No, not that way

I ended up accepting $50 from my brother yesterday, enough to pay for a tank of gas and my tolls for the trip, and he bought lunch. When I checked the votes upon arriving at his place yesterday they were pretty overwhelmingly in favor of not charging him, and I apparently phrased the entire thing as more of a fraught decision than it actually was, although I did manage to get him to admit that he didn’t actually expect me to jump at the offer the way I did. I figure we both came out fine; the drive to northern Illinois (what we used to refer to as “north Northytown” when I lived in Actual Chicago all those years ago) is not exciting, but it was definitely nice to get out of the house and it was a fine day to take a long drive one way or another. So all good regardless.

I also got to find out my new nephew’s name, which was surprising but acceptable, which is a nice combination. He’s due in about a month. I’m not sure when we’ll actually get to see the little bugger (although my wife gets her first shot on Tuesday and I get my second one on Thursday, so by the time he’s here we should both be good(*)) but I’m sure it’ll happen soon enough.


I had been tentatively planning on returning to in-person teaching after Spring Break, which is in two weeks. It was “tentative” because me returning means my son also needs to return to in-person instruction at his school, and that’s not a decision I can just cavalierly make on my own, obviously. A week or two ago we got notification from the district that any teachers who were working exclusively from home, all of whom had to provide a doctors’ note to achieve said status, would have to provide a second doctor’s note releasing us to return to work before we’d be allowed back in the buildings.

Okay, cool. Kind of an annoying hoop to have to jump through but my doctor didn’t throw up any roadblocks about the first letter so there’s no reason she’s going to get stubborn about the second one. I mentally filed it away on my List of Adulting To Accomplish and decided to ignore it for the time being.

Then, on Friday, at 4:30– so after everybody would have left the buildings and gone home for the day– we all got a letter from the district informing us that everyone was being “recalled to campuses” after Spring Break, no mention of doctors’ notes made. There was a snotty addendum that if your doctor still doesn’t think you should be on campus to contact Human Resources, but no mention of what had been described to us as a requirement just a couple of weeks before.

And, like, it’s okay to be pissed about this, right? I mean, I was gonna go back that day anyway, but it’s both deeply annoying and entirely in line with the typical way this district operates that we were first told we had to have our doctors clear us to return into a viral hot zone and then in less than two weeks that requirement was summarily tossed out in favor of an affirmative requirement that we return to school. This after not remotely enough time to collect any data about how things are going in the small handful of buildings that are piloting the four-day returns in the first place.

So, which is it? Did the lawyers decide the district didn’t need their butts covered after all? Was the initial requirement just HR deciding to create a minor pain-in-the-ass task for those of us planning to return just because they could? How much fight is the district planning on putting up when teachers who were allowed to stay home when there were fewer students in-building to be exposed to balk at returning with twice as many students in place?

Has anybody thought about any of this? At all? Bueller?

I don’t understand how we’ve cycled through multiple superintendents, multiple HR directors, multiple School Boards, multiple everything in the time I’ve been working for this district and this pervasive sense of poorly-communicated halfassedness continues no matter what else changes.

But yeah. I’ll be back in a couple of weeks regardless. So will my son, I guess.

(*) I am still unclear as to whether the shots confer any degree of noncontagiousness or simply that they keep the effects of the disease from being that big of a deal if it’s contracted. I know to keep wearing masks and such, and that’s not a problem, but I need to look into whether we’re safe to be around a newborn even if all the adults, at least, are properly vaccinated, and I bet there’s not a ton of data available about that. So it could be a while before we see him in any way other than over Zoom, and I’m not about to try and talk the parents into anything they’re not 100% comfortable with.

In which I cannot worry about what I cannot control

Progress reports for 3rd quarter come out today. These are the current grades for my 3rd hour class. They are not unrepresentative of the rest of my classes.

In which my mother is laughing at me

When I was in fifth and sixth grade I was in a special program for academically talented kids called DEPTH. I will, if I live to be a hundred, never forget what the acronym stood for: Differentiated Educational Experiences for Promoting Talent Development in Highly Capable Students.

Yeah, it’s not the most elegant of acronyms.

Anyway, they took a bunch of fifth- and sixth-grade smarty-smarts and put us in an honest-to-God trailer in the parking lot of the school with the lowest standardized test scores in the city and then bragged about how that school’s scores had gone up the next year, which was an early lesson for me in both the abhorrent cynicism and blatant manipulation of basic mathematics that grown adults can get up to when test scores are the only metric of a school’s success that anyone pays any attention to. And if you’re doing some strategic guessing and theorizing that maybe the gang of imported smarty-smarts weren’t, shall we say, a good demographic match to the rest of the school, especially given the optics of literally separating us from the rest of the students in the school … well, pat yourself on the back, because we learned some things about institutionalized racism along the way too.

That’s not why I’m talking about that program right now, though. Those first three letters– Differentiated Educational Experiences? The idea was that the class wasn’t all taught the same stuff at the same time. The teacher was supposed to be a facilitator of those differentiated experiences, and we signed contracts with her each week that specified how much work in each subject we were supposed to be doing– the idea being that the contracts would be tailored to each student’s individual needs and preferences, and we were all off learning at our own pace.

I played a lot of D&D in fifth grade.

I also managed to go something like three months without doing any math at all, because my teacher was (I thought, at the time) lazy and was probably (I think now, reflecting on this nonsense) massively overwhelmed by the immense amount of record-keeping and paperwork she was expected to keep track of, and no doubt undertrained as well (she was literally the only teacher in the corporation with this job) and one way or another I figured out that so long as I told her I was doing whatever math assignments every week, she wasn’t going to check them.

Well, that fell apart eventually, and my parents, who were already not happy with the school for a variety of reasons (my favorite: we were sold shirts emblazoned with the logo and name of the program and our names on the back, and then the school declared that we weren’t allowed to wear them to school. This was way before uniforms were a thing, mind you) basically landed on me like a ton of bricks, and I basically had to do three months worth of math over one long, miserable fucking weekend, and then my poor fucking teacher had to grade all of that shit over the next week and give it back to me, so that I could correct anything that I’d done wrong.

So. Fast forward, oh, 32 years or so.

My son has been working from home all year. My wife works, broadly defined, in the healthcare field and I’ve obviously been home all year as well, and both of our dads live alone and one of them is seriously immunocompromised, so all of that has made us just a touch more paranoid about the virus than most. My kid hasn’t seen another kid in person in nearly a fucking year. His science teacher either forgot to let him into class today or had technical difficulties and wasn’t able to and she emailed me to let me know what had happened and tell him about his assignment. He’s got a packet for this science unit and he was supposed to do pages 17 and 18.

Go ahead, take a moment and make some assumptions. I’ll wait.

No, of course there wasn’t a single fucking mark on pages one through sixteen. Now, I’ve not torn the boy’s head off yet, because I don’t know how this teacher runs her class, and it’s possible– I don’t think it’s likely, mind you, but it’s possible— that she’s either jumping around or they’ve been working through this as a class and he hasn’t necessarily needed to write out his answers. It’s possible. I’ll withhold my swift and terrible retribution until I know for sure.

But yeah. Just one more piece of evidence that he’s my goddamned kid.

On what passes for good news nowadays

Is this good news? Hell, I don’t know.

We’ve been working on systems of equations in class lately. So, just as a reminder, if I tell you that y = 2x and y = x + 2, you can use those two equations to solve for both X and Y to find out that X is 2 and Y is 4. The process isn’t that important if you don’t remember it. There are three ways my eighth graders are supposed to learn how to do this– graphing, substitution, and elimination, and we’re working on substitution right now and have already covered graphing. I’m going to cover elimination later this week and I’m hellbent on knocking it out in two days because, frankly, it’s just not that damn important by any measure I’m concerned with.

But good news! Today’s assignment is out of 10, with a two-point bonus question that I thought was going to be quite a bit harder, so it’s possible to get up to 10/12 on it. And right now, with twelve minutes of class left in my final period of the day– yes, I’m blogging during school; the kids aren’t talking and if they start I’ll quit doing this– the median score is 12/10 and the average is 10.48, so the average score is actually into the realm of extra credit.

Sounds great, right?

I have 143 students and have only been able to mark 52 present today. But, hey, that’s still a pretty solid average out of the 52 who showed up and did the work!

…Oh, you say only 25 did the assignment? Ah. That’s … well, that’s seventeen and a half percent of my students.

That’s, uh, not as good.

But hey! Out of the third of my kids who bothered to show up to class today, the half who did the assignment did really well!

…except it’s not like the graphing method doesn’t work perfectly well with what are supposed to be substitution equations, and there are websites that they can use that will graph lines for them. I know they know they exist because I’ve used them in class. And that probably explains the bonus question, too … and these two kids in different classes who got this system wrong in the exact same way, which only works if you forget a negative sign on one of the numbers and then graph that

So I really have no evidence of any kind that any but the tiniest handful of my kids who have worked through stuff with their cameras and microphones on have any understanding of how to do this.

But hey! Those three kids! They’ve got it!

I take my wins where I can find them nowadays, I guess.

A couple naps and then a nap

…and then I’m ready for bed.

Seriously, y’all, today started off with an irate email from a parent, sent before I’d managed to finish my coffee or make it into the shower, demanding to know where her kid’s bus was, as if there is any universe that exists where his math teacher might be the person in possession of that information, and it really didn’t improve much after that. Yesterday’s theme on TikTok was Videos of Teachers Crying and that is a mood right now. I have 143 students and so far only 27 have done today’s assignment. The average score was 6.28 points out of 10 and I do two of the five problems in the video.

I am done.

Plus the principal for some reason sent out all kinds of emails about our plans if we have a snow day tomorrow, and y’all, we’re not gonna have a snow day tomorrow, but naturally now that’s all I can think about.