Monthly Archives: March 2011

“I’m Always Cracking My Fallopian Tubes!”

Yep. A student said that in class last week. I think it was on Tuesday.

A few of the students to either side of her told her that it wasn’t possible. I told her that fallopian tubes weren’t her like her knuckles. Just as the lead teacher in front of the class was finishing her sentence on finding the slope of a line, this student found it necessary to get up, address the class, and prove her talent.

This ride is called the fallopian tube.

A moment later, she turned from the first row of the class and awkwardly gyrated her torso in what looked like a very unnatural motion. Simultaneously, both of us teachers yelled, “Whoaaaaaa!” and scurried her back into her seat.

Last Thursday, a frequently obnoxious and unfiltered student began the class period by chatting during the first five minutes of class (they’re supposed to be silent). Ms. M asked her to settled down and the student miraculously quieted down a little. During the lesson though, she couldn’t control her laughter after Mr. M made a small dance move. After both Ms. M and I asked her to relax and get back to focusing on her work, she continued to “uncontrollably” laugh for several minutes. She finally stopped, but then, presumably out of boredom, began to yell, “Mr. Crotcher! Mr. Crotch! Hey Mr. Crotch!”.

I initially ignored her, then, told her that she plainly needed to stop. I followed up with ‘an official warning’ and then a demerit that leads to a detention. As usual, these threats only added fuel to the fire, and the student responded with more attitude saying, “Mr. Crotch, Mr. Crotch! What else am I supposed to call you? That’s your god damn name!” while laughing. All of this, of course, is going on in the middle of Ms. M’s lesson. I told her that she had a ‘Disruptive Behavior’ and then exclaimed back at me, “Racist!” She left it on that note as I went to get the dean to take her away.

Back to this week – a few teachers had it rough. There were some major attempts at teacher-intimidation (I believe the phrase was, “You’re a stupid, monkey-faced b****), a desk thrown in the middle of the class, and also the following comedic altercation that happened today:

After loudly laughing and talking during independent practice in math class, I went over to two students to attempt to quiet them down. One student ignored me and continued to talk inappropriately and told the other to, “Suck her balls!” She repeated this three times directly front of me, only getting louder as I walked closer to her desk. She went on to explain that she was joking because she obviously did not have balls. “The only person in the room that has balls is you, Mr. Crotch!”.

My tie even has a glove at the bottom.

Just as my face scrunched up and I was about to flip out over the many lines that had been crossed, she broke back into the awkward silence with, “On ya shirt!!!”

I looked down at my white button up shirt and quickly realized that I was wearing a goofy baseball tie for opening day of the Major League Baseball season (I’m lame, I know). I released some tensed up air from my lungs and then fought a smile. While I walked away I told her that that kind of language was not acceptable. Later on, my request for her to stop being loud and rude was met with a perfectly logical response. She told me that I should go away to another area of the room so I couldn’t hear her. Great reasoning there.

Thinking about the week since I last posted, I’ve been über busy. Not busy so much with misbehavior or frustration (I guess those three snippets were more isolated incidents), but more with graduate school work, meetings during school, and teacher soul-searching.

I’m not sure how it is in other schools (because this is all I know), but teachers have a ton of meetings in addition to our time hanging our with lovely adolescents. If your lucky enough to be a special education teacher, you have additional meetings with school counselors, school psychologist, social workers, and more! Yay!

But enough of my meeting-talk, I’m sure there are tedious meetings in whatever profession you are involved in. The main thing is that we’ve made it to spring. We’re all trucking along. Before we know it the sun will be out, our students will be taking their state standardized tests, and hopefully, some of the tension and pressure will be released from teachers and students alike.


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That’s Racist! You’re A Racist!

I’d like to start this blog entry with a word for word  incident log entry from Wednesday, March 16.

To clarify, I only edited for name changes and expletives, but I assure you, I have not exaggerated any of the comments. I was pushing in and helping out a 9th grade Algebra class, and let’s just say some students, “Were not in the mood” as one student put it, to be respectful or listen to teachers.

“Student L entered loudly and then refused to sit in her new assigned seat. When asked to sit down she responded, “I’m not moving, I’m a boss!”. A few minutes later she yelled during the do now, “I don’t respect Ms. M’s expletive (beginning with “S”) because she called my house. Ya’ll racist! Ya’ll racist! I already told my mother!” She proceeded to talk and then filed through her notebook and threw a few papers onto the floor.

This pooch is a boss.

When Mr. K went up to her, she yelled back, “Who is talking to you? Nobody is talking to you!” Later, she finally moved to her assigned seat. A few minutes afterwards,  she was told by Ms. M to please stop to calling out and she screamed back, “Get the expletive (beginning with “F”) out of here!” When Ms. M responded that speaking like that was earning her a DB (Disruptive Behavior – which counts toward a detention), Student L responded, “Good for you! Act like I give an expletive”. She put her head down for most of the remainder of the class.”

After reading this “Incident Log” entry, I can assume that a few thoughts may have popped into your head.

Yes, I know it’s hilarious that this girl confidently called herself a boss. Jay-Z is a boss, Donald Trump is a boss, Bruce Springsteen is the boss – and apparently, some of our students are on that level of power.

Yes, the complete and utter defiance of the rules of a high school class is funny when your reading about it from the outside or watching it in a movie.

Yes, it’s true that teachers at the school have to write-up paragraphs upon paragraphs of incidents to keep a paper trail for possible suspensions. (Actually I could have focused this blog on the other two write-ups from the same class – one about a girl who kept announcing that she had to fart, and another that tried to intimidate me by calling me a ‘snitch’ for writing her up).

But most disturbingly, I hope that you stopped during reading the incident report to notice the aggressive and plainly stated allegation of racism thrown into the tirade.

I don’t want to make this blog too serious, but I genuinely think about the amount I hear students, (sometimes jokingly, sometimes honestly) throwing the word “racist” around.

Last year, I was filling in for a teacher one English period when I told a girl that she needed to remain in her seat and quiet down. The student blew up and me and then screamed that I was a racist. This is a picture of the note I received after I bugged out on her and told her that if she was going to use that word she better know what it means. I think this was one of my maddest moments last year.

Whenever I hear the word “racist” said in school, I try my best to address it honestly and peacefully. I usually say that I’m half-Chinese and Jewish, and I really don’t see a difference whether you’re black or green. But, when I see the issue as a Sociology major, overhearing some of our most struggling students resort to angrily blaming race on their treatment in the classroom, I know that there is a lot more to it than ignorance.

I think that it’s obvious that some of these students have had a difficult time following rules their whole lives. Many use race as an easy way of attributing a reason for why they are in trouble. That being said, I also know that many public schools (ours included), have a lack of teachers and educators that are minorities. Many of these students have grown up with only negative conceptions of white people in power, and I know that some of them feel wronged before they’ve even entered a class. It’s a really interesting dynamic when you see it in person, and its even more frustrating when you try to tell certain students that their teachers are doing everything they can to help them succeed and go to college.

I thought that I’d bring the topic up because I’ve been noticing students yell this out a fair amount lately. Our school is a far cry from some of the real racially tense schools in the city, but there are some deeply seeded and subconscious racial elements at work. When a majority of the adults in charge don’t look like the students they are trying to teach, and when we’re only a generation removed from institutionalized racism as a society, I guess it’s unavoidable.


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Week 29! Quotes Jotted Down on Post-It Notes.

A lot of teachers dread March in general. I think it’s justified, but this stretch has been full of funny comments made by students.

Public school teachers in the big city go through a lot of mental and psychological anguish. I hope that through some of my stories it may seem more understandable that seven weeks between breaks in February and April could be thought of as a possible rough stretch. I’ll start this week off with some quotes and events from this week so far:

Monday, March 7th: A ninth grade student, talking to the locker next to her in 1st Period Math: “This locker is pulling my hair! Get it the hell off of me! I’m gonna slap the shi* out of it!! I’m gonna burn it!” I had to tell her to relax and give the locker a break because it was an accident. Of course, this is also not the first student to yell at an inanimate object.

They're on to me...

Tuesday, March 8th: A 7th grade student comes up to me in the hallway, giggles, and says, “You look like an alien. Your cheeks are down here, and your head is all weird.” I told her thank you for the complement. The irony of this one comes from the obvious fact that the girl who said this totally looks like an extra-terrestrial.  I kind of wanted to spin her comment into a good thing, well,  because she will probably come across similar harassment in High School.

Another ninth grader, in the middle of a 4th period Math lesson says loudly, and in a shocked tone, “I just realized that I have eyelashes on the top too!” It pretty clear to everyone in the room that this realization is much more important than passing the Math State Regents test at the end of the year to earn her credits.

Of course Leo's crotch was a big topic of conversation as we watched the most recent version of the film

In 5th period English class, after reading the very famous scene in Romeo and Juliet where Juliet kisses the recently dead Romeo’s lips to take-in some of the poison, a student yells: “I would have tonged his ass down!!!” She went on to explain that she would do this to more efficiently attempt to attain the poison (well, not in those words), but her reasoning was better than her outburst.

I have to note that this same girl has made some incredibly entertaining comments in her analysis of each scene of the play. Once, I remember her ever so nicely sharing out her interpretation of one scene by shouting, “Oh My God! Romeo was just sucking on Juliet’s nipples!!!”. Most of the time, both teachers in the room just look at each other and shake our heads as the class begins to ROTFL (bursts into hysterics).

After reading another famous scene at the end of Romeo and Juliet where Capulet turns to Montague to offer an end to the feud and says “Montague, my brother, take my hand”, another student screams out: “Yoooooo! Oh shi**! They black?” They’re all Italians from Verona, but I don’t think Billy specifies race, so sure.

Wedneday, March 9th: Our school put on a Teacher Talent Show to encourage students to participate in a talent show later on this year. It featured teachers doing double dutch, tap-dancing, playing the drums, and putting on an awesome coordinated cheer/dance that included “Whip My Hair”, “Crank That (Soldier Boy)”.  Our Assistant Principal did the worm in front of the school for the second straight year. Needless to say, it was an uplifting assembly for the school.

After coming back from February break, school has run fairly smoothly for me. I think that when the spring finally arrives, there will be an even more positive atmosphere (And I have Soccer Club back). Yes, there are still major frustrations (mainly attendance and performance of many of my students), but overall, March has been going fairly swimmingly. I think that stepping back to find hilarity in outrageous student comments, and to appreciate an staff who work their butts off for our students everyday, can be just what a teacher needs to get by this time as winter limps away and slowly fades into spring.

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My Hair and Its Consequences on Learning

Tuesday, March 1st:

Most of the comments I received today were related to my recent haircut. I think I answered the question, “Did you get a haircut???” about twenty times. If you haven’t seen me since – it is fairly obvious that my hair can no longer cover my entire ears like earmuffs. By the forth or fifth time I had to respond to this query, I started feeling my short and non-shaggy hair and acted very surprised that my hair was gone.

I think that it’s insanely funny that random 6th grade girls, who I have never seen before, continuously came over to me in the hallway in between classes to say, “You got a haircut!”. Then they’d either run away to a group of giggling friends, or just stand there and look at me wide-eyed. Thank god these kids were there to remind me that I now sported less hair than I had before break…I guess that was nice.

This was how I looked in school a week ago, through select 11-year old eyes

Later on, I remember getting tired of this and quickly snapped back that I absolutely did not get a haircut. When the day was over, I was exhausted to be back, but wondering when students would stop looking at me like a strange new being. Little did I know it would get worse.

Wenesday, March 3rd:

Today one of my 7th grade students laughed at the sight of me for 50 minutes straight in the middle of class. This is no hyperbole.

After I warned her and told her to stop, she attempted to participate by answering questions while shielding the side of her face with her hand as to block my face out of her view. As you could guess, this foolish attempt failed miserably. She interrupted herself multiple times with rowdy bursts of spit-filled laughs until I got upset and had to call on another person. Each time she cracked up the other students would either tell her to shut up or chuckle with her. By the way, the particular lesson class was about a video and reading of child marriages in Afganistan – hilarious stuff, I know.

After class I spoke to her and she couldn’t keep herself from laughing so hard she fell on the floor and rolled around.

This student, albeit a needy and usually entertaining 7th grader, has been laughing uncontrollably at me for a few days now as I passed her in the hallway. Apparently, the sight of me with my new shorter haircut has just been too much for her to handle. After another teacher spoke to her about her disruptions and inability to contain her laughing-fests, she came to me after school and apologized. She proceeded to tell me that my hair was just too different and that I looked like a ‘new person’. She followed with, “You used to be so hansome…” I told her I was sorry I’m wasn’t handsome anymore but that she really needed to get it together.

Thursday, March 3rd: This is a Sorry Note that one of her friends felt she needed to give to me on Thursday.

Finally, I want to post another picture from my Current Events class with the 7th graders. I showed them some videos about what had happened in Egypt, and then we read an article together. I had them answer three questions at the end of class as a mini-quiz. This was one of the funny ones. It is messy for a number of reasons, one of which is that I was rushing them a little bit. I think that most of them understood the issue, but this is a good look at some of the work. Now that I recovered my digital camera, expect more student work to show up in the blog.


1) Why did the people of Egypt revolt? 2) Were the protests a good or a bad thing? Explain 3) What happened to President Mubarak?

That-is-all for now. Here’s to the hopes that I can continue posting once a week, even if it is just about my hair.

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March-ing Along: My hope for an early spring/rebirth at school

Tonight I’ll try to squeak a post in the last minutes of the shortest of all months. I last posted on February 3rd – a time that feels like eons ago for so many reasons.

This prolonged hiatus from posting my stories and funny encounters in the classroom is not the result of sleep depravation, forgetfulness, nor overwork, (as it has been in the past). The reason I’ve not posted in a while is that this February, (aside from a much needed week off last week) I’ve experienced the most difficult few weeks in my professional career. I was down on school and more upset than I have ever been at work – but now I’m really glad all of this struggle had happened.

If you talked to me during the beginning and middle of February and asked me about work – its safe to say that I was unusually down on myself and conflicted about a bunch of things going on at school. I had a tough transition into the 3rd marking period, and many of my students were not responding to my seminar class or my attempts at motivation. Everything seemed to explode in my face when I had an insanely poor observation lesson where almost everything that possibly could have went wrong did. I can’t go into the details – its just too traumatic still.

Okay, well maybe this is going a little too far...

This led me to a mini-life teacher crisis and a stinging feeling that all my students had just let me down during the time I needed them the most. I felt like a caring Dad who had tried so hard to reach his children and everything backfired in his tired and confused face. Now you can see why I didn’t feel like I had much positive or funny to share…That would just be awful to read about right?

Looking back at those tumultuous  few weeks, I feel a hundred times better now. Aside from feeling bad for myself like a big ol’ loser for a few days, I’ve worked really hard and I changed my entire class to make my lessons more engaging . In the past two weeks alone, I’ve re-packaged and switched my class to ‘Current Events’ and done entire lessons on Nicki Minaj and Lady Gaga in a unit about what makes a role model.

She was born this way

It’s hard to admit when your wrong or need a major change, but I really needed the slap in the face in order to get back to reality. In order to figure out a way to climb out of a pretty depressing hole with my students, I needed to change a whole lot.

Currently, I’m more content with the content that I’m able to bring into class, and I feel that I’ve won back most of the kids. (last month they were ready to revolt because they felt bored, stupid, and angry for being put in my class).

Now that school is back in full swing after February Break, we have 7 straight weeks with only a few days off. I’ll most definitely be keeping an eye out for intriguing quotes during my push-ins with the 9th graders reading Romeo and Juliet, and other situations that offer major comic relief.

Finally, it’s time to grind it out, stay hopeful, and set a positive tone for many of these struggling students who are used to people giving up on them.

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