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.