Thursday, October 4, 2012

The Presidential Debate and Education

Does it really matter to me what President Obama and Mitt Romney have to say about education? At the end of the day, their kids have never had to walk the same dirty, public school hallways as my kids. These two gentlemen know nothing about American education or how it feels to be a teacher left behind.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

ABCs of Teachers Left Behind

students Absent 4 out of 5 days
Budget cuts send many teachers home
overcrowding in Classrooms is not a joke
Deadlines that require after 8pm and
to do lists are Endless and regenerative
Faculty favorites do little work
Teaching = Grueling hours because of
Hostile, disrespectful students
Piles of paper – Immense and monotonous
Juggling meetings and grading papers
Fear of being stabbed with everything and a Knife
Lack of security
stress induced headaches; Major aches and pains
Necessary – most of it is not
unattainable Objectives
Preparing students for tests they don’t care to pass
lunch breaks too short to even be called Quick
Resting a moment – unthinkable
limited Supplies
Tennis shoes for hundred dollars, but they can’t buy pens and paper
Furloughs, Unpaid, making a small take home even smaller
Vain administrators ignore teacher needs
June and July is all We wait for
X-rays sometimes needed
Parents don’t talk; they Yell
Zero tolerance for teachers who speak out

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Kirkus Discoveries Review

Teachers finish last in this wickedly funny satire set at a public middle school in Georgia. At Vilyon Middle School—Home of the Valiant—administrators, students, parents and even the custodians ride roughshod over educators. As the school year begins, Principal Marsh waxes eloquent via loudspeaker about the joys of VMS, then demoralizes staff with a “teachers-should-never-sit-down” policy. Due to a budget crisis, funds aren’t available for teacher-appreciation day, but Marsh somehow finds $50,000 to pay bestselling authors to lecture at the school on love and discipline. Parents dictate what grades their children should receive and, if a teacher won’t play ball, they play the race card. At the front office, administrative employees confiscate brownies left as a gift for a teacher.

Students fight in the cafeteria and graffiti restroom walls with soap and maxi-pads. In group meetings, teachers are encouraged to ask for help but are emotionally pummeled for even the smallest request. One printer cartridge and one ream of copy paper must last each teacher the entire school year—not to worry, they can buy supplies out of pocket at cost. They’re also required to find their own substitutes or show up for work, no matter how incapacitated they are.

The author is wonderful at creating situations and moving the plot forward via e-mail, school announcements and the occasional conversation, navigating easily between the hilarious and the tragic. Characterizations are spot-on despite minimal description of individuals or setting. It all rings true until the final plot twist when the author slightly overplays a nearly perfect hand. Bitter broth for the soul, for teachers left behind in the American school system.

--Kirkus Discoveries

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Serious Question

Watching the news – asking myself if I make a difference each day I go into my classroom to teach. The majority of my students don’t listen to a word I say. At the end of the day when I think about a crazed gunman or in these crazy days, a crazed middle schooler, with a gun coming into my classroom – would I take a bullet for a student who called me a dumb bitch three days earlier? What would you do?

Thursday, May 28, 2009

A Tasty & Fun Recipe from HBF Teacher

This recipe is perfect for a group of teacher friends (or any group of good friends) on the first or last day of school or hey, any day where you need to relax. Compliments of HBF Teacher, the author of No Teachers Left Behind, please enjoy.

First/Last Day Cake
• 1 box yellow cake mix, without pudding (yes I said box because everything should not be done the hard way).
• 1 box (3 ½ oz) instant vanilla pudding (please see the previously mentioned note).
• 4 eggs
• 1 cup milk
• 1 shot of Canadian Club whiskey (1 ½ oz)
• ½ cup cooking oil (I use vegetable just because it’s the healthy thing to do)
• 1 cup finely chopped walnuts
Additional ingredients for the Cake Topping:
• ¼ pound (1 stick) butter
• 1 cup sugar
• ½ cup Canadian Club whiskey
• 1 Bottle of the tastiest/cheapest wine you can find (not used for any portion of the cake, but gee, it tastes good going down). Add an additional bottle of wine for each additional group member.

Now get the cooking party started:

1) Place any George Clooney movie in the DVD/TV player in your kitchen. For extra flavor, select one of the Ocean’s movies – that way you can have a George, Matt, and Brad trio. Looking at them will make the stirring more fun. Be sure and have your first glass of wine when George Clooney appears on screen the first time.
2) Combine the cake mix, pudding, eggs, milk, whiskey (shot glass), oil, and walnuts.
3) Mix for 3 minutes then pour into a greased floured tube pane.
4) If exhausted after all this work, please have another glass of wine.
5) Bake at 350 degrees for 50 to 60 minutes.
6) While cake is baking, remember to lust over George Clooney with wine and friends. During the last five to ten minutes of bake time, be sure and pre-make your syrup topping.
7) Remove cake from oven, but leave the cake in the pan.
8) Poke holes with a meat fork in the top of the cake.
9) Pour about two thirds of the syrup topping (see directions below) over the cake and let stand for about thirty minutes.
10) Remove the cake from the pan and pour the remaining syrup over the cake.
11) Enjoy with more wine, friends, and George.

**Syrup Topping directions:
To make the topping, melt the butter, add the sugar and whiskey and cook until sugar is dissolved and the mixture is syrupy.

Monday, May 25, 2009


The last day of school – boy had I waited for it. Then it finally came! Unlike most of my co-workers who were sad to see their students leave, I was downright ecstatic. Despite my best wishes for their academic and personal successes, the majority of my students had made my 2008 – 2009 school year a living hell. Since August, it seemed to me my students had either ignored every word I said and/or disrespected me in at least as hundred different ways. It should not have surprised them that May 20, 2009 was to me the most joyous of occasions.

With that said, I was shocked speechless when one of my students presented me with a beautiful rose and the most softest of teddy bears and told me quietly in the hallway, away from all her peers, that I was the most wonderful teacher in the world. Again I was quite speechless, for this young lady, whom I shall call Maria, had been quite a handful. Her mind was more on young men and shocking her parents and other authority figures than it was on her studies. She so rarely did her homework (perhaps seven or eight times the entire school year) that I actually applauded in class when she turned an assignment in to me. After I gained my composure, I told Maria, “thank you” and gave her a brief hug.

When we entered the classroom, Maria returned to her usual self, promptly cussing out the young lady who sat next to her for presumably stealing a priceless pencil. I let them bicker for a moment (after all it was the last day of school), and as the other students got in on the debate, I smiled. This is what they had done all year, over the smallest of things. But for one moment, I had seen a different side of just one of them, and for that reason, perhaps I would find my way inside of a classroom in August.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


Have you ever wondered what it's like to be inside today's public schools as a teacher? Do you think your perspective as a parent allows for an understanding of the inner workings of a school, especially the demands put upon teachers from all directions? The author of No Teachers Left Behind, writing under the alias HBF Teacher (that's for 'Hopeful but Frustrated'), takes this matter into his or her own hands by presenting readers with an inside view of an American public middle school, complete with a large cast of teachers, administrators and students who, for better or for worse, are often portrayed in ways that have sadly become the more common stereotypes.

For the sake of full disclosure, my own personal perspective on the current state of our public school system is not always very positive. I speak as a parent of an elementary school student (in a local public school), as well as the wife of a former public high school teacher. We live in an urban setting, with overcrowded schools and an ever-persistent eye on the almighty test scores (which is of course, a direct watch on school funding, sadly). So, like all readers, I went into this book with my own personal baggage, and I wondered where it would take me.
Told mostly through a series of email correspondences, intermixed with brief interactions among the key players of the school setting as well as short poetry pieces, No Teachers Left Behind doesn't paint a rosy picture. From the ridiculously double-standarded principal, whose emails left a literal bad taste in my mouth, to the combative work environment that pits support staff and teachers against each other, this setting is troublesome to say the least. The expectations for teachers to manage their students with little administrative support for discipline referrals (even in-school suspensions count against the attendance record, which of course is taken into account when determining a school's Adequate Yearly Progress), got to be so overwhelming that I found myself asking my husband if the events could be realistic at all. Sadly, his responses were affirmative time and time again, either from direct experiences or from stories he's heard in the field.

Is there a degree of exaggeration or absurdity in this book? Absolutely, I won't deny that, but I don't think the entire book should be lumped into that category. There are fault lines in our entire public education system, and they are deeply embedded. The cracks are visible at the surface, though, if we take the time to examine the actual school environments. HBF Teacher offers up a fictional account of the experiences of today's teachers, with the reader left wondering exactly how much is actually fictional.