Friday, November 21, 2008

do you really know who is teaching your children? really?

I guess now is just as good a time as any to make an update. It was a calm, mostly uneventful day considering that we have the next week off so I'm in a calm and (gasp!) rested mood this evening. I gave the kids a math and a science test today that kept them busy and silent all day except for the "enrichment" period at the end of the day. Once my kids finished their tests, I pulled out the scissors and paper and had them start making snowflakes to decorate the room. It was eerily pleasant. I really have to cherish the brief periods when I can just enjoy my students.

The other 6th grade teacher has been out for three days at a conference and it's really been kind of a relief for me and the kids. My 2nd period students are calmer and less agitated when they switch class. Of course, two of my most agitating students have been suspended as well and it makes an enormous difference in the mental health of that class. I'm just relieved when these students are gone. I have done as much as was in my power to do and it didn't help the situation. I gave these two particular students as many chances as possible and tried just about everything I could to motivate them and alter their behavior. For nothing, no payout. They fail and they fuck with the other kids and they try to play me and they act like little dipshits with no respect for other people.

There really is no saving them all. Maybe someone's got the energy for these kids - I hope something changes for them. But I've got 38 other kids who are losing out because of two who threaten and bully. And I'm by no means an expert or vet at this. Maybe one day I'll be better at dealing with this crap, but until then I gotta do what I can do. And it will be without these boys.

That said, I have a couple other tough jobs as far as academics. With the struggles that my students have with our latest topic - the dreaded fraction! - I can't shake the feeling that so many students are failing for one of two reasons (perhaps two of two). First question: has anyone been holding these kids accountable for anything? Have the students been getting away with pretending to learn things with other teachers? Second concern: Or previous teachers have just not actually properly covered this material before. The ground work for fractions was supposed to have been established started a couple of grades back. But I am not confident that they ever received it.

The more I know of other teachers and education professionals in this city, the more convinced I become that these people are not fully equipped to be teaching some of the things that that they are hired to teach. We can't find paraprofessionals that can handle the 6th grade curriculum (I've had two paras tell me that they learned x, y, or z math skill during a lesson in my class - so how can I expect them to know enough to help the kids?!). And the teachers themselves (at least in my experience) act out and exhibit the same behaviors that they find unacceptable in their students! They expect their students to shut up and be on time and do whatever they are told (no matter how ridiculous) but they don't shut up or show up to work or keep up with their responsibilities. It can be highly discouraging.

The fact that a couple of people still have a job at my school at all really makes me question those in charge. Seriously. If you really give a damn about children, then how the fucking fuck could possibly keep these people on the payroll in good conscience? ARE YOU FUCKING BLIND, DEAF, AND CRAZY?!

I mean. I know I'm not the best teacher ever but I know my content, I don't treat my students like dirt, I work my butt off to teach and hold them accountable, and I love my kids even when they're dickheads. I can't even claim half that for some of my colleagues. That concerns ME who is merely the math teacher. Someone explain to me why that doesn't seem to concern some administrators or parents?

Let me detour a moment. I only just recently was able to internally process this incident enough to even share it with my boyfriend, let alone the interwebs. A couple months ago, while I was discussing a student with the counselor, the social worker approached me to give me a "heads up" about yelling at the kids. That a visitor had overheard me and expressed concern and that usually the social worker would have to report it as abuse but she wanted to warn me first.

I was floored. Too shocked to even process exactly what was going on. I politely agreed that I also was concerned about how much yelling was going on and that I was working to cut down on that before she'd even mentioned it. The idea that I would ever be abusive to my kids was gut-wrenching. But when students are being abusive to each other and ignoring me, especially with the things that were going on early in the year, if I was yelling it was with the kids' individual and personal safety in mind. Sucks, but I'd rather yell to restore order in a chaotic and potentially dangerous situation than stand by and watch kids hit and chuck stuff across the room at each other with no recourse (can't send 'em out - they'll just go start a fight).

Since this time, however, the things that I have observed have made me wonder why the hell something isn't being done about some other adult actions that are most certainly abusive. It's so bad some days that some teachers have threatened to quit rather than put up with the bullshit. After so long of taking the social worker's comment very personally and hard, I've started to wonder why the social worker hasn't reported these other adults for things which are most certainly abusive and illegal. Either someone is not paying attention, or it's just getting overlooked because...because WHY? Excuse me for even thinking the thought, but did the white chick get singled out because she's white? Oh wait - heaven forbid I insinuate that a black person might somehow do something racist. Racism is something that only white people suffer from (at least that what some of my students have expressed to me!).

Since my last post, I've been preparing the laundry list of serious concerns I have to bring to the boss. I can't in good conscience let this crap continue. It's fucking up my kids and god knows that their lives are fucked up enough without getting it at school too.

Still, it is tempting to look over at greener pastures (or I suppose greener school systems) and consider what it might be like to work at a school where there is less talk, less crazy shit, and more working about setting their students on the right track to a better existence. But then...who's going to look after my babies?


TT said...

My husband likes to tell me that 'they' only notice the good ones. I think he means that I am reprimanded - similar to the way you were - because the bad piece of shit teachers are so hopeless.

There's a great quote (I can't remember who said it, Mark Twain, maybe?) - If you are going to tell people the truth make them laugh or they'll kill you - so when you go in with your list, be prepared. It's been my experience that this particular quote is dead on. Good luck!

swampwoman said...

I hope your situation works out

You've been tagged!