Homework: To Do or Not To Do

Homework was the issue.

I was called to meet with a parent, in the office, during my conference period. It was about homework.

I entered the school conference room to find the Assistant Principal, Billy Bones (my student), Billy’s mom and her lawyer! Hmm… ‘Looks like Billy isn’t the only one on the hot seat.’

The lawyer started in on me, “Ms. Bones is concerned about Billy’s grade in math. He received a Fail on his last progress report.”

“That’s correct,” I answered. “He did no work in class so it was the only grade I could have given him. I have repeatedly asked him to get to work and I have offered to help him both in his regularly assigned class time and during lunch or after school but, so far, he has refused.”

The lawyer continued, “What about homework?” At the risk of seeming rude I said, “What about it?” She said, “We asked him about his homework and he said you never gave him any. Is that true?”

I tried to take the high road.

What I wanted to say was, not appropriate for this discussion. But… I tried to take the high road and what I did say was,

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The Owl and the Pussycat

This is my lovely cat Captain Flint!

P.S.: Captain Flint is a female! She is named after Long John Silver’s parrot (also a female) who is named after the ‘famous buccaneer’ Captain Flint from Treasure Island.

The Owl and the Pussycat is a poem by English poet Edward Lear.

My Speak Up Talk Radio Interview

Check out my first ever Radio Interview

Radio Interview: On Speak Up Talk Radio Network

http://www.speakuptalkradio.com/p-m-devuono-speaks-up/

For those who follow my blog and haven’t heard from me in a while I’m working on a series of essays about homework. Watch for them – coming soon.

How School Broke My Heart

Everybody Has a Story

Talk to anyone, and no matter how great their childhood memories are, everyone can come up with some story of heartache caused by something at or about school. It might have been a mean teacher or a school bully . Maybe it was anxiety over some subject, grade or test. Whenever I thought about mean teachers I alway remembered Mrs. Murphy my 3rd grade teacher. She used to poke us in the shoulder and it hurt. But I never felt real heartache until I became a teacher and then school broke my heart.

It wasn’t a bully or a physical threat. It wasn’t done to me personally. It was having to stand by while blind, stupid bureaucracy hurt the kids I loved.

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Are You Gay?

Are You Gay?

“Are You Gay?” Students have asked this question a lot in classrooms where I have taught, particularly when I was a substitute teacher. Why? Because it’s an easy way to derail a lesson. Once asked, it must be EFFECTIVELY answered or the class/lesson descends into homophobic giggling or worse.

This isn’t about being ashamed or trying to hide. It’s about keeping the class on task. I live in West Hollywood. My wife swam with West Hollywood Aquatics (a predominately, but not exclusively, openly gay swim team) and so I have met more than a few gay and lesbian teachers who have been asked this inappropriate question and some did not know how to respond. I write this for them and for any teacher who doesn’t want to be trapped by this question.

It is important to note that I was never asked about my sexual orientation by any openly gay students (see Embarrassing Questions). I am spectacularly handsome but I don’t think I give off a particularly gay vibe. When I was gigging with drummer PT (he’s the guy who recommended I should substitute teach for additional income which started my teaching career), he used to get angry with me on the job and on the break one night he fiercely scolded me, “Would you please get your head into the job? I can always tell when a pretty girl comes in the room because your playing goes to hell. Stop checking out the girls and get your head into the music!” He was right.

Mad Magazine and a word of caution

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Gunfight at the Furniture Store

Gunfight: Store Owner Fights Back

It was the Monday morning after Easter Sunday. I had the local TV news on to catch the weather report. I was rolling around on the living room floor doing stretches before heading out for my before-school cardio when I heard the news. “In our top story, Store Owner Fights Back. Yesterday, a gunfight erupted when three men attempted to rob a furniture store at gunpoint. The owner pulled his own gun, and foiled the attempted armed robbery, killing the gunman and wounding another.”

Wow! I thought, ‘What kind of fools decide to rob a furniture store? And on Easter Sunday!’ Unfortunately, I found out. The fools were from my school!

Now don’t judge my kids too harshly. Some of them were really great kids who just had to make up credits. I’m still in touch with some of them who are now adults and I consider them my adopted children.

But, some of my kids were fools on their way to the penitentiary or the cemetery. This is one of their stories.

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Gangstas Have Cars

Gangstas Have Cars. It’s a Warning.

I’ve noticed something unexpected when I promote my writing. My intended audience is kids, parents, teachers, and politicians, pretty much anyone with an interest or a stake in education. What surprises me is that some of them dismiss my book or blog by saying, “Oh we’re just not interested in that gangster stuff. It doesn’t apply to us.” To which I reply, “I think you should be interested in that gangster stuff because gangstas have cars.” Here’s some reasons and then, if you’re still not convinced, a very scary story.

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Ethics Questions to Stump Billionaires

Using Ethics to Stand Up for Labor?

Recently, Joy Reid was interviewing James Baker on the Rachel Maddow Show and she missed a golden opportunity to use ethics questions to strike a blow for the workers of America. Ms. Reid isn’t the only interviewer who has missed opportunities to champion labor. I’ve seen it again and again in multiple interviews where reporters allow incomplete, vague, or softball answers to go unchallenged.

Reporters need to question the ethics of the notion that anything which is good for (read: profitable for) a businessman is then, by definition, good for America, and the American worker. Maybe if more people had challenged the notion that maximizing profits is always good business and is always good for America, we wouldn’t have a President-Elect who loves the American worker so much he promises to bring jobs back to America while he profits from manufacturing overseas.

Some examples:

What Questions to Ask?

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When Does Empathy Become Enabling?

A Four Year Old in High School?

There was a little girl running up and down the aisles in my summer-school Algebra class. Actually it wasn’t my class. I had taken it over as part of my duties as a utility, summer-school, substitute teacher. That summer, I did everything from security in the halls to attendance phone calls in the office. And when a teacher was absent or running late, I took over their classroom. That’s how I wound up teaching Mr. Smith’s summer-school, 9th grade Algebra class with a little girl running up and down the aisles.

I was the new guy in town so the next time the little girl ran past my desk I introduced myself and asked her her name. She told me her name was Sally and she was four years old. By this time another, somewhat older girl had walked up to my desk and introduced herself. The older girl said her name was Amy and that Sally was her daughter. She said that Mr. Smith allowed her to bring her daughter to school because she, Amy, had no one to look after her daughter. If she couldn’t bring her daughter to school she would have to drop out. I told Amy that if it was okay with Mr. Smith, it was okay with me. Amy returned to her desk and Sally continued to wander around.

The truth is, I wasn’t okay with it.

I didn’t take it out on Amy though. The student’s ID number, which is their birthday and a few other numbers, is on the attendance roster. I looked up Amy’s birthday and found out that she was only 16 years old. That meant that she was impregnated as young as 11 years old and had Sally when she was 12!

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Insulting the Teacher

7.21.15 ShoutMerely Vulgar or Is It Insulting?

Which matters more, who says it or how it is said? Many of our students treat us with love and affection – or at least grudging respect. But some do not. We teachers (at times) are subjected to all kinds of insults and vulgarities. In my last post, The Old Rugged Cross and the ’N’ Word, I wrote about the students’ constant use of the word ‘nigga’ and how I was repeatedly told, “We can say it but you can’t because of your color.” I warned that, although I was not advocating the use of vulgarity, making such a distinction because of race was a dangerous and outdated concept. But what about student vulgarity in general? When is it simple-minded, low-class behavior and when is it insulting?

I have been called just about every insult and/or compliment you can imagine. I’ve been called an asshole, a buster ass mark, a fool, a sycophant, Jubal E. Harshaw and Dad! My looks have been compared to every bald guy with a mustache from Dr. Phil to Sean Connery sexiest-man-1989-0r-2007(I have no problem with this last comparison!). The most shockingly vulgar insult I have ever heard from anybody came from the mouth of a second grader (I’ll spare you the vulgarity here because it isn’t necessary to quote it to make my point. If you really want the prurient details – write me at my contact page). But it really bothered me when I was called an old bald eagle. Why?

To examine if a word or behavior is insulting, I posed the questions earlier, does it matter who says it or how it is said? Let’s look at this symbol of honor used as an insult.

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