Wednesday, June 12, 2013


Someday I plan to do a whole post on the interesting first names some of our students have, but I'm feeling lazy today. (Hey, it's June. Give me a break.)  I thought I'd prime the pump with my personal favorite.  A boy who had never been to class stopped by for a few minutes to pick up some make up work.  The next day, he brought it back (which in and of itself is amazing).  His paper said "Jaqwon."  As he walked out the door I asked him if his name was pronounced JAY-qwon or ja-QWON.  He turned around and replied, "It's JOO-ahn...the 'Q' is silent." and walked out the door.

...The Q is silent. I love it.

Because of this favorite quote of mine, James and I have decided when we quote our students talking to/about us we'll refer to ourselves as Mr. and Ms. Q.  While this blog we're planning about our careers is for entertainment, we want to do some muckraking about urban education, too.  We also want to keep our jobs.  (Not to mention protect the innocent--and the not-so-innocent, I guess, since some of our students don't exactly fit the innocent description, as you're sure to find out if you continue reading.  And if we continue writing.)  So we have opted for pseudonyms.  So please don't try to find teachers Lily Q and James Q in a big city somewhere on the East Coast.  If you do, they're not us.  They don't deserve to be fired.  Probably.  At least not for this blog. 

Also on the topic of names is the name of our blog, This Ain't Freedom Writers.  Often when we talk to people about our jobs they say something about "oh you guys are just like Freedom Writers!"  I can't even tell you how many times my job has been compared to that movie by people who know nothing about teaching.  There is nothing wrong with that.  I appreciate that people are complimenting me for being an urban teacher.  It's a tough job.  It's a good movie.  I'm sure the lady who wrote the book was an awesome teacher.  I doubt it was so purely inspirational while she was living it.  The story has been Hollywoodified.  I can tell you that I have never seen such a drastic change in all my students from teaching a moving lesson on the Holocaust or taking my students on field trips.  I have seen many dedicated and amazing teachers and not a one of them sells bras on their off time.  (They're too busy lesson planning. Not to mention grading mountains of work, learning all about the Common Core, and cutting through red tape.)  I can also definitively tell you I have never looked as nice as Hilary Swank while teaching.  In good part because my classroom has never once been at a comfortable temperature and the smothering humidity makes my hair look like I have been electrocuted.)  Anyway, no diss on the movie or on the lady who wrote the book or on people who tell us we're "just like Freedom Writers!!!!!!!" But as we hope to illustrate with this blog it ain't (much) like Freedom Writers.  Sure we have some similarities, like a community with low expectations of our students, serious lack of supplies, students living with violence and poverty, and truly infuriating superiors.  We even have some success stories and graduations, but even those don't feel Freedom-Writers-inspirational.

And with that said, this is Lily Q signing off.

And remember, "the Q is silent."

Monday, June 10, 2013

And So It Begins

Hello everyone...or no one as it were at the moment.  We just want to explain the purpose of this blog before we get going.  I'm Lily and he's James.  We are inner-city high school teachers on the East Coast.  We work in the same public school district, but in different schools.  Over the course of our careers we have come to realize a few things about education, and, if you care to read, we have some reasons for writing:

1.  No one truly knows what teaching is really like unless you're actually doing it.  We can tell our families and friends stories and they gasp and laugh and do all the things great audiences are supposed to do, but despite all the stories...they have no idea.  Despite this, we can still give non-teachers a better idea, and communicate with other teachers.  We just want to tell whoever wants to read our ramblings some stories and give you a better idea about what teachers do/put up with/think/etc.  I know you're thinking "Hey, I went to high school!  I know what teachers do."  So did I, my friends.  So did I.  Then I started teaching right out of college and realized I was absolutely clueless.  James heard my stories for three years before beginning his brave foray into the world of education.  He thought he knew what was coming, but still had some shocks during his first year.

2.  Education is a hot-topic issue in our country right now, and everyone has a theory about what the problem is and what the solutions should be, but no one is talking to teachers, whom, as #1 mentions, are the only people who really know what's going on. (Okay, that was a little arrogant, but take it with a grain of salt. I meant something more along the lines of "Teachers probably know what's happening in education a little better than politicians with no educational background." Something like that.)

3.  As urban high school teachers we are exposed to many other social issues that are affecting our students.  Things a lot of people think only happen on TV shows like The Wire.  Spoiler alert: those things happen in real life too.  Everyday. 

4. Pure entertainment value.  Our jobs are difficult and sometimes thankless, but also funny as hell.

Welcome to This Ain't Freedom Writers.