Thursday, January 29, 2009

Not Only Doves

I cried today. Just a little. Not so much that most people would notice, and maybe none of my students did. This was a hard day in many of my classes. My 3rd period holds my thorn in the flesh, a skinny kid with dreadlocks, perpetual animation, and profanity, disrespect and little volume control.
While I was in the assistant principal's office today with my little hellion, my 3rd period once again TPd the room, dumped all the garbage from the can onto my desk, and squirted lotion on the floor. But that's not why I cried.
I teach a History of Augusta class for 6th period. I explained to the students at the beginning of this semester that there are no Georgia Performance Standards for this class, so instead of just learning about Augusta history, I also want to take the opportunity to give them some skills they'll be able to use in other upper-level courses. Yesterday I told them to think of subjects they'd like to write an essay about today.
One of my students, let's call her Harriet, is a very sweet girl who told me a few days into the semester that she had some issues. I just got her Individual Education Plan yesterday. She cannot do more than very simple reading without constant supervision. In a class that at least once a week will entail reading a primary source and then answering questions or summarizing or even inventing new "facts", this means a lot of work for someone. Last Friday it was another student who assisted her much of the time (I gave him bonus points for peer tutoring since he couldn't receive the points for early completion).
When I spoke with Harriet's special education teacher yesterday, she discussed alternate assignments. I can print out all the notes I give, or most of them, so she can not fall behind in the notes. Today, I created an alternate "essay" for her by writing partial statements for her to complete: I am ____________. My parents are ____________________ and _________________. I was born in ___________ (date). And so forth.
Harriet completed all the statements, and expanded on my framework very nicely. She doesn't write very neatly, or spell well, but what she wrote I found unexpectedly thoughtful. She mentioned that people may take advantage of your sweetness. When I read down to "my favorite teacher is ___", Harriet had written in Miss Rogers, Mrs Johnson...and you.
Then I cried.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

With a Crash and a Bang

Buttress had fights resulting in 4 teachers and 1 public safety officer being assaulted Monday morning.

Yesterday afternoon, a firecracker was set off outside my door just after students began leaving for the day. About that time, pepper spray was let off in another part of the building.

Today: I woke before 4 AM. I got up about 4:40, did some exercises, graded some papers, and prepared for my day. The students have screwed up. They've been engaging in low intensity conflict and little cross-border incursions. Guess what: those days of friendly shots exchanged are over. This is war.

And I will win.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Friday, friday

My and obnoxious student is a junior who continually talks, wisecracks, and even sings during class. When I attempt to address his behavior, or ask him to step outside to talk with me, he becomes even louder as he protests and argues.

There is a coterie of loud and disruptive students who sit together in my 3rd period U.S. History class. Before I began today's lesson, I requested they keep the noise down, so I didn't have to separate them. After the I started my lesson, I addressed them again, asking them to keep quiet.

A few minutes later, I attempted to move my perpetually loudest student away from his clique. He instantly began protesting extremely loudly while also becoming disrespectful and he refused to comply. I pulled him out of the classroom, and took him to the nearby assistant principal's office and left him there while I went back to continue the lesson. A few minutes later, the student was at the door to tell me the AP was back, and wanted to see me. I excused myself, and went to the office. I explained the situation, and frustratedly ended up waiting at least 15 minutes before I was able to get back to my classroom. I was concerned about my students.

When I returned, I saw my fears were well-founded. The roll of toilet paper that was in the room for students with runny noses was strung across the top of the room, ending on my TV. The trashcan had been emptied on the desk, and lotion had been squirted onto the floor. The class silently, expectantly, watched me.

I flicked on the light. I pulled the tissue from the ceiling. I began removing the trash from my desk, and mopping lotion off the floor. Two or three students moved to help me. When I was finished, I apologized to those in the class who might want to learn, whose education had been stolen from them today.

And I was *not* happy. But hey- sometimes, you eat the bear. I have a feeling some of my students are about to hit one of life's extremely steep learning curves.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Tomorrow, tomorrow

Tomorrow is a historic day. It is one that I both welcome and dread. I welcome a country that accepts people regardless of the color of their skin, and I celebrate our first president "of color", annoying as I find that expression. At the same time, I am angered and frustrated that the color of a man or woman's skin means a damn thing, other than whether you personally find that shade attractive- rather like hair or eye color. I'm most often attracted to petite brunettes around 5'4", and skin color should mean about that darn much, no more important than whether you prefer blonde or redhead, blue, brown, or green eyes.

Our incoming president's politics will be considerably different, and some believe a combination of genes and politics will cause the skies to open and rain Skittles and fairies and unicorns will frolic, and all will be well as the Messiah reins. Others believe the earth will split and life as will know it will end for all eternity as the Antichrist makes himself known.

Brothers and sisters, neither one will happen. Our new president will make choices, choices that I hope will be good in general, but that will probably be on the other end of the political spectrum from what I believe works and is appropriately Constitutional. He will attempt to give away money that is not his, and take actions for which there is no Constitutional justification. He will attempt some defacto nationalization. But life will not suddenly become glorious, and no matter how stupid or mistaken he might be, he is only one man. If Franklin Delano Roosevelt couldn't kill the country in twelve years, Barack Hussein Obama II, the Chicago politician, certainly won't be able to. So, relax. And sleep well tonight. Tomorrow, after all, is just another day.

As you may have noticed...

I have added some favorite books to my sidebar, and moved my music box further down the page (Dire Straits is embedded, so check out this week's). These books can be taken as strongly suggested, if you haven't read them. I'll add more, but the ones already up are some of my very favorites.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Winning Losses

If I was a UFC fighter, I would expect to be in the 155-lb class. In the last few years, I have often been somewhat heavier than this, ranging up to 170 or so. I'm certain I have lost some muscle weight and am a bit dehydrated, both reducing my weight...but I never thought I'd see 150 lbs again. I haven't weighed this little since before I joined the Army in late 2001, and gained 9 lbs in Basic.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


After I made it back to Davis' place yesterday, we cooked dinner. Considering the sorry state of my bank account, I was going to cook oatmeal, but he reminded me that he had some chicken we could cook. Yay, meat!

We had unfortunately forgotten to thaw the chicken, so I made a marinade of red wine that had been in the Davis fridge for a looooong time, ginger, hot sauce, teriyaki sauce, red pepper, pepper-flavored vinegar, and pineapple juice. I poured the marinade into a glass pan, slid the chicken in, and thawed in the microwave. Once thawed, Davis used his electric grill on the tenderloins and cooked rotini while I made sauce with the marinade. I added pineapple chunks to the sauce, and used a little cooled marinade and flour to thicken the mixture. I also added some sesame seeds.

When the chicken was through grilling, we dumped it into the sauce for a few minutes, and then served the chicken and sauce over the rotini. Excellent!

I decided to take a nap a little after 7 PM. I thought I might sleep for an hour or so. Davis and I had a brief conversation much later. And I actually made myself get up after 5 this morning. I guess I needed it.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Reconstruction and You

I once thought poorly of Abraham Lincoln, believing the Civil War had been fought over states' rights. And states' rights lost. Once I studied the issue in depth, my perception of Lincoln as a leader and man changed dramatically.

The North did not fight the Civil War to combat slavery. They fought to keep the Union intact. The South did fight over states' rights - but the "right" in question was always slavery, and the Southern States seceded when Abraham Lincoln was elected president and the South feared losing its slaves. If you look at the Civil Rights struggle in the 1950s and 60s, you will see a reoccurence of this theme. Ergo, the Civil War was indeed fought over slavery.

When John Wilkes Booth used his derringer and bowie in Ford's Theater, he destroyed the best chance the South had for a productive reintegration with the Union. Under Andrew Johnson's leadership, the stage was set for a bitter battle among Radical Republicans, Johnson, and Southerners who would soon scapegoat blacks for the troubles in which they found themselves.

Quickly check your knowledge of this era with my study guide.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The First Week

I have completed my first week at Buttress as a new teacher. I have several challenges to overcome, including no longer having access to the digital projector I used last semester to display PowerPoint presentations. Another challenge is handling students accustomed to Mr. D's overly lax (for these unruly children) classroom management style.

After speaking to the media center, I have been assigned a TVator. This allows me to display presentations on my classroom tv. I can't use standard PowerPoints because of the smaller display size, but am still delighted to be able to use PowerPoints at all. It appears that size 48 font is large enough for everyone to see- I just have to use more slides per presentation. I am overjoyed to have this ability again, because it makes sharing good notes a lot simpler and more effective.

I started every class period of the first day by reading my classroom rules. Some of this first week has been rocky, but there have been some successes, as well. My Thursday 7th period class (33 students, 80% repeat for this subject) was the BEST behaved ever. Of course, I was giving a quiz, and repeatedly warned that I would deduct some or all points for talking...and mentioned I had already given 10 0s that day during 3rd and 4th period!

The really high point of every day is my 6th period, History of Augusta class. This is a single semester class, so I get to set the tone in this class, and I love it. I used the opportunity of our first quiz on Thursday to call about six parents, and advise that their child had just scored an A, and I just wanted to let them know...Not that it's all peaches and cream. I also "dropped" one student for bringing me bogus choices for a make-up assignment to find several movies that could tie in with people or groups who had lived in Augusta or the time period covered by the first two chapters. Sorry, The Day the Earth Stood Still, I am Legend, and Seven Pounds don't qualify at all. We'll see if I can find a way to generate the same kind of enjoyment and control in my other classes.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Jesus and Real Men

Yesterday I was driving down Peach Orchard Road after leaving Buttress. I stopped at a red light, noticing the red Jimmy in front had a "Real Men Love Jesus" bumper sticker.

I put the car in park.
I opened my door.
I got out and walked to the driver's side of the SUV, and rapped on the window. Startled, the male driver looked over. I motioned for him to roll his window down.
I pulled my sunglasses off.

"I don't especially love Jesus," I announced quietly. "Are you saying I'm not a real man?"
He looked a bit nervous.
"No, sir. That's just my belief."
"Okay." I stalked back to my car before the light changed.

I may be wound a bit too tightly these days.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Get Well Soon

Jordy's been sick since Friday. I played nursemaid for much of the past two days. She seemed very sick, but said she felt much better last night before she left with her friends around 11 to hit the club .

Here's Reggie and the Full Effect singing "Get Well Soon"... Here's to you, Jordy.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Gran Turino

Clint Eastwood has directed and starred in a masterpiece in Gran Turino. Eastwood plays Walter Kowalski, a Korean vet and recent widower. The curmudgeony Kowalski hates nearly everything and interacts poorly with the Hmong who are populating his neighborhood. Reclusive Kowalski begins to interact more with his neighbors after one of them attempts to steal his prized Gran Turino.

This movie sounds like a tiresome drama, but it's anything but. This is a dark movie that is also one of the funniest movies I've seen this year. Eastwood is perfect as Kowalski, angry and bitter, tough as any man can be, but human to the core. The plot is well written, and the characters are believable. Not every actor is perfect, but everything comes together well enough for me to rate this 4.5/5 stars. This is one of the best movies I've seen, and in a lifetime of well-played roles, this may be Eastwood's best portrayal ever.

Language and violence. If you can deal with those, go see this movie.