Monday, March 31, 2008

green(ville) with a smile

Thought I'd lend a hand and help a friend out:




Soulless Creatures,

Most likely, this letter finds you deep beneath the surface of the Earth, feasting on the rotting corpses of once fresh, amiable, and enthusiastic educators. You are a well-fed lot, and you should be proud of your efforts as they pertain to crushing the life-force from your hired help entrees. But this letter is neither a congratulatory tome or a light appetizer before another trip to the surface for food.

Don't bother resurfacing. My already withered and wizened body and spirit have suffered under your Morlock-ian administrative practices, and if you come looking for me, I'll be long gone. So what you're holding, what you're drooling on, is my official letter of resignation.

I could list, in any order you wish, the myriad of grievances, edicts, and choke-holds you brought upon me over the years, but I'm tired. And your literacy is questionable as most of your 'professional' correspondences border on email garble and surreptitious 'observations' from darkened corners of the hallway.

Education used to be my passion, my calling, my purpose, but you and your cabal transformed that word into my nightmare, my depression, and my helplessness.

But I will give you credit. You deftly isolated your staff, gussied them up with the veil of job security, and then chopped, chiseled, and quartered them one at a time until each succumbed or fled.

Consider my exodus the latter of the two results, but I flee from the scene with a greater sense of dignity and self-worth than you ever attempted to instill in your staff. My initial trepidation about an uncertain future will most assuredly wash away clean as the minutes away from your feeding ground grow greater and greater.

My altruistic (look it up, and no, it's not a viable food source) nature mourns for the others that stay behind, that lack the needed courage and fortitude to do as I am doing today. Should their minds feel the inexorable feeling of doom that pervades every molecule of your institution, then I'm hopeful that they will choose the course I take today.

And then they'll say, "Freedom is nothing but a chance to be better. " - Albert Camus

Sincerely,

Taylor the Teacher

Thursday, March 27, 2008

cart in front of horse, now what?

Interactive white boards now hang prominently in every classroom at my school. For some, they are a welcome addition. For others, they are a curious, slightly alienating device. And for one teacher, his board is, full sarcasm included, the tool that will, after 15 years, make him a good teacher.

Here's a multiple choice quiz. One question. Three choices, and each, like a Choose Your Own Adventure book, could impact your future.
You have just finished installing interactive white boards. You email those teachers who, upon returning from Spring Break, will have the boards in their rooms. You ask for a time to teach them how to use the board. One response does not give a date and time. This email is a nugget of sarcasm, attacking the technology as a substitute for quality teaching by stating that 'finally, I'll become a good teacher'.

What's your next move?

A) Attract more bees with honey than vinegar. Send a soothing email full of complimentary adjectives about this teacher (dedicated, standards-based, well-dressed). Affirm his underlying concerns. Say something like, "good teachers don't need any tools, just children to teach". Avoid a formal meeting date. Instead, conduct casual drop-ins. Bring sugar-free cookies.

B) Meet the teacher in his wheel-house - the Scantron machine. Ask for a clarification to the phrase, 'now I'll be a good teacher'. Say something like, "Funny, I always thought of myself as a good teacher long before any technology entered the classroom." Continue talking. "Gosh, it's funny how you use the computer in your class everyday. I wonder how you reacted when you got one of those. Or that overhead projector, you must've resisted that for quite some time. Almost a shame that you use it everyday." Finish with, "Maybe one day you'll teach me how to use the Scantron." Take your sugar-free cookies back.

C) Do nothing. No email. No confrontational meeting by the Scantron. Leave this teacher alone. Allow him to turn his students' seats ninety degrees to the other board. Mourn over his student's loss of equity and the selfishness of a omni-phobic teacher. Console yourself by eating sugar-laced cookies.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

a team of lisa's

Commentator: Welcome back to second half action. The Spartans, trailing by only three at halftime, now find themselves down by eight just five minutes into the second half.

Analyst: They just haven't found a way to play at the level that everyone thought they would coming in to this season. If they can't up their intensity and seriousness, they're going to find themselves in a massive uphill struggle.

Commentator: Spartans have lost the last five possessions, but here they are out a timeout with the ball and looking to cut into the lead. They move the ball from left to right at the top of the attack zone and oh! an unnecessary drop! But the opponent stays home, allowing the Spartans to regain possession, but she can't pick up the ball. Once. Twice. Three times. Finally she's able to pick up an uncontested ground ball.

Analyst: Those are the sort of mistakes that can haunt a team.

Commentator: Let's check in with our sideline reporter.

Sideline Reporter: Over here at the Spartan bench, coach Rodoff is livid with the players on his bench. It appears that one or more of the girls laughed at their teammate's inability to pick up that ground ball a moment ago. Let's take a listen...

Coach Rodoff: Who laughed at their own teammate? Who? Nobody goes in until someone admits to it. I can't put anyone out on that field if they're the kind of person who laughs at their teammates struggles. That's not team!

Analyst: Hey, sideline reporter? Do you have any idea who laughed?

Sideline Reporter: No, but it appears that the players know, but no one is coming forward. Wait a minute! It looks like someone is about to fess up, but now other players are asking 'why' and saying something along the lines of, 'but you didn't do it'.

Commentator: Well, while that's going on, the Spartans on the field are really beginning to turn a corner. Two good goals in the last three minutes and far better execution up and down the field. But they sure look tired.

Analyst: If this Spartan squad hopes to have a successful season, it will take more than goals and wins, it will require a team that is supportive of one another, especially in difficult times.

Sideline Reporter: Lisa has taken responsibility! Oh, and the coach just told her to sit down and that she's not playing. She's a freshman, a junior varsity player. But based on the reactions of the other girls, she's not the one who laughed. I can't believe that the responsible teammate would let her innocent teammate take that kind of punishment.

Analyst: Well, you're right about that. I wouldn't want any teammate that would watch another person on her team take that big of a hit and not have the integrity and responsibility to step up. But give Lisa a lot of credit. I'll take a team of Lisa's any day.

Commentator: So perhaps the Spartans are improving in more ways than one. There's a timeout on the field. Let's go down to our sideline reporter who's speaking with coach Rodoff.

Sideline Reporter: I hear that Lisa was not the girl who laughed. What do you have to say about that?

Coach Rodoff: I'll take a team of Lisa's any day. In the classroom. On the field. In life. I think we've just turned a massive corner.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

gastrointestinal management

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Mommy used to tell me. Daddy, on alternating weekends, would tell me. And a cuddly looking animated creature would reiterate my parent's claim on Saturday mornings.

But when I started teaching, breakfast became quite the gastrointestinal quagmire.

Bubble, grumble, rumble, bubble.

I couldn't leave the room. Returning would be insufferable; students laughing at the reality of my absence, especially since I wouldn't need to go all the way to the bathroom. I just needed a second, and one or two seconds out of the room would be easily deduced by my students.

But breakfast, yummy, yummy breakfast. I could not forgo my morning bacon-y, egg-y biscuit.

So it's Wednesday, early October in the second year of teaching, and I'm having a moment where I need one of those special seconds - alone and in an echo-free space. But I can't leave. I'm rooted to the room, unable and unwilling to leave because I don't want to let my students know that I do certain humanly things.

I needed to do something, say something, ultimately, release something.

"Everyone...stand up."

They stood up.

"Everyone, touch your toes."

They touched their toes.

"Everyone, lean to the left."

They were giggling, talking, leaning to their left.

"Everyone, lean to the right."

More giggling, more talking, leaning to their right.

'Ppppfffffttttt'

And from that moment on, stretching became an every-so-often activity.

Breakfast is, without a doubt, the most important meal of the day.

Monday, March 24, 2008

waist line

She’s twenty four, but parents, works, and attends evening school.
She’s forty seven, but keeps her home a bastion for her daughter and grandson.

She’s twenty four, and she ties off her arm with a leather belt.
She’s forty seven, and she takes the boy for wagon rides down the street.

She’s twenty four, and she sits in her bedroom shooting heroin.
She’s forty seven, and she takes the boy to daycare.

She’s twenty four, and blood is seeping through her shirt, at her elbow.
She’s forty seven, and she sees the blood and calls the police.

She’s going out, she says.
She’s hurting herself, she says.
There’s nothing we can do, the police say.

She’s bumping into the car in front of her.
She’s looking around her daughter’s room.

She’s losing control, heading into oncoming traffic.
She’s picking up a worn-out leather belt.

She’s plowing into another car.
She’s looking at her grandson.

She’s dead on impact.

He’s two, but he commands his monster truck with omnipotence.
He’s two, and he wields a baseball bat like a would-be major-leaguer.
He’s two, and he digs through his sandbox like an archaeologist.
He’s two, and he skip-jumps to the music.
He’s two, and his mother is dead.

She’s looking at her grandson.
She’s holding the belt.

pause

She’s looking at the belt.
She’s holding her grandson.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

should've listened

Snapshot mathematics:

3 cases of 48, 3oz bottles of formula = $234.00.

16 = number of bottles consumed in a 24hr. period by Morgan and Quinn, combined.

9 = number of days until all 3 cases are consumed.

9 DAYS!!!

My math teachers always said, "check your work".

Should've listened.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

camera boy one

See this guy:


















He takes photos with this camera:























Here's his first photograph of his sisters (with an adult hand operating as a tri-pod):

Saturday, March 8, 2008

tri-cuspid valve

1st Valve

They're beautiful.
Absolutely beautiful.

Is it you? Are you here?

We've waited.
Patiently.

But how did you know? I can't see you two.

We've been watching.
Observing.

And what do you think? Both of you, what do you think?

Beautiful family.
So much love.
I've been thinking about both of you. You know that, right?
We just want to see you happy.
So happy.
I've written about you before. Did you ever read it?
We knew without reading.
An emotional day.
You've missed so much. There are so many people I wish you could have met.
We haven't missed anything.
We'll meet everyone.
But, but...you're both gone. You passed away.
We just arrived.
Born yesterday.
Mom mom? Pop pop? Is it you? I can't see anything.
Morgan.
Quinn.
How?
We're family.
Part of the entirety.

We're your future.
We're your past.

We're your memories.
Yesterdays' and tomorrows'.

They love you, Daddy.
And they're in us.

All around us.
And in you.
2nd Valve

11:00 AM (Sat.) - I leave the hospital, having just introduced my two sons to their new sisters.

11:05 - My youngest son is fast asleep in his car seat.

11:08 - My oldest son (3!) says, “Daddy, I love my sisters”.

11:15 - Needing a moment to let that comment sink in, I pull off the road.

11:17 - Still off the road, I check your blog and I read this post.

11:20 - I realize I can’t write a post on my blog about my children b/c I can not write as well. And I’m okay with that.

11:22 - Back on the road.

11:33 - Pull up to my friend’s house for lunch. I park, look in the rear view mirror, stare at my sons, one crooked and fast asleep, the other staring at the new race car toy his sisters gave him.

11:34 - I’m crying. Absolutely sobbing. I think I’m having the best day of my life.

Thanks for being a part of it.

This. Is. The power of networking.

And friendship.

3rd Valve

Nothing without her.

I love you.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

class, thankfully non-existent

Hey, do you remember that class you took in college?

The one that taught classroom management by having students teach lessons while classmates role-played possible student behaviors?

One week, I was the kid with Oppositional Defiant Disorder. I'd curse with alacrity. All passive aggressive and slouch-y. Call on me. There's no way you'd ever connect with me. Talk to me in front of the class. Use humor. Keep me after the bell. Your own personal triumvirate of management failure.

Another week, I'd emulate the Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder. I'd talk out of turn. I'd lose focus. I'd tap something incessantly. Is it real? Am I bored? Maybe you'd give me the first three minutes of class. The middle three. The last three. Unpack your euphemisms at IEP meetings: Energetic, easily distracted, difficulty focusing on tasks, needs frequent breaks. I'm all about pushing your patience and expanding your spin campaign.

The last week, I dug deep and uncovered a part I hadn't played in years: the latch-key son of a divorced family. I'd do my work. I'd raise my hand. I'd listen, but would never look directly at you. I'd fear attention. I'd temporize and sweat when called on to participate. I'd say 'please', 'thank you', and I'd think 'help me', 'who's looking at me?', 'I want out'. You'd wish you had more kids like me.

So, do you remember that class?

Psst...no such class existed.

If you want to play a part, play your part - the part that affords you the opportunity to manage your square space with efficiency. You'll have to try on some different roles. You'll find yourself soliloquizing and monologuing and carping on separate and different occasions.

But if you think asking for answers about classroom management leads to results, think back to that non-existent class from college.

Maybe, just maybe, our education programs do know something.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

everyone, back to the cave

Thousands of years ago, people put their stories on walls:


Today, people still use walls:


But the stories have vanished.

All the talk about PowerPoint reform, and...