bag.

"Excuse me?" I repeated.

Reluctantly he looked at me. He gave a tired sigh, weary of my ridiculous demands.

"Who are you?" I asked. Another weary sigh.

"New student," he replied.

It should be obvious. It should go without saying, Why is this idiot teacher making such endless, ridiculous demands?

"Did I say you could sit there?" I asked, getting all territorial and stuff.

The kid threw up his hands. Here I am. I told you I was new. What the heck more could you possibly want.

"May I please see your program card?"

This was too much. I mean, I take the trouble to show up here, almost on time, and this stupid teacher is nothing but demands, demands, demands. Alright, you wanna see my program? Fine. Let's put an end to this nonsense once and for all. I'm not gonna be trifled with by some New York City schoolteacher. Bill Gates says you're a bunch of losers anyway.

"You're in the wrong class. Go to the trailer on the other side."

My entire class burst into laughter. It's hard to look cool in the face of such a thing. Lost new kid muttered some incomprehensible comments so I'd know who was boss, and walked out, making several more incomprehensible comments to put me in my place once and for all.

Tuesday, October 04, 2011

What Teachers Do on Long Weekends

I was making some phone calls to parents yesterday afternoon since, believe it or not, a month of school is nearly over. For some of us, that means that we're already halfway, or more than halfway, to the first report card of the year. So I figured it was time to check in with the guardians of my lovelies and give them some updates.

I had a lengthy conversation with one mother in particular, who was justifiably upset over her son's performance in many of his classes. "This is the fourth message I've gotten from a teacher today," she said sadly, and, knowing her son, I believed her. "I just talked to him yesterday, asked him how school was going. He tried to tell me everything was fine. Well, you're the fourth teacher I've heard from today, so obviously everything was not fine."

As well, my school uses a schoolwide online referral system so teachers can share information about students with each other, and I noticed a serious uptick in the number of referrals in my e-mail yesterday morning. And as I wrapped up my conversation with Concerned Mom, I realized what was going on: We were coming off a long weekend, the first breather since school began, and teachers were using the time to update all their grades and really look at how students were doing so far. So Monday morning meant a tsunami of referrals, e-mails, and phone calls to reach out to teachers, coaches, and parents.

Clearly we lazy unionized government employees spend our generous vacation time sleeping in and catching up on Jersey Shore.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Tell the Truth

As the Border's book chain folds, several of its employees have put out a list of all the things they really thought when customers made requests.

It NEVER bothered us when you threatened to shop at Barnes & Noble. We'd rather you do if you're putting up a stink.

Most of the time when you returned books you read them already--and we were onto you.

Oprah was not the "final say" on what is awesome. We really didn't care what was on her show or what her latest book club book was. Really. (Given her pro-corporate education stance, I really like this one.)

It's true that we lean to the left and think Glenn Beck is an idiot.

We greatly dislike the phrase "Quick question." It's never true. And everyone seems to have one.

We hate when a book becomes popular simply because it was turned into a movie. (Me too, because then when I teach it, some kids try to watch the film instead of reading the book. This is particularly egregious when the idiot film producers change the story and kids write about the film version.)

So here's what I'm wondering--if Mayor Bloomberg were to have his druthers, save valuable tax dollars by closing all the schools and having our kids run around the streets like the ones in Salaam Bombay (You see--I just told what I thought about Mayor Bloomberg there.), what truths would teachers tell?

What truths would the kids say about us?

And what truths would the "reformers" have, were they remotely familiar with the concept?

Saturday, October 01, 2011

Pic of the Week