Monday, January 08, 2007


where did it go? / the One!
one big dream we don't give up/

steel-eyed through the pressure drop
-Strike Anywhere

I limped back into school, 5:50 in the pitch-black morning, dragging, dragging like that most jaded of cubicle dwellers, and preceded to just suck for the entire (thankfully shortened) week. And yeah, there are a lot of pots that need stirring, a lot of strands in the Duder's head, but there's no excuse for this kind of behavior, mopey and disengaged, reminded of my buddy [Victory]'s fervent desire to bring a series of index cards to a high school reunion with preprinted answers to the questions he knew he'd be asked. Except I want recordings of myself saying shit like: "computer columns, put your fluency books and folders away," "make sure you have a complete heading on this," "sentences start with capital letters." I'll press play and sit behind my desk with my head down. It's never been like this before.

I don't want to write about merit pay.
I don't want to write about the creep of the privatizing Visigoths.
I don't want to write about the inevitable let-down of the basketball season.

I think we're all slogging a little, all of us at school, trying to dig deep, dredge the bottom of this well. It's like everyday is July 3, 1964, mid-afternoon, the day after the Civil Rights Act was signed, and we've awaken with hang-overs the size of battleships, thick-tongued and gravel-throated, maybe next to a dance partner we didn't exactly arrive with, and all the violent passion of the previous days is draining down and away, and you look around and (endlessly) wonder, fuck man, now what?

At a recent gathering, a friend said: "I don't care what's new, I don't want to find the things I should be doing, I don't have the energy to make the changes I need to make, the kids are annoying the piss outta me, so it's time to leave." And let's all raise a glass to the integrity in that, in the understanding that it's just fine to mail it in when you're pre-approving folks for a new Discover card, but damn near criminal when you're teaching where we teach, with the kids who so fundamentally need us to rise about the job description outlined in your collective bargaining agreement. When she said that, I think I muttered "no shit" and the whole room looked at me: "You too?"

I don't know.

I told the POY I needed a new assignment, not the on-grade level kids necessarily, not the ones who'll do whatever I say and then ask if they can wash my car and go buy me Jamba Juice, but maybe some kids whose classroom existence alters the vast input vs. output imbalance just a little. Maybe some barely there Basic kids, and I'll make sure every one is proficient and redesignated by the end of the year. They don't need to utilize fluent English, or know how to write, or really know anything at all, but maybe they could possess a little bit longer runway for the skills I'm trying to land on their brains. Because I keep cracking my skull on all the crash-landings and aborted take-offs, and it hurts.

Today we worked on this High Point A passage for 12 minutes.
DAISY: Oh, look! There's a sign on that post! Let's go
see what it says.

I just wanted to know what Daisy saw, and why she and Edith were leaving the store. That's all. That's it. Twelve minutes, I swear to God, excluding the time it took to project a googled image of a lamp-post. Twelve minutes. We didn't even get to the part where we predict what the sign might say, based on the context provided by the previous two pages of text.

And the email says, we know you are doing great things to drive student achievement.
And the email says, this illustrates examples of exemplary writing.
And the email says, you truly inspired me in Tucson.
And the email says, you can dramatically impact student outcomes as the Director of various teacher-training programs in Oakland.


Anonymous mrc said...

Wow, wow... big changes on the horizon? Me too. Maybe.

Man, I sucked it up last week too. Seriously, I was looking at email during the school day. And that's how you know it's bad. Disengagement is criminal, I agree, and I certainly felt guilty last week. But I came back in today, made some tea, and let the caffeine carry me back into action. What else is there to do?

9:08 PM  
Anonymous Jeri said...

I wish I knew just the right thing to say to you. But I think maybe the answer is found in anarchic comic movies of yesteryear. Or maybe intense physical sensations.

Or some really, really cold weather.

Or a surprise win that's becasue that kid who's been so apathetic about practice this month showed up to play.

And I can't really deliver any of those things.

11:25 PM  
Anonymous pseudostoops said...

oy. even when you're dragging you write kind of amazingly, though.

7:10 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

charity begins at home....
you can't help others if you need help yourself...

cliche, but true...

that old dude in Oakland

12:24 PM  
Blogger Hallie said...

I noticed last week a lot of teachers in my building were down in the dumps too. There was like a collective disillusionment where we were all hating our jobs, the kids, the work, the level of thanklessness that goes along with it. Just everything. This week we have all seemed to snap out of it.

Today I saw a kid who has been truant much of the year for the second day in a row. And he had his homework. It's the little things for sure that keep me going through my first year.

2:11 PM  
Blogger Reg Adkins said...

Maybe it's time for a change. I know you hate to hear but after twenty years in the trenches I had to take a promotion to the central office and start training the new troops. Hey, it may not be the front lines anymore but remember what it was like when you were fresh our of college and tossed in to sink or swim? Wouldn't it have been nice if some of your training came from central office staff who'd actually been in your place and cared if you made it? Think about it.

4:05 AM  
Anonymous Karoli said...

I came to your blog via LizDitz after a particularly trying parent meeting last night at my son's high school. It was trying because a young, new, enthusiastic, talented 22-year old teacher is being ground into dust by a small group of critical, controlling, antagonistic parents and it's too painful to watch.

Reading your blog reminded me of how much energy and dedication it takes to teach at all, much less in an environment with parent clashes, an utter lack of administrative support, and horrible parents.

Thanks for the reminder to me to make a point of doing something to make her day better.


12:48 PM  
Anonymous VA Teacher said...

I felt I should bring this latest educational debaucle out of Virginia to your attention. The Chesterfield County School Board voted unanimously to fire an art teacher because of the art he produced. It's too sad but teachers across the country can to do something.

6:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh no...

please don't allow your current melancholy to turn you into a human booty brush! please... I know it's the bay area and all... but I just don't know if I ever want to come across some of your booty art on U tube...

then again, if you do, I'm sure the OCTC will recruit the begesus out of you :P

7:51 PM  
Blogger leyla said...

maybe you should start teaching at an SF school. the commute, and these hours that you are maintaining, are sure to contribute to the madness.

imagine teaching at an SF school with a similar demographic and with students who need just as much help. . . and you can live just miles away.

or walk to work.

8:14 PM  
Blogger Caroline said...

As an SFUSD parent (Aptos and SOTA), I second Leyla's comment! We have middle schools! We have English-language learners! We have kids in need! And they need you too.

10:21 PM  
Blogger Mister Falker said...

This is amazing - thank you for your (brutal) honesty. It inspired me - much like all your writing does.

I've posted a response on my own blog:

I'm curious how you're feeling now?

Keep up the good work.


4:07 AM  
Anonymous Dan Meyer said...

Look I don't know you, man, but I'll call your bluff: you aren't leaving those kids.

I don't know you but I know that a fella with your preternatural understanding of society's most picked-last kids is also cursed with self-awareness. You know how effective you are and, further belying your feint at throwing , you know how ineffective your colleagues are at the same task.

I'm glad you've got your 'blog and perhaps a cold bottle to turn to right now. Be further encouraged that you haven't fooled me. You're too good at your job to leave. Whoops, right?

4:19 PM  
Blogger TMAO said...


Yeah, the commute sucks ass, but I gotta feel that particular negative is balanced by the positive of the quality of my staff, the culture of school community, and the POY. That, and I can't afford the pay cut. Unless the salary schedule has changed substantial since last I checked, we're talking maybe $10,000 - $20,000 less to teach in San Francisco.

10:49 AM  

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