Monday, March 27, 2017

Writing the wrongs

Once again, we come to that time of year when teachers feel the need to have strokes at their desks.  Yes, it's time to grade those writing assignments, the ones you slaved over and stayed after school to help students with and gave tons of feedback on, with such helpful insights as "don't end your sentence with a preposition!"

Just kidding.  I never say that.

I'm relishing the fact that I get to sit down with the students to review their work, and the first thing I'll do is start reading it aloud to them.  That way, they can squirm and look at the floor and consider their failings, which they should, because I'm certainly considering their failings right now.

Structured play is great for a child to know, because it teaches them the importance of obeying rules and also playing fair with other possible children.

Children will never truly enjoy something unless they like it.

Children need to know the difference between imaginary and reality, the best way to do that is showing them reality but also allowing them imaginary.

Using idea’s never thought about before is becoming more desirable in the work force, so knowing what is real and fake is important to know at an early age.

When children are allowed to play unstructuredly, they develop creative skills.

One of our 30 human rights is to have the freedom to enjoy ourselves. 

When a child has structured play, the child is learning that they don’t always get to do what they want and they don’t always get what they want.

A child’s mentality is considered a way of freedom.

Children thrive in a world where there are no problems, worries, or stress.

It depends on the type of person you is.

It really does, doesn't it?


Monday, March 20, 2017

A day in the life

“How’s the new program working?”

I’m standing outside my classroom door, as I’m required, ready to greet my students as they walk in the classroom door.  I’m tired, and I have a terrible head cold.  This is not improved by having our dean of academics come up and ask me this question.

“Fine,” I say shortly, then turn to say hello to one of my surly students who is trudging in.  He steps between Mr. Slater and me without any acknowledgment of the greeting. 

“So it’s going well?” Mr. Slater asks.

“If they would work,” I respond.  I really don’t want to talk to Mr. Slater, now or any time.  The class period that’s about to start is my worst-behaved class, and this new “program” is the district’s response to my request for an interventionist to come in and work with my students who clearly can’t read well.  Rather than sending the STATE REQUIRED PERSON IN, they decided to implement another computer program, in addition to the one I’ve already been doing.  This will teach the kids to read – not the study-proven one-on-one help that we’re supposed to be providing already. 

So yeah, I’m unhappy with Mr. Slater, with his smug, stupid little goatee and lack of email response.  I’m unhappy with the school and their general half-ass measures.  This program was his brilliant idea. 

“So what are you doing to make them work?” he asks.

I cough violently.  “What?” I say.

So what am I doing to make them work, besides standing over them, constantly redirecting and reminding them of their grades?  I’ve been threatening their families and bribing them with illegal substances?  I hear that works.

Luckily, the bell rang.  "Sorry, I have to start class now," I say to Mr. Slater.  I walk inside and close the door in his face.  



Monday, March 13, 2017

Can I call it TBM?

I thought you'd get a kick out of an old journal entry I wrote when I was working at my high school in Crappy ISD.  

Busy day.  Two fights in the cafeteria this morning, one at lunch, one in the hallway. 

Busy day.  Two days ago I received and email, telling me I was signed up for training that I knew nothing about.  I’ve learned that questioning why doesn’t seem to work, so I figured what the heck, it’s another day I get to spend away from these foul-mouthed monsters.  I might pick up some valuable knowledge or skills as well. 

Boy, did I leave with a head full of knowledge!  It’s so full of it that I’m bleeding from the ears.  I learned that the district wants me to do MORE work, and MORE remediation, even though that’s NOT what I was told when I was hired.  They’ve got a great new program that’s going to fix the big problem of kids not being able to read.  The best news is that it only takes more than double the amount of prep time, grading time and in-class training time than the average class.  I felt waves of relief wash over me; either that or my bladder let go when I heard it.  When you have three different classes to prepare for, the most exciting thing you can hear is that you’ll need to spend more time planning and prepping and documenting. 

Busy day.  Three teachers walked out of the school this afternoon.  One was attacked by a student during class.  The administration announced that he was terminated because apparently, throwing the student off of him was “unprofessional.”  That is so true.  The most professional thing to do cover your face and hope you don’t get slashed in the guts – otherwise you’re just entering a power struggle with the kid. No one wants that.  

The attacked teacher left when the school wouldn’t call the police to report it as an assault, even though the attacker was 18.  The other two teachers left out of outraged solidarity.

So… busy day, but really, it’s just another day at Low Expectations High.  I plan to be busy with a fifth of vodka tonight.


Monday, March 6, 2017

Nature or nurture?

Are sociopaths drawn to education?

This was the main thrust of a conversation a friend and I were having today.   We were talking about how many sick, narcissistic or even psychopathic people we’ve worked with in education.  Is it because it’s an industry that doesn’t demand productivity, or at least productivity in a way that’s easy to measure?  Is it because it’s usually something run by the government? 

Before you roll your eyes at my naivete, consider that I’ve worked in several other industries before I made a move to teaching.  Yes, there were indeed both great and horrible people in those industries too.  But I don’t think I saw as many there as I’ve seen working in schools.  Furthermore, though each school has its share of teachers who have absolutely no business working with juveniles in any capacity, what I’m talking about mainly is administration.  Power corrupts… blah blah blah.

I think sick people like to be in positions of power over a group of “good people.”  Most teachers are good people.  They got into this business because they want to help kids and be a force for positive change in their lives.  They work hard for little money, spend a lot of their free time with their students, and generally throw their all into their work.  A sociopathic admin probably thinks, “These suckers are ripe for the picking.”

Who else would feel guilty about what they can’t do, and take it personally when their principal blames them?  Who else would bend over backward to try and fix it?  Who else would actually believe that group work is productive, or that popsicle sticks are a fixture in a high school classroom?  Who else could a power-hungry person manipulate as easily as a group of teachers?

We need a test of some sort for administrators.  Maybe we should create a questionnaire, and ask how many close friends you have, who you idolize, and what you think is an acceptable time to contact a team member.  If you answer with “few to none,” “Kim Jong-Un,” and “anytime I want,” then your proclivities are clear. 


Worse, maybe these awful administrators AREN’T sociopaths.  Maybe they become that way after working in education.  If that’s true, then God help everyone who is involved.                                                                                                  

Monday, February 20, 2017

Can you feel the love, uh, today?

So I got this today:

“We are unable to find your completed lesson plans in Eduphoria in the Gradual Release Lesson Cycle format.”

The reason the administration can't find it might be because they just uploaded the format today and didn’t look at what I put in, but we all make mistakes, right?

“In addition, please be reminded that in order to receive a rating of potential for Professional Responsibilities the following must hold true: The teacher performs duties, participates in meetings, and adheres to deadlines.  Failure to perform duties, participate in meetings, or adhere to deadlines are isolated incidents that do not reoccur. The teacher is compliant with all school, district, state and federal policies.”

I guess we do all make mistakes, especially grammatical ones, particularly when we write emails that will go out to the entire staff.  But the threat gives it a personalized touch.

“Lesson plans are due each Thursday at 4:00 pm please upload your lesson plans to Eduphoria by noon, February 14, 2017.  If you feel that this is an error please let us know where we may find your lesson plans.”

Yes, I’ll tell you EXACTLY where you can find my lesson plans.  My emailed response will be very concise, yet descriptive, and totally in keeping with the "love" theme of Valentine's Day. 


Monday, February 13, 2017

A not so worthy substitute

“Hi Y'all, Mrs. Levinson had to leave for an appointment, so I’m covering her class today.  The first thing we need to do is collect your–“

“Ms. Marlowe?  Ms. Marlowe?”  A hand waves frantically in the air, attached to a freshman with mussed hair.  “I’m supposed to have an extra day to finish my project because I was absent on Thursday.” 

“Well, fine, as long as you’ve cleared it with Mrs. Levinson, but I suppose she’ll talk to you about it tomorrow.  The rest of you, please put your finished poster over here.”  Most of the class gets up to take their posters to the back table, but the rumpled freshman is trying to get my attention again.

“Um, can you tell Mrs. Levinson that I’ll have my project on Monday?  My family is going out of town, and I’ll be gone tomorrow.”  He smiles in what I’m sure he thinks is an encouraging way.

“No, Todd, I’m not going to do that.  You have email, and so does she, and you can and should email her about this yourself.  Besides, I understand this project was assigned a week and a half ago,” I tell him firmly.  I’m not going to act as a messenger, plus this isn’t my class.  He can take care of this himself.  I’m sure the teacher won’t be surprised by this.  I’m not.

“But –“ he starts to plead.

“Sit down, Todd,” I say.  “Take this up with her.  I need to get class started.”

He mutters as he sits down.  Class members wander back to their seats.  I go to the board and look at the clipboard I’m holding, which the teacher left for me with instructions on it. 

“Now, put everything away and get out a pen.  I’ll hand out the quiz…”  Collective groans fill the air.  Someone from the back whines, “Do we have to?”

I blink.  “Uh, yes, because she said you do.  Put your books away.”

“Can’t we just have fun today?”  This comes from a smarmy looking boy who’s leaning back and has one foot resting on the top of his desk.

I roll my eyes.  “No.  This is school.  It’s not about having fun.  And take your feet off the desk; that’s rude.”  He does so reluctantly as I start handing out the quiz.

“But we can have fun at school!” the whiner in the back opines as I make my way through the room.

“Boy, that’s news to me.  I was told otherwise when I took teacher training,” I deadpan.  “So since I believe what I’m told, get to work.  If I see you talking or communicating with other people during the quiz, I’m going to take it, and you’ll get a zero.”  I look at the clock.  “You have fifteen minutes, starting now.”  Most of the students bend their heads and start reading the page. 

Another hand goes up, this time from the side of the room.  “I don’t understand this first question.” 
I look at her.  “Okay,” I say slowly.  I walk over and read the question.  “What don’t you understand about it?”

“This part,” she says, pointing to basically, the entire question. 

I sigh inwardly.  “I really don’t know if I can help you with that because I don’t know what she covered in class.  Just do the best you can, and maybe you can ask her about it tomorrow.”  The student looked disappointed and shrugs. 

Fifteen minutes passes, and I ask the students to turn in their quizzes.  I hear a few groans and “But I’m not done!” from the back of the room.

“Sorry, you have to turn it in anyway.” I walk around to start collecting the papers.  One student is still writing frantically.

I grab the edge.  “Kyle, you’re done.  Hand it over.”  He lets go and huffs loudly.

“Mrs. Levinson always lets us finish,” he complains, rubbing the back of his neck.

“Uh-huh,” I say as I take the other papers.

“Seriously, Ms. Marlowe, why don’t you just let him finish?” asks Trina, who’s on the other side of the room.

“This really doesn’t concern you, Trina, does it?” I ask her pointedly. 

“But Mrs. Levinson always –“

Now I’m highly irritated.  “I’m not Mrs. Levinson, and I’m simply following the directions she left.  If you have a problem with it, take it up with her.  Now open your books to page 763, so we can look at the spread of the Byzantine empire.”

More groans and grumblings as everyone pulls out their books. 

Yeah, I hate subbing as much as they hate having me.


Monday, February 6, 2017

Livin' el libro loca! (I think that's how you say it.)

I’d really like to be a librarian.

I’ve run the library at two of the schools I worked at, but unfortunately, I wasn’t an official librarian.  What makes an official librarian, you may ask if you’re bored and have nothing else to read and decided to respond to my semi-coherent assertion? 

According to the state of Texas, an official librarian is one who has a master’s degree in library science and holds librarian certification from the state.  So you can see the problem for those of us who would like this job but have neither the time, money, or inclination to get the education and documentation we need to actually DO the job. 

Except I actually have done the job.  Seriously, librarians, I love you, but having worked in a library, I know how to do your job.  I know how to automate the library, maintain the database, do inventory, introduce students to many other scholarly databases, create web pages and the like.  I know the Dewey Decimal system better than most “official” librarians.  I even know the Library of Congress classifications better.  And frankly, I’ve read a whole lot more young adult, middle-grade and elementary books than you have, so I know what to recommend to them, based both on their interest and reading levels.  Quit directing kids to Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry.  No one reads that anymore.  They read The Graveyard Book or Divergent and love them.

Someday I’ll apply to graduate school and do what it takes to actually be a librarian, but I wonder if it’ll be too late by that time.  I mean, I’ve read about how libraries everywhere are closing.  School libraries are frequently staffed by people like me who aren’t “official” but who aren’t averse to keeping track of the books.  Is it really worth it?  Is it a dying profession?  Plus, librarians really don’t make much more money than teachers, so why should I pursue more education if it doesn’t financially pay off?

You may say, “Because then you can do what you love!”  I actually agree.  My problem is that it shouldn’t take so much time and money to do what I love when I can realistically do all that right now, without investing any hours or dollars. 

Honestly, I’d love to be a librarian, but I think I’d miss working with the students.  I get more satisfaction out of seeing students grow and improve than I did about recommending a book to a student that he or she ended up loving.  When I moved full-time into the classroom, I was surprised by how much I ended up enjoying it. 

But it’s the New Year, and I’m thinking about my goals for the future.  What do I want to accomplish?  Is this the year I finally take the plunge and try to up my education in some area?  Or do I just try and give up Coke Zero again?  That resolution hasn’t gone well, for the simple fact that I don’t want to give it up yet.  So in one case, I don’t want to start, and in the other case, I don’t want to stop.