Congratulations! You are about to get (under)paid as you start your career and make a difference in the lives of students!
Here is your mission, should you choose to accept it: Teach the state standards and bring all students up to grade level while simultaneously preparing productive citizens for a competitive global society.
Your tools? Your student teaching experience, the best practices you learned at our fine institution, whatever resources you can find on the Internet, and the colleagues at your new school.
Keep in mind as you go about completing your mission that you will need to successfully navigate around the following pitfalls:
Pressure from your administration, district, state, and nation to get your students to perform well on standardized tests
Accountability paperwork. This includes turning in weekly lesson plans, writing IEP's, goal/objective tracking, behavior documentation and assessment reporting. If you thought you went into this for the kids, think again. Your job is to do the necessary paperwork to prove you are teaching the necessary skills.
Lack of administrative support, and in some cases, respect
Attending meeting after meeting and training after training. Some will be useful, most won't. In any case, wave bye-bye to your planning time!
Thinking you can do it all while staying happy, healthy, and sane
Now that we have fulfilled our obligation to warn you of the potential danger of your mission, we can officially launch you into the Real World of Teaching.
Wow. So this is my 500th post. Five hundred! That's a lot of pressure to come up with something fantastic to say on this momentous occasion. I really don't have anything extra special to say.
But do you know what was extra special about my day?
My one fourth grader took his meds this morning so class wasn't a train wreck! YAY!!!!!
I had a very important administrator drop by to observe me and my class this morning (unannounced). And I happened to be in the middle of a lesson that was semi-good and interactive; and due to number 1, I actually felt like I was in control of things!
I won two different online giveaways today: one for a piece of jewelry of my choice, and the other one was a gift card to "Ecostore" (green, non/toxic products for the body and home). So yay me!!
My wonderful husband is making dinner for us right now... yummm: stuffed peppers!
Hope all of you out there have had a good day too!
I'm knee deep in a full day of district training and I'm writing this from the computer lab in the building during my lunch break.
This is not the engaging, useful, and relevant training that I have sometimes had the pleasure of attending. During those trainings I sit up and take notes and actively particpate. No, this one is squarely in the other category: mind-numbingly dull and mostly irrelevant training. During these trainings, I usually doodle, stare out the window, or brainstorm excuses of ways to get out of the training (so far, self-injury seems to be the most effective option).
I wasn't sure which type of training I was going to be attending today so I came prepared with copies of the teacher's edition of our reading curriculum and my plan book in order to do my lesson planning for next week. My only regret is that I didn't bring MORE work with me as I have finished all of next week's lesson planning and I still have a whole afternoon to fill as our lecturer drones on and on.... and on....
I used to be a conscientious and active participant in all meetings, even the boring ones. But this is my fifth year of teaching, and maybe something inside my brain just snapped. Because I refuse to waste any more of my precious time! I fulfilled my requirement of physically being there, and I'm not bothering anyone by discreetly scribbling in my lesson plans.
But I do feel like quite the naughty teacher. On Tuesday I went to a training from 4:30 to 8:00 PM about how to navigate our special education IEP software. As it turns out, it's a two part training, and the training that I specifically needed was in Part 2 (not meeting until November). Part one was... well.... let's just say that the presenter spent ONE WHOLE HOUR talking about how to log into the system. I kid you not!! When we had a short break at 6:30. I high-tailed it outta there. And I only spent about six minutes feeling guilty about it.
I was never a bad kid; I never went through anything close to a rebellious stage as a teenager; and I was the perfect model of responsibility in college. I guess I'm making up for all of that now!!
So I think it was a tie between a) being a good Christian, and d) peeing in her office.
Guess what people? The choice was made for me, and it is e) None of the above. Bulldog came to our staff meeting today to announce that she has taken a different position in the district and her last day at our school is Friday!!!!!!!
Now what else can I make disappear by venting on my blog.........
If you are blessed enough to have a secretary / administrative assistant / office manager at your school who is both competent and helpful, GO EXPRESS YOUR GRATITUDE RIGHT NOW.
During the two years I taught in California and the two years I taught in Michigan, I did not realize how lucky I was to have office managers who made my life easy, not miserable.
But this time around? This time around, there's a bulldog guarding the school at the front office disguised as a young woman who can't seem to wear a shirt tall enough to hide her lacy black bra.
We've been in school for about three weeks, and the interactions I've had with her have been painful.
Week One: I'm looking for butcher paper to set up my room. Nobody thought to give the seven new teachers a tour of the school, so I'm hunting around for the work room on my own. I wander into the office to see if maybe the butcher paper can be found behind one of these three doors. I would ask Bulldog, but she's busy talking to someone and I don't want to interrupt her for something so trivial, so I cautiously open one of the doors. I had barely opened it a few inches when Bulldog interrupts her own conversation to yell my way: "Hey!! Don't you know that's the principal's office and SHE'S IN AN IMPORTANT MEETING??????" For effect, she looked at me like there was a good reason I was in Special Education. I retreated with my tail between my legs. Also, I was ticked.
Week Two: I'm trying to schedule an IEP meeting. I have to check with the principal to see when she's available as the presence of an administrator is required at IEPs. I go to the office to ask Bulldog (who's in charge of the principal's schedule) when she'll be available. She tells me to go ask her in an email. Okaaaayyyyyy... I ask her in an email which of two dates will work for the principal. She states "The principal will not be able to attend a meeting on either day as she has other obligations". Fine. I just email the IEP team and say "The IEP is scheduled for this day and time. The principal will not be able to attend as she has other obligations". I specifically wrote that so that Deaf Ed. administrators who are on the email recipient list will take the hint that one of them will need to come.
Little do I know that Bulldog is also on the recipient list. Next thing I know, Bulldog has sent one of my colleagues to watch my classroom (because yes I was in the middle of teaching) so that I can come to Her Office. I'm wondering what the emergency is (because HELLO I was in the middle of teaching) as I walk into her office. She is sitting behind her desk when she starts SCOLDING me for saying in an email that "the principal has other obligations". She says: "What I write to you in an email is confidential information. Telling colleagues that she can't come makes her look bad. In the future, don't repeat anything I write to you in an email"
And then she barked a lot, bit me on my neck and ran me off of her territory.
Week Three: I need copy paper. This is the only school I've worked at where you have to bring your own copy paper to make copies. I've run out of the two packages I had previously found laying around and had asked around where to get more. I was told that the office gives each teacher a box of paper per semester. I decide to email Bulldog instead of venturing into enemy territory. I politely ask her what the procedure is for getting more paper. She writes back:
"Ms.____, Please be advised that homeroom teachers get one box of paper per semester. All other support professionals are only to receive half a box per semester. Thank you."
That's great. WHERE'S MY PAPER???????
And lest you think that she has a personal beef against me, I overheard her chewing out my colleague (a first year teacher) for getting herself locked inside the building at six o'clock on a Thursday evening. There is no mention anywhere of the official opening and closing times of the building in the staff handbook.
I was talking to Max about this situation, and it seems I have a couple of options:
a) be the Christian I am supposed to be and take this unnecessary treatment patiently and graciously. b) Say nothing out loud. Use the blog for venting. c) Be more assertive when she is rude. d) Mark my territory by peeing in her office.
Tonight is "Meet the teacher" night. So I took advantage of my twenty minute commute (which just seems insanely short compared to my one-hour commute in Michigan!) to come home and hang out before tonight's festivities. Also, I knew there was a puppy waiting for me at home who has been feeling quite under the weather lately and I wanted to make sure and check on him.
Well, he seems to have turned a corner because the second he heard me come in, he started whining excitedly. And then when he saw me? Oh boy. I think he must be feeling a little better because his tail was wagging so fast it was a blur. And then he kept jumping up and down in all of the excitement. Awwww... It will be sad when I have to put him back in his room behind the baby gate (don't quite trust the cats yet) for when I go back to school this evening--Max won't get home till after that.
I'll be interested to see exactly how many parents show up for this thing tonight. Once again I am teaching at a regional program for deaf students so most of them live quite far away. And I really won't be able to blame parents if they don't want to drive all that way just for a meet and greet. My prediction is that three or four sets of parents will come out of the fourteen that I have. We shall see!
On Wednesday, we brought home a puppy from the local animal shelter! He is half papillion and half toy fox terrier and his name is Barney. We actually had a difficult time naming him. We settled on Barney (actually short for Barnabas) because he reminds us of the Barnabas in the Bible who followed Paul around on all of his mission trips. Barney-the-puppy likes to follow us around wherever we go :). Also, Barnabas was an evangelist; and our little Barney is already making friends for us. Do you know how many strangers want to come up and talk to you when you are holding a darling puppy? Lots, as it turns out!
Anyways, you may be wondering how our three lovely cats have reacted to their new brother. I made sure to film their very first meeting (it's by no means thrilling, but I know some family members have asked!):
As of now, Mrs. Hufflepuff is the most tolerant of Barney, Mowgli is the most hissy and upset, and Gizmo.... Gizmo acts like she just wants to sniff him and get to know him but then she'll surprise us by biting down on his head or his tail very deliberately to see how he tastes. Naughty!
Right now Barney is not acting like himself. He's got "kennel cough" and he's feeling quite lethargic. Also, he's coughing, flinging snot everywhere, and puking. The good news is that the vet based at the animal shelter didn't charge us for all the medicine she gave us when I took him in yesterday. The bad news is that we're kind of sick of cleaning up his pee and his vomit!!
They tell you to be prepared for those, and I certainly have had bad days in my previous four years as a teacher, but seriously. Yesterday was a VERY bad day.
It was the first day I was pulling out my four 4th graders for language arts in the morning, and my eight 5th graders in the afternoon. As I got ready to come to school, all I felt was dread. I had my carefully laid plans but had to think on my feet as I COULDN'T GET A WORD IN EDGEWISE when I was working with my four 4th graders. Turns out? One of the students hadn't taken his meds. My fifth graders were a much quieter and more pleasant bunch, but I was down in the dumps all day. Couldn't shake a (usually very foreign feeling) of HATING every aspect of my job as a teacher. I had lost my joy, my motivation, my creativity, my will to teach.
I started to think about all the other jobs that I could be good at. Anything to get me out of the classroom, please. I did one sigh after another, after another until it was time to punch out.
I'm not sure why I was feeling that way--maybe, new job in a new school in a new state with zero time to get used to it all before the kids showed up? I was worried it was more than just passing stress.... what if I was never happy teaching again?!!?
Max was so sweet--patiently listening to my list of complaints, assuring me that I'm a fantastic teacher. But I was still dreading coming back to school.
That evening I was reading Exodus 18 and 19 (making my way through the Old Testament these days) about how Aaron and Hur helped Moses keep his arms raised for the length of the battle against the Amalekites. And later how Moses' father-in-law Jethro came for a visit and showed him how to make his role as judge much easier.
And I fell asleep praying that God would send me some help.
I woke up this morning with my arms crossed (pouting in my sleep perhaps) and I dragged my sorry self to school. I had just taken about six steps past the front door when I was intercepted by a woman wearing a visitor badge.
She said (and this is a direct quote except for her name): "Hi, my name is Sally. Are you Sarah? I'm here to help you and support you in any way you need it!"
And then angels burst forth in song, and I totally burst out crying in relief and gave her a giant hug. Or I played it cool and just smiled as we walked to my classroom. Whatever.
She explained that while her official role was a diagnostician, she wanted to make sure that she was available to the new Deaf Ed. teachers to the building. She thought she had met us all, but it turns out she hadn't met me yet because I wasn't at the New Teacher Orientation.
She stayed in my classroom for about an hour as I worked with my fourth graders (now considerably subdued because Mr. HYPER had taken his meds this morning). She came up to me later in the day to shower me with compliments about my teaching style.
And that is how my prayers were answered. And I even feel like I'm getting my teacher-joy back!