EDIT: This post was miraculously re-posted in 2015. It’s from 2008. I’m keeping it up (with weird sentence structure and grammar errors) because it’s an important part of my past and helped make me the teacher I am today.

While I share Andy‘s unspoken desire to have a steady readership, I haven’t the time to post as regularly as he. My apologies the the 1 of you that have been here in the last week.

Let me tell you about Friday:

The Ides of March

My math coach took me aside this week. She said that I had better start thinking about March 15 and the implications therein (only she didn’t say therein). March 15, I recalled from another conversation, is the date by which teachers will know if they have a job for the next year. Tenured teachers, naturally, have no fear of the Ides of March, but a first-year teacher such as myself may be a bit worried.

Anyway, my math coach said that I had better get my ass in gear when it comes to classroom management and advancing the students towards state standards.

CLASSROOM MANAGEMENT is anything and everything that keeps the class focused in the direction of learning. It can be discipline, rewards, videos, teaching styles, etc.

Teacher by Ben Russell on flickr

STATE STANDARDS are the statewide guidelines for what a Xth-grader should know about Math, Science, Art, etc. Schools throughout California are moving toward standards-based grading, which would supplant the old system of A, B, C, D, F and replace it with acronyms like FBB (far below basic) and AD (advanced).


This sidenote brought to you by the letters FBB and AD.

My math coach went on to describe how advancement towards standards would improve once I got the class under control. “They can’t learn from you if they aren’t listening.”

I replied to my math coach that I was doing my level best to get my rowdy class under control. She knows that I came in the middle of the quarter and was prepared to be a pastor, one to whom the kids could talk. Unfortunately for me, the kids don’t want a pastor or a friend, they want boundaries and I was slow to set them.

unruly class

So now, in late February, I’ve been getting my ass kicked across the whiteboard for the past 5 months, and they pretty much know what I will and won’t do to keep them in line (one of those lists is longer than the other).

Finally, my math coach told me that I needed to make significant changes and improvements if I wanted to be invited back next year.

Okay, I told myself. I’m already putting as much into play as I can. I’m also a full-time student getting my credential. It’s a rough week when two days of it are 6:00am – 930pm straight. I can only do so much outside of the classroom with my limited amount of time. I must sleep 8 hours and have time with the wife and friends. I refuse to be a work-aholic, so I monitor my intake of workahol.


I should have known that something was brewing when my Assistant principal called my cell and emailed me last night that he needed me in a 730 meeting before school with the principal and himself. Ever the flexible employee, I said that I could make it. I guessed what was coming when they both came in quietly and the principal had an envelope with my name on it.

After reading the required legal jargon about the district “exploring more experienced career alternatives” and “declining to renew contractual agreements”, he began by saying what a hard situation I came into this year, how the kids were defiant and the middle of the quarter is a terrible time to begin teaching.

He then went on to say that this school is under “program improvement”, a term that I knew. It meant that a certain group performs so poorly on standardized tests that the watchful eye of Uncle Sam comes to pay a visit. In this case, the group was the students I inherited this year. The district believes that the best way to bring their scores up is not to hand them over to a first-year teacher with classroom management problems.

And with that, my teaching career in West Covina came to a halt. Then I went on to finish the day of classes. Shwell. And as of June 19th, I will be unemployed.


Andrea and I both view this as somewhat of an out. I have been miserable doing 16 hour days and struggling through a class of defiant, obnoxious kids that hate me and don’t want to learn. I’m not even sure that I want to teach! Why in the hell did I take a teaching job right after getting married?

That is the question I’ve been asking myself; what do I want to be doing at this stage in my life? The answer may or may not be teaching, it may be counseling, it may be subbing, it may be nursing, it may be cougar circumcision.

Whatever it is, I have learned a lot in the last 5 months and will learn even more in the next 4 months. I’ve become a better communicator, I’ve learned to reason with middle schoolers… actually, I suppose I’ve learned when to reason and when to say “siddown, because I said so.” I’ve learned how to plan a lesson, how to introduce a concept, how to utilize the power of divided labor.

And, in the spans of teaching four 53-minute classes in a row, I got really good at holding my pee.

Pee Pee Dance

I saw Cougar Circumcision open for Slayer once.