Monthly Archives: February 2010

Three Weeks In

So, I thought I’d post a little progress report of sorts on my first day of February break.  We’re three weeks into the new semester, and quite a lot has happened in that short time.

For starters, my juniors and seniors read Native Son.  Well… most of them read it.  Okay… HALF.  The other half of the class was regularly kicked out of the room to read in the principal’s office (I’ve got to talk to her about that; I’m going to do it as a regular thing and I want to make sure she’s on board).

The thing is, I KNOW when you’ve not done the reading, Kids.  There are details in this story – details that stand out in obvious ways – that I expect you to be able to tell me when I ask.  When I go to student A and ask him what happened in the section we read and he says “Bigger got caught,” and I say “Yes, but HOW did he get caught?” and boy replies that he doesn’t remember, I call bullshit.  One doesn’t quickly forget that Bigger was fire hosed off the top of a water tower on the roof of an apartment building in the middle of the night during a blizzard.  Get your book and go find Ms. Director.

The kids who did read really kicked it.  In fact, the first day I sent half the class out of the room, the students who remained had the kind of conversation I used to have in my college classes when I was a student.  Everyone was participating, they questioned each other, they made connections and extended their thinking beyond the book, and I had to do little else but sit back and watch them rock.  When it was all over, one student came to me to ask if I could do that again.  “Do what again?” I asked.  “Kick those kids out.”  No, Sweet; the idea is to bring them along with us…

In that class of 15, 8 students are failing.  One of them has been suspended for the rest of the year, though, so that brings me to 7.  Three of them are going down in spectacular fashion, though; two kids have 12.5 averages, one’s got a 7.5, and one delightful young man (who did this with me last term and swore that this semester would be different) has a straight 0.  Yep, that’s right; Boyfriend has turned in exactly no work.  Awesome.

On the other end of the spectrum, though, I’ve got some kids who are actually competing for the highest grades in the class.  Two of them are dating (it’s pretty funny to watch them in the class – they never sit together and they consistently push each other to more and more complex thinking.  He’s FAR more concerned about the numbers than she is, but it’s pretty clear that she’s not going to just “let him win.”) and two more girls are giving them a run for their money.  Together, the top six kids in the class are pushing ME to make the course rigorous and high-energy, and I’m loving every second of it.

My grammar class is really the same sort of story on another level.  About half the class are bombing while the other half are doing fairly well (with one girl blowing everyone else away.  There was really no need for her to be in the class, but there was nothing else offered that period that she could take, so I got her).  I’ve got a couple of wise-ass kids, one or two chatty ones, and two that just don’t give a shit.  My big concern in this class, though, is a boy I’ll call Mac.

Mac is a GOOD kid; he was in one of my courses last term and it was patently clear to me that he really has it in him to do well.  The problem is that he can THINK, but he can’t really WRITE (and I mean that; his writing resembles that of a second-grader).  He’s in the group of kids who are failing, and he’s trying SO hard to grasp the basics of grammar – he really is – but the wise-ass, chatty, and just-don’t-give-a-shit kids are a distraction that’s making it hard for him to focus.

I made the announcement yesterday – our last class before break – that the atmosphere of the class is going to change when we get back.  I invited them to revisit the syllabus and the expectations set forth within and I told them, on no uncertain terms, that I WOULD kick them out of class for being disruptive or disrespectful.  I’m pretty sure that most of them don’t buy that, but the kids who’ve had me before know I’m not bluffing.  If you’re not here to learn and to take advantage of what your school and your teachers have to offer you, then you have no business being here and I WILL throw you out.  Go dick around somewhere else; we’re trying to get something done here, and we have no time to entertain your dumbassery.  (I should note here that I didn’t actually use those words, but that was absolutely my message.)

Let’s see how many I have to toss before they figure out I’m not kidding.

All in all, though, I’m absolutely DELIGHTED by how the semester is going.  I’ve got a lot of really great kids (the truth is that they’re ALL great kids, it’s just that some of them don’t know it yet), I’m doing a lot of good work, and I’m having a blast.


Filed under analysis, critical thinking, dumbassery, failure, frustrations, fun, I love my boss, I love my job, Learning, Literature, self-analysis, student chutzpah, success!, Teaching, the good ones, Yikes!, You're kidding...right?

Grammar Wednesday


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VERBS are words that describe action, being, or state of being; they describe what a noun is or is doing.

regular verbs change to past tense with an “ed’ –  walk/walked, type/typed live/lived, jump/jumped, talk/talked
irregular verbs take an alternate form in past tense – see/saw, eat/ate, sweep/swept, choose/chose, cry/cried

transitive verbs require an object to complete the thought.  She threw (threw what? An object – the orange; a tantrum – would complete the thought).
intransitive verbs do not require an object. She sings. We might like to know what she sings, but the fact that she sings is sufficient information to complete a thought.

SIMPLE tenses:
present = [VERB] + s/es in third person expresses an unchanging, repeated, or reoccurring action or situation that exists only now. It can also represent a widespread truth.  The mountains are tall.  Every year, we go on vacation.  She believes in God.  AU is the symbol for gold.
past =  [VERB+ed or irregular form] expresses an action or situation that was started and finished in the past.  I went to college.  The Berlin Wall  fell in 1990.  She’s done with her work.
future – expresses an action or situation that will occur in the future.  We make the future tense in a number of ways:
1.  using will/shall with the simple form of the verb: I will meet you there.
2.  using a present tense form of the verb with a word that describes a time in the future: The director meets the new students tomorrow afternoon.
3.  using am/is/are with the progressive (-ing) form of the verb: I am going to attend the meeting.

PROGRESSIVE (continuous) tenses:
present = [am/is/are + present participle] describes an ongoing action that is happening at the same time the statement is written.  The teacher is grading papers.
past = [was/were + present participle] describes a past action which was happening when another action occurred.  The teacher was grading papers when the fire alarm went off.
future = [will be + present participle] describes an ongoing or continuous action that will take place in the future.  The teacher will be grading papers next period.
Note that these tenses use the -ing form of the verb; it’s the helping verbs that change how we understand the time the sentence is describing.

PERFECT tenses:
present = [has/have + past participle] describes action which began in the past but which continues into the present or the effect of which still continues.  She has taught for 12 years.  (She is still teaching now.)
past = [had + past participle] describes action action completed in the past before another action. She had taught 12 years by the time her daughter was born.
future = [will have + past participle] describes action that will have been completed at a specified time in the future.  By next year, she will have taught for 13 years.

Next week; pronouns!


Filed under Grammar

Quick Hit: This Sucks

School was canceled today on the threat of snow.

It’s 8:30, and there’s not a flake in the air.

I’m having to teach my two classes online this morning, and I hate that.  I mean, I love that we won’t have to make this day up in the summertime, but I really don’t feel skilled enough at manipulating the online platform to make my classes anything even approaching satisfying.



Filed under General Griping

Ten Things Tuesday

Five things I have WANTED to say to various people in my professional life, but haven’t:

1.  Please don’t try to bullshit me; I have a very sensitive bullshit detector and besides, you are a rotten liar.

2.  You know what?  Shut up.

3.  You know what?  For a smart kid, you’re pretty fucking stupid.

4.  I don’t care about your lame-ass excuses.  All that matters to me is whether or not you’ve done what I asked you to do; if you haven’t, then just stop talking.

5.  If they can’t be bothered to meet me halfway, don’t expect me to kill myself trying to “meet them where they are.”

Five things I HAVE said to people in my professional life:

6.  You guys; that was a frickin’ AWESOME class.  THIS is why I get up in the morning!  Thank you!

7.  YES!  Good job!  Full credit!

8.  It’s okay if you don’t know the answer; what I’m more interested in is what kinds of questions you think to ask.  Sometimes, the questions are where all the good stuff is, anyway.

9.  Thank you for being here, for doing the job that you do, and for bringing the awesomeness that is you into this environment.

10.  I am so, SO proud of you right now!


Filed under colleagues, dumbassery, failure, frustrations, fun, I can't make this shit up..., I love my boss, I love my job, student chutzpah, success!, Teaching, the good ones, Yikes!, You're kidding...right?

Leading by Example

I spent part of my day today writing thank you notes to the kids who performed at the book fair yesterday – and to the parents who I knew brought their kids so they could perform at the book fair yesterday.

Thank you notes are such a lost art, and they require so little effort that it kind of astounds me that so few people write them anymore.  They make people feel appreciated, and that spreads a lot of positive energy into the Universe.  I’m all over that.

The notes for the kids are getting handed out in morning announcements tomorrow; the parents’ notes are getting stamped and put in the mailbox in the morning.


Filed under admiration, compassion and cooperation, little bits of nothingness, out in the real world, parental units, student chutzpah, the good ones

Book Fair Live

Two of CHS’s kids performing live at Barnes and Noble!  The girl on the bench is producing art “on the spot.”  Awesome.

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Filed under fun, I love my job, out in the real world, student chutzpah

Pssst! Wanna Buy a Book?

(Here’s another “does anybody but me remember” question: Does anyone but me remember “give the an to Stan; he’s the man in the tan van” on Sesame Street?  I tried looking up the image for the guy in the trench coat for this post, but I couldn’t find him from that skit; this was as close as I could get (and do be a dear and try to ignore the fact that it looks like Ernie is picking his nose, would you?)…)

image credit

I’m going to go out and represent CHS today at a book fair at our local Barnes and Noble.  I’m dressed in teacher clothes, I’ve got a dozen balloons in school colors being blown up as we speak (I hope they’ll all fit in my car!), and I’m going to photocopy 50 vouchers with CHS’s donation number on them in the hopes that a lot of people will be willing to let a portion of their purchases be donated to our school.

I’ve asked about half a dozen kids to come and perform something at the store; one girl is going to “do” art right there in the store – she’ll set up an easel and sketch for most of the afternoon (I don’t know about you, but I find that impossible to not watch – whenever someone’s out in the open drawing or painting, I can’t help but watch for a while).  Several kids are bringing their guitars, one girl is bringing a keyboard, and yet another is going to recite poetry.  I’m relatively certain that the principal and the music teacher are coming, too, and they’ll probably play a set, as well.  I think it’s going to be a lot of fun.

If this goes well, I’m going to make it a twice-yearly event for the school.  I’m also looking into other similar fund-raising opportunities; one of our local pizza shops (which I adore!) does a “percentage of every bill goes to your organization” fundraiser, and I know that many of the big chains do this sort of thing, as well – Applebee’s is one of them, I think, and I know Uno’s does, because I’ve participated in it.  I think that, especially in this kind of economy, people want to “get” something for their donations.  Having a percentage of money you’re going to spend anyway go toward a cause you support feels like an entirely painless way of giving (because, really, it’s the company that’s doing the giving, but whatever).

The point of all this rambling is that I suspect there’s a great deal of advantage to be taken of these programs; it just requires the effort on someone’s (my) part to organize them.  The Barnes and Noble gig was stupidly easy to set up, the coordinator at the store is awesome and, if this all works out well, I’ll be that much more inspired to do it again.

Wish us luck!


Filed under book geek, colleagues, Extra-curricular Activities, I love my boss, I love my job, out in the real world, student chutzpah, the good ones, winging it