Operationalized pedagogical equitability

I’ve talked several times lately about how I’m making a concerted effort to recommit to teaching as a profession I’m going to retire from and increase my profile as a leader in my building. To that end, and among other things, I’ve joined a committee that is going to require some extra work of me throughout the school year– and, amazingly, is actually stipended– and I have a two-hour meeting fifteen minutes from now that’s going to be the first real meeting of that committee. We had a launch event of sorts a couple of weeks ago but that wasn’t much of anything; I’m actually having to do some preparation for this one.

And, Christ, the first meeting hasn’t even started yet and I’m already exhausted. There’s a certain way of talking about teaching that is so infected with bullshit corporate speak that it’s barely comprehensible, and these documents they’ve shared with us for our perusal are so thick with it that I want to wash my hands. Tons of nouns being turned into verbs, unnecessary adverbs, piles and piles of acronyms and simple things being saddled with unnecessarily complicated names, and lots of taking words and phrases and arranging them into shapes that don’t actually carry any useful meaning or promote any particular kind of understanding. Linguistic cruft. I’d copy and paste some examples but I’m pretty sure it’d end up getting me in trouble.

Like, there is absolutely a way to improve failing buildings. Every school can improve. But creating a 26-page report that no one is going to read and which is so overwritten as to be incomprehensible is not one of the ways you do that.

(They’re still not gonna close the honors academy, by the way, and that school is noticeably absent from this process for some reason. This means that the single best method of improving the scores of all our middle schools, simultaneously is off the table before we even begin. And when it gets right down to it, this is about test scores, not learning, and they aren’t the same thing.)

I have faith that once we’re past this initial phase and actually talking about our building we’ll be able to make strides toward accomplishing things; don’t get me wrong. I’m just made extremely tired by the way we’re getting into the process.

In which I remove my earrings

I’ve talked a bit about the negative experience we had when applying for a home equity loan last week. What I did not mention is that at the end of the conversation my wife had new checks ordered, something she hadn’t done in so long that the address of our previous house was on her checks. We moved into this house before my son was born.

Her previous checks did not have my name on them, and the new checks do. At no point was adding my name to her checks discussed or mentioned by any of us.

I do not, in fact, want any, but it is starting to genuinely seem like certain others might in fact want some, in which case some will have to be provided. I have plenty, after all.


In other news, I actually had to chew out one of my classes today, marking the first time I’ve had to raise my voice to students in a solid year, a milestone I will almost certainly never reach again. The amazing thing is that it worked; pointing out that I was perfectly capable of writing an office referral from seven miles away if I was required to actually got the little goblins to shut the hell up and pay attention so that I could yap at them about scatter plots and correlation. The first fifteen minutes of class ended up being completely shot to hell, but I can’t pretend I haven’t lost much more than that to in-person classes before, so all told everything got sorted out well enough, I suppose.

Tomorrow’s assignment is technically open in another window and I absolutely am not interested in completing it right now; I’ve reached the point of the year where I would prefer for all of us just to sit in silence and contemplate the beauty of mathematics rather than, like, doing any work, especially if I have to write the work beforehand. Which I do.

(One of these years, I’m going to go through and organize every math lesson I’ve ever written together, and at the very least never write another math problem again, and at best actually publish a Goddamn textbook. But not this year.)

Ugh. It’s 6:05 and that assignment will probably take at last half an hour to pull together if not more, and I’m starting to slide into the point of the year where a bunch of things that I signed up for for extra money are all going to be coming due at the same time. I’m gonna go get this assignment done, so I can spend at least a couple of hours on my PS5 hanging out with my family before bed.

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 let Facebook bait me again

It’s almost not worth it to take the time to write a piece about teaching cursive. Like, I’m about to do it, and I am literally and genuinely 25% more tired than I was fifteen minutes ago. But can we take a second to talk about the arguments for this, please? You would think– and I did think– that this “historical documents” thing was laughable, that no one would seriously advocate that we should teach second and third graders a certain obsolete skill in case, in some point during their lives, they have to read historical documents.

Americans don’t read fucking books, y’all. We don’t need to teach our third graders cursive so that years down the road they’ll survive if someone points a gun at their head and tells them to read an original copy of the Magna Carta or they’re getting shot. But I’ve not only seen this argument, I’ve seen it today. I asked Twitter if it was worth it to bother writing this exact post and within ten minutes I had someone telling me they regularly had to review old documents in cursive, and wondering what we would do if we no longer taught it.

Two things about this:

  • It should not be surprising, but it is: things can be learned by adults! Schools are not necessarily responsible for literally every aspect of things that human beings might be able to learn. Maybe you wait to see if you ever get a job where sometimes you have to read cursive and then you learn how to read it! It’ll take you an hour, tops. It’s not that damn hard.
  • I shouldn’t have to say this either, but reading and writing are not the same skill. I can read Hebrew; I am absolutely godawful at producing it legibly. My handwriting is not great either, and I haven’t written in cursive of my own free will in decades. I’m not entirely opposed to making sure kids can read cursive, but the simple fact is that it’s just not that damn important. It’s not a life skill, guys. It’s a font.

The second argument I see is BUT HOW WILL PEOPLE SIGN THINGS?????, to which I present you this document:

I came across this on The Twitters a while ago, and it’s sort of stuck in my head since then, and luckily searching my tweets for the word “signature” pulled it up again. All ten of these folks are Senators, y’all. These are their official signatures– they’re scanned files that their staffers can use when they need to sign things, so one could imagine that they practiced them a little bit. Two of them, Cassidy’s and Moran’s, are entirely printed. Romney’s first name is printed. Todd Young’s signature is entirely illegible, and I challenge anyone to see the word “Michael” or especially the word “Rounds” in Senator Rounds’ signature without the prompting of the printed words underneath them.

So let’s please not pretend that being able to write legibly in cursive is required in order to sign things. It’s simply not true, and it never has been. The phrase used to be make your mark, for fuck’s sake, and everyone got along just fine. If two and a half of these ten Senators don’t need cursive for their signature, we’re not going to go pretend it’s required for ten-year-olds.

The funny thing? These two arguments are the only ones I ever see for continuing to teach cursive, leaving the best one aside, which is basic fine motor development. But the thing is, making sure you can print legibly also requires fine motor control. Frankly I don’t like how my handwriting looks either, but if I wanted to work on it, I could. We can try and enforce good handwriting habits with our kids without forcing an entire new kind of writing on them two or three years after they’ve mastered the first one. There’s just no point to it. And given that people’s solution to literally any fucking problem society has is why don’t schools talk about this more? sooner or later some of this shit has got to go. I’m not about to go on a jeremiad and try and get the shit banned or anything, but I absolutely understand when schools decide not to waste time with it in their curriculum any longer. You don’t like it? Cool. Go to a teacher store, buy a cursive book, and teach your kids yourself. I promise parents are allowed to do that.

On what I want

My wife and I, married thirteen years come next February, typically do not buy each other gifts. My wife is impossible to buy for, as she does not like things, and I am exceptionally easy to buy for but tend to spend money indiscriminately, so buying things from my Amazon wish list, for example, can be kind of a fraught proposition.

I fucked around and got myself into trouble last week, as I came up with a perfectly good Christmas present for my wife and managed to acquire it in a fraction of the time I would have expected it to take and at a fraction of the cost. In other words, not only was I breaking the rules by buying something in the first place, she was going to take one look at it and assume that I had spent way more than I actually spent on it– even though what I did spend for it would generally count as a relatively large amount for us to spend on each other, even in a world where we buy things for each other, which we really don’t.

I hope to hell that sentence makes sense because I’m not rewording it.

Anyway, I went through this brief crisis where I was trying to figure out what my duties were in terms of whether I was going to disclose the gift before Christmas or not, and if I was merely going to disclose its existence or also disclose how much I spent. I ended up, after discussing the matter with my brother and sister-in-law, deciding to tell her what had happened and that I’d spent what I spent on it, so that if she wants to get me something in return (which she isn’t required to do) she has a chance of achieving some sort of parity.

(She won’t. I win this Christmas. She can try again next year if she wants, but I win this one.)

Anyway, the trick to buying me (and a lot of people, really) is to come up with something that I want but would never buy myself, which is kind of a tricky needle to thread, and thinking about it tonight all I’ve been able to come up with are two items that I really don’t need and would just add to the clutter around the house. Guitar Center is going out of business, and part of me really wants to go buy a guitar once I can get them at discount prices. Can I play the guitar? No. I can’t play the ukulele either. I’m not gonna learn. I’m 44 and it is too late to learn a musical instrument. There is, therefore, no reason for me to want one.

It is kind of hilarious to me that the second thing that I came up with was a combat-grade lightsaber, which is also something that someone else should not buy me, because they come with literally a billion available options and are also expensive as hell and the whole idea is completely ridiculous. I do not need a lightsaber, much less a $250 one, and the idea that I’m fixated on a combat-grade one, which has a blade tough enough that they’re supposed to be good for full-contact sparring against someone else, is even more ridiculous.

I’m curious to see if anyone can guess what color blade I’d pick, by the way.

(Oh, and also I’m still fighting off the occasional urge to buy a lathe.)

It’s best to just let me waste my own money, I think.