Saturday, May 24, 2008

It Ain't Over Til It's Over...

...But I'm Kind Of Over It.

Alternative Title - The Downtrodden

Today, it happened. I had that moment when I realized that, despite loving my students and enjoying each day I have with them, I am over it. Period. O-V-E-R it. I am already cleaning out files, reorganizing closets and thinking about what I'm going to do over the summer to get ready for next year.

Let me tell you about the actual moment, the precise minute when I realized that my head is just not in the game anymore.

It was first thing in the morning. Everyone was settled in and working on their morning math warm up. I was meeting in the back of the classroom with my friend who truly struggles in math. We have done this routine each and every day for the last 158 days. We are good at it. Or perhaps I have just broken their little spirits and they simply are sad creatures of routine. I do loves me a good routine.

The announcements come on. The Weave gives her standard greeting and introduces the pre-kindegarten student who will be leading us in the pledge. Without thinking about it, we all automatically stand and painfully make our way through the pledge as this four year old butchers every single word. We can practically hear the snot adhering itself to microphone. Then The Weave makes a few announcements but I'm only half listening; I'm really just waiting for it to be over so I can call my friends to the carpet. She has become the background track of our mornings. She never knows what she is saying anyway.

The announcements are over and I'm about to call the kids over when...

The announcements come on again. This time it's Ms. Cocktails Before Noon. She says good morning to the school and introduces a kindergartner to say the pledge. Like Pavlov's dogs, I watch my whole class automatically stand again, not even really acknowledging that we JUST DID THIS and say the pledge. Granted, this kindergarten friend does have a slightly better grasp on the words, so it is a much more pleasant experience. Then Ms. Cocktails Before Noon makes a completely contradictory set of announcements and signs off.

(sigh) Whatever. I figure that Ms. Cocktails Before Noon has yet again been hitting the bottle before breakfast. Time to come to the carpet. I open my mouth and am about to name the first table to join me when...

You guessed it - another round of announcements!! Third time's a charm, right? This time it is Mr. Suave, the debonair male (gasp!) teacher who stands in for Thing One and Thing Two when they are unable to fufill their announcement duties. WTF?? How do I get that job?

And, just like I was ringing a bell for them to salivate, my routine driven little friends stand up and put their hands over their hearts. No one seems to be questioning that this is the THIRD TIME we have done the Pledge. What are we doing to these children that they are so ready to respond repeatedly to a cue?? We go through the pledge yet AGAIN, this time led by some kid who has clearly confused speaking into the microphone with sucking on the microphone. There are more announcements, which interestingly enough, directly contradict all of the previous announcements made by both the Weave and Ms. Cocktails Before Noon, and Mr. Sauve signs off.

In that moment, I realized. I know why they are just standing up and doing it, without so much as a smirk... My kids are over it. The administration is clearly over it (or drunk). And I am over it too. I didn't even have the energy or snarkiness to send my typical sarcastic note chock full of snark about the announcements to my close colleagues.

And I always send the note.

Let's continue on with the rest of my stellar day, shall we??

I lost my free period. AGAIN. And, AGAIN, the teacher who is supposed to provide us with our preps (a.k.a. an out-of-the-classroom teacher, no offense to those of you who rock out there, but in my little world, "out of the classroom" is a dirty word) is not required to leave subplans despite the fact that she is a TEACHER who is PAID AS MUCH AS I AM. So not only was there no coverage, I got to pull a lesson out of my bag of tricks (read "my ass") at the last minute. Nothing new you say? Well, how 'bout we take the announcements, raise you a missed prep and throw in this...

A meeting with the Miracle Worker (my principal, who I normally revere) in which he informs me that next year, despite all my previous success with my methods of teaching content, I must now adhere to the way HE says to do it. Because other people suck and haven't been able to get through everything in a given year. Let me say that again...even though I am doing everything that is required of me (and more!), I am being punished because OTHER people can't handle their shite. Sweet, right? When I attempted to speak up, I was silenced. And now, despite the fact that the Miracle Worker has NEVER seen me teach any content this year, I have to shut up and do what I'm told. Putting that Master's Degree to work...

Wait? Not extreme enough to qualify me as "The Downtrodden"? Not yet?

Ok...AFTER my meeting with the Miracle Worker, I recieved an email from the Bacon Hunter with a laundry list of "things I need to get to her" before the end of the day.

Where do the students fit in all this you ask? Where do I fit in all this?

The answer is NOWHERE. FREAKING NOWHERE.

And as the cherry on my sundae, I ended my day with a doctor's appointment. If that wasn't sweet enough, I was correcting papers in the waiting room when my name was called. And she had the balls to say, "Oh look, you're correcting papers, isn't that cute!"

I wonder if it would also be "cute" if Friday I run screaming from the building and bury myself face down in a cocktail?

Saturday, May 17, 2008

So We Had "The Talk...."

...And I Feel Like I Need To Go Shower...So Dirty...So Very Very Dirty

I've been struggling for days about how to make this post humorous, because that's kind of my thing. It makes me feel better about the everyday tragedies that are my job and (so I think) it makes you laugh. It's a win win.

I'm not sure that I can do it.

To catch up those of you who have not read my post about The Talk (first of all, shame on you for not reading)...I have recently discovered that several of my very young students are talking about sex, including lesbianism, rape and pussies (sorry for the graphic language...but it is all them, not me) and I, being the adult in the room, needed to deal with it.

(sigh) Sometimes I SO don't feel like being the adult.

At first, I was going to have a colleague come help me. She's amazing and works with our older students on "non-discussable" topics. We were going to do a read aloud, talk about the words that are being used and then doing some role playing. But at the last minute, I changed my mind and had her pull out the repeat offenders for a one-on-one chat. I made this decision because (a) I'm a huge wuss, (b) I just don't feel ready to use the words "dick" and "boobs" in front of my class, and (c) I didn't want to be responsibile for introducing these words or topics to the children in my class who may NOT be dirty talking their way through recess.

Ok, so it was mostly (c)...I just had visions of the whole thing back firing on me and the situation deteriorating into an innocence-robbing session for some of my friends. I mean, to quote the Weave's fine wisdom, they have a lifetime of talking about sex, touching and what exactly a vagina is.

So really, all I got was a play by play from my colleague. Which was enough, thank you very much.

Evidently, four kids (two in my class) started a "Sex Club" where they get together, talk about sex and various body parts, and, possibly, look at each other in the bathroom. And I don't mean in the mirror.

Cut to me, with my hand over my mouth, eyes wide, stomach churning as my colleage relayed this information to me. I mean, COME ON!!! What happened to, "He called me dumb!", "She said shut up!" or "He farted!"?? I can deal with name calling, the shut ups and the farts. I mean, once I had a kid come back to the room covered in his own poo....I would so much rather have a friend covered in poo than a "Sex Club" to deal with.

Long story short (or maybe it's already long....), my colleague had a big heart to heart with these kids about the words they are using. She recognized their curiosity but told them that HOW they are using these words is not okay at school. Then she referred them all to their parents for more information. Next week, we are going to sit down with their parents as well and tell them the whole story.

Pass the buck much?

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

The Softer Side of the Weave

Alternative Title - "Dropping the F Bomb"

Today the phone rang mid-math lesson (of course).

Me: Hello?
The Weave: I'm sending up a sub...let's talk about your possible hold-over students in my office.
Me: Now?
The Weave: Yes. See you in 10. I'm just finishing up reading The Newspaper.

(She's reading the F'ing newspaper?? At 9:30 in the morning when she should be working? And admitting to it??)

And, like the magician I am, I miraculously pulled fifty minutes worth of lesson plans out of my a*s, uh..hat, in those brief ten minutes.

I went downstairs mentally reviewing my short list of friends-I-am-concerned-about. I hate holding kids over (making them repeat a grade) and welcome the opportunity to discuss my decision with anyone who will listen...even The Weave.

I get into her office and we actually have a fairly productive conversation in which she successfully plays devil's advocate and pushes my thinking.

Yes, you read correctly. It was almost a full-on compliment for The Weave. I'm not ALL snark you know.

We're discussing one of my long-time friends who happens to have an I.E.P. (For those of you outside of the world of education, that means an Individualized Education Plan. It is written for students who have diagnosed learning issues...yet, in my school the I.E.P. remains this mythical document that the teacher is never provided a copy of, because, really, why would it be beneficial for the teacher, of all people, to have access to a list of goals created for that particular student? ...hello? Please tell me you are picking up on the sarcasm here). As a result of my friend's I.E.P. she is entitled to receive special services from "experts" in the field of special education.

Notice my use of quotations with the word "expert." It is all intentional, baby. I rank our "expert" to be as effective and knowledge as say, a turnip. Yes, sit a large turnip in a chair in my classroom, and our "expert" in another chair. My friend will get just about the same amount of academic help from both.

I'm not kidding.

Needless to say, I am frustrated by this individual's (let's just call her The Turnip, shall we?) lack of sense of responsibility toward children. In other words, I think she sucks the fat one.

I decide to express these frustrations to The Weave, because all too often, The Turnip flies under the radar and the administration simply looks the other way as she consistently screws up her schedule, demonstrates a blatant lack of knowledge about anything, and offends everyone with her lack of style. Or maybe that's just me who is offended by her insistence on mixing a loud paisley blouse (I mean it's 2008...PAISLEY??!?!) with checkered capris. Just because everything is red, doesn't mean it matches, sister.

Getting back on track -
I vent my opinions to The Weave.

Me: I just think it stinks that my friend isn't receiving ANY of the services she is entitled to. I'm busting my butt for her, but I still carry around all this guilt that she isn't doing well. And The Turnip has been very inconsistent this year. I see her wandering around the building with children, but never actually working with any students. (I'm stumbling as to how to best express my opinions in a professional manner. I'm not THIS in-your-face at work...)

The Weave: Yeah, she's a F***ing mess.

(What?? Did she just drop the F bomb??)

Me: Um, yea?

The Weave: I think she sucks, but she's been walking around this place, taking up space for 20 years trying to get her shit together. I don't think it's gonna happen, so now we just have to wait her out.

Me: Hm.

The Weave: She's just a F***ing mess. And she's so slippery...she spends all her time creating this illusion that she's actually working...if only she put that much effort into the kids.

Me: Right.

And although I am intensely uncomfortable with my administrator's liberal use of the word f*ck in a professional setting, I have a new found respect for The Weave. It's like, on this level, we are kindred spirits....or bitchy spirits. However you want to look at it. In some very strange way (that probably needs the attention of a therapist), I find comfort in the fact that she can acknowledge the train wreck that is The Turnip and, on some level, feels my pain.

However, I also know her well enough to NOT expect her to do anything proactive about it either.

I mean, she DOES have to read the paper.

Tune in for tomorrow....it's the big Sex Talk Day! Yikes!

Friday, May 9, 2008

Happy (Lack Of) Teacher Appreciation Week

So did YOU know it was teacher appreciation week? 'Cuz I didn't.

"But you're a teacher!" is what I'm sure you are thinking.

And yes, yes I am a teacher. However, it seems as if that alone does not qualify one for participation in this much needed celebration. I guess you also need to teach in the right place at the right time. Or perhaps I've been voted off the island. Either way, this week did feel so celebratory.

Not that it was particularly bad. It was the usual shananigans this week. Which normally, would be bearable....but during Teacher Appreciation week....oh hells no!

And before you go there, no, I am not another teacher complaining about my job. No siree. I will never be "just another teacher."

And before you go to that other dangerous place, it's NOT all about the intrinsic rewards of a child learning something new. Yes, that is lovely, but sometimes you just want a gold sticker for yourself.

I can only speak for myself, but I think there are a lot of other teachers out there who are extremely type A like yours truly. When I was little, I lost my shit for a shiny sticker. And if it was scratch and sniff (or scratch-'n-sniff if you want to be totally correct), well, that was just the motherload. It was a form of praise. Acknowledgement of my achievements. No, wait, PUBLIC acknolwedgement of my achievements. The public part was important. Everyone could observe that I had clearly done something to merit a sticker. And the bigger, shinier and smellier it was, the bigger, smarter and more wonderful your deed must have been. It was like the elementary school equivalent of stuffing your bra or sticking a sock down your pants. It gave you that (false) sense of self-worth.

Today, I liberally apply stickers to my students. On their foreheads, hands, papers, folders...if it stands still, works hard and behaves, I will lavish it with sticker-related praise. And yes, I am the only teacher who hands out the coveted scratch-'n-sniff.

So is it any wonder that I would like a card, a smile, a pat on the back during a week specifically designated for just such activites?

I don't think it is. And really, I don't need a huge gift or catered luncheon (unless you're offering, because then, I'll take it)...but would it really kill the administration to give a specific compliment? Or would it be too much to ask the PTA (who regularly bitches for a larger voice in school politics...evidently this voice is not loud enough or it is not praise-oriented) for a card? Again, I don't think it is.

Let me tell you about the highlights of my days this week:

Monday - The photo copier was broken. In addition to being in located in the furthest reaches of the school...in fact, it may actually be in an "annex" or something...it ate all my paper including my original. Once I wrestled the orignial from the vice-like jaws of said photocopier, I brought my crumpled work to the office where I was told by an aide that I need to learn my place which is evidently no where neat the nicer, newer, functioning copy machine. She neglected to wish me a happy Teacher Appreciation Week.

Tuesday - The Weave came into my classroom to ask if I had any drawings that my class had done after a field trip we had taken to a ballet. Oh, it was a trip we took SIX WEEKS AGO. She didn't understand why I no longer had any of the children's drawings (um, maybe I sent them home with the kids Einstein?) and then demanded that I come up with a class set of ballet trip drawings by the end of the day. Maybe AFTER I rustle up some drawings, she'll wish me a happy Teacher Appreciation Week....

Wednesday - As I sat in my classroom, correcting work on my free period, three mice decided to make an appearance. Yet, perhaps in honor of teacher appreciation week, instead of simply darting across the classroom, they chose to run around on the carpet in an ellaborate dance. Maybe it was just for Teacher Appreciation Week, maybe it was to welcome the new spring weather, maybe it is just becuase my clasroom is now totally infested and they have nowhere else to go.

Thursday - I was treated to a meeting with the Bacon Hunter in which our team was supposed to collaboratively plan our upcoming math lessons. All good, right? You would think so...but then the Bacon Hunter dominated the entire meeting and blew us away with her suggestions. She actually spent our time informing us that we should teach lesson 9.1, then 9.2, follow up with 9.3, move into 9.4 and then (gasp) end the week with lesson 9.5. Seriously, how does she come up with this stuff? It's like she was JUST READING THE MANUAL OUT LOUD. And then she wished us a Happy Teacher Appreciation Week...no, she didn't, she just continued counting by ones.

Friday - I avoided most of the adults I work with like the plague, only allowing myself contact with my colleagues who are lovely, hard working and make me smile. I threw myself into the day and decided that I would wish myself a happy Teacher Appreciation Week by having a fabulous and enjoyable day with my kids. At the end of the day, Curly came up to me and said, "Thanks for the compliment you gave me during Writers Workshop today, Mrs. Mimi. I've learned so much from you this year."

(sigh)

And there's my teacher appreciation.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Let's Talk About Sex, Baby, Let's Talk About You And Me...

Yes, let's talk about all the good things and the bad things that may be.

Although I'd rather not.

Why?

Because talking about sex, lesbianism and rape with eight year old children just seems wrong. I mean, make your own parenting decisions, but to me, not something I ever thought I would be talking about in school when I signed up as an early elementary school teacher. They (and I'm not sure who I mean by they except for someone more powerful and all-knowing than myself) should warn you at the door as you try to skip inside with bags full of stickers and rainbow dreams.

As I have said before, it is NOT all flowers and sausages people.

At this point, you may be thinking, "What the F is she talking about? Sex? Lesbianism? Sausages?

But you're intrigued, right? Don't act like you're not.

I am talking about the latest dilemma in my life as a teacher. Recently, there has been a lot of dirty talk on the playground. I am a firm believer of " a time and place for everything" (am I right, ladies??) but I do not think that recess is the time, nor do I believe that the playground is the place to be discussing things of this nature. Why, oh why aren't they talking about crayons, freeze tag and Popsicles? Because I'm pretty sure that that was my repertoire of conversation as a child.

Here are some examples of the recent "dirty talk":

"Your mom has sex on you."

"You want to have sex on your uncle."

"All lesbians have sex in bathrooms."

"He is going to rape on you."

And the ever popular "Your pussy smells."

Whoever came up with the phrase "from the lips of children" never hung out on the playground at recess evidently. Or possibly was referring to another group of children.

I just don't get it. They are so sweet. I really and truly love this class. And not phony Little Miss Sunshine I Have To Love My Class Because That Is What Teachers Are Supposed To Say crap...I mean, I will honestly be sad on the last day of school. For the first time in a long time, I will not run skipping down the hall, cheering and hugging everyone in sight after the last child has left (hate to burst your bubble, but that's REALLY what teachers do on the last day of school). Over the summer, while sipping on a cool fruity beverage complete with a small umbrella, I will smile when I recall the funny things they said and the fun we had together.

And then I'll remember the dirty talk.

When I was their age (I walked up hill both ways...) the boys were infested with cooties, NOBODY could shake their booty in time with the music and we NEVER discussed a foul bodily odor other than the occasional fart. So, I guess farting was the most risque topic we covered. Farting and perhaps, just perhaps, we would try out a curse word or two. But we certainly did not discuss lesbianism, nor do I think I had ever even heard of rape. The whole notion of french kissing was still up for debate.

In sum, we were not this knowledgeable.

(By the way, I NEVER thought I would talk like this...seriously, I sound like my mom when she regales me with tales of her childhood. I totally promised myself that I would refrain from starting sentences with phrases such as "When I was little...." or "In my day..." I have sadly let myself down and have fallen down that slippery slope. All of which probably means that I am (sigh) old.)

(I also never thought that I would be preparing a lesson on "dirty talk" for my early elementary class. Or would be forced to pee in a bathroom infested with mice, but that's another story.)

It's too late now though. It's out there and no one can take it back. It's not like when they accidentally call me "mom" and then blush furiously as we both pretend it didn't happen. Or when they let a fart fly on the carpet in the middle of a read aloud and we all try our darndest to ignore it. ( I just realized that I have brought up farting at least three times in this post...what does THAT mean?)

No, it's out there and I have to deal with it. I can't have them using these words and thinking it's OK to use them in these ways. And, clearly they are exposed to these ideas somewhere and I can't let them be filled with all this misinformation, right? So I have teamed up with one of my colleagues and we are going to do a whole little talk on Words They Hear On The Playground That Make Them Uncomfortable and discuss the proper time to think and talk about those things. We are also going to write a letter home to parents explaining the entire situation and reassuring them that this Little Talk will not turn into Sex Ed.

This last minute, reactionary change in schedule is going to replace my previously planned lesson on place value.
Granted, sex talk is probably more interesting than debating how to use tens and ones, but somehow, I'm not looking forward to it.

So for any of you out there who STILL think this job is a cake walk, who STILL believe that all I do is finger paint and lead sing-a-longs, and who STILL insist that small children are just adorable - put that in your pipe and smoke it.



Although, I secretly wish that we COULD just sing-a-song and finger paint it away.

Who's Peeking?