Tuesday, December 8, 2009

If you don't have anything nice to say...you must be blogging!

I'm sorry I haven't put up a new entry in so long. I really don't like my job lately, so blogging about it only makes me feel like I'm whining. More kids keep joining my playwriting enrichment class and it has descended into chaos. They talk so much we can barely read a scene aloud. My advisory class still sucks, too. I'm not sure which is worse: being blatantly ignored even when you're standing right in a kid's face telling them to stop talking and do their work, or dealing with the rudeness and disrespect they engage in when they do acknowledge your presence. Kids are cutting class, hiding in the bathrooms, hanging out in the stairwells, and when they do go to class, so many of them are so incredibly rude to teachers. How dare we ask them to learn, right?

When we were evacuated a couple weeks ago after someone (an adult) caused nauseating fumes by cleaning paint brushes with gasoline (don't ask), I chatted up the sub who was in for the science teacher that day. He said he has subbed in almost every charter school in the city, and our school is the only one where, when they call him to sub, he truly hesitates, because our kids' behavior is so awful. Isn't that interesting? Same types of schools, same city, same population, and yet our students' behavior is that much worse.

But then I turned around and chatted with Jill, the long-term English sub, and *she* said, "I've worked in schools where the kids screamed 'f--- you!' right in my face and threw objects at me, and these kids don't do that."

I felt like saying, "Give them time." ;O Actually, one student did whip a pencil at me a month or so ago. It hit me in the back, but still. I brought him to the office and he was talked to, but I don't think anything else happened.

Last Thursday the dam finally broke and I cried in front of Mitchell. Mortifying. The board suddenly wanted all this data last week to show the kids were learning something, so we had to give them this diagnostic test in English, and they were NOT happy about it. I helped proctor the test, which took almost two periods for each class, and the one seventh grade class was not very good about it, even though their history teacher, who they generally like, was in the room with me. Just stupid stuff like banging on the desk, whistling, trying to talk. But I walked out of there thinking, I cannot do this again with the other seventh grade class, with only the long-term English sub to back me up -- not during the second-to-last period of the day, when I was overtired and hadn't had any periods off except my 25 minute wolf-down-my-lunch time.

I rarely ask for help, but I tried to ask this time. I tried the mature, professional approach first. I went to my direct supervisor, the special ed director, and told her my concerns: the one seventh grade class had been just barely OK with their regular teacher and me both in the room, but I feared the second class wouldn't take it seriously, especially with just me and the sub there. I asked point-blank if someone else could come in and help us proctor, but she basically said no, to just "set the expectation" that they should take it seriously. Um, I can't even get them to let me finish a sentence! But I just said, "Oh. Okay." She said I could talk to Mitchell about it if I wanted, but clearly she wasn't going to help me.

So I went to Mitchell, and he basically said the same thing. "There are going to be two of you in there, right?" he said. Yes, one of whom is a sub they don't take seriously, I tried to say in a polite way. It became clear he wasn't going to help me either, and I finally broke down and started crying. Well. THAT got his attention. Suddenly someone else was found to help proctor the exam. Suddenly he and the special ed director wanted to know how theycould offer me more support. But it shouldn't take going to them in tears -- or in anger, as other teachers have done -- to get that, should it?

So. It was incredibly embarrassing, but it was effective. One of the other teachers graciously, courageously tepped in to teach my advisory class last period, since my weepiness had just barely stopped at that point. I brought my laptop and worked in the back of Mitchell's office that last period, listening to the myriad crises that presented themselves: one student claimed all her school books had been stolen; two others were taking a long time to finish their diagnostic tests; another had lost her locker key, couldn't get into her locker to get her winter coat, and Mitchell couldn't find the master key. All those ridiculous but time-consuming issues are probably why it's only the squeaky (i.e., weeping or enraged) wheel that gets the grease around there.


  1. What do you think it would take to get the students to behave properly? A cousin is an elementary principal in upstate New York, so I am aware corporal punishment is not permitted in NY. I very clearly remember, however, the sobering effect of the threat of a swat, meted out by a coach wielding a wooden paddle, on misbehaving students (not me, of course) in my Arizona elementary school. Although definitely not a fan of physical punishment, I see that in a worse-case scenario such as your school, maybe it's warranted.

    I see this disrepect starts early, sometimes evident in the undergraduates with whom I interact, thankfully infrequently.

  2. Artichoke Heart, Could you post some on your leisure activities in NYC? This expatriate New Yorker (Brooklynite) would love to vicariously experience life in the big city.

  3. Thanks, Waitress! No matter how much I feel like strangling a kid sometimes ;) I don't believe in corporal punishment. Even if I didn't object to it just on philosophical grounds, I saw that when they had it in the school where I worked in Texas, it didn't seem to work any better than any other form of punishment.
    And, life in NYC is still great! Move back! :) This weekend the Nicest Guy in the World and I went to the IFC movie theater to see "It's a Wonderful Life" -- it was really cool to watch it in the theater!