21 December 2009


For some reason Social Studies departments tend to employ a lot of coaches. I like coaches. Most of them are dedicated and talented teachers who discovered that it's hard to find a teaching job without coaching something, so they took up a sport in order to make themselves more employable. They are fun to work with. They have a lot of personality. They have insane schedules, so they know how to get a lot of work done in a short amount of time. They relate with the kids really well, they don't take themselves too seriously, and are in general some of the most supportive and helpful colleagues I have.

Some coaches are stupid. These are the ones that got a degree in education so that they could find a coaching job. They aren't really great at teaching, and they aren't good at coaching, but they are excellent at giving the whole profession a bad name.

I have a student who is failing my AP class. The conversation I had with him last week is a perfect example of the bad influence of an incompetent coach.

Me: You're missing several assignments in this class. You're going to need to turn them in soon, or you won't be able to pass.

Student: I know Miss.

Me: Do you have the list of make up work I gave you?

Student: Yes.

Me: Do you need help with any of the assignments?

Student: No

Me: OK. Semester grades are due on Thursday. I need your stuff turned in before then

Student: It's OK miss...Coach told me I'm eligible to play.

Me: (confused by the abrupt change in subject) What?

Student: Yeah. I didn't do too well in History last year so coach told me I should take AP this year. That way if I fail I'm still eligible to play.

Me: You might be eligible to play, but if you fail you still don't get credit. If you fail history you'll be a Junior again next year.

Student: Oh. Coach didn't tell me that...

09 December 2009

How to be a Real Person

My AP kids are not funny. Sometimes I think that they are not real kids, they are just little grade earning robots. They do their homework, they follow directions, and they're pretty good at multiple choice exams, but they lack creativity. I told them that they have sacrificed their souls to the god of good grades and have no personality.

Seriously, they have no soul. Take, for example, the flu episode. (I'm not sure if it was of the swine variety or not.)

Day 1 : I was feeling pretty horrible and knew that I wouldn't be able to make it to school the next day, so I went to the other AP teacher and asked her if she had something that would be good for me to leave for my kids to do with a substitute. She pulled an article with accompanying questions out of her files. I must have looked pretty sick because she was about to hand it to me, but instead declared it would be better if I didn't touch her stuff, and offered to make copies for me. A few minutes later she came back with a pile of copies. I left them on my desk for the substitute, and went home without really looking at them.

Day 2 : I stayed home to nurse my violently ill self back to health.

Day 3: I still wasn't feeling great, but went back to school. I looked over the assignment that I had left for the kids and realized that it was far more work than anyone really could accomplish in one day. I knew the kids hadn't been able to take the assignment home because there was only a class set of copies, so I told them they could spend the class period finishing their work from the day before. They insisted that they were ready to hand it in. I was certain they were lying to me, but every student was able to produce a completed assignment to hand to me. I was quite baffled. When I asked for an explanation they told me they had asked another teacher to make copies for them so they could take it home and finish it as homework. They are insane.

I have decided that it is time to take action. In addition to the development of political parties, the economic policies of Andrew Jackson, and the effects of the Second Great Awakening on the Abolition movement, I have added to my classroom curriculum a unit entitled "How to be a real person." The following are my unit objectives:

1) Students will understand that in a few years no one in the entire world will care what their high school GPA was.

2) Students will learn that despite their years of academic training it doesn't really matter if you put your name on the right or left corner of the paper, or how many lines you skip between answers.

3) Students will learn to value more than just academic achievement. They will learn to also appreciate having fun, making friends, being creative, and helping their mothers do the dishes.

4) Students will learn that being able to quote a definition from the textbook doesn't actually mean they are intelligent. They will learn to use the book to inform and facilitate their own thinking, but not to substitute for it.

5) Students will learn that their grades are in no way a reflection of their worth as a person.

I'm fairly certain that none of these objectives will ever appear on a state standardized assessment, but I think they are worthwhile anyway.