I am listening to REM and all is well

Well, okay, that’s probably overstating things, but today went pretty well after a not-great run of a few days. Helpful facts: my midday knuckleheads were tamed through a combination of fortuitous absences and a couple of notable suspensions, and on top of that I had an unscheduled observation by my principal during 3rd hour. After eighteen years of teaching I have lost all fear of these events; I’m going to keep doing what I was doing before you came into the room, and sometimes that’ll mean I teach a really good lesson and sometimes it’ll mean I’m not doing a whole damn lot if, say, the plan was to have the kids on one of the various computer programs we’ve got them working on. If it’s one of those days I might seriously just be sitting in my chair monitoring their computer screens and not actively “teaching.” I’m not changing the lesson; you didn’t tell me you weren’t coming in. Some teachers panic and feel like they Have to Be Doing Something when the boss comes in. Me? Fuck it, I’ve been highly effective two years in a row and I don’t see a lot changing this year. I’m going to enjoy the slight bump in cooperation and good behavior I get from having an administrator in the room and keep on keeping on.

My student observer starts tomorrow, and frankly that has me more worried than formal observations– mostly because I genuinely want this to be a useful experience for the kid (he’s a grown-ass man, but … whatever) and I’m a little nervous about that. It’s not going to change how I do things with the kids or anything like that, and I’ve told him to have no fear about challenging me on anything he has questions or concerns about, so I hope it goes well, but as everyone who follows this site knows very well, one determined kid can blow up a lesson any time they feel like it, and I don’t feel like having my dude exposed to that just yet. The notable suspensions will be continuing through the rest of the week, which is awesome, so at least his first day ought to go reasonably smoothly, but who the hell knows. Watch, there’ll be a fucking fire or a power outage or some such shit tomorrow.

(There can go ahead and be a power outage tomorrow. I’ve decided everything is on paper for the next couple of days anyway. So long as I have access to the photocopier. The outage can happen after I have my photocopies done. Or, fuck it, I can just write the damn problems on the board. It’ll be fine. Dude can learn teacherly improvisation on his first day. It’ll be fine.)

Anyway. It’s 7:00 already, so if I’m going to be ready for tomorrow I probably ought to get my lesson written.

In which I am defeated

There’s no other way to describe it: the kids won today, and by “the kids” I mean the worst elements among them, as I continue to genuinely believe that most of my kids want to be in school and want to learn; I just can’t get to them because of the number of kids standing in the way and spending all of their energy on trying to trip me up.

I am tired and angry and beaten and I need to get up tomorrow and do it all over again, and I’m going to, but right now … fuck it, I’m done.


Today has featured taking down the pool, finishing a book (I recommend Clint Smith III’s How the Word is Passed, but I don’t think I’m going to review it,) petting kitties and getting ahead on my YouTube channel. What I haven’t been able to do is come up with anything I want to talk about.

Actually, wait, that’s a lie. Are you familiar with the “devious licks” trend on TikTok? If not, you’re not a teacher. The internet has convinced these dumb motherfuckers to start filming themselves destroying the bathrooms at their school and posting it on the internet, resulting in half of the schools in America locking their fucking bathrooms for the last couple days of the week. Which absolutely fucking sucks, in oh so many ways. My favorite of the ways was how our principal made an announcement about why the bathrooms were closing, in which he instructed teachers that when w were taking group bathroom breaks– now the only way the kids are allowed to pee– that we would need to be in three places at once, one of which was guaranteed to be illegal for any given adult in the building, to monitor the kids. Four, if you remember that the kids need to get water after they use the bathroom, and due to a quirk in the way things are arranged in my hall it would have been four if I was also monitoring the drinking fountains.

It was, as a result, a long fucking week. The children were told repeatedly that the only way that this stops is if they go against their typical instincts and rat out every little bastard who has Fucked Around in the last week, and let them Find Out. And from what I’ve heard, it’s been working, so hopefully things will be back to normal soon.

And if I didn’t already hate TikTok before, and I did, I absolutely do now.

On scheduling and mental health

Have I mentioned how much I love my schedule this year? My district changed the timing of our day again this year, moving the start of the school day to an obscenely late 9:30 AM and the end of the day until 4:30, which … okay, I know lots of people work later than that, and I know about the research suggesting that a later start time is better for adolescent kids, but what I can also tell you is that still being in school at 4:30 is pretty clearly not an ideal situation for these kids. The middle schools have the latest schedule, which has led to some problems lately as the high school students have time to leave school and make it to the middle schools to start trouble before we dismiss our kids.

I have kids with me straight from 9:30 until 3:00, excepting only my half hour for lunch, which is more like 20 minutes once I get the kids there and wait for the cafeteria to be open and get my food and get back upstairs and maybe get a bathroom break, which … well, isn’t that bad, actually, as two groups and then lunch is perfectly manageable and after 18 years of teaching I’m used to eating lunch with a quickness. But that’s not why I bring this up; I bring this up because being done with teaching two class periods before the end of the day means that whatever bullshit I have to deal with is dealt with before I get home. Any frustration and stress that accumulates through the day has more than enough time to bleed off– most of the time, at least– before I go home. I have a team meeting 8th hour every day, which gives me 7th to get my head back on straight so that I can be useful during our meeting.

It’s great. It’s amazing how much less visibly exhausted I am than the other teachers at the end of the day, and it’s not because of my sunny fuckin’ disposition or my can-do attitude, it’s because I’m missing the students when they’re collectively at their worst and I have time to decompress and become human again before I go home and lock myself in my office to play video games interact with my wife and son. This has not been a bad year so far, all told, although it’s had its moments so far– more on that later this weekend, maybe– and part of that is that I’m not bringing it home. And all of that is based basically on a roll of the dice, since it’s not like the counselor consulted with me before she set everything up.

In which I pass on my skills

Man, the images you find when you Google “student teaching” are kind of hilarious.

I am doing something this semester that, somehow, I have never done before in eighteen hours of teaching: I am hosting a preservice teacher for thirty hours of classroom observations in my room, and he’s going to teach a few lessons as part of that, which I will then be on the hook for evaluating him for. He came by the building today during my prep period, and we did the first part of the stuff he’s required to do in the form of a formal interview, along with lots of me waxing poetic about the joys of teaching in an urban school system.

It is going to be very interesting to me to see how well I tread the line between being honest with this kid about what this job is like and preserving his continued desire to actually become a teacher. Y’all know me well enough to know that I’m not sure I think people should be teachers any longer. About half the time I feel like we should let the entire institution collapse and then see how society manages without us. But that’s neither here nor there, and if I’m going to be relentlessly positive with my students this year I’m sure as hell going to be relentlessly positive with him too. It’s not my job to talk him out of anything; it’s my job to model how to do it well.

I’ve also never had a student teacher, but I think that particular pleasure is one that I’m going to continue to deny myself. So long as my test scores are tied so closely to my evaluations, the idea of handing my classes over to a student teacher is going to be something I’m going to be very reluctant to do.

But yeah: between now and Thanksgiving, I’m going to have someone who, for three hours a week at least, is actually obligated to listen to me yammer on endlessly about teaching to him. Isn’t that going to be fun?