My doggie makes me smile because he is always happy. He wicks me and wuves me with his wittle doggie heart. Most of all I wuve my doggie-woggie because he learns so much so fast unlike human students who are slow and stupid and ungrateful. Snowball is my bestest student–never gets frowny, never talks back, never leaves without permission unless I leave the front door open when the garbage truck goes by. He doesn’t ask for makeup tests because he was smoking pot with his friends or argue about his grade. He just wuves to learn from me every minute of every day. This morning he jumped into my bed and snuggled up to my cheek, and I said, “Snowball!, Daddy’s sleeping. Get off the bed, go outside, do a pee-pee and then wait by the door for your bone-woney.”…And that is exactly what he did! He listened thoughtfully to every word, nodded and flawlessly executed the command without asking a question or needing me to repeat my instructions three times. So now I ask you this semi-serious question: Why do we waste public education on humans who don’t appreciate it when there are so many deserving doggies who could benefit from those resources?
Got into an argument with my Principal about the value of poetry. I told him that Life is Poetry and that therefore we cannot live without poetry in our lives. Mr. Grunk said that he had always hated poetry when he was in high school and that kids don’t need to learn to read it. He said that “Poetry is not a twenty-first century skill, that kids need “facts about their world” and not “navel-gazing flights of fancy.” I told him in no uncertain terms that I respectfully disagreed. Kids should be gazing at their navels instead of their computer screens. Kids should develop imagination and compassion and respect for language in its most condensed form. They need to know about rhythm and assonance and onomatopoeia and metaphor because that is what literate people talk about. He said in so many words that I was full of poo-poo, which I did not respond to because I like my job and sometimes you have to “step away and work another day”–that’s a rhyme…and an aphorism. See. Poetry saves lives.
Hard-working teachers need access to their classrooms and all of the resources that we use to create 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Sometimes inspiration for a lesson will strike at 3am and I will leap out of bed, drive to school and rearrange my desk configuration or spritz clean my whiteboard or even run the copy machine. This access is vitally important because teaching is vitally important and teachers don’t stop collecting and creating just because they are on vacation or asleep. Now this morning I was awoken by an email from a colleague who did not have access to the copy-room because she had not been granted access. Of course I immediately drove to school and let her into the building so that she could work during the holiday on her classroom. Then I went to the corner locksmith and duplicated my key and gave her one. She was very grateful, though she acted concerned that I had no authority to remake the key or distribute them. After all, she argued, she was just a twenty-three year-old student teacher with no credential and had not even been hired or vetted by the district. But I told her that her desire to come to work on the Friday after Christmas was qualification enough. I tapped her shoulder and dubbed her a “real teacher” and then bestowed her very own copyroom key. Praise youth!
Today is Christmas! And Happy New Years! Something…something…something brings something cheer! Oh happy Christmas….I always forget the words to that song because we are not allowed to talk about Christmas at school. Why? Because Christmas is religion and religion is God and in the school there is no God. God is not allowed in school because God is anti education. God does not want you to learn things, especially scientific things but really anything other than his wish for you to praise him constantly, which is wrong. So sorry, God, but I’m going to have to send you home so that our children can learn!
Personally, I think God should be allowed to come to school because then He or She–we have to be careful today that we don’t assume that we live under the dominion of a male God…He could be a She or an It or a combination of the three…a Sheit…
But if God, whomever Sheit is, was allowed to come to school and learn about his creation, about Evolution and Chemistry and Math and, of course, poetry–where incidentally he would learn just how angry people are at him–he might improve himself.
Now some of you might be saying: How could God improve himself? He is a perfect being. He already know everything there is to know about Geography and Biology, and He or She can do an infinite number of pullups in PE. All true. But I for one would like to talk to God about some of the inconsistencies in his writing—some of the places where he says one thing and then a few pages later–says the complete opposite thing. Do the animals come to Noah two by two or seven by seven, for example? Frankly I find the whole seven story far-fetched, but that is exactly the kind of thing that we sort out in the rough draft.
School is not just for humans. God or Gods can make life better for humans and for themselves by updating their understanding of the world. That is why I strongly advocate for the presence of God in school.
It’s Christmas Eve, 2014. Today I’m not going to think about school. Instead I want to reflect on my year–the ups and downs, the magnificent achievements and dismal failures. On the magnificent achievement side I would have to count every day. Maybe I didn’t bring my A game every day, but I did bring heart and intention and compassion and high expectations! Every day I said to students: Currently you are down here, but in order for you to be successful you will need to be up here (standing on my tiptoes, raising my arms). Now jump! Jump over this bar!… And often times they would fail and perhaps if indeed I am honest with myself I should call these moments my failure. But I never dropped the bar. I just held it out of reach and barked: “Jump!…Jump!, you cur!” because sometimes you need to call children out on their failing behaviors. Looking back I can’t say that I had many kids jump over the bar–and that is probably because that when they got close to achieving their goal I would move it higher, away from them. But even if they never accomplished the ever-changing standard that I set for them, I know that my students experienced growth. They know what it feels like to fight through frustration and hopelessness to pursue an elusive, delusional dream. Merry Christmas, everyone!
Yesterday went to Alcatraz with the family. It reminded me a lot of the modern high school with Principals (Warden), Teachers (Guards) and, of course, Students (Prisoners). You had PE Class (Recreation Yard), the Cafeteria (Dining Hall) and Detention (The Hole). You had Honor Roll (The Brid Man of Alcatraz, Mickey Cohen, Machine Gun Kelly).
And look at Alcatraz now! A decomposing ruin, an ode to humankind’s basest instincts,a reminder to each of us that the most enduring prison is nothing but Time’s little bitch. The modern high school will suffer the same fate as long as it tries to contain the human heart. Education is Freedom and Freedom is Timeless!
I’m often asked: should great teachers receive bonuses? Answer: Yes! Great teachers should be rewarded for their greatness!
If I am able to inspire my students to greatness then I should be compensated for that. Just like those teachers who got stuck teaching poor kids or low achievers should be docked for not raising them up. Remember: you are teaching in a great place because you are great and you are teaching in a bad place because, well, you are probably a bad teacher. Or you have self-esteem issues.
I think we could all agree that if a policeman can single handledly lower the murder rate–he or she deserves a raise, but if the murder rate goes up on his watch or her watch he or she should be held accountable. If a doctor lowers the death rate of his or her patients he or she should be rewarded for his or her success, but of course we wouldn’t praise that doctor for killing people. So it is simple. Great teachers should be praised because they have great kids who achieve great things. And bad teachers who teach bad kids need to get better. And I guess that is where I come in because I can advise those bad teachers about how to move to a better school.
It’s Christmas vacation and I have over 150 essays to grade. If I give each essay 5 minutes of my time that is more than 10 hours of work that I do not get paid to do. Of course I am a professional and I take my job very seriously so I have developed a formula for grading papers in less than 20 seconds. First I read the name, then I scan to see how long it is and that they have paragraphs. Done. I don’t need to read a word. That’s how good I am. You see, the trick is that the name tells you everything. If it is an A student, chances are they wrote an A paper. F students sometimes rally at the end so that is when I take the length and paragaphing into account. Now give me another glass of wine and turn on the football game!
Well, we all–and I mean educators everywhere–felt bad about the bullying incident at our school. A poor defenseless boy–who apparently wanted to be a cheerleader and whose favorite movie was The Wizard of Oz–killed himself and investigators believe that he was a target of hatred by jocks and other popular kids. I had this boy in my class and I always supported him whenever he would say something gay. Like I remember very well one time were having a discussion about the story of Adam and Eve–I don’t remember why we were talking about it, but the story comes up a lot in poetry and literature and I asked the question directly to this boy–we’ll call him Pat–if he thought Adam and Eve could be Adam and Steve. Well, he got very shy and wouldn’t answer so I started to clap and chant: Pat! Pat! Pat! until the entire class took it up–and he just ran out of the room. I gave him a detention for leaving class without a pass and now I’m wondering if I did the right thing. Instead of an automatic detention I should have sent the other gay boy–we’ll call him Gabriel–to go console him. Anyway, I should have seen the red flags–the fact that he had a zero percent in my class or that Romeo and Juliet made him cry–I now know that he must have been crying because he knew that he could never fall hopelessly, tragically in love with a woman. I plan to call the parents tonight and offer to speak at the funeral. I want to apologize to the world for everything we did, as a world, to make Pat’s life bad.