A while back I shared as sweet treat that I received during Teacher's Appreciation week. That is an example of one of the good things that happen in the life of a teacher. But just like the law of physics, with the good there is also the the not-so good and teachers have their share of that as well.
The picture above is one of my "not-so-goods" that happened about the same time that I received the Snicker Sundae. This picture is of the entry to my classroom which includes a door and window. One of my students became angry and punched the window with their fist causing it to break. The window was made of safety glass so it did not shatter and thankfully the student was not hurt nor was anyone else hurt. ( although I can imagine it must have been painful at some point for the student when the adrenaline wore off) The picture was taken after a board was put up behind it to stabalize it until it could be fixed. I didn't think to take the red bag down before taking the picture either-- that is our class emergency bag that is kept near the door . We grab that on our way out the door should their be a fire or severe weather ( or drills for these things).
When this happened , I called my administration to handle the incident because of the severity of the situation.
Thankfully, in my school there is more good than not-so-good.. :)
School has been out for nearly three weeks now. I have many things I want to write, and will write them in days to come.
In these last three weeks, I spent about one week working in my classroom doing some deep cleaning/purging of my files. They have not been done for about 5 years because I generally don't have time during the schook year and usually feel rushed at the end of the year to make room for the summer school teachers who will be in my room. This year my classroom is not being used, so I took advantage of the time.
Then I took a week to work on the district level helping to align and write the common math assessment for our grade level next year.
This past week I have been doing work at home catching up on chores that have been neglected all year.
Sprinkled throughout the 3 weeks have been fun days of relaxing, time out with friends, family, and lazy days.
Tonight I went to a happy hour with a slew of colleagues at a local pub. Three of them wont be returning to our building next year, so it it was good to have this time with them to laugh, to tell stories, and to have a good time. I havent seen many of them since the last couple days of school 3 weeks ago.
One such friend looked at me and said that I was looking very relaxed-- that I looked happy and glowing and so different since school has ended. She remarked that the time off has been good for me.
How interesting--- that the stress of the year physically manifested itself upon me without me realizing it and now as summer unfolds, the year leaves me. I know that this past year was a hard year. Physically, mentally, emotionally. But I guess it was visible as well.
I have some difficult children in my class who require more time and energy than I have. Two especially compete to be my top tier kids and the top tier of the school kids. One of these kids transferred into my classroom midyear and while my class was not perfectly run, it was managed with ocaisional outbursts by the other defiant one. However, once the new student entered the dynamics changed and the room seemd to explode. I often wondered if I would make it to the end of the year. If retirement were closer, I would have considered it.
So, selfishly I was glad and relieved when I found out that the one student would be transferring out of my classroom before the end of the year. It is not a good move for the student-- three schools in one year-- but for my sanity , it is a wonderful thing. For the rest of my students, it is a good thing.
The student has been gone now for two weeks and there is a noticeable difference in the class. It is not a peaceful class by any measure-- I am having to get it back to a place close to where it was before. But there is a tension or energy gone. The defiant student that remains is wound tighter than a top and cannot make it a full day without having some sort of problem or disaster, other students are trying to fill in the void of the one who left, but the air is calmer and I can actually see the light at the end of the tunnel.
I think I just might make it to the end of this year.
I've been feeling some pressure the last month or so. It could be perceived or it could be real. It comes in waves. At times it almost makes me want to just leave and find a place to work where there aren't so many problems--like a prison. That is supposed to be a joke, but I don't know how far off it is. Pick up any newspaper and you can find an article about the state of education today.
Funding? Cut, slash, cut some more...., increase class sizes until the seams are bursting, problem kids stay in rooms because there are no behavior alternatives, but you better raise achievement, and the government may just pink slip you before the end of the year-- so even if we promised to pay you for the work you did --sorry.
You are doing it for the kids, right? You're a teacher.
Even if all these things are happening...just give some slack in some area .... somewhere.....
I've heard rumors that the business world thinks the education world is foolish. Well, I think I have been a part of an incident that perpetuates that myth.
I attended a conference recently. When I was first told that I was going, I was asked if I wanted a cash advance or to be reimbursed. I chose to be reimbursed thinking t woukd be easier on all involved. That may have been my first misjudgement.
Through the online registraton, I was told that I would not be confirmed until my payment was recieved. So I wrote out a check and mailed it in the next day. A few weeks later I got a copy of a purchase order from our district to the conference listing the handful of local people attending with the accompanying registration fee. I immediately called the office telling them that I had already paid this fee because had chosed to be reimbursed--remember?--I then was directed to call the conference director and arrange to have them return my fee to me. ( Which couldn't be done until a few weeks after the conference was over and they close out the books , understandably). Sigh.
I brushed it off, went to the conference and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I learned a lot and networked with some great educators. I even ran into a gal I haven't seen since we went to graduate school!
I turned in my hotel bill and mileage. The school office emailed me that the hotel bill was not a "zero balance " bill. WHAT? The bill shows the amount due. It shows the amount charged to my credit card. In fact, when I checked out I made a special trip to the desk to ask for the special bill instead of lients a just taking the nice handy copy of the bill slipped under my hotel door. But no, that is not good enough for the schoo office. They wont take the bill that the hotel gves out to hundreds of clients a week ( and I am sure that a good portion of them need zero balance bills). This wasn't a rinky-dink hotel, it was a very nice place that shares a name with a socialite named Paris.
The school office told me to call the hotel and ask them to fax the office a copy of a zero balance. So I called. The hotel bookkeeper told me that the bill I got WAS a zero balance bill. I know that, she knows that, but the school office doesn't know that. The bookkeeper was very gracious. I told her that maybe she could write on the bill that the bill was paid in full or something. She said she would take care of it and get it faxed.
All was well for a few days until I got another email from the school office. She said she had submitted the paperwork and the school business office had rejected the hotel bill. WHAT? REALLY? They will not accept a faxed copy. They need an original. BUT I ALREADY GAVE AN ORIGINAL! It was very hard to write a reply email to the school office and ask what exactly they want me to do now without showing some kind of disgust/attitude. I mean, REALLY? Come on, people.
It's not even the money. It's the idea. Come on. How many times are you going to make me call this business and ask them to give you the same information that they have already provided in the first place? Geesh. No wonder the world thinks we're dumb.
I heard that I was accepted to be a part of the English Language Learner Certification Cohort Grant that I applied to a couple months ago. This involves 21 hours of college credit, every Saturday for a year, and the cost of textbooks & incidentals. It will culminate with a K-12 certification in ESL.
I'm hoping that it will be another handy tool in my toolbox to meet the diverse needs of my learners, and that it will open any doors that may need to be opened in the future of my employment.
A bonus is that another colleague of mine who works at my school also was accepted, so we can collaborate together or metaphorically run down the hall with a question if needed....
I'm not proud, but today a first happened to me after 9 years of teaching. The kids actually made me start to cry. Darn it! I hate it that it happened! I am not usually an emotional ball of goo-- but they worked on me all day and wore me down. My regular hard-hitters were on cue all day and I was deflecting them left and right with the best of them. The hit I took that left me wavering with watery eyes and a quivery voice came out of right field. It was from one of my good kids. One of the kids who who generally gives me joy when I teach. He was mad and thought I was being unfair.
We had an assembly today that was scheduled during our recess time. The children were upset because assemblies are always scheduled then. I empathized with them but told them I didn't think it would change. The assembly finished with about 30 minutes left before school was out for the day. Our class still had things to pass out and closure to have for the week so we headed back to the room. However, the other classes in our grade decided to go outside for a recess time.
My class whined and complained all the way to the room. I considered letting them go out as soon as we got our things passed out, but they continued to whine and complain, and then began to accuse me of being unfair to them. It didn't bother me at all until my good kid started in on me. He told me that it is not fair because our class always misses alot of recess.
I reminded him and the class that just yesterday our class took a double recess ( and only our class--the other classes went inside at the regular time). He then went on to say that I sit at the computer and check my email and our class misses part of their recess all the time.
Now I know this is not true. I never check my email or do any personal things on class time. In fact, I told the class that I felt I was more than generous with the free time and recess that they had.
I guess I am hurt because they don't realize how much I care and put in to working for them. How many hours I give for the class. It is not worth it. When even my good kids begin to turn against me and take the joy from me, then I might as well stop putting in the time that I do. Maybe I will just do the 40 hours from now on and whatever doesnt get done--oh well.
I got an email today from the principal I interviewed with last week. He informed me that the positions that could have been available were going to be filled by the teachers that were faced with a certification change. If you remember, last week I told you that this school was being downsized by a team of teachers, and yet they had some positions open outside of some of their certification areas. The teachers had to make a decision to either look for a job within their certification area at another school in the district or take steps to become certified in teh positions the school needed.
Oh well. I knew it was a long shot anyway. I thanked the principal again for the opportunity to interview and should anything open up between now and fall to let me know.
So my options for next year are basically to stay where I am at. Hopefully the principal won't hold it against me that I am trying to leave.
I am still waiting to hear about the ELL grant. Makes me a little frustrated because the paperwork said the acceptance letters would be mailed February 27 and it is now March 13. I emailed my contact and asked in a tactful way if the decisions had been made and I was told they were still waiting on documents. Very frustrating. Makes me wonder how wishy washy other parts of the program might be.
I put my name on the transfer list in January. Names need to be there before February 1 if you want to have an opportunity to change schools. Last time I put my name on the list, I was never even called for an interview. That year, I also applied for 2 positions that were not classroom teachers. I interviewed for both of them and did not get hired for either one. Next in line is what the both interviewers told me-- I was good, but there was another with more experience, or more something. I was a little disappointed, but figured that I could apply again the next year. In fact, the interviewers encouraged me to do so as both departments had plans to expand the following year. Now, a few years later, both of those departments have downsized. One to only a couple positions and one no longer exists. I guess it was a good thing I didn't get picked for the jobs!
But once again, I am on the list and last week I had an interview at the middle school. I really don't like interviewing. I feel like I have to sell myself and I don't like doing that. At my school now, and even throughout the school system at my grade level--people know me and know what I am capable of doing and what I am involved in. But interviewing for a different level means talking to someone who probably has no idea what a wonderful, hard-working person I am. I get a bit tongue tied. Since the interview, I have gone over it a thousand times in my head and I kick myself for saying one thing or not saying another. Hopefully I went over well enough.
The principal alluded that a position may be open in a few weeks. A friend of mine ( who also interviewed there) told me that the principal told her some teachers were making the decision to either stay and change their certifications or move on to another school. So the positions wont be available until they make the decsion to move on. With the climate the way it is, I doubt there are many jobs available at other schools so the chance that this interview is even serious is pretty low. But who knows! Another strike is that the principal is retiring this year. So even if I am liked, it will be someone else there next year who doesn't know me and I'd be in the same boat as this year.
So the boat has been rocked because my current principal knows that I am interested in leaving and the chances a job opens up are pretty slim. Looks like it will be one of thse difficult years again next year. Too bad that education is full of politics ( what job isn't?) instead of just educating children.
I also have another iron in the fire-- I applied earlier this year to do coursework for ELL certification. A grant is available to do these courses at no charge. I was supposed to have heard by the end of February, but havent heard anything yet. So I emailed the person in charge today and they responded that the decisions hadn't been made yet.
So my options for next year are:
1. to stay where I am and do what I am doing
2. to stay where I am and study for ELL
3. to change schools
4. to change schools and study for ELL
Usually I am a pretty positive person. I tend to look for the silver linings. Nobody wants to be around a Debby Downer. But lately, I have been feeling pretty negative by some of the stupid decisions made around here.
Take for instance this....
On Thursday, tucked away in our weekly memo from administration, was the notice that next Tuesday is McTeacher night. This is fundraiser that McDonald's hosts for local schools. It is a win-win situation for them. Neighborhood schools promote a night out at McDonald's, customers tell the server what school they want to support, and McDonald's gives a percentage of the receipts to the schools.
The memo went on to say that each grade level should organize a schedule to cover the 4pm - 8pm evening. Teachers are expected to meet, greet, and wipe tables off. Oh yeah--they can also spend their money eat.
This is my frustration:
It is Thursday and I am expected to do this on Tuesday. Anyone ever hear of notice? My calendar fills up pretty quickly and I already have a full evening on Tuesday.
How is it fair that one grade-level might have 3 sections while another has 4 --not to mention student teachers.
What other profession requires you to work all day and then spend hours being available to wipe tables without compensation.
I guess I'd rather be asked to volunteer than to be told to do it. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar. Not that I am comparing teachers to flies. Well, I am not going to be there. I already have an evening full of a meeting (a district one, no less) and book club until 8:45. Of course, I don't want to put extra work on my colleagues, but I don't think they are able to go either. Oops! I guess our grade level won't be represented. Bow I wonder what backlash we will face, 'cause you know we will.....
Last fall I began some professional development in Cognitive Coaching and this weekend was the last days of our time together. Cognitive Coaching is intended for helping mediate people's thinking. We learned ways to communicate in order to help people plan, reflect, and problem resolve.
While the cognitive coaching is to help others--I am the one who learns the most about myself and my communication skills. I have had practice in learning when to ask the right questions and when to sit and be quiet.
The hardest part of cognitive coaching is giving up the desire to give advice, relate with my own stories, and solve problems. I have to remember that I am there to assist someone in their own thinking.
The additional benefit of this course was meeting other educators in my district that I do not see often. It is sad that often times the only people we ever get to know are the people in our own school. We have some wonderful dedicated people in our district!
The weather threatened to get bad on Friday. Snow and ice were on their way according to the forecasters. Nevertheless, school began as usual. I heard rumors that we would let out early, but I had a busy day planned and no time to check email or call the office. I figured if we were let out, we would find out.
At 11:00, I had the class in the media center doing some research when the media specialist offered to help me make phone calls. I had no idea what she was talking about. She reported that school indeed was letting out early and teachers were asked to call all the parents of their children.
WHAT !?!?! When did that policy go into effect? When our time was up in the media center, I herded walked my class back to the room as I strategized how I would make close to 30 calls in the net hour. I scrapped the next lesson and asked kids to get out a book to read while I looked at my email. Sure enough, teachers were being asked to call the parents of students who were the oldest in their family at our school.
My stress level increased as I :
figured out which students were the oldest at our school
figured out how to busy engage the students with something they could do independently until lunch
decided which of the 3 -4 numbers to call for each child ( and wonder if they would be in service)
interupted parents at work to tell tehm something they already knew --most had text alerts in place
discovered the school phones wouldn't work because the circuits were overloaded with all the teachers calling
used up many, many cell phone minutes ( and also gave out my private cell phone number to parents as I made the calls)
wondered if my cell battery would still be charged if my car slipped into a ditch on the way home
I was about 2/3 done when the office called me at least 3 times. Seems primary teachers were wondering if we had gotten hold of big sister's parents yet. Ugh! Also, I had at least 2 parents want to discuss their child's progress when I called. I promised to get back to them at another time, because I only had 30 minutes to call 10 more parents.
I received a phone call this afternoon as my class was preparing to dismiss for the day. It is not unusual to get a call at this time. Someone may be leaving in a different way, someone may have to leave a little early, there is always something the office needs to let me know.
But today's phone call was different. It was my Korean student who left last week! Her family decided to return to Korea via a side trip to Hawaii. Miss Pink Glasses was calling me from Honolulu to say hello. She misses us. She misses me. And I miss her. She told me that she spent the last couple of days at Waikiki Beach. She told me it was beautiful there and it was warm. I told her here it had snowed earlier in the morning. Her family is leaving tomorrow to make the last leg of their trip to Korea.
It was so nice to hear from her. I hope she will transition well back to her Korean life when she gets home.
I have had 5 Korean children in my class this year. Two of them are recent arrivals -- what I fondly call "right off the boat." All of their fathers are visiting scholars at the state university and they come in January/February to stay for 1 year.
So I will be losing 3 of my kids by February 1 as they travel back to their home country. As I have really only known these children well since late August, you would think that it would not be a difficult thing to have them move. You would be wrong. These kids have wriggled themselves deep into my heart and my heart breaks to see them leave knowing that I will most likely never see the again.
One of my students left at Christmas break. It was difficult to say our goodbye's, but it was also a busy time of year and everyone, me included, were looking forward to a break.
My 2nd student left last week. This was my little girl with the pink glasses. She was torn about leaving. She looked forward to going home to her grandparents, friends, and home. And yet, she was sad to leave her friends here. I became emotional as I thought about her leaving. At home, I would think about it and tears would come. She left last Friday and I after all the kids left I did cry. She will be missed.
My 3rd student is leaving this week. She is smart cookie and has been so much help with the two new girls who speak so little English. I have known her family the entire year they have been in America and it pains me to see them go. I know that I will shed more tears when she leaves us.
These kids are wonderful students. I don't know if it is the Asian culture that makes them so wonderful as a student. They value education. They are extremely respectful and always do their work with great effort. They are neat and organized in their work. They are impecable. One of the specials teacher who works with my class jokingly asked me why we couldnt send a couple of the other kids away and keep these ones. I say jokingly, but it is a thought I have had as well. Sometimes I wish that our American students showed similar diligence and effort int ehir schoolwork and attitudes.
This is the first year I have had ELL students who return home mid-year. That could be why it is so tough on me. I may get used to it. But for now, my heart is heavy.
We had an unannounced fire drill last week. That means that we were right in the middle of math when the fire alarm began screeching. The kids were good about getting up and lining up to go outside quickly. I stood at the door making sure that all got out.
Did I forget to tell you that I really hate fire drills. Although I realize they are needed and it is a safety issue--is it really necessary that we have so many?
Ah yes, back to our fire drill last week. It has been raining every day. In fact, the administrator who is in charge of fire drills said this drill was conducted because there was a break in the clouds. Well, some classes go out to the parking lot. Some classes go out to the playground. But we go out into the back yard by the trees. That means that the rain soaked ground squished under our feet as we trampled out there with mud splashing up on our legs. The temperature hovered around 40 degrees and we stood out there freezing. Kids were talking and bouncing around while they rubbed their arms to get warm.
Administrator came out to verify we were all in the right place and didn't like seeing bouncy,talkative kids, so we got a reprimand. While gosh sakes...it was COLD.
I have a new student that has been with me less than two weeks and we are still in the stage of getting to know each other. We are building a relationship so that he will trust me and know that I have his best interests at heart. In turn, I want to know that he will give his best effort for me when I ask him to do something that may or may not be difficult for him.
This past week I was wearing a necklace that had a cross on it. My new friend came up to me and asked me if I were a Christian. I told him that I was and watched his face to see if he had any other questions. He stayed near me with a pondering look on his face. So, I asked him if he was one. He replied, " I dunno. Sometimes. "
Another piece of the puzzle to help me know him. Do I know what it means? Not really. But it is a piece that will help me understand him and reach him.