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Monthly Archives: September 2014

Today, a journal assignment: “What was your scariest moment?”

We just started “Last Rung on the Ladder” by Stephen King.

A wonderful girl in my class shared the visceral, terrible images she experienced of her sister drowning at the beach while swimming next to her and did not realize what had happened until it was too late. She also shared that it was the first time she’d ever seen her father cry.

It was so heavy, and I handled it the best way I could.

Reflecting on it, I felt like I was in deep waters myself, in over my head with these teenagers. How can I meet them on their varying levels? They come in with trivialities and tragedies alike. How can I maintain my own equanimity when I’m trying not to drown in their neediness, their rawness, and their wounds? How do I strike the right balance for the entire class?

That girl will never be the same. Neither will her family. Nor will I, after hearing the story. Suddenly, I wished I didn’t have to carry on with the rest of King’s story, a story in which a brother loses his little sister and wonders if he could have saved her.

I wish I’d realized I was opening up cans of worms with that journal…

I hope I didn’t open up any cans of worms for her. Maybe she’ll like King’s story on some level. Maybe she’ll hate it. I can’t tiptoe around her, and I don’t want to…but I was just surprised by how honest and forthcoming she was with such a tragedy. It made me uncomfortable because I didn’t have the tools to deal with it. Or maybe I did. I got through it, at any rate.

Maybe she’ll keep on writing about it.

There was a moment of silence during 1st period. We talked about point of view & setting in Junot Díaz’s “Ysrael” in English class. We listened to Obama’s ISIS/ISIL speech in Speech. That was all. I can’t believe it’s been 13 years.

This morning, second period, the three APs came in to observe. As per the principal’s directives, I let the class go independent of the bell. She’d had a big meeting with the staff about how we’re creating a bell-less school, so that we don’t have a “school culture” where students wait until the late bell and show up late.

She came into my class and reprimanded me for not waiting until the bell. I told her I was confused but after talking to some staff, it seems like she couldn’t get the building’s bells to sync and reprogram.

Bells back on. It’s like that huge, impactful meeting she’d had with us took place in the Twilight Zone. Directives discarded, down into the memory hole.

How much do I want to believe the best of people? Very much, when so much blood, sweat, and tears have gone into sustaining this career.

Simply put, I don’t want to let my students down. I want to do right by them. I have to arm them with content knowledge that they can bust out when needed, wherever life takes them.

This job may not always validate me and my ego in the way that I want or need, but it is where I am, and I’m grateful to be doing it in light of the fact that there are so many other things that I would NOT rather be doing (for example, nursing – I do not have the tough psychological fibers in my soul for that profession).

I need to cut myself a break the first week back at work. My body is tired from waking up at 5 each day and my mind is exhausted from dealing with teenagers. There are some awesome kids, some aggravating ones, and most are just looking for some direction and/or things that they can use. Others are total ball busters.

Based on state and city assessments last year, I was an effective teacher for 2013-2014. However, based on last minute last year observations by the interim principal and principal, I was rated ineffective. This culminated after a year of having a crappy program, no permanent classroom, and no resources. I had to get a lawyer and sue to get a classroom and smartboard this year. (True story.) I’m pretty sure that their plan is to give me an ineffective for a second year in a row, to push me out of the school, and teaching in general. Their intervention plan seems designed to generate as much harassment for me as possible and basically makes the job here unattractive to me, to say the least. I’ll finish out this year and then look for another job.

I’m telling myself that this is my last year, which I said last year. But this year makes more sense. I’m on track to get vested in March of next year, a carrot for my pension. I am sufficient if not good, and even though they’ve given me bad ratings, I feel like that’s just been politics and it certainly doesn’t amount to any real gauge of my teaching talent. I’ve seen how the books are cooked and I know where all the bodies are buried. I’m not political, I don’t kiss ass/suffer fools well, and it seems as if Education is about as enamored of me as I am of it. 

The job is thankless and grueling. The vacations are great. The greatness of vacations reigns supreme and paramount when juxtaposed against the gig. There are intermittent moments of fulfillment when you are able to screen out all the bullsh*t and the fulfilling stuff comes through. There are moments of support where the wind is at your sails. Some years have been awesome, and others crappy. Most recently, crappy. But tomorrow starts another academic year. Last year I didn’t have my own classroom. This year, I’m supposed to but who knows? 

Optimist that I am, I’m going to try to express some of that in this blog, which will now start chronicling, sans filter, my perceptions and experiences of this intended last year of my almost 10-year long teaching career.