Friday, May 7, 2010

I hate grading math tests

You look at some math tests and you think, "This student needs to take more care with his work." You look at some other math tests and you think, "This student has difficulty with her spatial imagination." And you look at still other math tests and you say, "This student is a raving lunatic."

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Eats, Shoots, and Leaves

Finally, we are finally doing punctuation. I lurve punctuation, I just loave it, especially commas. My redoubtable, Vaderesque philosophy professor in college, discussing a paper I had written, once told me "Watching you with semicolons -- it's like a child with a new toy."

He didn't mean it as a compliment; but I've toned it down a bit since then; I think. Doubtless a leftover from my years-long Chesterton binge.

Also, the em-dash is my new love. I have to remember to program a shortcut key for that -- double-dashes don't have the same heft. A good em-dash has something weighty, solid, and noirish to it, like a fedora; double-dashes are like a straw beach hat. But I can't figure out the ASCII shortcuts on my compact laptop keyboard (Fn+Ctrl+Alt+0336 or something), and I'm too lazy to open up charmap every time. Fmeh.

We were discussing the distinction between declarative and exclamatory sentences. I pointed out that an exclamatory sentence, deceptively, often starts with an interrogative word. Examples: How bad you smell! What a lovely fedora!

On last night's worksheet, they were to punctuate "How much does that book by E. M. Forster cost?" ("And how many young, susceptible minds will it poison?" I didn't add.) Someone mis-punctuated it with a period. So I put these two example sentences on the board:
  • How much does that book cost?
  • How much that book costs!
Ensued the following dialogue:
Reina: What! That's slang! You put slang on the board!

Me: Huh? No, it's an exclamatory sentence. It's totally standard.

Reina: No! That's a question. Like, 'How much that book costs?' That's, like, ghetto.

Me: Ohh -- you mean like 'Yo, how much that book costs, yo?'

Class: [wincing, howling]

Reina: Mr. P...Please. Don't do that again. You're not made for that!
As usual, I should have known better. Did, actually. Oh well. Tomorrow we discuss the importance of comma placement: "Have you eaten, Grandma?" vs. "Have you eaten Grandma?" They are going to eat it up. Till then, peace out, yo.

Friday, April 16, 2010

The Hush Effect

I stepped outside of Latin 5A to deal with Davyon in the hall. He had been lying prone on the floor, beating his head against the base of his chair (long story). We resolved a couple of things. In the 15 seconds I was gone, the class had erupted into complete animal frenzy: hooting, hollering, shrieking.

Me: Hey! Hey, guys! What's going on here? What happened?

Class: We were telling each other to be quiet!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Comedy of Errors, 3.1.40-115: Summary

That the wife wants to be treated like that's his wife. So she doesn't let him in. He goes and gets his slaves or friends to break down the door. Dromin of SYRACUSE is MEAN because when Dromio OF EPHESUS is listing all his friends and servants and the Dromio of SYRACUSE comes in and calls all his friends mean names so I don't like him very much CUZ that's IMPOLIGHT!!!! to me just more people want to get into the house.

To: Mr. P.
Sincerely, Reina

Thursday, April 8, 2010


Dear Parents:

Neither prefacing your comments with "I know you have enough to deal with already" nor concluding them with "Ha ha, I know, I'm the kind of parent every teacher dreads!" will negate either of the facts that you have just so graciously pointed out. These disclaimers only serve to increase your culpability.

Sincerely at your service,
Mr. P.

Monday, April 5, 2010

For a change

Reina (6th grade), today during math class:

Oh my gosh! Mr. P! You made me understand something!

The only thing that dulled the pleasure of this compliment was the astonished tone in which she said it.

Thursday, April 1, 2010


Zeke is a rule-abiding kid who likes to pretend to be a punk. Either that, or he's a punk who likes to pretend to be a rule-abiding kid. I've never been sure, but give him just enough lunch detentions to keep him in line.

Today in math class he said something like, "Rules are stupid!" I countered with: "Without rules there would be chaos. Do you want chaos?" He said, "Yeah! Chaos! I love chaos!"

So I pelted him with the whiteboard eraser, to demonstrate chaos.

Actually, that's only what I tried to do. Since whiteboard erasers have a large surface-area to mass ratio, it wobbled around a lot and hit Sarah -- a real rule-abider, and a sweet one to boot -- smack in the torso.

I tried to save face: "See? When there's chaos, nothing's fair. You were the one being a dope, but Sarah got hit with the eraser."

Sarah thought it was funny. Zeke, I am afraid, remained unconvinced by my object lesson.

Next time I'll throw something heavier, that's all.

* * *

Next time, too, I'll have to go to work somehow on Kaelijn, but I'll have to throw something really heavy at her -- maybe Plato's collected dialogues or something . Witness this exchange:

JP: I'm sorry, Kaelijn -- you have to have a parent or teacher with you. I'm not allowed to let you go to the book fair by yourself. [This is my usual tactic for preemptively avoiding stupid arguments: it's not my rules, it's the boss.]

K: Oh my gosh, Mr. P! You always follow the rules! You just love rules! But rules are meant to be broken!

That would have been funnier if she hadn't been completely sincere in this stupid, stupid statement. It would have been funnier, also, if I hadn't detected that Kaelijn was using the tone she always employs when she is echoing some stupid, stupid thing her mother has taught her about (shudder) self-actualization.

I was almost tempted to mention my jail time -- I used to be stupid too, but I was 19, whereas she is in 6th grade and ought to know better -- and maybe flash my tattoo. But I just employed my hollow laugh (I am getting good at the hollow laugh) and said, "Ha, ha, Kaelijn. What a foolish thing to say."

'Cause I'm not allowed to say the s-word -- stupid. Those are the rules.