Friday, March 27, 2009

Little Red Schoolhouse

I'm in Washington, DC right now (obviously), so yesterday I took a little time to do some sightseeing. I was planning a full on Oppressed People's Day (National Museum of the American Indian followed by the Holocaust Museum), but on the way to my first destination I stumbled across a necessary pitstop.

What, you may ask, is the bright red thing in the middle of all the depressing drab and bureaucracy? Is it a bright spot in our otherwise bleak American education system? Um, sure, it's something like that.

Seriously, whose idea was this? Dear Margaret Spellings: just because John Ashcroft had to change his office building to cover up the Justice statue doesn't mean you had to do something stupid and tax-wasting with yours.

On the other hand, the poetic justice of it all is pretty phenomenal. Notice that the NCLB schoolhouse is empty. Even better, those doors to the office building behind it are locked.

I stuck around for a few minutes hoping for a good Arne Duncan celeb sighting, but no luck. So I moved on away from the schooling system and on to the pre-planned oppressive/depressive parts of my itinerary. All in all a good day.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

That's Not Funny

Last night I went to the movies for the first time in what may be almost a year. "I Love You, Man" turned out to be worth the exorbitant $10.75; in general it was sweet, smart, full of quotables but still funny the first time. But there was one minor character whose presence was like sticking a knife in my stomach and turning it slowly. This is of course no offense to Ethan Smith or Nelson Franklin or whichever actor played this guy (thanks for the unclear credits, IMDB).

He first appears in a scene where a group of male friends has spent a Sunday afternoon together and one, Sidney, is trying to get the others to stick around for dinner. One guy can't stay because he has plans with his in-laws. Another guy promised to take his kids out to dinner. The third? He has to leave because Sunday night is for grading papers. As soon as this line came out, my friend who I saw the movie with--who is also a teacher--gave me a look and we both sank down in our seats with that painful horror of empathy.

Then there's another scene where again Sidney is trying to get his friends to go out with him. We see him on the phone saying things like, "You're taking your kids to dinner again?" As he calls the third friend, Sidney says "I know that's not what education is about. Can't you just give them all B-plusses?" Again there were glances of shared anguish and further sinking into seats.

I get it. The truth is funny. Ha ha. Hilarious. Except when it's not funny at all because it's your life and things that you and your friends actually say, pretty much word-for-word.

I will give the movie credit for one thing (besides being a generally excellent movie). Although the teacher appeared for maybe a total of 60 seconds and had only one line, this was one of the most realistic portrayals of a teacher I've ever seen. To begin with, he's absent from his friendships and barely makes time for one social event. Furthermore, the writers' grouping of the teacher with the married/parenting friends demonstrates a clear understanding that being a teacher is tantamount in responsibility and busy-ness to having a new wife or a new baby. Except nobody writes movies where the happy ending entails taking a teaching job.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Language Clean-Up

***Please excuse the profanity in this post. If you are offended by the use of profanity, you may want to pass on this one. And you should probably never visit my classroom.

Student (in conversation with other students): "That's hella fucking stupid!"
Me: "Come on, you can think of a better way to say that."
Student: "I'm sorry! I mean, that's hecka fucking stupid."