The Good News about Public Schools

by Publius

The school district asked us to propose a slogan for its letterhead. I emailed —

The Metropolitan Public Schools

Standardizing The Future One Test At A Time



By Publius

My kids are so tired of taking standardized tests. Tomyko, a kid in my Advanced Placement class, devised a strategy to entertain himself.

Tomyko noticed that, on this computerized test, every time he answered a question right, the next question was harder. And the reverse if he got the question wrong. He did excellently the first time he took it. But he was bored.

Yesterday, Tomyko had to take the newest version of the same boring test. He thought he’d entertain himself, and see if he could reduce the test to asking him three word questions. But he felt himself a failure, because he could only get down to four word questions, like “Are you still breathing?”

The problem is that the results came back today. I am instructed to take this kid out of Advanced Placement, and send him to a special ed. class. The results of Tomyko’s test, if taken seriously, indicate that the school is responsible for little more that watering him once a week, and making sure he gets plenty of sunlight. And the school is taking the score seriously.

I’ve advised Tomyko to go to the test giver guru, confess to his smart-ass-ness, and throw himself upon the mercy of the school district.

In the meantime, the vice-principal has called “an emergency meeting” of the English Department. We’re to discuss all the kids who didn’t take the literature part of the state test last year. The meeting comes equipped with hand-outs. We’re each given a list with almost 900 names on it, plus some numbers and some blanks Just names and numbers and blanks. We’ve got to make sure the untested kids get tested. I presume the blanks are the untested, but nobody can really tell. The vice-principal, who is running the meeting, forgot the key. So she goes on for an hour about how important it is for us to get everyone tested. And we just stare at names and numbers and blanks. Finally Milford, who is sitting right next to her, notices that she has the key in her notebook. Long story short, I have three students total — three! — who have not taken the test. Two are immigrants, who, at test time last year, were dodging snipers in Baghdad.

The other is Tomyko. How he dodged the test, who knows? But my respect for this kid is growing exponentially.


And look upon myself, and curse my fate

by Publius

I have 177 students.

I’d like my reader to pause for that number. 177.

I am an English teacher, and sometimes a history teacher. I teach seven periods. On Mondays and Wednesdays, I have no planning periods. I get about 30 minutes for lunch, 20 minutes of real time. Sometimes, when I have to meet with a parent or some such, I skip lunch. That and I have 177 students.

If in each class I give each student one page to write per day, by Friday I have more papers to grade than there are pages in some novels by Steinbeck.

By no means do I have the largest student load in the school. Some teachers have over 200 students.

Tomorrow, I have to go to an all day professional development, “How To Write A Lesson Plan.” Every teacher in the district has to go to this. My problem is that I don’t really have time to write lesson plans.

The up-side is that, with thirty-six years of teaching, I have hundreds of lesson plans in my head. The down-side is that I don’t have time to write them all down. I just know them and do them. An administrator told me that I need to start writing them out. I told that administrator that “If you take time for this, then you steal time from that. If something goes in, then something goes out.” Usually, what goes out is the student. I have to put in an all day meeting about lesson plans, so — What goes out? — I won’t teach Walt Whitman tomorrow.

I refuse to take time from my private life, from my wife, or, frankly, from watching a Star Trek rerun. And I’m not going to do what some of my colleagues do: take a day off work in order to get some work done. I have done both, and I won’t do it anymore.

If something goes in, then something goes out.

A kid comes up to me yesterday and says, “You’re Catholic. How do I break it to my parents that I don’t want to go to Mass anymore?”

I only had time to say, “Gently. Break it to them gently. Because you’ll remember this moment all your life. I was your age when I told my mother the same thing. Forty-five years later, I remember her tears.” The kid wanted to talk more. I wanted to talk more. But I had to go. Because I paused for this kid, I was almost late handing in a lesson plan.



by Publius

I spent the morning watching genetically enhanced sharks. I came a little late, so I never did get the explanation about why it’s a good idea to make sharks bigger, faster and hungrier. That said, I spent the morning watching genetically enhanced sharks.

Freshmen (or, as my principal says, “freshmens”) and sophomores had to take a standardized test, and seniors had to sign-up for a standardized test. This left only the juniors unmolested. Since many juniors are mixed in with other classes, someone decided to show them a movie about genetically enhanced sharks eating stupid scientists with great abs and/or great breasts. It never seemed to occur to whomever that some of us, me for example, might just have a class of nothing but juniors. So, instead of reading Antigone, my kids and I spent the morning watching genetically enhanced sharks.


After Martial

by Publius

We no longer love you, boss,
but the reason – it’s just hard to tell;
though there’s one thing we know,
and we can tell this full well –
we’d all love to smash your ass, boss.



by Publius

So I say to the kids, ‘Write three paragraphs about your favorite vacation. Introductory paragraph, development, conclusion …’. An assignment teachers have been giving since time immemorial.

Samantha raises her hand. “What if I’ve never been on a vacation? Never left the city?”

‘Ah, well, if you’ve never been on vacation, never left town, then write about someplace you’ve been that’s interesting.’

“Can I write about the first time I went to jail?”

‘That would be interesting.’

She’s fourteen.

I get three such papers.

I get quite a few papers from kids who write about rooms where they feel safe. Two write papers in which they dream about where their fathers live.


At the End of the Day

by Publius

The kid at the front of the class asks, “Do you love us?”

I’m really caught off-guard by this. I want to say yes, but I don’t, because I’m afraid of how the word will get misinterpreted. So I say something positive.

Then I‘m really caught off-guard.

“Do you hate us?”

Again I say something positive, I forget exactly what. But I know I’m making progress when they ask even the hardest questions.

Kevin asks me, “How long you been married?”

‘Going on twenty-one years.’

“How you stay faithful twenty-one year?” This from a kid who is all of fourteen.

Malcolm and Wanita volunteer to clean up my room. They sweep and decide to take a bit of a break. Leaning against their respective brooms, they chat and, in that way students do, forget I’m there.

“Yea, I know what you mean, Malcolm. My mama’s boyfriend was stabbed the other night too …”.

I know I’m getting somewhere with my students when I can leave the room for some time, and the room is still there when I get back.

“Because we want you to trust us,” Shakeisha says.

Which puts me in mind of Publius’s Rule # 21: Trust students implicitly — then check twice.



by Publius

Donnell gets kicked out of another class. He’s on his way to the office, when he spies me in my room during my planning period. So he stops by my room to see what I can offer by way of avoidance. I say, “Let’s talk, but just for a few minutes. Consequences are consequences.” That said, this gives me a chance to chat, get to know the kid.

So I just listen.

In the course of five minutes, he tells me about his dad and his dad’s three brothers, Donnell’s uncles. Two are murderers. One is doing life. The other murdered his cellmate, but didn’t get caught. It seems that the cellmate had dis-ed the uncle’s sister-in-law when he was on the outside, and had the bad luck of getting this uncle for a cellmate. The third uncle, who wasn’t a murderer, boffed this other guy’s wife, and gets shot-up by the husband. But he isn’t killed. He eventually is released from the hospital, released in a wheelchair. Only to have the husband finish-up what he started. So now the third uncle is killed, dead.

The fourth brother is his dad.

“But I’m fine. My daddy works two jobs.” And, fortunately for him, the dad sounds like a good man.

But Donnell is paying a price. It’s in his eyes, his old eyes, the eyes no child should own. He has that same look in his eyes that I used to see in The Nam. A weariness that comes from carrying a terrible knowledge, the certain knowledge that there is nothing one human being won’t do to another. Or, at the very least, the knowledge that in his family even murder is possible.


Sex and the City

by Publius

Together with his parents, Malcolm watches reruns of “Sex And The City.” He comes-in talking about how “the girls” last night did this and that. Though I don’t say it, of course, I know that show. I love it.

I remember the very scenes he’s discussing. These scenes were quite stimulating and, indeed, arousing. But the difference is that I just turned 52 and am happily married. Furthermore, I love the show because it’s sexy, yes — but I also love its touching portrayal of mature relationships, its witty dialogues, its brilliant characterizations, and what it says about friendship. Most of which I think is quite lost on an eleven year old.

So what kind of parents think it’s a good idea to watch with their kid “Sex And The City”?


Mr. Thomas

by Publius

Mr. Thomas died last night. Shot dead in the alley behind his house. He was out for his customary evening walk, and some punks robbed him and shot him. He had taught here for sixteen years, and in the school system for, as I recall, close to thirty years. He was a painter.

He was much loved.

I read to my kids the story in the newspaper.

Dolan just stares out the window for an hour or maybe two.

I let the kids draw on the chalkboard pictures of Mr. Thomas, messages, “RIP Mr. Thomas/We miss you.”

Outside my door, they hang a drawing, a tombstone with Keith Thomas’ name, his dates, then all their signatures, messages, prayers around the stone. It’s touching.

Not one kid cries.

These are children who know a lot about loss. Indeed, they expect it.

I use the opportunity to have the kids write letters to Mr. Thomas’ family.

It is the first and only time that I have 100% participation in any writing endeavor.



by Publius

This week we’re giving yet another standardized test, one of many.

Kevin can’t stay awake. He’s angry when I force him awake again and again. Finally, he gets rude, disrespectful. So I keep him after class.

I want to talk with him, because this rudeness, this disrespect, this sleepiness is becoming more frequent. Indeed, there’s a disturbing pattern from nice quiet kid last semester to irritating brat now.

So after class, I set him down and say, “We have to talk.” He’s resistant. Finally I say, ‘Kevin, I don’t understand why you’re pushing me away. You know I like you and I know you like me.’

“Yea, you’re OK, I guess,” he says.

‘So, let’s forget the rudeness for a second. And I’m not mad at you. I just want to know why are you so tired?’

“Noise, I guess.”

‘Like stuff from outside or the TV or what?’

“Nah, my parents.”

‘What, they stay up late?’

“Yea, they fight all night”, Kevin says.


“Last night till five in the morning?” I just let him talk about it, and, when he was done, told him to come back anytime he wanted to talk again.

The next day, he’s OK.

There are students who just need to leave information with me. ‘Leave things on my desk,’ I like to say. They expect nothing in return, nothing other than an uncritical ear from someone they know to have standards and limits.

In truth, the needs of my students are much more clinical than educational. And this is what standardized tests don’t examine.


by Publius

My kids and their abandonment issues. When I discipline a kid, I always make it clear that I like the kid but dislike the behavior. And I always make clear that I won’t abandon the kid, despite the behavior.

Some kids will go out of their way to have time with me. Once a day, Robert must “have my walk around,” meaning he comes into my class and chats, this, I believe, just to make sure that I am a constant object in his life.

I think Robert would be glad if I took him home. He constantly seeks my attention, often inappropriately. And he leaves little bits of himself, papers, pens, an unfinished assignment, in my room almost everyday. I really noticed this when he left his Boy Scout manual, one of his most valued items. It gives him an excuse to return to my room.


Ghetto Hawk

by Publius

Today, after school, I stood by a yellow bus. I looked up and saw a broad wing hawk swooping down on some pigeons. Poor pigeons, I thought. But as the hawk narrowed on a single pigeon, it turned abruptly. The hawk overshoots. Then the pigeons begin to swirl around the hawk, swirl in such a way that the hawk can’t get at any one pigeon. The pigeons use what they have, speed and maneuverability. It turns out the hawk can’t corner worth a damn. As they get to about 30 feet, the pigeons scatter in all directions, hide in this crevice, beneath that window sill, between those chimneys. A clean get-away.

That’s my students. That’s me. We’re the pigeons. We use what we’ve got. And we live to fly another day.



by Publius

I once taught in an inner-city middle school, in which I was one of only two white people, both of us teachers.

A student once asked me, “Hey, cous’, what page we on?” I run a rather formal classroom. So I turned to him and said,

“Mr. Knight, I’m white and you’re black. Do I look like any cousin of yours?”

“Honest, sir, it depends on what side of the family we’re talking about.”


Dr. Dog

by Publius

Black folks use the word “dog” in the same way white folks use “pal” or “buddy.” It’s familiar. It’s friendly. But it’s not suited to formal discourse.

So Victorio says to me, “What page we on, dog?” Then gapes at me, knowing he’s crossed a line.

‘That’s Dr. Dog to you, sir!’ We pause. Then we all laugh.

From now until the end of the year, I’m Dr. Dog.



by Publius

Danny. Danny. Danny.

To borrow a line from my favorite show, The Sopranos, “Between [his] brain and [his] mouth, there is no interlocutor. “ He’s a good spirited kid. He’s not mean. We’ve grown fond of each other. But he just does what he does and says what he says. And the school system offers absolutely no help.

Today, I snag him as he walks behind a girl, her eyes wild in torment, as he keeps repeating, “Let me see your coochie. Let me see your coochie. …” I send him back into my room.

Last semester, when the med students were here, they ask, “Does anyone know what a homosexual is?”

Danny shoots up his hand. “That’d be butt-fuckin’ faggots.”

“Well, ah, ah, that’s not an, ah, an appropriate term. Anyhow, does anyone know what a lesbian is?”

Danny shoots back, “That’d be Alexander’s mama. Alexander’s that fat little negro sittin’ right in front of you. You can go ahead on and smack his black ass back to Africa, if you like. He don’t mind.” Alexander has some feelings about all this. At which point I have to quiet a small riot.

And stuff like this happens with Danny almost every day.

His mother is an alcoholic. His father is nowhere to be found. There is a succession of live-in boyfriends. And the mother still refuses, after all this time and repeated requests, to give Danny his meds.

When the mother disciplines Danny, she hits him with a closed fist. I know this because I stopped her once before she hit him.


Danny, The End

by Publius

The paperwork has finally arrived for Danny to be sent to special ed., or what now goes by the current cliché, a “resource room.” We first put-in for his transfer back in August, as I recall. If I were to count all the time the 7th grade team has taken from instruction, this to attend singularly to Danny, it would be counted in full days of instruction.


Occasionally I have parents

by Publius

Occasionally I have parents who offer to beat their kids in front of my class. I politely decline, like I do again today with Samantha‘s dad.

Last semester, Samantha’s father was the first parent to make such an offer. At that very moment in my classroom there were medical students from the nearby university. They were lecturing about AIDS. I had visions of going into the classroom, asking these med. students to pause for — What? — the weekly exemplary beat-down?

This afternoon, I found out that dad doesn’t even live with Samantha. I’m not surprised. But then again I pray to God that I never get used to such news.


Sam, the end

by Publius

I just found out that Sam got busted for stealing a car. He is to be suspended for 180 days. I call this ‘the death sentence‘.

On an impulse, the other night he goes out and steals a Mercedes. (Why bother with a Toyota, right?) Then he goes home. After a hard night of ripping folks off, he oversleeps. He panics the next morning, but remembers he’s got a car. So he drives to school, and parks in the faculty parking lot. It is, after all, where everybody parks. Since impulse control is not Sam’s strength, it did not occur to him that the security guard might question a 12 year old driving.

Where does this kid get a break? His parents abandoned him. Foster care fails him. Now we expel him. And this kid is so clearly, clearly treatable.

After school, I see him outside, across the street, just looking at us. Just looking. I call to him. Sam says something in reply, something blurred by the sound of traffic. We smile. Camouflage smiles. But our eyes betray the depth of sadness and a distance, just a street, which our sadness cannot bridge.


I Held Sam after Class Today

by Publius

I held Sam after class today. He stared out the window and cried.

He tells me that he just wants to go home. We discuss his behavior. Sam knows his behavior is disruptive, but he hates his Ritalin because it “flattens his affective range” — in other words, the pills keep him from feeling anything.

A week or so ago, his first decision was that he wouldn’t take his meds on Fridays, so he could have fun with his buddies after school. I warned him against this then.

But Friday was so much fun that he decides, for this whole week, he will not take his meds at all.

I ask about his folks. His mother kicked him out of the house, and just placed him in foster-care. The problem is that the current foster-mother is a drunk. Sam and his new foster-brother wait until she is asleep, and get into her liquor. Last night was the first time he had ever been drunk. He really liked it.

He’s 13. And he mourns the loss of his birth mother with a pain that only God can measure.



by Publius

Jonah and I chat. Jonah is another kid who is constantly disruptive.

He says, “I know what I need to do. I just wish I knew how to do it.”

My wife would say that Jonah is a perfect candidate for psychodynamic psychotherapy. He’s bright. He understands the effects his actions have upon others and upon himself. He wants what kids his age want: he wants to love and be loved.

But all he knows is how to get negative attention. He has almost no capacity for comforting himself.

For which he soon will be kicked out of this school, sent to another, and so on until he is sixteen.


Be Cool

by Publius

There’s a side of me that my friends never see, and that is the strict disciplinarian. I’m actually considered one of the stricter teachers in the building, someone who is perfectly capable of holding down a class full of Crips. I’m perfectly capable of giving a kid three days suspension for not calling me “Sir” — and I have.

And, as odd as it all sounds, I do it out of love. I have often said to colleagues who despair, who want to just walk out, “If not you, then who? Who is going to do this job? Who is going to love these kids? Who, if not you?”

I have a number of students who are genuinely mentally ill, a few with genuine personality disorders. I’m no diagnostician, but it is clear enough that abandonment issues, not surprisingly, seem to lead the list of issues.

And for good reason. The year before I was hired to teach 7th grade, that same 7th grade had seven English teachers, one of whom lasted a day.

One quarter of my job is education. Three quarters of my labor is social¬ization. Underlying all that, my job is simply being here, simply showing my students that a male can be a stable object in their lives.

One day I ask Dolan, in a round about way, if he has any insight into Perry. Perry is perfectly capable of — and I mean this literally — talking from the very beginning until the very end of the day. Ranting, really. Perry is genuinely mentally ill. So I ask Dolan about Perry. He’s known Perry since 4th grade.

“Oh, Perry, he’s always been like that. But really, he’s just like all the rest of us.”

‘What do you mean?’

“He’s just like all the rest of us — he doesn’t have a father.” At which point Dolan, whose plans include the N. F. L., tells me how he’s OK, because he taught himself how to play halfback. So he doesn’t need a dad.

One day, I was teaching and the kids were talking, acting-up. I tried to shut them up several times, but to no avail. So I put my head in my hand for half a second, and said what has become my favorite prayer — “Lord, you’ve entrusted me with Your most sacred creation, the children. Now give me the strength, Lord, the strength …”.

At which point Kevin looks up at me, worried, and says to the class, “Be cool, everybody. Be cool. Or he’s going to leave us just like everyone else leaves us.”

At which point I remember that this English class had seven teachers last year, including the teacher who came and went in one day.

So I take a few moments and remind them that, on the very first day, I promised them that I will never abandon them. I haven’t. And I won’t.

Thus assured, they return to talking and acting up.


The Roll Call Of Sorrow

by Publius

When I first walk-in around 6:30 AM, I’m always struck by that institutional smell. It’s not a bad smell; it’s just, well, a school smell.

I like to get to work early. But this is not out of any ambition, any work ethic. My day is long; my work is hard. I like to begin with silence.

A silence which ends at 7:10 AM, when the school awakens.

It’s easy to fall in love with my students. I love their innocence, their energy, the way they flitter from one locker to the next, one friend to the next, a constant whirl of motion, noise, in the hallway just outside my room, Room 213.

They are agitated, hungry, frightened, tense, disorganized, confused, in need of more light. Like me. Just like me.

First bell, homeroom, 7:20. Dawn.

I call the roll. Danny, this hyper kid, is out of his seat again. He is always compliant, but it usually takes telling him three times to get him into his seat. He should be in special ed., that’s obvious, but, because of the bureau¬cracy, I’m told this is unlikely to happen, this despite the fact that his needs are transparent.

Someone tells me Josh is in juvenile detention. I want to ask, but don’t have the time in the swirl of motion that is homeroom. Besides, I’ll see him this afternoon, or I won’t.

Still, I pause for a moment at this news. I like Josh, and he likes me. But his eyes are dead. How do I bring hope to a kid I’ll never turn my back on?

Then announcements over the PA. My PA doesn’t work well, it never has, so there’s always a lot of, “What did they say? Was that my name? What time is the field trip? They say music, or was that math, that’s cancelled?”

Someone lost a lunch card. Out of my twenty-five kids, all but one qualify for free lunch. To qualify, a family must make less than $20,000 or so.

Dolan, who plans to play fullback for the N. F. L., is proud that he scored the winning touchdown last Saturday. He demonstrates his triumphant catch to all who will listen. Few do.

Someone says they talked to the sixth grader who went into labor during fifth period yesterday.

Another kid asks who did the homework. No answer.

The bell rings again.

My first class begins at 7:30.


Just a Short

by Publius

Yesterday at the faculty meeting, folks complained that the announcements are way too long, and that many, delivered to the whole school, only pertain to a few. The principal promised to think about it.

Thus it is that, today, we have had the following announcements:

“Just a short announcement to those for whom this announcement is, ah, you know, an actual announcement. Six Flags.”

And my favorite thus far. “Just a short announcement. Bluetooth.” Someone, I think it was Mr. North, hollered down the hall, “Can I buy a verb?”

Then there was simply, “Don’t wear black tomorrow.”

And, “Just a short announcement to those to whom this announcement is to you. Stand-by.”


A Haiku

by Publius
a balmy spring breeze
flutters the freshly starched blouse
of the corner whore

Which is exactly what happens as I look out my window on a pretty, if balmy, spring day in the ghetto.


Mr. Riddlesinger

 by Publius

            I have to run some paperwork over to the old Southtown Middle School.   We’re coordinating some middle school to high school curricula.   Southtown is a venerable, late 19th century building.   Right on the river.   A lovely place, except when it rains. 

            I figure I’ll drop in on Arthur Riddlesinger.   I taught middle school with him for years over at Central.   I love the guy.   (A remarkably talented figure skater, by the way.)   Normally, he’d be too busy to talk much, but today I catch him during his planning period. 

            Or rather his mopping period.   It turns out that his planning period today is devoted to mopping up his basement classroom.   

            In fact, he keeps handy a dozen mops, he tells me.   And I’m like, ‘Huh?’  

            “Oh, you think this is because of the recent spring floods.   No.   The basement floods because it rains.”   He just leaves off like that explains everything. 

            He keeps a dozen mops handy, and deals with these inundations like it’s a regular part of his lesson plan for 1st period.   “OK, kids.   Get out your books, turn to page 23.   Do questions 1 – 3.   But first, the mops.”   Except today, for who know what reason, he’s got to do it himself.   

            So I figure I’ll help.   I open up the mop closet, and, may Sweet Jesus gouge out my eyes, there’s the World’s Hugest Extension Cord In The Whole Universe.   It’s like the extension cord equivalent of the Guinness Book Of World’s Records Largest Ball Of Twine In The Whole Universe.   The thing is a thousand feet long. 

            ‘Riddlesinger, what the fuck?   Dude!’   

            He explains that he has the only functioning wall socket in the basement, largely because it’s halfway up the wall, and the water seldom gets that high.   (Which is when I notice that everything, books, pictures, maps, all that, everything is halfway up the wall.   Because of the inundations.)   Everyone else’s wall sockets are near the floor and silted in.   His words, “silted in”. 

            And this is how you show a video in the basement at Southtown Middle School.    The basement folks contribute a dozen extension cords each to Riddlesinger.   He, in turn, makes the World’s Hugest Extension Cord In The Whole Universe, which can, when needed, reach from his far corner to the other far corner of the basement half a mile away.   When it’s not raining, of course. 


Pearl’s Harbor

by Publius

The high stakes state test, known as the End Of Course Test, was given a month before the end of the courses. Now students pretty much figure that school is over. Teachers, who bore the burden of testing, and all the threats and humiliation that went with it, also figure that school is over. So, we’ve entered the entertainment phase of the school year. I especially admire Mr. Halpern. Halpern is having his kids write movie reviews. On his desk is a stack of DVD’s like two feet high.

Which reminds me of “Pearl’s Harbor”. A couple of years ago, I was teaching history. I got to World War II, and remembered seeing a tape on Pearl Harbor. Right after I found the tape, I passed Mr. North’s room. It was just a few minutes until the next class. So North asks me if I’d like to check the tape, see if it’s the right one, see if it needs to be rewound and like that. He’s got a TV, with the VCR bit, right inside his room. His kids just finished a tape on The Depression. So I say OK, and he slides in the tape.

It’s porn. And I don’t mean some Saturday night Showtime a little T & A light porn. I mean “money shot” porn. I just flung my body across the TV screen, trying to hide it from the kids. North didn’t bother with the eject button. He just ripped the tape out of the machine, and to hell with the ripped fingernails. He made a show of publicly throwing the tape away, although I don’t think any of the kids saw it.

Which lead us to the best part of this escapade. Which of our colleagues made it? Our guess is that someone taped some porn, then taped “Pearl Harbor” over it, accidentally leaving a small section of porn still on the tape. My best guess was the Austins, a married couple that retired a few years ago. But, if the truth be known, it could have been any of us.

Speaking of sex, then there was the workshop with Margaret. The workshop was at the beginning of the year, and was, as is usual with academic workshops, inane.

So, in the last half-hour, we’re asked to make circles, and “Discuss a time when you were given instructions that were very frustrating.” Someone, at the next table, is discussing assembling a Christmas present. Someone, in my group, asks if anyone has a quaalude. Finally, Margaret says, in her deeply British accent, “Well, I’ll start. Last night, I couldn’t figure out whether the instructions called for batteries, or if I need a cord for my new vibrator. It was very frustrating.”

State Test

by Publius

the kids just flunked
the state education test
a small flood runs down
a gutter to Walnut Street
the kids make boats from worksheets


Rubik’s Final

by Publius

My kids are all playing with Rubik’s Cubes, practicing for their final exam.

To make the school look good — since we probably won’t pass the state test — the school has decided to set the new world’s record for the most number of folks solving, within five minutes, Rubik’s Cube. So all the kids who take science and math, meaning mostly the whole school, will do the puzzle for the final. All at once.

There’s also weekly progress tests on the Cube. And homework on the Cube. All of which makes a big chunk of a semester grade based on the Cube.

But at least the school will be good at something.

As for the kids who are bad at Rubik’s Cube, the kids I identify with, let’s just say that mine is the only school whose lawn is littered with Rubik’s Cubes flung from various windows.

Once Again Publius Finds Himself the Recording Secretary for Insanity

by Publius

Brittany has been sent to the re-education camps. That’s what we’re calling professional development these days. It seems that some people have objected to the way the state is running the schools, the state test, dozens of standardized tests, class sizes, one free period every other day. And on and on. These folks, in the immortal words of Cool Hand Luke, “need to get their minds right.”

And Brittany really does need re-education. She teaches right down the hall from me. She is sweet, smart, pretty, from California, 22, so of course her name is Brittany. She teaches math. More importantly, she is a non-tenured, non-union, first year Teach For America teacher. Thus does she merit nine classes, 279 students. Unfortunately for her, she’s expressed some feelings about this. Hence, re-education.

Her core problem is that Dr. Asoka cheated too well on the last state test. The requirement for passing the state test is that the school have a 10% gain over last year. (Jesus help the school that scores a 91%.) Dr. Asoka was so frustrated that he just said, “Fuck all”, and wrote the answers on the board. The problem is that he drove up the school’s Algebra score so high that the only choice was to promote Asoka to an administrative slot, and give all his classes to … well, hence Brittany’s need for re-education.