Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Mr. Sheffield

The High School Basketball season is officially underway and the Gateway Jaguars have high hopes. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch has them ranked third among large schools.

I have the star player in my class. He is a big atletic looking senior who has been recruited to some prestigious division one colleges. Last night was their first game.

During sixth period today, the teacher across the hall, Mr. Sheffield, came into my room shouting. "71 to 46, the Gateway Institute of Technology, the third rated large school in the St. Louis Metro area, lost to Whitfield, a small private school with an enrollment of 200 for grades 7-12."

Mr. Sheffield proceeded to relentlessly make fun of the basketball star for the next 15 minutes straight. No students did any work. Mr. Sheffield even has class 6th period. They were sitting in his classroom wondering where their teacher was.

When Mr. Sheffield finally went back across the hall I started to tell the class what we were doing for the period. Then the phone rang. It was Mr. Sheffield, for one of my students, a basketball player.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


The sharp crack from outside the window left me wondering if someone was outside shooting a gun. The last time I heard a gunshot at close range, I thought it was a bike tire exploding, and then a guy came out of the bowling alley bathroom with a bloody hand complaining about the guy who just shot him. My brain changed after that Monday night at the bowling alley. Now any loud crack is considered gunshot until proven innocent.

The loud crack four stories below my classroom wasn't a gunshot. It was a wooden drawer from a science classroom laboratory-desk turning into splinters after being heaved out of a third story window. When I leaned over the radiator and stuck my head out the window, there it was, a ring of splinters and shattered planks with butterfly joints.

A hand full of students and I hung out the window for a few minutes waiting for more action until I was convinced the show was over. I got all the students away from the window and was not even back behind my desk when there was another crack and two seconds later another. We all ran back to the window. Every classroom on our side of the building had groups of students and teachers hanging out the windows gawking at the growing pile of kindling.

Everyone, with the exception of adult in the room with the rampaging students, secretly loves it when something like this happens. The students love it because it gives them something to talk about. The teachers love it because it gives them something to talk about, and in comparison to the near riot going on in the 3rd floor science lab, their classroom looks like a Harvard Law reading room. And the Principal, well actually, he probably doesn't love it either.

Friday, November 09, 2007

RIP John Jones

After almost a month in Ms. Brighton's classroom I'm finally getting to the point where I know almost all of my students by name. There are still a few students that I can't put a name to the face, but for the most part its, "Good morning, Eunique" and "What's up Darion?"

Today during 7th period just after taking attendance, I realized that there was only one student that I couldn't identify by name. I figured that I would use a process of elimination and the class roster to figure out the young man's name. I checked the roster and soon realized that I knew every person on the list. The student who wasn't on the list had been in my class all along and I recognized his face but it took me this long to realize that his name wasn't on my roster.

Gateway is a big school and there can be a fair amount of confusion about which student is in which classroom at what time. So I figured the student was not on my roster because of a clerical error.

I asked the student what his name was and he told me, John Jones. I explained to him that he wasn't on my roster. He told me the name of his counselor and I went to my desk to call her.

I dialed the counselors number and explained the situation; John Jones has been in my class all semester but his name somehow never made it onto the class roster. After about 15 seconds on the phone I looked up just as John walked out the door.

The counselor explained that she did have any students named John Jones, but she did have a student named John Joyner, and had been skipping his seventh period class everyday for over a month.

John Jones was one of my best students. He quietly did his work every single day. I wonder what his other 7th period class is like if he would rather come to my room every day and actually do the work?

I'm gonna miss that sneaky little guy.

Sleeping Birds Lie

One of the students in my 6th period comes to class everyday with a very noticeable red mark on his forehead from sleeping through his 5th period. I've ask him about it before and he explained that his 5th period class is boring and the teacher doesn't seem to mind if he takes a nap when his work is done.

Personally, I've always found napping difficult. On the rare occasion that I do take a nap, it usually lasts for two hours or more and is followed by another hour of debilitating grogginess. Knowing these things about myself, I never successfully fell asleep even once throughout my entire academic career.

Since sleep wasn't really a viable way for me to pass a boring school day. My stratagem was to force myself to pay attention in class so that I could pass the tests without ever doing any of the assigned reading. It worked like a charm. But it also robbed me of seminal high school experience, being jolted awake by an angry teacher dropping a heavy text book on the desk that you are using as a pillow.

Now, as a substitute, I find myself wielding the heavy textbook and the authority to drop it inches from the head of a sleeping student. But just as I know that I will never be a napper, I also know I will never be a textbook dropper.

Why on earth would I want wake a sleeping student? When a kid is asleep the odds of them screaming or punching another student slips blissfully close to zero.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Back to the Grind

I'm back in the classroom today. My Halloween vacation, four days off over two weeks, has come to an end. There was a time in my life when working 6 days over two weeks was perfectly normal. Those were the salad days.

I woke up this morning and it wasn't pitch dark outside. It felt like a new beginning. Apparently daylight savings time does have a purpose.

Two weeks and two days until Thanksgiving break. I hope I have enough left-over fun size candy bars to get me through.