Thursday, January 29, 2009

Miss Eyre and the Bee

Have you ever been to a spelling bee? I'm not talking about a class or even a school-wide spelling bee. I'm talking a real, hardcore, Scripps-following spelling bee. I can now say that I have. I was at a district-wide bee recently to support two of my students who were competing. One of my students is going on to the city bee, and I'm pleased as punch.

When the bee starts, a coordinator reads the rules. Verbatim, word for word, out loud, to everyone. It takes a full ten minutes at minimum. Entrance and exit to and from the auditorium is tightly controlled while spelling is going. Spells can be thrown out if they are interrupted by noise. For those of us public school teachers who are used to the gentle, casual chaos (if it's "gentle" and "casual" at all) of a school bee, it is serious stuff. Needless to say, I enjoyed the peace and quiet.

But the tension! My goodness! The bee is being filmed, so there are stage lights. These are pre-pubescent and pubescent children up on that stage. One boy was sweating visibly and had armpit patches, poor thing. I watched children clench their fists, count on their fingers, mouth words, roll their eyes, screw up their faces, every little nervous tic you could think of and then some. I worry about subjecting children to this kind of pressure, even though the rewards can be great.

Nevertheless, when it came down the final two, I was hunched forward in my chair, leaning forward onto the empty chair in front of me, my hands folded under my chin. I was sitting with the mom, siblings, and friend of my student, CJ (not her real initials), who was spelling. CJ looked remarkably cool. And when she spelled her final winning word and it was judged correct, I really did whoop. It was awesome.

Stuff like this makes being a teacher fun!

Monday, January 26, 2009


A funny, sweet postscript to make for my earlier, bitter, rant-y post:

My friend T (mentioned briefly in this post) and I were having a chat today. T is a fun kid. Like I said, he has ADHD, but he's been diagnosed for a long time and manages it really well. He also has a great family. He's lucky. T and I were chatting about possible ideas for his ELA exit project (shh, don't tell my kids it's not a state requirement!*). I asked him what he was interested in.

"Snakes," he said instantly.

"Ooooookay," I said, "what about snakes? Can you elaborate?"

"I was watching this show the other day," explained T, "about, like, snakes and how they poison people. This guy would, like, try to chase poisonous snakes and he got bitten once and almost died. I want to learn more about snakes."

I really wanted to laugh, not in a mean way, but his interest in snakes really seemed so...genuine, I guess. Unvarnished. Unforced. I just loved it. Today was a rough day, what with me still having the plague and the quality review discussion and all, and this chat with T reminded me what is so great about teaching kids.

"You know," I said, "let's talk some more about how we could turn that into a research project, then. I bet you could learn lots more about snakes."

"Like how much snake poison it takes to kill someone?" T asked, with great eagerness."

"Um, yes," I said. "Sure."

*You're right, it's not a state requirement. But I really want to have something that keeps my wiggly eighth grades hooked into school until the last possible minute, and I figure a self-designed, self-chosen final project is the way to go. I'll probably post more about it in the near future, as my kids are starting them now.

Quality Control

Today at our faaaabulous faculty conference, we got to read the School Quality Review report. Since this report was already dissected in infinitesimal detail at an earlier faculty conference, I felt no need to read it.

Can I rant for a sec about this? Yes? Good. Our review was conducted by one of the Brits and a lady (and I use the term very loosely!) who was a former principal. Now, since this lady was not nearly old enough to be retired, I am very interested to know why she is no longer a principal and why she is out doing quality reviews. Make of that what you will. The Brit did not make a peep during the process; the former principal was clearly the stronger personality.

I got to spend way more time with these people than I would have liked. I was called to meet with them personally. I dutifully lugged my TANs (one for each class, and each one is very thick) and my laptop to the meeting, though the SQR team didn't actually look at them. (All for the best. I still don't know what's actually supposed to be in those TANs.) They also visited my classroom for a long, uncomfortable period.

None of the above is actually a problem for me personally. My AP and I get along reasonably well and she thanked me personally for doing a good job during the review, so I have no actual beef with her. She can be a little flaky but is hardly nasty or unreasonable, and knowing what's out there in the DOE, I feel pretty darn lucky. No, my "chief beefs," if you will, are really with the rest of the process. To wit:

1.) The former principal lady showed up late for both days of our review. One day an hour late, the other day three (3!) hours late.

2.) Our entire directive, from our administration, on the issue of "goals" was as follows: "Make sure your students have goals." Um, okay. I had my kids do a little worksheet on goals and how to make them SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timed). But APPARENTLY these goals are supposed to be much more elaborate, which, you know, would have been nice to know BEFORE the SQR. And the kids' families are supposed to know them, too. Um. Right. I can imagine one of my favorite (really, not being sarcastic) parents summing this up as such: "My son's goal is to not fail all his subjects this marking period so I don't BEAT HIS ASS again." That seems an admirable goal.

3.) Apparently we, as a school, are not using data effectively enough. It's hard for me to take a position on this. On one hand, I could admit that I have a lot to learn about using data, sure. On the other hand, I'm not sure when I'm actually supposed to grade papers and plan lessons if all my time is spent "analyzing data." Those of you in the NYCDOE have probably played around with ARIS and Acuity at this point and know that they are, in general, not terribly helpful, inasmuch as they don't tell you anything you don't already know (or couldn't easily find out during a quick chat to a guidance counselor or a kid's former teacher) and they're very unwieldy (I'm looking at you Acuity--ever try to assign work to fiftysome kids on Acuity? Good luck with all that). And I'm supposed to spend hours of my precious time on this shite? Don't think so.

So that was my SQR experience. I imagine others have had similar (possibly worse) ones. It wasn't my first SQR and I suppose it won't be my last, but Lord, if I never hear the word "data" again, it will be too soon.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

85% of Success is Showing Up?

Then for the next three weeks of school, I'm going to be a big failure as a teacher.

Friday, I couldn't take it anymore. I called in sick. I have excellent attendance and almost a month in my CAR, so on those rare occasions when I decide to stay home, I try not to ride myself too much about it (even though I do). I felt guilty for the first half of the day. I had left lesson plans and handouts for the lucky sub who got to cover Class A and Class B, as well as my sixth grade health class. I even left a note for the sub inviting him/her to eat the chocolate from my personal candy dish. Still, though, I always worry. Last year, I had a sub while I was elsewhere in the building grading the state social studies exam, and by the end of the day the AP stopped scoring and made me come back to my class because they made the substitute cry. Last year's classes were handfuls, to say the least, in a way that my friends this year or not, but that experience scarred me with subs.

This year, I've learned to not trust SubCentral with actually calling the sub I request. I have his personal digits which I ring if I possibly can. He gives out the work I leave, the kids listen to him, he leaves the room clean, and he subs at my school frequently, meaning there's a good chance I can touch base with him personally about any problems. And of course my kids know this year that there's usually something a little special in it for them if they treat the sub humanely. Substitute teachers' jobs are even harder than regularly appointed teachers, I think. Not knowing where you'll be or what you'll be doing from one day to the next, not knowing if you'll have to come up with something off the top of your head for the kids to do...that seems tough.

Here's my problem: I'm still sick. Disgustingly, hackingly, nose-runningly sick. Also, I'm signed up for a PD later this week. ALSO, I'm being sent out for several days to score the ELA exam. I'm kind of afraid my kids are going to forget what I look like. Not to mention the challenge of setting up several days' worth of meaningful, relevant work for three classes that can be done entirely without me. I'm dreading, and hoping I can drag my sorry butt out of bed tomorrow morning.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Notes and Observations, Post-ELA Exam

The ELA is over! And not a moment too soon. I proctored my good friends in Class B for the exam, which was for the best. The teacher who proctored Class A, who will almost certainly do much better than Class B, has a tougher, less light-hearted persona with the kids than I do. (She is an excellent teacher, and is never “mean”—just not what you’d call “warm and fuzzy.”) I slathered on the praise, the encouragement, the jokes—anything I could think of to help the kids feel relaxed and confident. I must say that, thanks to our awesome testing coordinator and the teachers who helped me with “ELA Exam Boot Camp” during our 37.5 minutes, our particular test went off without a hitch and I think the results will be an improvement over last year. There is one young lady, JJ, who I strongly believe has the potential to leap from a 2 to a 4. She is amazing. She wrote up to the very last second on book 3, and I could see paragraphs and transitional devices and complete sentences in her essay. I am excited for her.

My friend S, along with EE and T, were picked up for their extended time room precisely on time. S and T, who are on ADHD meds (among others in S’s case), looked calm and focused. The individual who took them later told me that they worked assiduously and used most of their time. S and EE are particular concerns because they may not pass 8th grade without the exams, so they need to do well. Without getting into my issues with the idea that all a kid needs to do is pass a test to go to the next grade, regardless of whether or not that child has done the bare minimum to get 65s in a subject all year, I will say that I am pleased that the test went well for them.

I got all my pencils back. Some of you out there in TeacherLand may be interested in learning how I do this. It is a very old teacher trick that I certainly did not invent and I can no longer remember exactly where I picked it up, but you simply do not “give out” pencils; you trade them for 8th graders’ wampum. Generally, what I have when a standardized test starts is something like half a dozen MetroCards, a couple of wallets, a few sets of keys, some random school supplies like dictionaries or very nice pens, and, always, inevitably, a shoe. These items are then exchanged at the test’s conclusion for my nice, unchewed, sharp Staples-brand #2 pencils.

When our testing coordinator came in to drop off our tests, she said to my kids, “Okay, make sure all your little toys are turned off. You know what I mean. Miss Eyre and I are going to pretend we don’t see anything for the next two minutes so you can do that. And don’t just put them on vibrate! TURN THEM OFF!” I dutifully stared at the ceiling while various toys were withdrawn from bookbags and turned off. I appreciate honest individuals like her. We had two perfectly silent days of testing.

One of my students, G, who is, let us say gently, somewhat arrogant for a young man his age, apparently burst into the 7th grade English teacher’s classroom yesterday and informed this individual that he “totally busted a 4 on that exam.” As much as G irks me from time to time, I hope that is true.

I walked around the room this morning, watching my friends finish their Book 3 essays. A few of them, like V and JJ, were not even close to finishing their essays as I called ten minutes, and I began to worry. Yet, as I watched the clock wind down its final minutes, even V and JJ laid down their pencils and closed their booklets. Everyone was quiet. Everyone looked calm. Everyone had finished the essay. And when I collected all the booklets (and the pencils!), I asked them what they thought.

“That was EASY,” GG, who wrote a three-page essay, scoffed.

I hope he’s right.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

What Is It Going to Take?

Less-delightful news from Inauguration Day:

Some of you may recall my earlier post about S, a good-at-heart but problematic young man in Class B. After the heart-to-heart with his guardian and the exhaustive and unpleasant letter I sent home last week, I was sure that S would be prepared for his book talk on Tuesday.

"Hi, S," I said to him in the cafeteria that morning.

"Hi, Miss Eyre," S said to me. He waved a packet of papers at me, some practice exercises I had sent home for him to get ready for the ELA exam.

"Great," I said. "So are you ready for your book talk this morning?"

He hung his head. "No," he said.

I assigned his book talk two weeks ago. I reminded his guardian that his book talk was coming up Tuesday when I talked to him last week. He was allowed to choose any book, on any subject--even magazines and blogs are acceptable. I don't care about the books' reading levels or genres or anything. The kids just have to give a short talk and lead a discussion about something they are reading. It seems like an assignment that is open to enough differentiation for every child to succeed: Even if the kid is not a good oral reader or speaker, they can choose an easy book that they have read many times before. I got this idea for daily book talks from a PD I attended last year about differentiating reading instruction in middle schools.

S, for whatever reason, just leaves me speechless. I couldn't even respond when he told me that he couldn't do his book talk. I just walked away. I really did. That probably wasn't cool. But I wasn't interested in a story, I didn't want to know why eight million things were more important than his book talk, whatever. I just didn't want to hear it.

How to get this kid to pass? Damned if I know.

On Earth As It Is in Heaven

I watched the Inauguration with my kids today, as planned. It was a really special day. A surprising number of kids were absent today; we usually have excellent attendance, even when the weather is bad or something is going on, but I'm sure a lot of kids were watching the Inauguration with their families. I can't complain about that, though. Many of the kids who were in attendance wore Obama buttons and t-shirts, which was cute.

Rather than burden you all with every infinitesimal detail of my adorable children's watching the Inauguration, I will share my favorite part. When Reverend Warren closed his invocation with the Lord's Prayer, one of my students, D, laid her head on the shoulder of the girl next to her, N. Now, D is Christian and N is Muslim. D recited the Lord's Prayer along with Rev. Warren and, when he said, "Amen," D yelled, "Amen!" And D and N hugged.

Tell me that isn't the sweetest thing you've heard in a long time.

President Obama! It's real! You can say it now!

Sunday, January 18, 2009

How to Teach Sixth Grade Health with No Materials, No Curriculum, and No License

This year, I got stuck teaching a sixth grade health class. “But, wait, Miss Eyre,” you might ask, “aren’t you a secondary ELA teacher?” Why, yes, I am. How kind of you to remember. But I got stuck teaching a sixth grade health class. Why? Why not!

New York State is willing to tell your average unlicensed teacher very little about how to teach sixth grade health. You can look here to see exactly how much they tell you, which seems like a lot, but they don’t actually tell you which grade should do what. There isn’t a standardized exam; on one hand, thank God, but on the other hand, at least that gives you some direction.

Perhaps your school has textbooks or workbooks for health? Mine does not. Last year, two different teachers taught this sixth grade health class, both using a fifth grade textbook. Well, it was something, so I borrowed the textbook. I cobbled together a unit on drugs and alcohol, which seemed like an uncontroversial and straightforward way to start the year. Everyone agrees that sixth graders should not drink or do drugs.

Next, I assembled a unit on families and being a responsible family member. We even did a rather timely lesson about a family in which money was tight and the older brother in the family had to give up playing basketball to babysit the younger brother. That unit seemed played out after a month, though.

“Miss Eyre, I’m disappointed in you,” you might interject here. “Even if you are not licensed to teach this grade or this subject, shouldn’t you have mapped out SOME kind of curriculum over the summer?”

Why, yes, that would be the sensible approach to take. Except that I was informed three days before school started that I would be teaching this class. Oops!

In the absence of a textbook or a curriculum, I decided to visit the sixth grade homeroom teachers and ask them what they noticed in their students and what they thought might be helpful or appropriate. “Personal care,” one of them informed me promptly. “They smell.”

All right, I decided, I could teach that. I Googled some stuff, only to find that “personal care” for sixth graders is inextricably entwined with, well, puberty, and puberty is entwined with, well…you know. In my efforts to avoid controversy, I had run up against a brick wall. We have some…sensitive parents at my school, and without written permission to teach their darlings about genitals and so forth, I hesitated. I was told that I would, finally, get a curriculum in the spring, when a young man’s fancy turns to love and the DOE turns to…THE HIV CURRICULUM. [cue ominous music] At this point, the parents would sign permission slips for their little cupcakes to be in, or not be in, the classroom when the squishy bits get mentioned. But until then, I was on my own.

What, then, to do, while the sixth graders became ever more pungent? I thought quickly. I found an “anticipation guide” in the textbook that was G-rated. I excerpted a kid-friendly article online to make it also G-rated. And, because kids are quicker thinkers than we ever give them credit for, I devised a system for asking questions, which I debuted last week.

“Okay,” I said to the sixth graders, “here are some little slips of paper.” [Pass out slips of paper.] “When you complete the anticipation guide, you may find that you have some questions about this word, ‘puberty.’ You can write your question on this paper, and put your name on it. If I think your question is appropriate for class, I’ll answer it in front of the class, but I won’t use your name. If I think it isn’t, I’ll give your question back to you and ask you to talk about it with your family.”

So far it is working pretty well. I’ve already gotten asked “how a man and a woman come together and make a baby,” a question that is definitely more appropriate for “family” discussion. We’ve talked about why rubbing soap under your armpits is not an effective substitute for deodorant. We’ve talked about how to answer your parents when they ask why you are so moody. We’ve carefully defined “puberty,” “hormones,” and “acne.” We’ve talked about why boys start to “see girls differently” in fifth or sixth grade.

I think I’ve safely avoided controversy so far. Time will tell. And I know one thing about teaching sixth grade health, for sure: Avoid teaching it at all costs.

Frequent Collaborative Communication

S is in Class B, a class I haven't told y'all about yet. Weirdly in this day and age, my classes are somewhat "tracked" at the Morton School. Last year's Class A, for example, saw almost half of its students offered slots at a specialized high school. Class B, well...let's just politely say, "Not so much." This year's Class B is a little better in all respects: better-behaved, more hard-working, and probably more potential, in my extremely humble opinion. But I have a few extremely problematic students in Class B this year, and S is one of them.

Honestly, S is a nice kid. He has more challenges than any kid his age ought to have. He's being raised by a relative who is not a parent, this after he was given up by his biological parents to begin with. He's dealing with mental illness and learning disabilities at the same time. I try to be extra-patient with S because I imagine that just coming to school every day is tough for him. But my well of patience with S ran so low this week that I'm not even sure that a three-day weekend will restore it.

Both classes had a project due over the holiday break. We started the project together in class around the second week of December. They did peer review, handed in a rough draft to me which I commented on and returned to them, and were able to e-mail me over the break if they had any extra questions. This seemed like an appropriate amount of "scaffolding," if you will, so that the students could be successful. S was one of a handful of students who did not hand in the project, even after the grace period of three days (with points taken off) that allow for late projects.

I gathered these students together and reminded them that this was a major grade for this marking period. I informed them that, in light of this, I would offer them another chance to submit the project. Most of them did, but S did not.

Obviously the next step was to contact S's guardian. I had a lengthy conversation with this individual. The guardian asked if I might be able to offer S some extra credit, which I declined to do; I do not offer extra credit, generally, and when I do, I offer it to everyone in the class. But I did say I would accept the project the following day should S's guardian care to have a serious discussion with S about the situation. This individual promised that that would be done.

Next day: S did not submit the project. I began to prepare some documentation of S's situation to send home.

Day after that: Class B was taking their biweekly vocabulary quiz. As I walked around the room, I noticed that S appeared to be working at the same pace as the student seated across from him. Although S had not done his vocabulary homework, he had the first five questions correct. He also made the same spelling mistake as the student seated across from him. He answered the sixth question just after the student across from him did after a period of struggling. At that point, I reseated S, quietly and privately, to conclude the quiz. When I collected the papers, S had answered thirteen of the last fifteen questions wrong.

So I called S's home again. I had another conversation with S's guardian. I informed this person that I would no longer accept the project. I related the incident about the vocabulary quiz. I wasn't sure what else to say. I was so disappointed that S would have cheated. I sent home a letter along with another copy of S's progress report (he "lost" the first one) and a packet of work he could do over the weekend to practice for the ELA.

I'm at my wit's end with this child, so much so that I don't even know how to end this post. So I'll just stop here and say that I'm...discouraged.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Volcano Insurance

I think the combined pressures of the ELA exam and waiting for the SHSAT results are starting to get to Class A.

Example: F is an awesome kid. He's brilliant--by which I mean deep, intuitive, critical, and creative, not an automaton. He's quiet, but has a zany sense of humor that leeches out from time to time, often unexpectedly. He's famous for, among other things, never wearing a coat to school--and no, he isn't poor or neglected, just very attached to his two hoodies (one grey-and-white striped, the other navy blue)--and caused quite the stir at school yesterday by showing up, probably reluctantly, in an olive green North Face jacket as well as a SCARF.

But I think F, along with some of his classmates, is cracking up a tiny bit. Those of you who work with children and/or remember being a child yourself might be aware of how children sort of develop...fantasy worlds? Mythologies? Alternate universes? I'm not quite sure what to call them, though I remember having them with my friends even in college. Sort of elaborate, ongoing "what if" games about friends, acquaintances, and teachers. My best friend from college and I had one of these going about one of our literature professors who was dashingly, impossibly handsome; in our alternate universe, he was a deeply insecure and self-hating hermit who thought that even his mother found him ugly. You get the idea.

One of these parallel universes has sprung up in Class A. F apparently has a starring role as a businessman who deals in nothing but outlandish scams. He is playing along by bringing Monopoly-type money to school and offering it to people to perform various stunts. Today, J, one of his friends, told me that F is selling volcano insurance.

I said, "He does know that there are no volcanoes on the East Coast*, right?"

"Yeah, I think so," J said.

"So, um, why is he selling volcano insurance?"

"I think that's the point," J responded gravely.

Attention, Stuyvesant High School: We have a winner.

*Are there volcanoes on the East Coast? I don't think so but I'm not positive. I'm not a science teacher.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Ask Not What Your Administration Can Do For You, At Least on This Particular Occasion

I was planning all along to watch Barack Obama’s Inauguration with “my kids”—not my biological children, of course (don’t have any of those…yet), but the kids I teach. I had worked it all out: the swearing-in would take place near the end of fifth period, when I have Class A. Class A would lie, cheat, beg, and/or steal to be allowed to watch the Inauguration—they’re political junkies, just like their esteemed teacher. I would hook up my laptop to the digital projector, stream in CNN or whatever came in first on the wonky DOE wireless, and soak up the history along with twenty-some thirteen-year-olds.

There’s nowhere else I’d rather be on Inauguration Day, incidentally. Last year’s classes were psyched about Obama’s candidacy but repeatedly voiced their fears that he would be shot on the campaign trail. This year’s classes were much more optimistic, perhaps because, as they began school in September, Obama’s candidacy was already beginning to look like a sure thing. There were no incidents, for the most part, and for as nasty as the campaign got, it surely could have been much worse. My kids this year were occasionally skeptical, occasionally concerned, but for the most part, they were exuberantly confident about Obama. More importantly, we had a few McCain supporters in my classes who constituted a small but brave and vocal minority. Many debates we had, but they stayed respectful and on-topic on both sides. I’m shocked that eighth graders can avoid ad hominem attacks when many elected officials cannot.

I’m excited to be able to share the Inauguration with this group. I know a lot of people are planning on camping out in DC, or staying home to watch with friends and family. But, again, I’m going to be psyched to be at work next Tuesday. Obama’s Inauguration means a great deal to the many first-generation Americans I teach, the African-American children, anyone whose skin color or accent or origin doesn’t fit with the pantheon of whiteness that once constituted the American Presidency. On NYCEducator, I commented that when pundits used “Muslim” or “African” as a dirty word against Obama, they were also maligning the innocent names of the children I teach, some of whom are Muslim, or African, or the children of single parents, or immigrants, or anyone who doesn’t come from a white, Christian, native-born, two-parent American home. And those children were listening. And they understood. And Obama’s election is a reproach to all those people—the “haters,” as my children eloquently describe them—who refuse to accept a new vision of what this country is and what it could be.

But best of all—best of all in this whole situation—is that, on the day before the state ELA exam, the day when we are all supposed to be bowing before the altar of Filling in Bubbles and Writing Your Answer Only in the Spaces Provided, my administration decided to do something noble. Something cool. They announced that the schedule would be re-jiggered for next Tuesday so that classes could gather in the auditorium and watch the swearing-in on the big screen.

Think about that. We’re all losing sleep and praying to St. Joseph of Cupertino (the patron saint, among other things, of test-takers, learning disabilities, and struggling students—modern theological historians believe he was either autistic, schizophrenic, or both) that our students will “level up” next week. And of course, the message comes down from on high that they better level up or else. Any coincidence that the teacher data reports are emerging sometime in the next week? Methinksno. And these people have decided that maybe the kids need a break? Maybe they should be allowed to stop and be a part of history? Maybe they should be allowed to experience some excitement? Maybe they should be allowed to be kids for a few minutes on the day before the ELA exam?

That’s not just revolutionary these days—maybe that’s St. Joseph of Cupertino talking. That’s change we can believe in.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

I thank you for the proposal, Mr. Rivers, and I accept it with all my heart

I have decided, at the urging of my colleague NYCEducator, to begin my own blog. Those of you who knew me there as yo miss! (formerly in bushwick) may (or may not) enjoy my ramblings here.

I join the blogging community not because I believe my experiences are unique--far from it. I only hope to add my voice to a rich and diverse community of teachers who are fighting the good fight here in NYC, who believe that the dignity of educators and the good futures of children are not mutually exclusive.

I love the children I teach. They make me laugh even on the worst of days. Before I started teaching, one of my professors told me that New York City children are like none other on Earth. They are street-smart, she said, but so many of them have already had their hearts and spirits broken at a young age. They'll infuriate you and fascinate you, she said. I have to agree.

Here's what I'm pretty sure I can tell you: I teach English at a middle school in New York City that I'll call the Morton School (bonus points if you can catch the allusion). I'm not originally from New York City, but, as Leonard Cohen once noted, "New York is cold, but I like where I'm living." After a variety of fuck-ups, I feel am a reasonably confident, competent, comfortable teacher, but I like to make fun of myself and I am happiest around colleagues (and readers) who can do the same.

So thanks for visiting and let the fun begin.