Thursday, November 12, 2009

Mr. Gallagher again...

I'm starting a long-term substitute position back in Western Mass. AP Calc, Honors Trig, and a pair of Math 1 classes at the end of the day. The Math 1 classes are supposed to be a real challenge, so we'll see how it goes. The original teacher went in for shoulder surgery, so I'm hear for two - three months, perfect to get me through the winter until the farm starts up in the spring. We'll see how it compares.

Wednesday, November 04, 2009


In transition, again, I'm going through old boxes, trying to consolidate and organize. I found some notes from my students in Mississippi, that I'll post here, in case I lose them. This blog is my record of my delta days, and so it seems only fitting to include these artifacts here.

"To: Mr. Gallagher
From: your former student T. O'N.
Thanks for your teaching, It was a great learning experience for me and I really didn't like math, but you made me like it."

"Dear Mr. Gallagher
The reason why I'm actin the way I'm acting is because my aunt Died and I guess you don't know how it feels to lose someone real special that you really liked and that was my only aunt that stayed down here. I don't have no family down here at all nobody but my mother, sisters, brothers and grandmother. and my Brother is leaving tomorro to go to Iraq to fight for his country. But like I said theirs nobody that can solve that problem but the man above and thats God
Yours truly

(Folded intricately in that way that only high school girls can fold a note...)
"To: Mr. G
From: A.B.
March 11, 2008
Dear Mr. Gallagher
How have you been. fine I hope. Now that I realize that she's gone to a better place it really don't bother me anymore but my brother is safe because he's only over there for two months but I want say ain't nothing gone happen to him cause going to Iraq is dangerous but I think he will make it though butI really thank you for the talk you gave me and I really over comed it cause it don't bother me anymore but I think I can be a honor student now cause all the stress and the pain is all gone away and I'm gone pass the state test cause I believe in myself and I know you believe in me too so wish Good luck upon me Okay
Your friend,

"Feb 20, 2007

Mr. G,

Hey I know for the few couple of weeks I have been missing days and sleep. Well its because I found out that I was pregnant. I know thats not your problem but on top of that I have issue at home and at school. I have not been missing school for the fun of it. I just been sick and down I will stay after school and do anything math is my down fall and I do plan to march in May. Also suppose to be moving to Cali and attending college. please understand what I am going through and I promise you I will work twice as hard to get my grade up. Whenever you can and able to can we talk. please.

(In red sharpie on holiday stationary...)
"I would like to say thank you for working with me this year . . . . I enjoyed you
. . . . T. M."

(A yellow card with a smiling, shaggy dog on the front..."
"Missing you! (handwritten across the front of the card, above the dog)
(inside) To a man that makes me work hard! That you for ever thing.
Thank you Mr. G
Luv ya!!
Clazz of "09"
D. R.
Stay cool I'll Miss you!"

Going through these, I have some doubts about whether I should post them or not, especially the extremely personal note from C.S. The trust that many of my students eventually placed in me was such a meaningful gift, neither lightly earned nor given, that I want to be very careful not to compromise it. I've left out some of the most personal parts of C.S.'s note - her pregnancy was neither unusual nor hidden, so that has remained.

I am constantly missing Mississippi, albeit with a firm understanding that, while I might visit, I can never truly go back. Finding these notes was a poignant reminder of what I've known since leaving my home among the cotton for the last time: I'll be missing Mississippi for the rest of my life.

Friday, March 06, 2009

And suddenly I'm Mr. Gallagher again...

For the last three days, from 7:30 until 2, I've been Mr. Gallagher again.  On Tuesday, I went down to the business office of the district to apply as a sub, where I was told I would need transcripts and three letters of reference, which seemed a lot to ask for a substitute.  I stopped by the principal's office on the way out - he told me to just put his name down as a reference (he was assistant principal when I was there) and give it to him.  I was called the next day, and have been called every day since.  It's been a trip.

Nearly everyone who taught me is gone.  Of all the teachers I had, only four remain, and so the adult faces are just as unfamiliar as the children's.  The last names, of course, are all familiar, plenty of good old polish names.  And the quality of the education, well, I'd have to say I think it's slid a bit, to be honest.

Today, I was teaching physics and life science.  The physics classes were both CP (college prep - the middle rung on the tracking ladder - descriptive, CP, honors, AP) and were both pretty decent.  They were seniors, and worked in groups on a packet of questions without incident.  The second of the life science classes, though, presented me with some problems that I thought it might be worth sharing.  

The first kid walks in, and gives me his name.  Tells me this is going to be a bad class.  I tell him I've had worse as I check his name off the roster.  I see a name I had the day before, and in he comes.  Mr. Danzel, I say.  It's Danzel, motherfucker.  The assistant principal is in the hall, and I pass the kid off.  The AP sends the kid to the office and tells me this is one of the worst classes in the school, and offers to talk to them before we get started.  I tell him I'd rather he not, and we begin.  Kids here actaully swear much more than they do in Mississippi.  In other classes I'd subbed, they thought nothing of asking me if they could go get their shit out of their locker or telling me that they fucked up.  These kids, though, brought it to a new level.  I had two give me fake names, who weren't in the class, before running out the back door (classrooms with two, or, in this case, three doors, present unique scenarios) and being replaced by the actual owners of the names.  I take roll, inform them that they will not be talking, and that they will be taking a quiz.  This, obviously, does not go over well and is met with a chorus of profanity, but I pass out the quizzes, and tell them to keep quiet.  They don't, and as a sub, I have no consequences, but I play it pretty straight.  Stick to last names, and no shouting, calm, polite, each time repeating my expectations.  We will not throw things in this classroom.  You will sit in your desk, not on your desk.  We will not stand on desks, nor will we jump over them (a kid did actually do this.  twice.)  Finally, one of them let loose.  He had walked out of another class I had been subbing two days before, after I told him to stop talking, and today the same request was met with pure fury.  He stood, tore the quiz in two, raised his backpack over his head and slammed it on the desk.  You piss me off.  You make me want to punch you in the fucking face.  Out he went, with a loud slam of the door, and his quiz went into the folder with the others I had collected.  Then the class began to turn around for me.  I took up the rest of the quizzes.  They asked me a couple of questions, the basics - do you ever smile, were you in the military, where did you used to work before this.  I tell them that at my last job, they let me hit the kids.  That at least gets their interest.  One kid especially starts to come around.  He's Kennedy Carpenter, Dominque Olds, a leader who has no interest in class , loves chaos, and is too smart to get caught.  He smiles, and announces - I'm starting to get this guy.  Good, I say.  I collect the quizzes.  You all don't get him, he continues.  He says sir to you, you say sir to him, and everything'll be cool.  It's like, um... he says, fumbling, and, with help from the rest of the students, comes up with it - mutual respect.  It's like mutual.  It is mutual respect, I reply.  Detailing the rest of the class would be a bit boring, but by the end of it, we were having a productive discussion about evolution by natural selection and the three requisite criteria - variability, heritability, and differential fitness, without interuptions and with everyone in his seat.  It felt good and I had more fun with that class than with the ones that actually sat silently and took their quizzes.  Someday I might even go back to teaching.  Right now, though, I think I'd really have to need the money.  

Monday, September 01, 2008

Algebra I Test Scores

Below is a breakdown of the passing rate for the Algebra I Subject Area Test. The first column identifies each teacher by a letter, the second shows the number of students that teacher taught (or, apparently, did not teach) and the third shows the percent of those students who passed the test. I taught less than 50 students, certainly, although I can't be sure of the exact number of testers, since I had so many retesters. That means I must be either B, G, or I. Needless to say, I'm hoping for B.

A 61 26
B 30 63
C 51 23
D 60 61
E 61 29
F 73 2.8
G 34 2.9
H 46 39
I 25 0

Friday, May 23, 2008


Total Students: 64
Failing Students: 35
Percent Failing: 55

First Block:
Total Students: 19
Failing Students: 14
Percent Failing: 74%

Second Block:
Total Students:22
Failing Students: 6
Percent Failing: 27%

Fourth Block:
Total Students: 23
Failing Students: 15
Percent Failing: 65%

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Notes like these always get me...

Dear Mr. Gallagher,
This year you have taught me a lot and you have showed me that I am a bright ,smart ,and intelligent young lady and that I can do anything I want if I put my mind to it . I want to thank you for everything you have taught me and thank you for believing in me and showing me that I can make it threw anything. You are a wonderful teacher and I want wish you the best in life and hope you can make someone else feel as great as you have made me feel.
Love Always,

Monday, May 19, 2008


I hit a bird on the motorcycle. With my helmet. Doing 65. That's all.