Friday, June 12

what its like to feel neurotic (or thereabouts)

now that i'm done teaching i'm able to come back to this post (from 3/30 at 11:42 pm) and read it and kind of laugh at myself. in the throes of teaching, this is what was going on in my brain. certainly it sucked then and i'm happy to not be doing it now but there's more to it than that...

i don't know what has been going on with my brain since late last week, but I feel like I've been physically unable to create anything for my lesson plans. there's no investment and no desire to start work. i'm afraid of it and it's getting to me. i sit at my computer in fear of starting because i don't know exactly what i want to do and i feel like there's so many options for how i could teach something or what to do, but i'm afraid of new things and i always end up just doing what i always do. especially now though, i don't think what i've done is working to its best and i think there are probably better activities or things to do or whatever, but i just don't know what they are.

time is my enemy. instead of getting things done i fuck arouund on the internet and then look at my watch and realize anotehr 43 minutes has gone down the drain without me doing anything. that's another thing - the internet has consumed my life. i probably check the same web pages 10-15 times a day for no fucking reason and i get sucked in each and every time. i need to set up some system where i figure out how to control my internet addiction because it's runining my abilities to be productive at all. i think part of the reason i never do good lesson plans anymore is because i know no matter how amazing the lesson is, something will fuck it up or set it off course or i'll forget to do something or kids won't know what's going on or they won't be able to do something or it will take too much time or whatever and it's just making it hard for me right here and right now at 11:47 on monday night to sit down and make a lesson plan for tomorrow about introduciton paragraphs because i don't know exactly what students need to improve on and even if i did exactly what i'd do to help them get better at it because i suck at coming up with creative ideas and its killing me and my students but mostly me because then i feel awful about myself as i sit at my computer or as i got to sleep or when i get up in the morning sleep deprived and depressed that i have to go teach another crappy lesson. there's also a ton of stuff piling up that i haven't done like grading journals and grading quizzes form last week and tracking them and sending themt rob at some point to check student progress, which i really don't think there was any of on the last assessment i gave.

the added pressure of more and more things to do makes it less likely that i get any one particular task completed and when i do i think its some great victory and then start fucking around when really i should be moving down the list of things to do but i don't because i hate doing these kinds of things and putting in the work after nine oclock on a fucking weeknight and i jsut wish i could chill out a bit because it's tough to get up at 7 in the monrning, teach all day then go to track practice and then to the chiropractor and after that i stopped at the grocery store to buy some necessities and then i rememberd that i needed a gift for gilson but i already told karl i'd run so i got home and we went out running then i ate dinner which i luckily didn't have to make otnight because i did it last night, so after that i went to rite aide to pick up gilson's gift and then talked to brittany on the phone for a half an hour and then wasted time utnil karl and i made a lunch and am now wasting more time but i think it's been important for me to get down these thoughts so that i can come back to them at some point and remember how awful, nervous, scared, helpless, powerless, uncreative, tired, and pathetic i feel because i can't come up with a solid lesson plan in the last two months of school.

i thought running would do the trick but because i've been such a fuck i haven't gotten anything done and it's too late to get up in the morning to run especially since i told one of my students i'd meet him for tutoring today at 7:30 in the morning and i think running might be something that could help me but i've got to get to bed before 11 to do that. maybe i just need a change of scenery and should do my work somewhere else. i wihs my brian wasn't so clogged with things to do, especially those little unimportant things or those long term things that i can't qutie hammer out the details for yet but i know i need to have them on a list or something so that i don't foret about them.

Friday, May 1


Today is May 1.  I've been waiting for this month for a long time.  TFA is winding down.  I got my end of year TFA survey in my email this afternoon.  TCAP is over.  End of year exams are quickly approaching.  

I can foresee myself becoming nostalgic about teaching at some point in the future.  Earlier this week I had the thankless job of taking pictures of 'Student Exhibition' projects and renaming the nearly 600 files with student names and ID numbers.  It was a pain.

As I was renaming files, and not teaching on Wednesday, the noises from the hallway caught my attention.  There were to be no students in my room that day - no one knocking on the door, writing a journal, or knowingly ignoring whatever it is I say in front of my class.  Listening to the din of changing classes, I realized  in a month I won't ever be in a classroom again.  At that moment, I would rather have been directing the chaos in my classroom than digitally cataloging student work and listening to music.  It was quite a revelation.

Today, May 1, in my last class of the day, my two students (3 were absent) had finished their work early and we were just relaxing and listening to some durangense (Mexican music for the uninitiated).  An eigth grader, who I've taught for two years, said, "Mr. Golden, I can't believe I'm saying this, but next year I'm going to miss you."  It was a nice thing to say and something I really hadn't considered any of my kids possibly saying to me.  I think this is something I'll think about when I'm not teaching in a couple of years.  Not the start to May that I expected, or the post I expected to make near the end of this whole thing, but certainly a happy one. 

Sunday, March 1


After resolving myself to do some asskicking, I've reached March unsure of how much ass I've kicked.  Part of  me feels like I haven't done much teaching since before Martin Luther King Jr. day.  We've had the Inauguration, 2 x 2 day school wide assessments, snowday, sick day, parent conferences day, and other random chunks of days that were just lopped off of my teaching schedule.  I entered the beginning of 2009 with many of these obstacles in mind, and unfortuantely more were added along the way.  Despite making fun of my housemate for lamenting the 'lack of instructional time' earlier in the year, I've strated doing the same thing.  

This lost time adds up to teaching that isn't quite as good as it could be, or learning that isn't quite as extensive as it should be.  Coping with this shortened teaching time, among other things, has been difficult for me.  TFA instills mindsets that have really taken hold.  Right now, those mindsets are doing battle with what I see in the classroom.  TFA says that everything that happens in your classroom is up to you.  Student failures - your fault.  Student successes - your fault.  TFA says that deep down, all students/parents want what is best for the students - namely a high quality education.  What TFA says, though, isn't always what happens.

Confronting real situations has put a hurting on my confidence and made me constantly question my own work ethic.  Schedules have made my teaching periods erratic; my curriculum is out of synch and jumbled around.  Directives from my administration pull me in different directions than I want to go.  After 1.75 yeras with one student, our relationship has finally gotten to the point physical escalation, near expulsion, and him being moved to the other ESL class.  Unfortunately, for him, this class is nowhere near as rigorous as mine.  What frustrates me is that he's getting exactly what he wants, which is a less challenging education.  Instead of forcing him to deal with me get an education, everyone is fine with rewarding his awful behavior and giving up on him.  

Are the failures in behavior and academic achievement really my sole responsibility?  Were the failures avoidable?  What should I have done differently along the way?  If students really want what's best for them, why did I fail to get my difficult students to see that?  

To reassure me that I've produced some difference in my students, people say 'just being there makes a difference', or 'you can't save everyone'.  To some extent, these sentiments are true, and pragmatically this is probably the way I should look at my situation.  Unfortuantely, TFA has made me obsessed with evaluating my performance and my efforts.  I end up always wondering what more I could have done, and what more could I do in the future if I just worked a little smarter, or messed around on the internet a little less, or thought about teaching a particular lesson with more exciting different strategy (this ring...this watch...these earrings).  I know, realistically, that I can't be a TFA and teaching robot, and I feel a bit guilty about that.  As awful as being a TFA robot would be, it might make my teaching self esteem a big higher.  

Perhaps, like Boyce, I need a little distance to reflect on what I've done in Memphis and what Memphis has done to me.

I've applied to work at Institute in Atlanta.  Hopefully my TFA spirit rebounds at the end of the year.

Tuesday, January 20


Currently sitting in my classroom, N207, at HRMS in Memphis, TN.  I'm watching the inauguration ceremony of Barack Obama.  It's awesome.

Saturday, January 3

Ass Kicking

Memphis is in for an ass kicking.  I am returning to the city tomorrow.  I am leaving the comfort of Philadelphia / Haverford / Hershey / Pittsburgh for the second to last time.  For the last week, I've been dreading this upcoming Sunday.  I've got to become that other person.  Mr. Golden.  Lesson plans.  Assessments.  Performing.  Reprimanding.  It is a difficult transition.  Trying to always improve your teacing is no walk in the park.  But instead of being paralyzed by what I have to do, I am going to kick its ass.  Look out.

Things I did over winter break:

*Turned down a free round trip and a stay in a Chicago airport hotel  to make sure I got to Philly in one day's worth of air travel.
*Regretted not buying bros Central BBQ shirts.
*Played tackle football with the Horsham guys.

*Ice skating with Brittany in South Park - we practiced on the baby rink for a bit, then ventured over to the hockey rink.  She held her own.  I was lucky enough to go without falling as well, unlike Jan 07 in NYC when I busted my hip on the last go round.  
*New Year's eve with Brittany in Hershey.  We hit up a nice restaurant, had some champagne, and watched the Dick Clark / Ryan Seacrest / Kelly Pickler team.   Besides the Dick Clark stuff, it was a fantastic, if slightly lower key night than Goat City parties in the past.

*Hanging with the Goats, eating at Bella.

Things I did over Thanksgiving:

*Dinner at Brittany's.  Kind of scary with the whole mythology about meeting relatives and doing holidays with them.  Definitely a different crowd than my usual Thanksgivings with the bros and the parents.  The average age of the people at the dinner besides Brittany and I was probably 65-70.  Some interesting conversations that seemed typically elderly, namely complaining about kids wearing pants below their waists.  Literally.

Things I did over fall break (way back in October).  

*Pennsylvania Reanaissance Fair with Brittany in Hershey.  Saw a sword swallower.  Drank some fine beer.  Took in a couple of shows.  Heard a lot of people say 'Thank ye' and other ole Enlgish slangs.  Definitely a highlight of my semester.

Tuesday, November 18

Memphis' Next Top Model

Today I proctored these ludicrous assessments in the auditorium.  I was in there with one other teacher and about 70 kids.  One 6th grade girl, cute as a button, says to me, "Mr. Golden, I just told her that I think you should be a supermodel."  She said it with all honesty and sincerity.  I was flattered.  Being a supermodel seems more appealing than being a teacher, certainly. 

Sunday, November 16

Summer 2k8

As it gets cold, and as it gets lonelier down here in Memphis (schoolwork is not a good best friend), I figured reflection on the summer would be a good antidote.  With the duties of photjournalist for my school's exhibition of student work this pat week, I refamiliarized myself with photos from this summer.  Here are some of the highlights.

Trouble's Birthday Party.  Good to see the Goats.  Nathan Patton broke my watch, however.

Danny's Graduation.  

Brittany's Family's cabin in central PA.  On the trip I was reading 'Into the Wild'.  Felt tough using an outhouse and shooting a gun up there.  Lot of quality time with Brittany's parents.

Pirates Game and Kennywood Park.  Bought cheap seats at PNC Park.  Beautiful view of the city.  Enjoyed some Quaker Steak N Lube wings before the game.  We walked around the park where the 3 rivers meet, had a few brews at a bar, then went to the game.  Unfortunatley, the game was postponed and we stood around for an hour or so in the rain, then went home.  Also went to Kennywood Park sometime during that week.  Brittany convinced me to go on one of those rides that goes straight up and then just drops you.  I was the one freaking out.  Think the swings or the pirate ship may have been  my favorite.

Cait Schopp's Wedding.  Standard Brittany pose.  Reception and hotel pool / grotto were outstanding.  

Wildwood.  We went to Wildwood the day after the reception.  We had no hotel reservations, which was a big concern of ours.  Got into Wildwood around 7, checked out about 35 hotels / motels in the Crest, but found that they all had no vacancies.  Luckily, the Pier6600, a place Brittany's family always stayed, came through, and we found a room for a reasonable price considering the circumstances.  Extremely relaxing to be at the beach with Brittany - couldn't have asked for a better close to the summer.  Maybe the weather could've been nicer.

Yankees game at Yankee Stadium.  Day after we got back from Wildwood, we headed up to NYC to catch a Yankees game.  I was really happy that my dad was able to take us up there.  He'd been talking about it for so long, and it was great that we all got to go up there.  Brittany and I were a little tired, but we made it through.  

 I think writing about this in August would've brought my spirits down a notch, since I'd be so far removed from all of this.  Luckily, in a little more than a week, I'm heading home and to Pittsburgh for Thanksgiving.  First time I'll be doing a holiday at Brittany's - will just be great to be with her for a bit, despite all the extra fanfare.