Thursday, May 08, 2003

Made it through the day. No children are dead.Tonight I broke two wine glasses while doing the dishes, but I gained a new refrigerator. Some loss, some gain.

Wednesday, May 07, 2003

If Disney had made a film about lemmings in the 21st century, they could have used footage of my students taking their 8th grade math exams. Talk about mindlessly leaping in droves headfirst off a cliff. Because of my ties to them, if only one or two had jumped off the cliff, I wouldn’t have a major problem. However, their mass lemming math suicide has the cumulative effect of dragging me with them. I’m a NYC Math Immersion Teaching Fellow, dagnabbit! I know it is my first year, but it was sickening to me to see how little of an entire year’s lessons penetrated their feverish little skulls.

It is so frustrating that we wasted a month’s worth of real lessons for the last two days’ debacle, even though I feel that the whole year was wasted. Tests have become the sole factor by which our schools are judged, so we are required to teach our kids ‘strategies’ to pass the test. Sure, over half the class couldn’t add 3.12 plus 5 correctly today, but I’m sure they’ll do great in life. My kids don’t understand how to add sales tax, how to apply a sales discount, and don’t even get me started on figuring out the area of a rectangle. I’m so gnarled up inside over these almost insurmountable problems, and the kids really don’t care. Even though I specifically have been using the test calculators for the last three months, one bubbly girl had to be shown how to turn on her calculator today. I’m starting to gnash my teeth unconsciously. Now that spring fever has struck, my most recent lesson for the 7th graders produced only one homework the next day. I don’t know why I’m trying to get them to do homework when I can’t even get them to bring papers and pencils to class. They have the newest Gameboy Advance, but they can’t afford pencils.

The Teaching Fellows program is a good program. They are a really good bandage on a massive hemorrhaging wound, bleeding out students and teachers alike. They have really tried to target the problems in the system. They are hiring teachers in record numbers, and I think they are maintaining a very high standard. One can argue that the education system has failed these students and their families for generations, but blaming everything except yourself doesn’t excuse a person from trying to learn. However one wants to place blame, the realities of my classroom involve fighting a pervasive culture of apathy. Until I saw my students taking the test today, I felt that I was helping in a few ways, but now I really feel crushed. I’m taking it really personally, running through endless failure scenarios. I’m not the respected teacher from Stand and Deliver, I’m not going to have a ceremony from Mr. Holland’s Opus. Hell, I’m not even the droning teacher from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. Somehow the movie superteachers slice open a damned apple and then in the next scene they’re doing calculus. My kids don’t care that they can’t read a clock, they just look at the time on their cellphones. I’m just a guy who will be judged by the scores of kids who never do ANY notes, class work, or homework. I have no idea how else to motivate them to think. Some of them are intelligent, but they just will not think. Why think? Why try? Why should I?

Supposedly next year will be better. That’s not going to help me for the next two months. I see loads of self-medication (alcohol).

Tuesday, May 06, 2003

It has been a long couple of weeks while my lovelies took their all-encompassing, all-important math tests. Tomorrow is the last day of the tests, so I wanted to give them (actually, me) a break. I gave them options for movies to watch tomorrow, one being X-Men. As I told them, some of them might want to watch the first film before watching the second film.

Next thing I know, one of my girls pulls a DVD bootleg copy of X2 out of her backpack. She bought it on Saturday. I don't want to shock anyone, but the movie premiered on Friday in the US. This copy has a nice looking jacket, a spiffy label on the actual DVD, and apparently is now available at Knickerbocker and Flushing. Chris thinks I have murky ethics (he'll argue this point, but it's my blog). I would just like to watch it again. We still might watch Shrek, but if the kids vote for some DVD that I didn't purchase, didn't know about, and didn't even notice, how would I know?

Sunday, May 04, 2003

Spring has definitely sprung, and I have Spring Fever. Change is in the air, and my Allegra apparently is not immune to it. It's like that irresistable itch in your nose before a sneeze. All of my other thought processes slow down in preparation for some violent expression of change.

I think it started with my trip to SF. Some ideas lofted out of various flowering ideas, lodged themselves in my mental sinuses, and it's irritating the hell out of my brain, germinating into this general dissatisfaction. The external symptoms are merely amusing. I want a new iPod. I want to paint the house. I'm desperate to wear shorts on my brilliant white chicken legs.

The internal reaction is more alarming. My focus, never exactly my best feature, has dwindled to the life span of a gnat. I want changes in my job, in my housing, in my location. I want to occupy small yet oil-rich nations. Things need to change.