Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween

Dear Readers,

There are many rites of passage in our modern American life, many things one undergoes on the path to grown-up-ness. First date, moving away from home, riding a mechanical bull. But tonight I just underwent a new rite of passage, one that I never really considered a rite of passage until now- I gave away Halloween candy to some neighborhood children.

It was weird. I had never done that before. I had always either been the one trick-or-treating or I had stayed aloof from it all, mostly because I lived in places where trick-or-treating didn't happen.

But tonight was really nice. My wife and I sat in our driveway with our baby and friendly families came over and said "trick or treat" and we gave them candy, and the weather was nice, and I think trick-or-treating is a beautiful, beautiful thing. At least it was tonight.

The world is very beautiful. This country is a wonderful country. It's nice to live in the suburbs. The kids around here are good kids. There is a smile on my face, and it's a sincere smile.

How are you doing?


Friday, October 30, 2009

Captain Depresso Stops By, Font Changes, Texas is cool now, and it's spring

Dear Readers,

Now the title is a different color. And I changed the font. The dough will start rolling in any second now. Ha ha ha.

I already hate the advertisements and I want to take them down. I've sold out! I'm slimy.

I'm sort of thinking that I shoud become a truck driver or a nurse, because when I look for jobs on or other job search engine thingamajigs, there are always openings for truck drivers and nurses.

But I'm afraid that if I was a truck driver I would crash into things or run over curbs all the time, or run over cars or people. I can't drive a stick-shift. About two months ago I drove a U-Haul truck and it was kind of fun. But if I drove a truck I might fall asleep at the wheel and accidently kill people.

And if I was a nurse I would barf every day because I couldn't stick needles into people. BARF BARF PUKE!

I'm wasting time. How are you doing?

I don't think I want to blog for a living, anyway.

Blogs are so shallow, and I am so deep.

Know any easy ways I can make money fast?

(Preferably legal ways.)

I can identify with Biff from Death of a Salesman in Act One, page 22 of the book I'm looking at:

BIFF: I tell ya, Hap, I don't know what the future is. I don't know- what I'm supposed to want.

HAPPY: What do you mean?

BIFF: Well, I spent six or seven years after high school trying to work myself up. Shipping clerk, salesman, business of one kind or another. And it's a measly manner of existence. To get on that subway on the hot mornings in summer. To devote your whole life to keeping stock, or making phone calls, or selling or buying. To suffer fifty weeks of the year for the sake of a two-week vacation, when all you really desire is to be outdoors, with your shirt off. And always to have to get ahead of the next fella. And still - that's how you build a future.

HAPPY: Well, you really enjoy it on a farm? Are you content out there?

BIFF, with rising agitation: Hap, I've had twenty or thirty different kinds of jobs since I left home before the war, and it always turns out the same. I just realized it lately. In Nebraska when I herded cattle, and the Dakotas, and Arizona, and now in Texas. It's why I came home now, I guess, because I realized it. This farm I work on, it's spring there now, see? And they've got about fifteen new colts. There's nothing more inspiring or - beautiful than the sight of a mare and a new colt. And it's cool there now, see? Texas is cool now, and it's spring. And whenever spring comes to where I am, I suddenly get the feeling, my God, I'm not getting anywhere! What the hell am I doing, playing around with horses, twenty-eight dollars a week! I'm thirty-four years old, I oughta be makin' my future. And now, I get here, and I don't know what to do with myself.

I don't mean to be Captain Depresso. I hope you have a good day.


Telemoonfa Time Just Got Sweeeeeter. Awwww......

Dear Readers,
This is a picture of my daughter!
Maybe soon I'll put a picture of myself up because, um, the main reason I wanted to not put pictures of myself up was so that I wouldn't get identified by my students. But now that I'm only a part time drama teacher, and now that it looks like I'm not going to be a teacher for very long, what's wrong with telling you all about my true identity and stuff?
Um... so I'm sort of trying to make money as a writer and I'm also sort of looking for other jobs. I think I would like being a package handler for UPS. My favorite job I've ever had was working at a warehouse in Flagstaff, Arizona and that involved moving a lot of dusty boxes around...
Some people make a lot of money blogging. Like the authors of this blog are millionaires or something.
And I like to blog, so... that's why I put ads on Telemoonfa Time. Maybe I'll get a few dollars from it someday, and all I have to do is subject the few people who read this blog to a few more ads.
Hello capitalism, I come to meet you.
And hello daughter! You are so adorable!
Isn't she sweet?
Yes, she is.
Yes, she's sweet.

Merchandising! Merchandising!

Dear Readers,

I decided to put ads on this blog. Maybe I'll make money from it. Ha ha ha.


America! Halloween! O!



Barack Obama is the President and I don’t like him.

Little girl running around my neighborhood dressed like a hoodlum. Halloween! Face paint. Dressed like a devil. Thinks she’s funny. Raising Ruckus! What’s so funny about devils, little girl? Devils live in Hell.

That mother of hers isn’t much better. Ha! If she even is the mother! Mother! Could be an older friend dressed up like a mother - in disguise - to get more candy, like the President is disguised!

Obama sounds nice but he’s mean inside.

Bad mother!

Mothers these days.

Took sneaky picture of demon girl with cell phone. Put on Internet. The sneaky Internet.

But that won’t teach anyone anything ever forever. Just another picture in sea of pictures.

Political speech. The freedom of political speech. Speaking things. That’s nice.

Guns say louder things.

Tort reform.

What’s that?

I don’t know.

Sounds good to me.

Me too.

Lets’ reform it.

But I did meet a pleasant postal worker the other day. She was stuffing mailboxes. I was walking. We exchanged pleasantries.

And the sky and the earth were there.

And the postal worker was thriving and glowing in the rhythm of her righteous labor, and for a moment she looked at me, and I looked at her, and we felt that we were products of the land, independent of all of man's worrisome institutions.

And indeed, even as we felt it, so it was.

Hello Abraham Lincoln,

You President of America,
you held the country together,
with your hands!

You were so tall, and your black hat was so tall,
and your body and your hat put together were so tall,
and everybody, even Robert E. Lee,
that rascally rebel,
was constrained to confess your tallness.

And now you’re a ghost.

And I’m alive and living in 2009,
and these buildings around me
these gigantic steel structures, they’re around me,
and I am subject to them,
and there’s farms, too, and that’s nice,
but there are no log cabins anymore,
like the one that you used to live in,
at least none that I can see,
and there are laws I don’t understand,
and they’re all around me,
and I am subject to them,
and people I don’t understand,

(Your wife was crazy, wasn’t she?
You and I should talk sometime.)

and they’re all around me, these people,
and I am subject to them,
I suppose they’re people,
but they don’t stop to see me,
and they move
and their faces change. I can’t
keep track of them,
But why would I want to keep track of them?

To make money, that’s why.
To get that benefits package
I’ve been hearing about.

So sometimes I ride my bike around
for no reason when I know I should
be making money somehow.

And Abraham Lincoln can I go where you are?
And maybe I can wear your hat?

Friday, October 23, 2009

The Literary Circle In Which I Travel

All my friends are authors.
They have great ideas for movies and novels,

and they love to tell me about their ideas

and I love to hear them.
Occasionally they write their ideas
on paper, whatever’s handy:
sticky notes, envelopes.

The serious authors type
their ideas on computer screens.

And when they write
their faces shine
like the face of Moses.

I’ve seen the shining.

My friends go back to their jobs,
and they eat, and they watch TV,
and they go to sleep.
But when it is break time, perhaps,
or when they are in their backyards
or garages, and something looks
like something it is not-
a brick wall looks like a twirling sparkly baton,
a slumped-over tree branch looks like a gallows-
then they think about writing it down
they think about putting the inferno
of emotions and thoughts into words-
great words,
freezing the fire forever, locking it
into a solid place- a museum
that is visited and enjoyed
and commented upon
by all interested parties.

But my friends usually do not have a pencil handy,
(And anyway the writing wouldn’t sell)
so they enjoy the ideas in their minds,

for a few lovely moments,
and they tell me about them now and then.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Oh, and I was/am emotionally messed up a lot.

Dear Readers,

I quit teaching high school English, but I'm still teaching drama at the middle school. That cuts my pay in half, and I lose my benefits, but, well, I have mixed emotions about quitting. I sort of think I should have stuck it out, and tried harder, but I also think quitting was OK. I was horrible at it. My classes were out of control. I was doing a disservice to the school and the kids by staying. I was robbing them of a good education. Or maybe I should say they were robbing themselves of a good education. I don't know. Oh, and I was/am emotionally messed up a lot.

On the other hand, I’ve got a wife and a baby to provide for, and that full-time teacher salary was nice, so maybe I should have tried harder. I don’t know.

Maybe I'll still be a teacher. Maybe not.

Tomorrow's my last day at the high school.

Here's a few things that have happened/ are happening in my class:

One kid shot a rubber band at another kid and now the kid's got internal eye bleeding and the fire department had to come or something.

One kid farted in another kid’s face on purpose.

A kid brought in a box of condoms and he blew one up into a balloon and tossed it around the classroom.

A kid folded up a piece of paper tightly like a boomerang and stuck a metal spike from a thumb tack into it. (He pulled the thumb tack from my bulletin board) The he flung the contraption with a rubber band into another kid's stomach. The kid had to go to the nurse and a Vice Principal and a counselor came into my classroom and interrogated two kids to find out who flung the metal spike. I don't think they ever found out, and I don't know if any disciplinary action was taken.

The students talk and they talk and they talk and they don't do their work and they don't do their work and they don't do their work.

They get out of their desks when they are not supposed to.

They called me Mr. Birdcrap.

After I say “This is due tomorrow.” A kid says, “What? This is due next week?” Or, “This is worth 20 points.” He says, “This is worth 200 points?” and he does it on purpose. Or I’ll say, “Turn to page 221.” And he’ll say, “Turn to page 1,000? There’s not even 1,000 pages in this stupid book.” Or I’ll say, “Get out the green book from underneath your desk.” And he’ll say, “There is no purple book underneath my desk!”

And I say over and over again, “Please be quiet. Be respectful of yourselves and others. Respect me by being quiet.”

While we’re supposed to be having a class discussion on something, they’ll ask questions that are totally off topic, like, “Mr. Telemoonfa, what time do we get out of this class?” and, “Hey are you going to the football game this Friday?” and, “Do you like my haircut? You didn’t even say anything about it.”

They roughhouse.

They don't bring pens or pencils or paper to class. They have backpacks full of mischief-makers, but no school materials. They expect me to provide pens and pencils and paper for them everyday.

They sleep.

They display affection publicly.

They break the dress code.

They whistle, and they make animal noises, and I can’t tell whose making the noises. (But even if I did know who was making the noises, what would happen?)

They stab their pencils into the walls just to mess up the walls.

They spray deodorant and perfume and it really stinks up the class.

They use horrible language. They are very crude. They talk about stuff that I didn’t think high school freshmen should know about.

They wear hats inside buildings, they chew gum, they listen to iPods, they text on their cell phones, even though those are all against the school rules.

They won't sit where I tell them to sit. I can't enforce a seating chart.

They throw paper airplanes.

They don’t respect my property. They get into my cabinets.

They steal assignments from each other and put their names on it.

They take each other's hats, backpacks, binders, etc. and they say, "Mr. Telemoonfa, so-and-so took my backpack." And then I say, "So-and-so, did you take his backpack?" And then they says, "No, this is my backpack. I brought two backpacks to school today because I'm a double-good student" or something like that. I never knew that being a teacher would involve trying to settle so many disputes over theft.

They lay on the floor.

They claim that they have to sit somewhere else because they’re near-sighted, or far-sighted, or because of the glare from the sun coming in from the window.

They sit on top of the desks instead of in their desks.

They don't do their homework.

They don’t do their classwork.

They don’t do any work.

One time I assigned homework. I made it very clear what their assignment was. I put the due date on the board. One person turned the assignment in! One person! Out of 33 students!

They eat in class. I tell them not to eat, and they say, “I wasn’t eating!” and they hide their food in their backpacks.

They say stuff like, “I hate this class.” “English sucks.” “When are we going to get to do something fun?” “Can’t we just watch a movie?” “This assignment is against my religion.”

They say stuff like, “You’re just assigning me this assignment because I’m black. You’re racist!” or, “You want me to sit in the back because I’m a black man. I see how you run things.”

I say, “No gum chewing!” and they say, “I’m not chewing gum. That’s my tongue. I have a weird tongue.” Or, “It’s a cough drop.” Or, “The nurse said I could chew gum because it’s like this therapeutic thing about stress or something. Watch, you should call the nurse and she’ll explain my condition to you.”

They ask to use my phone all the time. They have to call their parents to see if they can stay afterschool or something. If I say, “No, I’d rather you not use my phone right now. I’d rather you do the work you’re supposed to be doing.” They say, “No, you don’t understand, Mr. Telemoonfa, I have to call RIGHT NOW because my Mom goes to work in 10 minutes and she said that I wasn’t allowed to call her at work anymore and Coach said that if I don’t make today’s practice then I get kicked off the team, and if I stay after without Mom’s permission she’s gonna beat me!” So I let them use the phone.

My problem is, I don’t stick to my guns. For example, I’ll say, “No, you can’t go get a drink of water. You’ve already left once this period and there’s already one person out of the room, and my policy is that only one student can be gone from the room at a time.” But then they say, “Oh, please, Mr. Telemoonfa. My throat is so dry I can barely stand it and I get dehydrated really easily.” And I’ll say something like, “Well you should have thought about that earlier and brought a water bottle to school, or you should have got a big drink of water right before class started.” And They’ll say, “I’ll try to remember that for tomorrow, but right now I just have to have some water.” And so I let them go. And then the students get the message that they’ll get whatever they want if they just whine long enough.

I should have had consequences. Well, I gave them two warnings, and then I had them call their parents, or I called their parents. That improved behavior slightly for maybe 2 students, but for most students, that didn't do anything. Some of the parents are like, "Yeah, I can't control him at home, either."

The administration told us not to send people to the office unless they're doing drugs or attacking us or cussing us out.

Finally one day I sent a kid to the office. It was the day that I decided that I was enforcing the seating chart no matter what. I said to a girl, “Go sit in your assigned seat.” And she refused. I asked her several times, and she refused, and then I said, “Either go sit in your seat or I’m writing a referral.” She said, “You can’t send me to the office just for not sitting where you want me to sit.” And I said, “Yes I can.” She also said, “There’s no point in sending me to the office. They’re just going to send me right back. They’re going to laugh when they hear that you sent me to the office just because I didn’t sit where you want.” So I wrote a referral and gave it to her and told her to go to the office. She ripped it up, stomped over to the trashcan, and threw it away. I took the ripped up pieces of a referral out of the trash can, gave them to a reliable kid and told him to put them in his pocket, and they walked over to the office together. Right before she left, she yelled at me, “You better watch out, Mr. Telemoonfa. I’m gonna get your @$$ fired!” (and I remember thinking at that point, yeah, I wish I would get fired. That way I wouldn’t have to see you anymore.)

In about 10 minutes she was sent back to my classroom, and she still would not sit in her assigned seat. I didn’t know what to do. I had already called her parents before, and left a message about her behavior in the classroom. I couldn’t grab her and forcibly move her to another seat, because the faculty handbook says, “Never touch the students.” So what was I supposed to do? I tried to continue with the lesson, but I knew that the class was thinking, “Wow, as long as we throw a fit, we can do whatever we want in Mr. Telemoonfa’s class. There’s nothing he can do about it.”

That was the last time I tried enforcing the seating chart.

I tried a few things to manage the classroom.

I stood in front of the classroom and said, "I'm not going on until everyone is quiet." That didn’t work.

I complimented the quiet students and the students who were on task. “Thank you, Charles, for doing your bellwork. Thank you, Samantha, for listening so well.” That didn’t work. Or maybe it would work for a few seconds, but then when I went back to explaining instructions or giving a lecture or writing stuff on the board, they would talk and throw things and goof off.

One time I blew up and screamed louder and harder than I’ve ever screamed at anybody before. It was weird. I’m not that kind of person, you know; I’m not a screamer. It was after a kid got stuck in the stomach with the metal spike from a thumb tack. I screamed stuff like, “What is wrong with you people?! Shooting metal spikes into each other, always up out of your seats, not doing your work, not listening to me, not respecting each other- where did you people come from? Please just be civilized human beings!”

I handed out character cards and tried to write positive and negative things on their character cards, but they lost their character cards, or they threw them away, or they ripped them up and made fun of them, and I gave up on character cards in a few days.

They leave my classroom without permission.

They arrive to class late.

They come up with any reason to leave the classroom: getting a drink, going to the bathroom, going to get something they left in another classroom, going to see another teacher about a really important assignment and they have to go talk to the teacher RIGHT NOW because it's so important but they don't have a pass, going to the nurse, whatever...

They come up to me when I'm in the middle of doing something, like teaching or handing out papers, and say, "Mr. Bird I have to see my grade right now. My Mom said I have to have at least a C in your class or else I can't go to my friend’s house this weekend and blah blah blah."

They sharpen their pencils when their pencils do not need to be sharpened!

They unplug my phone when I'm not looking. They unplug random wires from my computer and then my computer gets messed up. They unplug the wire to the Smartboard so the projection goes away.

And I wonder, did I make them this way? Was there something about me that said, "Go ahead and treat me and this classroom and your classmates disrespectfully and that's cool?" Maybe...

As for consequences, I feel like there’s not much I can do to curtail their bad behavior.

I don't think there's detention... or if there is nobody told me about it. Nobody suggested, "Hey Mr. Bird, send them to detention!"

And the administration doesn’t want to suspend people. Luckily, the administration at the Middle School is better about behavior. The middle school has detention and they suspend kids a lot, which I think is a good thing. Some of these kids need to go to some kind of military school.

Failing them doesn’t improve their behavior.

And the kids know there’s not much teachers can do to punish students. Listen to this true story:

There once was a teacher who would not let a student leave the classroom to go to the bathroom. The kid was an ornery kid, you know, always causing trouble, always saying he had to leave to go to the bathroom or go to the nurse or go to the drinking fountain, etc. but he would be gone for really really long periods of time. So finally the teacher was like, "No, I don't believe you anymore. You don't get to go to the bathroom." And the kid peed on himself, and the teacher got fired for it within 24 hours.

Other teachers told me that I should never tell a female student she was breaking the dress code, because she could claim that I was sexually harassing her.

Here’s something that happened in a Mesa Arizona school district. A bus driver pulled over to the side of the road and turned the engine off because the students were being so disruptive. They waited for 5 minutes in the hot afternoon without air conditioning until they settled down enough to continue their bus trip. Well, the parents heard about it and they complained to the school administration and the bus driver got fired.

I really never thought I would say this, but, I wish teachers could use corporal punishment. I wish I had a paddle, and I wish that I could spank some of the students with it. After all, "Spare the rod, spoil the child."

Aren’t I turning in to a bad person? I want to beat children? How did this come about?

What's funny is that I used to write papers in college about how Alfie Kohn was so cool, and homework was bad for students, and school ought to be less structured, and students ought to be free to pursue their own interests, and not worry about grades, but they ought to realize the intrinsic value of a good education.

Well, now I think that if you turn some of these kids loose in a library, they won’t read the books, they’ll ignore the books and kill each other.

I think we’ve got to beat civilization into children. I really do.

Wow, it really didn't take me long to become a jaded teacher.

So… I’m leaving the high school. I’ve heard quite a few teachers have quit there already. The administration is bad about discilpline. But again, maybe it was me. Maybe I wasn’t strict enough. Maybe if I would have called home a little more, or… or I don’t know what. What’s frustrating is that I know that some teachers do really well at their jobs. They manage the classrooms just fine. And they don’t do it through beating kids or anything like that. They make the students do extra work or something. But it takes a lot of energy to keep up on those kids. And I’ve been liking English less. I’m starting to dislike books because I’m associating them with school, and school is a bad place.

It’s funny, I didn’t like high school when I was going there. I’m not sure why I decided to go back and teach there. I liked college a lot more than high school. Maybe I could be a college professor, but I don’t like how elitist college professors are. I don’t want to lose touch with the common people. Maybe that’s like saying I don’t want to be too successful… but no, I don’t feel like standing up in front of people and professing to know stuff anymore. I don’t feel like telling people what to do. And that’s what teaching is: telling people what to do over and over and over, all day.

I respect teachers. I really do. I was lucky enough to have some really good ones when I was in school.

I’ve heard that the first year of teaching is rough, and eventually you get better, but the pay isn’t that great, and you have to do a lot of work, and the parents can be quiff. I got yelled at by a parent over the phone because her son had an F and she says I should have told her about it before the progress report came in the mail. But you know what? Her son is disrespectful and he doesn’t do his work.

I’ve been rambling… now my plan is to either get another job or become a writer. But if I don’t make money off of writing really soon, then I’ll need to do something else, and anyway I don’t know if I’m really self-motivated enough to be my own boss and become a writer. I think I might be too lazy. Maybe I’ll stick with teaching drama long-term, and maybe I’ll be a teacher for the rest of my life, but maybe not. I don’t think I will.

See you later.