As you know, Pink Monday is in coming up in California . It is the day that everyone who CAN get a pink slip, will. I, too, am probationary. 99.9% chance of me getting another one…and sort of have been thinking of leaving the profession. After I finished these questions, I realized I have had a great career. It may be over, but it was good for a long, long time. And may be again.
20 QUESTION TEACHING MEME
1. Teaching assignments, how long? 6th grade 1981-1990 (in Dunlap & Fresno); elementary counseling 1990-1993 (in Fresno); elementary counseling 1994-1996 (in Stockton) 1996 High School Counseling; 7th grade 2002; 7th-8th Science (+1 Algebra) & PE (2003-2007) elementary PE (2007) High School Continuation School (2008-2009) High School English (2008-current).
2. Favorite Class Taught and Why? I had some fun 6th grade classes at Easterby in Fresno. I had street cred, a great reputation as a tough teacher, and mostly, had a great teaching staff.
3. Worst Class Taught and Why? I really had a hard time with Algebra. I know how to do it…teaching it? Not so much. If I had to pick the worst class of students, that would be another story. It’s not about the students. It’s about how effective I feel as a teacher.
4. Favorite Class Taken? H. Dan Smith at Fresno State was the man. He was the one who taught me the most about in-vivo counseling. He taught me that there is no way in hell that I can walk people through their trauma if I haven’t faced my own demons. I remember him the most. When you finally got to his classes at the end of the Master program, you knew you were with the best.
5. Favorite Education Book? “To be quite honest, education books are pretty much full of shit.” Education books about education make my teeth hurt. However, I do like some old Self Esteem books for kids, circa 1973 or so. This is the new version of my old favorite, by Jack Canfield.
6. Best Teacher Buddy? Many people, actually. Last year it was Carl. (although I miss him … long story) Carl had taken up my cause last year in a Continuation School. He believed in me, and that meant more than any *evaluation* I could get. I’m learning how to learn. Again. From the beginning, however, there is “T” from Fresno Unified. I was going through infertility treatments with my first ex-husband, and we had to do 6th grade Science Camp. T. gave me my hormone shots. At camp. She had my back on everything. Robman from the current round of teaching. He is as old as I am sober (He’s 30 years old, I’m almost 32 years sober). He and I were quite a team. Anyone that makes you laugh and saves your ass at the same time…that’s gold. I can’t forget the foursome of George, Wendy & Debbie. We made quite a team, too. One that’s never been replicated.
7. Best Administrator? Rich Andrade. Back in the day when you could have a conversation with your boss without union representation, or without what you said being held against you. Before political correctness, and when you learned the most about yourself. Rich finally had enough of administration and went back to the classroom. I learned so much from him, and was blessed to have is support. Currently, my boss, who should remain anonymous, has been a tremendous source of inspiration. He could give me a pass. But, he doesn’t. He makes me want to work. To be patient. To improve. He’s the new source of teaching mojo.
8. Most Disappointing Experience? Being let go from a favorite parochial school because I wasn’t Catholic. The parents went to bat for me, but alas, I was the wrong religion. I’m also disappointed with the current trend in education to have students know and understand the California State Standards. Absolute rubbish.
9. Most Thrilling Moment? Teaching sabermetrics to my 7th graders, doing baseball stats, reading “The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon”, going to an Oakland A’s game, and having all my students meet the real Tom Gordon. He signed my book, “Stay out of the woods.” Another long story. (look at page at top of my blog for full story)
10. Funniest Incident in Your Classroom? A “female product”rolled out of my backpack during a book talk on a girl in the mountains…we were all dressed up as our favorite character. Sorta stopped the conversation, as we were in a circle. Reminded me of that Seinfeld episode (The Virgin), when Elaine’s diaphragm fell out of her purse.
Elaine: I was talking to this guy, you know, and I just happened to throw my purse on the sofa. And my diaphragm goes flying out. So I just froze, you know, ahh! Staring at my diaphragm. You know, it’s just lying there. So then, this woman, the one who sold me this hair thing, she grabbed it before the guy noticed, so. I mean, big deal, right? So I carry around my diaphragm, who doesn’t? Yeah, like it’s a big, big secret that women carry around their diaphragms. You never know when you’re gonna need it, right? (Sips the Snapple) Ahh.
11. Most memorable student? “L”. The first day of teaching in an all African American school, and we were lined up for lunch. I told “L” to stop bouncing the ball. He yells, “You ain’t nuthin’ but an old white honky.” We went at it all year like that. It soon became apparent that this student needed Special Ed., but because of his gang affiliation, he should not have gone into it at our site, because he would have lost all power. I fought the law, and I won, getting him in a school off campus. That May, he dedicated, “I Just Called To Say I Love You”* at his school Fine Arts festival. I think of him every time I hear it. I did one good thing, and I’ll never forget him.
12. What about unions? When you need them, they’re there. Since 1981, I’ve used them three times, and although they aren’t lawyers, they stand up for you, and usually get the job done. My union thug friend Ken says, “Unions: The People Who Gave You Weekends”. I like it. Politically, we are worlds apart, but what they do for teachers on a daily basis…okay.
13. What about charter schools? I have no opinion. Lotta work for little money.
14. What about merit pay? Too many factors to make it a good thing. It always fried me to see teachers sitting around getting the same salary as me, while I schlepped cows eyes for Science projects into my classroom. On the other hand, I sat last year. Taught Academic Enrichment/aka Study Hall. So, it all works out, doesn’t it?
15. What does “21st century learning” mean? What it SHOULD mean, is that we get back to basics. Stop living like fat cats, thinking we need computers and new textbooks that align the standards, and following scripts. At the same time, embracing computer literacy, connecting via the internet with other classes, having equity for all students with computer access. It SHOULD mean teaching with your “hair on fire”, which is a phrase I use, meaning…Give me a tube of vaseline, and I can make lessons in Science, Social Studies, Math & Reading out of it. Teachers used to know how to write objectives, and create units. I don’t think it’s what 21st century means…but it should.
16. What makes a teacher “effective?” Kids are excited, paying attention, and can translate information into their own world. Kids become literate in communicating their heart.
17. Most overrated “reform?” Continuation School. Hands down.
19. Personal education hero? Every single teacher who suits up and shows up, despite and against all odds.
20. Priorities, if you could spend $5 billion on education? Give the money that just one Super Bowl commercial will make this weekend to your lowest performing school. ‘nuf said.