Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Accidental Teacher: Crazy is as Crazy Does: Chapter 3

When I first started teaching they told us to keep our mouths shut until we got tenure because administration could dismiss us for any reason if they wanted to. So, I tried to just sit in the back of every faculty meeting and mind my own business without saying a word.

Mrs. H. was the union representative and she had her own style. It was rude and caustic, but, it was her style.

Faculty meetings were held three times a month whether we needed them or not. If there was nothing to say, the Principal found something to say. Inspiring? Not usually, but, meet we did. They were supposed to start at 2:10 and end 3:10. Mrs. H. apparently thought it was her job to make sure that no meeting went beyond 3:10. So, at precisely 3:10 she would stand up, take out her abnormally numerous keychain and walk, straight backed, in front of the principal and wave her keys, left to right, up and down, like a marching band leader on the Fourth of July, right out the door.

I feel the need to give you a fuller description of Mrs. H. She was a piece of work. My first taste of her was after walking my class back from recess. We were responsible for one of the bulletin boards on the main hallway walls. The class had written short essays in response to a prompt with a picture of a clown who had fallen and was a bit dirty. One of my students, Q. was one of several African American students. As we were passing the bulletin board Mrs. H. grabs Q. by the arm, out of line and points to his paper and asked him, "Did you write 'He was so black and dirty' because you think being black means your dirty?" Mind you, this was an African American women talking to a fourth grade African American child. It took a few minutes before I could get her to leave him alone and we could get back to class. 

A few weeks later I was in my classroom during lunch when the teacher in the next room asked me to come into her room for a moment. Thinking nothing of it, I went over to see what was up. Lo and behold, who was in there? None other than crazy Mrs. H.. "Mr. PT., I noticed that as I was leaving the Faculty Meeting you rolled your eyes at me? What do you have to say about that?" She bluntly blurted out with her hands on her hips, chin taking dead aim at the center of my forehead. I replied, "I rolled my eyes because you're crazy. You're also the rudest, most caustic and prejudiced person I have ever known. And you're one of those crazy people who slap someone in the face and wonder why they slap you back. I just want you to know that if you slap me, be prepared to be slapped back." I turned around and walked back into my room. 

My good friend Ms. J.'s take on Ms. H.. "Mrs. H.? Oh, she's crazy! She's the kind of person who would punch you in the nose one day and then buy you an ice cream the next. She's crazy!"

A couple weeks later I was in my room before school preparing for another glorious day of teaching (I really was enjoying it). Over the school intercom I hear, "Mr. PT, if you are on campus, please report to the principal's office." Being a middle child I immediately began to wonder what I did wrong. On my way down to the office I went over in my head all kinds of scenarios. I felt like a little kid again being called to the office, which are a very real group of memories for me. 

When I got there I was ushered into the principal's office and seated with a small group of other people. The principal explained that our presence had been requested for this formal meeting concerning Ms. H's actions. My first thought was relief that whatever the issue was it wasn't me. Secondly I was baffled that crazy Ms. H. asked me to be there considering I had told her I thought she was crazy! 

The long and the short of it was that some Latino students from Ms. H's class had complained to the principal that she continually called them stupid and telling them they were lazy. The principal went to the class to look into the complaint (which she should do). The principal said she gave Ms. H. the option of waiting in the cafeteria/teach lounge or the main office.  Ms. H. told her, "I don't have to put up with this nonsense, I'm going home!" The principal directed her to not leave the campus. Crazy Ms. H. went home (which she shouldn't do). 

I sat there and wondered (again) why I was there and why crazy Ms. H. left the campus when she was directed not to. Like the title says, crazy is as crazy does.

Chaper 1

Chapter 2

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Show Me the What?

There's a buzz word that's been thrown around educational circles for a while like a bowling ball in a game of ping pong. I don't know if I have ever heard a word used with such brutally vague precision. 

If you're a teacher you've probably heard it. Your professional development most likely has been sprinkled with it. Your evaluator might have insisted that the lessons you teach have it. 

I actually had an administrator who was evaluating me ask me where it was in my lessons. She wasn't being malicious, she was expressing the reality that she was clueless to what it was. A district administrator asked a colleague of mine where it was in her objectives she had posted on her whiteboard.

The word is rigor. Lesson are supposed to have rigor, and students magically transformed by rigor. I have yet to sit in a professional development session where vigor was specifically identified. No one says where it is exactly that you as a teacher apply this all powerful entity called rigor. But, if you don't have it, you can get a below standards evaluation. 

This is what I think: rigor, shimgor. 

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Free Speech and Bathrooms

I think the purposes of a union is to protect it's member and push for reasonably high wages. I have never been in favor of the political activism insisted on by my union. To assume that all teachers share the same (or should share the same) political views is not just naive but un-American. The following is one person opinion...

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Accidental Teacher: Bang Their Heads Together: Chapter 2

We came in from recess like any other day. As we entered the room Q and M, who were walking on my right and left, just started swinging at each other with everything they had. I yelled, "Stop!" At the same time  I tried to push them apart and ended up holding them up on the wall by their necks. They kept trying to hit each other and we're demanding, "Let me down!"

I asked, "Are you going to stop hitting each other?" 

Both Q and M sputtered out, "No!" 

"Then I'm not letting you down!" I explained. Finally after a few minutes they finally stopped swinging. 

I decided that their punishment would be sitting together for a week. At a table that was about four feet wide they must of been six feet apart. I had told them that for the entire week if one got in trouble, they both got in trouble. For the first few days, every time I turned around I heard, "Thump! Thump! Thump! Thump!" When I looked back at them they would be there, sitting still, as far apart as they could be. 

About half way through the week after dismissing the kids an older lady (Q's grandmother I believe, she never actually introduced herself.) walked up to me and demanded, "What you doing sittin' two boys together knowing they're just pound each other every time you turn around?"

I told her, "Well, ma'am, I figure I can't bang their heads together, so I might as well let them do it for me."

She leaned back, started to laugh and said, "You're a pretty smart man!"  As she walked away laughing, she shook her head saying, "Let them bang their heads together for me. You're a smart man. That's the funniest they I've heard in a long time!"

I never saw her again and Q and M hardly looked at each other for the rest of the year. 

That was long ago and a different era in education. That method didn't work for all kids who fought, for example "fightin' friends". Fightin' friends fight, busting each others lips popping each other in the eye, but, in fifteen minutes they're laughing and messing off like nothing happened. But, for Q and M, sitting together taught them to leave each other alone. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

My Teacher Tech Opinion on Edmodo

I have two guidelines when evaluating and using technology: one, does it help students learn and two, does it make the teacher's job easier? If it doesn't do both those things the chances are slim to none that I will use it. 

A few years ago I ran across Edmodo, a free application for educators and students. Last year I was able to use it on a limited basis because the classes I taught were already using an online format. But, I did have the students turn in some assignments using Edmodo. This year I taught sixth grade English and Ancient History plus one period of "New Media" that was for eight grade students.

This past year the students were promised iPads at our school. The teachers were given (lent) one and had a two day training before the beginning of the year, so I was looking forward to trying some new apps and lessons. Edmodo was the app I used the most and has fulfilled my two guidelines. The students can access Edmodo with ease and check their work without problems. I don't know if Edmodo itself helps students learn but, it does help students interface with several different applications, turn in work, take quizzes, tests and polls. 

As far as making my life as a teacher easier I have to give Edmodo a big thumbs up. I have used polls to check for understanding, the assignment function to create assignments and turn in assignments, and I have given quizzes of all kinds. I will probably write a few more posts about Edmodo and my positive experiences with it, so I will just leave you with this: If you are not on using Edmodo, give it a try at .

If you have used Edmodo and have an opinion please share it in the comment section. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Open Wide, It's the Common Core

I have been in education for twenty five years and I've seen programs and mandates come and go. Goals 2000, No Child Left Behind and now the Common Core are the last three. The more more I come in contact with the Common Core, the less I like it. 

The Common Core is the current administrations educational initiative that demonstrates both the ineptitude of the federal government and the manipulation of those who wish to "change America".   

I was just involved with the online "Smarter Balanced" testing. We were the test group to help iron out the kinks. If it wasn't for the fact that our school is blessed with some great problem solvers we'd still be trying to access the test online. When something gets shoved down my throat I generally don't like the taste and I can definitely say I can see a myriad of problems on the horizon. 

The idea of a centralized federal department of education, the U.S. Department of Education has got to be one of the biggest scams and waste of money every perpetrated on the American public. Just the fact that taxpayers send money to the federal government is a loss of money. It's a loss because some bureaucrat must be payed and the office they sit in must be rented. That much will NEVER see a student, a school or a teacher.  

Let's not even mention the ridiculous idea that said bureaucrat then decides who should receive how much of the tax they paid back into their local school system. It's like a bully who takes someones lunch and then teases them by holding it up and making them jump for it. Does the phrase "redistribution of wealth" ring a bell to anyone? 

I read this article by a fellow teacher who was part of the so called teacher input group. Give it a read and share any experiences you might have had.

Sunday, May 12, 2013


I have always been against the idea that my union dues go to causes that I fundamentally disagree with. If anyone wants to make a donation to any of those causes, more power to them. Just not with my money, my union dues. Because of the spiteful and brutal manner that they routinely and smugly operate with I am hesitant to go through the process (I attempted it once). 

Neil McCabe  wrote a pretty good article on this. Give it a read and tell me what you think.

Have a great day!