My Classroom: The Trailer

Portapotty War Zone Amongst Other Thoughts
By: Mr. TeachEvil
I, like my ally Mr. Teachbad, also teach in a large urban inner-city district; I share many of the same depressing views and horrible experiences. However, I would now like to turn our attention to the pathetic working conditions us warriors at my school experience every working day.
I teach in a portable as do all the other teachers in my department. A portable is a “temporary” outdoor classroom composed of metal sheeting and dry wall. Their purpose is to accommodate attendance overflow. They’re grouped together nicely to resemble a trailer park. The admin’s excuse was that our department has historically had the highest standardized test scores so our reward was to be thrown out to the dumps so they could keep a closer eye on the other losers. Once I learned of this, I proposed at a department meeting that we spend the whole year watching Disney movies to get the Math Dep. kicked out here but to no avail.
The portables are really not that bad once you get past the initial thought that your surrounding working space closely resembles that of a Nazi concentration camp slash San Quintin prison yard mixed in a paste of human tears and excrement. It’s really not that bad; it only took me a month to reconcile the fact that my expensive college degree landed me in a collapsible shed amongst row after row of collapsible shed. But all the while, we should have been aware of the new terrors awaiting just around the breeze-way corner…
While the previously mentioned is horrible, the rampant break-ins are truly terrifying. Apparently, these “learning cottages” are depressingly easy to invade. Currently, mine has been infiltrated four times in the last two and a half years (maybe five break-ins…I’ve lost count). The motives: At least two acts of vandalism, one act of theft, and evidently one act of bums looking for a warm place to inhale.
The vandalism is the worst. The most recent occurrence left my room in utter disarray and destruction. Now imagine if you will taking ten wild, testosterone pumped lowland gorillas, forcefully shot-gunning a twelve pack of Redbulls down each their gullets whilst duck taping spewing cans of spray-paint on their wrists all after locking them into a fucking “learning cottage” filled with stacks of paper and innumerable amounts of small commodities like paper-clips and shit. That should give you a picture of the mess. Image walking into your freshly destroyed “learning cottage” (a “learning cottage” that took hours and hundreds of dollars to make presentable) at 8:00 on a Monday morning with a full week of teaching ahead of you. The best part of it all was thirty minutes before when my VP dispassionately yet condescendingly delivers her morning greeting stating, “Mr. TeachEvil… your poooortable has been broken in to” as she shoves a testing packet into my arms. It was then and there that I realized this woman’s heart had gone cold a long time ago…cold from too many enslaved years in an bureaucratized urban school district…cold from constant bombardment from those both above and below her…cold…so very cold…
I can’t fucking believe I’m still teaching….my days are surely numbered.
P.S. In unrelated matters, I was summoned down to the office a few weeks back to be grilled about my failure rate. Would you like to know what was the first question out of my principle’s mouth as I sat down? “Now Mr. TeachEvil, what are the classes [content area/grade level] that you teach again?” I should have responded, “What exactly would ya say ya do here?”

Exasperation and Wanting to Teach

Thank you for creating a blog that says what so many teachers don’t have the words to say/write. I pretty much give you sole credit for bringing me out of an anxiety induced depression/burn out. I know. I know. That’s a lot of pressure placed on you, but a very wise person once said “suck it up”. I taught 1st grade for 8 years, but my position was cut last year due to a decline in enrollment (cue gimmick to increase enrollment). Luckily, or unluckily, a 2nd grade spot opened, so I moved on up (and got to stay in the same classroom). Not only am I responsible for learning a whole new set of standards/curriculum, but we are now apparently a “biodome classlab” (gimmick). I get to teach bio-something-or-other lessons that do not relate to the thousands of standards I already have to teach and can’t possibly complete in a single school year. Each year, I feel I am becoming more and more dumberer. See?

I was sitting in my math team meeting discussing math data from our state test. We were trying to figure out how to create a new, completely unnecessary assessment that would give us information we already knew from anecdotal notes/observations/other assessments that we could enter into a spreadsheet to prove we were really teaching what we said we would in order to meet our school math goal. That’s when someone kept saying “But how do you know? But how do you know if you don’t assess them?” Other people began laughing and shared with me that our assistant principal showed the collaborative planning video during a team leader meeting. Someone kindly e-mailed me the link which I promptly went home and viewed. That video led me to your videos and eventually your blog.

Thank you again for taking the time to write about your experiences in a humorous way, thereby saving my sanity and the sanity of many other teachers out there.

During my post observation conference last week, I decided to express that I feel mediocre at many things but not actually good or solid at any one thing. My principal said “That’s the nature of our job.” Really? You want a bunch of mediocre teachers? Well, trust me, he’s got them. I’m just thankful I spent my first 4 years of teaching at an amazing school with amazing teachers & administrators. It prepared me to do great things for my students despite the crappy work environment and my clueless colleagues. Too bad I had to move and couldn’t stay at my previous school.

The following are just a few new things we’ve started in the last several years.

06-07 New Social Studies program & the easiest teaching year of my career (buzz words: Marzano, High Yield Strategies, Differentiation, Backwards Design)
07-08 Thinking Maps (buzz words: same as above + rigor, relevance, relationships)
08-09 New Writing Program, New Math Program (buzz words: all above + fractal (aka goal setting and data collection every 8 weeks)
09-10 New Reading Program + beginning book study on an additional piece to new reading program (fractals mentioned but not enforced)
10-11 Aerospace curriculum, plus expected implementation of additional reading program piece with zero training or time to finish reading the book, PDSA (see “fractal”)

So, now that I’m teaching a new grade level this year, I have to learn all of these things for my new grade level. Plus we have to do 20-40 hours of professional development and have 20-40 professional responsibility hours earned outside of the regular school day (eg. attending band/choir concerts or school sporting events, team meetings not during our common prep., tutoring students for free, etc.)

I didn’t mean for this to become a rant; it all just seemed to spew out. Sorry that you were the target, but it sure feels good to “talk” to someone who gets it.

The Grass Isn’t Always Greener

There is an old saying that goes, “be careful what you wish for, you might get it.”

While working for the past few years in the “hyper-reformist” environment you speak of, I left last summer and have been working at another inner-city public high school in a different school district. I walked away for many reasons, most personal, but I know well, the circus show of which you speak. I remember the daily meetings at my old school because over time they were cattle-branded into my memory through attrition; long, 30 minute sequences of daily smack-downs can change a person. I remember the once monthly staff meetings, round-ups of youngsters and do-gooders over tables of cheap snacks, the administration sequestered in their own tables up front, staring at everyone, making G Dub type- decisions of who was “with them or against them.” I remember the bi-weekly initiatives that were shoved down our teacher throats; I always looked for the Post-It note attached to these documents and protocols that might say “Do it- or get out.” I remember being told that I was being written up for having a “can’t” attitude in a meeting because I expressed concern that my autistic student could not keep up with the AP-For-All English class in which he was enrolled, and of which I was the teacher. I remember the back-stabbing, the pettiness, the administrators with two or three years classroom experience, telling veterans how to do their jobs. But most of all, I remember the coldness of the cement walls of the brand-new exquisite building, and the sound of my principal’s high heels go clank, clank down the entire hallway without stopping once to check in on her incredible teaching staff, or say hello to a student. More than once I muttered to myself- shame on her.

So, to leave and move on sounded like the best option last summer, because who would mind leaving all of this behind? We all love freedom; I was tired of doggedly being ridden like a draft horse in a desert. It will be different someplace else, I thought.

This year I have again been stricken sick in the stomach by some of the ills I saw at my previous school. But it is quite different here. I teach a small group of affluent white children this year for the first time in my career. They attend my inner city public school because their parents believe they have a better chance of getting into college if they are top of their class at a public school rather than than competing within a “tougher” group in a private school for ranking and resume building to get into college. In the past I taught only Hispanic and black children, and I, due to my own engrained bias, expected chaos, instability, drugs, embattled lives, absent parents, teen pregnancy, and low expectations in my inner city Washington, DC school where I taught. I expected this because the public conversation of this country has told the tale of a neglected and unable “hood” culture in our country since I can remember.

However, recently I spoke to three parents of middle-class white children because their kids are failing my class. As it turns out, all three are addicted to drugs. They are children of divorce. Their parents are hanging onto these children by a thread weighted down by medication, bipolar disorder, attempted suicide, sexual activity since 13, seizures due to drug overdose, neglect, running away from home, failed classes. So I am learning it is a country-wide epidemic of lost children we are dealing with, one that transcends racial and socio-economic lines.
The administration here unofficially practices a policy of placing all white kids mentioned above into “Pre-AP” or “Honors” level classes, despite their academic level. Mostly this results from the parents coming in and demanding their children are not put into the “ghetto classes.” As an English teacher I see students in my 10th grade Pre-AP level class who are at a 6th grade writing level at best, and students who write at a tenth grade level in my “on-level” class, as most “on-level” students do not have parents advocating for their placement and education. This is not to say my “Pre-AP” classes are 100% white, they are not. But the racial boundaries are drawn in a unique way here that has been a personal “teachable moment” for me regarding “equity” in the classroom, a favorite buzz word of reform.

I teach in a trailer that is falling apart at the seems (literally, cracking at its foundation) in the middle of the track field behind the school and my principal has never seen me teach. We have exchanged 5 sentences since August. The other day I was in the office and an administrator asked me if I was a student, “Who are you?” she said. I told her I was a teacher at her school and she sort of smiled and walked away. My classroom trailer had no working heat for two months of winter, and my door is permanently broken so the room remains unlocked overnight. As it has been broken into and vandalized already once this year, I don’t need to explain the anxiety of coming to work each day, wondering if my room has been trashed. When my room was destroyed earlier this year, my principal came by and laughed…”oh, these kids!” she said, while she watched me clean up, without lending her own hand to help.

While I am busy teaching and planning lessons, I believe it is the admin’s job to check on me, see how I am doing, and make the walk out to the trailer to get to know me as a staff member of their school.

No one has ever asked me for a lesson plan. We have scattershot meetings periodically. I don’t owe anyone data, or charts, or spreadsheets. I have never been officially or unoffically observed. All the time I think and wonder; I could be teaching about Jesus, or safe sex, and no one here would know, let alone give a damn. I have, however, met a few tremendous co-teachers, and they along with the kids of course, have made this experience worthwhile in the grander scheme of the journey.

So I guess I wished for more autonomy. And I got it. All I have ever wanted was to teach, and teach well, improving my craft yearly. But my constant worry is whether or not I will be a better, or worse, teacher when I leave here. At my old school I suffocated; here I stray aimlessly. Therefore I am left with more questions than answers. Is there a school for me? Is public education in America really this fucked? Should I stay teaching? Can I continue to weather the swift kicks to my ego and self-esteem this work constantly requires? Is it all worth it? And most of all- could I really do anything else?

I never thought I would ever say this, but I am going to: I almost miss structured observations.

-Anon.

Gobsmacked

I have been called bad names to my face, been threatened in writing in a student’s journal, been shoved aside and into filing cabinets, which left me with bruises, and called a liar by both parents and administration.

The being called a liar incident really boiled my blood because it was over a student that had been absent from class for more than a week. I called home, but there was no answer. I involved the principal and was told that if the student showed up, to tell her that she was suspended for 3 days. I even had this directive in a memo – in writing.

A couple of days later, the student showed up, and I told her what the principal had said and sent her off to the office. She didn’t go to the office, but left the school grounds. The next morning, I was called into the office and was thoroughly chewed out by the mother of the student. She wouldn’t look me in the eye and even turned her chair sideways so that she didn’t have to face me, but would constantly flip her hand in my direction to indicate that she considered me less than dirt. She accused me of being unprofessional and insensitive. I was gobsmacked. And then, to add insult to injury, the principal sucked up to the parent and flat out lied to her, pretending that I had acted irrationally, all on my own. He completely denied giving me those instructions and refused to allow me to leave the room to find the memo which would have proved him to be the liar, not me.

In the end, the student was admitted back to class, and once back in her seat, the student laughed about the situation and told me that the mother was on the parent council and had the right to terminate my contract. Needless to say, I tiptoed around that student for the rest of the year. And I left in June!

In the same year, I had the parents of one student come up to me and act overly friendly and complimentary at the very start of the year. They acted like I was the Messiah and told me how their child raved about me at home. This I found to be quite strange since I’d only been teaching at the school for a week at this time. How much of a good impression could I have possibly have made? In any case, the student turned out to be dyslexic. Every example of writing was incomprehensible. I was truly confused because this same student had received nothing but straight As in all her English composition classes. I showed an example of writing to the principal, and he shared my conclusion. I called the parents in to talk about the matter. All hell broke out. It turned out that the mother was a published author, and the idea that her child was not up to par was inacceptable. For the remainder of the year, I got the stink eye and cold shoulder from these same two people who had gushed about me at the start. Clearly, it was there attempt to suck up to me. How sad.

Another student showed up high on drugs, sat down, took out a knife and sat pounding his fist -which was gripping the knife – on the desk with a strange look on his face. I called for backup and a male colleague had to wrestle him to the ground and get the weapon away from him.

This same student turned out to be going on 23 and was still being permitted to attend grade 10 classes. He was suspended and sent away for rehab, but I saw him walking around aimlessly in the community only a week later, clearly still using drugs. A few days later, my drinking water was poisoned. Police were brought in, and I was told someone clearly wanted to hurt me. Nothing else was done. The police never figured out who did it, but I am pretty sure I know.

I have been called filthy names, pushed and shoved into furniture and left with bruises. I have been told I am too lax in class, and in the same week told that I am too tough. I have been told not to bring my problems into class, as the students should not have to deal with my real life issues, but that is pretty much what we, as teachers, have to deal with on a daily basis. The kid who didn’t eat breakfast becomes our problem. The child who didn’t sleep at all the night before and falls asleep in class is our problem. The student with the black eye that shows up regularly is our problem. Teachers are human. We cannot be expected to act like social workers in addition to teachers and yet be told that we cannot let our own problems bleed into our work. That is an impossible task.

However, far and away, my biggest beef is the extreme laziness of students today. Absolutely everything that requires the slightest bit of effort brings on groans and moans and jeers and general revolt. Asking grade 3 students to pick up a pencil and write their name on the paper is considered an unreasonable demand. My question is this: What do they think school is for? Why do they believe they are there?

Well, when I have braved to ask them, the average elementary student responds by saying: “To have fun and play with our friends.” So, there you have it folks. I have been proven right. Public school has devolved into an expensive, failing babysitting and child warehousing system. Learning doesn’t even come into the equation anymore.

I have been called bad names to my face, been threatened in writing in a student’s journal, been shoved aside and into filing cabinets, which left me with bruises, and called a liar by both parents and administration.

The being called a liar incident really boiled my blood because it was over a student that had been absent from class for more than a week. I called home, but there was no answer. I involved the principal and was told that if the student showed up, to tell her that she was suspended for 3 days. I even had this directive in a memo – in writing.

A couple of days later, the student showed up, and I told her what the principal had said and sent her off to the office. She didn’t go to the office, but left the school grounds. The next morning, I was called into the office and was thoroughly chewed out by the mother of the student. She wouldn’t look me in the eye and even turned her chair sideways so that she didn’t have to face me, but would constantly flip her hand in my direction to indicate that she considered me less than dirt. She accused me of being unprofessional and insensitive. I was gobsmacked. And then, to add insult to injury, the principal sucked up to the parent and flat out lied to her, pretending that I had acted irrationally, all on my own. He completely denied giving me those instructions and refused to allow me to leave the room to find the memo which would have proved him to be the liar, not me.

In the end, the student was admitted back to class, and once back in her seat, the student laughed about the situation and told me that the mother was on the parent council and had the right to terminate my contract. Needless to say, I tiptoed around that student for the rest of the year. And I left in June!

In the same year, I had the parents of one student come up to me and act overly friendly and complimentary at the very start of the year. They acted like I was the Messiah and told me how their child raved about me at home. This I found to be quite strange since I’d only been teaching at the school for a week at this time. How much of a good impression could I have possibly have made? In any case, the student turned out to be dyslexic. Every example of writing was incomprehensible. I was truly confused because this same student had received nothing but straight As in all her English composition classes. I showed an example of writing to the principal, and he shared my conclusion. I called the parents in to talk about the matter. All hell broke out. It turned out that the mother was a published author, and the idea that her child was not up to par was inacceptable. For the remainder of the year, I got the stink eye and cold shoulder from these same two people who had gushed about me at the start. Clearly, it was there attempt to suck up to me. How sad.

Another student showed up high on drugs, sat down, took out a knife and sat pounding his fist -which was gripping the knife – on the desk with a strange look on his face. I called for backup and a male colleague had to wrestle him to the ground and get the weapon away from him.

This same student turned out to be going on 23 and was still being permitted to attend grade 10 classes. He was suspended and sent away for rehab, but I saw him walking around aimlessly in the community only a week later, clearly still using drugs. A few days later, my drinking water was poisoned. Police were brought in, and I was told someone clearly wanted to hurt me. Nothing else was done. The police never figured out who did it, but I am pretty sure I know.

I have been called filthy names, pushed and shoved into furniture and left with bruises. I have been told I am too lax in class, and in the same week told that I am too tough. I have been told not to bring my problems into class, as the students should not have to deal with my real life issues, but that is pretty much what we, as teachers, have to deal with on a daily basis. The kid who didn’t eat breakfast becomes our problem. The child who didn’t sleep at all the night before and falls asleep in class is our problem. The student with the black eye that shows up regularly is our problem. Teachers are human. We cannot be expected to act like social workers in addition to teachers and yet be told that we cannot let our own problems bleed into our work. That is an impossible task.

However, far and away, my biggest beef is the extreme laziness of students today. Absolutely everything that requires the slightest bit of effort brings on groans and moans and jeers and general revolt. Asking grade 3 students to pick up a pencil and write their name on the paper is considered an unreasonable demand. My question is this: What do they think school is for? Why do they believe they are there?

Well, when I have braved to ask them, the average elementary student responds by saying: “To have fun and play with our friends.” So, there you have it folks. I have been proven right. Public school has devolved into an expensive, failing babysitting and child warehousing system. Learning doesn’t even come into the equation anymore.
repplinda@hotmail.com
Elle
0

Burnout at 23?

After reading your blog, I regain some semblance of sanity and my ego is partially restored knowing that I’m not the only one completely disillusioned by America’s appalling educational system. I honestly thought that there was something significantly wrong with me for not being emotionally and physically capable of assuming the role of an educator.
I was (am) at the point of a nervous breakdown at the tender age of 23. Being a teacher in America today is like asking someone to become a superhero who needs to consume a daily cocktail of amphetamines and xanax in order to simultaneously “teach” effectively and retain sanity. And, by “teach,” I mean assuming the role of mom and dad for 120+ kids, differentiating instruction so every student in the room, regardless of their learning capabilities and motivation (or lack thereof), will master the content all while you dodge flying objects being thrown in your direction, ignoring the incessant yelling and the “You suck at teaching’s” and remedying the outraged parents who don’t understand why you gave their child a “C.” Because, at the end of the day, you’re accountable for what your students learned (or didn’t learn) and if you ask for help or guidance (cue the “DON DON DON” music) you’ll be blackballed by the administration for “not being a good teacher.” The emotional baggage, alone, is already too much to bear.
Anyway, here’s my story. After graduating college, I thought teaching was my calling and I was very determined to, as the old adage says, “be the change that you wish to see in the world.” Ah yes, how naïve of me. So, I decided to get my secondary certification at the graduate level along with my MEd. By the way, my program is a joke. The university is like a vending machine: insert money, spit out diploma. Like the other post said, I just write my papers the hour I have in between school and grad class. I did more work and studied harder in high school than I do for grad school and I still have a 4.0 GPA. Now, what does that say about our educational system? School is becoming so watered down that degrees have no inherit value. The adjunct professors don’t give a shit. All they want is their paycheck and they’ve already checked out the door the first night of class. To make matters worse, most of the professors are administrators, program coordinators, etc. It’s an absolute disgrace.
Anyway, back to my story. During my field experience, I actually received a long term substitute position for the teacher that I was observing. I was beyond ecstatic because a. I didn’t even have my certification yet. b. I thought this was a great opportunity for me to showcase my teaching abilities, so I would get a job in that school district upon completion of my program. The opportunity just landed in my lap and I seriously thought it was god sent. Looking back, I’m questioning why they even gave me this position when I didn’t even have my certification. I know I did an excellent job with my field experience and my cooperating teacher told me that she wanted me to take over when she left because I was a strong individual who could handle these students and we had similar teaching strategies. But still, wouldn’t they hire someone with a legit certification and experience?
Well, I was literally thrown into this position without being prepared emotionally and literally without material and lesson plans. All I got was basically, “Here’s 4th marking period curriculum, good luck!” By the way, my only classroom experience prior was my field experience, which was being in the classroom for 1 day a week for a semester. No, I never had student teaching.
Every night, I come home bearing the emotional burdens of all my students and tears cannot stop from flooding down my face. I wish there was a switch where I could turn off the emotional weight of being a teacher. Every second I’m thinking about my students, teaching, the politics and what the other teachers and the administration think of me. How can I reach the students? What can I do better? Does the administration and other teachers know I’m a fraud? I feel entirely inadequate and a failure, which is killing me inside. The other night, I seriously thought I was having a heart attack. Little did I know, that I was suffering from a panic attack, which I’ve NEVER experienced in my life until now. These kids are our nation’s future…how can I not become overwhelmed? However, I will admit that I’m slowly becoming immune to the criticism I receive from the students, but the aftermath still stings. I sometimes find myself checking the attendance every morning in hopes that the troublesome student(s) will be absent.
I’m teaching the future of America and if these students are our nation’s future, I don’t want to be part of it… There’s no respect for adults, love of learning and any motivation. They feel entitled and privileged for just being themselves. Their parents are nonexistent and they live in a state of complacency and apathy. I think of them as amoebas: floating around with no shape or substance, not conscious of the world around them. It’s impossible to teach those who don’t want to be taught. Just by being their teacher, you’re already labeled the enemy. Our society doesn’t value educators and it’s apparent with the lack of respect students show for teachers.
I can’t even express my frustration because I’m not a “real” teacher at the school and I feel like if I vent, other teachers will use it against me. It’s so political; they all talk and badmouth one another. Not only am I teaching junior high students, but I feel like I’m back in junior high with my colleagues as well. I don’t know who I can trust and the environment is so unhealthy and counterproductive.
Teaching is like trying to swim against a current. Needless to say, I’m leaving the world of education. I’m going to finish out the year, complete all my all my graduate courses, get my certification and shut this chapter of my life. It’s a damn shame too. My heart was in education and I know that I could be an amazing teacher; however, I can’t bear the emotional weight of this job.
It’s a Saturday and I’m writing to a stranger about the plight of education. I can’t turn off the switch; it’s consuming my life and I want it back. I’m not a masochist…

Tuning the Snare

Anyway…most teachers are done. They are already at their mom and dad’s house. On a lake. Or they’re camping with their boyfriends and finally learning how to make a fire. They cleaned a fish for Christ’s sake. They are watching the World Cup in bars at 11:00 in the morning. They are meeting people from New Zealand and taking road trips. They are figuring shit out and reading Great Books. They are taking their time. They are taking risks. They are watering the garden. They’re getting in shape and running 10k races. They’re hydrating and tightening their laces. They’re looking for love in all the wrong places and hoping to see some familiar faces.

They try to stay cool in shady places.

They are sitting on their asses. The bartender already knows what they want. They are playing video games and getting to know their neighbors. They will meet their dads in Ecuador. Some will just stay there. They live each day like it’s the last day before tomorrow.

They know what’s going to happen when the shit comes down. They know it’s in the mail. They feel a disturbance in the force, but they don’t care anymore. They have nothing to do and can’t possibly keep up. Their best friend from high school just killed himself. They are sick, but they don’t know it yet. They are either like a praying mantis or an old book. They are like a dust storm or an iron bar. They are like a humming bird or an Eggenberg. One way or another, we hope they’ll be OK.

They are breaking hearts and making plans. They’re in new places and looking over their shoulders. They just bought a new lawn mower. They mostly quit smoking but they still drink too much. They move far away or stay close by. They are resisting urges. They call the wrong people at the wrong time.

Some will be missed. Some won’t. Some will just be forgotten. Some will be seen at an airport bar or at Target six years from now. Some are looking for a new weed connection. Some will go home and think it was a regular day. Some are ready for the truth. Some know they aren’t. Some are looking for a job, but not until July. Some can’t face it ‘til August. Some are playing Frisbee golf or starting a band. They are tuning the snare.

They are going to school. They charge it. They play with their kids. They get something kick-ass for Fathers’ Day. They build and mend fences. They get in horrific car wrecks. They pay too much for wine and cutting boards. They worry. They refinance. They look for a new roommate. They’re having more good ideas. They like cards better than board games. They are amiable.

They’d like you if they knew you. They plan out their days as much as they want to. Some sleep in late. Some keep getting up early. It’s just a fucking habit. They get over things. They brood in broad daylight.

They’re stuck. They’re fucked. They’re packin’ up the truck. They know the whole story and that’s not even the half of it. They will breach or sink to the bottom. They make their favorite sandwich and eat it.

Mr. Teachbad

Plan B

I’m also a “Plan B” teacher, but I went the NYC Teaching Fellows route. Got all “trained” in 7 weeks of garbage classes where I learned what to do if a student is being unruly and laughing at me because I have chalk on my butt. Yeah, that was really important to learn (I had chalk all over myself on a daily basis – I like to lean – my response to my students was “Yup, you’ve seen it everyday, nothing different this time.” I don’t remember what the “correct” response was supposed to be). I also learned that I have to accept other cultures, but I am not allowed to ask for insights into said cultures. I have a garbage MA degree that I learned nothing except that many of my fellow ‘fellows’ are ruder students than my 7th graders I was teaching at the time. I also learned that many of my fellow teachers are terrible writers. I had a 3.9 or so GPA. The class I actually attempted to learn something in and really do the big project is the only class I didn’t get an A in. I stopped trying and wrote most of my assignments in the hour between my work day and the class at grad school. Finally, I learned that if I can slack off that much in a grad school course, taken with a bunch of people that have already recieved at least a bachelor’s degree, then it’s no wonder our school systems are a mess. I worked harder in my high school and for my BA than at anything I had to do to get a Master’s degree in Special Education.

I complained that first summer that I didn’t feel they had told me anything useful to take into my first classroom and I was told (not kidding) that “Isn’t it great that you’re going to get to learn it hands-on?”. I came into teaching after 15 years in theater. THEATER!!! I was an assisntant wardrobe supervisor and a stage manager – not an actor and never wanted to be. They assigned me to Special Ed. (Again, THEATER and ENGLISH MAJOR from Hamline) I thought they were insane, but the reality is, that’s where they needed teachers. I had the upper hand in the job search. First, I had spent years as a freelance employee so I was used to being unemployed. I didn’t jump at the first school that offered me a job but took my time and found a school that didn’t make my skin crawl (true story: that first job offer came from a principal that gave me a really wrong feeling and that November there were huge protests from parents, students and teachers trying to force him to quit or be fired). Second, I didn’t have the same attitude as many of my fellows – I didn’t want my OWN classroom. I loved the idea of being in a CTT setting. That way, it would be sort of like student teaching, but not really. It was the smartest move ever, for at least the first 6 months (long story, short: my co-teacher was great, until about April, then she checked out. We watched Rush Hour 2 oneday in class and it was the day my advisor was coming to observe, so my co-teacher whipped together a worksheet about friendship and working together based on Rush Hour 2. Yup.)

So, here I am. Three years later. Two years of 7th grade CTT and a semester of 11th grade Theater and 11th grade Science CTT under my belt and I moved back to MN because I couldn’t take the charter school or NYC anymore (11 years there). I found out that I may actually be a good teacher, someday. I am really good at the Special Ed thing and I am even better at the Aspergers thing. I moved back home during giant budget cuts to look for a specialied job like teaching Special Ed and working with ASD kids – preferably at a middle school. Am I crazy? Probably, considering it’s 330am and I am typing an e-mail to a complete stranger, but Kat was right. I could have written some of your blog posts almost verbatim. Reading them last fall when I was so miserable in the charter school that I quit a job for the first time in my life wouldn’t have made me stick it out, but it’s nice to know sometimes that the bad situation isn’t always “just me”.

Thanks, and don’t hold my insanity against Kat. She will not torment your wife as much as our school administrators and professional developments torment us.

Jen