“How do you raise a young person in our simultaneously both porned out and repressed culture to both avoid sexual assault while not being alienated from their own sexuality? Please, please tell me.” ”—Socialist activist & journalist for the Nation Dave Zirin this week on MSNBC’s Melissa Harris-Perry.
What it truly means to be a teacher
I haven’t posted in nearly 2 years. But after a few stressful weeks at work, I was inspired to write this when I got home today.
I read about teaching constantly in the news, and it doesn’t seem to reflect what I experience each day. It’s been increasingly frustrating to me. While it’s very difficult to express in words what a teacher’s day is like, I gave it an honest shot here (warning: there is a little bit of profanity).
What it truly means to be a teacher
12:45pm. I am teaching a 7th period class; we are focusing on the costs and benefits of British rule in India. The students are working on a t-chart on their own, referencing a textbook.
A girl in the front looks upset. Her eyes are glassy. She is finished the assignment far before the others because her reading level is on grade level while many of the students in the same class are still struggling at grammar-school reading levels (I teach 10th grade). She is drawing circles on her paper.
I know she was supposed to audition for the X-Factor, a TV show, yesterday; she had been excited about it for months. I heard through the grapevine that her dad wouldn’t let her go. I kneeled down. “Are you okay?”
Another student shouts from a few rows over: “Ms. D, I need you to show me my grade.” (Yesterday, as I tried to get him to start his work, he told me to shut the fuck up.)
I ignored him for a moment to see if he would notice I am mid-conversation with another student. She nods and says, “I’m fine” unconvincingly.
Again- “My grade Ms. D, I need to see my grade.”
“I’ll show you your grade after class- I’m trying to talk to another student right now.”
“I need to see it though,” he insists. “Is this good? Am I done?” He holds up his t-chart. I’m still kneeling in front of X-Factor girl as she absentmindedly traces the already-drawn circles on her paper.
“Ms. D,” another student shouts from across the room. “Can I stay after class and see my grade too?”
It’s been 1 minute.
1:01pm. We have 4 minutes in between classes and the bell has just rung to mark the end of 7th period. My 8th period class is honors-level and they are preparing for a debate. I need to move the desks from their standard position in rows to 2 large groups before too many students file in. I start in the back and manage to get 2 desks flipped around.
A girl runs in who should have been in my 7th period class but wasn’t. “I came to say bye, Ms. D. I’m not gonna be here anymore.” She’s standing by my desk at the front of the room.
“What?” I ask, not fully processing what she’s said.
“I’m not coming back,” she repeats.
I walk up to my desk. My 8th period has started to file in. “Guys, if you could group the desks into your 2 teams, please,” flitting my hand at them since I’ve been pulled aside.
“My foster mom kicked me out and I’m going to a homeless shelter,” the student continues. “I can’t go to this school from there.”
A student I advise in NHS comes in. “Ms. D, I need to see the papers I gave you earlier today- I think I stapled something to them that I wasn’t supposed to.”
I reach for the file of papers that I had put hers in earlier that day. “You can’t come to CHS still while you’re at the homeless shelter?” I’m flipping through the pages.
“No,” the homeless student says. “Ms. M says I can’t until I’m placed, then maybe I can get transportation.”
I hand the papers to the NHS student that she’s requested. “I need you to sign these- they’re from the donation drive,” she says. I put them on my desk and sign quickly, looking over them to make sure they are what she says they are.
I turn to the homeless student again, not sure even what to say. “Do you have paper? Will you keep in touch? Call me if you need anything? Please?” I write down my phone number for her.
NHS girl waves a paper in front of my face. “Do you need this to verify my hours?” I shake my head.
“Ms. D, I have a question!” calls a student from across the room. I walk over.
The bell rings for 8th period to begin. I turn around and the homeless girl has disappeared; I didn’t even get to truly say goodbye.
It’s been 4 minutes.
1:20pm. My honors students are in their teams, preparing for their debate. There was tension in this class yesterday; the teammates weren’t getting along well. One of my students approached me in the morning saying she felt as if her team was not taking her comments seriously.
It's Brag Time
Want to know why my class is SO STINKING AMAZING?!
They’ve been planning a surprise bridal shower for weeks!
Let me give you the run down… Yesterday a mom took me out to a nice lunch for “teacher appreciation week” (aka time for the kids to decorate). I was a bit surprised that the principal approved it, and even more surprised to find we were eating out at a restaurant over 30 minutes away!
After a long leisurely lunch (with creme brulee to top it all off), we FINALLY got back to the school only to find out that my class was in the gym helping the P.E. teacher with stuff. I walked over there to get my class, and that’s when it all happened….
A mom of a student, who was claiming to be my sister, shoved a flyer in my face. It read:
Complete Wedding Packages
Starting at just $49.95
(Includes matching wedding attire, floral design, hair & makeup, music, but NOT reception)
I was shoved in a chair by a student who proceeded to do my hair and makeup. After 3 or 4 eyeshadow colors being added to my face, my hair was teased all the way to heaven. Quickly after, two of my girls introduced themselves as my wedding dress designers. They did a fantastic job with less than two toilet paper rolls! At least I thought so since no mirrors were included in the package.
Next, my wedding coordinator (played by our lovely 5th grade teacher who happens to have a mean Southern accent when she wants to), introduced me to my “mail order bridesmaids” complete with tablecloth bridesmaid dresses and some amazing 80s hair.
We were then all thrown in a back room where I found out the principal was playing the role of my father (though he wouldn’t stand too close because he must have thought I looked diseased). I was handed a bouquet of weeds complete with roots, and the music began.
I shuffled down the aisle only to find Joserisms up front waiting for me. I also found a mirror… Anyways, one of my boys played the pastor, and I HAVE to share his script with you!
Friends, we have been invited here today to share with [Joserisms] and Miss At a very important moment in their lives. So, who’s kicking this woman out of the house?
(This is when the principal offered his blessing with far too much enthusiasm)
Thank you. Now, congratulations on the termination of your isolation, and may I express an appreciation of your determination to end the desperation and frustration which has caused you so much consternation in giving you the inspiration to make a combination.
We then read the vows “we” had prepared for each other. The kids found a mad libs wedding vow format they filled out complete with fart, puke, and Mexican food references.
Finally after an exchange of Ring Pops, we were told we could shake each other’s hands and be officially presented as the almost Mr. & Mrs.
The kids were AMAZING! For our “wedding” gifts, they each brought in recipes, each gave a date night idea for our Can of Dates they created, and gave us $150 for Home Depot!!! Is it possible for a school day to get any better than this?!
I am SO blessed to have such amazing students and parents of students who worked so hard putting together such a fun party. I couldn’t imagine a bridal shower/mock wedding being any better than this.
I’m telling you, 8th graders are the coolest! Also, here’s a picture of the bride and groom…
“You can't teach talent, but you can teach people how to read strenuously and mimic the moves of rock-star writers so that they eventually accumulate a toolbox of skills. No different than baseball players or ballerinas or painters or pianists. A writing teacher is a coach. I'm forcing them to watch footage of games repeatedly. I'm adjusting their form. I'm showing them the way colors mix together, the way to play with light and shadow. I'm giving them exercises to elongate a second beat or shorten a third and create a magician's lilt to their music. I'm yelling at them when they're being lazy and whispering soothingly when they want to give up and cry and clapping them on the back when they finally pull off a great stunt.”—Benjamin Percy
“What did you teach?" "Geography. And I was very interested in Auriental* studies. But I decided to give it up and make a living by the sword." "After being a teacher all your life?" "It did mean a change of perspective, yes." "But...well...surely...the privation, the terrible hazards, the daily risk of death..." Mr Saveloy brightened up. "Oh, you've been a teacher, have you?”—
Terry Pratchett - Interesting Times
*The Ankh-Morpork name for the Counterweight Continent and its nearby islands. It means ‘place where the gold comes from’.
Hey Tumblr teachers, what do you wear to work?
I’ve been seeing a lot of pictures with teachers with jeans on at work which is crazy to me! The men have to wear shirts and ties at my school and women are supposed to wear business professional (although mostly we get away with business casual, but definitely no jeans). So, what do men & women wear at your school?
Confessions of an education underachiever
Many educators enter the classroom with long-term goals for their careers. Some decide to teach for a while and then transition to administration and gradually work their way up the ladder to principal or a leadership position on the county level. Others parlay their classroom experience into book deals and speaking engagements and travel the county and country and make a name for themselves on the local or national level. Some start in high school and eventually make the move to community colleges or universities after working on their advanced degrees.
This may count as a professional failure on my behalf, but all I’ve ever wanted was to be a teacher.
- I don’t have lofty goals beyond that of working with my students and helping them to be successful.
- I’d rather take a sharp stick in the eye than be an administrator of any stripe.
- I don’t have a book in me; I have rambly tumblr posts.
- I’m not a mover and a shaker: I’ve been at my school for four years and only a small group of faculty members knows who I am.
- I’m not building a Curriculum Vitae of my professional accomplishments because frankly, I don’t have many. And who would read it if I did?
- I’m not burning with a fire to change the world; I just want to change my little corner of it.
I don’t see my classroom as a stepping stone to a better place. My classroom is the stopping place. Which works out well since no one is leaning on me to try for more.
I suppose that my lack of ambition makes me a professional failure. And that’s all right with me.