Wednesday, December 22, 2010

No Place Like Home

Ahhhhhhh, Utah.

I'll admit that I was none too stoked to come home for Christmas, but my lovely wife threatened my life if I didn't come. So here I am. Now that I'm back, I must say that it's nice to be here, especially because it's snowing and I LOOOOVE snow and lots of it.

Last night, we decided to go snowboarding, so we headed up to Brighton Ski Resort to do some shreddin'. We got up to the ticket booth and the guy asked if we had our "half-off" coupons, we said no. The next thing is something you'd rarely find in Memphis: he told us how to get the coupon and was willing to accept the coupon on our phones. Incredible. The snow was also incredible. The pictures are a bit grainy, but it's awesome.

...and another...

I must say that being on the slopes was MUCH BETTER than being with a bunch of pre-/post-pubescent kids. Why, you might ask? Well here's a list.

1. Snow doesn't give me attitude.
2. Snow never called me a racist, especially since we're the same color.
3. I'd rather be freezing in the snow than baking in a classroom.
4. Explaining to my wife that she needs to stay heel-side is much easier than repeating for the 70th time a pronoun is not the same thing as a noun.
5. Snow doesn't talk back.
6. Snow doesn't steal my pencils.
7. Snow doesn't steal my stapler.
8. Snow's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Snowflake, never demand me to explain why Lil' Snowflake has a 17% in my class, even though he's been to class AT LEAST half the term!
9. Snow asked me to go to the restroom and I said no. Then, snow never asked again.
10. I can pee on the snow with no consequences. Especially lawsuits.

Utah is great...except for this prime example of Utahn parking.

There's no place like home.

Monday, December 20, 2010

"You a racist!"

The transcript from the events leading up to the realization that I am a racist. A little long, but worth the read:

AB: "Mr. Lowe, I need to use it (the restroom) real bad. I got to go! We gotta go!"

Me: "As soon as everyone's silent, we'll head to the restroom."

(Most of the girls begin to settle down, but AB won't shut her mouth. I just stand and wait. Their fate is in their own hands)

AB: "MR. LOWE! I gotta USE IT!"

Me: "A, as soon as you're silent, we'll go, but you're the only one that's talking."

(She keeps talking. I laugh at the irony. A few of the other girls start giggling because they realize how stupid she's being)

Me: "A, do you realize that you have to go the worst, but you're the ONLY one still talking?"

(She realizes now that she won't win, so she becomes defiant and keeps talking just to talk. It has become a power struggle)

Me: "Okay, everyone else can use the restroom except A."

(She is still talking. All the girls use the restroom and return to their seats quietly. A won't sit down, she's just standing)

Me: "A, will you please sit down so we can get started?"

(She won't sit down. I ask her again nicely and again she won't sit down. I demand of her to sit down, she won't)

Me: "A, sit down. Sit."

AB: "I am not your dog! Don't tell me to sit!"

(I walk over to her seat and tell her to go to the hall and wait for me. She sits very quickly. I tell her that her time to sit has passed. She goes out in the hall)

Me, very calmly: "Why? I just want to know why you thought the last 10 minutes was a good idea."

AB: "I hate this class."

Me: "Why?"

AB: "YOU! YOU! You always pick on us!"

Me: "I pick on you? I pick on you because I want you to be able to follow a simple direction? If you keep acting like this, you'll be at McDonald's. But if you get to McDonald's and your boss says, 'Hey, A, go flip those burgers,' and you don't do it, you won't be at McDonald's anymore, you'll be on the street."

AB: "I won't be at McDonald's, I'm gonna be a lawyer."

(I chuckled at the prospect of that)

AB: "YOU ARE A RACIST! If B (a white girl) came out here and said she wants to be a lawyer, you would say that it's a fantastic idea, but you just laugh whenever a black girl says it because you're racist!"

Me: "How black is C? Is she as black as you?"

AB: "Yeah."

Me: "Yeah, she is. She wants to go to law school and I think it's a wonderful idea, we've even stayed after school and looked at law school pamphlets together. What about L?"

AB: "She's not black, she's mixed, she doesn't count."

Me: "Wait a second. I'm racist because you don't follow directions, yet you're the one who won't count another black girl because her dad is half-hispanic? Who's racist now?"

Anyway, the conversation digressed until it could go no further. Honestly, it hurt to hear that from her. I've made a very concerted effort to treat all my students equally and I really don't see color anymore. My favorite students are B, C and J, are all black, but A doesn't care because I'm a racist.

Me: "Is AD black?"

AB: "Yeah."

Me: "Well, by your definition of skin color, she's actually blacker than you are. So why isn't she out here in trouble? If I hate black students so much, why isn't every black girl out here just like you? Did you ever think that it's your attitude and not your skin color that's getting you into trouble?"

(She doesn't respond)

Our hallways are a 1950s-style checkerboard pattern with alternating brown and tan squares. The students are required to stand in one block ("rock your block") and not talk in the hallway.

Me: "Well, we're gonna go see Mr. Jones, our BLACK administrator, and see if he treats you any differently...."

(And then the kicker that totally pissed her off)

Me: "...and you need to rock your block, so put BOTH feet inside that brown block. Oh, excuse me, I forgot that I'm a racist. Will you PLEASE put both feet in that block right there that's a little darker shade than the one next to it?"

Yeah, a little immature, but oh so gratifying...except that I'm a racist.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

To Jean or Not To Jean...

A small conundrum facing the teachers at my school on a Thursday, the last day of school. Generally, jeans are reserved for Fridays only, but considering the circumstances and the shot nerves this week has brought on, the staff may just need to sport the dungarees for a day.

Karen, Jamie, Kathleen and myself are teachers; Ronnie's our principal.

Monday, December 13, 2010

I Hear America Singing

For extra credit, I gave the students the opportunity to re-write Walt Whitman's "I Hear America Singing" based on their own "American experience." Here are two of the best, I'm way stoked about it, too.

I don't hear America, it is so quiet.
Everything is so colorless, boring and old.
No leaves on the trees, and it's awfully cold.
I don't hear America because no one speaks.
No one talks, dogs don't bark and birds don't tweet.
America sings, from Whitman I heard.
But that I can't say
Because maybe Walt was having a good day.
America is [sic], others may think,
But America remains cold, boring and dull to me.

I hear America crying, all the hurt being shed.
Those of fallen soldiers,
Each one dying while serving our America.
The mothers of young fallen kids
Dying on the street because of crime.
The man trying to work off all his bills,
While still hurting.
The boatman crying because he can't make the payments for his boat.
The shoemaker crying as he sits on his bench,
And then tries to stand as a tall man.
The woodcutter's sad song;
The plowboy's on his way in the morning.
The woman at work still having sadness in her eyes.
Each crying because they have little belonging to him or her
And to none else.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

A Few Reasons

Some days are killer. Some days are great. And some days are just funny.

A few reasons why I keep dragging myself out of bed at 4 a.m. every day:

1. This somehow showed up on my board. I have no idea when or who did it, nor how it was done because we had silent work time today, but the rascals are tricky.

2. Kids come to my room every day during my planning period and beg me to hang out in my room instead of their class. I always tell them to go to class, but today their teacher is gone, so three girls are just hangin' today. A tidbit of our conversation:

JH: "Well T's my husband, so it's cool."

(I stopped typing and just stared at her)

Me: "Your husband? You're 13 years old."

JH: "Yeah, I know, but he's still my husband."

VM: "Did you know that in my dad's country, you can get married when you're 13 and can quit school at 12?"

Me: "Which country is that?"

VM: "Honduras. I want to go there so bad."

Me: "To get married? You're in Amurrrica, so stay in school and don't get married."

JH: "He cheated on me the first week we went out."

Me: "Did he really cheat? How did he cheat?"

JH: "He and L were talking to each other about gettin' together."

Me: "Did they kiss?"

JH(completely disregarding my question): "It's okay though because I cheated on him, too. J and I are best friends and we were just talking one day, then he gave me a hug and"

Me: "Wow. So you can't really talk because you did the exact same thing."

JH: "Yeah, but....but....whatever, Mr. Lowe, he's stupid for doing it."

Another conversation:

BF: "We should get tattoos. Mr. Lowe, what tattoo do you want?"

Me: "Justin Bieber on my back."

BF, VM and JH(all in unison): "What?!"

BF: "Why do you want Justin Bieber?"

Me: "Bieber Fever, baby."

BF: "I love Justin Bieber."

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Kids Say the Darndedamndest Things.

Some of my favorite responses:

Question: "What is one stereotype that you have ever heard?"
KM's response: "chineas people eat cats and dogs."
RM's response: "The song you just heard is a stereotype."
MH's response: "M1 is Mexican and she has a blue jacket, but where is yours M2 and P?"

Question: "Define: Secondary Source."
CM's response: "I can have the fruit mom."

Question: "Fill in the missing fact.
1. Men that wear eyeglasses are very intelligent.
2. ____________________________ (should be 'Jason wears eyeglasses')
Therefore, Jason is very intelligent."

CM's response: "Girls that wear contacts are very nice."

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Does Jesus know how to Dougie?

I just got back to my classroom from our stunning Christmas Concert that definitely did not fail to please anyone...except for maybe the Jews in the audience...and the Muslims...and probably the atheists. I was shocked at how openly Jesus Christ was discussed in school. Being a Christian, I have no problem with it philosophically, but realistically, there are Jews and Muslims (the latter view Jesus as a prophet, but not the Savior of the world) in our school that probably were a bit turned off, if not offended, by the spectacle.

A few highlights from the show (remember that this is a public school and in front of 600 students):

"Let's put Christ back into Christmas this year. We need to celebrate Jesus Christ and honor His birthday."

"'Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house; Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse."

Boy on stage: "Christmas is about love and giving, not necessarily material things, but of ourselves selflessly."
Teacher conducting: "That was great, I love the 12 days of Christmas. Now, our dance team is going to perform 'Teach Me How to Dougie.'"
(Wild Applause)

I stand firm in the fact that there is no better way to honor Jesus Christ in this Christmas season than to pump some Cali Swag District and be taught how to dougie. It's also worth mentioning that almost every teacher was blushing at the fact that the choregraphy of the dance included the girls nearly grinding the floor and showing their goods through their short 12 years old.

Pictures and video to come.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Drugs in the pocket? No biggie.

I've realized that in addition to being a teacher, I'm also a life coach. With 60 female students, I've become more of a psychiatrist and mediator than anything. Moral lessons are plentiful, but some don't go quite as I plan them to go.

CB: "Mr. Lowe, can I talk to you in the hall?"

Me: "Sure."

We go out into the hallway.

CB: "Mr. Lowe, P is spreadin' some stuff, some rumors. My SUPPOSED friend is spreadin' crap about me."

(Something worth noting: this "supposed friend" threatened CB and told her that she and two other classmates were going to jump her only three weeks prior)

Me: "Well, maybe you shouldn't be 'friends' with her anymore. Did you ever think about that possibility? Wasn't it only a few weeks ago that you were crying in my classroom in fear that she and C and K were going to jump you?"

CB: "Well yeah, but we cool now, Mr. Lowe."

I think for a second, then begin my teaching moment that is going to change her life. I mean, seriously, this girl's perspective is going to be forever changed after I say what I'm about to say...

Me: "C, there are just some people that you shouldn't be around. For example, would you ever hang out with someone if you knew that she had a bag of cocaine in her pocket?"

(The obvious answer that 98% of the rest of humanity would give is a resounding no.)

CB: Silence...... "Um, but what if-"

Me: "No, C, it should not take you this long to answer my question. There are no 'what ifs,' no technicalities, no details. 'Yes' or 'no,' would you hang out with someone who had cocaine?"

CB: "What about weed?"

Me: "Okay. You need to say 'absolutely not.' You should never be around people with drugs, no matter who they are. Drama is P's drug; stay away from her! Just like you should stay away from people with drugs, stay away from her and her drug of choice: drama."

Teaching Moment Scoreboard
Me: 0 Kids with drugs: 1

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Eleanor Roosevelt and her slave brigade

Each day, at the beginning of class, we do what my school calls "brainwork." I usually have a quote or a penetrating question that will cause them to think deeply and analyze it from another perspective. Monday's quote was a portion of one of my favorites:

"It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood." -Theodore Roosevelt

I asked them why the credit would belong to someone who is "marred by dust and sweat and blood." I asked them what this quote means to them personally. The following conversation ensued with VGM, one of the more intelligent students I have.

VM: "Wasn't there a woman with that name?"

Me: "A woman named Theodore Roosevelt?"

VM: "Yeah, or something like that. She did a lot of stuff."

Me: "Do you mean Eleanor Roosevelt ?"

VM: "Oh, yeah, was that Theodore Roosevelt's wife?"

Me: "No, she was actually the wife of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who was also a president, just 20 years later."

VM: "Oh. Didn't she help with the slaves. Didn't she build the tunnels under the ground?"

Me: "No. That was Harriet Tubman. She did that during the Civil War, Eleanor Roosevelt wasn't even alive."

On a related note, I gave an example from the Civil War to help explain the historical fiction genre and a good chunk of my students thought the Civil War was fought in the 1920s.