Saturday, September 29, 2012

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Whether or Not They Back Down, Billionaires Don't Care About Our Kids

There's a great piece by Texas superintendent John Kuhn suggesting that schools reflect our communities, for better or worse.  Can we improve our schools and communities? Of course we can. Should we close them and turn them over to billionaires who wouldn't want to live or study with us? Probably not. Yet that's precisely what we're doing with our schools, as we follow programs more aligned to the druthers of Bill Gates, Eli Broad and the Walton family rather than anything based on research or demonstrated practice.

Now they have a second major Hollywood production, demonizing teachers as the source of all that afflicts our communities. There are great reasons to be suspicious of its motives, even if we ignore its ridiculous claim to be based on a true story. There are a few things I've experienced my entire working life that I'd like to mention here.

One is that teaching has never been a career for those looking to get wealthy. You have to love it or you don't last, and indeed, half of all prospective teachers are gone within five years. For most of my career, NYC was dying for teachers, ran job fairs, recruited internationally, and offered free training for anyone who'd sign up. They did this because their insistence on paying the lowest wage in the area made it very tough to recruit. And despite what you may have heard, it's no picnic being a teacher. I remember what it was like in front of 34 teenagers before I got the hang of it, and had I not done so, I'd certainly be among those who walked.

In fact, bad teachers are not roaming the earth like a plague of zombies, and we are simply not in crisis. And please, while we can tolerate GW Bush as President, or Arne Duncan as education secretary, don't lecture me on merit. Tenure exists so people like me can speak up against the abject nonsense propagated by such figures without being tossed into the street. I have seen people "counseled out" and I have seen people fired. The simple fact, though, is most people who can't hack it simply leave of their own accord.

Whatever the movie may contend, I'm not sitting around watching Rome burn, and nor are the overwhelming majority of my colleagues. Those who demonize us are no different from garden-variety bigots who target a racial group or sexual orientation to stir up hatred among those with no better use for their time. We are the ones who spend every waking day with children. We are the ones who look after them while parents work, and we are the ones who try to inspire them to find a direction in life, whether or not they pass the often ridiculous multiple choice tests imposed by the corporations who profit from them.

By publicly ridiculing our profession, by degrading working conditions, by presenting corporate fairy tales by precisely the same folks who jettisoned the economy with their insatiable avarice we are not much helping our children. In fact, Barack Obama, Michael Bloomberg, Bill Gates, Joel Klein, Rahm Emanuel and their ilk do not patronize the test-prep, high class-sized factory-like institutions they're trying to create for our children. We need to reject their indulgence in fairy-tales like "Won't Back Down" and insist our kids get what their kids get--small class sizes, individual attention, and assessment without ridiculous high-stakes tests.

Finally, we need to recognize one major consequence of degrading and insulting this profession. I teach high-needs kids exclusively, and when corporate hacks degrade teaching, they're actively trying to remove a viable path to middle class for kids like those I serve. Last year I had a former student as a student teacher. She would be great at my job. Her very existence as a teacher sends kids the message, "I did it, and so can you."

Making her into a test-prepping, drone-like, wage slave is not what she needs, not what our kids need, and not good for America. Firing her for test scores that are likely as not meaningless is good for neither her nor our children, all of whom need more, not fewer opportunities to make it in this increasingly tough job market.

In fact, no matter how much money bumbling Bill Gates gets his hands on, he will never know anything about public education or the struggles of our children. And it is we, not the billionaires, who spend every waking hour looking toward their best interests.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Work Expands to Fill the Available Space

I usually spend about 10 hours inside the school building on any given day.  That means 50 hours/week.  Add in the time I spend on the weekend and you're probably up to about 55.  Which sounds like a more-than-adequate work week.  Yet I can't figure out how that never seems like enough time.

And trust me, those are ten badass hours.  I usually work through my lunch, or if I do stop, I only take about half the period.  Factor in a bathroom or coffee break here and there and I'm still working for nine or nine-and-a-half solid hours.  How is that not enough time?

I don't know, but since I'm not Jewish, I suppose I'm doing my own personal version of the Day of Atonement in my home office today with a nice thick folder of student essays and two lesson plans to write.  And even so, all that work, which will likely take a few hours, will only get me through Friday.  They say that work will expand to fill the available space, and I think that's true, but I'm not doing much beyond what I need to do to keep my head above water, either.  I don't advise a club or serve on any committees; since I'm teaching a brand-new class this year, I decided I need to have time to focus on planning.  And it's turning out to be pretty demanding.

I realize that this is hardly breaking news to any of my colleagues, but as always, I actively seek tips on time management.  I've clearly mastered the "saying no" part, but I'm wondering how I still don't seem to have enough time to do more than just barely stay ahead of the curve.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

What Do You Do When Truth Doesn't Matter?

In the United States today, you can pretty much sell anything. Maybe those of us who've been trying to respond the the education "reform" movement have been going about it all wrong. Is it really a good idea to simply address the issues media brings up? Maybe we should ignore them and simply start attacking the media. I mean, sure, there are good reasons to do so.

What can you say about an education summit hosted by Rush Limbaugh aficionado Brian Williams? What can you say about a major network that excludes Diane Ravitch from the conversation? How about a major network that witnessed a pivotal event, the CTU strike, and did not see fit to invite CTU President Karen Lewis?

To top it off, what can you say about said summit, for the second time, hosting an anti-teacher, anti-labor, mythological Hollywood production as though it were newsworthy? As if that were not enough, there are real grassroots efforts that receive no coverage at all from these great thinkers.

For myself, I'm going to Darkest New Jersey today rather than subject myself to this one-sided nonsensical extravaganza. I don't do that lightly. But that's how strongly I feel about it. I mean, we could ask real questions:

How do you feel about NBC's so-called Education Nation? 

Are they adding value? Should they be turned around? And since they're already privatized, should we perhaps try making NBC public? 

I'm not saying there's any evidence that making the network public will improve it, because "reforms" don't hold up when you actually demand evidence. But perhaps we should move away from presenting truth, and simply attack them relentlessly, without offering any reason whatsoever. We could ignore reality altogether, and focus on making stuff up for no other reason than to make them look bad.

That seems to be what "reformers" and "objective" news organizations like NBC does to teachers. Is it time for us to launch a campaign to impose fanciful, baseless nonsense on those who vilify us and pretend to give us news? Would we have an edge over the "reformers" if we didn't bother with even the pretense of being reality-based?

Friday, September 21, 2012

This Is Why I'm a Teacher

I was giving placement tests to incoming ESL students, and a young woman came in with her sister, who'd just gotten here. She said she had graduated from our school recently, and asked about one of my young colleagues. I told her I was sorry, she wasn't here, but why not leave a note? I gave her a piece of paper and she began writing, all excited.

When my colleague got back, I told here there was a note for her. She pulled it out of her mailbox and looked that the smiley faces on its folded cover, and began to resemble them. The note said thank you for all you did for me, thank you for helping me with English, I'm in college now, and concluded asking my colleague to pray for her. I hoped that was out of some religious conviction rather than some sense of hopelessness, but we'll never know.

Nonetheless, my colleague was thrilled, as happy as I've ever seen her. She said, simply, "This is why I'm a teacher." I don't suppose Bill Gates would understand that. Nor would the disingenuous sycophants who leave teaching, take Gates money and flock to astroturf groups like E4E. But I know exactly how she felt. Notes like those mean more than observations from administrators. I treasure them. And the fact is, most of us are moved far more by things like that than getting a few extra bucks for raising test scores.

That's not to say we don't want money. It's atrocious that demagogues like Mike Bloomberg publicly claim to care about education, but actually issue raises to all city employees but educators. We know how little regard he has for us, and how much he cares about stuffing the pockets of entrepreneurs like Eva Moskowitz and Geoffrey Canada. Next month will be four years we've gone without a contract. It's very tough to be treated with such vicious contempt by those who, ostensibly, are your employers.

But we still know what it's all about. We still love the kids. And as our brothers and sisters in Chicago have shown, ultimately it is we, the teachers, who won't back down.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

New Visions from Chicago--Farewell, TINA, We’re Glad to See You Go

By special guest blogger Michael Fiorillo

Though they may not know it by name, public school teachers everywhere have close contact with TINA (There Is No Alternative). TINA is everywhere in the schools, though often changing shape and contradicting itself. The contradictions don’t matter. What matters is that teachers be constantly told There Is No Alternative, and provided object lessons (u-ratings, scapegoating, school closings) in the punishments that await them if they dare not submit. Unfortunately, far too many teachers have discovered that submission is no guarantee that you and your school won’t be punished anyway. TINA is a cruel master.

This expression came into being with the onset of Neoliberal economics, symbolized by the elections of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. Thatcher was big on telling workers whose unions she was busting that There Is No Alternative. On the economic policy level, TINA is characterized by deregulation of business, increased dominance of the economy by Finance, loss of national sovereignty in the face of global trade agreements written by and for trans national corporations, and privatization of public institutions and resources.

That last one, privatization, has particular meaning for teachers, since it is the driving force behind charter schools, vouchers, online schooling and for-profit colleges. It’s behind the constant high stakes testing, and the teacher evaluations based on that testing – even our own union tells us There Is No Alternative to test-based evaluations! – and its behind the constant school closings and budget cutbacks.

It’s behind the ongoing destruction of the neighborhood public school, and the attacks on the teacher unions that are the most powerful institution in defense of the public schools.

Always authoritarian, intended to short-circuit thought and debate, TINA ranges from the systemic to the nit-pickingly absurd. I’m sure every reader has their own favorite TINA mandate, gravely delivered by a Principal or AP. As the constantly churned administrative structures of the DOE stagger from disruption to disruption, TINA says there is no alternative to Regions. But wait: now TINA says there is no alternative to Networks, whatever they are. There was no alternative to Cathie Black, until there was. Consistency doesn’t matter, but obedience does. Just ask those PEP members who had the effrontery to think for themselves about Bloomberg’s social promotion policies a few years ago. Of course, a few years down the line, different political optics take over, and now TINA says Everyone Must Pass, and it’s the Teacher’s Fault if they don’t.

TINA says children must sit on rugs; TINA says children must sit in rows. TINA says the hallway bulletin boards must be just so. TINA says last year’s panacea is deleted, but today’s (Common Core Standards, anyone?) commands genuflection and compliance. TINA exists to make you feel small, powerless and alone, while a charter school measures the rooms it will be taking over in your school, rooms your students will be banished from.

But last week, the Chicago Teacher’s Union went a long way towards kicking TINA out of the schools. No matter what the result of the current strike, the discussion about education has been irrevocably changed by the courageous actions of the CTU. Now, frauds like Michele Rhee and  Joel Klein will not have the same unlimited media lines of credit they once did. Their insipid and false stories of miracle schools and (young, white, cheap, temporary) Superman teachers are going to be critically examined for once, and exposed as the self-serving deceptions they are. The lies of the corporate education reformers may have had a twenty-year head start, but they are beginning to have run their course, and will fall apart under the weight of their own dishonesty and un-workability.

The reality is that There Is An Alternative to the willful destruction of the neighborhood school, to the de-professionalization of teaching, to the disenfranchisement of parents and communities in governing their children’s educations, to the disfigurement of children’s educations by high stakes tests that embody the venal worldview that says children are products to be monetized, and that teachers are factors of production to be ruthlessly managed.

The CTU has not only changed the debate, but has given us a road map – - to reclaiming the schools for students, with a well-rounded curriculum, smaller class size, broad support services, and acknowledgement that social justice issues – segregation, aggressive policing of minority youth, iniquitous school funding, the writing off of some school populations – are integral to the functioning and performance of the schools. There has been an enforced media lockdown on that debate for years, while brave dissidents like Diane Ravitch keep reporting the truth, insulted and lied about when not ignored. But Karen Lewis and the CTU have blown the lock off that cell door.

TINA is dead in the schools; we should neither mourn nor celebrate, but organize. It’s time to continue what the CTU has started, and drive the money changers from the Temple of Learning.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

An Open Conversation, Even in Chicago, about Union Leadership?

Listening to coverage of the now-concluded teachers' strike in Chicago on NPR on my way back to the 5 boroughs from the hinterlands yesterday, one thing really struck me in how the Chicago teachers discussed the CTU: the openness with which CTU members discussed Karen Lewis, President of the CTU.  There is far from a universal opinion on how Lewis has handled the breakdown in contract negotiations and the strike, even though the CTU delegates have voted to approve the framework for a new contract and end the strike effective today.

Members of the CTU frankly discussed Lewis's leadership in this time of what must be called a crisis.  Several bluntly questioned her ability to lead following the drastic measure of a teachers' strike.  Others called her too confrontational, while yet others defended her as tough yet pragmatic.  This will clearly be a discussion in the CTU for the coming days, but that's just the point: it will, in fact, be a discussion.

I'll be honest here and say that I'm not as well-informed about UFT leadership as I'd like to be, but I cannot even imagine our local NPR affiliate covering a candid conversation about said leadership, let alone most rank-and-file UFTers having it in a public forum.  God knows there is plenty of grassroots opposition to Mulgrew and Unity, but I only know that from being involved with the teacher blogging community.  If you paid attention to the mainstream media, I think, you'd get the impression that the UFT is a monolith in lockstep march with Mulgrew, and that's far from the truth.

I wouldn't want to be in the CTU's shoes.  They're going to be fighting a public relations battle over the strike, hammering out the dirty details of the new contract, and, you know, trying to educate the children, too.  Yet I do envy their ability to have a spirited, fair, and public conversation about their leadership--even a leadership that, to me, seems quite a bit tougher than what we have here.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

God Save Karen Lewis

After hearing the CTU strike was nearing a resolution, I was surprised to hear that it was, in fact, going to continue for two more days. I was more surprised, though, at the rationale behind that decision.

“This union is a democratic institution, which values the opportunity for all members to make decisions together. The officers of this union follow the lead of our members,” President Lewis said. 

Have you ever heard of such a thing? She's going to walk the picket line with her members, tell them what's going on, hear what they think, and make a decision based on that. The officers follow the lead of the members. That is leadership. That is democracy. We have a very, very limited notion of what democracy is in this country. It's not, in fact, choosing between Tweedledum and Tweedledumber.

Democracy is when we are part of the discussion, when decisions rise from the people. Democracy is not when you get to choose between two people, neither of whom you'd have chosen as a last resort.

Furthermore, democracy is not when you don't even get to do that.

Karen Lewis knows what democracy is. She knows who she represents. She is a beacon in a very dark time.

I am so impressed by her.

Happy 5773

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Thought for the Day

Friday, September 14, 2012

People Forget

It's easy to condemn the Chicago teachers for walking out. All the papers are doing it. If they cared about the kids, they'd go to work. They'd settle. They'd be happy they had jobs. It's certainly true that plenty of people do not.

Not only that, but teachers are role models. What sort of example do they set when they don't go to work?

But no one seems to ask--why did Rahm Emanuel unilaterally renege on a collectively bargained 4% pay increase? Does anyone think there would be a strike if he hadn't done that?

And why did Mayor Emanuel think the teachers would agree to a 20% longer day for a 2% increase? Did he think teachers would agree to unspecified raises for the three following years for only those he deemed worthy? Should they have trusted in his good intentions after he broke an agreement they bargained in good faith?

Does he think teachers are stupid enough to fall for that?

Chicago teachers are facing day 5 on the picket line. They deserve our full support. Please contribute to their solidarity fund. I have, and if they're still out next week, I'll do so again.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Thoughts on Music from a Non-Music Teacher

Well, we're almost a week into the new school year.  How is everyone feeling?  I'm doing pretty well, other than the fact that my body is still in, "What?  I need a regular sleep schedule and I need to get up at 5 a.m.?  SERIOUSLY?" mode.  But I can't complain.

This is my seventh year teaching, which means I'm starting to get pretty expensive, so I better be worth it to my principal which means I have opportunities to be more deeply reflective about my craft.  (Yes.  That sounds better.)  But, for what it's worth, I did have a pretty reflective summer, and I've formulated a theory about teaching that I thought might be worth sharing with all of you.  And it revolves around music, which is always fun to think and write about, at least for me.  I've been playing music in my classroom every day, and it seems to help my mood and focus as much as it helps the kids'.

I think when you're first starting to teach, it's like first starting to play an instrument.  There are so many moving parts--the parts of the instrument, reading the music, posture, breathing, dynamics--that you can barely keep them all straight.  Focusing on one area at a time often means everything else falls apart.  Trying to be good at everything at once means that everything is mediocre or worse.  And you just soldier through that first year or two, and if, every so often, "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" comes out recognizably, you call that a good day.

Then, after those first (say) two years, you're in a beginning ensemble.  You can more or less do everything at once.  Maybe none of it is great yet, but you won't bring down your fellow musicians in the rest of the ensemble, either.  Sometimes you can look away from the music and work on your posture, your breathing, those little things that make a decent piece of music sound lovely. You can lean on them and learn from them, and maybe once in a great while you'll get a tiny little solo.

Years five and six, then, are like playing in a pretty good classical ensemble.  Maybe you can show off a little now, take a fancier solo or two.  But your eyes might be glued to the music even more than they used to be, because the music is getting really complicated.  You want to play pieces you've never played before, and you can play them, but it's still tough.  It takes a lot of practice and preparation.

Then, at some point, you're playing jazz.  You have years and years of practice and preparation.  You know hundreds of scores by heart and from memory.  You can play a piece perfectly but go off on a gorgeous riff on a moment's notice, and keep it going as long as you want or need to.

I don't think I'm a jazz musician yet, and I think I'm surrounded by a lot of very disciplined classical musicians.  I think that's okay.  But I sure would like to be a jazz musician eventually--or, more aptly, a jazz teacher.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Wear Red Today

In solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Chicago, who are on strike. If you want to help, please contribute to their solidarity fund. I have.

Remember that Mayor Rahm Emanuel reneged on a negotiated 4% raise. He then offered a 2% raise, with undetermined merit pay to follow as he saw fit and demanded, for this, that teachers work a 20% longer school day.

Rahm's corporate pals changed the law so that CTU needed a 75% vote of union members to authorize a strike, thinking that would never happen. Some "reformer" whose name I don't recall boasted of this at a meeting. When the vote came, 98% voted to authorize a strike, which came to 90% of union members.

Rahm criticized them for not waiting to hear what the arbitrator would say. But when the arbitrator came back, he recommended a 15-20% raise for teachers. Rahm was not pleased. Chicago teachers rejected it too, because it did not address school conditions.

A sticking point in current negotiations is teacher evaluations. Rahm is insisting on VAM junk science, while CTU insists they stick to reality. Personally, I'm pro-reality.

Let's see whether Rahm's mentor, President Barack Obama, finds his comfortable shoes and stands with labor today.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Why Do We Need Union?

Here's a sign from Chicago--ground zero as of midnight tonight.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Thought for the Day

Friday, September 07, 2012

What if You Can't Make a Living Teaching?

My guilty pleasure is watching cooking shows. I don't cook that much, but I'm fascinated by food competitions, and also by shows that try to help restaurants. One of the things I notice is that Gordon Ramsay, as nuts as he gets, never says, "The best way to save this restaurant is to close it and replace it with another one." Of course, when he gets to a restaurant, it's often on its last legs anyway.

I was watching a show called Restaurant Stakeout, noticing that they planned to judge the service via observation, when suddenly the host identified a helpful employee. The restaurant owner said, "Danielle's a friend of mine's daughter. She's a sweet girl. She's also a teacher."

This means Danielle teaches all day, then waits tables at night. Why the hell should Danielle have to live like that? I really shouldn't criticize. I taught college at night for almost 20 years. In retrospect, I wonder if I'd have made more money waiting tables. A friend of mine often tells the story of the pay cut he took when he went from being a waiter to a teacher.

Yet, to read the paper, you'd think we've got a free ride, jobs for life, a union that wants us to sit around while kids fail. That's awful. Also awful is people like Danielle, who have no time for personal lives. It's a good thing she's not in some charter school working 200 hours a week, because then she wouldn't even make the extra money, and when those anxiety attacks started coming, who knows whether she'd even have insurance?

A few years ago, I was talking to a young teacher about movies. She told me she couldn't afford to go to movies. I don't know what she did with her money, or what she owed in loans, but she wasn't living high on the hog or anything, and it broke my heart she couldn't even afford something most of us would take for granted.

I'm tired of hearing all that crap about how we can't pay all teachers more, but only the good ones. If we aren't good, why the hell did you hire us in the first place? Most teachers I know are good. Still, teachers would be better if they didn't have to read about how awful they were in the tabloids every single day. Teachers would be better if they were treated with the respect we show abject strangers. Teachers would be better if folks like Mike Bloomberg didn't wake up one morning and announce every city worker gets an 8% raise except teachers, who can all go to hell.

Danielle needs a raise too. Teachers would be better if they didn't need second jobs.

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

E-mail from Sarah

Less than 48 hours before the school year began, I got an e-mail from a student I'll call Sarah.  Sarah just moved to the U.S. last year, but she knew enough English to get the ball rolling, and she's a bright and hard-working young lady.  She did very well at our school.

Sarah's e-mail, however, said that her mother wanted her to transfer schools to be closer to her sisters, who would be attending school in Manhattan.  Honestly, it made me so upset that I couldn't respond to her right away. Sarah's had quite a bit of upheaval in her life in the past year: moving to a new country without her siblings at first, starting at a new school, going back to her native country for almost a month in March.  And she thrived despite all of that.  She's doing well.  So maybe this next move will be fine for her too.

But I was still angry.  It made me feel like no one in Sarah's family is looking out for her, that she's a widget to be constantly repositioned depending on what's most convenient for everyone else.  Maybe it's a question of culture, of different values.  Maybe Sarah expected this and understands it and is totally okay with it.  I don't know.  I just don't understand why she can't stay someplace where she was doing well and why she has to have her life torn apart again.

Sorry to start my school year posting on such a down note here.  I'm sad on Sarah's behalf and not sure how vehemently I can oppose this particular move at school, so here I am.  I guess I can say that that's the worst thing that happened to me yesterday and I was, on the whole, very excited to be back and to meet my new kids, and see my old ones again, tomorrow.

Monday, September 03, 2012

There May Be More To It than Rubrics

I Wish Someone Had Told Me

Practical suggestions were few and far between when I started out. I was an English teacher, with an AP who spent hours describing the difference between an “aim” and an “instructional objective.” To this day, I haven’t the slightest notion what she was talking about. She also spent a good deal of time describing the trials and tribulations of her cooking projects, and other utterly useless information.

Neither she nor any teacher of education ever advised me on classroom control. The standing platitude was “A good lesson plan is the best way to control a class,” but I no longer believe that. I think a good lesson plan is the best thing to have after you control the class.

I also think a good lesson plan need not be written at all, as long as you know what you’re doing. If you don’t, neither the lesson plan nor the aim will be much help.

The best trick, and it’s not much of a trick at all, is frequent home contact. It’s true that not all parents will be helpful, but I’ve found most of them to be. When kids know reports of their classroom behavior will reach their homes, they tend to save the acting out for your lazier colleagues—the ones who find it too inconvenient to call. You are not being "mean" or petty--you're doing your job, and probably helping the kid. If you want to really make a point, make a dozen calls after the first day of class. Or do it the day before a week-long vacation.

Now you could certainly send that ill-mannered kid to the dean, to your AP, to the guidance counselor, or any number of places. But when you do that, you’re sending a clear message that you cannot deal with that kid—he or she is just too much for you. You’ve already lost.

And what is that dean going to do anyway? Lecture the child? Call the home? Why not do it yourself?

You need to be positive when you call. Politely introduce yourself and say this:

“I’m very concerned about _______________. ___________ is a very bright kid. That’s why I’m shocked at these grades: 50, 14, 0, 12, and 43 (or whatever). I’d really like __________ to pass the class, and I know you would too.”

I’ve yet to encounter the parent who says no, my kids are stupid, and I don’t want them to pass.

“Also, I’ve noticed that ___________ is a leader. For example, every time ___________ (describe objectionable behavior here) or says (quote exact words here—always immediately write objectionable statements) many other students want to do/say that too.”

"I'm also concerned because ________ was absent on (insert dates here) and late (insert dates and lengths here).

I certainly hope you will give _________ some good advice so ___________ can pass the class.”

If the kid’s parents speak a foreign language you don’t know, find someone else who also speaks it, and write down what you want that person to tell the parent.

If you’re lucky enough to have a phone in your room, next time you have a test, get on the phone in front of your class and call the homes of the kids who aren’t there. Express concern and ask where they are. If the kid is cutting, it will be a while before that happens again. If the kid is sick, thank the parent and wish for a speedy recovery.

The kids in your class will think twice about giving you a hard time.

Kids test you all the time. It’s hard not to lose your temper, but it’s a terrible loss for you if you do. When kids know you will call their homes, they will be far less likely to disrupt your class. The minutes you spend making calls are a very minor inconvenience compared to having a disruptive class.

If you’re fortunate enough to have a reasonable and supportive AP, God bless you. If not, like many teachers, you’ll just have to learn to take care of yourself. If you really like kids, if you really know your subject, and if you really want to teach, you’ll get the hang of it.

But make those phone calls. The longer you do it, the more kids will know it, and the fewer calls you’ll have to make.

Your AP, whether good, bad, or indifferent, will certainly appreciate having fewer discipline problems from you. More importantly, you might spend less time dealing with discipline problems, and more helping all those kids in your room.

Originally posted June 5, 2005

See also:

Ms. Cornelius with everything they forgot (or more likely, never knew about) at ed. school.   Here's something from Miss Malarkey. And whatever you do, don't forget Miss Eyre's excellent series on what no one will tell you about working for the DoE.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Saturday, September 01, 2012