Well, great, nice to see you too

I brought my dad Arby’s for lunch today, and while I was in the drive-thru the kid at the window checked my debit card and then announced that I had been her math teacher. I didn’t recognize her, both because it had legitimately been years since I’d seen her and, well, the mask— but she threw me for a loop with what she said next.

“Yeah, you hated me.”

She’d told me her name already, but I hadn’t been able to properly process it, and frankly in the moment I didn’t remember a damn thing about her– which actually means that there’s no chance that I actually did hate her, as I assure you I have forgotten none of those kids, and in fact they haunt my dreams still. And, honestly, it really bothers me that that was the first thing she thought to say to me– because regardless of whether I did hate her or not, her perception that I did is more than bad enough.

It’s several hours later now, and I’ve managed to put together who she is. And I didn’t hate her, but I suppose I can understand why she thought I did in the moment. She is, in fact, the cousin of one of the perhaps three students who I might use the word “hate” to describe my feelings about. And I don’t remember her being a big problem on her own, but her cousin (the “I got a baby by his brother” girl in this post, in fact) was an utter Goddamned nightmare and the cousin dragged this girl into her shit a lot. So she was around a fair amount for Angry Me, particularly since the two of them sat together on the bus a lot and the bus driver actually did hate both of them, to the degree where she put it in a referral once.

(These kids will never know how much time and energy I spent defending the two of them against this bus driver, by the way, at one point going over the driver’s head to central office about the way she treated them, but that’s a whole other story that I’m not telling right now.)

Anyway. I’m more or less over it by now, since I’ve managed to put together who she was, but the whole conversation had me fucked up all afternoon.

Just curious: how many of you had a teacher who you thought hated you at the time? Any that you thought hated you when you were in class with them but don’t think that any longer?

In which works are in progress

Still thrashing about trying to come up with a good name for the YouTube channel; there is now a temporary name and two streams up, both of which I’m slightly dissatisfied with for various reasons but I have Plans to fix that. That said, you should go there, and … smash? that subscribe button? I’m unsure of the proper verb. I think Subscribe buttons are smashed but I can’t be certain.

The bitmoji is probably temporary too, but I need some sort of temporary branding to go with my temporary channel name, so.

Why not just go with existing names? Well, I sort of want this (and probably my TikTok account as well, which is due for a rename) to be something I can cross-promote from here but still be something that isn’t a problem if my students discover it. I spent a moment thinking about just calling the channel Infinitefreetime Gaming, but I did an experimental Google on the phrase and it leads straight back here. Infinitegametime already exists and infiniteplaytime sounds like it’s something for small children. I could keep Luther Plays Games and just play it off as not wanting to use my real name– that is my grandfather’s name, after all, so it’s not as if I don’t have any connection to it– and so long as the word Siler doesn’t appear anywhere it ought to be fine. But I’d prefer a third choice. Possibly something making fun of my advanced age. Who the hell knows.

I spent six hours today in a Zoom meeting for my real job, which bounced back and forth between being useful and tedious depending on whether we were in breakout rooms with people from our school or listening to the presenters. Every alarm I have started going off early in the day, when one of the presenters called on someone to read the slide being displayed on the screen out loud, and then interrupted her after two sentences so that she could call on someone else to read more of it. I was not called on, but I hope y’all don’t think I’m bullshitting when I say that my mic and camera would have stayed off if I had been, and to hell with any social consequences. We’re adults. That shit borders on sin. I don’t know how the hell we’ve been conducting everygoddamnthing over Zoom for over a fucking year and people still think that kind of unbearable nonsense is the way to run a meeting.

I also got to put aside one of my projects for this summer; I’ve discovered that the earliest I can take my math test for my National Board certification is April, and as a lifelong procrastinator I’m sure as hell not going to start studying in June for a test I’m not taking for ten months. So that’s exciting. It gives me more time to plan for next year and work on other shit. It means when I do start studying I’ll have to do it during the school year, but something makes me think that’s not going to be all that much of a problem. We’ll see.

One down

I’ve said this before: I don’t know how to relax. I had my first day of Real Summer Break today, distinguished from the end of last week (which seems like a distant memory already) by the fact that my wife had to go back to work and the boy and I had to fend for ourselves all day. I don’t have a routine yet, or (much of) a plan for one, but I did spend some time this morning planning for next year and Sending Important Emails that I’ve been putting off.

Specifically, I’m putting together a list of 28 (seven per quarter) skills that I feel like my kids should have mastered before 8th grade– some of them, well before 8th grade– and which we’re going to be working on during one of the two class periods I’ll have with each of my kids next year. I’m experimenting with several things at once here that I don’t have a lot of experience with– heavy differentiation, complete with (maybe?) centers, where, in theory, the kids in the room could be working on as many as 8 or 9 different skills at once, since I’m going to have kids who can “pass” a standard almost immediately if they already know how to do it, as well as standards-based grading and much heavier skills tracking than I’ve used in previous years.

What I need is for this to actually work, and not collapse under the weight of discipline issues and the number of kids in the room who are going to try and choose to opt out of being educated at all. I’m worried that I’m going to spend the entire summer planning and then end up abandoning the whole thing by the middle of September.

(Thinks about something, throws an email at his boss)

I did some initial studying today, too, and some of the Important Emails that got Sent were trying to nail down exactly how this process of National Boardsing actually works; I had my plan provisionally approved by my coach, who doesn’t actually have to approve my plan, but it was nice that she did, but now I need to know what to do to actually, like, tell these people that I want to take their lil’ math test, and it would probably be useful for me to know when/how often that test is administered, too.

And then there’s all the other stuff. I got some organizing done in my office, mostly finished a bookbinding project I’ve been working on for a while, and did some light cleaning. Played some Returnal and discovered that suddenly I suck at it. Would have jumped in the pool, but it rained all day so I didn’t.

I need to get into a rhythm as quickly as I can, and I probably need to get into the habit of being showered and dressed as quickly as I typically was during the school year. I’m going to focus a bit more on the cleaning and organizing side of things tomorrow; we’ll see how well I do. Hopefully by the end of the week I’ll have my topics pulled together and can start organizing them by quarter and figuring out how this entire process is actually going to work.

Let’s go.

A serious question

When was the last time you had to do long division?

Let me take a second and define my terms here– by “do long division,” what I mean is that you had to solve a division problem that you were unable to do in your head, where a quick estimation wasn’t acceptable, and where calculators of any kind were not available– like, you actually had to take out a pen or pencil and a piece of paper and actually use the algorithm to work the problem out to get an answer. Bonus points if you weren’t able to end with a remainder and actually had to solve the division out to decimals.

It’s June, y’all

June first seems as appropriate a date as I’ll find to replace the Pride flag in front of the house with Pride II: The Repridening. The old one’s brown stripe had turned orange and the pink stripe had disappeared, and it had started to fray around the edges, and I figure if the thing is literally called a Pride flag I probably ought to care about its appearance. So: new flag! Yay!

Today was the third of the four Last Days of School, this one being the one where now all the kids have gone away. Tomorrow is a teacher record day, and if I’m at school past noon something has gone terribly wrong. Then I’m going to take a couple of days and do nothing but try to beat Returnal. After that, it’s time to start heavy-duty planning for next year and reteaching myself All of Mathematics.

I think I’m going to have to start doing stations next year, guys.

I have been thinking about two things lately: how to handle transitioning back into a two-class-period block, meaning I will have half as many students (good) but will have each of them for twice as long (which I have mixed feelings about.). My kids were already wildly behind, and over a year of quarantine has NOT helped. I got a look at this year’s ILEARN results for my kids, and while I’m going to spare you any sort of standardized testing rant right now, they weren’t good. They weren’t good at all. And regardless of how I feel about this particular method of assessing my kids, the simple fact is that there is no method of assessing my kids that doesn’t lead inescapably to the conclusion that they’re well behind other kids their age.

So I’m thinking right now that the way I’m going to handle my two class periods is that that first class period is going to be nothing but remediation. That’s going to look very different for different kids. Some of my kids are still struggling with basic operations; I have a handful who couldn’t multiply their way out of a paper bag. Others may just need extra time with 7th grade standards. There may even be some I can push past the 8th grade curriculum, although that won’t be many. The second class period is still going to be 8th grade standards, and I’ve still got thinking to do about how to do that given the things I learned this year, but that first period is going to be the focus of most of my attention.

The problem, of course, is that the kids are all over the place in terms of what they can do, and if I’m going to do this right I’m going to need to be pitching differently to all 70 or so of them. There are ways I am very good at differentiation and ways I am not good at it, and one thing I have never been able to manage properly is a room where 32 kids may be working on 8 different things. There are teachers who can do this beautifully; I am not one of them. This will have to change. (Frankly, given the emphasis that NBCT puts on differentiation, it had to anyway, so it’s useful that that’s dovetailing with something I need to do instructionally anyway.) So first I need to figure out what I’m going to do, and the next step is to figure out how to do it– and the how, of course, is very much the tougher part. And I’ve got to figure all that out. I need to hit the ground running next year to a degree that I never have before, and I need to run the year perfectly.

It’s gonna be a fun summer. But it’s going to have to wait until next week to start.