Monday, November 29, 2010

Demented Ms. Pacman

So things have gotten darker this year.
The old principal goes on to bigger better things, the new principal struggling, getting smaller and smaller as the power slips away from her grasp.

But does it? I am frightened.
We are frightened.
Perhaps she is just swallowing power pills like some demented early '80's video game Ms. PacMan.
Just waiting to turn and gobble us all up.

I did not post this two days ago when I wrote it.

I continued to complain, but I upon rereading it I erased it. I don't want to be pissed off teacher.

Things actually got worse Tuesday but I had to take off today for pre-scheduled reasons, so I am calmer.

Take a deep breath start again- tomorrow.

Sunday, November 21, 2010


Kelvin posted on Facebook, "Watching cartoons, never realized how many jokes were meant for grownups."

"Welcome to adulthood" I commented, "Never understood why my father thought the Flintstones were so funny."

And then Kelvin replied something about the Flintstones and the post moved into history.

The only thing that separates me and Kelvin is 35 years.Kelvin just completed his second decade- I am well into my sixth. What do we have in common? We spent four years together at this little secondary
school in the corner of a big city. And now we are Facebook friends.

I know there is a big debate whether to friend students, former or current. I had a former principal who was so techno-phobic and neurotic in general that she sent out hard copy letters to not give parents your work email because it might lead to them finding out your address. Okay- it didn't make sense to me either but- hey- when you are working for someone who is really paranoid-little does.

But for a while there -we were a real community in the little corner of the big city and we became friends, people in their second decade of life and people in all the succeeding ones- up to me in my sixth.

When the local news did a story about Teachers sending creepy sexual content to students on Facebook every man on the street interviewed responded with shock but no news story was done about the day Jasmine wrote that life wasn't worth living on Facebook and five us responded – what could we do?- we cared. It wasn't shocking.

So am I happy I am Facebook friends with a young man from a different time and social sphere?

Maybe I'm just happy that somehow, somewhere our lives got to overlap for a little while.

Maybe I'm just happy I got to be his “friend”.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The New Chancellor

I co-teach high school English classes. I spend a lot of time talking about symbols, themes, metaphors and motifs. Themes I tell the classes, are what my college professor told me, - the stuff of life- love, hate, power struggles, , jealousy, desire and greed. What Shakespeare play could not be analyzed (in 500 words or less) using one of the above.?

So let's talk about the last election campaign. If there was one motif, one symbol used over and over by so many campaigns it was “Wall Street”. One clear metaphor for the anti-common man, one ”they get bailed out while we get screwed” image plastered across our consciousness in two monosyllables..
Greed- to capture the theme in one word. Wall Street -bad. Main Street-good..

Unless, of course, you are to be the chancellor of New York City Department of Education.

All those days spent in the “Main Street” public schools count for naught. Semesters of education theory, decades of lesson plans, curriculum new, newer and newest, days and nights of conferences with everyone students, parents, colleagues, textbook reps and the custodian, count for nothing.

To be the chancellor of the New York City Schools, you do not need to have been a student, parent or participant in any way of any public school. All you need is a high profile job, a history of sending your own children away and friends in high places.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

How's It Going?

It's hard to start typing. I need a good lead. The ninth grade English class is writing memoirs and I have been "conferencing" them. There maybe I got my lead.

"How's it going?"

I spent several summers in the nineties going to the Reading and Writer's workshop at Teacher's College and the Ralph Fletcher line "How's it going?" kind of sums it all up. If anything I learned to listen and look at kids and their work instead of pulling out an editing tool literal or figurative and making vast changes.

Here is where I think I could make a metaphor about change and administration and the sorry state of the "Inquiry" process at school- but I use this blog to write about kids.

So how was it going? It's going.

Ninth grader number one wrote about a time he got injured in science class. I was in that class. I wrote about that moment in time too- I called mine accident report 9995.
Nonetheless it was a solid piece of writing and I could see the event unfold yet again before my eyes.

Ninth grader number two wrote about a time her best friend "stabbed" her in the back and stole her boyfriend. Her memoir began with a line like: "Can you remember the time you first realized you couldn't trust someone you thought was your friend?"
Yes I can.
Teenage angst- a plot worthy of Glee. I love Glee- I would have been glued to the tv for that episode.

Ninth grader number three wrote about the day his mother passed. "I am so sorry for your loss," I began, "are you sure you want to talk about it?"

"No," ninth grade repled, "I want to write about it."


And it was a beautiful piece, "the hardest day of my life" he explained. Yeah- like I was forty with a husband and two kids when my mom died and it was the hardest day of my life.

It was the kind of piece I would have like to written- full of heart-wrenching emotion and love and family strength. By the end of the period I was crying-I asked the author if he would like me to set up time with the counselor to talk.

"No I'm okay now I live with my sister who loves me and takes care of me."

Period over I grabbed the tissues and went on to the tenth grade. They make me cry too, but for far more mundane reasons. Their lives are hard. They take it out on the teaching staff.

Perhaps they need a better way to tell their stories.