Summer time – for Chicago teachers the living’s not easy….

     So sadly, I’ve been too busy to get around to this little blog.  But now that another school year is behind me I feel like there’s tons going on.

     So at work – the last day of school was bittersweet.  Most of my amazingly awesome team is leaving for other/better positions at better schools, or better-paying schools.  As a founding teacher, its hard to see my teammates leave – especially when I wished so hard to join them in the exit this year.  Unfortunately, I had 3 really huge hiring let-downs this year – meaning that unless I want to be homeless – I am stuck where I am.  Oh well – c’est la vie.  So what am I doing this summer?  That’s right – since I desperately need money and my boyfriend is still not working (yay economic crash), I’m teaching summer school.  FUN!!!!

There’s nothing like getting 30 kids who all have behavior problems and putting them into one hot, sparse classroom all summer long.  I planned it to be as easy as possible for them to pass – so what happens?  Most of them have failed the first 2 quizzes.  I haven’t started putting the grades into the gradebook yet – but I plan on doing all of that tomorrow.   So far 3 kids have been expelled.  I’m hoping by the end of this week the numbers will be down even further so its more manageable.  (They only get to mess up a couple of times before they’re expelled – if expelled they have to repeat the grade they failed).  So let’s talk about expulsions.  Here’s what happened to the first kid.  1)  He rides his bike to school & forgets his lock – so he asks the school office if he can store it there until the end of the day & is obliged.  2)  He forgets that he rode the bike to school & wants to ride a bike home.  3)  He steals someone else’s bike outside of the school & gets caught.  (You don’t get assigned to summer school for being a genius.  The second kid to get expelled was talking back in class, & sent to the summer school principal’s office – where she talked back to him while he called her mom.  When mom came up to the school she refused to leave or speak normally & ran off – then when the security guard brought her back to the front she screamed in the security guard’s face and called her “hey goofy don’t touch me”.  You give a kid a second chance to pass a grade – they take a mile….

I’m trying to spend my summer losing weight since I have little time during the school year to get in the hours that I actually need at the gym during the school year. 

I try to not watch the news at all – since teachers are getting slammed in the news all over the place.  For those of you who don’t live in Chicago – the new CPS CEO (who is totally unqualified & was fired from his last job – and isn’t even a product of the American educational system) is totally insane.  He cut the 4% raise Chicago Public School Teachers were told they were getting – 2 days after giving all the higher-ups a raise.  If you’re saying that you had to cut teachers’ raises because of the budget crisis – most teachers would have understood.  They would have taken the hit lying down for the betterment of our students – but then you raise the salaries of the people that sit in offices making schools suck more?  In front of them?  And expect teachers not to be pissed off?  RIGHT.

So check out this great idea – he wants to take away teachers’ professional development days & put kids in the classroom on those days – which would be OK.  If I wasn’t required by law to accumulate 120 hours of professional development every 5 years to keep my teaching certification.  Are you going to pay me to go get my PD somewhere else?  Are you going to give me more days off per year to get those hours taken care of?  Of course not.  Because it’s greedy of me to expect that.

Get ready for the best part.  He wants teachers to do MANDATORY home visits.  Really?  Because a lot of the parents of students that I have refuse to come to parent teacher conferences.  Or they make appointments and don’t show up.  Or they live in neighborhoods that I wouldn’t go to even if I was being paid (which I assume that I wouldn’t be since this is supposed to take place on my own time?)  I’m not saying I’m totally against the home visit thing – IF I’M WANTED.  Many of my students’ parents are confrontational about education.  Or they are absent.  Or they are too disengaged from their child’s lives to even remember my name.  Safety issues aside (everyone loves walking into strange buildings in gang-ridden neighborhoods right?), let’s talk about just being respected.  Am I going by myself?  Will an administrator be with me?  What’s the point of just showing up?  At least at the school I have the ability to end a conversation when the things that I need to cover are taken care of.  In someone’s private home, you have little to no control over the situation.  You can be interrupted by any number of things (hold on my phone is ringing, hold on my kid is puking, hold on the neighbors are screaming, etc).  Plus, if the family feels even for an instant ashamed of their home or belongings or neighborhoods, etc  it could actually DAMAGE the professional relationship that you’ve already had and maintained with them for half of the school year.  People are proud.  Anywho – check this douche and his ridiculous ideas out:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/06/24/brizard-emanuel-suggest-c_n_883976.html

That being said – I have had the opportunity to work with some of the most phenomenal, talented, caring, amazing teachers that are in the entire business of education.  And it’s crap like THIS that is making them leave the profession – go on to jobs where they get a modicum of respect and make double the money.  We need to realize that the crappier that we treat the people who see our children more than their parents, we need to realize that the people who are the best in the business need to be held onto – treated with the professional respect they deserve, make a living wage, and do whatever we can to KEEP THEM IN THE PROFESSION.  Not do as much as possible to chase them out of the profession.  In no other profession can you work 60+ hours a week, have a masters degree, and be treated like absolute garbage on a daily basis. 

To all of the teachers who are great at their jobs who are dealing with all this crap that has NOTHING to do with teaching your students – I feel you.  And to all of the crappy teachers who have the good jobs in the good districts – PLEASE GOD RETIRE SO I CAN GET A DECENT JOB!!!!!!

Question: “What do you know about Latin America?”

Apparently it was where the Pilgrims met the Indians, where the movie Aladdin was filmed, and some other stuff….

 

Ah – the idea that kids think that an ANIMATED cartoon set in the Middle East was ‘filmed’ in Latin America is frightening.  I love the spelling on what I assume is intended to be Puerto Rican.  Old west times? 

Whatever.

I have to laugh – it keeps in the tears.

Applitrack sucks!

     So, in another weak attempt to find a new job, I’ve spent the past 4 hours applying for teaching jobs online.  YAY!!!  I finished a whole 2 applications.  Every year, around Christmas time, I start the same boring process.  I pull up a map of Chicago & its suburbs on googlemaps.  Then I start in the upper left-hand corner of the map, apply to every district in that town (both middle and high schools), cross it out, and move on to the next one.  Every application takes about 2 hours if you have to start from scratch.  If you can import the application from another similar district, it takes only about a half an hour per application.  The thing that gets me the most isn’t the pointless and endless clicking/entering information/boring entering & re-entering of your references names.  It’s not even the ENDLESSLY boring essay questions (that I doubt that anyone reads), but its the fact that when you finish & hit submit – you have NO IDEA what is happening to your information.  You get this generic ‘Thanks for applying to our district’ form email.  But that’s it.  There’s no confirmation, no list of dates that decisions will have been made by, NOTHING.  So you have no idea what black hole your meticulously filled-out work has fallen into. 

     The professional world has gotten so UNPROFESSIONAL that I can’t believe it.  I mean as a teacher candidate (or any corporate job-applicant for that matter), you are expected to call off of work to come interview, you are expected to figure out the awkward situation of asking your boss for references, you are expected to SEND A THANK YOU NOTE to people who have the courtesy to interview you on THEIR OWN TIME, yet what professional courtesies do you get as an applicant?  Do you even get a 2-sentence email that says, “We’re sorry but the position has been filled”, or “We have gone with someone with more/less experience”.  I mean it’s better to RESPOND somehow than to ignore someone’s very existence.  As a matter of fact, all of the big ‘how to get a job’ companies talk about how important it is for applicants to send thank you notes, well I’ve spent at least $250 in postage on such notes over the past 10 years, so I think a little reciprocation would be the professional thing to do?  I mean check out this site that tells you how important it is: 

http://www.chiff.com/a/interview-thanks.htm

     People seem to think it’s easy to get jobs as a teacher.  Not to brag, but I’m really a top candidate.  I have experience at various grade levels, a great performance history, awesome references, and am a super hard worker/award nominated teacher.  Just to show how far that gets you – in the 10 years of my career – I have had exactly 5 interviewsEvery year, I put in about 95 applications to different middle and high school districts.  So out of those 5 interviews, thankfully I have gotten 2 jobs.  But if you don’t even get the interview, how can you get more experienced with the interview process?  Every teacher that I’ve talked to in Illinois has a similar story.  If you can’t get the interview, how can you get the job?  Who is getting the interviews?  I believe that the answer is simply who you know.  If you network and know people in the district/went to school in the district it gives you a distinct advantage.  I know this because at my own school, I have put in good words for people & have watched their applications go to the top of the list of 900+ applications.  So since I have a small family/set of peope that I know – does it matter how awesome of a teacher that I am?  I’m starting to think it doesn’t matter at all.  I’ve seen who gets hired and who teaches in some of the most amazing districts in Illinois.  And a lot of people that I know/have worked with/myself are way better teachers – but we get stuck where we are unable to advance our careers or move out of the expensive city-limits because of who we DON’T know.  It’s frustrating.  And with the current attacks on teachers in the media/government, jobs are being cut everywhere.  In Detroit, they’re firing all of the best/most experienced teachers, hiring a bunch of doe-eyed first years, and putting them in classrooms with 60 kids.  Watch the story here:  http://youtu.be/EARW3xblguY

     While I do appreciate my job, I do know that my school has issues that I don’t know if I feel like dealing with for much longer.  I’d like to be doing my job to the best of my ability and be able to focus on only that while I’m at work – not the things that are going on behind the scenes that make me sad.  But if I can’t get an interview, then I can’t get a job.  However, every year it seems like I get a little more interest in my resume.  Of the 5 interviews I’ve had in the past 10 years, 3 of them have been within the past 4 years.  Maybe things are finally picking up.  I’d better get out my thankyou letters.

Camping ’11

     Home at last!   I just got home from my school’s annual 6th Grade Camping Trip.  YAY!!!!  We left school at about 8 am on Monday and got back in the afternoon today.  The whole point of the trip (at least what I’m told) is to ‘do teambuilding activities, and build friendships, and do outdoor education for urban students’.  Personally I feel like it’s main purpose is to see how far you can drive teachers phsyically, mentally, and emotionally before they fall into complete and total delerium.  I’m actually not ‘down on the trip’.  I think it’s a valuable experience for the students.  They have a ton of fun, are forced to be open-minded and out of their element, and are incredibly fun to SCREW with for 3 days.  Scaring them, freaking them out, bothering them – that part of it is pretty awesome.   It is however, a testament to any sane adult’s sanity and physical endurance.  Not to mention their ability to sleep on a wooden slab with a semi-inflatable yoga mat on it.

Even though it’s not the name of the camp, I refer to the place as Camp Crystal Lake – because I feel like the trip stalks and murders my patience and endurance.  Here’s an actual picture of the camp:

"Hello. I'm Mrs. Voorhees."

     So here’s a basic run down of my life for the past 3 days.  Monday – leave school at 8 am, get to the camp by 11.  Have lunch & take the camp tour, then 2 1.5 hour ‘Outdoor Activity Sessions’.  (At this point, each teacher leads a group of about 8 kids in an Outdoor Activity Session/Lesson.  Over the course of 2 days you teach the same activity to each of the 6 groups).  After that – the kids get 45 minutes of ‘free recreation time’.  After that – dinner, presentation on wolves/coyotes, campfire with skits & songs, a walking through the dark/scaring the kids as they look for the ‘wolf’ in the dark, smores, and then bedtime at 11. 

Day 2 – Up at 7 with breakfast at 8, the other 4 activity periods, lunch, more rec. time, dinner, then a dance until 10.  (Complete exhaustion sets in at about 3:30 pm – after that all of the adults are basically operating on auto-pilot, the kids are total crabby brats, and the high school counselors can’t stop laughing as their respect for the teachers begin to grow as they realize how irritating kids can be).

Day 3 –   I don’t remember today at this point because I slept through most of the festivities with my eyes open.  I think there was breakfast, ‘Camp Olympics’, and a lot of packing, etc.  We left the camp at about 11:30 am.  By noon all of the kids on the bus were passed out.  The adults soon after. 

ORGANIZED CHAOS!!!!!

Every year when I get back from the Camping Trip I take a hot shower, take a great nap, wake up and eat spaghetti, and then veg out watching guilty-pleasure tv.  Which is exactly what I’m doing right now.  All of the 6th grade teachers were told that we have Thursday off and don’t have to come to school.  I also took Friday off in an attempt to re-gain my strength and sanity. 

So now that I’m in my own quiet, comfy home, wearing my pjs and watching Law & Order – I have time to reflect on some of the more hilarious quotes from students in the wilderness.

Hilarious Kids’ Quotes from Camping 2011:

1.  “Miss __________, are we near an airport?”

“No why?”

“What’s with all the lights?”

“Those are stars.”

2.  “Stop tube-slide raping people!”

 

3.  ”  I can’t wait to get home and play video games 24/7!!”

 

4.  Me:  “Wow you really had some moves out there on the dance floor.  The ladies are going to be chasing you…”

Him:  “That’s what happens when your game is on point”

5.  While doing the outdoor activities, the high school counselor and myself start talking about kids being couch potatos –

I said, “That’s the problem with kids today, they don’t play outside enough – they sit around playing Xbox.”  To which the kid in the tree in the picture responded:

“I DON’T PLAY XBOX – I JUMP OFF ROOFS FOR FUN!!!! Y’ALL SHOULD TRY IT!!!”  (If he only knew how much I want to).

 

 

 

Hilarious Teacher Quotes:

1.  In regards to dropping ‘fake’ DO YOU LIKE ME CIRCLE YES OR NO notes around the dance to start drama:  “Will lives be ruined?  Possibly.  Will kids get scarred?  Most likely.  Is it worth it?  HELL YEAH!!”

2.  “Can you believe this is what you do for a living?”

3.  “Teaching is the only profession where people just don’t believe your word as a professional.  I mean if a dentist comes in and says ‘well you have a cavity and need a filling.’  You don’t say – “No I don’t, you don’t know what you’re talking about.  My teeth don’t get holes in them.  Clearly you have something against my teeth.”  But if you tell a parent that their kid is getting a bullying referral, they just don’t treat you like you know what you’re talking about.  Who argues with their surgeon?  Their dentist?  DUH!”

 

4.  “This trip makes my entire body and soul hurt.  Why can’t I stop laughing?”

 

5.  “I can’t wait to go home and get drunk.”

 

So one more year of that trip under my belt.  It reminded me how much less energy that I have now that I’m not 22 anymore.  It reminded me how sad it is that poor urban kids don’t have parents that take them into the wilderness ever – so much so that they’re amazed by birds that aren’t pigeons.  Thirdly, it reminded me that I love my kids – seeing them out of their element and doing hilarious things.  And lastly, it reminded me that after 70+ hours with kids – I am SO happy to be by myself at my house – without any kids within hearing distance.

So another year’s trip is down, and tomorrow I’m sleeping until I don’t feel like sleeping anymore.

Productivity is a change of pace…

Today was the most productive day ever.  I caught up on a TON of things that I thought that I’d never have the time to finish before Friday.  I graded an enormous stack of papers, put a ton of grades into the computer gradebook, made most of my copies for the rest of the week, had 2 meetings, and left work early.  I didn’t have any tutoring sessions booked for tonight, so I was home at 4:30, worked out, showered, and have time to indulge in guilty-pleasure tv?  AWESOME.  I also only have 2 more chapters to finish of my book – which I still have time to do before bed.  YAY!!!  Not bad for a day when I totally overslept and didn’t work out this morning.  My lunch for tomorrow is even made, saving me an extra 10 minutes tomorrow morning….

So I’m currently watching the Voice – mostly because I like to hear pretty singing – and also because I’m trying to figure out why Cee Lo has midget arms.  Sometimes I wonder what it would be like to be famous – but mostly I just wonder what it would feel like to be REALLY talented at something.  Just gifted – really really awesome at SOMETHING.  I feel like I’m mediocre at a lot of things.  I’ve been OK at a lot of stuff over the years – piano, clarinet, ballet, speaking french – but when it comes down to being really GREAT at something – I really don’t have that thing.  Maybe I’m still looking for it, maybe it doesn’t exist.  I do know that I constantly feel like I’m falling just a bit short on things.  This year has been especially hard on me for that.  I had this really great job interview this year – got turned down in the final 2 people.  Then I was nominated for this teaching award with a big monetary prize – fell short in the last 30 finalists.  Was nominated for another teaching award – fell short again.  I have NO IDEA why I am so disappointed by these shortfalls either.  I mean it was the first 2 times in 9 years that I’ve ever been nominated for anything like that at all.  I never expected to win – but the closer that you get to the final group of something, its harder and harder not to get your hopes up.  I do try to stay positive about things – which no one ever believes because I have a reputation as being a pessimist (being realistic does NOT mean that you expect bad things – it means you mentally prepare for both positive and negative consequences.  Nothing irks me more than people calling me negative).  But its hard to maintain positivity when you’ve had a pretty disappointing year. 

I’m thinking of trying to do something that’s just for myself this summer.  I don’t know what yet – maybe french or ballet class – maybe something totally new and different like kung fu – which my chiropractor often suggests to me.  Of course it does all come down to time and money.  If I can find something at a convenient time & a reasonable price – something that isn’t too common in Chicago – I’ll sign up immediately.  I feel like I need to spend time with other adults outside of the insanely busy and frustrating realm of education.  I feel like over the years that my career has almost made it impossible for me to have friends.  The people that I work with are like family to me – they’re awesome people – but I feel like I don’t have ‘friends’ anymore.  I don’t have people to shop with or go to the movies with, or call when I’ve had a crappy day.  I mean I guess I could post a ‘I need non-teacher friends/I’m not a crazy stalker/murderer’ ad on craigslist.  But that usually results in creepy emails from old men looking for three-somes.  Where do adults that have 2 jobs and 20 minutes a week to themselves meet friends?  Is it worth making new friends if you don’t have time to invest in a real relationship with them?  Quite frankly, I’m amazed that I can manage to talk to my boyfriend for more than 20 minutes a week.  Considering how much attention he requires, I’m amazed that he hasn’t lost interest in watching me sleep in a deep coma all weekend.  Thankfully the weather is finally getting a little bit better – so hopefully we can at least get outside now. 

Oh well – back to vegging out and wondering about Cee Lo’s arms.  They’re just so SHORT.  How does he type?