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Oct 12 2012


I have never been so anxious about feedback in my life. I have to collect some anonymous survey data from teachers so that I can set goals for my year, and it has me shaking in my boots. I know that this is a great opportunity and their answers are information that I really want…

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Oct 11 2012

Basically A Cop?

I’ve started seeing the following advertisement in my Gmail account: “Mobile Drug Test Kits For Law Enforcement Authorities”   This wouldn’t be noteworthy, except for the fact that Gmail uses information it picks up from your emails to target your ads. It’s also important to note that this comes from my personal email account, where…

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Oct 10 2012

Imagine the rest of my day…

Today, the following words came out of my mouth:   “This is not the time to make excuses for your child. No matter how frightened I have ever been, in my entire life, fear has never caused me to say descriptive things about anyone’s mom’s pubic hair. That is just not a typical stress response.”

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Sep 27 2012

Knowing Parents

I am really bad at parents.   More generally, I am bad at faces; it takes multiple encounters for me to even recognize a face, much less put it with a name. Every year, I explain this to students, ask forgiveness in advance, and then quiz myself relentlessly (“Hi. Is your name John?”) until I…

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Sep 26 2012

Not Aging Gracefully

Sometimes, I have to spend all day with kids who are in too much trouble to go back to class. Today was one of those days.   I was sitting in my office, trying to get work done, and this kid was supposed to be writing an essay. Unfortunately, he is an incessant pencil-tapper and…

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Sep 22 2012


I dealt with my first very very infuriated parent today. His son got into a fight and he seemed like he was supportive of how I handled it. When he dropped the boy off today, he met with another administrator and seemed fine. Then he called me hours later, ENRAGED, and started yelling at me…

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Sep 21 2012

I didn’t even cry.

One of my Regulars came into the office today, absolutely fuming with rage. She was yelling and ranting nearly incoherently and talking to her was impossible. It took her a loooooooooooooooooooong time to calm down. I was maneuvering so delicately with her that I was paying attention to my posture: I made myself consciously sit…

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Sep 20 2012

Taking Responsibility

A kid got sent to my office today for being tirelessly difficult and disrespectful in class. The hard part about working with him is that he absolutely refuses to take responsibility for anything. After a lot of talking, I finally got him to admit to five different things he had done during that class period,…

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Sep 19 2012

Witchcraft for Angry Boys

I was talking to a psychologist about how to help angry kids calm down when they don’t yet have the mechanism to calm themselves. We’ve tried various forms of breaks, none of which work very well. If we let kids decide for themselves, they don’t yet know what works for them. If we let kids…

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Sep 18 2012

Why I need to know everything

I am learning about gangs. I’m learning which ones are in our neighborhood and which ones are in the city but not near us. I’m learning who uses which colors. I’m learning alternate names and lots of symbolism. Some of it comes of the internet, but mostly our campus security guard is teaching me. He…

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Sep 11 2012

Small Victories

I have been fighting tooth and nail to get this kid to serve his detentions. He has football practice after school and a shaky home life, and had it in his head from Day 1 that detention wasn’t for him.   The first detention he skipped, I went through all the standard consequences. He was…

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Sep 07 2012

Hugs All Around

I need you to imagine an angry, angry sixth grade boy. He’s having a hard time adjusting to middle school, he keeps getting in trouble in his classes, and he’s just gotten scolded in PE. He isn’t able to control his anger and storms away, yelling. I find him sitting in a staircase, yelling “This…

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Sep 06 2012

Why I’m Not A Novelist

I am feeling isolated. I feel entirely alone in the bubble that is my job and I hate it.   There is a huge chunk of student life that I’m just in charge of. It’s my business what we do and how it gets done, which is an incredible amount of freedom but also means…

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Sep 05 2012

Why I Shouldn’t Judge

If there’s one thing that irritates me about first-year teachers, it’s when they start the year thinking they’ll make everything look easy. That by just working a little harder and wanting it a little more, they’ll succeed where the rest of us failed. That by refusing to acknowledge that enormous challenges might stand in the…

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Sep 01 2012

Chasing Children

I chased a child yesterday. His dad dropped him off late to school, and the kid decided that entering the building wasn’t really his thing. He just kept going. By the time a teacher got me down there, he was cutting through a park a couple blocks away.   I wish I had the rest…

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Aug 28 2012

Week 0

School started, and I’ve never been so relieved. It sounds all wrong, but hundreds of children entering the building was a breath of fresh air compared to preparing for hundreds of children to enter the building.   In the week leading up to the first day, I worked pretty much nonstop. I put in 13-hour…

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Aug 26 2012


Last year’s test scores are back. Mine are good. In-the-media good. Everyone’s-congratulating-me good. Biggest-relief-of-my-life good.   It’s especially exciting because I stressed out for so much of last year over how to teach math. Everyone around me was giving me advice that effectively amounted to teaching to the test. I didn’t want to ignore the…

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Aug 18 2012

More Nightmares

Before the first day of school after a break, I always have nightmares. Every time, it’s been me standing in front of a huge group of kids, none of whom will listen to me. They talk to one another and find creative ways to misbehave. I try every strategy I can think of, and it…

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Aug 14 2012

The Yard Sale Math Book

In the office today, we had a kid spend a few extra hours at school making up some work he owes. This is not often a kid who even shows up at school, which means he’s also often not a kid with all his work done. He also might be a record-holder in a couple…

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Aug 06 2012

How To Talk About Race?

Hey Teacher Community,   My school is trying to start dialogue on our staff about race, class, privilege, and how our own identities affect our classrooms. We have an extremely diverse group of students and a predominately white staff, and some of our teachers have expressed interest in gaining more awareness about the various issues…

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Jul 14 2012

Someone Else’s Easy Day

I taught math all day today. (Remember when that wouldn’t have been a noteworthy sentence?) A teacher wanted the chance to go observe in some other classrooms, and I wanted the chance to hang out with our new students in a non-disciplinary situation. I got to explain math and crack jokes and play games with…

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Jul 13 2012

Adjusting To New Insanity

My first day with kids in my new job, I was astounded by how easy my life was. We had done a lot of work ahead of time to prepare for the first day of summer school, and I figured the up-front planning was just going to make my life great. Everything went more or…

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Jul 05 2012

Better Than The Alternative

It was October of my first year teaching when I finally cried, hard, about joining TFA. I was exhausted, my classroom management was quickly deteriorating, and my kids didn’t seem to be learning. Every day, I saw a million reasons why the kids in my classroom needed the World’s Best Teacher, and every day I…

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Jun 29 2012

Guns and Babies

I somehow ended up sitting at my kitchen table, reading a report on school shootings. I got distracted from some discipline strategies research I was doing and ended up unable to tear my attention away from this report. It was written by the Secret Service and the US Department of Education, and it’s basically a…

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Jun 20 2012

Retaining Kids

There might be nothing in the world I hate more than Retention Meetings. Teachers in my old district always complained that we just passed on kids no matter what, but they clearly never had to be a part of meetings like this. Having to tell a parent that their child needs to do sixth grade…

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