71 days ’til Christmas vacation

School has started. I’m so thrilled. Stomp on your foot, kick you in the crotch, spit on your neck thrilled. You might recall that this is not where I thought I’d be this year. I fully believe the Universe has a script for me, but I have not yet received it, and I’m mad about it in the same way Kim Cattrall was mad when she never got an advance copy of the “Sex and the City” movie script and decided she just wouldn’t be involved, thanks, thereby killing all hope of a “Sex and the City” movie. Except I’m not bailing on my movie. I have too much going for me now, and besides, Kim Cattrall could afford to blow off a “Sex and the City” movie and I can’t afford to blow off the Universe’s plans for me, whatever they are, and I’m afraid I’ve gotten a bit off topic. Where was I?

School has started.

I count it as a miracle to be sitting here at work sending these words out into the blogiverse, as just last week both Blogger and Flickr were blocked by the school system’s filters. Perhaps some creative and enterprising teacher convinced the powers that be that these programs can offer our students a creative outlet. Who knows, and quite frankly, who cares? I’m just happy that at moments like this I can sit down and talk to my peeps in the computer.

For those of you who don’t know me personally, I’ve been teaching 9th grade English for 10 years. By year 11 you would think I might finally be reaping some of the rewards of the profession (a full slate of honors classes, for example). You’d be wrong. I am teaching Strategic Reading and a regular 9th grade class that is made up of children who have failed the state English I test one or more times. That’s the class who’s with me now. Of the 16 students enrolled in the class, there are eight males and eight females. Two of the females are white; two are black; the other four are Hispanic. There are six black males, one Hispanic, and one Asian (Vietnamese). Four of the boys are known gang members. One of the white girls has a house arrest bracelet on her ankle. This is my best class. They are respectful; they get their work done; they get my jokes. It goes downhill after they leave.

The reading classes I am teaching were designed for students who scored level I on the 8th grade reading test (level I basically means 5th grade reading level or below). Given what I’ve told you about my current school’s er, leader, it should not surprise you that there are students in my reading classes who read on a 2nd grade reading level, and there are students in my classes who read on a 10th grade reading level, and then there are scores of them who fall in between. I must confess, I am an old school thinker when it comes to heterogeneous grouping; in spite of what the research says, I think homogeneous grouping lends itself to the most effective instruction. Heterogeneous groups that are too varied are disciplinary disasters waiting to happen. Trust me. Yesterday was Day 5, and already I had to have an administrator take two of my students to the office. Good times.

Today has been a bit better, but the more I learn about my reading students, the more I long to work somewhere else. Like a landfill. Several of my students, at the ripe old age of 14, are active gang members. One of them had to be tasered last year. About seven of them were socially promoted from 7th to 9th grade last year. A quarter of them are likely drug users; over half probably smoke. They were born the year I started high school, which means that many of their parents are probably my age. It’s a scary place, high school.

The good news: I got a raise this year. Woo boy, that extra 35 bucks will really come in handy. I’m thinking bullet proof vest, maternity size medium. Anybody know where I can get me one of those?

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