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Today was the second day in a row I’ve had a guardian break down in tears to me in my classroom over home situations. Yesterday, it was after my para and I showed a mom a drawing her son had made that really upset everyone (we don’t really have a social worker so it was up to me to have this conversation). Today, it was a little more complicated and was a grandmother who is at her wits’ end with her particular situation with her student. Both situations are complex and utterly heartbreaking. I am so honored and grateful that my students’ families feel they can be open with me about their lives and their problems. Yesterday, I stayed strong with the mom and assured her I would continue to do what I’ve been doing to make her son feel safe. Today, I honestly cried a little bit with the grandma because I didn’t know things had gotten so bad. I knew there were some issues, but I should have known. I should have been able to tell, but now that I do know, I can’t even do anything to help her. I wish there was more I could do.
These are the times when you need to have grit and strength to work in an inner city classroom. You want to be as strong as possible to be a support and crutch for your families as much as they need it. But, GOD, it is hard. It is so hard. I love my students and I think about them all the time and dream about them, but I’ve had to develop a sort of numbness in order to cope with the realities of what I see every day. I can’t fix my students’ lives. All I can do is make them feel loved and safe. And, honestly, I rarely feel like I’m doing enough, even in that respect.
This is the hardest job on the planet. I don’t know how other people do it. This is only my second year and sometimes I’m not sure I have it in me to continue.
The Odds Are Against Me
Okay, so you give me six classes of kids. You tell me I have to give them everything I’ve got. You tell me they need help reading, they can’ t write, they fail tests, they don’t have good role models, they are poor. You tell me I should work Saturdays, stay after school, have a sense of urgency. You want me to make spreadsheets of numbers for my 150 students. Numbers about their skills, their race, their “at risk” labels, numbers that make them anything but a student. You tell me to plan my lessons weeks ahead of time when I am daily finding out that these kids need different things, they need more computer time, less testing, more reading time, less essays, more poetry.
Then you tell me we have no paper, you tell me you won’t help me take their cell phones away, you won’t assist me in making sure I have every chance possible to get their attention. You tell me I can’t throw a cell phone out the window to send a message. Im getting desperate here. You tell me to call more parents. I tell you it hasn’t helped, plus many are disconnected or wrong numbers. You tell me to write a referral, I tell you it takes a month to get through the system, plus they don’t care about referrals. You tell me if I don’t enforce these rules myself my students think of me as powerless. When so many odds are against us, some days it’s a wonder why anyone comes to school at all.
Yes, I did make some New Year's Resolutions
1. Cook more
I realized how much I love the details, colors, and hands on activity that cooking offers as I actually had time this vacation to cook and plan out my meals. It is therapeutic, rewarding, and I get to create things and EAT THEM!
2. Be a Better Cat Mom
Yes, I know this seems a little nuts and cat ladyish but I have two dogs whom I adore and it’s easy to overlook my fat bitchy cat Stella. I even did some research because I felt guilty about not being a good pet owner and I learned that cats are also sensitive and need lots of attention. I didn’t know that, I honestly thought my cat was just a fat hermit bitch. Turns out, she just wants love.
3. Create the changes I want to see in my future, and look to the future when the present moment becomes too much for me to bear.
As I think about my first day back to teach tomorrow, I am terrified that the rest of this year will destroy me. I have already experienced many unexpected effects of this job and I have only been working at this particular school for four months. I began experiencing terrible neck and back pain due to tension and stress, I went to a chiropractor, got a new mattress, spend 120$ on a damn fancy pillow, just to start with. I have lost weight (not complaining about that one) I have night mares more frequently about work, my decision making skills are not as strong as they once were due to lack of confidence at work, and I cry more, like, a lot more. Because I never used to cry about my job. So these are a few changes that the last four months have brought me and looking forward from here to May is quite daunting. What I have to do is look forward for change, and create the changes I need to survive and to thrive. That is my final New Year’s resolution for 2013.
Up at 6.30
leave at 7.30
arrive at work 8.45
Teacher assist one lesson
be told one teacher is on training and another sick
cover all said teachers classes
cover more classes
LEARN ALL THE LESSON PLANS
deal with upset students
write sceme of work
fill out reports
go to phantom rehursals- Be told teacher isnt there and asked to run lesson without a cd player and no piano playing ability or experiences teaching singing.
Go to return Laptop to another member of staff.
Realise they are about to do a performance with no backstage staff.
Become back stage staff.
Log onto tumblr and Ignore the fact I have shit loads more work to do.
Finally open scheme of work and get back to it.
Things are progressing nicely on the job front. I’m working part-time with two teaching companies. They seek out businesses that need English lessons, coordinate the schedule, and do the billing. I show up and teach.
My teaching schedule is steadily growing and I’m up to 16 hours a week. That doesn’t sound like much, but it actually keeps me pretty busy. My goal was 22-25 hours a week, but I’m feeling a little nervous that that schedule will be pretty difficult to maintain.
Yesterday morning I spent a couple hours lesson planning and then I went to an internet café and printed my handouts for class. Then, I taught for 90 minutes at a business in Palermo, rushed to the Microcentro to teach an hour class, and then came straight back to Palermo to teach another 90 minute class. By the end of the third class, I was exhausted. And I had earned a whole $35 USD!
I know this will get easier. Since I’m a new teacher, it takes me a long time to lesson plan right now. And I still haven’t figured the best routes to get to and from class, so that adds some stress. But still! This is hard!
The actual teaching part is awesome though. My students are fun, and I get to laugh and listen to them try to pronounce words like mountains. “Moontins. Mawtawns? Mownteens?” Hilarious. To be fair, I apparently can’t pronounce araoz, and they laughed at me too.
This week has been just a bit ridiculous.
I had to go to a training Tuesday morning and miss the first part of my day. The crazy class part of my day. I came in and my kids were all coloring (they were supposed to be reading). The sub was exasperated and complaining to me about my kids and how terrible they were. Thank you. Please just leave so I can come down these crazy little ones, thanks and goodbye.
Wednesday my kids were a bit riled up but hey I’m just thankful for outdoor recess.
Thursday I had to be gone all day and was dreading it. I briefly met my sub and she said, oh no worries! I’ve taught 30 years it’s going to be fine. I told her okay, here’s the walkie if you need it, bye!
An hour and a half later I’m at this training with my team and asst. principal… I get a text from my mentor/coach, she has one of my kids in her office. The asst. principal gets a text, another of my kids is in the principals office with him, my sub had threatened to leave if that boy came back to the classroom at all. Awesome. And I do this everyday.
Friday I had to leave again (who actually works??) to observe a teacher at a different school. As we were leaving the office staff was like, no, you are not leaving again. And my asst principal told us to wish them luck. LUCKILY the guy I specifically asked to come sub for me was great and the kids were actually pretty decent for him. Yay!
Anyway. It’s been an exhausting week. And I only taught like half of it. Goodness.
But, only one month of school left! Crazy!
On a friend’s Facebook thread — A discussion of times that we, as professors, wanted to sink through the floor and die for what we’d just cornered ourselves into doing in front of the class.
Her: Had to explain what BDSM was because a student didn’t understand the question.
Me: Kind of outed someone by accident (he was already out! and he thought it was hilarious! but I should have thought _way_ more about what words were coming out of my mouth.)
Life. It comes at you fast.
Hey, teacher, teacher, tell me how do you...
respond to students?
and refresh the page and restart the memory?
respark the soul and rebuild the energy?
The Yabanci Diller (Foreign Languages) building where I teach most classes.
Returning to school post-Bayram break was difficult for students and teachers alike. Lots of absences, the kids who were there didn’t want to be there, and, honestly, neither did us teachers. So this seems like a good time to elaborate on the problems I’ve noticed with the Turkish schooling system. (Ah, but isn’t it a relief to know that its not just the U.S. education system that’s mired in inefficiencies and idiocy? Cold comfort…) This week, I felt a lot of these frustrations, which I wrote about a few weeks ago, even more strongly.
Lets Talk About Some Numbers
How many students do I have in my third period class? 33
How many of them have failed the state test for reading and writing? 33
How many emails have I sent to administrators begging for the numbers to decrease? 5
How many meetings do I have a week? 2-4
How many extra things am I asked to do each day that do not directly affect my students success? 3-4
How much time do I have to complete these tasks? 0
How many times am I able to speak to a student one on one in my classroom without being interrupted by another student who needs attention? 0
How many years have I been teaching? 7
How many days a week do I wake up in the morning having to accept the fact that I cannot do the job I was hired to do? 7
How many teachers can do the job I am hired to do and preserve any kind of personal life or sanity? 0
How many students will tell me they dont see any problems in education when I ask them this question tomorrow? Most of them.
How many times a day do I consider quitting my job and working in a sandwich shop where no one cares about how well the customers do on standardized tests? 3
How many people should I complain to? 0
How many people are responsible for the career choices I made? 1