Monthly Archives: March 2010

Student-Parent-Teacher Conferences

Our mid-term student-led conferences start tomorrow (and of course, the weather’s going to be crappy for the three days we’ve got conferences scheduled.  I like to dress a bit more formally for parent conference days than I do otherwise – I trot out the really nice teacher clothes to meet parents – but I hate wearing skirts when it’s raining and cold outside.  Sigh).

Anyway, I didn’t start this post to bitch about the lack of sympathy between my wardrobe and the weather; I started this post so I could put this up:

I’ve got 15 kids in my junior-senior class and 10 in my writing class.  Six kids are passing in the first and only one is passing in the second.  I’m not alone in my angst, either; one of my colleagues has a pair of kids with the same single-digit average.

Perhaps I should print Gandalf out and put him up in the conference room so we can all refer to it when the parents wonder why their children are crashing and burning…


Filed under failure

Quick Hit: Not as Smart as You Think, Part II

Remember I told you about Jimmy?  Get a load of what I found in my inbox this morning:

Ms. George, will you please print this out when you get the chance?

Mrs. Chili, I’m sending this to you as my plan C. :]

Jimmy, keep up the good work.


My guess was that he was trying to prevent the “I did the work, I just can’t access it” problem again.  The only trouble with his plan was that he failed to attach his essay file.  I suspect that he’s not going to check his email this morning in time to do anything about it, but I sent him this note as a reply:

Jimmy, you shouldn’t be so quick to congratulate yourself; you forgot to attach the file.


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Filed under dumbassery, failure, funniness, I can't make this shit up..., I love my job, I've got this kid...., student chutzpah, Yikes!

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Filed under colleagues, dumbassery, ethics, failure, frustrations, General Griping, I can't make this shit up..., I love my boss, Yikes!, You're kidding...right?


I’ve got this kid….

Let’s call him Jimmy.

Jimmy’s one of those kids.  I suspect that he’s got a terrible inferiority complex, because he covers and over-compensates so much that it’s almost comic.  Nothing that comes out of the boy’s mouth isn’t a justification for some sort of failure on his part to do what he was supposed to do.  He’s never been one (at least, as long as I’ve known him) to ‘fess up and say that he made a mistake.  He gloats when he does do what he’s supposed to, and enjoys telling the teachers how “happy” they should be about that.  Oh, and he also loves to tell me that I’m wrong.  We had a lovely argument discussion just the other day, in fact, about a sentence I’d written on the board.:

“I don’t mean to be rude, Mrs. Chili, but that’s wrong.”

“Really, Jimmy?  How so?”

“Well, I can’t give you the grammatical reasons, but I know it sounds wrong.  I would never say it that way.”

(after a moment of looking at him with unabashed incredulity, hoping he’d back off of this ledge) “Hmmm.  Well, I’d like for you to take a moment, Jimmy, and consider the possibility that you’ve been saying it wrong all this time…


Anyway, the students were supposed to present a project in class today.  The directions for this project were painfully clear and posted in a prominent spot on the website (you know, the one I refer them to every day, but which no one ever seems to remember to check?  Yeah; that one).  The directions were clear to the point that I told them that written component of this project needed to be printed and out of their computer by the start of class.

Can you see where this is going?

Jimmy had done the work; of this I had absolutely no doubt.  The problem, though, was that he could not access that work in a format that would put it in my hands: some complication of software kept him from being able to translate the file to a format that any of the computers at school could read.

He essentially told me that this was not his problem; that he’d done the work and deserved the grade for that portion of the project.  My contention was that it was entirely his problem; that not being able to put the work into a format that I could access was analogous to his bringing the wrong set of keys to the parking lot; you’ve got keys, you brought keys, you put forth the effort, but you’re still not going to be able to get into your car and drive away.

He didn’t get it.

I really want this kid to do well; I see a lot of potential in him* and I am genuinely worried that his attitude and behavior, as well as his seemingly unshakable belief that it’s never his fault, is not going to help him to get where he wants to be in the real world.  His chosen profession is one where reliability and professionalism are vital; one false move with the wrong gig and he could find himself essentially blacklisted from good jobs for a very long time.  I’m wiling to fight with him – I’m willing to let him hate me (and probably call me a bitch under his breath) because I want him to smarten up now, before the consequences for this behavior are a lot higher than a zero on his grade report.

*potential.  I remember hating that word as a student.  “Chili’s got a lot of potential, but she’s not living up to it, blah, blah, blah.”  I remember thinking, as I contemplated my eventual career as a teacher from the vantage point of an under-achieving high-school student, that I would try to avoid using that word in my own practice.  I know now that this is entirely unavoidable.  Students DO have a lot of potential that they just can’t see.  It is the curse of grown-ups to be able to discern all that wonderful, not-yet-realized energy, and to exhort, with varying degrees of success, the holders of that energy to release it.  Sigh…


Filed under concerns, dumbassery, failure, frustrations, I can't make this shit up..., I love my job, I've got this kid...., Learning, self-analysis, student chutzpah, Teaching, That's your EXCUSE?!, You're kidding...right?

Quick Hit: Not as Smart as You Think

Poor kid.  He thought he had me.

Here’s the post I had on the class’s website:

• For homework tonight, please:

* begin your primary research for your paper and start work on your annotated bibliography.  I’ve attached a sample annotated bibliography for you at the bottom of this post.

* re-read the first five chapters of The Handmaid’s Tale, taking careful notes.  Please write a short – 2-3 sentence – summary of the chapters as you go.

* re-read the article I handed out in class (I’ve attached a PDF to the bottom of this forum post).  Write a brief summary of the article, making note of the elements that stood out for you, confused you, frustrated or angered you.  You’ll use this to help guide your participation in our class discussion tomorrow.

Sample Annotated Bibliography:

• “Kristallnacht; A Nationwide Pogrom.” (Citation: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. “Kristallnacht: A Nationwide Pogrom.” Holocaust Encyclopedia.
(accessed October 27, 2009).

Summary: The article is about the pogrom and covers both the events leading up to it and what happened afterward. The article goes into detail about who was targeted, what organizations and people were behind the riots, and what effect the riots had on German policy toward Jewish citizens.

Evaluation: The article is fact-based and does not offer opinions or arguments. I have good reason to trust that the article is accurate because it is posted on the U.S. Holocaust Museum’s web page, and I know that the USHM is a reputable source for information about the Holocaust.

Connection to research: This article will be incredibly helpful for my research. In fact, it answers just about all of my guiding questions. In addition to having a lot of useful information, the article also includes suggestions for further research, and these are sources which I can also trust to be reliable. These other sources may have more – or a different kind of – information that I will find helpful.

One of my kids left this as a comment:

“The article is about the pogrom and covers both the events leading up to it and what happened afterward.”
Spell checker here! proof reading is a good thing :)

To which I replied:

Jess, a “pogrom” (not “program”) is an organized massacre or race riot, specifically of Jews. It’s not a spelling error; it’s just a word you haven’t encountered yet.

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Filed under funniness, I love my job, student chutzpah

Thank God I’m Not From Texas!


I mean, really; what the fuck are these people thinking?!

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Filed under Civics and Citizenship, concerns, critical thinking, dumbassery, ethics, failure, frustrations, I can't make this shit up..., politics, Yikes!, You're kidding...right?

Wednesday WTF

So, here’s what happened.

I decided to take my juniors and seniors to Local U. to take advantage of the really great library presentation they offer there.  Every semester, I take my freshman writing class to the library where a reference librarian gives them the “this is what you need to do to get all kinds of great, reliable, peer-reviewed resources for your papers” in a practical, usable format.  When I called the library on Monday (and talked to David, my favorite guy over there), they told me they’d be more than happy to host my CHS kids, too, and that, because it’s spring break at L.U., we’d have pretty much unimpeded access to the computers, to boot!

“Great!”  I thought, “Let’s go!”  So, I pulled up the bus schedule (because CHS has no access to school buses) and found out how to get there and back, printed out permission forms, and planned today around taking the kids out into the world.

Except we didn’t get far.  Because the university is on spring break, the bus is running on a curtailed schedule.

I managed to miss that vital piece of information on the website.  As a consequence, I and 14 of my students were standing at the bus stop waiting for a ride that never came.

We’re going to try again tomorrow.


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Filed under dumbassery, failure, frustrations, I can't make this shit up..., Local U., You're kidding...right?

Frustrated Friday

Has anyone else noticed a disturbance in the Force lately?  I mean it, Everyone; this week has sucked.

I’ve got this kid who insists on receiving different treatment than everyone else.  He contends that he shouldn’t HAVE to follow the rules, and he takes every opportunity to point that out.  I’m just about done with him.

I’ve got a class full of students who didn’t bother to tell me that the blog post I sent them to (you know; the one with the detailed instructions for what was due today) wasn’t opening properly.  As a result, I’ve got a class full of kids who didn’t do the assignment according to the standards I set up.  That puts us another day behind.

I’ve got another kid who is still not doing the reading, has no interest in participating in the class discussions (even when they don’t involve the reading) and freely admits that her problem is that she has her head up her ass (her words, not mine).  Clearly, her efforts at extraction are not going well.

I’m very, very glad today is Friday.  I’m going to go home this afternoon, do everything I can to hit the reset button, and pray that next week is better than this one was…


Filed under dumbassery, failure, frustrations, I've got this kid....


Check this out; a charter school in the Chicago area has managed to get every single member of its (very first) graduating class into a four year college.

Their creed makes me well up:

The Urban Prep Creed

We believe.
We are the young men of Urban Prep.
We are college bound.
We are exceptional-not because we say it, but because we work hard at it.
We will not falter in the face of any obstacle placed before us.
We are dedicated, committed and focused.
We never succumb to mediocrity, uncertainty or fear.
We never fail because we never give up.
We make no excuses.
We choose to live honestly, nonviolently and honorably.
We respect ourselves and, in doing so, respect all people.
We have a future for which we are accountable.
We have a responsibility to our families, community and world.
We are our brothers’ keepers.
We believe in ourselves.
We believe in each other.
We believe in Urban Prep.

How awesome is that?  I’ve got an email in to them to see if they’re willing to share their best practices, and I’m planning, along with my director, to make our next teacher workshop day about how we’re going to get CHS in this league.


Filed under admiration, colleagues, I love my job, success!, Teaching, the good ones

Grammar Wednesday

Instead of giving you another grammar lesson, I’ve decided that I’m going to use today’s post to download my thinking about how to put together a grammar class.

I was tasked with teaching a grammar class this semester, and I’ve kind of been winging it since the first day of the course.  I mean, really, there’s not much to it; it’s not as though a class like this requires a whole lot of advanced planning (at least, it wouldn’t require it of someone who has a pretty good grasp of the material at the outset).

What I seem to be having trouble with, though, is the organization.  I’ve got a zillion different resources from a zillion different places, and having it all put together in a neat, organized, searchable way is something that I fantasize about.  I’ve been thinking, for the last few days, about putting together a binder that has all the materials I would need to teach this class again, without having to go through all the paper shuffling.  Here’s what I’m thinking:

Let’s imagine a 15 week course where the students meet for an hour a day.  I think the semester will start with the parts of speech and all their component parts:

nouns (singular, plural and possessive; concrete and abstract; proper and common; count, non-count, and collective)

verbs (active and passive, transitive and intransitive, helping/linking)

pronouns and all their cases (and there are a lot of them)

adverbs and adverb phrases

adjectives and adjective phrases




articles (there are only three of these – the, a, and an – so this will be a short lesson)

I’m going to try to find a big old three-ring binder and start stashing my parts of speech resources all in one place…


Filed under Grammar, lesson planning, Teaching