Helping You Get the Most Out of Your Misery






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Wednesday, March 26, 2008


Time Flies When You're Not Blogging

So hey, folks. Haven't felt like writing in awhile. Nothing overly traumatic, don't worry (if you're the worrying kind.) I just haven't had a whole lot to say. Not that I'm implying that I usually have tons of insight or anything.

I think I've been a little burned out at work. They don't tell you this in the literature, but teaching's stressful. Who knew?

I've got a schedule right now that isn't really all that bad, on the surface of it. I've got a great sixth grade class. I've got my favorite reduced-class-size fifth grade class. I've got two periods every other day dedicated to getting a drama club up and going. I've got two fifth grade classes that are pretty good. I've got a reduced-class-size seventh grade class last periods half of the time and I've got a regular-ed seventh grade class the other days.

The thing is, as not bad as that schedule is, it's pretty bad.

See, my administration is busy. Really busy. So busy that it's hard for me to get in to see my principal to get approval for my drama club proposals. So the ideas I've got for drama club are on hold and I'm just using the time to write material for when the drama club is functional.

Then there are the two classes I have seventh period. The reduced-size class is full of kids I've had before and with whom I am capable of getting along. But, in this particular combination, they're willing to do work for about five minutes before things devolve into a non-stop festival of insulting each other. And not your typical insults. These kids talk about each other's mothers in ways I wouldn't use to refer to Ann Coulter. They spew forth so much homophobic, racist, graphically-sexual bile that my ears start to bleed.

The other end-of-the-day class is a group of seventh graders who have made the decision to turn my Theater Arts class into a road-company version of Lord of the Flies. They don't do the work, they don't listen and I've let myself get so ineffectually pissed that I end up spending forty-five minutes yelling. Which the students enjoy a great deal, actually. It's almost worth it to see the smile my anger puts on their young faces.

Now, I'm trying to do things by the book with these two classes. I'm reprimanding them; I'm writing detailed anecdotals; I'm going through the correct disciplinary procedures. But the reduced-size class doesn't give a teaspoon full of rat turds if I call their parents. And I don't have the same lunch as the seventh grade class, so I can't give them lunch detention. Which means it has to be after school, for which I need parental permission. Parental permission can't be obtained without the proper form; the proper form can't be sent home because the administration is too busy to review the form I've come up with and print it up on school letterhead. It's all a bit much.

In the midst of all of this, we have a meeting with the administration in which my assistant principal--who is, I should clarify, a really nice guy stuck in a fairly difficult position this year--responds to griping he's been hearing from staff with an admonition that, if we don't actually feel a calling to teach, we should probably think about moving on.

This hit me. Because, a lot of the time, I'm pretty cynical about teaching. I've been saying for a long time now that I'm in this field so that I can earn a paycheck while I write. But you can only say that for so long before you wake up and realize that you're a teacher. And, y'know, I didn't get into this field by accident. It's not like I tripped on a tree branch and landed in a pile of being a teacher. I chose to be a teacher because, way back when, I wanted to do something to help public education. I wanted to do my part to send a big "Fuck You" to the people who want to let the public schools rot while they send their kids to private schools. I wanted to do good.

It should be a good thing, teaching kids about theater. I started thinking about what I've been doing, which is approaching my subject from a fairly academic mindset. "What areas do I have to cover and what units can I come up with to cover said areas?" But, if kids don't already have a love of performing or, lingering just under the surface, a burning desire to learn new ways of expressing themselves, am I doing my best to show them why theater is relevant and fun? I don't know that I have.

I need to change the way I'm going about this. I'm tired of being so fucking demoralized. I want to reach a point where I have fun with my job.

To the five people who made it all the way through this diatribe, I apologize for being so goddamn long-winded and just puking my thoughts out here. I'll try to write more often and I'll try to be a bit more entertaining.

Hope you're all taking advantage of discounted Easter candy prices. Have a nice evening.

I got some Dove truffle eggs for 39 cents at Walgreens today.
Nice post. I look forward to hearing more about what you are doing with the little monsters.
Parental permission for after-school detention??? What is this world coming to???
I really appreciate the real-life reviews of what it is like to be a teacher, since I will be student teaching next January and then left to the wolves. I am very appreciative of the extremely practical training I am getting in my schooling right now, but the reality is that it looks like a ton of work each time one is teaching a new subject, and even given the same subject several years in a row, it takes a few to teach it really well. I am honing that there is something in getting used to that that can compensate, a winging it gene or a lesson plan fountain that I'll grow or hap upon before then.

bobgirrl- as a mother who has one child take the bus home, another I pick up at the end of her day and then two who have varying ending times each day according to the after school classes or none that they have each day in addition to my own classes that had to eek into those timeframes a bit this semester, I appreciate getting permission to change my families complex schedule, but certainly want my children's teachers to administer consequences at school for schooltime infractions.

I am realistically expecting to write, travel and garden heavily in the summers. If somehow, that has been compromised in your case, please do not reveal that here just yet. It might break my spirit too much.
I feel for you. A good friend of mine is a principal at a charter school in the Bronx and I see the amazing dedication her teachers express - working long hours and throughout the summer, trying to find creative ways to manage classrooms of kids who are not always motivated academically, teaching with extremely limited resources. I'm sort of in awe of how inspiring and frustrating it can all be at the same time. Her particular school's mission stresses heavy parental involvement in their children's education. But she points out it can be tough to reach parents with concepts about intellectual curiosity when they are struggling to meet their child's basic needs of nutrition, shelter, and health care.

Anyway...your administrator's line about a "calling to teach" is manipulative and I can just imagine how demoralizing that is after all the little frustrations you deal with in the classroom each day. Fuck him. Her?

I also think parental permission for detention is bullshit.
Well, God Bless you, Dude. I believe in pubic schools too. My kids go to one, I volunteer there. A lot.
Hang tough. You are probably making more of an impression (the good kind) than you will ever realize.
It's never the actual teaching that gives teachers burn-out, it's the goddammed bureaucracy. I've seen a couple of my teacher friends grow to hate their job due to it.

Hats off to you!
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