Sunday odds and ends

DMX hit the scene in 1998, my senior year in college, a time when my musical tastes were probably as far away from hiphop as they’ve been in my life. I can’t pretend I’ve ever really been a fan, although X Gon’ Give It To Ya is an immortal banger, and the guy’s voice was something else. But it’s been amazing to see since he died just how many people have been coming out of the woodwork to tell stories about him just being a great person, or stories about running into a generous stranger that end with “… and then it turned out that guy was DMX.” I’m at the age where more and more people close to my age (he was only about 7 years older than me, which doesn’t feel like much) are passing on, and I can only hope that when I go there are more positive stories told about me than otherwise. Rest in power, man.


Speaking of rap music, and forgive me, because given DMX’s placement on this it’s going to feel like shade, but this dataset investigating the vocabularies of various rappers is really interesting. Especially so when you scroll down and look at when they sort everybody by the era they’re most associated with.


I bought Taylor Swift’s reissue of Fearless, mostly because her last two albums were so (sincerely) fucking good. I’ve talked a lot of shit about her music over the years– and most of it I still stand by, frankly– and buying the reissue was almost more of a political decision than it was a musical one, because I so very much adore the idea of her responding to someone else refusing to sell her the rights to her own music back by shrugging and using her songwriter rights to rerecord every single bit of it. At some point a switch in my head has flipped with her, though, and where I used to have all of her music inadvertently memorized and didn’t like it, now I have all her music inadvertently memorized and fuck it I’m listening to it on purpose because I’m grown and if I wanna be inconsistent I’m going to.

I still think she and Lil Nas X should write a song together, just to see if the entire world wakes up the next day with it memorized.


I go back to work in-person tomorrow, for the first time in, basically, thirteen months. I’m surprisingly sanguine about it– I was expecting to be climbing the walls today, and I’m really just not right now– but I still haven’t resolved some basic issues about what the next few days are going to look like that I’ve been mulling over for the entire break. I still don’t quite know how I’m going to handle my at-home kids; believe it or not, me being at home is easier for doing in-person and at-home at the same time than being at school will be and I don’t know how well all of that is going to work. I know I need to do some grading today one way or another, and I think for at least tomorrow I’m going to more or less give the at-home kids the day off; I’ll do a review assignment of some sort (everything this week is going to be review, since ILEARN starts a week from tomorrow, which is the real reason they’ve brought all the teachers back) while I sit down with the in-person kids and get them sorted out.

I’m going to take a shower– it’s past noon and I’ve had lunch, so I feel like it’s maybe time for that to happen– and then get that grading finished (hopefully somebody did something to catch their grades up this week, but I’m not holding my breath) and then we’ll see how things go.

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.

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.

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.