Oh, great, let’s definitely do this again

I have spent my Saturday playing video games and diligently trying to avoid perusing job websites again. My one goal this week was go to work all five days, and I managed that, but Friday’s events (and forgive me, but I’m going to continue vagueblogging on this) have me even more burned out than I was. Nobody in my building– hell, no teacher I know– can believe it’s only the end of October. It feels like February already, which leaves me in trembling horror about what February is going to actually be like. And again, this isn’t just me. It’s every teacher I know.

The problem, of course, is exactly the same problem we had the last time we went through an I-want-to-quit-teaching phase, which is that I have no idea what the hell else I would do. I’m not about to go back to selling furniture, if for no better reason than I can’t freaking imagine what the supply chain fuckery for those guys must be like right now. People used to get mad when stuff got delayed a week or two; I don’t want to have the conversation where I tell someone that their sofa is delayed six months because they can’t get the wood to build the frame and then once it ships it gets delayed another month because it’s sitting on a barge outside San Francisco with no one to unload it. No thank you.

It would be cool if I managed to multiply my number of YouTube followers by, oh, a hundred thousand or so and could make a living from that, but even if that’s in my future– and it’s probably not– it’s not going to be happening quickly under any circumstances. I’ve pretty much walked away from writing fiction for the forseeable future, although probably not for forever, and even when it was going relatively well that was never making remotely enough money to live off of. Simple fact is that teaching pays the best of all my available alternatives unless I get lucky, and (falls down a rabbit hole looking for jobs again) there are things about my building that I really like. I don’t want to bail on my team, which in a lot of ways is the best group of teachers I’ve ever worked with. I don’t want to bail on my administrators, who I also like a hell of a lot.

I want to teach. I just want teaching to not suck. And the worst thing is, I really think that’s an unreasonable thing to want right now.

In which I give up

Wednesday remains Trainings and Meetings day around here, and as such I did not have any interaction with my students beyond responding to emails. What I did have was a very depressing Math team meeting where we looked at some data, reflected on the fact that the mid-year test had been (rightfully, mind you) cancelled and so we therefore weren’t going to get any updates on that data anytime soon, reflected further upon the fact that this particular assessment tool demonstrates that our students, by and large, appear to know nothing at all, and had a brief discussion wherein we were all forced to admit that none of us had the slightest idea what we might be able to do under the current circumstances to fix the problem.

(Nor can we be sure that the data captures the issue accurately, since the test was administered while the students were home, and we have no way of ensuring that it was taken seriously.)

One of the more entertaining fights in comments that I have had over the life of this blog was a post where I was complaining about my students performing poorly on a test about slope. Well, it is now several years later and I can confidently report that despite attempting to teach slope in a variety of different ways and with a variety of different strategies since then, my 8th graders still do not really appear to understand slope, and attempting to teach it virtually during a pandemic is … suboptimal.

Allow me, if I may, to further elucidate.

I have not yet actually introduced the formula for slope, which is complicated enough that I can’t reproduce it in WordPress’ text editor and would have to copy and paste an image. Instead, I’ve started beginning the unit with simply counting. Count the rise, or the vertical distance between points A and B, remembering (hopefully) that if you go down from A to B your “rise” is negative (this is confusing, because no one naturally thinks of something called “rise” as negative, and I wish the word was different) and then count the “run,” which is the horizontal distance between A and B and is always positive.

You will note on the above image that the slope of that line is -4, because you count down 4 squares to go from A to B and one square for the run, and -4/1 is equal to -4. I’m breaking this down in such a granular fashion that today was the first day we actually talked about negative slopes. Also, the reason there are no numbers anywhere on that image is that I discovered that some of my kids were simply writing down the number nearest to one of the points as (chosen randomly) the rise or the run, with no actual counting taking place. So I removed them on today’s assignment.

I have discovered that many of my students genuinely believe that there are five squares between A and B, because rather than starting from 0 they are counting the line A is actually on as 1 and going from there.

I have discovered– this is not surprising, but remains depressing– that a number of them do not include “left” and “right” among the concepts that are salient to them, and thus I must frequently remember to say “from A to B” rather than “from left to right.”

And I had a genuinely bewildering conversation with one of my kids, a kid who generally does well in class and has one of the highest scores in his grade on the test we were discussing earlier, absolutely cannot wrap his head around the words “uphill” and “downhill,” a set of terms I was using to distinguish positive slope (uphill, from left to right) and negative slope (downhill, from left to right) while I was talking. He consistently reported that any line was both going uphill and downhill at the same time, even when I made it clear which direction I was moving in. I eventually ended up creating this diagram:

He is color-blind, by the way, a disability that I have somehow never had to worry about in 17 years of teaching, so I have to make sure that color is never salient information in any diagram I do for an assignment, which is why one of the lines here is dotted. This can occasionally be trickier than it ought to be.

Anyway, I pulled this diagram together, still trying to work on this uphill/downhill thing, and asked him, gesturing with my mouse while talking, which of the two lines was going uphill when I moved from left to right. I even said “We’re moving from A to B on the dotted line, and C to D on the solid line. Which is going uphill?”

“Both,” he replied. And I swear to you, he wasn’t fucking with me. I tried a stairs metaphor. Which of these lines looks like you’re standing at the bottom of a flight of stairs, looking up to the top? Both. You’re sure you understand the “left to right” thing we’re doing here? You’re telling me C to D and A to B both look like walking upstairs?

Yes. Yes, he was.

This kid’s not stupid. Not at all. And he wasn’t fucking with me; I could hear the frustration in his voice. He was trying to get this, as opposed to the dozens of my students for whom no set of directions can be short or clear enough that they can be expected to read or follow them. But I don’t have the slightest Goddamned idea where the hell the disconnect was happening.

Today was not a good day.

CLICK: Today! Right now, in fact!

Click print cover con exclusive

So, it’s a good-news-bad-news kind of day.  The good news is that CLICK is live as an ebook and has, in fact, already been shared with Patreon supporters.  And there’s still time to join them for as little as $1 a month to get an immediate copy of the book!

Additional good news: the print copy is ready!  That’s the print cover, right there!

The bad news: no one will print it for me, and I’m enormously fucking frustrated right now, because I’ve been doing nothing but fussing over .doc and .pdf and .png and Gimp files for about eight hours.  I was hoping to have this ready for Kokomo-Con on the 13th and right now barring a miracle that’s not going to happen.  Amazon’s print service apparently will not allow you to print a book that isn’t set up for distribution on Amazon– I swear that wasn’t the case before– and the small handful of other services I’ve checked out in the last few hours are all massively more expensive.  I’ve heard good things about Ingram Spark, for example, but they want $50 to “set up” a book that I’m providing all the files for, then I have to pay for copies on top of that.  So … uh … no?  I think maybe no.

The original idea behind doing this was to make it something special for Patreon and folks at cons.  I suppose the worst case scenario is that I have a new book out for everyone, but that’s not what I wanted to do.  I’m sure there’s a way to get PoD copies that isn’t going to break my bank, but I haven’t found it yet.  Stay tuned.

And go hit me up on Patreon, dammit.  You’ll like this book.

RAGEQUIT! Or: I Went to Target

targetI had a moderately– but only moderately– stressful day at work today, which made me think when I got home that a nice way to relax might be to spend some time playing the vidya gaemz.  And did I play Spider-Man, with its soothing and fun web-slinging action?  No.  I played Dark Souls II: Scholar of the First Sin, which is a fucking bastard of a game.

I played Dark Souls II to relax.

Those of you who have played this game are laughing at me right now, and you are right to do so.

So here’s the deal with the Dark Souls series: first, it’s balls-hard even just in the basic gameplay.  It doesn’t matter how big, rough and tough your character is; lose focus and even the lowliest scrub enemy is going to be able to kill you in a few hits.  On top of that, you gain experience by killing bad guys like you do in a lot of games, but you actually spend that experience like currency to gain levels, and you can’t do that just anywhere; each game in the series has one place where you can gain those levels.  And if you get killed, you drop all your experience points in the place where you died.  Want those thousands of XP representing a few possible levels back?  You gotta get back to where you just got killed without getting killed again and pick ’em back up, then escape to get where you can actually use them. Die again along the way? Too bad so sad, them shits are gone.

And DSII: SotFS is a special edition, one where they added a bunch of enemies, because apparently vanilla Dark Souls isn’t fucking hard enough.

Long story short; I got killed like three thousand times in a row, in a very enemy-heavy area, where none of the enemies are very tough but if you quit paying attention even for a couple seconds you’re dead, and the last time I left like four levels’ worth of XP on the table when some fucker I’d missed and walked right past stabbed me in the back, maybe three feet from my damn green blob of love.

And I did something I haven’t done in something like 35 years of gaming:  I broke my fucking controller.  I spiked the thing like a goddamn football and then watched as the PS4 helpfully told me that it had lost contact with the controller.

Fuuuuck.

Fifteen minutes to dinner.  Well, I can’t turn the damn game off without a controller, and the boy’s gonna want to play Spider-Man later, so… Target is pretty close.  I can totally go to Target and get a new controller in fifteen minutes.

Off to Target.  I’m on a mission and I know exactly where I’m going, so I don’t pay too much attention to the young lady who smiles at me and says hello as I’m walking past her, and I say hello back but I’m probably fifteen feet past her before I realize that I’m pretty sure she’s a former student, one who I haven’t seen since sixth grade (she moved) and who just graduated high school.  But I don’t realize it until I’m well past the point where I can turn back around and say hi, plus I legitimately haven’t seen the kid in six years and I’m not 100% sure.

I find the video game section.  I find PS4 controllers.  They’re locked up.  And someone else smiles at me and asks me where the Xbox controllers are.

And I realize I’m in Target in a red shirt.  Sigh.

I know the answer, so fuck it, I answer her question.

A moment later, someone in a blue shirt asks me if I need any help, and I have a brief split-second of pure confusion– because I don’t work here, and someone just asked me for help, and you clearly don’t work here, so why are you asking me if you can help me?

And then I see the Target Security logo on his blue shirt.  Oh, OK.  Fine.  Gimme this controller.

He goes and gets a guy.  The guy is maybe 25.  And by this point I’m sort of laughing at myself, so I tell the guy that I’ve been a gamer for something like 35 years and I just rage-smashed my first controller.

He laughs, and– I swear to God, and these games are old enough that it makes no sense that he said this– says “Dark Souls or Bloodborne?”

“Dark Souls II.  The No-Man’s Wharf.”

And he knows exactly what I’m talking about, and we commiserate for a minute or two, and he offers me a protection plan on the new controller, which I decline and I probably should have bought.

And then I see a second former student, also looking for video game paraphernalia, although this one doesn’t immediately recognize me.   And he’s got a bunch of friends with him so I don’t bother saying hi.

And then I leave.  Or at least try to.

And then I see a third former student, this one also an employee, and we talk for a moment.  And then I see the first former student again, and yes, it’s her, and she laughs and tells me she’d just sent a text message to someone else from her class who she knows I’m still in touch with to ask her to ask me if I’d just been to Target.

I, of course, had been thinking that I’d text that exact same person to see if the first girl worked at Target, so this plan makes perfect sense.

And then I went home, ate dinner, resolved to go directly to the boss of the stage without bothering to go get my souls along the way, because fuck them, died while doing that by falling off a Goddamned bridge, then finally made it to the boss and not only beat that bastard on the first try but I didn’t even get hit.

The moral of this story is that you shouldn’t break controllers, and if you do you shouldn’t leave your house afterwards.

The end.

Well, that’s enough of that

As if today wasn’t enough of an unalloyed shitstorm already (those last two posts were both after midnight) I am pretty sure that I am now back on the job market.  No, I haven’t quit– and I won’t until I have a new job– but I’m back to looking.  I don’t even have the energy to go into why right now.  Maybe sometime this weekend.

Until then, and on a happier note, if you haven’t watched Stranger Things yet, it’s worth paying for Netflix all by itself.