Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Three Musketeers

The three that are the biggest bullies, for whom there are little or no consequences, who sing and dance and fight and refuse to do what anyone tells them - they were magically suspended this week - the week that I have my meeting with my principal about transferring.
Funny how things work, and funny how quickly I forget about the chaos. The fights, the bruises, the fear my kids felt just a week ago seems gone with them down the hall. All of the sudden I'm able to make it through all of my lessons again. I have students who participate, laugh, listen. They are not perfect, but things work again. Table points, pats on the back, the teacher look. Everything that used to
They're not angry when they walk in the door.
My head doesn't pound when I leave.
I haven't thrown up all week.
I like my job again.
I've learned to forgive them again.
If only I could learn to forgive the three down the hall...and stick to my guns (bad choice of words) when I go in to that meeting tomorrow.
They gave me a good week on purpose.
They implemented consequences this week, after not doing it all year, for a reason, and it's not because they had some big epiphany about the need to be consistent.
Be strong.
This is your life, too.
It's hard to remember that sometimes.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

I've been getting nosebleeds and throwing up randomly for 7 days now.
I get headaches and my heart beats fast and I dread going to school.
For the first time in 8 months it's hard to shake my kids' hands in the morning and forgive their actions the day before, knowing the effect that it's having on my physical and mental health.
But with 8 weeks left, I would not trade this experience, or any of them, for anything.
I have seen the system at it's worst, and I have done my best to fix it.
I have had kids work extremely hard for me, and because of it have numerous students leaving reading and doing math on grade level.
I have grown both professionally and personally more than I ever thought possible in 8 months.
I have remained calm in times of intense chaos.
I've showed up, day after day, to shake their hands, smile, and greet them with a cheerful "Good morning!" when others would not.
But hasn't been enough....and it continues to fall apart in front of my eyes.
They curse and fight and yell and throw things and refuse to work or listen or even take home their homework, let alone turn it in.
They're more concerned with gangs and who's jumping who after school and who's looking at them funny across the room than anything school related.
Somehow, in March, it fell apart, and it's slowly turning in to something that feels like failure staring me in the face every single day.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

And So It Spirals

I'm not sure what happened today, but I know it involved rocks, windows, the suspension room (where they were supposed to be during my lunch break), and their names being announced over the loud speaker.
They were out of my room for the next hour with my para, my AP, security, and the parent coordinator. Parents were called, voices were raised, many tears were shed. It's what should happen in situations where kids are out of line. Get what happened next.
My para left. The kids started to get out of control. (Still in the hallway, mind you.) The rest of the parents didn't show up. So they bring them in my room. Never mind the fact that I'm teaching. Never mind that kids are engaged. Never mind that I have no clue what is going on with the angry, out of control kids you're bringing in to my calm room. Never mind that you have no respect for me as a professional or a person. "Sit down at your seat and do your work." they said.
"THEY CAN'T DO THE WORK BECAUSE THEY WEREN'T HERE FOR THE LESSON" I wanted to scream! I gave my AP a do not even bring them in here and leave them like that look and she got the message - she stayed. Malik flipped out on the rug while Yahkemp flipped out at the table, mostly at my AP. Her presence instigated anger but I needed a witness. They would go off on anybody for anything. If she was leaving she needed to take them, and she wouldn't do that, so she needed to stay.
My AP and Malik went back and forth across the room. Don't engage, don't engage, it's not worth it, you've been having such good days I said, almost as a mantra as I rubbed Malik's back. He circled the rug like a lion in a cage. I circled with him, ready to stop him from running. He didn't. Instead he cried. Tears of anger...frustration...tears from being caged by emotions and so much that he can't control.
I don't know how to leave but I can't stay.
Stories from earlier in the week include fights and objects being thrown and students threatening suicide - they can't take the fear and constant threats and bullying...a student stormed another teacher's classroom and demanding that she not press charges for a PSP he stole proclaiming "I'm from the streets, you don't know who you're messin' with."
We called the social worker - she removed the student and brought him back to my room.
I'm so attached to them.
I don't know how to leave and it's not healthy.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Last week we had a week off of after school, which meant I was done teaching at 3:40 everyday. I could plan, or go home, or schedule meetings. It was amazing to feel so free.
Afterschool starts again this week, which means I teach until 5:00 again. I didn't realize what a big difference it made in my spirit until I had the week off.
2 and a half more months. Stay focused. It's the only way the kids will stay focused. We are not done. We can't be done. Our goals are not met.
So why does June feel so close that it's all any of us (first year teachers) talk about?

Friday, April 13, 2007


I don't know how much she gets paid, but it's not enough.
On the day my para quit and my kids went nuts, she was at my school. She came by during lunch, just out of coincidence, and sat with me for an hour while I cried, and told me, over and over again, why I was needed in that school. I didn't believe her then. I do now.
She was the first person I called when Elvis grew over a year and a half in reading.
She was the first person I emailed when my class actually mastered a math objective on our tracking sheet.
And she's the person I go to with stories of fights and security that doesn't come and a principal that has no control over his school.
She listens and brainstorms and fights...for my kids...and for me.
She meets with my principal and stands up to him in ways I couldn't. She has an organization behind her. An organization that is willing to send me to another school if things do not change at mine.
I am not on my own. I was not sent in there to drown, and I will not be forced to stay in an environment that is not safe.
She listened and in 45 minutes she made all of the chaos feel manageable.
And then she drove me home.
I would have quit that day in October had it not been for her, and now she's saving me again.
Whatever she gets's not enough to be a hero to 51 people.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Today my Adrielis asked me if I was going to be her teacher again next year.
"I don't know sweetie," I said. "That's not my decision."
"If I work really hard and I go to the 4th grade will you?" she asked.
"I don't know yet," I replied.
"I hope so. I pray every night that you'll be my teacher again," she said.
I knew she meant it.
I wanted to cry.
Or cancel the meeting I have tomorrow about transferring.
If only I had 13 of her.


Today we began again.
We started new reading and writing math unit that is fun (with transparent mirrors). They love beginnings. Something about the possibility and all that is to come excites them, and me.
We took time to set goals for the end of the semester and talked about why it's important to set short term goals. We need focus if we're going to make it through the next 54 days together.
Today was, for the most part, better. There were only little fights. They were engaged. Nobody forgot their homework.
So why am I so...tired?

Monday, April 09, 2007

"Not everything that is faced can be changed, but nothing can be changed until it is faced."
-James Baldwin

In spite of a week off, a trip home, green grass, lots of sleep, and a stack of work that was finished I still do not feel ready to face my classroom.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007


Green grass and clear skies and just not seeing them brings clarity.
This is not how people work and learn and live.
On the Friday before break my para was knocked down, hitting her head on a desk and twisting her ankle. My para is a solid, prison-guard-like lady. One of my students was on top of her. Accidentally, on his way to charge another student, but still, she was injured just the same.
No one came to my room.
They need to be separated. Their parents have been saying it for years.
They are not safe together.
They are not learning what they need to learn together.
I am not able to be a sane person with them...together.
If I wanted to break up fights all day, every day, I would not have been a teacher.
We were at a meeting for IEPs and they were talking about how decisions about students should be made by a team and I wanted to laugh. TEAM? Security doesn't come to my room. Parents don't show up for IEP meetings. Half of the time administrators don't show up for IEP meetings.
There is no team. It is me, my para, and the kids that nobody wants, and it is too much.
But they are my kids, and how do you just leave them?
But it is my life, and my career, and I could be teaching kids that listen instead of fight, working with a team of people instead of struggling, all the time, on my own.
This isn't how schools are supposed to be.
This isn't how jobs are supposed to be.
This isn't how lives are supposed to be.
So the smart thing to do is to transfer at the end of the year. I could be so much more effective somewhere else.
But how do you leave them?
Maybe you don't.
Here are my options, at least as I see them now, for next year.
1: Stay at my school and teach another class. (This would never happen because none of the other special ed teachers would take my kids)
2: Stay at my school and demand that my class is split. The 3rd graders stay with me, the 4th graders move to a different class. This would stop some of the fighting but also open up a lot of spots and who knows what kind of kids we would get in.
3: Request a transfer. TFA doesn't normally do this, and I'm not sure it's what I want, but I cannot teach in an unsafe environment for another year, nor can I bear to place my kids in an unsafe environment for another year.
Between a rock and a hard place. Do you stick it out and see if it gets better? This is my career. This wasn't just a 2 year thing for me. I can't imagine staying at this school for another year and having the spirit to ever teach again.