Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

Friday, October 30, 2009

#41



Hallucinogens, hallucinations of demonic cartoon cats, alcoholism, the early glory days and gradual cheapening of American animated cartoons and films, suicide (murder?), sexual improprieties, psychoanalysis--it's all here on The Boulevard of Broken Dreams.

I need a cheerful graphic novel. Anyone know a quality graphic novel which isn't so bleak? I mean, I'm a fan of bleak, and revel in bleakness, but is there a joyous one out there? Just for a change?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Day #40

Aww, the school year isn't official until the first arson attempt, so now I feel fully engaged. Today three 7th graders lit a bathroom on the first floor. The alarm system malfunctioned, so a rather breathless announcement came over the speakers at 11:23: "YOU NEED TO EVACUATE THE BUILDING! GET OUT! TEACHERS GET YOUR KIDS OUT. Please proceed in an orderly and calm fashion."

Uh, yeah, right.

Outside the field was muddy from our recent series of deluges. Kids made a game of kicking muddy footprints onto each others' uniforms. I got slopped myself, but who cares? I had fun standing outside and watching the kids act like kids for a while.

Today I told them the old ghost stories from our old house and I had them analyze plot as we went. I even mixed in pictures I stole from Google images with real pictures of the house and had a scary slide show. The kids ate that shit up! I heard them telling each other the story all day, and telling kids who weren't in my class the story. Maybe every day should be Halloween?

Of course when we had time left over I let the kids tell their own scary stories. Men with knives, uncles getting shot and killed, junkies in the bushes, rapists on the block. Somehow my ghost story grew less and less scary.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

netflixed



Sam Raimi's return to horror is out on disc just in time for Halloween. I missed it in theaters and was not disappointed a bit by Drag Me To Hell when I watched it last night. It's classic Raimi, meaning it's like a 1940s Looney Tunes cartoon featuring Daffy Duck driving Elmer Fudd batty, except that in Raimi's take, Daffy Duck is a soul-devouring goat-shaped demon from hell, and Elmer Fudd is a willowy blond who works in a bank.

Said blond gets herself in trouble because of an even greater soul-destroyer: capitalism. She's desperate for a promotion at the bank, and she is running neck and neck with another staffer who's an unctuous bootlick. When an aged Gypsy in danger of losing her house requests a third extension on her loan, our heroine's instinct is to pity her and say yes, but the boss reminds her that tough decision-making is a requisite skill of assistant managers. So she gives the old one-eyed bat the heave-ho. In return, she receives a curse. For three days a demon will torment her, and after the third day it will take her to hell. She has limited time to alter her fate.

The film is more hilarious than scary, but many of the gags are gross. There is more goo than a Nickelodeon cruise, and Raimi has digitized goo at his command now: no more fire-hose jello aimed at Bruce Campbell. Oh, and the old Gypsy drives a certain yellow sedan which fans may recognize...

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

netflixed



When I was an undergrad for the first time, way back when, I fell in love with the show Thirtysomething. I thought it was a breath of fresh air, well-acted, well-written, clever and occasionally challenging. It was nice to have a drama without cops, lawyers, doctors, or PIs, a show which featured angst and despair and self-doubt and gay characters and amoral characters and yucky divorces and hateful kids. And I was an English major, and most English majors were girls, and all the English major girls loved Thirtysomething, and if I could talk to them about Thirtysomething then I had an "in" beyond the late phase novels of Henry James and Shirley Jackson's novels.*

It used to be a challenge to watch Thirtysomething. I was commuting to college and living at my parents' place. They always had another show to watch when it was on, so for a while I taped it on the VCR while they watched whatever, but then they had two shows to watch while it was on, so I had to buy my own ghetto-ass hand-me-down VCR to record it in my room while they watched one show and recorded another. This was back in the days of expensive VCRs, too. But I saw most of the original run up to the fourth and final season, even though sometimes I watched bad, grainy reception on cheap ass long-play VCR tapes.

Re-visiting Thirtysomething in my early 40s was a lot of fun. The episodes fall generally into two main categories: those involving Hope and her angst and insecurities, and those involving her husband Michael and his insecurities and doubts. Typically if Hope is having a rough time Michael will step up and point out how ridiculous she is being. When Michael is having a rough time Hope will reciprocate. Neither, apparently, is capable of healing his- or herself, despite the fact that their problems are almost precisely mirror images: doubts about decisions, competencies, direction, aspirations, etc. Hope and Michael are the anchor family of the series: he runs a blossoming ad agency with his partner Elliot, and she stays at home to take care of their infant. She is a pinched-face lapsed Protestant, he is a gregarious and creative Jew. They own a run-down but spectacular old house which they slowly repair. All the other cast-members are friends or family members or both. Hope and Michael are the center of the Thirtysomething universe.

The strength of the show remains the cast, which is remarkably good. Timothy Busfield, Michael Olin, Peter Horton, and Melanie Mayron are particularly inspired choices: Mel Harris, who plays Hope, is a bit too wooden, and in scenes calling for powerful emotion she tends to fall flat. I feel the same way about Patricia Wettig at times, but she steps up to the plate during Nancy and Elliot's divorce with some quality performances. But for the most part everyone is believable, the ensemble cast actually seems like a group of old friends, and I always had a big crush on Melissa.

Several episodes are excellent. Those dealing with Elliot and Nancy's divorce are powerful and hard to endure. A few are egregiously bad: dated, painfully un-funny, and insipid (and some moments in the good episodes are just WTF? bad). But all-in-all I enjoyed seeing the show again. I will borrow season 2 from Netflix, no doubt.

*How many dates did Henry James' late phase novels or Shirley Jackson's books get me? Zero--though a couple men tried to pick me up after we discussed The Wings of the Dove. How many dates did I get after talking about Thirtysomething? A few.

Day #38

Typically a dreary, rainy, chilly fall day means many kids stay home, and those who do show to school are grumpy and sleepy and malleable.

Not today. Everybody came to school, and brought their dopplegangers to boot. I had kids coming out my ears, and driving me nuts with their energetic frenetic antics and whining. Couldn't get much teaching done, was constantly struggling with discipline. That's ok. Friday and Monday were really great days, a bad one brings me back down to earth and puts me en garde again.

Last period I had a little bit of a breather because a lot of those kids got suspended for fighting or went home sick before the end of the day. There is a lot of nasty flu going around, kids coming in fine in the morning and leaving with 100+ fevers, kids sitting in their chairs reading and keeling over out of the blue, kids sneezing and holding out handsfulls of milky snot. I love it when they sneeze or cough right on me! No H1N1 yet, to my knowledge, but gross and troubling nonetheless.

The faculty are battle-hardened, shell-shocked, and tired already. They are moaning because we have 5 full 5-day weeks concurrent between the last PD day and Thanksgiving break. Many are using their sick time. Not me. I'm saving that shit for the spring. I have like 6 weeks in the bank because I rarely dip into the till. Maybe next year I'll call out sick the last two months of my City obligation...psych naw!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Day #37

Had to do some screeching and a bit of nails-on-the-blackboard, but for the most part today was rather chill. Several guardians and parents were in the building today. My persistant phone-calling has bled over to other faculty members and now the parents are just coming in the building, tired of us bugging them electronically. I spoke to no less than four parents today,and it made me very happy to see them.

Today Claws' grandfather paid him a surprise visit. Claws just happened to be stabbing a classmate with a pencil when Granddad walked in. Claws is a big sixth-grader, and I know now from whom he gets his size. Granddad is a big muthafucka, pushing 70 but still burly and fit and he crushed my medium-sized hand in his big paw and introduced himself with old school Charm city civility. I liked him immediately with his Cab Calloway complexion, mustache, and hairdo, not to mention his pleasant demeanor. As I informed him of Claws' various atrocities in second period, Granddad leaned over and put his face inches from his grandson's. "You know I don't play," he said.

And Claws--no lie--pissed himself. Right there in the hallway outside my room. I had to send him to the office to get a change of uniform. This is a young man I've worked with a lot, and whom I've watched go from diligent and respectful to clownish, asinine, and rude. A young man in danger of thugdom. His granddad scared him silly.

Granddad gave me his cell number. "Instead of calling his Mom or Dad like you been doing, call ME. He lives with ME. They don't give a shit about him. I do. I don't play. Claws knows I'ma turn him inside out if I hear from you."

Saturday, October 24, 2009

#40



Again Jack Vance writes an imaginative tale worthy of Calvino's Cosmicomics. Rhialto the Marvelous is another rip-roaring flexion of imaginative muscle, and the intergalactic and interdimensional adventures of its eponymous hero are a hoot. We follow him on a quest through time, the courts, and out to the boundaries of Nothing and Nowhere, but Rhialto is no Cugel, and I found this last installment of the Dying Earth books the least of them. Of course the least of a fine batch of wines is also a fine wine, and therefore the book is a worthy entertainment.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bastards

IC Systems: phone number 1-651-204-1347

They've been calling my house for over a year asking for George Chase. There is not now, nor has there ever been, a George Chase at my address. Any dimwit with Google or a phone book could find that out in 20 seconds, but the shitheads at IC Systems can't get anything right, apparently.

Several times now I have told these schmucks "there is no George Chase at this address-stop calling this number" and yet they continue to call here multiple times a day. They leave robo-call messages, they call with live humans, they harrass and annoy.

And they always say "Your number has been listed as bad. It will come out of our cycler tonight and you will get no more calls" when you call back to complain about the continued harrassment.

Tonight they said it AGAIN and then I received a further two calls tonight. "Are you George Chase? Do you know George Chase?" NO, I DO NOT KNOW GEORGE CHASE.

I am documenting every call I get from them online from here on out.

Day #35

2nd period, with three of the prime evil machinators out for suspension, was still off the chain today. 5 more of them got suspended today for the following atrocities: fighting (two girls), taking rocks out of the science teacher's fish tank and throwing them in a girl's eye, and stabbing each other with pencils. There are 19 students enrolled in that class, 8 of them were suspended the last two days.

They needed to be suspended weeks ago. The Big Cheese has been moratoriumizing suspensions to keep her numbers clean, but now she has no choice. Some of these 6th graders are a mess, and their parents don't care about their behavior in school, so they need to understand that their kids' behavior will not be tolerated. Suspension might wake some of them up, but likely not. The kids will get suspended a few times and then they'll let them stay in class anyway to avoid infringing their Constitutional right to prevent any teaching or learning from happening.

Last period I blew my top so bad that the AP and the Language Arts chair came running. I was reaming out those kids so gloriously that my two bosses stood at the door smiling broadly. "The Beast out the cage now," they said. "We knew you had it in you."

The kids were grumbly. "Godfrey all strict now," they complained. "You made me what I am," I retorted.

Of course it's all an act. I don't "lose" my temper anymore--it's too scary. I pretend to lose my temper when I need to, however.

Meanwhile, the kids' vernacular and directness is wearing off on me. I keep getting phone calls from collection agencies for a George Chase. There is no George Chase at my address, and I keep calling these people and telling them to take my number off their lists. Today there was another robo-call message. I called him and politely said "I keep getting robo-calls from you about George Chase. I've called you before and told you there is no George Chase at this address. Take my number out of your system."

"How I know you ain't George Chase?" The man asked me.

"How I know you ain't George Chase, bitch?" I said. "How about when my attorney calls your ass next time I hear a goddam robo-message from your piece of shit company on my machine? Then you'll know who ain't George Chase" and I hung up.

SuperFly TNT. I don't have an attorney. Never have!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Day #34

Today was in many ways an exact replica of Monday and Tuesday--horrible, wretched, stressful, painful, miserable, taxing, trying, exhausting...

And yet today was a good day because I dealt with it and went along for the ride and did my best and stopped moaning about the crap which happens all the time that I just need to accept.

And during lunch today my 2nd period class got in so much trouble that the Big Cheese has decided to split them up. Woo-hoo! We're having a meeting to decide who goes where, and some of the kids are likely to be moved to other schools for continual unacceptable behavior beyond the pale. I can teach a class with Cthulu, but you throw in Nyarlathotep, Azag-Thoth, and Pazuzu? Nobody can teach that class.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Day #33

Sometimes the bad economy prevents me from doing something rash, like resigning immediately.

What a day! My second period class was completely off the chain again. Kids were jumping on desks and chairs, running around the room, punching each other--It took 23 minutes to get them seated. I wrote on the board "23 minutes of detention." Then, because it's a split class, I had to line them up and take them to lunch for a half-hour. An Assistant Principal and I had to line them up and walk them back and forth three times until they got quiet enough to enter the cafeteria. Then, once we got back to my class, they were bananas again, throwing things, knocking over furniture, pulling out drawers and dumping them. It took 28 minutes to get them situated. I wrote "51 minutes detention" on the board and then they blew up again for another 12 minutes. I said "ok, now you get a test worth 1000 points" and I gave them a pop quiz. They freaked out and got all serious and did their quiz and then I told them I would see them after school. They would pay, I said, for wasting my time.

Last period there was a major commotion in the hall and an AP was screaming for me. I had to rush out of my room and go assist the AP who was struggling with two boys who were fighting. Then I went back to my room and the last period class was tearing things up so I blew my top and reined them back in. Then when I was standing in the doorway preparing for dismissal some wise-asses thought they'd bum rush me out the door and I found myself heaving against five boys and I lost my cool and I flung them back so hard a couple ended up on the ground. Then a girl in the hallway started accusing Ear Ache of going through her locker--a rumor I thought we'd dispelled earlier in the day--and next thing I knew she was punching him in the eye. By the time I got there he was bloody and crying. Poor kid is one of the few sixth grade boys who refuses to hit girls, and he ended up getting stitches for his nobility. He didn't touch anyone's things, either. But other kids were trying to get him beat up and found an easy means to their ends by spreading false rumors.

So I went to Mr.E's room after dismissal to get my 2nd period class for their detention and the AP told me to hold them there instead of in my room because she wanted to talk to them, and Mr. E wanted some of them for detention too. Then Mr. E and the AP left for a meeting and I had to hold those goofballs alone and they started throwing chairs and spraying hand sanitizing foam everywhere. What a mess. And then a parent of a boy who was fighting came up in the school and she's cussing him out and he's saying "I don't care what your crack whore ass say. Get away from me," and she's cussing and barely coherent, and then the police had to intervene because the boy is threatening to beat his own mother up, and then the Language Arts chair gets on the horn and yells at me because I'm late for our after-school team meeting and I'm like "I'm holding detention" and she's like "let the children go and get to your meeting."

And during the meeting I'm reading the papers I made the detainees write and one says "my step father tried to sleep in my bed and when I wouldn't let him he beat me" and it never stops.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Day #32

Because of professional development days, the students were out Thursday and Friday last week, giving them a four-day weekend. A four-day weekend during which they were cooped up inside because of a nor'easter which pelted Baltimore with miserable continuous rain and bitter-cold chilly winds from Wednesday until Sunday afternoon.

When the kids got to school today they vented their frustrations. What a fucking zoo! Sometimes you just have to strap in and enjoy the ride...

Sunday, October 18, 2009

#39



I felt a powerful connection to this graphic memoir. The artwork--with its dense imagery borrowing from alchemical texts, medieval battle scenes, Eastern manuscripts, and Incan and Mayan symbology--was right up my alley. The story of a brother who is present but also absent because of illness I found moving too. And David B.'s painful realizations about his own inner struggle with his brother's illness and how this struggle affected his relationships into adulthood is quite profound. Perhaps the best work of its kind I've encountered, though I admit to being a novice in the genre. I liked it better than Persepolis, and even more than Jimmy Corrigan.

Thanks to Faulty Landscape and Houman for the recommendation.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

#38



Flash back 14 years. I'm the Mystery/Thriller bookseller at Borders in Towson. A big guy walks in, sporting a faded Hawaiian shirt and shorts. Has a cheesy mustache, a beer gut, and a shaved head. Seems intense, makes instant eye contact. Introduces himself as "James Ellroy." Asks if he can sign his books.

I pull them. His new one is selling, I say. I ask him about American Tabloid. We fall into a lengthy banter about JFK conspiracy theories. We talk up DeLillo's Libra. I decide to read American Tabloid, and get a first edition inscribed: "This book rages!" with a doodle of a dog saying "woof!" The signature is two curved lines not connected.

I read American Tabloid 14 years ago and really dug on it, but only now got around to The Cold Six Thousand, its sequel. The sequel runs from Dallas in '63 up to the Ambassador in '68. We meet the conspirators behind the assassinations, the contractors who work for the Agency, for Howard Hughes, for the mafia. We meet the right-wing hate activists, the FBI agent provacateurs, the lawyers, the dope fiends. Some characters are real, some are fictional. The story is as correct a portrayal as how things really work as I've read, even if the details aren't true, they are "true."

I must admit that Ellroy's prose irks me sometimes. The clipped three-word sentences annoy, particularly when he strings them together with a common subject: "Pete watched Ward. Pete braced Wayne. Pete geezed geeks," etc. But often the prose clicks and sizzles, and the immense cast of characters moving behind and between the major timeline events of the sixties is a great deal of fun. Everyone connives, everyone betrays, everyone skims. Ellroy rules.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Day #31


Told the kids today: don't get on my nerves. I'm not giving out any verbal warnings. You bug me, you break the rules and procedures, I am pulling my phone out and calling your house.

I didn't have to call anyone first period. Second period I made three calls in the first 20 minutes. Mommy #3 answered. Mommy #3 said "Can I speak to her?" Mommy #3 did lots of audible screaming over my phone. Chastened child facing a four-day weekend inside with no TV or video games helped get the message across. No more problems that period. Last period, two calls in ten minutes, then absolute calm.

The problem with this kind of schtick is you have to use it sparingly. You use it too much, and parents block your number. But it is effective sometimes when you are trying to create a persona, which is what new teachers spend much of their time doing, if my experience is any indication. I watch long-timers transform every day from cheery, bubbly, gleefully silly people into scowling pumped up ram-rod straight goons and banshees. Then, immediately following detention, their faces, postures, and moods completely revert. Everyone with any cred has a "game face." I've been wearing one all week, with some success. My biggest problem is the kids are keen and they know I'm really a big push-over at heart.

Tomorrow and Friday: PD days. Thursday is full of meetings, and if you look at Dore's etchings for the Divine Comedy, you'll find several terrifyingly exact representations of Baltimore City Schools professional development meetings. Friday, however, is unmarred by scheduled events. I'm counting on some room time to get my filing done, some planning done, and the re-situating of my expanded classroom library needs to be finished ASAP.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Day #30

It's not all misery and pain. I get a lot of joy out of my job. The joy just gets subsumed by other stuff.

Today T was bugging me in class by talking during instruction, so I "packed" his sneakers. I drew one on the board, very precisely with the logo and stripes appropriately rendered and easily recognizable. Then I drew a trash can under it, with fish bones and chicken bones and flies and stink lines. Then I drew a rat's head poking out of his sneaker. I labelled it: Where T found his shoes.

All the kids were rolling on the floor. "Yo, he packed you up!" they said. T is a very good artist, and I let him "pack" me back. He drew me walking out of Goodwill holding ridiculous banana-shaped shoes with a .25 price tag. Then we had a vote about whose drawing was funnier, and I won.

One more day with the students this week, then Professional Development on Thursday and Friday. Typically I'd call out those days, but I really need to get some work done in my class room. Thursday is filled up with crap meetings, but Friday is wide open.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Day #29

Surprise audit today by the Special Ed office. I took my 2nd period class to lunch; after a half-hour in the cafeteria they come back to me for an additional hour of language arts. When I went to fetch them I found out that the administrator who usually supervises their lunch had been called away to teach a class for a sick faculty member.

The 6th graders were unattended for 30 minutes in the cafeteria. People had milk in their hair, on their clothes, and there were semi-thawed green peas everywhere.

When I got my class back to the room they were jazzed and smelly. It took 22 minutes to get them situated. The entire time the poor special ed lady was watching and taking detailed notes.

I was very pleased when I finally got to speak to her. She noted that I had too many special needs kids to be alone in the room, and she wrote very complimentary things even though the time she was in the room was a disaster. She made interesting and helpful suggestions, many of which I'd already tried, but she wasn't condescending or antagonistic. She was there to help, not to judge. A breath of fresh air!

A large chunk of my new class room library arrived today. Time to start organizing them and putting them out for use. Another top priority to add to the other 2 dozen...

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Day #27 II

Fairly regularly I'll get home, have a glass of wine, read for a while on the couch, do the NYT crossword (or a portion), watch some bad cable news show, and then find myself frozen by an event at school which I'd repressed earlier.

I don't know how to describe this, but certain things happen at work which I just have to file away for later processing in order to keep going. I see something so disturbing and wrong and sad that I just say "not now" and drop it into a temporary emotional holding cell for later. Today the AP was in my room lecturing the kids about the Golden Rule when she saw Ear Ache in the corner. "You are supposed to be in 6-12 now. I told you this morning."

A little background: Ear Ache is a devil, one of the energetic special ed kids who can derail an entire class with his machinations. I have him in homeroom and first period, and he's rather calm for me. He still disrupts class with his antics, his Tourette's-like announcements of ass-kickings he will un-leash, his shootings of rubber bands, his continuous spastic movements. But he stays in his chair for me because I called his house once and he's terrified I'll do it again.

Ear Ache wears me out because every question, every text, every thing I do or assign he has to have read to him carefully one-to-one, and I often have to go through texts with him, asking leading questions to get him to the answer. I am pretty busy in the class room and he makes my life exponentially more difficult. But Ear Ache tries really hard with his rudimentary skills, and he gets the answer correct rather often. The other kids call him stupid and retarded and he always defends himself fiercely, and to be frank I've grown rather attached to his annoying needy little self. He's funny, he's scrappy, he made me a drawing of a pimped-out race car which I hung on my wall, and I don't mind taking the time to help him.

So when an assistant principal told him in front of all the other kids that he was supposed to be in what the kids refer to as the "retard class," Ear Ache was devestated. I'd been in on the meetings where this move was discussed, and though my input was that I had little trouble with him, the other teachers--who have him later in the day, at more active times--were pretty insistent that he needed to be taken from the inclusive environment and put into more appropriate services. I thought: he might benefit from this. I'm rather skeptical about the whole inclusive idea anyway. I sympathize with the idealism behind it, but in my experience special ed children don't get the services they need in general ed classes, and then they act out spectacularly and NO ONE gets an education.

But when the AP made her announcement this morning she continued on with her Golden Rule schpiel to the class, never once considering the brand she'd just applied to Ear Ache in front of his peers. I was next to him at the other side of the room. "Mr. Godfrey!" he pleaded, big eyes welling. "I don't want to move over there. I want to stay here." Instead of his usual smiling, intense, and robust carriage, he was slumped down in his seat with his chin on the table. Tears were streaking down his cheeks. "Mr. Godfrey, I really want to stay here." I put my hand on his head and told him he could visit me every morning and come use my computers after school every day, but his crying got worse. "I'm not stupid," he said. "No, you are not stupid, Ear Ache. It will be OK," I said. The kids around him all laughed and said "he is stupid." During a fucking lecture on the Golden Rule! And then Ear Ache said "Can I have some extra credit? Can I stay here if I do extra credit."

Down the memory hole for a while with that one!

The AP took Ear Ache away, resisting and crying, and then he came back with a note from the counselor that he will transfer on the first day of next term. I still have a few weeks with him, and I think I'm going to fight to keep him in my general inclusion class, pain in the ass tho he is.

I just find it weird that I can witness this, completely submerge it and teach all day, and then burst into tears unaccountably nine hours later and have to figure out what the fuck I'm thinking about.

Day #27

An 8th grader tried to put a sleeper hold on me and got his ass flipped. Then another 8th grader challenged me to arm-wrestle. He stood on my arm and couldn't pin me. Then the math teacher Mr. E challenged me and all the kids got all excited. Mr. E throws plates around at the gym every night, but though he got me past zenith a bit he couldn't get me close to down. The kids were frenzied watching the bout, which ended in a disappointing draw. While E was bent over and straining I pointed at his arm and said "look at that cannon!" Then he grunted and said "I can't move him" and he gave up. My arm, as the kids would say, be throbbin'.

Two fights in class today. Eddie Munster dropped his Munster punch again while fighting a much bigger boy. His schtick is to climb up on a desk, growling, and then to leap through the air with his fist out like some Palm of Death muthafucka. The two times I've seen this the Munster punch has connected with me rather than its intended target. Fortunately Eddie is only 4'2" tall and about 45 pounds, so the punch ain't worth much beyond the theatrical. But he is the only 6th grader with a mustache, so he gets props. Certainly is fearless, which works against him, because jive-ass big sixth graders who are too scared to fight kids their own size like to get Eddie mad enough to fight, and then they beat the shit out of him. But Eddie keeps coming.

Despite the fights and the silliness today was a very good day. I got through my lessons, the kids like the Bluford books, and they are very excited that I am getting a big new library from awesome Donors Choose donors. Rock!

Tired! Tomorrow progress reports come out so we have half-a-day with kids and half-a-day for parent conferences. I expect a handful of parents to show, so I can hopefully get some work done in my room.

Tonight I plan to drink heavily.

Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Day #26

So my gigantic last period class has been drained of all but 2 brainiacs, and then refilled with lunatics. Before I had 30 kids with 8 brainiacs and 7 lunatics; now I have 26 kids with 2 brainiacs and 9 lunatics. Said lunatics already started off strong on their first day, bashing a boy in the face with a hard-bound dictionary. The principal poked her head in my room and asked T to tuck in his shirt: he cussed her out and told her to mind her business. She flew into a rage and he didn't even know she was the principal. Ha, ha. She can see what we deal with every day while she sits in the office writing down how we can't handle the kids.

I drove a boy across town to his grandma's house after school today. She lives in my hood and after he asked I talked to his mom to clear it with her first. He said his grandmother wanted to meet me so I went inside, though the men hanging on the corner held out their fists with one knuckle curled around an imaginary trigger pointed at me. "Blop blop blop," they said and laughed.

His grandma's house wasn't the worst I've seen, but it was pretty bad. Clothes piled to the ceiling in each room on top of boxes, trash in the corridor, greasy walls and ceilings and floors, dangling wires and lots of flaked paint and plaster. All this in a turn-of-the century brownstone facing Druid Hill Park--a once grand house. I didn't get to meet grandma. Turns out she was at the doctor's. I got to meet a couple shifty cousins instead, who obviously thought I was some freaky ass white dude to be in their part of town.

Two more days, and I am seriously wiped already.

Lots of shots around the 'hood last night. There was a shooting in the alley behind our house and one block up a couple days ago--some kid on a bike got plucked. A couple weeks back a high-velocity police chase ended with a dead dude in an overturned vehicle in the alley behind us. Getting hairy around here as the economy continues to struggle.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Day #25

T doesn't do work in school. He draws. He draws manga-style, Marvel style, street-style. He also does a hilarious impersonation of me.

Gregorious doesn't do work in school. He stares off into space or talks incessantly. Every day after school he comes and asks me something: "Can you show me how to write my name in Arabic?" or "Can you show me some Tai Chi?" or "Can you teach me something in French?"

I like both these kids, though they are goof-offs. Today they almost fought. T is tall and wiry with a long wing span. Gregorious is squat and bull-thick. I looked up from reading to see T standing over Gregorious, his finger in Gregorious' face. Gregorious slapped his hand away and I heard a typically smart-mouthed girl say "We gonna find out who the big wolf is now."

Let's just say I got there in time, and kicked a desk in the process, and man-handled T back into his seat and gave him a good dressing-down. Then I called both parents.

I don't know who is the alpha wolf in RM 204, but it's definitely not me. The sixth graders have been running amuck all week so far!

Monday, October 05, 2009

Day #24

They're moving 6 kids out of my over-sized last-period lunatic asylum. This news would overjoy if it weren't for the fact that they're taking the 6 who do their work and stay in their seats.

And then late today I found out they're bringing 5 more kids in. And the 5 who are coming in are kids who got put out their other sections for behavior problems.

"You get a net gain of one less pupil," an administrator told me when I protested. "Take what you can get."

A net gain of one less pupil, but I lose the only 6 sane kids and replace them with 5more loons? Great.

Today: false fire alarm, continuous disruptions by 8th graders running the halls, more than 10 staff out with the flu, and fights galore. It's about time for the honeymoon to be over--and if what we've been through so far is the honeymoon, I may as well file my divorce papers!

Friday, October 02, 2009

Day #23

Leavon was a big kid last year, when I had him in 7th grade. This year he's grown another half-foot, and stands about 6'2". He's tough as nails too, and he's got a nutty disposition. Many teachers can't deal with him at all, but I have a rapport with him because I used to wrestle him from time-to-time and tease him in a good-natured back-and-forth. He's got an insane temper,however, and once went after the school cop and dropped him on his neck and said "that's right, I'ma cut you you come at me on the street!"

This morning Leavon snuck into my class during homeroom. He's an 8th grader and I teach sixth now, so I told him to get out. Then he gave me attitude. Typically this means he wants to wrestle. He's got no adult male in his life, so I obliged by tussling with him a bit, but then he got serious. We swung each other around in the classroom and I put him down, at which point he sat on my counter and said he wasn't leaving, and I made a big mistake. I grabbed him and pulled him up and spun him around and backed up toward the door. It's never a good idea to back up while pulling someone unless your feet are set right, and mine weren't because I was moving. He shifted toward me and sent me tottering backwards clinging to his bookbag straps, leaving me two choices: go down and fling him over me onto the floor, or go down and concede. I'm not keen to injure a child, or injure myself, so I went down forward on my knees planning to give in, and he quickly jumped on me. I hooked his right leg and was going to lift him but he grabbed me around my head, smooshing my D&G glasses, so I let go.

News travelled fast around school: Leavon dropped Mr. G on his neck! Mr. G got beat up by an 8th grader!

All day I had wanna-be's dropping by trying to break in my room. I twisted many an arm, put many a young man on his back, all because of a moment's silliness. It's OK. Leavon can have his moment in the sun. All others will learn the hard way...

In better news I had a surprise visit during period 1. Administrators came in to observe and my kids were ON POINT, taking turns reading aloud and making connections and predictions and it was awesome. This momentum carried over to 2nd period as well. 3rd period the girls were removed for an anti-violence assembly, and I had only boys. We did some vocabulary work and subject-predicate stuff before I let them do some drawings. Then we had a rad dance party!

I feel chilled and weak. Wonder if it has something to do with the 8th grade girl who came up to ask me a question before homeroom and coughed a sloppy wheezy mess all in my face. I could hear junk rumbling around deep in her lungs, too. Yuck.

Thursday, October 01, 2009

Day #22

Fairly typical week at the March. A child died of H1N1 up the road from our school. A 6th grader's mother was shot and killed by her boyfriend. I had a knife in my room last period, and was told "get out my face" by a 6'1" child as I was talking to his mother on the phone. I brought my last period class back from a half-hour session in the computer lab and they went nuts during transition, and it took ten minutes to get them in their chairs. While this chaos was going on, two administrators were in the hall watching me, waiting to do a walk-through to see if I had all the required shit up on my walls. I'm like "little help here?" and they just stood there watching. Ridiculous. This is the class with 30 kids, the one I'm supposed to have a co-teacher and special educator for, but I will get reamed out for classroom management tomorrow I'm sure.

The kids continue stabbing each other with pencils. A girl got stabbed in the face and the tip broke off. Her mother is furious, and rightly so. I've called several houses about kids who stab each other. The parents promise it will stop but the same kids keep doing it. They are all going to get MRSA.

My classes in the computer labs went pretty well today. One suggestion: ditch the fucking chairs on wheels. That is a recipe for disaster in any B'more classroom, let alone a middle school classroom. Wheeled chairs are too much fun. Kids use them for jousting with sharpened pencils and shit. Maryland state sport and all.