Saturday, December 25, 2010

Happy Holidays

2010 was a superb year. I'm really excited for what's to come in 2011.

As expected, I plan on hibernating for the next few days. You should too.

Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

When I Threw My Shoe

Shit is just flying all over the place because it’s the week before winter break. Vacation is just around the corner. When I was in high school, this particular week involved taking lots and lots of finals, so I was either cramming for exams or playing Goldeneye. Or both. Those were the good old days.

To be completely fair, our trimester system doesn’t coincide with winter break; we’re nearly a third of the way through our second trimester. This means our first trimester finals already passed and our second trimester finals won’t happen until end of March. So basically, there’s nothing important happening this week.
Shhh, you weren't supposed to know that kids.
So as you probably guessed, attendance has been horrific (less than 55% some days). Some of the students who are actually still coming are acting out of control: there’s a ridiculous amount of chatter, foul language, inappropriate conduct, etc. Some seem to be showing up to first period [on a sugar?] high or quite simply, drunk. Or both.
As a side note, what’s the big deal with coming to a transfer high school stoned or drunk? To me, that says one of two things: 
  1. My life sucks and I need to escape from reality.
  2. I’m an attention whore. Look at me: I’m stupid. Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeed!
Back to the story: Yeshiva, a student who in my opinion usually shows up to school drunk or stoned, was roaming the hallways yesterday during 5th period. She’s not a student of mine, but she used to be. Honestly, when she looks at me sometimes with her deadpan face and head tilted sideways, it gives me the creeps. Imagine if “The Situation” from The Jersey Shore was undressing you with his eyes. That kind of creeps. Obviously this comparison is pointless if you actually think “The Situation” is a good-looking dude. In that case, please stop reading this blog.

So as I’m trying to teach literal equations to students who were already aching to get out, I see Yeshiva strolling outside the hallway. She stops outside my door and starts making eye contact with some of my students through the window in my door. At first, I ignore it: she’s trying to chat up the students who are usually distracted anyway. Whatever, they’ll learn their lesson when they bomb their quiz at the end of class. You’re 18 now, make some grown up decisions, right?

A minute later, she actually starts trying to talk through the window.

Well, this is getting annoying, I thought. I ignored Yeshiva and made eye contact with the horny bastards in the back of the class. I whipped out the teacher look. Come on guys, focus. That is, unless you want to be back in this class next year. Don’t be tools.

Yeshiva refuses to move along. I'm thinking: isn’t there someone in the fucking hallway to get her out of here? Obviously not, why would there be? It’s not like this is a high school for kids who had trouble staying in classes. I take my first action here: I motion her to shoo away – like a fly. I then mouth, “go away” to her. Nothing. Just a deadpan stare accompanied with a creepy smile.

At this point, I’m getting irritated. It’s been a long day and shit was not going to get any easier. I had a meeting with the principal next period for which I was not nearly prepared. So I did what any sane person would do at this point. I was standing in front (like this) of my SMARTBoard about fifteen feet from the door. I took off my shoe, took aim and fired.
I threw my shoe against the window in the door.

I wish I had gotten her reaction on tape. Yeshiva was stunned. The class was shocked. After five seconds, she made some strange angry sound, pounded her fist against the door and stomped off. The class went insane.
"Yoooo, Mista violated her!!!" 
"He just ODed! Shit was whack!"
It took about twenty more seconds to get the class back on track. We were back to solving literal equations. The best part: as I made my way to the principal’s office next period, a group of students were gathered in front of the exit. I heard this:
"Girl, you shoulda seen it! I ain't eva gonna bother [my name]'s class. N***** is crazy. Good teacher, but fucking crazy."
I suppose.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Thanks, Ten Years Later

As a public school teacher, I'm on my feet in front of a group of teens for at least half of my work day. I have absolutely no issues presenting ideas in front of a large audience. I have no issues being the center of everyone's attention for a purpose. It recently occurred to me that I wasn't always this ballsy.

Nearly ten years ago, I was an awkward, bumbling nerd giving a speech in front of my 10th grade English class. This class required every student to give informative, instructive and persuasive speeches throughout the year. There were minimum time requirements for each speech. We even had to come dressed up on speech day. My English teacher, Mr. B, would tally the number of times I'd blurt "um" and "like"  throughout my speeches. Needless to say, this was a challenging class that often scared the shit out of me.

One of my most vivid memories of the class is nervously shaking behind the podium, clutching my index cards tightly as I tried not to make eye contact with any of my classmates. I was speaking at 200 miles per hour. For most of my speeches, I was a wreck. I actually can't believe I had forgotten this about myself. I had a problem of speaking too fast - for an eight minute speech requirement, I'd be done in five minutes. For a five minute speech requirement, I'd be done in two [insert premature ejaculation jokes here]. After receiving a low B on my first speech in Mr. B's class, I remember thinking, "Shit, I'm not going to get straight As this semester. My mom is going to kill me." Don't forget, I said I was a nerd.

It's funny how times (and people) change. I can yap for hours now in front of others without hesitation. It also doesn't matter who the hell I'm yapping to: students, my principal, or even Mario Cuomo (funny story for a later time). It's taken me ten years to realize that I have Mr. B's class to thank for my confidence and public speaking ability.

Better late than never. If it weren't for this class, I might not have been so comfortable being the lead singer of a rock band later on in high school (funny story for a later time). Or taking leadership roles in student organizations in college. Or becoming a high school math teacher.

How ironic that I went through these last few years having under-appreciated my own teacher. As I'm just starting to learn, part of what it means to be teacher is being okay with the thank yous not coming instantaneously.

Thanks Mr. B.

Monday, December 6, 2010

A Feel Good Moment

This last Friday was the last day of the first trimester. The first third of my second year of teaching is already over. Shit.

There are lot of differences between last year and this year. I'm a little better at this game (I think) and certainly better prepared (I hope). Although I'm still working hard, I'm also working smart. I'm planning for time to think about my lessons rather than just being a mindless drone cranking out PowerPoint lessons and quizzes. I've learned I work best when I have the time to get creative, which is kind of insane because I had no idea I was capable of being "creative." Then again, number crunching 90 hours a week in Microsoft Excel wasn't exactly fostering creativity.

Most of my "creative" time this trimester was spent tweaking my Personal Wealth Management class (a.k.a. finance for teens). It's an elective course at my school that is only a trimester long (12 weeks). This class serves as my escape: it allows me to teach something I have experience with and enjoy. Plus, it's applicable to "the real world", meaning I won't have to imagine punching kids in the face when they ask, "When will we ever use this?" Not to mention, I really wish I had this kind of knowledge growing up. In fact, most parents who speak to me wish they knew what their kids were learning in my class. That makes me feel good.

Anyway, the students in my Personal Wealth Management took a final exam last week. On this test, I always leave one question at the end for reflection.
"What did you think about this class?"
I actually want to know what my students thought of the class and how it was beneficial (or a waste of their time) to them. I genuinely want to know what they think because this is a subject I'm passionate about, so I want to make it meaningful to them. I started going through the responses Friday evening and was kind of shocked: I didn't receive one negative comment. Not one. Kind of ridiculous! I took a picture of some responses of the responses (see below).

"I teach great." Please, elaborate. Don't stop there. I'm just starting to learn how to deal with compliments.

You can see my response there in the red. I like writing back to my students, makes it more of a conversation. Plus, I can appear cool by writing "WTF?" and "ROFL" next to responses that are simply stupid. Whoever said "there's no such thing as a stupid question" had to be pretty fucking stupid.

Thanks, brah. I appreciate it. I hope to continue the good work with this course, possibly by adding a stock market simulation or some other investing game. The problem is, the Department of Education blocks most of these simulator websites from school computer use. Okay, I'll stop here before this post takes a turn for the worse.