Disclaimer: Some content is inappropriate for readers under 18 years of age or those offended by swear words, references to sexuality, atheism, and libertarianism.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Poor, Poor Fishies

The new science teacher I work with learned a horrific fact about his fish-tank heater the other day... It went into over-drive and rather than shutting itself off, it proceeded to cook his fish alive. The next morning, he showed up to find a tank of brown liquid and fall-off-the-bone tender fishies. Being an animal lover, I felt awful... Being a food lover, I kept thinking how much better they would have been over a grill with the perfect spices, a squeeze of lemon and some tartar sauce. I wasn't scheduled to go into his room that day and didn't entertain my curiosity by checking out the morbid scene of death.

Although one of my favorite teachers, CandyComrade has left the building for greener pastures, my guys friends and I still take the time out of our lunch to call her voicemail and squeeze Tainty, the screaming monkey over the phone at her. It's the little things like that that warm the heart.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Wandering Mind...

I’ve decided to compile a list of random observations I’ve made in the context of my career:

Far too many kids have tattoos. Who the hell is giving these kids tattoos when they’re 12 and 13 years old? I taught kids in the 8th grade who came to me with tats already.
If the guy doesn’t care about parental consent to tattoo a child, do you think he cares if his needles are clean? And wiping them on his sleeve doesn’t count.

Parents need to reexamine their choice of spelling when it comes to their kids' names. I’m not talking about the hideous way some of them spell more conventional names, which I’m not particularly fond of either (Deszirae? Kaytee?)... I’m talking about Terria which is apparently pronounced Tee-air-uh, Khalfoni is apparently Kuh-fah-nee, Asyza was supposed to be Ay-ja. What? Also, no woman should have the name Aquanet. What the fuck were her parents thinking?

Students really are impressive at adopting the role of “victim” while perpetuating stereo-types made of their age group. A student voiced his disgust at being followed around a store when his friends pointed out that he is, in fact, a thief and has stolen from more stores than they could remember, to which he agreed, but he still felt unjustly targeted by bigoted adults. We could take this argument deeper and wonder, perhaps, if the expectations of adult society created the thief that might never have been… But I doubt it. (My mind traces back to I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang.

NOTHING infuriates me more than people doing everything in their power to avoid doing their job. Doing a shitty job at a school cheats your colleagues, your students, their parents, and the tax payers. If you don't want to teach kids, don't fucking teach kids. If you're a racist, don't fucking teach kids. If you can't hide your dislike for kids and make it obvious you can't stand being in the same room with them, don't fucking teach kids. If you're not qualified in your capacity to the point that you almost never actually do your job, don't fucking be a school psychologist (oh I'm sorry, was I a little specific that time? What a tool. Him, not me. I'm just a bitch.) If you don't want to counsel kids with emotional issues because it's "not [your] job", don't be a fucking counselor. If you don't want to teach kids about good hygiene and actually REFUSE TO DO IT WHEN ASKED VERY NICELY, don't be a fucking school nurse. If you've been teaching the same subject for over a decade and STILL don't write or have any lesson plans, don't fucking teach kids. If you can't tell your special ed. person (ie. ME) what the hell you're teaching TOMORROW because you'll be photocopying the worksheets TOMORROW MORNING, don't fucking teach kids.

I must confess. The last point is really bugging me right now, because a colleague I was supposed to trust and respect is fobbing off so many of this colleague's students on me and on others, with no good reason in some cases, that I'm seriously questioning this colleague's professionalism. I've got enough on my plate, I don't need someone else's leftovers piled up onto it as well.

Anyway, I'll just shut up and go watch some TV or something.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Movies Set in Public Schools

Having watched more movies set in public schools than I really should have, I've come to a number of conclusions. They're all wrong. Here's why:

  1. The actors are too fucking old. It just gets silly. I hear they're doing a 90210 reunion series... Could have fooled me, I thought the original 90210 WAS a reunion show.
  2. They throw far too many paper airplanes. I have yet to see any of my students actually even construct a rudimentary paper airplane, let alone aim one skillfully at the nerdy kid's head.
  3. There ARE no nerdy kids in the really nasty classes. The closest thing is the Goth kid who reads novels about suicidal anorexic girls who cut themselves. And set fire to things.
  4. You can teach them Shakespeare for over a month and you will never see your students experience a moment of revelation of biblical proportions whereby they quote the Bard to their nemesis/parent/unfair administrator/bully/abusive partner/you/whatever in climactic emotional release. Never.
  5. Real students don't express the anguish of their violent socioeconomic station in life as articulately and objectively. Those same students also rarely emerge triumphant, rising above their abusive home lives. They usually get pregnant, arrested, high, or all three, or else continue the ugly cycle.
  6. When the actor-teacher shares his/her heartfelt message to the class of overcoming life's obstacles, the actor-students usually sneer with derisive laughter before being touched very deeply, shedding their mockery and replacing it with pensive humility and inner-reflection. Real students turn and chat to each other or continue to laugh at you out loud. (I don't patronize my students by giving such speeches. I just drop hints that I have high hopes and expectations of them and say "WHEN you go to college" regardless of what I really think of their prospects).
  7. The actors don't swear like sailors with Tourette's syndrome. Our students do.
  8. The actors are more openly disappointed in cases of teenager pregnancy. Our kids throw baby showers and invite the teachers.

One thing they do get right is the randomly bursting into song thing. Okay, so you won't get me to actually sit down and watch High School Musical, but I get enough of that at work. Not a day goes by that I don't have to tell a kid to please sit down, stop dancing, stop singing, and save it for some reality TV show.

Call me cynical, but there are very few teaching-related movies I can actually watch without groaning, rolling my eyes and bemoaning the cheese factor. The movies don't come close to capturing how truly amazing it is to develop relationships with these kids, the honor we have to touch their lives for a brief moment in the hopes of making their futures just that little bit rosier, the anguish we feel when their lives spiral out of control and there's nothing we can do about it. It's hideous, and funny, and sad, and inspiring.

Give me the real deal any day.

PS: Okay, I lied. I actually liked To Sir, With Love despite the fact that wine would go great with the sheer volume of cheese involved.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Counting to Ten to Avoid Losing My Job.

There comes a time in one's professional career when one has to fight the overwhelming urge to punch someone. Usually, this is the sentiment I experience when faced with a colleague who does everything within his or her power to avoid doing his or her job... But not today. Today, my bile is directed towards a poor, innocent, cute little 9th grader. What an evil teacher I am...

He's not a really bad kid, by any means... I do not fear for my life or my money, but I have grave concerns about my anger management and level of sanity. Here is one example of our first one-on-one encounter on Friday:

TeacherLady: So... How did your first homework assignment go?

WannabePunchingBag: I didn't do it.

TeacherLady: Fine. Not a good start. Take out a piece of paper and get started. The assignment is a letter describing your summer vacation to your English teacher.

WannabePunchingBag: I didn't do anything. I just played soccer.

TeacherLady: Okay, tell her about that.

He proceeds to write "All I did was play soccer." He then starts to put his pencil away.

TeacherLady: You're going to have to say more than that. It's a letter, not a memo. Tell her what position you played. Were you any good? Did you meet any new friends? Did you injure yourself? What kind of successes or failures did you have? Do you intend to continue playing?

He shrugged. Then complained about the assignment. Complained about having to write it. Complained that he wasn't in English as a Second Language class anymore. It took half an hour. Ten minutes of that time was spent trying to get a straight answer from him regarding where he had been prior to here. He said he had lived in Mexico, then said that wasn't true. Then said it was. Then said it wasn't. Then said it was, but it was NEW Mexico. Then he said he was just kidding, it was Mexico. Then he said he'd never been to Mexico in his life.

I got four more sentences out of him. I was near tears.

The following Monday (today), I came close to screaming in his face.

TeacherLady: Did you do the English homework?

WannabePunchingBag: No.

TeacherLady: This really is not a good start. I can only help you to a certain point, but if you don't help yourself... (Blah blah blah, I give the usual spiel.)

WannabePunchingBag: I'm only kidding. I did it.

TeacherLady: Why do you do that? It's not funny. All it does is waste..

WannabePunchingBag: I was kidding again. I didn't do it.


WannabePunchingBag: I did do it. I did. I did do it. Just kidding... But I didn't do it.

TeacherLady: Okay, stop talking. I've stopped caring.

Okay, so I didn't say that last part, but it was what I was thinking. He actually went back and forth more times than I bothered to transcribe in this post. It has to be the single most irritating habit any of my students have ever possessed. I'd rather go to a karaoke party with Bjork and listen to her do covers of my favorite Beatles songs.

I don't know how I'm going to last the whole year without crying then punching him in the face... Then taking a time machine back in time to prevent his parents from moving to our state from wherever the hell they came from. I bear no grudge against his family, but they need to start warning people about their son because it could prevent some serious bodily harm and career jeopardy.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Then and Now

Thanks to List of the Day, here's a great series of Then and Now photos in which people recreate photos of themselves taken when they were kids and then again when they grew up. I love it.

Science Rocks

I saw this on Cynical-C and knew some of my science people would enjoy it. Thanks, Chris!


I'm always excited yet wary of the first few days getting to know my new students. This year, I have one of those interesting kids that crosses demographics you wouldn't normally expect to see... The Black Goth kid. I find this minority fascinating as I watch them fit quite comfortably in their own skin and yet seem quite lost in a way. My poor chap thinks he can try to shock me, the dear innocent child...

"Hi, my name's GothKid and I don't believe in God."
"Nice to meet you, GothKid," I say with a smile.
"I hate dancing."
"Thankfully, that aspect of life is optional."

It turns out, he DOES believe in a God, just not "your Christian one", as I heard him explain to the kids at his table who were rather concerned that he may start sacrificing chickens and spattering them with blood at every full moon. The pentagrams he drew all over his new agenda book were cute too. Whenever I see the Goth crowd, the Emo crowd, the gangsta crowd, I always think of that line from Monty Python's Life of Brian... "YES! WE ARE ALL INDIVIDUALS!"

I've also got two of my favorite category of student... The ones who USED to be an enormous behavior concern but are now struggling (with varying levels of success) to shape up. The trend in their behavior may not always be a clearly defined upward slope towards Nirvana, but they always have such a fire in them and usually have a sharp sense of humor, honed by years of shitty turns of events in their lives.

It's an odd year as two very good friends of mine have left the building. MamaTeacher left us for that fantastic place known as "Retirement", and CandyComrade abandoned us for that dubious place known as "The School with Better Behaved Kids But Slightly Lower Pay". As long as she's happy, it'll make missing her a little bit easier. I know she'll be jealous when she hears about all the morale boosting Ra-Ra meetings we have which have formed a protective callous on all the palms of our hands as we clap like over-excited chimps. Boy, is she missing out! Morale is indeed up a bit, and I really hope it rubs off on the kids too. A depressed teacher would inspire fewer kids than one who's charged like an electric eel!

So far, I've only got one student this year in jail for a summer offence, so I guess it was good to get that out of the way early on in the year. I look forward to hearing the verdict, so I know whether or not to make space for him in the already overcrowded classrooms. I'm thinking either I'll Velcro him to the wall or else stick him in a hammock above the rest of the kids' heads. Either way, we won't leave that child behind.

I'm hoping it'll be a good year.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Oy Vey.

There's little that can beat the drained feeling I have after sitting in on a meeting where some poor parent is at such a loss for words and plans of action that they break down and cry in front of the teachers. I've sat in more than one meeting like that and it gets me every time. To feel so helpless when it comes to your own child's well being...

I come out of meetings like that feeling like a wet towel that's been put through the wringer. I don't cry or have a nervous breakdown, but it erodes the pedestal of comfortable living right out from under my feet for that day at least.

I always thought that MAYBE I might have been a good doctor or a good therapist, but I'm also aware of how too much empathy would be my downfall and not my strength. I imagine that to be a great doctor you'd have to temper empathy with subjectivity because if you imagined that child on the gurney was your own, perhaps you wouldn't pursue such a risky operation, but that operation may just be what's needed to save that child's life.

I didn't do that too well today. I imagined the child was my own, the horrors my own, and at the end of such a busy day, it left me feeling a little numb.

I need an Indian take away, to read some fantastic books with my daughter, and to snuggle up with my man on the sofa watching some fantastic TV show. I CAN walk away with sympathy for the family and gratitude that I'm not living the lives they are. I can.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Tarrant on TV

I used to love watching this show when I was in Britain in the 90s for my summer vacations. If you enjoyed this one, go in search of the rest of the clips available on Youtube. What I really enjoyed was how he'd occasionally throw in a serious public service announcement or advertisement that would get me choked up. I also loved seeing crazy-ass Japanese game shows for the first time in my life.

Monday, August 11, 2008

World Without End

Many years ago, I read Ken Follett's Pillars of the Earth... I had just finished reading The Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Aeul and I was hungry for another sweeping epic set in our past (sexy bits optional. I was actually growing weary of all the sex bits in Aeul's stuff, but I guess there wasn't much to do back in prehistoric times, eh?).
Most of my junior high and high school years were spent with my nose in a book whenever I got the chance and rather than do my usual (carry around two to three novels at a time, switching from one to the next when I felt more in the mood for the genre of one over another), I dedicated my whole attention to its medieval majesty. I adored it. My English teacher at the time, Mrs. Smith, asked to borrow it and eventually returned it (in poorer condition then when I gave it to her, I might add) and playfully scolded me for reading a book that had naughty bits in it. She was never one to make jokes, so I suddenly felt pretty damn cool in her eyes.

Anyway, I perused other Follett titles and was disappointed to see he'd not written anything else quite like it, though I do fully intend on reading some of his other stuff some day, I hungered for yet more historical hijinks and havoc. And so he wrote World Without End. And there was much rejoicing. I just finished reading it the other day and I'm still hungry for more.

While it may bore some that he tends to go into tremendous detail when describing aspects of medieval architecture and the fundamentals of stone masonry or other artisan crafts of the time, I indulged his efforts to show just how much homework he'd obviously done and wanted to show off.

It's no wonder these two novels are so enormous, he really does create a whole world in the two of them and fleshes out so many wonderful characters that it would be a crime to cut any of them out for the sake of brevity.

For a sci-fi nerd, I really do adore my historical fiction novels... If any of you have ones to reccommend, please do. I'm so out of the loop nowadays on what books are available I hate to think how many great ones I'm missing out on.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

No Time For TV

I love having use of a DVR to store the many number of shows and movies I intend on watching once that elusive concept of "free time" becomes a reality, but now that I think about it... It's absolutely ridiculous how many TV series I am in the midst of watching. Here's a list of all the shows I am following/intend to follow, with varying degrees of fidelity, until I hope to have seen each and every one ever made:

Twilight Zone (the original, I'm sure I've missed a few here and there)

4400 (which has one of my favorite opening credits)

Hex (which features the best lesbian character in a TV show I've ever seen. No, I've never seen the L-Word, so I guess I can't pass judgement. Anyway, I would watch a series revolving entirely around her if they would make it/)

Doctor Who (any incarnation of the character)

Mad Men (I adore the costumes and what better way to examine human culture during a period than though their commercials and products?)

Pushing Daisies (you may see my flow of thought with these last four!)

So You Think You Can Dance (go on. Laugh. See if I give a flying pirouette.)

The Closer (I rather like Kyra Sedgwick! I didn't think I would.)

Medium (not my favorite show, but I think the cast is charming)

Ashes to Ashes (no where near as good as the preceding show Life on Mars, but I get to see Philip Glenister whose outrageous sexist remarks are strangely cute. It'll be interesting seeing the American version when that starts)

Farscape (only ever saw the pilot, but I've heard good things about it)

The Tomorrow People (cute British kids' sci-fi show from the 70s. Sure beats a lot of the crap on offer to kids today)

Xena (yup. Feel free to laugh)

Porridge (starring Kate Bekinsale's dad who died young, bless him)

'Allo 'Allo (in all its puerile glory)

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Time Warped (and other works) by Trey Parker

Trey Parker's early work on a show he tried pitching called Time Warped. The above episode is about Moses and his brother. (Which kinda reminds me of Jesus and his Brothers, another blasphemous piece of comedic satire.)

I love how they make fun of the blurred focus they always used to have on female love interest characters in older movies. I always wondered about that as a kid.

This one's entitled Rom and Jul.

It's not his best work, but it reminds me a lot of his first big production piece: Cannibal! The Musical, which I really enjoyed... And hey, it's Trey Parker. I love that guy. All of his work has a touch of Monty Python and his own irreverent perspective on everything, which makes for a delightful combination.

If you're REALLY brave and have a stomach of steel, you should look up Princess. This is what happens when producers say "Hey Trey, Matt, do whatever the hell you like, no holds barred..." The result is horrifying. Only two webisodes were released before someone choked on his own vomit and said "Err. That's enough, guys. You need professional help". Obviously, these 'quotes' are from my own imagination. I'm guessing the real response included the words "sick fucks, Jesus Christ, what..? Were you abused as children?" but I'd hate to make wild conjectures.

Friday, August 01, 2008