Thursday, March 25, 2010

Sloppy

I haven't felt this exhausted in a long time. Teaching, grad school, life - it's all sloppy right now.

I'm really getting sick of saying the same shit over and over again. I can see how some teachers can grow cold over time to their students. This trimester (we started our third trimester last Monday), students have new schedules, so I have some of my old students and some new students. That's fine, but what is particularly going to be challenging is that this trimester culminates with a Regents exam in June. This means my classes are completely packed as many students have not passed this test, but we'll see how long they stay packed when the weather starts getting nicer.

Honestly, this is the first week where I've actually felt no significant reward from teaching. There are teacher-student moments and "ah HA!" moments, but I felt nothing from them. I'm still pissed about some of my sharper Algebra kids half-assing the final to pull off a barely passing 65% for the class. If I have to talk to some students again about how miserably they failed last trimester and how they're already doing the same shit again, I'm going to pull my hair out. FYI - I have a lot of hair. 

Life is stressing me out a little more than usual and I'm pretty sure a factor that is making it worse is lack of sleep. Any additional work I get (through grad school and Teach for America) stresses me out even more then. I'm meeting my counselor three fucking times a week - another time commitment. I actually fell asleep twice lying on the couch Tuesday evening - a brilliant use of time and money, wouldn't you agree? I'm being such a shitty significant other that I have no words to even describe how I feel about this topic. The landfill of my professional life is spilling over more and more into my personal life and it's disgusting.

I'm reminded of season four of Dexter[Spoiler Alert]

Dexter is careless, off his game and sloppy. Something bad is going to happen and I'm honestly scared. What I'm doing is not sustainable.

[Spoiler Alert end]

Oh, a conversation with my student-protege after school this week:
Me: "Dude, it's kind of ridiculous how alike we are. You're like a younger version of me in some ways..."
His response:
"That's sad. I'm going to have some serious psychological issues when I'm an adult."
Spring break officially begins... now.

Friday, March 19, 2010

B.S.

Today was the last day of the trimester. To celebrate, we had an all-school awards assembly where teachers dished out awards for hard working students who actually do what they are supposed to do (i.e. get their shit done). I didn't realize this at first, but I felt a bit awkward coming up to the microphone and calling out kids' names. I imagine most of my students who didn't get awards felt betrayed or sad. They probably thought I was picking favorites and they weren't one of them. I tried not to make eye contact. As I muttered the words into the microphone, I asked myself, "Wait, why didn't I give an award to so-and-so?"

Unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on your point of view), I can easily forget frustration and pain. I remember "the good times" really well, but my memory grows hazy when I try to recall something painful. Hence, I felt bad yesterday as I submitted some of the final trimester grades for my students. I had to try really hard to remember what the fuck these kids did (or didn't do) to deserve a 55%.
"I'm the teacher. Me. Not them. Me. I'm Yo Mista."
I keep forgetting I'm the teacher sometimes. I'm not here to please, I'm here to impart knowledge. I may be funny (and sexy), but that's just an added bonus. It's tough because some students think I'm "cool" (or so I'm told) and simultaneously look up to me. What do I do with this information? I felt terrible today when students who I knew failed my class (some miserably) kept coming up to me with sad puppy eyes:
"Did you pass me Mista? I came yesterday to take your test, otherwise I wasn't comin' at all!"
I'm not that stupid though. I forget that as a teenager, I used to do whatever I could to ace my classes (this includes doing extra work, being nice, going out of my way to help out, etc.) Of course, I didn't need to do those things given I actually wanted to learn, but you know, just in case. Plus, if I've worked my ass off for the first half of the class, why not slack off a bit at the end and take advantage of my good standing? This is all part of being a good (and smart) student...

This strategy should hypothetically only work if you have put in a good amount of effort. I refuse to let sad puppy eyes come in the way of a student's grade if they've done jack shit all year. I'm sorry, but just showing up isn't good enough. Not showing up is even worse, so don't try to win me over on the last day by smiling, batting your eyes and playing all nice. You can't bullshit the bullshitter.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

66.67% Complete

My school runs on a trimester system (three terms instead of two), which enables our students to acquire credits faster than they would at a traditional two-semester high school system. The second trimester ends this week and unfortunately, I don't foresee the kind of success I saw at the end of the first trimester.

Their trimester final is scheduled for this upcoming Wednesday. It's weird because for some bizarre reason, I'm not looking forward to it. If I'm the teacher and they're the students, why the hell am I the one who is scared?

I suppose I'm erroneously assuming most students aren't going to study (some will, but it's always the usual suspects). Most of my algebra students aren't in the position to be gambling with their grades at this point. Some of these idiots are seniors with a "he'll pass me, I'm a senior" attitude... I love giving people surprises.

It's kind of depressing because some of the students who are in danger of failing this trimester earned low As and high Bs last trimester. I mean, WTF. My teaching style hasn't changed, the material hasn't really gotten that much more difficult. But, attendance has dipped below 50%. Well then...

I'm constantly conflicted: On one hand, I can empathize with what a lot of what students are going through in their lives. I can convince myself that I need to go a little easy on them. Then again, you should at least come to school right? Or at least contact me to get the low down on what you've missed. Perhaps (oh no, I'm about to say it..) stay after school?  You came to this school because you realized you need to get your shit together. Are you? No.
"Yo Mista, I don't do fractions."
Well I don't do make up work. Take this F and deal with it.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Building a Better Teacher

Here's a link to an interesting article in the NYT about the need for better teachers. The article also explores whether it's possible to learn how to teach well.

After reading the article, I suppose I feel a bit relieved that this profession is finally getting some attention.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

My First Win

One of my top students (let's call him "JR") got accepted into a New York City college this week. It took a while for the happiness to sink in. Now that it has, I feel pretty fucking great.

I honestly can't take much credit. JR is intelligent and multi-faceted. The only reason he's at my school is because he got lazy, but who isn't guilty of that at some point? The difference is: When he fell behind, he took care of his shit, worked his ass off, and now he's ready to move on. I respect that. I respect that a lot.

I suppose I'm even happier because JR reminds me of a young me: Oldest child, tough childhood, perverted sense of humor... His story reeks of perseverance, so I can't help but root for the guy! Unfortunately, he has to deal with one problem I can't imagine having to deal with in this country: he's undocumented.

Oh by the way, if you're undocumented in this country, most colleges will not accept you. Those that do, require you to jump through various loopholes while also paying full tuition. Good thing JR can just pay off full tuition by picking up an easy on-campus job, right? Wrong. He's undocumented so unless someone's paying him under the table, he can forget about it. Anyone know any campus jobs that can support a full tuition and also not require to provide a social security number? Shit...

JR is one of the smartest, hard-working students at my school (a model student) and yet, he won't have the same benefits some of the spoiled, indifferent brats at my school throw away by now showing up. What a waste. That pisses me off.

I suppose I can ignore how crappy the situation is for one day. Congratulations JR, wish we had more like you.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Anniversary of a Good Thing


"Yo Mista! How come you left yo job when you wuz makin' so much?"

Today marks the one year anniversary of my last day as an investment banking monkey analyst.

Traditionally, most investment bankers send a generic farewell e-mail to their colleagues on their last day in the office (unless of course they got fired and were escorted out by security). This is what they tend to look like:
Friends and Colleagues,
Today is my last day at [firm name].
Thank you for making the past [time at firm] such a rich and rewarding experience. I wish you all the best of luck.  Please keep in touch.
Regards,
[monkey name]
[monkey contact info]
 
Yes, these are quite short and boring. Most bankers don't even bother to compose their own - they just copy and paste farewell e-mails from their predecessors and replace the personal information with their own. I find it hilarious that even on their last day, bankers can't help but use copy and paste. Very fitting. 

It makes complete sense then that the first thing I did this morning was read the farewell e-mail I sent exactly one year ago. Here it is: 
Friends and Colleagues,
 
Today is my last day at [my firm's name]. After nearly two years, I could not be happier. Seriously.

There are some people I want to sincerely thank for my learning and development, but I'm pretty sure they already know who they are. A special thanks to my friends in the healthcare bullpen - I hope you all find what you're looking for.

My contact information is below for those interested in keeping in touch. With that, I would like to close with a quote from Andrew Lahde, a former hedge fund manager:

"… I will let others try to amass nine, ten or eleven figure net worths. Meanwhile, their lives suck… they look forward to their two week vacation in January during which they will likely be glued to their Blackberries or other such devices. What is the point? They will all be forgotten in fifty years anyway… Give up on leaving your mark. Throw the Blackberry away and enjoy life."

Enjoy life. I like the sound of that.
All the best,
[Yo Mista]
That was a good day. And I've had many more since.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

PBS Special on Pakistan's Education System

I finally got a chance to see this.



Overall, I thought this piece was very interesting, informative and well... depressing.

I have plans to move to Pakistan in a few years. They're not finalized just yet, but they are plans none-the-less. Do notice how I didn't say "move back to Pakistan..." I wasn't born there but for some reason I still feel attached to the country. Perhaps it's because I used to visit often during the summer. Or maybe it's because most of my closest friends are South Asian and they remind me of how great the culture of friendship is there. Whatever it is, I don't think I could ever forget the place.

If I end up there and things don't get better, I might just decide to stay in education. Call me crazy, but just thinking about doing something good over there (regardless of how little of an impact I might have) gets me excited. I feel motivated. I want experience so I can help in any way possible. I have a lot to learn, but that's okay.

Check out this Five Rupees post for some interesting commentary.