Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Sarcasm Part II

We have killed Lord of the Flies.  No fair haired, spear wielding, pig killing, English school boys could have caused more damage than our tortured reading of the high school classic.

With nine days left of the school year we are nearing the end the end of the book..  Wednesday ELA switches with math (for reasons only the person who does our schedule could explain) and bright and early we opened the now very dog-eared copies of the paperbacks..  Then I got called out to discuss the stupid missing IPhone again.(It remains an unsolved case.)

Charlie was struggling through the chapter when I returned. "Oh read it- please-Teacherfish!" more than one person begged.  (It's an  inclusion class, there was a general ed teacher present- actually he might have been the loudest beggar).

So I did. And I got to the part where Ralph complains to Piggy “We might get taken prisoner by the Reds.”

"What does Ralph  mean when he say Reds?"  I asked.
No response
No help from the general ed teacher.
And I realized that I was the only soul in that classroom who lived and breathed when there was a still a cold war going on. 

:"Does he mean the Boston baseball team?"  I ask a room full of Yankee fans.

Dead silence.
Then Lamont calls out.  "Of course not - the Reds are from Cincinnati."

Okay- I lose- short explanation about Communism and I read on.  That end of the year is getting closer by the second.

A few pages later Ralph, the main character tries his hand at sarcasm. Piggy is getting on his last nerve, complaining that if they don't get rescued they'll all go crazy.
So Ralph tries to be funny:

“You write a letter to your auntie.”
Piggy considered this solemnly.
“I don’t know where she is now. And I haven’t got an envelope and a
stamp. An’ there isn’t a mailbox. Or a postman.”
Ralph isn't any more successful at sarcasm than me.  But he cracks himself up anyway.

And as I read Cameron is talking away to her neighbor.  So I insert her name in the middle of the sentence. Cause that's a trick they taught me in teacher school.

Lamont laughs loudly.  "Now that's a joke:

"What Lamont?  What's the joke?"

"You calling Cameron's name,  you know- cause like her last name is Post!"

Everyone thinks this is funny. Though maybe this time I'm the one who doesn't quite get the joke.

The bell rang.  Mercifully.  We were onto lunch.

Kill the beast.  The beast is dead.
What is the beast?
Perhaps it was my sense of humor!


Tuesday, May 29, 2012

You knows its a bad day when:

    • You have to think on the way to work. I left my MP3 player in school on Friday.  When your chauffeur wears a MTA uniform and you spend a lot time walking to the bus stop- the MP3 player becomes your "car" radio.  Like the cell phone I spent the first four decades of my life without one.  Now the morning commute alone with my thoughts is pretty scary.  I am a bad ponderer.
    • You get two phone calls from angry parents before 8 am..  Long time ago in a more optimistic time a young man I knew wrote a story about his sister's birthday party.  It touched me.  "Do think I can be a writer? He asked. I showed him how to focus a microscrope. The amoeba jumped into focus. “Do you think I can be scientist?” he asked . He drew a comic book frame by frame about the trials and tribulations of a middle schooler. “Do you think I could be an artist? He asked. Now high school graduations draws near. He is way short of credits. “Do you think he can graduate?” His parents ask. “Not this year.” I am a failed support provider.
    • You can't find the red IPhone. Romeo's IPhone is gone. I can picture it. It is red- lots of cell phones in school. Not many red one. I remember the incident when he was forced to surrender it. Rules say no cell phones in school Translation- you must do something really egregious before someone takes it away. Romeo did. I wasn't the someone. Now it is missing. Romeo's dad would like it back. I looked all day, couldn’t find it. I am a bad detective.
    • You can't open the weekly newsletter from the principal since your computer loads up slightly slower than the your Apple IIe did in 1988. So everyone on staff comes to complain that the principal said attendance at graduation was mandatory and you had to wear all white, even though the graduation was planned for the first day of summer vacation. I emailed my supervisor at the union who made me go talk to the principal so I told the principal that she had agreed that no one HAD to come to graduation after the school year ended and anyway I don't own any all white outfit except for my wedding dress which is 30 years and 40 pounds away from being wearable.. She said she knew no one HAD to come or wear white BUT- she had high expectations for her staff. I am a failed union leader.
    And my day didn't get much better from there.
    Enough complaining.

    Four weeks until summer vacation. I hope I make it.
    I am a bad anticipator.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Worst Teacher of the Year

The sixth grade social studies class was giving me a hard time.  On Tuesday I have them in the morning.  Usually mornings are better.  They're sleepier.  And if I have them second period after first period gym, they can barely move enough to poke each other with their pencils.

But I had this great idea we should write an argumentative essay.  Actually it is a common core great idea. That means we are all supposed to be getting this great idea to teach kids how to write arguments.
You would think they know a lot about arguments.

It worked out okay in the higher functioning sixth grade class so I thought I would try it.

You guessed it - it didn't go so well.

So I was hooting and hollering.

"That's why everyone hates you,"  Bethany told me. "Everyone hates social studies even the kids in the other class hate you."

I guess I shouldn't buy a new outfit for teacher of the year award dinner.

I know a little something about Bethany.  Last year a mother of a past student, who I was quite fond of, came up to me at orientation and told me she had adopted two foster kids.  "They had a rough start," she informed me, but I could call her anytime.

Sixth grade social studies ended and I had five more classes in a row after them.  By eighth period it was all I could do to summon the energy to pull the tab on the last Diet Coke from my secret stash, that everyone knows about and avails themselves to. (I heard a rumor the juniors needed soda cans for a physics project and that's why there was only one left- "We knew you wouldn't want us to fail physics.")

The phone rang.  The guidance counselor wanted to know if Bethany could come upstairs and talk to me. (Yeah- she could but I wasn't sharing my Diet Coke) And anyway second period was soooo long ago I had forgotten the whole incident.

Bethany apologized.  I wasn't really the WORST teacher in the whole school.

It had been a long hot day, and as usual more of my eye makeup was under my eyes than on it.

"Did you cry, Teacherfish?" Bethany asked.

"Yeah- a little"

:"I guess that means I can't  have a Diet Coke?"


I'll buy more tomorrow.  Other bloggers might be on the final count down.  This is New York. One more hot month to go.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Letters we get letters

Today was teacher appreciation day.  The assistant principal asked the students to write letters of appreciation to their (favorite) teacher at lunch.  Some people got many.

I got one.
Someone told me I was their favorite teacher, but forgot to sign his/her name.

We are on the process of pulling together our "dog and pony" show for the school wide review next week. I have been making a big fuss about not getting too excited about it all- but I am somewhat of a hypocrite so my sixth graders have been writing an argumentative essay.  That's the Common Core skill we are supposed to be focusing on.

Yesterday as I tried to get this brilliant piece of historical commentary going, Lawrence insisted on calling my attention.  He needed to tell me he needed a new folder because the old one had an itsy-bitsy tear and also I noted on his vacation project that he hadn't indicated the country in Africa his project was about.  The instruction said- use the map to locate the country.  So he did.  He didn't see why I expected him to color it on the map. The instructions didn't say that.

And I wouldn't call on him.  So he wrote me a letter.  (Correct format, neat handwriting)

Dear Teacherfish,

    I think you were very rude for ignoring me.  I had a valid question and you told me to put my hand down.  Also I did not appreciate that you  didn't want to discuss the grade on my vacation project.Please respond.
                                                                               Sincerely yours,

So I did.  I wrote:

Dear Lawrence,

   I am sorry you think I was rude.  Sometimes teaching is a hard job.  I wanted to get the class settled   and give general directions before I answered individual questions.  I am heartened by your ability to communicate your grievances in writing.  Please accept my apologies. I will come to your table during class for an individual conference.

                                                                         Sincerely yours,

I dropped it on his desk and snuck away.  From afar I watched him nod his head up and down as he read.  He carefully folded the letter and tucked it in his pocket. Later I gave him a new folder and upped his grade a point.

Oh and  I ran into Isiah bounding down the hall.  "How come you didn't write me a letter for teacher appreciation day?" I asked as he flew by.

"Nobody told me to write nothing," he answered. And as he receded down the hall, I heard,
"Anyway you already know you're my favorite teacher!"

PS:  The title Letters We Get Letters, is one of those things that dates me.  Perry Como used to sing it on his television show, when watching the black and white tv together was something families did for entertainment. I think he would read letters people sent him after singing it.  Dates back to the time Teacherfish was a very little guppy.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Laws and logic

I think my career has been framed by two laws.  The first one Congress enacted  in 1975., the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (Public Law 94-142),  That enabled me to get a job in 1978 just a year after New York City was bankrupt and president Ford told New York City to drop dead.  That's probably more history than I meant to  put in this blog.  But when I was desperate for  a job, jobs as teachers of "handicapped children" were what was available. I had a vision  (as many Ms. America candidates do) of teaching "special children."  Life doesn't always work out as you imagine it to.

Several years ago we relocated our summer school program to a nearby high school complex, built within the last decade.  It was fully air conditioned and our building had no air conditioning.  It had elevators too. And also a program for students with the kind of disabilities I once imagined I would teach.
They needed  the elevators.
We just liked using elevators.

I was riding the elevator with three of my street smart, algebra not so smart students.  A teacher and a student with multiple disabilities joined us. The young man leaned into me and told me with great pride that he looked at inappropriate websites.  I expected loud guffaws from my company but instead, Jeremy said, "Hey, buddy, we do too, we just don't tell the teacher that."

The other group got off.
Then my students broke up. 

"Laugh if you must," I replied. "That's whom I thought I'd be teaching, in 1975."
"Instead you got us!"
"Just how old are you Teacherfish?"
"If you can't figure it out, I ain't gonna tell you!"

The second law that framed my career- No Child Left Behind.
No explanation needed here.  I (and just about every other blogger in the edublog world) have been complaining about testing this month.

Today Pepito was absent.  He got suspended last week.  He didn't wear his uniform so he got a one day suspension.  He was supposed to pick up his suspension letter in the office but when the administrator told him to get his letter from the table  he didn't want her to know that he couldn't read which one was his.  
So he threw a chair. 
Maybe she would think he was an angry young man instead of a stupid one.
Now Pepito is suspended for a week..

Today we were working on the courses for next year.  Pepito's teacher asked if  we would be offering functional math and life  sciences.

"No," the principal answered.  We would be offering geometry and chemistry for Pepito's grade.  The special ed teacher would be required to modify those courses  to his needs.

I guess we are not supposed to leave Pepito  behind.

Two laws frame my career.  
And the second cancels out all the good from the first.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Tupac in May and more randomness

I read my work email. I think I was supposed to be working on an Individual Education Plan- I would do anything to procrastinate when I have to work on IEPs. I would have washed the floors- but I wasn't home.
And if you do that in school it pisses off the custodian.

 An organization associated with the school sent a request for blog entries about best practices in education.  I actually don't know much about best practices in education, but I know something about blog entries.

And I could win a Kindle.

So I sent in a revised version of Tupac in April and they published it.

Fifth period I was in the self-contained ninth grade class. When I got there, the main teacher was in the middle of long lecture about not getting into fights with the new kid.  Too many details for me to follow but there was a part about the new kid being crazy and sometimes you just can't see crazy- so if the my friends thought they were going to get into a fight with the new kid they should imagine a wheelchair on the new kid's  head, cause everyone knows you don't get into fights kids with wheelchairs.

And people think I say crazy things and get away with it.

I put Tupac's poem The Rose that Grew in Concrete,  on the board while I waited for the lecture to end. The organization that printed the blog, put a picture of a rose growing out of the concrete.  I showed the picture.

Someone asked me to read "my story."  So I did.

What did they think?

"Its a good story,"  Norton said.


"Really."  Norton replied.

And they liked the poem too.  Tupac does it again.

PS:  I didn't win the Kindle.