I was sick as fuck yesterday, and called in to work at about 3:30 in the morning and then slept for damn near the entire day. I called in for today last night, not feeling much better, and then– miracle of miracles– they called a snow day, not because it was snowing but because apparently so many of our bus drivers are sick that the whole system has broken down, and there’s already another one tomorrow, although this one is synchronous so I get to spend all day in Meets waiting for kids who will not show up. At least I’m feeling better? Sure.

Even money on whether there’s school Friday, or whether any of the kids show up if there is.

Friday, Goddammit

I am home alone, as the wife and the boy are out at a birthday party, and I am sorely tempted to go out and hop in the pool by myself. But there is so much left to do if I go get in the pool– things like removing and replacing the cover, possibly checking chemical levels (it rained last night) and then there’s the whole putting on a bathing suit and drying off afterwards bits, and … I may be too tired. Maybe I’ll just look at the pool. That’s relaxing too, right? Sure.

I wrote up six kids today– six!!— which is a number that I have not reached in … a while, and received reports from other teachers in the building that their kids were also out of their Goddamned minds. I very badly need to get my middle group under control. I did something I have not done in a very long time today, and emailed the words “I need help” to my boss, as it is too early in the year for these kids to be this nuts. My other two classes are good-to-great, so it’s not just this grade, and it’s not even all of the kids in the middle group, but it’s enough of them that I’m putting out a different fire every twenty to thirty seconds for an hour and a half straight, and I’m going to end up in tears in front of these motherfuckers at some point soon if I don’t kill one of them first.

I’ve got the weekend to rest and relax, and then five days until a three-day weekend. I’ll figure something out. I always do.

In which I am swamped

but the classroom is starting to come together.

First of all: I am never leaving this classroom ever, because I have an office. An office. This was, I dunno, a storage closet or something at some point, but now it’s just empty and in my classroom. I finally got my desk moved today. I love it.

I haven’t really decided how to arrange the desks yet, so they’re just sort of all over the place, but the phrase “exude relentless positivity” literally came to me in a Goddamned dream a couple of weeks ago and I haven’t been able to get it out of my head, so it’s my official motto for this school year.

Here’s another third or so of the room. There’s another bulletin board and another whiteboard behind me, and still a ton of stuff to put up, and I have to do a shitton of writing this weekend. But we’re making progress. I’ll take it.

Monday I expect to be in the building all day, and Monday night is Open House. Tuesday is the first teacher day, and the kids, or some arbitrary fraction of them, are back on Wednesday. Last weekend of summer begins now.

Leave those kids alone

I had a Work Thing today, and … well, it actually went pretty well. For certain values of “pretty well” at least, mostly involving I started a big old argument with my entire team. That’s not something I get to do all that often, and it was super fun, but it also got me through the last half-hour of the meeting without falling asleep. And you’re probably picturing a certain kind of argument when I say big old argument, and it was probably about as heated but quite a bit more civil than what you’re picturing; I’m not mad at anybody, and I don’t think anybody’s mad at me, or at least I hope not.

What was it about? Dress code and cellphones, of course. I mean, it started off more high-minded than that, but that was where it landed, and getting to air out my vehemently pro-cellphone, I-don’t-care-about-your-hoodie arguments with people who strongly disagreed with me and knew what they were talking about was actually pretty fucking invigorating.

Where did it start? With a thing called the School Improvement Plan, which is basically what it sounds like and is important enough to require capital letters, and with some other stuff called Gap Analysis and Root Cause Analysis, which is actually less utter bullshit than what I thought, but the way we were doing it is bullshit. Turns out my wife actually knows a fair amount of stuff about Gap Analysis and Root Cause Analysis, and she spent a lot of time sadly shaking her head as I was sharing documents from today with her after getting home from work.

Anyway: we were talking about student discipline, and one potential contributor to our discipline issues that was brought up was inconsistency among the staff. So, for example, if Jimmy knows that Teacher A allows something and Teacher B doesn’t, it makes Teacher B’s life harder, because teacher B tries to Enforce the Rules and is greeted with but Teacher A doesn’t do that! or something similar. Now, to be clear: I agree that this is, or at least can be, a problem. However, I don’t necessarily agree that not following the rules is the problem– I think the problem is the rules themselves. You see, we like to talk about how kids should be invested in class rules and how you should develop your class norms in consultation with your students, but no one ever applies that to schoolwide rules. You will find that you have an easier time getting me on the same page as everyone else if I am not simply handed the page.

I feel like a lot of rules in schools, not limited to but particularly rules about cellphones, are arbitrary and outdated, and “because it’s the rule” not only doesn’t work with me, it really doesn’t work with 8th graders. And I feel like teachers would be a lot better about buying into (and thus enforcing) our rules if we had reasons for them. So, as a staff, we need to spend some time reviewing, discussing, and, if needed, editing our building rules. We need to do this every year. We probably need to do it more than once a year.

And we need to do it regardless of whether Mr. Siler wins any specific argument about the rules or not, too. I’ll enforce a rule I don’t like if the staff has a conversation about something and comes to a consensus that I disagree with, because at least there’s a reason for the rule. But any rule we expect the kids to follow that we can’t justify as a group of adults needs to go. We don’t need rules that are rules just because.

(One other thing that always bothers me about this line of argument: the “get on the same page” argument only works one way, which is to insist that teachers who are less strict become more strict. It is never, ever used to rein in the exact type of teachers who love dress codes because they give them so many ways to find things that kids are doing wrong. No teacher has ever been told “We’re not worrying about this anymore, and you need to get on the same page as the rest of us.”)

On cars and Hogwarts, again

If you’ve been around for a while, it’s possible that you remember this story: my son attends a pricey private school, one that my wife and I are affording with financial assistance. When we first started sending him there, I was driving a Ford Escape that had a six-figure mileage and was, itself, old enough to have a drivers’ license. My current Kia Soul is an upgrade. However, there was a day, several years ago, when I was picking my son up during the winter in the Escape and experiencing a bit of class anxiety. I comforted myself with the existence of what looked like a station wagon in the parking spot next to me that also was covered in salt and muddy snow and looked kind of shitty, only to discover that I was comparing my $2000 Escape to a fucking $100,000 Porsche.

He’s at summer camp right now, and I just went to pick him up, and I found myself in the car line behind a Tesla– I don’t know exactly which model, but not the one with the weird doors. One kid got in that car and they stayed in their spot, possibly waiting for another kid. My kid came out and got in my car, so I waited for the lane to be clear and pulled out to drive around the Tesla that had been parked in front of me.

Only to find myself behind another fucking Tesla.

My wife and I do just fine, I swear, and I see the effects of actual poverty every day at work, and again, no one in this building has ever been anything other than perfectly nice, but damn, there is just no faster way to make myself feel broke than to look around at the cars any time I’m near Hogwarts. It’s ridiculous.

I suspect we’re going to be back up over 100,000 new cases a day nationwide by the end of the week, (EDIT: Ha, it happened today!) and the CDC just announced that everybody should start masking up indoors again. I just ordered a new pack of filters for my favored mask. I was really hoping to not have to teach in a mask again this year, but apparently only about 20% of 12-15-year-olds are vaccinated nationwide and I’m sure that number is lower in my district, so I really don’t have any choice. Indiana’s numbers are going up, but they aren’t spiking to the degree the nation’s are yet and St. Joe County isn’t as hot as the rest of Indiana, so I’m pretty sure the school year will be starting as normal this year. That said, I don’t think I knew on July 27 last summer how this year would be starting yet, so who the hell knows? I suspect everyone will just close their eyes and pretend Covid has gone away, but we’ll see.