Teacher Safety

I’ve been thinking about teacher safety lately.  Because of privacy laws, we are not privy to information about particular students.  But should we be?  If a student has had previously violent behavior or been incarcerated, do we have the right to know?  What about the other students?  At what point do the individual rights of one student override the safety of 25 others?

I usually don’t worry about my safety in my school.  I don’t exactly provoke students into fits of rage…  Even if they are being dinks, I usually make a game out of it with myself and don’t LET them get to me.  Some kids, no matter how calm or reasonable you are with them, they still fly off the handle.  Their lives are in chaos and that’s all they know.  They respond in completely inappropriate ways – usually swearing at you or about you – and don’t get it that  they’re in the wrong.

This week I had an incident where I dealt with a student that was clearly in the wrong.  He didn’t like it and as a result, spewed a bunch of word vomit at me.  I was applying the puke shield analogy in my mind.  I was just glad to send him out, knowing that he wouldn’t be back for awhile.

About 10 minutes later, I’m doing a problem at the overhead projector and I hear from the hallway, “F-in bitch, here’s your G D book!” and in comes the book – flying in my direction.  I’ve never been glad that we’ve got these enormous textbooks that weigh a ton.  But that day I definitely was!

I do not know the entire history of this student.  But I do know that he has spent time in some sort of juvenile detention facility.  Other than that, I’m in the dark.  When a student is that volatile, shouldn’t I have the right to know what I’m dealing with?  Would you want your kid in class with him?


Travelin’ in the ‘bu.

It’s Spring Break.  This year I took a road trip.  Whenever I travel, I usually fly.  This time I took the Malibu (that I just spent a small fortune on).  I am now in the motor city.  I made the ~700 mile journey in 2 stages.  It was not that bad.  But as I drove by DTW I did think to myself, “it’s an hour and fifteen minute plane ride” as I was on my 11th hour in my drive.

Chicago was interesting.  I think I navigated it fine.  It was a Saturday morning and I went on I-90 right through downtown.  The speed limit is 55mph  but I think I only slowed to slower than that for about 30 seconds.  When you navigate your way through Chi-town you have to do it while going about 65.  If you go the speed limit, you’ll just get run over.  Being the driver, you don’t really have opportunity to look around.  And my big tip?  Get an I-Pass.  The tolls freak me out.  So it was really nice to use my parents’ I-Pass.

I have only been here for about a day.  I keep saying to myself: “I drove here!”  It’s kind of liberating to know that driving 700 miles is do-able.

Piece of Mind

Or is it Peace of Mind?

I’m sitting at my favorite garage. It’s a family run business and I love the fact that I have a place I can take my car and get it fixed and TRUST the mechanics.

My car has been having an issue for at least a year. Occasionally it thinks I’m trying to steal it. There’s an issue with the chip in the key. After awhile, things wear out and the car doesn’t recognize the key. Hence, it tries to prevent auto theft. The “Theft System” light starts blinking and I have to wait for the computer to re-set itself for 10 minutes. For those of you that are wondering what kind of car this is… ’98 Malibu.

I’ve been able to deal with the occasional 10 minute set-back for quite awhile. But now it’s doing it way too often. I’ve put off getting it fixed because it’s at least a $500 fix. I don’t want to buy a new car until the fall, so I’m biting the bullet and getting it done. So instead of going somewhere nice and warm for spring break, I’ll be spending this nice chunk of change on my car and driving to Motown to see my sister and her family.

Even though it will cost me, I’d rather be safe than sorry.

Not the brightest bulbs

I was talking with another teacher today.  Her room has windows that open up to one of our courtyards.  When the weather gets nice, they open it up during lunch and kids can sit at a few picnic tables, play hacky sack, or whatever during the lunch hour.

So during class, she’s busy teaching and looks out the window.  There’s Bobby.  He’s supposed to be in her class at that very moment.  The other kids look out the window and see him too.

Lesson:  If you’re going to skip class, don’t be THAT stupid about it.


Friday I gave my Algebra 2 classes a test on Systems of Equations.  I was fairly confident that they would do well.  We had focused on this one topic for about a week.  They learned how to solve them by graphing, substitution and elimination.  The day before the test we always review.  This time I used white boards with dry-erase markers.  The idea is that they do the problem and flash me the answer.  For some reason, the kids like this.  It’s a way to “drill and kill” where they don’t realize the “kill” part.

I was able to correct their tests right after they turned them in.  This immediate feedback is quite nice.  Plus, it helps me get the paperwork done in a hurry.  There were kids that got A’s that usually don’t.  Prior to the test, one student in particular was saying that if he did well he’d hyper-ventilate and pass out.   I knew that he would do fairly well, because he clearly demonstrated that he could do it.

After I corrected Dave’s test, I motioned with my index finger for him to come to the front to see his test.  96%.   Big smile.  He went out in the hall,  did his  little happy dance, jumped up and clicked his heels together.   I emailed his mom later in the day.

Another student, Al, is a slacker.  He has a D-.  He worked diligently on the test for almost the entire class period.  I had enough time to correct his test and show him his score.  He went to the hall to get a drink.  I met him before he got into the room and showed him his results.  100%.  Obviously, he has a brain in his head and can do the work.  He’s just being a slacker.  “Al, just think what you could do if you put forth some effort.”  The seed is planted.  It will be interesting to see if it takes root.

It is possible that I was teaching to the test or the test was easy.  I don’t really think so.  I’m choosing to believe that I did a good job in teaching the material.  So far, every test I’ve corrected is a passing grade.  Most are A’s, a few B’s and very few below that.  The get it and they deserve to be rewarded.  Everybody is happy.  That’s the way it should be.

Thick Skin

One really needs to develop a thick skin.  The need for it is much more apparent to me now than several years ago.   In our world of texting, email, social networking blogs and iPods, we have less authentic interaction with people.  We think we are interacting, but are we really?

We do not have the benefit of visual cues.  If we write something hurtful, we don’t have to deal with the fallout directly.  We are desensitized from our actions.  So does that make people behave more poorly?

To a certain degree I think it does.  The lack of true interaction and dialogue means that people don’t actually talk with each other.  How can you really learn of someone else’s opinion without the verbal and non verbal cues in a conversation?

I suppose this could be a long post.  But the reason I started writing was that I’ve witnessed lots of poor behavior lately.  And if you don’t have a thick skin, you could get pretty upset.  Lots of my students have no idea what this means.  They think that they have to respond to every comment and take everything personally.  You’ll go crazy if you do that!

Today I took my turn at a 4-way stop.  It was rightfully my turn.  But the passenger of another car obviously didn’t think so and flipped me off.   A few weeks ago, I turned onto the on-ramp of a highway.  The person turning right onto the same on-ramp had a yield sign.  Clearly, they don’t understand that that means that I have the right of way, not them.  I was also subjected to a flurry of hand signals.  It’s a good thing that I have a thick skin and don’t take things personally.

These instances, as well as some others, make me believe that one has to develop a thick skin.  People are going to make stupid comments when you are wrong and when you are right.  So no matter what the case may be, you need to be able to not let them get to you.  I guess it’s just another lesson in self-preservation that I get to teach to a few unsuspecting kids that think they’re going to learn some math.

To Plow or Not to Plow

Speaking of “Safety at Work,” we had a new one this week…

On Thursday we got 6 – 7 inches of snow.  It came down in a hurry, starting around 1pm.  By the time I left school only about an hour and a half  later, there seemed to be about 4 inches on my car and on the ground.  All after school activities were canceled and everyone was told to go home.

I don’t know exactly what the contract is for plowing snow in the parking lot and driveways around the school.   But I was surprised to come to school on Friday morning to 7 inches of snow in the lot that was NOT plowed.

It’s one thing for us teachers to drive in this stuff.  But we also have many novice drivers (students) that have yet to really learn how to get around in snow.

On Friday, there was a teacher that got hit in front of school.  I’m not talking about her car getting hit.  SHE got hit.  Apparently a student was trying to get un-stuck and gunned his engine.  He wasn’t paying enough attention to realize that she was there.  I’m not exactly sure what happened, but I think she may have even ended up on the hood of the car.

The teacher is ok.  She felt fine after it had happened and stayed at work.  I mentioned to another teacher at lunch that the teacher really needed to go to the doctor because this was the ultimate worker compensation situation.  (This message did get to the injured teacher by the end of the day.  She was starting to stiffen up and felt it in her lower back.)

Even though it is on the verge of spring and we sometimes have temperatures that will melt the snow rather quickly, the choice of not plowing could have some major consequences.   Even though we all face major budget shortfalls, we still need to be safe at work.