September 17, 2007

[Parent, to four year old child, when asked for math help]: Go call someone for help.

What you gonna do?


Teacher. Singer.

September 10, 2007

Pavarotti is dead. He was amazing, and in so many ways. Few know, however, that he was first an elementary teacher. Problem was, he and the kids didn’t really get along, and he considered himself to be a failure so far as teaching was.

He turned his efforts to his real love, though, for which we should all be very very grateful.

Here’s a YouTube video of his last public performance at the Turin Olympics, last year. I watched it, and it was beautiful. Although I’m not a big opera fan, I will miss him.



September 6, 2007

First day of school today, and yes, I am busy.  Thanks for asking.  Serves me right to ask for a new assignment.

But this continues to be a problem, no matter where I teach …

Redy for school

In case you’re looking for one of those over-the-top girl tees, here’s one place to shop.  I especially like the “Miss Bitch” option; I’ve had more than a few of those kinds of students, and would actually appreciate the heads up.

Here are some other good ones:


Potty Parents

July 14, 2007

I am in fact a good friend of JonoVision.  For various reasons, he chooses to keep his identity hidden from all but a chosen few.  He’s a fellow teacher, an exemplary parent, and a role model.

He brought to my attention a posting by Jacy, who contributes to a blog called Reject the Koolaid. Here’s what it’a all about:

we keep tabs on absurd trends, ideas, people and things including Crocs sandals, frivolous IP lawsuits, Rate My Professors, Invisible deodorant, Mummy Bloggers, Canadian Weather, Softwood Lumber Disputes, Hipster Parents, Dr. Oetker, and More…

In a recent post, Facebook: the madness, she writes:

So for months my 16-year-old daughter has urged me to get on Facebook, insisting that I remain “plugged in” despite my advancing years. So I set up a Facebook account with a weird made-up name and a quite hilarious headshot, if I do say so myself, of one of my favourite fictional characters. My son, daughter and American nephew invited me to be their friends. I have only three.

So my daughter is away for most of the month with my beloved in-laws, and told me if I need to get a message to her, just post it on her Facebook wall because she goes online once a day. I thought this was odd. I mean why not just e-mail? But I did as she said.
So one day I post a message to her wall and I see that all of her girlfriends, lovely girls that I have known since they were all in junior kindergarten together, have also posted her messages to tell her how much they miss her and …. oh yeah …. to divulge in great detail the fact that all four of them are raging potheads. Oh yes. All sorts of posts about how high they all got the night before and how they almost got arrested and “I’m so stoned right now I can barely type but getting high without you is not the same!” and so on and so on and so on.

What would you do if you found out your daughter was a pothead?  Or even a variant shade thereof?  I know what i would do, and I’ve had to do it to various parents over the years.

Most parents are saddened, shocked, indignant (my kid would never! type of indignancy).  But every one in a while, we get a few who shrug their shoulders, and say “what’s the big deal?”.

It seems that all kids are resigned to experimenting with drugs and alcohol, at least in Jacy’s eyes.  And in the eyes of many of her adherents, judging by the response, and JonoVision’s developing pariah-hood.

In the comments, he is called unenlightened (it’s not 1958 anymore) and an antiquated thinker (egads, no… say it ain’t so!).

Jacy’s response?

I am a pretty cool mother and I know this is what kids do — I did it at their age, and quite honestly, marijuana-smoking does not freak me out nearly as much as heavy boozing. They are good, close friends, look out for one another, hang out mostly exclusively with one another, they all do well in school, they all treat their parents (for the most part) with respect, they are not lazy, not stunned, they obey their curfews, they are basically very good kids.

Great; cool mothers  let their kids engage in illegal, mood altering behaviours.  Better to regulate these behavious than to drive them underground.

I would classify these enabling behaviours, on the part of parents, as illegal and akin to child abuse.  I know there are many many good parents out there, who know how to talk with their kids, and talk frankly about issues like sex and drugs.

JonoVision is one of those parents. I know his kids, and I personally know of their close and caring relationship.  And I sure as shit know that it is not normal for kids to experiment with pot.

Parents like Jacy make me sick, quite frankly.  They are a bigger hinderance to public education than  one might imagine.  Certainly, they make my job much harder to do.



June 14, 2007

Why children no longer flunk in school


(full article here)

The realization crept up on Edmonton school administrators and shocked them to the core: One in five children was failing Grade 1.

It was the early 1980s and officials learned of the high retention rate by chance through a testing program that found that about 20 per cent of pupils, many of them boys whose birthdays fell just before the enrolment cutoff, were in their second year of Grade 1.

“That was simply unacceptable,” said Anne Mulgrew, supervisor of student assessment for Edmonton public schools.

The recognition, coupled with a burgeoning body of research concluding that repeating grades is harmful and doesn’t help children catch up, led the board to largely stop failing children in elementary and junior high schools.

You simply must read the entire article, if only to prove to yourself that platitudes and empty catch phrases get you pretty far int he edumacashun industry.

Some money quotes:

“Failing students really sends some very damning and negative messages, which impacts on their entire lives,” said Lori Tighe, director of assessment and instructional support services at the Winnipeg School Division.

Actually, there’s nothing quite so destructive to a student’s sense of self than to be given something which the don’t deserve, or for which they have not worked. The research, so far as I’ve seen, is pretty inconclusive, with arguments on both sides of the debate.

When faced contradictory data (opinions) concerningany complicated issue, I prefer to rely on common sense. Not the goof ole boys, common folk kind of common sense. But common sense borne of experience and first hand knowledge.

That kind of common sense tells me that kids’ self esteem is boosted by genuine achievement. Bullshit, feel-good, touchy feely policies like social promotion does very little to boost that sense of self worth, or build an inner locus of control.

Now I do grant that there may be unique, specialized, and rare cases that social promotion might be appropriate. And I might start being a hard-ass about it in middle school (junior high, or grade 7 hereabouts). But in general, you need to hit them where it hurts. And that means if you phuck around and ruin your and others’ time in class, you do it all over.

And this time with moxy.


Laying low

June 4, 2007

I’ve been having to lay low for a while while I divest myself of an awful placement.  You might recall that I applied for transfer to a senior high school.  They (the evil school board, whose staffing department is run by an incompetent ex-principal I used to have.  And who remembers me.  I shouldda kept me mouth shut) balked.  I pushed.

I pushed a bit more, and it was suggested that I keep the volume down a bit.  WHich I’ve been doing.

The Toronto school shooting should have proven blogworthy, and I may just yet.  Until then, just six more teaching days until summer.

And no, I don’t get paid summers off.  Although I am lucky, I know plenty of teachers who take summer jobs to connect the ends.



April 16, 2007

(Updated below) 

On so many levels, what’s happened in Virginia is a tragedy. And with such tragedies, there is an instant – knee jerk, even – response by otherwise smart, but not so wise people, as to to how to prevent these things from happening again.

Unfortunately, psychopaths will be pyschopaths. If someone wants to kill people, they’ll find a way. Guns, knives, sharpened bamboo sticks, they’ll find a way.

There are a couple of things that strike me as a teacher.

The first is how stupidly easy it is to spot these people when they’re our students. The other is what I’d do were I presented with a psychopath in my school.

Predictability. We’ve all had them; a student who we just know no good will come of. You just see pure evil in their eyes. Sometimes you can quantify it, and convince administration to bounce them somewhere else, so that at the very least, they don’t corrupt your current crop of kiddies. At the worst, no one believes you (other than your teaching colleagues) and you have to find a vcery personal way to cope with the little cretin.

For me, an mano-a-mano talk, and a “don’t fuck with me or my class, and you’ll be fine” denoument usually works. But when push comes to shove, and nothing else works, I keep bouncing him (it’s a him 90% of the time) to the office. I do have a bad attitude, after all.

What kinds of kids are these? Well one, I remember, was a black kid who everyone thought was just misunderstood. Finally, after much cajoling, I got our guidance/resource teacher to talk to him. She (the resource teacher) was a youngish, pretty gal, who lasted five minutes, before he was punted to a system school. With devilish grin, he asked her if she’d ever had a “chocolate milkshake”. She knew exactly what he had meant. He was gone the next day.

You can recognize these kids easily. It’s a sad situation when the best thing you can do is send them away, so that they don’t damage your immediate surroundings. We must be able to do something preventative. We must have some other program or situation or plan to deal with these kinds of kids.

But no, it’s our job as a teacher to deal with them. I don’t know about you all, but they’ve neither trained me enough, nor pay me enough to do that job. Call it mission creep.

I actually keep a list of the names of such students. I fully expect to see their names in the news at some point. I’m not lookingg forward to that.

The second thing that comes to mind from this, and previous such events, is what I’d do if faced with a gun wielding gunman. Or what I’d counsel my students to do.

The official line is play passive when faced with a threatening, armed person. Do what you’re told to do, don’t bring attention to yourself. If you follow orders, you’ll be fine.

Sadly, experience now shows that this will not be the case. What I want to tell my kids is this: when faced with someone with a gun, fight back. Charge the assailant, throw things, make noise, and mob the bad guy. Bring him down, hold him down.

It’s what I want to tell my students (grades 8 and 9), but sadly I cannot. I expect in my email tomorrow morning a missive from the big heads downtown reminding us about lockdown procedures. Sit tight. Wait for help to come.

Not bloody likely. I’m fighting for my life.

And in the meantime, in Calgary, police have arrested a junior high student from St. Gregory School for uttering “Colombine like threats”. He was turned in by his parents. Sadly, he was also released back into their custody, on bail. Whatever that means for a 14 year old.


Matthew Good is a Vancouver based singer songwriter. Although I’m not a big fan of his music, he runs a fairly level headed little blog, commenting on human rights issues, the “wars on terror”, and suchlike. He makes a good point in this post: 32 is a tragic number, but so is 176.  That’s how many civilian Iraqis were murdered last Saturday in Bagdad.

Where’s the hue and cry, the (inter)national media, the tearful tributes, the idiot new hounds waxing poetic?

No where. And yesterday, a middle class, popular, and rather smart white kid in my class brings up the same point. I had to quell a class rebellion as they just about lynched him.

Open-mindedness, people.  Open-mindednes.