Only in comparison...

It's been a rough week. All I can think about is the constant headache I have and the fact that no matter how many (or few) hours of sleep I get, I am always tired. A bad week at school is most certainly the cause of symptoms like this; it's the cure that is a mystery.

I think part of the issue is that students had no school on Wednesday-- this made for a different week, and my kids don't handle change very well. Jerry told me that I was a "bad teacher" today when he didn't understand a question on his test. Tyler told me that I was a "bitch" and that she doesn't care about school, "that's the thing that you just don't understand Ms. G." Ray told me that "you don't understand what it means to have friends" when I asked him to stop talking to his neighbor. Then George chimed in again to let me know that I just don't understand what it's like to be a kid, and that if we could trade places then I would know that teachers aren't cool. I let him know that I was a kid once, but he just didn't seem to think that it was sufficient.

Classroom managment seems impossible at this point, but when I put things in context I start to see that even though things aren't in place yet how they need to be, I have come a long way since this time last year. I remember that it was probably the 4th week of school last year when I got so frustrated with my role that I literally left. Al-Kabir reached in my pocket to steal the keys so that I couldn't call security, and when he touched me I ran out of the classroom, told my case manager that she needed to find coverage for me, and I left the building. I spent an hour walking through little bricks in Newark, crying to my dad on the phone. When I finally decided to go back, I went straight into the office and told the vice principal that I wouldn't be teaching that day- so we spent the rest of the afternoon watching Free Willy. It took myself, my 2 aides (at the time), the case manager, the vice principal, and a security guard to hold the class down through the movie.

Comparatively, I think that I will be able to make it through; but on days like today it seems impossible that I am a teacher, and that I will be able to continue teaching.

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The strangest thing...

Tyler has this habit of telling everyone in the class that there is a fire outside on smoggy and otherwise "grey" days... I think that she likes the excitement it causes, and figures that there's no harm in saying something like that. When she says it all my students run to the windows looking for a fire and of course there's just a grey-looking sky. Then we all have to take some time to settle back down, but this is a continuation of behavior from last year, so it's no surprise when it happens. I recently spoke with Tyler about doing this, and she agreed that it was not a good choice to be making, and since our conversation she hadn't said anything about fires... until today.

The rest of the class had heard her cry wolf so many times that even they ignored her when she raised her hand to say "look Ms. G, there's a fire outside!" I didn't even really respond to her when she said it, I just gave her that teacher look that says 'common now, nock it off', but then Tay said "Ms. G, look, Tyler's right! There's a fire outside!" Sure enough, a few blocks down the street a building was on fire, and smoke was rising into the sky so heavily that the sky looked grey. We are on the 4th floor of a very old building, putting us high enough into the air to see most of Newark. What a strange sight... a few minutes later we started to hear sirens and see fire engines roll down the streets... it was just the strangest thing.



Welcome back to school night

Last night was "Welcome Back to School Open House"-- which means that our school tried desperately to get parents into the building-- but had little luck. I had one parent show up... and I didn't think that was going to happen, but in the last 10 min she came with Tay.

It is strange to think that I am the person that a kid goes home from school talking about, and complaining about-- and I can't immagine what parents must hear about me... but most of them NEVER even see me, so who knows what they picture.

Most of my students are returning to me from last year because I am self contained and teach 4th-6th grades, so they just rotate through me. This makes a very strange setting for my new 4th graders though, because they are moving to me from a 1st-3rd grade setting where they've had their previous teacher for 3 years. This situation also makes my 4th graders seem really young. I think that being in a setting with 1st graders has made them less mature for their age... Tay is one of my new kids, and his mom feels very uneasy about having a new teacher.

Multi-grade classrooms are a strange concept to me, but parents don't seem to be bothered as much as I would have suspected. Tay's mom didn't mind it when the kids were "smaller" but she said that she worries now because the kids are mostly bigger than Tay in his new class, and "he doesn't know how to control his temper, and I don't want the other kids bothering him." Yeah, yeah--

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Today was hell

My students were off the wall, disrespectful, and generally mean all day. It's not that it bothers me all that much if they're mean to me, I don't like then that happens, but it happens and I expect it. What I never get over is that they don't seem to CARE about anything or anyone, therefore they are mean to everyone they encounter.

They act like they are a forgotten generation, and the only way anyone will remember them is if they blind people with spite. As it turns out, I am struggling my hardest to show them that they are not forgotten, and that I care about them... but they just don't seem to understand that THEIR own behavior affects the way their day will be. When they come to school screaming obscenities at the bus-driver because it makes the kid next to them laugh, they don't get that it will get them in trouble, and then they will be in a bad mood, and begin to exhibit the bad behavior that they CAN'T control. ARG.

I thought we were making incredible progress already... but then on days like today it seems like the Bad Wolves are just that-- BAD.

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Bad Wolves hit the scene

So... It's gone okay so far-- infact, I am pretty happy with the way things have been going in the classroom. I have a much better idea of WHAT THE HELL I'M DOING, considering I came into this last year without anything--(experience, curriculum, teaching degree, etc).

Today was day 3. Day one was hell. Day 2 was better, but today was pretty close to good. So far I have only 7 students, and I've determined that between 6 and 8 is perfect for a BD setting... any less than 6 and students don't think that anything matters, because it doesn't feel like school... any more than 8 and things are more likely to get out of control, and riots take place. I have just one girl (classification happens in such bias ways) and she seems to be doing alright.

We have a team name for the class, student generated. It was a close call between "the spirit squad" and "bad wolves" and to my delight, "Bad Wolves" won. I am in the process of generating a team logo for the class with my roommate, and we have already started to integrate the name into everything we can for the classroom. I think that it is going to be a great thing, I am really excited. My students don't have team pride YET for the Bad Wolves, but it's only a matter of time.

Rick is back this year and hasn't changed at all from last year- today he body slammed Tally onto the ground (for no reason except to prove that he was capable). It is strange because Rick was one of my students that did my homework packet over the summer, so when I took him on an outing as a reward, he behaved perfectly. I guess that school just sets kids off sometimes-- I just hope that we can shake Rick out of it before he really hurts someone. I am working on all sorts of incentive plans and behavior mods, so hopefully we will get him under control before too long.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I am really hopeful for this school-year, and I think that I have a lot of good things going-- I just hope that it all works.

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A new start

Summer is officially over. Completely over. Tomorrow is a mandatory in-service day, as is Wednesday, and then Thursday it's back to school. I will be a teacher again.

This summer I did a lot of nothing-- I was not nearly as productive as I had hoped to be, but I think that this is a reoccurring theme in my life, so I am not all that shocked at the fact that I didn't do all of the amazing things I had planned. I did do a few of them, so that's a start.

I did go to a science workshop for a week. That was good. And then, for 3 weeks I worked at a YMCA summer camp as a "science specialist", which meant that I taught science lessons and experiments to 4th-6th graders in the morning and afternoons at "science camp". This was MUCH different from school, mostly because it was at a camp, but the other differences were still plentiful. Basically, the kids at science camp like science, and that is why their parents were being charged exorbinant amounts of money to send their children to this hoity-toity camp, whereas school is not only requred by law, but also free and a source of nourishment for inner-city kids.

(One of my students from North Philly (when I taught summer school last summer) was at the camp-- apparantly he had been sent to live with his Aunt for the summer, so she sent him to science camp... weird coinsidence.)

I created a mural this summer- something my friend Kelli calls an "installation piece". I did a sea-scape on the garage beside the pool of a co-worker, so when I take my students on field trips to the pool they get to see my art- that is always a good glimpse into my life for them because in the mind of a child, a teacher is not human at all. Any chance I get to make my students see me as a person, I take advantage of it.

I traveled a little this summer- I found myself in New Jersey (of course), Michigan, Upstate New York, Tennessee, Indiana, and Florida.

Besides that I took 2 field trips with students this summer, moved to a new apartment, and read a few good books this summer. That's it... that's my summer in a few hundred words. It all comes down to those few things, and that was my whole break.