Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Don't Ask, Don't Tell: The school policy

This week and last have been rough. TFA shows you a projection of the first year teacher's satisfaction/happiness and it says that in about October it gets rough. Well, we got started second week of August so about end of September is right.

There's a lot of things that I'd like to say, but this is not the forum and frankly I haven't figured out the best way to explain them to people who don't coexist in my school bubble. My sense of possibility is diminishing at a faster rate than I'd hoped for. Right now, I just feel like a sailboat with a torn sail, a broken rudder, and a storm brewing overhead in the middle of open water.

I'd like to feel good at something. And one thing I also feel is that I haven't been a good friend. So if you're a friend and you're reading this, I'm sorry I haven't called or emailed or returned your calls recently but if you could just shoot me an email with something about your life and what's been going on, I would love that. I think living in my teacher world is starting to drive me batty and I need to be reminded that at some point, I wasn't exhausted, struggling to stay positive, or frustrated all the time.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

It Keeps Getting Better...Or Not

This week has been a rollercoaster of everything. For the first time, I felt really solid about some of my plans in Language Arts and the kids seemed to respond well. My kids were happy for the most part and motivated to do well behaviorally because of parties at the end of the week.

I also introduced a new system for students to move back up the behavior chart -- they need to receive three different written compliments from 3 different students. Rather than focusing on tattling now as the issue, we're working on creating a more positive space. It's also made dismissal much faster because the kids need to wait until the very end of the day to learn whether they received enough compliments. Some kids almost always receive the compliments that they need and it's usually the kids that I felt bad about moving their color down (green to blue to yellow to orange to red) that get them. The children that are routinely misbehaving,and not so nice to their peers tend not to get enough compliments although sometimes they can. In a way, the children are really good at reflecting what I'm thinking in my head about whether or not their classmate is putting in effort to change their behavior after an incident.

Wednesday was great because I got to see one of my college roommates for a visit and it was really great to catch up. Yet again, it was a reminder of my life before teaching and made me feel social (especially since I knew the people at the table next to us!) I woke up Thursday morning feeling really good and positive.

It was, however,  a nightmare. A lot of it I can't really go into detail about, but I ended up losing my planning period and some instructional time to translate for a meeting at the last minute. While I think the meeting went well, I felt unprepared for it and lost an hour of Language Arts the day before my kids took their unit test. When I returned to class, my kids were not in the mood to actually do anything except beg for rewards. One child was in a particularly foul mood and while escorting him out of the classroom to another room for a time out, he stepped on my foot.

Now, my bad for wearing open toed shoes, but man, it hurt something awful. I've always been worried about injuries to digits since I injured my finger in a basketball game and it never healed properly, leaving me with arthritis. However, the pain was so bad I ended up skipping grad class (aw shucks) to go and get it x-rayed. Luckily not broken, but still following doctors orders for care and treatment. The shoe I had to wear the next day shocked my kids and,while dramatic, was a great reminder to them to be safe.

One of the things I struggle with is getting my kids to think about the results of their actions. I get on them about tipping over their chair because it's not safe and still I'm telling kids everyday to sit down. Way too many of my kids rush through their work and it's not until after the fact, when asked "is this your best work? Is this what you want to show to your mama/grandma/dad/uncle/significant adult in your life" that they acknowledge that they haven't paid attention or put in their all. One teacher that I worked with put it well -- they need to work on their stamina. But how to improve it?

How do you slow down kids that need to catch up?

Saturday, September 11, 2010

They don't pay me enough to deal with that kind of shit

My training has made me prepared for many of the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants moments that have occurred thus far. I've had crying kids, lessons that tanked, procedures that failed, classroom discussions about not using gay as an insult, and other hormonal issues of 4th graders. Friday was, on the outset, a typical Friday: quests, kids going nuts, feeling exhausted at the end of the week, and making kids upset that their behavior report was not excellent.

Almost at the end of the day, I felt nauseous. To the point where I called in another teacher to duck into the teacher bathroom located conveniently next door. Oddly, I felt better as soon as I left my classroom. Upon my return, however, I discovered what may have been the cause of the nausea -- a brown streak smeared on the floor of the aisle in my classroom.

There was shit in my classroom. Literally.

Several kids had discovered this as well which inspired an entire class of 18 to shriek and lift up their shoes. At least three kids had also stepped in the brown matter. I moved all my kids away from the desks and ended up taking them into the hallway for the rest of day, about 15 minutes, because the smell was so horrendous that nothing could possibly be accomplished in that time. Needless, the end of the day was  bit of a mess and the room was a disaster when the janitor showed up. I apologized for the pencils strewn across the floor and that chairs hadn't been put up for the evening, but the crap on the floor was really a good excuse for not getting that done.

At Friday happy hour, which has quickly turned into one of my favorite things about the week because I get to have adult company and talk with non-teachers (although often regaling them with stories about teaching....woops), several theories came up. Was it dog poop? Seeing as it was 3:10 and none of my children had been outside all day because of the weather and lack of a playground, that option seemed unlikely. Did a child track it in from the bathroom? This is more plausible, but there seemed to be a lack of shit in the hallway that would support this option. Several kids had it on their shoes, but not really enough to warrant carrying that amount into my classroom.

So unless, dear readers, you can think of something else, I have accepted the following conclusion: someone shit in my classroom. If I taught kindergarten or even 1st grade like one of my roommates, I think I would have been more prepared for this. However, in 4th grade, you really don't expect that.

Teaching. Expect the unexpected. Especially the crap.

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Teacher becomes the another Teacher?

I went in to school today to make some copies and bumped into the new 4th grade teacher. My school has added at least one new teacher onto every grade level, as well as some special ed teachers. They start sometime this week which I think most of the teachers are eagerly anticipating.

I unfortunately didn't have a lot of plans to share with her since I spent this weekend mostly in bed. I showed her around my classroom and shared with her some of what my class had been working on. The grade is supposed to do everything at the same time, but we've gotten off track in several different places. As we went over things, I asked her what she had in mind for her classroom management plan -- turns out this is her first year teaching and she hadn't quite thought through that yet.

I found myself giving her tips and advice. Me, after a few weeks of teaching that I can't even say were particularly successful at this point, I was giving suggestions.

Tonight, I have almost no idea tomorrow is going to look like with my kids. I spent the weekend getting myself better, not really lesson planning and definitely not getting started on my Unit 2 plans. However, after having spent a week and the weekend feeling absolutely horrible, I feel so energized to go back into school tomorrow. Disease, achievement gap, be prepared to have your behind kicked.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Finding Balance -- Part 1 of 4

I broke down and bought three things this weekend: A thermometer, a bathroom scale, and some powerful meds. I could feel myself getting worse and worse this week so I decided to be an adult and in true TFA fashion, went to get myself some data. Here it is -- this weekend my temperature reached up to 102 and I've lost 12 pounds since graduation. I've probably only worked out as many times as those digits combined so that's not a great sign.

So here's the plan. Over the next few weeks, I'm going to search for balance in spiritual, mental, physical and social.

The plan was to tackle those all in this one weekend, but seeing as the most imminent one is the physical, I'm going to slow it down a bit. I did get the chance to go out to happy hour with some of my colleagues on Friday night and it was really, really nice to remember that I have a life outside of the classroom. Although I did end up talking with some other teachers that were there and I just felt so reenergized with new ideas.

I spent yesterday literally doing nothing related to school. I went to Target, and spent the rest of the day in a horizontal position either on the couch or in bed. It was glorious. This three day weekend could not have happened at a better time.