Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Handle Our Problems With Grace

This was made by a student at my school. It's completely her work and her voice. I posted it with her permission, of course.

The task was create a reflective piece on yourself, your community, or whatever you feel like. Sounds like a pretty open-ended assignment, but the true purpose was to foster creativity. Although I don't have her as a student in the classes I teach, I'm still proud of her.

Friday, May 21, 2010

My First Absence

This week, I took my first day off since I started teaching in September. The perfect attendance streak is done. It's weird but that doesn't bother me so much anymore. Perhaps this is a sign of growth? Weird, but not unexpected.

Generally, if a teacher is absent at my school, a substitute teacher gets called in to cover for the day. Sometimes substitute teachers are unavailable which means the full-time teachers have to give up their planning period and that period. It doesn't really matter who is covering for the day, because our kids generally get nothing done on days their primary teacher is absent. In fact, in my experience, students come knocking on my door during random periods:
"Yo Mista, Ms. So-and-So ain't here and that sub is mad whack. Can I come in and chill?"
This happens quite often. Sometimes, they don't even knock - they just cut the class and use it as an excuse to go home. I can't figure out if our kids are just extremely loyal to their teachers or they're just looking to get out of the classroom because the "sub" has no control. There is an atmosphere of "You can't tell me what to do, you ain't my teacher" every single time you walk into a classroom with a substitute.

So when I took the day off, I expected my students would accomplish very little that day. I e-mailed the school secretary some review worksheets which would only benefit the kids if they tried doing them. When I came back the next day, I saw a huge stack of semi-completed-to-fully-completed worksheets, separated by period. What I heard was even better:
"Mista, I did mad work for you when you was gone. Do I get extra credit?"
Sure, why the fuck not? Okay, so they did some work, awesome. That's not the best part. The best part was this one:
"Yoooo we missed you yesterday. It was mad boring. I wanted to learn more about this probability shit we be doin' - I be gettin' that."
I want to end this week on a good note.

Monday, May 17, 2010

I'm No Superman

In high school, I remember my teachers used to get really excited near the end of the week. They would say, "Don't worry guys, it's almost Friday! We're gonna make it!" I couldn't figure out why they got that excited about weekends. I mean sure, I loved the weekends: waking up late, no homework, hanging out with friends, the list goes on. Don't teachers just stay at home, grade papers and read books?

It wasn't too long before I figured out why my teachers were so excited about Fridays: the job requires the energy of a nine year old and the last time I checked, I'm not nine (though I still giggle at the word "penis"). I'm a believer in mind over body, that is, if I think I'm not tired, then I won't feel tired. When I worked on Wall Street, I could pull some really late nights and still meet friends at 1 or 2 in the morning. Even if I worked 80-90 hours a week, it was pretty much assumed I still went out on Saturday night to make up for lost "fun" time. Sleep when you're dead, right?

Well, I'm not working 90 hours a week anymore, but I feel like I'm working even more. A few weeks ago, some of my best friends flew in from Chicago. We were supposed to grab dinner and then see where the night took us. Feeling drained, I skipped dinner and took a nap at about 7:00 PM thinking I would meet up with them later. So when I woke up at the butt crack of dawn the next day, I wasn't surprised - shit like this has been happening all year long.

Last week was the most exhausting week I've ever had in my life, period. On top of the usual teaching load (heh, I said "load"), I had a shit ton of other stuff going on - I'm not going to get into the details because I would rather forget about them. I'm just thankful it's over. What matters most though is I learned (yet again) I'm not the Superman I keep making myself out to be. It came to the point where my Principal and another teacher pulled me aside:
"Hey... So what's going on, everything okay? You're not looking like yourself these past few days and we're a bit concerned."
"Yeah, I'm alright. I've just been struggling with [insert my problems here]."
"Wow. You should've taken the day off. If I knew you had this much going on, I would've forced you to take the day off. This is not right, it's not humanly possible. You need to speak up about this next time it comes up." 
In retrospect, they're right: I should've just taken a fucking day off. The problem is: I can't tell when I'm in too deep until it's too late and because of that, I'm afraid I'll never be able to "speak up" when something like this is happening again. For the sake of my friends and family, I hope I learn sooner rather than later.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Men Like George Bailey

For anyone who has seen It's a Wonderful Life, you'll love this video I found through a friend's away message (Thanks Rhick).

As an outsider who was once a part of this system, I'm still shocked I participated in this crap. Big, nasty institutions more powerful than politicians earning billions off decent people who are losing their homes - yeah, I don't know what I was thinking. I guess I was just trying to be as rich as Mr. Potter? But then what?

Friday, May 7, 2010

America, F*** Yeah!

On Saturday, May 1st, 2010, Faisal Shahzad allegedly left a SUV packed with propane gas tanks, firecrackers, and fertilizer in Times Square with the intent to blow things up. Fortunately, the vehicle was spotted smoking and authorities were able to dismantle the explosives just in time.

When I first heard the suspect's name was Faisal Shahzad, I thought, "Shit, that name sounds Pakistani." When his background was revealed over the past week, I thought, "Fuck."

It appears Faisal Shahzad is not only Pakistani, but he's also an American citizen. He's married, he worked in finance and has ties to the city of Karachi, Pakistan. That's... me (and a shit ton of other people I know). Apparently, I wasn't the only one who made this connection:
"Yo Mista, that terrorist look just like you. Ain't you say you was from Pakistan too? AND you was in finance, right? So did you know him or something?"
Yeah, all Pakistanis know each other and look alike. Especially those who were formerly in finance. We hang out at the bar Wednesday nights inside the Mosque...
"Yooo, I saw this nigga with a beard on the A train and I got mad scared yo. Nigga had a backpack and shit too, haha."
Crap. For a moment, I forgot I was a high school teacher. I knew this event was going to cause ignorant people to say the most ridiculous shit, but now I'm in a position where I actually have to correct the brainwashing caused by the headline-happy media (see exhibits A, B and C).

To be brutally honest, I did not expect to hear the kinds of things I've been hearing in my school. Generally speaking, my school caters to a low-income community (even though it's a commuter school) and I wrongly assumed that these kids would somehow know better. I thought since the majority of students at my school are Black or Hispanic, they would be able to see through the racial profiling. I thought they thought I was on their side.

I was a fool. Agent K said it best in Men in Black:
"A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals..."
I guess every group has to go through being on America's hit list. And once your people go through the hazing, you then receive the esteemed privilege to join in with the rest of the gang to hate on the next group. The fact that you're a minority will never be forgotten, but hey, now you're part of the team.

I just I hope this fraternity looks good on my résumé.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Kevin Returns

My school utilizes an online "referral spreadsheet" that is used to maintain a log of all teacher-submitted referrals which have to do with students misbehaving, acting inappropriately, etc.  This helps provide our Dean with some written evidence in the event a behavior results in a suspension.

Last week, a colleague of mine had a very interesting experience with our beloved student, Kevin. In case you're wondering who Kevin is, read this. Here's the referral my colleague submitted online:
Kevin was engaged in a verbal altercation with another student.  I was ignored when I asked Kevin to stop using profanitites in my classroom, to which he responded:  "He can suck my dick."  "Why you coming at my head?"

I asked Kevin to come to my desk (to conference) in an effort to short circuit the exchange.  "He can suck my whole dick" was the response. 

I asked Kevin to step out the room into the hallway.  He said no and loudly continued to tell the other student to "suck his dick." 

I then called the main office to locate the Dean so that he could be removed, Kevin's response was "Yeah, tell whoever they could suck my dick too.  Yeah, let them suspend me." 

Ms. Jane Doe came to my room and escorted Kevin out the room.  He continued yelling variations of "suck his dick" in the hallway, disrupting other classes. 

I locked my doors and calmed my class down.  A couple minutes later Kevin was knocking at the door, pointing at the student clearly heard saying "eat a dick."