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THOMPSON: Back to School

Ali_20the_20Greatest_small A summer of verbal give and take in the blogosphere could not keep me in shape for the big league trash talking of the urban classroom. I picked up some tricks from the back-to-school convocation, however. The keynote speaker, Jack Berckemeyer, said that we should randomly dub a student as "Sparkie" and rather than yell at a student who is disrupting class, we should yell at a student who is not in class. Then, when students do not listen, the teacher should just express their frustrations to the chalkboard. "Chalkboard, I went into the classroom to talk to students, but I see that you are the only person who will really listen ..."

Sometimes I warned the designated "Sparkie" and the rest of the class of the reason why I would engage in those antics. Other times I just started to converse with my new, inanimate best friend. I loved shouting at last year's student "Caitlin, what am I, a potted plant? Just because you don’t listen the to plays that your coach calls ..." And now, the students have a standard comeback, "D.T., talk to the chalkboard."

When I was defeated in one round of trash-talking, the student’s closing reply was "D.T. I have not begun to rag on you. When I do, I’ll be looking at your sneakers." This was the student who had complained, "D.T. if you make me write so much, I’m going to have a cardeo-viscectomy." - John Thompson


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It's "Berckemeyer."

And how much did the school pay Jack - or is it Jacko, Piggie or Chuckles? - to encourage adults to ditch self-respect and erode their own modeling of professional behavior? At least it'll serve the staff well when they audition to be that well-meaning but pathetic teacher in the next CW urban school sitcom. You know, that role of a teacher who's about 20-25 years behind and who stands in sharp contrast to his class full of eye-rollers?

Here are some other tips:

1. Use words like, "hip" and "gnarly." You want to weave a pedagogical tapestry from two skeins of thread: Berckemeyer's advanced psychology and Jeff Spicoli way-cool charm.. Trust me, it'll totally give those kids a cool learning buzz.

2. Be daring with your wardrobe. Parachute pants are in; so are ripped pink half-shirts.

3. Put on a Billy Squier CD [or cassette, if you want to be state-of-the-art] to serenade kids as they walk into class. They'll LOVE it.

I'd write more, but I can't just give this stuff away for free. Maybe next year you can pay me $5k to inspire your staff a la Berckemeyer.

Best of luck to you and your staff in 2009-2010, Spanky. Hope you like your new nickname - it's gonna make for a rad year!

I changed Berckies name's spelling. Its like I tell the kids when I flub something on the chalkboard, I was just checking to see if you were paying attention.

His ideas are working though. I haven't had to use my assertive discipline plan - singing country and western music. Even so, the kids will get to howl at plenty of renditions of "Okie from Muskogee," "Dead Skunk in the Middle of the Road," When its Tick Picking Time in the Ozarks," and Steve Goodman's "The Perfect Country and Western Song."

Surely you don't see anything undignified in "I was drunk the day my mom got out of prison, And I went to pick her up in the rain, But before I could get to the station in my pick up truck, My mom got run over by a danged ol' train?"

Great to see your blog comment that references "You Never Even Call Me by My Name" (aka "The Perfect Country and Western Song") by Steve Goodman and John Prine. Goodman often doesn't get his due. You might be interested in my 800-page biography, "Steve Goodman: Facing the Music." The book delves deeply into the background and effects of "You Never Even Call Me by My Name." Prine and David Allan Coe were key sources among my more than 1,080 interviewees, and the book debunks the notion, promulgated by Coe, that Coe had anything to do with triggering the famous last verse of the song. (Coe's version of that verse is the one you quote.)

You can find out more at my Internet site (below). Amazingly, the book's first printing sold out in just eight months, all 5,000 copies, and a second printing of 5,000 is available now. The second printing includes hundreds of little updates and additions, including 30 more photos for a total of 575. It won a 2008 IPPY (Independent Publishers Association) silver medal for biography.

To order a second-printing copy, see the "online store" page of my site. Just trying to spread word about the book. Feel free to do the same!



Clay Eals
1728 California Ave. S.W. #301
Seattle, WA 98116-1958

(206) 935-7515 home
(206) 484-8008 cell

I know you didn't just diss Billy Squier.


The dude is the Rodney Dangerfield of rock music.

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