Wednesday, November 12, 2003


Checking the e-mail, I have a spam e-mail with the subject line "Stop all S pam qudsadkc". Not a direct quote on the letterage, but close enough. I get a sneaky suspicion that I would get more instead of less if I replied.

Of course, I would love to help some deposed ruler of Djibouti transfer funds through my bank account so maybe I should reply!

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

The Phone

If there's one thing I hate more than anything else, it's calling parents. Actually, I hate calling anyone I don't know. That includes the pizza guy. I get very nervous on the phone when I don't know the person on the other end. Have I ever had a bad experience? Not that I can remember, but for some reason, it causes a great deal of anxiety for me. So, in suit, I hate calling parents.

We have a stupid rule that you can't fail a kid unless you've tried to contact a student's parent/guardian. Never really been a problem for me with the magnet and AP kids. I had a few calls, but not particularly a whole lot. Maybe it was cockiness that got the best of me, but that castle quickly crumbled when I started teaching the "on-level" kids. That's a euphemism for the low achievers. So low in fact, that I have to call 18 sets of parents. That's out of 71 students, so approximately 25% of my students. I'd say my expectations are too high, but when I consider that those 25% probably do about 10% of the work I assign I start to think it's not really my fault. A common response from some of them is "I don't know" when I implore about the whereabouts of their renegade textbooks. Apparently, there must be a black market for high school chemistry textbooks.

As much as I hate the answer, I wonder how they even got to my class. From their attitude, it's obvious that the reports of grade inflation are true. Are some students capable of learning without cracking a textbook or taking a single note? Absolutely. Are these? Absolutely not. They seem to be under the delusion that they can. I don't think they got there by themselves. Is it necessarily the teachers? I thought so until last week. We had a "vertical teaming meeting" with the teachers from the middle school that feeds into us last week. From their reports, the kids move on to high school even if they get failing grades. Social promotion is more important than education anyhow, right? And by the way, a vertical teaming meeting can roughly be defined as a total waste of time. If the kids knew the stuff they claim to have taught, I might think it was worthy of my time to meet with them.

So, back to my main point, I get to call at least 18 phone numbers, not knowing what to expect from the other end. I heard that I might be able to send a sort of postcard or something. That would be a nice alternative. Then, they could contact me if they were actually concerned about the education of their child. Unfortunately, I don't get the feeling that will be the case for a lot of them.

Monday, November 03, 2003

Underachievement Gap

For once, I agree with something Cynthia Tucker writes. I would say that a signignificantly higher proportion of my black students qualify for underachiever status. Most of them are the ones that are "too cool for school." And with role models like Kobe Bryant and 50 Cent, why should there be any motivation to actually get an education? Besides, a government education is guaranteed!! If you aren't passing classes, it must be because the teacher isn't accountable or their tests are too hard. It couldn't possibly be because you sit and do nothing day in and day out while still expecting to pass a class.

The other day, a student said that I singled out his poor behavior because he is black. I responded that he was only saying that because I am white.