Wednesday, August 30, 2006


I have no concept of time right now. The last two months have gone by faster than any previous two months of my life, and my head is spinning as I try to figure out what I did with my ‘summer.’ – you know, summer, that coveted perk that everyone envies teachers for. Now, I don’t want to make any grand policy-related statements here, but I just have to throw this out there. Most teachers don’t plant their asses on a beach for three months straight, sipping margaritas and devouring satisfying literature, as is commonly thought among the non-teaching population. I’m sure some teachers do, and I’m as jealous of them as you are.

But then there are the rest of us—those of us New Yorkers who had school until June 28th, thereby immediately trimming our summer down to a lean 2 months. Then I attended three full-time weeks of unpaid trainings, peppered throughout those two precious months, per my principal’s extremely strong suggestions (slash orders), leaving one broken up month worth of time remaining. Did I mention that I was taking two online grad classes July 14th-August 23rd? Pffff!!! Online courses. Cake, right? HA! Yeah, they fooled me too, but those heartless bastards assigned ~200 pages of reading/week with papers and responses to classmates’ papers due every week. I wrote well over 100 pages worth of papers this summer, so that shaved off a nice chunk of time as well. Then I received word that, despite the illegality of it, my principal announced that we are all required to come to school before our contracted start date to set up our classrooms on our own time. He informed us that we would not be given time during the two days before the students’ arrival because he has staff development planned for us. So that’s another unpaid yet required work week for setting up my room. (Side note: On my first day to my school to set up my classroom, some jackass in the subway station decided he needed my phone more than I did and stole it out of my hands and ran with it. It was a nice welcome to the neighborhood.) Add in the summer planning meetings I had with other teachers and the time spent creating materials for my classroom and curriculum, and you’re down to just a handful of actual, responsibility-free ‘summer’ days.

As I said, I’m not making any grand statements about teacher pay here because there certainly are a number of teachers out there who truly do soak up a long, restful vacation in the sun. All I’m aiming for in this post is to open the eyes of a few “teachers have it easy”- sayers out there. Some of us work our asses off year-round and see less money than the custodians who don’t help us move furniture or clean out our mouse-infested classrooms come late August. So stop envying us! Some of us chose this line of work because we love our students and would do anything for them, not for the great benefits and sweet vacation time. So do me a favor and next time you hear someone say, “Man, teachers have it so easy,” punch them in the face. Tell them that the good teachers don’t leave school every day at 3pm and don’t have vast stretches of any real vacation.

Hehe… this was such a stupid, self-wallowing, soapbox post. My apologies. I just really can’t believe school is starting tomorrow- on my birthday(!) before I felt like my summer even began. But it’s time to suck it up, stop feeling sorry for myself, and shape some young minds. :)

Saturday, June 10, 2006

It doesn't get much better than this :)

"Miss, you our favorite teacher. Partly 'cuz you're mad good at teaching, and partly 'cuz you a woman, and you show us that men aren't the only strong ones."

Winning quotes like that one make every hard day sooooo worth it. I love my job.


Thursday, May 18, 2006

A disheartening low point as the year's end nears

ELA students,

I will not yell over you, and I will not tolerate the disrespect that has been shown in this room over the last couple days. Get to class on time, expect to work while you are in this room, and save the bad attitudes, talking back, and insults for some place less important.

This is an English class. You will use the skills we are building in this class for the rest of your life. Not caring about your reading and writing skills means not caring about your future. You deserve only the best, and I know what you’re capable of because I’ve seen it at various points throughout the year. Don’t sell yourself short by blowing off opportunities to grow and improve.

We said from the beginning of the year that in room ###, we are a team, and we are scholars. Act like it. It both sickens and saddens me to watch my students tear each other apart with insults, shoving, and hitting. By June 28th, we will have spent 180 days together- 270 hours in this classroom alone. We have been through great days and terrible days together. Like it or not, we are a team. Teams stick together until the end. They don’t fall apart and give up on themselves 29 days from the end.

I care too much about each and every one of you to watch our class take steps backward and go back on all the progress we’ve made. Throughout the year, some of you have insulted my appearance from head to toe, called me names, cursed me out, damaged my books, stolen from me, prank called me on the cell phone number I trusted you with, shoved each other into me, threatened me, thrown things at me, and even straight up told me you hated me. I’d be lying if I told you that that abuse didn’t leave its mark, but none of it has stopped me from believing in a single one of you. The fact that I know what you’re capable of and my desire to make you realize it for yourself are what get me here every morning. All of that other stuff seems small compared to the high hopes and expectations I have for each of you.

We have six weeks left together. Your grades are not fully determined yet, and it is up to you to decide what you’re capable of and go after it. If you’ve been giving this class, or school in general, less than your best, ask yourself why, and decide how you’re going to change it. Change it for yourself and for those around you who care about their education.


Ms. ----------

Upon distributing and reading this letter to one of my classes, they laughed. I cried. It was a bad day.

Does anyone shit on the floor at your work place?

I didn’t think so. I wish I could say ‘no’ also, but this week, a student decided to defecate on the boys’ bathroom floor as an act of defiance. If you can’t make a statement with words because you screwed around in your English classes for the last 8 years, I suppose this is the next most viable option. Sorry. I don’t mean to make light of this. I understand that the person who did this obviously has severe anger management and expression issues, and I am not trying to imply that all of my students exhibit these crude, animalistic ways, but wow. Just when you think they’ve done it all, they come up with something like this. The entire floor of our building was filled with a nauseating stench, and I couldn’t help but wonder, “How did I get here?”

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Poetry from today's prep period


The bubble that forms in my throat
As I take a deep breath and blink back
Tears of indescribable frustration.

The tightening sensation around my heart
As I watch those who won’t let me
Help them help themselves.

The tensing of every muscle in my jaw
As I stand before someone
Who thinks what I have to say is a waste.

The boiling emotion that dwells deep down
As I run through plans A-Z,
Watching each fall short.

The hollow feeling that overwhelms me
As I listen to my students show and tell me
That they do not care.

The fading desire to hold my head and hopes high
As they prove again and again that
Their future seems to matter more to me than to them.

The deep breath I have to take
As I watch the garbage that pollutes my students’ minds.
Don’t let it take you over. Rise above it. You’re better.

The racing heartbeat that picks up
As I feel myself believe so strongly
In people who don’t seem to believe in themselves.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Social promotion is not over

Despite Bloomberg's announcement this summer that there will be no more social promotion for 7th graders in NYC, it is still in full swing. While making some copies after school the other day, I heard my principal discussing one of our female students with another staff member, "Just pass her. There's no point in her staying back. She's cute enough. Some guy will at least make sure she's got an apartment to stay in."

Keep dreaming big for our kids, oh great administrator.

Monday, May 08, 2006

A must-see show about public education in NYC

This past Saturday, I had the privilege of seeing Nilaja Sun’s performance of "No Child."

'No Child', written and performed by Nilaja Sun, is a tour-de-force look into the New York City Public Education system by the acclaimed teaching-artist and solo-performer. Ms. Sun transforms into the teachers, students, parents, administrators, janitors and security guards who inhabit our public schools every day and are shaping the future of America. Hal Brooks directs. — TheaterSource

In all honesty, I was not expecting much from the show. I did not think that one woman on a stage with only a couple props, one simple set, and no costume changes would be able to entertain me for an hour and 15 minutes. I have never been more wrong.

Sun proved to be an astoundingly dynamic performer, using her expressive body, face, and voice to captivate every member of the audience for the full show time. In the blink of an eye, she transformed from an aged custodian, to a timid first-year teacher, to a drama coach, to a defiant male student, to a sassy diva female student…and the list goes on.

As a NYC public school teacher, I can attest to the accuracy with which Sun captured each role she assumed. I was entertained, challenged, and moved by this outstanding story and performance.

Please spread the word about this show to everyone you know. THIS is the kind of glimpse into public education that people need to see. It puts a face and a story to what really goes on in schools every day— It sheds light on the complexity of today’s urban education issues in a way that no education policy paper or speech ever could. It’s honest, real, heartfelt, and, in a word, phenomenal.

Please see the link below for ticket info. (Educators get a discount!)

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Breeding and capes

From a recent conversation with an Americorps friend:

Me: my issue right now is that i've finally managed to motivate some kids to write but can't help them all at once. 30:1 is a tough ratio, and group writing conferences haven't been going well

Friend: i think about 15% of the national workforce needs to be in eductation simply to reduce that number... and show the little people we're breeding that we're glad we bred them

Me: i think i'm going to start wearing a spandex jumpsuit and a cape to work