Saturday, January 30, 2010

Regents Week Wake Up Call

In January we devote an entire instructional week to Regents Exams- New York's exit exams. There are no classes, instead there are tests to proctor. Students do not come to school unless they are scheduled for a test (and sometimes not even then, of course). It's pretty nice until we start grading the things. After that the gloves came off, a lot of people got ornery, and a lot of students were put to the test. After all is said and done, the testing, grading, passing and failing get to you and the week becomes as rough as any other.

The Schedule
Each teacher is given a schedule of proctoring and grading periods. This is the first thing that raises the level of irritation amongst the staff. Our building only has so many rooms and so many teachers, the combination of which is very difficult to piece together so there are enough staff and enough rooms to go around. In spite of that difficulty and the effort made to maintain equity, many teachers have had numerous free periods, while others have to proctor and grade the entire week straight.

Students are not in classes and therefore are providing fewer opportunities for the teachers to complain, the amount of grading required and the number of tests that one must proctor immediately fill that void. Any slight variance in equity becomes a complaint given to other teachers and administrators. Administrators then might go to more experienced staff to try to shift the work load around a bit, the result of which is more irritation.

For some the proctoring schedule is completely absurd, as it is with our special education department. The teachers we have in that department are scheduled to administer tests for between seven and nine hours straight every day of the week and are only relieved when they text someone a reminder that they are stuck in a room with students and have to go to the bathroom.

The Grading
Each teacher has to grade tests in his or her subject area. That means all of the social studies teachers team up to grade the social studies exit exams, all the math teacher do the same, etc. This is necessary so that teachers do not grade their own students' exams, and also provides the teams an opportunity to come together to talk, bond, ignore one another, etc.

The complaints in this department center on how much grading each person actually does when compared to the number of students they actually have taking the test. I was pretty guilty of this one. I had four of my eighth graders take the eleventh grade exit exam, but I assisted in the grading of well over a hundred exams. That's fine. I wouldn't have nearly as large a problem with that if I wasn't made to give a large test to the rest of my eighth graders and then grade it entirely by myself outside of school hours by the end of the week. My complaints were quieted by the logic that I'm lucky to have the time off from teaching and should be quiet, though that didn't really make me feel a whole lot better.

The fact that we grade the exams in-house baffles me. If these tests are important at all, why in the world would the state expect people who are supposed to be very emotionally engaged in the success of the students grade the very exams that are supposed to be objective measures of their competency?! Teacher's and administrator's jobs depend on those test scores and we're the ones grading them? Because I do not teach high school and my students aren't actually expected to pass these exams, I find myself being most objective and holding the highest standards for students to actually pass the tests, while my colleagues tend to be a bit more lenient when it comes to marking down . Even still, many of the students taking the exam are my students from last year, which means however much I want to be objective about them, I cannot be.

Moving Forward
The first whiff of how difficult my job would be in the Bronx came when I graded the August Regents Exams in the summer of 2008. I came in fresh from college and used to reading high-level student work. I was shocked by the fact that students couldn't do well on the exams, let alone even pass them.

When your job is to get students to learn an important base of knowledge and develop the skills they will need to be successful in life, it's an incredible shot to the gut to find out that all of your hard work results in many students failing a minimum competency test. Your pride is cut down; your self-esteem dissolved. As you calculate the scores a sort of numb feeling grips you as you search for meaning in the fact that few of the students are able to pass what has become one of the largest measures of your performance.

While I'm not yet a seasoned veteran, I can imagine how difficult it is to see students do so poorly year after year. In spite of all our efforts, it may come down to the fact that our current system simply cannot do what we want it to do. With class sizes so large, teachers demoralized (and demonized), and public favor of the public schools waning, all we can do is keep marching and improving what we're doing with students. Maybe it is a losing battle in this system, but that doesn't mean we'll give up the fight. Hopefully someone figures out how to dig us out of this mess while we're still standing.

Today's Wine: Casillero del Diablo Carmenere. My impeccable and flourishing Spanish (I learned the word for "question" the other day) tells me that Diablo means "devil," so of course I had to buy it. This guy was fruity, full-bodied, not too dry and not at all expensive. Great job.

Monday, January 25, 2010

You're So Not Ghetto

Being from suburban Kansas generally doesn't get you interested in African American, urban culture, or in the plights of recent immigrants. In fact it generally makes you prejudiced against them on some or many levels and certainly doesn't help you familiarize yourself with them. I grew up playing Bach on a violin and listening to very Caucasian, would-be punk rock acts. My parents both attended at least some college and my father had a very good job as a businessman in Kansas City. To say the least, in spite of my lackluster liberal longings, I had no idea what was outside of the bubble in which I grew up, not to mention the fact that I knew nothing about "the hood" (as my students lovingly refer to it). All I had to fall back on was my own experience, which was one placed somewhere between the middle-class and the upper middle-class of America. In spite of the "front" I put up, I knew all along that I was going to face some trouble once I got to the front line- I just underestimated how much.

In college I studied German as a second major, but really as an extra-curricular activity that was credit-bearing. I seemed to have a knack for the language, as well as picking up on aspects of the culture that my classmates could not. While that might be neat for someone learning German, picking up random accents after spending only a bit of time in a foreign area of the United States can definitely be seen as offensive by the native population.

Whatever skill I had with languages I took with me to the South Bronx. I picked up on idioms, expressions, and the accent of the folks with whom I worked. After a while I decided to show students that I knew something about them, having heard in the school of ed numerous times that the only way to get through to students was by getting to know them. I was also running out of ideas of what I could possibly do to connect to them and settle them down in class.

The problem with throwing what I perceived to be their culture back at them was that they could immediately tell what it was that I was doing. While they thought it was kind of funny (in a let's-make-fun-of-Mr.-James kind of way), it didn't really earn me any points, not to mention the fact that it could have been seen as culturally insensitive by a few extreme personalities. While learning about the community in which you work is a vital part of the job, even hinting at the idea that you've experienced it first hand on the ground when you've only been in a school a couple months- keeping in mind the fact the inside of the school you work in might itself be a far cry away from the community wherein that school is located- is quickly picked up by students as a lot of hot air.

Remember this: Don't "front," just show them you understand.

You should definitely know about the things in which the students are interested. I know way more about Lil Wayne than I'd ever prefer to, but it has helped greatly with a relationship I have this year with one of our most difficult students. It may seem pretty stereotypical, but if you don't know anything about the top ten major urban artists, you might look them up and listen to some of their music. Personally I still don't know much about Latino culture in the U.S., but I'm learning.

The more you know about the culture, the more it will come out naturally when you're teaching and talking to students. That is where it becomes a valuable asset.

Today's Wine: Samantha Starr Pinot Noir 2005. We took the train to Hoboken to have fondue last night and this is what we drank with it. It was nice, crisp, fruity and went well with the various things we stuck into hot cheese and oil.

Saturday, January 23, 2010


Yesterday was the day. Two students went at it big time right in front of me in my classroom. The relationships I had with them and a stern voice weren't enough to ward off the fight. While I know I wasn't the cause of the conflict, the fact that it happened on my watch is rather disheartening. In spite of the improvement I've seen in my students and in my own ability to teach them, crap like this still has to go ahead and happen.

It all started when one of my students lost interest in the homework he was supposed to start to keep him occupied for the last bit of class. As dead time in general is a death sentence for management, I made it clear that every student was to be in his or her seat completing the day's lesson or beginning the homework. He wasn't into that. Instead he thought he'd walk around and lightly slap everyone's paper with a long eraser, I suppose to say "hello" or simply make sure everyone knew he was alive. Whatever it was, it was not well-received by one particular young lady, who I'm sure decided that by calling him a "faggot," everything would be set straight, put in order and we'd all get back to work. Too bad Eraser Boy felt being called a "faggot" was the gravest insult one could possibly receive.

So, in spite of the fact that I was already standing beside them, it escalated. Eraser Boy put his fist on her chin and pushed it a couple feet in one direction. "Faggot" Girl then slapped Eraser Boy in the face, causing his glasses to go flying across the room. Eraser Boy, already incredibly imbalanced in so many ways, was now backed into a corner via impaired vision and announced to the heavens that he "don't care if she's a girl," and lunged for her, the result of which was both of them hitting, slapping, punching and tossing one another around while I tried to pry them apart. I pulled Miss Slaps-A-Lot off of Eraser boy, and dragged her across the room while instructing another student to go and fetch a useful adult, and then shoved Eraser Boy out of the classroom.

Now, last year this would have been cause for celebration on the part of the other students in the classroom. Class would have been officially over and the gossip mill would have been in full swing. Half of all eighth graders would have been informed of the fight via text message within five minutes and there may very well have been another fight scheduled later that day just for kicks. The aftermath of this fight was much different, however. The students knew it was a terrible thing and there was something like embarrassment, empathy for their comrades or something that left a much more somber feeling in the room. According to one student who was a bit dazed, fights are only supposed to happen in bad teachers' classrooms. I took that as a compliment and thought perhaps the somber feeling was the result of complete surprise that the fight happened.

Advice for the First Years
If things feel like they're about to well up and explode, it's tough to say what is the best action to take. Last year a blow-out fight happened in my class after one kid was throwing highlighters across the room (not an irregular occurrence). After walking across the room to apologize, that student received a fist in the face after being misinterpreted, which led to desks flying and me pulling apart a couple of the larger students in my grade (both over-aged).

Unfortunately, fights happen in a lot of schools. Most of the time the students who actually fight are those who have a lot of other problems they're dealing with.

Today, after everything was cleared up, I was told by another teacher that when other teachers hear about this fight, it won't reflect on my management, rather than on the fact that these two students are nuts. I can't help but to think that I should have seen it coming, though, or should have more forcefully restrained Eraser Boy before things got out of hand. Perhaps both perspectives should be considered, but regardless- it sucks when things go down right in your classroom.

Chin up though. You can't stop all of the fights in the world. If a fight does occur in your class, make sure to think about the things that led up to it so you can diffuse the next one more easily. That and constantly working to improve are your best bets at keeping the fighting out of your classroom. After the fight yesterday, I'll be cracking down on anyone out of their seat without a hand raised, which is one of my classroom rules anyway.

Today's Wine: Il Poggio dei Vigneti Chianti 2004. This guy was pretty good- not too dry and not terribly fruity. It has the D.O.C.G. stamp of approval, which I've just now learned is a quality insurance label given to food and wine in Italy. It also has my stamp of approval.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Waiting for the Break

Students and teachers alike oftentimes adopt a mentality of waiting before a break. The job is so exhausting that even directly after a break the staff at times will take up waiting for the next break, especially if it's just a couple weeks away. This can lead both staff and students to simply "get by" until that break comes. What that looks like is students moving through their schedule almost comatose and teachers teaching such a way that requires much less energy and a lot more down time. Unfortunately even the most veteran teachers in this setting are guilty of this sometimes, and I can hardly claim I haven't simply survived until my next bit of respite, rather than throwing everything I've got into it.

It's important for the teacher to not get caught up in this attitude of waiting. Last year I was guilty very often of coming off as unenthusiastic about whatever it was I was teaching on a given day because I was so frustrated with management issues. It's hard to get excited about your content when you're constantly putting out fires. Before breaks, however, it's easy to re-adopt a practice I had when I was working part-time as a sales clerk in high school- watching the clock until my shift was over and I would be just fine. That means that the management issues become less important, you pass the entire buck to the students for misbehaving and not learning the material, and you go home at the end of the day having accomplished only getting one day closer to break.

The students pick up very easily on how enthused you are about a given topic. Their ability to perceive your mood is stunning, especially (it seems) those who want to get under your skin. If they know you're unenthusiastic about the topic, for whatever reason, they are far less likely to be engaged. By giving up your enthusiasm before the last minute of break you are handing the ball to those who want it and you're greatly decreasing the amount most of your students will learn.

Another thing that happens when you adopt this mentality is that you are lowering your expectations for what your students are capable of. This is unfair for those- generally the majority- who show up to learn and do what you ask. Lowering your expectations is what the minority of students want- they really do want to do as little as possible. It's our duty to make sure that doesn't happen. One of the most powerful tools teachers have is to keep expectations high and know that most people rise to meet expectations. If before breaks you lower them to get by, you're relinquishing that tool.

While I appreciate the extra day off as much as the next, it's important to keep our heads in it and work until the last minute of the last period before break. This weekend has been extended by Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and it could be felt in our school on Friday. There was a dance performance in the middle of the day, after which many of our students relieved themselves of the burden of the final two academic periods. Whether I was successful with that is debatable, but I think that it went better than it would have last year.

Today's Lack of Wine: Due to a stomach virus going around, I was not able to have wine this weekend. In it's place has a been a lot of water, green tea and some Gatorade. Cheers!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Leaving it At School

My first year changed me. It made me so angry. I was angry all the time. It was directed at the students, at myself, at my girlfriend, at strangers and at the world. Last year I'd go home after a tough day (most days) and bring everything negative with me. Thoughts of misbehaving students would plague my mind late into the night and I would get visibly and verbally pissed trying to pull down a lesson plan for the following day. Doing that made life unnecessarily terrible sometimes and certainly affected how effective I was in the classroom.

By the end of the year I felt as though my general disposition had shifted to something that I certainly didn't want it to be. I was pissed at the school of education, at my students, at myself and at pretty much the entire world for allowing such an impossible job to exist for a rookie teacher. The whole thing sort of built up on top of itself until I was edgy, impatient, and irritable.

You'll see a lot of older teachers in the field angry and bitter with years of nonsense, unrealistic expectations, and unruly students (among other things). I'd imagine the outlook also comes from years of a grinding realization that you can never do enough- that as much as we try, students do fall through the cracks and criticism of the profession from all corners of society is increasing. Whether that's the case or not, the feeling I had wasn't so deeply rooted, but was instead a reaction to one really bad year in the field.

The fact that this year has been better than the last has helped me to release some of the negative feelings I was harboring. Even after the worst day this year I can leave it at school, go home and do what needs to be done without freaking out about miscreant children. Whether I've become more used to the biz, better at controlling my temper, both or something else,I'm better able to leave school with a clear head, relax and get things done at home. It also helps to know that at the end of the day- at the end of the year- things are going to be just fine. Last year I didn't know that was going to be the case.

Today's Wine: Duck Walk Vineyards Boysenberry Fruit Wine. We picked this one up on one of the wine tours we did on Long Island last year. It's tart, not too sweet and pretty great after a meal. I don't think it's widely distributed in stores, but I would recommend visiting the winery if you're ever at the other end of Long Island.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Buttons and Badges

Sometimes it really pains me to give stuff away to children. It depends on the reason why, of course, but if it's for anything other than on an occasion to show them I like them unconditionally I really question why I'm doing it. When I was in school I strove for success simply because I didn't want to fail. I also had a vague but strong sense that my academic success was important. Last year, a lot of that went down the toilet as I attempted to persuade/bribe my class to behave better. It really bothered me because it was as if to say, "What I am telling you to do is not important enough for you to want to do it inherently, so I'm going to give you a chocolate to make it go down easier." This year I've been giving out awards that are academic in nature rather than out and out bribery. The idea has been to reinforce positive behavior without seeming like it's just an attempt to neutralize the poor behavior.

When I was a kid I was active in scouting. I liked it because it got me away from my five siblings and I was able to do things like camp, hike, rock climb, canoe, set off bottle rockets, shoot guns, smell bad, etc. I also liked it because as I worked through requirements I was given awards that reflected ambition and the ability to follow through on what I wanted to accomplish. Most of the awards/ranks/merit badges I also wore around a lot of the time on my uniform, which not only made me strut a bit more, but I would think made other scouts want to receive similar awards.

This past summer I came up with an idea based on my merit badges and on my aversion to giving pizza parties and shiny pencils to children who behave well just enough to get those things out of you. I bought a button maker. With this magical, $400 contraption, I've made a few hundred buttons and handed them out to my students as awards for real academic achievement after each unit and after major projects and assignments. The beautiful thing about these things is that unlike a certificate that will never be seen after an awards ceremony, I actually have students with them on their backpacks walking around every day reminding students of past content and reminding them that there will be an academic award at the end of the unit. The buttons also aren't candy that will rot their teeth, pizza that will teach them poor eating habits or pencils that will litter my floor by the end of the week.

The button maker decision was also based on my observation of how much my students loved the buttons of Obama I gave out as awards for great campaign speeches in the fall of 2008 (don't worry, they wrote for their candidate of choice and had the option to take Obama buttons as well as McCain buttons), which was my first successful project as a full-time teacher. They wore those things around for the rest of the year and I couldn't help but think two things: they simply liked wearing buttons and if I could get students to wear something that reminded them of the major ideas we covered that it might help keep those things in mind as we progressed through our history curriculum.

Now, this could certainly have been gimmicky and fallen flat had it not been presented properly. To avoid this I made sure that I had student buy-in at the beginning of the year. My first unit was a Bronx History unit designed to raise student interest in my class and get some basic social studies skills underway (mapping skills, etc.). The button for that unit was a Yankee button, which was a big hit and got the students craving the things. Since then I've had a Civil War button with rifles crossed on the front, a class librarian button with books, a technology monitor button with computer on it, a Statue of Liberty button for immigration, a railroad crossing button for industrialization, and a recycling button for my progressives unit. Each has been an image catering to student tastes (punk rock images, graffiti art, etc.) and they've gotten many of even the most off-task students asking for them and wondering about them.

One of the things that first-year teachers often do is pull out prize buckets, buy pizzas, and do whatever they think will possibly calm the class down and get them to work. It's possible that most of it or all of it won't work in the long run. Going into this year I realized I didn't need them nearly as much and that the things I did bring with me (buttons) were based on the synthesis of my own personality and the interests of the students. That made them more genuine awards while keeping students' interest high. It also speaks again to the fact that in order to teach well you need to know your students, but it also has supported the idea that students appreciate things that aren't just cheap junk you might use to get them to be quiet for a minute.

Finding things like this is part of finding your niche in the classroom. This particular thing wouldn't work for a hundred other teachers. Figure out a way to make your classroom stand out in the minds of your students. Once you've found it stick with it and then find the next thing to add to your arsenal. Your students might think it's lame and your co-workers might think it's lame, but if you think it's good and act like it's awesome, your students might very well think the same eventually.

Today's Wine: Charles Shaw Cabernet. I wasn't kidding when I said this was going to be a staple. This past weekend we looked through all the corks we've been saving this year and found that exactly half were from Charles Shaw and probably 90% of those was this wine exactly. While I'd like to vary the selection for this blog, I'd also like to make sure I don't break the bank. Thanks for sticking with me on this one.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

At Least You Came to School?

Excuse me? What did you say? At least you came to school?! Is this some sort of gift? Is this some kind of miraculous favor? Did you actually just tell me that your mere presence is supposed to make me satisfied and elated to be a teacher?

So is the attitude of many a student where I work. They come to school because that is what is expected of them. While teachers set real and high expectations as to what should happen in the classroom, those are only followed through with if the students have developed some level of respect for the teacher and then only if a certain level of work ethic has been instilled within them. Students in today's education system, at least the system I work in, show up to school with the understanding that the teachers can do no worse than what's already been dealt them outside of school and that schools will not hold them back no matter what infractions are performed.

This is a battle teachers are losing in the classroom. How's this for trickle-down theory: politicians need school achievement to stay elected, superintendents/chancellors need pass rates and graduation rates to stay appointed, principals need to raise the scores of the disenfranchised to keep their jobs and teachers' very real assessment of students' skills and abilities are ignored as their students are passed on to the next grade. What does that all mean for me? No matter what grades I give my students, they are going to go to high school. Is this a secret? No. Last year we promised, we preached, we shouted until we were blue in the face that the chancellor was finally cracking down, which is what we were told. Our principal- our captain-was going to follow through and hold back half the grade if necessary. Those who did not pass their core subjects AND their state assessments would not be passed on to high school.

Mythical models were proposed as to how we would accommodate it. We discussed class sizes of fifty to be held in the cafeteria and an eighth grade large enough to require herd dogs. What happened? Two out of a hundred were held back. Two students. We held back the young man who attended my class for three partial class periods and who was discharged twice from our school to attend rehab and we held back the young lady who attended my class twice due to the baby she was carrying much of the school term (which was conceived a year and a half after she exited elementary school). I've seen the girl as many times this year, and while the boy did turn in one completed assignment this year- thereby achieving his highest overall grade ever in eighth grade social studies- their "presence" has hardly been enough to send the message to our current students that if they don't get it together they too will barred from attending high school.

Now, I must throw out the disclaimer once again that the majority of students do not show up to school with this attitude. The sad thing is that to be affected by it is unavoidable at times. When good people see others doing the wrong thing and still reap the same rewards as everyone time and again, it is nearly impossible to avoid being disheartened. Holding students back oftentimes ends very poorly for them, but the flip side of the coin is that the battle teachers and motivated students fight to lift them up- the battle to show the nation that they are students and that if they work hard enough they will make it- that battle is made infinitely more difficult to win.

So yes, what I get is a handful of flippant remarks about the privilege given me by a particular student's presence, but what we should consider are the long-term effects. While we do not have what it takes to accommodate those students who drop out early when held back and end up on the street, in jail or worse, we're holding back so many of the students from achieving something more than what their immediate surroundings offer. In the short term the consequences are very obviously brutal for those who drop out. In the long term, they are less obviously so, though arguably just as brutal, for those trying to rise above what was dealt them.

Today's Wine: 3-Buck Chuck trumps Monarch Glen Merlot (2005). The Monarch Glen seemed to lack everything once again. Now, this wine was bought from a bodega in the Bronx and given to us as a gift with a bunch of dust on it and a cork that didn't look as though the bottle had been laying down in a while. Perhaps the wine was oxidized, perhaps not, but when we drank the Charles Shaw afterward, it was really rather delicious.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

The Day After Break

Don't expect things to be better after break. Don't expect them to be worse. Go in expecting a lot of the same and work for something better. Your students, though they may not show it, will be relieved to see you after a week and a half away. You have also had a chance to breath away from one another for over a week. Now is not the time to revamp your entire classroom and management plan, but it may be the time to put your foot back down on the ground (or get it there for the first time) and keep it there a bit better than it was before the holidays.

The day after a break provides a unique opportunity to re-establish rules and procedures. Treat it like a fresh start in the classroom, going back over the rules like it was the first day. Concentrate on any of them that were working and if you think adding one or two will make a significant difference, make sure you keep them simple and that you can handle following through on each rule or regulation you want to cover. In the time that you've been in the classroom, it has probably become very apparent that not following through on a single thing you say is very damaging to your ability to govern your classroom. That's why it's important to keep it simple and concise.

A problem I had when people told me this last year was that I would go in to "lay down the law" and expect some kind of drastic improvement. That was always a let down. I would get frustrated after a couple days when one of my classes would go poorly and any small gain I made would go down the drain as I lost it in front of the class. Keep in mind that this is something that could help in the long term; it's not a fix-all, end-all. Regard the day after break as a starting point, not a day to fix all of the problems.

Go back over the rules you want to keep. Don't bring up any that you're going to let go. If you didn't have a sign with the rules up in the classroom, it might be the time to get one. The advantage you can use after coming back from break is just that: an advantage. Don't expect a fresh coat of paint on your management plan to fix all of the problems. Make sure the plan has your solid, core rules and make sure you stick to them better than you did before break. While all your problems won't go away, if you lay out the rules again and stick to them invariably, the students may give you a little back.

Today's Wine: Evodia Garnacha 2008. It took a little time to figure out what the grape on this was. It's from Spain, not too expensive and easy to drink.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Winter Leave- Coming Back

While Winter Break is incredibly important for getting some rest and regrouping for January and February, it can also be dangerous. Before I left to head back to Kansas last year my assistant principal came by after one of my rougher days to talk about break. He left on a note of, "Make sure you come back from Kansas." If he had said that to the young man who had been in the School of Ed, that young man would have been incredibly indignant and would have either said or thought, "Quit? Do you know who you're talking to?!"

I didn't react that way though. I just looked at my AP and looked at the floor and responded unenthusiastically that he could count on me being back in January. It was clear that it had happened in the past that first-years make it through the fall, head back home for the holidays and then don't show their face in the spring. Seeing how easy they had it or how nice it really was back home certainly can be disheartening. I was also told that come spring when things aren't fixed for some people they cut and run. Perhaps being home over the holidays is a catalyst for that as well.

You might be having a terrible time this year. Teaching your first year is likely the most difficult thing you've ever done and it may very well be the most difficult thing you ever do. I've heard that time and again from veteran teachers and even former teachers who've left the field. The same AP who told me to come back after break was also the one who told me over and over again that next year would be better. While it's nearly impossible for a first year teacher to believe things can be that much better, they can be and are.

As things stand now, if you're already in the thick of it things will probably not get drastically better this year, but you need to stick it out for you and for your students. Quitting the field based on one year of teaching, let alone one semester, is quitting based on the most difficult part of the job without seeing any of the rewards.

Hang in there. It'll get better.

Today's Wine: Domaine Ste. Michelle Brut. That's a bottle of sparkling wine out of Washington State. Happy New Year!