Settling In

This year feels the same as the beginning of last year. I question if I am providing the best education for my students. I am running around like mad trying to get everything set-up in the classroom, planning lessons and weekly quizzes. The past two weeks I noticed my students are having difficulty even with differentiation. I’m not sure if this means they are not trying, if maybe I’m gong too fast or if the tests are really too hard.

Next week we begin small groups and I am hoping for more successes.

In regards to my last teaching job, there was a bit of drama. During the summer I attended a teacher’s training at the school. I was a bit vocal during some of the meetings and the principal called me into her office. She began the meeting by saying “I’m not putting up with any of your mess from last year.” This immediately established this meeting as non-professional and a time for me to be dumped on. I was confused because if I did something wrong I would expect a supervisor to talk to me last school year not before the new school year. As the meeting became less a meeting or more a screaming match I realized in that moment I had to leave and I had to make some changes.

I submitted my resignation and began an inner exploration. My best friend and my mom helped me realize my troubles at the last school were a recurring issue in my life. I found some books and began looking closely at how I respond to issues. At my new school I try to smile and remember why I’m there. It is a journey and I am working on it everyday.

So after I left the last employer I waited patiently for my final wages. I was told I would receive my final pay and to be patient. I waited, I waited, I waited and I waited. I sent emails with no response from anyone; not the principal, not HR nor the payroll clerk. Finally I wrote an email and told them we would settle the issue through a 3rd party. Now I receive a response. I’m told I will be paid (well legally you have to šŸ˜¦ ), and to be patient. So again I wait and wait. No response to my emails. I send another explaining I will send my complaint to the Dept. of Labor. Oh, wait your check will be ready by Monday. I go in on Tuesday, no one is there. I send an email, oh sorry we closed at 4 pm. I go in on Thursday, oh let’s see where did we put that check. Finally I receive my final pay. I go home and stop by the local grocery store and who do I see, my former principal. I turn and walk away because despite all my self work I am not ready for that face to face.

 

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No longer a first year…technically

Labor Day came and went and that means the end of summer and the beginning of the school year. I am now at a new school, with a new curriculum, new grade and a new set of issues. I feel like it’s my first day all over again. I am forever grateful I have an experienced teacher who took me under her wing. I am also grateful the prior grade teacher left me her lesson plans. It has made the first week alot easier and calmed a great deal of anxiety.

The first week I saw my grade change to a split classroom, a change in the schedule, two students transfer to another school and one transfer to a new class. We have had tears, spills, lies, power struggles and bored glazed looks. Which means I’m right on track. And the best news of all, the new season of Teachers will be here soon. Yay!!!!

I am passionateĀ 

My mother told me I do not suffer fools. My best friend told me I need to learn how to fit inside the box. And my instructional coach told me I have lived a life free to speak my mind. All three of these things get me into trouble…frequently. And unfortunately trouble returned. This summer I attended several PDs and many were excellent and I can’t wait to use my new skills. Two trainings were not so great. The first the issue wasn’t the material but how it was facilitated. I felt the facilitator was knowledgeable my concern it seemed she wasn’t prepared. My face unfortunately expressed my inner dialogue and led to some awkward moments. The second training I was confused about a path to take. I asked for advise and was inundated with too much information. Too many voices and it became confusing and frustrating. I became defensive and this led to my recent trouble. I was called out for my behavior and it made me pause for reflection.

I became a teacher because I believe all children deserve the best education. I believe all students need to be seen as capable of great things. When I hear people say, the kids can’t do that I get angry. How do you know? Have you made several attempts? Have you talked to the students? When I disagree with something I will say so. Blame it on my liberal education. But this behavior can cause huge problems and label one as unmanageable, disrespectful, just plain unpleasant. So this summer, what’s left, I need to make some changes especially as I move on and forward. 

When it may be time to quit

This summer attending many PDs or professional developments. It’s a great time to learn more and improve those skills. For the most part enjoying the classes and meetings. The one course I didn’t enjoy was due to facilitator lack of confidence. 

Today was another PD and it was excellent,  alot of great info that I can definitely use. Unfortunately what happened at the end made me question my commitment to my school. After the PD the staff agreed to follow the new curriculum 100%. It makes sense and could make life for the students and staff so much easier. After agreeing to follow the exact guidelines the principal and staff decided we need to make changes. 

I found myself amazed by this. How can you follow something with fidelity but change it? Especially before you implement it? Well it’s because it’s “too much for our students.” How do you know? You havent tried! I became annoyed and then I became angry when the incessant talking down began. As a new teacher I am talked down to alot. It is annoying and it makes life difficult. I don’t want to ask questions because I might get a damn lecture. So I mostly hold my tongue. 

In that moment I asked myself if my views on education and teaching align with my school any longer? They unfortunately don’t. Can I help make change? Not without support and presently I have none. Based on past behaviors is there hope things will change for the better? Doubtful. Based on this it may be time to move on. 

Should teachers have medical training

When I was in school I don’t recall a classmate with a peanut allergy or any allergy that required a complete removal of a particular item. Asthma was rare in my memory. There were a few disabilities physical and mental. Now it seems there is an explosion of severe life threatening allergies. More and more children with a mental health diagnosis. I don’t have research and this post isn’t about my perception in change. It’s about the need I see in schools.

Yes there are schools with a nurse unfortunately due to budget cuts you may have a nurse 2 or 3 days a week. For the children in great need often a caregiver is assigned to the child. However that need may take time to be filled. At my school we had a nurse I never met. I was told she came in once a week. Medications were often distributed by the office manager who was trained to distribute meds and use epipens. Problem, if a student on the 3rd floor goes into shock the epipen is on the 1st floor. In my class I had two students on medication, one with a physical disability and 5 with asthma. That was almost 33% of my class. With the medical needs of children shouldn’t all teachers receive some form of medical training. Beyond CPR and First Aide, should all teachers know how to distribute medication, signs and symptoms of common child emergencies and how to evacuate a disabled child in an emergency. Well the answer is of course. Problem who pays for this training? School budgets, especially in low income areas, are tight. Schools are fighting for their fair share of the basics how then can they ask for a service that on paper seems unnecessary. School has nurse, check. School has 1 or 2 staff trained in medication distribution, check. School has someone trained on epipen and defibrillator, check. Problem solved. Unfortunately the realities don’t match what is on paper. I failed a fire drill because my physical needs student couldn’t get down the stairs and I couldn’t pick her up. I had a student who had an asthma attack in gym class twice. Teachers should receive more training in case of emergency. There will be some who will say well pay out of your own pocket. Well we also have families and bills and the cost of this type of training is not necessarily feasible. 

Books in the tech world

Two years ago I was on a date at a lovely Greek restaurant. My date and I saw a little girl with her family, the family was sitting around talking and eating and the girl was playing a game on a phone. We remarked how technology has changed how teachers connect with students. As tech has become more accessible teachers are expected to incorporate at least 2 technologies into every lesson. During school every lesson plan I wrote had to include technology. I argued this is short sighted. There are schools that do not have regular access to technology so shouldn’t we learn how to reach students when we have to go without. Like NASA astronaut training, learn to survive in the wilderness just in case. This idea was ignored or laughed at, several students said a school will always have some form of technology. Even if that were true, which it isn’t, tech breaks down and Wi-Fi stops working. I have seen it happen we all have and when it does teachers look like this. 

We lose our minds because tech helps us manage our classrooms and to focus young minds with short attention spans. 

So what does this all have to do with the title. Yesterday I attended an orientation for the WITS program, bringing books into schools. I love books but how do we help students learn to love books. The program requires students read independently 20 mins a day. Everyone in the room had the same expression and thought, how to get tech savvy kids to read silently for 20 mins. Well stamina building of course. Like training for a 5K we have to help build students attention spans in increments. In addition to the independent reading we need to include read alouds and small group work for a total of 60 mins. That’s a huge task. Not just with the stamina building but also many of my students never owned a book. As a child I had books, my mom had a huge shelving case filled with books, my friends had books and we would trade. I was reading Stephen King in Elementary school and my school had a library. We were taught how to check out books, select the best book for pleasure reading or research and we learned how to write book reports. Now I have students who sees books as something foreign or old fashion. They look at a book like I would look at a mummy in a museum, cool but weird. 

In this tech age books are still necessary and something we should continue to encourage in children. This means parents need to get involved. Buy a new book for celebrations or just cause. Go to the library or a used bookstore. Yes you can download a book on a kindle but honestly nothing beats the smell and feel of a book. 

Time for reflectionĀ 

Yesterday was my last day of school. I had one conference with the grandmother of a student. Her granddaughter needs to be retained. I was surprised the meeting went so well. Past conversations with parents involved a lot of denial and requests for evaluations for IEPs. 

When I began I met a former teacher at Office Depot. She told me every year she failed one or two students in 2nd grade. I was shocked by this. Now I understand why. That sums up the year for me; someone gave me advice, I thought no that’s wrong and later learned no that was spot on advice. In the beginning I thought I would reach so many students, I was told I should be happy if I reach 3. In the beginning I was told to have a tete-a-tete with my TA, I did not. I was told to not let the parents get me down, I did. 

During this year I retained 2 students, something I thought I would never do. During this year communication broke down terribly between me and my TA. I would definitely do things differently. I had parents accuse me of not caring for my students or not following through only to learn there was another bigger issue I knew nothing about. 

This was a tough year with lots of growing pains. Next year will also be difficult as I love to a new school and continue to learn more.

My advice for any new teacher; 1. This is not an easy job, 2. Parents can be an obstacle but we must also see their side, 3. Students will test your boundaries you must remain firm and consistent, they will love you for it, 4. Utilize all the resources you can and 5. If a tenured teacher says it then 99.99% of the time it is true, listen, seriously listen. 

Death of a child

Last week was a very difficult week as I explained in an earlier post; a former student and former co-worker passed away. I was told the student passed due to an asthma attack. I later learned it was so much worse. His death was avoidable and was caused by long term neglect. In one year my cooperating school has lost 3 children in one year due to violence. This was not something I not anyone could prepare for. We as adults don’t expect to attend the funeral of a child. It was never something I had to experience except once and that was due to SIDS. I can count the total number of funerals I have attended on one hand. However the students at my cooperating school have seen so many of their classmates die they are desensitized. One student upon learning my student was dead he said he deserved it for being bad. Hearing that shocked me to my core. 

I have learned in a short time teachers don’t just teach. We are expected to parent, counsel, nurse and sometimes police our students. We have to provide students with the love and stability they may not always receive at home. We have to provide advice and guidance to those who trust us above others. We have to be aware of medical concerns that a parent does not have to legally divulge. I have students in my class who I did not know they had asthma or have allergies to peanuts or soy. And the worse part of my job deescalating fights. I have students who fight everyday with classmates for their “place” in line. Student’s who hit each other because someone stepped on their shoes. The reasons for the anger can stem from what children see at home and/or TV. What real life role models do children have this day and age who respond rationally to hardships. 

I have found this to be exhausting. I have found myself questioning why I continue. I find myself tossing and turning at night worried about my students. I worry about their present and their futures. It is exhausting and definitely not a profession for those who are not flexible. 

Parent complaint

This week began very rough. I learned a former student and a co-worker passed away on the same night. I made it through. What made this week worse a parent complained about how I handled a fight between students. The parent in question agreed to come to class everyday to make sure her son settled into class. Unfortunately this is not occurring with consistency. Anyway I have a student who initiates altercations with other students. I have spoken to him and his parents. His parents are trying we just can’t seem to help him understand why this is bad and why he needs to stop. He once hit a student so hard he left a bruise. On this faithful day he pushed a student who also has impulse control. I told the student he will one day come across a student who will not be understanding and will fight back. The parent in question didn’t like this came into my room, admonished me and then complained to the principal. What upset me is this parent and others don’t understand teachers cannot always be smiles and unicorn sprinkles. Sometimes we have to explain reality in an effort to help students make better decisions. We not only have to teach math, English, science and history but also; manners, common sense, hygiene, healthy eating and more. Will I understand the parent felt concerned her concern came from a lack of trust. She has not trusted me since the beginning and has made this clear. Without trust a teacher’s job becomes more difficult. 

Teacher fired

Earlier this week a fellow teacher was fired. And no one knows why. Well I shouldn’t say no one. The people involved in the firing do know. The outsiders, well, we are scared and uneasy. I packed up my classroom because I don’t know who is next and we have yet to hear about next year’s contracts. Today the staff were called in for a 10 minute meeting to discuss why staff trust is low. Are you serious? How can there be trust if you don’t feel safe? How can there be trust if you don’t know what could come next? I’ve been in crazy situations and as an anxious person it has stressed me out. Now I don’t know what to call this level of stress.