On yard signs

I had to do some running around tonight– I had my final LASIK follow-up appointment, and stopped by my dad’s to mutilate him give him a haircut, and I have some thoughts. Now, these should not be taken especially seriously, and I want to emphasize that they are based on a snapshot of maybe 10-15 miles of driving on a small number of streets in the Democratic part of Indiana. Take this all with a substantial amount of salt.


  • In general, there are fewer yard signs out than I would normally expect this close to the election.
  • Most of the signs that are out are for local or statewide races. There are a lot of school board signs, and more than I’d expect for the coroner’s race.
  • There are a handful of yards on this drive that can be reliably counted upon to have a sign for everyone running in whatever political party the house belongs to. Interestingly, while the Democratic houses all have Biden signs, the Republican houses do not have signs for the other guy. Houses with signs for him tend to have only a sign for him.
  • If you have this in front of your house I’m going to assume you’re a crazy person:

I assume that the stake is because of vampires. Like, seriously, people, the man is an atheist and he hates you.

  • I only saw one yard with that sign but it’s uncomfortably close to my house.
  • There is no gubernatorial race. Not one sign for Holcomb, even in the “we have signs for everyone” yards, and none on their own, and not one sign for his opponent anywhere.
  • There are also a couple of houses that reliably have large signs for Jackie Walorski– like, the size that require 4×4 posts driven into the ground– and those houses do not have signs up for That Guy either.

Again, draw no conclusions from this and I make no predictions. I’m mostly writing this now so that I remember to compare it to what that same drive looks like on, say, the 30th.

Many moons ago, I had a kid in my class named, oh, let’s call him Lafayette, for the usual “it amuses me for reasons I won’t reveal” rationale. Lafayette transferred into my room in December, and on his first day took a seat as far away from everyone as he could get and didn’t make a sound. He got called down to the office after about an hour and didn’t come back. When I inquired about it later, I was told that he’d been expelled from his previous school for threatening to murder his teacher, and that we were honoring the suspension. He’d be back in January.

For the record, while he wasn’t a great student by any stretch of the imagination, I had no real discipline problems with Lafayette. He was, on his worst day, squarely in the middle of that group in terms of his behavior.

The year after I had him, a photo of him went Facebook viral, as his mother forced him to stand on a street corner for several hours carrying a sign announcing to everyone who drove by that he was failing all of his classes and was generally not a good person. I can’t find the picture now, but it still resurfaces every now and again.

Several years later, at 16, he was arrested for attacking an elderly woman, beating her unconscious, and stealing her car. He’s in state prison now; the soonest he has any chance of getting out is 2027. I assume he was tried as an adult.

His younger brother, who wasn’t ever in my class but who I met at least once, is currently the subject of a manhunt for murder. They haven’t caught him yet, but his face is all over the place.

Teacherly updatery

First things first, unrelated to teaching: I’d like you all to go back to my piece about the Iowa caucuses from a couple of days ago, read it, and marvel at my prescience. I am too disgusted with politics in general at the moment to discuss any of the various issues of the day (ITMFA now stands for Impeach the Motherfucker Again, not Already, and I did not watch the State of the Union, because I am not a fucking masochist) so you get to read teachertalk instead.

I got a fair amount of feedback and advice (not all of it on the blog) after my post about my student with selective mutism a couple of weeks ago. I thought I’d report back: it turns out that she’s entirely willing to communicate in writing, so a day or two after writing that post I handed her a piece of paper with a short note asking some questions and she answered everything and gave it back to me. She’s generally not willing to call attention to herself but there have been a couple of times where I checked in with her and she’d written some questions in the margins of her assignments; she doesn’t seem to have any difficulty (and there’s no reason to think she would) with listening or processing what she’s being told, so I can answer her verbally just fine, although I’ll occasionally respond in writing just for the hell of it. I just have to make sure to check in with her once or twice during class because she usually won’t put her hand up. She’ll respond to direct questions with gestures, though, and there have been times where I got a thumbs-up or a “sort of” gesture after asking her how she’s doing. My kids also will ask for bathroom breaks with a sign language “B” a lot of the time, and she’s picked that up as well.

So in general things are going just fine. She’s a bright kid and she gets good grades and she pays attention, so I basically just treat her with the slightly higher level of attention that some of my ESL and shyer students get and so far everything has gone just fine.

(Also, I called her an elective mute in that first post, and that term is apparently outdated; they call it selective mutism now. I’m not entirely certain what the difference might be, but I like to use the right words for things.)

Mama cooked a breakfast with no hog

I’ve talked about this before– my seventh hour class is absolutely my problem children this year, and rearranging about half of them at the semester break somehow made no real differences in the overall attitude and vibe of the class. Yesterday I introduced solving systems of equations with substitution, which frankly is one of the more difficult bits of mathematics they’re going to have to deal with this year, at least in terms of the number of steps involved. And they did a decent job! I’d been warning them in advance that it was going to be tricky and I needed everyone focused while I was going over it, and I more or less got what I needed from them.

Today my co-teacher and I split the group up, if only to keep the noise level down a bit, and I ended up sitting at a table with five of my boys for the majority of the class.

And the five of them spent probably about half an hour working through the assignment with me, with varying levels of teacherly assistance, and after maybe fifteen minutes I found myself wishing I was recording them. They were genuinely working together– not one of the five was waiting for the others to get the answer– discussing their ideas on how to solve problems productively and without arguing, explaining their thinking, and generally doing every single God damn thing I want my students to do when working through math that they find challenging.

Three of the five failed math at least one of the two quarters last semester, too, which made the whole thing even more amazing.

It was a damn good day today.

CALLING ALL TEACHERS: In which I need advice

Forgive the two posts back-to-back, but this place is my biggest megaphone and it didn’t seem appropriate to stick this onto the back of my previous post: teachers who may be reading this, have any of you ever had students who were elective mutes? Any suggestions or resources on how to work with them? She showed up while I was out, and I just met her today; apparently she hasn’t said a word to anyone in about two years. She doesn’t appear to have any learning disabilities, but in those few sentences I’ve told you literally everything I know about her. Anybody? This is a new one for me.

In which I have returned to work

I initially intended to go back to work Wednesday. Monday and Tuesday made it clear that there was simply too much still to be done, so I didn’t, and intended to go back to work yesterday. Yesterday I woke up, spent a few minutes staring at the ceiling, and went nope, and called in.

Today I woke up and it felt normal, more or less, so I went back. And, honestly, I had a really pleasant day, and it was the right decision. The kids, 70% of whom were perfectly aware of what had happened, were really sweet all day long, including a couple of them who are normally pains in my ass, and I got a weird rush of new students during the four days I was out and all of them seem like nice, smart kids.

So I’m glad I went back. Technically I could have taken one more day, and technically I suppose since my five bereavement days don’t have to be sequential I still could take one more day at some point I needed to, but I needed to be back at work today. If it had been a rough day things might have gone south quickly, and I made some … uh … emotionally questionable decisions during my lunch and prep period but there was no one around so it was okay.

(In general, if your mom was the type who left the exact same voicemail message every time she called– “Hi honey, it’s Mom, call me–” you should probably not spend fifteen minutes listening to every single saved voicemail you have hoping to find one where she said “I love you” at the end, because while you know your Mom loved you and she was the type to say it frequently, she was not the type to throw it into a four-second voicemail message, and you will end up emotional and disappointed at work, and that is a bad decision.)

Anyway. We will see how the weekend goes; I’m expecting posting around here to more or less return to normal in the near future as well, but I assume y’all will forgive me if I spend another few days quieter than normal. I got a good day today, though. That’s worth telling y’all about.