Saturday, February 12, 2005

New York Observation 

In NY, I feel there is a distinction between walking fast and running. The former is cool; the latter is not. CEOs walk fast. Assistants run - mostly because the CEOs make them do so.

Look at people's faces out there: people walking fast generally have a grim, purposeful expression on their faces. People running have this 'Oh my God I'm going to get in so much trouble with my boss if I'm late' expression.

Hey, it's just an observation. But it's the reason I will always walk fast and never run. Unless I'm being chased by, like, a rabid dog. That's slightly different, though.
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Friday, February 11, 2005

A few more things... 

(1) When I tried, as nicely as I could, to bring up to my students the fact that their behavior is not what most of our society deems to be acceptable behavior, they refused to believe it. Let me explain that a little better. I tried to explain that punching someone in the face after anything that remotely resembled an insult is not considered normal outside of their sphere.

I understand that teenagers generally think that their world in the only world. However, in order to want to leave their current state, my students need to begin to understand that their life is only lived by a percentage of the population, not by most people. They truly believe that the majority of people live in the projects, live by violence, beat the sh*t out of each other every day, beat their children, live from check to check even for food, etc.

First, I refuse to believe that this could apply to most people. Second, if it does, the world is an even worse place than I ever imagined. And I never imagined it to be a good place, so to go even worse really sucks.

(2) When I tried to explain that regardless of what happens to you in school, walking away is probably the best option "out", they are screamed at me. The point was, a student accused a teacher of hitting her. She hit him, in front of everyone. My point was, it doesn't matter if the teacher hit the student or not. (The fact that he didn't, which we know for sure, is moot in this discussion.) Once the student hits the teacher, who gets screwed? Of course, the student.

But nooooo. They all had to go off on how they had to "defend themselves".

I am so tired of the uncivilized nature of these kids. If I wanted to work with monkeys, I would have studied them.
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Thursday, February 10, 2005

Get. Out. Of. My. Gene. Pool. 

The beginning of my eighth period class today was punctuated by (1) two girls beating the sh*t out of each other in the hallway, and (2) a girl cursing out a teacher, running after him, and threatening to punch him.

My only reaction is anger. I'm trying really hard to pinpoint why this type of thing gets me so pissed off. I mean, it happens practically every day. I'm convinced that I just don't like seeing uncivilized, classless behavior. Period.

This brings me to the discussion of "what is classless". I put a lot of actions into that category; others on't, clearly. I think most civilized people can agree that fighting, pushing, and shoving is classless. I would also add cutting in front of people in line, playing music such that others can hear it (when not at a party), not letting people off the train, cursing in inappropriate places, etc. Basically, I would add basic manners.

Every day, I gather more anger at people in general. I already knew that people were evil, but I never knew it could be this bad.

And thus continues my job search.
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Wednesday, February 02, 2005

It's not about me, you *ssholes. 

So, I returned to term 2 with some apprehension, but it was mixed with a small amount of hopefulness. Then I saw my roster for my 8th and 9th periods. My double period math class - which had emerged straight from hell since day 1 in September - now had 6 self-contained special education students in it. What the - ?!

I complained to the AP of Special Ed. "You should always be differentiating your teaching, you know that right?" and "Hey, general ed teachers can teach special ed." Blow me.

I complained to the Principal. "We're in a crunch right now. You should be able to handle it." The conversation went on to imply that if I was a capable teacher, I should not have a problem with this.

By the time I got to my AP and she said something to the effect of me being ok, I exploded. This. Is. Not. About. Me.

Goddammit. I have had these kids in my class, which is now 33 strong and growing, for two days now. They have been great classes. Really. Yesterday, I came home realizing that when I get to teach and not just do damage control, I love it more than anything. Well, not more than painting. But that's different. Anyway, it's been fine. But those special ed kids are totally, totally screwed. They cannot follow anything, from copying a sentence off the board to adding 12 and 15. Like their IEP says, they need either a self-contained room or a special ed teacher in the room with me.

To give an idea, one of these students is autistic. Another will not speak out loud to anyone and needs a special, personal bus to get to and from school. Another has an IQ of 80. These are not kids that can function in a regular classroom without support, even I can see that.

This has nothing to do with me. It has everything to do with the fact that six kids, whose parents cared enough about them to get them into a special program, are being screwed out of the education that their IEP says they need and deserve. It also has everything to do with the fact that this is so majorly out of compliance...I don't even want to start.

To be fair, after I put up a Fight (with a capital 'f'), they are working on it. I understand that we are short-staffed, short on cash, and short on patience. But this is just going to have to come first, people.

This system continues to amaze me.

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Thursday, January 20, 2005

The beginning of the end...of the semester. 

9:18 pm: Today was back to school for me. I realized on the crosstown bus ride home that it makes me truly, truly happy to be in grad school. I love learning stuff. Learning is so tied up in grades and competition in high school and college...learning things you love to learn is so different. I feel like I'm using a different piece of brain, a different part of me.

This is not to say that the work doesn't bog me down or that I don't hate my professors every once in awhile. Disclaimer. Otherwise, though, despite my ever-tiring day, it was a happy night.
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Tuesday, January 18, 2005

The story about the newspaper 

Today was the first day we received our class set of USA Today newspapers. They give you basic lesson plans the night before, so the day was planned – for advisory, at least. Little did I know how much havoc a newspaper can wreak.

The class took one look at the papers, and one said, “Shit, miss, that’s the kind of paper that white men in business suits read on the train.” Somehow, and before I could stop or redirect it, this evolved into a complaining session about such men who tell you to shut up when you’re talking on your phone or playing with the ring tone. They were talking to me, as though I should show some sort of sympathy or support. I couldn’t lie.

“I’m the wrong person to tell this to,” I said truthfully. “I hate it when people on the train are on the phone or when a phone rings on the train at all.” I knew this would (1) piss them off, and (2) place me, at least temporarily, in the evil-white-people category. And yup, it did both quite nicely. But I couldn’t lie about that. How will they ever learn if no one ever tells them?

So now I was evil, but the newspaper still beat me out in sheer size. They hated the fact that they had to do anything with a double-fold paper. According to them, Hispanics read single-fold papers; white people read double-fold papers. “I ain’t reading this shit, miss,” one student told me angrily. “I ain’t a white man. I gotta do what Dominicans do, miss. We don’t read this shit.”

Motherfucker. The worst part about all of this, which may seem funny to anyone reading this, is that it really, really pisses me off. I wanted to say, “White men in business suits, huh? You mean, successful working people who make money? As opposed to your poor-ass momma who lives in the projects? I’d pick the newspaper-reading route, if I were you.” But I can’t say that. They weren’t listening to me anymore, anyway, because I chose to side with the evil white men on the train.

The ironic part was, I had told them to read an article about Condoleezza Rice. Now, granted, there was some political stuff in there that may not fully interest a 14-year-old. My first point about the article, though, is that it’s in USA Today. This means that, per definition, it is written at a 3rd-grade level. It’s perfect for them, and they are still complaining that it’s too much reading and too hard to read.

“Did you even try to read it?” I asked one of them who claimed such things. “No,” he admitted. “It just looks big ‘cause it’s in a big newspaper.” What is the deal with this newspaper size thing?!

When there were about two minutes left in class, I gathered their attention. “If you had bothered to read the article,” I said firmly, “you might have realized that it was about Condoleezza Rice. Now, aside from politics, I think it’s important for us to realize that this is the first time an African-American woman is taking a position as high-ranking as Secretary of State. If you think this is not important to you, especially for the African-American women in here, I think that’s really very sad.”

I have to say, they did look slightly embarrassed as they shuffled out to lunch.

I also have to say, I am trying to understand. I am. But I have been reading the high-level newspapers in two languages since I was two years old. Literally. They are fourteen, and this is not a high-level newspaper. The schism between us is just so huge in these sorts of cases, I wonder if either of us will ever get the other.

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Saturday, January 15, 2005

On a better note... 

Since my blog is generally reserved for moments when my frustration reaches some sort of ultimate breaking point, I figured I should spend a few minutes adding the other side of the story.

I started my morning by researching fun things on the web, like on math.com and the puzzlemaker that the Discovery Channel provides. I really, really enjoy teaching. I love planning the lessons. Sound weird, I know, but I find that I can put together a lesson that flows beautifully in a very limited amount of time. This is no small feat, contrary to popular belief. Figuring out how to explain where the hell a piece of math knowledge comes from is not easy. But I love spending time figuring out how to do it.

I can finally see how and why it takes so long to get a handle on teaching. If I did this for five years, I could be exceptionally good at this stuff. The only issue is that I'm beginning to realize that I like the theory and planning and research more than practice. Which only means, I should shift into a curriculum planning role or something like that at some point.

It is tempting to search for a good job at a private school and slowly perfect my teaching for the next few years. After that, I could move into a teaching leadership position... I could never just keep teaching for years on end - that would be tedious. But staying for a few years and seeing where that takes me (teaching college, anyone?) is compelling.

I realized why teachers stay when I received a Christmas card from one of my students from last year. She was lost during her 9th grade year and failed everything. She worked hard in my class, and she passed. She left me a card in my mailbox that said that she missed me, and she thanked me for the last year. I have to say, it's not an event that changes my opinion about this particular job (this school, these kids), but it is a nice moment.

And so my search continues.
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