An admission

As an educator, I don’t mind e-learning. Like, at all.

It makes me feel bad that that’s true, but it still is. Make no mistake; most teachers are killing themselves this year, especially those who are in hybrid situations. My personal situation has been helped immeasurably by the fact that I managed to snag a medical exemption to stay home full-time, so I can’t be dragged back and forth from my building, and as it turns out, if some of your kids are home and some are in school, it’s actually a lot more manageable if you’re at home rather than in the building.

But in all seriousness? I’ve always written most of my own assignments. I’m more than technically competent enough that that aspect of distance learning doesn’t bother me at all. And– and this is the kicker– I don’t have to deal with discipline, at all. Now, don’t misunderstand me; my kids are going to learn much more in a face-to-face, non-pandemic set of circumstances than they are in this; when I say I don’t mind e-learning, I mean from a “personal stress level” standpoint, not from a “student learning” standpoint. In person is clearly superior for student learning outcomes, but we can’t have that right now because of the slightly more important “keeping everyone alive” outcomes. But god damn do I like being able to get through a lesson without getting interrupted a hundred times, and I also have a number of students who are undeniably benefiting from the lack of distractions that, well, everyone else provides nearly constantly int he classroom.

I have a number of others who are suffering from the isolation and are simply not good at self-directing their learning, mind you; I’m not trying to minimize the effect they’re having on them. That’s part of the reason I passed everyone. I simply can’t expect a 14-year-old to be able to self-regulate like that in the absence of a parent standing over their shoulder.

But me? Personally? I mean, I”m stressed; everybody’s stressed. But as far as my job? I’m doing fine. I needed winter break this year less than I ever have. I can’t believe that that’s true, but it is.

In which I snitch

I’m in a Meet right now with about ten of my kids, and one of them typed a mildly inappropriate word into the chat. Not a huge deal; I just told him not to put “that word” into chat and he nodded.

And his mother was in the background, off-camera, and she heard me, and she proceeded to come over and look to see what he’d typed, and then chewed him out. I muted them almost immediately and had to decide whether I was going to temporarily boot him from the meeting or not. I ended up not doing it, but it was amazing to see the way every other kid in the Meet just froze, as if it was their moms yelling at them.

So that’s fun.

Just a stray thought

I still don’t know what my district’s plan for this fall is. Supposedly there’s going to be some sort of announcement on Wednesday, and as of right now the start of school is still six weeks or so away. This is what Indiana’s current numbers look like:

…so it looks like we might be starting to trend upward again, but we just hit the typical weekend drop, and today will be on the lower side too. We’ll see how this week looks.

At any rate, that stray thought: school discipline is going to have to be a lot stricter in a lot of ways this year than what we are used to. Specifically, in terms of removing kids from the building, assuming we’re physically back at all. Because while I am willing to return to the building (at least in principle; we’ll see how the details go) in order to teach math, I’ll be damned if I’m going to risk my health and my family’s health to babysit some dipshit who is only in my classroom because his momma doesn’t want him around and he wants to clown with his friends.

Anyone who is not there to learn this year needs to get sent the hell home and needs to stay the hell home. Those kids can fail on their couches instead of failing in my classroom. I’m not dealing with anybody this year who is just in my room to act like a disease vector. Forget it.

Like I said, stray thought. More later, possibly.

Stop snitching

I have three siblings– two girls, who are identical twins, and a boy who I think is the youngest– all in the 8th grade and all in my classes. I have two of them, one of the girls and the boy, in the same class, and the other girl is in a different group.

They are almost astonishingly different kids. I’ve had siblings before, and twins before, who I had trouble telling apart conceptually more than I did physically, if that makes any sense, because they acted so similarly. There is no way I could mistake any of these kids for one another. Even the twins have such different carriage and body language that unless they were deliberately trying to act like one another or standing perfectly still I can’t imagine ever having any trouble telling them apart.

Of the three, the boy– let’s call him, oh, George, because I need to call him something– is the most challenging. I like the kid, and I think he likes me well enough, but he’s got some problems with focusing that go a bit beyond what my average student is like. Most of the time I can keep him on track, but there are times when no one is going to be able to keep him on track.

One of those happened earlier this week, and his sister suggested I call their mother about it. I had actually just been thinking about that and said that I would, then got distracted by one of the other ten thousand things going on in my classroom. When I turned around, I realized she was on my class phone in the back of the room, and she was waving me over.

Oh you did NOT just call your mother on your own brother. Without permission. No way.

Yup. Sure did. She finishes her conversation and hands me the phone, and I consider making a bigger deal about what she just did than what her brother had been doing, and decide oh, fuck it, this may as well happen and just take it. I tell Mom I had been planning on calling her during my prep, leaving the words “… until your daughter forced the issue” unsaid, and we have a brief and reasonably pleasant conversation and she asks to talk to George. Who, for some reason, is glaring at me.

Dude, I didn’t call your mom. Talk to your sister over there. I normally find “stop snitching” culture deeply obnoxious but she totally just ratted you out and if you choose to take revenge later today once I’m not around you go right the hell ahead.

And then I’m treated to the intensely pleasant experience of watching this kid’s entire face and demeanor change as he takes the phone and has perhaps a two-minute conversation consisting of nothing but the words “Yes, Ma’am” and “No, Ma’am” before handing the phone back to me and being perfectly courteous for the rest of the day.

(Actually, this is one way where all three of the kids are the same. I am more likely to get a “Sir” out of these three than any other kids in the building. It’s not perfectly consistent but it’s a damn sight more frequent than I’m used to.)

So, yeah. Combine this with the parent who I called last week and was in the building eight minutes later to have a brief conference with me and her son, and calling parents can, once in a while, actually be a good thing.

In which something works the way it’s supposed to

My biggest sin as an educator– other than my cynicism, anxiety, various and sundry mental issues, and recent conviction that society will not be around long enough for an education to actually help any of my current students in any meaningful way– is that I am terrible at parent contact. I’m good at email, but a lot of my parents don’t use email and it can be difficult to collect email addresses that work via any method other than brute force. I despise calling parents on the phone to complain to them about their kids. Absolutely hate it, and I’ll do anything to avoid doing it– including just continuing to put up with shitty behavior when it’s possible that calling home might actually help. Does it always? Of course not, and unfortunately the kids with the most issues most frequently come with parents who aren’t going to help me out. Not always, but frequently.

Yesterday was rough as hell. Everybody in the building was in a bad damn mood all day, and every single one of my classes was substantially more poorly-behaved than usual. I sent more kids to the office yesterday alone than I have for the entire first, what, four weeks of the year combined, including three from my seventh hour class, which is far and away my roughest group, to the point where the other five barely even register in comparison.

My principal emailed me and asked me– ha, asked, he says– to contact the parents of the three and let them know what had happened. Which I dutifully did, hating every second of it, but for two of the three I had a decent conversation with a parent and the third I left a detailed message.

Today was a better day across the board, and there was a notable improvement in behavior from all three of yesterday’s miscreants. And I should point out, to be fair, that two of the three are rarely problems, and in fact those two often help to rein in the third, who is more prone to having issues. They just didn’t yesterday, and each of them being dismissed from the room one at a time did not help things. But, point is: today all three gave me no trouble at all. So not only did the two parents I spoke to talk to their kids in a meaningful way, but apparently so did the third, based only on the voicemail message.

I pulled them aside at the end of the day and gave them the option of a second phone call today, one passing on that today featured good behavior, and all three of the boys seemed pretty excited by the idea and said I should do it. Which meant that I got the exquisite and fairly rare pleasure of calling three parents in a row– because this time the voicemail parent answered the phone– and savoring that first moment where they’re pissed off because if I’ve called two days in a row it must be because somebody fucked up and then giving them good news instead.

It’s not something I get to do often, but I enjoy it quite a lot when I do.