Thursday, September 28, 2006

I just got home

It's 9:30. That would be 9:30pm. And I just got home. Fuck me gently with a chainsaw.

I am so tired that it took me like five tries just to type in the URL so I could update this thing. So I'll be brief. Today was a nightmare hell day. We have a lot of teachers out sick. Our school has no money, so we cover each other's classes a lot when people are out. We have been having a writing consultant come in to help us get the writing under control (4th graders write a composition as part of their standardized testing), only she has changed her days she is coming without notifying us and on top of that, she's been late. So that's a headache. We had a terrible day as far as discipline goes, and I am not picky about that. I actually yelled at my students, which I feel terrible for. I don't DO that. Only, well, I did. After I'd calmed down, I told them that some of the choices they were making were not wise decisions and that today I felt like the kind of teacher I hated. That seemed to get to them a little.

She isn't in my class, but I work with a little girl who I am having a lot of trouble with. Her name is Keisha and she is the child who I mentioned in a previous entry, whose mother spanked her at school. Whenever I have to talk to her about doing her work or about her behavior, she shuts down. She stares straight ahead, won't make eye contact, and won't react or answer me in any way. I think that at home when she's in trouble, she gets sort of browbeaten. I've seen parents do that thing to children where they scream questions at them and, no matter what answer the child gives, they get in more trouble. So the safest thing to do is to say nothing and to not even move. Because anything you do is seen as disrespectful or bad. I take extra care to state my expectations clearly with her and be gentle, but firm. I can't seem to get through to her though. I'm not sure what to do. Keisha is going to fail this year if she continues as she is.

A girl got suspended today. She hit another girl and threw stuff around the room. One of my team teacher's students. She sees her grandmother and mother fight physically at home. So, yeah.

Isaiah seems to have bonded with me. I am both pleased and cautious. He asks me every day if I'll be at school tomorrow. I smile and tell him that unless I get sick, of course I will be there. He has quit startling when I touch his arm or shoulder to get his attention, and he is actively seeking my approval. He is really eager to answer questions and was astonished and happy today when I used his name in a sentence on the overhead. I really, really like this child. But I'm also a little frightened of him. I am not huge on medication, but I wish his parents would give him his. He so desperately needs it. He doesn't want to twitch and make faces or hurt people or spit.

Tomorrow I have the, um, privilege of doing home visits. My school takes the position that if we can't reach a parent or a parent is uncooperative, we go to their house and talk to them in person. So I will be going during school hours with one of my team teachers. It should be... interesting. My friend said it sounded scary. I told her that these folks would probably be afraid of my relatives, so it all works out. We'll see what happens.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Bad Teacher, No Dry Erase Markers For You!

I was bad and gave my kids candy today. It was just a little bit, but I feel naughty nonetheless. We are barred, in our district, from distributing "food of minimal nutritional value." It was organic honey candy, dammit! Because, clearly, they don't get enough sugar at home! Ha.

They were darling angels. I had one of those days where teaching just went really well and the principal came in at precisely the right moment where every single one of them was obviously engaged and learning. I pretty much always am confident that I want to stay with this line of work, but days like today reinforce that. With the support of my team teachers, I rearranged the 4th grade reading into small groups, seven students to a teacher. It was a lot of work, since I put together every bit of material for three teachers, but it was worth it. It's fun to have seven students sitting (or lying) on the floor of my classroom, being excited about a book we're reading.

I have discovered that this is one of the best resources for an Anglo bilingual teacher such as myself. I absolutely could not think of the Spanish word for bead today, and none of my Spanish speakers could figure out exactly what I was talking about. Safe search is automatically on in the schools, so I didn't have to worry about, say, images of anal beads popping up. I use the image search a lot to reinforce vocabulary and the kids just love it that they get to use the internet at school.

I did do something bad today, aside from the candy. One of my students, Belinda, got flustered with Esperanza and said something to the effect of, "Get your fucking hands off my stuff!" I tried hard to pretend I didn't hear it, because, frankly, Esperanza deserved it, and it wasn't said to her with any maliciousness, more like exasperation. Esperanza, of course, tattled, and was confused when I asked her why she was messing with Belinda's stuff instead of getting onto Belinda for saying the almighty Effword. Hell, I was rather proud of her for using her English words. Then Esperanza dropped her pencil box and immediately said, "Dammit!" I couldn't help it. I cracked up. Esperanza asked me why I was laughing so hard and I told her that she had just tattled on Belinda for saying you-know-what and turned around and let a dammit slip but a moment later. She blushed and Belinda gave her best neener-neener face.

Thursday, September 21, 2006


Some things regarding my white-ness have been coming up at school, but I'll write about that later.

I hope that this is the last time I have to start my life over again. I'm almost thirty years old and I want to live. I just want to make it through this year and then maybe I'll feel alive.

Time for bed. Past time.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

A bit of an ass-beating

We had a parent spank one of the 4th grade students at school this morning. No one knew what the hell to do. I wasn't in the room, thankfully. Our principal has now informed us that we are to intervene as politely as we can manage, which is good. The poor kid was humiliated and angry all goddamn day.

Ugh. I don't want to talk about that anymore.

Monday, September 18, 2006

I keep promising myself...

... that I'll post something positive, but clearly that's not happening this week.

I had to go to the administration about our special education teacher. There are a lot of exhausting issues, but a discussion between her and one of my team teachers today led to her threatening the other teacher with so-called policy in an attempt to bully the woman into doing what should be her own job. It sucks. It also sucks that she's not supervising this kids to the point where they are disrupting other classes. I tattled about that as well.

Our instructional coordinator reamed me once again. She's the one who said to throw out the novels. She asked for writing samples from our students. I gave her some compare and contrast essays. She came back and told me in a very hostile tone that she didn't know what I was doing, but that we are supposed to be teaching the standardized test writing and that those essays were not that sort of writing and were therefore useless. The only writing she wants us to be doing with them is based off a writing prompt such as, for example, "Write about your favorite place to visit in the whole world." I am to forget teaching them expository writing, reports, reviews, etc. and to focus solely on writing off a prompt like the one above. Period.

Sometimes my job makes me cry a little.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

The Good, the Bad, no Ugly


In my certification program, we are subject to surprise visits with observation and written performance reviews. They are really semi-surprise, because we know one will happen within a certain amount of days. We are reviewed by our principals, our program supervisor, and any district high administrator who cares to do so. Today my program supervisor came in while I was teaching 5th grade reading and language arts. The kids were awesome. They are fairly easy anyway, but I couldn't believe how angelic they were. There are four possible scores in every area of professional expertise, with most falling in the middle: proficient or below expectations. It's expected that an intern will receive mostly proficient scores with a couple of below expectations in areas they need to work on. All proficient is a good review. Well, I had several exceeds expectations along with a nice row of proficients. She told me I was doing a great job, especially considering it's only September, and that I stood out amongst her group of subordinates. I'm a little floored and very happy. It kind of made my week.

Esperanza self-managed her behavioral issues today. She came up to me during class and asked if she could have a time out so that she could write in her journal and talk to another teacher (I'll call her Mrs. Future Awesome Principal, or Mrs. F for short). I gathered up her things, told her what assignment I needed her to complete, gave her the journal, and escorted her to Mrs. F's classroom. Mrs. F was very receptive and supportive. While I don't like it that Esperanza is missing instructional time, it's definitely preferable to her sobbing in fetal position on the floor or harming herself.


I don't want to call him anything stupid like Psychotic Child or whatever, so I'll refer to him as Isaiah. Isaiah was having a very hard time today. He is in constant motion; twitching, facial tics, gesturing, and flailing. He's muttering, too. He has a very exaggerated startle response. He has hit a couple of children, though it's the result of a flailing limb rather than any malicious intent and so far no one has been harmed at all. I have tried talking quietly to him to calm him, but it's really not working. He can't control the actions. I have been having him walk at my side between classes or to the cafeteria. I've also been approaching his other teachers before he gets to class to warn them and make sure he is seated near them and that no other students are within arm's length. All the teachers are being very caring and conscientious and I'm happy to say no one is treating him as if this is willful misbehavior (however frustrating it may be to us all). But I am still very worried.

Monday, September 11, 2006


By the way, on September 11th, 2001, I was living in Alexandria, Virginia, near enough to the Pentagon that my house shook and rattled in its foundation when the plane hit. I do not give a fuck what anyone who didn't live in DC, NYC, or didn't have a loved one die has to say about any of it.

I already called in sick

I called in sick for tomorrow at 4:30pm, while I was signing out for the day. Here, I will number my paper for your ease of reading:

1. My partner teacher person was out at yet another inservice. Please stop training us and let us use the training and, y'know, teach our classes.

2. Another teacher was also out at an inservice. It was a bilingual class, which usually means they don't call a sub. This means that the one teacher who could be assisting me was watching this class instead.

3. The principal was out at an inservice.

4. So was the instructional coordinator.

5. Guess where our secretary was! You got it! Inservice! Gold star for you!

6. Everyone who wasn't at an inservice? They were sick. Including myself. I would have called in today, but, you know, with the inservices and all. Students, too. We had what seemed like half the students complaining about headaches and stomachaches. One child was vomiting in the bathroom. I sent her down to the nurse, because when I went into the restroom to check on her, she was indeed hurling into the toilet. So the vomiting child was quickly sent back to my classroom. Why? Get ready for it.

7. The nurse was at an inservice. I shit you not.

8. Esperanza is not okay after all. She, completely without any visible provocation, burst into tears mid-class. She crawled into a corner, curled up, and sobbed. She was unable to quit or to speak or anything. Eventually, I just let her stay there and cry. Instead of sending her to ancillary, I kept her with me and gave up my planning period. After about a half hour, she started writing me notes saying she doesn't know what is wrong with her, only that she feels very sad all the time and that her heart and her chest hurt badly. She and I exchanged notes back and forth for awhile, until I asked if I could take her with me to talk to the principal, who I didn't know was at an inservice. I had previously requested support over the intercom, but they didn't send anyone. We ended up having a conference with one of the senior teachers. Esperanza says she is self-injuring at home and thinks that she is crazy. We tried to help her think of some strategies to deal with her emotions. When the principal got back, after school, I had a conference with her. The outcome is that I am to refer the child for family support, but the whole process takes about two months. In the meanwhile, we are trying to get her mother to put her under psychiatric evaluation, which is a three day process. I hope she agrees. This is beyond my capabilities.

9. That new child I got? The one who spit and brought a knife to school? I found out today that he is psychotic, paranoid, possibly schizophrenic. He was in an inpatient treatment facility. His parents tell people that he was treated and released, but the truth is that they took him out before he could be treated with any success. They refuse to medicate him. He has stabbed other children. He hears voices and holds conversations with these voices at school, during class. It's heartbreaking (as well as alarming) because this child is trying very, very hard to behave well and do good work. He is trying to hide his twitching and the stuff with the voices. He is extremely eager to please and get along. But he is seriously troubled and, frankly, I am afraid something is going to trigger him to snap. Obviously a nine or ten year old child (or anyone, really) is unable to control psychosis. He wants to be a good student, a good child. I can see him trying. But his family is interfering with him getting the help he needs. I don't know what's going to happen. The school administration is scrambling to try and get him help. But, in the meanwhile, what the fuck do I do? This is way beyond my area of expertise, to say the least. Does one of my kids (or me) have to get stabbed? Will people blame the school (blame me) if something does happen?

10. My voice fucking broke in the middle of reading class.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Sunday Night Blues

I want very badly to call in sick tomorrow morning. I still have a sore throat and aches. But my partner is going to be at an inservice all day, and we just can't afford losing a day's instruction to a sub. As it is, I'll have to deal with my partner's sub tomorrow, and that sucks. The one that they keep calling in is a pain in my ass. While I certainly respect the thirty years teaching experience she keeps telling me she has, I don't like how she uses that to tell me over and over that I'm doing everything wrong. What I really want a subsitute to do, especially in a team teaching situation, is to support me. Help me keep the kids on task, pass out papers, walk them down to the lunch room, help monitor bathroom breaks. General support. I know they want to flex their teaching muscles, but it just isn't appropriate in this situation. This particular sub also demands the respect of the students. And when I say demands, I mean that literally. She gets in the face of a couple of our black female students, especially. She doesn't seem to get it that my students in particular are English language learners and don't always understand her commands or directions right away. She interprets their confusion or failure to comply as disrespect and then I'm thrust into the position of having to either contradict her (which she interprets as undermining her AUTHORITEH) or to just quietly let her browbeat my kids. I prefer having no assistance to having a sub like her.

On a completely unrelated note, only one of my 4th graders knows who Hitler is. I guess it wasn't a testing objective for 3rd grade.

Friday, September 08, 2006

I have caught the creeping crud

I went home early today. I wasn't going to go in at all, due to waking up with a sore throat and a general hit-by-a-truck feeling, but my partner teacher was out until noon for an inservice. So here I sit, feeling assy.

Esperanza is much, much better today. Her mother is has taken tangible steps towards getting the appropriate care. I think Esperanza is realizing how many people care about her. She was smiling and talkative today.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

My Fun-Filled Day

7:35 - Got yanked out of the cafeteria, my kids sent with another teacher. Interpreted meeting between a group of irate parents and the principal.

8:15 - Consoled principal. Irate parents did not get it that their issue was legitimately out of her hands and she agreed with them on every point.

9:00 - Noticed one of my students, Esperanza, is crying again. She started the year as an outgoing, engaging, sunny child. Last week she began crying at school, but said she wasn't ready to tell me what was going on. I decide to let her know that when she is ready, she can come to me.

9:30 - Reading lesson with an unusually misbehaving 5th grade class. Administrator entered the room during the literally five minutes I spent without something covering my tattoos and gave me the hairy eyeball. Goddammit.

11:00 - Reading with my kids. Esperanza had her head down and was sobbing and unresponsive.

11:45 - I tried to arrange it so I could eat lunch alone with Esperanza, but I had other obligations I couldn't get out of. I made arrangements for her to eat by herself in a peaceful place.

12:10 - I collected my students. Esperanza was completely freaking out and other students informed me that she was self-injuring by scratching her skin in the cafeteria. I took her to my classroom while the other students were elsewhere and attempted to talk to her. She broke down completely and said she wanted her mother and her grandmother and that she wanted to die and wanted to kill herself. I had told her earlier that the only conversations I could not keep private were ones where she told me someone was harming her, she was planning on harming someone else, or that she planned to harm herself. Since she went and suggested suicide and had been self-injuring, I took her straight to the principal.

12:20 - Conference regarding Esperanza.

12:30 - Watched Esperanza's former teacher from last year's class while he assisted with the situation in the principal's office.

12:55 - More conferencing re: Esperanza.

1:05 - Watched other teacher's class while he assisted again.

1:15 - Returned to my puzzled and worried class.

1:20 - Tried to catch my breath while other teacher graciously took over instruction.

2:15ish - Conference in the hallway with Esperanza's mother. Realized that, oh shit, my students were late for ancillary with The Republican. Sent them off with profuse apologies. Couldn't tell if he always smirked that way or if he thought I was an asshole.

2:30 - Got my class ready for Open House.

3:15 - Meeting with department. Got in trouble for not having my gradebook in compliance with instructional coordinator's specifications. Not only were these specifications never revealed to me, but when I looked at every other teachers' gradebooks, they were just like mine.

3:30 - Was informed by instructional coordinator that teaching novels was a waste of time and instead I should just use short reading selections followed by questions modeled after their standardized tests.

3:35 - Developed deeper understanding of why most teachers quit before 5 years of teaching.

4:00 - Thought about completely overhauling my lesson plans to eliminate novels.

4:05 - Thought about throwing a full on, kicking and screaming tantrum on the floor.

4:10 - Thought about weeping piteously while clutching a copy of Bridge to Terabithia in one hand, my lesson plan book in the other.

4:45 - Met with my partner teacher person and wailed a little. Was instructed to smile, nod, and keep doing what I am doing. Felt marginally better.

5:00 - Open House began.

5:30 - Not a single parent set foot in my classroom.

6:00 - Department breakaway. My department met with parents of our students. One parent dressed me and my partner down in front of everyone for sending her child home with difficult vocabulary words to study and having the test the very next day. Her child neglected to mention that we taught them the words, used the words in various lessons, prepared study guides, and went over the words again the next day during tutorials (all four to six of them, the horror). I informed her of the facts and she was still displeased, but backed down.

7:05 - I finally left the school.

7:30 - Home.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

A few things before bed

I can't believe I'm posting a link from WorldNetDaily. This is a jeezer saying why there shouldn't be prayer at a football game. I wish I could get away with forwarding it to my principal.

I told my students about how my brother has been to jail twice. A lot of them have incarcerated family members and other kids sometimes rag on them about it. Ever since my revelation about my own family, I haven't heard any more of that kind of teasing. Here's hoping.

I am so tired I want to commit small acts of violence. Also, I have taken to clenching/grinding my jaw. Goddammit.

My students don't get health class. They need it. Badly. Some of them are already firmly in the throes of puberty.

Tomorrow is open house. I have to help interpret Spanish. I might be a little nervous, more about being the white girl on display than the actual Spanish part.

I am so goddamn tired that I forgot everything else I wanted to say.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Ain't and whatnot

I just discovered I have to teach a lesson on Appalachian dialect to the fifth graders (I team teach their reading block) next week. For those of you who don't know me, I consider myself an ethnic Appalachian. It's a pretty strong part of my identity. Anyway, the students are reading Bridge to Terabithia and the lesson on Appalachian dialect is to illustrate language variation in novels to support setting. The model lessons suggest bringing in some bluegrass and showing pictures of Virginia and West Virginia. I wonder how the kids will react when I tell them it's where I'm from. I think I'll use the Library of Congress interviews so the kids can hear the language spoken.