Saturday, June 25, 2011

Pop and Drop

I could pretend to be shocked that kids were insane for the last three weeks of school. I could pretend that when I had to give demerits for climbing on desks, smacking with rulers, asking me about my sex life, etc. I was FLOORED by their misbehavior. But in the dark corner of end-of-school realities, I concede that I what would have been truly shocking would have been anything but this impish behavior. And yes, there will be a whole 'nother post on the great Sex Life Inquisition of 2011. Worry not.

That said, Miz Pace be tired. (I'm clearly telling the truth because I have to be utterly exhausted to think it's OK to talk about myself in the third person).

It's taken me a couple of days to get enough perspective on the final moments (read: weeks) to write about them. When I tried to blog last week, all that went from my brain to the keys was a mantra much like this:

Must not kill the kids
Economy is shitty
Can't afford murder

(My mantras always take the form of haiku).

All of that said, the more liberties that my students feel it is appropriate to take with me, the more fodder for my musings that arises. On more than one occasion, the boldest of my coworkers have gone as far as to accuse me of encouraging havoc (including a black eye of my own) in order to feed my bloggings. I would never. But it's not a terrible byproduct either. So without further ado...

The Sundrop Video.

Several weeks ago, I was just wrapping up my 7th grade math class when one particularly effeminate young chap raised his hand. "Miz Pace," he exclaimed, "YOU LOOK EXACTLY LIKE THAT CHICK IN THE SUNDROP VIDEO." At which point, the class (which had already begun the preemptive pack-up) erupted. "OMG! OMG! OMG! He's RIGHT! You totally make that face! LET'S SEE YOU DROP IT LOWWWW!"

Everything happened so fast. What the hell is Sundrop? Why would I drop it? What? How? Where? HELP! So I did what I do best- kicked everyone out the door on the double. As the sanctuary of my prep period enveloped me like a warm blanket or that first Friday evening beer, I took the plunge. The Sundrop plunge. And this is what I saw:


I was shocked and ashamed that the students saw me in this manner! Kidding. I thought it was hilarious. And I wanted further confirmation. So I did the most professional thing possible - I brought the video to my advisory and asked them if it reminded them of me. Turns out they were one Sundrop-sized step ahead of me. The minute I mentioned the video (in between very serious advisory things of course), the room resounded with, "YEAHH! Totally you, Ms. Pace. Everyone thinks that."

While I know that should be concerned that some girl shaking her behind for a terrible, sugar-loaded soda reminds my students of me, I took it as a compliment. That chick rocks.

It has been a couple of weeks since the Pace-to-Sundrop connection came to the forefront of my YouTubeings, and I still take great giggles in it. It is hard to doubt my commitment to a profession in which a student says good morning to me in the hallway in the form of, "Mmm Mmm Mmm." And then makes a soda opening noise.

I have still yet to taste the drops of sun that must be 99% responsible for the rise in diabetes teenagers. Perhaps I will make a rebuttal video about broccoli or water or condoms or appropriate elevator behavior.

Or perhaps I'll go party a weekend away celebrating my first moments of summer with my fellow post-first-year-teachers (PFYTs) in Brooklyn.

Yes. I think that one.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

End of the year! (Next post to come shortly)

(Drawing by 7th grade boy who can't add, but made this for me in 2.5 minutes)

Saturday, June 4, 2011


When I was in the 10th grade, my history teacher drew a quick sketch of Europe on the board that looked nothing like Europe. It looked like a penis. It is with half-hearted conviction that I assume there MUST exist a group of 16-year-olds in the world who could have skipped over this blatant anatomical reference and continued on their merry Eurolearning way. But these clean minds were not among us. And thus the giggling commenced. Like a stadium slow clap, two or three chuckles turned into seven, which turned into an entire room of moderately stifled (read: obnoxiously blatant) laughter.

Eight years later, this sophomoric display comes up at least once a year at gatherings of my high school friends.

Lull in conversation.

Kevin: "Oh man guys, 'member that time with the board and Ms. H and the penis?"

Everyone else: "Bahahahahahaha."

Cue continuous laughter and repetition of the phrase "good times," which eventually ebbs into sighs and staring off into space yearning for a time when there was food in the fridge and a washer/dryer in the house.

In careful retrospect, it seems that the humor was only half due to the game of Penis Pictionary at play on the whiteboard. The rest of the hilarity was in laughing at (not with) our teacher for her delightfully prude mistake - watching as she tried to figure out if she had something on her face or sweat stains in her armpits or toilet paper on her shoe or a penis on the board. Cruel, I know. But there's no sugarcoating teenage manipulations.

All of this is to suggest that grasping at innuendo in the classroom is no 21st century phenomenon. It's age old, I'm sure. (I'm now picturing a young Ben Franklin snickering at an off-kilter wig or a carelessly exposed ankle). All of that said, there has been no greater catalyst, nay propulsion, of the tendency to find sex in everything than "that's what she said." "She" has had a very very busy last couple of years. And sadly, "she" gets no break in the classroom.

"She" apparently loves hard problems. Long problems. "She" loves to mispronounce the number six. "She" loves 23*3 and 98-29 and (in case you're still not following), 60+9. "She" loves games played with balls (most word problems borrowed from any math sources involve AT LEAST three word problems that involve ball-play). "She" loves when the floor is wet or when the wind is blowing. She loves bananas and coconuts and cucumbers and hot dogs. At this point, I could go on, but I've now shoved your brain into the gutter and I would like to help you retrieve it.

My wonderful roommate is also teacher. And most days when we come home, after we've collapsed on the couch and put on our PJs at 5:30pm, we just trade stories about new words we're not allowed to use. This year, she read the Dickens classic "Hard Times" with her 10th graders. I'm pretty sure she almost decided to teach the book in sign language so that no one ever had to say the title. Her students, bless their dirty dirty minds, were relentless. I think it took an extra week to get through the book just due to all the "she"-based demerits she had to give. Problematic to say the least.

I yearn for the days when all teachers had to fear was an accidental euro-penis drawing or a little spinach in the teeth. I'm considering an "urban dictionary"-like invention called "Teacher Speak" or "All the words to cut out of your vocabulary before you ever step into the Hormone Zone." I feel that I'm just beginning to master the conversion to "challenging" problems instead of "hard" ones, 23*4 instead of *3 and curling, rowing and hockey in word problems instead of anything played with a ball.

As for stifling my own laughter when a student goes to the gutter? Better luck next year, Pace. Also - I am truly sorry if anyone was offended by the lewd references in this post. Blame "her," not me.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Dream Nudging

Last Friday, I gave a quiz on solving linear systems. Bit of a first-year-teacher move (not the Lemov kind...the stupid kind) 'cause they were by no means ready. There were objections, cries of slope-intercept injustice from the crowd, but in true no-excuses fashion I pushed forward. I knew worst case scenario was that all the quizzes accidentally slipped into the recycle bin instead of the gradebook (I've absolutely never done that).

Like all good mistakes, this one eventually came to an end and I was ready to declare an early exit to summer. As students were wrapping up, a young mind sitting near me passed me this note:

So many reactions. First, I smiled. As far as notes go, I've been slipped worse student musings(ex: "Please stop talking, Ms. Pace, I have a headache" and "Dewayne is picking his nose and wiping it on the desk. Make him stop?") So the very fact that this student used the word math felt like a win. Soon though, my surface-level pleasure was superceded by two things. One: I have no masters in math. Nor do I have plans to tell the students that. Two: This particular kiddo has a tendency towards loathing math.

So I did what all quality educators would have done in the situation; I acted like I knew what I was talking about. "Yes," I said to her after class, "it is tough stuff to get a graduate degree in math. It's usually a good first step to major in math in college and see where that leads!" (All of this said with too too much enthusiasm for the end of a Friday, of course). She replied that she was considering it but thought it might be hard, which would (clearly) turn her off to the idea entirely. Then instead of saying, "A math masters would be a big challenge, but you can totally do it if you put your mind to it!" or something of the sort, I said goodbye and politely asked her to scram. Her life musings were beginning to infringe on my Friday happy hour.

The logical next question is, per the quiz/recycling scenario, am I a bad person? Was I supposed to tell her that she can do anything she puts her mind to? Even if she writes "IDK"* on her classworks and frequently complains that math is boring/a force/not as much fun as doodling, etc? Unclear. Most students at my school want to be doctors, lawyers or "people in suits." All very admirable. There are certainly more doctors and lawyers than rappers and ballers - so that's great news. But many young students at my school also have trouble completing their homework every night and taking ownership of the fact that work might be, oh I don't know, anything but a cake-walk.

Do I want to be a dream-crusher? No. Do I want to be a gentle nudger in the direction of a more realistic dream? Maybe. Do I feel the need to shake a student who hasn't done homework for three weeks who says she wants to be a pediatrician and scream something to the effect of, "THEN DO YOUR FLIPPING HOMEWORK. WORK WITH ME AFTER SCHOOL. GO TO COLLEGE. AND BE BETTER AT LIFE!"? Yup.

Clearly I opted for a more stealthy exit from the conversation based largely on the fact that there was an adult soda waiting for me very close by. A chief reason I work in a charter school is that I think it offers the best chance for every one of my little cherubs to find happiness in the college/career/life of their choice. I just also want to lace their Dunkaccinos with a little pinch of "work harder" reality.

So you wanna be a doctor? Passing science might be the place to start.

Much love,
Ms. Pace

*IDK: The blood-curdling acronym for "I don't know" aka the worst answer possible.