I am going to begin this journey with a bitch session. I feel that adds to the negative stereotype of teachers. So I’m sorry for that. However, I had an experience as a teacher a few years ago that never should have happened. You will see as the month goes on that it is not the only time something so nonsensical and harmful and insulting happened. There are great things about teaching – students! – but this month will be about those and the not so great things. I am never with out hope. I hope for change.
April A-Z Challenge – Anxiety
Are my students going to pass the test?
Do my students really know what’s needed to pass to the next grade?
Will they remember their lines for the play?
Is Greta getting bullied in class? How do I fix it? How do I address it if I don’t hear it?
How do I get them caught up on their work? How do I get them to buy in?
I do I connect with Josue when all he wants to do is run my class? And the same goes for Tiesha and Lady and Fernando, and Charlie.
When am I going to have time to make copies for block 2?
How do I craft a lesson for the disabled students in my class that engages the regular ed students in the same class who are becoming a behavior problem.
How many absences have I had this week? How many parents do I need to call?
Am I dropping this kid off at a home where she is going to be abused? I did all the proper steps with the school adjustment counselor and DCFS and they told me to bring her home.
Mike just wants to drop out. Can I change his mind?
Did they ever charge anyone for the shooting murder of my student Carmen?
What is all this standardized testing doing to our students?
Do I have time to make copies before block 2? Will the copy machines be working?
Latisha found out she is having twins and asked me if I think she should get an abortion.
Are my plans rigorous enough? Do they differentiate? Do they tie into the unit question? Do they address the standard? Have I scaffolded these skills already? Is it engaging?
Is my agenda up and does it have enough detail?
I’m being observed today. I don’t want a “needs improvement.”
Most of the above concerns were things I accepted about the job. Or I embraced. Or they were the things I loved. I loved linking unit plans together with daily lessons, backwards planning it to help them achieve the end result of passing a unit test and connecting it in across disciplines. It took a lot of time, however. A lot.
I also was good at forging good connections with parents. I took the time to speak with them, and work with them. It took a lot of time.
I forged relationships with my students and listened to them when they needed an ear. Yes, takes time.
I realized in myself that I could become resentful when my time was taken for wrong, hurtful reasons. I was in such a sort supply of it.
One day, about two years before I left, we had to interview to keep our jobs. We were a “level four school” and an outside agency had come in to help us bring up our scores. They decided, for the third year in a row, that the teachers were the problem and they would have to be letting go of more of them. (There will be more about this to come.) So they decided they would only interview the core teachers. I was given, two days ahead of time, an appointment.
I was an elective teacher.
I showed up for my meeting, to the room I was supposed to be interviewed in during my prep time (could have been grading, lesson planning, or calling parents) and I waited. I watched as the group of people walked past me into the library and I waited.
I was not the only one waiting.
A colleague had gotten some information ahead of time and she told me about what was going to be asked of me in question number five.
I waited, we waited.
Then I went back up to my room.
My class was starting. I told my assistant principal and he said he’d look into it.
My class was starting and he came in to tell me that I would need to back down stairs. They were now ready.
But my class was starting! He said he would cover it himself and gave me a hug. I was already hysterical.
I went all the way back down stairs to my meeting room and there was just one person there. Not a person from this outside consulting group. Someone from our downtown office. She looked at me and said
“Oh, your my 8 15.”
It was over an hour later.
I told her I was not a core teacher. Did this mean I would go back to teaching Core classes next year?
“Oh no, no,” she said. I understood. They made a mistake. They didn’t know what I taught. She continued anyway.
She began by explaining that she wouldn’t be making eye contact. She did apologize for that. She told me there was a set of five questions. She was going to write down my answers and that is why she could not make eye contact.
The questions began. What are my qualifications? What do I think my school is succeeding at and what do I think is needed to improve? She wrote and wrote and I spoke and spoke in a shaky voice. How do we make those improvements?
I told her by supporting teachers.
She asked me how.
I told her that there was a epidemic of anxiety and depression in the staff.
She stopped writing.
There is too much. Too much to do too much expected of us. And they were giving us more. Sending in highly detailed lesson plans for every lesson of every day to a principal who doesn’t have time to read most of them. Writing a school improvement plan on top of all of our lessons. District drama pre and post assessments that need to be recorded, uploaded, graded entered in two different places…
Teaching for an extra hour every day.
They couldn’t keep giving us more to do.
I wanted to ask her if she needed me to write this for her. I didn’t. She didn’t.
Then question number five came. I thought it had to be a rumor. It was real.
“If you could work with four other teachers in this building on a team, who would they be?”
I told her I didn’t feel comfortable answering that question. I told her that was not an ok question to ask. She said I was allowed to have my opinion.
I wanted to tell her:
That’s not an opinion. This is wrong.
I don’t envy your job. You have to come in here, you don’t know any of us, and you have to decide who to fire. I don’t want that job. But I am not going to do it for you.
I didn’t. I left the room and promised myself five steps. One, two, nope I was already crying. I couldn’t stop. I had to teach the rest of the day and I simply couldn’t stop crying. That was the second time I cried in front of my students. (The first time was when we watched To Kill a Mockingbird. Remember at the end when everyone stands up in the court room for Atticus? Gets me every time.)
I will never forget that day. I remember word for word the things I said, she said, and that I wish I had said.
I also remember what they were saying to us even though they didn’t say it:
#1: We (your downtown office leadership and the outside consulting group) are highly disorganized.
#2: We really don’t care if you, our teachers, are well. We don’t even care if we are incredibly rude to you.
#3: We have to do something to improve. We don’t know what will really work but it has to be visible so we can SHOW we tried. So let’s just keep firing all of you.