Monday, February 14, 2011

Never wear Prada

Co-teaching is like a marriage-when its good its very good and when its bad you want to poke your eyes out.

I heard that line for the first time the summer before I taught my first inclusion class. Up until that being a special ed teacher meant you got your own room with your own set of SweatHogs. (You have to being nearing retirement to get that reference- but SweatHogs were the band of misfits students in a late 70s tv sitcom where John Travolta got his start.)

Anyway life changes- Once I wrote the whole history of my career in special ed (at least up until the time I wrote it.)

The computer I wrote it on no longer loads up- it probably exists in our basement where my husband collects broken computer equipment but I can't get to it

It probably isn't that interesting but it traces my progression through Special Education classrooms from a converted kitchen classroom in a broken down house blocks away from the public school building, to a basement storeroom, to a space in a "wing" separate from the mainstream school right up to the point where if space would allow my self contained special ed class would be located right next to the mainstream ones. If space didn't allow then I got to teach in a converted bathroom lounge. (Long story- Maybe I will post it someday)

I taught special education in all those places.

But back to my co-teaching is a marriage story. The first time I heard it my soon to be co-teacher leaned forward and whispered "I'm divorced"

But she worked out Not all do. Today I was with Elma's class- co-teaching. Or thinking about poking my eyes out actually.

After the literacy coach and I spent two precious planning periods working out lessons for this week, the co-teacher somehow chucked it all and did a freelance lesson on making up themes for Romeo and Juliet.

So while Kenya napped and Nathan texted away on the phone, I searched the internet for ideas that made sense. One teacher message board site had a clip from a teacher who said he used fables to illustrate the idea of theme:

Me: You know the story of the Tortoise and the Hare?

Elma: The one where the Tortoise starts off slow and the rabbit gets all Gucci and Prada and then goes to sleep and the Turtle wins?

Me: Yeah that one- I think? What do you think the theme of that story is?

Elma: Never wear Gucci if you're in a race.

And never try to salvage a bad lesson in the middle of a co-teaching class.

Especially if there are sharp objects around.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Why people should.....

Why people should teach Shakespeare:

With love’s light wings did I o'erperch these walls,

Teacher: What animal is Romeo comparing himself to?


Teacher: Come on what animal has wings?

Elma: An angel?

Urv: A fly?

Frank: A cow?

Elma: Oh my God I am SO through with this class.

Why people should teach sixth graders after a long day with the above tenth grade class:

Cute sixth grade girl whose name I can't remember yet: They told me you were a very boring teacher but you're funny!

Why people should ride the public bus after a long, long day with above:

Me: Can you move your book bag so I can sit on the seat?

Bookbag young man: (after getting up and letting me sit) Can't you sit on another seat? Can't you move to the back of the bus? Can't you stand?

Me: I could do all those things, but didn't your mom teach you to give a seat to your elders? You're young and healthy.

BYM: Are you calling me ugly?

Me: No healthy, you look strong and handsome to me.

BYM: Handsome- can I have your number?

Me: You could but rumor has it I'm very boring!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Town Hall

The new clueless chancellor came to our neighborhood, to a school not far from my house, one where I used to work. I entered the door by the auditorium, the one I stood at so many mornings, making the sixth grade monitor (yes we used to have monitors in those days) smile, when I would sing, "I hear you knocking but you can't come in," until the clock hand hit precisely the right number and I swung the doors open and welcomed the onslaught.

Tonight the doors were open wide, but school security officers were nowhere near as welcoming. I found a seat with the other UFT teachers while the chancellor found the right moment to enter. And when she did she came down the aisle shaking hands and greeting people.

Probably the highpoint of the meeting for her.

She began the meeting with a slide show highlighting all the great accomplishments of the Bloomberg regime. She attempted a polished, confident demeanor, but used the archaic name for the Inclusion classes, tripped over the pronunciation of inquiry and read the number 2003 as two thousand zero three. (I used to teach third graders in that building to read four digit numbers).

And then things went downhill. The local politician thanked her for coming and then asked her about the overkill of standardized testing, and test prep in the schools. "When I went to school," he said, "test prep consisted of the teacher telling us to bring a sharpened number two pencil." She was asked about school closings, lack of communication, programs for the gifted, teacher tenure, budget cuts and PCBs in the schools. The answer to everything was "teacher effectiveness"- wait- she liked the PCB questions, she had a lot to say about that. She tried to respond to questions with highly undeserved assuredness, responding to one that she should know, she had been on the job for five weeks now. She told us that study after study proved that "teacher effectivenss" - read no tenure, no seniority made all the difference but refused to site one study. In fact that is what she did best, not answer questions. Usually words would leave her mouth and float into the audience- fooling absolutely no one. I can't recall one response that got even a smattering of applause. The woman next to me said she looked even uglier in person that then on tv and as the hour went on the sinews in her neck vibrated more sharply than the violin strings in the endless concerts I had sat through in that very auditorium. At one point she was pressed hard on the overcrowding issue and she repeated for the sixth time that six schools had opened in the district during the Bloomberg era. Someone behind me yelled out "there is always birth control," the line the chancellor had tried as a joke in an earlier townhall meeting. The stare that came our way could only be described as deserving of the "if looks could kill..." axiom.

And then it was over, someone with a very heavy accent was going on about how she believed charter schools were actually a good thing and the chancellor turned from the podium, and skiddled skaddled up the stairs behind the stage with her minions following The crowd booed. And it was over-no friendly down the aisle handshaking this time.