Just came out of an IEP meeting that went abruptly south when the parent decided to start casting blame far and wide for her kid’s seven current failing grades. Now, here is the thing: I am fully aware of how hard this must be for a lot of our parents. I am keeping track of one child while trying to keep up with my actual students and doing my job to the best of my ability and it is difficult. I am not keeping track of more than one, the extra kids that I don’t have to keep track of aren’t at multiple grade levels, and as things go my actual child tends to be pretty self-sufficient in a lot of ways. And it is still hard.
Now, what that means is that I’m bending over backwards to make sure my students have access to me. They have my phone number, and know they can call or text me basically anytime between 8 AM and 10 PM. I am online in a Google Meet for about four and a half hours a day every single day so that they can come in and ask questions, and I am monitoring my email whenever I am awake. There are no penalties for late work on any of my assignments, and I’ll even allow unlimited retries for anything a student wants to redo. I have posted personally-recorded video lessons for every single piece of new content we’ve done that they can access any time they want through the magic of the Interwebs.
(I am actually at my computer during my lunch break right now, too, because I have kids testing. I’ve left this desk twice in the last three hours– once to pee, and once to get some cold pizza from the fridge.)
This is not for cookies. I don’t want praise. This is because I think what I’m doing is the minimum amount of flexibility teachers should be showing right now. But what this also means is that if you try and come at me for not teaching your child when your child hasn’t taken advantage of any of these opportunities, I may not be entirely sympathetic, and when you try and blame me specifically for your student’s failure I’m going to start bringing out receipts.
Because I have them. I can see every time you’ve logged in to check your kid’s grades, for example, and I see that you’ve done so repeatedly over the last few weeks, so don’t even try and pretend that you didn’t know he was failing. I can also search my own email, so when you claim you’ve emailed and talked to all his teachers? I never delete anything, ma’am. I can assure you that you have not.
Oh, and I see that your email is here on Google Classroom, which means that you’ve been receiving my weekly emails about everything we’re doing in class, all of which contain my phone number and constant reinforcement to contact me if you have any questions or any needs at all that I can be helpful with.
I am not the one, God damn it, so don’t try it. Just don’t.
I– well, all of us, really– got a letter from my superintendent this morning outlining the district’s plan to reopen this fall, and I am not exaggerating when I tell you that their plan is basically “we reopen, and nothing changes, so try not to die.” Apparently he mentioned some vague sort of “we’ll try and create a virtual school, and you’ll have options for e-learning if you want them” thing at an event this morning, but there are no details, there is as of yet no staff for such a thing, and the letter makes no mention of it.
Everyone will be required to “have” a mask.
I was expecting a lot of different things, but “we’re going to do nothing” was not one of them, and I am frustrated and, frankly, frightened beyond my ability to describe it right now. Like, “take one of your emergency brain pills” frustrated.
So the best thing to do, obviously, is lash out at some bullshit that doesn’t have anything to do with what I’m mad about, and luckily I just decided I was done with this deeply stupid book here. Here’s my entire review: don’t read this fucking book, and don’t trust anyone who tells you this is a good book, and I am seriously looking askance at the two Actual Authors who recommended this to the skies and back, because you’re both out of your damn minds.
Need some background for that review? Okay. First, look at the title. The title of this book is Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel, Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere. That title is wordy as fuck and deeply obnoxious, and if you can’t literally get the front cover to your book done without being wordy as fuck and deeply obnoxious then your opinions on writing are probably not to be taken terribly seriously. Second, this author 1) has no relevant experience or expertise in psychology and 2) has never written or published a fucking novel.
Which … really, at that point we’re done. Your book is garbage. I don’t have to read your book to know it’s garbage. Unfortunately, I did, which was clearly my mistake, as I’ll never get that time back, and I should have been using it to look for a job.
Also, there’s no “brain science” in the book. None what-so-fucking-ever. There’s the occasional sentence where she says things like “brain science tells us …” but there are never any citations or, like, quotes from actual people who work in the field, or anything like that, and she also appears to think that “brain science” is a thing, which it’s not. There’s no one in the world where if you ask them their job they will tell you “I am a brain scientist.” The word is psychologist. I would also accept psychiatrist or neurologist or probably a couple of others. Hell, even an anthropologist would probably be useful for some of the claims that she makes, but there’s none of that either. It’s all fuckin’ hooey, and worse, it’s hooey that really only applies to literary fiction and doesn’t work well with genre at all. Don’t believe me? Let me introduce you to George R.R. Martin, who could probably tell you a few things about how his books violate every single one of the rules in this book– if you can coax him off of his gigantic money bed in his gold house to come talk to you in the first place.
The whole book is bullshit; know-nothing, arrogant, prescriptive bullshit, and it’s an easy candidate for the worst book I’ve had to read so far this year.
One of the following two things is true, and I’m not sure which, despite having read more than your average person about British history and literature:
OPTION ONE: British currency, pre-Euro, is bullshit, and I refuse to believe anyone can keep track of how many guineas are in a shilling or how many Robux are in a whangdoodle or whatever; y’all make fun of us for not having the metric system but this is how you do your money?
OPTION TWO: British currency is not in and of itself bullshit, but the way people write about it is; anyone mentioning British currency in any capacity is consistently doing the equivalent of saying “she spent three dollars, two quarters, two dimes and three pennies” instead of the more sensible “she spent $3.73.”
It’s gotta be one or the other, I just don’t know which.
I haven’t done a good old-fashioned teacher rant in a minute. Lemme see if I still remember how they work.
One of the unexpected side effects of doing everything remotely is that it is now virtually impossible to get out of IEP meetings. Or, at least, it’s kind of rude, and I do want to look like I’m at least trying to earn my paycheck. Previously, these things were always scheduled during the school day, and they do always want a regular ed teacher there (are legally required to, I think) but nobody is about to provide coverage for them, so they basically look for whatever teacher happens to have a prep period at the same time as the meeting. Which means that I might attend no more than two or three in a grading period under normal circumstances.
Well, now I have no schedule, so I’m attending three or four of these things a week. Which, again, this isn’t the part I’m complaining about– it’s fine, I’ll trade extra IEP meetings for the fact that I haven’t had to tell anyone to sit down and do their work for a month. I am absolutely coming out ahead here.
So this particular kid is a good kid. He tries, most of the time, and while I do need to keep an eye on him and encourage him to do his work once or twice a period he’s a sweet kid and he’s not a discipline issue, which means I’ll break my back for him if I need to. He’s a 504 kid, not on an IEP, and the 504 is for ADHD, and honestly he’s a pretty mild case– I have 7-8 kids in every class with a higher degree of ADHD than Sean (not his real name) does. So I’m expecting this meeting to go pretty smoothly, honestly. He gets all the accommodations he’s supposed to so there shouldn’t be any problem. I am, however, planning on bringing up the fact that he’s currently failing my class– and I suspect I’m going to find out that internet access is an issue, which will lead to me figuring out some other way for the kid to get his assignments to me.
It’s kind of weird, then, when Grandma starts off the conference by complaining about Sean’s little sister, Shauna, and how she can’t believe that her grandkids have just been “passed along” all this time when they can’t do any math. She said that Shauna had no idea how to do yesterday’s assignment and she had to sit down with her forever to get it done.
I, uh, am also Shauna’s math teacher. Now, she has two, so I double-check to make sure I know what assignment Grandma is talking about, and yep– it’s mine. Which is review. Of averages.
There is an instructional video and two different written reviews of how to average numbers appended to the assignment. I ask if Shauna watched or read either of them.
“I don’t think so.”
(Note that Sean hasn’t done the assignment. He has the same thing.)
Hm. That’s interesting. Perhaps she should take advantage of some of my attempts to teach her the material before complaining that she hasn’t seen it before? Because surely the seventh month of seventh grade is the first time she’s ever seen this material before; averages aren’t covered anywhere before seventh grade, right?
(To be clear: this starts in, like, fourth grade.)
I point out, as politely as I can manage, that she has these resources available to her right there with the assignment, that she can also email me at any time, and that I also have two hours of office hours every day where I’m literally sitting in a Google Meet video chat waiting for kids to pop in and ask questions and I ain’t seen hide nor hair of Shauna anywhere.
We go back to talking about Sean. Who, it turns out, skipped fifth grade. Grandma explains that it was because he was too tall, and they wanted him in a higher grade.
This is … not a thing. No one is ever advanced a grade because they are too tall. There are occasions where kids are moved up when they’ve been held back multiple times to prevent kids who can drive from coming to middle school, but no fourth graders are being moved to sixth grade because they are tall. Plus, it is impossible to skip someone up a grade without parental consent. Grandma (or somebody) would have had to agree to this nonsense.
Then she drops that he’s got Asperger’s syndrome, too, and I watch as a bunch of teachers’ eyebrows shoot up. We’ve already been emailing each other behind the scenes– a bunch of variants on holy shit, Siler, I’m surprised you kept your cool just now— and all the sudden I get five emails going wait shit am I the only one who never got told he had Aspergers?
A bunch of things sort of click, but shit, wouldn’t this have been on the damn 504? I read the damn 504! This should have been on the fucking 504! We all should have known this!
Nope. The 504 is just for the ADHD, which he barely has. Suddenly the meeting is about making sure he has an actual IEP for high school next year that is about his autism, because Jesus Christ how the hell did none of us know this shit?
He’s high-functioning, obviously, but *nobody* knew about this, and there are just certain things that you make sure to do when you know a kid has Asperger’s that might not have been happening automatically for Sean. I’m looking around and now fully half of the faces in the room look actively pissed off.
And then Grandma starts in on the math again. She’s discovered recently that neither of her grandchildren know how to convert fractions to percentages! What an outrage! How are these kids getting passed on?
(This, from the lady who approved Sean skipping fifth grade.)
I point out that converting fractions to percentages is something that we have discussed repeatedly in class, as well as in the other math class, and that furthermore it is also a skill that has been addressed repeatedly by teachers in previous grades.
(It is also not terribly complicated. You convert fractions to percentages by performing a single division operation. This is not something that should be particularly hard to remember.)
I ask if Shauna ever actually spends any time studying. I am told no.
I look up her grades. She is failing seven of her eight classes, and was last quarter as well. Sean is not doing as well as he should be either.
I somehow do not say Ma’am, the seven failing grades each of your grandchildren have do seem to have a common factor, which is that they are the ones getting those grades. From seven different teachers, each. Furthermore, the fourteen failing grades that your grandchildren are currently receiving this quarter all have something else in common, which is the person raising them. You wanna bitch at me some more about how I’m not doing my job?
So, yeah, long story short? When your kid doesn’t crack a fucking book outside of school under any circumstances, doesn’t study, and doesn’t do any of their work, when you literally admit that your child who doesn’t understand how to do something made no attempt to avail herself of the resources that were literally right in front of her face to attempt to learn how to do it, when all of those things happen at once, maybe you shouldn’t go bitching at the teachers who are literally at a meeting specifically about how to help your other kid succeed that they aren’t doing their jobs right.
Especially when all the fuck you had to say was “Shauna needs more help in math,” and the very next fuckin’ thing out of my mouth would be to try and figure out a time where the two of us can get together to go over some of the stuff she doesn’t understand.
I emailed my assistant principal, who was also in the meeting, and told her I was demanding a raise.
Thus far I don’t appear to be getting one.
3:49 PM, Thursday April 16: 653,825 confirmed cases and 30,998 Americans dead.
So here’s the thing: a few hours from now, or maybe a couple of days depending on how complicated things get, results will be released from the Iowa caucuses and someone– probably either a white dude whose name starts with B or Elizabeth Warren– will have won them. And that person will have just a smidge more actual delegates than the three or four people behind him or her, and all the press in the world won’t make a damn bit of difference to the fact that the actual delegate edge gained by this contest– y’know, the thing that matters— isn’t gonna be much of anything.
But there will be yapping, oh so much yapping, about What It All Means, and Bernie’s people will find a way the process was rigged against him even if he wins, and it all doesn’t fucking matter because Black people are the base of the Democratic party and right now no one and I mean no one has done a God damn thing to cut into Joe Biden’s huge lead among Black voters and unless that changes this shit is already all over but the shouting. And am I happy about it? No, not at all; with Kamala Harris out of the race I am an Elizabeth Warren man through and through, and Biden may actually be my last choice among the serious candidates (every time I try to think hard about whether I’d vote for him or Bernie at gunpoint my small intestine jumps out of my body and chokes me until I’m unconscious) but right now hard demographic reality is gonna make him the nominee unless something changes. Is that impossible? No. Does fucking Iowa have much chance to make a difference? Also no.
Fuck caucuses, and fuck Iowa. Caucuses, particularly how they’re practiced in Iowa, are undemocratic as hell and as wildly, painfully ridiculous a way for grown folks to choose a presidential candidate as they could possibly be. They disenfranchise old people, poor people, people with night jobs, people with children, people who don’t want the assholes who they live around to know who they want to vote for, people who don’t like spending hours arguing about politics in public with strangers, and no doubt a host of other people as well. They introduce a lovely veneer of social pressure into an event– voting– that is supposed to be private and secret. They are unnecessarily complicated. And Iowa is damn near as lily-white as it gets and I am sick as fuck of losing good presidential candidates– particularly in this cycle– because a state full of cracker corn-fed white hicks didn’t decide to get excited about them.
(Yes, I am from Indiana. When I get so fucking arrogant about Indiana’s position in the primary that I insist I should be able to personally shake hands with every candidate you can call me whatever the fuck you want.)
There needs to never be another Democratic Iowa caucus again– I don’t give a fuck what the Republicans do with their primaries– and Iowa needs to never again be allowed to be the first state to vote. Fuck New Hampshire, too, while we’re at it, but they don’t get as much attention and they’re not voting caucusing tonight so they aren’t what this post is about.
I fucking demand that the Democratic party come up with a fairer and more representative way to select our presidential candidates in the future. Caucuses are bullshit and the stranglehold Iowa has on our country is bullshit and I am fucking done hearing about either of them. Fix this bullshit, and fix it now. There are 50 Goddamned states in this country and I’m pretty sure you can find another one with fucking county fairs that also has some damn Black people in it. I won’t even fight you on which one so long as it’s a better choice than fucking Iowa.
Which, really, shouldn’t be all that fucking hard.