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

Monday, May 24, 2010

Discipline


I'm going to seriously disappoint a bunch of people doing a Google search for something that involves spanking, humiliation, and doms. Sorry, people. Not THAT kind of discipline... At least, not today.

After some thought and conversation with one of our administrators, I've come to some more clarified conclusions.

Our system is broken. We're asked to handle fragile kids in a delicate manner but the only tools we've got to handle them with are clumsy and ill-suited. This is the age of cultural responsiveness and awareness of how our students' lives at home may influence their behavior at school. Be it right or wrong, we are all expected (as teachers) to have a bit of a counselor's and psychologist's role in our students' lives: Figure out WHY they're doing what they're doing, empathize, and then problem solve rather than dismiss and punish.

Fine. If that's the case, the procedures need to reflect that, and right now, they don't. We've got detentions and in- and out-of-school suspensions. I think those are still valid courses of action if teachers show evidence of having followed appropriate procedures to try to handle the situation, but we don't really HAVE a set of procedures to guide us through this sort of... Discipline with love... So to speak... Okay, this is sounding dirty now...

So in the meantime, this is what we've got: Teacher writes up the behavior, sends it to the administrator, and due to bias and limited information provided the administrator often assumes the teacher did not do everything they could to prevent the disruption and that he or she may have even willfully provoked it, so gives no consequence to the student, sends the smug kid back to class, repeat step one ad nauseum. I'm not saying it doesn't happen that teachers behave unprofessionally, but for whatever reason administrators all seem to take the route that we're a bunch of cold-hearted bastards who would like nothing more than to teach empty classrooms.

A reworking of our referral document to include a more detailed opportunity for the teacher to describe what steps they've taken to try to prevent the behavior or what they believe led up to the incident is needed to show that teachers DO care and that they're not just writing the kid up for jollies. It might also give the administrators an insight into just how much we bend over backwards to get our kids to be successful. And in the meantime, if I say a kid has been consistently late to class every single day and I don't see a way to walking their ass to class on time every day, don't come back with "and what is it about that class that is making them WANT to be late? Maybe that teacher should re-examine THAT." That's bullshit. It's not always the teacher's fault. Granted, there is one class my guys go to that is so enormously unpleasant that even I shudder at the thought of walking through the door, but that doesn't apply to all teachers. Sometimes, kids skip because they know they can get away with it, and that's something that is rampant right now. Sometimes, the class isn't going to be amazingly exciting with exploding lab exercises or rap performances... Sometimes, it's just not going to be fun... And kids have to learn to deal with that. I KNOW that many classes could do with some sprucing up, but honestly... At some point we have to place a little responsibility in the hands of the next generation so they know what to do with it when there is no safety net made up of caring adults in their lives.

I love my students so very much and that is why I despair at how we let them graduate with a false, over-inflated sense of their true capabilities, mediocre reading and math skills, and no sense of responsibility of their actions and inactions. It's true that we need to shape up with our instruction, raise our expectations to the point that we're not graduating kids who can't read, diversify our instruction so that they have the chance to expand their skill sets in various areas, but when we do all that we're supposed to do and the kid STILL acts up, or comes late, or skips class then the warm fuzzies need to be a little firmer because they'll never learn that fire is hot until they get burned, and I'd rather they learn that now rather than when they're fired from a job or stuffed in jail and they and no one with any power will be willing to advocate for them.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ricky, Stephen, and Karl. Oh My!


I can't tell you how much fun I'm having listening to The Ricky Gervais radio show that someone kindly recorded and uploaded to the "Interwebs".

Brief history: It evolved from a radio show to a podcast to a paid podcast to audiobooks and has evolved into an HBO animated series. I'm listening to the ones that include the wonder that is Karl Pilkington. The human oddity of genius, comedian, and philosophical oddball all rolled into one individual with an admirably spherical cranium. (I've seen rounder heads, but I've never seen a more fascinating insight into a man's thoughts before). Ricky Gervais is delightfully obnoxious and is bound to remind you of that one hyper kid in class who was just that much smarter and funnier than the others, but had a tendency to be a tad annoying at times. Stephen Merchant is so painfully (and amusingly) self-deprecating at times, but I must say his new look with the sexy stubble is working for him.

If you've not paid these chaps much attention, you should. I look froward to seeing Stephen and Ricky's Cemetery Junction. So far, I've enjoyed just about everything each of them has been involved in that I've seen/heard/read and it's fun being around to watch their careers grow and evolve. With Karl, it's sort of like watching Ricky's science project grow and evolve... Can he make his shaved chimp famous? (Note: I do not see Karl as a shaved chimp... I think Ricky would treat a shaved chimp with a little more decorum...)

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Losing... Faith...

Okay. Here's the deal. My boss has a decision to make today. The outcome of this decision will dictate one of two responses from me... The preferable one is that of hope that there is a glimmer of reason in him and a bearing of SOME standard of expectation of our students. The other is that he'll inspire complete contempt from me and no chance of earning my respect back whatsoever, especially since he seems to be earning a pretty awful track record in terms of behavioral expectations of the kids on a day to day basis.

So. What's it going to be, boy? Yes... Or... No?

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Boat I Don't Want To Be On... The HMS Censorship.


The United Arab Emirates is progressive in many fields, dragging a portion of the Middle East kicking and screaming into the 21st century, but forward nonetheless. However slowly and circumspectly, they are also making (what I perceive to be) progress in the area of the arts and censorship. The subject of censorship is one that sparks something in me, namely: all-consuming rage.

I'm a grown-up, I have free will, and I do not wish to bring harm upon others... So if I want to see something others may consider offensive, that is my choice. I wrote a post about my lovely South Park boys, Matt Stone and Trey Parker and their recent jaunt into controvery, but then chickened out of posting it. If you have the choice to opt out of seeing/hearing/experiencing something, I think you're okay. Now, if you have no choice but to be forced to experience something you find offensive, that's when I have a problem... But I don't recall South Park ever being mandatory.

Growing up, I was annoyed by the censorship of kisses from TV shows and equally annoyed by the slightly less strict -but ever present- editing of movies in the cinemas. No sex. No criticisms of any religion. No mention of Judaism. I can respect that some people don't want to see that sort of thing, and nor do they want to miss out on a bunch of movies because they don't want to see those specific scenes so if it were financially and logistically feasible, I'd support the showings of two versions. But my main point is: Give people a CHOICE.

So I found this interesting article on film censorship in the UAE and was delighted to see that film-makers there were pushing the envelope not for the sake of shock value, but for the sake of credibility, realism, and respect for art as being a reflection of humanity; not just in its state of beauty but also in its moment of shame, lustfulness, greed, and general naughtiness. The UAE is often so bent on filtering its image to itself and to the rest of the world when it should simply take pride in the wonder of its many, many accomplishments and reflect upon recognized problems and use that PUBLIC knowledge to move forward. Stop pretending the rich don't get away with murder. Stop pretending no one there has AIDS. Stop pretending the migrant labor's basic human rights aren't being violated. So you've got some skeletons in your closet. What country doesn't? Generally, I don't measure the value of someone in the mistakes they've made as much as I measure them by how they proceed once they've made those mistakes. But at some point, you have to recognize reality- warts and all- and use that knowledge, your own sense of morality, your own free judgment, and decide what kind of person you are and/or want to be. LEARN.

When you start cutting information out of books, out of movies, out of the news, how can you possibly hope to learn and grow as thinking human beings?

Monday, May 10, 2010

Rest In Peace, Lena Horne

Lena Horne has passed away. It's strange to think she's gone. She's drooled over in the old Amos and Andy radio shows I used to listen to, as well as many other radio shows, though it was only because Freeman and Charles were playing African American than they could be free to describe their obsession with her delightful frame. She was in movies, on TV shows, on the jazz CDs in my car, on Sesame Street, and in the pages of history as a woman who paved the way as Hollywood's "first black sex symbol" and she took her place in the righteous March on Washington in 1963. There certainly is no sun up in the sky, but there is another bright shining star.

Stormy Weather


It's Not Easy Bein' Green

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Disturbed.

Actually many things disturbed me at work last week, but here are two...

A conversation between two girls in a hallway:

Girl: Don't stress. It's just a test. Either you're pregnant or you're not.

I guess she was comforting her friend that it was either a true or false type of test... Not one of those essay response bastards. Man, that type of pregnancy tests sucks. You have to write a three page report on why you should or shouldn't have a baby, complete with an APA formatted bibliography.

Another was this casual exchange between a myself and college prep. student.

TeacherLady: You know that short story we just read was made into a Twilight Zone episode. (noting the polite yet blank expression on the girl's face) Have you ever heard of The Twilight Zone?

Girl: Oh yeah! Twilight. Yeah.

I was mightily impressed with the fact that I didn't scream at the realization that when this generation hears the word Twilight, a bunch of emo vampires are what come to their minds as opposed to the cynical god in the fantastic skinny tie and a ciggie in his hand. It's not her fault. I'll raise my kids better.


Wednesday, May 05, 2010

No Pants Day and Flashing! Well, Flash Mobbing.


Get ready! It's No Pants Day this coming Friday. Wish I could participate, but I'd prefer to keep my job, thank you very much... The first I learned of collective lack of pants-wearing was through Improv Everywhere. What a fun concept. Flash mobs really warm my heart.

Behold Do-Re-Mi" in Belgium



Or Ohio State students


Mob Dancers in LA doing Hammer Time. I especially dig the older gentleman. And the pants.


I'm quite particular about what flash mob performances I enjoy. I don't like the ones that clearly made a performance space such that an audience was already starting to assemble before the dancing or singing has even begun. It should be a surprise, and a pleasant one. The better filming helps for those of us who aren't there to witness the reactions of the confused/delighted audience as well as getting a good view of the performers themselves. The choice of music is hugely important as well as the quality of thee choreography and dance. It should always start with one or two people, then amass to the point of rivaling Busby Berkeley musicals.

It'd be hilarious if a bunch of teachers in our building flash mobbed at school/a game/some sort of huge school event. I bet it would make the students' day. Now all I need are limber/spirited colleagues and boat loads of time I just haven't got...

Saturday, May 01, 2010

Let's Just Give the Inmates the Key.

I know I've complained about this before, but our many principals in our building need to be aware that they're not helping by aiming to be "friends" with every kid in the building, especially those whose behavior are of greatest concern. I entirely believe that we need to build positive relationships with all kids, no matter how much of an asshole they may be... But we're not doing them any favors by letting them get away with behaviors that would get them arrested or fired outside of school grounds. Theft is theft. Tardiness is tardiness. Assault is assault. Sexual harassment is sexual harassment. Turning a blind eye to all of these in some sort of theatrical show of benevolence is HURTING that child, not teaching them and definitely not helping them.

The problem is that I don't feel I can bring that up to our administrators for fear of being one of the teachers they often talk about publicly who "don't understand kids", "don't care about kids", and should "get out of the profession". If I want my student to learn he can't skip classes, come to classes late, and get caught with pot on him over by an elementary school, I'm doing it because I am concerned for his future, not because I hate kids.

I really think they're failing to step back and imagine if that were their own child. Would they want their own flesh and blood to be caught off of school grounds during school hours with pot and NOT get a consequence? I know the administrators think I'm just being passive aggressive when I include comments such as "Student stated 'Go ahead, write me up, I won't get anything...' " in my referrals for misbehavior, but it's all absolutely true. I'm a terrible liar, TERRIBLE... But I guess because I'm a teacher who is writing referrals instead of dishing out hugs for kids who violently knock over furniture, threaten women specifically, etc. then I'm just a bitch.

I don't feel safe to tell my bosses I DON'T FEEL SAFE. The kids know they can get away with everything and they know we teachers are way down on the list of prioritized individuals in the eyes of our own bosses. You can see it in their smug expressions when they return to class with no consequence. You feel it when a student obviously violates school rules in front of a smiling, embracing principal and all the other students look at you like you're a complete fool for having even tried.

One of my students pointed out the micro-skirt another student was wearing. She watched me walk over to that student, but as I approached her the student showed me her pass that informed me that she had just come from the principal's office on an unrelated matter. I thanked her for the note and walked away. My student asked why she wasn't being sent to the office. I told her the truth.

Similarly, my colleague and half the freshman class noticed the hoochie mamma look a 14 year old was sporting in the hallway. She sent the girl to talk to the principal, who told her it was inappropriate, listened to the girl throw a tantrum, then called her back as she was storming away disrespectfully in order to give her a hug and tell her she could wear that for today.

Those are just a few incidents of late. There are so many more, every class I walk in to I feel more hopeless. How can I begin to teach if the students don't respect my role of authority, as one who enforces what I feel to be right? To be honest, I've almost entirely given up. I mutter "put your phone away", "stop swearing at your peers and teachers", "don't raise your hand to a girl like that", and "you've got to start coming to class on time" almost as many times as I sigh throughout the day. I've written all of those behaviors up and not one of them resulted in a consequence. I guess the principals have what they want. Their discipline numbers to go down. Sadly, grades, standards, and morale will following right alongside them.