The Last Day Friday June 25, 2010: Long Time

 

Today is my last day at Fremont. I know I’ve been doing the Countdown at Mont-town, but betwixt furlough days and the vagaries of reading a calendar, I’ve ended up with two sets of numbers. I like to think the year ends on June 30, as it has every year. But today, mind you, the year at the Mont ends, June 25, 2010. The Old Fremont is dead. We lost.

 

We lost that battle. Many of you will move on, try to put this unpleasant six months out of your memories. You will try to forget about this place many of us fought for, You will concentrate on the new positions or try to get used to the New Fremont, where money will roll in and solve the problems. Or you’ll return to grad school or serve as a pool teacher somewhere.

 

But your thoughts will creep back. My advice? Face them. I remember when I was dating someone and her teenaged daughter got hit by a drunk driver (she’s okay, by the way). But I remembered my friend asking her daughter six months later to get a beer for me. I flew off the handle. I went nuclear. I thought my reasons were because a minor was going to hand me a beer. Then I had it pointed out that I was mad at myself for having driven that way in the past. Ouch. (For the record, I was still mad about the first part). But I wanted to shove that part away.

 

I urge you all to talk about what happened over these last six months. It will help. Yes, move on with your lives. Maybe folks will connect on Facebook. If what I’ve heard is true, no other place is like the Mont. It gets under your skin. There’s a certain vibe to the place. Just don’t make the mistake of trying to turn whatever school you’re at into the Mont. I think a number of us have made that mistake before, both with schools, and other areas. Yeah, I’m guilty. When have I ever tried to hide my faults, eh?

 

So I’m writing this to sort out my thoughts and feelings, as I’ve written for 163 days. Huh. I just looked at that number and just realized that’s a school year on our calendar.

 

When I first started firing off these blasts, I remember driving in on my off-track time and standing in Mary Hoover’s office questioning my sanity and what I was doing. I’d just seen “Pirate Radio” days before (my God, I think this was the day in January when McKenna gave us the line that immortalized the whole event), and was telling Mary how, in the first few minutes of the movie, I’d totally identified with the character of the Count, the American DJ whose disdain for the laws of Britain was pretty pronounced. In some ways, I started to see my job as the equivalent to the Count’s. I wanted to keep firing until we had nothing to fire.

 

Well, I still have stuff to fire. Just a few minutes ago, I just got a text that the N.Y. Times is running an article on what a success LockeHigh School is. And the question asked in the text: “Where are all the bad kids?” There’s stuff to write about. So I guess I’ve got to put the new site together.

But the website is winding down. When it was set up, it was given a lifespan of six months, since its creator figured the issue would be settled in six months. In a way, it has. Many of us are moving on. We’ve made our decisions. And like the ship broadcasting its pirate radio signal, the website is sinking. So I guess it’s up to me to play the Count for a few more minutes.

 

(Speaking on air for the last time as the ship is sinking) "To all our listeners, this is what I have to say, God bless you all! As for you bastards in charge, don't dream it's over. All over the world young men and young women will always dream and put those dreams into song.”—The Count, “Pirate Radio”

 

In the last six months, many of you have been participants in a tour through my head. Some of you were entertained. Many of you had suspicions confirmed. Some of you were dragged unwillingly into the way my mind works, and for that I apologize. I just wanted you to care about what was happening around you as much as I did. Some of you are reluctant/uncomfortable to speak up. Someone like me, who can be very loud and abrasive, can make your world unpleasant. But some have told me that I’ve at times given words to the feelings that many of you were having, whether it be of frustration, anger, depression… or shame. I tried to be that voice, no matter what the consequences, and sometimes I grew bitter over that self-appointed task. But when I saw some of you vulnerable, hugged of you as you teared up, it drove me on. I told one of you who reapplied that no matter what, win, lose or draw, I knew I would have to leave the Mont. We did not succeed. Many of us are leaving the Mont.

 

Superintendent Cortines will declare this a victory—even though he’s already training his anointed successor and will probably be gone when the fallout of this foolhardy decision gets bad. Dr. George McKenna III, while gloating that he “broke the teachers”, will be gone soon enough, looking for speaking engagements so he can talk about Washington Prep, but I doubt he’ll want to bring up what happened at the Mont. The School Board, which applauded Superintendent Cortines’ “courageous” decision, is already undergoing change. Mr. Balderas, who has celebrated success, still goes downtown and is still trying to fill positions, the boos from Graduation turning his ears red.

 

“Doesn't matter what the press says. Doesn't matter what the politicians or the mobs say. Doesn't matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is something right. This nation was founded on one principle above all else: the requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world – ‘No, you move.’”—Captain America, “Amazing Spider-Man”

 

So today we make our goodbyes, get our signatures for the sign-out sheets, clear the last items from our desks as the maintenance crew prepares for the “deep cleaning” the school will undergo. I’ll have a last cup of coffee with my Mont family and look out the open windows at the desolate parking lot. My coffee maker and stand will be loaded into the back of my SUV and my laptop will be thrown in beside it—after I spent the morning listening to Crosby, Stills & Nash, the Guess Who and Traffic. Today we hand over our rollbooks and go to Mr. Spielberg’s office to return our keys. I will shake his hand at that time, because I respect him.

 

"I believe that when we leave a place, part of it goes with us and part of us remains. Go anywhere in the station, when it is quiet, and just listen. After a while, you will hear the echoes of all our conversations, every thought and word we've exchanged. Long after we are gone… our voices will linger in these walls for as long as this place remains. But I will admit… that the part of me that is going… will very much miss the part of you that is staying."

G'Kar to Sheridan, Babylon 5, “Objects in Motion”

 

Did we have a chance? Was it worth it?

 

Opening Narration: “Sports item, circa 1974: Battling Maxo, B2, heavyweight, accompanied by his manager and handler, arrives in Maynard, Kansas, for a scheduled six-round bout. Battling Maxo is a robot, or, to be exact, an android - definition: 'an automaton resembling a human being.' Only these automatons have been permitted in the ring since prizefighting was legally abolished in 1968. This is the story of that scheduled six-round bout- more specifically, the story of two men shortly to face that remorseless truth: that no law can be passed which will abolish cruelty or desperate need - nor, for that matter, blind animal courage. Location for the facing of said truth: a small, smoke-filled arena just this side of the Twilight Zone.”

 

Closing Narration: “Portrait of a losing side, proof positive that you can't outpunch machinery. Proof also of something else: that no matter what the future brings, man's capacity to rise to the occasion will remain unaltered. His potential for tenacity and optimism continues, as always, to outfight, outpoint and outlive any and all changes made by his society, for which three cheers and a unanimous decision rendered from the Twilight Zone.”

            Rod Serling, The Twilight Zone, “Steel”

 

Yeah. It was worth it. To stand as we did? Yeah, in a heartbeat. Good Luck.

 

Resurgam. I shall rise again.

 



 

 
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Day 7 Thursday June 24, 2010: My Old School

 

Today is Thursday, June 24, 2010 and Day 7 of my time left at the Mont. Actually, since school ends tomorrow, I should more properly call it Day 2. We’re winding down. Sometimes, time seems to drag. Other times, it speeds up, like a taped highlight of a football player running in a pass, the Flash (pick any of them, Jay Garrick, Barry Allen,  Wally West, the current Flash, or Bart Allen) going by in a blur.

 

But it is, almost, over. Today is a day to gather signatures and make goodbyes, because some of us will skip tomorrow and some of us want to just get out the door and meet the future. More and more of us are interviewing, or already have jobs. Others are asking, “See if that school has any openings in (insert subject).” We’re looking out for each other. It has been deeply moving to see this faculty, by a twist of fate, come together more as forces pull us our separate ways. Today, it is an inspiration to be a Pathfinder.

 

You may have noticed I recycle a lot of classic rock song titles for the titles of this arrows I shoot. Some might call them the rocks I throw. I think I read too much Harlan Ellison in my formative years. Yeah, Juan and Jasmine let me know in no uncertain terms I’m not allowed to reference any more songs prior to 1989. Too bad—product of my times. Heh. Here’s some of the titles for this piece that didn’t make the cut:

 

“Movin’ On”, Bad Company

“Find the Cost of Freedom”, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

“Go Your Own Way”, Fleetwood Mac

“Fire and Rain”, James Taylor

“Carry On Wayward Son”, Kansas

“Silent Running”, Mike & the Mechanics

“Long May You Run”, the Stills-Young Band

“Slip Slidin’ Away”, Paul Simon

“Ridin’ the Storm Out”, REO Speedwagon

“Don’t You (Forget About Me)”, Simple Minds

“Alive and Kicking”, Simple Minds

 

Each would have been selected for a specific purpose, whether it be title, a piece of the lyrics, mood; none of the titles were chosen by chance. Nor were the references to movies, TV shows, books or comics. It’s pretty much how I orchestrate my lessons: what we’re covering, quotes(s) for the day, primary sources, pictures, background music. Well, Mr. Balderas, I guess that won’t be happening at the Mont anymore. May you enjoy the house you built. Instead of a steely gaze, when you walk through the halls, why don’t you try looking those people in the eye and really see what you’ve done here?

 

And, as I said, I carefully choose my other references. Some would say I haven’t grown up. I surround myself with comic books and think of superheroes. But there’s a lot of wisdom and life-lessons to be gleaned from the four-color format. Last night, I dug out my copy of Marvel’s “Civil Wars: The Confession” to reread a section. For the comic book-challenged, Captain America and Iron Man/Tony Stark (you ought to know who he is, because of the movies) had been members of the Avengers together. However, a catastrophic mistake by young heroes cost 600 innocent civilians their lives. The superhero world splits because Iron Man feels all heroes should be registered and trained, while Captain America feels that would endanger loved ones, hindering what they do. What ensues is a civil war, until Cap surrenders when he sees the destruction being wrought on the very people he wants to protect. The two former friends confront each other in Cap’s cell:

 

“Do you actually think the fact that you know how to program a computer makes you more of a human being than me? That I'm out of touch because I don't know what you know? I know what freedom is. I know what it feels like to fight for it and I know what it costs to have it. You know compromise.” Captain America to Tony Stark, “Civil War: The Confession”

 

Many of us have disagreed in these past six months. We’ve disagreed on policy, on the philosophy of what we do, on goals and tactics. But, no matter what, we agreed it was ultimately about the kids. They were—no, are—the ones who matter in this.

 

We did our jobs. We did behave with honor, as was pointed out in an email to me. The shame I have felt at times through this ordeal… I can’t feel it now. As I write this, listening to “The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys,” I have seniors coming to me, talking about what they’ve learned from me. We’re finishing each other’s thoughts. And I look around the barren room, thinking about what they’ll carry away from here. Leon Trotsky once wrote, “We die only when we fail to take root in others.” Those former students coming to me carry ideas we taught them. No pacing plan, no RTI, no mandates from the District, will take away that these students are going to be free thinkers.

 

This is what you did. Be proud of it.

 
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Day 8 Wednesday June 23, 2010: Standing On Higher Ground

 

Today is Wednesday, June 23, 2010 and Day 8 of my time left at the Mont. I gave my last final exam at the Mont and got it out of the way First Period: two hours with kids I absolutely love; changed the final on them, since all the other classes had an advantage—the subjects of the essays were given to them the day before they were due. So First had to walk in cold. The five questions totaling 18 paragraphs on the Cold War became the student’s choice, as long as they wrote 9 paragraphs.

 

It was so different from what I normally do. The Utopia Project is my usual finale, the year’s swan-song. . It summarizes their efforts and demonstrates learning for the entire year of World History.

 

“A number of proposed utopian communities are being established in a great experiment.  Your 7-person team (as we covered seven units this year) has been selected to design and construct a utopia, a perfect society, on one of these island chains for a group of 50,000 (about10timesthesizeofFremont).” It tackles geography, including mapping the utopia, describing climate and resources, the creation of a government, and social programs. How will their government care for the poor?  How will it deal with housing issues?  As part of this, the students design an ideal city, including a map. They also answer the questions: “What rights does each and every person have?  When are you considered to be an adult?  What are your obligations as a citizen?”

 

They propose an educational system and deal with these questions: “Is education free?  Is it mandatory?  For how long?  What subjects will be taught?  Who has access to higher education?  Remember this is a utopia.” 

 

Since I take an anthropological approach to teaching history, they even look at the shape of the family. “What shape does the family take in your utopia?  How do we care for the young, the disabled, the elderly? The make-up of the family also determines the type of housing.  Describe the dwellings and include a diagram of typical family housing.” They explore economic issues, as well, preparing them for their senior year. (HEY! Superintendent Cortines! HEY! Dr. George McKenna III! HEY! Mr. Balderas! Are you reading this? THIS IS WHAT WE DID AT THE MONT!)

 

Now we get to the fun topics, the ones that show who they really are.

 

For “Art/Literature/Music/Architecture: “You must select examples of each of these from each era we studied, to be preserved as part of your society.  You are selecting the best of mankind and its greatest achievements; include pictures and examples.  Hint: you can include your architecture in your planned communities, and briefly explain how you are using it, such as a copy of Versailles for a museum (telling me what is displayed—is there music playing?) or a concert hall for the performance of music & plays, telling me what is performed there.”

 

The science fiction stuff: the “Advisors”: “In order to help you build this society, you will be allowed to resurrect people from the past, using their DNA (kind of a JurassicPark thing) to serve as your advisors.  You must select several from each era: the Classical World, Medieval times, the Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the Victorian era, the Twentieth century, and the Cold War. You must tell me who you are selecting and why?  What will be their area of expertise?  How could they contribute to your utopia?  Your list of advisors will include philosophers, scientists, world leaders, generals, monarchs—those from the past who made a contribution.  You must explain your choices in two paragraphs each—accomplishments and what they bring to the table.” There was a lively debate over who was a better Prime Minister: Benjamin Disraeli or William Gladstone. Why was the Magna Carta a big deal when the English Bill of Rights protected more people? Who was more important to the Renaissance: Leonardo da Vinci or Michelangelo? I remember a screaming fight over bringing back Beethoven and whether to cure his hearing loss or not. I sat in wonder, listening to the passion my students had as they argued for and against: “Think how much more he could do if his hearing was okay.” “No, it was because he knew his hearing was going that he was able to create his music!” That’s the joy of teaching; the unexpected beauty you discover along the way.

 

Each team had over a week to design the utopia, describing it with about 70 paragraphs, including pictures, examples of art, designs of their capital and planned community.  In order to achieve a grade of 70% or better, a team had to write about each subject area.  The more included in the subject area, the better the grade.

 

Not this year.

 

With all the distractions, with the shortening of the year, with the uncertainty of the future, I canned the project. It became, instead of the dreams of building and taking the best from humanity’s past, dealing with admittedly very powerful and moving ideas and concepts, but a lot more pedestrian. The good news? Most of the kids participated; many did well.

 

But a huge part of me wants to know what future they would have built. It’s kind of like a movie I love (Juan Puentes and Jasmine Lucas are groaning now), “The Time Machine” (the ‘60s one):

 

“There are three books missing from the shelf.”

 

“Can you tell which ones?”

 

“No… but if it was you, what three books would you take?”

 

So, I ask you: what three books would you take?  I guess we’ll have to wait to see what future they will build. But isn’t that ever the way?

 

 

I’m posting today’s and tomorrow’s entries as comments, since the Save Fremont website is expiring. Perhaps it has served its purpose. For the six months it existed, it rallied many of the faculty, staff, students, parents and alums to the cause, trying to preserve the Cardinal and Gray. But the site is gone. My plan is to create the new site and keep firing away. So here is the today’s post. Tomorrow’s follows shortly afterwards because I want people to read it before they walk away from the Mont.

 

 
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Day 9 Tuesday, June 22, 2010 School’s Out

 

Today is Tuesday, June 22, 2010 and Day 9 of my time left at the Mont. The Class of 2010 graduates today, but I won’t be there. Yes, it is a time of celebration, and I’m proud of the kids I had who managed to make it through what Superintendent Cortines and Dr. George McKenna III consider ineffectual teaching. I don’t want to watch Mr. Balderas posturing as if he had something to do with the kids graduating, calling them “The Mighty Pathfinders” with all the sincerity of a used car salesman—I’m sorry, that should be pre-owned vehicle customer service representative, eh? I don’t want to listen to political platitudes about how there are challenges ahead and making the travesty of the New Fremont sound like a noble crusade. I know I’m sounding like a text I received yesterday: “Today’s Boston forecast: very bitter with absolutely NO chance of parade!” It’s the same reason I didn’t buy a yearbook, something I do every year. I did it at Norco and CoronaHigh Schools, Letha Raney Junior High, Edison Junior High/Middle School and here. But this one isn’t right. For me. Let others make their choices.

 

We certainly did that with the reapplication process, with people changing their minds.

 

Let’s add insult to injury. I’ve just had my final interrupted by a maintenance guy who has come in to replace the air filter in my asthmatic A.C. Yesterday I was being interrupted to look up information on students for an A.P. class here next year, to stop what I’m doing because someone’s needs are obviously more important. Today, it’s okay to interrupt finals for maintenance issues. I get it, okay? It is clearly more important to get the Mont ready for the next school year while shoving its current residents out the door.

 

Yesterday, I had the pleasurable experience of being part of a panel of educators (yes, I used the word)—specifically Anthony Cody and Heather Wolpert-Gawron—interviewed by Elyse Eidman-Aadahl for NWP Radio. It will broadcast Thursday at 4:00 p.m. at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/nwp_radio.  On the program, we’ll be discussing Teacher Voice and Educational Policy—actually, we did that. I brought Fremont’s story into the mix, as well, and my changing sense of perspective.

 

You see, one of the things I’d been mulling over is “What happens on July 1st?” I have made this fight so much a part of me. Since January, this disaster which is to be Fremont has eaten so much of my time, I pretty much lived the fight. In fact I started to wonder at what it was doing to me. I thought at times of Chief Bromden in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” who when discussing his father, said, “He would drink from his bottle, and after a while, the bottle was drinking from him.” (Quoted from memory). Am I using the fight to fill up the empty spaces? What happens when there is no more fight, when we have to admit we lost?

 

Maybe it is time to change the rules, the direction. I’ve mentioned this in a couple of places already, but I’ll state it here, now: I intend to put together a website, and I’m thinking it ought to serve as a clearing-house for information on reconstitution, and the Abomination that Race to the Top is becoming, not that it’s in a relationship (to use Facebook terminology) with No Child Left Behind. I’d like it to become a place, I think, where folks could go who are facing the situation in their own schools, a rallying point. It might also become a place where people going through this could share their stories.

 

Great, I just flashed on—hey, Billy Pilgrim, of “Slaughterhouse 5” bounces through time, while I bounce through movies/TV/comics and novels—Spartacus, “An army of gladiators. There’s never been an army like that.” But that’s coming from what we were discussing for the show yesterday. One of the topics we discussed yesterday—at least I felt we did—is that teachers need to step up and speak out on educational policy. We tried that at the Mont, but too many of us wavered, too many waffled. So many reapplied; even though many are not taking the positions at the Mont, if we’d stuck together and been more vocal, we might be looking at next year a little differently. Teachers have come up and said, “I like reading your stuff. No, I’m just going to take what they give me and complain, but I like reading your stuff.”

 

I was hoping for more. Even before Anthony kicked off his Summer of Teacher Discontent (see Day 34 “You Are Like a Hurricane”).

 

What I talked about yesterday was how this website has made me see things differently. Too often, we shut ourselves away in out classrooms (done that, often when I’m in heavy armor or just sick of people), or have lunch with a select few (again, done that, and it’s great to have those friendships in the workplace which I hope will extend beyond the Mont) or go to the teachers’ cafeteria and see who sits where, and what table is the “cool table”. Faculty meetings don’t really give us much of a chance to shape our profession, nor do PDs; they are all top-down and too many of us are watching the clock, thinking about the commute, dinner, bills.

 

Then there was talk of charters and the mayor’s schools invading our little sheltered worlds. And many of us could ignore that, like distant thunder in the mountains. And talk of reconstitution was scary, but could be ignored. Then the storm hit us. There is a phrase Doug Christensen, Commissioner of Education for Nebraska, used when he described the state of education: “We are in the midst of a perfect storm.”

 

When I wrote that first letter in January, it was supposed to be my thoughts which I was trying to sort out, sent to a few. Instead, I got a bunch of addresses and hit “Send.” Nothing has been the same, ever since. Mat passed on my email to a different audience and the next day I was asked to a meeting at UTLA. En route, Anthony Cody contacted me and I dove off into a Coffee Bean near UTLA to respond. He reposted that first one, and later Susan Ohanian did likewise. Suddenly I was aware, acutely so, of much greater issues and so many others. I felt like Sam Gamgee leaving the Shire, and often I wonder what the hell am I doing?

 

There is so much to learn. I feel like I was thrown into the deep end and I’m learning to tread water, while I learn about these issues, grabbing at them like floating logs. But we need to learn about these issues. So much of what we do shapes society, shapes the future. We often speak of individuals having value and yet we stand by and watch ourselves get cheapened, perhaps because it is easier to complain than to act, perhaps because we don’t get just how enormous the problems are or how we can solve them.

 

That’s where these blogsites come in. It feels like a second job sometimes. I look at AnthonyCody’s Living in Dialog at http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/living-in-dialogue/,

At Nancy Flanagan’s Teacher in a Strange Land at http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/teacher_in_a_strange_land/, at Marsha Ratzel’s Reflections of a Techie at http://teachingtechie.typepad.com/, at Renee Moore’s TeachMoore at http://teacherleaders.typepad.com/teachmoore/, at Heather Wolpert-Gawron’s Tweenteacher at http://tweenteacher.com/, as well as a number of others. I am also involved with Teachers Letter to Obama on Facebook. And then there are the emails; today, because left early, I’ve gotten into my emails, and was greeted with 65 unread messages; when I shut the computer down yesterday, there were 5. Sometimes I’m up until midnight (so are some of you, because you email me or post on FB, and I wonder about your sanity to be up at that hour—just had a George Castanza moment: “Who does that?”) doing this, which is brutal when I’m up at 3:50. That Red Bull gets me to work so I can make my coffee to stay up.

 

What I’m saying, and this isn’t some caffeine-laced stream-of-consciousness monolog, is that we as professionals need to be involved in the growth and state of our profession. We need to educate ourselves. We need to support each other. I’m hoping to see more of you involved in Teacher Letters to Obama, where some lively discussions take place, We may see each other there, eh?

 

June 24, 2010: Interview with Anthony Cody, Heather Wolpert-Gawron and Chuck Olynyk by Elyse Eidman-Aadahl for NWP Radio at http://www.blogtalkradio.com/nwp_radio. 

 

 

 
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Day 10 Monday June 21, 2010: Tracks In the Dust

 

Today is Monday, June 21, 2010 and Day 10 of my time left at the Mont. I destroyed the O-Zone. Everything has been removed that is me except for the coffee-maker stand I built last winter. It, my laptop and I will travel out together on the 25th and an era will end. Well, to me it’s the end of an era. Just thinking about the trailer for “Star Trek III: The Search For Spock”: “See the last voyage of the Starship Enterprise.” So this is the last voyage of the o-Zone. At least here.

 

I miss certain familiar rhythms which happen and so I wanted to record the event, to show the full effect for those C-Trackers who are always off when it happens, for those who never worked at the Mont, and for those who never made to my room for a cup of coffee and the daily madness. It might make you look at your rooms a little differently, might give words to your feelings about rhythms and patterns and routines which have been thrown out of whack,

 

Any typical day begins at around 5:20 a.m., when I first enter the O-Zone. No sane person shows up at that hour, I admit, which is probably what allowed me to run into the rat (see Day 109 “King Rat”); by the way, the rat trap is still there. That said, because I share the room with Adult School and Saturday School like the land and the river share a flood plain, I could walk into chaos, with missing furniture, everything moved around, garbage on the floor. Or the chairs might all be up on the tables, which is a mystery to me, since nobody ever mops and I was issued brooms to sweep with. I also get to remove the empty coffee cups and gum neatly wrapped in little foil balls on my desk. No point in complaining; when I asked Adult School to please pick the trash up off the floor, I found all of the trash piled neatly on my desk blotter.

 

The routine is then to set up the laptop, check on what happened to the desktop overnight or over the weekend (I use both at the same time because our server is often as crawling server).  You’ll note the precious icons: the blotter filled with pictures, the Maple Leafs puck and Doug Gilmour card, the Wolverine/Sabertooth clash a student felt needed to live on the desk. Laptop on, portable drive plugged in, go grab the speakers from the cabinet so I can get rock and roll or jazz going REAL LOUD. Barbara, Susan, Mickey, Dan and Sarah, I now formally apologize for inflicting my musical taste on you at those levels.

 

The cabinet is usually filled to bursting; often there is armor during the Fall semester, and sometimes weapons, transparencies for the unit, papers for the next unit. When I’ve pulled what I need for the day, one door has to be closed to display what I like to call the “Pathfinders” poster, while the other door has to be left open to do likewise with what I call my ego poster. You’ll also notice there is a bell (liberated from a Chili’s that was closing), used for a lesson on Pavlov and conditioning, as well as a prop for any bell humor (if you’ve taught at the Mont for any length of time, you know all about the bells); the shrunken head has the added feature that one of my girls, Pookie, put little clips in its hair, and serves as a great source for mirth whenever someone new comes into the room and asks for the stapler or some other supplies. At that point, students watch for the reaction. It’s a way to pass the time, eh?

 

The podium gets lifted off the coffee maker, placed in its new home, as well as the barstool I took from Chili’s, then the coffee maker gets opened up; the top gets folded down to provide a larger surface (years of experience on watching coffee mugs hit the deck); plug and load. This step also allows me to plug in the extension cord for the overhead projector, built into the Northwest Coast Indian cabinet, and allows. The projector comes out of its hiding place (AdultSchool and/or SaturdaySchool have either liberated it or actually performed crude surgery on the cord to fit their needs). Then it’s time to get the coffee started and put up the quote(s) for the day, and whatever madness we are covering.

 

The podium, which also serves as storage space, has certain … expression in Latin, just for attitude: “Quocunque ieceris stabit” (Howsoever you cast it, it will land on its feet), “Resurgam” (I shall rise again) and “Aut viam invenium aut faciam” (I shall find a path or make one).

 

After I sign in, I’m either arming up, if it is Fall semester, or grading, and awaiting the arrival of those who wash up on the beach. Some kids by 6:30; some teachers, as well. For the kids, I create a “safe zone.” Some show in the mornings; maybe they need help, or a place just to escape what’s going on at home, or a place to work on stuff for my class/other classes. This is also why I rarely make it to lunch Fall semester, why my room gets invaded during my conference (I believe every kid deserves a time-out a month from some period, when stress gets to be too much), why I end up with refugees during the day.

 

The day has its own rhythms. Crook wanders in to ask what’s going on, but won’t drink the coffee. Barbara does her fly-by. Susan grabs a cup once in a while, but she’s more of an afternoon person. Kathleen Loggins makes it in before the bell, sometimes bringing baked goods she tells me are healthy because she used yogurt (Do I look like I want to eat healthy?), then pours a large mug; she’ll be back in a couple of hours. Madame always pops in, but sometimes she’s drinking coffee and other times she shuns it. Mat shuffles in around Advisory to torment my Advisory class, which he has most of later in the day, to catch up, maybe just to sit and be. It’s one of the reasons I make the coffee and have the music going. It makes the day just that much easier to cope with, to be able to just sit and be.

 

The West wall is always what I call a Mind Map of the Unit. Some people talk about thinking maps. Mine is a mind map, really a flow chart of key ideas and points throughout the unit. Lots of color gets used. Lots of arrows and boxes, as well. Unit-related posters end up here—well, most of them.

 

The East wall is where the layout for the unit ends up. The kids get a bunch of note-sheets (which they fill in), handouts, primary sources, maps, political cartoons and worksheets. On the first day of a unit, they assemble their notesbooks, with a day-to-day format I’ve laid out. This is a rough guide for organizing their stuff. When they come in, they copy the quote(s) of the day, which relate to what we’re talking about, take notes, and write about anything new they’d learned; the writing later becomes rough drafts for essays—I push a lot of writing; after all, every writer I ever talked to said, “The only way to get better at writing is to WRITE!” Also on the East wall are the sacred Standards, as well as a whiteboard which tells them (really, it tells administrators) what the unit is, what music is playing in the background or as our soundtrack, important dates, where to find extra credit and what has aroused my ire. There’s also a bit of ego there: stuff on “In Service to the Dream”, the documentary on the Society for Creative Anachronism, which I was in and which had a couple of scenes filmed at the Mont, and the “Los Angeles Excellence in Education Award” I was given (along with 23 other teachers) in 1999; this is what Mat is referring to whenever he calls me a, “award-winning teacher.”

 

The North Face (just had to say that) bats clean-up: posters and maps, flags draped over the windows, the full-sized “In Service to the Dream” poster. The windows are always open because the A.C. has asthma. I also normally get a really cool view of Downtown, especially from Room 225; this always leads to me making the kids go to the window early in the year. I make them look at the  L.A. skyline and talk about how those buildings represent money and success to many, something to inspire them. Sometimes it works.

 

Then there’s the icons. My posters. They live in different parts of the room for particular reasons. My Lord of the Rings stuff ends up on the East wall, always, as do certain Marvel comics characters: Wolverine, Captain America, Magneto, whom I really don’t consider a villain—just messed up. So does that cool DC poster (I guess it’s about ten years old, judging by the appearance of certain characters) and my Bluto Blutarsky “Animal House”.

 

The West wall get a lot of the DC stuff: Nightwing, a bunch of Alex Ross posters of Alan Scott’s Green Lantern, the Spectre, the Martian Manhunter. Aquaman, Hawkman and the Atom mingle with the Marvel Universe ( I think that’s ‘90s) and a Frank Miller Daredevil. The Hulk poster was in my very first classroom, back in ’83 and has managed to survive every act of vandalism in 27 years of teaching.

 

Due South (wanted to write that), right of the clock: Justice League, in various phases. Under the clock: the picture I took from Chili’s when I took the bell and the stool. The first time I hung the monkey picture, my class debated where it should go. This was 2 months after a horrible news story about a man attacked by chimps. We voted to put it up anyway. To the left of the clock: Green Arrow/Zen stuff, with a little Batman and Marvel comics thrown in. Superman gets a special spot, guarding the door; it’s an old pre-9/11 poster and you see the WTC in the background.

 

Now it’s gone. My touchstones are missing. There’s a book by David Crosby called, “Stand and Be Counted.” Gee, wonder why that’s there? I might take some time to leaf through it, but I think I’ll be trying to keep busy, just so I don’t notice how empty this place is. The kids don’t like it. They complain that the room’s too bright with all the posters gone. They also miss the posters. Adults haven’t enjoyed coming in, either, not the regulars. Those who rarely venture in now come to stare at the bare walls, as if seeing them makes what is happening finally real.

 

But the very first lesson I teach my students is to empty the cup. It’s a Zen thing: when a cup is completely full, nothing can be added to it. In order to grow, one must first empty the cup. Perhaps it is time to put my money where my mouth is and empty the cup.

 

So? Next year. They rebuilt the Enterprise, eh?

 
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Day 11 Sunday June 20, 2010: Digging In the Dirt

 

Today is Sunday, June 20, 2010 and Day 11 of my time left at the Mont. It’s also Father’s Day, so that puts things into perspective, looking at this madness and trying to imagine it through his eyes. That sort of makes it like some weird version of “Due South,” with the Mountie Benton Fraser talking to the ghost of his Mountie father. But my dad taught me to make decisions and often we disagreed.

 

With all the packing I’ve been doing, I’ve been unearthing all sorts of stuff. I think teachers, as a profession are packrats. I know we have teachers right now gathering supplies, so they can haul them home from this vermin-infested place and store that stuff in their homes and garages to use next year: rulers and markers and poster paper and suchlike. We keep all kinds of crap. Many teachers I know have homes that always look like yard sales. I keep trying to stick with Henry David Thoreau’s idea of “Keep your accounts on your thumbnail,” but that doesn’t get applied nearly as often as it should be. And with the unearthing of these artifacts comes some introspection.

 

Amongst the artifacts to show I’ve been a part of the Mont: pinks copies of old classroom observation forms, not unlike our referrals, except these are 8 ½” x 11”. They were folded—sort of, if folded in such a way that no corner meets any other corner. I can’t make out the dates, who signed them, just that I was teaching World History and that two students walked in late. I can’t even remember when a form like this was last used. Gone.

 

Two coffee-tins full of colored pencils. The artist in my advisory period got those. Why not? He’ll use them. I won’t. Who knows when I’ll get a class?

 

The faculty handbook. 86ed. Not part of this faculty anymore. Dad would have said, “Empty the binder. Keep the binder.” I did.

 

An open ream of paper. Handed over to students. Dad would have objected. I don’t want to store stuff from this cockroach-ridden hellhole.

 

The plan we put together for Humanitas. As much as it hurt—tossed. Humanitas is dead, A, B, and C. I transferred my Cold War transparencies from a smaller notebook into the larger one.

 

Two coffee-tins of water-soluble markers. They’ll probably dry out. Into the desk drawer I always reserve for pens. Let whoever inherits my room have those. Dad would have insisted I take them home and use them up on some sort of projects.

 

Instructional Learning Teams timecards? We didn’t get paid for a number of the days anyway when I was the coordinator for World History A-Track, and the work we did wasn’t valued by the administration: “The teams work too slow[ly].” Purged. The binder with ILT stuff I’m keeping. I may land someplace and put the contents to use. Someplace I might be valued. Hey, it can happen… maybe…

 

Of related value: a binder with LAUSD-produced model lessons concerning key primary sources, from the PD Alfie dragged us through. (I wonder if, at his charter school, he isn’t using the lessons he downloaded off my thumbdrive? I wonder if he’s giving me credit? And so it goes…). There might be a way to apply that stuff. It goes into the NorthwestCoast cabinet.

 

Referral forms. Desk. Whoever’s going to be in Room 223 in a couple of weeks is really going to need them. I don’t think uniforms and the illegally-changed schedule are going to provide that discipline. My dad would point out they will be needed at the next school. He’d be right, of course. I’ll get new ones there.

 

Cards from kids. Birthdays. Christmas. Just because. Yeah, why not keep them? It’s not like they take up any real space, anyway.

 

A Stull evaluation, actually a photocopy of one of the old ones that had to be bubbled in by hand. It’s the one Margaret Rowland did, the only “Unsat” issued at the Mont that year. On it, she writes that I do nothing innovative in the classroom, nothing unique with instruction. It lists numerous dates for conferences where she supposedly tried to correct me. It you look really closely, you will see a date was whited out. The problem was, it was whited out after I signed it. You see, that date for one of our conferences was May 20th of that year. What was really unfortunate for her was that I knew what day of the week May 20th was (a Sunday) and where I was (Forest Lawn, at my dad’s graveside, for May 20th was the anniversary of his passing). When I replied via memo (by the way, the Stull was due May 25th or it would not count), Ms. Rowland gave me a copy on which the date had been whited out after I had signed and which now read May 29th. When this impropriety was pointed out, the Stull got thrown out rather than allowing me to pursue the forgery through the grievance process. I think I’m keeping that one. Dad would have laughed.

 

A write up from Rosa Morley. This one came when Dennis Garcia and I were heading one of the five focus areas during accreditation. One question we were supposed to ask all stakeholders was “Does the administration help or hinder instructional delivery?” We wrote what we were told. Ms. Morley and Ms. Hines hauled Dennis and I into the office. “Who wrote this?” Ms. Morley asked me.

 

“I can’t seem to remember.” Picture “Heartbreak Ridge”: “No hablo Ingles.” Ms. Morley didn’y really like that answer, nor did Marcie Hines.

 

She glared at Dennis. “How’s your memory?”

 

Dennis’ face split into that slow grin of his. “About the same.” We got thrown out of the office. The write-up came later that day. That’s a keeper.

 

Here’s the prize. Not quite the Holy Grail, but it is a cup. A little bigger than a low-ball glass, thin gray (or should that be grey?) plastic. A picture of an apple with a pencil driven through it. Really? That’s a grisly image, especially as you read what is printed on in red (I guess that was supposed to be burgundy, because nobody ever uses cardinal) letters: “FREMONTHIGH SCHOOL Teacher Appreciation Week May 2003.” I guess that places it from the LaVerne Brunt era, because she was the principal between 2002 and 2004. That surprises me, because many teachers around here look back fondly at her administration, and viewed her as very supportive of her staff. I know she was very supportive of many—I wasn’t one of them, but I cannot and don’t want to take that away from her.

 

But then there’s this cup. There’s a joke from some stand-up comedian who jabbed at Hallmark, “When you don’t care enough to send the very best.” I’ll figure out what to do with it. After all, I’ve got six days to figure that out. Thanks for the help, Dad.

 
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Day 12 Saturday June 19, 2010: Homeward Through the Haze

 

Today is Saturday, June 19, 2010 and Day 12 of my time left at the Mont. Actually, I have five days of teaching left at the Mont. Finals begin on Monday, the Summer Solstice. Yesterday a number of the Rebel Alliance (yeah, I still like to call us that) gathered at Avila’s El Ranchito Mexican Restaurant in Huntington Park. It had served as a gathering place/watering hole in happier times for the staff of the Mont, but many of us had drifted away from it over the years.  It seemed appropriate to return this time, this last time, as the staff from the Mont. To me, it was the last time, for I doubt anybody is going to want to hang around next week, what with finals, grades, due, rooms being packed and cleared out… and the sense of failure hanging over us.

 

I know, personally, I will want to hand over my key, throw the laptop on the seat and just plain drive. A friend, Andrea Mordoh, my former partner at EdisonMiddle School, where I guess she’s doing administrative stuff now, had once spoken about making goodbyes like a cat, leaving and not looking back. I want to agree with her, usually do on this point. Maybe my anger, my frustration, my sense of shame at not winning this fight, does make me want to drive and not look back. My anger and frustration does flare as soon as I turn off Florence onto San Pedro and see the school with the flashing messages on the sign—always days behind. I find myself doing what I did when the problems with Larry Higgins were at there worst. I pull up into the same spot I’ve parked in for sixteen years, get out of my ride and mutter, “I hate this f*&#ing place.” I sigh, look around the empty parking lot, look at my windows, then grab my laptop and go in.

 

The podium was packed today and I listened to it thump around as I drove to El Ranchito. (I’ve never figured out how anyone can actually park in that lot.) Not a very big crowd inside, but maybe the emotions I’m writing about feeling are being felt as strongly by others, if not more, and that’s what might have kept them away. I do notice that fewer people hang out in the O-Zone, although now I’m getting folks who swing by who normally don’t and stare at the empty walls.

 

Still, we gathered, and toasted, and shared stories, the latest news about fellow staff members, the rumors. Two or three hours of “Remember the time that…” and “Remember when …” and “What are you going to do?” Lots of reminders I don’t have a place to go yet, and more talk about how Cortines/McKenna/Balderas have built a Berlin Wall around the Mont—or at least D7 to keep us from escaping to other lives. I’m nervous because I haven’t written a resume or interviewed for a position in 22 years, but I also didn’t seek a job because I was determined to gum up the works because as Claudia Pilon told Superintendent Cortines, “No, I’m not reapplying. I already applied once.”

 

But I guess now it is time to start looking, to write a new resume, to trim my beard and compete with my coworkers for jobs we already had. That part’s the rub. We’re like bugs in a jar that got shaken and have to fight each other. And what I’m hearing about those that are staying is less comforting, as the conditions get changed. Just picture those “trust-building exercises” scheduled for next week, eh?

 

This is coming out a lot darker than I intended. It was supposed to be about a celebration of what we did. And there were accomplishments. I did get a chance to bounce ideas off of people for the next steps. Yes, there will be next steps. This isn’t over.

 

It isn’t over. Heh.

 

 
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Day 15 Wednesday June 16, 2010: Kodachrome

 

Today is Wednesday, June 16, 2010 and Day 15 of my time left at the Mont (yeah, I know the reality—just wondering if the administration lies to itself, too) and 8 school days left in the year. Packing more stuff: hauled home a cabinet the students had painted with Northwest Coast Indian art over the years; it had been a tradition of the seniors to add sections to it. Odd, thought I’d feel more emotional about it. Instead, I was relieved that it survived the year unvandalized. Today’s load will be the books I used for references and for student research, which lived in the cabinet. I’d even built an extension cord into the cabinet because every time a cleaning crew came in—like once a year—my cord would get stolen. So, with the cabinet moved home, I’m jury-rigging my electricity set-up for today’s last day of notes and lecture.

 

It’s hard to fight the student burn-out, or for that matter, teacher burn-out. Everyone senses the change to come and folks just want it over with. I guess it’s like going through a breakup, and knowing you have to get through that last weekend together. The posters of my superheroes like Green Arrow and Wolverine will stay up for a bit longer, when they’ll be put away for what might be a very long time. I hate teaching in a barren, lifeless room.

 

One sign that it’s over: the yearbook is out. Seniors run around, getting them signed. The lower classmen look through them, looking for pictures of themselves. So do the adults. (My only picture is on the faculty page, my I.D. picture, doing my Pericles impression, with my helm tilted back.)  There’s always surprises in the yearbook. This one was no exception.

 

On page 112, under the title, “Did You Know?” was the following paragraph: “On the *home* front, Superintendent Ramon Cortines initiated a *Reconstitution* of Fremont, resulting in the end of current SLCs and the implementation of a new disciplinary code and dress code. Also many of our beloved teachers either were dismissed or left the *school* because they do not agree with the *new* plans. Community meetings were established to keep parents and the rest of the community informed of changes and have their voices heard. Much of the new changes for next year are still unclear, worrying teachers, students and parents.”

 

This is the day I really see the kids moved by lecture. Yeah, the music lesson on Vietnam does it, as does the Holocaust. This one strikes them, leaves them upbeat, which is one of the best things I can ever do as a teacher. Isn’t that what my subject area ought to be about? Not just a recitation of facts and dates, but a story; every story has a theme, and mine has always been one of hope and justice. I talk about the fall of Communism in Eastern Europe, the Revolutions of 1989 and the Fall of the Berlin Wall—and the collapse of the Soviet Union. The kids hear about the fall of the Wall, while U2 plays in the background, and hear about the piece of the Berlin Wall each Fremont teacher was given (back when Teacher Appreciation Day was more than a slogan around here) and how my mom held that piece of the Wall in her hands. The Scorpions’ “Wind of Change” plays as I talk about the attempted coup against Gorbachev and they drink in his words: “I do not pretend to know the absolute truth.  We have to search for it together.” They look at the flags around the room and notice the blue and yellow flag of the Ukraine hanging over the window behind my desk. They remember my grandfather fought for independence, and while he did not live to see it, my father got to see that flag raised up at a Winter Olympic Games. A hell of a way to end the note-taking of the year. Always leave them with hope.

 

 
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Day 18 Sunday June 13, 2010: The Boys Are Back In Town

 

Today is Sunday, June 13, 2010 and Day 18 of my time left at the Mont. Sometime soon, when the administration thinks it can get away with it, the Charlies, our security people (the redshirts in “Star Trek” terms), will be told who will stay and who will “not be a good fit with the New Fremont.” If last week was any indication, I want my stuff moved out by the end of the week.

 

Am I fanning the flames of panic? Nah. But I am one of those veteran teachers Mr. Higgins scorned during his tenure because experience made me question decisions being made. I guess that doesn’t make me a very good teacher. Or is that a good soldier?

 

Too bad. If I see a proposed path leading over a cliff, I’ll suggest we try a different route, perhaps one not so dependent upon gravity at its worst carrying matters to a painful conclusion.

 

You see, that experience thing is really the core of my subject area: history. History is pretty much based upon experience and asks did people benefit from experience? “What did we learn?” “Don’t do that.” Too often, we see the opposite, like the kids who did not pay attention about due dates and chances for extra credit. To steal a perfect expression from former Mont Special Ed teacher Debbie Ward, “It’s over. You missed the sale.”

 

That’s what these little love notes (or notes tied around flung bricks) are—experiences and perspectives fired like Green Arrow’s missiles. Insert Robin Hood, for the comic book challenged. Unfortunately, my record for hitting the target with these words is much more dismal that Oliver Queen’s aim. I just have to rely upon persistence, which I’ve been told is my forte. Annoying sidebar: I tried to think of the Ukrainian word for “persistent” (recall my persona’s name in the SCA is Kyr [Sir] Yaroslav the Persistent, and that my coat-of-arms bears a phoenix), but the only word that kept coming up has more of the connotation for “stubborn”; go figure. I know many of you are shocked.

 

So whither are we bound this time, you ask? When Rosa Morley was principal of the Mont, does anybody out there remember the series of fires, something like six fires in eight days or eight fires in six? Remember how we, so used to hearing the fire alarms sounding all the time, had to knock on doors and tell people “It’s a real freakin’ fire—get out!”? Stuff like that happens when the students sense that there is no strong authority on campus. And while Rosa Morley really was a strong principal, the students had sensed some sort of change—and the fires came. Remember there were two fires in Jeremy Krantz’s room that week?

 

This was different from the fights and tagging that occur at the end of a track or the end of a year. Lupe Simpson’s administration was marred by it, almost continually, even ending upwith a walkout that made national news  (By the way, when Chris Burns and Tina Cardinale showed up to shoot a part of “In Service to the Dream,” the walkout was occurring; there’s an incident of filming in my class, when a student who was part of the walkout comes pounding on the door).

 

Auggie Herrera’s tenure wasn’t so plagued; he managed to work miracles in the few months he was at the Mont (hey, I worked for him), before deciding he would be damned if he worked for Dr. George McKenna III. Damned? What an interesting expression, especially for those of us in D7 right now.

 

Margaret Rowland’s tenure was marked by all sorts of stuff—I remember bomb threats. The first one we were ordered to evacuate and led along a circuitous route which led us not away from but near the quad where there was a box labeled “Bomb”—guess they didn’t have room for “Da” on there. The other one I recall because I was knocking on doors at the north end of the building, because I was in Room 200 then, and giving instructions. I guess James Hooker’s famous hall passes didn’t prevent any of that stuff. I remember administrators overturning tables at the first floor T in the main building, chaining doors shut (Really? “Lean On Me”? Really?) and spilling soapy water on the floor to prevent a student walk-out; the result of that was an OH kid with a walker slipping on the soapy floor.

 

LaVerne Brunt’s administrations had no such experiences as I recall.

 

But the end of the Higgins regime certainly did, especially after Rosa Diaz-Denny left for GageMiddle School. The fights were constant. The tagging grew daily and the inside of the main building looked like parts of the Berlin Wall. That probably spurred on the fights. After all, one has to defend one’s marking of territory…

 

Which leads to our current situation. The tagging is becoming more frequent. It was evident before the “act of violence” and “act of cowardness [sic]” which was written about in Day 66 “One Headlight” when tagging naming Superintendent Cortines appeared by the library. Now it’s springing up like acne on a teenager’s face before prom night.

 

The fights are also growing in frequency. I told Mat on the way back from lunch, “There’s going to be a fight.” Spidey-sense, I guess, maybe from working with Federal inmates. I don’t know what it was, but I knew. Mat told me, “No. The kids don’t care enough anymore to fight.”

 

It was because others stopped caring, I think, that led to the fight. “And if the boys want to fight, you better let ‘em.”—“The Boys Are Back in Town.” I love that song, but it saddens me it fits here.

 

When I jumped into the middle of the fight at the end of lunch on Wednesday—I think it was Wednesday—I caught flashes of what others were doing: screaming at students to “Get to class NOW!” Reminded me of Kevin Bacon’s Chip in “Animal House” yelling “Remain calm. All is well.” There were flashes of administrators with hands on hips, attempting to quell the crowd with gazes of steel. I heard there were other incidents occurring in the quad, but I couldn’t really afford to look around too much. I knew the school police were involved, heard the command, “I need everyone who isn’t a police officer OF THE RADIO NOW!”

 

When the two combatants were subdued, they were led off by one school police officer. I trailed along behind. Mat told me, “You called it.” And that’s when it hit me. The kids KNOW that the school is in chaos. When I can hear a Charlie’s radio barking contradictory orders from administrators and a have the Charlie holding the radio at me and silently looking on, things are out of control. When an administrator doesn’t seem to help break things up in the fight, but can confront the combatants after they are handcuffed, things are getting out of control. Why would little thugs respect that?

 

And when a little punk talks tough, then whines about his face, then glares at me and announces to a room full of school police officers, “You don’t know who you’re messing with,” we are in trouble. When a good kid gets moved to another school rather than the gangbangers who were sweating him and mad-dogging others in the quad, which I found out that same day, we are in dire straits.

 

So, is the plan to just let them run amok (crap, I’ve got Sarah Jessica Parker as a witch in some forgettable movie burbling, “Amok, amok, amok, amok”), and blame the behavior on the bad Fremont teachers, hoping everything will be under control as soon as the new year starts, with kids having freshly-scrubbed faces in new uniforms. For the sake of the kids, I hope they can pull things back under control. But how long will it take? And how many other good kids will get shipped to other schools rather than getting too many black marks for OT-ing too many thugs? When are the good kids going to be protected?

 

 
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Day 19 Saturday June 12, 2010: Scarborough Faire

 

Today is Saturday, June 12, 2010 and Day 19 of my time left at the Mont, as reckoned by school calendar year, July 1 being the Beginning. I also have 10 school days left. Today I’m training a recalcitrant laptop which is intent upon doing things its own way. I’m starting to relate to it (maybe channeling a “Star Trek” episode. I wonder if the administration looks at me the same way. Damn it! I even went with the same picture from HBO’s “Rome” as the background as I have on the other laptop. (For the record, my desktop has the painting “A Knight at the Crossroads” by the Russian artist Victor Vanetsov). And have loaded up all my favorites on there. But I guess that’s what the administration did with the Mont, eh? I wonder how the Mont will perform after all that work? Will Superintendent Balderas—whoops, I mean Mr. Balderas take the Mont back to the shop after purchasing it with an SIG grant we did not earn? Time will tell.

 

And so will I… Heh.

 

It was a rough week, last week, so I’m running behind, busier than a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest and lots of stuff dancing in between my hairy ears, so I’ll try to catch up.

 

Heard from the D7 “Job Fair” (hence my choice of song title to lead off with). You know the one and why some of you went there. Those of us who chose not to reapply to the Mont or were encouraged to reapply, did so, and were bounced, when we received our F.U. missives (some of them certified) were directed—that is the correct word--to call HR (need to use initials—gotta maintain my “cool” factor). Upon mentioning the Mont, I’m sure you were all handed leper bells and directed/suggested to attend the D7 job fair originally to be held at EdisonMiddle School, but then moved to MiramonteSchool—preregistration required, thank you very much. I did not attend, due primarily to a stiff neck (saw that coming, didn’t you?) and a spinal condition—I have one.

 

But I did hear about it. A little bird told me—actually a damned big one. Mat likes to crack most wise about how I can attract birds and children. The bird in question described how those who went were directed to sit on benches until told at 5:45 “Thank you very much. The job fair is over.” And, as I recall, there were precisely 3 Social Studies positions available within D7, but one of those was “filled.” So if Dr. George McKenna III (or Superintendent Cortines) insists on a Berlin Wall being erected around D7, and the other mini-Superintendents are getting as skittish about accepting the Mont’s cast-offs as pre-WWII nations were about accepting refugees (I’ll let you find a history teacher to connect the dots), how in the world are the DTs—Displaced Teachers, like my parents were DPs (Displaced Persons) after WWII—going to get placed?

 

Will all the Probationary teachers from the middle schools and Jordon get moved involuntarily to the Mont? Oh, wait… there aren’t a whole lot of Probes left, eh? There was that pink rain last year, remember? Do more teachers get RIFfed? How will that solve the problem? Will teachers get lured into the dark Caddy in front of the school yard with a candy bar shaped like merit pay? Just come to the Mont and fill the gaps, eh?

 

Of course, that kind of hinges upon getting the SIG grant, like looking for that 4-leafed clover.

 

I thought it was also a nice touch to parade new teachers through the Mont yesterday on a tour of the campus. Pretty much, it was akin to the new tenants coming to inspect their prospective digs while the current tenants are attempting to conduct their lives. In our cases, attempting to teach kids. Class, that what this process has been about from the very beginning, eh? Tell me, we’re we on display, too? Come see the losers in their native habitat before they are extinct! Hurry on down, before you miss your chance to see them at the Mont Zoo.

 

Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed the growing discontent on campus? The numbers keep fluctuating, but I keep running into more and more teachers who reapplied, were accepted, who seem to be telling folks they are not coming back. Where will they go? How will they get over McKenna’s Wall?

 

How should I know? I’m the one who believes in chivalry and fair play, who is trying to understand how a computer is still working on my transfer request put in mid-February and how I will not be informed for at least another week because the computer will be finished by then…

 

A lot of folks don’t understand how I can think in terms of chivalry and honesty and fair play. A lot can’t understand a handshake kind of guy like me. I suppose they can think of me as naïve, as unrealistic, as childish, as someone who can be taken advantage of by someone who wants to get ahead. That much is true. I do let people get in front of me on the freeway—only to be flipped off. I do try to help the homeless—and see someone buying beer instead of food. I did buy a letterman’s jacket for a student—to find out he spent the money on weed. I did pay for a student’s pictures, etc.—only to have to cut him off when I realized I’d given him a couple of hundred dollars and that I was the sucker he was taking advantage of; even recall the hurt look in his eyes when I cut him off without yelling at him or even telling him why or demanding my money be returned. And I’ve even had a couple of coworkers take my lessons and try to palm them off to the administration as their own. I still let anyone have the lessons who asks.

 

Maybe I won’t win that race others seem to be in. But I’d rather live in my kind of a world than the one the Mont will become.

 

 
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    Chuck Olynyk is a Social Studies teacher who saw the effects of reconstitution upon John C. Fremont High in Los Angeles. These are reposting of his original blogs from the Save Fremont website.

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