Day 10 of 180 (2021 – 2022)

Today is day 10 for the kids, but day 9 for me. I was out on Friday because I had a headache, a sore throat, the sniffles, and muscle aches. I’m happy to report that it isn’t Covid. I haven’t gotten my flu shot yet, and I suspect that I had New-School/New-Student cooties. Unfortunate, but not deadly, so that’s a win.

It’s been a rough first two weeks and I’m not sure what to do with it. My wife suggested I journal about it, and so, here I am typing away. On the second day of school there was a fight in the cafeteria between 2 girls, and sort of a couple of others. Girl A punched Girl B, because A thought B was kissing on A’s girlfriend (Girl C). Girl B was incredible and didn’t do anything about it. Girl A got removed from the school until there could be a parent meeting. Girl B and Girl C had no suspension time. And girl D (who was supporting girl A) never got involved enough to have consequences. Great, right? Silly drama between kids who don’t know how to react to other students because they haven’t seen them or been in a cafeteria in 17.5 months.

Fast forward to Friday, the fifth day of school.

On Friday Girl B goes into the bathroom and Girls A and C are there. (Problem number 1) Something happens, but not a physical altercation. However, it sends basically all of the disciplinary team after Girl A. And no one notices that when the period after lunch begins that Girls B and C are both headed up to the library and into my class. I had expressed concerns about this already, but apparently people thought it had been dealt with.

Girl B doesn’t enter my room. She stays outside and is clearly angry, “shaking with rage” has never been such a literal cliche. She keeps telling Girl C to get away and stop talking. To C’s benefit, I believe she was trying to explain the situation to B and not make it worse. However, C could not hear B saying to stop talking and to get away.

So B eventually punches C. And then they’re brawling. In the library. Neither I, nor my co-teacher from Special Ed, can touch them as we aren’t trained. We’re trying to corral our students who want to try to break it up, while explaining that their intensions are good, but they can’t either.

Eventually we get a student to go downstairs and get people while someone else finds their cell and lets people know what is going on. There is some confusion because the disciplinary team at first thought the kid was talking about what happened in the bathroom, before realizing that he was saying the library. Eventually a team gets up there.

Next problem that I had – and this is no one’s fault because no one wants to work in schools right now – but the people who broke up the fight were all males. Here are statistics from RAINN.

  • One in 9 girls and 1 in 53 boys under the age of 18 experience sexual abuse or assault at the hands of an adult.3
  • 82% of all victims under 18 are female.4
  • Females ages 16-19 are 4 times more likely than the general population to be victims of rape, attempted rape, or sexual assault.2

The effects of child sexual abuse can be long-lasting and affect the victim’s mental health. Victims are more likely than non-victims to experience the following mental health challenges:5

  • About 4 times more likely to develop symptoms of drug abuse
  • About 4 times more likely to experience PTSD as adults
  • About 3 times more likely to experience a major depressive episode as adults

I worry about girls being restrained by men. Nothing we can do, only way to keep the girls safe, but it seems like it would be really traumatizing. The thought of it makes my skin crawl, and my students are teenagers. Still, they were beating the crap out of each other and eventually they were stopped. And that was how Friday of the first week ended.

Fast forward to Tuesday the sixth day (no school on Labor Day).

So now it’s Tuesday, none of the girls A, B or C are in the building. But no one has told any of the teachers what has happened. And that is a pattern that continues Wednesday and Thursday. No one came to process with me, no one came to ask me what happened, and no one warned me when Girl C just showed up in one of my classes on Thursday. And as I wasn’t prepared, of course, all the students were trying to ask her what happened, and was she okay, etc., etc. She was fine, and I’m glad she’s not in the same class as Girl B anymore. But you know what, heads up would have been appreciated. It shouldn’t be that much to ask for.

On Thursday, we had been told that Girl A would be back in the building after a meeting with Admin and a safety plan emailed to all of us. None of us received that email. I don’t know if Girl A showed up because I don’t have her in classes, but having Girl C show up without a safety plan was incredibly disconcerting. I was so overwhelmed by the end of the day that I went home, took a nap, and that brings me back to the beginning of this. Head and body aches and calling out Friday because I thought I might have Covid.

I spent the weekend feeling sick over the idea of coming back to this building. It’s calmed down some, but not a lot. I’m really angry that no one has attempted to process anything with me. I feel like I’m stuck in a trauma loop over it.

Day 1 of 180 (2021 – 2022)

I went into the school building with students for the first time in 17 months and 18 days. That’s how long it has been since I taught school while physically in the building. And the last time I taught kids in a building, I was in a completely different school.

I’m super excited. I’m meeting all of these kids who I never saw (because they hid their faces on Zoom)! It’s WILD. Today I heard, “You’re SO SHORT, Miss!” a million times. “Yes. Yes I am.” But the truth is that, while some of them are HELLA tall. Most of my 10th graders are short themselves.

Onward and upward! Day 2 tomorrow. Let’s learn some American Literature. Whee!

T – 14 days of 170 2020-2021

It’s been almost a year since I last wrote, and honestly, I thought it would take me longer to return. Last year was hellacious (and I’m not talking about every day after March 13th which was a “virtual” surprise). It seems that every 8 – 9 years I become so disillusioned by education, myself, my administrators, co-workers, life, alien invasions, who knows. Whatever it is, it kicks me in the head and makes me want to cry for years. What does this mean for this year? Well, let me tell you. It means, I’m going to be in a new school this year!

June 30th was my last day at my former school. I interviewed and transferred during the school shut down. I’ve done all my professional development for the upcoming year on Zoom. On the 15th of this month, I’ll start teaching kids who have potentially been in the school (it’s a combined middle & high school) for 3 more years than me. This feels weird.

Such is life, I suppose. Digital notebooks, attendance rosters, unit 0, and unit 1 completed. Plus, even though I bought some cute shoes, I don’t have to wear them. Kind of a win.

Day 69 of 180 2018 – 2019

It’s been a whirlwind, ladies and gentlemen.  An absolute whirlwind.  Week 6: surprise! schedule change.  Week 10: surprise! schedule change.  Oh wait, just kidding, let’s wait a bit and then Week 12: schedule change now!  It’s hard to get into a classroom routine when your classes keep shifting.

On the plus side, this has let me get back into teaching a section of Read 180. As I’m taking classes to add a Moderate Disabilities license to my teaching licenses, working with struggling readers is a definite plus.  (I had gained two sections and then lost one, but one is better than none!)

Even more on the plus side, it has allowed me to co-teach with another woman in my department.  This woman is lovely.  We have similar philosophies, ups and downs, skills and struggles.  I suspect (as she is a bit older than me) that I am looking at the woman I am becoming. She is an incredible sounding board.  Since my work wife left at the end of the 2016 – 17 year, it has been lonely at work.  It’s not as lonely right now.

Going back to the Mod Dis license, I completed my first class on Positive Behavior Intervention and Support.  Confession: I am NOT a good student.  This class was filled with dynamic, diverse women who teach in a variety of types of schools, and yet, all of us, every last one of us, love our students (even, maybe especially, the punky ones) and believe that behavior is a form of communication, and that students would do well if they could.

Last year was rough on me. My work wife moved.  I turned 42. I fell down a flight of stairs and was out of work for 5 weeks.  I felt lonely and isolated a lot.  Honestly, I wasn’t sure that teaching was the right career path for me. Co-teaching helped, but this class, man, it was rejuvenating on a level that I never expected.  My next class – it starts in January – is about learning disabilities.  I’m nervous about it, but I’m hoping it is as exciting and educational.

Day 9 of 180 2018 – 2019

This has been the craziest beginning of a school year.  Heat has been so horrendous that, a full five of the last nine days have been half days!  (Climate change, ladies and gentlemen, it’s not a hoax.) This is going to be our first full day this week.  I’m a little bit intimidated by the idea of teaching all 8 periods in the day.

Last week was all 10th graders for 45 minute of Enrichment English.  This week is 4 sets of 9th graders for 45 minutes of Enrichment English and 1 teensy group of SEI (Sheltered English Immersion) 10th graders for a 90 minute block.

The plan for my SEI 10 class is to finally use a lot of my Interactive Notebook purchases from several years ago.  I bought them from TeachersPayTeachers three or four years ago over the summer, but had my schedule changed at the beginning of school and I haven’t had the opportunity to delve into it properly since then.  For this class, I’m going to start with The Pearl by John Steinbeck.  It’s not one of the official UPG  (Unit Planning Guide) choices, but I think it will be a better fit for my kids, and I can hit all of the unit priority standards with it.

For my Enrichment 9 classes, we start by looking at The Humility Code by David Brooks and then writing 5 paragraph Pro/Con essays.  Enrichment 10 classes started with making SMART goals and now are creating academic timelines of what they remember from school.  It’s bizarre how much students claim they don’t remember.

Off to prep!

Day 3 of 180 2018 – 2019

Climate change: it exists.  My school has its second early release day in a row because we’re in a dangerous heat wave and the air conditioning is busted in some of the schools in the district.  It’s the end of August.  In Western Massachusetts. This did not used to be the case.  Apparently in one of the districts near mine, they had to cancel yesterday and today.  I joke, in the Spring, about wanting to have some Sun-Days instead of Snow-Days, but this is something else entirely.

This year, my A week is 6 classes of English Enrichment (10th grade) and B week is 4 classes of  English Enrichment (9th grade) and 1 long block of SEI English 10.  (Aka “Big Kid” English or “Air Quotes” English.)

I’m starting an additional license program to add a Moderate Disabilities license for grades 5-12.  One class a semester, and then a practicum.  I’m nervous, but excited.  We’ll see how it goes.

Day 49.5 of 180 2017 – 2018

Today my heart hurts for my students.  I’m looking at the selections for tests and I think I’ve realized the problem.  There are not pieces of writing in the public domain being used that have any language that begins to resemble language my students would understand.

Grapes of Wrath, O! Pioneers, selections from Bleak House.

My students are level 1 and level 2 WIDA scoring students.  They have been in an English speaking part of the US for less than two years in most cases.  They’re trying to understand English spoken in the year 2017.  Why are they also being asked to try to comprehend 19th century British accents and slang completely a-contextually?  How is that relevant or fair?

I understand that teachers need to not just educate but illuminate.  In my perfect world, I teach students to read and write because some day I hope they’ll learn to love literature as much as I do.  However, I’m troubled by what I see in front of me and by how much it feels like students are being asked to set up students to fail.

We differentiate instruction for ELL, SPED, CP, Honors, and AP.  We teach different materials.  We instruct our classes differently.  Why are the tests we are required to give the same tests?  How is that in any way acceptable?

And more importantly, what do I do when it is no longer acceptable?  All I’ve ever wanted to do is teach.  What do I do if I can’t do it anymore?

Day 23 of 180 2017 – 2018

Today it has been a month since we started school.  So far, I’ve felt more or less like a hot mess that can’t quite get everything organized.  Pretty much this means my year is starting as expected.

The second week of school – our classes alternate between A and B weeks because of vocational training on the opposite weeks from the traditional academic week – I gained a new class.  Surprise!  You’ve been selected to teach an SEI ELA 10 class to WIDA level 1 and level 2 students without any warning whatsoever! So even though we chose to not give you SEI classes for two years (thus allowing you to infer that you were doing a shitty job with those students) we’re going to give one of them back to you because someone else whined about having too many preps. That’s the essential sum up of the insanity.

What I wanted to write about was this, however.  School supplies and students, especially in light of natural disasters.  At the beginning of the year (Either August 28th or September 5th, for those playing along with the home edition), all students were told they needed the following supplies:

  • a binder and paper for it
  • a composition notebook (or just a small notebook – even just a one subject, as long as it was separate)
  • a pen (preferably two in two different colors, but just one would do)
  • a pencil
  • a highlighter

At the beginning of the year, this would have cost a student approximately $3.  Very few of my students picked up the requested supplies.  Now, post hurricanes in a city with many students with Puerto Rican roots, requesting supplies feels like a crap request.  Family that may be dead versus school supplies.  I get it.  I’m not a completely cold-hearted woman.  Priorities shift.  However, if my students had followed instructions at the beginning of the school year, these priorities would not need to have shifted because they would have their supplies.

So how do I balance the fact that students failed at the requests, but now those requests seem trivial versus if they don’t get these things, I’m going to wind up paying out the nose for them.  It’s frustrating and feels petty, but isn’t.  I don’t have the money to buy 100 binders, 100 composition notebooks, 200 pens, 100 pencils and 100 highlighters.  Nor should I have to do so.  But how else are these kids going to get the necessary supplies?

Next summer, I’m going to pick up the supplies, plus gallon plastic bags.  I’m going to have students buy them off of me for $4, and use the extra money to fund the supplies for students who can’t buy them.  But that’s next year, and right now, students keep losing their stuff because they didn’t buy what they were supposed to.

 

Day 1 of 180 2017 – 2018

Morning started with Low Blood Sugar and then I left my regular glasses in my car, so then I had to go back to my car and get those before starting classes.  Computers weren’t working, so that made Read 180 classes difficult.  (Fortunately, the IT department has now hooked me up with a laptop cart, so I’ll be set for tomorrow.)

It’s been super nice to see all these students who I don’t teach this year.  I’ve been getting enthusiastic hugs from kids I missed a ton.  That’s definitely the most rejuvenating part of coming back.  I miss my kidlets something fierce when I’m not here.

Onward and upward.  On Tuesday  (no school Monday because of Labor day) I start to see 9th graders.  That will be exciting.

Day 180 of 180 2016 – 2017

Today is the day!  Wheeeeee!  Today is today is today is today!  Day 180 is almost done for students.  This has been a quiet blog year as I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out who i was outside of teaching.  However, I feel like this year – most likely due to that very process – has rejuvenated me.

Also, and this is terrifying in many ways for me, I’m not teaching summer school this year.  It’s been fourteen years of summer school for me.  Fourteen years of working with students who need extra help, extra company, extra something.  I can’t believe I’m going to take an actual break.

I think I’m finally starting to accept that it’s okay not to do everything.  I’m 41 not 21, and if I am to be the best teacher that I can be, I need to rest.  I’m so grateful that I’ve found some younger teachers that have the enthusiasm when I’m tired.  It’s been a solid year.