Archive for the ‘Education’ Category

ASHWAUBENON— A student wearing a Star Wars mask and costume prompted an evacuation at Ashwaubenon Middle School Thursday morning, May 4th.

Officials say a concerned parent called police after seeing someone walk into the school with dark clothing and a mask.

“There was no legitimate threat at AMS today. It was a misunderstanding where a student wore a Star Wars costume for “May the Fourth Be With You” day. There was no intent of a threat, but the student will be held accountable,” said Ashwaubenon School District said in a Facebook post.

Number one, what kind of a degenerate anti-American Putin-loving communist assclown snitch doesn’t know who Darth Vader is? And why the hell will the kid be “held accountable”? How is showing up on Star Wars Day as Darth Vader wrong? I mean, how does this school expect to deal with Halloween, man? Seriously though, a kid walks into a middle school dressed as Darth Vader and the entire school is evacuated. Never underestimate the power of the Dark Side, huh?

Just an outstanding effort here by the Collin Walker. Little bro didn’t try to get out of school for a day, he went for the entire WEEK. And not only can he stay home, Mrs.Teague has given her permission for him to play video games. Pure freakin’ genius. And the “I am the teacher!” at the end just topped off the masterpiece. Damn it, if he’d only been better at the grammar and spelling thing I think he might’ve pulled it off. Good effort, Collin Walker. Good effort indeed. You gotta dream big, brother.

Yep. Five years today. Hard to believe, really. After months of meticulous and careful planning, conducting arduous interviews while assembling my crack staff, and clearing a myriad of government regulations, we launched Shoe: Untied on an unsuspecting world.

Since that warm, sparkling Spring Day back in 2012 I’ve posted over 5,300 times and have been viewed by citizens from all over the world. For reasons unbeknownst to me, our humble little site is very popular in Belgium and the Philippines. I know, that makes absolutely no sense to me either.

The site has had as many as 300,000 hits in a single day as we’ve covered sports, politics, education, history, kids, animals, music, entertainment, and God knows what else. We’ve posted original writing, weird, funny and outrageous videos, and we’re 87.3% sure Lebron James himself messaged us to defend himself once.

I’ve received death threats and angry messages from racists, nazis, clowns, midgets, Trump supporters, fans of Peter Cetera, the People of Facebook, and angry mothers of high school bowlers.

The other day somebody made the comment on Facebook (after I’d made fun of something or other) that we, “Shouldn’t judge.” My response? “If I can’t judge I should probably shut down my website.” Honestly, that’s true. A large percentage of my content is making fun of people. Not sure what that says about me, and I may not want to know.

I’ve also received some great response from stuff I’ve written that sort of came straight from the heart, blogs like Remembering Andy, Jigger, Jigger’s Tree, Sara’s Last Wish, Trusting Robbie, A Man called Pop, A Right Cross, With Love, “You Saved Me, You Know“, Losing Tim, and WE ARE PAINT VALLEY.

See, I might just have a heart after all.

Of course, a lot of my writing is an attempt at humor, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Some of my more popular humorous blogs include Regarding Beach MidgetsTop 40 Eternal Musical Questions Answered! Sort of.OSU vs. Michigan and the Road Trip to End All Road TripsDodgeball: A Microcosm of LifeAn Incident at the MallHow a Convict Killed My Relationship, But Probably Saved Me In the Long Run, The All-Time Cartoon Football Team, My Reviews of the VMA Awards, and many more.

Of course, a lot of my writing involves my best friend, a 25-pound bundle of smarts and energy called Sparky. Just type is name into the search box up there to read all about him. Fair warning though – you might be up all night. I’ve written about that pup a lot.

A few of my articles have been picked up by newspapers and national websites, so that’s always cool. One piece, Requiem for a Tradition: The Demise of High School Sports, was linked to on The Big Lead, nationally prominent sports website.

Of course, sprinkled throughout has been funny, interesting or just plain strange videos, new articles with my commentary, and various other weirdness. I’ve had regular features like Cool Animal of the Day, Map of the Day, Incredible Photo of the Day, music videos, and a bunch of other stuff. I read somewhere once that if people visit a website 3-4 times and nothing new has been added they don’t come back, hence the crazy filler stuff.

Honestly though, writing is therapeutic for me. It’s an outlet that, quite frankly, I need. Is there ego involved? Absolutely. I get a thrill out of getting good feedback when I write something that touches somebody enough to make them cry, laugh, or feel something. Hell, I even get a kick out of the people I piss off. You know, except that one insane lady. She actually scared me a little.

All in all, though, the whole thing has been a positive experience. I’ve made a bunch of new friends a few new enemies in the last 5-years, I think more of the former than the latter.

I think.

Will this site make it another 5-years? Who knows. But hey, I’ll give it a shot, and hopefully you’ll hang around with me.

Especially my good friends in Belgium and the Philippines.

Listen, I’ve heard some good names before but this guy wins the name game hands down. And hey, he’s a principal. Kids, I guarantee you Jack Hammer runs Pardeeville High School with an iron fist and an iron will. Wanna bully somebody? Jack Hammer will bully you. And that haircut is Drill Sergeant 101. Hell, that lanyard around his neck probably carries a set of brass knuckles. I bet they still paddle at Pardeeville High. None of that pansy-ass new age nonsense on Jack Hammer’s watch. Jack Hammer, man.

PS- I don’t even know Jack Hammer’s parents and I love them. Just a ballsy move to have the last name Hammer and to name your son Jack. Awesome.

In the Civil Rights movement, even children became public figures, such as a little 6-year old girl by the name of Ruby Bridges. Ruby integrated an all-white elementary school in New Orleans on November 14, 1960.

Ruby was born in Tylertown, Mississippi, to Abon and Lucille Bridges. When she was 4-years old her parents moved to New Orleans, hoping for a better life in a bigger city. Her father got a job as a gas station attendant and her mother took night jobs to help support their growing family.

Ruby Bridges was born the same year that the Supreme Court’s Brown vs. the Board of Education decision desegregated schools, and it was a notable coincidence in her early journey into civil rights activism. When Ruby was in kindergarten, she was one of many African-American students in New Orleans who were chosen to take a test determining whether or not she could attend a white school. The test was written to be especially difficult so that students would have a hard time passing. The idea was that if all the African-American children failed the test, New Orleans schools might be able to stay segregated for a while longer. Ruby lived a mere five blocks from an all-white school but attended kindergarten several miles away at an all-black segregated school. Incredibly, Ruby Bridges was one of only six black children in New Orleans to pass this test.

The faces of hatred.

On the morning of November 14, 1960, federal marshals drove Ruby and her mother five blocks to her new school. While in the car, one of the men explained that when they arrived at the school, two marshals would walk in front of Ruby and two would be behind her. The image of this small black girl being escorted to school by four large white men inspired Norman Rockwell to create the painting “The Problem We All Live With”, which graced the cover of Look magazine in 1964 (photo at bottom). As soon as Bridges entered the school, white parents pulled their own children out; all the teachers refused to teach while a black child was enrolled. Finally, one person agreed to teach Ruby  –  a courageous female teacher named Barbara Henry, from Boston. For over a year Miss Henry taught Ruby alone, “as if she were teaching a whole class.” Here’s a photo of the amazing Miss Henry with Ruby:

That first day, Bridges and her adult companions spent the entire day in the principal’s office; the chaos of the school prevented their moving to the classroom until the second day. On the second day, however, a white student broke the boycott and entered the school when a 34-year-old Methodist minister, Lloyd Anderson Foreman, walked his 5-year-old daughter Pam through the angry mob, saying, “I simply want the privilege of taking my child to school.” Another hero right there – Mr. Lloyd Anderson Foreman.

A few days later, other white parents began bringing their children, and the protests began to subside. Every morning as Bridges walked to school, one woman would threaten to poison her; because of this, the U.S. Marshals dispatched by President Eisenhower, who were overseeing her safety, allowed Ruby to eat only the food that she brought from home. So damn sad.

The Bridges family suffered for their decision to send her to William Frantz Elementary. Her father lost his job, the grocery store the family shopped at would no longer let them shop there, and her grandparents, who were sharecroppers in Mississippi, were turned off their land.

However, Ruby has since said that many others in the community, both black and white, showed support in a variety of ways. Some white families continued to send their children to Frantz despite the protests, a neighbor provided her father with a new job, and local people babysat, watched the house as protectors, and walked behind the federal marshals’ car on the trips to school.

Ruby graduated from a desegregated high school, became a travel agent, married, and eventually had four sons.

Ruby later wrote about her early experiences in two books. A lifelong activist for racial equality, Ruby established The Ruby Bridges Foundation in 1999 to promote tolerance and create change through education. In 2000, she was made an honorary deputy marshal in a ceremony in Washington, D.C.

Ruby Bridges, along with teacher Barbara Henry, parent Lloyd Anderson Foreman and many others, are true American heroes.

PAWHUSKA, Okla. (AP) – Police in northern Oklahoma say they’ve arrested amazinga substitute teacher on an indecent exposure complaint after she reportedly did a cartwheel in front of students while wearing a skirt but no undergarments.

The Pawhuska Police Department says a student recorded the incident on a cellphone. Police Chief Scott Laird says the incident reportedly happened during a high school choir class in Pawhuska, about 100 miles northeast of Oklahoma City.

The substitute teacher, whose name has not been released, was arrested Tuesday afternoon. Pawhuska police say she remains jailed Wednesday morning. 

See what happens, America? We go and elect a president with old school values, a man who has vowed to kill ISIS, send Killary to prison and build a wall to keep those damn Mexicans out, and what do we end up with? A damn uptight society that sends a poor substitute teacher to jail for teaching her students the benefits of physical fitness.

Damn it, Trump!

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Note: This is sarcasm. A joke. As a 30-year teacher I do understand this is inappropriate behavior. Funny, but inappropriate. 

Note 2: I just received a message from the Pawhuska High School Choir Class. It reads as follows:

BEST SUBSTITUTE EVER.

 

This happened at Ohio University because of course it did. OU, man.

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Can’t fault the logic, man.

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Back in the early days of my teaching career I had a student in my Reading class named Ricky that mkjihhhwas constantly getting into trouble. He came from a tough background, but he was really a pretty smart kid. I was always telling him that he was better than he was acting, and he actually cleaned up his act eventually. But Rick is not the focus of this story . . .

Rick’s father was a truck driver named Tom who traveled all over the country, and one day at a local bar he introduced himself to me. This was when his kid was still getting into trouble a couple times a week, and I mentioned this to his dad. We talked about Rick for awhile, and then Tom surprised me with this statement:

“I think he does pretty well, much better than I ever did. Hell, I never even learned to read.”

I sort of chuckled, asked if he was serious, and damned if he wasn’t. Said he couldn’t read much at all. But how was this possible? How did he get through school? Here was a guy who drove an 18-wheeler cross country every week. How did he read maps? Menus? Pass the written part of his driving test? I couldn’t wrap my head around it. In addition, he explained that his son was terribly embarrassed by him, he felt horrible about it, and it just ate him up inside.

Tom told me that when he drove, he’d memorize the letters on a map and then look for them on road signs. He said that when eating, he’d stick to diners or fast-food joints where he could stick to hamburgers or something simple. He said he could write his name and a few other words, but that was about it. Bottom line, he thought Rick was doing pretty well in comparison to him.

But as we talked, it became clear to me that this was a really smart guy who’d somehow fallen through the educational cracks. To be able to make a living, hold down a full-time job, hell, just being able to bluff your way through life without having the ability to read is a pretty amazing feat.

As I sat at the bar listening to Tom’s story, I had a thought. Should I ask? What the hell, I finally just blurted it out:

“Why don’t you let me teach you to read?”

He just kept his head down, and for about 30-seconds he didn’t say a word. Finally, he spoke:

Tom: “How long would it take?”

Me: “Hell, I don’t know. I’ve never taught anybody to read before.”

We both got a good laugh out of that one, but it was true. I’d taught junior high reading for a couple years but it was more of a literature class. Actually teaching kids to read was left to the specialists and primary teachers for the most part. That said, I figured what the hell? How hard could it be?

Me: “Seriously, I have no idea. A couple years to become really good? A year? We’ll just have to start and see what happens.”

Tom: “Two years? Boy, I don’t know. I’ll be almost 40-years old in two years.”

Me: “Well, you’re planning on being 40 anyway, right? Why not be 40 and also be able to read?”

Long story short, he agreed, I talked to a couple literacy people at school for advice, bought some books, set up a schedule, and I began meeting Tom twice a week in my room at school after hours. I remember someone telling me that newspapers were written at a 7th grade level, so that was our goal – 7th grade.

And you know what? Turns out Tom was a quick learner. In a little less than a year he was reading at that 7th grade level, and he achieved it well over a year before reaching 40.

Seriously, it was a pretty amazing how quickly he picked it up. It felt like he went through 10-years of school in 10-months. And he became an avid reader, just soaking information in like a sponge. It was like a blind man seeing for the first time.

The last time we met I brought some of my favorite books for Tom to read – On the Road, The Catcher in the Rye, Animal Farm, Lord of the Flies, The Hobbit and a few others. I knew it would be awhile before he’d be able to master them all, so I told him to keep them as long as he wanted. When I loan out books I have people write their thoughts about the book on the inside covers, and I told him to be sure and do so as well. There wasn’t a lot of emotion or anything as we said goodbye, he just said thank you, patted me on the shoulder, took the books and left. We didn’t have to say it – we were both proud of what he’d accomplished.

It was a few years later and I was teaching at another school when I next saw Tom. I was sitting at my desk during my free period, I looked up and there he was, standing in the doorway. He walked over and set the books I’d given him on my desk. We had a nice talk and he thanked me for everything again, said he didn’t know how he could ever repay me. I said it was my pleasure and had probably learned more from the experience than he had. Then we hugged and he left, giving me a wave over his shoulder as he departed.

Then, for some reason, I reached down and picked up the copy of The Hobbit. I opened it and there, on the inside cover, Tom had written this:

“I loved this book. Bilbo never knew he had it in him. But I guess you never really know what you’re capable of until you try, right?”

No, Tom. No you don’t.

The lesson here? Never, ever believe it’s too late to achieve something you really want. I know that’s sort of a worn-out cliché, but damn it, it’s true.

Just ask Tom.

Back when I was the Athletic Director at our school I had several students whosara regularly worked for me, doing things like taking tickets at games, running errands during the school day, just performing tasks that I didn’t really have time for. These kids were called my “AD Aides” and I really couldn’t have done my job without them.

Many times I’d ask one of these kids to go do something with very little  instruction, and they’d ask me how they were supposed to complete the task. My response was always this:

“Be resourceful.”

I did this partly because I didn’t have time to go into detail about what I wanted them to do, and partly because I knew I was teaching then to think independently and to complete tasks entirely on their own.

On a related note, you really had to be a special kind of student to work for me. It wasn’t always easy.

That said, I had some great aides, among them Casey, Megan, Cindi, Cara, April, Roxanne and Chris. I won’t go into detail, but they know who they are.

And then there was Sara.

Sara was a girl who, although she worked for me in the Athletic Department, wasn’t athletic at all. She was overweight and had some pretty serious health issues, even back in high school.

Sara was as loyal as any kid I ever taught or coached. She had a big heart and saw the best in everyone. She worked for me during the day at school, and after school during games. Like I said, she had some serious health issues but never, ever let it slow her down. She simply loved helping out the athletic teams at our school any way she could. Sara helped at all my events doing all sorts of things – concessions, ticket taker, virtually every job I had as Athletic Director.

Sara was willing to do anything to help out.

Some days you could tell she was tired, but never once did she complain to me. She was just so happy to be a part of the athletic department at our school, and I was thrilled to have her as an assistant.

Everybody knew Sara, all the athletes, parents, teachers and fans, and she always greeted them with a smile. She was a great representative for our school.

After Sara graduated, she still came back to help out when she could. After I’d resigned as AD and returned as the head basketball coach, I was having trouble getting workers for our specified night helping with concessions at a football game. I sent out a request on Facebook for help, and guess who was the first to respond and lend me a hand?

Yep. Sara, even though she was clearly not feeling well.

At the end of the evening that night, after the game, most of the people were gone and Sara and I just sat and talked as she was waiting for her ride home. She told me that some of the best moments of her life were working for me when I was Athletic Director. She told me how much she looked forward to the games and the opportunities to meet and talk to new people.

It made me realize that sometimes, the best moments for some are right here at school, doing things that many of us sometimes find boring or mundane. For Sara, school and in particular the athletic complex was a place of refuge, a place to shine, even to cherish.

Sara died on March 27th, 2015. She was only 32.

Shortly thereafter I received a message from her brother Michael. It seems that, before she passed, Sara had requested that her ashes be spread somewhere over the Paint Valley Athletic Complex. He asked if it would be possible to grant her wish.

And one day awhile after, on a quiet, beautiful Saturday afternoon, we did just that. As I looked on, Michael and mother Terri laid Sara to rest over an area near and dear to Sara’s heart.

And it was exactly where she wanted to be.

Weird but honest.

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So a couple students received this email from their batshit crazy future roommate a few days before heading off to college. Imagine being excited for school and getting this in your inbox. Good God.

Have a great year with this psycho, ladies!

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This teacher is getting all kinds of praise online for this “innovative” idea. My comments are below the photos. But first, from the interweb:

Bethany Lambeth has placed cycling machines under her students’ desks to get them to stop fidgeting and start focusing. “Before they were drumming on their desks, they were touching other people, they don’t do that anymore,” Lambeth said. “Their feet are getting the movement out. There has been a huge increase in the quality of our student’s work and a decrease in the amount of missing work.”

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Blah-blah-blah. As a 30-year teacher I’m calling bullshit here. First off, the noise alone would be a distraction. Secondly, the last thing you want to give students is a prop. Hell, the props were for me. Students? They’d be racing each other, pedaling backwards, making motorcycle noises and everything else short of attaching wheels on this thing and motoring out of the room. Thirdly, nobody wants to sweat their ass off in Advanced Physics. Phys Ed class? Sure. While writing an essay in English class? No freaking way.

PS: What’s next, one arm chin-ups while doing Algebra? Good Lord.

The kid on the right.

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A teacher asks her students a simple question every year. The answers always touch her deeply.

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As a teacher you get the occasional invitation from a student to attend one of their out-of-school activities. It might be an athletic event (I’d go sometimes) or a birthday party (I’d never go), maybe even a church play or something like that. Anyway, I’d try and go if it seemed important to the kid.

Back when I was teaching 6th grade a little girl named Erica asked if I’d like to come to her piano recital. It was going to be on a Sunday afternoon, so I said sure, why not? I figured I’d drop in for a few minutes, watch her little performance and be on my way.

Hey, a little support is always a good thing with kids, right?

Sunday arrived, and the recital was to begin at 1:00 PM in a local church. I got there a few minutes early, grabbed a program, and took a seat in one of the back pews. From the front row Erica saw me, and when her face lit up I was glad I’d come. It was then that I glanced down at the program to see when she’d take the stage. The first ominous sign was that they were beginning with the real little kids and moving up chronologically. Trust me, there were some real little kids there. The second thing I noticed was that the list of performers was a long one. Oh well. I planned to give her a thumbs-up after she was finished and sneak out anyway.

I ran my finger down the list, looking for Erica. Down and down I went until I found her name . . .

27th out of 27. She was the last kid on the list.

I sat through all 27 kids that day. I thought of leaving and coming back, but she kept glancing back at me and I was afraid if she saw I’d left she’d assume it was for good. So, I listened to 27 different piano recitals from kids ranging in age from 4 to 12. I heard Amazing Grace, Do Your Ears Hang Low?, Row, Row, Row Your Boat, Itsy-Bitsy Spider, The Wheels on the Bus, the ever-popular Bingo (3-times), and a slew of other children’s songs.

By the time Erica’s turn came it was almost 4:00, and my ears were numb to the music. All I wanted to do was listen to her version of Mary Had a Little Lamb or The Entertainer or whatever the hell she was going to play, applaud politely as I pretended to love it, and rush home to catch the second half of the Bengal’s game.

But then, she started playing her song.

Let It Be.

A Beatles song she’d learned for me.

That’s why she’d asked me to come, and that’s why she’d kept looking back at me.

Turns out I didn’t have to pretend. It had been a long day, but I’ll be damned if it wasn’t worth every minute.

Spot on.

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Today has been one of the strangest days of my life. On one hand I’m really thefirstdayhappy to be retired, knowing I don’t have to go to school every day if I don’t feel like it. On the other hand I know how badly I’m going to miss being around the kids. Not going back this morning has just been weird, and it’s put me in a melancholy mood for sure.

Sure, I’ll be subbing as much as they’ll have me, plus I’m still coaching, so it’s not as if I’ll be lying around doing nothing (although I plan some of that too).

Bottom line, for the first time since 1984, I had no first day of school this year. Some teachers dread going back for the new year, others can’t wait to get back in the mix. I was always one of the latter. As soon as August hit I’d always start getting the itch to get back.

I can still recall vividly my first day at Greenfield McClain back in ’84. I was a little nervous, but I was so excited to be teaching. Hell, it took me years to get over that little rush I got when I’d open the Teacher’s Edition. Remember when you were a student and you walked up to the teacher’s desk to ask a question and you caught a glimpse of the Teacher’s Edition? Well, now I had one! I had all the answers! Right there in the book! And kids called me Mr. Shoemaker. For awhile I couldn’t get used to that, so I’d look around for my dad. Oh, you mean me?

From that very first day on, every first day was special to me. The smell of the classroom and school, the waxed floors, the freshly-painted rooms, all that stuff made me excited to get going. And the kids. The kids would show up in their new school clothes, checking out the rooms and teachers, wondering who was in their homeroom, asking questions about their schedule. Oh, and somebody always needed help with their locker, whether it be just finding it or not knowing how to operate their combination lock.

For the first few days kids would always be going to the wrong room so teachers would have to stand in the hallway and point them in the right direction. But that’s sort of the definition of a teacher, right? Pointing students in the right direction?

And you always had new kids who were a little scared, so you had to look out for them and make sure they were comfortable. I always used to take one of my good kids aside and tell them to look out for the new kid. They seemed to enjoy taking the “new kid” under their wing.

The first few days were always fun as I’d start giving out nicknames as I got to know the kids. Some students were always very wary of me, mainly because I wasn’t exactly the type of teacher that they were used to having. You know, being a tad non-traditional and whatnot. It usually didn’t take them long to figure me out though.

Anyway, none of that for me anymore. This  morning I took a drive with Sparky and enjoyed this great weather we’re having, stopped for a walk by the lake, watched Spark chase some geese, just generally had a good, relaxing morning thinking about the beautiful day and my plans for the future.

But mostly I thought about what I was missing.

The school year is starting soon. Well, at least for some of you. Not for me of course. Have I mentioned I’m retired? B-W-A-H-A-A-H-A-A-H-A-A! But I’ll try and not rub it in too much. Ah, screw it. I can’t lie. While I’m looking forward to my retirement from teaching, the truth is I’ll miss it.

A lot.

But anyway, with the kids returning this week I thought it might be a good time to give my advice to future teachers. Hey, I don’t claim to have all the answers so you can take it or leave it, but I do have a little experience ya know. I had to learn something in 30+ years, right?

Right?

Let us proceed with my pearls of (hopefully) wisdom . . .

  1. Be yourself. By this I mean don’t try and emulate your favorite teacher, your mother, your coach, etc. While you can learn from others, you have to stay true to who you are. If you’re a phony the kids are going to see right through you, but if you’re honest the kids will appreciate it and respect you for it.
  2. Teaching is the best discipline. Yep, the best way to avoid problems in the classroom is to simply keep the kids engaged. Teach. Keep them interested and focused. Don’t hand out a bunch of worksheets or quit early. Downtime leads to trouble. A couple years ago I had a kid who’d had trouble focusing in years prior, and of course this led to behavior issues. Anyway, he was doing fine for me and during a meeting with his mother the principal asked him why he paid attention in my class. His answer of “It’s sort of hard not to” was probably the best compliment a kid ever gave me.
  3. If you don’t know, say so. You don’t have to pretend to be some all-knowing brainiac because you aren’t. Again, the kids will see right through you. It’s perfectly alright to say, “Hey, good question. I don’t know the answer to that one. Let’s look it up.” That’s what Smart Boards are for, folks. In addition, admit it when you’re wrong.
  4. Never, ever, talk down to your students. The best teachers I’ve ever known are the ones who just talk to their students as if they’re talking to an equal. Sure, kids need ripped from time-to-time but it’s best just to keep them on your level, not below you.
  5. Be prepared to fail. Try as we might, we can’t save ’em all. You can’t let one kid drag down the entire class. And remember, when you make all those grandiose plans on Sunday evening? There’s a good chance they’ll all go straight to hell by Tuesday afternoon. Be flexible.
  6. Don’t have a preconceived opinion of your students. Don’t listen to a teacher who had some kid last year tell you what a horrible child he is. Let all of your students start the year with a clean slate, and tell them that the first day. You might be surprised as to how they respond.
  7. Manage your classroom. Want respect from your principal? Don’t send a student to the office every time he or she looks at you funny. I actually had this conversation with a fellow teacher after laughing when she’d sent a kid to the office because he kept forgetting to bring a pencil to class. Teacher: “Oh, and what would YOU have done?” Me: “Uh, give him a pencil.” See, you can buy a box of 72 pencils for $5.99. Hell, give the kid a pencil every day. He’s winning the battle otherwise. It ain’t Rocket Science, folks.
  8. Trust your students. I always believed that, with students, to receive trust you have to give it first. I used to pick the so-called “bad” kid early in the year to perform some task that required some level of trust, like maybe taking the lunch money to the office or something. The point is, when the kid performed said task without hightailing it to parts unknown you’d built a level of trust. Sure, if he failed miserably you dealt with it but if he met your expectations you had something to build on. In addition, listen to your students. Ask them what’s working and what they like and dislike about how you’re teaching. They’ll tell you the truth.
  9. Treat your co-workers with respect. In particular custodians and secretaries. They know what’s going on in and around the school. You can learn a lot from them. Learn every name in the building and call them by name. In addition, these folks can get things done for you when many others cannot. I always assigned different “trash ninjas” to pick up at the end of the day. I’d yell “trash ninjas!” and they’d leap and bound around the room gathering up random pencils, paper and whatnot. Fun but efficient, and the custodians will love you for it. And secretaries can take care of you and help you out more than you could ever imagine. Trust me on that one.
  10. Teach beyond the test. I know, you’re supposed to be teaching directly to the test. Screw that. There are going to be times when you have one of those “teaching moments” where every kid in the room is focused on you and what you’re saying, and it may have absolutely nothing to do with your Course of Study or Content Standards. Take advantage of that focus and go with it. The state has been trying to take creativity out of the classroom for years. Keep fighting the good fight. Don’t let ’em do it.
  11. If you don’t enjoy teaching, please do something else. Listen, I’m not mad at ya if you don’t like teaching, but this isn’t a regular job we’re talking about here. I mean, you can hate your job selling Veg-O-Matics and the only person who’ll suffer from it is Ron Popeil (I know, that’s sort of an obscure reference but if you don’t get it search it up on The Goggle). My point is that, as a teacher, you’re affecting a lot of young minds and attitudes. Don’t let your unhappiness with the vocation you chose carry over to the classroom. And don’t bitch about your job. Believe me, there are a lot of people who would love to work 8:00 AM-3:00 PM with weekends, holidays and summers off. Don’t be one of those teachers who breed resentment among those who aren’t lucky enough to do what you do.

So there ya go. And remember, I don’t claim to have all the answers. Lord knows I screwed up as much as anybody. But remember this, new teachers – you’re going to want to quit about 17-times during your first year.

Don’t do it.

Trust me, it’ll all be worth it. Every time a former student comes up to you on the street and mentions something you told them years ago, something that may have seemed small to you at the time but obviously had a lasting impact, something that left an indelible and positive mark on a kid, well, it makes it all worthwhile.

Have a great year.

I got into a little back-and forth the other day with a couple of teachers who were moaning about school starting, and I was basically just making fun of them for complaining about what they do for a living. In the end I threatened them with this blog. So hey, I gotta follow through, right? I can’t go back on my word.

In addition, after I made a positive post about returning to school somebody asked who I was sucking up to. I know she was joking, but anybody who knows me understands I’m not real good at the “sucking up” thing. That attitude has actually gotten me in trouble a time or six with my superiors.

So fellow teachers, you can roll your eyes and shake your head because I don’t give a damn. I love teaching. I just do. Always have, from Day 1. As a matter of fact, I’ll issue this challenge. If you can find a student I’ve had in class since 1984 that can honestly say they believed I didn’t love teaching I’ll buy you dinner. Not even kidding. Not every kid has liked me, but I’m pretty certain they knew I was having fun every day.

I must also tell you I work with a bunch of great teachers who I’m pretty sure love what they do. Otherwise why would they do it? Yeah, the summers are great but if you hated teaching that alone wouldn’t make it worth it, trust me. Anyway, I’m not criticizing the jobs they’re doing. Just consider this some good natured teasing about the whiny, “we have to go back to school” garbage I heard the past few days. If it upsets you I’m sorry, but not really. If it pisses you off maybe you need to look in the mirror. Boom! Roasted. Seriously, if you don’t like teaching please go do something that doesn’t influence a bunch of kids. You know, like be a park ranger or something. Nobody to talk back to you but the bears.

Oh, of course I’ve had my days where I’ve complained about a certain kid, administrator or parent. But I defy anyone to name an instance where I complained about going to school and doing what I do. That doesn’t make me special or anything, I just consider myself very very lucky.

Perhaps it’s because before I became a teacher I had several jobs, both full-time and during the summer, that have helped me to appreciate what I do now. I started teaching a little later than some, at the age of 28. Full disclosure: I was a complete loser from about the age of 16-25. Because of this I graduated 60th out of the 80 in my high school class and I flunked out of Ohio University after only one pathetic year. So, from the age of 20 to 26 I took on a variety of jobs. Among other things, these jobs included:

  • Construction. I almost died falling from the 2nd floor to a basement in a house we were building once. I wasn’t real, shall we say, focused.
  • Cleaning bathrooms at a state park. Just as fun as you’re imagining. Advice: Always yell before going in the ladies side.
  • Lifeguard. Hey, nobody drowned on my watch. I think.
  • Roofing houses. Whenever my room at school gets too hot I remember those August days on the roof. Mercy.
  • Garbage Man at Rocky Fork Lake. Actually a pretty fun job because you got to ride around the lake all day. On a negative note, those dirty diapers were a bitch.
  • Barber. Yep, I used to cut hair and I think I was pretty good at it. For whatever reason it wasn’t fulfilling for me though. Maybe because I don’t care for most grown-ups? Bingo!
  • The Mead Paper Company. I worked in the cutters and rewinders for almost 2-years. The money was great but I hated it. Those 12-hour days and trick work just weren’t for me.

Anyway, my brother-in-law Jigger heard me complaining one day and basically told me to get my ass back to college and do what I’d always wanted to do – teach. After all, my mom and sister both taught for over 30-years each and loved it. Both were amazing teachers. Anyway, to my first wife’s credit she took a job and I went back to school (after I graduated and got a teaching job she did the same).

From that point on I never looked back. From the day I stepped foot in that junior high classroom at Greenfield McClain in the late summer of 1984 I’ve never dreamed of doing anything else. Hell, at some of my other jobs I’d go days without laughing. For the last 30-years I’ve never made it to the front door, let alone my classroom, without some kid cracking me up. What can I say? I love kids. They’re idiots. Some say that’s why I relate to them, and who am I to argue?

I know this is a little irrational and sort of makes no sense, but I actually hate it when I hear a teacher talk about “going to work” or “getting off at 3:00”. Too me it’s just not a job in the literal sense. Whenever I hear a teacher speak of “going to work” I always think,“Huh? Are you remodeling a kitchen or something? Putting in a fence row? Laying some asphalt?” But that’s just me. Because of this I always say “going to school” rather than “work.” And to me, “getting off” is something else entirely.

Remember a few years ago when Senate Bill 5 was up for vote? Remember there was a bit of a backlash against teachers? I think complaining about returning to school after 3-months off contributes a little to that type of thinking. What do you think the average person working in a factory, laying blacktop in 95 degree weather, or guarding convicted murderers 12-months a year with a 2-week vacation feels when they hear you complaining about going back to school after your summer break? I know everyone has a choice about what they do for a living, but I’m pretty sure they don’t give a rat’s ass about your schedule.

I know and understand the normal person doesn’t comprehend the problems we face as teachers. We’re the most underpaid and underappreciated professionals in the world, I get that. The expectations are sky high. The average person doesn’t see that our salary is for 9-months spread over 12-months and we’re not actually paid for doing nothing in the summer. They don’t see the after-school work we put in or the paperwork and pressure of state testing that is put upon us, and the crap we put up with a few irrational parents. Still, a lot of people would kill for our jobs. You know why? Because even considering the negatives I mentioned, the positives more than outweigh them. By a lot. The rewards earned by a teacher are something the average person will never get to receive. It’s something unique and special, something to be cherished.

I know that sounds corny and sappy, but when a former student tells me on social media or in person that I inspired them in some small way it makes me feel good. Really, really good. You see, I can still drive by one of those houses I helped build and it’s a nice feeling. But when a 33-year old soldier tells me I changed his life forever back in the 6th grade, well, you just can’t put a price on that, now can you? Again, it may sound silly but if that was the only kid I helped it in my career it would be worth it, right? For that reason alone I feel so very lucky to have taught for the past 30-years.

Imagine you could start over and choose a new profession. Anything you like, maybe own your own business, something where you’d make a boatload of money. Would you do it? Would you start over doing something else? Lord knows I’d change a million things regarding my personal life, but when it comes to teaching I honestly wouldn’t change a thing.

I can’t imagine doing anything else.

And I wish I didn’t. Here’s the lowdown . . . 1

Years go when I taught sixth grade I had a kid named Donnie whose father didn’t have the best of reputations. Nice guy and all, I got along with him just fine, but I’d heard several rumors about him. Most involved, shall we say, certain shady business practices involving substances that are illegal in these United States of America.

I usually laughed it off when I heard such innuendo, because without proof I ignore that kind of stuff. That’s how I roll, kids. Hey, I’ve had rumors spread about me that would curl your toes, buckle your knees and make your jaw drop to your belly button. If you want to know what some of them were feel free to ask, but I’m not writing them down here for fear it would reignite the smoldering embers of my past.

On a related note, those last two sentences were straight fire, weren’t they? Damn I’m good.

Anywho, back to the father with the less than stellar reputation. I refused to believe the rumors, but one day evidence indicated that they just might just be true.

You see, one day early in the year I was having a discussion with my class about their summer vacations. Kids were telling me about going to Disney World, Myrtle Beach, all the usual summer haunts. Some just went on long weekends to Kings Island or Cedarpoint, and I made sure to let them know it was cool if their family had decided to stay home rather than take a typical vacation.

Note: Some folks call sticking close to home a Staycation. I want to punch those people in the solar plexus.

It was near the end of the discussion when I turned to Donnie. He hadn’t raised his hand so I called on him . . .

Me: “Donnie, did you guys go anywhere on vacation or just stay home?”

Donnie: ” Not really. Dad and I did take a trip for a couple days though.”

Me: “Really? Where’d ya go?”

Donnie: “We just went down to Texas for a couple of days. Dad had to run over to Mexico but he came right back.”

Me: “Alrighty then. Hey, who wants to go to recess early?”

Hey, I’m a pro. Nothing to see here. I knew when to cut and run. And you know, I didn’t want some cat named Carlos showing up at my door with an AK-47.

Yikes.

The map below reveals a pretty interesting fact – In the majority of the world’s countries (including virtually all of the richest) women, not men, stay in education longer.

The darker red a country is, the longer women stay in education (at all levels) relative to men and vice versa for the blue countries. Keep in mind that it’s looking at relative differences within countries and not years of education between them. Below the map is a breakdown of several different countries.

men-women-education

Barbados: Women 3.4 years more.

Armenia: Women 2.4 years more

United States: Women 1.7 years more.

Brazil: Women 1.0 years more.

United Kingdom: Women 0.9 years more.

Australia: Women 0.9 years more.

Israel: Women 0.9 years more.

Canada: Women 0.8 years more.

France: Women 0.7 years more.

Bangladesh: Women 0.6 years more.

Saudi Arabia: Women 0.5 years more.

China: Women 0.2 years more.

Indonesia: Women 0.1 years more.

Ireland: Men 0.2 years more.

Germany: Men 0.2 years more.

Japan: Men 0.3 years more.

Iran: Men 0.3 years more.

India: Men 0.5 years more.

Turkey: Men 1.2 years more.

Pakistan: Men 1.5 years more.

South Korea: Men 1.7 years more.

Iraq: Men 2.7 years more.

Afghanistan: Men 4.1 years more.

Angola: Men 5.3 years more.


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