Thursday, March 02, 2006

Pass Along

Holy crap.
I'm not even going into this tonight.
Tomorrow you'll get the whole story about PTCs and more.
Overview? Not so good. My school LOVES me.
That's all I got tonight.
Let's just say, the anticipation or the build up will be good for you....
Oh, and I'm proud of you, Greta....Yup.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

Teachers Never Die...They Just Go To Home Depot.

The school I work at is preparing to perform West Side Story. Not my favorite musical, but not my choice. Moving on....
I am attempting to fix the steps the actors and actresses will be using to get up to the scaffolding (there is a balcony in the show, you know. It's essentially a musical version of Romeo and Juliet).
So, in order to save money, I had to go and pick up the wood. For those of you who have never done it before, it's $59 for any delivery. I was only getting some boards and a sheet of plywood.
So, I start talking to the guy behind the contractor's desk about getting the wood together.
"Where's this going?" he asks.
I tell him the name of my school.
"Oh...what for?"
I tell him about the show.
"So are you a teacher?"
"Yes," I reply.
"What do you teach?"
At this point I start feeling that little pang of frustration you get when a person is bored and trying to learn your life story.
"I'm an English teacher."
"Really? I used to be an English teacher in Farmington."
It's at this point that my jaw must have gone slack, because he next asks me:
"Are you ok?"
"Yeah," I reply. "Just shocked. How did you go from teaching"
"I got sick of the politics. I loved the kids, but I hated everyone else. There was a day.... A student tried to hit me....I...responded in kind by throwing him up on the wall. I was protecting myself. The principal disagreed. It was crap."
I listened to him for ten minutes talking about all the reasons why he left. I felt like a priest taking confession.
"Let me ask you a question," he said to me finally. I felt like an idiot standing there with all of my lumber.
"Go ahead," I put forward.
"Do you like teaching?"
"Yes. I like working with the kids. Even when I want to put a head through a wall, I would take working with these kids over working with man-children any day."
"That will change."
Such negativity.
He continued.
"I no longer miss the classroom. This (he indicates the store) is easier to deal with on a daily basis."
I start to go.
"I'm not the only one here who's a former teacher."
He indicates three other people standing together.
"Ted and Rhett used to teach in Bloomington. Sheryl (or maybe it was Cheryl, I didn't see her apron) was a teacher in Apple Valley. All three left for the same reason I did. Too much politics, not enough autonomy in the classroom." (The fact he used autonomy shows me he was an English teacher.)
While packing my car with the lumber I had just bought, I started to wonder: "Is this my future?"
Will I end up leaving teaching at some point, disillusioned by everything, and working behind a counter at a home improvement store?
"Light bulbs? Aisle four. Shattered dreams and burnouts? Those of us who work here."
I don't know.
I love teaching.
A colleague of mine always says, "The hardest part of the other teachers. Not the students, but your colleagues."
I don't know where I'm going with this, but the shock of talking to the guy at Home Desperate really got me thinking about my future.
PTCs are tomorrow. Huzzah.
Oh, and Greta? Congrats. Yahk-ob (as I call him) is a nice boy.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Different Day, Same Problem

PTCs are on Thursday night. For those not in the know, those are Parent/Teacher Conferences. These are lovely little meetings that usually go in only a few different ways:
1. The parent does not show (More often then not, this is the case).
2. The parent sees the high grade and praises the student.
3. The parent sees the low grade and blames the teacher.
4. The parent sees the grade and begins yelling at the student AND the teacher (happens more often than you think).
5. The parent feigns interest and then hits on the teacher.

I'm not going to lie to you. I do not like PTC time. I have over a hundred some-odd students in my classes. So, how many parents do you think are signed up to meet with me?
That's right, 8.
Now, here's the other part of it:
Inevitably, you will have to see the parents of students who DON'T need it.
In my case, 7 out of the 8 students whose parents have signed up have between an A and a B. That means that 1 parent of a student not getting a high grade is coming (that student is getting a C).
Will parents not signed up come? Some might, but I can tell you this already:
I will be sitting at my little table for over an hour with not a single student or parent coming by to see me.
Why is it that the kids who REALLY need to have their parents there never get it? Why is it when you call a parent about it, they freak out?
I don't think I have ever partaken in PTCs without some sort of drama.
While I was student teaching, my supervising teacher sat next to me. He was teaching one of the classes (I couldn't yet as it was an advanced IB class), but the parent never looked at him once. They kept their eyes and asked their questions to me.
Another time I had a parent ask me if I was available to "get a drink." I just said, "I'm sorry, when this is over, I need to get home to my WIFE." Good times.
It's no wonder that the average teacher's lifespan is ten years shorter than the national average.
8 students signed up, and only one really needing to have parents there.
It almost makes me feel useless.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Mail Mondays (02/27/06)

Tomorrow is the last day of February. You know what the means, folks? It's almost Spring. That's right, earlier sunrises, warmer temps, and puppy love (damn Freshmen).
On another note, we have parent/teacher conferences on Thursday night. Already? Really, Virginia? Damn...that seems quick.
Well, let's get to the mail.
How dare you insult the men and women of the United States Olympic team! How dare you rail against the United States! You call Americans selfish, yet at least these men and women are representing their country. What have you ever done?
If you didn't feel the Olympic Spirit, that's because you don't understand the American Way, not because the athletes didn't.
Angry American Man

Dear AAM,
The "What have you ever done?" questions seems to be the big one being mailed to me. Have I ever been an Olympic representative for this country? No.
Look, there were positive stories at this Olympics as well as negative ones (just wait for Bud Greenspan's next Sixteen Days of Glory doc), but let's be honest, the negative outweighed the positive. Sasha Cohen won the silver, which is amazing, but she also stumbled from the gold.
Joey Cheek won gold and silver medals and donated his money, but then we have Shani Davis and Chad Hedrick acting like idiots.
We had Lindsey Jacobellis fall just inches from winning the gold, and when asked about it, she lied at first about trying to be a hot dog. On the flipside, we had Lindsey Kildow who took a horrendous fall, but came back to at least try.
Don't even get me started on the Men's Hockey team. They were embarrassing. There's no saving grace there.
Americans are selfish. The Italian who won the final medal dedicated it to his sister and talked about sharing it with his team and his countrymen.
The Americans? Well, they talked endoresements. They talked about using the medal to pick up chicks. Period.
Yes, it was the best showing outside for medals outside of the United States, but so what? Will you remember that Joey Cheek won gold, or will you remember the bickering and the failures? Whose name comes to your mind first: Bode Miller or Julia Mancuso?
If you mentioned Miller, then you remember the blustering and the failure.
If you mentioned Mancuso, you're probably not telling the truth.
Am I cynical? Oh hell yeah. For the Europeans, the Olympics are given a Super Bowl like atmosphere. I remember being in London during the '84 Olympics. Daley Thompson, the British decathlete was cheered for by EVERYONE. It was like a fever. Even though the games were in Los Angeles, I bet most people cannot name the American decathlete who competed against him.
We don't get that way here. It's the same thing with the World Cup. Millions upon millions tuned in to watch the brackets being drawn. It would be like every single person in America tuning in to see the NCAA Tournament Brackets being made. Not going to happen folks.
If I seem selfish, I'm not sorry. This isn't me being selfish, it's me calling it like I see it, and it isn't positive.
The bottom line: the American Way no longer really exists. It used be about determination, responsibility, and understanding. All three of those are missing now.
Why is that "certain parts" of your blog are now missing?
Citizen X

I have no comment.
What's your take on the lotto winners?
A reader in Nebraska

Wow, you must be bored if you're reading me in Nebraska.
Umm, well. I wish them luck. I heard that somewhere around 70% of the people who win the lottery go on to be bankrupt or have incredibly difficult lives. There's a reason that the saying goes, "Money is the root of all evil." The green-eyed monster usually rears its head around the Benjamins, as it were.
There was a woman who won the lottery here in Minnesota. Now she's in jail.
The guy who won in, where was it, Arkansas, lost a ton of money, and his granddaughter died.
Look, most people win the money and don't realize they're in a higher tax bracket. They then spend the money like crazy and when tax time comes around, they're in trouble.
The best thing you can do if you win the lottery (and this is if you win a bunch of money) is get a good lawyer and a financial advisor before coming forward. Seriously. I know if I ever win, that's what I'm doing.
However, I don't think I ever will win. Why? Well, beyond the astronomical odds, I don't play the lottery. It's almost like flushing money. It's a form of gambling with worse odds than Blackjack. I'd rather save my cash and keep working. Why? Well, if I stopped working, I would probably go insane.
So there you go. That's my take on the lottery winners. I wish them the best of luck and hope they're smart.
So that's it for mail tonight. I hope you're all doing well.
Oh, and have only 26 hours left to do your thing.
Best of luck.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Ramblings for the Evening (02/26/06)

So here I sit having finished my grading...more or less. There are some parts of my classes that I cannot add until after tomorrow (luckily grades are due on Tuesday).
With my wife out of town again (let me tell you's a lonesome old town when she's not around), I'm just sitting here, having a glass of wine (If you MUST know, it's a Fieldstone Merlot), listening to some calming music (Songs of the Auvergne), and writing.
There's slim pickings tonight as I had to shun the outside world in order to get my students' grades together (yes, I did have everything together in my gradebook, but I had to get it all online).
So, without further ado: SKIIINNNNEER!
Random Sightings:
Ok, my wife made me relax on Friday night, and we watched a few of the television shows that we recorded during the week (I do not want to use Tivo as a verb because the CEO of the company says he doesn't want it used that way). One show that we watch is
24. Is it as good as when it first started? No, but it's still great at making me bite my nails...occasionally. So, we're watching the show, but of course fast-forwarding through the commercials, when we see John McCain. That's right, Senator John McCain had a walk-on role on 24. His role? A lowly intern who delivers papers to another character. It's a blink and he's gone role.
This is a double-edged sword, as it were. On the one hand, it's kind of cool to see McCain. I really did say (out loud, I must admit), "Holy Hannah, that's John McCain." Then, I hit the rewind button (DVR...very cool). Now, the problem here, however, is that I found myself wondering, "how the hell does he have the TIME to go and do this?" Whenever I see someone in politics on a show or in a movie, I wonder when they find the time. Maybe I'm just naive about how politics works, but aren't these men and women on call almost 24/7/365? James Carville, who is supposed to be helping the Democrats win back some power, seems to have the time to appear in numerous films. Jesse Ventura, while governor of Minnesota, seemed to find time to work as a referee and film a few films. I could go on and on. Still, it was cool to see McCain.
Other sightings?
-Random as it may be, I ran into a girl I went to college with over the weekend. I'm at Home Depot buying some paint (I need to re-paint the guest room of my house) and I get hit from behind with a cart. It seems the driver was not paying attention. As I turn to begin a verbal lashing, I pause because this person seems REALLY familiar. Turns out she is. We had a few classes together in college. After a few "oh my, you seem familiar...oh sure we were in these classes together" moments, she tells me all about her life since college. It was not a happy story. Divorce, restraining orders, having to move twice because psycho ex-husband wants the kids...etc, etc. I feel bad just hearing this stuff. Why? Because my life is not so crazy. There were a few moments of guilt on my part, but I managed to quash them.
-A former student of mine accidentally walked into my class looking for another teacher. It was great to see her. She's currently in college and told me I really helped her. I needed that. The only downside? I allowed my freshman class to talk to her about questions they might have, and instead of asking about what they need to do to be successful, they asked about the "crackin' parties." (This from a little white boy). Another kid attempted to hit on her (Again, he's a freshman in high school....She's a freshman in college. Major differences in maturity). All I can say is que idioto. Still, it was great to see her, and she made my day.
The Camera Crew:
I was unable to go and join the crew
Margaret put together to point and shoot around town. My wife and I were indisposed at the time. A buddy of mine, however, said he saw them at the Basilica (I think he's full of it, but he SWEARS he saw them. He's also slightly stalking Margaret, but that's another story...which reminds me...where's my bat?) during their break. If I could have, I really think I would have dressed up as a homeless guy, waited across from the Starbucks, and taken some more photos for Slander A La Leab. (I mean, I could always use MORE legal trouble, right?)
Spring will come, they'll do it again. Then I can go.
and finally,
The Olympics End:
Does anyone really care? Seriously.
What happened? When I was a kid, I used to LOVE watching the Olympics. There was something almost magical about it. These people were our emissaries, the very representation of what was supposed to make our country so great. Now? Not so much. If you go by these Olympics, then our country looks quite stupid. We get Bode Miller. A man who shoots his mouth off about skiing drunk, has a ton of Nike commercials talking about how great he is, then he does NOTHING. Not a single medal.
We get Lindsey Jacobellis who shows off at the finish line...and FALLS DOWN. She finishes second.
We get Shani Davis and Chad Hedrick. Teammates who openly and publicly feud with each other. Never mind that you represent the UNITED States of America. Never mind that you are on the same team. No, you can bitch and use the media. That's the American way!
And, my favorite, you get the American hockey team playing badly, then blaming it on everyone else but themselves. Mike Modano, a staple of the team, blamed it on the fact that the players' families were taken care of very well. Huh?
Look, once upon a time, it was an honor to be chosen as an Olympian. It was huge. Yet, it really seems that this year's athletes carried more about their possible endorsements instead of actually showing why they are the pride of America.
Was everyone this way? No. Look at Joey Cheek who donated his medal bonus to charity. That's great.
Except for his stupid feud, Shani Davis did something never seen before in Olympic history: A black man winning a gold medal in the Winter Olympics. That's huge.
In the end, however, the athletes I mentioned are the perfect representation of our current ways:
We talk big, but are unable to back it up.
We screw up at the last minute by not taking it seriously.
We remain individuals instead of teammates.
We don't take responsibility and blame it on others when we fail.
Maybe I'm being too harsh, but I really feel the spirit like I usually do. In '96, '98, 2000, and even 2002, I was pumped for the Olympics, and I saw these Olympians represent our country with dignity.
I didn't feel it this year.
Then again, what do I know? I'm not an Olympian, and I don't have a medal to use to try and "pick up chicks." I could be wrong.