Monday, December 26, 2016

Beware of Chad, and you know what I mean

So, let’s talk about crappy teachers, of whom there are many.

What are the signs of a crappy teacher?  It all depends on the school, the subject, and the administrative oversight.  Administrators may think a teacher is bad because he or she doesn’t follow all the inane strictures placed on him or her.  That doesn’t necessarily mean anything.  Some administrators are micromanagers, and they suck as well.

A parent may think a teacher is bad because the parent either doesn’t understand what the teacher is doing, or the parent is upset because the child isn’t getting what he or she considers to be due consideration.  Again, this view is subjective and can’t be taken as gospel.  Kids lie to their parents about school all the time.

Here’s a good way to gauge teacher crappiness – what do other teachers feel about him or her?  If one never hears positive things about this teacher from other staff members, then one can be sure that he or she is not looked on favorably. 

Teachers KNOW.  We know who lets class get out of control regularly.  We know who’s constantly calling in sick or running late.  We know who wastes time letting kids watch videos and movies in class rather than working through curriculum materials.  We know who loses papers, who gives “participation grades” to keep everyone from failing, and who really doesn’t know the material.  We know because we’ve either seen these teachers in action or those same teachers keep coming to others to get help. 

So how do you know if your kid is in a crappy class?  Ask other teachers in the department questions about the class materials.  If you ask about one teacher, and the person you are questioning quickly changes the subject or starts talking about ANOTHER teacher who is good, you have your answer.

You can also ask your child, but don’t ask, “How do you like Ms. Adams?”  Ask your kid how often the teacher is absent, or if he or she often “steps out of the room” during class.  Does he or she send students out to run errands during instruction time?  Does anyone get bullied, and does the teacher intervene?  My favorite question to ask is, “What interesting things does your teacher tell you?”  What a student finds interesting is usually strange or sometimes horrifying to an adult. 

Find out what the grade breakdown is, and see what your kid is bringing home for homework grades or test grades.  By the way, if your kid NEVER has homework for said class, that doesn’t mean he or she has a bad teacher.  It means your kid isn’t doing the work and is trying to hide it from you.  The exception will be if the teacher says that he or she never gives homework.  Then it reverts back to a bad teacher.  There’s no teacher anywhere that won’t have to occasionally give out homework.

Just so you know, whether a teacher is good or bad has nothing to do with how long he or she has been teaching.  Your first-year instructor may be fabulous and full of energy, or be insecure and have zero classroom management skills.  Your veteran teacher of 25 years may be an old pro or may have fallen into bad habits that are too late to change now.

Most of us are trying our best, and we may make mistakes.  But some people think that teaching gives them a license to do whatever they want in a room full of kids.  Remember Chad, the coworker who plays on the Internet all day, eats other people’s food in the break room and generally messes up his expense reports?  Sometimes you’ll find Chad in the classroom as well. 

Monday, December 19, 2016

The most blunder-filled time of the year

Once again, it's time to grade essays and weep over what my students submitted.  On the one hand, I applaud my students for trying harder.  On the other hand, I sometimes wish they wouldn't try harder, because you get writing like what you'll see next:

People should work together in unity to accomplish problems.

This is an exemplified example of what I’m talking about.

Many people believe that the Internet is capable of giving them a full education, which many underclass people are in dire need of.

The internet is slowly taking away the need of better experts, which is beginning the downfall of a corrupt society.

I resonate identically with this idea.

There are many websites that can alter facts and falsify actuality.

While these viewpoints can be considered valid, they are not as accurate as my viewpoint.

I think this last one is my favorite.  Who wouldn't want to have this level of confidence?  I mean, this student really shouldn't be displaying it, but still...

Monday, December 12, 2016

Definitely NOT a dual credit paper, in the end.

So, I’m sure I’ve told you that I tutor on the side.  I usually have some fun tutoring stories and weird experiences to share, but I have to say that this one left me reeling.

The other morning, my phone rang.  I didn’t recognize the number, but I often get calls from parents looking for a tutor or students checking my availability, so I try to answer if I can.  This one was a parent.

“Hi,” she said, “I’m looking for a tutor to help my daughter with writing, and one of the counselors here at (local high school) recommended you.  She said you worked with her daughter?”

“Yes, what kind of writing help does your daughter need?”

“She’s in dual credit English.  Are you familiar with dual credit English?”

I didn’t say “duh,” even though I wanted to.  “Yes, I am.”

“Mrs. Lennox said you specialized in writing, and my daughter has a paper due for this class.”

“Okay.  What’s your daughter’s name and what kind of time frame are we looking at?”

Long pause.  “Well, it would need to be soon.”  Pause again.

“Right, I understand…” Except I didn’t understand why she kept pausing.

“I’m looking for someone who’s not a teacher,” she said after hemming and hawing for a bit. 

“I’m sorry?”

Then it came out in a rush.  “She has this paper due for dual-credit English, and she has to turn it in by 2:30 this afternoon.  The teacher said he’d take it if she could have it in by then, but I want her to work with someone who can really WRITE, not a teacher, and I would pay very well.”

“Oh…” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  “I don’t think I can help you.  That won’t give me enough time to work with her, and I am an English teacher.”

“Okay, thanks.”  She hung up quickly.

I love the fact that a mother was contacting me to see if I would help her daughter cheat and get college credit in the process.  I would have loved even more to ask her why she would be a party to this, or why any self-respecting educator would damage their reputation by assisting.

But seriously, how much do you think she would have paid me?  

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

IWSG - NOT looking for the fountain of youth, because it's polluted.

What am I insecure about for this IWSG post?  Getting old.

Getting old is supposed to happen to other people, not ME.  Except it is happening to me.  I can tell by looking at my driver’s license and my scale.  It’s tough to look in the mirror and see more and more lines. 

The thing is, I actually like most of what comes with getting older.  I have a lot of life experience, so I can easily spot a potentially troublesome co-worker or problem parent.  I can tell when I’m getting into a situation I’ve gotten out of before.  I know what’s important and what isn’t, so I don’t waste a lot of time anymore worrying about things that don’t matter (like whether or not students like me.)  Plus, I don’t feel the need to keep up with pop culture religiously.  And I have a lot of great stories to tell.

But on the down side, I get tired earlier in the evening, and what used to sound fun and exciting now sounds… annoying.  My goals have become lamer, like trying to achieve a really great, tricked-out laundry room.  My feet tend to feel sore first thing in the morning.  And the best present I can think of is getting to sleep in. 

I guess I also don’t like what the aging process is doing to my appearance.  At the same time, I’m not willing to do anything drastic about it (like surgery) because people who do that look stretched and weird.  I’d rather look a little sad than freakish. 

I really never planned to live as long as I have.  Odd, right?  It's not that I really want to be young again.  It's that I want to have the energy I used to have, and the optimisim.  I can't say that I've become cynical - maybe I'm more accepting, or resigned?  That sounds marginally better.  

This came up because students were talking to me about things they hope to do after they graduate. One said she wanted to complete a major hike.  I said I'd always wanted to do that as well, and another student said, "But Ms. Marlowe, you're too old to do that now!"

Thanks, kid.  I did make sure he understood that he was not too young to say that without getting sent to the office. 

Monday, December 5, 2016

The gift that keeps taking

So, it’s Christmastime, and you’ve decided to get your child’s teacher a gift.  What would be the best gift for him or her that he or she would like but wouldn’t cost you too much or be troublesome?

Here’s a major hint: nothing.  Don’t get the teacher anything.

In all honesty, I’ve never received many presents from students or parents.  Maybe I could take this as a sign that I don’t inspire much devotion, or that I’m not that good of a teacher.  Regardless, my experience with the few gifts I have received has been less than stellar.

I’ve gotten a couple of useless photo frames that didn’t match anything I had at home or were in a weird size, and I had no way of returning or exchanging them.  Rather than regift them, I just threw them out.  Twice students have given me a “world’s best teacher mug.”  I don’t drink coffee or tea (gross!), so what am I going to do with a mug?  My husband and I have quite a few, and they clutter up our shelves until we think about them and throw them out.

Candy or Christmas cookies seems like a safe bet, but they usually come to school partially crushed or stale if the student brings them.  For some reason, I constantly get those hardened, decorated sugar cookies that no human wants to eat, or something with peanut butter in it (yes, I hate peanut butter as well.)  Plus, by the time Christmas rolls around, most of us are sick of sweets.  We get way too many of them in our staff meetings as a token gesture that the administration cares about us, rather than taking the time to listen to what we say.

A gift card would be great since you can’t give cash, but I’ve never gotten one of those, maybe because a parent doesn’t want to put a dollar amount on how much he or she appreciates you helping the student.  Decorative candles are a useless gift for anyone, so just don’t even bother with that.  Maybe some people love them, but I’ve never met anyone who likes them or uses them unless they're trying to cover up a bad smell in their apartment. 

The best gift I ever got was a Yeti mug.  It was so unexpected and useful that I still mention it to the parent every time I see her.  I’m even using it now.  But the Yeti is still an anomaly.

I’d rather get nothing at all than having to haul home useless crap that I must pretend to be grateful for.  I imagine many of you feel the same about gifts from the office exchange or from family members. Getting a gift should be pleasant, not a chore or a trial.  

If you really want to give the teacher something, give him or her a letter or email, telling how much you appreciate his or her help or the influence in your child’s life.   That’s something the teacher will keep and appreciate. Plus it takes up no space, works in any home and doesn't cost you anything but a little bit of time.  See?  Now everyone's happy. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Dream a littler dream

I can’t be the only person out there who regularly dreams about work.

The day after Thanksgiving I decided to take a well-deserved nap after an exhausting morning of shoveling in some of the pie I neglected to eat the night before.  (All that digesting really takes it out of you).  I fell asleep quickly and dreamed that I was working on a project with two other teachers, in which we had to find commonalities between Jane Eyre, Pride and Prejudice and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn.  The clues I was given were rhyming clues: “An egg that will hatch/A color to match/A tire to patch.”

Yeah, I couldn’t figure it out either, and my group was being timed.  I woke up in a panic, thinking that I needed to re-assess the project I already had for freshman English.  Then I panicked, even more, when I realized that we were reading Julius Caesar, and there’s no way I could find rhyming clues for that one.

I know we teachers teach in our sleep.  As I’m also married to another teacher, I’ve often heard him trying to explain scoring rubrics to a group, or else he’s lecturing Eric on how he’s going to lose that phone if he doesn’t put it away.  He says he’s heard me complain about grading deadlines to a principal as I snoozed. 

While I think this is pretty common in almost any job, sometimes I wonder if it’s just hard to put our teaching personas away.  I know that the other day I was having lunch with two non-teacher friends (yes, I have some) and they asked me some school or education-related question.  They both said I turned to the side and started to gesture at something while enunciating my words very clearly.  I’m glad they got a kick out of it, but I was completely unaware.  What I was aware of was the need to come up with good follow up questions for them to make sure they understood.  

I need to get a life, preferably one outside a classroom.  I'm trying, truly I am.

It’s the dreaming about the classroom that irks me.  I need my time off just like everyone else.  But it seems like I can’t escape even in my sleep.  By the way, what rhymes with “ides of March?”  

Monday, November 21, 2016

Thanks for the memories, too, I suppose...

It’s Thanksgiving time, that time of year when we teachers are glad to get away from our students for a few days.  The year is starting to drag; the days are shorter, and the whining is louder.  I mean, how many times can you tell Pierce that his paragraphs need a topic sentence before you just crumple up his latest paper without reading it? 

I did read it.  But Pierce's definition of “paragraph” is pretty loose, and I was hard-pressed to find a topic sentence in any of those.

However, it is the time of year to feel thankful, so I took a random poll of teacher friends of mine and asked them to list what they were most thankful for.  Here’s the list:

Grading curves
Referral slips
Automated tardy slips so the student can’t claim she wasn’t late “THAT many times.”
Teacher development “so we can learn to be better teachers” (this teacher is a suckup)
Time off
Pre-made lesson plans for those days where a teacher can barely keep his or her eyes open
The students who actually read and follow the directions
Tina, the girl who asks insightful questions during class discussions of the novel
The fact that Eric fell asleep during that same class discussion so we didn’t have to hear his various witty remarks
Supportive principals and department heads
Parents who bring cookies and gifts, specifically gift cards
Other teachers who’ll hang out in the teacher’s lounge and commiserate
Being able to escape to the parking lot before Jenny’s mom can corner you to ask why Jenny has an A-minus, and what she can do to raise her grade to an A
An IT department that is genuinely helpful
Comfortable shoes
More booze

I think that about covers it, so the next time you see your kid’s teacher with a frozen semi-smile on her face, you’ll know that she’s grateful for all these things.  Or else you’re Jenny’s mom, and she’s trying to make it out of the parking lot before you can talk to her. 

Monday, November 14, 2016

Like, you know - whatever...

One piece of advice I constantly repeat to students is almost universally dismissed: read your writing aloud.  When you read what you've written out loud, you can hear the mistakes in it.  But students just won't do it.  For some reason, they seem to think that they can find the errors on their own, or worse, they assume that there aren't any.  When I read their writing aloud, they usually start to squirm and try to grab the paper from me, mumbling, "Yeah, okay, I'll fix it."

All of the following examples show what happens when a high school writer doesn't follow my advice.  While it makes for pretty good entertainment for blog readers, it sure doesn't inspire confidence for the future.  

Music can help people get better or for the worst.

Music has been around for many generations.

People will listen to the “new hits,” but they will be influenced by society and their emotions.

Some songs drive people to create stern and rugged personalities.

Living in society daily and being around others show me many different things about people.

Music is a huge influence to people’s thoughts and actions, but also peelings.

Music can effect your sadness, anger/hate, and drug-use tendencies.

Music brings us closer, binds our lives together in a web with ties stronger than blood.

Music can’t influence people to do anything.  I listen to rap and I’m not influenced by it, but other people are. 

It's still early enough in the year that I have hope we can undo the damage, but sadly, it's too early in the day to drink myself into a stupor.  

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

IWSG - The ability to make up excuses for anything

The year is drawing to a close, and I'd like to think I've accomplished SOMETHING, but maybe just cranking out a post for this month's IWSG question is enough of an accomplishment. 

This month's question is "What is your favorite aspect of being a writer?"  I think my favorite aspect is taking the weird things that happen to me or around me and turning them into material for the blog.  Of the topics I write about, very little is fictionalized.  Sometimes I change names or places so that I won't get sued, but most of it happens.

Honestly, that's what I find fascinating.  Art does imitate life, and of any situation you read, you can be sure that it's already happened somewhere.  Maybe situations that involve dragons, unicorns and ghosts haven't happened (yet), but I'm sure there's a germ of truth in all of it.  

The other thing I like is the ability to find humor in a situation.  Often I've come home, steamed over a parent conference or incident with a student, and dealt with my anger by writing down what happened.  By the time I finished, I can usually find something in the story to laugh at, even if I didn't at the time.  Like the time a student said he wasn't going to follow my instructions, and I said, "Okay, you can leave the class then."  I was angry but struggling to hold it in.  He left, and it didn't occur to me until later that, yes, he had followed my instructions.  Take that, mouthy student who couldn't even maintain a D average!

Hey, you've got to laugh, because if you don't, you might cry, right?

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Time to get "lit"!

Fall is here, and that means ninth graders at my school are plowing through The Odyssey, tenth graders are trudging through The Canterbury Tales, and the juniors are pondering nature as they read Walden.  Meanwhile, I'm spending a lot of time reading trashy fanfiction.

To be honest, I re-read all the required novels and short stories every year, so that I'm always prepared for every question, questions such as, "Why do we have to read this?" and "Why did it take Odysseus so long to get home?  He's not that far away from Ithaca - I mean, can't he just look at the map?"  I think that after awhile, I get tired of reading things to look for symbolism and motifs.  I'd rather just be blown along with the story if the story is mildly entertaining.  Let's be honest, if you're constantly digesting lots of fibrous fruits and vegetables, you want a Twinkie.  At least I do.

In my review of the required reading, I've found that my perspective on these classic works of literature has changed as I've aged.  I had to re-read The Crucible last month, a play I've read two or three times and have seen performed.  Like most people, I felt heartsick at the end when John Proctor goes off to be hanged.  After my latest perusal, I noticed my feelings were less sympathetic (not about the hanging, because who wants that?)  But geez, John, you had an affair with a psychotic seventeen-year-old while your wife was sick, and you thought she'd just get over it?  And the investigating clergy never thought about why the girls would want to accuse so many pillars of the community?  Most people aren't that blind, or naive.  Hester Prynne never squeals on Dimmesdale in The Scarlet Letter and no one but her ex suspects, even though she's left on her own to raise a child in the community whose father doesn't even acknowledge her?  Either Hester has ironclad self-control or she has major self-esteem issues.  I would've ratted Dimmesdale out the second I knew I wasn't getting child support. 

Is it because I have a better understanding of human nature that I now see more flaws in character portrayals or logic?  And by that I mean don't get me started on Lord of the Flies.  There are so many things wrong with that novel that I don't even know where to begin.  (But if you're a fan, keep it to yourself, because I think you're wrong, and this is MY blog.)  Still, my "improved" understanding of human nature means I still think To Kill a Mockingbird is the perfect book. 

I think that's why I've been escaping into fan fiction.  I can overlook inconsistencies or chuck it if the story is lame, then just move on to something else.  My worry is that reading literary junk food might negatively affect my writing overall.  But that certainly can't happen, right?  RIGHT??

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Tech time is just a technicality...

Schools love technology, in theory, just like schools like catering to diverse learning styles.  In theory.

Technology is the word du jour in education right now.  Everyone wants to see how teachers are incorporating “technology” into their lessons, by either teaching students how to use it or introducing new programs that are supposed to be the answer to all the education problems we face right now.  It’s even part of teacher evaluations now.  No technology use?  You’re screwed.

But really, teachers get screwed anyway.  Technology is nice, but the reality is that schools are underfunded and crowded.  Who’s paying for the technology?  And how is it going to spread out among the teachers or students?

The last year I was at TCS, the school received a grant that meant it could provide each student with his or her own Chromebook.  In theory, this is a great idea.  Google products are inexpensive and easy to use.  The school already assigned each student a Gmail address, so deciding on Chromebooks was a natural next step.  The problem was the implementation of the Chromebook use.

One problem the school didn’t foresee was that it didn’t have enough bandwidth for that many students.  The network repeatedly crashed for the first two weeks when everyone tried to log on.  That meant registration was inaccessible, and the teacher grade books were also locked out.  It took another $20K to get everything up and running. 

Meanwhile, teachers were now required to make laptop use part of their daily lessons.  But, as any parent knows, giving a piece of electronic equipment to a teenager guarantees that it will eventually get broken, left at home or “borrowed” by a student’s friend who “needed it.”  The IT person was soon swamped with requests to fix student laptops that were frozen, cracked, or infected with viruses.  As a result, students regularly didn’t have their laptops when needed.  So how does a teacher plan for laptop use in the lesson with a third of the class won’t have one?

Furthermore, teachers were now fighting to keep students off of YouTube, social networking or inappropriate sites.  The school didn’t have the foresight to block certain sites or put the students on a separate network than the teachers.  We teachers were told that we were responsible for making sure students weren’t goofing off when using the laptops, which meant a showdown was in order. 

A teacher quit on the spot when an administrator tried to discipline her because he’d seen a student watching Netflix during a lesson.  She said it was ridiculous to expect that she monitor what 30 students were doing on their laptops all the time.  Finally, the school tried to fix it – by blocking 90% of all sites, even the ones that teachers were using.  The students couldn’t even access Google Drive to save their work.  Our appeals to fix the network went nowhere, until the day the superintendent brought some corporate visitors, and tried to show off how much technology we had.  The network was fixed the following day.

All in all, it was a disastrous experiment, but it’s typical of trying to shove technology into the classroom without thinking about the ramifications. 

No one tests to see how this will work, and no one who comes up with these large scale ideas (IPADs for all!) seems to understand how this will work with KIDS.  In Los Angeles, a district gave out IPADs and ended up returning them all because students quickly got around the server block for some sites. 

Worse, most people are not technological geniuses.  Kids see technology as entertainment applications.  Unlike our generation, they didn’t grow up seeing computers as work machines.  They don’t even know how email works, or why they should use it.  I know, because I can’t tell you how many teens don’t understand how to send an email.  But teachers are also not geniuses.  Don’t give us a new software program, tell us it will be the answer to all of our problems and then instruct us to “figure it out.”  Most people can’t “figure it out” without tutorials or explicit instruction – you know, like a TEACHER.   

Tech products aren’t necessarily toys, and they aren’t the de facto solution to education woes.  They also aren’t the key to making students prepared for the workplaces of the future.  What do kids need to know for their life as an adult in the workplace?  How to type, how to compose an email, and how to answer the phone correctly, leave a message, properly complete an assignment or project and get along with coworkers.  These aren’t being taught at school or even at home anymore, with the assumption that students will just “get it.”  

I suspect that education boards all over the country jumped on the “tech” bandwagon in order to show that education folk are hip and “with it,” not out of touch as they’re sometimes accused of being.  Yes, we need tech, but more than that, kids need to learn how to learn, how to study, and how to function in society.  Technology does not facilitate that.  People facilitate that. 

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Reading, righting and wronging...

Yes, it's been quite a while since I posted, as I battle against a lack of inspiration and an excess of sloth.  But luckily, one can always be roused by indignation and disgust that come from grading writing assignments.  Pull out the liquor if you have it.

As the education is becoming increasingly more and more important…

Which system has a better strategy for atchieveing maxim success?

The ways of education has always been a highly debated topic.

High school is a stepping stool into young adults emerging themselves into society.

In conclusion, to set up the main points I just talked about…

I have first handedly experienced the intimacy this provide.

High school is a place of larning.

High school does not only teach us lessons on mathematics and reading comprehension, but experience.

High school is arguably the best years of an individual’s life.

I'm not sure about that last one.  The essay actually ended mid-sentence.  

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

ISWG: Yeah, well, so...

Usually I feel insecure about what I'm doing, and whether it's good enough.  Lately I just feel insecure about what I'm NOT doing, which is writing. So for this month's ISWG post, I'll focus on my lack of output.

I know I wrote last month about being too busy to write and not accomplishing a whole lot, but now I feel that putting off any writing has just made it easier not to do so.  I'm sure it's the same with working out: the less you do it, the easier it is to keep not doing it.  Plus I've made the excuse that I'm out of ideas and motivation, but really, that's garbage.  Writing is often just an act of sheer will, where one just pushes through the distractions and tries to get words on the page.  I tell my students that they're not going to get ideas if they just sit there and wait for them to come; clearly, I need to take my own advice.

I know discouragement over blogging has been one factor behind my de-motivation.  Remember when we knew that all prospective writers needed to blog to grow their audience?  I don't know if that actually works anymore.  Often, I try to remind myself that it's not about expanding my audience, but it's more about practicing.  But I don't think I'm listening to myself.  I wish I would, because then I'd have more drafts and material to rewrite or edit.  At least that's something to be proud of.

Regardless, it's time for me to get back in the saddle, if I can even find the saddle, or the horse, or even the corral...

Monday, September 12, 2016

Not quite Marian, Madame Librarian

When I worked at TCS, I ran the library along with teaching my classes.  At the time, I only had three periods in which I taught, so running the library the rest of the day was my main responsibility.  I enjoyed it.  Most of the students who spent time in the library were readers, so they were fun to talk to.  Plus, I became pretty skilled at recommending books to both avid and reluctant readers.  Since I also had to order books, I got to know vendors, recommended reading lists and new authors pretty well. 

I always thought that I’d like to go back to school and get a master’s degree in library science so I could work in a school library full time.  Returning to school hasn’t happened yet because my life keeps getting in the way.  I’m aware of the fact that librarians don’t make very much, despite the education that they must get to earn the title of “librarian.”  The librarian jobs are also rapidly disappearing, due to funding cuts and the fact that librarians are slowly becoming less necessary.  So if they’re still around in the next few years, maybe I’ll go back to school and get that degree.
In the meantime, I had to keep the TCS library going.  That meant hounding students to return books, keeping up with inventory, billing parents and students for missing titles and trying to help out the English teachers with what they needed.

What I found was that the library is a microcosm of the school district.  However, administration handles the library, and the librarian tells you how the district feels about its employees and student population. 

Allow me to give a few examples.  Schools today are hell-bent on adding “technology” to the classroom.  We hear the words “technology” until our brains begin to melt under the weight of it.  The first place you should see evidence of the school’s commitment to its use of technology should be the library.  Some may say the computer lab, but the fact is, computer labs are part of the library anyway, or they should be. So if you walk into your school library, and you don’t see any computers for student use, the district isn’t that interested in technology.  They’re paying lip service to “technology.”

How is the librarian treated?  Does she have time to assist the teachers and students?  Is s/he given time to work with students who need help, or finish inventory?  When I was in charge of the library, I was constantly being pulled to substitute in other classes, or worse, house the ISS students in the library.  This meant that the library stayed closed most of the day because I wasn’t given a classroom in which to hold my regular classes.  My classroom WAS the library. 

Our school was so proud that we had an actual working library.  The problem was that students couldn’t use it most of the time.  The principal was so pleased that we had a real library that he would hold job interviews in there, administrative meetings and whatnot.  In fact, he liked to show the room off to visitors, frequently while I was in the middle of holding classes.  I tried to carry on as if he wasn’t there, but it was hard to do when he was talking so loudly to the visitors that my students couldn’t hear me.

The biggest problem I had was that no one seemed to think we needed more books.  They’d see books on the shelves and say, “You’ve got lots of books!”  Never mind the fact that some of these titles were more than 10-15 years old, and the students were completely uninterested in them.  Or the fact that many of them were class sets that had been ordered years before and were no longer part of the curriculum, but it seemed wasteful to throw them away.   Those books packed the shelves, and the newer ones we had quickly were stolen.  Our actual collection shrank every year, but the principal insisted we had "lots" of books. 

After two years of running the library, I decided to gracelessly bow out and just teach.  My school said I was so good at what I did, they wanted to keep me in the stacks full time and give me a generous pay cut.  I said no, and the job of running the library went to an administrative assistant whose idea of “running it” meant keeping it closed because, according to her, students tended to get “out of control” in the library.  I still ponder over what she meant.  I hope that the students were breaking into song and dance numbers, a la High School Musical.  They probably weren’t, but a bitter ex-librarian can dream, right?

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

IWSG - The lazy days of summer will drag on through winter

Ever feel like you're running out of ideas and motivation and energy and uh... other stuff?  Maybe it's just me.

It's bad enough that I missed posting on IWSG day last month.  Despite the multiple reminders I put on my calendar, phone, and to-do list, the day went by without the thought even crossing my mind.  Is this the sign of advancing dementia?  If so, that would actually be a comfort.  At least then I can be assured that my failure to follow through isn't completely my fault.

For some reason I find myself dragging this school year, not just with my students and grading and giving feedback, but in my writing as well.  Ideas don't seem to be forming, and when something weird or funny happens at school, rather than writing it down, I just think, "Huh!"  That's about the extent of my effort.  I tell myself that I'm waiting for inspiration to hit, but maybe I'm just ducking as she swings at me.  I can't say that I'm busier than before because I'm not.  I'm just lazier, maybe?  Or more tired?

One of my teacher friends said this shows I'm looking forward to retirement.  I'm not sure about that.  I don't think that not having to work means that I'll have more time or energy.  This summer I had more free time than ever, and I accomplished even less.  Maybe I could blame my husband and his desire to have us "run" another race as the reason for my loss of energy and enthusiasm.

I'm not just feeling insecure about my waning motivation; now I'm beginning to worry.  I plan to do something about it immediately.  First, though, I'll take a nap.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Where are they now?

In case you're wondering (which I'm sure you weren't, but I'll answer the question you didn't have anyway), yes, teachers spend quite a bit of time thinking about their students.  For me, I often ponder what happened to past students.

For example, I wonder what happened to Serena, a freshman I had in writing class who was phenomenally talented.  I hope someone else saw her talent and encouraged her to develop it.  Serena wasn't always the best about completing assignments, but the sheer ability was sometimes awe-inspiring in the assignments she did turn in.  I hope to someday see her win the Mann Booker prize.

Sometimes I think about Nathan, a sophomore who was incredibly frustrating to me.  Nathan couldn't or wouldn't do anything in or out of class, and his grade hovered around the 30% mark all the time.  But his father died in a freak accident the year before I started teaching him, and while he never seemed unhappy, I wondered if he'd lost the ability to care.  He wouldn't meet with the counselors, come in for tutorials or even take me up on offers for extra credit.  Maybe I could have done more for him.

Connor was another student that I miss now.  He was so stubborn, refusing to try and do things differently and constantly at war with his mother, who quickly recruited me to give extra assistance to her son.  Our tutoring sessions always ended with me telling Connor to repeat the phrase, "Your mother is always right."  She definitely was.  Once he started listening to me, and by extension, her, his grades shot up.  He's at a magnet school that has a special music program, and I wish I knew how he was getting along.

I keep in touch with several previous students on social media.  When they were my students, I wouldn't accept friend requests or follow them, but I'm always surprised by the flood of requests once these same students graduate.  I'm watching some make their way through college and move into their first real jobs after graduation.  It makes me feel like a parent, watching my babies grow up.  

I imagine that teachers probably feel the way parents do, in that we're always proud and slightly worried about our kids.  How are they doing?  Do they need anything?  Do they remember what I taught them?  Are they happy?

Though, I don't care if they're happy, as long as they use correct grammar in their social media posts or thank you notes to me. Good grammar makes me happy. 

Monday, August 29, 2016

Motivational techniques to use

I've been a bit behind in my blogging because school started last week.  My weekly post deadline had blown past me before I realized I'd missed it.  At least I had a good excuse - my work, if that is a good excuse.

It looks to be a busy year, but I'm pretty pleased to see the students I'll be working with this school year.  I'm plowing through more classic novels because the curriculum's changed a bit, and even with all the reading I did over the summer, it'll be hard to stay ahead of the class. I hate to say it, but I've been going online to read summaries of some of the ones I haven't read yet, in hopes that at least I have a basic idea by the time we get there.  No one likes to lose respect for their teacher so early in the year.  Preparation is key, right?

Speaking of preparation, did I mention that someone signed me up for a 10K?  I'll call this person my soon-to-be-ex-husband, who insists that since I trudged through a race before, I should be able to do it again.  So I'm spending my early, early, EARLY morning hours circling the track at school in the slowest possible jog that I can.  My only hope is not to embarrass myself, but hopefully, embarrass the soon-to-be-ex so that he'll apologize and tell me I can skip the race.  So far it's not working, but he did promise I could get a new phone or a FitBit if I complete the race with him.  I'm a sucker for gadgets, so right now that's what's motivating me.

I better get that in writing from him.  Or pre-order something now.  One needs motivation, in a race or school, and I find that bribery or humiliation tend to be helpful.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Stuck in the middle with you

This is yet another post from my time at Crappy ISD nearly two years ago.  While I'm no longer job-hunting (hallelujah!), it occurred to me that this post might have some valuable information that you lay parents and potential teachers might want to consider. 

While in the midst of applying for any and all other jobs that I see online (“Make money working from home.  $4K in one month.  Apply now!!”  That one looks promising.),  I see that my district is still looking to fill about seven different positions at my school.  If I’m correct, these are positions that have been open since the beginning of the school year.

I wouldn’t say our state has a teaching shortage.  Normally you can’t swing a dead cat and not hit a teacher looking for work (they love cats.)  But if you are looking for teaching work in November, this has to raise some red flags.  For example, why can’t the school fill this position?  Are their standards too high?  Do the interviewers turn people off?  Maybe not enough people are applying, and if so, why is that?

For me, I wonder about the applicants.  Why would an applicant be looking for a job two months after the school year is underway?  Most teachers, if they get laid off, get laid off at the end of the school year.  A teacher would have to be pretty awful, or engaging in criminal acts, for a school to get rid of them midway through the year.  But maybe the applicant quit because he or she realized that he or she is at a horrible school, and sticking it out until the end of the year is too awful even to contemplate.  I wasn’t talking about anyone in particular when I wrote that last sentence.

Yes, I realize there are exceptions to every rule, and every person's situation is unique, but to cancel out what I just wrote, there aren't that many exceptions, nor are they all unique. 

During my second year at TCS, the administration hired three staff members part way through the school year.  One was a math teacher, who quickly distinguished himself by openly pursuing some of the female teachers, despite his obvious handicap of being married.  He even told his students how he wanted to “get with” certain teachers.  One of those teachers he wanted to “get with” clearly had a drug problem or was bipolar.  She also came in midyear, to replace a science teacher who quit.  Ms. Bipolar/drug problem was let go after the administration found out she was offering to buy the students booze.

The other midyear find was a counselor who became one of our administrators.  Said counselor's makeup got heavier and heavier during the school year, while her hair extensions became longer and her skirts shorter.  She was seen “servicing” a social studies teacher in his car in the school parking lot, and then bragged about it to some of the other teachers a few weeks later.  Ms. Counselor also showed up drunk to chaperone the prom. 

Midyear finds – what finds they are!  At your next parent-teacher conference, ask the teacher when he/she started working at the school.  If s/he came in midyear, it’s time to ask for a schedule change. 

Monday, August 8, 2016

Some assemblies required, unfortunately

“Teachers, please have students file quietly into the auditorium.”

Great, an assembly.  Students are usually excited to go to an assembly, but teachers are less so. 

First of all, assemblies are boring.  Unless the assembly is happening in an elementary school, I can guarantee it’ll be boring.  The purpose of the assembly is either something related to grades or discipline that needs to be discussed school-wide, or it’s a “special” assembly, where topics like bullying, suicide or fundraising will be showcased.  Either way, the speakers won’t be that engaging or exciting.  They’re just narrating a PowerPoint, or else introducing a short film that won’t make an impression. 

For a teacher, assemblies suck.  You’re basically crowd-control, and the school already has security guards who also don’t want to help out in the assembly.  This is the time where you have to keep telling students to turn around, be quiet, and put that phone away, Bjorn, or else it’s going to be mine.

Some teachers carefully slip out of assemblies and let the other teachers pick up the slack.  I’d do this myself, but with my luck, I’d get caught.  Plus, I figure it’s not fair to dump what we all don’t want to do on someone else.

I fondly remember the time when assemblies were fun, but that was when I was in school.  It was something different to get us out of class.  I could sit by my friends and be obnoxious; at least until the teacher moved me.  I never could figure out why my teachers seemed so short-tempered once we entered the auditorium.  

So during most assemblies, I wander the aisle, trying to look official while simultaneously trying NOT to stare at the clock.  If I’m lucky, I might get to escort a rowdy student to the principal’s office, which means I get a walk, a trip to the water fountain and maybe even a short bathroom break.  The student always wonders why the teacher who is escorting him or her seems so suddenly upbeat. 

“Miss, are you happy that I’m getting in trouble?” said student usually asks.

Maybe I'm not EXACTLY happy, but still...

Monday, July 25, 2016

Maybe humor is in the eye of the beholder, or it's stuck in the eye.

Again, it's time to share some of the wonderful writing that my students have churned out over summer school.  I'm sure that if I was using some illegal substances while reading these that my mind would expand, but right now it's slamming shut like an angry clam, leaving me with a headache.  

I've now switched from Coke Zero to Diet Mountain Dew.  I don't think it's helped.

Everyone uses humor in different ways, wether it be for dealing with things or the class clown.

Humor is a way of expressing how you feel, creativeness, playfulness, and it comes naturally.

Sometimes humor can make people feel better about serious stuff, such as bullying.

Jokes can help in life with everything such as deppresion, self harm, family problems and even more!

Humor is it needed in life threatening situations?

Secondly humor can lead to death situations.  One common mistake can ruin investigations.

Humor can be for laughter or for bulling.

Both points of views can have very good opinions.

Have you ever been hanging from a cliff, ready to die but saying jokes to lighten the mood a bit?

For the last one, I can honestly say no, I haven't, but that depends on your definition of a cliff. 

Monday, July 18, 2016

Who doesn't love games?

I found an old post draft I'd written when working for Crappy ISD.  Ah, memories!

Professional development day is a day where we learn to act professional, despite all the idiocy, gimmicks, demands, crap and unrealistic expectations that are thrown at us. 

I finally realized this today.  It’s not so important that we LEARN anything, although we do have lots of “gimmicks” that are pulled out of the “teacher toolbox” to show us how we are supposed to “effectively” get the lesson materials across.  We deployed many “strategies” to help us “unpack the standards,” in order for us to finally capture the Holy Grail of teaching, the “a-ha moment.” 

You’ll never see teachers as seethingly angry as they are when someone is asking them to “make a foldable,” or telling them to “think-pair-share.”  We are adults (well, most of us), and to have a facilitator condescend to us in that way feels, you know, condescending.  I make mental notes to look for the session leader afterwards in the parking lot so I can run him or her over with my car, or at least slash his or her tires.  Hopefully this person will deploy some problem solving strategies to deal with me, because then I’d REALLY be learning, and the lesson would be unforgettable.

Today, at 2:20, we found that our lesson plan format has to radically change, as of tomorrow.  Tomorrow our fearless district leaders will be walking the halls of our rapidly sinking ship of a school to see if we are now using the “gradual release” model of teaching.  I am – by shoving kids gradually out into the hallways when their behavior gets on my nerves.  I like to send them out in pairs so they can turn and talk on their way to the office. 

It’s baffling why the district thinks that in a few short hours, everything is going to change to a new style, particularly after they’ve spent the past eighteen weeks hammering on another ineffective lesson plan style.  Sudden change is always good, right?  Especially for kids, who thrive on routine and trust, right?  Maybe this is a new way to help us “differentiate” our instruction.  I just know that it’s not a good thing when the unqualified administrator who’s giving you this news also seems unhappy about it.  Heck, she’s usually happy about any way to stick it to those of us in the trenches.  

Her advice?  “I’m teaching you how to play the game.”

I think we already know how it’s played, but we’re the ones losing.  What we really need is a way to make the game more enjoyable, maybe with the “integration of technology” or some “scaffolding.”  That way we can demonstrate some “higher-order thinking skills” and hopefully gain some knowledge that helps, what with all our “diverse learning styles.”

See you in the parking lot. That’s my part of the game. 

Monday, July 11, 2016

R-E-S-P-E-C-T, find out what it means, not to me, but what it means

So, I was reading an article today about a national shortage of teachers.  As I scanned the headline, “Where have all the teachers gone?”  I pretty much predicted how the article would go.

First, it would talk about how the ranks of certified teachers have thinned by some significant percentage.  Then the article would highlight two or three states with the biggest shortages.  It would hit on one of three points, or all three as the cause: low pay, lack of training, or classroom overcrowding.  Then they’d talk to an “expert” who would mention how he and his particular group were working to remedy one of those problems.

This one focused on training with a capital T.  Enrollment is down in teacher preparation programs, and this particular expert said that America needed to provide more training to teachers so that they could be more effective in the classroom.  This assertion made me laugh, not loudly so that people would look at me weirdly in the supermarket line, but with a short, bitter “ha” that doesn’t have an exclamation mark.

You readers know how I feel about training.  I’d be for it if I ever had decent training.  My certification program was pretty good, in that it was incredibly practical.  But what I don’t get is why districts and “experts” and people in charge keep coming back to “inadequate training” as the reason teachers don’t stay.  It’s not like we’re all getting fired because we don’t know how to unlock our classroom doors or input grades – or maybe we are.  I don’t know what goes on in all districts.

But is it really training?  If enrollment is down in teacher prep programs, then the problem is that people DON’T WANT TO TEACH.  So I don’t see how more or even better training is going to fix that. If too many teachers are leaving the profession, then forcing more training on them, which IS currently happening, is not what they need to make them stay. 

Why aren’t teachers staying in the classroom?  Why don’t we ask them?

What I find fascinating is the fact that they never talk to any teachers in the article.  Teachers have a lot to say, and yet there’s never a quote from a single classroom teacher.  Do the reporters not know any?  Or do they assume teachers can’t give good quotes since they’ll be too busy trying to correct the reporter’s grammar?  Thousands of teachers are working all over America, and a journalist can’t find a single one to weigh in on what’s happening in education?   

So, to shorten any future articles you read here’s why people are leaving in a nutshell: No one respects us – no one.  

Look, if a reporter respected teachers, he or she would talk to one.  If an administrator respected his or her teachers, he or she would stop putting out directives that go against common sense and would treat staff members like intelligent adults.  If district officials and lawmakers respected teachers, they’d stop wasting their time with laws that benefit no one, testing that eats up class time and training that encompasses the latest ideological fad.

If you were continually treated like the village idiot, wouldn’t you leave the village?  And seriously, just be glad the teachers are leaving, not burning down the village, which they certainly could.
I’ve worked in corporate America, in small businesses, in media, in retail and even in real estate.  I can honestly say that nowhere else have I ever seen employees talked down to and demeaned the way teachers are by their own administrators, district officials or parents.  Nor have I ever seen the plethora of bad ideas thrown at employees the way they get thrown at teachers, with the expectation that it’ll be implemented immediately, and then later abandoned just as quickly as soon as higher ups get tired of it.  Such bad ideas include extra paperwork to document every parent contact, every assignment a student turned in, and every interaction a teacher had with a student, in the guise of making that teacher “more effective.”  Because we all know that more paperwork equals a better employee, right?

I’ve never seen a profession more stupidly gung-ho about applying technological solutions to pretty much every problem, even (and especially) if the chance of solving the problems that way is slim, or the resources to utilize the technology are lacking.

So hey, reporter, explain to me why an “expert” who hasn’t been in a classroom in years or ever is giving his or her two cents?  Because you know what that opinion is worth?

Less than – okay, you saw that coming. 

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

IWSG - Having a time out

So, I didn't write for a couple of weeks because I left on a trip, a road trip, to be exact.  And you know what I found out?  I can't stand being in the car for hours on end.  Even though it's IWSG day, that isn't what I'm insecure about.

Don't get me wrong, I had a good time once I wasn't in the car.  But I worried quite a bit about getting behind on posting.  Friends of mine assured me that it was fine to take time off.  However, it didn't feel so much like "time off" as much as a "time out."

I think I'm taking a "time out" because it's hard for me to try to keep being funny.  I like my job and I like the kids I work with, but sometimes the stress of trying so hard to help them wears on me.  It's difficult to continue to find the humor in it all without resorting to constant sarcasm and snarkiness.  I worry that I'll become one of those teachers who become increasingly bitter about the inanities of our profession, and it will come out in my writing.

Okay, I did have one funny thing happen the other day.  I was working with a student, tutoring him to help him with his summer reading, actually, when I tried to come up with an analogy to explain his reading assignment.

"So Connor, this book is a lot like - um, well... have you ever seen The Matrix?"

Connor immediately looked thoughtful.  "Yeah, The Matrix."  I nodded, hoping he got my point about a false dystopian world.  Then he said, "Yeah, you know, that's a movie that really makes you think, you know, Ms. Marlowe?"

Uh, no.

Monday, June 20, 2016

For once, a spot of positivity, if that's possible

A woman came into my classroom today, which I was cleaning up.  The school year’s over, and my room is being moved across the hall for the next school year.  I was trying carefully put everything away and clean it out so that fewer items will be lost in a move that’s less than 15 feet. 

“Hi,” she said, sticking out her hand, “I’m Karen Sandoval.”

I shook it.  “Nice to meet you, Mrs. Sandoval.  What can I do for you?”

She held out a piece of paper.  “My daughter would very much like to take your class next year.  But she’ll be a freshman.  The principal says your class doesn’t take freshmen.”

“Actually, that depends.  Which class does she want to be in?”

“Newspaper,” Mrs. Sandoval responded.

“Yes, that’s true, we restrict it to sophomores and upper grades.” 

Mrs. Sandoval nodded slightly.  “Right.  Mr. Mehmet said I should come and talk to you and see if you’d give permission for her to be in your class.  She’s a good student and said that she very much wanted to be in Ms. Marlowe’s class.”

Oh. Oh crap.  Is this a student I even want in this class?  What has she heard?  I had a student this past year who thought that newspaper meant he could skip class regularly so he could “work on a story.”  Someone told him that’s how Newspaper class works.

“What’s your daughter’s name?”  Maybe this will buy me some time.  Maybe I should just say no, it has to be upperclassmen. 


“Yolanda Sandoval?”  I don’t know her, but that doesn’t mean much.

“Her brother Melvin had your class last year, and he recommended that she try and get in.” 

“Melvin Acosta?  That’s your son?”  Melvin is a genius, an incredible writer and funny.  “He was a fantastic student.”

She smiled now, big and bright.  “Yes, he’s a very hard worker.  Yolanda is much like him.”

“Then yes, Mrs. Sandoval, I’d be happy to have her in my class.”  She thanks me and asks if I can sign the form giving permission.  I fill it out, relieved that it’s a good thing I’m dealing with, for once.

“What’s Melvin going to major in?” I ask as she gathers up her purse.  He graduated as the valedictorian. 

“He’s doing chemical engineering,” she says proudly. 

“You must be so proud.  He was a wonderful writer.  I’ll miss having him.”

“Well, Yolanda wants to be a writer.  Melvin said if she wants to write well, she must take Ms. Marlowe’s class.”  She turned to go, and smiled at me.  “So nice to meet you.  Have a good day.”

I don’t think I’ve had such a good day in years. 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Brevity is the soul of desperation

I thought you might get a kick out of this email exchange I had with a student who was worried about the English final.  Let's call her name Mary, because that's her name.  The first email came at about 6 pm, but I didn't see it right away because I was finishing up some other grading.

Hi Ms. Marlowe,

I'm still kind of confused on how we should format the essay. Are we just proving different parts of the thesis statement per paragraph? Like if your statement has the ideas of identity, mutability of life, and power does each paragraph focus on one aspect? Because I know you said to treat the three ideas in the statement as one, so are just proving the same thing over and over again per paragraph? Like the intro sentence to body paragraph one would be like "We see this theme in the book Beowulf, Macbeth, and 1984..." and just prove the statement for those books and then do the same thing for body paragraph two but with different books/ poems?

Or say that the major topic were given is identity, so we have out thesis statement along the lines of surviving in the battle to maintain identity, and each paragraph has something to do with identity (like body paragraph 1 would be identity from relationships, body paragraph 2 would be identity with experiences, etc.) 

The next email came at around 9 pm.

Ok like basically what is each paragraph supposed to be focused on? Do you just reiterate the thesis over and over again? 

I tried to help her without giving too many specifics since I couldn't give away the essay question before the test.  However, I suppose this wasn't helpful enough.

Her last email came about an hour later...

So I've realized what I'm asking here is how do you write an essay.

Hey, at least she's getting straight to the point now.  I sure wish she'd asked this question at the beginning of the school year.  

Monday, June 6, 2016

Don't say "cheese!"

“How are we going to handle picture day?”

“Excuse me, what?”  That was my response to the above question.  How the heck should I know?  I was in the teacher’s lounge, trying to make copies without being bothered by an administrator who apparently doesn’t know how to do her job because she’s now asking me about it.

But Ms. Lear must have felt that the time was ripe to ask me this question, and to inform me, “You’re the yearbook teacher.  The yearbook teacher always handles picture day.”

This conversation occurred on the second day of school.  Students and teachers alike were already rattled by the smooth efficiency of TCS, which meant that classes ran like soccer riots.  Students were still wandering in and out of classes, trying to figure out their schedule, how to open their lockers, and find the bathrooms.  I hate to say it, but after just learning I had to take on an extra 15 students in my classes that were supposed to be capped at 20, this new nugget of information felt more like she’d just handed me a big steaming load.  Which she did.

“Okay, see, I wasn’t the yearbook teacher here LAST YEAR, so I WOULDN’T HAVE KNOWN THAT,” I responded, speaking slowly and emphasizing the important words.  “So even though I WISH SOMEONE had TOLD ME THIS A MONTH AGO, can you NOW tell me who I need to TALK TO so I can GET IT TAKEN CARE OF?”

I had to make a few phone calls, but finally, I got the day and time set up (in 3 weeks) and even worked out the order in which the classes would come in to get photographed.  I patted myself on the back for being so professional and handling it so well, despite the administration’s talent at dropping the ball.

Then picture day came.

Here’s the problem with picture day – you need an administrator to oversee it.  The problems that result will need to be handled by the big guys, not just a teacher.   But our administrators were wimps who wanted to hand off the huge tasks to a sucker. 

Yes, we did have students trying to flip off the camera, wear something inappropriate, or just refuse to sit for the shot.  We had some that took the photos as an opportunity to ditch class, as the teacher was momentarily distracted.  But luckily I had my entire yearbook class on hand to herd everyone into the line, check off names and run interference if someone was missing.  And if someone WAS missing, they were quick to point that out.   Yearbook students are generally great.

But teachers, other teachers, just suck on picture day.

I can’t tell you how many teachers I had to grab by the arm and pull down to the photo setup.  If you think students are unreasonable, grown-up teachers are even more so.

“I HATE having my photo taken!”

“I’m busy right now, and I have to get these tests graded.”

“I’ll come by later.”

“Why can’t you stay with my class instead of me hanging around?”
I grew a bit short-tempered, as you can imagine.  My requests went from, “Can you please come as soon as possible so we can get this done?” to “I really don’t care.  I’m on a deadline, with the administration breathing down my neck, so get your butt in here, because I also have other things to do than chase you down like a bratty teenager.”

That teenager line tended to do the trick. 

One teacher absolutely refused to come in, even though we needed all the staff photos for the yearbook.  I sent the principal in after him.  He stomped in with the principal, complaining, “I can’t believe you told him I wouldn’t come!  I said I was busy!”

I calmly said, “Yes, Mr. Horton, we're all busy.  Especially the principal, wouldn't you agree?  I'm sure he has better things to take care of than tracking down the one teacher who doesn't want to have his photo taken.”  The principal just stared at him silently while Mr. Horton mumbled an apology. 

On the minus side, people were less friendly to me after that.  On the plus side, I got fewer requests to “just make a few copies for me while you’re in the copy room.”  But the biggest plus was that I got to choose which staff photos would be in the book.  Sorry you had one eye closed, Mr. Horton. 

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

IWSG - Now I'm the one who has to be schooled

I know this may come as a surprise to you, but even though I teach, I don't like school.

Yes, I understand the value of classroom instruction - how could I not?  But I don't particularly enjoy being a student.  I like to learn, but sitting in a roomful of other students, listening to a lecture or working on various educational activities makes me tense.  I'd like to say that I understand when students tell me they don't like school, but I don't see it manifested in the same way.  I see a lack of interest on their part in anything that requires effort.  My problem is not that I don't want to expend the effort and broaden my mind - I do and I can.  It's that I don't want to do it with other people around, bothering me.

Why is this even an issue, on IWSG day?  It's an issue because it's time for me to dive back into school for myself.

I've put off getting a master's degree for years.  Time, cost, and effort were and are real concerns, but they aren't serious concerns anymore.  If I want to improve my lifestyle and further my career, I need that graduate degree.  The real problem is that I just didn't want to be in class myself.

"You'll love it!" my teacher friends reassure me.  I smile, but I'm fairly sure I won't love it because I'm not a people person.  No, really!  I'm not shy, nor do I have social phobias.  I just don't like other people.

I like my students, but at the end of the day, I want to go home.  Having classmates will make me want to take another look at online schooling, where I won't be annoyed by the habits of others around me.  I'm the classic introvert.  I write because I have things to say, but I don't want to, you know, SAY them to other people because they might want to have a longer, more boring conversation.

But I can't put off graduate school anymore.  I'm just getting older, and pretty soon, another decade will go by, and I won't be any closer to having completed that advanced degree.  So this summer I'm going to find a program, take the GRE and try to get things started, preferably in an online program with a minimum of human interaction.

Monday, May 30, 2016

The end of the line, wherever the line is

End of the school year is upon us - yay!

Don’t get me wrong; we teachers tend to like what we do.  But it doesn’t mean we aren’t as eager for the school year to end as the kids are.

Sometimes it’s because you get a crappy class, and you’re just tired of dealing with the personalities in there.  A friend of mine has an English class that he just hates.  The reason he hates them is because they just sit and blink at him and never respond to his questions.  It’s weird enough that a visitor could reasonably assume the kids are just hostile little turds who want to make his job hard.

You might be excited about the end of the year because you’re either quitting or moving on to a new job or new position.  We’ve all had fantasies about running out the door before the students do, yelling “See ya!”  I know I used to.  Of course, I'm happy where I am now, but last year was a different story.  I’d never had a year feel so much like ten years before.  

Sometimes you welcome the end of the year because you’re exhausted.  That’s frequently the case with teachers.  As more and more work gets piled on us, we drag through the year, just barely getting things done.  By the end of the school year, the classroom is a mess, the teacher looks drunk or hungover most days, and she sighs a lot. 

Students are always excited now that the year’s over, especially seniors.  Seniors start asking if you’re coming to graduation, or getting emotional and telling you how much they’ll miss you.  You know they won’t really miss you, but it’s a nice thought.  You might miss some of them, and you might even hear from those few later on down the road. I always grit my teeth when students ask if I'm coming to graduation.  Of course I am, but I wish there were a discreet way to read a book through the ceremony.  Graduations are all the same - boring and uninspiring.  Believe me, I've been to enough that I know what I'm saying.  I even felt the same way about my own.  

I always plan to spend the first few days of summer vacation (after the mandatory teacher development days and “clean out your room days”) sleeping.  After graduation, I plan to stay in bed for the next three days.  I have to sleep off this school year hangover that’s developed over the last nine months.  To sleep, perchance to dream about the perfect class, where students are happy, eager to learn and always turn their work in on time. 

Monday, May 23, 2016

Beginning again at the end

So, the A to Z blog challenge really wore me out.  It doesn't help that it came on top of finals, a major research paper that was due in my classes, and standardized testing.  I think I posted up my last blog entry and then hibernated away from the computer for three weeks.

But, here I am again, ready to make the icy plunge back into the blogosphere.  Research papers are graded, finals are completed (but not graded, still working on that), and standardized testing is over.  It's been a good but exhausting year, coupled with the fact that I'm finally making the plunge to do something I've been putting off for years, which is graduate school.  Yes, I know I teach school, but I don't actually want to go myself.  So I won't, sort of.  I plan to take a class here and there until I'm finally done.

Meanwhile, test essay questions need scoring, and being tired means they get funnier as the day drags on.  So I thought I'd share in the hopes that you go home, show it to your kid and tell them that this type of writing is something both you and their teacher better not see again.

Today Junior High and high School are allowed to play in such sports and the question is “What do you think?”

Mostly young females are placed into “beauty pageants.”

Various kinds of competition have taken place throughout the existence of the universe.

Competition in children could cause, a more hostile society, take away the fun, but even gain self-confidence.

Growing up, children are only exposed to the good parts of life.

Not many put too much thought into it.  (Sports)

Some say competition creates a hostile society.  This is true in some ways but it can also be a genital push for kids to do better in the things they are good at and desire to do. 

That last one made its way around the teacher's lounge.  You could tell who read it by the high pitched squeal he or she made, be the reader male or female. 

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

IWSG - Shorter is better

May is here, and the good news is that I've actually dropped a few pounds!  I'm happy to be less fat than I was previously.

But of course, for IWSG, we don't want to crow about our accomplishments (did I mention I've finally lost some weight?  Cuter swimsuits, here I come!) but speak about our concerns.  I thoroughly enjoyed the A to Z blog challenge, and found several new blogs that I'm excited to follow, but of course, this has excited another concern.

How do we all get the time to do this?  My time each day to catch up on the blogs seems to be shrinking (as is my butt, I hope), and I'm worried that I'm going to be so overwhelmed with the day to day that I'll have to drop it for a good long while.  This is something I really do not want to do.

So I want to know, from the rest of you - how do you keep up with all the blogs?  Do you have a schedule, or how do you block out the time?  Any advice would be appreciated.

By the way, did I mention I lost a couple of pounds?

Saturday, April 30, 2016

Z is for zzz's, which we probably all need right now

Dear Ask a Teacher,

Yesterday I went to my Spanish teacher’s room after school.  I had an appointment to meet with him so he could help me on conjugation.  When I went in, he was asleep, with his head on his desk - at least, I’m pretty sure he was asleep.  I said his name twice, but he didn’t wake up.  I didn’t know what to do, and I felt weird about shaking him, so I left. 

What should I have done?  Should I say something to him about it?  He never asked if I came by.  Should I tell someone?

Confused in Colbyville

Dear Confused,
To be completely frank, every teacher I know has looked for a place in the school to hide so he or she could sleep, or wished that he or she could find one.  Teachers are exhausted.  We don’t sleep much, and when we do, we don’t sleep well. 

I think you did the right thing, Confused.  Don’t mention you saw him, because he’ll be extremely embarrassed.  Just make another appointment with him, maybe this time before school starts.  Whatever you do, don’t tell anyone in the office, because he’ll get in trouble, even though he didn’t do anything wrong.  They won’t be kind. 

I hope this helps, Confused, especially since this is the last post in our A to Z blog challenge.

Ms. Michaels

P.S. If you ever see Ms. Waterhouse slumped over her desk, call the office AND 911.  We think she has a prescription drug problem.  

Friday, April 29, 2016

Y is for yearbooks, if one wants them

Dear Ask a Teacher,

My school is trying to get everyone to order a yearbook, but I don’t want to.  Even my mom is pushing me to get one!  I hate this school, and I hate pictures of myself, and besides my friends and the band, I’m not really interested in all the other stuff at the school.  But my mom and teachers keep saying I’m wrong, that I’ll wish I had a yearbook later.  Personally, I just don’t want to spend the money.  I know you’ll probably agree with them, but my mom said I had to write this letter anyway.

Being pushed in Brentwood

Dear Brentwood,
I’m glad you did what your mother asked and wrote to me.  That shows respect for authority and will help your mother trust you and lead to less conflict between the two of you.

If your mother insists on you buying a yearbook, then do it.  Obviously, it means more to her than it does to you, so if she’s paying for it, then make her happy.  It doesn’t matter if you never look at it.

But if you’re paying for it?  Well, Brentwood, then it’s up to you.  Personally, and this may shock you coming from me, I don’t see the need for yearbooks anymore.  Schools are too large to document adequately all the events and activities that happen, and students today have more ways than ever to retain those memories of friendships and events.  The older generation, of which I’m a member, thinks back fondly on yearbooks, as they were the only means we had of remembering our school years.  But your generation has more options, and may choose to use its funds in a different manner.  Plus, students constantly disrupt class by trying to pass around the books for signatures from other students, or even teachers.

I hope that helps.  And check out the other letters in this month’s A to Z blog post challenge.


Mrs. Simons, who better not have to confiscate phones OR books in class next week