Thursday, September 30, 2010

It's like, you know.

I love this YouTube clip from Taylor Mali. First of all, it's HYSTERICAL, and I also think it's very powerful, especially toward the end.

In case you can't open the page, my favorite part is goes like this:

"We've gotten to the point where we're the most aggressively inarticulate generation to come along since . . .  you know, a long time ago!

So I implore you, I entreat you, and I challenge you: To speak with conviction. 
To say what you believe in a manner that bespeaks the determination with which you believe it. Because contrary to the wisdom of the bumper sticker, it is not enough these days to simply QUESTION AUTHORITY. You gotta to speak with it, too."

I've decided to make tomorrow "Free Speech Friday." Wish me luck.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Back to School Night

Everyone knows that there are only two things in this life that are certain -- death and taxes. Only slightly less well-known is this certainty: regardless of the weather for the rest of the week, Back-to-School Night will always be 95 degrees and humid.  You know, because I'm not disgusting enough by the end of the day... let's throw in some more heat and humidity, and then stick around the building until 9 pm for added flavor. Yipee.

Honestly, I don't mind BTSN. I get to see some of the parents that I like, chat with the students who are on hallway navigation patrol, and I get to eat dinner with some of my teacher friends instead of running out the door at 3:15 every day. It's really not as bad as a lot of people make it out to be, and it's ONE NIGHT out of the year. I can deal.

Anyway, the reason I bring up BTSN is to tell you a little story about a parent that I met. In between the 10-minute periods, I would hang outside my classroom to see if anyone needed help finding a room. This is an actual exchange that took place.

Me (to a parent who is wandering aimlessly up and down a six-foot stretch of hallway outside my room): Can I help you find something?

Parent: Yes, I'm looking for my son's English class.

Me: Ok, what room is his class in?

Parent: I don't know.

Me: Um... who is his teacher?

Parent (getting flustered; clearly I am asking too many questions and not being helpful enough): Ugh. I don't know his teacher's name. My son is Steven.

[What I want to say here is "Steven? Who the hell is Steven? Do you know how many Stevens we have in this school? There are EIGHT HUNDRED AND FIFTY KIDS HERE. I have no idea who your son is, let alone what English class he's in." But I don't say that. Instead, I smile and try to get some more information.]

Me: What grade is he in?

Parent (rolling her eyes because I don't know who her stupid kid is): Ninth grade. He's in Honors English.

[She says "honors" like I'm supposed to be impressed. I refrain from asking her if her son is so gifted then why couldn't he print out a copy of his schedule like the other eight hundred and forty-nine students did for their parents?]

Me: Ok, well if he's in ninth grade then he either has Miss Smith, who is in room 23, or Mrs. Johns, who is in room 8.

Parent (pulling a piece of paper out of her purse): Well I don't know the room numbers but he drew me this map.

[I am not an artist. I am not a cartographer. But if this paper qualifies as a "map," then I am the Easter Bunny. All I see are scribbles and arrows. I pity this kid's English teacher.]

Me: Hm......

Parent: Oh THAT'S where the gym is. I have the map turned around.

[Keep in mind the gym is less than 10 yards away from my classroom door, so I'm not sure how she missed it. She turns the "map" right side up and abruptly walks off in the direction of Miss Smith's room.]

Me (under my breath): You're welcome.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

"I'm bad with dates."

I love history. I majored in history in college, I teach the subject now, and I watch an embarrassing amount of educational/historical programming in my free time. The one thing I do NOT like about history is memorizing dates. Yes, of course, dates are important, and you should at least have an idea of when things happened. You should know that, say, Pearl Harbor happened before D-Day, which happened before V-E Day. Extra credit if you know that V-J Day came after V-E Day, and my undying love and affection if you can name the actual dates for all of the above (I'm looking at you, Chuck M.). 

Anyway, my point is that with the exception of a few key dates -- December 7, 1941, for example -- I generally do not require my kids to memorize dates or specific years. I think that the really important (and interesting!) stuff in history is so much bigger than that. Knowing that the Battle of Hastings took place in 1066 does not make you a better person than the guy sitting next to you, and it certainly does not make you more popular at cocktail parties. I found that last one out the hard way. Long story...

But like I said, having an idea of when things happened -- during this decade, before this, but after that -- is kind of, like, you know, IMPORTANT. I was setting up my classroom today and thinking about all of that, and I remembered an exchange that took place way back in June, just before school let out. I was talking to a student who would be in my 11th grade US History class this year. This is the actual conversation that took place. 

Student: Um, Mizz B*, I am bad with dates, so maybe you can clear this up for me.
Me: (Big smile! I love talking history!) Sure! What's the question?
Student: So, when you say that next year's course will start in the 1890s, that's around the beginning of the Civil War, correct?
Me: (Pause.) Uh, close, but not quite. The Civil War was the 1860s. We're going to start with the rise of cities, industrialization, immigration, that sort of thing. Really exciting stuff!
Student: Oh, I see. And when you say that we will end in the 1970s, that's kind of like, World War II, right?
Me: .......

How could I NOT be excited for school to start next week when this is what I have walking into my classroom??? Yay September!

* Students in our school apparently have great difficulty differentiating between "Miss," "Ms." and "Mrs.". Rather than try to, you know learn the difference between the three, they just call everyone "Mizz," much to the dismay of some of the female teachers who prefer one title over another. To be honest, I don't really care... I figure there are much worse things they could be calling me.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Now we can be friends!

Facebook can be a scary, scary thing for teachers. Last year, I made the mistake of telling my 11th graders that once they graduated, they could friend me on Facebook. Mind you, I never had anything I needed to hide from them, I just didn't think it was appropriate for us to be "friends" while they were still in the high school building. However, my staunch refusal to accept requests until the day they strolled across the graduation stage and snatched their diplomas made them think that I had some fascinating stuff posted on my profile. I can only imagine what they were picturing in their little heads.

Anyway, they moved from my class on to their senior year, and I kind of hoped that they had all forgotten about it. Boy, was I wrong. It wasn't two days after graduation before the requests started rolling in. Some of them were not surprising... I had become quite close with a lot of the students in that class. Other requests were kind of a shock, because some of them hadn't said more than three words to me in the two years that we had known each other, and one of them I had even turned down for a college letter of recommendation because I genuinely wouldn't be able to say anything positive about his work ethic. Nice kid and all, but... well.

I don't mean to make myself sound more popular or cooler than I really am (because I'm not), but apparently these kids were really interested in my life. I got all of these messages from them asking where they could find the pictures of me shotgunning beers and smoking joints. Listen, kids, you're not going to find those pictures because they do not exist. I don't know where you got the idea that I am a wild party animal, but you are sadly mistaken. I go home, do some work, cook and eat dinner with The Mister, have a glass of wine and usually pass out around 10. I do not throw raging keg parties, I do not perform ritual animal sacrifices, and my drug of choice is caffeine (in the form of coffee and sometimes chocolate). I don't know why you didn't believe me all those times I told you, "I am not cool."