Friday, Goddammit

I am home alone, as the wife and the boy are out at a birthday party, and I am sorely tempted to go out and hop in the pool by myself. But there is so much left to do if I go get in the pool– things like removing and replacing the cover, possibly checking chemical levels (it rained last night) and then there’s the whole putting on a bathing suit and drying off afterwards bits, and … I may be too tired. Maybe I’ll just look at the pool. That’s relaxing too, right? Sure.

I wrote up six kids today– six!!— which is a number that I have not reached in … a while, and received reports from other teachers in the building that their kids were also out of their Goddamned minds. I very badly need to get my middle group under control. I did something I have not done in a very long time today, and emailed the words “I need help” to my boss, as it is too early in the year for these kids to be this nuts. My other two classes are good-to-great, so it’s not just this grade, and it’s not even all of the kids in the middle group, but it’s enough of them that I’m putting out a different fire every twenty to thirty seconds for an hour and a half straight, and I’m going to end up in tears in front of these motherfuckers at some point soon if I don’t kill one of them first.

I’ve got the weekend to rest and relax, and then five days until a three-day weekend. I’ll figure something out. I always do.

Leave those kids alone

I had a Work Thing today, and … well, it actually went pretty well. For certain values of “pretty well” at least, mostly involving I started a big old argument with my entire team. That’s not something I get to do all that often, and it was super fun, but it also got me through the last half-hour of the meeting without falling asleep. And you’re probably picturing a certain kind of argument when I say big old argument, and it was probably about as heated but quite a bit more civil than what you’re picturing; I’m not mad at anybody, and I don’t think anybody’s mad at me, or at least I hope not.

What was it about? Dress code and cellphones, of course. I mean, it started off more high-minded than that, but that was where it landed, and getting to air out my vehemently pro-cellphone, I-don’t-care-about-your-hoodie arguments with people who strongly disagreed with me and knew what they were talking about was actually pretty fucking invigorating.

Where did it start? With a thing called the School Improvement Plan, which is basically what it sounds like and is important enough to require capital letters, and with some other stuff called Gap Analysis and Root Cause Analysis, which is actually less utter bullshit than what I thought, but the way we were doing it is bullshit. Turns out my wife actually knows a fair amount of stuff about Gap Analysis and Root Cause Analysis, and she spent a lot of time sadly shaking her head as I was sharing documents from today with her after getting home from work.

Anyway: we were talking about student discipline, and one potential contributor to our discipline issues that was brought up was inconsistency among the staff. So, for example, if Jimmy knows that Teacher A allows something and Teacher B doesn’t, it makes Teacher B’s life harder, because teacher B tries to Enforce the Rules and is greeted with but Teacher A doesn’t do that! or something similar. Now, to be clear: I agree that this is, or at least can be, a problem. However, I don’t necessarily agree that not following the rules is the problem– I think the problem is the rules themselves. You see, we like to talk about how kids should be invested in class rules and how you should develop your class norms in consultation with your students, but no one ever applies that to schoolwide rules. You will find that you have an easier time getting me on the same page as everyone else if I am not simply handed the page.

I feel like a lot of rules in schools, not limited to but particularly rules about cellphones, are arbitrary and outdated, and “because it’s the rule” not only doesn’t work with me, it really doesn’t work with 8th graders. And I feel like teachers would be a lot better about buying into (and thus enforcing) our rules if we had reasons for them. So, as a staff, we need to spend some time reviewing, discussing, and, if needed, editing our building rules. We need to do this every year. We probably need to do it more than once a year.

And we need to do it regardless of whether Mr. Siler wins any specific argument about the rules or not, too. I’ll enforce a rule I don’t like if the staff has a conversation about something and comes to a consensus that I disagree with, because at least there’s a reason for the rule. But any rule we expect the kids to follow that we can’t justify as a group of adults needs to go. We don’t need rules that are rules just because.

(One other thing that always bothers me about this line of argument: the “get on the same page” argument only works one way, which is to insist that teachers who are less strict become more strict. It is never, ever used to rein in the exact type of teachers who love dress codes because they give them so many ways to find things that kids are doing wrong. No teacher has ever been told “We’re not worrying about this anymore, and you need to get on the same page as the rest of us.”)

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.

On silence

At some point during the school day yesterday, some young-dumb-full-of-cum dipshit (or, hell, maybe it was a girl, so just young and dumb) decided that it would be a good idea to scrawl an unspecified (as in I don’t know details, and frankly wouldn’t share them) “threat” against the building in one of the bathrooms. Whatever the threat was, it was apparently going to happen today. A letter went out to all the parents and, unsurprisingly, attendance was abysmal today.

Did I take it seriously? Not really. School shooters and teenage bombmakers (and, again, I have no idea what the details of the threat are) are wealthy white boys whose parents don’t secure their guns, and that’s not the demographics of my building. My wife asked why they didn’t simply switch to e-learning for the day, and the answer is frankly that if we were to do that we’d start seeing these things weekly, and that’s not a thing anyone is interested in. I remember when I was in high school a neighboring district that did quite nicely match the “we have school shootings” demographic went through a similar thing– their kids learned that bomb threats meant they got to go home, and they were averaging a couple a week for a while there.

At any rate, nothing happened. If they know who made the threat (and they probably have a good idea, as there are cameras near every bathroom entrance in the building) I haven’t heard about it yet, but nothing happened. No real surprise.

I have to say, I could get used to the idea that my classes are only nine or ten kids. One of my students commented to me on my second day back that he thought I must hate him, and when I asked him why he said that he was so squirrelly and talking all the time and had such a hard time focusing. And, like, first of all, no, I’m not even remotely close to “hate” for any of my current students and I think there’s only maybe three or four in my entire career that I’d apply that word to, and second of all: dude, yeah, you’re a handful, but there’s only one of you. The rest of the kids in that class are fine, and I can deal with one kid bouncing off the walls if he’s not one of half a dozen. That’s no problem at all.

(Truth be told, I genuinely like all of my kids this year, or at least the ones I know. That doesn’t happen terribly often, but I can manage a kid I just don’t click with just fine.)

At any rate, I didn’t get the impression that the kids today were especially scared or nervous, although I did send an email to the boss before school started suggesting that maybe they think about rescheduling the planned fire drill to next week sometime, a piece of advice that was followed. What I got was six class periods of silence. Maybe not the entire period, but definitely once they got settled down, each of my classes today had at least 10-15 minutes of complete and utter quiet. Which would make most teachers happy. Not me. I actually really don’t like quiet from kids that are working, although I need it during instruction. I prefer a low buzz, where I can keep half an ear open at all times and have an idea what everyone’s doing. It was too quiet today, spooky-quiet, and it’s interesting to think that this year might be the last time I have in my career where something like that happening again is likely.

And now, having dodged spoilers all day successfully, I’m off to watch The Falcon and the Winter Soldier. See y’all tomorrow.

In which I remove my earrings

I’ve talked a bit about the negative experience we had when applying for a home equity loan last week. What I did not mention is that at the end of the conversation my wife had new checks ordered, something she hadn’t done in so long that the address of our previous house was on her checks. We moved into this house before my son was born.

Her previous checks did not have my name on them, and the new checks do. At no point was adding my name to her checks discussed or mentioned by any of us.

I do not, in fact, want any, but it is starting to genuinely seem like certain others might in fact want some, in which case some will have to be provided. I have plenty, after all.


In other news, I actually had to chew out one of my classes today, marking the first time I’ve had to raise my voice to students in a solid year, a milestone I will almost certainly never reach again. The amazing thing is that it worked; pointing out that I was perfectly capable of writing an office referral from seven miles away if I was required to actually got the little goblins to shut the hell up and pay attention so that I could yap at them about scatter plots and correlation. The first fifteen minutes of class ended up being completely shot to hell, but I can’t pretend I haven’t lost much more than that to in-person classes before, so all told everything got sorted out well enough, I suppose.

Tomorrow’s assignment is technically open in another window and I absolutely am not interested in completing it right now; I’ve reached the point of the year where I would prefer for all of us just to sit in silence and contemplate the beauty of mathematics rather than, like, doing any work, especially if I have to write the work beforehand. Which I do.

(One of these years, I’m going to go through and organize every math lesson I’ve ever written together, and at the very least never write another math problem again, and at best actually publish a Goddamn textbook. But not this year.)

Ugh. It’s 6:05 and that assignment will probably take at last half an hour to pull together if not more, and I’m starting to slide into the point of the year where a bunch of things that I signed up for for extra money are all going to be coming due at the same time. I’m gonna go get this assignment done, so I can spend at least a couple of hours on my PS5 hanging out with my family before bed.