Well, great, nice to see you too

I brought my dad Arby’s for lunch today, and while I was in the drive-thru the kid at the window checked my debit card and then announced that I had been her math teacher. I didn’t recognize her, both because it had legitimately been years since I’d seen her and, well, the mask— but she threw me for a loop with what she said next.

“Yeah, you hated me.”

She’d told me her name already, but I hadn’t been able to properly process it, and frankly in the moment I didn’t remember a damn thing about her– which actually means that there’s no chance that I actually did hate her, as I assure you I have forgotten none of those kids, and in fact they haunt my dreams still. And, honestly, it really bothers me that that was the first thing she thought to say to me– because regardless of whether I did hate her or not, her perception that I did is more than bad enough.

It’s several hours later now, and I’ve managed to put together who she is. And I didn’t hate her, but I suppose I can understand why she thought I did in the moment. She is, in fact, the cousin of one of the perhaps three students who I might use the word “hate” to describe my feelings about. And I don’t remember her being a big problem on her own, but her cousin (the “I got a baby by his brother” girl in this post, in fact) was an utter Goddamned nightmare and the cousin dragged this girl into her shit a lot. So she was around a fair amount for Angry Me, particularly since the two of them sat together on the bus a lot and the bus driver actually did hate both of them, to the degree where she put it in a referral once.

(These kids will never know how much time and energy I spent defending the two of them against this bus driver, by the way, at one point going over the driver’s head to central office about the way she treated them, but that’s a whole other story that I’m not telling right now.)

Anyway. I’m more or less over it by now, since I’ve managed to put together who she was, but the whole conversation had me fucked up all afternoon.

Just curious: how many of you had a teacher who you thought hated you at the time? Any that you thought hated you when you were in class with them but don’t think that any longer?

It’s June, y’all

June first seems as appropriate a date as I’ll find to replace the Pride flag in front of the house with Pride II: The Repridening. The old one’s brown stripe had turned orange and the pink stripe had disappeared, and it had started to fray around the edges, and I figure if the thing is literally called a Pride flag I probably ought to care about its appearance. So: new flag! Yay!

Today was the third of the four Last Days of School, this one being the one where now all the kids have gone away. Tomorrow is a teacher record day, and if I’m at school past noon something has gone terribly wrong. Then I’m going to take a couple of days and do nothing but try to beat Returnal. After that, it’s time to start heavy-duty planning for next year and reteaching myself All of Mathematics.

I think I’m going to have to start doing stations next year, guys.

I have been thinking about two things lately: how to handle transitioning back into a two-class-period block, meaning I will have half as many students (good) but will have each of them for twice as long (which I have mixed feelings about.). My kids were already wildly behind, and over a year of quarantine has NOT helped. I got a look at this year’s ILEARN results for my kids, and while I’m going to spare you any sort of standardized testing rant right now, they weren’t good. They weren’t good at all. And regardless of how I feel about this particular method of assessing my kids, the simple fact is that there is no method of assessing my kids that doesn’t lead inescapably to the conclusion that they’re well behind other kids their age.

So I’m thinking right now that the way I’m going to handle my two class periods is that that first class period is going to be nothing but remediation. That’s going to look very different for different kids. Some of my kids are still struggling with basic operations; I have a handful who couldn’t multiply their way out of a paper bag. Others may just need extra time with 7th grade standards. There may even be some I can push past the 8th grade curriculum, although that won’t be many. The second class period is still going to be 8th grade standards, and I’ve still got thinking to do about how to do that given the things I learned this year, but that first period is going to be the focus of most of my attention.

The problem, of course, is that the kids are all over the place in terms of what they can do, and if I’m going to do this right I’m going to need to be pitching differently to all 70 or so of them. There are ways I am very good at differentiation and ways I am not good at it, and one thing I have never been able to manage properly is a room where 32 kids may be working on 8 different things. There are teachers who can do this beautifully; I am not one of them. This will have to change. (Frankly, given the emphasis that NBCT puts on differentiation, it had to anyway, so it’s useful that that’s dovetailing with something I need to do instructionally anyway.) So first I need to figure out what I’m going to do, and the next step is to figure out how to do it– and the how, of course, is very much the tougher part. And I’ve got to figure all that out. I need to hit the ground running next year to a degree that I never have before, and I need to run the year perfectly.

It’s gonna be a fun summer. But it’s going to have to wait until next week to start.

That’s all, folks

Year seventeen of my teaching career, done and dusted. This was absolutely the oddest year of my time in this profession, but unlike most of the teachers in this country it wasn’t the longest or the most stressful. Honestly, as ridiculous as it sounds, personally this was one of the easiest years I’ve ever had. I can’t claim that’s true for a lot of my students, mind you, and we’re going to pay for this next year– but a year where a computer did my grading and I had no discipline problems to worry about papers over a lot of problems. In a lot of ways, for the kids who showed up, at least, I got to be the teacher I have always wanted to be this year– and I got this intensely gratifying result from my end-of-year survey today as well:

This is only 50 of the 139 I have on roster, so hopefully I’ll get at least a few dozen more responses over the next few days, but this is on a scale where 1 is “I completely disagree” and 5 is “I completely agree.” So there’s a small handful of kids who either think I have favorites or I pick on certain kids, but if anyone thinks I pick on certain kids, no one thinks those certain kids are them. There’s a lot more to dig into on the survey, but these were the two results that really stood out for me and really made me feel like I was on the right track this year. I also got a handful of really nice thank-you notes, which hasn’t happened in a while, and a few kids said they were bringing things for me to the end-of-year recognition ceremony tomorrow.

(Which is going to be at school, and not outdoors in the rain, alhamdullilah.)

At the end of next year, I will have been teaching for as long as our high school seniors have been alive. That’ll be … fun. I haven’t had to teach the child of any former students yet, helped out by the fact that I don’t live in Chicago any longer and reset the clock when I moved back to South Bend, but that’s coming. I know enough of them have children that the oldest of them will be passing through middle school in a few more years.

I’m going into this summer, for the first time in a while, with no real plan to even try writing a book. What I need to do is study for my National Boards test and start seriously planning for next year. Some things are going to change again (we’re going back to block scheduling) and I want to hit the ground running in a way I never have before, so it’s going to take a lot of thinking and planning. I don’t see any real way next year can be better than this year was– structurally, given what’s coming it’s just not possible– but that doesn’t mean I can’t go in ready for it.

Bring it on.

In which I experiment

I decided today that I’m not writing up any more Black boys this school year. I’m still kind of processing the decision, honestly, but I’m sticking to it. It’s not as if there are a ton of school days left, I think I can probably find alternate ways to deal with classroom disruptions for six days. I’m also exempting suspension-level stuff; if somebody gets into a fight or steals something or something like that I’ll still do the referral. And this does not mean that I’m going to ignore misbehavior, either; I’m just going to find other ways to deal with issues for the last few days of class.

(Why only Black boys? Because I’ve literally only written up Black boys since I’ve been back. This still amounts to less than a half-dozen referrals. But a pattern is a pattern, and I don’t like this one. The fight I broke up the other day was between two white girls, but I didn’t do the referral for that so it doesn’t count.)

I also found out today that the rumor that we were moving back to blocked classes next year is true, so instead of my current setup where I have six groups for 41 minutes, I will have three groups for an hour and a half or so. I am vastly entertained that I have managed to hold down a single job for three years, something I haven’t done in a while, and I’m still going to have to reinvent my instruction again next year, even though I’m going back to a model I’m used to. That means I’ve had the same job for three years running and I’ve had to completely reinvent how I do it for each of those three years.

Christ.

Not much tonight, I know, but end of the year teacher tired is real, y’all. It’s 7:16 and I could go to bed right now.

Shots fired

I just sent the following e-mail message to my principal and my assistant principal:

I am fully expecting to receive a single-word “no” response from both of them, but I feel like starting a fight, so let’s do this. I’m tired of our dress code (frequently incorrectly referred to as “uniforms” by people who haven’t thought about this topic with the insane amount of detail that I have) and I want it to go away.