Category Archives: True Confessions

Some candid reflections about my own experiences in the classroom

Pardon Our Dust

The National Council on Teacher Quality recently did a study that rated teacher preparation programs using a four-star system; only four out of 1,200 Ed progams earned four stars, with 163 earning less than one star, causing them to be marked with a “warning” symbol because applicants “are unlikely to obtain much return on their investment.”  Continue reading Pardon Our Dust

Crossing the Trust Line

Eureka!  I’m sitting in Laura Press’ 11th Grade AP Language class watching 44 kids dutifully spend 15 completely silent minutes taking the hardest vocabulary quiz I’ve ever seen.  Seriously.  Anyone into zeugma?  How about litote?  Chismus, anyone? Continue reading Crossing the Trust Line

The Kid I Didn’t Kill

I once ran over a student in the parking lot.  Gio was standing in front of my car, waving, grinning and doing a little hopping dance in apparent joy at seeing me, which made no sense because only an hour earlier he had brought my entire class to a standstill by taking a half-eaten pear and mashing it into the floor with his shoe.  Obviously, I threw him out of class, though he did not go easily, muttering profanities and slamming the door behind him.  The sight of his beaming, delighted mug in my windshield was like a red flag to a bull.  Enraged, I gunned the engine and squashed him flat. Continue reading The Kid I Didn’t Kill

I’m a Bad Person

That’s right: I’m bad.  And so is my husband.  At least according to Allison Benedikt, who wrote in Slate that only bad people send their children to private school.  Her argument is basically that if people with money stopped opting out of public schools and used their resources instead to improve them, those public schools would get better. Continue reading I’m a Bad Person

The Year My Test Scores Sucked

As I drive over to Dennis Denziger’s class at Venice High, I keep comparing Jennifer’s class to my own experience.  Most of my time as a teacher, I taught English electives.  But in 2011-12, I taught one section of English 11, and it was a train wreck.  The subject of “English” is a morass; even supposedly measurable areas like vocabulary and grammar are in fact very difficult to disentangle from much more intangible, emotion-laden things like meaning, thinking, imagining and believing. Continue reading The Year My Test Scores Sucked

About This Blog

In 2007, after twenty years of working as a television writer, I decided on an impulse to become an English teacher.  It was the end of the writer’s strike, and I was making proclamations that I was going to drop everything and do something meaningful.  I’d seen the inspirational movies about idealistic new teachers who marched into a school and shook things up with their no-bullshit awesomeness.  I would never have admitted it to myself, but on some level, I imagined standing on top of a desk reading poetry out loud while my students wept quietly, inspired.

Within a month, I had a job at an excellent charter high school in South Los Angeles with a student body that was 97% Latino and 3% African-American.  96% of the students were eligible for free or reduced lunch, meaning that most of them lived below poverty level.  I would get my teaching credential in an intern program where, instead of student-teaching, I would go straight to my own full-time teaching job, taking the required credential classes at night school.  And so, on a sizzling September day five years ago, with no training in education, I stood for the first time in front of a classroom full of teenagers and realized too late that I had no idea what I was doing. Continue reading About This Blog