Friday, March 18, 2011

Feeling Defensive

Coming out of my teacher bubble to interact with adult people sometimes feels like yet another culture shock. Many want to hear the stories. Some, as I've documented here previously, as quite hilarious. However, a majority of them want to hear about the "bad" stuff and how difficult my school is. I always get conflicted when people push for those stories. Sure, I've got some up my sleeve but what kind of picture does it paint? How well does it portray the day-to-day rather than the extremes? To strangers and mere acquaintances, I often find myself being defensive as they share their perceptions of what teaching in a low-income school must be like.

One of the impressive points to many people about my experience is that I'm taking graduate school classes on top of working full-time. It's not so much an admiration of rigor as much as an appreciation of sheer time and will power spent to just keep going. Nashville is home to the top Education school in the country -- however, due to scheduling, it's not where TFAers take classes. For the most part, the classes are fine -- not always inspiring or revolutionary for people already in the classroom.  The reading I'm working on over break is about "What Makes A Great Teacher?"

I find myself feeling riled up and on the defense as I sit in the coffeeshop.

"Classrooms in schools with few economic resources are less pleasant and may send negative messages to children"

Granted, my school recently completed a large renovation so our facilities are quite new. But I've seen many classrooms in schools that haven't been lucky to be renovated and the teachers have done a great job making it a welcoming environment. Even though later on the author concedes that with effort, teachers can create strong learning environments in these facilities, my toes curled at this absolute.

"If the room in which you teach is too crowded, if it is too hot or too cold, or if the air is stale, try to find another space."

What space is the author referring to? Several of my fellow TFAers teach in pods since the school has too many children for the building space. During one episode where my room was the temperature equivalent of Antarctica due to a temporary heating issue, I moved my class to the detention room (not equipped as a classroom). After the miserable experience, my 4th graders voted that they preferred to wear their hats, gloves, and coats until the issue was solved but stay in our room.

Perhaps my response is too much. The authors are well-intentioned and certainly more credentialed than I am. I can't help wondering -- is this book setting them up to see the low-income classroom as many teachers experience it?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Spring Break Fever

I had to double check the date when I saw I hadn't posted in almost 6 weeks - has it really been that long? In some ways, this quarter has felt like it has dragged on forever. In many other ways, I feel like I'm still scrambling to get things in my life in order. We have a little over a week left of school (since the district decided to convert professional development and spring break days into school days) and I don't want to think about school anymore. Spring break is so close I can almost taste it.

Since you can't actually taste it, I'll just have to be content with the tour de food I've been undertaking this weekend. Many moons ago I mentioned wanting to have more of a social life and people ask me all the time how I like things about Nashville. Well, here's an attempt to share.

On Saturday, a group of us went to Sparkles Cupcake Company, courtesy of Ms. D. You would think that as an elementary school teacher I would be sick of cupcakes. Every time a student has a birthday, I seem to end up with a large sugary confection that resembles a cupcake once you reduce the frosting. And not even just my students -- sometimes it's students from other 4th grades, sometimes it's 5th graders from around the corner, and sometimes I don't recognize the child handing me the cupcake at all.

Am I sick of cupcakes? No. Which is probably why cupcake shops are sprouting up all around the country and even have their own television shows.

Today, my roommates and I went to partake in some Mardi Gras festivities at Belle Meade Plantation. A pale comparison to the real Mardi Gras and FREEZING, but enjoyable nonetheless. It's amazing how excited the small children around me got by the flying plastic beads. I did manage to get the little girl beside me to cheer for the milk truck -- I do love getting kids to drink "white milk". After the parade, we went on a tour of the mansion and tried some of the wines that they make. It was definitely one of the more uniquely Nashville things that I've done.

I've got a backlog of other things I've meant to write up, but I meant it when I said the last few weeks have been crazy. While there have been some high points in that time, there have also been some big lows, and it's just been emotionally draining. I've discovered that when I take me time, I'm happier and thus the students are happier as well. But when I take me time, I feel guilty about it or think about all the work I could be doing, and then I don't enjoy myself as much. Problem? Very much so.