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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Stand Up and Be Brazen

Brazen's right. It's time to make you all proud and find a job I can love. Never once have I gotten up in the morning and said, "Teaching isn't for me." Not only is teaching FOR me...but it IS me. I've been a teacher since I was in 4th grade. It's true! I used to be the first one out of my seat helping the other kids finish their work. While most kids were collecting Barbies or riding bikes, I was out in the playhouse setting up desks and handing out math lessons. I will always love to teach. It's just time to find the right place to teach. A place where I can bring my heart along with me and not have it stomped on and fed back to me!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Getting Back on the Bicycle

Phoenix makes a good point. Like his name implies, everyone must eventually rise from the ashes of their collective mistakes. I know that I made the right decision today to go home early because it was better to lose my s*$t at home and lose a day, than to go through my school day off my game, not serving my kids the way I should. I have 8 lousy weeks to survive with these people and even if they're hell bent on making them the worst 8 weeks of my life, so be it. Onward and upward, eh?

Nervous Breakdown????

I'm sure this wasn't the right thing to do at all but today I finally broke down at work and walked out. Well, I signed out. Then I walked out. I'm still a professional after all.

It started this morning when the principal sent an email out to my team "clarifying" that I would no longer be working with the group of 9 kids I usually work with. My TA would be doing that instead and I would be working with the other 3 kids for the final eight weeks. I emailed him back, angry beyond belief, asking him what the issue was. Apparently, he believed my TA and I were going to switch yesterday. I reminded him that in my infinite educational wisdom, I had told him before vacation that the kids would need a day to be prepped for the change and if it was an issue, someone should have talked to

So I went about the rest of the morning with my new group of kids. One of my girls was doing a crossword and while she had put the words in the right places, she had spelled them all wrong. I grabbed her pencil from her, made her laugh off her frustration, and erased the misspellings. As I was helping her correct them, the regular ed teacher came over and started yelling at my student that I should NOT be doing her work for her, that her pencil should be in HER hand. I said nothing at the time because embarrassing my students is not on my to do list. I waited until prep and asked if I could speak with this teacher. I told her flat out I was helping my student with spelling. Her response? "No you weren't. You were doing her work for her. HER pencil was in YOUR hand and YOU were writing. This can't happen. This isn't going to happen."

What did I do? I broke down. I started to cry. After almost 9 months of quietly sucking up every horrible thing that was said to and about me, I couldn't take it anymore. I started to say, "We only have 8 weeks left, can't you just LEAVE ME ALONE!" But she had already stormed out of the room, shaking her head like I was a petulant, misbehaving child.

I went back to my own room where surprisingly there was an email waiting for me from the principal apologizing for what seemed to be a miscommunication about the kid switch, saying he was glad it was handled. I fired back an email that the other teacher had just gotten in my face and as much as I appreciated professionalism, I couldn't work like that today and I was going to take advantage of the opportunity to go home. I signed out, and cried the whole way home.

Now what?

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Getting What You Deserve

Well I am taking everyone's advice and seeing all this as a blessing in disguise. Phoenix is right- it's time to find something for the love oh the job. Every time I interview for a new job I say I want a place wher I can die behind my desk. Hopefully this is my time to find that!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Ground Swell of Support

I have to say I really deeply appreciate all the comments I've been getting on my last few posts. People are being laid off across the nation and I'm damned lucky that I get to have a paycheck until June which means health insurance until July. I work in a horrid work environment, there's no two ways about it. I work with a bunch of teachers who don't keep plan books, who teach without previewing the information they're teaching, and who don't know enough about their subject matter to be properly teaching the student population.

Jon, I'm not as fed up as my post makes me sound. I still love what I do. I love teaching and I love having daily contact with kids. I hate to liken them to pets, but they say every time you pet an animal your blood pressure drops and your stress levels decrease. Well that's what these kids do for me. Every time one of them comes in and wants a hug or announces to me that they've done well on a test, I feel a lot of my stress melting away. One thing I can admit easily now is that it was a mistake to leave the DarkSide when I did. I should have had faith that the place would stay open because I haven't been happy in a teaching job since.

Let's add it all up... I left DarkSide in August of 2005. I went on to Hadley Elementary to do 3rd grade pullout special ed where I was so depressed and felt so isolated and undervalued that by February I had bailed. I accepted a position at Perkins, a residential in Central Mass. I packed up my life and moved to a town I'd never heard of whose only claim to fame is the giant horse in the center, and tried to start over. There was no way it was going to happen. My resentment at having had to uproot my life was obvious to everyone around me and I was gone by June. I stayed unemployed and tutored privately for the rest of that summer until I was hired at Fitchburg Public Schools which was like working in the worst ghetto school known to man. I didn't even make it through my 90 day probation period. Then I worked as a Visual Merchandising Director for Macy's (don't ask) and finally Seven Hills where I got punched, bit, kicked, hit, my glasses broken, my cell phone smashed, and chunks of my hair ripped out. I bailed from there in July.

So in the end, every job choice I've made for the last almost four years has been out of desperation. Desperation because DarkSide was closing. Desperation because I hated my job. Desperation because I had to quit before I opened my mouth and said something that would get me fired.

I suppose at this point Jon is right, the layoff is a blessing in disguise. Not only do I have the entire summer to really take my time and look for a job that will fit me, but I have the time to tutor privately, and I can finally move home to Western Mass without letting on to my parents that the real reason I'm moving home is because I'm worried about them being on their own.

Phoenix, I appreciate your support. You have faithfully read every word I've written and I know that being a teacher yourself you understand the unending level of garbage we frequently have to put up with. We get very little respect on a daily basis, not just from the state, the Department of Education, or the principal...but from the kids themselves and often the parents. We are the invisible ones who take their little darlings and raise them for 6 hours a day, helping them to learn all the things that their parents hope will guide them to become managers of successful hedgefunds so their children can support their fabulous lifestyle.

In conclusion (since I'm starting to ramble as smoke pours out my ears) Webmaster, there IS no respect in my field except for the respect I have for myself and the job that I do. My ultimate thank you will come someday when I turn on the news to watch one of my kids accept a Pulitzer (God willing).

Friday, April 17, 2009

Contract Negotiations

Even though I no longer have a job in my school system, I went to the teacher union meeting to vote on the contract for next year. Unfortunately for the remaining teachers, the news wasn't good. Between pay cuts and increases in insurance costs these poor teachers are basically screwed for the next year and possibly for years after.

So my general question is, how can our govenment allow our teachers to be continually treated this way? We are the ones who produce the next president of the country, the next American Idol, the next great actor. How is it that we keep getting the shit end of the stick, wondering if we will be able to survive from day to day? Where is our million dollar bonus and company car? And the toughest one to swallow: Where is our respect?

To Be or Not to Be...Sad

In answer to Mom's comment, I'm sad to be leaving my kids but throwing an internal party that I no longer have to deal with the horrid people I work with. This was my first year in a public school and let me tell you... NEVER AGAIN! I wish I had known it was going to be this bad when I was hired because I would have run screaming in the other direction.

Let me tell you the whole story.

Since I have rarely, if ever, blogged about my current job you all know very little about it. Last summer I was working at a residential for kids with severe mental retardation. Now, I usually work with kids with mental illness which is a whole other ballgame. I found with the MR kids that I spent more time calming freak outs than I did actually teaching. And when I did teach, it was simply handing out worksheets that they could churn out, one after the other. I lost it. I left there in late July and started searching for a new job which is when I happened upon this public school posting for a 6th grade inclusion teacher. Basically what that means is that I'm the Special Education teacher who handles all the requisite paperwork, but I'm also a "valued" member of the 6th grade "team". In a dream world, this model means that I get to coteach with the regular education teachers, I get a chance to help plan curriculum, and I'm allowed to seamlessly modify work for my special ed kiddos.

I should have known better when I was asked, point blank, in the interview, "How would you handle a team member who didn't want you in their classroom?" That's the point in the horror film where the entire audience is screaming, "DON'T GO IN THERE!"

But I went. They offered me a generous salary and hired me pretty much on the spot. They were impressed with how strong a personality I was and how well I interviewed. Too bad no one warned me that I was entering the lion's den without a chair.

The first day the whole team was together we were meant to discuss the curriculum for the year. The reg ed teachers sat and bitched about how much they hated the text books and the lunch schedule. No one even asked me my name.

It started almost immediately. "Can you run and copy this for me?" "Can you email So and So and ask them for a box of tissue?" "Once you get the tissue, can you wipe my nose for me?"

Then it became a game of tattle tale. One teacher in particular would get upset at me for something. Usually it was disturbing her class by helping the SPED kids. I would know she was mad because she would stomp over to the science teacher's room, then drag him to the math teacher's room, where they would have a closed door pow wow. Which was great because I'm right across the hall and could see but not hear the meeting. Then they'd all march out and downstairs to complain to the principal. I spent the majority of my school year being called down to the principal's office not because I wasn't doing my job, but because I sat funny in my chair while I read to the kids. Or because my desk was facing a different direction than everyone else's. It didn't matter that my kids were doing well in their classes (in fact better than they had ever done before) or that my paperwork was organized and completed on time. It only mattered that I "didn't fit in" as the principal so delicately put it.

So no Mom, I'm not upset about leaving. I allowed the kids to put their phone numbers and email addresses into my blackberry with the promise that they would indeed get a message from me over the summer. They don't know yet that when they get here on the first day next year, I won't be here and telling them that will be the hardest part of leaving. But it's a blessing in disguise because no teacher should ever wake up on a daily basis and hate going to work not because of the children she teaches, but because of the CHILDREN she works with!

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Pink- No Longer My Favorite Color

It's official. I have been swept out the door on the tidal wave of layoffs here in the tiniest school system known to man. Ask me if I'm sad. Come on ask me....

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Feeling self satisfied!

Not too long ago I managed to find a few of my former DarkSide kids on MySpace, most importantly Nick. He's been keeping me up to date on how he's doing and whatnot and now... drum roll please... he's being discharged from treatment in June.

Now, I rarely get much recognition for what I do for these kids or what I give them on a regular basis but Nick told me today that he plans on getting his own place, finishing school at the Dark Side... and he's applying to college.

He told me he wouldn't be the kid he is today if it hadn't been for me, his favorite teacher of all time because I had the patience to get to know him and teach him things he actually enjoyed. So, after 10 years of teaching, I'm seeing my first little bird leave the nest and test his wings. Stay tuned to see if my little fledgling gets himself into a good school! I have a feeling there's a 4 year degree in this kid's future pretty soon! And to quote the book I'm reading right now, "I'm chuffed as a rat."