Wednesday, March 28, 2007

A New Low

"F*** Ms. G" was written in huge letters on the inside of the closet.
It happened during the school day.
Most likely during the transition before or after lunch.
It was brought to my attention by my para as the kids were packing up to go home.
No one admits to it, of course.
There was no punishment, not today at least. I don't want to punish the innocent or accuse someone who didn't do it.
I showed it to my AP, expecting a reaction at least for destruction of property.
"It was probably one of your nasty children," she said. She closed the door and left the room.
I took a picture of the door and left.
No planning.
No cleaning.
No grading.
No extra investment in a system where I'm constantly abused. Did I mention I got hit in the lip by a kid's head yesterday? Yeah, bloody lips are now all in a day's work I guess.
This is not what I signed up for.
This is not a healthy work environment.
I have two more months and then I have some big decisions to make. So much of what goes on in my classroom is illegal. Not only did I have my 13 today, but I also had 2 kids who were supposed to be in suspension. Paras don't come when they're supposed to. Security never comes when called.
The program I'm in is a 2 year commitment. They don't like to transfer people from their original school. I don't want to leave the program. I also don't know if it's mentally healthy for me to be at this school for another year. Kids don't know that there's any other way to be's so incredibly sad.
Teachers...any suggestions on what to do about the whole closet situation? It's still up, for now. It's the first time those words have ever been written, or said, to me in my classroom, and I don't want it to set a precedent.


X said...

Cover it up while the situation is being taken care of. Despite your photo, don't take it off.

A while back, "F U Ms. X" appeared on my wall while I was at a workshop. I'm sorry to tell you that nothing ever happened about it.

I'm also so sorry about your AP's reaction. Yuck.

Hudson River Heather said...

I came into teaching after 5 years of working at an educational non-profit, working in schools all over the city. I knew about Reading workshop, I helped teachers develop curriculum and rubrics. I got my masters' degree, and then started teaching at a great little school in Manhattan. And STILL-- I cried at least once a week and was always exhausted.

Your first year is so hard no matter where you are. I can't imagine how especially hard YOUR first year is.

As for the note-- I agree, cover it up, and use it as a conversation starter with the class. "So, we've worked really hard this year on using our words productively. Everyone gets mad sometimes, even me. But it's not ok to..." Teach them what they might do/say instead if they are angry or frustrated. Could they write you a note?

Not sure that's the best option, but I don't think a massive investigation/punishment would teach them anything either...

ms. v. said...

maybe you could have a talk with them about how hurtful it is for you to find these words... and then say that you are planning to clean it during lunch or after school (at a time when the kids are free to come) and that it would make you feel better if you had some help cleaning it. tell them they can come even if it wasn't them who did it, but that you think it hurts the classroom for everyone to have words like that on the wall. then see who shows up... maybe no one, but your kids sound like they might realize the problem and chip in to help clean it.

or, you could have the talk and then point out that you are leaving cleaning supplies next to the closet... maybe the kids will take the initiative to clean it as a group effort.

ms. v. said...

I've been thinking a lot about you... this blog breaks my heart, nearly every time I read it. Because the people in your building are so hardened they can't even see what a gem they have in you, what great strides you've made for the children. Because even after all you've done with those kids, all the progress you've made with them, they are still unable to see the children as *people* whom they are neglecting, day after day. And the crazy amount of illegal stuff they are doing, using your classroom as a dumping ground... I wouldn't blame you if you quit, and yet, I want so strongly for you to not quit. I don't know what your long-term-plans are, regarding wanting to be a teacher vs. changing careers after your commitment, but I think you could be an excellent teacher and I'd hate to see this awful year in an awful school lead you to quit the profession for good - that would be everyone's loss.

Have you actually asked TFA for a transfer? When I was a Corps Member, there were transfers when teachers were in particularly bad situations, and yours, as you have documented, is pretty much unbearable. Are there other CMs in your building? What's their take on the situation? Could you take it upon yourself to transfer through the NYCDOE system when that opens up? (I'm sure it would have consequences with TFA, but this situation is horrifying).

Also, I think all this illegal stuff needs to be reported and grieved. Get the kids' parents involved, if you think that will help - it isn't just illegal in how it affects you, the real tragedy is how the children are being treated.

Jules the Crazy said...

Yikes--that is too bad. Unfortunately, I too have seen this kind of graffiti on my room, though just on desks or on scratch paper. At first it really bothered me, but soon I realized that the kids are going to think whatever they want, and at least some of their anger is due to the fact that they see a teacher who is pushing them and not letting them slack off.

So I agree with the others about the conversation and discussion about name-calling and insults. Maybe you could have a classroom-wide clean-up, a spring cleaning with new starts for all of you.

Also, an advisor from a couple years ago had a comment box or something in her room. Kids could drop off their concerns or questions and then the teacher could deal with it later. Maybe that could be a more constructive way for the students to deal with their anger.

There are always ideas and suggestions, but that doesn't mean it will be easy or better for you. I'm truly sorry for your pain and frustration. Let us know about your progress after this.

brunettechicagogal said...

I just started reading your blog five minutes ago. I empathize. I taught in a very difficult high school in Chicago my first two years, but I have to say it was not as difficult as yours. No students attacked teachers. There were two or three fights between students in the hallway over the course of those two years, but compared to your situation, that was nothing.

One of the three students who at one time or another I asked to sit individually the coatroom until they could rejoin the class and behave appropriately wrote "Ms. H. is a bitch" in there. I noticed it weeks after I'd requested any of them to retreat to the coatroom, so who knows which one wrote it. Maybe someone else did. All I know is that it stung. And I said nothing about it. I just washed it off. In retrospect, and after two more years in a school where the kids behaved much better, I agree with Ms. V's suggestion. Kids need to know when they hurt your feelings, and they also need to know when they're muddying up an environment, literally and figuratively.

As for what you should do next year, this school doesn't sound like it has strong leadership, and that's a shame. I'm not sure I have a good suggestion for you. The students do need dedicated teachers, but at what cost to the teacher's emotional and physical health?