Well I’ve “moved up” to high school this year as a data leader, which means I help staff members use classroom and assessment data to drive instruction (that’s the hope anyway.) I have always worked in middle school so I’ve never been able to see “the end product” with my students. Until this year that is. I am at the high school right next door to the middle school where I had my first teaching job and this year’s seniors are my last group of sixth graders from “across the lot.” It has been very exciting for me to see so many of my former students these last few days and sad to see many of them not here because they have already decided school isn’t “the way to go.” When I taught “across the lot” I had all of the ESOL students as soon as they left the Newcomers’ program. I have been impressed and awed by the development of so many of my former students’ language skills – they ROCK! I’ve been really surprised and flattered by the number of students that not only remember my name but also have memories from my class that they’ve been wanting to tell me. These are SENIORS people and that was six years ago, which in “teen-aged years” is practically a lifetime!
Caution: It’s about to get real candid up in here!
I serve many roles at my school in addition to technology teacher. I am also a mentor, after school tutor and lunch recess supervisor. I get to know my students on a completely different level in these roles than I do as a classroom teacher and make connections I would not otherwise probably be able to make. At recess I am able to be a little more goofy than normal with the kids, in my tutoring group I serve as a reading teacher and with my mentoring group I get to help kids learn who they are as people. At the exact same time though, I “get” to learn more about my students’ lives than many people do.
Now, let’s preface all of this by saying I was certainly no angel growing up and saw some things in my home that I have made sure as an adult that my own personal children will NEVER see. The fact that I had my oldest daughter my senior year in high school is a testament to that. Nevertheless, I have used all of that life experience in my career as an educator in order to connect with my students. But, my heart is broken nearly on a daily basis by the lives that I see my students living outside of the walls of our school.
On the playground I hear some of the most foul language possible to hear, as well as some extremely sexually explicit comments. Yes, some of this comes from media in our culture, but the graphic nature of the conversation indicates that not only are they being allowed to take in media that is completely inappropriate, but also that they are hearing that type of talk in casual conversations at home. Never mind the types of clothing that my students are wearing to school…it’s quite disturbing at times.
I tutor 6-8 grades students and have three students that are at or below my 1st grade daughter’s reading level. The heart-wrenching part is that they are completely oblivious to the fact that they should be able to read much more difficult texts. It pains me to think that “my kids” weren’t read to as small children. No one sat with them at bed time and read Green Eggs and Ham or the The Napping House. In conversation with them, I learn that for most of them they didn’t even HAVE books in their homes when they were little – nor did they have crayons, markers, scissors and paper to use for crafts.
In making phone calls home to my mentoring students I call just as many grandmas and “aunties” as I do moms and dads. I see kids with pants that are far too small, shoes that have been worn way past their end of life and children taking home bags of food from the Communities in Schools programs because there just any food at home. I have homeless students, students who travel from one parent “home” to the other having to be the adult in both homes and so many students who don’t even know both of their parents that it makes me want to cry.
I’m just so incredibly baffled by how this can possibly be. I messed up my life big time as a teenager when I got pregnant but I have spent every day since trying to make a good life for my daughter and be a positive and strong role model for her. I understand that life happens, circumstances aren’t always what they want them to be, but how can anyone just GIVE UP on their kids? How can I have students with all of their brothers and sisters being gang members? How do I have a student hand me a picture of a family member and the student says “This is my nephew and his daddy – he looks really high huh?” In what kind of home does a child have to live that they find it perfectly normal to come to school and call their peers and teachers every cuss word imaginable?
There are days that all I can do is sit with a student and let her cry in my room, or let a boy sleep instead of complete the classwork because he didn’t have a bed to sleep in the night before. Some days I just sit in my classroom after they’ve all gone and cry myself because I know I can just never do enough in the small amount of time I have with them. All I can do is take solace in the fact that I know I can provide a safe, caring and stimulating environment for them to grow and learn.
I’ve had a crazy semester (thus the non-posting by Ms. M) but as it comes to a close I inevitably reflect on my experiences, both with others and on my own. This is just a random collection of thoughts I’ve had in the last week or two.
- I still truly believe that teaching is the most important career (aside from being a parent) that anyone could choose to pursue. I love kids and am amazed on a daily basis by their perspectives on life – positive or otherwise. I tell my students that I change the world every day, as everything that happens in my classroom impacts them in some way and they will take that with them when they leave me. Thus, it is my goal to change the world in a positive way as much as I possibly can. Every day has to be a fresh start for every child that walks into my room, no matter what has happened in the past.
- I have to realize that I have no control over what happens in classrooms that aren’t mine and that the best way to help students overcome adversity is to be a positive role model and support them even when they don’t think they want or need it. Dwelling on negativity not only doesn’t help anyone, it becomes a disease that will infect my classroom if I allow it. Not only do I need to give my students a fresh start every day, I need to allow myself that same privilege. Every morning I need to start over, forgetting whatever slip-ups I may have had. No one is perfect, so I should not expect perfection from myself. To be human is a beautiful thing – imperfections and all.
- It’s time I start being an advocate again for technology integration and Project-based Learning. With changing schools and jobs this year I have let that slide, and it is unacceptable. I will start blogging again, I will start posting student projects to my class website and I will start offering to host PLCs in these areas. They are things which I truly believe will impact positive change in education (and face it, our education system is seriously damaged right now) and if I want it to change I’ve got to do my part to change it. Someone’s got to be an impetus for change, why can’t it be me?
I am incredibly grateful for my small collection of friends that have helped me through this incredibly challenging semester and am going to try from this point forward to be the positive influence in the lives of both students and teachers that I know is needed. I can not control what others do, but I can control what I do and hope that it impacts others in a beneficial way.
This year has been all about adapting to change for me. My position was cut at the end of the school year last year due to budget cuts so I went on the job hunt and found a science teaching position at Jardine to move into this year. Well long story short I ended up getting moved into the assessment coordinator and site technology specialist position before the school year ever even got started. Then to make an even longer story short, there ended up not being a coordinator for the assessment coordinators this year, so I kind of had to start “winging it” from the get go. No training or PD available left me feeling like I was a day late and a dollar short pretty much all year but I do feel like I’ve kept my head above water most of the time. But to add to all of this, Jardine is going through restructuring this year due to not making AYP for a number of years. (Although this year’s scores look like we will make it this year – yea!) We’ll have a new principal next year and almost 50% of the staff will not be returning, including me. So now I wait to find out where I’ll be placed next year. This means I’m heading “back to my roots” by teaching kids next year. I’m getting pretty excited about it as I feel that I have learned so much in the last four years in the various roles I’ve filled (technology integration specialist, assessment coordinator, DEN Leadership Council member, site technology specialist, Glogster EDU embassador and others) that I will be such a better teacher than I was. It will be really great to share first hand all the new knowledge I’ve gained directly with students to see their reactions and growth for myself.
About a week and a half ago I was told that due to budget cuts, my position was “being recommended for elimination to the BOE” and the following Monday the BOE approved that recommendation. If you have ever met me or read any posts on this blog you know that I LOVE my job. I love the opportunity to help other educators grow and improve the educational environment in their classrooms. When I lost my job I was at least able to apply for any open teaching positions within the district and have taken a position at a middle school teaching sixth grade science.
So in August I’m “going back” to the classroom.
It’s still hard for me to fully grasp that idea, that I’ve lost the job that I love and it has nothing to do with my job performance or capabilities. In a time where there are entire schools being restructured by having all employees re-interview for their jobs, the only part that factored into selecting my position was that I was the last person hired. Some days I feel like I’m progressing through the stages of grieving, and other days I feel like I’m just going to wake up tomorrow and it will all have been a very long nightmare. And yes, it is a grieving process. I have lost something which I love and had no choice or say in the matter.
This weekend I was starting to see a light and begin to be excited about some of the possibilities with this new job. When I left the classroom blogs had only been approved for use in our district for a couple of months, the only wiki anyone had ever heard of was Wikipedia and the tools like Glogster and Voicethread hadn’t even started yet. When I think about all that I have learned in the last three years as an instructional technology specialist, and pair that with all of the technology I will have available to me in the classroom, I really do start to get excited. I know that my experience as an ITS has made me a better teacher and that I will be able to more strongly impact students when I have that daily, face-to-face interaction with them, but I’m still struggling with the whole idea.
Leaving the classroom to take this position was the hardest thing I had ever done in my professional life at the time as I love teaching, and now I’ll be “going back” with a new perspective and new skills.
I have a confession to make…
I failed the second semester of my junior year of high school.
I had chosen Ralph Waldo Emerson as a topic for my junior research paper, which was the majority of the semester’s grade. I painstakingly created 25 note cards documenting my research and wrote my rough and final drafts. But when it cam time to turn in my paper, I had lost my note cards. And since I have been a procrastinator since birth, I didn’t complete the assignment until the night before it was due. This meant that I didn’t have time to re-make those note cards and received an F on my research paper and an F for the semester.
To this day I have no idea what I learned from that experience. As I am scouring my action research paper for APA errors, I am having flashbacks to that time of failure in my life. I still wonder why it wasn’t enough she had already given me the points for completing the note cards on time earlier in the semester. I don’t know if I ever told my parents the real reason I failed that assignment. I don’t even remember if I had enough guts to ask for extended time to create a new set. I wonder now as I did then, what the educational value failing a student for losing a stack of cards was. I still enjoy Emerson’s work and remember some of what I had learned from the research. But what I remember most is crying while digging through my closet, locker and car looking for those cards because I knew that without them I would fail.
So I guess I did learn from that experience, although it wasn’t what my teacher had intended. I still lose paper almost as soon as I put it down (so thank goodness I can take notes on my laptop.) And I still have no idea how to properly document my resources in MLA or APA. What I learned was that was one thing that I never wanted to do to my students, even though at the time I didn’t know I was going to be an educator. All I knew was that I never wanted to another person to feel the way I had because of something I had done.