Forget it, Jake, it’s 2020

Enjoy the pretty flower; it’s likely to be the only pleasant thing in this post.

We went out and bought pumpkins and got the boy’s Halloween costume earlier today, and at some point during the trip I sighed, and my wife asked me why. My answer was that she should assume that if at any point between now and, oh, two or three weeks from now, she hears me sigh, it’s because I’m under an absolutely immense amount of stress basically all the time and I’m trying to discharge some of that.

Not that that’s specific to me, mind you; we’re all neck-deep in bullshit right now. We went to Target after the pumpkins because the boy needed new shoes and I got an email from a student apologizing for not turning in any work this week. She’d been in a mental hospital.

I wrote her back and told her she was to do none of the work for my class. I’m going to exempt her from everything she’s missed. I absolutely refuse to let my class be another source of stress for this kid. She doesn’t need it.

(Incidentally, I tweeted out this article about teaching and learning in 2020 earlier today, and I endorse every word of it.)

Meanwhile, I’m trying to decide how vocal I want to be about calling upon a school board member to resign. If you remember my 2020 endorsements post, you may recall a tepid endorsement of current board member Leslie Wesley, who I don’t actually get to vote for or against because she doesn’t represent my district. I was, at the time, less encouraging a vote for her than a vote against her opponent, who is, to put it mildly, a local crank.

Unfortunately, Ms. Wesley got busted today for plagiarizing her candidate statement to the South Bend Tribune more or less in its entirety, basically just changing the city and district names of a 2018 California school board candidate’s essay. She first claimed that she’d written the piece in 2016 and actually accused the other woman of having plagiarized her, then switched her story to blaming a staffer, because people who run for school board need staff members.

Sure.

This is one of those situations where the initial situation is bad and then the lying about the initial situation just makes it even worse; her insistence in that article that nobody running for office ever writes their own articles is horseshit, because she’s not running for President, she’s running for fucking school board, and the initial suggestion that she’d simply just dusted off a statement from four years ago and reused it and slandering the stranger who got dragged into this against her own will is obscene.

There was also apparently a bunch of inflammatory bullshit on Facebook when this initially came out, all of which has been deleted, but including this charmingly inexplicable comment:

Hell, even if she’d written the statement in its entirety this year, any statement by a school board member trying to be reelected to office this year that never once mentions Covid, further not discussing the fact that she voted twice to return us to school, is not acceptable.

She needs to go. I would rather have a crank on the board than a shitty liar, and she’s a shitty liar even if she’s not a plagiarist. Fuck her. She needs to resign, to hell with the election.

So I gotta decide what I’m going to do about that. I considered using her picture on this post and decided against it; I thought about using her name in the headline and decided against that. I’m on Facebook under Luther’s name, not my real one. And my audience here isn’t as locally concentrated as one might thing, because my friends and family are all over the place.

(I wonder if WordPress has a way to do state-by-state traffic tracking? That might be interesting.)

At any rate, I can use my Big Platform, which probably isn’t as Big as I need it to be given how hyper-specific this issue is, or I can begin raising hell on my own, using my real name. It’s not like I haven’t gotten into the habit of emailing the entire board and the superintendent whenever the mood strikes me.

(Some Board members have replied to every message. The superintendent has replied to every message. Several Board members have replied to at least one. I have never heard a single word back from Ms. Wesley. Perhaps she doesn’t have a staffer to check her mail for her.)

Anyway, I gotta think about this. But if you are local, and especially if you’re in the third district for the School Board race, be aware of this, and if you haven’t voted yet, please vote accordingly.

In which I might do it anyway

I feel like “you need to reconsider this decision, and you need to reconsider it right now, before someone dies” might be slightly too intemperate of a message to send the School Board and the superintendent, but this is where I’m at right now:

On educational equity and classroom decoration

I encountered an argument today that I thought was interesting and also kind of caught me by surprise, and I wanted to talk about it here both as a means of wrapping my head around it a little bit and to see if anyone else has any thoughts on it.

Every year I spend, conservatively, several hundred dollars on my classroom– either for basic supplies like pencils and paper, wall decorations that will probably last through the year, and on occasion more long-term, expensive items like my laser printer. Some years are more expensive than others, of course– any year where I change classrooms or subjects is gonna be bad– and even this year, when I’m not actually in the building yet, I still shelled out a chunk of change for items to improve the lighting in my office, a new mic stand, and a few similar things.

(I have a classroom wish list, which I’m pretty sure does not expose my real name; I link to it not because I want you to buy me things right now but so you can get an idea of what sorts of things I’m talking about.)

This teacher’s argument was that we should not be spending our own money on items for our classrooms. That, in and of itself, I’ve heard before and thought before, plenty of times, and the basic reasons for it are obvious. No other job, or at least none that I’m aware of, expects employees to pay for the basic services and tools necessary to do that job. My job is supposed to make me money, not cost me money, and blah blah whining about teacher pay.

No, her argument was different: that we should not be spending money on our own classrooms, because it creates an equity issue among the staff and among the students. So if Teacher A can afford whatever they want to put in their classroom and creates a magical learning wonderland by spending a bunch of money, and Teacher B is a new teacher who is struggling with student loans and isn’t getting paid jack, Teacher B’s students are going to get a lesser learning experience through no fault of Teacher B’s, when the fact is the state should be funding the rooms properly in the first place and making every classroom a magical learning wonderland. This is particularly an issue at the primary level, where there might be three fourth grade classrooms and the kids are with the same teacher all day.

And I’ll admit, part of me wants to dismiss this idea immediately and part of me thinks it has some merit. As a math teacher that every 8th grader in my building is going to see, it’s less of a concern for my situation, because all of them will be in my magical learning wonderland for a class period a day regardless of whether I spend a ton of money or not. But I can see this mattering at the elementary level. Then again, there is already going to be a certain level of educational inequality from classroom to classroom simply because of the composition of the classes and the skill and experience level of the teacher. We’ve all wanted to be (or have our kids) in a certain class with a certain teacher or h ad one who for whatever reason we’d rather avoid, and sometimes that’s the breaks.

This is, I think, less an argument against the actions of any one specific teacher and on stronger footing as an argument against the system itself. We all know the arguments about the ways we fund schools and what, as a society, we prioritize and what we don’t, and the simple fact of the matter is that the wealthy teachers shouldn’t need to use their money to spruce up their classrooms, particularly in a situation like we’re seeing now, where we see that some teachers are literally creating carrel desks out of plexiglass so that their rooms are safer from the plague. So we’ve got teacher income inequality leading to situations where, at least in theory, students are literally physically safer than in others.

That is bullshit, as I think we can all agree, and I’m not going to fall into the usual rant about how little America actually values education beyond paying barely-understood lip service. Throw a rock on this website; you’ll probably find one. But does the argument in general have merit?

Some, I think, but I still need to think about it more. What say you, commenters?

In which I complain about my good fortune

I am, technically, monitoring my classes while I’m typing this right now; it’s just that today’s assignment fell apart due to an utterly inexplicable block on a web service that was kiiinda essential to my kids being able to do what I wanted them to do today. Were I in a regular classroom I could photocopy a worksheet or some shit, or quickly rework, but when I don’t quite realize how widespread the problem is until half of my kids have already checked in and back out for the day there’s not much I can do to get them back.

So! Turns out this is going to be an easier day than I expected, if a somewhat more frustrating one, and the hidden good news is that I was testing something that I need for tomorrow and it’s very very good that I figured this out early! This is actually exactly why we test things. Today is shot, but they’re actually expecting us to administer standardized tests remotely this week, so tomorrow will be much more functional now that I know how This Thing is going to work. So … yay?


I talked about this a bit earlier this week, but I may as well talk about it some more, since it’s still going on: my viral TikTok video is now up to 2.1 million views, 124,800 Likes and 753 comments, and I am officially in the stage of Having Created a Viral Thing where I am completely fuckin’ over it. On Twitter you can simply mute a post or a thread when this happens, but you can’t do that on TikTok. My stupid, stupid rat brain keeps going back and checking the post like my phone is a Skinner box, and also much like a Skinner box the number of times I have to hit reload for the dopamine hit is getting higher and higher.

Plus, Jesus, the video is literally two sentences long and there are three sentences of text on the screen, and the number of people who think they’re being clever in comments who clearly didn’t manage to read like twelve words is beginning to aggravate. There’s also a weird subgroup of people who are coming in and insisting that the word פיצה, which is an English cognate because it’s an Italian word to begin with, doesn’t mean “pizza.”

Which … yeah, it does, and why are you like this? I literally looked up a couple of Israeli pizza joint’s websites and posted them in response to one of these comments yesterday. Go argue with them, dude.

I’ve also picked up about 600 new followers, and the number of straight-up children who have access to that app is kind of shocking. I’m going to start blocking anyone who appears to be nine years old and follows me, because … just … nah.

(And I recognize that I’m kind of being a dick by talking about the video and not linking to it, but remember, the account is under my actual name. If you want to see it, email me or something and if you’ve been around long enough that I recognize your name I’ll send you the link.)

In which I am out of clever and patience, and running low on hope

I almost just started this post by posting pictures of Covid-19 graphs; needless to say the state spiked monstrously yesterday and CNN finally heard me griping about how they clearly hadn’t been including Notre Dame’s numbers in our averages, because we had a similarly terrifying jump in our county numbers there as well. Meanwhile, the county health department says that our current seven-day rolling average of new cases is at over a hundred, and they want it below twenty before schools should reopen.

That’s a rolling average, remember, which implies, since the numbers have been going up daily for a while, that we’re seeing significantly more than 100 cases a day recently, according to the health department.

Dandy.

So I guess I need to find a way to get used to sitting in front of my computer for eight or nine hours a day, don’t I? I mean, granted, this is what I want, compared to the alternative, but it continues to blow my mind how people cannot simply act right so that we can get this thing dealt with like every other country on Earth. Because Americans are a uniquely toxic blend of selfish and stupid. I’m never going to pretend otherwise again. There’s simply no available evidence that we have any sort of national will left, if we ever actually did in the first place.

We are not going back to school in 2020. We just aren’t. And every day I move closer to declaring that we’re not going back this year at all. Colleges and universities will start shutting down in a couple of weeks. Just wait for it.

I dunno. I’m tired and my neck hurts and my back hurts and I’m already kind of half-assing my instructional videos and my attendance is already dropping off pretty significantly. So, that’s all bad. But it’s still better than being at work. My son’s only a couple of days into his school year (he’s home too) and he seems to be doing better than I thought he would be, but we’ll see where we’re at in a week.

Gah. I have to record a video about square roots now, because I need to make sure the kids know what they are for the next thing we’re doing, but what that’s going to lead to is a blowoff assignment for half of them and the ones who need to learn this aren’t going to bother trying. It’s way too early in the school year for cynicism to be setting in already, dammit. I need to get this together so that I can play video games for a bit and then go to bed early. Hopefully I’ll be in a better mood tomorrow.