Cootie Catchers Would’ve Been More Fun

Posted on August 26, 2015
Filed Under Administration, Professional Development | Leave a Comment

Back when I started in this district in ’93, the kids went 180 days a year. As our motto says: “Five shows a day, 180 days a year.” Teachers went 183.

There was an extra day at the beginning of the year for meetings in the morning and, after free PTA-provided lunch, room prep and copy machine wars in the afternoon.

There was a day between semesters to get out the calculator to add up the columns of numbers in the paper gradebook and grade all those I-hope-this-saves-my-grade late turn-ins. Those I usually just recycled. It’s the thing to do to help save the environment.

And there was one day after the last day of school where you had to turn in your lesson plan book (really) and gradebook and get the check-off from the custodian for room cleanliness (no tape on the walls or doors) and prove to the crabby librarian that you (and every last kid) has returned every last book, videocassette (laserdisc), and overhead projector. (Remember those? I still have mine stashed in my room for the times I go old-school.) You had to get a sign-off from everybody and his mom and then endure either the principal or the vp looking over your list and issuing the final release.

Now the kids still only go 180 days. I think we are up to 186 or 187.  And those extra days are all about “staff development.” Every time the union asks for more money at contract negotiations, for some reason management always wants to make it contingent on more “training.” We have had training in Google apps (gawd, it’s all about Googah and apps these days), we have had training in “academic conversations,” we have had training in our new teacher evaluation system (Teachboost), we have had training in creating “common assessments,” we have had training in “professional learning communities.” That’s just a sample off the top of my head. How about training in “pre, during and post activities”? Check. “Restorative Justice/Discipline”?  (How do you FEEL about that?) Check. If it’s a modern educational fad/trend, we’ve been trained in it. I am surprised that we haven’t had a training that emphasized turning the kids into “independent learning units.” (I made that up. If you see it suddenly being used elsewhere… I made that up at one of our first trainings this year, I got copyright.)

At the one about that I think was about “academic conversations,” they had us all in “triads” and “quads.” Triad? Really? When did three people talking and snickering and getting shushed by the goody-goodies become a triad? Did I miss a training? Quad I can live with. In my class though, they are called power trios and 4x4s. (If I gotta go five, it’s called a five-piece, as in band.)

Anyway, one of the “teacher tools” (I am pretty much done with that metaphor) for academic conversations was something called a “Folded Frayer Model.” When I typed that into Google, the first hit was pretty much the handout we received at the training.

When I first looked at it, I didn’t have my reading specs on and I was briefly thrilled that we might make some sort of academic conversation cootie catcher. Picture it. I know you can.

But denial is not just a river in Egypt. It was just something I will never do.

BUT! In “researching” this post, I just discovered that cootie catchers are the one educational trend/fad that we haven’t been trained in. Really! It’s a thing! Try Googling (I invented that word too!) “teaching with cootie catchers.”

Guess I need to make a request to management for next year’s training slate.


Discipline? Umm, I Don’t Usually Have a Problem With That. (Rerun)

Posted on August 23, 2015
Filed Under discipline, Rerun | Leave a Comment

One of the things I remember always being asked, when I last actually had to interview for a job back in the day, was about my “discipline” policy. At one of my first interviews, at least half of it was devoted to how I would handle certain “scenarios.” I kept insisting that those things hadn’t happened in my (admittedly limited) experience and I didn’t see them happening in my class in the future. Needless to say I didn’t get that one.

With all the noobs we have been hiring in recent years, I have been in on some interviews. And you know what? We didn’t ask any of them about discipline.

Instead the question that probably would have occupied that space was replaced by, “What do you do to motivate kids?”

See how that works? It’s now on you to “motivate” rather than “discipline” when they aren’t “motivated” enough to listen to you. So the trend is that you don’t get a lot of back up when you want to kick some booty and “send a kid to the office.” They just aren’t as scared of that as they used to be, and justifiably so. Our management is just too nice nowadays.

Anyway, that ain’t the way it was when I was a lad. Let’s go back and take a look at the mid 1970s with this post from November 2012:

Once I survived eight years of the nuns at St. Mel’s, it was on to four years of the Jesuits and 600 or 700 boys. Just like back at Mel’s with the nuns, there weren’t enough of the brothers and priests to teach all the classes, so there were a lot of what they called lay teachers. Nowadays I hear, J-High has begun employing women teachers. I can easily imagine the kind of jokes that would have rocketed around that all boys school in the 70’s, if we had female teachers who were called lay. I hope kids are more refined today, but I doubt it. Ahem… moving on.

Anyway, being a secondary school, J-High need a lot more lay teachers than Mel’s had. If fact they were in the majority. And of course being the 70’s, things were much less… shall we say… supervised than today. Parents didn’t really ask what was going on at school and expected the teachers to handle things. The admin sort of followed the same credo, so teachers had a lot of free rein in those days. Of course if they needed disciplinary back-up, it was always at hand. After the first few shut ups (Mr. Maffei, who was Italian, said it like, “Shut uppa you face,”) or if “hitting the deck” (kneeling on the floor by your desk, sometimes on a pencil) wasn’t enough to get you to see that the straight and narrow was the right path, most teachers just gave you a pass to see the Dean.

The first trip ALWAYS resulted in JUG. Justice Under God. Picking up trash with one of those old-school sticks with the poker on it. After school. For an hour. That day. Not maybe in a week. Not after you got another chance or a talking to the first time. That day. He didn’t care if you took the bus and would miss it. He didn’t care if you had football practice and couldn’t play Saturday if you missed any part of practice on Friday. He didn’t care if it was Friday. If you got a pass to the dean, you got JUG that afternoon. It was like an 11th commandment.

There weren’t a whole lot of classroom discipline problems at J-High. In the immortal word of my 9th grade algebra teacher,

“I gotcha by the short hair.”

Sometimes he would even grab that short hair at the base of your skull and yank, just to emphasize the point.

Today we have to relay on things that waste our time too, like detention at break. What? I have to sit there for 10 minutes with my lamest criminals when I hafta pee because THEY can’t cope? I have to document parent contact and all the various measures I have taken to ensure that I have taken all the steps necessary to help this student succeed behaviorally? (Someone actually used that phrase in my presence. I almost died laughing.) Before I get to write a referral that will someday (sometimes a month later) get looked at by an admin who will have to ask the kid what happened, and will MAYBE assign an hour or two of something someday.

Granted, I usually handle my discipline issues in house, so I am not looking for a lot of disciplinary back up. But when it’s needed, the “consequences” should be immediate. Like training your puppy not to pee on the rug. It doesn’t do any good for a punishment to occur days or weeks after the offense.



As If

Posted on August 20, 2015
Filed Under Teacher Evaluation, Teaching | Leave a Comment

Many of you have probably seen it already, but this wouldn’t be a teacher blog if I didn’t post a link to this video. Key and Peele do a great imitation of SportsCenter but tweak it so it’s about teachers getting boatloads of money and being idolized and followed by the masses.

“I’m pleased to announce I’m taking my skills back to New York City.”

As if.

I especially like the “Draft Day” coverage, where the school with the lowest test scores gets first draft pick, but still has millions to spend on it.

“And just like that you’re a millionaire.”

As if.

And the BMW ad is classic.

Bummer that it still focuses on test scores though.

17 Reasons: Kicking it Old School

Posted on August 18, 2015
Filed Under old school, School Reform | 3 Comments

Wkk-251-cathen my boy was about 12 or so (he’s 16 now-gasp), my mom gave him a “little kid’s” t-shirt. She always did that to me too, so it was good to see it wasn’t just me being cranky about it. She always bought me the dorkiest shirts on the bargain rack. (I think I used the “Hang in There Baby” to clean up barf.)  I didn’t get shirts with this guy. I got shirts with trucks that said “Keep on Truckin.” At least they weren’t Garanimals. That was a standard insult if we perceived someone to be rolling too little kid.

Anyway, the boy refused to wear the shirt and it disappeared into the “travesty of an atrocity” that is his room. Then the call from his own mom went out that he should cull the dresser/laundry pile for the donation pile. This is when I see the shirt for the first time.

Kickin' it Old School

Kickin’ it Old School

It was like the first time I saw the original Quiet Stick. I was like, “You’re getting rid of this?!” The wife was all, “Don’t you dare,” but by then it was too late. I was already wearing it. I also liked the blue piping on the collar and sleeves, along with the kinda tight fit. Very 70s.

That was a year or so ago. As my family and friends can attest, it’s my favorite shirt. So fave that the wife became resigned to it, and worried that I would wear it out before I had a chance to appear on Survivor in it. So she took a pic and circulated it in her vast network, and… et voila! One of her home-girls found one on Pinterest, and I now have two! It still sort of bugs her that I wear it (them) so often, and it’s a running gag for me to ask, “Guess what I’m doing?” She will forget about the shirt and answer, “What?” And I get to point triumphantly at the happy dino and say, “I’m kickin’ it OLD SCHOOL.”

Know what I’m doing right now?

That’s right.

I was going over the class page remodel and looking at past versions of it, and I reread an article that the old page had a featured link to for a long time. The article was written in 1998, which, believe it or not it, is probably considered old school these days. The article was called, “Seventeen Reasons Football is Better Than High School” and makes a pretty good case.  Especially since he says he hates football:

I use it because I hate football. It’s been said that football combines the two worst elements of American society: violence and committee meetings. You can substitute “music” or “theater” or “soccer” for “football,” and everything I say will stay the same; so when I say that football is better than school, what I really mean is that even football is better than school.

I especially like these:

#4. In football, a player can let the team down.

#6.  In football, the unexpected happens all the time.

#11. In football, the better players teach the less-skilled players.

#13. In football, the adults who participate are genuinely interested. 

#17. In football, a public performance is expected.

Go read the article here.…ch…Changes! Oh Jhonny!

Posted on August 15, 2015
Filed Under Back to School | 1 Comment

Days since last post: undisclosed.
Days until kids start: 8.
Days until “professional development” begins: -2.
Yes, it has already begun. And oh my, it’s going to be quite a year.

1. Our staff, which had been one of the oldest in the district (and crabbiest and hardest to manage), has been seeing quite a few retirements, movements, and replacements over the past couple of years, and we have hired at least four or five more for this year. Now we have noobs everywhere! Everybody is so perky! When I was hired, our English department was one of the crustiest in the district and that didn’t change for a long time. Now I am the crusty one. Only me and one other guy in the department are the same from three years ago. In that time, our staff’s average age has dropped at least 10-15 years.

2. Yes prof dev has already begun. It’s actually a continuation of last year’s (year long!) slog, in which a consultant lady with large hair tried to herd the cats that are English teachers into using the techniques she machine-gunned at us from her books to create a whole bunch of “common units” that we would all (at both middle schools) agree (under orders from “the district”) to teach and report the assessment scores of. (Try diagramming that bad boy. At least it makes sense, unlike the Donald’s atrocity.) I guess they’re looking to standardize the product a little more. We can’t have parents teacher-shopping now can we? The principals’ story is that we need these commonalities in order to have kind of “professional learning communities” discussions that are all the rage now. Sorry so flip. I am sure it will be fine. Plus you guys get the benefit, because I will post everything online as I use/mutate it. Wait until she takes on our high school teachers this fall.

So Thursday saw me sitting/squirming/squatting/wiggling/doodling as those who got roped into doing the actual work (I did do the vocab parts of most of the units at least) read their units to us. Sigh. There’s some good stuff in there though, so I am looking forward to mutating and integrating it into my shtick.

3. I revamped my seventh grade page. Finally. The previous one was still so very 1997, which is when I started the original. Anyway, I am hoping the new look is easier for the chilluns to mange and navigate. Check it out:

4. I just looked at my class lists to see how big my classes are this year. Biggest: 30. Average:26 or 27. But most importantly… I can hardly believe I am about to type this… I have a kid named Jhonny.

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