Tag Archives: public school

Sorry, Kid

Ran into a former student and his mom on the street.

Mom: “How’s the tutoring business going?”
Me: “Great! But, you know (smiling at the kid)— I really miss the classroom!”
Mom: “Oh please. No you don’t.”
Me (laughing): “Really, I do!”
Mom: “You do NOT!”
Me: “I do!”
Mom (pointing at kid): “You don’t have to pretend for him. It’s fine.”
Me: “Ok yeah I really don’t.”


The Best Advice

At our end of year staff party…

Co-worker (to me): “I just want to wish you good luck in your future endeavors, and to say thank you so much for all your help when I first started here.”

Me: “Aw, thank you! But I definitely don’t remember being of any help at all!”

Co-worker: “No, you totally were. You gave me the best advice.”

Me: “Oh? What was that?”

Co-worker: “You said, ‘I’ve been here 4 years and I have no idea what I’m doing. If I haven’t gotten caught yet, neither will you.'”

It’s probably good I left the system.


June– It’s Not Good

Everyone I know, to me: “It’s June! You’re, like, DONE! You must be so happy!”


Fucking, just, no. No, no, no.

I’m sure this is very difficult for non-teachers to understand, but June is actually one of the worst months of the year in our profession. June carries with it a very specific, very potent, very excruciating kind of misery that is like the 3rd cousin of, but not directly related to, the general misery that permeates months September through May.

The kids are OUT. OF. CONTROL. The end-of-year housekeeping tasks are never ending and mind-numbingly dull. Administration is in a state of perpetual pissed-off. The building is 972 degrees, whether it’s a cool or hot day outside. Makes no difference. Heat and humidity of any kind gets trapped, it rises, the air conditioner breaks (if it even worked in the first place), and suddenly you feel as though you are trapped on the E-train platform in the dead of August. Surrounded by other people’s sweaty, prepubescent children. For 8 hours straight.

It’s not good.

So please. I know you all mean well, but save the “You’re done! You must be so happy!” for June 28th, 3:01pm, and not a moment before (or 3:10pm if you want a particularly animated response, as I’ll be 7 shots deep by then).

Because here’s what’s happening now:




(15 minutes later….)


June 3



A Teaching Metaphor

People often ask me what it’s like to teach at a city public school, so I figured I’d go ahead and create a pat answer that almost anyone can relate to.

You know that feeling you have when you’re trying to fold a fitted sheet? It’s like that.

But instead of one sheet, you’re folding 30 sheets at the same time.

And every sheet has its own unique challenge, in addition to the inherent challenge of it being a GODDAMN FITTED SHEET THAT WON’T FOLD.

Some of the sheets have holes in them, and no matter how gentle you try to be, you end up accidentally ripping them more, because they’re just too damn fragile.

Some are as stiff as cardboard and simply can’t be bent in any direction, no matter how hard you push, tug, and pull.

Some smell like stale sweat so you have to figure out a way to fold them without breathing, lest you vomit.

Some are falling apart at the seams.

Some have bed bugs.

Some are tear-stained.

Some are straight up covered in pee.

But you’re still expected to fold all 30 of them every single day, all at the same time, and put them neatly away. In a pristine pile. In a tiny, overheated closet that can’t possibly hold a pile of 30 sheets.

Then at 3pm, EVERY SINGLE DAY (even on the days you DO manage to create an actual pristine pile, which happens an average of 1 day per decade), the sheet manufacturers come by, rip open your tiny closet, rummage through your neat pile, and derail everything you worked so hard to do.

But don’t worry, you get another chance to fold them bright and early the next morning.

And every morning.

For the rest of your life.


But yeah otherwise teaching is great!

Sometimes I Have to Explain Things In a Way the Parent Will Understand

As I sit here writing an IEP (Individualized Education Plan) for a student in my class, I am reminded of a meeting years ago in which the parent of the child asked why her extremely emotionally disturbed son wasn’t at a higher reading level. I explained that young James was not excelling in reading (note: he was progressing, just not excelling) because he spent his days at school tantruming, curling up in a ball, instigating fights with other children, and hiding under the security desk in the school’s main lobby.

She then asked, “But you’re the special ed teacher, isn’t it your job to stop him and make him learn?”

I then showed her the learning goals I had outlined and was implementing for James, and explained that while it is my job to support his needs to my greatest ability, that is also my job for 28 other students in the class, and it is not always possible for me to “stop James and make him learn,” particularly when he is screaming curse words and throwing chairs at me.

She then asked “Then what is the point of having the special ed teacher there if she’s not helping the special ed kids?”

I then showed her the positive behavior reward system I had written and implemented for James, and explained that I am helping him, and he is progressing. I just can’t be all things at all times.

She then said “But if you were really helping, James would be at a higher reading level.”

I then showed her the pencil in my hand, and explained that I keep a pencil in my hand almost all day, as it is a superb tool for teaching children. To demonstrate this to her, I got a piece of paper, and showed her how with this pencil, I could write words, create visuals, edit mistakes, and expose children to all kinds of new educational concepts.

But no matter how hard I tried, when I pointed my pencil at students, I couldn’t seem to get it to shoot out fairy dust.

Because it’s a fucking pencil.

Not a magic wand.

And I’m not a wizard.



95 Degrees Tomorrow

Us (to the school custodian): “Will the AC be fixed tomorrow?! It’s going to be 95 degrees! We’re suffering in here and it’s only in the 80s today!”

Custodian: “You have FOUR DAYS left.”

Us: “But it’s so hot on the 5th floor! The heat rises! We can’t breathe!”

Custodian: “Not even 4 days! 3 and a half days! That’s IT. I’m here ALL SUMMER.”

Good. Someone to find my remains.