Turds of Administration

If you are a regular or semi-regular reader of this blog, you know that, as a group, the administrative class at my school suffers from Diminished Interpersonal Capacity Syndrome or DICS.

This is a terrible condition that causes people to relate to others as if they were not truly human and to treat them poorly for no good reason. The organization New Leaders for New Schools has been identified as a carrier of DICS. Beware.

In celebration of the end of another year, and in the spirit of data collection, I would like to share with you some sobering numbers from my school. I believe these numbers are a direct consequence of DICS, but more research is necessary. Here we go:

My school is fully staffed with around 85 full-time teachers. It’s a big school, but not giant.

Just for fun I decided to try to list every teacher who has taught here since I started in 08/09. So that’s three years. Using my memory, yearbooks and old room and phone directories, I came up with a pretty big list. Then I started talking to other people from other departments. Forgotten teachers started coming out of the woodwork of people’s memories. Many people don’t show up on the phone list or the yearbook because they didn’t last a whole year. In my department alone last year there were 5 teachers who either started late, quit early, or both. (Do you remember that guy in the science department?…tall…always wore Polo shirts? Wow, he really hated this place. What was his name…? Just put down ‘Polo shirt’ for now.)

So I’m talking to people and the list is growing. The final tally came to 183 teachers in 3 years for 85 teaching jobs. Add to this the 25-30 people who I happen to be aware of who are leaving right now. You could also add another 15-25 who will jump in a heartbeat if they find something over the summer. That gives us well over 200 teachers filling 85 jobs in 3 years.

Anywhere else on the planet, maybe in the galaxy, this would be considered a colossal failure of leadership. But at my school, the principal has achieved something close to sainthood in the local system. She is the longest serving principal in the system, by far. Some would say she is experienced. Some would say she has ossified. Everybody agrees she has been there for a long fucking time. Everybody agrees that there are a great many plaques in the hallway trophy case bearing her name.

Indeed, she has been called The Visionary.

She is nazi-organized, but a little less friendly in one-on-one meetings. She knows her business, because she has been doing the same job since probably Reagan’s second term. But instead of becoming more comfortable, self-confident and amiable, she seems to have become more paranoid, self-protective and self-righteous. I’ve only known her for three years, but the small handful of people who have been around here for 15-20 years say that it hasn’t always been like this. She seems to not care at all about the satisfaction of her teachers. That explains why most people flee from her as soon as they meet her. That explains why I have never heard any administrator in the building utter the phrase teacher retention.

I don’t want to get too personal, but she is not only authoritarian in her rule, but she is also unsettlingly anti-social. Her very nearness makes people feel sort of cold and empty inside. She has a bit of a cult following among the New Leaders crowd, but lacks the charisma of a big-time cult leader. If it came right down to it, I think the APs would spend all day spewing talking points about the achievement gap and data assessment action plan profiles if held in stress positions, but they wouldn’t take a bullet for her. They know the game. They know she can be good for their careers, but she is ultimately full of shit and primarily concerned with protecting her little fiefdom and her own reputation above all else. They know she will eat them alive as soon as she would me if they cross her.

The irony is that most of the hundreds of teachers who have been here in the last three years were really excited to get these jobs. I was. I sent my resume directly to her and she responded within 24 hours with an interview and demo lesson date. This school stands out as one that is not a total cluster-fuck in a city full of cluster-fuck schools. Then you realize that she is long on demands and dogma while short on rationale and long on DICS. She is an authoritarian drone who shapes underling enforcers in her image. They appear to share a brain, or at least part of one.

The entire building is subdued by her creepy, stiff smile that says I know being around me makes people feel tense and uncomfortable; and I have long since stopped trying to correct this.

So, how’s summer going for everybody?

Mr. Teachbad

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I Feel So Cheap And Dirty, Part II

Before you go on, you may want to read I Feel So Cheap And Dirty, Part I. But I can’t make you.

The four come into my room, and I know what’s going to happen. (By the way, Timmy has no IEP, 504 or anything like that. He’s just lazy.)

The social worker introduces me to Timmy’s parents, who speak no English. And I don&##8217;t speak what they speak. It’s unclear whether the social worker speaks what they speak, but I think not.

So with no communication happening on most fronts, the social worker just hits me up and lays it out there: “Is there anything Timmy can do to make something up or somehow pass the class? He has been working so hard in English and spending so much time on that research paper…you know.”

Me: He already failed the class. I already put in grades.

Her: Well, I know. But is there anything he can do?

Parents are standing to the side smiling, nervously.

Me: I don’t know. Like what? The class is over.

Parents looking at me, expectantly.

Does he want to take the exam over again? I don’t care. How about this?…I’ll give him the same final exam, his actual same final exam with his writing on it right now, and he can make corrections on it. How about that?

Her: Would that be enough?

Me: For what?

Her: For him to pass?

Me: Thinking: Jesus Christ…how much time do I want to spend on this? How many people do I want to involve? At what cost? For what purpose?

Yeah…it’ll be fine.

Her: OK. Well good. Thank you, Mr. Teachbad.

I walk the smiling, nodding parents out of my room and shake their hands.

Me: Thank you so much for coming down.

Parents: Thanks you. Ees no good. I know. He working.

Me: Thank you. Bye now. Very nice meeting you.

Timmy sits down to take his exam. Again.

After 20 minutes he brings it up to me. I set it down and keep writing the email or doing whatever I was doing. He stands there for a few seconds watching me. I ignore him.

Timmy: Aren’t you going to grade it?

Me: Yeah. But not right now.

Timmy: But I need to know if I passed.

Me: I’m not going to grade it right now. I’m busy. But you passed. It doesn’t matter what you did on the test. We both know that, right?. You walk up in here with your mom and dad and the social worker because you didn’t want to do the work before. You wasted every little bit of time I gave you to study and work on projects. You’ll pass. But we both know you don’t deserve to. Congratulations.

Timmy: It wasn’t my idea for my parents to come here.

Timmy walks out.

So, Timmy passes. But he still has to go to summer school to make up something else. Fudging his grade didn’t graduate him. I may be cheap and dirty, but I’m not a total whore. A man got to have a code (For fans of The Wire.)

Ten minutes later as I continue to send email and work on my resume, in comes another student to get his senior stuff signed. It’s Tommy.

Tommy has severe attendance issues, but when he is in class he works pretty hard. And he is a lot more pleasant that Timmy. But here’s the thing: Tommy is doing even worse in the class than the pathetic Timmy.

Then I was struck with a thought. The timing was just right. Like God himself wrote the script. The arbitrary justice of injustice slapped me right across the forehead: If Timmy can pass, you bet your ass that Tommy will pass.

The moral of the story? I don’t know.

Two wrongs can feel like some kind of existential, ironic sort of right.

Accentuate the arbitrary.

Nothing you do really matters.

These are all just rough drafts. Once we set on and revise it, we’ll make up some shirts.

Jeez…I’m sorry. Was that a terrible story? I’m having some end of the year melancholy.

Mr. Teachbad

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I Feel So Cheap and Dirty, Part I

Three days after I published the last video, the sadly prophetic one about teachers being coerced into giving students grades they don’t deserve, here’s what happened to me:

I had entered senior grades on Sunday night. When I checked my email in the morning I found a few papers that had been turned in overnight. I graded them. I entered new grades. No big deal. That was Monday. The seniors were officially done with classes.

On Tuesday they all started coming around to get things signed off for graduation. I have to “verify” that they have read a certain number of books in my class, that they turned in the text-book, and what grade they earned in the class just now ending. In order to graduate, you have to pass my class.

So little Timmy comes up to get his stuff signed. (Side note: I feel compelled to call him Timmy or Johnny so that no one will say Why did you call him Shae’Quan’trello? Why did you call him Jesus? Because black and Hispanic kids are dumb? No. I’ve been teaching for six years and I’ve never even seen a white kid. ALL of the brilliant, stupid, lazy and industrious students I have ever had have been non-white, none named Timmy. But I’ll stick to that in the spirit of avoiding controversy….(By the way, why don’t white people name their kids Jesus? And why are Muslim kids named Mohammed, but you get killed if you draw a picture of him with a ribbon in his hair riding a pony? Or, what if I had a student named Mohammed; I drew a picture of him and wrote “Mohammed” on the bottom and somebody found it? That would be just a terrible misunderstanding.))

So anyway, Timmy gets his stuff signed. Timmy failed my class. And, as I’ve said before, you have to be really committed to the idea of doing absofuckinglutely NOTHING in order to fail at this school. (And, mind you, this is one of the very best schools in the district.) Timmy showed a great deal of stamina and heart in this pursuit, and he failed. He scored 42 out of 90 on the final exam and a VERY generous 51% overall for the course. After all of the curving, hedging, denominator-adjusting tricks in my bag had been used and creatively reapplied, I still had that hard-core of individuals who resisted my every attempt to pass them. Timmy was one such case.

Later that day I had to go pee. When I finished, I walked out of the bathroom, as I always do, heading east. Coming straight toward me, maybe 20 yards away and in a crowd of students, were four people. I didn’t like the looks of it. Not one bit. One was some kind of social worker/counselor from the school. She was in front. I know her. Behind her were two adults I did not know, wearing bright yellow “visitor badge” badges. Behind them was the pudgy, apathetic figure of Timmy.

My pace quickened. I was headed right toward them. But suddenly I took a sharp right turn down the hall. I was out of sight. Ha-ha! I broke into a jog down the hall, unlocked my door and slipped inside; out of breath. I sat down. Seconds later my door opened. It was them.

You fucking idiot! You decided to hide in the place where they were most expecting to find you and certainly would have looked first before looking anywhere else? Your classroom? Shit. You’re as stupid as cardboard. I’m embarrassed I even know you.

My inner monologue can be pretty harsh. But he’s honest. And he calls it like he sees it. You have to respect that.

Can you guess what happened next…? Stay tuned.

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Teachbad Video: What Grade Would You Like?

Teacher in delicate negotiations with a student in What Grade Would You Like?

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Dear Seniors: Please, Just Go

Holy shit…you guys are the cat’s meow…let me tell you. You seniors…

But you don’t need me to tell you. Am I right? You already know just exactly how goddamn awesome you are. And some of you really are. But others, not so much.

You come in late, or nor at all. You complain about how stressful your life is. You sleep in class…because you are sooo stressed.

What’s with you guys? I know you are stressed. The stress is maybe a little like alcohol. They say it enhances your personality. But what if you’re a lazy douche bag? Then what?

I think the alcohol comparison is pretty good. This is the end of the road for everybody. I just got a text message from a senior I had taught in American Government who was all mad that I didn’t explain to her that Animal Farm was really about the Russian Revolution and Stalin’s rise to power. The real reason is that for most kids, after the unavoidable two days of explaining that pigs can’t really talk, I would have had to spend a week explaining what an allegory is, another week studying where Russia is on a “map”, and then talking about the Czar and how the Bolsheviks wanted…and suddenly it’s 2015. Anyway, what she did was above and beyond the call for somebody who’s really got it quite made and is about to get out of high school very soon unless she runs screaming up the steps of the capital with a metal box taped to her head. She’s the best.

The great, swollen middle is the people who mostly don’t give a shit, but will climb out of their holes every so often just long enough to do what they have to do to graduate/not take this class again. They are relatively unchanged in these end times because they have mastered the craft of hovering in the range of performance significantly below mediocrity and just above death. They could make us all proud if only their teachers would have better organized lessons.

This brings us to the mysterious fuckers. They are impervious to anything. I could say, “Hey, Jimmy….so…I noticed you haven’t been turning in any of the projects or coming to class more than once a week. You know the semester is ending soon, right? Do you want to graduate?”

“Yeah” says Jimmy. “I got you.”

“Ok, but what does that mean? ‘I got you’? …You say that every time I ask you anything. I’m starting to think you’re a moron and that R#8216;I got you’ really just means ‘what? me dum-dum’. You’re going to fail if you don’t get these projects done. Do you need help?”

“Naw.”

“Do you have a rough draft?”

“Naw.”

“But you told me you would give me a rough draft last week.”

“I got you. I’m about to, but my…”

“FUCK YOU!!!!! If you ever tell me anything ever again about something you are ‘about to do’…ever…I will stab this pencil right through your heart. I don’t give a flying fuck what you are about to do. I care about what you are doing and what you have done. I could waste another year of my life describing all the simple shit you haven’t done that you told me you were “about to do”. Have another drink of senior-itis and I’ll see you back here next year if I don’t get fired.”

Pray for us both. But I’m not sure what for.

Mr. Teachbad

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Teachers: Should We Stand Up?

“Best beginning of a book ever”

That’s what I wrote in the left-hand margin over 20 years ago when I first read these words:

The human spirit glows from that small inner light of doubt whether we are right, while those who believe with complete certainty that they possess the right are dark inside and darken the world outside with cruelty, pain, and injustice.

It’s from the second page of Saul Alinsky’s classic, hard-core progressive activism guide-book, Rules For Radicals (1971).

Before this, at the top of page one, is a quote from the Old Testament Book of Job (7:1): The life of man upon earth is a warfare. I first read this about 5000 years ago.

For a long time I have associated these two ideas, along with a third. This is the “Iron Rule” of the Industrial Areas Foundation, a community organizing group founded by Alinsky: Never, never do for others what they can do for themselves.

Then add a little Bob Dylan:

You hurt the ones that I love best
And cover up the truth with lies
One day you’ll be in the ditch
Flies buzzin’ around your eyes
Blood on your saddle
Idiot wind
Blowing through the flowers on your tomb

If you take those four together, there isn’t much I would add to my philosophy or commentary on the current dogmatic spasticity of education reform.

So, class, how do these texts inform our thinking about education reform?

First of all, have you ever seen so many people who thought they were so right about something? Obama. Bill Gates. Michelle Rhee. And on down the line there are many, many high-profile, high-dollar individuals and organizations who have either zero or severely limited classroom experience who are absolutely sure that the low performance of poor kids with rotten home lives in dysfunctional, role-model-free neighborhoods can be fixed if teachers would just do what they are told. They just know it. Which is not to be confused with just really, really wanting it.

The persistent low-performance of this type of student, which remains unchanged after ten years of NCLB, has caused the Certain Ones to redouble their efforts to punish and proscribe when it comes to teachers. It is warfare. And all of the idiot winds are against teachers. “We have to get rid of bad teachers.” That just rolls off the tongue and nobody can disagree with it. Then whoever said it gets to decide what a good teacher is and how to measure it. What comes out on the other end of this decision process is inevitably messy, flawed, and covers up the truth with lies. As long as there is a rubric and a meeting about the rubric, the Certain Ones can safely cloak themselves in false objectivity and wash their hands as careers are destroyed.

And our unions are just silly. They are boxed in. Again, it is the Emotional Blackmail of Education (EBE). An industrial union makes no bones about the fact that it is working to maximize pay, benefits, safety, etc of its members. Government unions can work in much the same way.

The problem with teachers’ unions is that they are obligated to include the talking points of the district bosses in their own mission statements. “We seek to ensure the highest possible academic achievement of all children…blah, blah, blah.” And who gets to decide how to do that? Well, it’s not the union. That would be like if the UAW’s mission statement included something like “and above all we seek to ensure the greatest possible return to shareholders by reducing the labor costs of production.” When teachers unions really want to help teachers in a traditional union sort of way, it’s just too easy to say they are against kids. It’s like taking away somebody’s sword at a sword fight.

All of this unjustified pressure on teachers has led teachers to create illusions of the world we are expected to produce. The passing rate for my school just has to be what it has to be. It has been made clear in meetings that it has to be what it has to be. If all the teachers played it straight and failed everybody who deserved to fail the population of our school would probably double every three years because of the number of people who would be held back. As it stands, one must possess only the purest essence of dipshitery and sloth in order to fail a class at this school. It’s not exactly doing “for others what they can do for themselves”, but it’s close. Real close. It’s giving kids credit (literally) and recognition for something they have not actually done, but it could plausibly be imagined that they had done it if the lighting is just right.

And the most annoying thing is, as always, most really could do it if they would just get up off their asses and give it a go.

You hurt the ones that I love best
And cover up the truth with lies

This whole movement, especially the testing, is bad for students and it’s bad for teachers. And it is based in statistcal falsehoods and disingenuousness.

One day you’ll be in the ditch
Flies buzzin’ around your eyes
Blood on your saddle
Idiot wind
Blowing through the flowers on your tomb

It seems like it can’t last. The ideas are stupid and harmful. Sooner or later the money has to run out, the data will be irrefutable, or people will just stop becoming teachers. Meanwhile, I’d like to think there is more teachers can do to push back, but I’m not sure.

Mr. Teachbad

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Circus For Grown-Ups

Are y’all about done with testing?

I am.

We just had two weeks of AP tests right on the heels of the High-Stakes State Tests for AYP and everything.

We pulled out all the stops. Everything was up-ended. Learning was on holiday. But it smelled good. During the state tests we served bacon and eggs and waffles to everybody, every morning. There were prizes and pizza parties for coming in on time. Administrators dressed up in funny costumes and said silly things during announcements. Slogans and signage assaulted the senses. We had a pep rally for the state tests and another one for the AP tests. These were sad, sad events.

What this school has done to the pep rally is simply criminal. I’ve been to a number of pep rallies in my day. They all sort of suck. But this last one was just too much. It was to pump everybody up for the AP tests. (Background: My school gets a big award every year and a write-up in the paper because it forces hundreds of kids to take AP tests who have no chance of passing AP tests. NO CHANCE. HUNDREDS. I do not exaggerate. The key is that the award is based just on the number of kids who we force to take the tests, not the number who pass. So we can’t lose. We threaten kids for weeks that their poor immigrant parents will have to pay $87 if they don’t show up for the test. It’s fucking pathetic.)

But it doesn’t matter how sad or transparent it is. The kids won’t notice. And if they do…well, the bottom line is that we have to do every little suck-up thing we can think of to induce, cajole, convince, bribe, trick or otherwise push, needle or connive students into taking these AP and state tests seriously. Especially the state tests.

Seriously.

Fuck…OK…listen kids. We don’t know what you know and we don’t even care much. But please, PLEASE just try on these fucking tests. What? No…this won’t go on your transcript or be reported to the college you are not going to. Why? Shit…do you want some eggs? Bacon? How about a chance to win an Ipod? Yeah…there’s a good boy! So…you’re gonna give it all you got now, right?

C’mon…OK…what if we said that we know how you feel and it doesn’t make any sense to us either?

No. This is an opportunity for you to demonstrate what you have learned and all that you know. Don’t you want to show everybody how smart you are? I know you do. Let’s make our school shine!!! You are SO good!! Yeah!!!

What? No. I already said that. It’s not exactly going to go on your transcript. And it’s not for a class or anything….but that doesn’t mean it’s not important! What’s important is always doing your best! Right!? Plus, we know you’re poor. Nobody has $87 at your house, am I right?

You don’t get it, do you? Don’t you understand?!?!? This is how we prove we are good people!!

Sorry…was that creepy?

What if I put the funny wig back on? Huh? Would that help? I’ll do it. Just say the word, chief. And remember the process of elimination strategies from your test-prep class. Think about that. I’m going to get you some more juice. Then I’ll get the wig back on and do a funny dance for you.

Jesus Christ, kid…we all need this. Can you please just try to come on time this week and do your very bestest? Great!

And on and on. The point is the sadness I feel when I see an organization that is supposed to serve children go to unparalleled effort and expense making a collective ass out of itself for the two things that matter least to children and most to adults. In particular, one adult.

Mr. Teachbad

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I Felt Bloated on Saturday

That’s how it started. And I was tired. It was even more difficult than normal to perform the menial and tedious job-related chores I had brought home for a beautiful Saturday morning.

But my wife and I went to a benefit auction and dinner on Saturday night, as planned. No problem. And after that we went to see our friend’s band, as planned. It was in this unfortunate venue that the real trouble began.

Knock-Knock
Who’s there?
Sal
Sal who?
Salmonella!!

That’s right, folks. Salmonella. I recommend, in the strongest terms, not getting salmonella if you are able. It is a top-shelf, lower-GI affliction with all the worst your body has to offer in sight, smell and sound. But that’s not all! Salmonella also includes fever, nausea, sweating, headache, chills, muscle soreness and difficulty standing!

SALMONELLA!!! Yeah!

So, how do you think I got it?

Raise your hand if you said chicken…Yeah. Almost everybody. That’s what I would have said, too. But no. The Infectious Disease (ID) specialist thinks I got it from my son’s lizard. That’s his best guess so far. (More test results are pending.) So when I got home I put on some gloves I stole from the hospital and beat the holy crap out of the lizard. I have pictures and video of the beating, but I’m not going to show them to you. It might inflame the passions of other lizards who are already pissed off that we have been holding him in a glass box for four years without charge and shining a bright light on him.

This brings us to the real subject of today’s post:
Six Places You Can Beat a Lizard and Not Leave a Mark
Just kidding. (Anyway, contrary to what I was assured, there are only four. Isn’t that right, “Darth Veter”? What a stupid name, you moron.)

The real subject is
Why Being a Grunt in a Hospital May Be Better Than Being a Teacher

I don’t mean grunt in a derogatory way. I mean anybody who works with patients and isn’t a doctor or some top sort of nurse. You know what I mean? In mulling this over, I think it boils down to two things: 1) Importance: centrality of the task to the organizational mission; 2) Objectivity: The ease with which performance of the task can be measured.

If it’s you who keeps bringing patients to the wrong room, forgetting to deliver medications, delivering the wrong meals, producing fuzzy x-rays, or sticking needles clear through the other side of the vein; that will get picked up pretty quickly precisely because it is both of these things: Important and Objective. I’m guessing you would also be recognized for consistently doing these things correctly and efficiently. You can stand out, and you know exactly how to do it.

Compare that to teaching. Here’s a challenge for you. Think of anything we do as teachers that scores high on both of these criteria.
Clear, measurable, standards-based, engaging lesson objectives?
Turning in lesson plans on time?
Developing individual relationships with students?
Entering attendance data by 3:45?

I’m stumped.

And another thing…here’s what makes the place where I work especially disengaging and uncomfortable for teachers and causes them to flee if they are able. Most of the administrators in the building suffer from Diminished Interpersonal Capacity Syndrome or DICS. For example, I have been out all week and spent a day and a half in the hospital. I have emailed my VP/department chair twice, notifying him of my illness and HOSPITALIZATION. Nothing. Not a “get well soon”, or “some of us are hoping you don’t die” or “OK”. Nothing. And it’s Teacher Appreciation Week for Christ’s sake. He’s been my boss for three long-ass years. He hired me. It was another one of those moments when my wife’s jaw dropped as she again came to understand how much less cool my bosses are than hers.

DICS is a terrible condition for those who live and work with sufferers. Presently, there is no cure for DICS and the medical field has been slow to recognize it. Advocates note that people have probably always had DICS, but we are just now able to diagnose it.

I have been working with an advisory panel that will soon form a small group to lobby Congress for research funds to study DICS. At present, the DICS Foundation Advisory Panel is actively soliciting ideas for an organizational slogan; something to put on coffee cups and lighters and things like that. I have told them I would forward to the panel any suggestions sent in by Teachbad readers. Below are the ideas they have so far.

It’s Time to Talk About DICS
Down With DICS
Take a Bite Out of DICS
DICS Hurts
Let’s Get a Grip on DICS

Thanks for your help,

Mr. Teachbad
DICS Foundation Advisory Panel Co-Chair

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Dear May: I Know Your Tricks

It’s finally the end of April.

Happy Friday and good riddance to another month. Now comes May. Pretty cool, right? Almost done.

But listen, Month of May…get outta my face. You suck.

You think you are so great:

Hey, Teachers…look at me. I’m MAY!! I’m not like Dickhead March who’s cold, but can never seem to muster up a snow day. And I’m way better than Moody April who will be sunny during the week and then piss cold rain on you all weekend. No, that’s not me. I’m different. I’m what you want. And when you see me, you know the school year is almost done. Plus, I give you Memorial Day. Then you get that giant, sweet vacation in the summer. Yeah…you can smell it, can’t you? You’re almost at the finish line. I’m awesome!

May, let me tell you; you are the worst tease in the whole world. I hate you and you suck.

You are warm. And you know we all get swept away with your longer days, grass, flowers, shorts, sandals, drinks on the patio, and the overall pleasantness you have to offer with your bug-free warmth and low humidity. And, to be fair, we all thank you for that.

But all the same, May, you can bloody well piss off. (Congratulations, William and Commoner!!)

Memorial Day? Are you seriously bragging about that? You didn’t have anything to do with creating Memorial Day. Are you a veteran? What war did you die in? Plus, that’s way at the end of the month. I don’t even know the exact date…that’s how far away it is from now. And do you know what comes before Memorial Day? A whole goddamn month of school, that’s what. Memorial Day?

Please…

Oh, and what else did you say about vacation? It’s coming up soon or something like that? Right? Well, Month of May, after your beloved Memorial Day, most teachers will enter The Chaos of Nothingness and Bullshit. They will be trapped there for about three weeks; long after your stupid-ass Memorial Day is gone and doing shots off Labor Day’s butt crack on a beach somewhere in Belize or Key West.

We have a long way to go, May. And you are trying to trick us, yet again. So, May, go fuck yourself. And tell your friend Labor Day, who used to be at the end of the summer but is now in the middle of the first quarter, to do the same.

Mr. Teachbad

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A Funny Thing Happened At Work Today

I liked my job.

This was highly unlikely because it was the first day back after spring break. I have been nuturing a pit of bitter anxiety about this day. It had been growing in my stomach, honestly, since before spring break even started. I would think to myself: it will be so awesome to be on spring break; no kids, administrators, lesson plans, etc. for 11 days.

But then, before that thought had really had a chance to develop and come into its own; and before I really had a chance to revel in it: Goddamn…it’s going to suck to come back. Everybody will be crazy. The dicks will be bigger dicks. The lazy will be more lazy. The mostly absent will simply disappear. It’s just so bad to be there that the longer I am away the more painful will be the return. I feel like a space shuttle with damaged heat tiles. Reentry may kill me.

The exact some thing happens in minature every Sunday night and, really, almost every day. The anxiety of going back drives people crazy. I can’t quite put my finger on it. But it has something to do with not being able to just amble into work and sort of pick up where you left off. You have to have a goddamn plan for everything, all the time. I know exactly what is going to happen today, yet I have to plan it? That drives me nuts.

Anyway, I walk into the school this morning…slowly. And immediately it became biblical. I walked into the building, knowing there was a meeting somewhere I should be at in about 10 minutes. So I run into a friend at about 7:52. Asking about the meeting I say, “So, what’s going on?”

“Crying, wailing, and gnashing of teeth,” he says.

I already knew that. But where is the meeting?

So the day wore on.

But today was actually a pretty good day. I had a hunch that there would be no career-make-or-break-surprise observations today. So I relaxed and taught. Ahhhh…….

The best part was in government class. Talking about separation of powers and checks and balances and all manner of good government things. The question came up about the difference between impeachment and removal from office and all that. Bill Clinton, etc.

Then, spontaneously…and, believe me, I know how crucial it is to kill spontaneity in the classroom in all its non-standard forms…I starting talking about Nixon. They don’t know anything about Nixon, but some have heard of Watergate. I explained what the building is and where. I told them the story of the break in, the cover up, and how Gerald Ford became President of the United States without ever having been elected president or vice president because Agnew was already gone. It was all off the grid. Unrelated to any project. Unrelated to the standard on the white board. Unrelated to what I had thought we would be discussing.

But it was so much fun. Questions and answers. Making me think. Making them think. Making them make genuinely quizzical looks on their faces.

I felt like a teacher on a day I really didn’t expect to.

Mr. Teachbad

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