Saturday, January 26, 2008


"Hey man, you owe me a beer!"

After school, I'm in the school parking lot and I hear this form of hello from an ex-student. "Hey," I respond. "How's it going? What are you doing here?"

"I was in the neighborhood, so I thought I'd stop by and see my sister," he responds. "But do you remember? You still owe me a beer."

"I remember, I remember. Just tell me when you want to go grab one," I tell him. "In fact, I swear, I was just thinking about you today, so it's weird that you're here."

And I tell him that earlier in the school day, a student asked a question very similar to one he asked several years back: "Mr. P., when I turn 21, can I party with you?"

My response today, just like I told this guy several years ago, was something like this: "Trust me, when you turn 21, the last thing you'll want to do is party with me. I mean, I'm not much of a partier. Plus, you'll have much better things to do than drink with a high school teacher."

"Well, I still want to grab a beer with you," the kid in the parking lot says. But he's not a kid anymore. He's 23. Married, to his high school sweetheart. With a two-year-old daughter. With a house in the suburbs.

I look at him, thinking, man oh man, I taught this guy six or seven years ago. It's kind of cool that he still remembers me. And that I remember him, even though there are plenty of students I taught last year that I've already forgotten. "You're getting old," I say.

He laughs. His sister, who is a junior, comes over, laughs, and tells her older brother, "And you're getting a nice, big belly."

"Yeah," I say, "so maybe that beer isn't such a good idea."

If teaching were like running for president, maybe a reporter would ask the students: Which of your teachers would you most want to have a beer with? I'd probably win that popularity contest (although maybe the auto shop teacher would beat me out), but then, after having that beer and judging me objectively, the voters would eventually realize there's more to life than having a beer with a loser of a candidate.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Things that make me smile, #49

It's between semesters. Finals are graded. Papers turned in. Can't really start anything new until Monday, when semester 2 begins. So today I put kids into groups and had them play little word puzzles and games. One problem they had to figure out was this:

Explain which letter would logically come next in this sequence:
A E F H I K L M N ___

Most students worked hard on the puzzles, and there was excitement in the room as groups got answers right or wrong. But from one group, I heard this exchange:

"Man, where the hell does he get these questions?"
"I don't know. Must stay up late doing these."
"That man has too much time on his hands."

The answer to the question is in the comments.

Things that make me smile, #351

On an essay test, an AP student wrote about this novel he supposedly read last year: Tequila Mockingbird.

Laughing about this at the English Department meeting, another teacher said, "One of my students swears that the best novel he has ever read is How to Kill a Mockingbird."

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Finals week

Well, it's the end of the semester. Man oh man, time flies. I cannot believe the school year is halfway over. (Something I like to say to my colleagues this time of year: "Gosh! One of these days I gotta start teaching.") I also can't believe that the days are getting longer. I left the school at 5 p.m. today, and it was still light out. The sun was down, it was about 15 degrees, but at least it wasn't dark!

Anyway, I've got a couple of stories from these past few days to share, but I have a bag of papers to grade and enter before tomorrow. Grades are due at 3 p.m.! Not a good thing for slackers like me.

But I'll leave you with my theory on why time seems to go by faster the older you get (not sure if it's a theory or even if it's really mine, but whatever):

Time goes by faster the older you get because of fractions. When you're one, the year it takes to get to your second birthday is one-half of your entire life. That's a long time. Even in your teens, a year is one-fifteenth or one-sixteenth of your life. But now that you're well into your 30s, a year is a much smaller fraction of your life. And so a year doesn't last as long as it used to. I mean, this week is practically halfway over. This month is coming to a screeching (and freezing) end.

Leading one to this question: How can you slow it all down? One way, I suppose, is to do new things. By doing something memorable every day (or, sheesh, once a week), you slow life down, basking in all the newness of your existence. Or at least you can reflect on it all and say, Wow, I've done a lot. Another way to slow down time, I guess (although I don't know), is to reproduce. Yes, by watching your children go from zero to one, you get to see a human's entire lifetime (so far) pass by the way it should: slowly, interestingly, with wonder, with joy. Plus, waking up every few hours to feed the baby will make your nights feel like mini-lifetimes.

See you later! I gotta go experience something new now. (Yup, first time grading papers this year.)

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Weather report

Welcome to Chicago, where the high temp today will be 3 degrees Fahrenheit, where you have to fight the pigeons for a spot under the CTA heat lamps ...

New slang term #2

This one's not even slang, but I always find it funny when I don't know what the kids are talking about, and then when I do find out, how salty I feel for not knowing.

After school yesterday, a few kids stuck around to present their oral exams.

Two hours after all their friends had left, this group finished and was heading out. "Thanks for staying and doing this," I said, "instead of leaving when everyone else did."

"That's OK," one girl said. "All our friends are just getting fat at OCB."

"OCB?" I asked.

"Yeah, a big group of them went there after school today," she said.

"But what's OCB?"

"Old Country Buffet."

Friday, January 18, 2008

Don't You Forget About Me

It's after school, and a couple of boys and I are playing a fun game that I'll call "Guess Who He Likes." Also in the room are some African kids practicing their dance for the international festival and a group of girls making 3D glasses. Don't ask about the 3D glasses--it wasn't for my class, but I was around, so they decided to work in my room.

The guys and I are playing "Guess Who He Likes" because one of them was laughing at the other for being "a vulture." Apparently, right after school, this kid wanted to talk to a girl at her locker, but he hesitated, and ended up walking past her a couple of times, sort of circling, before leaving without saying anything. So they came into my room and the one guy was laughing at the other one.

"You were such a vulture," says the one. The other looks sheepish. I ask about it. "Oh, he likes this girl but is afraid to talk to her," I'm told.

"Who is she?" I ask.

"Don't worry about it," says the vulture. "You don't know her."

"Sure he does, she's in his fifth period class," his friend says.

And so I pull up the class roster on my computer, complete with pictures, and ask, "Who is it?"

"I'm not telling you," the vulture says. "But you can try to guess. I'll give you two tries."

I look over the roster. I have no clue. Especially because it's my one class with 24 girls, so my odds of guessing are pretty low. "Give me a hint," I say.

"Based on what you know about me, who do you think?" he asks.

I have no idea. I tell him that and turn to the friend. "Describe her."

"Well, I think she's good looking, too," he says. "Which girls do you think are attractive?"

"Hey, I don't think about my students that way," I say.

And so the three of us are at my computer, the dancers are dancing, the girls are cutting out 3D glasses, and a fellow English teacher walks in and just stares at everything going on. "Hey," I say to her. "Come over here. We're playing 'Guess Who He Likes.' Which of these girls do you think this guy would like?"

She comes over. Looks at the computer. Looks at me. "You know, I came in here for a reason," she says, "but for the life of me, I can't remember what it was."

"When you figure it out," I tell her, "you know where to find me."

Later on, it's quiet. The vulture is the only one left. We're still talking about the girl he likes. I thought I had it figured out, but it turns out I was wrong. The one he does like is probably completely wrong for him, but I don't tell him that. Instead, I turn on some music. "Don't You Forget About Me" by the Simple Minds comes on.

"Turns out this song is very meaningful to me," I tell him. And I tell him this story: Back when I was his age, a junior in high school, I had a crush on a classmate. At the end of that school year, she wrote a really nice message in my yearbook. It was long and heartfelt, with definite feelings that I didn't quite understand at the time. Included was a comment about this very song: Basically, she said that songs like "Don't You Forget About Me" are worth remembering, not Pink Floyd's. The following year, I didn't have any classes with the girl and we lost touch.

"The weird thing," I tell the vulture, "is that she wrote that 20 years ago. And I still remember it. And every time I hear this song, I think about her message in my yearbook."

"That's really cool," he says.

"Anyway, don't listen to anyone that tells you not to follow your heart. If you feel a connection, go for it. You never know," I say. "In other words, don't chicken out like I did."

Which, in more ways than he can ever guess, is the story of my life.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Catching up

This is how behind the times I am: A few days ago, Jim Derogatis wrote a scathing "review" of the movie Juno in the Sun-Times. I meant to disagree with him, but so many people have already done it on the newspaper's website that he's closed the comments. Can't take the heat, I guess.

Personally, I liked the movie and the soundtrack. But whatever, I'm a 36-year-old guy. And I'll never say what all teenagers are like or would like. Derogatis, however, seems to be an expert on all things teen, writing:
As an unapologetically old-school feminist, the father of a soon-to-be-teenage daughter, a reporter who regularly talks to actual teens as part of his beat and a plain old moviegoer, I hated, hated, hated this movie. A few of my many problems:

* The notion that kids -- even smart and sarcastic ones -- talk like Juno is a lie only thirty-something filmmakers and fifty-something movie critics could buy. You want accurate wisecracking high-school dialog? Go back to MTV’s animated “Daria” or Sara Gilbert’s Darlene on “Roseanne.”
Um, Jim, in case it matters: I talk to (or at least talk at) 130 teenagers every day. And here's what I know:
  • Some teenagers are clever enough to talk like Juno. Most aren't. A few are even more sarcastic and witty.
  • I've never run into anyone that talks exactly like the character in the movie (who, just like every character in every movie, has been created by someone else). Then again, I've rarely run into teenagers that talk like the ones on MTV do, either.
  • Lots of the teens I deal with would probably hate the movie, too. Then again, just two days ago, one kid, an 18-year-old senior originally from Minnesota, was absolutely raving about the movie and how much it made him want to write music.
  • In my eight years of teaching at CPS, I've never heard of one of my students giving up her baby for adoption. In that time, I've heard of plenty of abortions and births. And I've seen how difficult being a teenage mom is for these girls. So, if Juno promotes adoption, well, I think it's a message kids should see.
And I could say more. But mostly, I just want to say that, even though I teach teenagers (and listen to them and read their personal writing), I would never make a blanket statement about them. And I would never push myself off as some kind of expert on what teenagers think or what they're really like. I sort of know some of them. And the more I learn about them, the more I realize that I don't really know them. I guess Derogatis could name the band that sang "All I know is that I don't know nothing .... and that's fine." Although I guess that's not something a music critic would ever admit.

New slang term #1

"Hey, Mr. P., check it out. I'm ballin'," a girl says as she walks into class. She lifts her sweatshirt to reveal three cell phones attached to her belt. She laughs.

"Wait, what does that mean?" I ask.

"Oh, these are just other people's. They asked me to hang onto them."

"Yeah, but what did you say? Ballin'?"

"Yeah. Ballin'. You know, rollin'. I've got it goin' on."

"Oh." Got that?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Fitting in

And so I now find myself acting as the de facto sponsor of--are your ready for this?--the school's African Club. How, you might ask yourself, does this happen to the whitest teacher in the building? That's the same question I'm asking myself. Here's how, maybe:

Yesterday after school, a familiar face showed up in my room. It was 4:30, I was helping a couple of students put the finishing touches on their presentations. "Bonjour," the visitor said. "Are you going to be here a while?"

"Not really," I said. "Why?"

"Do you mind if we practice in here? Only ten minutes. Please?"

This was a kid I met on a spring break trip to Paris two years ago. Great kid. Every time he sees me in the hall, he says something in French, as if I learned anything on that trip.

"Fine," I said. "But not for long. I need to get out of here soon, OK?"

"Merci beaucoup!"

And with that, eight African kids rolled in, plugged in a boom box, and started pushing student desks into corners. I always think my classroom must look and sound pretty incredible after school. Either kids are hanging out or presenting some assignment or I'm cranking loud punk rock or ... or I'm at my desk pretending to work with a group of kids dancing, really moving, to some amazing rhythms in the middle of the room.

Every spring our school hosts an international festival. Students from all over the world attend the school, and they show off their cultural pride by dressing up and dancing to some traditional music. Well, each group needs a sponsor. And a place to practice. For some reason, this is my second year helping out the African students. They're from various countries--Ghana, Kenya, Eritrea, and probably other places I never heard of until I started working where I work. I hoped that my room-as-rehearsal-space would be a temporary thing this year.

The ten minutes yesterday quickly turned into thirty, and I finally kicked them out at 5:15. They returned today. And when I finally forced them to leave, one of the girls said with a bright smile, "See you tomorrow!" And two or three voices chimed in, "Thank you!" How can I refuse?

"I just better be in the yearbook with you guys," I yelled to them. "And everyone can play a game: What's wrong with this picture? Who doesn't fit in?"

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Noise annoys

At the start of class, students are working on a bellringer assignment, just a little something to get them going. The room is humming with the white noise signaling the start of class--a couple of quiet conversations are finishing up, papers are rustling, desks are shifting. Nothing major, nothing too distracting, nothing to yell about.

Still, two girls almost simultaneously ask a boy to please shut up. "What?" he asks, "Why do you have to gang up on me like that?" Basicially, he had been minding his own business, making some clicking noise with his tongue, probably unconsciously.

"That's annoying," one of the girls says.

"Yeah," the other says. "Annoying!"

I walk over. "I'll tell you what's annoying," I say, ready to tell them about all the other noise going on, about the rudeness of telling someone to shut up, about students not working.

"What annoys you?" the tongue-clicker asks me. "Black people?"

"Oh never mind," I say and walk away.

Minor annoyances occur every day. How you handle them says a lots about your teaching. Some teachers get worked up over the tiniest little thing, the quietest little "fuck you" or other sign of disrespect. These days, I make it a point to ignore the ignorant. But it reminds me of when I was in high school. I remember thinking it hilarious when a friend and I started making pigeon noises in the back of the room. It was junior year English (the very same level I now teach) with a boring teacher that didn't really seem to know what she was doing. We figured we were probably driving her absolutely crazy. We also thought we were doing a pretty solid bird call.

When I think about it now, I realize the teacher probably heard us, probably knew exactly who was doing it. And she probably simply chose to ignore us.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Here's what I mean about honesty

I keep an online gradebook so that students can log in and see how they're doing, what they're missing, what they can do to improve their grades. Just today I noticed this email from one of my kids:
Sorry to be bothering you again but you made a big grading error on the online grammar week 14. You put 31 points instead of 13. I just thought you should know.

Have a great weekend!
I probably would never have noticed that error, so if she hadn't said anything, she could've kept the few extra points (which are really negligible as far as her overall grade). I feel like I should reward her honesty, but I'm not sure how.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Four eyes

Two true things about students: They hate change. And they are brutally honest. That said, when I showed up wearing a new pair of glasses, what did I hear from them?

A. "You look like such a nerd!"
B. "Hello, grandpa."
C. "Scary!"
D. All of the above.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Chapter 26

Many students tell me they aren't readers. They say they've never read an entire book and have no plans to start. I tell them that they aren't readers yet. I insist that they will read at least one novel before the end of the year. And then we spend the entire school year proving each other wrong.

It's incredible when the light bulb does turn on in students' heads--sometimes it happens to an entire class--and they start really responding to some work of literature. This happened last year. (Step into my memory ...) My eighth period English IV class, full of slackers and auto shop boys and recent immigrants, takes one look at The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini and declare that they'll never read it.

"Trust me," I remember saying, "you'll love it."

"That's what you said about Like Water for Chocolate!" someone says.

"What? You didn't like that one? Well, this one's different."

I then say two things to try to get the kids interested:
  1. Something really horrible happens to one of the boys in the book. It's one of the most horrible things that can ever happen.
  2. Parts of this book, well, made me cry. Here's what I tell them: "I was reading this book on vacation. I remember being on a plane, heading back from Ireland, when I got to a certain passage. It's not even a major event in the book, but it really touched me. And then I felt something trickling down my face, towards my chin. It was a tear! I realized I was crying. So I lifted the book"--I hold an open book in front of my face to show what I did on that plane--"so that no one could see me. After a minute I slowly lowered the book and peered over to see if anyone had noticed me crying. Luckily, everyone else on the plane was asleep. So I was free to cry. Ladies and gents, that's the kind of book this is."
This gets them intrigued. They start shouting out possibilities--horrible things that can happen to a guy. They also shout insults--they're outraged that a man can cry, and then admit to crying, about a book. So when the book's in their hands, many do read. And they love it. And their enthusiasm gets the reluctant readers to read, and soon I have magic, an entire class of nonreaders reading.

During the next couple of weeks, I find myself interrupted by my eighth period kids at weird moments during the school day. Between third and fourth, for example, a head pops in and shouts, "Ooh, I hate that motherfucker!" It takes me a moment to realize she's talking about one of the characters. Before school, a student stops by to ask if this is a true story.

If there is a teacher heaven, this is it. Students engaged. Into it. But if teacher heaven exists, so must teacher hell. On the day the entire novel must be complete, the kids come into class, with very little enthusiasm. Damn, I think, none of them finished. How's that possible? They were loving it. They were devouring it. Maybe they just didn't want it to end ...

"That was the worst ending of a novel ever," one kid declares.

"Yeah," someone else says, "there's no ending. We don't know what happened!"

"Is there another chapter? Part two to the book?" a third voice wants to know.

"Hang on," I say. "You read? You all actually finished? And you didn't like the ending? I thought it was an amazing ending." I'm in heaven again. They read. They were engaged with the story and the characters. And now they have actual criticism. Yes, I'm in heaven, but they're in hell, so I have to come up with something fast. Forget the lesson plan.

"OK, fine, let's say it's a rotten ending," I say. "Let's make it better. Your assignment is to write the next chapter. How do you think it should end? Any questions? No? OK, it's due tomorrow. Go!"

And so they start writing. Silence in the classroom, 25 18-year-old, self-proclaimed nonreaders creating something for others to read. One question does come up a couple of times, and I know I have a hit on my hands: "How long can it be?" NOT how long does it have to be? I tell them to keep writing until the book is finished.

The next day they show up with their work, some with several pages. They're excited. They want to share, to read their chapter out loud. So I let them. Some go all over the place, with characters showing up at our school and turning to gangs and drugs, but everyone listens, laughs at the right moments, and applauds at the endings.

(INTERRUPTION--As I'm writing this, I realize what many of you are thinking: there's no way this happened exactly as I'm describing it. And you're right. Sure, there were kids that didn't read the book. There were those that didn't do the assignment. Or did it poorly. Or slept while others read. But lay off, OK? This is my memory, and this is what I choose to remember.)

There was one student that really stood out: A recent immigrant from Nepal, a very small and fragile-looking boy, who was quite smart but too shy and too intimidated by the others to talk much in class. After class he sometimes stuck around and we had some amazing discussions, me knowing very little about his country and him being very homesick. Somehow the class got him to read his final chapter out loud. It was long. His accent made him difficult to understand at times. But when he finished, the class literally gave him a standing ovation.

"Now," someone declared, "the book is complete."

If you've read the novel, you know how it ends. If you haven't, you should for two reasons: 1. Something horrible happens to a boy, and 2. You can try to guess which part made me cry. Oh, and here's a possible third reason to read the book: I'm including the final chapter, as written by my student, in the comments below. It's not perfect, but it's good. Read his work, and tell me what you think.

Friday, January 11, 2008


Isaac brought a sword to school on Tuesday. On Thursday, he stopped by in the morning looking serious. Serious, I might add, for the first time this school year.

"What if I decided I just wanted to end it all?" he announced.

"End what?" I asked.

"Everything," he said. "Suicide. What's the point of living?"

I looked at him. Gone was the usual twinkle in his eye. No mischievous smile. I decided not to take him seriously anyway. "Oh, come on, Isaac," I said. "Life is long and full of unexpected twists and turns. Enjoy the ride."

"Yeah," he said, "but what if all those twists and turns lead to nothing but dead ends?"

"You can't be serious. Wait, are you serious? Do I need to talk to your counselor about this?"


"Liability. If you do anything to yourself, I'll get in trouble."

"You could just pretend we never had this conversation," he said.

"I can, but I'd rather have you alive. I mean, you have so much to live for!"

"Like what?"

"Well, look at me for example," I said. "One day you can be as successful and cool as me."

He cracked up, quickly transforming back to his jolly self.

"Damn you! You got me," he said as he continued to laugh. "Successful. You!"

Welcome to Obama country ... I mean, Hillary's home state

Yes, Chicago is the home of the front runner. Whoever the front runner is. Either way, I'd like to say hello to all the Daily Kos readers coming over. (You regular Teacher Man readers should check out Kos to see what I'm talking about.)

So, yeah, a quick post about teaching: Today, for the first time this election cycle, a student asked who I'm going to vote for. Always quick on my feet, I asked, "Who do you think I should vote for?" And always a Chicago guy, I added, "And how much are willing to pay me for that vote?"

Dealing with mostly African-American and Latino students, I always wonder if I should let my bleeding heart flow. It's a debate I've had with other teachers, especially the ones in the social studies department. They don't like revealing to students how they vote. So the kids assume that all of their white, tie-wearing teachers vote Republican. I, on the other hand, don't mind going off on an anti-Republican rant from time to time.

Any thoughts out there? Should a teacher show his true political colors? Or should the teacher teach critical thinking skills and let the kids make up their own minds?

Wednesday, January 09, 2008


When voting for Most Inspirational Teacher takes place later this year, I hope the voters take into consideration the events of yesterday. Or maybe not.

After fifth period one of my students stuck around to talk. She was bummed out. Her mother recently told her she'd have to transfer to another school after this semester. "My mom doesn't like the influences here," she said.

"And she thinks it'll be different at the other school," I asked, "because you won't know anyone?"

"Yeah, at least for the first month," she answered, "and then it'll be the same thing."

As I was getting started on my motivational speech on how change must come for within, how she'll never succeed anywhere until she first realizes the importance of success, blah blah blah, the school social worker walked in and interrupted.

"Sorry to interrupt," he said, "but I have to tell you something, and then I have to get going."

"Sure," I said, expecting him to tell me about his apartment building or some such thing.

"You really inspired one of your students," he said with a hint of sarcasm. "I think you should be proud."

Oh boy, I thought, now what?

"Issac brought in a sword to school today. It was about this big," he said, extending his hand down from the floor to his chest. "He said he brought it in for you. Well, first he said he was going to sacrifice some goats."

Did he actually bring a sword into the building? Yes, walked right in with it in plain view. Was it taken away? Oh yeah. Was anyone informed? Yes, police were called. Mom was called. She came in, and after an extended interview with the young man--during which time he repeatedly refused to acknowledge the seriousness of the situation and kept dropping his English teacher's name--mom took the sword home and he was allowed to return to his classes.

This kid Isaac (not his real name) is a little weird. A weird, chubby, video-game-playing, anime-watching kind of weird. The kind of kid who says things like, "One day, I will rule," and everyone laughs. In other words, a potential threat in the post-Columbine world.

Still, I know he was bringing it in to show me. I don't think we ever discussed him bringing in a sword, although I'm pretty sure he once told me about it. And I bet I must have sounded intrigued. "Oh really? You have a sword? How nice," I probably said while doing my attendance or something.

And I definitely remember discussing goat sacrifice. We were reading Beowulf, talking about how Hrothgar's people started praying for the devil's help in ridding the kingdom of Grendel. And, just to show the creepiness of the situation, I did say something like, "Now, how many of you would worship the devil just to get an A in my class?"

The whole class shrank in terror at the thought. Except for Isaac, who said, "I would! I totally would."

"Really?" I said. "Would you worship, do the whole thing, even sacrifice a goat?"

He smiled, then turned serious. "For an A? Absolutely."

And so I know he wasn't lying about bringing in the sword to show me.

Later in the day, I saw the head of security. "Hey," I said, "what's this about Isaac bringing in a sword?"

"He did," she laughed. "And now that I think about it, he did mention your name. What was that about?"

"Oh, I don't know," I said. "I guess I'm just trying to be an inspirational teacher."

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


Back when I lived in Japan, I could always guess when my mom was calling. Maybe there was a certain urgency in the ring, because every time she called, I'd know who it was before picking up. This ability made me think I had some sort of ESP.

Similar thing happened today.

During the school day, I was typing something long and boring, and I started wondering if I had a student I could ask to type for me. This got me thinking about one of my former students, someone I'll call Janet, who could type about 100 words per minute. She used to almost beg to type for me, and whenever she did, a group of students would gather in awe. I was pretty amazed, too. I'm an OK typist, but I doubt I can do more than 50 words per minute. (In fact, as I'm writing this, I'm mistyping every other word. Maybe I'm nervous just thinking about how bad a typist I really am.)

Anyway, after school, I checked my mailbox, and there was a note from Janet, the very same student I hadn't seen or thought about in a couple of years until today. Apparently she had stopped by the school to tell me about a book she had written, wanted to know if I wanted a copy. "Weird," I thought, "I was just thinking about her." I also thought it weird that she had written a book. "Wonder what it's about," I wondered.

So, flash-forward to tonight. During the OSU-LSU football game, I grabbed a bite and a beer with a friend at a Lincoln Square bar. Afterwards, walking to my car, guess who I ran into. Yup, Janet.

"Hey, I dropped a note in your mailbox today," she said, as if it were the most natural thing in the world to run into a former teacher at night in some random neighborhood.

"Yeah, I know," I said. "What's this about you writing a book?"

"Oh, I wrote a book about being a groupie," she said. "Do you want a copy?"

"Um, sure."

Something tells me I don't really want to read it.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Postcard from California

Walking down a quiet, residential street in sunny San Diego a couple of days ago, I noticed something curious and out-of-place--a house all decorated for Christmas, with lights and images of Frosty and Santa.

For a fraction of a second, I lost track of time and place. Yes, it was a mere fraction, but enough to remind me why I'm here in California. "Odd," I thought in that fraction of a second, "looks like they forgot to take down their Christmas decorations ... and it's summer already."

Of course it wasn't summer already. It was was New Year's Day, just a week after Christmas, but it was summer still. It's always nice in San Diego. Sunny and in the 70s on New Year's Day. Back home, a new layer of snow covered streets and windshields and the city settled in for below zero wind chills. "This is why I want to move here," I reminded myself after chuckling about my summer thoughts.

Today I'm in the San Francisco area, and while the weather isn't as perfect, this place is perfect in so many other ways. I think that this time I really am through with Chicago. Just need to finish off the school year, and next year, this blog could be Oakland Teacher Man or some such thing.

Incidentally, if anyone out there has connections in a Bay Area school district, I could use all the help I could get ...