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Tag Archives: Work

Have To Wash My Hair Tonight

That’s not really true – the title that is. I am a morning shower person. Anyway, you know how you used to watch those television shows like Happy Days and other comedies of that era? When a woman didn’t want to accept a date request, she would say I have to wash my hair. Now, of course, the guy did not buy that excuse. It’s just too lame. However, he would accept it at least publicly because it was a way to escape the embarrassing no to his date request. “Hey she’s busy,” he could tell his friends, “she has plans tonight.”

This is the third week of the new school year. We have already had some days off for holidays with more coming. Despite that, I feel as though I have so much to do. Rushing, rushing, rushing.

One of my goals this school year is to minimize stress. Actually, it’s a goal I set every year which seems to fade ever slowly away till it’s time to do grading for the first marking period. At that point, it just completely disintegrates. I end up feeling anxious and fighting the feeling that I am not getting enough accomplished.

Last year, however, was a bit different. I wasn’t as hard on myself. I followed through on some of my promises to myself. I actually got to get bed earlier one night a week, assisted the students as best as I could and did not take their failings as my own. I even did some things for myself (one of those was to start a blog – you may have heard of it – it’s called memyselfandkids) You know what? It felt good!

This year, I am ready to take it to another level. I have a number of things that I want to accomplish outside of school. Therefore, I have to be even wiser and more efficient when it comes to budgeting my time. This goal has been in the back of my mind all summer. I know I can, I know I can. I psyched myself up.

You’re waiting for the but right? Well, here it comes. Sort of.

I have had to go out nearly every night since school started. Whether it was a back to school night, religious commitment, a concert (saw Bruce Springsteen and the E. Street Band last night), I have had regular plans every night. You know what I need? I need a bunch of nights in a row where when you get home, you can latch the door because you know you are not leaving till the next morning. You know the type of night I mean? Now, of course, there are still familial responsibilities, but that’s different. That’s an everyday responsibility, and one I enjoy (usually).

So, I am thinking about using that line. The next person who tries to make a plan will hear, “I need to wash my hair.” Who knows what they will think? I just know that I need the space and time.

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Posted by on September 21, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Tradition!

Tradition! (Writer’s Note – that first word should have been sung out – even if only in your head – akin to Fiddler on the Roof.  As it will reappear, make sure to follow this instruction as it will enhance your enjoyment of this post.  Thank you – the writer). We all have traditions weather the topic is family, food, entertainment, holidays, or singing out 1111 when it is 11:11. Something has taken on enhanced meaning because we have done it before and get some comfort or joy from the act. The behavior has become a tradition.

Today is Friday – (blog and calendar all for one low, low price), and I recently started a tradition. By the way, generally when I think of a tradition, I conjure something that’s been going on for years. The picture is black and white and grainy and includes people who are no longer young. Well, traditions have to start sometime. This tradition is a personal – not shared. The reason I bring this up today is because I am in a quandary: Do I let the tradition go by the wayside, or do I continue it?

I loooove chocolate! Now, it is not the only food I am passionate about, (pizza and peanut butter quickly spring to mind) but it truly holds a special place in my heart.  I am nearly convinced that chocolate can solve most problems – warm, cold, tired, or sad. Chocolate can do it all! It comes in so many different forms.  Magical stuff that chocolate is.

Now back to my tradition. The past few months I have taken to buying a chocolate bar for my ride home from work on Friday. I buy it before the first leg of my journey. The chocolate bar – Kit Kat, Peanut M&M, Snickers, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups Hershey’s Chocolate bar – whatever (I’m flexible – any will do) accompanies me on my 35 minute train ride, walk through NY Port Authority, and on to the 164 bus. As I near the end of my bus ride, I take out my chocolate bar and eat it slowly, savoring each bite. It is my good bye to the week’s stresses, and my hello to the weekend. It is divine.

Now, school is over. Summer is not so stressful, and I don’t take the bus and train. Do I need the chocolate? This morning while food shopping, I decided. I will be having my candy bar later today. The tradition must live on through the summer. Tradition!

 
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Posted by on June 29, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Not All Guilty

It’s June and for teachers, like myself, it is a month of anticipation. A school year is winding down and soon the summer and its freedom will be upon us. I take stock at this time of year as I am sure many others in the teaching profession do. Did my students learn what I wanted them to? Was I as affective as I could have been?  What can I do to make next year more effective?  It is my goal to continually get better and one of the ways that happens is introspection. I believe this is true of many teachers. In fact, my experience has shown me that the majority of teachers are hard working, responsible, and dedicated professionals who care about their students and want the best for them.

As a New York City school teacher (I work in the East New York section of Brooklyn), I am particularly aware of teachers in the news. Unfortunately, lately it’s been all bad.  There have been multiple reports of relations between teachers and students. Of course this is wrong in every way and if found guilty, the teachers should be punished to the full measure of the law. They have violated the public trust. We are responsible for our students – not only to teach them but to be a role model for them as well.

These incidents and their constant reporting in the newspapers are demoralizing.  Am I the only one who thinks if these are being reported then how many more incidents are going on that we don’t even know about?  I doubt it.  Due to this cloak of suspicion and doubt, it’s as if each of us in the profession must prove that we are not guilty.

I don’t know all the specifics of these cases as I shy away from reading all the gory details. However, I do know that one of the teachers was reassigned after a picture of her kissing a student appeared on the front page of the newspaper. The student is 18 so apparently it is ‘okay,’ and she will retain her job.  Yes, the union is responsible to us, its members, and everyone deserves a trial.  However, when they try to defend the indefensible, it pisses me off.  My teacher hat comes off and my parent hat goes on. What if it were my child that was involved in such a case? Even worse what if the predator teacher got involved with my child after already being involved in another case but instead of losing their job, they were retained due to some technicality? I can’t even imagine how angry I would be.

There are many problems with the education system in America, and changes are overdue.  The problems come from a variety of sources and anyone who has thought about the problem and is honest with him/herself can recognize this issue. One problem that must be dealt with right away is the removal of teachers who act immorally and compromise themselves as professionals and harm children.   While I take this summer as a time to refresh and prepare for a successful school year in 2012-13, I want to focus on preparing myself and not defending myself.

 
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Posted by on June 7, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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A Heavenly Interview

We all get frustrated with work. We all have those days. You know what I mean, you’ve been there. The thoughts run through your head:

Is vacation ever going to come?

How many more days to retirement?

How hard is it really to rob a bank?

How much money do really I need each month to live?

Can I FINALLY just win the damn lottery?

Then, the next day comes, and we get up in the morning and go about our busy day. Oh well, what choice do we have – it gets better, and besides, as I argue with myself, my kids like to eat.

I wonder if G-d feels like this. He (no, I am not a sexist, but ‘He’ sounds better than the Eternal Heavenly Being) must. How frustrating are we human beings? We make promises, swear, and pray, but do we really change all that much? We are still liars, thieves, killers, etc. There has to be a point where G-d wants to say, ‘what’s the point?’ He already tried the flood and that didn’t straighten us out. He gave us the 10 commandments and a whole lot of commentary, but how many people follow that carefully.

So, what if G-d decided, I’m tired of this job – so much responsibility and so little reward? What if He considered a new job? After all, the average person goes through 5 careers in a lifetime, so why can’t the Eternal being try something new. It’s time. Anyway, I figure He would go for something in construction, after all, he did build the world. Imagine the interview:

Interviewer: So, Mr. – how do you pronounce that name?

G-d: I have many names. Please just call me Mr. G.

Interviewer: Okay. Mr. G. Can you tell me about your relevant experience?

G-d: Well, I made the world.

Interviewer: I hear you buddy. I’ve been around too. Sometimes, it does feel like I built the world. Anyway, can you be more specific?

G-d: First, I made the heavens and the earth…

Interviewer: What do you mean – bridges?

G-d: Something like that. Anyway, I also made man.

Interviewer: Man? Do you mean you were a stay-at-home dad, raising boys?

G-d: Well, I am with all my children all the time.

Interviewer: You sound like a real family man.

G-d: You could say that.

Interviewer: We appreciate that around here, but we need people who can be flexible with their hours.

G-d: I am very flexible – I can work morning, day, or night, or any combination. However, I don’t work weekends.

Interviewer: Family time.

G-d: Religious needs.

Interviewer: I understand. Do you have any questions for me?

G-d: Thank you, but no. I have the answers.

Interviewer: Okay. We’ll, be in touch.

G-d: Thank you.

Unless he pulled some strings, I’m not so sure G-d would get that job. He might have to go back to his original job. After all, is that so bad? He could make tomorrow a better day. If we really put our heads to it, maybe we all can.

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Trying to Make a Difference

I take my job seriously.  While I am at times frustrated and disappointed with the students and question their work ethic and desire to learn, that does not stop me from trying to give them a quality lesson every day. I pride myself on my work ethic.

The Spring term began in the beginning of February.  Shortly thereafter, my 10th grade classes and I began reading the book Night by Elie Wiesel. The autobiographical book focuses on the author’s experience during the Holocaust. It follows Elie and his family through the period from before the war through deportation, concentration camps, and finally liberation.  As one would expect, it is a gut-wrenching tale full of sadness, although the author mostly stays away from expressing his emotions. 

I have taught every high school grade over the course of my 9-year career.  However, I have the least experience with 10th grade. Therefore, this was the first time I would be teaching the book Night – or any book related to the Holocaust (10th grade curriculum at my school). When my assistant principal instructed me to teach the book, I had mixed emotions. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to teach a book focused on the Holocaust. I had ideas on how I would do it but nothing concrete. While I always feel an obligation to get the students interested in the text, this book, Night, has been different.  As a Jewish teacher in an inner city school made up primarily of Carribean Americans and Hispanics, I have always felt like a bit of an outsider. While religion rarely comes up in class, it is still abundantly clear to the students and myself that our backgrounds are dramatically different.  On top of that, it is clear that the students have little knowledge of the Holocaust other than the day or so that they spend on it in history class.  So, teaching Night is so much more than helping the students appreciate literature, learn some literary elements, or other typical English class lessons. 

I have struggled with Night. I want everything to be perfect. I want to be engaging, and the students to be enthralled, curious, moved, disturbed, inquisitive, etc. Surprise – it is not going that way. Some kids don’t like the book. Some say it is boring. Some even put their head down in class (and I ask them to pick it up).  I want to shake them and say, “What is wrong with you? Don’t you know how serious, how terrible, how important this subject is?”  However, I have not said any of those things. Part of me thinks I should be even more passionate than I have been and maybe it will rub off on the students. Another part of me says, “what is important and meaningful to me does not necessarily have the same impact on others. Besides, not everyone deals with depressing/heavy material in the same way.”  The topic is close to me and is clouding my judgment. It is difficult for me to teach the book. However, it is worth it when seeing even just a few students get an understanding of the terrible part of history known as the Holocaust.  I’ll continue to prepare and hope that tomorrow even more students will appreciate the lessons taught.

 
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Posted by on March 8, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Productive Gene

I have a to-do list (actually, it’s in my mind – can’t write make a to-do list on a to-do list) that is expansive. You know how when you know time off is coming and you start putting things off till you reach the precious space where miraculously you will complete everything? I’ll open up that piece of mail tomorrow, I can read that article next week, I’ll respond to that email in a couple of days. Delay, put off, file – we all do this –right?

That’s where the presidents come in. Huh? You see I have this week off as for New York City Schools it is not Presidents’ Day but Presidents’ Week.  I think celebrating the 44 men who have held this most powerful position really does require a week. Actually, I heard that as part of the City’s fiscal crisis in the 1970’s, they began shutting schools Presidents’ Week (I believe it had something to do with the cost of heating the schools as well – ironic then that the forecast calls for temperatures to hit the mid 50’s this week).

So, now, ironically, the pressure is on: work on those delayed projects, spend time with family/friends, clean up, and catch up on movies.  Oh yeah, I also have to relax and let go of the pent up stress. I think I might need another week. Yes, I know that is not coming, and I don’t want to sound ungrateful. Of course, when I get to next Sunday night, there will still be some items not checked off. I used to feel a sense of frustration and disappointment when items were left unchecked on my list. Why was I unproductive? Why don’t I manage my time better?  For years, I used to think it wasn’t so much that I overbooked or my expectations were too grand but that I simply did not manage my time well.  I felt as if something was wrong with me. I think the productive gene runs in my family. I often hear my mom complain about herself saying she moves too slowly (now, granted, she is 70 plus years old and doesn’t move like she once did, but still does a great deal).  Now, in terms of long term health, the productive gene is one that you should wish for.  

So, the week off will end. I will get a lot done. I will wish I got a lot more done.  That’s the nature of the beast. I’ll wonder aloud to my wife – if she hasn’t started snoring yet – if I was productive enough – ponder the plusses and minuses.  There’s always next week.

 
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Posted by on February 20, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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Works to Ability

When it comes to report cards, there is a large selection of prepared comments I can select from. I doubt students or their parents realize this, but one of the most meaningful I can give a student is when I select ‘works to ability.’  I respect when people work hard and utilize whatever gifts they have been blessed with. When students don’t fulfill their potential – whatever that is – and settle for something less, I am annoyed. How dare you not do your best?

On that note, I wade into the Whitney Houston discussion.  This former gospel singer burst on the scene, and everyone fell in love with her. How could you not love her? She was fresh, beautiful, and gifted.  What an amazing voice!  She was eminently likable.  She was a commercial success beyond belief – having sold 170 million records.  Who can forget the performance she gave at the Super bowl? Every performance since has been measured against it. When I hear people eulogizing her, this is the woman they are talking about.

However, her last big album (not in comparison to the earlier albums) was in the late 90’s. It is also since that time period that she has been a drug addict and an alcoholic.  According to rumors/press, she has gone through rehab at least once, but as evidence shows, those trips were unsuccessful. In addition, it seems her daughter is on the same destructive path. So, when people call her death tragic, I can’t agree. The last decade plus of her life was a lost opportunity.  She was the opposite of someone who utilizes their skills to the utmost.  I view her similarly to Dwight Gooden, an immensely talented baseball star whose careers was tarred by addiction of various sorts. He had some spectacular and unforgettable performances.  I remember watching Dwight Gooden pitch a game against the Phillies in 1985.  The hitters were so overmatched that it didn’t seem fair.  I looked up the stats and saw he had 13 strikeouts that game while letting up 3 hits and 3 walks.  They never got close to scoring, and I remember being happy when they simply made contact. Dwight Gooden’s career stats are pretty good, but he could have been one of the greats. 

In this country, people have a chance for redemption. We are all about second chances – hell, even Marion Barry got elected to a second term.  Whitney Houston was spectacular. She fell from the pedestal and had repeated chances to redeem herself. That is sad. She wasted her talents. That is sad. Whitney Houston did not get the most out of her talents. That almost makes me angry.

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2012 in Uncategorized

 

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