Monday, December 23, 2013

Cuckoo Teacher

I am a cuckoo teacher.
I know this because Alisha told me.

Friday was the last day before break. It was the last day I taught under the Bloomberg regime.

Thursday three administrators and a dean visited the fourth period self contained geometry class.Well the dean actually didn't come inside. He just stood outside the room while two girls yelled at him. I put the poster over the window in the door. We were working on perpendicular lines and slopes. Even I know that two girls cursing out a dean is more interesting than perpendicular lines and slopes, but hey I got the message that we are supposed to teach bell to bell.

Teaching bell to bell means that if you are going to be paid and subsequently evaluated on your teaching than that's all you should be doing in between the bells that signal the start and end of the period. As the break approaches the whole concept can be extended to teaching right up to the moment the last bell of 2013 rings.

Yeah right! Thursday's class went something like this, two girls yelled continously at dean for ten minutes in front of the classroom door. I placed poster chart paper in front of the door window- therefore cutting off the visual if not the audio signal. One administrator came in and told me not to place anything over my window- ostensibly so he can be assured I am actually teaching between the bells I took down poster. Second administrator comes in and asks why I was holding the poster chart paper, which was blank, since I did not choose to write any notes on it while it was hiding the hallway show. Oh- I told her I only used it to block the view of chaos. Oh- she says- if there are problems in the hall I should call the dean and not cover the window. (The problem in the hall was the dean but I hardly saw the point in mentioning that- I was teaching.) She closed the door with the window now completely unblocked. A minute later the principal walked in, I expected another discussion about covering the window. I was wrong. He only wanted to know where our garbage pail is so he could throw out a plastic soda bottle he found in the hallway.

And I'm supposed to teach continuously.

I am tired of slopes and perpendicular lines. We have been working on them for a week. I am still not convinced anyone actually gets the relationship. This is the class that still needs to discuss which axis is the x and which is the y. This is the class that has difficulty placing a ruler between two points and holding it steady to connect the points to create a line. I spoke with the assistant principal for special ed the night before at a holiday celebration and after a couple of glasses of wine confessed that I doubted the concept that enough rigor was enough to make members of this group master the content of high school geometry while I totally ignored the skills and talents that they did possess, (Kindness, humor, tenacity and creativity – all aspects of the class makeup – all not particularly useful in mastering the Common Core college preparatory geometry standards) She said, but if it helped them receive a high school diploma then that would help them in life. She said it with little conviction, she too had had a few drinks. (The conundrum here is that I will pass out passing grades, its easier than writing a justification for large number of failures, which we euphemistically call “scholarship reports”- but it will not help my very needy students to obtain the high school diploma, because there are all sorts of obstacles, mainly the Regents or exit exams in all the subjects that they cannot surmount).

On Friday I pass out coordinate grids with instructions on how to plot a Santa Claus. The paraprofessional works very hard on hers. The rest of us chat.
Alisha tells me I am a cuckoo teacher.
I rise to the bait and ask why?

And Alisha enumerates. I sing, I dance, I hop around (I was hopping around the floor tiles the first day we did slope- this to illustrate the concept of rise and run). I lay on the floor. (Fred was agitated one day, came into the room and said he was going to lay someone out flat, I laid down on the floor and said- oh you mean like this? Fred sat down and started to copy the notes- agitation under control).
When someone says “I'm bored,” I do the The ol' soft shoe (give me the old soft shoe that any girl can do, a one, a two a doodly doodly do) that Ms Bee taught me a half century ago when I took tap lessons. Giovani comes to class twice a week, settles in and immediately says “Miss, I'm bored,” Just to check that it still works.

Maybe Alisha is right.
I am a cuckoo teacher.
I keep trying to teach geometry.
From bell to bell.

Though its tough to compete with the show in the hall.