Friday, March 23, 2018

First One I've Missed

I've been having trouble with this platform. I'll write a 500 word blog, hit a wrong combination of keys, and the entire thing deletes with no record. I just wrote a passionate diatribe about guns in America, complete with photos, links to spoken word poems, and firmly held beliefs. I was proofreading it. Three keys later, it's gone.

I can't attend the March for Our Lives. I will be in transit to a wedding in Manhattan.

I can't re-write the post. It took me an hour, and that hour is done. Life proceeds.

I only have time to do this:

Next time I'll upload a goddamn Google doc.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Union, Yes!

We at "The Gods Are Bored," as well as Great Deities of Justice from multiple pantheons spanning millennia, congratulate the teachers' unions of West Virginia for reaching a deal on their contract demands!


Two weeks ago, if you had asked me about the future of organized labor -- as it faces certain disruption by a conservative Supreme Court -- I would have said, "Palliative care only, send to hospice."

And then ... in deep red West Virginia ... a "right to work" (for less) state ... the teachers just walked out. Fifty-five counties, all the teachers walked out.


Bring it on, corporate pig-dogs! We will taunt you mercilessly!

I'm not playing, here. I believe in unions. No system is perfect, but the practice of collective bargaining, so maligned in our modern times, is the only way to keep decent, living wages in the hands of hard-working people.

All glory, laud, and honor to the WVAFT, the WVEA, and their parent organizations! Guess what? The bargain the teachers brokered extends to all public employees in the Mountain State!

United we bargain, divided we beg.

Monday, February 26, 2018

How To Teach Walt Whitman To Kids Who Don't Like To Read

Have you ever sat down and tried to read Leaves of Grass? No offense to the Great Gray Poet, but it's a labor of love. A nice cold glass of wine and a verdant hillside help immensely.

Unfortunately, there is neither wine nor hillsides in an urban classroom.

But fear not! These handy tips will work even if your classroom isn't in Camden, which mine is.


1. Show the bridge.

Ask them, what do you have to do to get a bridge this big named after you? Then tell them that this bridge is named for a poet. It floors them.

2. Be ready with a dollar amount for a first edition of Leaves of Grass. Actually the number is lower than I thought, but it's still a mighty, mighty sum. Tell the students to go home and look in their attic, they might have a copy under a floor board. (Well, this does work best in Camden. Might also work in Brooklyn.)

3. Show them this engraving from the first edition of Leaves of Grass.

... and explain how "proper poets" dressed in those days. Let them connect the dots to today's rappers.

4. Make good use of the trendy Volvo commercial from 2017.

5. Or this really good little confection!

6. Go for the easy poems, like "O Captain, My Captain" and "Miracles." News flash: Have you read "I Hear America Singing" lately? Most of those jobs have either gone belly up or have been outsourced.

7. Memorize some of the poems and speak them without notes while the students follow along reading. They love it when you get stuck or screw up and they have to prompt you.

Then, when you have those lil puppies hooked, fling harder poems at them for analysis. In a nice think-pair-share environment.

All the while, pray fervently that your last observation of the year will not happen during this lesson -- but be prepared for yet another lackluster mediocre score if it does.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

This Annie Doesn't Want a Gun

Hi there, buckaroos! It's me, Anne Johnson, back from being president and safely in civilian life again!

I could have stayed at the White House forever, since it's so much more lavish than my own humble home, but after this latest horrible school shooting, I decided I was needed more at the Vo Tech. What, really, is more important than caring for our vulnerable teenagers?

New Jersey has some hella strict gun laws (another reason to love the Garden State), so I'm pretty doggone sure my school administrators aren't going to hand me a pistol and send me to the firing range. And that's a good thing, because I will quit my job if they start bringing guns into my school.


*Taco Bell drive-thru window, graveyard shift
*Goat judge (wish this paid better, it's a great job)
*Shrimp boat
*Wal-Mart ... yes. Wal-Mart cart collector
*Busting rocks with a sledgehammer
*Fox News focus group
*All natural mosquito eradicator
*Flagpole sitter
*Janitor, turnpike restrooms

If I couldn't find one of those compelling jobs, I would do anything that provided a meager paycheck. ANYTHING rather than having a gun in my hand in a classroom!

I'm not pretending to speak for all public school teachers here, but as for me and my classroom, we will follow the path of peace. No. Damn. Gun.


Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Public School Teachers and Right To Work

Sounds like a boring topic, huh? I can see you stifling that yawn! But don't decamp for Dora the Explorer just yet, because you're in for an Anne rant. I'm rusty on ranting, but it came back today in full force.

You know what schools are? They are the spots that viruses of every kind choose for massive meet-ups. Every day, trillions of germs learn how to write paragraphs and reduce fractions. All while finding new hosts just sitting there waiting to fall ill!

This is one of the reasons why liberal states with strong unions provide decent health care to public school teachers. Mind you, I get a hefty chunk of change pulled from my envelope every pay period to partly cover my healthcare policy. But my policy is still generous. Thank you, thank you, thank you New Jersey Educational Association!

I say this because teachers in 28 states are laboring in "right to work" environments. "Right to work" (kind of like "right to life," huh?) has undercut collective bargaining rights and union clout, leading to lower salaries, and yes, higher insurance payments for teachers.

Teachers. Have you looked at a teacher's salary lately? Like, what we get paid to go sit all day among the frolicking viruses?

If you didn't see this story in the news, read it and WEEP.

Texas is a "right to work" state. But I'm not singling out Texas. This could happen in any "right to work" state.

First of all, I got a flu shot. It was free.

Second of all, if I did get the flu, my prescription of Tamiflu would cost $10.00, not $138. Therefore, I would be able to afford it. I wouldn't have to think twice.

Two children have been deprived of a mother. Probably two dozen second-graders must now deal with the trauma of having suddenly lost their teacher. (And which among those kids will feel guilty for maybe infecting her with the flu?) A loving husband has lost his wife.

Not because of the flu. No. Not because of the flu. This woman died because of RIGHT TO FUCKING WORK. I never heard of a teacher having to pay $138 for a prescription! That would NEVER happen in my state! I could be put on the most $$$$$$$$ medicine that is padding the pockets of the most venal Big Pharma executive, and my co-pay would be at most $20.

This nod to my performance of a difficult, tiring job in a germ-filled atmosphere is due to my union.

Right to work? Why don't we call it right to die?

Stay tuned for Supreme Court decisions that will bring right to die EVERYWHERE.

My heart goes out to this family, to the students and staff, and to all the public school teachers who have the misfortune of living in "right to work" states. Pay your dues, get your union card, and persuade all of your co-workers to do the same. This shit has got to stop.

Monday, February 05, 2018

Great Joy to Our City

I'm exceedingly pleased to be able to report that the Philadelphia Eagles have won their first Super Bowl.

As an essentially lazy person, I have most often cheered on the teams wherever I happened to live. My home since 1987 has been the Delaware Valley. Therefore, with varying degrees of enthusiasm, I've rooted for the Iggles. It's just easier, you know?

The last time the Eagles won a national championship, I was one year old. Alaska and Hawaii had only been states for a year. The game wasn't even called a Super Bowl. Oh sure, the Eagles have been in the Super Bowl a few times, but they never won it before. On Sunday night they looked so damn fine.

Sports are a great unifying force for communities. When a team does well, it bonds people. On Sunday my next door neighbor, all in her Eagles regalia, brought me dinner. I gave her and everyone at her party a set of green beads. At the moment of victory, all the doors on my block flew open, and everyone spilled into the street. We wisely didn't climb the light poles or stain the furniture, but we sang and cheered and lit a few sparklers. It made me feel young.

My students were happy as well, the boys especially. Today's lesson consisted of analyzing the Super Bowl commercials for their persuasive techniques. Put another way, we watched the best Super Bowl commercials in class. No one complained!

The city is throwing a parade for the Eagles on Thursday. I'm not going to that. I know, I know ... you're saying, "Anne. Get real. You're missing a parade?" Yes, I am. If I can't be in it, why go?

Congratulations, Philadelphia Eagles, on a great season! Anything that brings us all out of our houses on a cold winter night is a-okay with me.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

President Anne Johnson's First State of the Union Address

Members of both houses of Congress, the United States Supreme Court, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, sitting members of the Cabinet, diplomatic corps, and my fellow Americans,

My name is Anne Johnson. I have been appointed to serve out the remainder of the term of presidency that would have fallen to Donald J. Trump. This is my first State of the Union Address.

I am going to ask you to do something, Congress. For this one bright, shining moment, none of you know anything about me. You have no idea what my policies will be or how I will act in office, and therefore in this one brief click of time, none of you know whether you will cheer me and shower me with standing ovations, or sit on your hands and scowl.

Wouldn't it be nice to keep that moment and live within it for awhile?

Because that, my friends, is exactly what we need. We've got to step back, acknowledge philosophical differences respectfully, and dedicate ourselves to working together for all citizens.

Nothing will ever get done if two sides both entrench and legislate by fiat when they find themselves in power. All you'll have is a sea change in policy every four years.

How about we try a new tactic? Let's bring some sanity and decorum back to this chamber. Let's take a deep breath and see if we couldn't possibly work together for the greater good.

Look at that! You're all applauding! It's a good idea, isn't it? I like it too.

Now, here is the part of the speech where the president gets down to brass tacks and starts crowing about last year's accomplishments and planning next year's, with an eye to the voting base and the party. I'm not going to do that. I'm a blank slate, remember?

Here's a novel idea: Go put your heads together and bring me some good ideas! I have no voting base to please, because I wasn't elected! I'm open to any reasonable, judicious, thoughtful, and sober suggestion, so long as it will make Americans better off than they are now.

There's one word I want to leave you with, my fellow Americans. That word is temperance. This past year, we have been sadly lacking the temperance and reserve necessary to do the important job of running the country. We are going to dial down the drama and look at this task as something that professionals do.

Temperance. If there's anything I've learned from my previous work experience as a school teacher, it's that nothing gets done when the heat is turned up and the voices go shrill. But if we keep things reasonable and respectful, if we converse with humility, we can restore this democracy to health.

Thank you, and Gods bless America!