Friday, October 06, 2006

Ramblings for the Evening (10/06/06)

The end of a long week.
Let's get to it.
So, without further ado: WIIIILLLLIIEEE!
Hockey's Back (06 Edition):
My wife and I are still season ticket holders for
The Minnesota Wild. Last night was the first regular season game of the new season, and boy was it fun. Not because of the team, but because it was my son's first ever Hockey game. Here he is at the tender age of 15 weeks (and how cool is it that I can still use "weeks" instead of "months" or "years" to describe his age?), and he was loving it!
He never cried once. When the horn went off, we, of course, covered his ears to protect them. He also made my wife very happy as he frowned when Mike Schmidt hit the higher note during the National Anthem.
The Wild won the game in overtime...but the Leab family had already left. The game started late due to all the pregame hoopla, so we left just after the third period started. By the time we got home, I was able to catch the game-winning goal AND then see the Mets beat the Dodgers (Go METS!). It was definitely exciting, but I freely admit that I spent more time staring at my son watching the game then the actual game.
Other notes from the game:
Will got his
picture taken at the game. Unfortunately for us, the woman who did had never used a digital camera...ever. She hit the button and moved at the same time.
The "Let's Play Hockey" moment was done sans swearing, unlike
last year, because the person chosen was a soldier who returned from The Middle East. The only aspect I didn't like was how the announcer told this whole story about how this soldier (or Sargeant) returned from a fire fight to one of the tents to relax, and the Armed Forces Network was showing a Wild game...and happened to show his dad. It's a great story, but it was delivered as if Jesus himself turned the TV just so this soldier could see it. I can't explain it better than that. It wasn't magic, just coincidence.
Anyway, he did a good job, but he was followed around the rest of the night by these drunk guys who kept taking pictures with him. You could see it in his eyes: he REALLY wanted to punch the hell out of them.
The food prices are insane now. I needed to buy a bottle of water so Little Leab could eat. It was four dollars for a small bottle. I couldn't do it. I went to the bar instead and asked the bartender (holding up a picture of my son) for water so I could make formula. She was sympathetic and gave me the water (slightly warm as well) for free.
The moment of the night came between the first and second period. As one of the on-ice attendants (or staff) was shuffling off, he hit a divet and fell backwards. His head hit the ice so hard that we could hear it on the second level. He was down for a few seconds. My wife, who witnessed the whole thing (I was getting the water), said that he was woozy when got up. You hate to see it, but it is schadenfreude (taking pleasure from other people's pain).
Little Leab was beloved by every single person around him. The couple in front of us talked about their one year old (who was at home asleep). They also marveled at the fact that Poozer was on my lap hanging out in the sling with no problems. The woman REALLY wanted the sling.
The couple behind us talked about how much they missed having their kids at Poozer's age (there's were three and five and very moody). One woman sitting three rows in front of us asked if she could "borrow" Little Leab so she could "hopefully get on the big screen." See, she thought that he was SO cute, so he'd have to be put on the screen. Suffice to say...we did not lend him out.
The low point of the night came when I ran into a student of mine who works at the Xcel Energy Center. He explained to me he was going to be expelled after being accused of stealing a purse (I advocated for him as he couldn't have done it, because he was in my classroom at the time of the crime. Apparently that didn't matter). I was pissed after he told me that. This is a kid that is only 18, has been through rehab, and who I have been working with on a daily basis to help graduate. Has he made mistakes in the past? Yes. Many of them, but this time he didn't do it. That's being ignored, however, as the girl says she has friends who will back her story up. I guess three high school students are more trustworthy than a teacher....
I also didn't get my free calendar as the boxes hadn't arrived as we were leaving. DisapPOINTED!
This will not be the last game I attend, but I must admit that both my wife and I were surprised at how well Little Leab took to this. He was asleep when the Wild scored the first goal. The horn went off, and he opened his eyes, looked around, and then fell back asleep.
Hockey's back. Everyone rejoice.
Education Rant:
(This is going to be slightly vitriolic, so Katie may not want to read.)
Sometimes teachers act like the students they teach. I know this blog is read by my students, by my colleagues, by other teachers, and possibly some administrators.
My school is, in my opinion, a powderkeg.
The teachers are all on edge right now trying to deal with the new schedules and time constraints.
The students are having a hard time dealing with all the homework being thrust upon them.
The administrators and the teachers are dealing with angry parents and angry students.
Then, hanging over everyone, is the damn referendum, which we are reminded of every fifteen minutes now. If one more person comes to me and says, "Hey, did you know that you're going to lose your job if it doesn't pass," I may have to hurt someone.
There's a great deal of pressure that everyone is feeling right now, so the last thing we need is for the staff to turn into cliques like the high school students and for petty arguements to start now.
I look at my colleagues who look haggard right now. You can see it in their eyes. The English teachers leave every night with stacks of work, and there are some teachers leaving with almost nothing. There's a disparity, that's true, but it doesn't help that the ones leaving with nothing are complaining.
I watched two teachers have the most petty argument today over who should be allowed to make copies first. I'm worried that the pressure that's increasing in the building is going to push teachers to points of no return...or worse yet...quitting.
A teacher, who I won't name, had the guts to explain to a class how I was a bad teacher. This is to students. "Leab is a horrible teacher," was one quote. Several of the students who were in my class came to me and told me this. When confronted, the teacher denied it, but other teachers verified that this teacher (yes, this is really bad grammar, but identities will not be shared) had ripped the whole year in the teacher's lounge. How does that foster a community?
Yesterday I sat in a meeting and watched my colleagues meltdown. I saw finger pointing, I saw angry shouting, and I saw a person almost burst into tears (thus backing up the whole "pressure" point I've been talking about here). Now I am very good at leaving work at work and home at home, but this went with me. I had to vent...for a long multiple people. That's how angry I was.
Today I went to the teacher who almost broke down and tried to talk about what happened. I was met with stiff resistance. The question was asked, "Are you ok?"
The response to me was, "Yeah..fine," in a very terse manner.
"No really," I continued, "Are you ok?"
"Fine." Very cold, very impersonal. I am now on this person's shit list. I didn't argue, however, and I didn't push it.
I may be a caustic prick, but I work hard to keep decorum. When I was cut off at the last staff meeting, I rolled with it and sent an email. When I was told I would (probably) lose my job, I rolled with it, and started thinking about back-up plans.
But when I was told that I don't do enough for the students, that's when I get angry. I hate doing this, but this is for my colleague who said that I, "don't care enough."
1. I currently advise two clubs for free. Anime Club and Video Game Club. Are they the best clubs ever? No, but the students get the chance to bond, and I have grading time. This winter I will be adding a third club (again for free) in the form of Knitting Club. Why? Because the students need someone to adivse them, and this allows them to meet and to deflate after a hard week. Beyond that, I have been asked to start a German club so students can learn German (because it is no longer taught at my school).
2. I do all the technical theatre work for the school for free. Beyond that, all of the tools in the shop are tools that I bought with my own money and donated so the kids would have the necessary equipment to build sets. When I say all the technical theatre work, I mean it. I have been called in to help with anything that comes through the building. I'm the only person in that building with a working knowledge of the light board in terms of how to fix it and how to work it. I am the only one who can fix (though against union rules) the electrical issues.
3. I am now the chair of my department, and though it is actually a "Co-chair" position, I am the one doing the work. The "Co-chair" is there so that if I am not listened to, he will be. As such, I have been checking in with each member of my department during the week to make sure he or she is doing ok and to find out what I can do to help. I have even approached the principal about the fact that some of us are feeling a wee bit "crispy" right now, and we could use some positive reinforcement.
4. I know each of my students' names and talk to them almost everyday. I stay after school sometimes just to talk to the kids. To find out how they are and how I can help.
My advisees are also a priority. I check their grades constantly, talk to their teachers, and check in with the kids constantly.
5. I have never given up on a kid. Last year, I taught a kid to read a clock. He was a sophomore in high school and could not read a clock. I taught him how to do it. When he came to me about wanting to drop out and just have kids, I talked him about why he needs to finish high school first. When he got in trouble with certain teachers, I made sure to back him up.
I may be the guy who takes your cell phone and keeps the battery, but I'm also the guy who argues for you not to be suspended, because I know that means you won't be learning from me, and that makes both our lives difficult.
Say what you will. You can rip all you want when I'm not in the teacher's lounge (which is all the time. I refuse to go in there, because it's a haven for negativity). You can talk about the fact that more and more of my advisees are leaving the school. I don't care.
I took this job and this life, because of the students. I don't show up to work for my colleagues. I do it for the kids.
If you give me a compliment about my teaching, thanks, but that's nothing to listening to Senior learn from my advice. That's nothing to watching a student understand what I'm getting at about life.
To my students reading this, that's what I'm getting at everyday in class. It's not about the material in a rote sense. It's about you getting the tools to function in everyday life. Romeo and Juliet? They were impulsive. They didn't think things through before acting. You can say that would never be you, but look closer at your choices.
Why did I have a whole conversation about "love" with you? Because the word is so misused by the people your age that it's sickening in some ways.
And yes, it's also to challenge you. I will say and do things that other teachers won't, because you need that challenge.
And to you my colleagues, you need to challenge them on that. If a student says, "I hate George Bush," call them on it. "Why?"
Make sure they have a real reason beyond trying to fit the mainstream or just think they way their parents do.
That's our job.
And don't ever question my commitment to the kids. I may bitch, but I show up everyday ready to go.
And to my freshmen, one key piece of advice:
You don't know the world.
You don't know everything.
Don't try to act with me like you do. I've been through and seen more than you have just by the fact that I have lived longer. If you try to act superior to me, I'll bury you. I've done it before, and I know I'll have to do it again.
I don't mind joking with you, but there is a line.
Never forget: I am not your friend.
Senoritis Stopped?:
The University of Washington is trying to
stop Senoritis. The gist of the article, for those who don't like to read (and why are looking at my blog then?), is the school recinded several students' admissions to school, because their second semester grades went waaaaaay down. Now personally I would love to cop out and say that this is great...because it didn't happen to me (I had Junioritis, folks), but the real answer is that this IS a good thing.
Last year, I watched so many seniors try to just coast there way out. One kid I knew got a 1 (the equivalent of a D) during his final semester. He had already made it into college, so why did he need to care anymore?
Are there downsides? Of course. The one kid not finiding out until after registration? That's horrible. Get it done earlier. Still, this is not limited to only the state of Washington. Apparently Minnesota is thinking about doing this at U of M.
Again, I slacked (sort of) my Senior year of high school. I took English and Theatre electives my second semester.
It was worse in college. I only stayed for my wife, so I had two classes. One with 8 students, the other with one (yup, just me).
So remember, dear reader, that big brother (in the form of colleges) is always watching.
Then again what do I know? I managed to pass my classes even though I wanted to get the hell away from my school. I could be wrong.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Ramblings for the Evening (10/01/06)

Highs and lows.
Life is essentially made of those.
Everyday has, in some way, highs and lows.
You get the idea.
So, without further ado: HOP TO THE LEFT!
The Wee One and his New Friend:
My wife, my son, and I were fortunate enough to have a professional photographer come to our home today to take some fabulous photos of Poozer.
Margaret came out to Robbinsdale (a FAR CRY from Minneapolis). This is the first time I have met a fellow blogger. A person who I felt I knew pretty well, but had never met in the flesh before today.
It was fantastic. Little Leab was his usual cute self, and the weather actually stayed nice enough so we could take pictures outside.
Margaret was great. Here I was expecting a quick trip out, and she ended up staying for two hours. Never once rolled her eyes or anything. It showed incredible patience.
I was also very happy with how my cats acted. Very polite.
Tonight was the Homecoming Dance at my school.
Times have changed since I was in high school. First of all, there were cops. My school did not have cops walking the floor, my school didn't have to have the students patted down, and my school certainly had more men working the dance (including myself, there were two).
I ended up working the door most of the night. Why? Well, for one they wanted a guy up front, and the other reason is that I know almost all the kids' names. So there I stood, side by side with a cop, for most of the night.
At one point, however, I ended up on the dance floor to check and make sure the kids were dancing "appropriately." If we saw kids grinding and such, we were to separate them and shine a light on them. I brought my own: a lovely halogen flashlight that blinds. Cops love it.
Of course there were kids who danced inappropriately. We warned them not to, so they can't complain about us making them leave.
There were two very fascinating points on the night, however.
1. As soon as ten hit, the faculty bolted. They got the kids out, and then left. I was the last one to leave. Why? Well, I helped the DJ pack up his stuff, and I stayed while the last few kids waited for their parents. We couldn't leave them there alone, could we?
2. My principal has no idea about my life. She and I get along very well. Hell, she stole my wallet photo of my kid from me yesterday, because she finds him so darn cute.
In the course of our talking tonight, she really had no idea that I:
Couldn't hear last week.
Drive a half an hour each way everyday to and from work.
That I was closer to 30 than 20.

These are just examples. She then proceeded to utterly depress me by telling me that if the referendum does not pass in St. Paul, she will be forced to release teachers. MANY teachers. Then she made an indication toward me.
As for the rest of my colleagues, they were all bored. No one smiled.
There's a group of kids who like to tell me that I'm the best teacher in the school. I know they're wrong. There are many teachers much better than me, but the idea, I think, is not that I educate them so well (though I try). No, the idea is I am available and willing to talk. I stay late to talk to students. I work with multiple clubs. I say,"hello," to everybody. Not all the faculty do.
Back to the point.
When I was in high school, the Homecoming dance was a great deal more formal. The faculty and the students worked to look gooood. I didn't get that sense from many of the kids tonight.
Again, I go back to the cops. We didn't have police officers trolling the grounds and walking the gym in order to keep the peace.
And a little tip for the students who I know read this: When the dance starts at 7, and the ticket says no one gets in an hour after the start, don't show up after an hour. We won't let you in no matter how much you beg or what sob story you tell.
When all was said and done, I had a nice, quiet drive home, which led to...
Late Night Groceries:
On my way home, I decided that my wife and son would already be asleep, so I would make her life a little easier and pick up groceries. I stopped at the Byerly's in Golden Valley.
It was 11 PM, but the place was dead. I walked the aisles whistling to myself. What fascinated me was the cop who kept watching me as I shopped. Maybe it was because I was whistling. I don't know.
It's also amazing to me how peoples' demeanors change. No one was angry or quiet. As I whistled near another patron, he joined in.
When I checked out at the register, I bagged my own groceries and discussed the Twins with the cashier.
I even bagged the next's guys groceries, because it was only one bag's worth. He and I discussed Spanish cheeses as we walked out.
It's so different shopping in the dead of night.
Kind of nice.
Only problem is that I have no clue if I bought everything that my wife and I needed. I guess I'll know once morning comes.
That's it for me; I'm out.