Friday, October 31, 2008

The Last Day

My last day at the Book, where the teachers have the finest booties and the kids are most loony. I'll miss it to death, unless the March over East-side is better.*

My kids were HELLISH today. I bought them cake and snacks and juice and they were nothing but jerks--until I decided to tell them the story of why we sold our last house. I said "If you quiet down and take your seats I'll tell you a real ghost story," and they were the most silent and attentive I'd ever seen. I told them the entire story from start to finish. The kids were enthralled. One gang-bangin' corner boy got up and said "I can't listen to this" when I told them about a disembodied voice whispering in Cha's ear. He said he was going to have nightmares. Then I asked the kids to tell me their own scary stories and I got some good ones.

*What school anywhere else is named after a funeral director? Awesome.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

One day left

I just don't get it. "Don't interrupt instruction time, and don't send any signals to the students," the higher-ups say about our transfers.

And then they require us to dismantle our rooms, turn in our keys and books, and have our bulletin boards cleaned off THREE DAYS IN ADVANCE. I can't do any instruction without books.

So this morning I have nothing on my walls and the kids come into class. All the furniture except their desks is stacked in the corner. The bookcases are empty. I'd assumed they'd be fine, given they've known I was leaving for at least a week. I tried to have the room dark and I was showing Looney Tunes on my LCD projector when the kids entered--didn't help. They saw the grim, blank walls and the waterworks started. Not everyone, of course, but enough to make today a very tough day.

TeeVee Wonder--a huge kid who worries me to death with his diabetes and lack of fitness--came into my second period class and saw the walls. "I'm going into the corner and cry," he said. I thought he was joking, but he did what he said he was going to do. His mom always tells me how much TeeVee adores my class. I fought to get him out of the lunatic fringe last period and into the more stable homeroom he now inhabits. "I have twelve dollars," he sobbed. "Can I get you a present?" I told him to save his money. "It ain't mine-it's my mu-mu-muther's. I'ma bu-bu-buy youse something nice."

Going to fetch my mail at lunch a line of youngins follows me. They're hanging on my sweater, tugging my jeans, pulling on my arms. Ms. Q the counselor says "You look like a mommy duck today."

One more day at the Book. I dropped a g-stack on cupcakes and juice and snacks. We're having a Halloween/farewell party tomorrow. I hope I can get through.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Mistakes New Teachers Make, II

A hellish day. Misbehavior continuous, fighting in the halls, rude and disrespectful students cussing out teachers. Boys punching girls, girls stabbing boys with pencils, hall sweeps, etc.

Then my last period class came in. Immediately the new kid Dudley Dowrong who starts fights every days started a fight. I thought he'd be gone this week when he choked another student unconscious in my class on Friday--Ms. R said "He's suspended for putting his hands on another kid." But then Monday he was back and Ms. R said "We don't suspend kids because that's what they want us to do and they don't learn." Of course this translates to: "We're losing funding for suspending too many kids so you have to deal with him."

So I call the office and say "Guess what? Dudley Dowrong is starting a fight. I need security up in here to take him out." I've taken him out myself before but he told me his father was going to kick my ass last time, so now I call the big dogs. Ms. R said over the interome "Dudley come to the office." Dudley sat down and threw somebody else's papers on the floor. I called the office again. Mr. Lineman and Mr. Safety came and jacked him up against the wall. Then Ms R came in and said "leave him here. I'm staying." She was in class for a while and then left, taking Dudley with her. Immediately Chastity jumped up and started kicking Shonuff in the legs. "He poked a paper airplane on my private parts!" she screamed when I got between them, and then she stormed off to the main office. I prevented Shonuff from following. Meanwhile the commotion had liberated Miss October to poke Claymore in the arm with her pencil, drawing blood. He punched her in the ribs. Then Zinc went nuts and threw pencil sharpener shavings onto Felice Navidad. I announced to the class that I was cancelling our Friday party for my last day because they were getting on my nerves. Some of them sat down.

Then Officer Black came in and started questioning me about Shonuff. Chastity asked "Can I hold your phone?" and without thinking I gave it to her. Then Miss October and Lexus pushed Rodney over a chair and he banged his head on the floor. Rodney was the one choked by Dudley last week. Rodney got up and tried to bang Miss October in the face but I got between them. Of course I can't block more than one fight so Claymore punched Miss October in the kidney.

The main office called me down for a meeting after last period. I got reamed for giving my cell phone to a student. She called her father and told what Shonuff had done and the concern was that he was going to come up to the Book and start trouble. I should have known better--I had parents and cousins and older siblings trying to come in my eighth grade class last year to bang kids who'd done something to theirs, and here I'd allowed a student to use my cell without thinking. I admitted that I lost my cool and that I was in a situation I could no longer control. I said "I'm willing to take the consequences for my actions." They said "You've made a valiant effort here. We still wish we could keep you. But don't EVER give your phone to a child." I said OK. Then I came home and drank bourbon.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Cat is Out of the Bag

Some of my students started asking me last Tuesday if I was going somewhere. When they asked me I told them that I was possibly leaving, that I was on a list of teachers who might move. Then Wednesday I was asked by my entire last period class so I came clean and told them that I was likely to get transferred but I didn't know. Now they're all asking me every day because they've heard teachers talking and administrators talking and so the cat is officially out of the bag--when they ask I refuse to lie to them.

My second period class and fourth period class knew last week but I didn't tell my homeroom kids/first period class because I couldn't face them. But they've heard, and many of them came to me rather sad after school today. It breaks my heart. They're asking if they can hang out in my room with me after school, if they can clean up, if they can bring me gifts, etc. For the first time this year I'm rushing out of the building right at 3 because I can't take it. Most of the kids are so cute and small and they wear their emotions pinned on their jackets like mittens. It makes me too sad to be around them.

I'm slowly loading all my books and gear into milk crates and stuffing them into my car. It's a big job setting up a room and a big job tearing one down. Having to do that once per year is enough, and I'ma have to do each twice. I'm trying to decide on my approach for next week at The March. I told Ms. R the hard-core Administrator where I was going today and she blanched. "Them East Siders think different. You best know how to approach them. They resort to violence much more quickly." I'm getting my first-day strategy together already. Going into a classroom where no instruction has happened all year and there's been no accountability is going to be a treat. It's going to take me time to set boundaries and expectations, and I'm going to have to be diplomatic and flexible. At the Book I was tough and inflexible at the get-go and showed increasing warmth and flexibility as we went. I think on the East Side I'ma do the reverse. I'm going to invite the students into the process as much as possible, asking what they need in order to feel safe and to get their learning done, and what kind of decor they want on the walls, etc. Then we move from there into "getting to know each other" activities. I won't get teaching done for at least a couple weeks.

I'll have no time to set up my classroom until after the first day there--I'll have to work in the evenings to do it. Fucking bullshit.

Day 40

Ed Reed's big day at The Book gets some coverage in The Sun.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

a new leaf

a new leaf, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

digital streaming

digital streaming, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

somewhere along route 77 in Western Maryland.

Off to the East Side

Of course when I was put up for transfer people told me: "You might end up in a better school, someplace where you can teach."

Oh, no. There are worse schools in the City than the Book--and guess where I'm going? An east-side shit hole. I got the re-assignment letter yesterday, and was fortunately off in the mountains of Western Maryland at the time.

I'm probably taking this guy's place.

When I talked to the Assistant Principal at the job fair I just knew I was going to end up at W.C. March. She said "We need 6th, 7th, AND 8th grade English teachers." Of course you do, because nobody wants to go in your damn building without Kevlar and a helmet. I wonder what grade they'll stick me with?

Thursday, October 23, 2008

See more Ron Howard videos at Funny or Die - Watch more free videos

Errors New Teachers Make

Yesterday I called out a young man who's been so goofy lately I've phoned his mother several times. She told me "He's wearing me out. All his teachers are calling me every day!"

So when I called out Coop in class I said "Coop, don't make me wear out your mother again!" as I took my phone out of my pocket and held it up.

The class FELL APART. I had to fight hard not to laugh myself. It sounded WRONG. I tried to fix things and say "I meant on the phone," but that made things worse: "Mr. G a midnight caller!" "Mr. G wearing mothers out in the 'hood!" "He wears my grandmother out!" etc.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008


Last night a bunch of staff went out to a place called Ropewalk in Federal Hill. They had a good wing/beer special--.30 for the former, 2.50 for the latter--and the wings and beer were of unusually high quality. I ordered the hottest wings on the menu--called "Rush Uncensored"--and lived to regret it. They were damn good, but by the fourth one I was in pain, and by the eighth I was finished. I had to have friends eat the last two (they were each unable to do more than one bite).

The only drawback to Ropewalk is its idolization of Ronald Reagan, whose administration ushered in the lamentableable ideology which culminated with Bush. The stupefication of American politics is hopefully at an end now--but one can never misunderestimate the profundity of voter ignorance. Certainly not after the last 8 years.

day 36

Again, thanks to everyone who's sent good karma, letters to the editor, letters to the mayor, letters to the CEO of schools, enquired at schools about jobs, etc. It's very much appreciated. I've moved through the stages of grief to acceptance/resignation. Now I'm moving into uncomfortable new feelings.

Today was one of those days where I thought to myself: WHY, exactly, do I WANT to stay at this school? It was a mess from the get-go. Kids running wild in the halls, faculty out "sick" and administrators invisible. I spent more time calling parents than I did teaching today. One little bastard told me he was gonna "snuff" me if I didn't get out his face. I stayed in his face and he called me a cracker ass muthafucka and I pushed him physically to the door and pushed him out into the hallway. "Don't put your hands on me! I'ma get my father up here to kick your ass!" he said, and I said "I'm dying to meet your father. I can't wait to tell him that you have the lowest grade I've ever given anyone in 11.5 years as a teacher." He has a ZERO. He's been at the Book three weeks and I've never seen him write his name on a piece of paper. I called his mother and told her verbatim what he said. I also said if he continued to threaten me that we were going to have a MAJOR problem. "I don't lose my temper," I told her. "But today I came close."

Then I saw another boy whose parents I'd called earlier getting hit in the eye by his mother. She was using her fist and literally pounding him over and over in the stairwell next to the Main Office. "Why I got to hear from all your teachers every day?" she was screaming. Now I've got to make a report to the social worker. If I rat him AND his mom out in one day I will be King Snitch!

What a joke. The school is already descending into chaos and they've not moved any faculty out yet. Can't imagine what will happen if all 14 of us go.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Day 35

The fact that I got no job at the job fair is good news to the higher-ups at the Book. They're thinking that the City won't find a placement for me and then I'll get to stay. It's funny how various people who are not administrators but who sit in on the meetings will come to me and say "I'm not allowed to tell you this, but..." and tell me what goes on at the meetings. Apparently I'm considered vital to the school mission, I'm up for a leadership position, I'm all that and a bag of chips.

All that and a bag of chips on the transfer list! City schools CEO Alonso has said his mission is to empower principals to make hiring/firing/transfer/budgeting decisions as the school level. But the Big Cheese filled out a list of transfers from the Book and I wasn't on it--headquarters re-arranged to list to include mostly new blood and said "you have to move these folks."

A lot of folks are agitating on my behalf. Luky has been working behind the scenes, as have other teachers with "ins" at HQ. The Mrs. is on the warpath and she knows everyone in the City and State(and she just got a card from Mayor Dixon the other day--Sheila loves her black "B'more for Obama" shirt!). I'm tempted to write up an Op-Ed, but WTF? I can get fired for that shit. I don't have tenure to protect me yet--at least now I'm guaranteed a job somewhere this year. I play with fire it might cost more than I'd like.

The Book was underfunded for half-a-decade. I can see how running a million in the hole this year is excessive, but I can't see why they shouldn't give the school some extra ching for a while to help get it back on its feet. They are going to torpedo a listing vessel steaming toward a safe harbor for repairs.

I told my last class I was getting transferred today. They went NUTS.* Fighting, stealing, crying, hugging. It was like Jerry Springer.

*Well, even MORE nuts.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Day Whatever

Eh. Went to school, phoned it in all day, couldn't gin up much enthusiasm for discipline or teaching.

After school, job fair. Talked to several principals who took my resume. Had two on-the-spot interviews and promised call-backs for other interviews. Again, couldn't gin up much enthusiasm.

No offer tonight. Looks like I'm in limbo. Without a placement tonight I'm cast into the black hole of "whatever is still available." There are some scary fucking placements available, including the East Side middle school whose principal couldn't spell the word "light" when she tried to write me directions to her building. "My aif graders is problems," she told me. "We got openings in aif grade and all the other grades. The other grades is also big problems too."

Ugh. So I report back to the Book until I get a letter sending me who the hell knows where--could be middle or high school. One thing is certain: it will be someplace nobody wants, and coming in cold second quarter into hostile and unruly classes is no cup of tea, I'm sure. It's hard enough controlling things starting from Day 1.

The best middle school in the City had an opening and I was second-in-line at their kiosk, but she hired the first dude in line right off the bat. Snap!

Sunday, October 19, 2008


I come to work and walk into my classroom to find a portly blond woman with a Scandanavian accent teaching my kids. There are confused and unappealing decorations hanging from the walls and ceilings. My stuff is haphazardly piled in the corner.

She is teaching French and English. She smokes and tells stories of her grandparents in fin-de-siecle Warsaw. The kids are mesmerized. Cigarette smoke drifts in the cone of light from her film-strip projector.

I can't get my stuff together. It's all in fragments. The bags I use to carry it are missing handles. The desk drawers are stuck.


I laughed heartily at the uproarious puns throughout this short, terrible book--but Moore has an uncanny ability to mix her funny into the woefully bleak, and using a lot of second-person direct address involves one uncomfortably in the action. The last story really tore me up. Highly recommended.

Friday, October 17, 2008


sustenance, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

I'm hanging with some old friends tonight. Glug-glug.

The sadness will pass. Then the anger will come. I have fight left in me yet. And connections.


So today we had professional development day, with the option of working in our classroom or attending PDs elsewhere. I needed classroom time badly, and spent the first two hours re-vamping the room arrangment, putting out new books and rearranging my classroom library, doing schnazzy new displays, etc. I was so relaxed and happy and eager today, and made a new literature unit board and a new reading board. The whole time I was thinking about my kids and how they would react.

And then at 10 the Big Cheese announced 12 names of people who needed to see him before noon. Mine was one of them. I knew immediately what it was because I'd figured it was coming (I even speculated about it yesterday here. My own prescience alarms me~)As soon as he made the announcement I started packing my shit and stopped hanging new stuff on the walls. When my appointment came the Big Cheese was very upset--he'd begged me to stay at the Book last year, after all, and had fought to keep me--but because of seniority he had no choice, etc. He was actually tearing up.

They cut 14 of us. We have to go to a job fair Monday night to see what schools have openings. We're still guaranteed slots in the City school system, but have to move to schools that have lost staff or which have had an increased enrollment and need more teachers. All the support staff who have seniority at the Book are going back into classrooms, while the first and second year teachers such as myself are getting axed.

At the bar after work my buds bought my drinks and a couple of the insiders told us how hard the administrators fought to keep us. They had their own list of 14 names which was refused by Doc Alonzo the CEO. He said they had to shave rookies and certain vets were untouchable, poor performance or no. A team is going to headquarters Monday, teachers from the Book who have Alonzo's ear (including Lukie)--but I don't hold out much hope. It's great that they're going to try advocating for us, however. Stand-up folks indeed.

I love many of my team-mates. I will miss them dreadfully. We've been through hell together. I love my kids too. I can't face them. How am I going to tell them without falling apart? I've invested so much, and had assumed we'd be together three years as promised. I should have never told the kids that the plan was for me to loop with them their whole middle school careers. They're going to be devastated.

I'm a miserable wreck.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Too rich

So the other day i was escorting a student to the rest room on the way to an assembly when I saw the secretary from the main office shouting at a man in a blue uniform. He was pushing the photocopier out of the office into the hall, and she was saying "give me my damn paper. The paper in that machine is MINE. I paid for the paper." He jumped aside as she started pulling open the drawers and taking out reams of goldenrod and blue paper used to make copies in the building because our budget for the year is blown already and we're using whatever leftovers people have.

All the copiers got repossessed. Too rich! We don't have enough books to go around and we were told to make copies of mandated City-curriculum worksheets and materials from what books we do have, and now we have no copiers. I'll have to hide my personal copier/scanner/printer lest room 210 turns into JC Penny's from the original Dawn of the Dead, with moaning besmirched staff and faculty clamboring at the door hoping to use up my printer cartridges. I don't even like using my printer/scanner/copier because the ink runs out after about 40 pages. I've been typing worksheets onto Word and putting them on my LCD projector for students.

The Big Cheese also said he has over-hired and needs to cut 14 staff positions due to decreased enrollment. Whoever gets cut gets shipped to a City school with an opening. Good lord. It could happen to any of us at any time. And after this announcement he had the nerve to complain that he hears staff morale is low and he doesn't understand how we can treat him this way.

There are a dozen "support" staff who are 20-and 30-year vets. They "advise" staff and faculty and do audits of our classrooms. I say cut them, but I have a feeling newbies like myself will get the shaft and these vets will move into our classrooms. Who knows?

Meanwhile the State has slashed cash for a lot of the grants and programs which fund my wife's organizations. Gulp.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Day 33

There's nothing worse than a Baltimore City Language Arts professional development. These are some painful sessions, let me tell you, staffed typically by educators who don't know their they're from their there. But after nearly two months with my sixth graders I'm ready for 8 hours of pointless and bone-headed sessions at the professional development center tomorrow. I'll take my laptop and jack into iTunes and catch up on reading while they drone on about the City pacing guide, written 8 years ago and never updated, the exact same one used for 6th, 7th, and 8th graders (I know, because I taught the same shit to my 8th graders last year that I'm teaching my 6th graders this year).

Friday they have more conferences/PDs scheduled, but I'm going to my classroom instead. I need to clean and re-organize and get caught up on paperwork and filing. Not to mention grading and planning. I'm taking a flask full of bourbon and some Clorox in there and going to town.

Four days with no kids! Woo-hoo.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

a big day at The Book

Today Raven Ed Reed came to the Book with a crew of volunteers and some cats from Vitamin Water. For two hours they ran NFL training drills with the students, who were surprisingly well-behaved today. It was fun to see them running, catching, passing, doing plyometrics, crunches, relays, etc. When Ed told them they were being loud and disrespectful at one point nobody said "bitch you ain't my mutha" the way they do to staff. The kids got a bag of fresh fruits and several Vitamin water samples and a Ravens poster each. Ed is a good citizen, and does a lot for our school. He donates 26 tickets every home game to the school to use as incentives for students, and gives out food to the families on Thanksgiving.

Fox 45 spent 2 hours taking film and interviewing folk. My kids might be on TV tonight at 10, and tomorrow am. I will say that Patrice Harris is much hotter in person--and in Spandex--than she is on TV.

Then, in the afternoon, we had the great-great-great grandson of Frederick Douglass and the great-great grandson of Booker T. Washington in for a presentation about his family and emancipation and 21st century slavery and human trafficking. I thought this presentation was really cool, but my sixth graders can't sit for 90 minutes and they started acting up and before they knew it the Big Cheese was all over them and he kept them for 20 minutes after school. "You embarrassed me in front of the great-great grandson of the man after whom this school is named. I will make you suffer." He suspended 6 6th graders right then and there.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Day 32

A kid transferred into my last class today. He's been put out of two other schools already this year for crazy behavior, and putting him in the last class, which I've worked so hard to bring under control, was like putting OxyContin in Rush Limbaugh's coffee. What a mess! And the kids are already rowdy because there's a full moon soon and this is a three-day week for the students because teachers have professional development Thursday and Friday.*

Newby has an elaborate design shaved into his head, and gang tatts up and down both arms. He does whatever he feels like. He gets up, opens my door, walks down the hall until I go get him. He puts paper airplanes in the ceiling. He pulls girls' hair, and when they tell him to stop he says "bitch I'ze gonna pluck you," turning his hand into a pistol and putting it to their temples. When I tell him "you keep that up, you won't be here long!" he looks at me and says "That's my goal, muthafucka."

He keeps telling other kids in class that they "best be Bloods because I pluck you if you a Crip," which tells me he's likely gonna get banged soon because while there are Bloods at the Book it's mostly Crips. And no, I can't believe I still have to deal with this bullshit with sixth graders. Perhaps it's like Cowboys and Injuns when I was in sixth grade? Um, no. Unfortunately not.

*At the bar. (I wish)

Sunday, October 12, 2008

schoolboy crush

I'm in love with Shinghai Shoniwa. Madly in love.

Day 31

So some squirrely little jerk got into my desk drawer and stole some Reesee's Peanut Cups I use for rewards. I had a pretty good idea who it was, as I'd seen him lurking around my desk at one point last week. Friday we were beginning a unit on literary analysis, and the first skill was character traits.

Here was my warm-up question. It was on the overhead projector when the kids came into class:

Answer ONE of the following:

What kind of person would go into Mr. G's desk and steal his Reesee's Cups?


What kind of person would stay after school and help Mr. G clean up his room?

The responses were hilarious. Before I even started the class, the kid who'd done the deed was asking if he could stay after school and help me clean my room. When I sat down to read the answers I was thinking I'd get adjectives/character traits--that was my goal all along. We'll be analyzing characters in stories based in part on their actions, and I wanted the kids to warm-up with a real-life example. I figured I'd get words like "petty, thievin', trifflin', mean, cowardly,"* etc. But about 90% of the responses were "A kid named Gordan. A boy named Gordon. Gordon A. A stupid boy AKA Gordan. A jerk named Gordan." No one answered the second question.

I knew it was him all along. Apparently the "snitches get stitches" code in B'more has not trickled down to sixth graders at the Book.

*one kid wrote "diabetic."

beckoning of lovely


Saturday, October 11, 2008


I've read over the years about the civil war in Uganda. The LRA rebel army has perpetrated some of the most gruesome and despicable acts imaginable, and children often are abducted and forced to do unspeakably savage things under threat of death.

War Dance is about an Acholi tribe school in the war zone of northern Uganda, situated in a refugee camp. Many of the children are orphaned or former child soldiers. The film doesn't flinch in the face of the children's stories, but by no means dwells on the violence. Rather, the focus is on the healing power of art. When the school is offered a chance to get expert coaching before a national music and dance competition, no one gives them much of a chance to succeed. I shan't spoil it for you, but the dance competition footage alone is worth much more than the monthly Netflix fee.

I suggest two things: add this to the top of your queue ASAP, and buy extra Kleenex.

Thursday, October 09, 2008


Glad to see that the B'more Marathon is running one block over from us instead of down our street this year, but my plan to see the new exhibit at the VMA Saturday is ruined.

Show me the E$chaton

Great gramma used to wash out used paper towels and hang them to dry in the kitchen. She could afford paper towels but living through the Depression taught her to conserve. She could afford glasses and cups too, but preferred to use old jelly jars instead. My ultra-conservative paternal grampa used to diligently save his empty Coke bottles and return them to the store--not just for the deposit refund, but because he was an actual 'conserve'-ative, unlike today's breed of "buy whatever you want and throw everything away because you can" chuckleheads. Grampa was a butcher and he used all the bits of dead animals for something. I remember he used to bring home brown paper wrappers full of eyes and brains and whatnot. When I asked him why he had eyes he said the local high school wanted them.

I have to wonder now what's coming down the pike financially. Are we at last going to atone for our sins during the last few decades of "irrational exuberance"? Is this another brief blip like we had in the early '80s or '90s? WTF?

Watching the decline in the markets is at once exhilarating and terrifying. I have a few 401Ks and 403bs from old jobs, but there's never been much there, and there's even less now. Market fluctuations don't particularly concern me. If we get to the point where public schools shut down, then I'll be worried of course, but I don't have a lot of money tied up in Wall Street voodoo; and if we're at the point where public schools are shuttered it'll be roving gangs of maurauders looting anyhow and I'll be defending my house with hot pitch. I'm more of a ten-year Savings Bond, ING CD kind of guy than a Wall Street player. I have some gold, and a lot of silver coins stashed away, and some rice and beans. But mostly I spend as I go, like most Americans. The money I should have saved over the years has funded books, music, and travel. I'd do nothing differently if I had to do it over.

One concern is unusually elevated credit card debt. Last year while I was a half-time teacher and full-time grad student I used the plastic more and then over the summer it crept up too and then I was buying school supplies on credit. Got to get that shit paid off so Joe Biden's friends in Newark stay off my back.

I worry about my kids a lot. Their lives are already pretty marginal--a huge dip in the economy could topple many beyond their current despair and into the unthinkable.

Norm Coleslaw

Senator Coleman's opponent this fall couldn't have scripted a more ridiculous farce than this actual performance by his own spokesman.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Day 30

I feel like I'm reigning in the volatile bullies in my last class, but it is a chore. I'll get one young man on track and he'll do his work for a week and then I'll start working more closely with another and the first one will say "Why you working with J today. I thought we was tight?" and I'll say "We still tight, but you're doing really well right now and I want to help J start doing what you're doing. Give me a couple minutes and I'll come over here and help you," and then inevitably the first one will tear up his paper, throw his book on the floor and storm out. Rinse, repeat.

It happened again today and I had that class in the palm of my hand for 50 minutes until that point. I thought "Jeez, these guys really act like children sometimes!" And then I thought about the fact they are 11 years old. They ARE children. It's hard to keep that in mind sometimes.

In my second period class I have Miss October's cousin Elvira. She's a total head case too, tearing up papers, throwing books, telling me "I don't care" when I tell her I'm calling her house, then saying "Psych! C'mon Mr. G!" when I pull out my phone, and then when I put it away she's on the floor doing that circular spin made popular by Stooge Curly last century. Argh. What is up with that family? I call their house and it's always a different adult male who can't tell me who he is and who puts the phone down and forgets I'm there.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Day 29

Miss October was back in school today after six consecutive absences. She's 11 years old and is a sexual plaything for 6th, 7th, and 8th grade boys. She "parties" with the worst elements of the 8th grade class, and her health is of primary concern to me. I've filed reports with social workers and the counselors in the building in hopes I can get her some assistance. Slowly the bureacracy churns and I'm getting feedback:

"Perhaps I'll show her an STD video," said the counselor.

"Have you held out a carrot instead of using a stick?" asked the psychiatrist.

"Have you asked her to write a reflection on her situation?" asked the teaching mentor.

"Have you contacted her parents?" asked the administrator.

Ugh. I've called her house only to get cussed out by a variety of grown people who are obviously high in the early afternoon. Nobody can tell me who her mother is or whatever. Miss October today was quacking like a duck and barking like a dog in my classroom. This kind of regression scares me to death. She has big circles under her eyes and she is wasting away. I caught a 7th grade boy grabbing her in the hallway and when I confronted him he said "shit, everybody does it. She don't care."

Monday, October 06, 2008

Sunday, October 05, 2008

hassled by Tha Man

hassled by Tha Man, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

these cops arrested a Prop-Joe lookalike at the parade yesterday. as they cuffed him he said "I can't get no peace, not even on a nice day like today. It's a damn shame."

seven valleys, PA

seven valleys, PA, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

all that and a bag of chips

all that and a bag of chips, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.

my uncle paul, age 89

that'll learn those innocents


duchamp encore, originally uploaded by Blog-Sothoth.


Mr. P, our neighbor across the street, was out on his stoop yesterday. I hadn't seen him for a while so I rushed over to chat with him. He's 86 and he reminds me how lucky I was to know all my grandparents and to have them for quite some time. His hands are wrecked with gout and I worry that the pain will drain his good will. I know my last remaining granddad had a hard time dealing with that pain, and as soon as he fell on his elbow the will to live quickly drained.

Mr. P went to Booker T. when it was a vital and challenging institution. He was friends with others who went there like Cab Calloway and Thurgood Marshall. Mr. P tells me stories about marching through France and Germany. He spent 9 months in the hospital near the end of the war because he nearly froze to death in a fox hole outside Berlin.

"These fingers might hurt me like hell now," he told me, demonstrating how he can barely make a fist anymore, "but I'm lucky to have them. A lot of my buddies lost theirs more than 60 years back. I was able to do some fine work with them over the years."

Mr. P has a house full of paintings he did in his leisure time; paintings of Jewish neighbors from back when Reservoir Hill was still a racially mixed place, paintings of chickens, paintings of gentlemen farmers in their studies, still-lifes. He was quite good. When he tells me stories his eyes twinkle mischievously. He laughs a lot and it's kept him pretty young. He has one of those thin-line lip-hugging moustaches like Cab used to wear. I call him "Mr. Mayor."

Yesterday he told me about swimming at the old Colored Pool up in Druid Hill Park. "There was a dozen of us who could beat the best time of the 'champion' white swimmers, but they wouldn't let us compete. We couldn't swim in their pool and they wouldn't swim in ours."

I told him the pool is still there, but it is filled in with dirt now. The changing rooms and the slide are still there, as are the ladders, but the ladders descend into grass and the slide empties onto a gravel patch where sneakers have pounded the grass away. There is a little plaque commemorating the Colored Pool. I go there and walk around sometimes and sit on the steps and think. I hope Obama wins before people like Mr. P pass away.


About a month ago I had an HTML code problem in my sidebar that screwed up the (already limited) aethestics here. I took everything out and have been re-building bit by bit when I find a spare moment.

What's most interesting is that in the five weeks or so since I removed the Google Ads link my traffic has plummeted by 50% and my Technorati Authority ranking went from a 22 to a 6.

I've never had a huge audience here, but for a couple years I've had between 100 and 150 hits a day. Curiously, when I wasn't linking to Google, the number of Google searches which landed here dropped, and dropped precipitously.

I wonder if Google punishes sites which don't link to them? Does anyone know? Or perhaps I'm simply paranoid and this blog sucks, which is why the traffic dropped off.


Interesting mostly for its aesthetically engaging opening--a sequence of shots through an old ruin, followed by smokey close-ups of moist Greek statuary. A statue is overlayed suddenly by a bethonged Aryan athlete and then we watch others of the Master Race warming up. Riefenstahl's politics were demented and tragic but some of her ideas (the merging of a sunset over a lake into an image of the Olympic torch, the setting sun caught drifting behind the Olympic flame in Berlin) are brilliant.

The first fifteen minutes was worthwhile, but the footage of the '36 Games themselves is a bit too much to bear. It's true that many of Riefenstahl's innovations (cameras moving with athletes, slow mo replays, cuts to audience reaction--including Hitler's) are still used in almost the same way more than 70 years later. But that doesn't make watching old Olympians interesting. I did skim forward to see Jesse Owens compete, and to watch some of the high-jump and pole vaulting.

I was casually entertained, but the superhero genre mostly bores me now. I liked Dark Knight but I'm to the point where the endless re-packaging of cliches in slicker and more attractive effects fails to excite. Downey Jr. is a good pick, Stan Lee has a great cameo, and Jeff Bridges is a capable villain, but the most exciting part of Iron Man was when they played the actual song at the very end.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

and another

City Life

Big parade went through one block west of us. Some event sponsored by Carmelo Anthony. Lotta bootie shakin'!

Day 28

One of my students from last year dropped in during homeroom to give me a hug and ask "are you proud of me"? She was quiet, attentive, and pleasant until about November last year, at which point she started running the halls, fellating boys in
the stairwells, bangin' people in the eyepiece, vandalizing, and cussing out staff and fellow students.

In other words, she was an average 8th grader at The Book.

T's change in character last year was accompanied by an alarming change in hairstyle. She went from a carefully collected pony tail at the back of the head to a gigantic uneven Afro that was in four or five segments, each with a mind of its own. I often saw this striking calamity bobbing in the midst of a roving gang of unattended teens busy causing chaos in the halls. I thought frankly that this hair style was cool, but also emblematic of her mental state.

But yesterday she was back to the pony tail, she'd lost weight, and she had on a sharply pressed ROTC uniform. I see a lot of military recruitment signs in poor neighborhoods of B'more--I don't see them in the county, and often tell my kids "the military expects you to fail in school, that's why they target you. They know you'll drop out and need to join up to get job training. Stay in school!" But frankly I think ROTC can be good for many kids who have no discipline at home. I might not like the ways our military is used globally, but I'm not anti-military by any means. The U.S. Army is certainly better than the Crips or Bloods, which are the other most viable and lucrative options for job training on the West Side.

I'm all for a mandated year-long stint in the military or for some sort of civilian re-construction/community service corps for EVERYONE, right out of high school. I think it would have benefitted me. For this years' service (or two years?), you get college funding. T. definitely looked like a new person, and my home room was suitably impressed by her demeanor ("who dat Mr. G? She look cool!"). T. said she's passing all her classes at the Doug, something she was capable of last year but unfortunately we couldn't give her an environment conducive to learning.

We need something to re-establish a sense of community in this country, to rinse off the years of "me and my own over everyone else" created by two and a half decades of dominant right-wing bullshit. The Teach for America folk at my school are driven to help others, and they're all awesome talented people who could make twice as much money doing anything else. We need more opportunities like this for youngsters. I'm talking to you, President Obama!

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Biden Didn't Win Enough

Casey at The Contrarian gave me an opportunity to do some liveblogging during the VP event. Fun. Fortunately there were actual smart people there too. I'd say I was as good as most virgins their first time (meaning not very). Results here.

Day 27

My predictions about sliding into chaos are alas coming true. Today while Miss R the 8th grade science teacher was going about her business a child burst into her room and started beating one of her students in the head with a milk crate. Cleveland the 6th grade history teacher escorted his class to lunch and returned to find his room trashed, his stuff all over the floor soaked in urine. According to the hallway cameras a cadre of 6th graders was responsible. They were apprehended. One of the lunatics in my last class was expelled for showing his stuff to girls in class. Half of my homeroom was detained after school today for misbehavior in other classes. Ms. E, one of the Filipina imports, was struck by a running student in the hallway. He eyesocket was fractured when she flew into the lockers and smacked into the floor. I put a student's name on my Verbal Warning wall for talking during second period. He said "fuckin' bitch." I wrote his name on my Phone Call Home wall, he said "I don't care," and then he started throwing paper on the floor. I asked him to stop. He continued. I kicked his desk into the wall, grabbed his chair and slid it over to the door where the trash can is, and told him to put his trash in the can before he went in there. He put his trash in the can, picked up the papers on my floor, and did ALL of his classwork today. In first period a student put an airplane in my ceiling. I said "treat day is canceled for the whole class until the culprit admits his mistake." I'd seen who did it, but craved a confession. He didn't speak up. I said "somebody in my class is a coward. Anyone who can't stand up and take responsibility for his own actions is beneath contempt, especially when he makes his whole class suffer the consequences for his foolishness." Another young man raised his hand and said "I did it. I'm sorry." I thanked him, and said "I admire what you are trying to do. I know you didn't do it. You are trying to bail out the whole class by taking one for the team. I appreciate that. I am re-instating treat day for everyone but the culprit. I KNOW who did it. I'm calling his grandmother." I spent my entire lunch period and an hour after school calling parents/grandparents/aunts/guardians.

Again, we had an afternoon announcement from Fearless Leader: "I'm disappointed about what I'm hearing is happening in my school." The fact that you are HEARING rather than SEEING it is a big problem. And yes, unlike Sarah Palin, I know the Supreme Court decisions which tell me I'm not supposed to 'blog or editorialize like this. Oh, well.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Day 26

Mysterious calm today as the 8th graders took a test which will determine whether or not they can get into one of B'more's exceptional academic high schools. If they fail to make the grade they can slip in on a lottery appointment with some luck, or they end up at their zone school, the dreaded Doug.

Some punk ass mofo wrote on my laptop with a marker--shit washed right off, but man I was not pleased. Somebody else got into my desk drawer and stole my nice GEL pens. I'mma jack them up tomorrow, because I know somebody is going to pull one out and use it in my class and I will dangle them out the window until I get a confession or find out their supplier's name.

Some of my Donor's Choose books arrived. The kids are ga-ga for Harry Potter and Captain Underpants. Sometime next week we'll be writing thank-you notes and taking pics.