Monday, September 29, 2008

Sound Logic??

Alternative Title - Evidently, Our Heads Are Up Our Asses

(You know I'm using the royal "Our", do you not? Because my head, is out and about and very confused right now.)

I got a new student today. Just showed up at my door. Just whatever. No warning. No time to prep a desk, some pencils, anything. Sure, just go ahead and throw the kid on my line and we'll see what happens, right?

So I guess that's problem numero uno...the lack of consideration of new students and the teachers who must receive them unannounced. I feel sorry for both of us in this scenario, but selfishly, mostly myself. It just really throws a wrench in the day to suddenly have an extra (untrained) body.

After lunch, a teacher from the previous grade calls me (on the GD phone in my classroom...because, hey, I can take a call anytime! I'm not busy.) She tells me that this student was in her class last year. And that she was supposed to be held over. She met with mom. Mom signed a paper stating that she understood her daughter should repeat the previous grade. (Not that I'm all about holding kids back, but dude, when you're not ready to go, you're just not ready to go).

Um, quick question. Why the heck is she in MY class??

Girlfriend can't read remotely on our grade level, has trouble writing her NAME independently, and can't count above 50. And I feel sorry for her...total deer in head lights today.

A brief side note - Why the F do teachers spend their year dutifully checking off inane checklists, assessing the living crap out of children and compiling legal sized files on individual students if they (meaning those with all the POWER) end up just passing a kid on anyway?? I mean, sure, I'll collect MOUNTAINS of paperwork to substantiate my professional opinion, and you...you just wave them on. That's cool. I didn't really put that much thought into it anyway.

During my free period, I dashed off a quick email to The Weave and cc'ed our principal and several other key players.

The response?

Evidently Little Girl's mom registered her in another school for the month of September. The new school looked at her birthday and registered her in my grade (a whole grade level ABOVE where she should be...I guess mom didn't feel the need to inform her new school). THEN....(oh, there's more), mom withdraws her from her old school and RE-registers her at our school, conveniently forgetting to tell the secretary about her daughter's situation.

And, wa-lah! She is in my class. Even better... The Weave says there's nothing we can do. There is some mythical (read: dumbass) policy which states that since this child was registered in my grade in another school, she must stay in that grade in OUR school, despite her previous teacher's recommendation, despite mom signing an agreement and despite ALL BETTER JUDGEMENT.

Awesome.

I guess the big, dinosaur that we call The System is totally OK with several things that just rub my common sense the wrong way....things like disregarding a teacher's professional opinion, ignoring what is best for a child and screwing a future teacher (and her other students) by giving her a child who is severely below grade level.

On a funnier note, I have been told that there were two rubber cutlets (read: fake boobs) found in the upstairs teachers' bathroom. On the sink. Just, you know, hanging out. That's right folks, some of my colleagues may not care about our jobs enough to even pretend to look like they're busy, but do care enough about other things...like pretending that they have larger bossoms.

Friday, September 26, 2008

All Right Everybody, Just Relax

So my last post stirred up quite a frenzy. I have a few things to say about that.

1. Anyone who REGULARLY reads my blog will know that I love my students. Even though I miss my friends from last year, I do care about my current ones and want only the best for them. I find it offensive that many anonymous people out there feel as if they can read one post and judge me - hook, line and sinker. If you don't like what I say, please remove me from you favorites bar (because I know I'm there.)

2. I would NEVER harm a child. And, again, if you regularly read my blog, you will know that many other adults in my school almost routinely make decisions that consciously and unconsciously negatively impact students. I, and many of my Super Colleagues, are the ones who care for them, keep them safe and teach them. Many schools are VERY negative places in which children must endure whistles blown in their faces at lunchtime, the scorn of burned out teachers and the ridicule of their peers. I work hard to make school a positive experience (as much as I can within the four walls of my classroom).

3. That being said, I do NOT believe in an environment in which every child wins and no one ever has to address their shortcomings. In my classroom, we constantly celebrate our victories but we are always mindful of areas in which we can improve (both academically and personally). This ONE MOMENT IN TIME was an example of a group of people attempting to learn to work together in very close proximity on a daily basis. There have been MANY OTHER MOMENTS in this new school year where all my children have been rockstars and their rockstar-ness was acknowledged. Publicly. Including Big Boy. (Oh, and I have met with his parents, talked about this issue and talked to them that day after school. They were fine. Because it was fine.)

4. Big Boy had a fabulous day. And another one today. What I didn't include in my post was that we debriefed one on one during a private lunch, sharing strategies that he can use to be more productive and less disruptive. We talked about his previous year in school, during which he was constantly isolated by his teacher and spent 75% of his time alone in the hallway, and how it was much nicer THIS year now that he is part of a group. A group that cares enough to help him be the best self that he can be.

5. Everyone cries sometimes. I cry. They cry. And sometimes I cry because I've done something to hurt others. And sometimes they cry for the same reasons. There was no name calling. No bullying. No pointing. No tattling. Just I statements. About feelings. Followed by a conversation of why we want Big Boy to be a part of our class and all the things he can add to our class. Publicly. With him listening. I didn't post that part, because it wasn't as interesting, not as challenging for me and THIS ISN'T A TRANSCRIPTION OF MY DAY.

6. Go away. Just go away anonymous. Let this be a space where TEACHERS can share with other TEACHERS their struggles, triumphs, angry days and funny moments. We are not perfect but we are on the front lines and are being brutalized. Stop taking yourself, and a BLOG so seriously.

In closing, this is not a hateful site, or at least it wasn't until you came along. It is not intending to personally bash anyone. Rather through humor and good storytelling, it intends to make public some of the issues teachers face across all kinds of schools. At the end of the day, YOU are not my administrator. And before you want to be all Judgey-Judgerstein, walk a mile, sister, walk a mile in my shoes. Because they are fabulous.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

The Proverbial Straw...You Know, With The Camel?

It has been a rough start to the school year. Just rough. As I've said before...lots of crying (um, TEACHERS crying, not students...ok, well they cry too, but that's hardly shocking), rampant gossip and The Great Parking Crisis. Oh yeah, and I'm still mourning my class from last year and trying to find things to love about my current friends.

So, yes, you might say that I have a lot on my plate for September. (Is it only September??? I am so tiiiirrred!) And you might also say that I have a bit of a short fuse. Maybe.

As many of you who are teachers already know, September is the time of year for setting up routines. (This process has also been referred to as "breaking little spirits"...)

In all fairness, I am finding that some of my new friends are super cute. We have moved from vacant blank stares into actually starting to think for ourselves which is something. And they've finally stopped constantly begging for water and the bathroom. Progress, right? (Be careful, I'm on a bit of an edge here....)

Then there's this one boy. Who's huge. Huge as in height, huge as in weight and huge as in annoying. (Was that out loud? Bad teacher!) Seriously, for someone so huge, he is the biggest baby I have ever had in my classroom. In the last few days he has (among other things) made a habit of shouting out, has hit several children, refused to do any work despite the fact that he is completely capable, cried, kicked furniture, thrown pencils, glued his hands together and hummed so loudly that children around him fled to quiet corners of the room on their own.

If I ask everyone to sit on the carpet once, I have to ask him four times. Everyone puts their backpack away and sits down in the first five minutes, he takes twenty minutes and constant supervision. When everyone else listens, he hums or bangs on his desk. When everyone else is working, he does his damndest to F it all up.

Long story short...he is on my last nerve. (I'm imagining frantically circling the block to find parking for this?? I'm supposed to do it "for THIS kid" too?) And the last nerve of all of my new friends too.

Today, he yelled at another kid to "shut up." (The child at whom he was yelling was not making any noise, by the by.)
The other child looked up and said, " you're telling ME to shut up??!? You NEVER shut up!"

And I knew it was time. We had an emergency class meeting, with Big Boy, in which we talked about how his behavior made everyone else feel. There was no pointing, no tattling, and no name calling allowed. My friends were only allowed to say how Big Boy's behavior made them feel.

They were brilliant.

"I feel upset because you are wasting our learning time and I want to learn." (who knew?)
"I am angry because I don't like hearing Mrs. Mimi raise her voice." (Mrs. Mimi doesn't like the yelling either...)
"I am annoyed because she doesn't ask us to do anything we don't know how to do, so why can't you do it?" (I love you!!)
"I am sad because you make it hard for me to do my work." (Maybe you guys are kind of cute...)

Long story longer, it made me start to see how cute these new friends can be. And Big Boy ended up having the best day he's ever had.



It was kind of amazing (although I'm not sure how appropriate).

Monday, September 22, 2008

My Kingdom For A Parking Space

Sometimes it feels as if the forces in the universe are alligning to make this job as difficult as possible, just to see if I have the balls to stick with it. Other times, it feels as if teachers (as people) are the absolute last priority on everyone's list...that we will just suck it up and deal with ridiculous situations "for the kids."

If one more person tells me to do it "for the kids", I might throw a kid at them. Seriously. Stop playing on our good intentions and altruistic dedication to the future and treat us like the professionals you so desperately claim you want us to be. It just seems at times as if this job teeters on the brink of being inhumane.

I thought it was bad enough that I occassionally have to stomp my feet while peeing (to scare the mice away...really). ( I rationalize that it's good for my thighs.)

Then I thought we had hit rock bottom when the administration took no sort of stance after teachers routinely had their personal property stolen out of their locked classrooms.

When I found a dead mouse in the middle of my rug (with several other LIVE mice feasting on the corpse) at 7:30 a.m., I thought, "This is it...this is as low as we can go. What else can be expected of me?"

And then...they took our parking spaces away.

All of a sudden, after many many many years of being issued parking passes, it has been decided that teachers may no longer park near their school building. They must now a) pay an additional astromonical fee to park in a parking garage in a shady shady neighborhood, b) get to school hella early and pray for a space, c) find another way to get to work or d) just give up

But somehow, I am supposed to still make it to work "for the kids." I guess with my love "for the kids", I will be granted the power to make parking spots appear...or maybe if I imagine the kids as I circle the school for 45 minutes each morning I will be less angry? Does that make any sense to you?

WTF? Now you're going to make a CHALLENGE for me to get to this place in which I have to stomp and pee, obsessively check on my wallet and deal with live demonstrations of Darwinism at work? "For the kids"?

But wait, it gets better. There ARE a very limited number of passes being distributed. Our administrators (some of whom live a ten minute walk from school) snatched those up and left the teachers (some of whom live a 45 minute drive away) with nothing.

So, in sum, because some d-bags with a photocopier made a bunch of fake passes, those of us who actually need and legally use our parking passes will be denied. In the middle of the fall. After we have made decisions about our employment based on our proximity to work and subsequent commute.

I ask you, all-important-decision-making-body, do you want me to just tap a vein? Then you can suck the life out of me directly instead of chipping away slowly at my sanity.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Why I'd Like To Be Kosher...

....Or....How One Person Has Totally Turned Me Off Bacon (which takes a huge display of idiocy as bacon is the food of my people...really, it's our way.)

Of whom do I speak? Take one guess....you got it! The Bacon Hunter!!

Now, I realize that it has been quite a while since I have regaled you with tales of her uselessness, because I thought to myself, "self, how many times can those lovely people in the blogosphere listen to such ridiculous tales of slovenly behavior?"

Friends, I can not NOT talk about this one.

Where to begin? Where to begin?

OK. The Bacon Hunter is SUPPOSED to help us improve our abilities to teach math. In previous years, she "developed" our abilities by forcing us to meet with her once a week so that she could rattle off a list of things we were to do. The tasks on said list ranged from absolutely demoralizing (cleaning out closets because she didn't feel like it) to totally mind numbing (transferring the data from one assessment onto three different types of graphs). Needless to say, we revolted. And by revolted, I mean went to the principal and bitched like a group of whiney six year olds.

Whatever, it got the point across and she got a "talking to." (Sucka!) As a result, the proverbial pendulum has swung and she now takes on a near lifeless form in our still mandatory weekly meetings. Seriously, there are times when she can barely open her eyes, respond to a question or lift her stupid face off her stupid binder. (Yes, I am getting more mature by the second, I know....)

This past week, she managed to bark at us that we are to complete a ridiculous series of checklists once a month on each student. Perhaps our principal coerced her into tearing herself away from the newspaper and actually finishing a sentence with promises of thick and meaty egg and cheese sandwiches. I can't imagine how else he got her to lift her head off the table....

Last year, we dutifully filled out these same checklists (despite our better judgement) to see if they really did improve our instruction. And, um, yea, no they did nothing. Except give me headaches. And take up my time. And cause me to burst into spontaneous rages over the wasting of my time...so, yea, they did all THOSE things, but improve my teaching? No.

So this year, we spoke up...and gave articulate and well-thought our responses to her query. We talked about which checklists help us craft our lessons and which feel like a waste of time. We talked about how our team is growing and becoming smarter about math instruction and therefore, our assessment tools need to evolve as well. All in all, we were brilliant. (I mean, duh...did you think for a second that we wouldn't be?)

And in response?

Blank stares.

"Um, did you hear us?"

Blank stares.

"Bacon Hunter? Can we at least think about it and come to a decision in our next meeting?"

Blank stares.

"Ok...um, yea. So I guess we'll just sleep on that one. Maybe we can think it over, talk about it in our next meeting and come to a decision."

Blank stares.

"Will you tell the principal what we talked about? I think he needs to hear our concerns."

Blank stares.

"Hello?"

Blank stares.

"Do you want some bacon?"

Fast foward to the end of the day. I go to the office to check my mail box. What do I find?

A WHOLE PACKAGE OF CHECKLISTS FROM THE FREAKING BACON HUNTER!!

Um, hi...DID YOU HEAR ME???? Were you not LISTENING??? Evidently she went straight from our meeting, disregarded everything we said and made the damn copies. And I"m just supposed to roll over and fill them out without so much as the promise of a measly bacon, egg and cheese sandwich? Oh sister friend, you better get ready, because Mrs. Mimi doesn't roll over for anybody!

I now have a better understanding of the phrase "talking to the wall."

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Channeling Gossip Girl

(Only with a much smaller wardrobe budget.)

Setting: my classroom

Person #1: She sucks.
Person #2: That is so dumb! What did she say?
Person #1: She said...
Person #2: Oh no she di-n't.
Person #1: I know! She did!
Person #2: (beginning to cry) I don't know why she would say that about me...

Did I mention that both Person #1 and Person #2 are adults? In my school? Adults in my school that I work with. Crying. In my room. Before school, during school and after school.

And Friday was the ninth day of school. So, long story short, the year is off to a stellar start (please go back and insert sarcastic tone if you have not already....but really, you should know me better than that by now.)

There has been crying, cursing, plotting and scheming. The shit is hitting the fan fast and furious...we can't shovel it up fast enough evidently.

After a meeting of the minds (the minds being my other teacher friends), we realized that there is one individual responsible for all the high drama. And no, it's not the Weave. It's someone who we shall refer to as The Instigator.

The Instigator is an out-of-the-classroom person (imagine that). As is typical in my school (and I apologize to those of you out there who are out of the classroom AND hard workers...because where I come from, those two ideas are at some severe odds), this out-of-the-classroom individual has FAR too much free time. Now, this person has always had quite a bit of free time on her hands. In past years, she has used her flexible schedules to enjoy long breakfasts, read the newspaper, smoke cigarettes on the corner and spend time on eBay. As if her days weren't jam-packed enough, she has evidently now added "f*cking with teachers who are barely keeping their heads above water as it is."

I mean, talk about dedicated to your cause, right? If your cause is wreaking havoc, and not making any significant contribution to your place of employment that is.

Unfortunately, out-of-the-classroom teachers have an odd power at our school - and this woman is no exception. She is like the Godfather. You don't want to piss her off, because she will make your life a living hell. It is like the educational equivalent of putting out a hit, which in our case that translates to screwed up copy orders, no prep periods and constant phone calls interrupting your teaching. In the teaching world, that can be a fate worse than death too...

I've started wondering what her motivation is...and then my mind wandered back to the children.

Oh yeaaaaaa, the kids!

Anyhow, I'm exhausted from all the drama. I think my only option is to run out and get a pedicure (Mr. Mimi, if you're reading this, you may want to avert your eyes from the credit card statement....honey, I did it for the kids.)

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Curly Reigns Supreme

And we're back. The arts-and-farts portion (a.k.a. hardcore decoration of classroom) of the program are over and I have a crowd of potential new friends. I say "potential" because I have a (nasty?) habit of not totally vibing with my new class until November-ish. I have never been the teacher who runs home after the first day exclaiming, "They are SO cute!" I mean, they might be cute, but whatever. I am still totally in love with my friends from last year and need to mourn the loss a bit. Plus, re-explaining my routines, the rules, etc gets to be a tad much.

Speaking of my friends from last year, I have a story that will warm your little hearts. Rarely do I promote non-complaining, so enjoy it. Today, as I was yet again explaining our morning routines (somebody just poke me in the eye...), Curly bursts in my classroom door. My heart is literally singing with joy at the sight of all his curls.

Now let's back up a moment. At the end of the year last year, Curly's mom told me that he would be leaving early to go spend the summer with his grandparents in a warm tropical location. I was sad (this kid was/is amazing), but jotted down the date so I could say good bye. He ended up leaving two days ahead of schedule and no one got to say goodbye. Needless to say, I was more sad than I care to admit. Plus, he never returned his book baggie....or the ten books inside it.

OK, back to the present:

Me: "HIIIIII!!"

Him: (running to hug me) "Hi Mrs. Mimi! I missed you!!"

Me: "I miss you too! How are you?" (Clearly I don't care that I am in the middle of teaching....nor do I notice all my current students sitting with their mouths agape, most likely marveling that I can be this nice...I mean, it is the start of a new year and I am doing my fair share of whip cracking.)

Him: "I left early last year and never got to give this back to you." (He holds out his old book baggie...with all ten books still inside.)

Me : (restraining myself from crying) "Oh, Curly...You are such a good boy! Thank you!"

Him: "It's nothing. I've read those books, like a hundred times now!"

And with that, he hugged me and ran out of the room.

Being the professional that I am, I turned to the new child sitting in Curly's old seat and told him he had big shoes to fill. We'll see how the new batch turns out....

Who's Peeking?