A calling ...

"We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims."

"Make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological offense or the disadvantage of anyone."

- Buckminster Fuller

Saturday, December 6, 2014

A little irony

I almost died laughing this morning when I got a message from the COSMOS in my inbox. Apparently, I am "attracting" clients who don't appreciate what I give them. I've shared the message from the COSMOS below. Hah!

One of the themes discussed at the copier and in the halls is "a culture of entitlement" we teachers are seeing from an entire generation of students, students who expect everything to be handed to them, including "the answers," supplies, and even entertainment. My uncle Harold's favorite aphorism is always in the back of my mind: "No good deed goes unpunished." Yet, I work the hours that I do and accept my daily punishments with genuine gratitude.

By choice, I work in a pretty hostile environment. Many of my students have a long history of academic failure. I battle daily with a phenomenon I call "the Special Ed Mafia," students who have been concentrated into self-contained classrooms, where the put-downs and negative self-talk are constant and corrosive, where the silly and the absurd are celebrated, and academic performance is both envied and mocked as "nerdy" and "boring." Unlike some of my more seasoned colleagues, I confront academic failure head-on and take the time to make the calls home, because I want a response. Occasionally, I receive a favorable response.

On Thursday, a parent showed up to school and got the Counselor involved. Yesterday, I met with Mr. Kamarra and the Counselor and another Special Education Teacher, Mr. McDuff, who seems to have "better control" over Tim, who has a class average of under 20% in my classroom. McDuff and I have different approaches which were best illustrated by his comments to the parent: "School is difficult for Tim." My approach, because I am still a rookie, is that students with learning disabilities are expected to learn the same curriculum and that my job is to make the curriculum more accessible. Bottom line, I am holding students to a higher expectations than Mr. McDuff, which may partly explain why I appear to have more conflict with my students.

McDuff had seen the same interfering behaviors that I had seen, but he was brutally honest, "If a parent doesn't care enough to call, I won't make the call." As we parted, the parent suggested that I send home an answer key so that the father could help work with his son. "What a great idea!" I replied. Since I already work every problem I assign anyway, I told him that I could send the answer keys home in a sealed envelope.

Here's a little story that happened to a general education teacher this week in the room across from mine. It's a good illustration of the entitlement mindset we see every day that seems like a generational thing, Jane had a special pen on her desk that was stolen. Jane had explained to her classes that. during her first year of teaching, a student had lost the pen, and that when she found it she handed it back to him. The student replied, "That's okay, I want you to keep it so that you can remember me." Like many teachers, Jane is the prototypical generous teacher who often provides snacks, works after school with students, etc. 

This week, Jane learned that Vinh, a small, normally well-behaved 6th grader, was bragging to his friends about how he had stolen Jane's special pen. Jane was crushed. "No good deed goes unpunished," I told her with a wry smile.

When Jane confronted Vinh he quickly burst into tears. Jane had come to my room and was sharing her plan to have Vinh, as a consequence, write a multi-paragraph apology essay during after school detention. I replied, "It's a teachable moment." I recommended that Jane provide a little scaffolding to help Vinh, given his inability as a 12 year old to empathize with a teacher as another human being, learn how badly he had hurt her feelings.
1: How would you feel if someone stole a personal memento from you?
2. How will your parents feel when they learn about this incident?
3. What will you tell a friend if he is considering doing something similar?

Maybe Vinny will think twice the next time before accepting a dare. 

Occasionally, one of "the seeds" I plant takes root, Since my call home before Thanksgiving to Jasmine's mom, who apologized for not responding to my calls because she had been in and out of the hospital with kidney problems, and apologized because she is unable to help Jasmine with her homework because of her poor English, Jasmine has been coming for after school help several times per week. My reward was seeing Jasmine doing problem after problem using the order of operations correctly, in stark contrast to Jasmine's class, where I have a majority of students who seem to barely even have a pulse. They throw erasers, highlighters, giggle constantly, or just sit there with dull expressions and seem incapable of following even the simplest instructions. Yesterday, with a half a year's worth of exasperation, I complained to the class, "This is what an insane asylum sounds like."

On Wednesday, since Jasmine had come for after school help, I was able to assign a tutor from a local high school that is one of the top high schools in the Nation. We have one of the top high schools in the Nation right across the street from my school, My school has one of the highest free and reduced lunch percentages in the area, an indicator of high levels of poverty. While working with Jasmine one-to-one after her tutoring session, Jasmine revealed to me that she would like to go to college, that after school is fun, and that she could not understand why more of her friends were not coming. The very next day, Mrs. Larime walked to class with Jasmine. They were late. When I came to the door, Mrs. Larime explained that Jasmine never reads during her class so she was having a conversation with Jasmine: I replied, "Jasmine will respond if you reach out to her."

Jason, whose dirty blond hair is always over his eyes, who never fails to hide his boredom, has also responded positively to my Thanksgiving Eve calls home. On Thursday, Jason was on the winning team with Kendra in our "Footloose" order of operations game. The students won't be able to get "Footlose" out of their heads, since it looped continuously while students went back and forth to get their playing cards. Big Al was singing Footloose. Everybody was dancing. That I was able to let the class choose their own partners and do an activity like a normal class was a moral victory. That something appeared to stick was glorious!

When I called home yesterday to celebrate that Jason had been a winner in our Footloose game, and that his improvement was noticeable, Jason's mom shared with me a gaming analogy she had used to motivate her son: In order go get better at your game, you have to play lots of games," The mom has been making Jason practice with fraction computations, and while he still is doing about four-fifths of steps correctly, that's two-fifths better than he had been doing.

Tonight, I will celebrate the holidays at my wife's company's final party in the DC area. We will be at the Washington Hilton. There will be an open bar, black jack tables, and one of the largest ballrooms in the area will be lined with carving stations, pasta stations, Every couple will get a door prize. The irony will be delicious.

I'm envy you, Daniel.

You might wonder,

"Why would The Cosmos be jealous of me?"

Quite simply, because you get to LIVE!

Your life is unique, one of a kind,
and you're surrounded by Mystery!

(There's no mystery when you are
EVERYTHING, like me...)

You get to wake up every morning
and look forward to the new experiences
I'm going to send your way!

How awesome is that?

It's like you're watching yourself star
in a movie that never ends, and you
have no way of truly knowing what's
going to happen.

And the best part is,
you get to choose your own adventure!

You can't choose how tomorrow will go,
but you can go out and plant the seeds 
that will blossom into the most beautiful
stuff you can imagine.

You just have to choose the right seeds.

Now, the truth is there are two types of "seeds"
you can plant...

The seeds that are going to bring you very
poor, unable-to-pay-you-what-you're-worth
headache-inducing clients...

OR the ones that will bring you really 
affluent, great to-work-with clients...

Who are happy to pay you what you're truly worth 
(which is probably way more than you're 
getting paid now)...


The question is, who do YOU want to attract? 

If you said the kind of people who will 
actually pay you well, and appreciate your
work, well then the next question is...

WHERE and HOW do you find those people?

Well, I have good news for you today. 

This is where you find them:


The best part is, it's totally free (as many,
but not ALL good things in life are ;-)

Just click the cosmic energy flower of your future
and grab your free ebook on how to
plant and water only the seeds that
will attract your highest paying clients:



You're too incredible to spend your
precious time working with anyone who
doesn't appreciate you completely.

This little guide will help you to sort
through the bad "seeds" and zero in
on the ones who will love your work
(and pay you generously for it)!


Now go and garden away, you beautiful, 
lucky You!

Love always,

The Cosmos

P.S. I am not sure how long this amazing free
book will be online (in the cosmic sense of time,
probably for about a nanosecond) so please 
grab yourself a copy while it's still there! 


*This note has been forwarded on to you 
by Ric & Liz Thompson as "The Cosmos" 
was not sure of your email address.  

Ric Thompson
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