Monday, January 29, 2007

bad judgment

"Good judgment is usually the result of experience, and experience is frequently the result of bad judgment."
~Barry Waldman

I wish this wasn't the case, but unfortunately for me... it is.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

what you are

"We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, therefore, is not an act but a habit."

One of my pet peeves when it comes to teaching is the student who claims that this other student is simply "smarter" than they are. Now, I am not going to argue with anybody about people having different levels of intelligence, but I do have some words to say about this.

In my experience, I have never had a student who performed well and made good grades on everything that truly didn't work. Some might say that they never worked or never studied, but that wasn't really the case. These "smart" kids were really just reaping the benefits of working hard for years. They had most likely been working hard at school since they entered school. As I observed these "smart" students, each time they would approach a new idea or a new topic, they would make sure that they really understood it completely before moving on, and they had been doing this for so long that it was their way of life (or their habit).

The majority of the students that I have who are struggling, as I observed them, I noticed that they would never struggle with the actual subject that I was teaching. In reality, they would struggle with the preknowledge that they were supposed to have obtained a few years earlier. So, even if they were really working hard at this point, they would become easily frustrated because the amount of knowledge they were trying to acquire was overwhelming.

At this point I will usually here a student say something about the subject being too hard, or other people were getting it because they were smarter. As I would help them, I would always begin by correcting that thought first. I would say, "No, they really aren't that smart, they just work really, really hard, and they have been for years. In fact, I can say with absolute honesty that I have never had an A student that wasn't a hard worker."

I also try to address that idea that the material is just too hard. I usually try to counter this idea by telling them to forget the grade and forget the subject for a minute, then imagine yourself one day, standing before God. (Which is going to happen. That is real. That is more real than the chair I am sitting in or the computer screen you are looking at.) Now, before this standing before God thing has happened, you have lived on this earth, and God has orchestrated all of your earthly circumstances to enhance you and make you more like Christ. In all of these circumstances, your responsibility is to seek to please Him. He has also told you to work heartily at all things, as if you were working for Him. (And "all things" includes this class that you are in.)

Now you are standing before Him. Are you going to try to hand Him the "...but it was really hard..." (spoken in your best whiny voice) line? How far do you think that will go? Or will He say, "Well done, good and faithful servant. In the same way that you have been faithful with a little, I will make you faithful with much."

I might differ with Aristotle a little bit, mostly on his definition of excellence, but I still ask the question, "what are you?" What have you become by your repeated actions? Are you striving for true excellence, the excellence found in Christ? Or are you seeking purely to please yourself?

Just some thoughts, sorry about this rant.

PS Now that I am working at a public school, I can no longer give this sort of motivational speech. I want them to do well, but the "...get good grades so you can get into college so you can get a great job so you can make a good life for yourself..." is such a worthless piece of rubbish compared to the Truth.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

casting down idols

I don't like the rest of American Idol, but I sure do love watching the auditions. It is truly amazing how many people genuinely think that they can sing, but they can't... at all.

My wife and I look forward to watching these together every night. Although we spend most of the time looking at each other because we can't bear to look at these people making fools of themselves. The worst is when they start begging for a second chance. I just can't take it.

I think I feel sick.

I don't really feel sick right now, but I just found out that I get 15 sick days in a school year. Which means that since I am only working a half of a year, I should still get at least 7 sick days.

Now, I have never been one to "call in sick" unless I am on death's door. I just don't like doing it. Especially as a teacher, I would always get so far behind from just missing one day. Then there would always be a sub who knew nothing about Algebra or Geometry, who would end up confusing the students even more than they already were.

But with this subject that I am teaching, and with these students, I think that I just might take those days when I feel sick, instead of trying to press through.

In fact, I think I am starting to feel a little ill right now...


Friday, January 19, 2007

new look

I am hoping to update the look of my blog, but I don't know if I will have the time to sit down and do it all at once. I will probably have to do a little bit at a time. Here is the new title.

I need to upload it onto blogger, so I am just using a post to do this. What do you think? Too cheesy for a teacher? Any thoughts?

math and love

"Math and Love are very similar.
A simple idea that can become very complicated."

~Author Unknown


I had a little excitement this morning. I was sitting in the teacher's lounge, minding my own business, and one of the assistant principals came in and asked me to help him out with something.

I went to his office and saw this kid, just sitting there with that look on his face. (You know, the look that says, "... they know!")

When I got in there the principal tells me that he needs a witness to be present because he needs to do a drug search. "No problem." I say, and then we proceed.

I guess that the principal had received a tip from one of the other students that he might be carrying some today in order to sell. The principal told me later that Friday is selling day. I guess that all of the buyers are looking for some on Friday, to highlight their weekend.

It wasn't as exciting as it could have been though. There were no illegal substances found. Only an extra large bottle of Tums. (I suppose maybe he gets searched often, and this causes some nervousness?)

It got me thinking though, what would happen if we were randomly searched? I am not talking about having our belongings searched, but having our hearts searched. What if God showed up one day at your door and said, "I need you to empty out the contents of your heart." Then there you were with all of that junk that you had been storing away in your heart, laid bare, out in the open. Maybe he would have you lay it out on the kitchen table. What would He find? Would He be pleased? Would there be any "illegal substances" there?

Maybe you are ready for it. Maybe you echo the Psalmist, Search me O God... Know my heart. Try me. Prove me.

Maybe today you will be searched. You never know.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007


Every day on my way to the school I pray. I ask for wisdom and discernment. I plead for patience. I ask God to help me to be motivated while I am there and to be happy and content with this job. But I always preface this prayer by saying, "Lord, if there is any way that you could relieve me of this... I would take it. But you haven't. So I ask for wisdom and etc., etc."

So, today my wife gets a call from this guy in my church and he tells her that he is "looking for a truck driver," and "...would Matt be interested?"

Of course I would! Get to be a truck driver and make some good money. Get to come home at night and not have to think about what I have to talk about tomorrow. Get to move some boxes around and not have to worry about them talking back to me. Of course, of course, of course I would... If only he would have called yesterday!

You see, last night I signed my contract. Less than 24 hours before this call I signed my life away. Can you believe it?!? The job that I have been looking for these last few months finally comes my way, but just a little too late.

I am thinking that this is some kind of cruel joke. Even though this isn't the first time something like this has happened to me. Once, when I was first trying to decide whether or not I should go back to college, I was torn betwen that and starting in an electrician's apprenticeship. The day after the deadline which I had set to choose the college route I received a letter of acceptance to be an electrician. Now the same thing is happening. I just can't believe that I get the call the day after the contract signing.

But then my wife says to me, "hmm. It seems kind of reassuring to me. It is almost like God is saying, 'I could have given you a way out. At any time I could have done this, but I didn't.'" I guess that is a little reassuring, but I am still tempted to try to get out of my contract.

Although I think that you and I both know that I won't.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

willing to work

I have had many people ask me if I suffered from culture shock when I entered the public school, and I have to honestly say that I really didn't. At least, I didn't suffer any shock from this environment. Now, I would easily rank this environment as the worst that I have ever worked in, which is saying something considering all of the different jobs that I have had. These students have bypassed the warehouse workers and the truck drivers with their perverse, vulgar and hate-filled comments that I hear on a daily basis.

But I wasn't in the least bit surprised by this. You have to remember that in our generation the big thing was the Simpsons, but these kids are growing up on such horrific shows like South Park. Why would anyone be surprised to hear those same things coming out of these children.

There is one thing that I did find to be surprising though, you see, as long as I have been a teacher, I have seen those who have not been willing to work. That is just something to be expected. In fact, as long as I have been a student or as long as I have been out in the world working, I have been aware of those who were unwilling to work. There are people like that everywhere, but never before have I seen so many of those people all in one place as when I entered the public education domain.

Literally 9 out of 10 of my students have no concern for doing a good job. Their goal is to pass the class, and they absolutely will not do work unless they absolutely have to. And if they can take someone else's work and pass it off as their own, they don't have any holdups to doing that. It isn't even about right and wrong for them, it is purely whether or not they will be caught. To admit that they will cheat when they can doesn't even phase them, because it is the shortest, easiest route to obtaining that goal of passing. The large numbers of students with this attitude, I found to be shocking.

Here is a quote that was printed on one of the notes during a teacher's meeting:
"The world is full of willing people;
some willing to work, the rest willing to let them."
~Robert Frost

It was meant to be funny, but it just seemed sad to me. As I have talked to the other teachers on the hall, they have all said similar things: this is typical. It is most interesting to talk to those teachers who have been at this for more than 15 or 20 years, listening to them talk about how much things have declined just since they have been teaching. I had one teacher tell me that they have covered less every year since they started teaching. It is sad really.

The one thought that has passed through my mind these last few days was, "...we're doomed." I kept saying it as a joke, but the more I thought about it, the more it seemed to fit. But it isn't just America that is doomed by the sad state of our children, it is the world. You see, the world is declining into a state that is more and more resembling the days of Sodom and Gomorrah or the days of Noah before the flood.

Monday, January 15, 2007

day off

In case you didn't know already, I started teaching again. (Maybe you didn't know that I had stopped.)

I am trying the public school thing, not because I am on some kind of a mission, and most assuredly not because I recently re-watched Dangerous Minds or Lean on Me. My motivation to venture into the public school domain is purely financial. I needed a job.

I am sure that this experience will produce many interesting new stories and thoughts that will make their way to this blog, but for now I just wanted to mention my favorite thing about being a teacher. Holidays.

Saturday, January 13, 2007


I want to blog again, I really do, but I can't seem to get a post out. I sit down, I have good material, I start off well, but then... I fizzle out.

I have several posts that I have started and not finished. I have saved all of them, and hopefully I will eventually post them. But I feel so blocked when I sit down to write.

I am hoping that by starting and finishing this very short post, I will get past my writer's block and be able to share some things with all of you.