Monday, May 24, 2010
The sea, the wind - the endless horizon: thoughts and dreams have but to spread their wings and there will be no limit to where they will go
As the peak of our melancholy from the lack of sun begins to really gnaw on our desires and motivations to do anything, nature comes at us with the medicine: fair weather and sun. Glory to the great mother who caresses our frostbitten cheeks with warm, soothing windy kisses!
As I regale her gift, so I am trodden upon by the attendance record of my students. I have the pleasure of teaching a class which I see three times a week for the last period of the day, I also have the despair of teaching 2/3rd of them. I have some students who do College Now from 7:15am to 8:15am; these same students have to stay until their last class which ends at 4:15p, if they also have Robotics, Track or Basketball, they do not get home until at least 7pm – then there are chores, homework, a bit of relaxation and hopefully some sleep. I’m sure you can imagine which of these gets the most attention, and I am not sure I can blame them. 12 hours is a long work day; to be fair I work no less, indeed I work more, but I am also not representative of most High School teachers. Of course they want to cut out early, of course they want to even skip in the middle of the day, because that way when I am collecting homework they think I will take pity on the because they were not there that day. How wrong are they! And how sad am I that they missed out on so much instruction. I want to desperately for them to learn, particularly the skills that will serve them well in college. Jesus, my whole course is oriented to improving their chances of getting into, and succeeding in, college. But it changes nothing; not the motivational speeches, not the second chances, not the focus of the course… nothing.
On the other hand I have a handful (out of 140) of students who… I don’t know if I want to use the word “amaze”, they are doing what they are supposed to, but in context that is amazing. They come to class, they turn in their work, they engage their frontal lobes, they do not disrupt the learning of others or the class process… they are students, in every meaning of the word. For them I feel worse than anyone else; they are committed, they are ready, but their efforts are deterred by those who force me to slow down or stop, to re-teach, not because of them not understanding, but because they were not there or did not pay attention. But I cannot just focus on them, I cannot let the other slip away, because when they come to me, as late as it may be, my desire to teach flashes at an instant and I want to do nothing but share with them the knowledge that the other students already received. I just can’t help it.
In this way I am like my mother, certainly not one of her good traits. After they fuck up, I still want to help them at any cost, and as a result all they learn is that they CAN fuck up and still get all the benefits as those who worked their ass off to do the right thing in the first place. So I end up spending time I could have used to study, lesson plan, see my girlfriend, or god forbid get some sleep, on catching these kids up, with abounding promises on how this will not happen next marking period. I have heard these promises before I think… oh that’s right, it was last marking period.
Sunday, May 23, 2010
the mountains - my solace - seem so far from my reach that only desperation seeps in along with the fear of never seeing them again...
Fear of the Day
I have no words, I have not been this depressed in a really long time… I did not think a person, who I am not dating, could have such power to make me hate being awake.
The students can make me angry, disappoint me, frustrate me, make me realize my shortcomings as a person and teacher, but I never awake dreading teaching and dealing with them - never!
But the person who is supposed to be there to support me, to teach me, is instead draining the very life blood from my veins.
I always imagined a principal who appreciated different styles of teaching, one to whom only effectiveness is key not the manner of presentation, especially not in the narrow scope of what they believe it should be. I did not think that I would be chosen from among all the teachers at my school to bear the brunt of whatever ails the boss. Everyone has their style and everyone is allowed this… everyone but me. My kids like me, some love me; they are becoming better writers, their English is getting better; they are learning about the realities of the world and how to prepare for it… but it is as though I am doing nothing with them at all because I am not doing it in the way the principal wants.
I admit, I have never been good with authority, but only when I perceived that authority to be incompetent. Here, where I feel and see that she is more than competent, I still cannot manage to get her to understand that I respect her and what she wants for the kids, and that I even listen and try to implement many of her suggestions. I have never had eyes roll in my direction so often, I have never been walked away from so often, I have never been assumed the worst about so often, I have never been treated so impatiently and never have I been treated as though I am a disease – particularly when I am doing so much good.
The kids see the good, should that be all that matters? They are learning, even after all my mistakes, they are learning, shouldn’t that matter?
The problem is that it’s hard for me to show her much because it has come to the point where when she walks into my room, I shut down and begin to operate on a panicked auto-pilot barely aware of what I say and do; so every observation gets worse and worse, whereas my instruction in reality gets better and better because I learn from my mistakes and apply newly learning techniques and ideas… all this she does not see.
And now I’m afraid that the second year, the one where all new teachers are supposed to start finding their groove and really take off, will not be available for me. I fear that I will not be given that chance. I fear that I have stumbled on the one person who does not give a damn about my natural gifts of working with kids and knowing what is important to teach them to make them successful in college – that moral compass which I have learned to pass on came to me by my very own blood and sanity, but I have it, and I teach them how to use it… but no one cares.
You must excuse my lament, but this is a reality of teaching, I suppose as much as the other things I have posted, perhaps no one before has brought this aspect to light, but I needed to, if only in the hope that if I release my fear of not coming back next year then perhaps it will not consume me…
I just want to teach. It is all I have ever wanted to do. I just want to keep doing it – that and be treated fairly and with kindness. Is that too much for a human being to ask of another? One in whose hands my life lays? I guess we’ll see.
Friday, May 7, 2010
Sometime I feel like these flowers - hanging from a cliff, wind and water beaten, but still trying desperately to bloom and fulfill their life's purpose
Something about today, being just another day, brought my focus on some students who either stare at the wall in a catatonic state or ensure no one can focus on their work or instruction.
I am angry with them, I am disappointed with them, I am frustrated with them… except, today, I realized that I am disappointed with myself.
Should they have their own best interests in mind? Yes! Should they be motivated to change the patterns that have brought their families to and have kept them in poverty? Yes! Should they be decent people and not stand in the way of others learning? Yes!
But if no one taught them, why do we expect them to do it? if the influences in their lives are greater in the opposite direction of education, cooperation and success, then why do we expect they will conform to our expected set of behaviors just because we ask, and explain the benefits of listening to us?
I am a teacher, not a babysitter…right? I was hired to give these kids the knowledge that will propel them to the top and lay the bounty of American opportunity at their feet… right? But do expectations matter if they simply do not meet reality? Is this not one of two main sources of human suffering – unfulfilled expectations and desires? Teaching still is, in many places, a profession where the focus lies dead on learning and achieving higher and higher planes of understanding, where behavior is not the mitigating factor, rather intellect and cognitive capacity determine the heights to which one can soar.
So, this is not my reality, alas, but my circumstance still demands that I impart knowledge and a moral and social compass by which to use that knowledge, onto my pupils; so if they are unwilling or unable to perform in a given environment whilst using certain tools, then it is up to me to create the kind of environment in which they can function and learn.
How exactly am I going to achieve this? I am not yet sure, but at least I know that I must and that what I have done thus far is not the answer for all my students.
Saturday, May 1, 2010
I too "got the Blues"
It has been some time since i have made a post... i think this reflects, more than anything else, the reality of teaching as an emotional, physical and mental drain.
Limp and hungry, i stumble home at various hours of the night and can find no aquifer from which to replenish my energy.
thoughts of writing flicker in my head, ideas for doing romantic things for my girlfriend also come and go, the necessity of cleaning the house and walking the dog make brief appearances in my consciousness... all for naught. The second i step through the door i seek the couch and book or movie; exercise is also far from my decisive thinking which contributes to the downward spiral of energy, desire and motivation.
If the kids are on their game then i am rushing wildly to cover information and get them working; if they are lazy or rebellious it is an equal rush but in the direction of discipline and order; regardless of the students there is always the administration with it's reasonable and unreasonable demands and expectations; this is the daily reality which does not take into consideration graduate school, domestic and interpersonal demands which are as much part of my life.
I find myself 6 grad school assignments behind with only days left to finish them; i find myself at an impasse with my woman who makes no unreasonable requests (be an attentive romantic boyfriend and not a douchebag) which i can only see as unreasonable because anything on top of what i am already doing feels unreasonable (even though it is not); i find myself growing weaker every day, physically and emotionally, because i have not the time or energy to do the things necessary to restore my reserves.
I knew teaching would be hard, especially in the first year, especially when starting 2 months late, especially when you are given no curriculum, especially when you teach 3 grades, especially when your students lie on the entire spectrum of language ability and comprehension, especially when you teach multiple subject all for which you have to find the resources, tools and curricula.... but still, common, a break has to come at some point. Right?