Saturday, June 30, 2007


The first week of summer vacation has ended. I have thought very little about the world of education or my school year. I am too busy being preoccupied with the fact that my house hasn't sold (6 weeks on the market).
I miss my daughter and wife, who both flew from Panama to Connecticut. My wife's parents are missionaries in Panama. We are moving to Connecticut this summer, and we didn't think it made sense for my wife and daughter to fly back home and then a second trip to Connecticut. Had I known the market would come to a near stop here, I wouldn't have done that. I also sent our dog, Fort, to join them.
So here I remain, waiting less than patiently for my house to sell, but thoroughly enjoying my first summer that I am not teaching summer school. I need this break.

Friday, June 22, 2007

The Daily Grind

I titled my blog The Daily Grind because I felt it represented the mundane aspects of what we do. The movies love to show teachers winning the battle against poverty, low expectations, and hopleseness. I knew going in that teaching is far less about cinematic presentations than about the daily grinding towards a goal. The Apostle Paul encouraged us to press on towards that goal, and by press on, I suppose he meant take it one moment at a time.
Well, my daily grind this year turned out to be a battle. I wish I had known going in that this battle would exist. I could have prepared for it. In my last post, I was unsure how the battle ended.
I am not quite sure if I know today. But either way, to that student who had to battle all the way through this year, and a few others, stay well.

Sunday, June 17, 2007


I have hollow heart today. Last night at graduation I waited to hear a student's name that was never called. The name echoes only in the silence it created.
I once quoted Frederick Buechner to the student: "Listen to your life," I said, "See it for the fathomless mystery that it is." I wonder what it said.
One time, to encourage this compassionate student, I quoted Buechner again, “Compassion is sometimes the fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else's skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.” I didn't sleep much last night--not much peace.
What is it about the human spirit that hinders us from moving on when we lose someone. The American Soldier won't leave another behind. The shepherd goes to find the one of 99 that lost the fold. Teachers lament the one that fails.

The Class of 2007

I sat in the upper level of our graduation arena, preparing myself for the usual insight into life's journey when out of the din of the arena, the speaker's voice, mellow and calm, recalled that September morning in 1995 when she started her first day of school.
The statement jolted me out of my daydreams. I graduated in 1995. For the first time as a teacher, I recognized the vast age difference between me and my students. The speaker, a student who never graced any of my classes, spoke with a serenity and acceptance of all that has happened in their years of school. For once, I did not drift off into what I might say to the student body if given the chance.
I will save my thoughts on this Class of 2007 for another post. For now, I will leave it at: Congratulations Class of 2007. Represent our school well, your family honorably, and your self honestly--the latter is, if nothing else, what will keep you grounded.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

You don't know me like that...

So, my seniors are done tomorrow. I don't know what to feel about this. They are the last group of seniors I will teach at my current school. After I finished reading their finals, here is what I have found out about my teaching skills:
"I was always really intimidated by you."
" are very patient, even when our clas was going crazy."
"...try not to be so hard on grading."
"I think you wear your emotions on your sleeve too much."
"I think you would do better in an honors class wher you have more students yearning for you remarks instead of getting offended when you tell them the truth."
"One of your weaknesses as a teacher is that you might challenge us too much at times..."
"...take the time to talk to each student and explain better why the notes you wrote were very important in helping to write a better essay."
"One strength that stands out to me would be choosing topics for us to discuss. They always have a valid reason and are still interesting for us to discuss."
"I honestly enjoy you 'harping' on me. It makes me want to come to class, or know that I have to get a good grade, or at least a passing one!"
"I feel like one thing you could work on is trying to be more understanding of the level we are on. Sometimes this year it felt like you expect us to be way better at writing then we were."
"You are great at what you do. you are here to help your students, guiding and pushing them through every step of the way."
"I think you should be more strict on students."
"I consider your weaknesses are your sarcasm and how hard you grade."
"Honestly, I wouldn't change a thing about you as a teacher. By far one of my favorites in my 4 years...All of your students respect you because you respect them as individuals."

I am an emotionally driven, sarcastic teacher who harps on students to do their best, but I don't understand the level that their "best" is at; therefore, I should be more strict while maintaining my patience which intimidates students causing them to enjoy valid discussions.

I feel so much better now.

Sunday, June 10, 2007


My Seniors have three days of classes remaining before they begin their multitude of graduation related activities. My first period's final is scheduled for tomorrow, but I will probably also give period six the final as well.
It isn't so much a final as it is a course evaluation. I figure that I have graded their work all year, leaving snippy comments on their essays, the least I can do is open myself up to their "grading." Sometimes it has been painful, other times humorous. Either way, I have improved over the last three years by doing this.
Here is my favorite observation (From the Class of 2005):
As I read through the evaluations, a group of girls all shared similar thoughts regarding my fairness. They felt that I allowed a group of boys to talk too much, especially if the subject was baseball, thus making them my favorites. Their observation was true. I did let those boys talk off topic, especially if it was about baseball.
Then I came to the evaluations by that group of boys. They felt that I allowed that group of girls to talk too much, about anything they wanted, and that made those girls my favorite.
I still laugh when I think about that story.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


As my students discussed Orwell's 1984, my mind drifted away from their intriguing recap of plot to what Orwell's themes would look like in a public school system.
The first thing to go would be freedom of speech. Teachers, administrators, or curriculum facilitators would no longer be allowed to speak freely about what the Central Office (Big Brother) dictates. The Central Office would never be wrong. Thinking for oneself, thoughtcrime, could get you "vaporized" by transfer or non-renewal.
Next, the Central Office would want to take away the freedom of press. No longer would student newspapers have the freedom to edit and manage their own work. All press related work would require screening by the Ministry of Truth: principals who do not think for themselves. Teachers who spoke out against the Ministry of Truth would be quickly put on "administrative leave" and subsequently disappear.
Once all avenues for dissent had been vaporized, the Central Office would then start the Ministry of Truth's Curriculum department to create lesson plans for the Outer Party teachers. These teachers would accept the lesson plans, verbatim, and teach them to the students. Once again, any teachers who think against the party would end up vaporized.
Behind all of this work would be the deterioration of language. The Ministry of Truth would want to limit the teacher's vocabulary to words like:
standards, rubrics, best practices, alignment, cross-curricular, assessment, data driven, or scaffold.
Hmmm.....thought police, vaporizing, newspeak? Do YOU think that YOU might be in the education version of 1984?

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Getting Closer

I stopped by my school this morning, Starbuck's coffee in hand. Random papers cluttered my desk, and the time had come to begin cleaning. My seniors have eight school days remaining before they begin their pre-graduation events. As I de-cluttered my desk in preparation for the end of the year, and eventually my move to Connecticut, I felt those pangs of sadness that accompany the end of a school year. Only this time, I won't be going back to my classroom for summer school or the next school year.
When it is finally over, I will certainly reflect on my experiences at this school, but today, I have to express the sadness that I felt today.
It has been the toughest year of my young career, even surpassing my first year when my words of concern nearly cost me my job (the post lives only in my files).
The trial began when I had to abandon as the host of my classroom blog. In fact, I had to persuade the Central Office to even allow me use a blog as part of my curriculum. The process took over a month to finalize.
My spirits were raised mid October when I had the chance to prove that all teachers are not mean old people. That night will remain one of the finest memories from teaching--and it had nothing to do with tests.
It didn't take long to get reminded that students are irresponsible.
December reminded me that students can amaze us with their maturity. When I need a reminder about the quality of students, I go back and read that post.
In January, I reflected on my Late Work Policy that I had changed. The numbers depressed me. Later in the month, I wanted to change careers.
My mood didn't change much in February as I did some soul searching.
March brought about negative attitudes towards the Central Office. I will continue to leave the actual problem veiled in secrecy. I'll just say that I lost confidence in many people who hold high ranking positions. Late in the month, I struggled to convince my students that correct writing is essential--again, this continued my depressive state.
Towards the end of April I began to realize that I may have failed to actually teach anything to my seniors.
Early in May, I began to realize that I may have failed to help a handful of my students who had slipped academically while experiencing "drama" in their life. I contemplated letting go. But I didn't give up then. I stayed depressed when my senior failure list grew instead of shrank, and I thought I hit rock bottom when my attempt at getting my "dream" job failed.
So yesterday, on the first day of June and two days before my 30th birthday, I thought my year was looking up. But then I failed again. More and more students are reading this blog, so I can't go into detail, but I will say that I am officially done trying to save students. My empathy and concern tank has finally emptied. Here's hoping that in the final eight days, my emotions can be salvaged.