Fifth year – first semester – why did I go back?

 

THEY KEEP PULLING ME BACK IN!

 

It seemed I had a clear message from God to get out of teaching, but like many an idiot before me, I ignored the Great Almighty.

 

Oh, I wanted to quit, but whenever I try to get out they pull me back in. Well not exactly. What happened was a result of the shock of trying to find a job and seeing how little these other jobs pay. I actually was offered more money as a teacher though it still wouldn’t help much with the high cost of living in the East coast, plus needing a babysitter all day Saturdays since I left my husband and step daughter back in the Midwest.  Besides, I thought since this would be eighth grade, the kids would be excited to learn; I thought it’d be different, that I’d be okay.  Was I ever wrong!

 

The principal had a PhD and liked to be called Doctor.  She told me on the phone before I interviewed that this school had discipline problems but that was last year with inconsistent administrators. Now they added four – her as a new principal to middle school after many successful years as an elementary principal and three new assistant principals.  I believed her when she said consistency would change everything.

The other change was the fact that they added a full time Spanish teacher. In the past, Spanish was offered only for two classes so they had the best of the best students – the usual for kids starting Spanish in middle school.  Now there were four classes and unbeknownst to me, the principal who was “let go” was bitter about leaving and did many things to sabotage the future principal and staff and signed up many kids she knew were not ready to start Spanish class or be in an “honors’ environment – apparently once kids are signed up for a class, you can’t change their schedule.

The major problem was that they needed me to teach two other classes and I mentioned that I had taught Drama. Somehow they thought that meant I could teach English.  So, why do English teachers need a licensure if they think anyone can teach it?  Very big mistake to give me an English class, mainly because they gave me a bunch of kids who had never had any strong teachers and were tough 13 year olds with low reading levels – some as low as 2nd and 4th grade.

 I didn’t understand why the experienced English teacher next door, who knew how to teach reading and writing, didn’t get this class but instead she got the honors class  She wielded a lot of power and tried to make her life as a teacher as comfortable as possible (making prep the last hour so she wouldn’t have a rowdy class like last hours usually are, kicking out “bad” kids out of the room every day, and manipulating as many other teachers and administrators as possible for whatever whim she had). Seems like the longer someone stays in teaching, the less they care about the student’s needs and only focus on their own.

 

At this school I had the first experience with the awful time suck called “homeroom”.  Instead of the homeroom I had in high school where we’d go, do administrative stuff, then leave for our first class, here it was my first class. It meant that either I lost fifteen minutes or more of that class doing silly stuff or I had fifteen extra minutes than all of my other Spanish classes.  All the classes were forty five minutes which I had never had.  I had always had block schedules in the past. Plus that meant I had many more classes in the day and I had them each day for the whole year – no more break of switching in the middle of the year like in the block schedule in the Midwest.

 

The first and second class of the day were Spanish. At this school I would only be teaching Spanish level One and, for the first time, I had a few fluent  Native speakers. When I tried to give them writing and reading work more appropriate for their fluent level, I got burned.  These sensitive eighth graders didn’t like to be separated from the group. So why did they sign up for the class when they already knew Spanish?

 

The third class was actually a double period, so it included lunch and fifth period. It was a double period because it was the English class and that’s such an important core subject that they needed more time. But for me it was core hell since I had no idea how to teach this subject. I hadn’t even taken an English class since high school!  They called it “Language Arts” At first we broke up the class in the middle for lunch but the kids were too unruly to settle down so we put lunch first and then suffered ninety minutes together.  And suffer we would.

 

After that energy sucking class I had a wonderful small group of Spanish students.  I finally got a break with a prep period, only forty five minutes to plan for all those classes. Lastly I had the last period with a Spanish class. 

 

So here I was – on the doomsday path.

THE END IS NEAR

 

August 7th,

The two days of workshops at the school were nice. I met another new teacher right away and she’s new to the area too. Everyone seems nice.  The band teacher cracks me up with his jokes and the math teacher took me under his wing since he used to teach Spanish.  It’s only for 8th grade then they go on to high school for Spanish Two. I hope they hire a TPRS teacher there but that’s not my problem. 

 

They had inspiring speakers that seemed to rev everyone up about the new discipline plan – giving hope that the school has a clear consistent plan. It made me excited to take on the middle school challenge. And it made me think of my teaching style and taking to heart that kids need to be taught rules and manners. I really admire Dr. Principal for her enthusiasm and honesty – we even read passages and discussed three books about African Americans and racism. I think it’ll be a lot better working here than in the Midwest because there’s a people person honest principal and a friendly staff. 

 

The presentations psyched me up as well.  Soon reality would set in.  In the following months I would find out how I was placed in a hurricane of racial problems that this community started facing at the true beginning of our nation’s colonial empire.

 

August 18th

I spent the whole day putting up bulletins. I like making my room look nice and welcoming.  I  put up tons of fun Spanish stuff  but I don’t like the actual labor of stapling and putting things up on bulletin boards.  It irked me.

 

I was not an elementary crafty like teacher and though I wanted to create the Spanish is interesting atmosphere, doing the whole room in bulletin for the first time was tough for me.  In the Midwest we didn’t have so much bulletin space so I had toys and objects around the room and a few posters. In California, I didn’t have my own room or any space on the walls!  Now I’d get compliments for my room décor. Any compliments would be appreciated, soon.

 

August 22nd

Yesterday a ton of parents came to the open house – they and their kids seem excited about Spanish so that makes me excited. How different from the Midwest where no parents came to open house – none!  I knew middle school would be more energetic, I just hope it will be easier using the TPRS method with them.

 

I’m nervous about the math teacher next door because he tells me how he ran his one class and one parent said he was the best Spanish teacher. Yipes. But I know research is behind TPRS and Dr. Principal wants us to do research stuff.  I just gotta run a tight ship, love the kids, get them to love Spanish then they’ll like my class. But I think I’m prepared this year and at Wednesday’s meeting Dr. Principal said, “I’m not a micromanager.”  I just could’ve kissed Dr. Principal because she said she’s the exact opposite of last year’s principal.  So I love and better yet, trust her already and know it’ll be better here.

 

 

I missed the last day of workshops because it was my orientation for grad school so I went to that instead. I didn’t think I would miss much but I did.  I missed all the stuff we were supposed to do the first week of school and that made me look bad to Dr.  Principal, later, and the kids saw that I had no idea what I was doing. It was all a big waste of time anyways – pure bureaucracy in homeroom which also happened to be my first class and they had to wait a week until we did any real Spanish stuff. So that class started off badly and just got worse.

 

Aug 25th

I’m nervous. Today is the first day of school and, according to the books I’ve been reading, the most important day that will make or break the discipline all year. I’m excited to get a fresh start and use all these techniques now that I see everything I have done wrong for the past four years. I hope to have a good year.

 

Later that day:

What an exhausting chaotic day. I almost quit half way through. I was overwhelmed. The rules and discipline lesson on the first hour was more work than I thought. Luckily another teacher said some kids from that class said I was cool. 

 

But after barely dealing with that whole “to do” list, the teacher’s aide for Language Arts came in along with a hundred kids – well thirty-six and I was expecting eight!  And there were not enough chairs. The teacher’s aide tried to help with taking roll since it was a mess. The thirty six kids all seemed wild and unruly – at least a lot of them seem smart too. The Assistant Principal came in and told them to be quiet and I just felt like I was doing a horrible job as the students talked through me. We had a break for lunch and I felt overwhelmed. After lunch it was worse when they came back.  At least the next two Spanish classes were good again – so I felt better. Hopefully with less kids it’ll get better or I’ll just have to survive another class out of my field.

 

When I first started working at the Midwest school,  the principal held a short workshop for teachers new to the area  to explain how things work but no one did this at this big school.  So when I got a class list of thirty then another class list with eight I didn’t know what was happening. Since I got the list of eight last I thought that was my final class list. What it really was was a list of “mainstream” students and then a list of “special education”.  So I made eight photocopies of the handouts and was in shock. I had never taught English and now I had more kids than chairs!  I should have quit that day

 

THE IMPORTANT PART OF THE LETTER I SENT TO PARENTS THAT FIRST DAY:

 

Every day you will get a participation grade of five points for being in the class. If you speak English, do not make the vocabulary gestures, or interrupt the story you will get a “Pagame” (pay me). You will lose those participation points for the day but you can make them up. You can write an apology note in Spanish and get the points returned.  If you do not get any “pagames”, you will get a Peso for the week. At the end of the quarter, you may use your Pesos to buy prizes at an auction. You may also get pesos for good answers, effort, acting in stories, and other outstanding actions.

 

It didn’t have a date on it since I gave it out the first day and didn’t think I needed one.  Plus I had copied and pasted some of the letter from other previous classes. It will be important later.  Students turned it in all week, with their parent’s signature.

 

 

Aug 26th

I dreamed I was in the Michele Pfeifer movie “Dangerous Minds” but Michael Douglas was in it and he was a student’s father. The student was Ben Affleck and they were both sleeping with the principal. It was weird but in the dream my Language Arts class was quietly watching the movie. I must’ve dreamed that because the Language Arts class look straight out of that movie – loud, not listening, wild. Maybe there is hope because she reached those kids. But I don’t know if I can do it. It is a mandatory class and the first time I’ve had one that’s a requirement. Well it was only day one – I’ll find a way to get through. I just don’t want to be as tired as yesterday. At least I’m more prepared for today. I’ll just focus on my son and grad school and the real reasons I took a teaching job and the harder it gets the more it’ll motivate me to look for a film job, like I’m studying about in grad school.  There’s hope!

 

How sad that I already just focused on the money.  Just shows, to me, how each school system makes a difference. This one had too many kids and way too many problems. 

They also had racial tension issues.  I was taught to mix everyone together for diversity but I started to see how that didn’t always add up to happy co-existence for the young teenagers.  Some of the white kids would say some racial things because of what they were seeing in this system. One white straight-A student said about another white girl “She used to be a good student until she started hanging out with the black kids.” 

Another white straight-A student said directly to a black student who was failing the class “Some day you’ll be cleaning my car.”  With all the talk of public school providing diversity, it didn’t seem to encourage acceptance, rather than keeping people in their status quo.  But this area had history – of slavery, of poor whites working off their debts for the trip to America through free labor, segregation.  Now there were million dollar housing developments and trailers all living side by side, and people coming and going with a nearby military base.

Dangerous Liaisons is why I’m writing this book. I saw that movie when I was studying to be a teacher. I thought that’d be me. There are lots of great teachers, but not all of us can be that. And me, I was disappointed to find out I wasn’t and never really felt like I made a difference at all. I think teachers aren’t made – you either got that ability to control a class of thirty six or not. I don’t but then again why is control the biggest thing?  Now I believe in home schooling, democratic schools, Montessori schools – places where students get to learn to control themselves and want to learn.  Maybe it’s time to re-think the factory school and create schools that aren’t really controlling, just managing and then just graduating, or dropping out our kids, all while keeping them away from the “real world”.  That’s why I’m writing this book – not the inspirational story from a great teacher, but the truthful thoughts of a “bad” teacher who takes responsibility for my horrible mistakes and questions a system that takes a good (straight A student) from teacher’s school and then helps her fail in the actual career.

 

August 28th

The week is half way through!  And there’s hope!  Yesterday’s Language Arts was fifty times better – less kids, a seating order, and they liked the activity. It’s not perfect – after lunch a boy and girl started verbally arguing and I sent them out of the room. And lots of talking when they were supposed to be writing so I’ll have to change the structure a bit but hopefully it’ll be tight by next week. The Instructional Resources Teacher is great. She knows about teaching reading and has lots of materials and ideas. She should teach the class!  And Spanish is great. These young kids are so excited to learn a second language and are fascinated when I speak it. So I guess I did make the right job decision for now. 

 

I called the apartment complex – I can’t get in till Friday. Sob!  But it’s close and last night I wish we could’ve because I saw the sky turn dark and threw my son and the dog in the car and went to a gas station with a TV.  It was tornado warnings! 

 

Those first weeks of school I was still literally camping out in a trailer waiting for my apartment to be available. There were spiders everywhere – in the shower, over the toothbrush , even in my underwear drawer. I needed real rest for this job!

 

August 29th

We made it. No thunderstorms last night – I got sleep even. But I saw lighting when I woke up.  I’m happy that we’re gone – no more camper, we can move into our apartment. At work the Spanish classes are just as I hoped – excited, really into learning Spanish, thinking it’s fun – not “stupid” like the High School kids think. They laughed and loved the TPR commands (stand up, turn around, etc in Spanish).  They also liked saying the alphabet which is in their textbook. I love them. They’ll pull me through the Language Arts where I’m barely breathing with all the lesson planning and discipline problems.

 

After using the same lessons in the Midwest and having time to write and do other things, now I had too many students and needed to be grading, making new lessons (for four 45 minute classes of younger students all using a new textbook), and especially figuring out what to do for 90 minutes in an English class of kids with low reading skills. I was drowning in work, almost the same as my first year of teaching!

 

September 2nd

So it’s the second week of school. I hope I keep on liking it. I hope this isn’t like my first year of teaching where the first two months seemed smooth then boom!  But so far the kids are excited, the school is focusing on discipline and I just have to focus on giving the kids lots of Spanish input and not over stressing the Spanish students to produce output.

 

Input is when someone hears the language and develops the skills of understanding – unlike most traditional language classes which focus on output – conjugating verbs, writing, and speaking before the student has enough understanding of the language to really be able to use it (in output). This is all from research based on studies finding the way people really learn a language.

 

September 4th

I called one parent with a good call. Work is still going fine. They are definitely energetic and can go out of bounds but they’re learning about “pagames” and the Language Arts is still up and down but they love getting candy. It’d be nice if I like teaching middle school since it might pay more than being a college professor!

 

They gave us a spreadsheet and encouraged us to call the students’ parents with positive calls. I made some calls every night but it took so much time, with all the students, and it never seemed to help build classroom community.  I gave out positive calls but later I had to argue with parents in denial about their kids’ behaviors and grades as the time progressed and grades fell. It must work for some if they tell us  to do it but it didn’t seem to do anything for me.  Email in the Midwest seemed better since I could just email parents the grades and they could see what assignments their students were missing.
September 8th

Yesterday I got quality time with my son but then that got ruined by the work I brought home and all the Language Arts papers I had to grade. At least I’m more caught up. It’s that Language Arts. I have to work more efficiently during my short prep period and leave work early.  I’m also gonna have to sleep less and write, work, and do my grad school homework when my son is asleep.

 

 

 

September 9th

The morning started off hectic because I needed to print off something for Language Arts, of course. And homeroom is now 15 minutes (more time out of my first hour Spanish class)!  And I still didn’t get all the school discipline business taken care of.

 

And that’s when the Supervisor of Instruction for English, FL, and ESL for the county

came to observe me, informally. My lesson wasn’t that good – stupid words like “mesa” (table) without the word “put” to use with “table”!  And I was nervous. And the next part “de donde eres “ (where are you from) was dumb too. So I felt rotten the next few classes thinking she’s gonna fire me (but luckily there’s a Spanish teacher shortage).  I felt better after the math teacher told me she thought I was energetic.

 

But then my mood went down again when I went to the county Spanish teachers’ meeting.  First I went to the wrong building. Then listening to how they are so into the textbook and all it’s gadgets. They said I can’t get grant money or buy books that aren’t approved. The ­ Supervisor of Instruction for English, FL, ESL seemed to not like me more at the meeting.  At least I agreed to see them from time to time for their silly meetings. I’ll just keep using the TPRS method and know I’m having fun and, most importantly, the kids are really learning. I can’t change other people. I’ll just use some of the textbook every day to survive and write to businesses for money for the Spanish level one reader books.

 

Reminds me how horrible bureaucracy is – especially for education. This woman was an English teacher and must have learned about foreign language on the fly. She barely knew about different ways to teach languages and might not have had much experience herself learning a second language.  She was a true bureaucrat who now has another job in the county with technology.  This county had so many bureaucrats – we had another man visit who was in charge of all instruction and textbooks.  I had to ask him directly for more textbooks since we had more Spanish students than books. They didn’t arrive until October.  Later, I’d meet more of the bureaucracy when the county supervisor of Language Arts would visit. With all this money wasted on bureaucrats, no wonder it was the worse school I had ever seen.  Pay the teachers more, get more teachers to have smaller classes, and get rid of these idiots.

 

Trying to procure the Spanish One reader books was also a nightmare. I was used to being the only Spanish teacher with a $1000 dollar budget to buy whatever I wanted. Now everything had to go through a two-year process before it was approved and purchased.  And the books they usually choose have to go through the proper steps, be approved by special interest groups, and after all that, end up being pretty bland. The only winners are the multi billion-dollar textbook and testing industries.

 

September 10th

I started the rumor mill.  In Language Arts class, of course, Mac and his friend, Cheese, were making noise, throwing things, and being disruptive across the room. I warned them then asked Mac to go work in the math teacher’s room and he said no. So when a student went to the bathroom I told her to get an administrator.

 

Instead I heard on the loud speaker, “Administrator to room one”. 

 

The big guy came and they didn’t say no to him. Then the lesson went fine. But the last hour class was asking what happened – a fight? When I joked and said a student got sick from the Mexican candy, they asked if that’s why I called the administrator. And all the teachers heard the call too. How funny – it wasn’t a fight or a big deal. I won’t do it again. But one kid imagined it was a Spanish class and one kid had been given a million pagames!

 

This school never trained me on  the proper way for me to communicate. It wasn’t an emergency but that loudspeaker announcement was embarrassing. Couldn’t they have just called someone on the walkie talkies?  Why do schools buy expensive communications if they don’t use it?

 

October 3rd

I’m tired of bottling up my feelings. Yesterday at work I wanted to cry but I couldn’t – I had to sit at lunch with my bad students. At lunch I went to get an administrator and Dr. Principal was the only one available. As we walked down the halls she said, “I’ve been meaning to talk to you. Other teaches are complaining that your kids are too noisy and roused up. These kids can’t handle it”.  We didn’t have time to talk but I was hurt and mad. First off if it’s the Language Arts class I could give a flying fig. We had a horrible day yesterday and I’m doing my best teaching a subject out of my field, with low achievers, with a group of “bad” wannabes, and too many kids in a small room. But for Spanish that’s the kiss of death. I can’t just use worksheets and the book – already it’s killing me with its grammar and impossible work for the little bit we do use at the end of each class. And with the TPR commands I can see they are really learning.

 

I hate teachers. Fun is not allowed. I hear kids all the time – like yesterday night at parent’s night saying they like me and I’m their favorite teacher. And the parents were excited that they’re kids were learning Spanish with the TPR.  But I’m not the old coward I was – I’m going to go and talk to Dr. Principal and tell her I refuse to change my Spanish.  I’m going with the research.  I’ll talk to my mentor today too. He wasn’t there yesterday. But I talked to the math and history teachers who have rooms next to me and they say they didn’t complain –the history teacher said she just comes and talks to me when they get too loud like the last hour of the day or the Language Arts class does sometimes.

 

So I know it was that negative teacher Mrs. Bragger. She’s the complaining type in the teacher’s lounge and unapproachable for help with Language Arts. And she’s the department head of Language Arts for this school! She sounds like she does fun stuff with her honor’s class but otherwise could care less about low functioners like I have. But I just felt depressed. I know I’m doing the right thing by getting a M.A. and it makes me more determined to get the heck out of the BS of public schools – keep your kids nice and quiet – don’t disturb the other boring teachers. I want to teach college and if that’s only part time I can start a language school– I’d make tons of money with the TPRS method.  And I can make videos too!   And homeschool!  Anyways – I have three video making offers right now because of that homework assignment for grad school – its’ with non-profits.  The one at school might even pay. So I’m learning how to solicit more work and yesterday made me motivated to stay out of public schools. I barely get paid enough now – especially for rent and daycare!

 

Luckily my Spanish class after Language Arts cheered me up – they’re smart, fun, small and not wild. I’ll teach for those kids that are learning and enjoying class which is most of them.

 

I was right  – it was always Mrs. Bragger making a fuss and Dr. Principal listening to her and never asking me or finding out what was really happening.  That’s how she operated – never enough time or attention to any real, or made up, problems.  I think schools need directors and managers, not principals who study education but know nothing about managing adults and creating an atmosphere where teachers can do their jobs!

 

I was happy at first that she wasn’t a micro-managr email sending principal like in the Midwest. Instead, she was the total opposite and neither extreme worked. She was  too hands off, had no idea what was really  going on, only relied on hearsay, wouldn’t be available to you (even though she claimed an “open door”) mainly because she was off at some  county  bureaucratic meeting.  She was a great politician, working and networking with the county administrators and higher ups so that’s how she kept her job. 

 

What was I supposed to do with this information, given to me as I was briefly in the hall with a class to return to?  It was a one-minute bomb.  It was ridiculous.

 

 

October 4th

Yesterday at work I talked to my mentor and he said if the kids are too hyped from Spanish class it is because they are engaged and it’s the students responsibility to calm down and the other teacher’s responsibility to engage then.  I also saw the sub from last week in the room next door and asked her if she told the principal.  She had, but it was about Language Arts class and the students that walked through her room to get to the bathroom. (My room didn’t have any exits into the hall, you had to cross the social studies or math classrooms)

 

And the principal told me to make Spanish class quiet but forget it!  We were having fun, we did a story and the kids loved it, and understood all the Spanish. 

 

I went to talk to Dr. Principal but she was tired by the end of the day and didn’t seem to want to talk to me.  I am trying not to be an over sensitive co-dependent.  I don’t want to be a push over anymore.

 

October 5tth

I called a parent who left me a note,  His fluent daughter wants to participate with the others more. I guess I’ll just try to make it one step harder for her. I’ve never had to deal with fluent speakers until now – except one student who came in halfway through for Spanish Three in California but that was a lot of grammar back then. In a way it’s a compliment – my class is engaging that everyone wants to be a part of it. I’ve been thinking about moving to another room but what a pain that would be. Oh well, the other teachers are gonna have to deal. My kids are learning Spanish and having fun – a novel idea for a public school. And in two years I’ll move into being a professor, I hope!

 

October 6th

I had to drop my son off and be strong for what I probably figured would be a bad day at work. But no one was at work. Luckily Dr. Principal was there –  no one called me on the phone tree – school is closed because the water pump is broken. Now I can stay at home and wallow in my sad, lonely, depressing life. My son didn’t want to go to daycare this morning so I had to carry and put him in the car kicking and screaming. He calmed down when I said we’d look for bunnies when I got done with work.  He’s still not too happy with this daycare and I don’t like it either but the cheery one doesn’t have openings until January.  He cried for two weeks, I can’t go through that adjustment again.  Now that I don’t have work, I’ll go get him out early and look for those bunnies.

 

October 8th

Yesterday teaching went well – the Spanish kids wanted another story and we did one I made it up as we went along. And in Language Arts I pretended to be from the future and made them laugh. Maybe that’s why the Social Studies teacher complained about their noise level. I just felt like _____ you – I can’t please everyone around me. I might compromise; move that class to the other room but not the Spanish class.

 

I was feeling sad about all the politics of public school and the other boring, authoritative teachers. I left and realized that to feel better I could do a quick work out. So I rushed and really sweat on the jogging machine and then the treadmill and did two sets of 30 lbs on the weights.  It didn’t cure everything but I felt stronger and like the idea of getting in shape. 

 

I can see why I was frustrated – being told to keep the kids down when we were actually making a connection in Language Arts. That was probably the one and only time we really did a lesson where I had their attention. The future had something to do with a story we were reading in the textbook which was my only guide to teaching Language Arts.  As a colleague of mine says – textbooks were created for teachers who did not know that particular subject. How true for me with that class.  It’s also sad to see how the school’s emphasis was too much on control and quiet and not on real engaging long-term learning. All short term results (even with high stakes testing).  Just ask any employer what they really want – they want long-term thinkers, innovators. But low paying jobs do want submissive employees and  this school was focusing on that – especially for the African American students “who can’t handle it” (those are the words the principal used, not mine).  I wasn’t jiving with their philosophy or assumptions about people at this school.

 

 

 

October 10th

I really don’t like the Supervisor of Instruction for English, FL, ESL woman because she rushed through the pre-observation for my evaluation. Dr. Principal was there and made it worse, telling me she wants me to do cooperative learning and for me to move the desks into pairs.  That’ll be a discipline nightmare for Spanish where there is little need for cooperative learning. You need to hear a language to learn it, not do a lot of cooperative activities before you have enough acquisition to use the actual language. I think I’ll just do my best ignoring all the BS and know that I’ll probably have a job next year because there’s a Spanish teacher shortage.

 

October 14th

Work was fine – normal. Afterwards the social studies teacher said two parents complained that her class is too easy.  I’m glad I’m not the only one with problems. This community is highly political.

 

And this was the teacher who the administrator loved since her kids were under control.  Parents want more than control, and I agree with them. 

But in fairness she was a first year teacher (well, kinda, she did teach at an alternative school in the county the year before where she learned how to discipline and keep class order).  Plus, one of the biggest problems at this school was the huge difference between kids. There were “honor’s” students with pushy parents and then there were kids from poverty with parents struggling with the schools.  They were affluent or poor and nothing in the middle.

This teacher was super nice and said that her room looked plain compared to all my Spanish decorations on the wall.  Even though the powers that be liked my room decorations they liked her better because she had an iron fist.  When we studied the words for classes in Spanish, the students told me that her class was very boring. It didn’t matter, she was the darling of the school since she was so tough, but in between classes when she was doing hall duty, those kids were crazy. When the cat’s away. Do we only want monitored people in our society? Is that why some of these kids already went to jail? I think everyone deserves more!

 

October 15th

School went well. My first hour class took my two-peso bribe to be good while I was observed and the lesson went well.  (I handed out “pesos” every week for good behavior and then they could buy things at an auction at the end of the semester – idea from the math teacher and it worked, at first.)

 

I don’t know if the county wide Supervisor of Instruction for Foreign Language and Dr. Principal were impressed by TPRS or not but I was at how much Spanish they are learning.  Then at the end of the day I heard the social studies teacher talking to her mentor. Some of my kids were saying they don’t like her class. I feel better that I’m not the only one with problems.  My kids like Spanish and are learning. I could give a fig about the Language Arts class.

 

This county had a typical mentoring program that has been shown not to work well. Our mentors were other teachers, too busy to be effective.  The California version has been proven to do well – full time mentors who take a year or two off from teaching.

 

October 16th

Yesterday in Spanish class last hour the funny student looked out the window and said, “that guy speaks Spanish” as a gardener rode by on a lawn mower.  So I jumped outside and asked if he spoke Spanish and if he minded coming in the class a moment. He followed me inside and for extra credit some kids asked questions off the top of their heads. These students impress me every day on how much they are learning.  The guy, from Mexico, laughed and thought it was interesting.

 

In traditional Spanish classes that focus on grammar first, a student would have to take a few minutes to look up information to form a question. I know. That’s how I was taught French and it took me half hour to think of a question when I was at a party as a teenager in France.  Usually the conversation had moved on by the time I got my words together.  Yet, in TPRS method and in natural instruction methods, these kids could ask things right away.

 

October 17th

I got to school and again missed the message that we didn’t need to be there untill 10:30 in the morning because it was a teacher workshop day. But I got most of my grading done and just need to put in the computer now because in the afternoon I didn’t get as much done.  Too much socializing!  But that’s important too.

 

October 25th

Yesterday at work I was tired and had a headache. At the end it got worse.  There was a message from a Spanish speaker’s parent. Last time that went badly and this student, Everaldo, has been acting bored and hostile.  So I called but only could leave a message.

 

Then I wanted to get going when I got a call from an angry parent because her son’s grade went down. I tried to explain that he wasn’t keeping up with the assignments ever since our last “positive” phone call.

 

October 28th

As I cooked dinner I called parents from Language Arts. One was cold – seemed like she didn’t care about her daughter’s behavior in class and the other mad about the changes in the Special Education program by throwing the students into the mainstream.  Not my department. Teaching and politics suck!  I’m in the fall slump – hating the discipline but happy to see how much Spanish they are learning.

 

October 31st

This October was so much nicer than the stress of last year even though yesterday started off stressful.  Language Arts started off badly – lots of talking and I got tired of snotty back talking kids like Loud Mouth girl and her advocate friend saying “You need to get this class under control”.  So I yelled at them that they all contribute to the rowdiness and I’m sick of it.

 

Then just as I was about to start a lesson the smallest kid in class popped up, for no reason that I could see coming, and threw a trash can at the biggest kid in class. The big kid got up and headed towards the tiny guy. I told everyone to get away and buzzed for an administrator. The big kid held up the tiny guy like he was a doll and slammed him into a desk.  The administrators came and took them away. The class was all riled up. I wanted to go in a corner and cry. But I had them write about it and then gave them group work. They were loud but working.

 

For the first time, this class dove into the assignment. They wrote about what happened during the fight. I guess it’s true – kids will learn if they have an interest in the topic. Describing the fight was an interest to each of them.

 

Then LaShawna and Loud Mouth girl started yelling at each other from across the corners of the room. Next thing – just as I went to get an administrator, Loud Mouth left the room then LaShawna followed and others chased them. Chaos again!  Now I wanted to collapse!  The math teacher came in to calm down the class. The teacher’s aide never showed up today without giving any warning or explanation.  I was alone with these monsters. 

 

Later the Vice Principal came in and told them that we’re done being nice – it’s referrals even for talking now. I guess I’ll just try to survive this year with that class. At least Spanish is better and I could chill while they watched a movie. (I don’t think a movie was in my lesson plan but I needed to just rest after that horrible Language Arts class so I popped one in for my afternoon Spanish classes.)

 

 I went from four years and never having a fight to two in one day!  I wrote my friend an email about the boxing ring and he wrote how bus drivers in Mexico are hired only if they’ve had an accident so they won’t panic when it happens again – so now I’m the same with fights in my class. Bring it on!

 

 

November 3rd

My son threw up a few times, especially at 5AM so I can’t bring him to school. Now I’ll probably get it too – yuck!  So I called in to get a sub with the district office, told the vice principal, and emailed my lesson plan.

November 5th                        

I can’t tell if I’m just tired and exhausted or the stomachache is the flu that my son had. I was fine at work. Students did make-up busy work. And Language Arts were great because some talkative kids dropped and others were in the in-school suspension.  I worry, why are they letting kids drop – especially since they’ve all been Black?  The social studies teacher said maybe they realize it isn’t working and I like the smaller, more manageable class anyways.

 

November 7th

Yesterday a parent called wondering why her Language Arts daughter still had an F and said if a lot of kids have Fs then something is wrong – I said another teacher said to fail them.  I told her that it doesn’t matter if they all fail, each student has the responsibility to turn in their assignments, and that includes her daughter.  She tried to blame me for not sending home notices about the missing work but her daughter only talked to me once a week and it’s her responsibility, not mine. It really bothered me.  I’m sick of being dumped on for other people’s responsibilities and I won’t be pushed around.  Then to top it off I worked on my Grad school homework for hours and still have more to do.  Too much to do, the stress is piling. At least I played with my son yesterday because he said he wanted me off the computer.

 

This pushy White parent flipped when she found out I wasn’t a real Language Arts teacher and got her kid transferred out.  Seemed like the district knew the affluent parents would complain but poor parents wouldn’t say anything so that’s why they gave these kids a teacher not licensed in the core subject – which I thought was outlawed with No Child Left Behind.

 

November 8th

Yesterday I was stressed – the students were whiny and needy with the test and I just wanted to finish my Grad school homework. Once I did finish, I was more relaxed.

 

November 13th

I don’t know if it’s me being new to teaching middle school or the parents but I’m having a hard time with them.  Maybe because some of these parents care and, just like inCalifornia, it’s all about the grade. Blame the teacher if your kid is all out of whack.  Monday after school a parent, who is a teacher in another school in the district, came in upset because her daughter had her first B ever and was sure it was going to ruin her chances at scholarships (in middle school?)  She basically ignored the participation points and tried to blame me for not putting the date on the letter home which informed them about it.  She didn’t want to face the facts that her child needed to make up those points to get the coveted A.

 

How annoying. No wonder kids aren’t responsible – their parents do everything for them. She said she would want to know if her child didn’t do well on a test. And then last night I called Drifter’s mom because he’s been wild lately and instead of talking about that she was mad about his F and said it was too late to find out about it. It made me mad again – how is the failing my fault? Apparently at middle school I need to inform the parents about everything. I can barely keep up as it is. And this is only my job – I also have Grad school homework and a son to raise. Maybe the $1600 the county gives me for higher education tuition isn’t worth it – I can make that with just one video production job. Maybe with my husband moving in, and finding work, and if we move into a cheaper place I could find another job as a professor or whatever. We’ll see how much more suffering there is but in general I love the kids this year and the ones who don’t talk really get into the stories – one class was laughing the whole time yesterday.

 

This bully mom was the same who complained to the social studies teacher that her class was too easy for her precious daughter. Just like in California, the children of teachers are sometimes the worse. The parents know how to use the system. Guess what?  I made sure this girl never got a B in my class!  (So, note to parents, make noise, be a bully.  But  think about the price you’ll pay – your kids won’t ever be fully responsible.  Tell me how you feel when they never move off your couch!)

 

November 14th

Yesterday I was gloomy Gus all day and then, voila!  I have my period. I knew it!  But I am feeling isolated and depressed at work. I like 95% of the kids unlike only 5% at high school. And it helped to vent on the foreign language listserv email list about being new to middle school.  Others said they send home progress reports every two weeks and if they don’t come back she’ll call if the student has a low grade.

 

So I did their grades and put them up on the bulletin board yesterday.  Today I’ll add their test grades and be on top of it and cover my butt with their parents this grading quarter.  But after school I realized how much I really hate teaching mostly because there’s always another teacher or parent that make you feel unsuccessful.  I also thought how I took the job because it paid more than the more interesting job I was offered, running an after school program. We can move to a cheaper house, etc. So I’ll just job hunt again next summer and maybe move closer to grad school.

 

The other thing about teaching is the isolation. Only one person – the librarian said goodbye to me at theMidwestschool and I worked there 3 years! It’s like you don’t matter. And here at this East Coast middle school, even with a mentor, no one ever keeps me informed.  Twice I’ve gone to find out there’s no school and once was there when we were supposed to start two hours late. And yesterday started off badly because I forgot about the Language Arts meeting and got in at 7:45. Why start things early in the morning before contract time starts, especially when some of us have to drop our kids at day care and then have a long ride to work?  Ugh! 

 

Then I get a fax about a Spanish department meeting but it didn’t say where the meeting was being held– the district office?  A high school? This big district really has communication problems, especially to newcomers. No wonder people leave teaching – alone, no feeling of success, too much paperwork, planning (which I love), discipline (which I hate) and very little actual teaching!  I gotta get into the college world – no matter how low it pays.

 

I gotta call my friend who teaches at that University. I could even commute toGradSchoolfrom there since it’s only on Saturdays.  That gives me hope – if this really is  my last year as a public school teacher! I’ll be free! If I want to be a professor, I gotta start working for it – otherwise I’m scared I’ll get typecast and stuck in public education. With teaching there’s no growth – sure you can learn more but you’ll just use it in the same classroom.  There’s no respect – giving you difficult classes outside your field. If they want No Child Left Behind they need to keep the teachers much better paid and give them small classes.  The only ones who stay are ones who never worked anywhere else and don’t know better or are already tied into their retirement and this state sucks for that!

 

November 19th

Yesterday at work I got a nice surprise – a break.  At the end of Language Arts the teacher’s aide told me a sub was coming so I could go to an Individual Education Plan meeting. Sounded good to me.  I was surprised because the Individual Education Plan was for my best Language Arts student (the smartest and best behaved student.)  Last year he was a discipline problem in another city but now with medicine and proper diagnosis he’s fine. There’s hope for lots of these kids!  The rest of the day was easy after my surprise break.

 

I’m sad at my own comment. Are drugs the only answer? When you have thirty six kids in a Language Arts class and most are reading way below grade level, the answer is usually yes.  Small class sizes – what a great concept.  At least to truly keep our children off of drugs. I thought schools were supposed to be drug free zones.

 

November 20th

Yesterday ended up being a good day – even at work.  In the morning one student, Dragon, said he had a package for me. It was a big brown box with labels and packing tape and string.  The label was in Spanish and said “Senora, Classe de espanol, 101 calle Main (main street address of the school), un regalo deChina” (a gift fromChina). As I opened it I became more and more impressed. There was a gift-wrapping and then a stuffed monkey with a nametag “Pip” and another with “Pop.” Brand new stuffed animals. His mother came to open house yesterday where we did a story about two monkeys, Pip and Pop, who go toChinaand sleep. I am still amazed. That’s the most thoughtful gift I’ve gotten as a teacher.

 

And yesterday a student saw me talking about the shortage of books that I have for my Language Arts class.  On her own she found a book in the library for me to use. I really do love these kids. And yesterday some kids helped me move my room and we were singing and talking during my prep.

 

One saw a gay slur scratched on the bulletin board since the room has been left empty for a long time.   I said how I won’t accept slurs in my class and we covered it up with Spanish decorations. The student said her aunt is gay, the other girl said her mom is but I don’t know if she was joking or not and another student said one of my Language Arts students told him he was gay and now that student moved away. Wow, now I’m glad I told people to stop the gay slurs. You never know who your students are.

 

 

Here is the letter that came with the gift package:

Please forgive us for not writing to you in Spanish – I heard your reference that everyU.S.citizen should know some Spanish and maybe “Dragon” could teach us. Thank you and the class both for allowing me to visit your class yesterday – it was a good experience although the young man who pleaded not guilty to throwing the paper across the room really did not do it, it is just human that the teacher sometimes does not see all that is going on – forgive him his “pagame”. I loved the story about the “monos” (monkeys). Please do thank the students for a lively experience.

Thank you,

Dragon’s mom

P.S.It seems that Pip and Pop went toChinabecause they were “made” there.  I am sure they will be overjoyed to return to the embrace of their Professora.

 

I loved this mother and her son was awesome.  Dragon was the name he chose for his nickname in Spanish class. He went to a private Montessori school until fifth grade. His parents were highly educated and very dedicated to his education.  We became close especially since she was the only Spanish student parent to visit my class on parent visitation day (open house) and loved the story we did about two monkeys.  I only had one other visitor – a parent in Language Arts. I was mortified to have a parent visiting that class since I had no idea what I was doing.  To make it worse, it was a parent of a special education student with a very low reading level. I was surprised that he wasn’t horrified at how awfully served she was by having a teacher who wasn’t trained in that subject.

 

November 21st

I’m feeling quite overwhelmed with all this Grad school homework and work is getting time consuming to grade and deal with all these parents. And yesterday it took hours just to pay bills and organize all the money I lack. I got new car insurance just so I wouldn’t have to pay a huge bill from the other car insurance’s mistake in my billing. At least we don’t have kids tomorrow but I have a zillion parent meetings and they’re making me move rooms. I really feel disrespected at this job.

 

The next day  were parent teacher conferences (a parent and all the student’s teachers together) since the grades were already out.  At the same time, they decided I did need a bigger room since squeezing thirty six Language Arts students in a room that was mainly used for in-school suspension was ridiculous.  The new room was bigger but it had no doors – only openings to the hallway and it was right next to the complainer, Mrs. Braggar.  I was stressed about moving all my stuff, and remembered all the time and effort I put in to the bulletin board – now I had to do it again. 

 

November 22nd

I still feel like I don’t have all the crying out of me.  Like there’s a deep sadness and the valve just opened last night. Or better said, yesterday afternoon. Again like inCalifornia, someone was visiting like whenElizabethwas last time.  This time it was my husband who was helping to make the bulletin boards and move into the new room. Again it’s near turkey day and a vacation. Again manipulative teenagers and co-dependent complaining parents. Then, hopefully, again I’m on the verge of a similar revelation – get the heck out of teaching for good and stick to your real dreams.

 

So this is what happened.  I was busy at work with the move and going to conferences. They were going fine, nice parents, etc. I did find out I that I was making a huge mistake in the grading computer program since it’s different than the one in theMidwest.  Since there was never training, I didn’t know that, I assumed it was the same.  So I went to talk to the guidance counselor and she said it’s too late to change the grades. She also said something that shocked me. I asked about switching Wild Child out of my class because all the teachers had talked about her when her parents didn’t show to her conference and they said with her low skills and awful behaviors she shouldn’t be in Spanish and that she was allowed in only because the leaving principal was bitter and did that to a lot of teachers to wreak havoc this year – place students who aren’t ready for that class. The counselor said she’d have to think about it because she doesn’t want to switch kids out of Spanish like some parents/kids have been asking to do.

             I asked, “What?  People want to switch out?  How many? Why?”

She wouldn’t tell me. Seems like that’s this school’s policy -don’t ever tell, never inform, never tell people the truth or even that the damn school is closed.

So I found out the hard way. I went to a conference with Mrs. Puttanesca about her daughter.  We had already met with her at a conference a month ago and she said her daughter is an only child and that’s why she talks in class (read:  enabler!)  But Little Puttanesca has been angry, rebellious, and referral bound all week.

Anyway I was unprepared for the attack her mother lashed out at my Spanish class in front of Dr. Principal – which I thought was odd that she came into that conference, hadn’t seen her at any of the other parent teacher conferences all day.  It felt like the Spanish Inquisition since Mrs. Puttanesca is fromCentral America. I wish I could do like Jerry Seinfeld in that one episode and go heckle Mrs. Puttanesca at her work now that she’s ruined me at my work. 

So she just got done explaining to the other teachers that her daughter is hypoglycemic and that’s why she has Fs in all her classes, not just mine. 

Then she said, “I don’t know how you run your class, but Little Puttanesca says you only give three words a week – that’s too little, And they do pre-K stuff, it’s not challenging.  She doesn’t know anything.”  (If it is so pre-K, then why does her child, have an F?  Oh, I got it, it’s not because she’s failing every class, it’s the teacher’s fault. When in doubt, always blame the teacher.  And as you’ll see, most times, the principal will collaborate)

She didn’t even listen when I said I do fifteen new words a week that I put up on the board for them to copy in their notebooks, plus a ton more that are acquired in the stories and in the textbook. I just felt attacked and like she could attack only me and my class versus the other teachers and classes because she’s fluent in Spanish and therefore appears to know something about learning second languages yet knowing and teaching them are two different things. She attacked me so she could get her kid out of that one F.  There was no point because that was her goal, to switch her kid out of my class and that wish was granted right there in front of me from Dr. Principal.  Good because Little Puttanesca was doomed and it’ll make the class better. (I was right. After she left it became one of my best classes. With her negative influence gone, one of her buddies blossomed and really learned and became one of my favorite students. Some things are a blessing in disguise. I just wonder if this child manipulated her mother so much that now the mom is taking care of her babies, while still being a teenager.  Just my hunch.  Looked like the direction that girl was heading with her attitude and dress.)

When the firing squad left I tried to explain to Dr. Principal that Little Puttanesca hadn’t done anything all year and my mentor said the same for his class right there at the conference. But she didn’t seem to care she just wanted to talk to me so we went to her office. Now it’s not some rumor that teachers are complaining but parents too, though she didn’t know any specifics about Spanish.  Sure tons have left Language Arts and that’s good. I’m sick of the rumor mill but she did say that she saw things from day one that she was concerned about – that’s valid but again, she came into Language Arts class, not Spanish, and why is she telling me now, three months later?  She said these kids can’t handle anything but the strictest discipline.  She asked if I had discipline problems before.  I said in theMidwestit was a small school.  

Let me comment here, she always said “these kids need the strictest discipline” but let me read what was understood between the lines – these BLACK kids need the discipline.  And from national studies most schools view black students as needing discipline since they expel and discipline black children more, mostly boys, so much so that half don’t graduate.  I felt like the only one in the district who even wanted to talk about the racism and wished they didn’t have me as their English teacher since that gave a message of how little the district cared about them.  The real English teacher that gave me such problems always kicked black kids out of her class until we went to a conference about it and instead those kids from her class  just dropped out of school – at age 13!  And being strict, besides not really working, didn’t seem to really educate. During my prep I could hear one math class going on down the hallway where the teacher constantly yelled for kids to sit down and they did, but the lessons were horrible and boring. Good control, horrible education. We really need to ask ourselves as a nation, what type of education do we really want.  Now it’s all about discipline and following the rules or drop out forever.)

After she said her piece, I just shut down, wanting to cry – all this crap at once. She asked if I had any reading background and I said none at all – shouldn’t she have asked this before assigning me to teach an English class? She wants me to read some book about how to teach reading by the end of Winter Break– great another thing to do, at least I won’t have homework from Grad school. And then she wanted to see my new room and help organize it. I just wanted to be left alone. I walked in the room and when my husband started to talk to me I told him not to since she was right behind me.  I just wanted to disappear. She showed me how I should keep my room clean – I was already doing that “advice” she gave me earlier but now I’m just moving so piles of paper are back. I helped make the books look nice and she asked something and I just couldn’t keep it in any longer – I cried and said how the Language Arts isn’t fair to me or the kids because I don’t know what I’m doing and she said that’s her background and she could help.  What a stupid thing to say, she’s the principal, not the teacher so if her background is in reading she a) shouldn’t have given me the class if it’s so important to study reading – why give a class to someone who never studied how to teach reading/writing and b) then why doesn’t she fricking teach it and I’ll go to luncheons with the district administrators like she does all the time during that class period?

But I hate the way she wants me to vary my Spanish class to “different learners” just because some F students used their parents as weapons. She’s trying to tell me to do reader’s theater and output and all the things that go against the research on how second language learners need a lot of input, especially at level one which all my classes are. I feel like my knowledge and background in Spanish are totally ignored, like I don’t matter. Just keep the poverty kids in line, give the college bound ones with bossy parents an A for their grades. Too big a difference here – poverty and collegebound, no middle. (To be honest, I didn’t even know what reader’s theater was back then.  Now I know it’s a way for kids to take some reading materials and turn it into a play which they read.)

Anyways she asked what I needed from her to help me and at least that was nice but I told her I’d get back to her – I just needed to cry. I went on a walk with my husband – forget the other parent teacher conferences. I cried and told him what happened and he just listened. But when he talked something clicked – he said every job has it’s price and that reminded me that I knew going in that I hate this BS with parents and discipline and how principals only hear the negative and she’s new to manipulative teenagers and their co-dependent parents (this principal had been very successful at the elementary school for many years, but this was her first year at the middle school – adolescent and pre-adolescent kids and she had no idea what she was getting into. She had never dealt with the blame the teacher for my not doing my homework manipulation). 

I knew what I was getting into but I sold my soul to the devil – I took the $ (which still isn’t enough but somehow I get by.) I took the job knowing I suck as a teacher but was hopeful because I actually like the kids this year and still do. So when my husband said that I instantly knew I had to suck it up, do the least till June, take the salary and the $1600 for grad school and run. It’s my deal with the devil but it’s for the greater good – my son and grad school.  And next year I can take a lower salary while my husband finds a job here and then with my creative skills and my actual teaching skills I can become a professor, without the parents and discipline. I realize that I can’t ever teach public school again – 5 years now and I’m never gonna get the discipline and BS down.  I am good at other things so forget the brats – they can rot in the political crap of education. I’m sending my son to private school.

So, I went back to work, talked to my mentor some and was prepared for another attack by Mrs. Puttanesca’s best friend, Mrs. Wobbler (who is so beautiful it’s distracting but she also is 100% co-dependent.) She gave the same argument about me not giving homework and tried to say I teach improper Spanish.  My mentor thought that was snobby meaning not Upper class Spanish  – but it all is basic Spanish, right from textbooks, and how many different ways are there to say things anyways – despite what social class you come from.  Ain’t I right ?

I was mad that she attacked me for not being Hispanic since she used our conversation at open house against me where I told them, innocently, that I was not a native born speaker.  But I let her talk because she was digging her own grave and not listening as the other teachers explained that her son goofs off and doesn’t work in their classes too. She obviously was trying the same tactic as Mrs. Puttanesca but it didn’t work out as well for her.  So I ended up feeling normal – some parents even attacked the great math teacher and he’s a god.

My husband took us out to dinner which was nice. I felt that crisis cry exhaustion all day until now.

 

This was the one day I was worried about reliving but actually I feel nothing now.  One reason I started going through my diaries, school paperwork, and bad memories was a way to heal. I felt so low especially after this last year of teaching. I felt like I couldn’t work for anyone ever again, especially as a teacher. But time does heal wounds. And closing one door opened others – I started teaching homeschoolers Spanish and learning about home schooling and alternative ways to educate kids and now I’m not hurt at all. I see the faults in the system, in the principal, the parents, and thought it would be  hard to see the faults also in me. But I feel strong – I can relive the bad, hopefully help other kids and parents to think about what really might be going on in schools. And give my two cents as a “bad” teacher.

 

November 23rd

I can’t shake off the blues from the other day. My pride is hurt. The candle that burns at both ends is blowing out. I don’t feel like doing anything. At least I cleaned up the living room some and I made a grocery list. But a lot of me still feels like crying. I have bounced back before when everyone made me feel like a bad video director during my first production but I kept making movies. And I care less about teaching but some of me still really does care about education.  I want to write my funny tell all about teaching – like the Nanny Diaries. I’ve been getting ideas about that and I looked in the bookstore at grad school and there was nada like the book I want to write. Only books with the same old BS about class sizes and setting up your room, etc. etc.  Creativity and fun are not allowed in school because control is what it’s all about. This will be a hard year with administration and parents but at least I like the kids this year.  They are learning Spanish.  And I know I made a deal with the devil so I’ll pay the price. Sold my soul and in June I’ll get it back but if it leads to a bestseller it’ll be worth it. But it makes me mad that the crisis depressed my whole weekend.

 

 November 24th

I don’t want to go. I want to stay in bed and never go into another classroom again.  I still can’t get the arrows out of my chest. I just keep feeling like a loser, a failure, the one who makes this middle school the bad out of control school that it is. Is it because I’m the 3rd child – the one that represents the marriage and I was born in the eye of the storm? I feel the divorce was my fault; I’m to blame for everything? That’s how I feel about this school – the scapegoat. For weeks I’ve seen the looks from Dr. Principal and the counselor. Yes, talk about me but not to me. Teaching in middle school reminds me of being in middle school – a lot of the teachers and administrators seem to use rumors and popularity in the same way as the students.

I feel my hearts been ripped out for their sacrifice to the Gods of Discipline. But the funny thing is I’ve got the kids on my side. They love my class and are learning. Isn’t that what school is about?  I stupidly thought so when I started.

Maybe teaching is worse than show biz – it’s meaner. So I’ll just put on my rhino skin and think “forget the administration”. If they’re going to let the parents push them around then we’re in trouble anyways.  I’ve seen enough kids switching their schedule to know the parents and kids are running the show here and that’s dangerous. But I really don’t’ want to go and face Dr. Principal. So I’ll have to put my war paint on just to get to work.

 

November 25th

I think I’ll survive this school year.  I was mad at first and at lunch – I got a review of my Language Arts lessons.  It was written by all the administrators and they said how I did everything wrong. Well “duh, I’m not an English teacher”. 

 

It reminds me of the Seinfeld where Kramer goes to “work” and the boss says, “These reports look like you’ve had no business training at all.” 

He says “Well I don’t even really work here” and the boss says, “That’s what makes this so difficult.” 

It’s so ridiculous to judge me on something I have zero training in – I was hired to teach Spanish and some other vague class (she said maybe I would teach drama, never mentioned Language Arts at the job interview).

 

Then after being mad all during Language Arts – the bigger room does keep things a bit quieter but I miss being isolated in my small tucked away room.  In Spanish 6th period Dr. Principal came in and gave me the books she wants me to read. The way she said hello calmed me. She’s still nice and I didn’t feel like as big a loser. So I guess I’ll survive and it’ll all be worth it if I can write my tell all and if it does as well as the Nanny Diaries.  But I’m glad I feel better and am letting go of my hurt pride.  I feel better, like a cloud was lifted.

 

THE LESSON REVIEW – The one I received that day for Language Arts Class:

 

Your lesson plans reflect:

Limited evidence of assessment

Limited evidence of individual practice

 

Your lesson plans must include:

Content standards

Objectives

Assessment

Anticipatory

 

You may want to touch base with one of the resource teachers or your mentor to find out more information about the essential curriculum in reading and appropriate instructional strategies.  Before, during and reading strategies should be included for all Reading/language Arts activities. 

 

All the principals, the three vice-principals and Dr Principal,  wrote this about my lesson plan (which they reviewed  every once in awhile but we had to turn in every week – I always had to at every job, usually you can stop that once you become a tenured teacher.)

They looked at my language arts lesson which was actually just a photocopy of my planning book. I didn’t realize I had to do the whole long planning sheet each week, and I don’t think I ever did except for evaluations.  They say another reason that teachers leave the field is all the useless paperwork. If I had to do all those lesson plans with the proper labels (anticipatory which means try to get them interested, assessment, practice, etc) I would’ve gone crazy and had no time to breathe!

 

 

November 26th

Ah vacation!  It’s all I ever needed, wanted. Yesterday afternoon I left work early.

 

December 1st

At bedtime my son was specific in what videos he wanted to watch.  He didn’t get to bed until one!  Yipes!  So last night I read, in Spanish, Harry Potter and Little House on the Prairie to him and turned off the lights and poof. I need to get my butt in gear and do that every night. No more movies to sleep. The time to read is good for him and good for us. I like spending time with him and some days I feel like I don’t get much quality time but if I don’t make time for my son what’s the point? I’ve already decided I’ve had enough with worrying about being the worst teacher. I’ll give my minimum; they can make me the discipline scapegoat. Who cares?

 

December 3rd

I realized in the shower that I have to stop beating myself up in general. I’m not responsible for all the bad in the world. I didn’t cause Mom and Dad’s divorce and all of this middle school’s problems are not mine. We had a conference yesterday and the student who was being discussed talks in everyone’s class, not just mine. I’m sticking by my guns – games, and stories to teach real Spanish!  And I don’t know diddly about Language Arts and they do better when I read them a story and they just listen.

 

So sad that for control, and lack of knowledge on how to teach reading, I just read them the boring textbook stories.  But sadly, as a student teacher I observed a trained and tenured  English teacher doing the same thing – just read from the text the whole class time  as the class sat comatose.

 

December 4th

I’m feeling frustrated. Frustrated with the mess in the house, frustrated at work, frustrated with all the Grad school homework – two weeks until freedom.  But I just feel like I’m doomed at school. I’ve got a handful of failing Spanish students who just talk and are disruptive and the counselor says they just have to stay and fail (and ruin it for the rest of the kids).  I really hate the lack of communication and support in this school and the feeling like I’m such a failure. I should just stop caring and wait for them to be quiet and not write anymore  referrals – or give them lunch with me – even though that punishes me, not them. I just have no control and I’m going to have to suffer six more months. No more signing contracts with the devil!  Language Arts was better because Dr. Principal came in,gave them a list, and told them how we’re gonna change the class because I’m a Spanish teacher.  I see they’re hiring another Reading Specialist – I hope it’s to replace my Lang Arts class. Reader’s Theater in English is very different than an actual drama class. I just feel down because I’m a fish out of water – five years have taught me that I’ll never get the discipline – my dramatic personality wants them to act, have fun but they take it too far since no other teacher does that. And I really hate silence – it makes me nervous. So I suck and I’m embarrassed that three schools know I’m an awful teacher – or bad at something.  But I’m good at other things – like writing, organizing events, traveling.  So I’ll get out of this public education desert soon!

 

I agree with Iacocca that we should just realize that some kids are going to fail and let them go because they take up too much time, resources, and energy away from the kids who are trying. Besides if they are kicked out, those who stay will take it more seriously. Maybe they could work somewhere – supervised for their young ages – like 12 and up.  Then once they realize that they need and want an education, they can be let back in.  I guess that would also require rethinking grade/age divisions. They could just be let back to get the credits they need – whatever their age.  I don’t have all the answers but I definitely think education should not just be a given and many students and parents need to respect education, again, and one way to do that is make them work for it.

Ironically, when Dr. Principal came into the room even one kid wouldn’t behave for her.  He twirled his desk around on his knees, not an easy accomplishment. He didn’t care when she asked him to stop. I just felt like “See, even you can’t control all these kids.”  Dr. Principal registered no sympathy.

 

December 5th

Snow and sleet in the next county over but not here. Sob!

Dr. Principal said she came by twenty minutes before eight and I wasn’t here.  She says she needs me to give her my time to help improve the class. I wanted to scream – my time!  I said I’m not available in the morning because the daycare won’t open early enough – I barely get here on time as it is.  I said I was available in the afternoons. We did talk at my prep so that works too!  She wants to make the Language Arts class so interesting that the kids will want to read –  so that’s good. And seems easier for me too. And classes went fine, even with the snarly kids. I’m trying not to write referrals.

 

 

December 6th

Yesterday I couldn’t believe it when Dr. Principal asked me to read a book this weekend!  Yipes. I have Grad school: a big plan to write, a quiz, and another report, Ugh!  Plus I got another bad review on my lesson plans and I don’t want that so I’ll type up a BS one in a better format for them – especially since it didn’t specify if it meant Spanish or Language Arts. But my husband reminded me to make Grad school my priority. I like the idea of my husband finding a steady job here and I can work on being my own boss of a video company – weddings, quinceneras. It’d be great. Work one real day, one other to edit and get $500-1000 a week. Oh yeah!  Maybe I’ll even homeschool my son – or at least half time. I stayed up late to finish our group report for Grad school. I also studied for the quiz but think I’ll fail. If only I could photocopy myself to be in ten places at once. And it scares me – a 36  year old was found mysteriously dead. They said on the news that she was trying to work less and spend more time with family. Yipes. That’s what’s important – not work!  I would miss my son so much if I croaked.  So I studied for the quiz and chatted with him about dolphins as he took a bath.

 

 

December 8th

Yesterday was awful. I was worried all day for my dog – she ran to catch a rabbit and slipped out of my husband’s grasp on her leash and hasn’t been home since. I felt guilty when we went out – to make photocopies of her picture for the “lost dog” posters. I couldn’t believe I’d lost her. I read the book Dr Principal asked me to while waiting for my copies. I worried that my dog would come home while we were gone. We had already walked the forest yelling for her. Then on the way home we turned towards the apartment and my husband spotted her leash – a glimmer of hope – she wouldn’t be tied against a tree and starve to death like I had feared.  But as I turned the car back around it got worse – there she was – on the side of the road. I started sobbing. My worse fear had come true – she chased a rabbit and was hit by a car. I cried wondering if she knew how much I loved her and what a jerk I’d been putting her on the bottom of my priority list with school and all. My husband got out of the car to make sure she was dead and not hurt. I sobbed but my son was scared and told me to stop crying and started to cry himself so I had to stop. But back at the house I sobbed some more but couldn’t for long because of my son again. I calmed down and played ball with my two year old (almost three later this month). I had to get back to life because he gets scared by Mommy crying. The biggest gift my dog ever gave me was showing me not to ever take loved ones for granted They should always be priority and given my attention. I’ll remember that as more people demand of me – my priority is  my son because if it hurts this much for my dear puppy, I’d just keel over if I ever lost him and I hate to even think about it – not even of me dying and leaving him motherless. So playing with my son helped. Then I was even able to do my grad school homework and slashed the work I’d do for the middle school to half. Who cares?  I’m quitting. I don’t need to be the best at everything. I just hope my dog knew how much I loved her.

 

December 9th

Yesterday was hard. I miss my puppy so much. Her tail wagging, her playfulness, the way she’d run like wild. Her thick pretty fur which was just growing in for the winter.

 

Dropping off my son was horrible. I told the teacher about the dog and she said she was sorry.  But walking away from him was torture. I wanted to be with him – never leave him. And then work made me feel worse. First period Spanish talks and yells and are awful and with my cold I couldn’t even think or hear. I almost cried. That was after an assembly so we had lunch afterwards when I did cry in my room.  Some students saw me and I cried more when I said my dog had died. I sent them to lunch. I just didn’t think I could handle the stress of work. I just wanted to be home. But I got through the afternoon and stayed until four because I had to do grades. But when I got home it was sad not to have my puppy greet me at the door. Does she miss me as much as I miss her?  I just want to quit work. I can’t wait till my husband can find work. Maybe I will quit and just focus on my son and Grad school. That was my dream in the first place – to not work and just study.

December 11th

I really don’t like doing things because it’s somebody else’s goal or idea. It causes problems. That’s half the problem at work – I can’t do my job.  The county wants grammar and textbooks, parents want homework, and the school wants my class to be perfectly quiet. I just can’t care anymore. Everyone wanted me to move my room next to Mrs. Bragger, well, she’ll just have to deal. She hushed us when we were singing a song yesterday. Obviously learning Spanish isn’t the goal. If the school doesn’t’ care then I don’t either.

 

December 14th

My husband says he hasn’t been in a physical fight since junior high.  What is up with that age? Lacking communication skills? 

 

I’m feeling all down – not wanting to go to work. Ugh!  I hate first period but some kids are moving away to another military base.  Yeah!

 

December 16th

Yesterday was awful at work. Actually most of the day went fine they were quietly taking a test. 6th period used to be fun but these talkative girls are now angry and rebellious especially the Spanish teacher’s daughter (he teaches in a high school in the district) and her “Hood Wanna Be” friend who hung up when I tried to call her mother. Everything blew up when grades came out. I guess adding last week’s work put some kid’s grades down and it was different than I had posted. And I rounded their grades down because I knew they aren’t doing their assignments and would fail the test today. So they were mad and I was mad about their whining and arguing (typical teens) and how I just try to do what every else does. I get burned – it was the science teacher who told the parents he rounds down for mid term grades. I did it to save my butt because the parents are such a pain in it. If they have a D on interims and it goes down to a F they get mad – so I wanted to show a realistic picture of what their kid are or are not doing. Maybe now I can talk to Hood Wanna Be’s mom but today the kids will make me pay and the counselor will give me the evil eye. She’s really a jerk- not letting moron kids transfer out because it’s a high school credit course – well they shouldn’t have to let a lot of these kids in in the first place or they should’ve just let me teach TPRS. Ugh!  Its so frustrating being in the wrong job. I just wanted to walk out and never return – ever!  There is hope – a job at an attorney’s office for 40-60K.  I’ll apply and see what happens but it sounds more exciting – yet maybe too many hours. I really just want to focus on my master’s degree. I need a no brainer no stress job. But I’d take that job to get out of teaching and maybe do another career – especially if it’s the 60 K salary. Later I called my best friend for her birthday. She said I should go for that attorney job and get the heck out of teaching. I just hate the feeling that it’s all me but I think I’m back in a system like California -too big, too many pushy parents and no way you can please anyone so I’ll please myself.

 

 

 

December17th

The students are such liars. I checked the grades that were up on the wall for a week and they were exactly the same that went home – even Hood Wanna Be’s grade D.  Only one or two kids were really at an 80% or anything higher.  The kids that aren’t doing so well are the ones that are complaining. I heard Hood Wanna Be say that she, Shanequa and Max from other classes, were leaving. Great!  But I hate this rumor mill school that never takes into account that the kids failing are the ones that do nothing. Well if they let them into the class and they’re not studious enough then let them go.  I’m just keeping my mouth shut because that’s what I want – the dud kids out. I just feel like they’re using the “race” card because the counselor is Black and these kids are.  There are some white kids that are failing too. It is behavior, not race.  But I know they are trying to say that it’s my racism. Sad fact is – then it makes them take less responsibility. But I saw parents make excuses when they were the same race as the teacher anyways. 

 

So since I found out the truth and the kids had lost their burst of feistiness, yesterday was calm. I heard Hood Wanna Be say “It’s not worth arguing with her” and she read a book. Good!  And next semester I’ll divide them into small groups and they’ll do lots of busy work. Gotta look out for me since this school doesn’t care or have their act together.

 

The counselor told me parents complained their kids weren’t ready for Spanish Two last year.  So that’s what I’m doing – getting them ready.  Then she wonders why some kids are failing – so they won’t go to level two and then there won’t be any complaints.  They aren’t academically ready for the challenge. 

 

Counselors are a pain because they only listen to the kids and their parents. She never talks to me and I won’t even look at her now.  She came into that parent meeting with an ambush in mind. But now I know it’s a blessing in disguise – without Little Puttanesca my 2nd period is now my quietest and best class. So I’d love to see that mother and thank her for pulling out her lazy kid who only talks and growls.  And today I only have to sing Christmas songs for twenty minutes then pop in the movie.  I love movies. I’ll bring all my Spanish materials out of storage in theMidwest this vacation and we’ll watch lots of movies next quarter.

 

Just to be clear, I don’t think all the students who struggled academically or behaviourly are African-American. This was my first time in such a diverse school and the problems ran through all races and social economic backgrounds. I did think there were a lot of problems that were not being discussed about race and the teachers, administration, and those running the school had feelings about race that caused trouble for the kids and parents.  I didn’t understand why no one wanted to be honest about the history of the area or affect it had to have White people in charge at the highest levels.  I was also surprised how I started to feel anger towards students and staff, though I tried not to blame it on race. I still think there are big differences in socio economic backgrounds, more so than color, and schools favor middle class Anglos.

 

 

 

December 18th

I came home feeling rushed – late from a parent meeting about their failing child.  Rushing to pick up my son from daycare before having to pay a fine there.

 

December 23rd

We’re driving back to theMidwestto get my stuff. I saw  a friend in a big city, she teaches adults for their GEDs. We complained about teaching!  Administrators are dumb – even at adult schools.

I read the local newspaper – my old principal, who is now only in her second year, is sweating because parents are suing the school over student sexual attacks. Karma.  I guess she was too busy organizing the lunch schedule to notice violent attacks by students.

 

January 2nd

I was surprised that my boss Dr. Principal didn’t answer my calls. I left theMidwestearly and drove as much as possible just to meet with her to rearrange my room and now she’s not even answering my call.

 

January 3rd

I went to the middle school today but Dr Principal was MIA. I filed my stuff that I brought back from myMidweststorage bin, put up a word wall and some book baskets, rearranged the desks, and was out of there. I did my part.

 

Reading back I see that Dr. Principal complained about me giving her my time but she never seemed to communicate when that would be. I told her I couldn’t meet early in the mornings, she was usually gone to some county office meeting in the day, and was so exhausted in the afternoon that her open door was closed by then to me.  And now, I drove miles and hours to meet her and she didn’t even call back to arrange the time to meet – we tentatively said the 2nd and 3rd of January.  I see power issues all over this!

 

January 5th

I’m stressed again.  I don’t want to go to work today. Ugh!  Maybe it’ll be fine. At least I cleared up the living room and found that job post for a University Spanish teacher. Hope!  But balancing the budget made me realize how much even this job doesn’t pay the bills. I did get a lot done yesterday – my homework for Grad school, class plans for work, reading the second book Dr. Principal told me to, touched up my resume, played with my son and took a walk with him and my husband.

 

January 6th

Why do I get myself all worked up?  I was all worried about changing the class system but they were fine – at least for Spanish.  Language Arts – they were still just as social and wild and off task. I knew all those theories were just that – theories. I can try some but a whole class full of non-readers is ridiculous.  I just wanted to go home.  That one class ruins me – tires me, frustrates me and makes me hate this school system more.  They are so backward and behind – this school system/county.  But I thought of a kick ass letter for that Spanish professor job. I will definitely go for it and take it if they offer it. That’s what I want – teach at the University level. It’ll probably pay nothing but if my husband can get a job soon, we may survive.

 

I came into work to find out that my moving desks into groups was not enough. Dr. Principal had come in and made my room look like a book shop – there was a long table with a plastic table cloth, bean bag chairs, a corner with a book shelf filled with short story books, and a table for computers. It looked impressive but all my classes had to move around these tables now – and most of my classes were Spanish.  They hated the plastic table cloth, and soon wrote graffiti and destroyed it.  The bean bag chairs ripped within a few weeks and the janitors didn’t like finding beans all over the school.  The table for computers lay empty for weeks and then after I was trained to use the reading program we found out those computers didn’t even have that program.  The kids did use the computers for word processing until kids starting ripping letter keys off the keyboards.  Of course, all of this was blamed on me and not on kids like Mr. Destructo, who took his desk and twirled it around even when Dr. Principal was leading the Language Arts class that day. It was all my fault since I hadn’t taught them how to respect materials.  I’m sorry but I thought that was a given.  I guess school systems put so much money into buildings and supplies that  they don’t care about the kids going through the actual schools. I think the kids know that so in their anger, some destroy the property.

 

January 7th

There’s a glimmer of hope. Yesterday at the after school class on middle school reading, Dr. Principal said I was brave and honest and admitted my frustration in November because the kids weren’t getting what they needed from me since I’m a Spanish teacher. And Spanish classes have been easy now that they do all the work. I like this group learning stuff.

 

January13th

Well it’s finally happened. The tear ducks unclogged and now are overflowing. I had such a bad day at school but felt warrior for a while. Now I just feel wounded.

 

Last night as I put clothes in the drier, some dropped on the floor, and when I went to pick them up, there was my dog’s toy and it made me want to cry so I did and can’t stop. I want to call in sick – forever actually, because I’m afraid I’ll cry again in school.

 

 I got official notice that I suck yesterday. Again it all starts from that Language Arts class. Dr. Principal wrote an evaluation – again mostly from hearsay. Now she has been hearing from Mrs. Bragger complaining next door. She just officially wrote how much I suck and I just feel like I’m never good enough and no matter how I try I’m not teacher material.   The evaluation was written this late, she watched my class in November but didn’t write it until now.

 

Then Dr. Principal showed the county’s Director of Curriculum my room just as the Language Arts kids were all over the place and not listening to me. It’s hard getting them into their work stations since they keep switching – her new system.  So later she came in and yelled at them about not taking care of the books she bought.  She didn’t tell them that it was with school money. 

 

I just wanted to cry.  I was so embarrassed. I tried something new and its still not working for that class.  Then she called me in and I didn’t realize until now, at 4 AM, what she meant when she said she’s changing my thing to unsatisfactory – on a whim because she came into my worse class. She also admitted that two other teachers have classes “like that”, so how do I get the unsatisfactory? And she said she assures my Spanish classes aren’t on task either. That’s bull. Only Spanish 8th hour is getting to be like Language Arts but they’re not even half as bad. So I wrote an email on the foreign language teacher’s list and they said to talk to a union rep, so I did and I felt my ancestral feisty blood and adrenaline on fire. But now I’m just crying. I don’t think I can go to work today. But if I don’t it helps my case since she wants my evaluation signed and my union rep said I have more than twenty four hours to sign it so she’s gonna have to wait, being absent is the perfect way to not sign it – so passive aggressive. Besides I don’t want to cry in school. I want to write and cry and sleep and make love all day and go to the beach or do anything but go to work. Devise a plan so I can leave this job, with the Grad school financial aid money, within a month. Even drive to where my sister lives and find a job there. Anywhere but here! But maybe I’m a mental case and the truth is I can’t hold a job anywhere. I always want to leave. That’s why I hate contracts. But I think I can be warrior today if I can stay home and get my strength back for tomorrow and say “forget all of you” to Dr. Principal and to the school by taking a personal health day and look into breaking my contract, breaking my lease and my daycare agreement. And call Lifetime TV and sell my teacher that kills students film script and call someNew York publishers for my teacher tell all story. I officially suck at teaching so I gotta try my real dreams.

 

FORMAL TEACHER EVALUATION

Dated November 21st

Done by Dr. Principal

 

While she displays a solid content knowledge of Spanish, her plans do not always reflect the details of procedures needed to engage students and keep them on task. With more extensive attention to the procedures of each activity, she may gain more student time on task and engagement of students. In addition, optimal learning for students would occur.

 

Her classroom procedures for entering the classroom, using materials in the classroom, appropriate times for conversation and movement are not apparent as students enter the classroom at varying times of the day. At times, students are very loud and disruptive during the day. Her classroom expectations for behavior should be clearer and stronger and the consequences for misbehavior must be articulated and posted with follow through on each incident.

Unsatisfactory

 

Her lesson during the formal observation had recognizable structure, however, it was not uniformly maintained throughout the lesson. During the lesson, she failed to articulate the objective/outcome of the lesson. She possesses a broad knowledge concerning Spanish instruction. She attempts to use a variety of methods however, the methods are not always successful.

 

At this time her classroom management has serious problems which is (sic) affecting student achievement both in Spanish and her reading/language arts class. Her students are disruptive to the point that it impacts on other classrooms surrounding her room.  Failure to make significant changes in this area could impact her overall rating at the end of the year.

 

Wow!  Amazing I could go on living after her compliments/criticisms. And most came from complaints from other teachers about the Language Arts zoo and from one bitter parent about Spanish (from the failing student.)

 

Now compare Dr. Principal’s Evaluation to the Supervisor of English, Foreign Language, and English as a Second Language’s informal evaluation – which was given a few days after the actual observation.

 

FIRST OBSERVATION

You display solid content knowledge and make connections to the real world (necessity of knowing how to tell time correctly when traveling in a foreign country).  The explanation of the way the Spanish tell time (military time) may have also been a good place to integrate some math concepts.

 

You convey genuine enthusiasm for the content, and students demonstrate commitment to its value. You encourage interest and learning in Spanish through your colorfully decorated room with its labeled objects, alphabet, etc. You also had students support each other for their efforts through applause.

 

Your transitions occur smoothly, with little loss of instructional time. Your routines for handling materials and supplies function moderately well.  For instance, you have the materials stored in baskets. The process of having three different students distributing and collecting clocks, erasers, and markers would be more efficient if instead you have all the students pass the objects forward to a particular student rather than have each student up again collecting. You practice procedures for order and safety. The odor of the markers can be a concern, especially for students with asthma and other respiratory conditions.

 

You have established appropriate standards of conduct and they are clear to all students.  Student-student interactions are generally polite and respectful. You show a general awareness of student behavior but may miss the activities of some students. Students were generally well behaved but became more off task during the last 7-10 minutes of the period. One female did almost no work (folded paper, wrote notes) other than answer a direct question. In addition, one student told another one to “shut up”  Proximity control would increase your ability to monitor student behavior more effectively.

 

The vocabulary you use is correct but inappropriate to students’ ages or backgrounds.  Avoid the use of the words “stupid” “dumb” “fat” as descriptions of character because they are negative and thus not good role models for the students.

 

That’s silly since that is part of the Spanish One curriculum in all schools – smart, not smart/stupid, big, little, skinny, fat.  Look in any textbook.

 

I wrote down what the principal suggested at this post – observation meeting:

Group/pair work

Move around the room

Referrals for kids who destroy property

Share and then respond to each other with 50% of the class working

 

Funny how months later when I am doing her suggestions of group work and group learning, I start to get burned.

 

January 14th

What a week and I already had to take a day off. I went on the Internet and sent out some resumes. I needed action. I even decided to go to work because it just felt like I had to – to know I’m strong and can face a challenge and not be brought down – even if I did wake up at 3:30 in the morning and worried that I would cry at work. But actually the kids were fine – the lessons went well.  Dr. Principal was next door and didn’t notice my perfect Spanish class 2nd hour – working on task.  Of course, I’m never caught being good. Nor did she come by when Language Arts was quiet and doing their work.

 

Instead she did pop in on 8th period –  my worse Spanish class. She brought the county Supervisor of English, Foreign Language and ESL with her – who has never even taught a foreign language. They came in as I was talking about superstitions since it was the 13th.   I became nervous seeing them there and had a feeling it was for a bad reason – to talk bad about me and for Dr. Principal to have more evidence from the Foreign Language Supervisor– so she could justify her evaluation.

 

I ran around the room checking every student to see what they were doing and of course the ones who have the lowest grades had to sit at the table with the hardest task. I was so nervous especially when I saw them talk to each other the whole time and had a gut feeling it was bad.  I did hear Dr. Principal point out that the room looked so good because she had organized it (yeah, she has access to all the money to buy these books and chairs whereas I have to beg for one novel for my Spanish classes.  Plus, she never helped me feel confident about what I’m doing in Language Arts. That’s what she should really take pride in – helping teachers teach, not her re-decorating skills)

 

When they finally left I went up to the table and asked the students if they heard what they said. They said they talked about how unorganized I am and the class is unorganized too, and how I shouldn’t have talked when the students are talking. They asked her, the student, how she knew where the warm up was or how she knew where to go with the new cooperative ideas that Dr. Principal told me to do which I’ve barely started and she’s trying to criticize already this group work thing. Luckily the student told them exactly what she was supposed to do but I doubt they noticed that I did do something right.

 

I couldn’t believe it – talking bad about me in front of kids – that’s the kiss of death. Now the teenagers will use that when they are mad about something – “the principal says you are a bad teacher.”  I just wanted to cry and could feel it coming up again. I waited till the kids left and vented on the foreign language email list and cried. I can’t do anything at this job without being criticized. I got myself together and was the first person at the library for the Dr. Principal’s dumb reading class. But the social studies teacher came by and she saw my puffy face earlier and asked what was wrong and I started crying again. We walked around the building a hundred times it seemed and I told her my feelings and how I admire how disciplined her class is. She understood my frustration especially since she knew the problems with the Language Arts class. I appreciate her listening to me. I got myself together and went to the class but knew I needed a day off. Last night I came home and told my husband the situation. He said it’s called harassment and when I thought about it, he’s right. If they really cared, they would have taken notes and told me later because what they were saying is very fixable.

 

It’s all been ridiculous – first by telling me I’m hopeless. But she admitted they wouldn’t let her pay for another language arts resource teacher. So maybe she wants me to quit. Well that changes everything. Now I refuse. I’ll stay. Do the minimum. Enjoy my salary which I hope increases now that I changed my W2 form. Even the Union rep couldn’t believe it. On the email listserv, the response is so nice. It made me cry out of joy. It must be the stress that makes me cry. But today I slept in and we drove to the beach, and relaxed and now I’m ready to do nothing at work.

 

Well, this was another horrible day but now it makes me think how I felt like 50% of our students in this country. Always disciplined and told they’re  not behaving and hopeless. Guess what?  They quit, they stop trying.  They are never caught being good. So they drop out. And some never really do find permanent or rewarding work, or work for a living wage but that’s another story.  I was an adult with lots of experience to withstand the criticism – what chance do children and teens have?  Schools focus too much on control and not on real education – getting to really know the students, having time and small classrooms to let kids blossom – not be told they are “bad” for not following the rules to sit down, to shut up, and to be fed information so they can regurgitate it on a useless test. 

 

ANGEL’S ACCOUNT OF WHAT DR. PRINCIPAL ANDCOUNTYSUPERVISORWOMAN SAID

I had the students who sat at the table write down what they had heard.

 

On the 13th two people were in this class talking about the teacher.  The one person was the principal, the other person I don’t know who she was. They were talking about her at my table. I guess they were trying to whisper but they were not doing such a good job at it. They were asking me a bunch of questions like: What are you doing? How do you know what to do?  Does your teacher tell you how to do your warm-up?  Do you understand how to do Spanish?

 

 I answered them and I told her that I understand Spanish and that the teacher tells us and helps us like every other teacher. After I would answer a question, they would turn to each other and whisper.  I could hear what they were saying back and fourth with each other. They were saying that the teacher was “unorganized” and that us kids didn’t know what we were doing in class.  Then they both would agree and talk some more they kept repeating “She didn’t know what she was doing”, “she was not organized” “she cannot teach kids Spanish when she doesn’t know it herself”  Well they were saying all this stuff about her that I think was inappropriate for class. And it made me mad that they didn’t really whisper and they were talking bad about her in her class.

Angel (the name she choose for Spanish class, which I think became appropriate)

 

How dare they say I don’t even know Spanish. I got my first teaching job because I spoke better Spanish than the other candidates.  They seem like junior high students themselves- gossiping ( instead of acting like adults and the professionals that administrators try to pride themselves on being.)  Plus, neither one of them taught a second language and as far as I know, they don’t even really know one.  That was really irksome about the county supervisor person who was supposed to be our expert advisor.

And Dr. Principal did know I knew Spanish because one time I was speaking Spanish to one of the native speaker substitute teachers. I couldn’t believe her immaturity when she joked “Don’t talk about me” and imitated us by making weird “foreign” sounds, like she’d never heard another language in her life before.  Juvenile behavior for Junior High.

 

After they showed up I posted the rules on the wall and fixed some of the “organizational” stuff which they could’ve just told me to do. But seems like they wanted to demoralize, bully, and chase me out which a lot of administrators are good at doing.

 

On NPR they said that it costs the nation seven billion dollars a year for all these teachers who leave the field, usually from lack of support. Maybe I should send Dr. Principal a bill.

 

January 15th

Today is my lucky day.  So far no luck for getting out of school – no snow like everyone was expecting. That’s okay. Today is the first day of the rest of my teaching career. I’ll be okay because I won’t go!  I won’t let the hostile environment get me down. I’ll do the minimum but not “willful neglect of duty.” I read that they can dismiss you for that and “insubordination.”  But being fired would be great!  I’m sure I’ll get through – at least I know I have support from the foreign language email listserv who can’t believe what’s happening and the union representative, my husband, and even Mom can’t believe it.

 

January 16th

Yesterday went fine. Mainly because the students can talk to each other as they do their group tasks.  I don’t care anymore. I’m not going to quiet down the class as they do their work. It doesn’t matter.  Dr. Principal never asked for the evaluation to be signed. It was also an easy day because I had a sub and learned to use the computer program for Language Arts most of the day. Awesome – can plug the kids in.  The trainer man was nice – once was a teacher but now designs software for schools. Gave me some career ideas. I came into Language Arts half way through and they were fine, a little talkative but 90% were on task for a change. As long as I focus on them learning and don’t give a flying fig about Dr. Principal and her Nazi discipline I think I’ll survive. 

 

One student, Dragon, made me laugh when he said he thought I was fired.  Some other students were worried too because I was gone 1 ½ days.  He said he and Nino, who is funny but a bit loud in class, designed a plan to jump Dr. Principal. How creative. Angel from 8th period said they were planning a walk out. How sweet! 

 

Last night I called two parents – one as a call back about grades. She said her son was translating what the people at the next table in a restaurant were saying and she was impressed after only a few months of Spanish. Yes! 

 

Oh, I had them all write 200 word essays to prove they do know Spanish.  They all could free write but some of the students who haven’t been studying or doing their assignments could only write seventy five to one hundred word essays.  Still, not too bad compared to a grammar only class who, in general, can never do a free write without studying and preparation for the exact topic.

 

I called Dragon’s mother since she’s the only parent who visited my class, in case Dr. Principal tries to attack my Spanish methods again. We actually talked awhile and she said she’s sorry things are tough and she wasn’t impressed by Dr. Principal who seemed to dismiss the honor students needing challenges and had a librarian removed.  Obviously Dr. Principal is into power and I’m at her next axing (transferring list.) Whatever.

 

 January 17th

Yesterday  work was fine. Checked kids’ work for the week and ran out of time so showed some of the scene in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid doing a bank robbery in Spanish. Then just as I was about to go to lunch one of the assistant principals came in saying daycare called and I have to pick up my son. I rushed to get something for the sub – luckily it was the one who knows Spanish and is a cool person.  I was glad to leave and worried about my son. I was all worked up so very relieved when I came in and he was singing and dancing. He has a cough and pink eye so he couldn’t be there.  I surprised my husband at home and tried to say I finally walked out of the job but laughed instead. Then we went to the doctor – he also has two ear infections and the doctor said this was the first time he’s seen him really sick.  So I’m super worried. My poor boy.

 

January 21st

Why do I get so down in the dumps?  Because I’m in the wrong situation.  The kids were loud but I couldn’t even make my self care. Dr. Principal squashed my soul as a teacher, what little was left. I figure that’s her problem – how do principals deal with burnt out teachers? If they’re tenured they’re screwed – me, just suffer for the rest of the year and then fire me/or not “re hire.” I just felt so out of it that I didn’t care at all about the wild classes.

 

I talked to my union representative who is so cool.  She understands the “crap” they’ve given me and said we can be hard nosed since I don’t want to return. But I feel weird now. All my fire is gone – my fire to fight for my evaluation.  My fire for even trying to manage a class – it’s all been snuffed out. Again I put it on the administration for giving me the “cream of the crap” class as the Language Arts teacher’s aide puts it. And I blame them for making me not want to go on except I do want them to learn Spanish – I just don’t feel like doing much for the kids that don’t care or don’t listen. If they fail that is their problem. I’m tired of being co-dependent.  And I’ve already given too much time calling parents, which does nothing. And worrying and stressing. I’ll just coast now.

 

January 22nd

Yesterday went smoothly for a change. I thought up some rules for Language Arts and it kept them a little quieter, plus having two talkative kids absent helped, especially the kid I really can’t stand because he’s a destroyer and a liar – Mr. Destructo.

And the last class I bribed with pesos since we’re having an auction next week.

 

The teacher who taught the year before told me about passing out paper coupons called pesos when the children participated in class. With their peso money, they could buy things at the end of quarter auction.  I used some of his leftover trinkets but the most popular item was the hunk of natcho cheese in a slow cooker with some chips.  Yet, the first class wasn’t so excited, the cheese hadn’t warmed up quite enough yet.

 

January 24th

At work I talked with a first year teacher who also feels criticized by the administration.  It’s not just me!

 

January 27th

The Union letter kicks ass and is harsh. But it speaks my mind!

 

THE RESPONSE LETTER TO THE EVIL EVALUATION written with the help of the Union Representative:

 

Dear Dr. Principal;

I would like to request a meeting with you and my union representative to discuss the following concerns about the comments and assessments included in my recent evaluation, reference (a).  In addition, I would like to obtain specific reasons in writing for the commentary, along with associated recommendations for improvement so that I can make the requisite adjustments, if in order. Finally, I request that this letter and enclosure (1) be attached to the copy of my evaluation housed in my personnel file.

 

Overall, I am disheartened by the lack of professionalism with which my assessment has been handled. I greatly enjoy teaching Spanish, for which I am certified and for which I was hired, and have no doubt that I have made huge contributions to my students’ foreign language abilities and to their life visions. While I sincerely appreciate supportive and well-intentioned feedback, this experience has left me feeling deflated and attacked rather than bolstered and mentored, as a new teacher should be.  In an effort to support the county schools, I agreed to teach a class for which I am not qualified and now, my willingness to be a flexible team player, has penalized me in a most humiliating way.

 

I feel this approach is not only unprofessional and unfair, but also contrary to the best interests of the county’s schools and its children. We need highly motivated and highly qualified teachers in all subject areas, particularly in those critical shortage areas such as foreign language. I am hopeful that together we can merge our concerns and suggestions for the betterment of the Middle School.

 

Please let me know a range of dates that your schedule will accommodate and I will coordinate with my union representative to arrange a meeting.

 

Cc:  the superintendent

 

The Rebuttal

 

1. Evaluator’s Commentary:

 

While she displays a solid content knowledge of Spanish, her plans do not always reflect the details of procedures needed to engage students and keep them on task. With more extensive attention to the procedures of each activity, she may gain more student time on task and engagement of students. In addition, optimal learning for students would occur.

 

Employee’s Rebuttal:

 

My lesson plans are always complete, including the procedures I plan to implement. However, any good teacher must adjust the details of her approach as she assesses student engagement and mastery of concepts presented. While I establish a plan to engage students to the best of my ability based on my professional knowledge of their needs and challenges, I make adjustments as I see what is effective and what is not. I believe that this is a characteristic of any savvy and skilled teacher.

 

Further, many of the details of my lessons are in Spanish and or in the technical jargon of the TPRS model, both of which you may be unfamiliar. Had I been asked, I would have gladly clarified, explained, or adjusted my plans. However, no such feedback was ever presented.

 

Finally, 95% of my Spanish students are engaged and on task, which is a huge accomplishment for this group of students. As you witnessed, I walk around to put them on task if they are not. Regarding my one language arts class, I am neither certified nor knowledgeable in language arts instruction, as you well know. I was hired to teach Spanish. At my interview, I was asked if I could teach another subject and I explained that I had experience in both drama and media, NOT language arts. Nonetheless I accepted the assignment with optimism and have worked diligently to come up to speed while teaching a full load, dealing with the traditional rigors of first –year teaching, and maintaining my family’s needs. I find it both unfair and unfortunate that I am now being penalized for having been a willing team player. It is unreasonable to use this class, which was never even discussed at my interview, as a formal assessment.

 

2. Evaluator’s Commentary: Her classroom procedures for entering the classroom, using materials in the classroom, appropriate times for conversation and movement are not apparent as students enter the classroom at varying times of the day. At times, students are very loud and disruptive during the day. Her classroom expectations for behvior should be clearer and stronger and the consequences for misbehavior must be articulated and posted with follow through on each incident.

Unsatisfactory

 

Rebuttal:  Based on your direction, my room was recently physically relocated. Two weeks ago, in the middle of the school year, you assigned me groups, directed specific activities to be conducted, set up writing and reading centers, and established work stations. I am extremely appreciative of your efforts; however, it seems inappropriate to penalize me for confusion during the second week of a new system imposed mid year on my students and me. We are all amidst adjustments to a wealth of change that you orchestrated.

 

Regarding my classroom expectations for behavior, the school policy to which I adhere is posted on the classroom wall. This was discussed with the students at the beginning of the year and I reinforce it as required. Also, school policy does not allow for the handling of minor infractions. When I have tried to dispense referrals in my Language Arts class, one of the vice principals has not “allowed” them. Thus, I have been working with him to devise alternative methods for this tough group. These kids have a history of challenges in all of their classes, not just mine. We have tried rewards, lunch penalties, etc. but with 7 special education kids (much more than the county’s target of 12%), two more students who are ADHD, and at least 6 more students at risk out of 29 total students, it is a school dilemma, not a situation for which I should be penalized. In addition, my Spanish class students were provided with a written policy of progressive discipline including three “pagames”, a call home, followed by a referral. I respectfully request that you reconsider your comments and upgrade my rating accordingly.

 

 

3. Commentary:

Her lesson during the formal observation had recognizable structure, however, it was not uniformly maintained throughout the lesson. During the lesson, she failed to articulate the objective/outcome of the lesson. She possesses a broad knowledge concerning Spanish instruction. She attempts to use a variety of methods however, the methods are not always successful.

 

 

Rebuttal:  The objective of my lesson is posted daily on the board, as it was during my observation, so I am unclear as to why it was unclear. Regarding your concern about my “structure”, please provide specific examples of how structure was not maintained. I varied my lesson by first using TPRS, which research shows is the most effective way to learn a language, and then I switched instructional methods by using the textbook to incorporate reading, writing, and listening activities.  This mix of styles allows me to reach students who have differing learning modes. I’m aware that most of the foreign language teachers in the county rely heavily on the textbook, but my training has taught me that students respond more favorably to varied instruction and creative teaching. Please reconsider your comments and provide clear and specific examples and suggestions so that I can self-evaluate and redirect my approach if warranted.

 

4.  Commentary: At this time her classroom management has serious problems which is affecting student achievement both in Spanish and her reading/language arts class. Her students are disruptive to the point that it impacts on other classrooms surrounding her room.  Failure to make significant changes in this area could impact her overall rating at the end of the year.

 

Rebuttal:  As discussed above, my classroom management was 100% rearranged both physically and organizationally just two weeks ago. Naturally, coming in the middle of the school year, the students and I are still making adjustments. Regarding behavior, with 7 plus special education kids (much more than the county target of 12%) and at least 6 more students at risk out of 29 students total, this is a school wide dilemma with this group of students, not a situation for which I should be penalized. As stated previously, I have been working with the vice principal to devise alternative methods for this tough group and would appreciate support and suggestions rather than criticism with no proposed solutions.

 

Regarding Spanish, the noise level for Spanish classes is not necessarily a negative thing. The TPRS method that I told you when I was hired that I use is a method that has the students listen and respond to Spanish words and stories.  They learn by input and at a much faster and natural rate than the grammar method usually taught, and not research based, by language teachers. The sounds are the sounds of learning and motivation, not the sound of disruption. In a foreign language class, the goal is communication so we are often singing and discussing. While many traditional foreign language teachers rely heavily on textbooks, statistics show that it is certainly not the most productive and successful way to engage our students. When I was hired I said that this method would be good for students who have had low scores and self esteem issues, and it has been. The whole basis of the method is success. The students realize they understand a foreign language, even by reading novels in Spanish.

 

Regarding Language Arts, I feel that this class was destined to be problematic. I loved working with the other teachers, you, and the resource teacher since I am learning as I go how to teach this topic. But as you know, the class was too big from the beginning and I have the “hate to read”, at-risk kids.  So yes, I will never argue that this class presents many challenges, but I should not be penlized in my evaluation for, at your request, taking on a subject that I clearly had no idea how to plan, teach, control or grade.

 

Finally I feel that most of my evaluation is based on hearsay and not firsthand classroom observations. Most students are on task and easily put back on task.  This year you have allowed many more low-achieving students to join Spanish and when they fall behind, it is hard to understand Spanish so they become bigger behavior issues. I asked you and the school counselor to let me have the power to help control the class and remove these students who are failing (only two to four) but the response has been nothing or negative. Now I am working with small groups like you suggested, but students have conversations and there is still some talking.  That is the nature of any foreign language class. The math teacher understood that when I was next to his room since he taught Spanish, but now I am next to a quiet, language arts class – not a good location for a Spanish department.

 

5. Commentary: Recommendation Regarding Employment Status: Continual Employment

 

Rebuttal; I met with you on January 12th and you presented me with the evaluation discussed above. While the overall rating was listed on my form as satisfactory, you orally told me that you plan to change it to unsatisfactory. Further, you stated that if “things continue” you would recommend no renewal. This approach seems unprofessional, inconsistent, and intimidating. Certainly it is inapporopriate for you to change my evaluation after you have presented it to me. I’m confused and totally dispirited that you would orally threaten no renewal when in fact this evaluation recommends continued employment. This approach has diminished my high.

 

6. Informal Observation, Dr. Principal andCountyPerson

 

On January 13th, you and the county person entered my Spanish class the last period of the day. While you had no conversation with me, other than the offer of a listening center with earphones, it was apparent that you were speaking negatively about me in a loud enough tone for my student to hear the details.  You also asked my students questions which gave them the impression that something was amiss. Your personal conversation reinforced my students’ suspicions. It was an extremely humiliating and embarrassing experience to have my students quote your conversation and tell me the unprofessional and destructive things said about me. Neither my students nor me should have been subjected to such an unprofessional, unconstructive, and harmful experience.

 

Awesome!  I fought back!  But, as you may tell from my writing style, I emailed her the details and the union woman wrote most of this letter – they love to use “however” in this county which I’m not a big fan of. However, maybe it made Dr. Principal think, or her bosses.  Either way, a few years late,r after seeing what a disaster she was as a middle school principal (she was supposedly good at the elementary level), the county transferred her to some administration office job at the central office, away from students, parents, and teachers.  I’d like to think this letter helped, in a small way, in that decision! 

 

 

January 28th

The only thing that I worry about is what I want to do for my observation. And should I give the mean union letter before or after this last observation. Before could mean they might be nicer or after could mean what they write will be a defense in their court. Who knows? Who cares? What really matters is I don’t have a horrible evaluation that ruins any future chances if I need to teach again and that Dr. Principal leaves me alone!  I think that’ll be the best – to just be left completely alone! That’s the one thing I used to like about teaching – autonomy.

 

January 24tth

I hope school goes okay; all I have planned is the auction for students to use up their pesos for being good. I guess I can whip something up if I need to.

 

January 31st

Work was easy – just an auction and serving nachos. Dragon’s mom wrote a super nice review of my class and my Spanish program. I feel so good – I’m not an awful teacher of Spanish like the administrators think!  Yeah!  Amazing how far a positive remark can go and how devastating negative ones are. I want to add her review to my file. Also the girl who is bilingual gave me a bilingual dictionary-coloring book – how sweet.

 

Observation of the Spanish Class:

 

We later included this letter with the rebuttal. One reason I got along so well with this parent is that she supported her sons education 100%, came to the cultural events I invited students to – like Day of the Dead and another  holiday party held at the local college.  Plus, she wasn’t impressed with the principal from the welcoming speech at the beginning of the year and noticed that Dr. Principal didn’t care about honors students like hers.

 

On November 18th, I attended the Open House at the middle school. I had the opportunity to visit the Spanish class and stayed the whole class (second period).  Since I do not speak Spanish and since this is a class used for High School credit I was particularly interested to see how the class was conducted. The class began with the students working individually on a warm up taken from their textbook, while the teacher completed administering a make up test to one fot he students in the class. An outline of the work to be completed during the class and the homework assignment was listed on the chalk board. After the class completed the warm up, the teacher used drama to introduce the class to a new story. The teacher used several students to help her tell the story. This involved the introduction of some new words and phrases. She then used a photocopied hand out and the class read the story that had just been acted out. Several students were asked to read and translate a sentence.  The teacher kept a record of the students who actively participated in reading the story. Never having spoken Spanish I especially remember her comment that the knowledge of Spanish was critical in American daily life and that irrespective of your occupation, whether you were a doctor or an engineer, being able to converse in Spanish was extremely important. Personally, I had not given it much thought but as I left her classroom I was challenged to think about her remark and how valid it was. The behavior in the class was in general under control for most of the period, there were two minor infractions which took place when her attention was directed elsewhere. Since this is a course that the students in this class choose to take I would assume that their behavior would be much better than in classes in which the students had little interest. It is impossible with the size of the class that she was teaching to be aware of everything that is going on in the classroom at once. The class size also has an impact on this. It is my understanding that ten extra students were added to the class as so many students applied to complete Spanish One.  There was a shortage of textbooks at the beginning of the year because of the extra students and my son did not have a textbook for at least two months.

 

Her method of total physical response in which she uses a combination of teaching methods; retelling, textbook, worksheets, drama and music, I believe really helps the students relate Spanish to every day life.

The teacher also invited students from her classes to participate in Spanish cultural activities at the college. I accompanied my son to the Christmas celebration and enjoyed hearing familiar Christmas carols sung in Spanish. The students were also invited to attend the Festival of the Dead and some student made treats that are served at such a festival. I believe that the teacher is trying her very best to give the student many and varied opportunities to speak Spanish some of which are even outside the classroom so as to make the language come alive for her students. 

 

At the beginning of the year each student was asked to write a paper about their family history and culture, I believe that the teacher has done a great job to wet the appetite of the students in her class to explore Spanish beyond the written words in a textbook making it something of value that can be incorporated into their daily lives and is providing relevant ways of including culture in her instruction fulfilling one of the goals set by the staff prior to the school year.  My son wrote a letter in Spanish to a pen friend that was supplied to him in class but has been really disappointed that he has not receive a response. I personally was challenged to think about considering taking a course in Spanish myself.  I believe that every good teacher not only challenges their student but also strives to help the students incorporate what they have learned into their life situations and that is what this teacher is sincerely trying to achieve in her Spanish classes.

 

Sincerely,

 

Dragon’s mother

About CJ

I was a Spanish teacher for 5 years in the Public School system in 3 different states. I homeschooled and taught at a democratic free school. I heard about cohousing in 2010 and wanted to move in right away. I met a group building one in 2018 and got to move in the summer of 2019. It only took a year to want out.
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