Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Murderers' Row: The Sequel, Sort Of

Apparently this week I'm writing sequels to some of my previous blogs. Today, I'm tackling a fresh, if quick, revisitation of the Life at the Morton School classic Murderers' Row. The gist of this post was that, despite the relentless (some might say obsessive/self-aggrandizing/obnoxious/all of the above) drive of the New York Yankees to win the World Series every.single.year, they still have only done it 25% of the time--which is still far more than any other team in the league. And as far as this has implications for teaching and schools, you can't do reform (real reform, not what folks like Norm Scott charmingly call "deform") on the cheap or overnight. The Yankees organization, quite the bastion of unapologetic capitalism, knowa this, I note, so why not Mayor Bloomberg, he who believes that the free market will solve everything?

Then today, via GothamSchools, I picked up this delightful blog posting that also uses sports metaphors to get the point across. Most sensibly, this blogger, Sam Chaltain (with whom I was unfamiliar before but is becoming a very fast favorite!) points out that while there are certainly superstar teachers and teachers who might nicely be described as not-very-superstar-like, the vast majority lie somewhere in between on the competence and effectiveness scale. These teachers, he argues, need investment and support, not scorched-earth policies that force them to narrow their curricula, pedagogy, and (I think) their own spirits, interests, values, and talents in the classroom to what Chaltain calls "40 times"--reading and math test scores.

I don't know why I think people like Klein and Bloomberg will listen to Chaltain any more than they'll listen to me, but I would like to encourage him to keep talking.

Sunday, April 11, 2010


A student of mine whom I'll refer to as "Junior" was singing the Dora the Explorer theme song the other day. As a refresher here, I teach eighth grade. Maybe in a kindergarten classroom, the Dora theme would go unnoticed; in a middle school classroom, I found it surprising and touching.

Shortly thereafter that same time, I saw Junior in the hallway complaining to his friends about how long it was taking them to catch up to him. "Damn, n***a," he said, "let's go, we gotta get to class."

"Junior," I said sharply, "that's not appropriate."

"Oh," he said, realizing I was right behind him, "yeah, sorry."

"You know," I said, "not ten minutes ago you were singing the Dora song, and now I hear that kind of language from you?"

"Yeah," he said, shrugging. "You know. My little brother." (Junior has a brother in the elementary school; second grade, I think.)

"Well, you wouldn't want your little brother to hear that other language, would you?"

"Nah, nah," he said. "You're right."

I sent him on his way, shaking my head a little. It was a good reminder of just how "middle" middle school can be.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Fork

Principal X decided to "pop in" for a little while this afternoon. It was not really a good day to drop by. It was the last period of an 80+ degree day in an un-air-conditioned room with a bunch of teenagers, almost none of whom had done last night's homework, so...you tell me how you think the visit went.

The ensuing conversation with PX was unpleasant. Apparently I should just be conferring with students all the time. That's the only thing PX ever wants to see. Never mind that when s/he comes in during conferencing, I do that wrong too. Le sigh.

Anyway, after the Grand Poobah swept out of the room, I was officially drained of energy for the day. One thing I will say about my darlings, they have my back. They were dead silent the whole time PX was in the room, and looked about rather tentatively after PX left, wondering what to say or do. I made appropriate murmurings to put them back on task, somewhat halfheartedly. I think they could tell I wasn't going to enforce this too hard, but God bless them, they got right back to work.

They plugged away for a few more minutes until a boy I'll call Teddy raised his hand. "Miss Eyre?" he said. "I don't know if now is a good time to tell you this, but you have a fork in your hair."


I reached up and touched my ponytail, where I tend to absentmindedly stash pens and pencils. Sure enough, there was a plastic fork stuck through it. I remembered thinking a spork would be better suited to my lunchtime yogurt today. And that was evidently where I'd put the unneeded fork.

I burst out laughing. The kids laughed along with me. I gave Teddy a hug. And I said, "Okay, kids, let's call it a day."

And I went home with them at the end of the day. 'Cause, man, when you've been dressed down by your boss with a fork in your hair, really, you've got nowhere else to go from that point.