Archive for March, 2008

Quarter grades were due Friday. These grades determine, in part, eligibility for fall sports tryouts; more than a few students entered a sort of panicked-but-attempting-studious mode.

One of my newer students is fresh from the Deep South and is, I suppose, quite the would-be athlete. Though he enrolled a few weeks ago, I don’t know him that well. He shows up to class maybe about half of the time.

He asked me in a tone of voice I’m sure he thought was polite if there was anything to do to help his F become something other than an F.  I told him it his F was probably his fault.

He became offended.

I just haven’t been here. You can’t give me a C or nothin’?

“You’ll have time to improve your grade by the semester. You’ve only been here for three weeks, so you haven’t racked up that big of a hole for yourself. Start showing up and start doing the work and I’m sure you’ll be fine.

“If you were gone, and you have a good reason, then it isn’t your fault. If you were gone from class and you don’t have a good reason, then it is your fault.”

That’s not fair.

I just walked away. I’ll let him complain to someone else.

Moral of the story? Nothing’s fair.


It was the first day back from spring break, and I was in need of a new water bottle. I drink water, and quite a lot of it through the school day. Though I’m told drinking too much water could be a sign of early onset diabetes — not to mention family history two generations deep — I don’t really care about that.

Plastic bottles weren’t cutting it. Forgetting my irrational lack of caution toward diabetes, I am most a-feared of cancer. As I hear it, refilling plastic bottles will get you your very own cancer, and not the kind you get better from.

It’s a good thing that Tapatio comes in a glass bottle.

I had invested in a 32-ounce bottle of Tapatio, a Mexican hot sauce made by real Mexicans and is sold at warehouse discount stores around my city. I bought my bottle in celebration — mourning? — of spring break’s lack of dorm cafeteria.

I had finished it not an hour before I decided I needed a new water bottle.

If nothing else, drinking water from this Tapatio bottle should buy me some street cred with students. Our high school is 48 percent Hispanic.

Reactions ranged from disbelief and shock to near-asphyxiation from laughter. My seniors held back their dismay much more easily than my sophomores, some of whom still giggle at the sight of me twisting off the top and chugging away.

Once I had made clear that it was a glass bottle, one hopefully unattentive student asked me if I had been squeezing the water out.

Overall, my street cred was gained. I imagine Bulldog membership is on the way.

Moral of the story? Tapatio: the ultimate equalizer.

Hang out in the staff lounge in some California school. Eventually, you’ll hear something like this:

Standards stifle teacher creativity. Standards are unachievable. Standards impose an oligarch’s curriculum on all of us. Standards must be stopped.

I used to accept that out of hand. Who was I to argue? I had never planned a lesson or directed a classroom before. For all I know, my teachers were right to say that.

Once I started planning lessons, I found that standards were far from the lumbering, cumbersome beast all those other teachers made them out to be. They were actually pretty helpful.

For instance, I was having trouble deciding on Supreme Court cases for one of my jigsaws. Instead of racking my brain and worrying, I looked at the standards. Standard 12.5.3 requests that we cover Marbury v. Madison; McCulloch v. Maryland; United States v. Nixon.

Done and done. See how easy that was?

I never taught in that golden age that was apparently “teach whatever the hell you feel like.” Maybe there never was that golden age. Either way, I’ve resolved to stop trying to live in that past and ignore curmudgeonly teachers who insist that these standards amount to nothing but bureaucratic garbage.

Sure, maybe one of my advisers insists that historians were involved in no part of designing the history standards. I’m no actual historian, either. Therefore, I don’t mind compounding the error. If this makes me sound incompetent, don’t worry — I passed a test.

Even an actual history major just starting out on this teaching thing should welcome the standards as the conscious, if incomplete, checklist that they are.

Thank your lucky stars that these standards, even if forced, keep us non-history majors from just making things up.

Moral of the story? If some teachers seem like they’re a pension plan away from yelling at kids on their lawn, respect them as such.