Friday, August 10, 2007

"well it takes all of my strength to be stable"

Before I say anything else, let me just say this: I love teaching. I really do love it, even after only one week. One week of hope and hell. I go to work every morning an hour early at 7:15ish and I don't leave school until after 4:00. When I go home, I work until I go to sleep. Tomorrow is Saturday and I will be working. Sunday I will be working, planning and strategizing. And Monday I go back into the fire to battle it out again. So far (and I know it's early), the work doesn't make me tired but excited for the next opportunity. I've had a lot of deja vu moments in the last couple of days and whenever that happens that is my sign that this is where I am supposed to be right now. Whenever I get a little snippet of deja vu, I am reminded that the universe showed me where I was headed and now it is reminding me that I picked the right direction. Maybe that's a little "new age, touchy-feely" but it's true.

Today sucked.

No, that's not entirely true. Like Thursday, there were moments of hope where I could see the first hints of progress that will happen with time. Moments where kids who were unsure of themselves proved that they know more than they think they know--opportunities for me to build their confidence. But like Thursday there was also chaos and power struggle. By the end of today, there were tears again. I lost my second class and I'm convinced that it is in large part due to the student I'll refer to as Miss J. I have a suspicion that this is not the first time she has been through 6th grade - not for any lack of ability but for a lack of giving a shit. She's smart as hell but she's thinks she's above school. But I know something she doesn't know: I refuse to quit and I refuse to let her wrestle away from me. She wants to rule the school? Well, we'll see about that.

I think I've pinpointed my own frustration. School policy (and I would have done it anyway) is that there is homework every day and my students are fighting me on it. Fighting me like homework means that their whole weekend is going to be consumed by school, as if one measly paragraph were complete torture. Fine - I didn't do my homework when I was in middle school either and I nearly failed 7th grade math because of it. But the argument made me realize that these kids do not (yet) appreciate just how much their teachers invest in them for such small rewards. They fight me and they fight me and they fight me and I still love every one of them and I want to work my ass off for them.

I have some really fantastic kids. One kid has been making me a truly fantastic drawing of the solar system, "to make the classroom pretty" he tells me. He's a sweet kid and he's well on his way to being an artist to reckon with. I have another kid who can barely read on what might be a a 1st or 2nd grade level. He acts up to compensate but when I separated him from the rest of the group today to work on an assignment, he did it without me prompting him any further or making any more complaints and he did it better than I expected. One thing that truly pissed me off: I was doing a 'fun' activity with a survey about multiple intelligences and because I know that this particular kid can't read and a few others have a lot of trouble I was reading each one part out loud so that they would be able to keep up with the class. Some of my other students, lead by Miss J, finished early and started talking and tossing notes and completely disrespecting me and everyone else who was on task. Can I fault her? I don't know. I can't out the poor kid who can't read, but I can't let this girl take over my classroom and waste her brains and her education either.

The catch-22 of being a teacher (or so I've been told): if you don't care about what happens to these kids then you shouldn't be teaching but if you do care it's easy to burn out fast. One thing I am fortunate to have, through all of this, is a hell of a lot of support. My principal is awesome and motivating and the other middle school teachers and even the elementary vets are incredibly supportive and helpful. I picked an awesome place to work even if my kids don't appreciate it right now. Apparently there is a big contingent of Algiers teachers that meet up on Friday nights downtown to drink and play volley ball and I joined them tonight and they were all super cool.

And like I told one of the seventh grade teacher's today, why would I need to have kids? I already have 40 of them. And if they give me shit again I'll be callin' their mamas and their maw-maws and then we'll see who's boss.

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