Extremely discouraging couple of days.
Apparently on Tuesday as the kids were being released to go home for the day, there was an incident with a middle school student allegedly pushing one of the elementary school teachers as they (the students) came barreling down the stairs. There are two sides to the story, though, from two different teachers (not to mention the student), so who knows what really happened. On Wednesday, Mitchell (the vice principal) was out sick. That afternoon he sent an e-mail to all of us saying he was sorry he couldn't be with us but he'd woken up feeling "absolutely awful" (note that he didn't specify whether he meant physically or mentally!). In the rest of the e-mail he reamed us out for the staircase incident and for not walking our kids all the way down five flights of stairs and seeing them out of the building when we release them for the day -- even though we were NEVER told we had to do that. I'm lucky because my class meets in the cafeteria on the first floor, so when that final bell rings, I'm like "peace out" and they walk right out of the building. Have you ever heard of a junior high where the kids are lined up to go to every class, and are even walked out of the building? But some of them act so immature, I can see why Mitchell feels we have to do it.
Anyway, he ended the e-mail by saying teachers who shirk their cafeteria duties, recess duties, walking their kids out of the building duties, etc., will have a letter put in their file. I am so sick of this "letter in your file" crap. They did that to Cori for the exploding pen vandalism incident, and one of the teachers from last year said it became almost a running joke that they were putting a letter in her file every month for one negative thing or another. It reminds me of the old "this will go in your permanent record!" threat. It's so demeaning.
Honestly, if teachers are sometimes tempted to shirk their duties once in a while, maybe it's because they're endless! Besides actually teaching for five to six periods per day, we have to supervise Tai Chi (20 minutes), do homeroom/morning meeting (25 minutes), breakfast duty (25 minutes), pick kids up from breakfast to line them up and bring them to class (5 minutes), recess or lunch duty (30 minutes), and escort the kids out of the building at the end of the day (5 minutes). That's almost TWO HOURS EVERY DAY just on non-instructional duties. That can't be normal, can it??
I wonder if the administration is even getting discouraged, because it seems like every e-mail we get from Mitchell or any of them anymore is scolding us for something. Earlier this week I'd sent Mitchell an e-mail saying the planned schedule of team meetings that he'd sent out was a great idea, does it start this week or next? No response. The next day I found these cool activities I thought would be good for the advisory classes, so I e-mailed them to him. No response. I know they're as overwhelmed as we are, if not more so, but it's not helping morale.
Then yesterday the English teacher e-mailed Mitchell and me saying she had to leave today at 3:00 PM for a doctor's appointment, so she would need coverage for her seventh grade English class and her advisory class. I hit "reply all" and told them both that since I was planning to be in there anyway to do some vocabulary review games and a vocabulary crossword puzzle, I was fine with covering the class solo. But then the teacher told me this morning that Mitchell wrote back only to her and said that was good, but he still wanted another teacher in the class with me. I was like, ??? First of all, why? I'm a certified teacher. It made me feel like he thought I wouldn't be able to handle the class by myself, even though I said I would be comfortable with it. I mean, I *should* be, according to the co-teaching model we special ed teachers are supposed to abide by. Second of all, why didn't he include me on the e-mail, too?
So one of the sixth grade teachers offered to help supervise during that period, since she had a prep period, but then the reading specialist said she had been planning to push in that period anyway, so we decided it would be her and me. I'd thought it would go great because I'd been in both of Andrea's seventh grade math classes that morning, and they were SO well-behaved, I thought she must have slipped tranquilizers in their breakfast. Juan wasn't even sitting in the back of the room, and they were still really good. Even the usual suspects were pretty quiet. So I thought, Wow, English class will be a breeze.
Well. THANK GOD Mitchell said he wanted two of us in the room. It was hell. They -- were -- HORRIBLE. Absolutely awful. The science teacher had, for some insane reason, given them balloons in the class right before mine as part of some demonstration, so they were popping balloons in the hallway and screaming before they even got to class. Also, somehow they'd heard and gotten excited about their old sixth grade teacher being with them that period, so the reading specialist and I were NOT who they wanted to see. So...play a game?? No way. They couldn't even quiet down enough to listen to my instructions about the crossword puzzle. They were getting up out of their seats, calling across the room, laughing at nothing, speaking totally disrespectfully to us. Even a few of the kids who aren't usually a problem were being completely rude. And I felt even worse when one of the handful of well-behaved kids raised his hand and quietly asked if the people who were following directions could at least play the game? I had to say no, because how would they have heard anything over the din??
I was thisclose to crying by the time the period finally, mercifully, ended. But I had to pull myself together because I still had a whole period of advisory to teach. Woo-hoo!
Needless to say, I felt completely and utterly miserable by the end of the day. If Mitchell thought I couldn't handle the class by myself, well, he was right. I couldn't even handle it with another teacher in the room. And I don't even feel comfortable asking for suggestions or support, because I'm petrified any potentially negative thing I admit to will get written up in a letter in my file.
But during advisory class, we went around and said our "rose" (good part of our day) and our "thorn" (bad part of our day), and one student, who'd gone to another advisory group the past week but then got switched back to mine today, said happily, "My rose is that I'm back in your advisory group now!" Even in the depths of my misery, he made me smile. I wanted to hug him.