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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Occupational Hazards

Disclaimer- The following is a rant that may or may not reflect my feelings before or after this moment.

I was lulled by the break. Even the adjustment to learning I had MS was relatively smooth. I wonder what it would have been like without steroids. Would I have been as accepting or have adjusted just as quickly as I did? I will never know the answer to this question. What I do know is that now that I am back to work, nothing feels as easy as I expected it to be.

This is my fifth yearing of teaching. I planned well. I felt confident that the struggles I had encountered would make teaching again a breeze. I was a little worried about teaching five classes instead of four but overall, I felt confident and ready. I planned that I would never speed around like a maniac again. I also planned I would leave on time every day. Most of all I promised myself that encounters with students would leave me unruffled. I forgot about all the occupational hazards of teaching in a rough, low income public school. My top ten current issues are detailed below.

1) My student rosters change daily
2) Students are placed in the wrong classes so I end up serving multiple levels and abilities in one room
3) I am not given assistance to deal with all the levels, I need to "differentiate" for them and make it work
4) No matter how much I set the expectation and teach respect, there is always a smart alec.
5) The best laid plans get tossed every time my roster changes and I keep reteaching the same stuff over and over with little progression
6) Some kids are just whiney and ungrateful
7) Some kids challenge everything you say and do just because
8) A duty-free lunch is never really duty-free
9) There is never enough time in the contract day (everything takes longer than planned)
10) The bosses find a way to slip in additional responsibilities that don't fit into the contract day either

I could keep ranting but I realize that I am engaging in unproductive thought. Now that I have gotten this off my chest, perhaps I can focus again.

I remember that when I went to teacher school that there was a statistic about how something like 50% or more of teachers won't stay in the profession past their first five years. I think some of the complaints I listed explain why. I am a "natural" teacher and I truly love what I do but at times I ask myself, "Can I do this for the next thirty years?" I wonder if all teachers feel this way at times or if this is just the problem with serving in tough schools. I hope in my heart of hearts that I can find a way to reconnect with what I love about this profession. Before me I only see the tediousness of trying to cram an education into those with low skills and little willingness to push themselves.

In my school, we have lowered the bar but how low can we let it go? Today I had two students who have lived in the U.S. for more than 6 years complaining to me because I asked them to write a three sentence response to their writing. Three freakin' sentences and they whined and never completed the work. Is this our future? This is exactly why I keep going back, this is unacceptable and someone has to get into the trenches and make a change. I just wish it was not always like pulling teeth.



Knowing full well that this might not be the appropriate time to ask......but......

What's your teacherly opinion on the whole "No Child Left Behind" requirements?

Huh? Feel like digging into that one?

Would that particular rant end in out-roaringly loud laughter?

I certainly hope that those less-than-three-sentence students did not receive credit for their non-answers.

Jen said...

My parents, veteran teachers, scoff at the "no child left behind" nonsense. My dad was a guidance counselor for most of his career, so he got to kind of "hide" in his office a lot, but my mom, like you, was in the trenches as an ESL teacher and every week night she was grading papers, planning lessons, and sighing about the decline in public education.

Again, teaching is one of the most draining jobs and you are a WARRIOR for carrying on--- hang in there! And if you don't last for 30 years, you will try something else. You wouldn't be the first...

Kelly Siobhan said...

I'm sorry to hear your feeling so frustrated. You're my hero however- putting up with all that and having M.S. I had a teacher at my university mispronounce my name and I nearly started crying! Try to keep the stress at bay, and remember that you are likely having a much greater impact on these kids than you can see right now. Stay strong, have some ice tea, and try to laugh at the things that are bothering you so much. They aren't worth compromising your health. I hope you have a lovely week!

Serina said...

Its good to vent, it releases frustrations so that you can keep going. You know that are doing something important, and that is why you go back each day. I respect you for becoming a teacher and giving of yourself in that way.

The sad part is you may be giving some of those kids more attention daily than they recieve from their parents. Kids catch on quick, when people aren't interested in pushing them to succeed, they start to view that as an excuse not to try. Its frustrating that that the bar seems to keep being lowered. Kids today shouldn't be less capable than their past generations.
Because you still expect something out of them, you will end up impacting them, even if its not evident at the moment. Chin up! Deep breath! I know you'll prevail! :)

Denver Refashionista said...

Thanks for the support ladies. Today was a bit better.

Kelly and Serena, thanks for the encouragement. I actually do handle the stress pretty well. I'm just irritated because I keep thinking that after 5 years things should be smooth sailing and they rarely are. Teaching is a messy business.

Lisa and Jen, you just gave me an idea for a post about NCLB. I'll tell you quite freely what I think. Sadly on CSAP (the state test), 3 sentences or any do get credit, it's just not the kind we need.