Today was my first break from teaching since I started, so I think it's time I cataloged my victories and defeats for the year up until now.

Victory 1: I learned all the students' names within two weeks of class starting. This one was difficult, since I hadn't met any of the students before this year. I'll call a student by the wrong name once a week, but I'm going to chalk that up to faulty wiring rather than not knowing the actual names.

Victory 2: Students occasionally enjoy the warm-ups I prepare for them, and they tend to get invested in answering the questions correctly. I have become the master of warm-ups, and I really think it helps the students remember the material better than they would otherwise. Plus, it gives me a chance to assess what they know, what they don't know, and what the hell they think they know.

Victory 3: My spirit is intact. Back when I was working at Mackubin Consolidated Widgets, my spirit was nearly broken. While I've worked at the Wobegone International School of Culinary Arts, my students have punched, kicked, stomped, and electrocuted my spirit, but it has brushed off all assaults. The joy in seeing them do something correctly is a fine salve for any spiritual wound.

Defeat 1: The students still respect Frau Funkenhaus much, much more than I. I'm not entirely sure what I could do to change this, but I'm going to spend the rest of the year trying to figure that out.

Defeat 2: I'm still staring down the barrel of a test-passing rate of about 65%. Some of my brightest students get Ds on tests. How is that possible? Among the myriad reasons, the ESL problem and the "don't give a flying rodent's posterior" reasons seem to stick out. Motivation is key, and I can't figure out how to motivate them. Reading comprehension is key, and I can't teach them how to read.

While there have been more defeats, I'm going to keep the list at two because I want this webberly blog thing to be upbeat and happy. At this point, I'm rocking a 3-2 record, and that'll get me in the playoffs in the NFC North.


I just realized I haven't written for awhile. The following post is heretofore known as "Exarcly--The Returnne" The extra NE is to make it fancy, like the Malt Shoppe.

Last week was homecoming week, and that meant that my students were a little more than rowdy, a little less than respectful. By the end of the week, I was being told "It's HOME-coming! We're not going to do any WORK."

I pondered these two assertions, and I came to the conclusion that they were definitely non-sequiturs. The first statement, "It's HOME-coming!" had no bearing on the second, "We're not going to do any WORK." Sadly, the climate of work has been chilly for days now, and it doesn't seem like a warm front is coming through any time soon.

I don't yet know how to get these students motivated to the point where they'll do their work, and that is something that I'm really having a tough time wrapping my mind around. Where I came from, when a teacher assigned work, you did it. Or, if you didn't do it, you copied it from someone who did. In all honesty, I'd rather have the students copying the assignments from those who did it, since that would mean that someone would have done something.

Sadly, this is not the case.

Last week, we gave the students 2 1/2 days to work on review worksheets. I cut my instruction down to the first fifteen minutes in class, which gave them nearly 40 minutes to work on their assignments. These assignments were not particularly difficult, and if the students had actually paid attention in class (a vain hope, I know), they'd have been able to complete them in approximately forty minutes. This would have left 40-60 minutes of socializing time, considering that they had about 80-100 minutes of work time in class to do the assignments.

Instead of using their 80-100 minutes in class productively, however, they spent their time trying to figure out who they should give "shout outs" to in the yearbook. Instead of asking for assistance from their teacher or fellow students, they wallowed in self-pity, because the teachers were being unfair by forcing them to do work.

Now, I don't want to sound cynical. I'm not cynical yet, I'm just astonished. I'm astonished that other teachers have allowed these students to progress through the grade levels with such a lax work ethic. I'm astonished that the parents of these students don't have some sort of interest in their children's education. I'm astonished that I've yet to yell at a student in anger. I'm astonished that they think we as teachers are imposing too much work on them, when kids in the suburbs receive two or three times the amount of work.

In all this astonishment, I take solace in the fact that there must be at least one or two students in my class who actually want to learn. I take solace in the fact that I've taught at least a few that math is one of the most important things you can know. I take solace in the fact that these students are seniors, and I won't have to deal with them again next year. Just kidding. That's a little old-school snark for you haters out there.