Saturday, October 20, 2012

We're talking about science

My new classroom is the largest room in our school, which is a blessing and a curse.  The side wall folds up, opening the room to the hallway.  Twice a month or so, there is a meeting or something that calls for this.  Sometimes I know in advance, sometimes I just come back to find the wall gone and/or the furniture moved around (though it is always put back before I have to teach again).  It kind of makes me crazy, though I am trying to let go of my territorial instincts.

Last week, one day after school, I was fielding weird what-if questions from my student B in the opened up room, when the principal came by.

Mr C, gesturing towards the open wall: "What's going on here?"
B, dead serious: "Oh, we're talking about science."

I could not stop laughing.

Saturday, September 15, 2012


My new school has very different policies on homework than I am used to.  At my old school, many teachers didn't give homework.  I gave a short assignment every night, but most of the time, less than half of kids would turn it in, and many of those were copied from each other.  I graded on completion/effort.  Homework counted for 20% of kids' grades; I figured it was a boost for kids who bothered to do it, and the practice did help some kids.

At my new school, there is required to be homework for every subject, every night.  The guideline for ninth graders is at least 30 minutes per subject.  Kids turn in homework when they first enter the building, into a "Homework First" bin each teacher keeps in the lobby.  98% of kids turn in homework on any given day.  If they don't turn in homework, or turn in incomplete homework, they get a 1-hour after school detention (per class!).  I am required to grade on correctness, which is a huge daily volume of paper and scores to manage, compared to the quick check/check-minus I am used to.  We have been grading homework in class, but it sucks up a lot of class time, and just managing the papers and entering the grades is killing me.  Other teachers have kids publicly read off their scores in class after self-grading, and the teachers never touch the homework papers.  I recoiled at this idea originally, but now I'm leaning towards doing this too, just to save myself the headache of it all.

I have a calculus student who comes late to school almost every day because she is up so late at night finishing homework.  Kids say they don't have time to join a sport or get a job because they are already spending so much time on homework.  I wonder if there is enough benefit to the work to make it worth it.  I do believe in reinforcing the day's lesson with some independent work, but this is starting to feel excessive.  What about kids who have to babysit their siblings or do other chores in the evenings?  What about having a little time for some leisure?

There is an argument to be made about the effectiveness of all this homework.  Kids at my new school score amazingly well on standardized tests, and I can't deny that there is an intellectual feel amongst my students that was lacking at my old school.  But I wonder if the homework creates that in the kids, or if it just serves to weed out or scare away lower-performing kids?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Previewing the year's vocab and formulas

Three posts in one night... can you tell I am putting off doing paperwork that MUST be done tonight??

This year I had students do "scavenger hunt" types of questions based on the state test's formula sheet on Day 3, as soon as we set up binders.  I have never asked kids to look in any depth at the sheet before actually teaching some of the the content.

After asking them to find various variables and formulas, I also asked them to identify what they think the strangest variable in the list is.  It is so interesting to see what they pick and why.  A lot of kids chose p for momentum, or another variable from the list that uses a letter not found in the word, like Q for heat or c for specific heat or I for current.  Others chose lambda for wavelength because the symbol is unfamiliar to them.  Still others chose words like work and said that they never thought that word could be related to science.  And a lot of kids chose displacement because it is shown as delta x, and all the other delta-something variables are labeled "change in something".

While it has been interesting to see how kids think about the vocabulary and variables before teaching them, I wonder if doing this early will also serve any instructional purpose.  Will kids be more aware of the information available on the formula sheet?  Will they be more prepared to recognize the weird letter choices when they come up later in the year?  I guess we'll find out as the year goes on.

Oh, the possibilities!

My new favorite student info sheet was turned in today by P:

What would you like to do when you graduate from high school?
"I think being an author would be good because I love reading and writing stories.  Or I could work with kids.  Or a CIA agent."


Five days of school down at my new school, and I'm feeling OK about things.  It is hard not to feel totally inadequate about my teaching, now that I am surrounded by all these teacher superstars and overachieving kids.  But I seem to be making some allies among the students (although that may be simply because they know I haven't been strict about giving demerits...) and I'm also figuring out who my best allies are within the staff.

Last night and all day today, though, my mind was on my old school.  According to my sources, there seem to be many really crazy things going on this year, even crazier than last year's insanity.  But the most outrageous thing is that they have not yet hired my replacement yet.  Or a replacement for the other general ed physics teacher.  Or the sheltered-English physics teacher.  All three will be filled by subs until they can find people to hire full time.  Students started school today.

I can't get over this.  I have been obsessively thinking about it all day.  I know it's not my fault; I gave my notice months and months ago and they had ample opportunity to hire someone new.  So it's not guilt that I feel.  It's closer to anger, perhaps.  A slow-boiling deep-gut anger.  It's a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach because kids are being ripped off.

I can't even imagine being a student who shows up for the first day of school and finds a substitute.  In a functional school district this would be a major crisis.  As it is, the adults involved seem unfazed.  But I keep putting myself in the students' shoes.  Will they be outraged to find a classroom without a qualified teacher, without a plan to support their success?  Or are they so accustomed to the dysfunction of the system that this won't even surprise them?

They deserve better.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Ninth graders say the darndest things

A few gems from my get-to-know-you questionnaires.

What is your favorite food?
"Lazania (I think that's how it's spelled.)" -- K.

What is one goal that you have for yourself this school year?
"Try to be more considerate instead of saying the brutal truth." -- F.

Tell me about your family.
"I have 2 brothers who are funny.  I have 3 sisters who are hard to explain." -- M.

What would you like to do when you graduate from high school?
"I really don't know but maybe a detective.  I'm really good at finding things out before it's revealed." -- B.

Confidence and inverse relationships

"A man is like a fraction whose numerator is what he is and whose denominator is what he thinks of himself. The larger the denominator the smaller the fraction."
-- Leo Tolstoy

I came across this quote and saved it to use this year when my ninth graders and I get to inverse relationships.  I am not sure any of my kids have ever heard of Tolstoy (though maybe they will surprise me...) but I do think some of them will appreciate the comparison to non-math and non-physics concepts.  The idea of having a big ego is certainly something they can relate to, and it's fun that the quote brings in some math vocab.

The quote also makes me think of my current class of AP calculus students.  I've only spent two days with them so I don't know them very well yet, but I got the rundown from their precalc teacher before school started.  Of the eight students, he identified two as the top mathematicians of the group, but noted that they have very different confidence levels.  He says that H is confident almost to the point of cockiness, and he showed this side to me a little already, writing, "I am really good at math" on my first day survey under the question about what does Ms. Pippi need to know about you.  On the other hand is J, who he says is just as bright as H but is constantly doubting herself.  She has already come for help after school with the trig value review we were doing, and she phrases any description of what she did in terms of a question.  She is underconfident to the extreme, and one of my goals this year is to try to change that a bit.

By Tolstoy's definition, J is a "larger fraction" than H, and theoretically a better person, if that's how you interpret the quote.  But I can't help thinking that it's not as simple as an inverse relationship.  Surely a huge ego is a detriment, but there's also a basic floor level of reasonable self esteem.  Constantly bashing yourself isn't helpful.  So, maybe more of a Gaussian shaped curve than an inverse function, Mr. Tolstoy.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


When you teach a subject like physics, it's inevitable for people, students and adults alike, to imply or flat-out state that the subject matter isn't really important for most people.  If I had a dime for every teacher colleague of mine who has told me, "Well, I never even took physics!" I'd have... well, maybe a dollar and a half.

I have told my students before that whether they learn to enjoy physics or not, what I really want them to learn from my class is the feeling of trying something hard and succeeding at it.  I want them to remember that their effort paid off.  I want them to remember building something that they never thought would work (like a LED circuit with homemade paper-clip switches), or creating something that failed miserably a half dozen times before it finally did work (like a Rube Goldberg Machine).

Last year I had a student who told me she never understood how to use a formula to solve problems before she took my class.  She will probably never need to calculate kinetic energy again, or maybe not even use the Find-Given-Solution template to solve anything else.  But I hope she remembers the process of figuring out what she has and what she needs and planning the steps to get there.  I hope she remembers what it feels like to look at a page that looks like gibberish one week, and the feeling of each word and variable and symbol slowly coming into focus and making sense.  I hope she remembers that she can learn to know and do things she may never have expected to.

Saturday, August 18, 2012


The science teachers at my school are taking on a literacy initiative this year, inspired in part or in whole by the Common Core literacy requirements.  Each teacher is choosing something literacy-related to add to their class for the year, like having kids read a book with science content and discussing it in class, or doing a Science in the News feature each week.  As a new teacher trying to absorb the structure and systems of the school, my department head is not requiring me to join this initiative this year.  I do think it would be really cool to do something with a popular nonfiction book, or even a fiction book that includes real science and fake science, but I'm not ready for that just yet.  But I do think my kids need some reading-related instruction.

My new school has slightly different demographics from my old school, but the kids probably won't be that different from my old students, who struggled a lot on our big bad state physics test because of reading issues.  In my first year, I gave kids a practice open-response question that I thought would be a piece of cake.  The kids were great at drawing free body diagrams and pretty good at finding net force, and we had even done a Barbie bungee jumping activity the week before.  So I handed out the question in class and asked them to read it and try it on their own.  And the majority of my kids put down their pencils and told me they had no idea how to do it.  I was baffled.  I went around the room rephrasing the situation for them, and kids said, "Oh, is that all?" and drew me beautiful diagrams.  This was my first clue that while my kids could decode each word in the problem, there were barriers to understanding the question that had nothing to do with their physics knowledge.

Now, this is only my third year of teaching and I haven't figured out any magical method to increasing kids' reading comprehension yet.  But I would like to incorporate more reading practice, and my department's literacy initiative is as good a reason as any to commit to doing more small-scale reading practice.

I am thinking of putting it into the Do Now one day per week.  The kids will have to read a short paragraph, ideally taken from a book or newspaper article or whatever I can find.  First they'll have to draw a picture of the situation, and then draw a free body diagram of the forces involved (when we're in the force unit).  Later they could draw me KE and PE bar graphs, or identify what type of heat transfer is going on, or identify as much wave vocabulary as they can that's related.  I'd like for the answer to be something they can draw as often as possible, since that forces them to really think and synthesize information, rather than just picking words semi-randomly out of the paragraph and writing them for their answer.

I think it will be easy enough to incorporate this into my class routine; the only hangup I foresee is the difficulty of finding a supply of appropriate paragraphs.  I can write my own, but I already know that I tend to use words and phrasings that are familiar to the kids, so it's better practice for the state test if the paragraphs come from a variety of sources.  I wish I had started a collection earlier in the summer.

I also need to come up with a catchier name for interpreting a paragraph through a physics perspective.  "Reading Practice" probably isn't going to inspire enthusiasm.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Branching out

I've been dabbling in this blog for over two years now, with periodic thoughts to do more with it.  Write more often.  Write with more depth.  Write about actual pedagogy.  I read other teacher blogs regularly but never comment; I have never publicized this blog address in any way and no one would have reason to comment on my little anecdotes anyway.  Sometimes I think I should write better stuff and then try to connect with those other teacher bloggers.  It seems like a worthwhile thing to do, and it seems like I could get a lot out of it.

So, I saw this challenge a couple days ago and have been mulling it over since.  There are reasons to avoid it.  I'm mostly not a math teacher, I'm not a new blogger, and I'm not sure I'm cool enough (or brave enough - all those other teacher bloggers use their real names??) to be part of this crowd.  But on the other hand, what the heck.  I'm in.

What I guess I am trying to say is this: if you are reading this because you are associated with this blog initiation thing, please go easy on me.  I'm a little insecure.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Warning signs

At my annual physical yesterday, I was given a checklist of signs of depression to fill out.  There were 9 statements, and I was asked to tell how often each statement applied in the past 2 weeks.  With that time frame, I had eight "nevers" and one "occasionally" during the past two weeks.  But it struck me that if I had filled out the same questions during the past school year, I would have been diagnosed with depression.

Trouble falling asleep or staying asleep?  Check.

Feeling tired or without energy?  Check.

Lack of interest in activities I once found pleasurable?  Check.

Overeating?  Check.

Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness, or that what I do doesn't matter?  Check.

I need to remember that when I feel guilty for departing my school.  I'm not saying that working in that environment is the only thing to blame; I just wasn't well-equipped to deal with what was in front of me and I personally couldn't find a healthy balance.  I'd like to think that after a few more years of teaching and building my skills, I could step back into the same type of school I left and do a better job.  Check with me in a few years and we'll see how that goes.

Friday, August 3, 2012


I just wrapped up a fairly intensive week of calculus training.  AP calculus training, to be more specific.  (I'm teaching one section of AP calc at my new school this year, in addition to my usual 9th grade physics.)  And it was really, really fun.  I think I need to find more content-based PD or courses to take, because it is crazy fun to do actual problems among other people who also like math.

The best part of calculus for me, of course, is the part that connects with physics.  There are a fair number of problems about position, velocity, and acceleration, or sometimes Newton's law of cooling, or other physics-related ideas like average rate of change.  I am feeling a lot more confident about teaching calc this year for a lot of reasons - partly because my memory has been refreshed on a lot of the basics, but also because I am totally digging the connections between calc and physics.  And I can't wait to tell my freshmen that they are doing AP calculus problems, when we do graph matching with position and velocity.

Also, I would like to officially state that I love related rate problems.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012


Today someone asked me what day of the week it was, and I thought to myself, "Sunday?"  In fact it is Tuesday, and it's Day 5 of summer vacation.  Clearly I haven't adjusted to the routine yet, though I have started having weird dreams about the new school year.  The old dreams haven't stopped yet.

The school year ended without much fanfare.  I have left a half dozen companies/jobs in my adult life, and it's never been this anticlimactic.  I didn't want or expect a big fuss, but I guess I expected at least a little something, a few nice words.  I didn't see nearly as many kids for official goodbyes as last year; for whatever reason they just stopped coming, or came and then disappeared without saying I wouldn't see them again.  Most teachers did say at least a little something to me in passing in the hall, and I had a very nice farewell handshake from Mr. L and Mr. P at the final "professional development" meeting.

As I think more about it, I guess it's really the administrators I'm disappointed with.  I didn't even see or talk to either of the administrators who were my direct supervisors.  Not just on my last day, but did not see either of them (other than spotting them in the back of their offices while they were on the phone or in the hallway engrossed in conversation with someone else) for the three days of the last week of school.  I know they were at school, and I left nice farewell notes in their mailboxes on the third-to-last day.  They were busy with wrapping up their own things, but still.  Maybe I should have made a more concerted effort to approach them.  I thought I had a decent relationship with both of them, but I left with a bad taste in my mouth and a prevailing feeling that my last two years didn't amount to much.

Saturday, June 16, 2012


Yesterday we took 170 ninth graders to Six Flags.  It went more smoothly than I had expected, though there was no actual list of which students could go and kids walked onto the buses who weren't supposed to be going and nothing stopped them from going.  It boggles my mind that we had kids there without having permission slips on file.  And it angers me that sweet R from my homeroom didn't go, claiming he doesn't like roller coasters when in fact I think he just couldn't afford the $27 and was too proud to admit it (I would have gladly paid his way), and then these other kids didn't pay and just walked on the bus.  But whatever, a lot of nice kids had a good time, and I was cracking up as they showed off their physics vocabulary to me on the bus.  Best quote, from A in my homeroom who hated my class: "Miss, we kept talking like this about force and stuff while we were in line, and it was mad funny!"

I also had a conversation that encapsulates many of my frustrations with this school yesterday morning.  The setting was the sidewalk in front of the school, standing next to the buses with my fellow chaperones and a handful of students.
Woman: "Are you Ms. Pippi?"
Me (thinking this was a parent): "Yes..."
W: "I don't think we've met, but I'm the business manager of the school."
Me (who didn't even know we had a business manager): "Oh.  Hi."
W: "I heard that you are not returning here next year."
Me: "Yes, that's right, I'm taking a job outside of the district."
W: "So I really need you to give me a letter of resignation."
Me: "Oh.  When I told [the headmaster] I was leaving, he told me not to resign yet." (it's a strange world when resigning early means there is LESS control over who the headmaster can hire to replace you, but that's the way the district works.)
W: "Yes, well, I need your resignation now."
Me (pointing at bus full of kids): "Well, I'm getting on a bus to Six Flags basically right now.  Can I get it to you this evening or next week?"
W: "I need it today."
Me: "Um, OK.  Can I email it to you from my phone?"
W: "Sure.  Here's my email address."

It struck me as completely absurd that 179 days per year I can reliably be found in my classroom, I check my mailbox twice per school day, I check my school email 365 days per year, and still, this woman came out to track me down on the sidewalk, three minutes before we left on the bus (and 42 minutes after we had been scheduled to leave).  It is probably not her fault that it was last minute, but it's an accurate reflection of the chaos and unprofessionalism of my school experience thus far in general.

And so it came to pass that I composed a resignation email on my phone, sitting on a coach bus, surrounded by my students who were hopefully wrapped up enough in the opening of Rush Hour 2 to not be reading over my shoulder.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

In good company

Today I got the nicest compliment of my teaching career thus far.  I told our beloved secretary, Ms. C, that I'm leaving the school, and she did the standard few sentences about being sorry to see me go, etc.  Then she thought for a few moments and said, "I've seen a lot of people come and go over the years, but there are four that I am really, truly, sorry that we lost."  The true compliment here was the list of four: Mr. M, Mr. A, and Ms. G.  M was from before my time here, but it is a HUGE compliment to be put in the same category as the other two.  Especially A.

Also, she said, "You're going to be a master teacher.  I can just tell."  I loved the acknowledgement that I'm still a beginner.  When people claim that I am currently a good teacher, it's usually hard for me to believe.  I loved the way she put this, and I hope it's true.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A collective sigh of relief

Other than the makeups tomorrow, our big bad state test is done.  Now just 10 more school days to kill with a project and final exams and award ceremonies and field trips.

There are a lot of things to be angry about at school, but I get angriest about things like the logistical disasters surrounding state testing.  It just feels like people are dropping the ball and it's seriously impacting kids' performance.  I've been working my tail off to get kids ready, and a lot of the kids have been working really hard too.  And then three separate test rooms didn't have calculators for the kids to use, and the test proctors somehow didn't know they were supposed to get calculators, even after my students raised their hands and asked for them.  It is infuriating.

On the bright side, fewer of my kids had to take the test in the giant cafeteria room, and those who did, had no more than 2 kids per table (last year it was 3) and they said it was fairly quiet (last year they reported a lot of talking).  And all of my special ed kids, whose IEPs state they are legally obligated to a small test room, actually got it this year (last year they were all packed into the cafeteria 3 to a table, while 30 of my non-IEP kids had their own tables in small rooms... this was ILLEGAL and I am still completely furious about it).  So, the improvements are good.  I am afraid that the calculator fiasco will result in a discontinuation of the small test rooms, when really it should cause better test proctor training.  And maybe the testing rooms and proctor names could be distributed more than 12 hours before the test.  These are the infuriating things.  It seems like fixing these issues should be the easy part, compared with the difficulty of teaching "at-risk" "urban" students.

Anyway, there were a few bright spots nonetheless.  A lot of students told me the test was easy, which either means they did really well or they didn't really read the questions and they bombed it.  J from 5th period told me that when she was unsure, she just imagined my voice reading the answer choices, and "picked the one that sounded like what you would say."  This is hilarious, and hopefully it works out for her.

I proctored the test to 10 R2/R3 IEP kids, six of whom were my students.  One of them, J from my homeroom, absolutely aced the open response questions and probably the multiple choice too, and will be my first IEP kid to score proficient (or maybe advanced???).  One of Ms. G's students, C, plodded through the test and then quietly thanked me so sweetly and earnestly for bringing Jolly Ranchers.

And even amid the calculator fiasco there were bright spots.  In one test room, proctored by a history teacher, my student E gave the proctor so much attitude regarding the lack of calculators that the proctor sent someone to find calculators for them.  I am sure she could have advocated for herself in a more appropriate and respectful way, but I am proud that she knew what she was entitled to and stuck to her guns.  On the opposite end of the self-advocacy spectrum, in a room where the proctor essentially told the kids to quit complaining and take the test without calculators, my beloved student R brilliantly stalled for time until the normal test session ended, so he could finish in the extra time room where he was given a calculator.  He is too mild-mannered to contradict the proctor after he asked once, but he is cagey enough to find a way to get what he needs anyway.  That kid is going places out of sheer persistence, and I can't think of an obstacle that will stop him.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Rube Goldberg

I'm trying to gear my kids up for the big state physics test next week, and I am totally baffled by their lack of urgency in getting anything done.  Maybe my memory is failing me, but last year I remember kids getting more serious about completing review activities.  I am afraid that blowing off the review is going to make a lot of kids fail.  Or score lower than they really could score.  But I am at a loss for how to motivate them better.

I introduced our post-test final project, which will be to build a Rube Goldberg machine, and my kids are so eager to work on that, some are even coming in after school to start early.  There is really nothing more fun than sending marbles down ramps and hitting domino chains.

I am toying with the idea of teaching an elective where all we'd do all year is build the biggest, most awesome Rube Goldberg machine ever.  If I was staying at my school for next year, I'd seriously think about proposing it.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

John Travoltage

Things are not so great at school lately, but there are bright spots.  The librarian told me recently that some of the freshmen come to the library regularly at lunchtime to play with the PHET simulations on the computers.  I find that to be adorable, especially since I had no idea they were doing it.  The librarian, and the students, are fond of John Travoltage.  So am I, to be honest.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

This circuit is not fooling around.

From T's project paragraph: "My project is a serious circuit connecting all components and getting the same current everywhere."

Thursday, April 26, 2012


We have a new district SIS (student information system) and one awesome thing about it is that we now have 17 report card comment options instead of only 12.  The new comments are nothing particularly insightful, mind you, but I am immensely pleased that I can now say "Poor attendance" for the student who showed his face 0 times during the third quarter.  Previously I could only say "Irregular attendance" and that student is nothing if not regular.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

You can't make this stuff up

Two sweet, well-mannered, easygoing boys from my 5th period class got in a fight in the cafeteria today, just before my class.  The rest of the class was AMPED when they came into my room, and I was shocked that D. and A. fought, so I was dying to find out the details, but clearly the right teacher move was to try to distract the kids into doing physics work instead.

Later I asked the principal what the story was, and I laughed and laughed.  Which was probably unprofessional.  Oops.

Apparently D. was telling his friends at lunch about the vein that pops out of his forehead when he is angry.  The other boys wanted to see it, and D. said the thing that makes him angriest is when people talk trash about his family.  So T. said something about D's mom, and it didn't work - no vein.

Then A. chimed in with some other comment about D's mom, for purposes of the vein experiment of course, and D. got so mad that he punched A. in the face.  Obviously A. then punched him back, and so on, until they were rolling on the floor fighting.

This is the most hilarious fight story I have ever heard.

The obvious two remaining questions, to which I may never know the answers, unless I abandon all professionalism and ask T. for the scoop tomorrow:
1. What did A say?
2. Did D's vein pop out before he threw the punch?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Compliments, some unintentional

1.  "I don't know why everyone loves you and hates Ms. A [math teacher].  It should be the other way around.  You're the one who sucks."  This was meant as a sincere insult but I took it as a compliment, since it came from J in 3rd period who has already made it extremely clear that he very strongly dislikes me.  What I didn't know is that I was even vaguely popular amongst the majority of students in my crazy rowdy 3rd period.

2.  "Only for this class, because my other teachers don't deserve it."  This was from L in 5th period, regarding her over-the-top awesome amazing projects that she has turned in for every project so far in my class.

It's the end of third quarter, the start of April vacation, 6 weeks until the big state test and 2 months until school is out.  But who's counting?

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Wrong names

Things have been more than a little rocky lately, but there are still plenty of fun/funny moments.

I have a student that I'll call Teddy here.  We have a hot and cold relationship; he has been known to tell me off, but he also brought me a homemade Valentine's Day cupcake with a teeny paper heart that said "What the formula for happy V-Day" (sic).

T raises his hand for help.
Ms. P: Yes, Theodore?
T: That's not my name.
Ms. P:  No?  Teddy is your full name?
T: Yes.
Ms. P:  Oh.  Too bad, I kinda feel like calling you Theodore anyway.
T (shooting me a mock dirty look): Fine.  Ms. G.
Ms. P (laughing heartily): You have no idea how funny that actually is.

Ms. G is the other physics teacher, and last year when we were both brand new white female physics teachers, everyone, including the principal, secretary, school police, and 2/3 of the teaching staff, called both of us Ms. G.  All year.  Nobody called her Ms. Pippi, but I got called Ms. G on a daily basis (her name is much more common and easier to remember, spell, pronounce than my real name).

Sunday, March 11, 2012


I haven't written anything here because things have been too hard to sum up in a blog post.  I'm stressed out all the time and every class period feels like a battle.  I am losing more battles than I am winning.

I have been watching for job openings at other schools, and this past week I interviewed at a charter school near where I live.  I am really impressed by the students and staff that I talked to, and the school seems much more coherently and thoughtfully run than the school where I am right now.  On Friday I got a call that they want to hire me; we haven't talked salary yet, but it will definitely be a significant cut from what I am earning now, possibly $10k less per year.  Still, if I'm looking out for my own interests, the new school is certainly better for me than where I am now.

But I'm hesitating because I feel like I'm bailing on my students.  My wonderful spouse says I'm not bailing unless I leave midyear, and I see his point.  However, I became a teacher in an urban school because I wanted to work against the achievement gap that kids face.  I feel like a failure often enough that I can rationalize leaving by telling myself that students would be better off with another teacher who can manage behavior and serve them better, but in reality my replacement will likely not be much better than I am.  They'd be best off if I could stay and figure out how to be better, but I don't know if I can.  Or, I don't know if I can do it without sacrificing too much of my own sanity and time and lifestyle outside of school.  Part of me knows it's not selfish for me to want to have some free time for my family and friends, but the other part of me knows my kids can't bail out of their school just because it's not meeting their needs, so it seems unfair that I can.  And that's why I feel like I'm abandoning them, both my current students (who may or may not be moving on to 10th grade next year) but also the as-yet-unknown 120-some incoming freshmen who will study physics in room 2301 next year, with or without me.

Still, regardless of the guilt I feel, I will probably accept the new job.