On the new newness

After several years where I was reliably getting a new phone every single year and basically coming to terms with the fact that I’d become That Guy, I waited three full cellphone generations– from the iPhone 7+ I’ve been carrying around forever to today– to upgrade my phone, and finally caved and came home with an iPhone 11 Pro Max in the Midnight Green color. I told myself I was going to wait until I could walk into the store and walk out with a phone, and that happened today. What ended up getting me to jump was the massive improvement in the cameras– I’m super psyched about getting to play with the new triple-camera setup, and the damn phone is gorgeous, to the point where for the first time I’m getting a clear case. It’s currently in my bedroom transferring all of my settings and apps and photos from the original phone, a process that was originally projected to take two hours, then 24 minutes, so I figured I had time to come out into the living room and write a blog post before going back and checking on it.

This was a long and interesting week; I was out of my classroom for two days at that rarest of beasts, a really interesting professional development opportunity, and I had parent-teacher conferences Wednesday night, which was the busiest I’ve ever been at PTCs– I had a line out my door for two hours and fifteen minutes– and then I had a parent-teacher conference for my own son on Thursday. Today most the kids actually had a recess as a little reward for surviving the first quarter, and a dozen or so of them organized an honest-to-God, flag-waving-and-chanting impromptu gay pride parade (!!!) on the soccer field. This is the first year of my career where I’ve had more than one or two kids who were conspicuously and un-selfconsciously out of the closet– there are a lot of 8th graders in my building who are somewhere on the QUILTBAG spectrum and don’t seem to give a damn who knows it.

A genuine oddity: they exist alongside the rather large contingent of more typical 8th-grade straight boys who enjoy nothing more than ceaselessly calling each other gay, and yet I have never once— and I’m watching, God damn it– seen any anti-gay bullying of any of the actual gay kids, and there are at least two boys in the 8th grade who are gay at twenty feet, if you know what I mean. I’ve never seen anyone call either of them names, even the kids who are quickest to toss “gay” at any of their straight friends.

So there may be several posts this weekend, is what I’m getting at, depending on whether I decide I want to talk about these things more. The training, at least, will probably get a post tomorrow or Sunday.

In which I’ve done 1/3 of my job, maybe

I love the visual shorthand that has evolved for pictures of teachers; there are literally dozens of variants on this picture of a teacher rubbing her temples at a desk piled with books with vaguely math-looking chalk notes on an obsolete blackboard behind her.

I received some small amount of evidence today that I have, indeed, been teaching at least seventh grade math for the last, oh, five weeks or so; my kids had a test today on adding and subtracting positive and negative integers and they did, on the whole, a bit better than I thought they were going to. I apparently have not been teaching eighth grade math, which makes me wonder just what the hell I’ve been doing with my time four class periods out of every day for that same five weeks. My students certainly do not appear to have learned anything, or at least they have not learned anything about classifying numbers, which is what I’ve been trying to teach them, and spending yesterday telling them exactly what was going to be on the test as well as providing them with an extensive supply of notes, presentations and videos on the subject (in addition to my own actual instruction) appears to have gotten me absolutely nowhere.

I’m blaming them, mostly.

Okay, that’s probably unfair, but I note that the kids who I can generally count on to give a shit appear to have actually learned something; the problem is that in 8th grade the supply of available Give a Shit is somewhat lower than it is in other grades, and, well, my kids have a bit of a shortage situation going on at the moment. This is, it should also be noted, not the most interesting or immediately useful of mathematics, either; even laying my usual cynicism about the world to the side I can’t really pretend that knowing how to distinguish a rational number from an irrational one is a skill that any of them are ever going to actually need. And while I usually bare my teeth and snarl at the when are we gonna use this school of avoiding acquiring new knowledge, there’s still a spectrum to these things, and this isn’t all that high on that spectrum.

Ah well. This was actually a pretty good week once it got started, and don’t tell anyone I said this but it’s possible that I’m starting to make some headway with the gang of hellions in my seventh hour class. I discovered to my bewilderment earlier this week that despite them being my most behavior-impaired class by a wide margin they are also getting the best grades and have the smallest amount of missing work. This fact rendered me unable to even for nearly a full hour. I was curious to see if it would also lead to them getting the highest grades on the test today; they … did not. I made the mistake of praising them and it went to their heads, I think; I’ll not make that mistake in the future.

I really like my seventh grade classes, by the way. They’re both fun groups even when they’re being more buttheady than usual. I like nearly all of my 8th graders as individuals; as classes … well, we’re still working on about half of them. But we’re only a month in. Plenty of time. I’m sure I’ll have everybody beaten into shape by June.

In which it’s not just the legg

You may remember that I picked my current classroom at least in part because I was told that the other room frequently was prone to heating and cooling issues. I am therefore just a little pissed to let you know that it was approximately a hundred and forty degrees and infinite fucking humidity in my room all day today, and by the time sixth and seventh hour– so far, my favorite and least-favorite group, back-to-back– rolled into my room, I was utterly and completely without a single iota of patience after five hours of being sweaty and putting up with the funk of dozens of fourteen-year-olds, some of whom were, incomprehensibly, wearing sweaters.

Sixth and seventh hour didn’t go well. I will take some– perhaps a majority– of the blame, because by that point I was just completely beaten to death by the heat and the humidity and it kills me. But one way or another they didn’t go well.

Anyway. That’s not the story. Here’s the story: during my prep period I walked into the office to check my mailbox, and I happened to walk behind my assistant principal and another teacher, who were standing at a counter in the office. The office staff were also in place. I nodded and didn’t say anything and walked back to where the mailboxes were, and then heard my name over my shoulder.

“Yeah,” someone was saying. “I think it’s Siler.”

I am not joking when I say I had been sweating for four straight hours at that point, so my initial reaction was basically pure terror.

“Christ,” I said, recovering the contents of my mailbox and walking back into the office. “I’ve been sweating like a pig all day. Do I smell that bad?”

I hear my principal laugh and realize he’s in the room as well. Dandy.

“No,” my AP says. “You smell good! There’s something–” and here she takes a deep breath– “kind of floral that just wafted past us.”

I take a whiff. I can’t smell anything Goddamn floral. All I can smell is axe body spray and funk, which is how I know I’m in a middle school.

“I promise it’s not me, then,” I say. “I don’t wear cologne and I promise you any odors wafting off of me right now are not floral. It’s a hundred and forty in my room. That might actually be the smell of death.”

I’m not certain my bosses know if I’m a good teacher or not yet, but at least they think I’m funny?

Speaking of noooooooope…

So, remember a couple of weeks ago when I said I was applying for a teaching job?  That wasn’t quite true, at least in the strictest sense of the word “teaching.”  It was a job, in a school, that would involve occasionally interfacing with kids but which seemed, from the description, to actually mostly involve backing up teachers and being a resource for them rather than a job where I was in front of a classroom all day.  I messed around with my work schedule a bit this week after getting a couple of emails from the HR director, who indicated there would be an informational meeting at the school that it might be useful to come to.

(I’m leaving out a lot of details, obviously; this program involves a pretty substantial infusion of money and is a new thing for the school to the point where renovations are happening in the building right now for it, so the idea that they’d invite people who are applying for the job to this informational meeting makes more sense than you might think– the building staff was also invited.)

So.  Yeah.  I went to the meeting.  There were maybe a dozen staff members present and at least three people who were there because they were applying for the same job I was– me and two others, in other words.

The lack of buy-in from the staff was a physical force in the room, and the sinking feeling that started moments after the presentation began never really got any better.

I happened, after the meeting was over, to walk out of the building with one of the other two applicants.

“Was that job what you thought it was when you applied?” I asked.

“Not even a little bit,” she said.  And she didn’t say “You can have it,” but it was pretty damn clear she didn’t want it any longer.

They are actually looking for two people to fill this job, who will both be in the new facility at all times.  Along with sixty kids.

Sixty.  At once.

Three blocks a day, of– lemme say it again– sixty kids.  Seventh and eighth graders.  In a program that, in my professional opinion, is a massive waste of time and resources if they’re going to treat it as a class that you get a grade for.   In a nicely renovated, brand-new space featuring two load-bearing walls in the middle of the Goddamn room that cannot be moved and guarantee that there will be no place where a single teacher can stand and see all of his or her students.

So.

oh-shi

Hit the ground burnin and woke up frostbit

Today was a Tuesday, in case you were wondering.  I don’t know what it is about Tuesdays.  But today was definitely a Tuesday.  I think I need a T-shirt or something.

At any rate, on the way home from work the following two songs flashed into my head.  I still have every syllable of both songs memorized.  I probably haven’t listened to the Kool Moe Dee song in the larger part of a decade.  It’s really weird how the music that you were listening to when you were in middle school and high school sticks with you forever.

Or maybe it’s not, I dunno.  It’s not like I’m not still listening to the same stuff.   🙂  At any rate, enjoy some old-school hiphop while I go to bed early and try to recharge enough to make it through Wednesday.