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.

Stop snitching

I have three siblings– two girls, who are identical twins, and a boy who I think is the youngest– all in the 8th grade and all in my classes. I have two of them, one of the girls and the boy, in the same class, and the other girl is in a different group.

They are almost astonishingly different kids. I’ve had siblings before, and twins before, who I had trouble telling apart conceptually more than I did physically, if that makes any sense, because they acted so similarly. There is no way I could mistake any of these kids for one another. Even the twins have such different carriage and body language that unless they were deliberately trying to act like one another or standing perfectly still I can’t imagine ever having any trouble telling them apart.

Of the three, the boy– let’s call him, oh, George, because I need to call him something– is the most challenging. I like the kid, and I think he likes me well enough, but he’s got some problems with focusing that go a bit beyond what my average student is like. Most of the time I can keep him on track, but there are times when no one is going to be able to keep him on track.

One of those happened earlier this week, and his sister suggested I call their mother about it. I had actually just been thinking about that and said that I would, then got distracted by one of the other ten thousand things going on in my classroom. When I turned around, I realized she was on my class phone in the back of the room, and she was waving me over.

Oh you did NOT just call your mother on your own brother. Without permission. No way.

Yup. Sure did. She finishes her conversation and hands me the phone, and I consider making a bigger deal about what she just did than what her brother had been doing, and decide oh, fuck it, this may as well happen and just take it. I tell Mom I had been planning on calling her during my prep, leaving the words “… until your daughter forced the issue” unsaid, and we have a brief and reasonably pleasant conversation and she asks to talk to George. Who, for some reason, is glaring at me.

Dude, I didn’t call your mom. Talk to your sister over there. I normally find “stop snitching” culture deeply obnoxious but she totally just ratted you out and if you choose to take revenge later today once I’m not around you go right the hell ahead.

And then I’m treated to the intensely pleasant experience of watching this kid’s entire face and demeanor change as he takes the phone and has perhaps a two-minute conversation consisting of nothing but the words “Yes, Ma’am” and “No, Ma’am” before handing the phone back to me and being perfectly courteous for the rest of the day.

(Actually, this is one way where all three of the kids are the same. I am more likely to get a “Sir” out of these three than any other kids in the building. It’s not perfectly consistent but it’s a damn sight more frequent than I’m used to.)

So, yeah. Combine this with the parent who I called last week and was in the building eight minutes later to have a brief conference with me and her son, and calling parents can, once in a while, actually be a good thing.

In which something works the way it’s supposed to

My biggest sin as an educator– other than my cynicism, anxiety, various and sundry mental issues, and recent conviction that society will not be around long enough for an education to actually help any of my current students in any meaningful way– is that I am terrible at parent contact. I’m good at email, but a lot of my parents don’t use email and it can be difficult to collect email addresses that work via any method other than brute force. I despise calling parents on the phone to complain to them about their kids. Absolutely hate it, and I’ll do anything to avoid doing it– including just continuing to put up with shitty behavior when it’s possible that calling home might actually help. Does it always? Of course not, and unfortunately the kids with the most issues most frequently come with parents who aren’t going to help me out. Not always, but frequently.

Yesterday was rough as hell. Everybody in the building was in a bad damn mood all day, and every single one of my classes was substantially more poorly-behaved than usual. I sent more kids to the office yesterday alone than I have for the entire first, what, four weeks of the year combined, including three from my seventh hour class, which is far and away my roughest group, to the point where the other five barely even register in comparison.

My principal emailed me and asked me– ha, asked, he says– to contact the parents of the three and let them know what had happened. Which I dutifully did, hating every second of it, but for two of the three I had a decent conversation with a parent and the third I left a detailed message.

Today was a better day across the board, and there was a notable improvement in behavior from all three of yesterday’s miscreants. And I should point out, to be fair, that two of the three are rarely problems, and in fact those two often help to rein in the third, who is more prone to having issues. They just didn’t yesterday, and each of them being dismissed from the room one at a time did not help things. But, point is: today all three gave me no trouble at all. So not only did the two parents I spoke to talk to their kids in a meaningful way, but apparently so did the third, based only on the voicemail message.

I pulled them aside at the end of the day and gave them the option of a second phone call today, one passing on that today featured good behavior, and all three of the boys seemed pretty excited by the idea and said I should do it. Which meant that I got the exquisite and fairly rare pleasure of calling three parents in a row– because this time the voicemail parent answered the phone– and savoring that first moment where they’re pissed off because if I’ve called two days in a row it must be because somebody fucked up and then giving them good news instead.

It’s not something I get to do often, but I enjoy it quite a lot when I do.

On explaining gay people to your presumably straight kids

This just happened.

THE SCENE: We are watching the final episode of Season 2 of She-Ra. It is revealed that a character (no spoilers) has two dads.

THE BOY: Two dads?

MY WIFE: Yep.

ME: It happens.

THE BOY: Oh, okay.

End scene.

Tuesday kvetching post

I’m watching Into the Spider-Verse with my wife and son, and I’ve ordered my Captain Marvel tickets. It’s a good day to be a geek. Sadly, it’s not not really a great day to be human, as I got damn near no sleep last night for no good reason and stayed home today to prevent myself from murdering anyone at work, then got a phone call around 12:30 to come pick up the boy, who was in the nurse’s office complaining about a headache. So all the agonizing I did in the morning over whether it was really worth it to call in ended up being moot, because I’d have had to take the afternoon off anyway.

For a kid who stayed “sick” for maybe an hour after we got home and is currently hollering his head off at this movie.

I remain very, very tired.