LAST SEMESTER OF THE HONEYMOON
Second semester – I remember it going pretty smoothly but I remember already being tired of teaching and hearing the “this is stupid” line. Spanish Two was a great group, very animated, and learning a lot while having fun. I had no problem at all with them.
The media class was again the last hour. I gave them lots of choices and the freedom to make their own projects. I decided to do this from the experience of the previous year of handing out too many useless worksheets. I also was having a hard time “teaching” – kids didn’t listen or care about lectures. So I did some research. I read a book in the school’s library about how lost today’s teenagers are because they don’t have chores like in farm days and they don’t have a place in the world, unlike in one room schoolhouses where the older kids would help teach the younger kids and they had responsibilities and a place in the world. Now we just shelter kids from the real world and group them only with people their exact age.
I also researched on the Internet, looking at home schooling and how kids would get into their own research projects when they were in the home environment. So, I decided that’s the way to go. Let students follow their own interests. I gave the media class big projects that would take lots of time but followed their interests in writing, acting, research, making a film, or whatever they wanted that had to do with media. Plus we made a weekly news program for the school. Sadly, only a few kids at lunchtime would watch it.
Unfortunately, most of the kids spent their time hanging out in the library or even going to talk to other kids in other classrooms, like that trap of an art room. Most did their projects all in the last minute. I figured public school kids had had the passion of learning squeezed out of them from years of being told what to do that they didn’t even care when they could do with their own choices.
So the media class wasn’t so bad but the second semester seniors in there had major attitudes. Some of them I had had in previous classes and they were fine a few months ago but now as second semester seniors they were horrors. We mainly had conflicts over their abuse of hall passes and not really studying or doing their projects but being social and talking all class instead.
I was happy that semester to be able to teach Drama but I was new to it as a class, instead of an after school project, so we had some bumps. Most of the kids were great – doing their monologues and scenes and writing their own plays. I even helped the special education kids with writing their scripts by squeezing ideas out of them and not letting them just fail.
Now on with the show, I mean, diary….
The kids in this small school are very self-conscious. I told the Drama class that we had to do a skit for the talent show for the pep rally. They were worried they’d look stupid. One student, college bound and very into power manipulations like that Spanish Three class in California, has been fighting me tooth and nail about the skit. She even went to the principal but, bless her heart, she said, “What the teacher says is the final word.” I love this principal and am amazed how few problems there are with her in charge!
Today they did the skit and everybody loved it. Now they feel better. I made it simple. We choose some music from the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s and they did a fashion show. They barely had any lines and they had fun finding ugly costumes in the costume room. So it worked out in the end. That’s what drama is all about – performing. Now they believe me.
Work was okay but I thought I was going crazy the last hour in Media Class. The video I just had in my hands disappeared. A student took it. At least we all had fun joking about the disappearing video. Then the cheerleaders ran out of candy that I bought as part of their fundraiser, so there went my husband’s Valentine’s Day gift.
Now I wonder, did I get my money back? Was this some sort of fundraising scam? Just kidding. Who cares! It went to cheerleaders, I’m sure it was a good cause, even if soon cheerleaders would be giving me a headache!
In Drama the students got to choose a monologue from a pile of monologues that the last Drama teacher had bought. They are all written for middle and high school students. But one photocopy of one of them appeared in my box with a note that said:
“Is this the best choice of material? Seems to promote a bad stereotype!”
Guess who wrote that? The same teacher who was so offended about the shot list that barely mentioned an STD! Now her daughter chose a monologue about cheerleaders that she seems to think is also offensive.
I was mad that she was giving me a hard time about some silly monologue about a “dumbish” cheerleader especially after finding out that her kid loves “Bring It On”- the cheerleader movie with lots of stereotypes. Well I’ll be careful from now on and read the scenes and materials and only give her daughter a choice from the ones I’ve read that are completely rated G and have no stereotypes whatsoever. At least the principal wasn’t called in to discuss this one.
I feel good, empowered. My last hour Media class is horrible again. They fight me every time I give them an assignment. So on the way home yesterday I had an idea to just give them a choice of big projects. It goes with everything I’ve been reading up on home schooling, like having the child choose what they want to study and learning together and they can become life long learner,s not learn to regurgitate worksheets and be “good” and “quiet”. So I typed up my ideas and asked the teacher I share a room with to look them over and she gave me great suggestions and made me excited that I could survive and even like the rest of the year. I think I finally caught on to how to be a good teacher – let the students choose and self direct. Yes, they still drive me crazy when they won’t do anything or fulfill the assignment but that is their responsibility and problem.
So I feel good and kinda bad that I’ll be leaving teaching especially after getting a nice compliment from the superintendent in an email. I had my Spanish Two students put signs up all over the school labeling rooms in Spanish (baño, cocina, oficina, etc) since it is National Foreign language week. I also had the daily bulletin announce that whichever student, who has not taken my Spanish class, figures out what all the signs mean in English, they will get a prize – a big box of Hot Tamales candy (the only thing slightly Spanish like in this small town). The Superintendent said how enthusiastic it looks that I made the Spanish signs and the contest for all students. It was a nice compliment in a nice email. But I still want to home school and be at home with my son.
We had to put the cat down because of his leukemia. I’m super sad.
Today in Drama, one student who is severely slow (brain damage issues) fell asleep and that one bossy student yelled, “He’s asleep.” She knew I didn’t care since I told her to just leave him alone. I honestly didn’t know what to do. I help him as much as I can to actually do work. Other times I just let him sleep.
I should have talked to the Special Education teacher and been a more responsible teacher about that. Sleeping in class is not what any kid should be doing. I see that now, but then I was scared. It was like pulling teeth to get him to write the required monologue and scene and none of the other kids would act with him. It was the easiest thing to do to just let him sleep. I feel badly about that now but this is the diary of a bad teacher.
I survived prom as a chaperone last night but I’m tired. I hate that I have to supervise but I’m the 11th grade class supervisor and it’s in our contract that we have to do these after school things from time to time.
The good thing was that I actually got to hang out and talk with other teachers. That never happens. Okay, a little bit at our whopping 15 minute lunch break but this time I got to talk to teachers who were in another lunch block. The gym teacher and I laughed most of the night. He even told his wife how funny I am!
I was surprised to see the teacher who will be principal next year dance all night on the dance floor with the kids. I know it’s good that she gets along so well with the kids but principals, in reality, are bosses of adults (the teachers). And as she did the chicken dance I thought, “Is this our new boss?”
I liked the autonomy of teaching but it’s also very isolating. I never got to chat with that gym teacher again, only briefly asking to use the gym for drama rehearsals. Many complain that the career of teaching leaves little room for collaboration.
I hope the Dr Phil book Get Real will help me make a decision about keeping my job or not. In a lot of ways I like the idea of something steady and I’ve been writing a lot at work. I do know I don’t want to work for the math teacher if she becomes the principal next year since our awesome principal is retiring. The math teacher is too peppy, a workaholic, and annoying. Ironically, she is awesome with the students and a great teacher – taught us old dinosaurs how to use the new computer program last year. Why do the good teachers always become administrators? It’s the kids’ loss and the teacher’s pain.
I want out. Driving into work I dreaded thinking about working and living here one more year. Moving permanently is looking better every day –I know I don’t have the money but I don’t have the sanity or resources here. I want to get my master’s right away and get out of this job. I hate to think of teaching another boring Spanish One again – I’m not that good at TPRS. This job is really getting to me. The kids are angry and goofing off all the time. One teacher keeps rallying them up about how unfair the rules are and the principal just told me to tighten up on the school rules just as this teacher is telling them not to follow the rules, makes those of us who do look bad. I’m glad I found a way for my sanity – with their own projects where they have more freedom but I don’t like to be a policewoman. High school teaching sucks. I need to take a walk before I cry.
I should have realized I’d only started teaching the Bakersfield TPRS method to Spanish One this year to an early morning asleep class. Why couldn’t I have been more patient with myself? Well, that’s the honesty of a diary and the wisdom of 20/20.
I know I’m really tired of this school. The principal and the superintendent threatened all of us teachers to not let kids out of the classrooms. They can’t do their own jobs and the kids are even meaner. And today they denied me a day off because of no subs. Their problem, not mine. And the teacher I share a room with is in the “popular” teacher group and annoying me because I get in trouble with the janitor for her messy last hour classroom. She keeps whining with the kids about the rules and making those of us that follow the rules the bad ones. This school really is messed up. Plus I don’t think I’m getting a bonus check. They put me on level one still. I want out!
The pay scale of a teacher is so easy to determine. They go by your years of experience and education. I was still on level one since I hadn’t taught five years yet and I hadn’t taken any classes to further my education, yet. Later when I went for another licensure I saw how great these other classes can be to give you ideas and improve your teaching. But, as far as pay, you just look at the scale and there you have it. No real incentive to work harder since it isn’t personal like at other jobs. Then again, it isn’t manipulative like at other jobs where the one who brownnoses to the boss and doesn’t do any work, they get the raise.
The field trip worked. My Spanish Two students from this year and last went to visit students their age at a bilingual charter school. They asked them questions in Spanish and got to know each other a little. Then we went to a real Mexican restaurant. They found out why the tacos were so cheap – they were small little tacos and you are supposed to eat more than one just like in Mexico. But I’m glad they got some culture in this small isolated town where no one is from another country except the exchange students. They liked the carrot I offered – we went to the amusement park. I liked getting in for free with the big group and having a chance to go on a roller coaster again. I’ve been wanting to do that ever since I couldn’t when I was pregnant. But it’s lost the thrill. I felt sick! One student did get sick on the bus ride home. I gave him my soda and he felt better.
I am scared of how to pay bills next year. Maybe I should stay teaching. But I’m tired of the whining, abuse, being the unpopular teacher, outsider with the “in” crowd of teachers, my roommate teacher ignoring the rules and being the “cool” teacher and me being the mean one, and the dumping of students in my classes – especially into the classes I’m not licensed to teach. Next year I’d have my own room (yeah) but it’s outside in a trailer with no bathroom. Besides when I think of driving back here at the end of the summer I think I’ll feel like a failure – returning to the boring scene, stuck in a horrible job.
I actually had a film project gig lined up for the summer. I was excited to do what I really love again. It seemed controlled too – only two weeks of filming and not too many hours away from my toddler. Plus, my mother would be watching him. And we’d all be in Los Angeles – film city! It worried me to end an exciting summer by returning to a boring job.
In Media Class, all their final projects were due yesterday. They’ve had weeks to work on them and really make them good. One kid didn’t even turn in his project and I told them I would not take it late under any excuse. He convinced the after school/math teacher that he had turned it into the homework tray but something had happened to the tape. She came to talk to me with him. I didn’t want to argue with her because she has already been hired as my boss, the principal, for next year. So I said he could turn it in today. I hate it when kids bring in the big guns. It was obvious when I saw the tape that he had done it yesterday afternoon with the after school program, mainly because he had the same clothes on and so did the other kids in the video.
Today we had cake and said goodbye to the retiring principal. She really was wonderful, not perfect, but the best I’ve had so far. Everyone is worried about the principal for next year – she is a great math teacher, but other teachers aren’t sure how she’ll be as a leader. Luckily, I won’t be here to find out.
I asked the principal to reflect on her time in education. When I asked if she choose the right career, I was shocked by her answer.. She said “No”. She would’ve preferred to have been a career counselor to teens instead. So, I asked the English teacher and she said the same thing – she wished she had done journalism. Is there any hope for teachers? Now I know I have to get out.