MadTeach got its name because I used to teach in Madison, WI, and that used to make me pretty I teach in a large city... totally different scene... but I'm keeping the name. :-)

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Saturday, November 29, 2008

hey, teacher, leave those kids alone...

"The truth is that parents are not really interested in justice. They just want quiet."
---Bill Cosby

How often is this true of teachers? How often is this true of me?

Too often, as the days go by, I find.

I want so much to be a good teacher - I will settle for good at this point, though I aspire to greatness. But I fear I'm mediocre or worse, as I shout and cajole, seeking, indeed, too often, that quiet that symbolizes control and submission.

I seem to feel that that submission to the teacher's goal is the prerequisite to learning. Why do I think, in moments when I have time to reflect, that it seems more likely that the two somehow go hand-in-hand... that actual learning takes place when students are engaged in the teacher's goal, not subservient to it.

So easy to say high-minded things like that. So hard to overcome despair, lethargy, exhaustion, and even anger and resentment, to even try to achieve them.

I recall all my earlier pronouncements about what's wrong with teachers, and I cringe. It's so much harder than I thought.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

electoral vote map

Found a great website showing electoral maps and all kinds of stats.

Click for

I used it with my honors 7th graders today and they really got into seeing how different states had voted in the past compared to how they were leaning this election.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

how a bill becomes a law

OK, the source is not exactly something that a teacher should be linking to, but I got there because a friend sent me a funny link about Sarah Palin... but that's for another blog.

For your entertainment here on MadTeach, however, let me share this:

If not for the references to "titties," I could hand this out in school. I'm debating somehow editing that out and handing it out in school anyway.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

returning to life...

i lost it there for a little while, and by "it" i mean "all of it" - desire to teach, empathy for my students, reason to get up in the morning.

now i have a new job, with a charter school (i eventually got fired from the old one; don't think i posted that). glory hallelujah. still serving low-income urban students, still 98% African-American, but ohhhhhh what a difference. the principal is strict but kind. we have resources. there is structure and organization. and it sounds like the students don't fight all the time. (students haven't returned yet).

in the videos and photos we've seen, the kids look cautiously optimistic, almost open; they don't look like they are so hunkered-down, angry, and afraid as they were at my old school (yes, i start to see how my former students felt, now that i am slowly, slowly, uncurling from my mental fetal position).

there are some returning teachers who whine about their job. i finally had this conversation yesterday:
me: "have you ever taught in [big urban district i just fled]?"
whiner: "no."
me: "you don't know how lucky you are."
whiner: "well you've never taught here." (flounces off in a huff)
me: "goddamn stupid spoiled brat." (no, i didn't say this out loud)

once again i begin to get excited about teaching. so you'll see some posts sharing/recording ideas and resources. i know, weird, right??

it helps that i'll be teaching 7th/8th social studies - my favorite age group, and what i was trained to do! yay! i'm so excited.

i know it won't be perfect, but i don't think a day will pass when i am not thankful not to be in my classroom from last year. but if it does - if i start to get like that whiner - just slap me around a lil, ok?

Monday, May 12, 2008

Why do people assume that teaching is so easy? So many people, trying (I know) to be encouraging, say things like, 'you're such a nice (or other positive adjective) person, I just know you're a great teacher.'

Nobody would say, ' you're such a nice person, I know you must be a great doctor.'

I'm too tired to write the rest of the rant but I hope I've made my point...

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

poverty and richness II

You must learn day by day, year by year to broaden your horizon. The more things you love, the more you are interested in, the more you enjoy, the more you are indignant about—the more you have left when anything happens.
--Ethel Barrymore

The other day, in the middle of trying to teach over the uproar, I had the weirdest little fugue - I suddenly had a vision of no particular place, but a mix of places I have been - Iran, Turkey, Morocco - mostly Iran because it's recent - dust and heat and sun and wide wide sky...

Day 3: Yazd - Jameh MosqueDay 4 - Yazd: Towers of Silence

...with somewhere a whiff of roses and mint, the sound of water - all those pleasures that are all the more delightful for being found in the middle of the desert...

Day 3: takhtsDay 3: hotel gardens

All this washed over me with incredible vividness. In my memory of the classroom scene, I clearly recall myself sitting on the back table, with a couple of students trying to do something at the board and chaos all around, with my mouth open trying desperately to get them to understand something - and just as clearly it seems that the dusty, scented wind lifted my hair for a moment, as i struggled there indoors in the snowbound city...

It was so clear and overpowering that I was disoriented and lost my train of thought... I told them I had lost my train of thought, and started to open my mouth to tell them where I had been, but closed it again.

The all-powerful, live-or-die-by-it No-Child-Left-Behind-mandated standardized test is in 13 days: there is no time for wind that smells of roses and the preciousness of the sound of water in the desert.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

why is there a glue stick in my bathrobe pocket?

thursday i found a melted mini-snickers in another pocket at 10pm... vestige of an aborted math-time bribe... "i'll give chocolate to whoever can - guys - sit down - guys! hey! break it up!" *sigh*

classroom management improved after christmas - at first i thought it was my wonderful new techniques - but soon realized it was just the 10-day suspension of one of my worst. interesting to see how his absence calmed the whole class. then i had to be out for a week because my father died, and everything i'd worked on went to hell. now i'm too tired to deal - again. i scream at them hopelessly, try to do damage control, and wearily pick up the pieces when they're gone.

friday was really a banner day. the entire special ed department went to a wedding in aruba, but no subs were hired. i was angry about this, so then i was accused of not wanting to deal with my special ed students - even of being afraid of one of them.

what a joke. i've already been hit three times because i'm *not* afraid to wade into a fight or restrain a child when necessary. it doesn't bother me. these are 10-year-olds - this student i was accused of fearing punched me in the face last tuesday and didn't even leave a sore spot, never mind a bruise - what is there to fear? yes, i know they could break my nose if they hit me just right, but i've had a broken nose before. it heals.

no, i'm not afraid of him, i just want him to get his services - i want him to get what he needs. the special ed department is ridiculously under-staffed and under-emphasized - because those students' test scores are not expected to get to grade level no matter what, so who cares?

meanwhile, i've been working my ass off all week to remedy some problems they told me about two weeks ago, and gave me two weeks to fix (they told me all this the same day i got some terrible family news, so that was fun). i've been working 14-hour days, then coming home and working some more, getting four hours of sleep.... but there is definite improvement. i'm proud of myself.

foolishly, i thought maybe some of these improvements might be acknowledged. instead i got chewed out on thursday AND friday by different people for different reasons.

did i mention that yesterday they told me not to call parents? ever?? and the parent who called the principal and got me this ass-chewing called me twice to apologize ("the principal made it sound like i was saying you don't know what you're doing, that's not what i was saying at all") and try to talk to me. i'm supposed to ignore her calls? what about the other four parents who called me in the last two days? for everything from homework help to "my son didn't come home yet, do you know where he is?"

a tenured teachers said, 'ignore [the administration], just keep your mouth shut and do what you know is right.' my partner says, 'do whatever they tell you, document everything, then it's on them.' whom to heed? by default, it may have to be the former, because i suck at documenting.

bitter and angry. but angry is good. i've been crying for months. it's time for some angry.

while i was walking the dogs this morning i thought.... this is like a rough sport. it's like being a professional rugby player. no, it's like being in the marines. the teachers who last - they're the ones who are tough enough. it's not about empathy, compassion, blah blah blah, it is about endurance. and everyone knows, endurance is a state of mind. well, i can do that. i am not weak. time to prove it.