This morning I woke up and brainstormed new and innovative ways to help kids learn! What if we…
1. Invent a pill that increases our capacity for learning…
2. Develop a computer chip filled with core knowledge that we surgically implant into their brains…
3. Pay each student a hundred dollars cash for improving his or her test scores…
4. Find the cutest puppy in the world, hold it hostage and broadcast a threat to put it down if test scores don’t improve within thirty days…
5. Make “School” a reality TV show where underachieving students are kicked off the program and sent to prison or put to work in sweatshops. The last kid standing wins a scholarship to Standford!…
Today the Principal came to watch my class and I got nervous because I had forgotten to make a lesson plan and was hoping to binge on Korean Soap Operas on Netflix. Mr. Grunk watched us watch half an episode of Cruel City and I grew more nervous so I stopped the video and asked the class, “Can somebody now tell us how this documentary relates to Hamlet?” The class became very quiet so I started calling on people, but nobody could come up with anything. Mr. Grunk wrote furiously on his yellow pad and I started to sweat.
Finally I said, “Your answer to this question is worth a thousand points and will determine your final grade!” Mr. Grunk raised an eyebrow.
Then Lily T said, “They are both movies…?”
“Good,” I said. “Except Cruel City is a television series and Hamlet was originally a play, I think.”
Another long silence filled the room and my heart pounded.
Finally, Jacob said, “One interesting thing is that Hamlet killed the king and last year the leader of North Korea, Kim Jong Un, executed a number of officials in his own cabinet for watching Soap Operas.”
“That!” I said. “Was EXACTLY the answer I was looking for!” Then I looked at Mr. Grunk, but he looked away, shook his head and left the room.
I gave Jacob an A, made some popcorn and resumed the movie. Close call!
Fight or Flight
Chromebooks are the coolest thing in the world! Students can wander the web and look for fun videos to watch or play online games that teach real world skills like how to storm a battlefield or drive a car in outer space. Last week we learned from Google that our President might be an alien from another planet. We take tests on Chromebooks, too, which is also amazing because nobody has to grade anything. Hit “submit” and the tests go to some magical place and then we get a lot of numbers back that tell us how the students are doing. My students are showing “significant growth”, which justifies everything I do and makes me want to use Chromebooks everyday. Thank you, Google!
Fight or Flight
I have a lot of homeless kids in my class. Sometimes I give them the tomatoes from my sandwich or spray them with cologne so that the other kids won’t tease them for smelling like garbage. Yesterday, Jenny who is eighteen, pregnant and lives by the river with her starving pitbull got accepted to Stanford because she made a documentary about her terrible life using a camera she found in the bushes. “Let this be a lesson to you,” I told the rest of my classes. “If you fall down and can’t get up, film it. Somebody might rescue you.”
My pornstar student teacher (I call her that because she reminds me of Sasha Grey, especially when she wears tight plaid skirts and high black stockings) bends forward to help a student at his desk and I sneak up behind, raise my hand as if ready to spank her–the class erupts into laughter. She turns around and I am itching the back of my head with that hand–more laughter. She turns, hands on hips, confronts me: “What just happened?” I shrug, hands held open, eyes rolled up toward the ceiling in mock innocence–then I let out an enormous fart and the class explodes, kids falling on the ground in laughter. She stalks out shaking her head, jaw tight. I take a long, graceful bow! My class loves me!
Three Perfect Shots
I never feel lonely because the world is filled with other people. Most of these people live in China or India or Indonesia and we don’t speak the same language, but I know that if I really need somebody I can go online and chat with a girl or watch people make love or discuss the future of Education, which can be a depressing topic if you think about it too hard, but I don’t. Sometimes late at night I will cry my eyes out thinking sad thoughts. One time I cut myself with a paperclip because a student wrote something hurtful about me. But then I put a bandaid on it and watched some really funny animal videos on the web and I forgot about the thing that she wrote. Nothing beats a funny animal video for curing loneliness.
At prom last year a bunch of teachers took LSD and disappeared into the night. Actually it wasn’t a bunch of teachers–it was just me (I had thought a marching platoon of teachers were hunting me through the streets, but it turned out not to be people at all!) Somehow I made it downtown, crashing two other proms and a black-tie wedding party during the course of my panic-stricken jog/sprint intervals. Some people say drugs are bad and they are right. It was wrong of me to journey beyond the limits of everyday consciousness and try to expand my imaginative potential and learn something profound about myself during a school night, especially while supervising children. I should have waited until I was free and clear of responsibility–like the time I took a double dose of mescaline at a national educational technology convention in Vegas. But then I got locked in my hotel bathroom for three hours and, well, I almost didn’t make it back from that one.
Use It or Lose It
I have a magic eraser that will remove anything. If a student grows unruly I merely rub her with the soft nub of my eraser and she is gone. If the Principal reviews me harshly I can undo him. I can erase the entire school or the entire public school system with thirty furious seconds of scrubbing, blowing, brushing with the back of my hand. Sometimes I lock my door, draw the curtains and chop my eraser into long white lines of Delete. Of course most teachers don’t use their magic erasers because they are afraid. But I say that nothing is forever and when this mess is erased and blown away we will we have a fresh start.
Sometimes people ask me: Larry, if you were exiled to a desert island, what five foods would you take? Then they ask what five books I would take. Well, I have the perfect answer to both of these great questions!
1. An edible copy of The Complete Shakespeare
2. An edible copy of The Complete Homer
3. An edible copy of The Complete Bible (Old and New Testament)
4. An edible copy of The Complete Tolstoy
5. An edible copy of The Complete Jane Austin
Each of these would be printed with edible soy ink on rice and wafer paper so that I could nibble them after reading. I could also use the boring parts for toilet paper!
Five a Day
I have identical twin girls in my class. One is named Brie, the other girl is Cheddar, which makes me think the parents are crackers. Anyway, they dress the same, have the same ponytail haircut, and they are both cheerleaders so on game day they are even more indistinguishable. A few weeks ago I asked them if they intended to go through life as exact copies of each other, but all they could do was giggle back at me in squeaky harmony. I decided to intervene on behalf of their future selves and started failing Cheddar and pushing Brie to the top of the class. This had nothing to do with their class performance because that too was identical, but I needed them to discover separate, individual identities in order for them to grow spiritually. It worked. Cheddar began to develop a little frown and looked away when I talked to her, while Brie continued to smile as usual and nod at everything I said. I continued to relentlessly fail Cheddar and last Friday she showed up with dark eyeliner and a little silver hoop in her left nostril! Her hair was unwashed and her jeans were ripped at the knees. She even wore a different blouse–much more low-cut and attention-seeking than her sister’s. Moreover, the girls were not even talking to each other! Wow! This is what teaching children is all about! Of course I understood that they felt confused and anxious about their newly-found identities, but I knew that in ten years these kids will thank me for setting them free!