I miss having someone at work I feel like I can talk honestly to.
I got so lucky when I student taught, I has the most amazing host teacher ever whom I really could talk to anout anything and she was always stright with me, but at the same time she never made me like was a bad teacher or like I couldn’t be a teacher.
I really have been lucky, I’ve had nine bosses now and only one of them was bad, admittley she was horrible, but the rest have been either good or great. Also, I’ve always had someone at work who I could talk to and be honest with.
I don’t have anyone like that here, I feel like everyone is constantly judging me and I wish I felt like someone there believed in me.
I feel like I can’t be honest with anyone or even tell any of them I’m having a hard day because they are always judging me and they are the people who will be deciding if I got a job there again or my references for other jobs I apply for.
I miss having someone at work I feel like I can talk honestly to.
I think this is both a beautiful and sad representation of things that happen in schools everyday
Ask the custodian with a twisted back.
Ask the boy with a fresh bruise.
Ask the two kids holding hands.
Ask the boy praying for his life in the stairwell.
Ask the new kid.
Ask the girl giving a blowjob in the washroom.
Ask the boy doodling dragons in class.
Ask the Principal (but only if she knows your name).
Ask the supply teacher that doesn’t know who to call for help.
Ask Gregory Doucette.
Ask the VP that doesn’t know how to say ‘no’.
Ask the attendance secretary.
Ask the kid waiting for the library to open.
Ask the teachers in the staffroom, workroom and book room.
Ask the kid that just signed out.
Ask the history teacher just diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.
Ask the school nurse.
Ask the young girl…
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The Wednesday of my third week was one of those days where no one wanted to go to school. It was -9 when I got in my car and when I checked the temp again at lunch time it was 3 degrees out.
So none of the students wanted to be here and none of the teachers wanted to be here and everyone was generally just a little grumpy.
In addition to being grumpy because of the cold I was also grumpy because I was feeling like there was someone always on my case. I got to school early and was totally ready to go so I wasn’t worried about 1st block which as you may know I teach in my department heads classroom. However, as class was starting and my students were getting their materials one student knocked out one of the shelfs from the book case we keep our materials in and Heather was immediately upset with me.
Then during lunch Lauren came in and asked me why the textbooks for oral language are in the ESL office. I told her the truth which is that I don’t have enough space on my cart for them and most of the material is in the workbooks. She told me that I needed to have the books with me when I read a story from them because classroom management will be easier if they have the book in front of them and that I have to hold them accountable somehow. Personally, I prefer to hold them accountable by having them write down questions and comments while I read, that I can address after the story is done.
Additionally, it’s a pain and almost impossible to get enough textbooks to all three of the rooms I teach in. Then you add in the fact that my students hate the stories in the book and I have been using other materials that are more relevant to my students.
Later when I was teaching in Lauren’s classroom, she was out of the room, and my students asked why I always let her tell me what to do and how to run my classroom. They said “You’re a teacher too, why do you let her tell you what to do, why do you let her treat you like that.” I hate that even my students notice this.
I’m bad at standing up for myself to begin with and then you add in the fear of being fired or getting in trouble and I didn’t feel like I could say anything. Because if I said something to anyone here my job could be in jeopardy.
Admittedly, I was tired, cold, and grumpy that day, but I was feeling like someone one is always on my case about something.
I was just so frustrated, I was doing my best and trying to teach these kids in the best way I could and I felt like the only feedback I ever got is about something I did wrong.
Which made me worry that I wasn’t doing anything right.
The Thursday of my second week of teaching started uneventfully. It was a block day so I only had three of my six classes that day, and they were each double long.
We did our warm up and we were getting ready to start a set of notes on prepositions and I was making sure all the students had paper for the notes. One student was passing out paper and I was getting the notes set up on the board.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw two students scuffling, but I thought it was just a minor scuffle, two freshmen boys messing around, no harm done.
I was turning around to tell them to knock it off and sit down when I saw Muhammad haul off and punch Jose in the face.
The two students quickly ended up at the front of the room. It all happened very fast, I saw fists flying and I immediately turned to call and get security to the room.
As I dialed the number for the office, four of my students stood up and before I could even begin to be afraid that they were joining in, I saw that they were pulling Muhammad and Jose apart.
Within seconds it was over, Jose and one of his friends who had helped break the fight up, quickly left the room, which I didn’t try to stop because I probably couldn’t have. This is the same reason I didn’t try to break up the fight once I realized what it was. I’m five three and my “excerise” routine is made up of walking my dog and occasionally (much more often in the summer) swimming.
At that moment security showed up and promptly took Muhammad with them, I told them Jose had left with his friend and then I turned to face my class.
This group of 28 students I had known slightly less than two weeks was standing up and staring at the front of the room. As I turned to see what they were all looking at they all started talking.
I for one froze looking at the front of the room. Three of the four students who had helped break up the fight were standing there with various amounts of blood on them. The time floor in the front of the room had blood all over it, there was blood on the white board, and on the two front row desks in that area. I am not sure I had ever seen that much blood in one place at one time.
I found myself once again calling the office, this time to ask for blood clean up.
Once the room was cleaned up. I stood in front of the room thinking “how can we work on prepositions after that?”
So I mentally took a step back and thought what do we do now, we have another 70ish mintues of class and we can’t talk about prepositions after that. Then I thought about the culture of my school, fights happen somewhat often, although generally not during class. A high percentage of our students come from backgrounds of violence. Many of our students are refugees and violence was the way to survive in the camps. We also have a large gang population.
I knew that all of my students had seen a fight before, and I knew that many of them had been in fights before.
So I made sure all my students had paper and then I instructed them to write about a fight they had seen or had been in, why it had started, what happened, and what could have been done differently so the issue could have been resolved in a non-violent way.
I read their paragraphs that night and I quickly realized that almost none of them have any idea that conflicts could even be resolved non-violently.
This made me really sad. There are so many kids in our world who are growing up in cultures replete with violence.
At the same time (and yes this might have been a naive first year teacher moment) I was glad to have these students in my classroom and in that moment I hoped to be able to give them some glimpse into a world where people can solve problems without violence. Oddly, this was a good reminder of why I wanted to teach in the first place.
So when I left off, I had made it through my first week alive and I was still willing to come back for a second week.
That weekend going into my second week I think all I thought about was how could I gain these students trust? How could earn their respect? and how the hell could I get them to learn anything.
I got up Monday morning and I drove into school and I remember thinking this is real life, I’m not a student anymore.
I had been a student of one type or another for so long that is was absolutely bizarre to me that I was no longer a student. I was a teacher, a real salaried teacher. I sat in my car trying to figure out how I could be teaching high school. I was just in high school five years ago.
All throughout the first week the students kept asking “how long I was going to stay” or “when are you going to quit” … by the end of the week they were instead telling me they hated me and they wanted their previous teacher back.
Oddly, I think this was a bit of a success, at least they had maybe come around to the idea that it was going to stay.
The biggest part of the second week was the fight, but I’ll save that for another post.
A total loss. I don’t know what to do. The kids say they hate my class and they say they’re bored.
I have done everything I can think of to make my classes interesting and relevant and engaging. And I just don’t know what else to try.
I can’t get them to listen to me, they just talk and talk and talk.
I’ve tried waiting, I’ve tried giving them the stare, I’ve tried talking to individual students, both the ring leaders and the students who actually behaive. I’m ashamed to admit I even flat out yelled at them.
They always have cell phones out, and headphones, and sometimes they play music and sometimes I think they are passing the phone around with the music playing so I can’t find it and it’s driving me insane.
I feel like I must be a horrible teacher. Why can’t I figure any of this out? Why do they hate me? What the hell am I going to do?
Dear Young Teacher Down the Hall,
I saw you as you rushed passed me in the lunch room. Urgent. In a hurry to catch a bite before the final bell would ring calling all the students back inside. I noticed that your eyes showed tension. There were faint creases in your forehead. And I asked you how your day was going and you sighed.
“Oh, fine,” you replied.
But I knew it was anything but fine. I noticed that the stress was getting to you. I could tell that the pressure was rising. And I looked at you and made an intentional decision to stop you right then and there. To ask you how things were really going. Was it that I saw in you a glimpse of myself that made me take the moment?
You told me how busy you were, how much there was to do. How little time there was to get it all done. I listened. And then I told you this:
I told you to remember that at the end of the day, it’s not about the lesson plan. It’s not about the fancy stuff we teachers make — the crafts we do, the stories we read, the papers we laminate. No, that’s not really it. That’s not what matters most.
And as I looked at you there wearing all that worry under all that strain, I said it’s about being there for your kids. Because at the end of the day, most students won’t remember what amazing lesson plans you’ve created. They won’t remember how organized your bulletin boards are. How straight and neat are the desk rows.
No, they’ll not remember that amazing decor you’ve designed.
But they will remember you.
Your kindness. Your empathy. Your care and concern. They’ll remember that you took the time to listen. That you stopped to ask them how they were. How they really were. They’ll remember the personal stories you tell about your life: your home, your pets, your kids. They’ll remember your laugh. They’ll remember that you sat and talked with them while they ate their lunch.
Because at the end of the day, what really matters is YOU. What matters to those kids that sit before you in those little chairs, legs pressed up tight under tables oft too small- what matters to them is you.
You are that difference in their lives.
And when I looked at you then with tears in your eyes, emotions rising to the surface and I told you gently to stop trying so hard- I also reminded you that your own expectations were partly where the stress stemmed. For we who truly care are often far harder on ourselves than our students are willing to be. Because we who truly care are often our own worst enemy. We mentally beat ourselves up for trivial failures. We tell ourselves we’re not enough. We compare ourselves to others. We work ourselves to the bone in the hopes of achieving the perfect lesson plan. The most dynamic activities. The most engaging lecture. The brightest, fanciest furnishings.
Because we want our students to think we’re the very best at what we do and we believe that this status of excellence is achieved merely by doing. But we forget- and often. Excellence is more readily attained by being.
And of all the students I know who have lauded teachers with the laurels of the highest acclaim, those students have said of those teachers that they cared.
You see, kids can see through to the truth of the matter. And while the flashy stuff can entertain them for a while, it’s the steady constance of empathy that keeps them connected to us. It’s the relationships we build with them. It’s the time we invest. It’s all the little ways we stop and show concern. It’s the love we share with them: of learning. Of life. And most importantly, of people.
And while we continually strive for excellence in our profession as these days of fiscal restraint and heavy top-down demands keep coming at us- relentless and quick. We need to stay the course. For ourselves and for our students. Because it’s the human touch that really matters.
It’s you, their teacher, that really matters.
So go back to your class and really take a look. See past the behaviors, the issues and the concerns, pressing as they might be. Look beyond the stack of papers on your desk, the line of emails in your queue. Look further than the classrooms of seasoned teachers down the hall. Look. And you will see that it’s there- right inside you. The ability to make an impact. The chance of a lifetime to make a difference in a child’s life. And you can do this now.
Right where you are, just as you are.
Because all you are right now is all you ever need to be for them today. And who you are tomorrow will depend much on who and what you decide to be today.
It’s in you. I know it is.
That Other Teacher Down the Hall
I read this today and had to reblog it because it was a great reminder of why I’m teaching and maybe, just maybe it will get easier. Thanks!
I have very mixed feeling about today.
I am so glad I have another day off, but I also have a million things to do because I can never seem to be caught up on grading or planning.
The worst part of this day is that I don’t want to go back to school tomorrow…
I love teaching and I know it’s what I want to do, but this job is just so damn hard and it’s never ending and I never know if a day is going to be a good day or not.
I still haven’t quite figured out how to do things that my students enjoy, or that I enjoy.
Most days I am so lost and I have no idea what I’m doing or where it’s going. I don’t feel like a very good teacher and I think my students know that.
I hate that I don’t want to go to school tomorrow. When I was student teaching I pretty much always wanted to go because I loved what I was doing so much.
I don’t know if it’s different know because I’m teaching a different subject (ESL when I student taught in Social Studies), because I’m teaching high school instead of middle school, or some other reason that I’m not even aware of.
I just know that every day is hard, and frustrating, and at the beginning of a day I am never quite sure how I’m going to make it through.
I have wanted to teach forever and I still want to teach. I can’t imagine doing anything else….but every day is just so hard and so long and I just want it to somehow get easier. Somehow, because as much as I don’t want to do anything else I don’t know how long I can keep doing something that is this hard every single day.
Right now the fact that is is Saturday is the absolute best thing in the whole world. I love my students, but I got to sleep in until ten and eat a slow breakfast while reading (Pegasus, by Robin McKinley) and drinking tea.
I don’t have to leave my house today and I don’t intend to. Also the weather is in double digits, and not negative double digits and that’s another reason to celebrate.
Today, I am going to do some light cleaning, some light grading while watching TV, and relax…
Thank god for weekends