A Shrewdness of Apes

An Okie teacher banished to the Midwest. "Education is not the filling a bucket but the lighting of a fire."-- William Butler Yeats

Thursday, April 22, 2010

In celebration of a kid who never quits

I have a student who has a serious medical condition. He will not ever get better-- his condition is degenerative.

But he moves on.

He will not be defined by anything but who he is rather than what has happened to him.

He is the most interesting kid. Even though his condition makes it difficult for him to express himself, he still makes the attempt, each and every day, to express his very deep thoughts. He is always paying attention, even if he is pain, even if he is uncomfortable, even if this has not been a good day thus far.

I love how the other kids all accept him for who he is. I love how they all help him get ready as he comes in every day. I love how none of them get impatient when he struggles to get the words out. I love how he was listening to one of the princesses go on and on about some silliness, and he got the perfect wisecrack out, and everybody laughed-- even the princess. When he laughs, his entire body curves up into a smile, and he crows with joy.

I love how he sees connections that no one else does. I love how he never ever gives up-- he is the living embodiment of Winston Churchill: "Never ever ever ever...."

I love how nothing ever seems to get him down, even though he has been abandoned by everyone who should have stood by him, and now each new day is a challenge of just seeing if he can get through the day without falling or choking or getting stuck somewhere.

I love the fact that he reminds of why I entered this profession so many years ago, and I wish with every fiber of my being that he would go on forever.

Each day is a blessing. I try not to worry about his tomorrows. That's what he teaches me, every day. He absorbs each second with a verve and a strength that I wish we could all tap into.

Thank you, Bud. It's your day, today.

Labels: ,

Monday, April 19, 2010

Movie Madness Monday 151: Whatever edition

Nothing like taking a classic and giving it a little re-do. I actually saw the same sagging in the hallway today that was dissed in this film 15 years ago, and I knew some things never change.

Including some people's underwear.

So put your quotes in the comment section!

"I joined this program and there's steps. There's... uh..."
"Yeah, how'd you know?"
"Wild guess."

"Hey, in some parts of the universe, maybe not in contempo-casual, but in some parts, it's considered cool to know what's going on in the world."
"Thank you Josh. I SO need lessons from you on how to be cool. Tell me the part about Kenny G again?"

"So like, right now for example. The Haitians need to come to America. But some people are all, "What about the strain on our resources?" Well it's like when I had this garden party for my father's birthday, right? I put R.S.V.P. 'cause it was a sit-down dinner. But some people came that like did not R.S.V.P. I was like totally buggin'. I had to haul ass to the kitchen, redistribute the food, and squish in extra place settings. But by the end of the day it was, like, the more the merrier. And so if the government could just get to the kitchen, rearrange some things, we could certainly party with the Haitians. And in conclusion may I please remind you it does not say R.S.V.P. on the Statue of Liberty. Thank you very much."

"You know, If I ever saw you do anything that wasn't ninety percent selfish, I'd die of shock."
"Oh, that'd be reason enough for me."

"Your man Christian is a cake boy!"
"He's a disco-dancing, Oscar-Wilde-reading, Streisand-ticket-holding friend-of-Dorothy, know what I'm saying?"

"Hey, you. Anything happens to my daughter, I got a .45 and a shovel. I doubt anybody would miss you."


Labels: ,

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

One reason why I oppose merit pay plans

Last week I received my final evaluation of the year. My administrator saw me juggle a class with various learning disabilities, conduct a class discussion that encouraged participation-- even the young lady with social anxiety disorder spoke up once-- deal with two interruptions, and if I do say so, it all went very well.

This AP was very complementary as we discussed his visit. He highlighted specific strategies I used, noted the help I have given colleagues, committees upon which I have served and activities I have done with my students on my own time. It was really very nice, and I appreciated the fact that he had been paying attention and was very nice and collegial.

When the written record was handed to me, it did not reflect any of those specifics of which he was aware and about which he had been so complementary. First of all, the highest level of evaluation for each specific behavior on our evaluation forms is "meets expectations." And I am fine with that, under our current system.

But the administrators have been warned to only use a canned list of comments for the individual comment section, and they are so bland they make pureed baby food seem as exotic Thai cuisine. "Ms. Cornelius helps her colleagues when it is needed...." "Ms. Cornelius has an orderly classroom...." "Ms. Cornelius engages her students using a variety of strategies...." Administrators are not supposed to put praise in writing, in case, at some later point, the administration should wish to fire me. Because, at least here in the Land Between the Coasts, the teacher unions are not that powerful.

And this is another reason why I oppose merit pay being implemented. Administrators would have even more pressure put on them not to put praiseworthy-- and raise-worthy-- evaluations in writing, because it would cost the district money. Meanwhile, I would be expected to give up my annual adjustments, and after reading some of my friends' blogs from California and New York, I am grateful that I even get those. Don't sit there and tell me because my principal acknowledges my hard work verbally that that would translate into any cold hard cash, especially in this tight and uncertain economic climate.

Now I'm not complaining about my evaluation-- at least not under this system. I get why it is the way it is. But I also understand that these evaluations do not literally reflect my efforts as a teacher. And given that I am not a snivelling sycophant to the higher ups, merit pay would be a big fat zero for me. I think I like my bird in the hand, thanks just the same.

Labels: ,

Monday, April 12, 2010

Movie Madness Monday 150:

Welcome to MMM 150, where we try to make you think where you've heard that line before, and then expect you to come up with more quotes in the comments section from the same film. This week, this is in honor of more mayhem at the workplace. Enjoy!

"First off, let me just add another congratulations to Evan Backstabber - pardon me, Bastard. Baxter, rather. It is good to see what someone with real talent can do when great opportunities are given to them instead of me."

"So God is picking on you?"
"No, he's ignoring me completely!"

"So tell us mama, why make Buffalo's biggest cookie?"
"So all the children in the neighborhood will be happy?"
"And isn't it nice to see all their smiling faces?"
"I work in back. I see no smiles."

"I did the same thing to Gandhi, he didn't eat for three weeks."

"A single mom who's working two jobs, and still finds time to take her son to soccer practice, that's a miracle. A teenager who says "no" to drugs and "yes" to an education, that's a miracle. People want me to do everything for them. What they don't realize is THEY have the power. You want to see a miracle, son? BE the miracle."

"I guess that's how life is, isn't it? Some people are drenched, freezing to death, on a stupid boat, with a stupid hat, while others are in a comfy news studio, suckin' up all the glory. Oh, well. No big deal."

"I've got a very rare blood type. I'm AB positive."
"Well, I'm IB positive. I be positive they ain't touching me with no needle."

Labels: ,

Monday, April 05, 2010

Movie Madness Monday 149: Leap of Faith edition

On this glorious Easter Monday, let us celebrate a film about love and family and faith, as well as always searching for knowledge, especially vital to us as teachers. Put your quotes in the comment section!

"My son, we're pilgrims in an unholy land."

"I was a wonderful father."
"Yeah, how?"
"Did I ever tell you to eat up, go to bed, wash your ears, do your homework? No, I respected your privacy and I taught you self-reliance."
"What you taught me is that I was less important to you than people that have been dead for several hundred years and in other countries, and I learned it so well, that we've hardly spoken for 20 years."

"'X' never, EVER marks the spot."

"Is there anyone here who speaks English? Or maybe even ancient Greek?"

"He chose... poorly."

"The Name of God..."
"The Name of God... Jehovah."
"But in the Latin alphabet, 'Jehovah' begins with an 'I'."

"Oh, rats."

Go, and seek it out!

****Weekend Update: Go on a sacred quest with


Sometimes things are just better left alone....

Labels: ,

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Dear Counselor: Get a grip.

Disclaimer: We actually do have several really wonderful counselors at our school. But there are three that, ohdearlawd, just make me wanna holler.

By the way, how many counselors does it take to change a light bulb?
A: It only takes one, but the light bulb has to really WANT to change.

So here's the lay of the land: Similar situation to the last once I related, in fact same kid. Different counselor, same query (this counselor is a refugee from Godspell-- I swear, I'm waiting for the mime makeup to complement the peasant dresses). Can't I just excuse Kiddo so she can get all her extra-curriculars done? Oh, and "her parents won't accept any grade lower than an A from Kiddo's teachers."

Here's my response in a nutshell: I AM concerned about Kiddo. I am especially concerned that Kiddo absolutely cannot speak for herself to anyone but has asked, at various times: Counselor to intercede with me and with the physics teacher; Physics teacher with intercede with the sponsor of Student Council; the sponsor of Student Council to intercede with the track coach ....ad nauseam.

Today Kiddo came face to face with a conflict between my absolute deadline for make-up work and a chance to be involved in some after-school event (I want to point out that Kiddo could have taken care of this yesterday, but chose to avoid making a choice, which is, of course, actually MAKING a choice). I could not in good conscience budge. Kiddo sulked her way through her make-up test, but got it done and went off to the event late.

Choices, people!

And meanwhile, Counselor Number 2, every time we intercede instead of Kiddo, we shield Kiddo from the fact that Kiddo is hopelessly overloaded. And frankly, I think we make Kiddo's emotional distress worse, since we reinforce Kiddo's obviously perception of herself as powerless and voiceless-- to her parents, to club sponsors, to herself, and to teachers. Especially when it comes to saying "No" to something.

Labels: , , ,

free statistics