Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Where You Can (also) Find Me These Days

My first short story collection is now published. We Are Almost Always On The Verge is 13 stories of love and loss, the fictionalized first cousin of what many folks found compelling about this site.


Teacher 2030. It´s a blog! It´s a book! It's a gaggle of admirable educators. Buy it here.

. Policy thoughts, some of them by me.

Elmhurst Community Prep. Dream. Prepare. Achieve.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009


Scroll down, just a little.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Teaching In The 408: Author's Index

It's a strange thing, to posthumously reflect upon and involve yourself in a blog – this undertaking that chronicled an unparalleled, unequaled period of my life. It's a strange thing to have those thoughts and ideas existing outside of your direct focus and control, and outside really, what's happening now. You read something and it comes echoing a little out of the past, this person you used to be, this life you used to live. But don't anymore.

And still, folks find their way here, now, in the post-departure period, and maybe it is unclear what this place represented and why some found it special. The thematically categorized links below are an attempt to close that gap, an index and a primer, as well as a response to blogger's poor navigational tools, and an attempt to address my tendency to intersperse high-level writings and intensely held beliefs with reflections on grading while hungover, which captured the attention of a particular US News & World Report journalist, but probably isn't terribly representative of this body of work as a whole.

Thank you for reading, both now and in the time before.

Metaphysical first principles for teaching and learning
∆ Three ways to build professionalism
∆ Rhetoric aside, this is why many of the best of us are leaving
∆ What the achievement gap is not
∆ What's worth caring about; why it's hard

NCLB, merit pay, and other things union reps aren't supposed to support
∆ A primer on merit pay
∆ A primer on NCLB
False dichotomies: The ways NCLB does and does not affect our work

English Language Learners and their discontents
∆ How we set up ELL kids for failure
∆ Why Ana succeeds where Jorge fails
∆ Leveling the field and ensuring success for the Jorges

Tainted love: TFA and me
∆ TFA's (lack of) commitment to teaching as transformational force
∆ How that lack of commitment becomes enshrined as something great
∆ I repeat these ideas in print, forever alientating the Bay Area Executive Director

Those four walls
∆ I had more fun teaching grammar than should be allowed by law
∆ Maybe gangs aren't what we've been thinking
∆ My super-secret classroom management approach
∆ The end of this work, and its beginnings
A lot of weeks went a lot like this
∆ There is inexplicable tragedy to teaching and we fall short often
∆ Happy trails, POY... and thanks
∆ My own departure triology: announcement, why and not-why

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Good Ideas For Inhibiting School Growth (postscript)

This blog's like that woman you keep kinda hanging on to, even though you know you should move on and stopstop thinking about her. But it's just always been so good, and the APR was made public today, and I can't help but revisit some of the good times from last Spring.

So how'd it all workout? The results of all those good ideas (I, II, III, IV?) What kind of tangible, quantitative results do we have to show for all the undermining, all the fear-mongering, all the focus-diverting?

  • API -23 points, the school's largest decline in the API era, coming in below 700 for the first time since 2005.

  • Failure to make AYP for the first time since 2002, with proficiency rates below 1/3 for the first time since 2005.

Not much here anybody should be proud of, not much anybody should be doing told-ya-so about, but maybe, just maybe, a cautionary tale.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Rocking Out In One Day Magazine

My essay on the "reinvention" of teaching appears in the summer issue of Teach For America's alumni magazine One Day. The original text is below; the print version, edited by One Day's staff and witty-email-composing editor-in-chief, may be slightly different.

(I kinda wanted to complain that none of the featured essays on this topic were penned by current classroom teachers, but then I realized I was supposed to fill that particular quota, and pulled a little bait-and-switch on the One Day folks. My b., yo).

If “Profession” Is the Butterfly, We Are the Larva

Teaching is not a profession. It is a never-ending entry-level vocation, divorced from foundational understandings of training, accountability, and advancement. If we are to enact meaningful reform, we must rescue teaching from its status as vocation and volunteerism, and recast it as a profession of rigor, creativity, and unlimited impact.

It is not uncommon to hear teachers dismiss their credentialing programs as useless and ineffective. You’ve never heard a doctor make this statement. Doctors, pilots, and plumbers are not expected, as teachers are, to learn their profession on the run, by trial-and-error, by searching for ideas on the Internet, or by attending disparate workshops. Teacher preparation is trapped in a dichotomy of insufficiency. Traditional route programs train teachers on generic skill sets insufficient for the incredible language, ethnic, and socioeconomic diversity found within urban classrooms. Yet, alternative route programs require prohibitive amounts of on-the-job learning that is impractical and frequently ineffective. Neither approach effectively prepares career teachers for the rigors of high-need urban classrooms.

We need a third way, one built upon the medical residency model, combining training in highly specialized skills with the time needed to fully merge theory and praxis. All prospective urban educators need time to learn from and work with a proven mentor, develop their teaching in meaningful and accountable ways, and engage in coursework that acknowledges and reflects the differences between teaching in Marin and teaching in West Oakland. These Resident teachers would work for an entire academic year with an Attending teacher, participating in the full range of professional responsibilities from the first day of school, eventually taking ownership of all aspects of complete units of study.

This provides a far more authentic model of student teaching, rescuing it from unaccountable summer school and end-of-the-year contexts. It allows Resident teachers the most complete and accurate training possible, one that omits no aspect of the job, and provides the most extensive arena for skill development. Perhaps most importantly, it allows Residents to learn first-hand from a proven Attending teacher, and see the application of effective teaching within the exact context the Resident teachers will one day work.

Evaluation and accountability
Teaching is, at its core, a simple and direct act. Here are kids, a room, and some tools: At the end of the school day, what is the increase in knowledge, the sharpness of analysis, and the refinement of skill? What can the students do and how much better can they do it now? As a teacher, what did you do here, exactly?

Our profession continues to struggle with this essential understanding of our work, failing to connect compensation or even continued employment to educator effectiveness. We must institute evaluation measures that value outputs over inputs. We must develop merit pay and accountability systems that make improvement a professional imperative rather than an act of personal pride. We must invest site administration with the power to hire the teachers they want and fire those they don’t. Until then, we will continue to function less like a profession, and more like rec-league T-ball, where everyone gets to swing but no one keeps score.

Differentiated roles
Teaching suffers from a lack of career development and meaningful acknowledgement of success and accomplishment. To rectify this, we need promotions for teachers that do not require them to stop being teachers. Teachers with the ability to guide peers, develop instructional models, or assume site-based leadership must be offered these opportunities in conjunction with a reduced, but continuing, classroom role.

What limitations – beyond inertia – prevent the creation of the teacher/ vice-principal, the teacher/ curriculum designer, the teacher/ data analyst? Such hybrid roles exist in small, isolated numbers, but more often than not, the assumption of greater leadership responsibilities exists as something added-on to existing teaching responsibilities. This limits overall effectiveness, and encourages martyrdom and burnout, forcing teacher-leaders to either dramatically increase their professional responsibilities or make an inauthentic choice between the classroom and the front office. By seeking the creation of diverse and varied teaching positions, we expand the scope of professional development and advancement, keep talented leaders working directly with kids, and begin to address the problematic issue of mid-career teacher retention.

The achievement gap can only be closed by professionalizing teaching, and eliminating the educator achievement gap—that distance between the teachers we are, and the teachers our students need us to be.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Rocking Out in ASCD's Education Update

I'm kinda heavily quoted in an essay in ASCD's latest newsletter entitled Taking the Fear Out of the First Year. If you're interested in such things, it's well-written and smart, and besides the self-flagellation over first year mistakes by yours truly, you can hear from Jesse Solomon, whose voice and work in teacher preparation/ development is one of the best around.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

And Another Bond Broken

I have this old-school hard-shell briefcase, defaced with bumper stickers and ill-treatment, in which I keep my classroom artifacts -- smarty pants, certain pictures, student work samples, balls and bells and skill quiz binders -- that I use when I make the rounds doing workshops. When I saw the smashed car window and the contents of my central console strewn about the car for the second time in six weeks I was bummed, but it wasn't until I realized that dude hadn't just made off with $0.78 from the change collection area, dude had also taken my briefcase o' student work samples.

And now I don't have any.

And I can't go back to work on Monday and make the kids produce more.

And this isn't just about my effectiveness as a workshop presenter.

No one, no one single person, has experienced a more painful or disastrous exit from the classroom as I. The ties that bind me to that place and that time keep getting cut in unpleasant and unpredictable ways.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Rumors Of My Demise...

…while admittedly self-generated, may prove to be largely exaggerated. Or at least premature.

In a few weeks I start work with the stellar folks at The Education Trust – West, an organization doing heavy lifting on ed reform, and one I’ve admired for some time. None of the jobbiness of this particular job have begun, but it's been a love-fest thus far, I gotta tell ya. I have in my possession this great two-page job description overflowing with bulleted tasks and responsibilities. Luckily, none of the bullet points look like this:

■ Sell-out real hard

Instead, I’ll get to do a wide array of work in both practice and policy realms, straddling that great divide, and harnessing the experiences of the last six years in countless new ways. As part of all that, we’ve been discussing a continuation of blogging. While not necessarily focused on life in and around room D2, this work would certainly touch on and broaden many of the issues and themes that have consumed bandwidth in this space. This blog, or a similar version located elsewhere, will continue to exist. Crank the stereo, the party’s still swinging.

I’m excited. There is much left to be determined of course – not least of which is the issue of just where exactly on the Internet these writings will be found – but they will live somewhere and hopefully will continue to be worth your time and energy.

So… stay tuned.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Party's Over...

…a CD skipping/
it’s the same hook repeating
grows more grating with each passing second/
and the walls contain a resonation
laughter and conversation/
it was fun while it lasted
but now I should be going/
-Against Me!, T.S.R.

My resignation has been accepted. I am, currently, not a teacher.

This is weird. I have a new four-word job title that replaces my single-word job title from years past, a new job title that is no where near as fun to tell people in bars. I have no doubt that the reality behind the title is massively cool in any number of ways – just not the I-teach-poor-kids-let-me-buy-you-a-drink way. I have to reshuffle the things I carry around in my invisible knapsack.

I once told a USA Today reporter this blog was about two counter-narratives. He didn’t print a word of what I said, so maybe this isn’t so terribly compelling, but the CD skips in the background and I think its worth repeating here, now.

The first counter-narrative at work was an attempt to balance the massively negative voice that serves to denigrate and cast an inaccurate impression of communities like the ones found in the east 408. Yeah, my students are poor. Yeah, they’re brown and don’t speak English so good. Yeah, you’d probably get off the highway by mistake and feel like you’re in the ghetto. But all the negativity associated with those factors just doesn’t match up to the experience of working not far from the intersection of Story and King. My experiences don’t match the gallons of bile poured forth from blogs, most written, sadly, by teachers or parents or both. My experiences are the opposite. We made hay while the sun shined, and I’m proud to death of what was accomplished. Even as certain folks attempt to throw mud on those accomplishments, I leave with the same sense of hope, same belief in the power of adults to enact change, and the same unironic confusion directed at those who throw up their hands at the perceived futility of this work.

Counter-narrative #2 was my desire to offset, in whatever minor way, all that gross TFA inertia, that supreme failing to prioritize and value teaching, even dressed up as it is in the myth of dual movements. TFA created a cultural undertow, subtle and powerful, that pulls at the knees of even the most successful and committed teacher/ alum. Why aren’t you doing something else? Why aren’t you doing something else? The organization spills oceans of ink celebrating the social entrepreneur/ alum, the newly elected school board member/ alum, the charter founding/ alum, and mere puddles acknowledging the achievement and commitment of those who are doing the work that, uh, ya kinda brought us here to do. Jake and those like him are at Institute right now, participating in a training process that fetishizes the persona of the teacher; those that buy in the most, those that build themselves into what they were told was the highest and the best, they will be the ones most betrayed when the tide goes out, 18 months from now.

The writings here became more than those two counter-narratives, of course. There was middle school basketball! And essay-grading procrastinations about procrastinating! And unpopular defenses of merit pay! And the union of punk rock and ed policy! And ruminations on trying to act as a shaper of young minds while sporting black eyes earned from fighting on the street!

The writings here afforded me a wide array of opportunities. I was invited to travel to Arizona and to Washington, D.C. to speak. I was offered opportunities to write for different publications. I was asked out on a date (there ended up being three in total), the idea of which – contact someone who writes things you think are stellar and later make-out with them – I fully support. I found a way to redeem the January 02 flawed notion that I’ll teach during the day and write at night. I got myself interviewed for a graduate thesis, an ASCD newsletter, and New York Times Magazine. I flirted with the creation and maintenance of anonymity, managed to make some District people pretty furious, and more or less paved the way for the next step in my career.

The writings here were always grounded in the experience of teaching the kids. I’m not so naïve or self-congratulatory as to think they would have garnered anywhere near the amount of attention had this not been the case. A lot of this was less about the nature of the ideas, and more about the uncommon union of those ideas with my various professional titles and identities. Lot’s of folks support test-based accountability, but not a lot of teachers. Lot’s of folks like merit pay, just not a lot of union leaders. Lot’s of folks critique TFA, but not a lot of alums whose approach to teaching is the fully realized vision of the Teaching As Leadership (TAL) handbook (and then some). I guess the perception of ideological schizophrenia makes for a big draw and a good read.

The writings here emerged and were informed by teaching, and living as a teacher – having that conception of self pretty high on the auto-identification checklist. That’s why this blog will not continue in any meaningful way. I’m not going to call this space “Not Teaching in the 408.” I’m not going to start writing about my roadtrip to Portland or my observations on the state of the seemingly unemployed (yet fantastically accessorized!) San Francisco hipster. I’m not going to pen witty remarks about the office culture I will shortly embrace.

What will I do?

I will close shop and direct ya’ll to kindly go back to the original resignation post and read what Rory from parentalcation wrote. Somehow, from his perch all the way up-north, sitting on Canada’s back, he more or less nailed it. I’d say more, but I’m not sure how much mud the mud-slinging folks feel like slinging. Still, education is my field, and will probably be my life’s work. Even if I leave the classroom component of it, opening myself to charges of sell-out-dum, of being hypocritical, of invalidating some of the fire I’ve thrown in this space, my belief in and commitment to the manifesto perched at the top of this blog remains strong.

The days ahead ripple and swell.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Fifty-One Minutes

Dear Jake,

So this is what you want, huh? What you told people you were going to do, what you always talked about? This is what you said you wanted, right? No, for reals – you’re gonna do this? You’re going to go be a teacher, stand in front of the kids?

Okay then.

You will need to get used to the bells. It wasn’t so long ago you were in college, those halcyon days of glorious waste when you refused to abstain from anything, when you did nothing in moderation or with restraint. There was a wide expanse of free time then, entire pristine prairies of it. They weren’t so long ago, those days, but you have moved far, far beyond them. Now, your life is divided into work-live-sleep, and work is further divided into these fifty-one minute chunks. Three-thousand and sixty seconds, one interval after another, bookended by a dull tone that isn’t, really, the sound of a bell. This is not what the hourly tolling of your gothic towered college sounded like. Those were bells; this is a bland tone not unlike the sound your building’s front door makes, that automatic buzzed-in noise.

Here are your six, fifty-one minute chunks. Five are for teaching, one is for “preparation.” This preparation time is when you urinate out the gallons of coffee you consume daily, and also when you read emails from the friends who don’t have real jobs. Not like your job. You can tell who has graduated onto a legitimate job by the email. Everyone you know who works in finance, who works in marketing, who works in fields somehow more nebulous than either finance or marketing, these friends write long, intricate emails. There are frequent links to entries from the urban dictionary, stuffwhitepeoplelike, or youtube clips you can’t open because the District’s firewall blocks pretty much everything. You feel guilt and panic each time you forget about the firewall and click a link from one of your artificially employed friends, immediately ex-ing off the screen and hoping no one is monitoring this. You imagine thick-necked cyber-security guys in dark rooms whose sole purpose is keeping track of how many times you generate the blocked by websense screen on your District-provided laptop. When you have the time to reply-all, the first-tier illusionary-jobbed quickly distinguish themselves from the second-tier illusionary-jobbed by replying-all to your reply-all in an incredibly short time span. Like, within ninety-eight seconds. This is especially remarkable given the inclusion of a thematically relevant link from craigslist’s “missed connection” section you won’t click because you know it will only trigger that blocked by websense screen. Again.

All other fifty-one minute chunks are reserved for teaching, not email. Please remember that the bells are in charge, not you. The bells decide beginnings and endings, not the extent of work completion, which sometimes takes many different sets of fifty-one minutes; not the desire to send the kids packing, which sometimes takes less than two minutes. Atonal chime and they burst out of rooms. Atonal chime and they drift toward the next room. One of those rooms is your room. Eventually they sit, at least until the next atonal chime. Then they leave and the whole process begins again.

You exist within this frame, within these constraints and limitations. Fifty-one minutes. It feels indescribably alien to have an external force shape your days like this. You will need to adjust.

You will need to adjust, also, to the commute. You live in San Francisco, but there are no jobs for inexperienced teachers in San Francisco Unified, the district that launched a thousand pink slips. There are jobs in the east 408, down the peninsula, away from the fog and the hills and the big window’d apartment you share with the fiancée, but much, much closer to the kind of poverty you had previously only read about in textbooks or first-person exposés by New Yorker staffers on extended leave. This is where the jobs are, so this is where you will go, steering your Subaru Outback south and into the flatland schools where no one wants to teach, not really.

Here is what it’s like to wake up in the dark every day, never ceasing to feel the tinge of guilt when the fiancée groans and rolls over, maybe digging her elbow, the sharpest elbow of any living adult female, into your back if you are too slow turning off the blaring alarm. The wood floors that are your favorite part of the apartment are always cold, never mind what month it is, and you shuffle to the bathroom to shower, to shave, to brush your teeth, eat vitamins, and inevitably forget to turn on the coffee-maker, even though you took the time to load it up the night before. On good days, you walk less than five minutes to your street-parked Subaru. On bad days, more. Sometimes much more. Stop for coffee and then get yourself going on the freeway. Getting there takes forty-five minutes on the straight-shot of 101. Getting back takes an hour and fifteen minutes on the curves of 280. It will take you eighteen months to quell the urge to backhand anyone who uses the phrase reverse commute, right? in that hopeful lilting way.

You will drive in a haze of sports talk radio, NPR, and the same loud music you listened to in high school and will never grow tired of, probably. Sometimes you take advantage of the commute and the time zone difference to catch up with friends on the east coast, but mostly you worry about how you will spend your six versions of fifty-one minutes. Sometimes this is productive worry, and it passes for what your teacher-credential program called planning. All such planning comes immediately after you say, out-loud, in the car, definitely loud enough to be heard over the NPR, you say: “What the fuck am I teaching 4th period?”

Sometimes, you come up with a good idea. Usually, your sleep-deprived, caffeine-addled, traffic-distracted brain comes up with very little that is even in the same genus as an idea, good or otherwise. Mostly though, you think about the kids.

There are more than ninety of them altogether, some of whom you teach in consecutive fifty-one minute blocks, some of whom who share, instructionally at least, with other teachers. The kids are an open wound of need and want. You will buy granola bars and carrots and apples for the ones who come to school perpetually hungry. You will stock pens and paper and binders for those who would otherwise never know what it is to own these materials, store them in a backpack, produce them upon request. You will plan to arrive almost ninety minutes before the first bell, because the kids will get there forty-five minutes before the first bell, and their insistent knocking, the desire to come in and out of the cold and use the Internet and tell you tales – this is hard to ignore. Not to mention completely incompatible with planning and preparation because you still don’t know what’s going to happen 4th period.

You will plan to stay well after the final bell has atonally toned, because a different group will wander through, knocking insistently. They want to listen to the radio and use the Internet and stand awkwardly by your desk to tell you tales. Daily, they will need to be chased from your room, often with the mock-exasperated tone that has nothing mock about it, often with threats of physical violence so extreme and out of place no one could mistake them for serious threats of physical violence.

Here are the kids. They are this deep, deep wound, and there is no free time, no mental energy, no chunk of your finances that cannot be poured in that wound like the most potent of Hydrogen Peroxides, a pouring that fuels the kind of consumption that only reinforces the pouring, justifies it, encourages it, emboldens future pourings and the expansion of the pouring into a variety of other areas.

You will need to educate the fiancée about the nature of this wound. And you will need to keep educating, because until you are there, doing this work, hemmed in by the bells and fighting the inarguable limits of those fifty-one minute, this is not something anyone can be expected to understand. Anticipate her lack of understanding and do not hold this against her, ever. Even with all your explaining and enlightening, she will never fully get it. This is not irony, your inability to educate the person closest to you during the time in which you are simultaneously capable of educating the children of strangers. It is not irony, but it is achingly lonely.

Sometime in the near future you will need to educate your own damn self on the merits of strategic withdrawal. You will need to learn about the digging of trenches, and the maintenance of equilibrium. Martyrs are fun to read about, not share a life with. But you can worry about that later, if there is a later. Most people don’t get that far.

Here is how you will teach.

You will teach vocabulary and spelling and phonics. You will teach past tense irregular verbs and persuasive essays and literature. You will teach cause-and-effect and confirming predictions and you encourage higher order thinking regarding a fictional immigrant father's assumption of bus driver authority in the American public school system. You will teach how to read questions and eliminate wrong answers, the difference in answering the why when you were supposed to tackle the how. You provide the data necessary to update Reading Goal Sheets and Big Goal Sheets, and reward progress accordingly. You will thank two students for arriving on time. You will send a student to copy The Reality of School essay after repeated disruptions and tell him to use his homework on which to write the essay because he previously demonstrated he did not value it as an instructional tool. You will teach myths and introduce the concept of point of view. You will look around at one point and some kids are finishing comprehension questions, some are independently reading, some are prewriting an essay that you’ll focus on later, some are taking reading quizzes, some are at the library or in transit, some are quizzing each other on spelling and vocabulary, and you will feel like a real teacher for the first time, no longer an imposter.

It will be life or death up there, always, in front of the kids. Life if the kids are moving with you, getting it, those glory moments when the hands go flying into the air. Life even if they don’t get it, but plow ahead anyway, offering you that eerie trust, that completely unearned vote of confidence that you know what you’re doing. Anything but that jaded stance, heads down and hoods up, unmoved by jokes or threats or injunctions that – for reals! – this is important stuff you need to learn.

Death then, fifty-one minutes thick.

Frequently, there will be a basketball game. The kids will show flashes of competence but will generally underachieve. You get into it with the refs a little bit, but restrain yourself, because you are conscious of your role as a leader of young men. And hey, someone write down the date, because here is the first time you ever thought about setting an example for anyone, anywhere.

Players will whine about being hurt and you want to repeat to them something a coach once told you about the difference between hurt and injured, but don't, because under the former condition it is still possible to perform a sex act with one's mother, while under the latter such activities are physically impossible, not just socially frowned upon. You won’t share this insight, because it is not a good idea to speak like that to 13 year-olds, even though you were spoken to in a similar vein and even though they will (clearly) remember, appreciate, and learn from the distinction many years hence.

Here is how you will herd the kids through the hostile crowd after the game and toward the bus, mostly without incident. Later you will stand impatiently in the foul smelling locker room, breathing the odor of stale sweat coated by body sprays, which are not, contrary to popular belief, an acceptable substitute for a shower. You offer this mantra, to be repeated as needed: Axe is not a shower. Axe is not a shower. Is it possible the locker rooms of your youth smelled this bad? There really is no way they were this bad, is there? They were, but in this and other things, your memory is really not to be trusted.

After getting every kid out and using that absurd fork-key-janitor-thing to get the lights off, you will only need to go back and reopen the locker room twice. Once to retrieve an i-pod; once to get a math book. The forgetting of the math book will come shouted at you as you’re closing the car door, ready finally to head home, and you really, really want to say screw your math book because you don’t teach math and have a sneaking suspicion your back-up point guard probably isn’t the most diligent math student anyway. You don’t say screw your math book. Instead, you will praise your back-up point guard for his belated responsibility, climb out of the car, making the sound you remember your father making whenever he got into or out of a chair. Thoughts of this new, terrifying similarity between you and your father will not go away anytime soon. Just FYI. You will open the locker room again, use that awful fork-key-janitor-thing, and breathe that sour stench until your back-up point guard realizes his math book is actually in his backpack after all.

The return commute is an hour, and somehow, your fellow commuters afford you no special vehicular consideration for the day you’ve had, and the good work you did.

Here is how you will try to unwrap your mind from everything that has gone on between the bells, before and after the bells. You will be too tired to help with dinner, knowing that the too-tired situation cannot continue indefinitely, but somehow not too tired to share a few clever anecdotes with the fiancée, who still finds the anecdotes fresh and interesting. You will remember not to dominate the reminiscence and retelling of the day. But this was a good day, and it will be hard to disengage, especially since good days have pretty much been an endangered species.

1) Carlos brought a pen and a binder, for the first time.
2) Leshondra volunteered to read, twice.
3) You actually completed a lesson in 4th period, almost for the first time.
4) Berto was in school, again.
5) Marcus remembered to roll to the basket after setting the screen.
6) You recalled your credentialing program truism that voice-raising was a silly and ineffective means to address student misbehavior, a strategy that becomes self-perpetuating and useless after a remarkably short amount of time, and shockingly, this turned out to actually be an effective and sound piece of advice, for once.
7) You only forget to take attendance in 2nd and 6th period.

Here is how all these little successes will build upon each other, linking up like carbon molecules into endless chains. These chains are heavy, and clanky, and they wind and wind around your head. Understand that they will be hard to banish. You will be unable to stop thinking about them when the fiancée discusses something a coworker said; unable to stop thinking about them when she talks about a new restaurant she wants to check out on Saturday. You will, finally, stop thinking about them during the thirty-two minutes of sex and foreplay that occurs after dinner, thirty-two minutes that are thankfully unbookended by either a bell or a chime or a tone. You teach in fifty-one minute chunks and you have sex and foreplay in thirty-two minute chunks. You should probably not think too much about the amount of time you spend on sex and foreplay compared to the amount of time you spend on vocabulary development and attendance taking. Comparisons like that will only make you sad.

It goes completely without saying that you should not compare the amount of sex and foreplay your students have with the amount of sex and foreplay you have.

Thirty-three minutes after you banished the thoughts of your day, they are back. They linger in this strange postpartum separation you can’t seem to shake, this sense of just plain down that will come after every little vindication, after every little triumph, after every realization of the life and validity built into your attempts to make yourself into the kind of teacher you see in your head.

Here is how you will lay in bed, next to the sleeping fiancée. You will not think about how different your thoughts are, now, laying with an arm draped across her waist, how different than before, when you would endlessly replay the memories of kissing and touching and all the sexy whispery things she said into your ear, replaying the memories until falling asleep. You will not think of the difference because you will think of your day, and your list of successes. You did all this. Look! You did all this. You worked your ass off, not terribly creatively or innovatively, but bulldog style. You moved all of these kids from here to there. You will think about how awesome and great that movement is and how you’re proud of them and happy that in terms of academic gatekeeping and life-choice they are increasing becoming positioned for success.

But the best part is, you like, finished all your different fifty-one minutes without major interruption. Dig on that for a while.

You did good. Now do it again. No one will ever tell you this, because that’s not how schools work, but you did good. Seven things went right today, and tomorrow you will need to do it again. And the next day: Do it again. And the week after, the month after that: Do it again. In fact, all the years of fifty-one minute intervals that stretch before you: Do it again.

Except really, do it better.

You will need to turn those seven successes into eight, and then turn that eight into ten, then fifteen, then twenty. You will need to have so many successes, daily, it isn’t really possible to list them anymore, and this will need to happen sooner rather than later, and not just because you’re cashing checks for work that you aren’t doing so well, right now. There is, clearly, much more at stake than some simple ethical/ financial math. Do it better, and then do it better, again.

This is what you will think about as you glance at the alarm clock, those red-glow digits getting closer and closer to that horribly low number that sends you out of bed and across the cold wood floors. You will think of the ways your days have already begun to Lego-click together, this masonry of an ideal, thinking of old Celtic strongholds, their foundations slacked in the blood of strong men, of a scattering array of data-point days that stretch on without end.

Go do it better again.

This is what you always said you wanted.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Final Two Days (Three Years Ago)

For reasons that are redacted, I can't be around for the final days of school, including the graduation ceremony. The less said on this the better, but in place of any thoughts I would have had on these experiences I will not have, here's what I wrote three years ago to the date, the kind of mass-emailed writing that ultimately contributed to the creation of this blog, once upon a time.

I don’t wanna sit back in slack and wasted holes/
Since I’m surrounded with the hearts and souls/
I get back on my feet, wipe my eyes clean and go/
Back to the front to sing out here we go.

--Hot Water Music, The End

Graduation Day, 2005:

I have a hard time with this day, I don’t feel the paramount relief, or at least not primarily, I’m not happy to see them go. What I get is a lot of regret. The feeling that if I’d worked harder, they would’ve learned more. If I’d busted my ass to find more field trips, prepare even more, push them, push their parents, give up more lunches or more time after school, more Saturdays. I wish I’d done those things and don’t like myself for not doing them, and show up on the last days of school sad, and the kids don’t know why.

These kids, these graduating 8th graders, who could’ve sat under a banner that said “We Are People of Change,” who sat to the left of the banner delivered by the mayor to only one middle school in the 408, these kids inherited a school in chaos, whose scores had gone down three straight years, the worst school in the District, County, South Bay Region. These kids who changed that, they listened to the [POY] at the microphone say, “Worst to-” and they shouted “First!”

“Who did it?” he says.

“We did it!” they shout.

And they know it, and they mean it, and there is no one who can say what that understanding will bring them, what future victories have had their foundations laid in these shouts, these assemblies past, that swagger that comes with knowing you’ve accomplished something and laid it before the eyes of others who have no choice but to acknowledge it.

And L. my starting small forward, who gives an address; L. who speaks of coming to [our school] from Vietnam, “knowing three words of English.” Who discusses how hard it was “the constant struggle to understand.” He keeps to that, the desire to understand. He speaks of his teachers, the one who taught him to speak English, the one who gave him his first B+, pushing him to arrive, finally on grade level. He speaks of those early days, the days of struggle that are now behind him.

“When I leave [our school], I will no longer worry about trying to understand. I go forward expecting to be understood.”

And never mind my ELD-teacher appreciation of L.'s ability to manipulative verb tense to make a point, I’ve been thinking of his words as maybe the most succinct statement of what we’re doing here that anyone has yet presented.

These 8th graders did not want to leave on Friday. They wandered around after receiving their diplomas, hugging each other and crying, and we let them because this wasn’t the typical middle school melodrama at life change; this was the action of a group who knows that it will not be the same somewhere else, a group who knows they have made something special in this east side spot, backed up against the highway, the hills towering in the distance. They made it happen, and they’re proud, they legitimately like each other, and have never built stronger relationships with each other or with their teachers. A flood of emotion this week, and when it was over they did not want to leave.

Ti. (Captain, small forward), M. (Co-captain, power forward), and Tr. (Co-captain, point guard) come by my room seven times, each time with more tears. We have spent countless hours over the last three years together after school, running, jumping, cutting, learning. We’ve had Saturday practices, and weekend long tournaments, and they have hearts bigger than the size of the normal human heart, don’t know what it means to quit, in anything, these girls who promised to come to Palo Alto as incoming freshman together, these girls, the class of 2013. They tell me they’ll never forget me. I’ll never forget them.

I. comes by, Notre Dame College Preparatory School for Girls, class of 2009, sees me, bursts into tears. She hugs me, and says thank you for about five minutes. She got her ticket out of the neighborhood she’s come to hate, the family that is a nightmare, and maybe she’ll never come back to say hi. And that’s fine.

I see D. as I’m throwing out garbage and offer my hand. He shakes his head. “Brothers gotta hug.” He tells me he feels like he let me down. He talks about bad choices he’s made, and explains and explains. Enough. “Look at my hand,” I tell him, holding my hand curved out, fingers stretched wide. “That’s where the world is for you,” I tell him. “At your fingertips. That other stuff, learn from it, move on. Whatever you want, at your fingertips. Reach out and grab it.” His eyes are dinnerplates, then he nods slowly.

I wander into the cafeteria to get an update on that day’s assembly. R. throws her arms around my neck and just cries. She’s going to IB, leaving many friends, and today is hard. Her friend A. is right there, too, and A.'s going to IB with her, and these two are so impressive, not brilliant as the other nine I’ve recruited, but no one has worked harder or with more drive and focus. They possess in abundance at 14, traits I am still trying to cultivate in myself at 25. “You taught me so much,” A. says, basically wailing, and I choke back tears because I don’t know how to tell her what she’s taught me.

J. stands at the door, sagging shorts, high white socks in traditional cholo style, shifty-armed because he’s hiding his new three-dot tattoo. He looks me in the eye, sticks out his hand, grips hard. “You were the best teacher I ever had,” he says, the words heavily accented because he’s been speaking English less than two years. I’ve heard that a few times today, will in the following days read it over again in the end-of-the-year surveys they filled out, but there’s something about this kid, and not just his half-cliché tough-guy-whose-respect-you-earned scenario, or maybe just that standing there, still gripping hard and making eye contact like I taught him, he says, even, firm, no embarrassment, “Thank you.” And he walks away, down the ramp.

Now, finally, the 8th graders have left. I look at my own kids, a little shell-shocked from the emotion of the day, and I give out the ribbons I’ve bought to honor their MASTERing of Big Goals (Read 180 words/minute, improve writing 1 point on a 4-point scale, MASTER 80% of standards, improve reading ability 2 grade levels), and they clap and cheer for each other. I tell them I’m proud of their progress and their hard work. I tell them maybe they wished they could’ve watched more movies, or did less homework, or had more free time, but that’s not what I’m about. I say maybe you thought I was mean or too hard, and okay, but everything I did, every time I came down on you or made you stay after school, or looked angry, that was for you. If I didn’t care, I wouldn’t try. We must be people of change, I say, and defy the myth-makers who will hold you down because of your skin color or last name. This is not something that comes easy, I tell them.

They leave better than they came in. All of them. I didn’t get all of them to grade level, but I got some, and more got close. I spent hours dissecting work, test scores, charting improvement, looking for patterns, planning lessons and analyzing how I think their brains can structure new information. I have policy about not wasting time, using every second to good advantage, and employ carrot-and-stick practices using stop watches and monitoring the elapse of seconds. I am relentless in pursuit of achievement, and it happens sometimes, that in process of all that evaluation, they can become bundles of data, and I loose their faces. Then E. brings me a card they have made and all signed, “Dear Mr. [TMAO], Thank you for supporting all of your canguritos” -- And then you remember all at once, in a rush.

“Ketchup clap for Mr. [TMAO],” M. shouts, and the smack their hands against curled fists.

“Mosquito clap!” he says, and they make zzzzzz-ing noises, moving their hands in an arc and then smacking them together.

“Big hand,” he says, and they stick their hands in the air, fingers spread wide.

Then the bell rings, and these 7th graders who are now 8th graders, who have been told this school is theirs now, their inheritance a thing of power and dignity, whose summer of freedom waits just beyond the doors, they do not want to leave.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Causation’s Messy, Messy Goulash

I wasn’t going to do this one, originally. But then I wrote it, and it’s been sitting in my computer, waiting for current events to reach clarity and resolution. That ain't happening, so I'll go with the redacted version here.

The system reason
I already wrote this one – have been writing it for three years maybe. This isn’t insignificant. It isn’t minor. It isn’t something that is limited to perpetually unsatisfied, cranky 28-year-old know-it-alls. What does a teacher-promotion look like? Lead teacher/ mentor teacher/ department chair tend to mean very little except occasionally more work. Instructional coach means not teaching. Vice-principal means not teaching. Coordinator of something at the D.O. means not teaching. What does a teacher-promotion look like? We don’t know, not really. What happens when I figure out my job, do it well, occasionally do it more than well? What are my options for professional growth beyond 1) stop doing the job I do well; and 2) continue to do the job I do well, without change, indefinitely?

Not to mention, how do you decide that I know my job and do it well? Do we have anything that looks like outcome-based professional standards? Yeah, not so much, huh?

Teaching is not a profession because there is no wide-spread system of growth and advancement. I suppose you could make the case that education is a profession wherein teaching is the entry-level position, but that argument is deeply unsatisfying. This would make the career teacher inherently and fundamentally less, and it moreover ignores the reality that the skill sets required at the various hierarchical levels of the education system are wildly varied and do not, in any way, build upon one or another or reflect a type of sustained growth and development. Professionals who excel at their entry-level jobs in everything from medicine to politics, the military to cooking, have the opportunity to advance in ways that continue to call upon, make use of, and depend upon a demonstration of previous excellence. They are not compelled to choose between endlessly doing the same thing or earning the right to stop doing what they’re good at precisely because they’re good at it.

The district reason
It's been like this. I'm the guy in the revolving door.

The school reason
Why do some continue to teach, while others leave? Why was it that in 2006-2007 TFAers were leaving the District in droves, while thirteen of the fifteen TFAers to ever work at our school were still there (not to mention pretty much everyone else)? It’s about working conditions. It’s about the quality of the environment in which you work. We had it. I went to work and got out of the car in the cold 6:30 air and felt so F-ing grateful for the opportunity to do this work. Grateful, privileged, and enthused. I remember those feelings now the way I remember the pure joy of seeing a ping-pong table in my living room Christmas morning 1990 – a fond memory distilled by time and plenty of less fond shit along the way.

Check this. We’re not that school anymore, not even close. We’re Arnie Vinick’s poll numbers after the San Andreo nuclear accident. We’re the buying power of the Papiermark c.1923. A divisive and damaging police presence; a vindictive and ultimately incompetent vice-principal; the rise of pettiness and looking out for number one; a failure of teacher leadership and an absence of next-step mission-building – we’ve got it all.

The inertia reason
It wasn’t always like this. Commenter T-bag, wrote thusly:

“It's about the context. You started this adventure six years ago with the POY, right? You were part of something big. You were on a mission with a fired-up group of teachers and administrators who were all T-ing their AO to defy the myth. It's no big surprise that you are outta there now. The transition from the POY to the next Admin didn't go so smooth. I bet you're not the only one from the days of POY who has turned in the three line note. Ya'll done good. You pulled a school out of the abyss. It's up to someone else, another team, to take the next steps… You've gotta be part of something bigger than yourself and I say your leaving is evidence that you just aren't feeling that sense of a team on a mission anymore…”

And of course this is right on. If I never experienced that worst-to-first turnaround, if I never worked as part of a core group of folks coming together in powerful ways to enact change, if I never saw the nearly uncapped potential of adults to reform an entire school and bring the community along with it, if I had only worked in dysfunctional, bitter, and punitive environments, then none of this back-sliding would matter so much. It wouldn’t feel so terrible and tragic. I wouldn’t know the difference, and so would happily go about my business of holding back the darkness by investing my four walls with everything I got… or I never woulda made it this far, and would be back in Boston, tending bar and trying to publish works of fiction.

The broadening your impact reason
This is an important sentence to learn:

“My experiences have been profound, and to a large extent, life-defining, but I want to broaden the scope of my impact and affect change on as wide a range as possible.”

This is a good sentence, and true. I experienced first-hand how structural changes could dramatically improve the work we all do, and the attempts to impart these lessons to others – at West Ed, at the Arizona DOE, at CABE/ NABE – have been exciting and satisfying, even in the absence of any metric for my own effectiveness therein. This is something I find myself chomping on the bit to pursue more fully. More deliberately.

The means versus ends reason
At Dan's place, a while back, folks were creating a teacher classification system. I think that once you throw out everyone who just plain sucks and is in this cuz it's the best, most guaranteed paycheck they can muster, you're left with a central cleave, one simple line of demarcation.

On one side of this line are those that see the relationships, caring, and (gosh!) love as the end to all the work they do. That’s why they man a desk. They see this is as a high, pure, clean reason to do the job, and all the talk of gross, impersonal data just devalues and un-romanticizes the relationship building and the connecting and the life-changing, like spray-paint on the Venus de Milo. Think Pirsig’s romantic quality vs. classical quality. They traffic in the currency of caring, but it’s a limited caring that, in the name of whole person supporting, never seems to get around to the academic aspect of that whole person.

On the other side are educators who, far from rejecting the power and importance of relationships, appreciate and enjoy them, but also see them as means to a greater end: achievement. Fist-pounds and back-slaps, smiles and jokes and the kid who comes back three years later with big grins and cool updates are all well and good, say second group educators, but if those things don’t take us closer to learning and advancing and progressing academically, then we’re just camp counselors with delusions of grandeur.

I'm in the second group. I can dig a kid being a kid, all that ridiculous goo of the middle school'd, and I dig too on the essential sharing that lies at the heart of teaching and learning. I dig the way that sharing lasts and grows, whether it's my IB kids come back, those achievement-gap-closing kids, to invite me to events and graduations, or just gossiping with Y. for half and hour about all the break-ups and get-togethers of the kids who used to wander through my door. It’s great to get asked to the quincenera or the football game. It's great to get the phone calls, and texts (especially now), great to see the kids all grows up and talking to you about college and careers and how their mom's back is much better, thanks. Even the shitty times, the times you have to go to the hospital to see your boy with his stomach stapled back together after a stabbing, or see your guy, the one you teach for, incarcerated and asking for books, you wouldn't trade those times. I am a better person because I signed up for TFA back in January 02, less solipsistic, less cold, a puzzle piece with more fuzzed-rounded edges and more inter-locking points. I'm better because of all of the relationships and the sharing, everything that dug its way inside and worked its (re)defining work, and this is what I talk about when people ask why I do what I do. It's what you talk about, too.

But if you're in this second group with me, you talk about all that because that’s what people understand. It's also what they want to hear. What they don’t understand is how you feel when you see the CST quintile pie-chart, and it’s so F-ing full of green (interquintile growth) that you cannot sit in a seat and you run out and get drunk on whiskey because that’s what you did together. What they don’t understand is how you feel when you hand kids the first essay they wrote, and place it next to the final essay, and watch their faces because that’s what you did together. What they don’t understand is maybe those invitations — to football games, and parties, and graduations, and jail cells — wouldn’t be as forthcoming if the other part wasn’t there, vibrant and strong. Look at what we did together.

I received a student survey back at the end of my second year. It’s the most valuable piece of paper I own. The kid ripped me a new one, strongly disagreeing all the way down the page. On the back, in the comment section, she wrote:

“I hated this teacher. I don’t know why, but I just did. He thinks he’s funny, but he’s not. He gets butt-hurt about everything.”

Then there’s a five-line pause, and she writes these last two sentences, which allowed me to calm down over the next four years, and do this job much, much better:

“But I gotta admit he’s a damn good teacher. He taught me, like, everything.”

[cue: Rocky theme song]

See, I’ve taught far more kids like this, kids who didn’t come ready to be cool with me, who didn’t need it and didn’t want it. Kids who’ll never come back and visit, kids I never saw again (except that time her brother was being put in the back of a cop car), but you still have the opportunity to teach them, like, everything.

Here's why this matters in our current context: It's harder for us second-groupers to remain. What gets me going is the pursuit of exponential student growth, and what keeps me coming back for more is the chance to hack away at the intensely complex pursuit of that growth. What stymies me, what blunts me, is the unraveling and solving of this particular puzzle. When the work becomes less about discovery and innovation and more about delivery and application, when the achievement becomes less shocked success and more the expected norm, when the cool thing you did to dramatically accelerate progress still accelerates progress but becomes less cool every time you do it, further and further removed from the spark-joy of innovation... I start checking for exits.

This isn't to say I've got it all figured out, so nailed down and hammered out that it's easy to do the three years of growth in one year thing. Of course it isn't. But the difficulty and challenge becomes one of maintenance and minor tweaking, and that just doesn't grab hold of me Temple-of-Doom-style. And because I'm a second-grouper, I can't supplement with the pure joy of the kids, the thing that rolls me over the doldrums and the low points like it does for the first-groupers, like it does for the one teacher I know who may straddle both groups in equal measure. My past successes impair my ability to keep coming round to generate future successes.

("Sure I can ground Orr. But first he has to ask me to."
"That's all he has to do to be grounded?"
"That's all. Let him ask me."
"And then you can ground him?" Yossarian asked.
"No. Then I can't ground him...")

The 4:47 a.m. reason, after shutting off the alarm, but before walking over the cold floor to the shower and the start of your day
It’s time.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008


I’m renaming this blog “The John Kennedy Toole Experience.”

This is what posthumous success feels like. You announce that you’re a terminal teacher and suddenly your unremarkable little 100-hit-a-day blog is averaging 500 such hits, not counting the absurd 1,000-hit day two Fridays ago (which, interestingly enough, also holds the distinction as being the worst-morning-I-have-ever-experienced-that-didn’t-involve-coming-face-to-face-with-that-woman-from-the-reserve-desk-Sophomore-year). Suddenly, you’re getting compared to LBJ, causing folks to rethink career aspirations, and being held up as an example of the shortcomings of alt certification.

I’m not entirely sure what to make of all this. Even as current events prevent much public writing, I’m not quite dead yet, and maybe there’s a little more to say.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


More Ed in 08 for your youtubing pleasure.

This was fantastic.

Everyone in the room stiffened, sat a little straighter, and I'm in the back corner, hidden by that lovely column in the right-hand portion of the screen, giggling and giggling, cuz I heart The Ed Trust (in both East and West Coast incarnations), and I heart anyone who will take a hard-line stance to the whine-despair-whine-hand-to-the-forehead-whine of the tests are big and bad and scary (there was a fair amount of editing on the actual gross tonnage of all that).

For the record, I think:

1) If the kids are scared of the tests and the environment in testing sucks, adults failed. They failed to prepare kids, support kids, and create a positive enviornment that views these tests as opportunity, not punishment.

2) Wilkins is not wrong in her analysis. In a highly functioning system, folks should have to earn the right to teach in the South Bronx. We're 180 degrees away from that.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Not The Reasons I Won’t Be Coming Round

Been looking from outside, I’ve been watching
But I don’t know what to say/
Changed the old backdrop, same face
But not who it used to be/
Trying to get out, not getting, thinking you're everything
You said you wouldn’t be
–Avail, Tuesday

I completed three hundred percent of my TFA commitment. I beat the 0-5 year departure curse. But I resigned and I’m leaving. Around the blogs, around the policy world, around the union halls, folks cast about for the reasons why people like me do things like this.

This is why I didn’t.

I wasn’t prepared.
I wasn’t, but that’s not why I’m leaving. I got through the don’t-know-what-I’m-teaching-and-don’t-know-how-to-teach-it-anyway phase, figuring stuff out, thinking about why things did and did not work, selecting areas to get better continuously, and working really really hard. It’s this last part that bears at least some mentioning. My lack of specialized, focused preparation – a lack that is close to near-universal for those of us manning classrooms in the world of high need urban English Language Learners – put some serious stress and strain on the work. Much like the Saturn 4-door I’ve used to get from the 415 to the 408 daily lo these many years, my engine’s fine, my transmission works, but man, I got a lot of miles on me. A lot of miles. This the endless travel over the dashed lines of self-improvement; the grind of figuring out how to do this job well, because my god, there’s too much at stake here to continue being so half-assed and poor at all this. I can still run, but I’m muddy to the windows, and you don’t want to use me to pick up your prom date.

I’m not successful.
I am. By any reasonable measure I’ve been an educator worth the dollars transferred electronically to my checking account each month. It’s worth noting perhaps that teaching is generally bereft of meaningful acknowledgement of success and accomplishment, and so it is difficult to provide any measures for success. To the extent that we have any, I realize I’ve reaped a great deal – leading PD, speaking, talking to reporters, pie-charts, student essays – and that the extent of this reaping is probably disproportionate to the work I’ve done.

I’m not supported.
I don’t even know what this means, but it’s something I hear teachers say all the time. I’m not sure the people who proclaim the not-supportedness could even articulate the nature of this not-supporting or how it could possibly be rectified. For the record, I’m not not-supported. Never have been.

I can no longer stand to work with the disastrously declined youth of today, nor their apathetic, uninvolved families.
Oh, please.

I’m not paid enough.
Okay, so this work is exponentially more “important” than many other undertakings that are far more handsomely compensated. We all should be paid accordingly, and those of us who do the work well should be paid at least as well as your above-average plumber. That said, I’m paid pretty darn well relative to my peers, and certainly well enough for an unmarried fellow whose biggest expenses after rent continue to be whiskey, books, and college loans. Benefits? Got em. Even used em twice [1. vaccinations for S. America adventure 2. separated shoulder hedge-diving on Geary Blvd]. No complaints.

I really want to work at KIPP.

Uh, no.

I’m burnt-out.
This is another one of those things I hear teachers say frequently, and more often than not it prompts an immediate, and probably unfair, response: Burnt-out? Fool, you gotta be on. fire. first. then maybe we can talk about burnt-out.

I think I was on fire, once, and maybe most days still am. If the flames are less high and maybe less intense than they once were, it's only because there's a different type of fuel burning now. Still, the kids are, in the words of Don DeLillo, "an open wound of need and want." There is no free time, no mental energy, no chunk of your finances that cannot be poured in that gaping wound like the most potent of Hydrogen Peroxides, a pouring that fuels the kind of consumption that only reinforces the pouring, justifies it, encourages it, emboldens future pourings and the expansion of the pouring into a variety of other areas. This is the root of the famous many-hats cliche, the thing so many of us simultaneously relish and decry about this work. I'm not happy unless I'm putting the best product in front of kids, but I'm not necessarily happy in the constant construction and revision of that product. I'm not happy unless I use work hours 80-82 to take kids to the District All-Star Basketball Game, but I'm not necessarily happy working hours 80-82. I'm not happy unless I'm being the teacher I see in my head, but the process of finding that guy and living as him no longer makes me happy.

Is that burn-out? If you can connect the dots, feel free, cuz I don't know how to chase my tail on this anymore.