A Phillie Teacher

I was a starry-eyed teacher from New Jersey. Now I work for Philadelphia Public Schools.

Posts Tagged ‘Philadelphia Schools’

The New Guy (and Other Rumors)

Posted by aphillieteacher on July 24, 2011

It was a whirlwind spring. The end of school featured the usual exciting release of gossip and secrets; rumors were laid to rest  and new ones were started.

Rumor 1: Our principal will be reassigned. We’re getting someone new!
True. Follow up questions and rumors: Is a smaller school assignment a reward or a punishment? did the former principal lose face or get rewarded? Answer: The ways of the Philadelphia School District are mysterious and never revealed to common teachers.
Rumor 2: A new guy has been assigned as principal to finally bring order to our school.
We don’t know yet if the order part is true, but it would certainly be a relief to have a principal who backs up his teachers. If cell phones are forbidden, then don’t allow them into the building and don’t smile as kids pass you in the hallway openly talking on their phones. And oh yes, don’t threaten to write a teacher up because a student is seen in class with a cell phone. You were supposed to police cell phone possession, not us.

We’ll find out soon enough what this new guy is made of.
Where will I be teaching in September?
The question might be closer to *will* I be teaching in September. I was laid off on June 7 and reinstated 2 weeks later. Current rumors claim there will be more layoffs before mid August which may or may not include me.

Actually  don’t know if being laid off would be so bad; so far I’m having a wonderful summer just lazing around not writing lesson plans or pretending I don’t see waaaaay too much male underwear or listening to language that would embarrass a sailor.

I like not working. Too bad I also like  income.


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Fighting becomes performance

Posted by aphillieteacher on April 14, 2011

Another fight at school today. From what I could see it involved two girls outside the cafeteria, right next to the main office.

It was quite a spectacle: close to a hundred kids must’ve gathered to get a better view.  One parent waiting to see the principal was treated to a front row seat through the office window.

Even after the security officers dragged the girls into the office they continued to lunge and kick at each other, spitting in each others’ faces and even at the officers.

Later in the day, kids replayed the video they had taken on their cell phones and critiqued the fighters’ methods.  “Why’d she put her head down? look. look at this! ” Over and over again.


How to stage your own
Fighting at Not-so-Wonderful High School has gone beyond a stupid way to an settle argument; it’s major entertainment. Someone “talks trash” and the next thing you know,  the kids have violent, graphic entertainment that will last for days.

Potential fighters text their friends about an impending battle; texts are sent to phones all over the building and in no time there’s an mob just dying to watch the mayhem. How great is that?

As an extra bonus, if you have the right Facebook friends, you can see the video again later and even add comments of your own. These are the latest edition of  high school memories.

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Feelin’ the Burn

Posted by aphillieteacher on March 23, 2011

PSSAs ended on Monday. In reaction to sitting still and going for an hour at a time without electronic devices over the past 6 days, the juniors have uglier senioritis than the seniors themselves.

For them, it’s school’s out, leave us alone, you cannot possibly ask anymore of us. We just want to sit in class and uh. . . Talk and goof around.

(Really, kids? Really?? ’cause what’s it gonna be like when you go to college/ get a job, or try to do your own income taxes? )

The point of this post is not the kids feeling burned out; it’s ME.  The last three days have been spent trying to gently corral them back  and make them stay quiet all at the same time for just 5 minutes so I can tell them about their baby-easy research project or get them started on Realism so we can read a cool story called “The Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.” But as we used to say in NJ: Forgeddabout it. They don’t  want to hear anything.

Today I am toast. Tired, totally cranky and, let’s face it: FED UP.

As much as I dreadfully need a mental health day, I’m going to brave it out one more day so 1/ I can run off stuff for a sub tomorrow  2/take off Friday so I can have 3 blissful days without my beloved students while I regenerate.

I doubt they will even miss me.

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Dreaded Sunday

Posted by aphillieteacher on November 29, 2009

It’s Sunday and I dread the 5 hours of prepping that lie ahead of me.

Every week I prep, research, scan, print and plan for my classes. Every day, every period, they throw it back in my face. Loud talking, disrespect, non-attention.

Regardless of my efforts to “transition smoothly” and let students know what is expected, they’ve written me off. As soon as I begin to speak they turn off and play the day away. I’ve never approved of busy-work and worksheets, but it seems that is all that this group can relate to.

Discuss? not likely. “Here’s the worksheet. You have 20 minutes to complete it. I will come around to see how you’re doing.” That’s what works with them. That is, if they actually have something to write with.

Post the PSSA essay three days in a row, explain in detail what is being asked, give them notes to draw on then assign it for homework.

Result? 5 kids out of 28 turn something in the next day.

Quality? two excellent, 3 mediocre. The rest are zeroes right up until grade time. Then they rush to complete work they should have done and are shocked shocked! – to discover they will receive a lower grade for lateness.

I’ve become bitter.

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Assertiveness Helps

Posted by aphillieteacher on November 21, 2009

Everyone new to the district is assigned to a building mentor. This mentor is supposed to help us through the maze of deadlines, paperwork, lesson plans and classroom management. I assume they get a stipend for their effort, which is right.

Unfortunately my mentor is a busy woman. Not only does she mentor me and about 5 other teachers, she teaches the Extended Day program Monday – Thursday after school. This means she is available only on Friday afternoons and her time is divided among all of us.

Panic set in when I realized no one had shown me how to enter grades online. There are many other gaps to what I still need and want to know, but when it comes to essentials like this I get really nervous. At this point I have only this weekend plus a few days to get those grades in.

I sent one email to my mentor. She didn’t see my email until days later. Didn’t have time to answer my questions. Finally I went to an Administrator who took the time to sit with me. *whew* It was a lot easier than I feared but still — I would have preferred avoiding the sweaty palms and wakeful nights worrying if I would get things done in time.

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We’re Not in Kansas Anymore

Posted by aphillieteacher on November 21, 2009

When one of my fellow teachers learned my previous experience was in suburban South Jersey, her only comment was, “Culture shock, hm?”

Hoo-boy, yeah. I’m used to kids who are motivated or at least somewhat socialized. Never in my wildest dreams would I expect students to behave the way my present students do – not without the kid being referred to the child study team and getting a visit from a psychologist.

My current mantra is “We’re not in Kansas anymore.” That might help me get through the day but I sure miss Auntie Em.

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Protected: Buy In

Posted by aphillieteacher on November 14, 2009

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Protected: Fight! Fight!

Posted by aphillieteacher on November 7, 2009

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Posted by aphillieteacher on November 4, 2009

I’m exhausted.

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Posted by aphillieteacher on November 3, 2009

Bob Herbert wrote an interesting column for the NY Times where he mentioned the importance of attracting talented, intelligent people to education and hiring them in groups so that they could build a sense of comradery and avoid the feeling of isolation so many new teachers feel. editorial here

I know that feeling. Every day I find myself swimming as fast as I can against the current of interruptions, deadlines, student behavior, parent phone calls and papers to grade – just to keep up. No one stops by my room to kibbitz and every day I eat alone in the Faculty Lounge. Aside from the 70 year old janitor, apparently I am the only one who uses that room.

Today we’re having a one day district-wide inservice/professional development. I eagerly signed up for classroom management and noticed that our principal also signed up two other teachers who have difficult classes. I’m hoping to get a little more insight than

  • reward good behavior with candy (no mention of the wrappers left on the floor)
  • don’t take any bullshit. Talk tough (ummmm that hasn’t worked)
  • call their parents. That’ll straighten them out. (Called nearly every one of them. Very little change seen)
  • My boyfriend spoke with a professor he knows at U of Penn about my situation. The man’s advice: “Get out now. If she doesn’t have their respect she’ll never have it and they won’t change their behavior.”

    Today I hope to hear from the District gods. Maybe they can help me.

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