All of my students have the disability entitled "emotionally disturbed." Most carry another label as well. Sometimes this is "OHI" (other health impairment), sometimes it is "ADD" or "ADHD”, the sort of things you would expect to see for the variety of strange behaviors you can observe in a classroom such as mine. About three fourths of my students had fetal alcohol syndrome, and about half of those students were born addicted to another substance as well. Half of my students carry the title "bi-polar" somewhere in their IEP. This also happens to be the title that best describes my classroom right now. Somehow I fear that my job is promoting this title for me as well.

I must be taking on some of the emotions that my students go through on a daily basis. As much as my students can’t decide if it is more beneficial to make good choices or to make bad ones, I can’t decide if teaching is rewarding or simply degrading.

Yesterday I hated my job. Absolutely and utterly I hated every part of being in that school and in that classroom. I wanted more than anything to be taken away to some other world where Newark didn’t exist and kids didn’t talk and people just… well, I didn’t get that far into the scenario because the important part about my daydream was that I wasn’t a teacher and I didn’t have to hate everything.

Today I was my students’ biggest advocate and I remembered why I decided to be a teacher in the first place. I got cocky and defensive when my students were assigned a new counselor that hadn’t the first clue of how to interact with BD kids. She said to me, “so what should I do?” when she walked in, and then suggested “less structure, right?” I scoffed, and I thought I might pull my hair out of my own head just to have to deal with her. I realized that I am in that classroom for a reason. I even found myself in the office begging them not to send me to a workshop tomorrow because I need to be in that classroom with my kids.

This is the point when I start recognizing my own bi-polar tendencies because I know that tomorrow I can guarantee that I will be happy to be away from the school, and Thursday I am about 90% positive that I will be miserable to have to return to my classroom.

I am beginning to think that “Bi-polar” is a classification that must be over-used, while simultaneously all too accurate for a BD classroom, and it’s teacher.

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This is what it feels like to fall...

4 of my 7 student are suspended. 1 was hospitalized. Bad Wolves are falling apart.

Wednesday of last week both Jerry and Ricky were suspended for bullying issues. It was a long time coming, and I guess the stack of incident reports just got so high that they decided it was finally time to do something about it. I don't want to get too far off track by complaining about my administration and their lax policies, but as I’m sure most of you can imagine, the office doesn’t want to deal with negative behaviors any more than the teachers want to deal with a bunch of BS paperwork.

It just so happens that Wednesday was also the day my cell phone was stolen off my desk in my classroom. The student whom we suspect took the phone also cleared his parents phone numbers from my aide's cell phone-- leading me to believe that he took mine to delete the phone numbers, with intentions to return it-- but never got the chance to give it back because on the way back from the restroom he was scooted down to the office and then suspended-- but again, for the sake of not going on too much about things I could ramble about all day, I won't go into detail about the overwhelming disappointment I felt when I learned that one of MY students stole my phone.

Thursday Ricky showed up to school even though he was suspended. They held him in the office for the first half-hour of the day, and then sent him up to class with a pass. As soon as he got in the room he body slammed Tay for "telling" on him and saying that he felt bullied. As you can imagine, this was not an easy day for us, and Ricky took free reign in the classroom, claiming every time he did something he new was a bad decision “I can do whatever I want. I don’t even have to be here. I’m suspended, remember?”

Friday Ricky showed up again. They didn't even try to hold him in the office-- they just sent him up… apparently they had things to deal with in the office- as if I come to school to baby-sit, and not teach. Then all hell broke loose in the classroom. All of my students were frustrated, and I think that they saw Ricky's defiance as reassurance that they could get away with anything they wanted.

Friday was hell. I couldn't get a word in... when I went to speak they screamed over me. When I went to write on the chalkboard they would run out of the classroom, claiming that they didn’t have to work. When I tried to do anything at all they did everything in their power to prevent it, and they wouldn’t even let me show them what I was trying to do. It wasn’t even that they didn’t want to learn. Sometimes they don’t want to hear what I have to say, but if information gets in, they are okay with that, and they walk away with something. On Friday, they wouldn’t even allow that to happen. They wouldn’t allow information to even seep in, because they wouldn’t let it get out of me at all. At one point I stopped talking all together. I almost lost my mind on Friday.

Then the principal suspended Jay and Ray. She didn't want to deal with it anymore either.

After school on Friday I had my big breakdown. It was my big moment of "I can't do this", "I'm a failure" and "I don't know how." That's when the night custodian walked in on me. I was beat-red and crying like an infant. He didn't say much, but I asked him to help me re-arrange my room. I figured if something was going to change, everything was going to have to change.

Today when I got to school Jay was there, even though he was supposed to be suspended. I think that he was just testing to see if he could get away with what Ricky got away with. It would've worked too, because when I told the office that he was there, they started to send him upstairs. Then he made the mistake of laughing and calling the principal a b*tch under his breath. They kept him in the office the rest of the day.

That incident left me with 3 students. Then Tally had his big moment. He went completely out of control and started threatening to take his own life. He went so far as to try to throw himself off the railing on the 4th floor stairwell. (This is another point in my rant in which I could go on for days, because this is not the first such incident this year with Tally, but again, this entry has too much already, and I’ll try to address the suicidal tendencies of some of my students in another rant another time.) We had to send Tally to the hospital. That is the first time this year that I've had to send a kid out for crisis treatment at the hospital. Last year I had police and ambulances quite a bit, but this was a first for the Bad Wolves. That incident left me with 2 students. The 3 of us had a good day and got all of our work done, but somehow I still have a hard time seeing today as any sort of success.

The room change is good I think. It's a start. They seemed a little taken aback when they saw it, they didn't know what to do-- it's like they froze in the doorway. Then they settled in. I think they know that it is time for some change in the classroom. I am going to introduce a new behavior mod. chart when they all start returning from their suspensions. I am doing everything I can think of to get things back in order. I am going to be cold for a little while towards them. I am not the type of teacher that believes that you can be unemotional to kids that NEED you emotionally... but I think that for a while I am going to have to try to be a warden and hold back all the emotions I want them to share and to see.

This week is going to be good. It has to be. They will start coming back slowly and the students that I have now will be accustomed to the new way the class runs, and then those that come into the class will either go along with the behaviors or I will have to send them out. I hate taking this attitude towards teaching, but things NEED to change. When we returned from winter break things didn't fall back into place the way they were before break, and now is my chance to pick up where we were and get Bad Wolves spirit in the classroom again. I have hope-- it's just that I have to keep convincing myself that it's there.

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Usually I try to be more composed than this....

Today was a bad day for us... but that's the name of the game, right? It doesn't happen so often that ALL my students are off, but today was that day. I feel like I didn't handle it very well-- somehow today I didn't know how to deal with a bunch of 6th graders cursing me out and yelling at me. Usually I am tactful, and i know what to say and do-- but almost in the same way that they seemed to forget all of our rules and procedures, I forgot what to do when Tay started yelling at me and calling me a b*tch.

I think that part of my struggle with remembering what to do, and how to handle intense BD day with my kids is that I am very stressed about work in general. I have finally come to the idea that I kind of like my job, and I have known for some time that I love my kids. A couple months ago I found out that I may no longer be working in my position for much longer. I don't think that I have had the oportunity to rant about this yet online, mostly because of the frustration I feel when I think about it, but starting Feb. I may not be able to teach in my classroom anymore due to certification issues. This seems to have been some sort of oversight through Teach for America, the school district, and myself, but what it leads to is the fact that I do not have a certificate to teach Special Ed... even though all the before mentioned parties thought that I was set through the end of the school year at least. As it turns out, the only certification I hold is good for life, but only for K-5. I teach special ed. 4-6... apparantly 2 big no-no's.

The idea that they might pull me out of that classroom only to replace me with a substitute shakes me to the core, and infuriates me to think that so much of the public education system obviously has very little to do with the children, because anyone in my school could tell you that the worst thing you could possibly do to my kids is take their teacher away and give them someone that isn't certified to teach anything... but apparantly that is out of our hands because from this point on everything is federally mandated by "No Child Left Behind".

Okay, before I get to far into this I feel that I should stop my rant (I don't want to be upset for the rest of the night), but basically, it is getting close to the wire for me, and I am worried because no one seems to know what to do to help make sure that I don't have to leave my kids behind.

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I haven't posted in a while for a number of reasons, mostly the fact that my personal life as well as my school life have been a tilt-a-whirl of ups and downs, and as it turns out, the tilt-a-whirl makes me nauseous, and if you know me at all, you know that I don't puke unless my life depends on it. Yesterday my life depended on it. Today I just feel sick again- I guess that's a step in the right direction.

Today was our first day back to school after the holiday break. I was elated to be going back (even in this coughing condition) because as much as school is chaos for me, I was longing for the thing that I know my kids need the most- routine. My life at home and on break has been so crazy that I needed the chance to get back into something that I can trust. I needed a break from the break essentially. This is a crazy phenomenon; I am not the type of person that generally relies on routine. In fact, I think that one of the hardest parts of teaching for me was that I had to become a structured person.

The thing is, I know what happens each day when I get to school. When I go into the auditorium at 8:20am I can count on only 2 of my students being there, because the other busses run late everyday. I know that this will frustrate me, and I will go through all the things that my kids could be learning in the 25 min that they are missing each morning. I know that when I get to the cafeteria with my students to pick up the breakfast, my 2 will fight for just a moment over who's turn it is to carry the bin upstairs. I know that the first thing Jerry will do when we get upstairs is tell me that the homework was too easy (even if he got half of it wrong), and Tally will try to think of a believable excuse for why he didn't do his at all. He knows that this will frustrate me, so he will then try to make me laugh, hoping I will go easier on him. He also knows that I will not buy his excuses, and I will not go easier on him and for this I think he loves and hates me simultaneously. I can expect that when the busses arrive, just as the morning announcements commence, the rest of my students will be arriving, hungry. Tay will stand out in the hall for a while and watch us, she seems to need a minute to prepare herself to enter the room, and I understand that, so I let her stand for a minute before saying good morning and drawing her into the classroom. I know that when I ask them to pass out the math message notebooks I will here numerous grunts and a few verbal complaints, but I also know that if I don’t get the math message up right away, someone will ask, “well, what about math, should I pass out the notebooks?” This is exactly what I needed today.

They missed me too, and I needed that. I was visibly ill, so all through the day they asked things like, “are you going to be here tomorrow?” and “why did you come to school today?” To this, I told Tally, “because I missed you so much I couldn’t bear to be away from you another day.” He laughed, “yeah right.” “What, you didn’t miss me?” I asked. “I missed you,” Jerry replied, and then quickly covered his self, “I mean, not really, I mean…” Ricky jumped in quickly, “Whatever man, I didn’t miss her at all. I didn’t even think about her… well I didn’t think about her until Monday…” and then he scratched his head and looked back at his paper.

Being sick sucks, and sometimes life does too, and often teaching really sucks, but it’s days like today, when even if things aren’t perfect, and your lessons don’t go as planned, and your kids have unthinkable behavior, and every last inch of your body hurts from having to stand in front of the toughest crowd in the world and pretend to be strong, I am thankful for being a teacher.

I will try my best to post again soon, because there are all sorts of shocking updates, and I have been reprimanded by my sister to keep up to date with my blog, but for tonight, all I can do is wish the best for the New Year.

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