I took some time off because I was so busy juggling different things in life. I stress how important it is for people to understand that our work does not end when the school bell rings. Teaching is like an 8-8pm job Monday to Sunday. I have to plan (that takes so long especially when I’m reaching three different grades), I have to grade, I have to assess data, I have to differentiate and did I mention writing IEP’s. There’s not enough time during the school day. But I also need to have a life. I have to maintain my home and myself and sanity. A lot of senior teachers tell us new teachers to make time for ourselves, great advice, but can you show me how? I feel like once I put one thing off, then I have a pile of things waiting on me.
Last year, I had a student that had a meltdown and in result broke my MacBook 😭, and in return, I lost all of my documents, videos etc. So, for year two, I feel like I am starting over in terms of lesson planning.
But I will tell you what has changed, my confidence level. I show up to class and take charge. I feel like a new person. My classroom management skills went up by 25 points and I don’t feel the need to go home and cry, (not yet anyways). I am still learning how to balance the many roles in my life, but I am glad to see that it is getting better with time.
written by : a High School teacher from Brooklyn,
“They ask me what I do, and who I do it for?”- 2chainz
“Why do you teach?” It’s one of those questions that every teacher hears. The responses are usually often uninspired. I want to make a difference. I want to touch lives. I want to inspire change. I want to give back. It must sound skeptical, an educator scoffing at another’s noble motivation. Noble or not, it just isn’t enough.
When a kid is walking out of your classroom without permission for the fourth time in a 57 minute period, it’s really hard to remember your personal oath to make a difference. When you find students smoking Black and Milds in the stairwell, your ability to touch lives may seem questionable. When a student pushes the principal in front of you(insert Chris Tucker’s DAMNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNN here) measuring your ability to create change is a little tough.
Let us go back. Firstly, the common answers I listed are not exclusive to teaching. You can make a difference as a social worker, child therapist, daycare employee, or the supervisor at the sunglass hut. You can touch lives in an array of other careers. You can give back at the soup kitchen on the weekends. It is too early in my career to tell, but I have a hunch that educators who have these lofty, but shallow ideals are the ones who burn out the fastest.
There is no such thing as the altruistic career.
So, why do I teach? Well, I’m still figuring that out, but here are somethings that I have figure out so far:
-Kids are in many ways my boss, but they are the most forgiving bosses I’ve had.
– There are always problems. I love work problems.
– Schools are social places and I’m a social person.
– I have so much to reflect on at the end of the day and I’ve learned more about myself in this year than the other 26.
– Vacations. Yeah, I said it.
– I feel like I am best equipped to help prepare kids from my community. Not all kids, but kids from MY community.
I teach because it works for me.
I didn’t want to write this post. It has been hard for me to write about my feelings. In the beginning of the school year, I lost one of my sixth-grade students to suicide. It was a hard thing to accept. It’s hard for me to accept despite the amounts of time I hear lectures about suicide and depression. I cant help but ask, how is life so hard for a 12-year-old that he had to end it? The saddest part is that I didn’t really know him. What tends to happen is that the students who misbehave or those that are very social get all of our attention that those that do what they’re supposed to do get put on the back burner. He was a student that always had a smile on his face. He had a group of friends and to my knowledge, he wasn’t being bullied. So what went wrong? That is the unanswered question I often ponder about. When I used to push into his science class and he would across the room, his shoulders would be slouched and he would drag his feet. I remember saying to him, “ Hey, pick up your shoulders and walk with confidence”. That used to make him laugh.
After going through that experience of realizing the many moments I missed in conversing with him and reading that article, I decided to interview my students. I talk to them a lot and get to know them behind the numbers, the grades, the IEP’s. I found out that a lot of them had the same interest as me. Most of my students are boys and that helped because I have a son and I do a lot of activities with him. Growing up, I was a self-proclaimed nerd, so I watched a lot of the cartoons they watch now. It was great talking to them and having Marvel vs. DC conversations, or talking about wrestling and who is a legend and who isn’t. My students were very happy that I took an interest in their lives as well as happy that I know some of the things they enjoy. I gained some type of street credit with them. After the death of that student, I pay more attention to the good kids because they could be suffering in silence.
There’s a bulletin board competition at my school and I had to participate. I don’t take losing well. My first board is a 6-7th grade class. They are learning about cells. After learning about cells and the organelles, the students had to draw a cell, either animal or plant cell and label the organelles. For the students who need differentiations, I printed out a diagram of the cell they chose and had them label the organelles and color it in. I’m very proud of my students work. I never knew I had so many artists in my class.
My two self contained science classes dissected starfishes in class. To follow up they had to write a lab report about the dissection. My board’s theme was “under the sea” to liven it up, I added sea shells and pebbles. I hope I win.
These are labels that teachers are assigned upon evaluations. Effective teachers are always moving; their classroom environment is student centered and their lessons are engaging. We go through the Danielson’s framework periodically; it has become a teacher’s bible. But what foster these classroom environments are the relationships outside of the classroom. I cannot recall how many times a day I hear, “Hi Ms. Saint-Pierre, Hi Ms. Saint-Pierce, and hi Ms. Pink-skirt”. My regular students and students that I see in afterschool program call me by regular name, my SPED students call me Ms. Saint-Pierce and my sixth grade girls lovingly call me, Ms. Pink skirt because of a pink skirt I wore on the first day of school. I really love it. They like coming to my room and visiting me, they greet me in the hallways and they ask me all sorts of questions about my life. It is those types of relationships that make it easier when one of my students is acting up with another teacher/staff and I can interject to talk them down.
I got evaluated two weeks ago and it had to be the saddest day of my life. I was rated ineffective and developing in so many areas that it knocked my spirits down ten notches. I said to myself, “how can you question the teacher-student interaction?” I am so supportive of these kids. I care about them and I make it my business to constantly give them pep talks and check on them. But after having my moment, I took it as a lesson learned and thought about the ways I can make my lessons more engaging to foster the interactions and relationship that they are looking for.
“Integrated Co-Teaching (ICT) classrooms include students with and without disabilities and have two teachers, a general education teacher and a special education teacher. The teachers work together throughout the day to adapt and modify instruction for your child and make sure the entire class has access to the general education curriculum. Students may be in an ICT classroom all day or for a portion of the day.
Children receiving ICT may also receive related services, assistive technology, paraprofessional services or other supplementary aids and services if needed. The child’s IEP must indicate:
Whether the service is full-time or part-time
The number of periods each day he or she will receive the services, and
The area of instruction (for example, mathematics) for which the student will be receiving this service
The number of students with disabilities in an ICT class may not exceed 40% of the total class register or a maximum of 12.”(http://schools.nyc.gov/Academics/SpecialEducation/programs/environment/ict.htm)
In my ICT classes, I am not sure if I am coming or going. One of my classes in particular is spearheading my forthcoming alcoholism. I think they put all of the kids with behavioral issues together and said, “we will give them two teachers and that should take care of it”. But its not; It makes it very hard for me to teach the class if I have to consistently stop to address behaviors. Putting two new teachers together and assigning us a class of thirty with 12 students with IEP’s and behavioral issues is a set up for failure. My co-teacher for that particular class is very soft-spoken. He doesn’t know how to address the class so it has become a good cop vs. bad cop situation for me.
I feel as though I spent much of my energy trying to figure out different ways to reach out to the students. How can I get through to them? Today for instance, I have had to take two of them into the hallway to discuss their work performance and give them a quick re-teach of the lesson; but I can’t do that every period. I feel guilty that I am spending so much time on the behavioral students that I am neglecting the good students.
In my second ICT relationship, I feel like an incompetent aide. Due to scheduling conflicts, the class rolled out without the students knowing that they had two teachers in the room. When we finally got the schedule fixed and I joined in, the other teacher already had a system in place. So what was I supposed to do? I sat back and watched how she did things. This is a teacher that has been teaching for twenty-years, so I am rest assured there’s a lot I can learn from her. An issue with that relationship is that well seasoned teachers are stuck in their ways. It’s really hard to come in and interject with new ideas.
What am I taking from all of this? ICT classrooms work best when the teachers are in sync, so the co-planning time is essential. If a student asked me to go to the bathroom and I said no, they shouldn’t even think to ask the other teacher.