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Highlights from the letters my 8th graders gave me...
“You were like a mom to me. If I have no one, I know I have you.”
“Three pages and 80 lines won’t explain to you how much you mean to me, but you know.”
“I look forward to coming to your class and learning. You have inspired me to improve my grades. And when I say have a good day when I leave your class it’s because you deserve it. I just want you to know that all of the students love you and you are one of the best things to happen to _____ Middle School in a long time.”
“I know one day you will be a great mom.”
“You have become my favorite teacher and let’s be honest, we didn’t see that coming.” -from the girl who once told me she wished there were two reading teachers so she didn’t have to have me.
My contract was not renewed.
Those are such distateful words, aren’t they? Those five words compose one of the worst phrases in the world for a teacher. They make my mouth feel like I accidentally bit down on some aluminum foil. Gross.
But that’s what happened to me last year. I wrote about it some, but I was in the middle of it and it was still painful. I also didn’t want [and don’t want] to unnecessarily slander my former employer. I think, however, that this story is important to know.
It was my first teaching job. There had been some PD sessions that made me question the direction of the school and I knew I really didn’t want to work there much longer, but they got to it first.
It was a small private school, a school that didn’t pay enough for me to pay my bills and barely offered benefits. I taught 130+ students during six classes a day. I had a school desktop that ran Windows 2000 and a classroom that had corrugated tin walls. For the first year and a half the air conditioning didn’t work and my room would get to be 84 degrees. With 27 [deodorant challenged] sixth graders. I wouldn’t have sent my kids there as a parent.
The details of why I was non-renewed aren’t that important [it was for philosophical and theological reasons, primarily]. You need to know, however, that a 13-year veteran in my division disagreed with our bosses in my dismissal and she was fired. Another teacher resigned for many reasons, but one of them was that he didn’t think they should have fired me. Obviously this was a big deal.
I remember thinking that this was it, my career was over. I knew I loved teaching, I knew I had at least some gifting, I knew I loved my students, but I didn’t know if I’d ever get to do it again. After all, if THIS little dinky school didn’t want me, who would?
Fast forward a year later.
I teach at a school that is twice the size of my other school. We have won more academic and athletic awards than I can count. I have a supportive principal, a hilarious department, and a wonderful mentor teacher. I have a Smartboard and built-in media center in my room, access to any professional development I’d like, and air conditioning that works perfectly. I have a couch in my room!
Our school is going 1-to-1 next year, and has spent the last few years researching how to transition effectively. There is quick and sufficient IT support, there is time given in the school day for us to train, and innovation is encouraged. I love my students so much and they are a joy to teach.
I could talk about how great my school is all day long. I hope my kids get to go to a school as wonderful as this one. I have no desire to leave or go anywhere else, even if I don’t love the location. I know almost anywhere else would be a step down professionally.
I remember thinking that my dismissal from my first school was a black spot and no one would want me. Even though I felt justified in my actions, I feared no school would look past that. But they did, and it was even better than I imagined.
If you’re in the same position - if you end up with those metallic-tasting words in your mouth and that sinking feeling that you’ll never be able to love students again - take heart. If I can get dismissed from a grade D school and end up excelling at a grade A school, so can you. Keep looking, keep being passionate, and keep up hope. There’s a better school out there that would be grateful to have a teacher like you.
[and in case you were wondering, my contract was renewed this year]
It's Tumblr Teacher Thanks Day!
This’ll be our first ever, and here’s how it works:
- Reblog this post to let everyone know you’re participating (when you drop a random thank you in someone’s Ask box, they may check your blog to figure out why).
- Find a teacher, first year teacher, student teacher, or education major who blogs on Tumblr.
- Use their Ask box to share a quick thank you with them for teaching (if you can’t find the link on their blog, add “/ask” after their Tumblr link; if they don’t have the Ask page enabled, you’re out of luck). Let them know it’s part of Tumblr Teacher Thanks Day!
- Repeat as often as you like :o)
Not sure how to find another Tumblr Teacher*? There’s a list of them here. You can also click the links above to find some in the teaching tags.
Don’t know how to enable your Ask box? Click through for a quick tutorial!
To Enable Your Ask Box in Tumblr:
1) From your Dashboard, click the name of your blog at the top of the page.
2) On the Dashboard for your blog (it should be the Dashboard that only displays your posts), click the Settings button in the top right, NOT Customize.
3) In the Ask section, check the “Let people ask questions” button. It’s up to you if you want to allow anonymous questions or not.
4) Scroll down and click “Save Preferences.”
There should now be a link to your Ask page on your blog (or you can link people there directly by typing your Tumblr blog link with “/ask” added to the end!
Today a 14 year old boy called me "Miss Piggy" instead of my real name.
Backstory: I’m a teacher at a junior high school. I’m 23 and overweight because of my own choices combined with my genetics. This boy called me this back in September I pulled him into a classroom, explained that it was rude and disrespectful to me as an authority figure, and thought that was that. I also don’t have this gentleman as a student.
So today I was walking down the hall between classes. This student walked past me and then after I was halfway down the hall he said “Heyyyyyyyyyyyy Miss Piggy!” in the most teasing and condescending tone a 14 year old boy could muster.
And you know what?
I am confident, I am young and you know what?
MISS PIGGY IS THE BOMB!
She don’t need no man. She’s strong on her own while still being feminine.
So I’ve decided to make this boy my project. He hangs out outside my door every morning and I see him most days. So I’m going to learn his name and say hello. Every day. I will get to know him.
I will show him that there is no way that a 14 year old boy calling me fat is going to make me angry. Because its true but fat doesn’t make me a bad person.
So I’m going to stick with my theme song. Me and Miss Piggy
My student babies are now freshmen and I'm now a 7th grade teacher.
I’m in such a weird mental space right now.
- I’m ready for a summer of reflection and regrouping so I can strive to be an even better teacher next year.
- I’m really excited for my students because they’ve got so much great stuff to come in their futures. (Even if they were a little sad today.) I was much more at peace than I expected to be. I’m grateful for our 6 months together because they really were the perfect first class. It’ll probably really hit me tomorrow during our teacher work day that they aren’t coming back.
- I can’t stop thinking about this grade change. There’s such a weird hodgepodge of positives and negatives that I don’t know which way to feel.
- My heart is really full. I received some really sweet gifts from students. I was the recipient of a huge round of applause from my kids when the principal called my name to hand out awards. (Enough that a mother later told me it was obvious from the applause which teachers the kids loved the most.) And I got a sweet comment from another parent who told me her child loved that I was a young teacher who could actually control her classroom and keep things together.
Upward and onward. First year of teaching is officially in the books.
Rather than teach 8th grade again next year I'm moving to 7th.
I found out this morning about the switch and have since experienced the strangest mix of emotions. Long story short: the 7th grade team this year has become toxic so they need to mix them up and interject some positivity. (And probably force some folks out.) The team was also very weak in the language arts department and based on the strength of my instruction he wants to move me down to partner with another ELA teacher who they can’t get to retire. Which means I’ll be carrying the load a bit.
It’s also a gift of sorts since my principal doesn’t want me to have to deal with the mess that is the current 7th grade group so early in my career.
So while I’m devastated to leave a few of my teammates behind (one is moving with me), and to give up all of the fun stuff that comes with teaching 8th graders, I’m also really flattered and a little excited.
Cue the weird mix of smiling and sobbing here.
I know you don’t like me right now. You have an essay due at the end of the week. It’s the end of the marking period. You are SO CLOSE to graduation. And you hate me for making you actually do work. I get it. I understand what you’re going through. I was in your shoes not too long ago. However, one day, maybe six months from now, or even years down the road, you will thank me for making you work until the end. I am pushing you towards the finish line harder, rather than let you finish at a snail’s pace. Why? Because I know you can do it, and because I care about you.
Ultimately, the choice is yours over the next few weeks: finish strong or check out. Nobody can make that choice for you. Not even me. But know that I believe in you and I’m here to support and guide you.
Remember: Attitude is everything.
PARENTS FROM HELL.
At my school, kids wear uniforms. On fridays, they are allowed to dress down if they have had good behavior / been in dress code / turned in homework all week.
As usual, only about 8 of my kids could dress down on friday. For some reason, my two students (who are sisters) came in dressed down with a note from their mom saying they were allowed to dress down and to call her if I had any problems. Obviously, I had a huge problem with this. One girl was sent out of the classroom and had nothing but “red” and “yellow” days all week - even if you have ONE yellow day, you can’t dress down. This is nothing new. The other had two yellow days and turned in homework late.
I called her and our conversation was ludicrous. She was battling with me against the homework issue. Her daughter turned in her homework late (only because I made her stay during recess to complete it) and her mom said because it was turned in, she shouldn’t be penalized because “IN THE LETTER YOU SENT HOME, IT ONLY SAYS ASSIGNMENTS MUST BE TURNED IN. IT DOESN’T SAY ON TIME.”
ARE. YOU. KIDDING. ME? YOU’RE KIDDING ME. I’M ON PUNK’D RIGHT NOW. This mother is seriously justifying her daughter turning homework in late, saying it’s okay because in a stupid letter it just says TURNED IN and not ON TIME.
I wanted to scream. I told her it was implied, and she was right and I will be sure to send home a NEW letter with the CORRECT wording. Then I added, “Both of your daughters still had poor behavior this week and that in itself is a reason to not dress down, as stated in my letter.” Her response? “NOW YOU’RE BRINGING UP AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT ISSUE AND I DON’T HAVE TIME FOR IT BECAUSE I’M AT WORK. BYE.”
So far this semester I have had:
2 students suspended,
3 different students choke classmates,
4 students pushed down the stairs,
1 student who pushed me,
1 student kick another in the face and break his retainer,
1 student who says hitting is a form of massage,
countless fights and a million discussions.
They show no respect and do not follow directions at all.
They scream, backtalk and interrupt constantly.
They are my daily challenge.
I spend more time scolding and dealing with their conduct than what I actually give class.
I have tried a million techniques and strategies but nothing seems to work.
They just don’t care.
And here I am at my wits end just trying to break through to them.
Did I mention they’re only in 3rd grade?
Nothing I learned in college could have prepared me for the realities of the classroom. At least of this classroom.
I’m dying for the year to be over and that I’m able to survive it.
I’m wearing thin and on the verge of giving up.
An alternative to the famous cart
When I first found out I was going to be a floater I quickly Googled the hell out of the topic and found a few good tips/tricks and the famous cart. I have read plenty of good reviews about using a cart and have seen a few pretty tricked out ones that are kind of cool, but this does not suit my reality. I travel to 5 different classrooms throughout the day most of which prevent me from using a cart in one way or another. The classroom is either to small to hold a chunky, clunky cart (some of the classrooms I visit are seriously small!) or the road to said classroom is too treacherous for it to travel smoothly. It would either be in my way most of the time or it would be too hard to get from point A to point B. So a cart was simply not in the stars form me. Still, I needed something to get me and my materials from classroom to classroom without having to carry it all in my arms. I did that the first day and boy was it a huge mistake. I kept dropping and losing things along the way and now everyone knows me as the clumsy teacher!
Enter the teacher bag. There are quite a few teacher bags out there that you can use to carry your things around but I have found that the ones that work best are those that aren’t too big (the bigger they are the more junk you tend to put in them) and have plenty of pockets to put your supplies in neatly. This is my current bag. It was a present from one of my 3rd graders:
It has two side pockets, three front pockets and an extra pocket on the inside. The strap is adjustable and it also has handles so I can carry it around like a briefcase. Plus its a pretty shade of pink and purple (though the crappy cell phone pic doesn’t do it justice).
It’s big enough to hold both my binders (more on hose here), my teacher’s guide, and my practice book. I use the extra pockets for my school supplies (pens, extra pencils calculator, and all the sorts). It’s really the perfect size an since I can’t over stuff it I don’t have any trouble carrying it around.
I also have an expanding folding crate for when I have to pick up the kids workbooks and notebooks or for when I have a few extra materials (activities, centers, etc) that I can’t carry in the bag.
I don’t always drag it around with me, only when I need to.
Lastly, I always ask the homeroom teachers if I can have a small space in their classroom to keep a few things. This helps me not to carry around any extra stuff. You can have a filing box, folders, or even an expandable, really whatever works for you. Just be sure to keep your weeks handouts or worksheets, some extra blank sheets of papers, activities for your early finishers, and for when you need to fill in some extra time. That way you won’t have to worry that you forgot to bring something or you left it in the previous room! Plus you won’t have to drag it around in your bag all day which will just make it heavier and uncomfortable.
So far this system has been working for me. There are still a few tweaks here and there that I need to do iron out but nothing too big. How about you? What do you do to get from classroom to classroom? Hast the cart worked for you or are you faced with my same dilemma?
The first 1 would be great for a male teacher, the third one is quite fashionable, and I would absolutely looooove the fourth one!
I cried at prom last night
As much as these kids drive me completely crazy sometimes, I’m going to miss them. A lot. It’s finally set in I only have a month left with them.
I feel like it’s this weird parent-like instinct that’s taking over. Sure, most of them are only five years younger than I am, but they still feel like my babies. I’ve tried to explain this to my non-teacher friends and they don’t understand why I’m so upset about it. They don’t understand why I’m still giving all I have despite the fact my contract wasn’t renewed.
I could ramble on for ages about that, but ultimately, it boils down to this:
I go to school everyday with a smile and do the best I can (even though it hurts like hell) because of those kids. Right now, I don’t work for the administration. I work for my students. Period.