Why teaching summer school sucks

Where I work – summer school isn’t some optional enrichment thing for kids that are bored or looking to learn – its basically a 6-week long detention. You get assigned summer school if you’ve received 3 or more F’s in a single subject on your yearly report cards, have too many absences or tardies, or fail the 8th grade required research paper project. Since our school has 5 campuses, all of the summer school classes are at one particular campus. Therefore, I have kids from 3 different schools in each one of my summer school classes. On the one hand, its nice because I don’t have to deal with only the same old kids – I get to meet some new ones. On the other hand, since some of them don’t really know me they don’t take me seriously. So summer school lasts from 8:30-11:30. During that time I have 2, 90-minute Humanities classes (they combine History/English so as to only pay one teacher and only have one summer school class). From 8:30-10:00 I teach the class of 6th graders, and from 10-11:30, the 7th graders. I was actually really dreading the 6th grade class, since I taught most of those little cherubs all year long. Oddly enough, the kids that I know are basically behaving perfectly. The 6th grade class is a dream. They’re all really sad and embarassed that they have to go to summer school – they’re terrified because they’ll repeat 6th grade if they fail my class – and are getting the work done without much complaint.


Ok so now that that’s out of the way – their behavior is a nightmare. Instead of realizing that if they don’t pass – they repeat – They are using every excuse in the book to not work, be disrespectful, get in trouble, and be stupid. Within the past week I have kicked at least 15 students out at one point or another for things as banal as talking during a quiz (they never ever shup up – ever – test or not), throwing things, fighting, name-calling, talking back, saying the student-teacher has a “a nice fat apple bottom ass”, telling me my class is a “bogus-ass slaveship”, threatening me, or my personal favorite – insulting my hair. Like I really care about the opinion of a 15-year old 7th grader who needs quite a bit more conditioner herself.

Think back to when you were in school. There’s always that ONE or TWO kids in a class that is a total asshole. They’re defiant, rude, distracting, irritating, etc. Imagine 32 kids like that in the same room at the same time. They almost don’t know what the Hell to do with themselves. They aren’t used to having to compete with bigger assholes than themselves – so they’re really flying their brightest colors during summer school. Wow.

Thankfully, I’m not a parent. I don’t think I could come home and deal with seeing a child for a few hours after dealing with that hour and half of torture from those kids. They haven’t made me cry yet – mostly because I know that most of them will fail my class and repeat the 7th grade – and I don’t teach 7th grade so I won’t have to deal with their attitudes next year.

It makes me SO ANGRY how old some of these children are too. How are you 15 years old and still in the 6th or 7th grade? You are supposed to be a sophmore in high school when you’re 15 years old. I was finished with driver’s ed and driving my mom’s van on a permit for the majority of my sophomore year.

I feel that kids that are held back even ONCE are mostly a result of poor parenting. How can your child FAIL A GRADE unless you did nothing to help them all year long? WHY are you not sitting there checking his/her homework? Why are you not PUNISHING THE HELL OUT OF THEM when they get into trouble? Why are you being their friend? UGH! I think that if you/your child suck that you should be REQUIRED BY LAW to attend parenting/conduct workshops WITH YOUR CHILD. But no – instead we allow parents to be crappy, blame the schools, hold them back, send them to summer school – and let them all hang out together in the same room – taking turns picking on & threatening each other & their teachers – and learning new teachniques on how to be an asshole.

Your child should not have perfectly manicured nails and designer jeans if they don’t do their homework. Your kid should not get their hair done in $200 microbraids if they got suspended from school, your kid should not have an xbox if they are disrespectful to you, your kid should not have a cellular phone that YOU pay for – period – unless they drive a car. When your kid screws up – and you do nothing about it – ALL of your child’s future screw ups are your fault as a parent. When did parents become such wimps? If my teacher called my mother at work and told her “Your daughter told me that my classroom is like a slave ship and that she hates me” – my mother would have taken away any possibility of me enjoying my life until I had apologized – then punished me a little more – so I never did it again. She certainly wouldn’t have asked the teacher, “So what did you do that made him so mad at you?” I just don’t understand what has happened to parenting. Many people now treat their pets like children and their children like accessories. Gwyneth Paltrow named her child APPLE and her DOG JAKE for goodness sakes.

There’s a reason that South Korea and China are kicking our asses academically. They treat their teachers like respected professionals – not enemies that are merely babysitters – and their children like CHILDREN.

You get what you pay for America. And we’re going to be paying for these lax attitudes in about 20 years when our kids can’t read, spell, be responsible, live on their own, hold down jobs, or be respectful. And we’ll see how awesome it is when bratty, entitled, illeterate people are the ones responsible for caring for us while we’re in our nursing homes. Better get used to sitting/laying in your poop now – because we haven’t taught this generation how to care for themselves well – not to mention others.


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:


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!!!!!!

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. 


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?

Teacher Appreciation Week!!! (We’ll pretend that we aren’t screwing you over for 5 days in the hopes that you won’t notice us doing it worse than ever next week!!!)

To my fellow teachers out there:

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!!!!

Enjoy your big moment to shine!  We all deserve a bit of appreciation.  Unfortunately, it won’t be showing in my salary next year.

So let me go though a run down of my Monday of teacher-appreciation day so far.  At our weekly Monday meeting from 7:30-8, we get told that we get to dress down every day this week!  (Yay for the small victories).  Then we get told to come see the principal to get/see/sign our contracts for next year (maybe yay?).  I work at a charter school – no union (BOO!!!!!), no protection (Boo!!!!!!), and NO WAY of knowing what I could possibly be making next year (WTF?!?! – try to plan a life around never knowing what’s going down with your salary for the next fiscal year.  I dare you.)

Normally, I’m not really one to complain about my salary.  I probably make more than most of the other teachers at my entire school due to my whopping 9-years of experience & Masters Degree (most teachers at my school burn out after a year or two – some make it a whole half-a-year before throwing in the towel.  Compared to most of the teachers at my school – I’m raking it in.  Or at least I WAS – before Illinois screwed me over big time with that HUGE income tax hike.  Thanks to that tax hike – as of January I started taking home LESS than I was making at the beginning of the PREVIOUS school year – so in effect the tax hike erased the raise that I got last year.   So as if that’s not bad enough – I figured – well with my KICK ASS review this year, I was bound to be able to at least break even with a big raise this year.  Maybe if worse came to worse, I’d end up making like $20 more per cheque than I had been making before the taxes went up. 

Ah, how naive I still am.  Illinois is broke.  CPS is beyond broke.  CPS keeps cutting the money that charter schools get.  Therefore our CEO keeps cutting the money that WE get.  Therefore – my pathetic raise – if you can call it that – will amount to about $45 more per cheque than I’m making now – which is STILL about $40 less than I was making before taxes went up.  SOOOO if our ‘brilliant’ benefits package team manages to drop the ball again this year – that’ll make it more like $5-15 more per cheque – if they raise our rates at the same percentage that they’ve done every year of the past three.  So in effect, in the past 3 years, I have had NO cost of living increase, and actually have had my pay CUT by the state of Illinois – a factor that my job apparently didn’t even take into consideration when drawing up this contract.

So what’d I do?  Signed it.  DUH.  History teachers have no job opportunities.  There’s no where for me to teach.  Old dudes who like to coach football teach History until they die in good districts & hold onto those sweet jobs until the cold icy grip of death gives them no other options.

Take this guy:  He’s 87 and still coaching/teaching. 

DUDE GIVE IT UP!!!!  I’m 30 freaking years old and keep waiting for all those damn jobs that my college education professors promised me.  “You guys are at JUST the right time.  Once all those baby-boomers retire you’ll have your PICK of teaching jobs in this country.  They’ll be desperate for you!!!  And with a University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign degree you’ll be a top candidate!!!”  Really????  Because I’ve been slaving away in an urban hell-zone for the past 9 years patiently waiting – honing my skills – becoming an expert – earning a Master’s degree – AND YOU PEOPLE JUST WON’T QUIT!!!  EVER!!!!  And while I’ve been stuck here waiting on all the so-called retirees to finally retire from the awesome suburban districts – I’ve been aging – and racking up the experience.  Meaning that NOW – all those awesome districts will think that I’m too EXPENSIVE to hire because I’ve got 10 years under my belt now.  So I’m damned if I work, and damned if I don’t.

So anyway, I get in the car after school today to drive to my private tutoring session with one of my rich kids in the district that I’d kill to even get a call from – and WHAM the phone rings.  Some fancy-schmancy private school that I applied to 2 weeks ago and forgot about (its hard to keep applications straight when you put in 92 a year.  I’m not kidding – I really do put in 92 a year.  I usually get 2 phone calls, one interview, and no job offers per year).   It was out of the blue, most places will email you and ask to set up a time for a phone interview – but this guy just jumped right in.  I have NO IDEA what this school may pay their teachers.  But it sounds sort of sweet.  It’s in the suburbs – its selective enrollment – its high class.  But high class private schools often don’t pay their teachers.  And I don’t really know if I can afford to make less than I do right now.  So he told me he had several more applicants to phone interview and then he’d be choosing 3 of the best to come and do a face-to-face interview/demo-lesson.  I’m mostly putting it on the back burner.  It’s not precisely the type of position that I want.  But with everything that’s being taken from me at my current job – I don’t know how much longer I can afford to stay.  3 years’ worth of raises being taken totally away from me by raising taxes and benefits increases isn’t really helping me much either. 

And now for some hilarious things to convince both myself and others that I actually don’t hate my job….  While teaching about the black plague the other day one of my students raises her hand & asks:

“Miss _______________, how long did it take you to learn all this stuff?  I mean I know you read us the powerpoint notes, but you had to write them.  And you remember them without even looking.  And you aren’t old, but you know so much – how?”

So that made me feel pretty smart and appreciated.  Another one:

“Miss _________________, sometimes I forget that you’re pretty because you always look so scary and mean in class.”

Another one:


Kid:  “Now that I refuse to believe”.

Me:  “Well you’ve never seen me running around my apartment singing 80’s songs in my underwear.  And if you have – stop being such a stalker!!!”

Kid:  “Wow.  I’m so glad that I don’t live in your neighborhood.”

And lastly – the best thing that a student has EVER said to me in class (this one is dedicated to all the hard-working under-appreciated educators out there):

Kid:  “So Miss ___________________ you know how much money football players & basketball players make right?”

Me:  “Yes.  Tens of thousands of dollars per game.”

Kid:  “But they get to play a game.  Your job is like – actually important – and if you suck at it its actually a real problem.  If they suck they lose a game. And your job sucks and it’s really hard.  And theirs is fun.   How is that fair?”

Me:  “It isn’t.  But you’re getting extra credit.”

Guys – we’re all worth it – despite having some of the lowest career-self esteem out there thanks to parents, the media, the government, and inappreciative kids.  But there’s some that will always appreciate us – the makers of alcoholic beverages world wide.

Bye Bye Spring Break


     Well, Spring Break ends today.  Which means that tomorrow morning, my alarm will begin going off at 3:55 am.  I will then hit the snooze button until my second alarm goes off at 4:02 am.  Then my wake up call service will call me at 4:04 am, and my last alarm will follow up at 4:07 am.  If I’m not standing up and putting on my clothes by 4:10 am then I have missed my ‘have time to work out, shower, get ready, and get to work on time’ window of opportunity.  I hate people who are like, “Why torture yourself?  Just work out after work!”  (Hey jerkwads – IF I get to go straight home after work I won’t get home until about 6 pm.  But since I’ve been SLAMMED with rich kid tutoring sessions for the past few weeks – I won’t be getting home until 8-10PM.  At that point I’m emotionally and physically exhausted.  There is no ‘after work’ for me.)

     Several people that I know who have careers that aren’t education-related have felt my wrath on several occassions due to comments like, “You don’t really have to think about hard concepts.  You’re teaching kids.  How hard is the material.  It’s not like its new to you.  It should be pretty much autopilot”.  This is wrong on several levels.  First of all, it completely degrades the higher level thinking skills, pedagogy, and skill that it requires to teach someone a new concept.  All of the concepts are essentially new to all of my students – so I’m basically starting from scratch.  That’s not easy – to help someone create new understanding within their brain.  But that’s the elitest, eductaor answer.  The real answer is that from the INSANT that first alarm goes off in the morning, until the INSANT that I collape at night (9:45-10:15 if I want to get up on time), my mind is RACING with the obligations of my job.  I have to worry about, “Is the lesson that I’m doing going to work?  What’s plan B and C is it doesnt?  I wonder if the copy machine is broken.  Are any of my colleagues going to be out sick today?  If so I’ll have to sub and won’t have time to make adjustments to my lesson.  Will I have time to eat today?  Should I pack a lunch AND a dinner – or will I be home at a reasonable time?  I wonder if Jimmy copied that homework?  Are these kids just totally asleep today or do I totally suck?  Do I need to adjust my teaching style right now becaue the kids look bored?  Last night on facebook Kid A called Kid B a bitch and there’s trouble brewing, I’d better email the dean while I’m taking attendance, setting up my projector, and passing out papers………”  And those are just the thoughts going on in the background while you’re actually PERFORMING your job and your brain is still performing the necessary functions to live.  So by the end of the day – your BRAIN is totally exhausted.  It’s working at panic-attack speed ALL DAY LONG.  So maybe my job isn’t physically draining the way that a construction worker’s is – and maybe I’m not performing rocket science – but the fact of the matter is both my brain and body are DEAD by the end of the day. 

     However, I’m not saying that all teachers are these insane heroes.  That’s far from the truth.  I’ve worked with imbeciles before at several schools.  A good/great teacher thinks insanely quickly all day long and is constantly attempting to stay on top of things.  There are mediocre/bad/horrifyingly bad teachers out there that are slackers.  Just like there are slackers in any workplace.  That also doesn’t make them bad people – that just means that they function at a different level and could probably use a little mentorship or coaching.  Not everyone SHOULD be an insane workaholic.  Great teachers just feel a responsibility to be one because they fear what will happen if they slack off.  They genuinely care about the education their students miss if they are slacking off for even an insant.  I wonder if accountants or postal workers or construction workers feel that way.  That if they pause for 5 mintues to get a drink of water or go to the washroom – that the world of someone will be negatively impacted.  It’s a big responsibility.  At no point of the school day does it let up – EVER.  Not even during your ‘break’.  Because you have to spend your break reflecting on how you have failed that day, how you will fail tomorrow, and who will blame you for failing at things that you haven’t failed at yet – all in between making phone calls to parents, copies for tomorrow, or subbing for someone’s class.

     Anyway – I’m really not making up this brain activity thing.  Below is a picture of a brain scan given to someone who is totally relaxed/meditating/at rest.


Next – is a picture of a brain that is/has been in intense thought/stress patterns for a prolonged period of time (I believe it was 5 hours but I accidentally deleted the link to the study so I don’t feel like going back & re-looking it up.  So let’s call it about 5-hours)


Now I’m no doctor, but in the words of Charlie Sheen, “Look at the colors, DUH!!!”  Obviously in the world of exhaustion/brain overload teachers are certainly “WINNING!”

Anyway – as I reflect on the warfare that my body and brain are about to re-launch themselves into – I find solace in science.  In knowing that I’m not totally insane – that there IS in fact a reason that I’m ususally so tired.  (Other than the getting up in the middle of the night to start my day thing)  I really DO love my job, and I don’t think that I could do an easy-thinking, slow-moving job and be very happy.  I do however take the great with the crappy and have really learned to appreciate silence, being still, and the vegetative state that I put myself into during the first week of summer break.  I refuse to feel guilty for that week of my brain and body healing.  I lounge proudly watching Oprah and crappy soap operas and read for pleasure.  And no amount of condescension from corporate workers who think my brain and I aren’t challenged enough will make me feel bad for sitting on my ass watching Oprah until I go to the pool to sleep all afternoon in the sun.  Once that first week of break is over afterall, I’m already mentally gearing up for the next year and have my first month’s worth of lesson plans and handouts in the works.

How the other half lives

So in addition to teaching full-time, I also do private tutoring on the side for extra money; because believe it or not – teachers make jack. So around October I got hooked up with this private tutoring company that works with families in the New Trier area. I took the job for 2 selfish reasons. Firstly, money. Secondly, networking. The women who own the company work at New Trier and have connections to the area. I’ve been trying unsucessfully to get a job in the Northwest suburbs for 10 years now. Most of the places don’t even bother sending a rejection letter. I just imagine them sitting in an administrative office somewhere getting my application, seeing that I’m from the south side and have worked with disadvantaged kids for 10 years, and then busting into peals of rich-guy evil-sounding laughter.

Seriously though, all of the families that I’ve met through this entire process have been REALLY nice. Which makes it really hard to continue my previously belief that people who don’t have to work hard and have it totally easy are all entitled and snobby. Despite it being my Spring Break, here I am tutoring my little booty off. I got 8 appointments for the next 2 weeks yesterday. So last night was my first session with a new 8th grader. His mom was extremely nice, and apparently worried that her son is having some trouble in school (By the way her idea of ‘trouble in school’ is that he has one C in Science class. She should meet some of my regular students who live in the same apartment buildings as drug dealers and are 3 reading levels behind their grade level). But the best part is her reason for why she thinks he’s struggling – ‘last year when we took a long vacation and lived in Rome for a year, he studied at a British International School. I think British sentence structure is what he got used to and now he’s having trouble adapting back to American writing’. I wish I could take a year-long vacation. This kid has most likely seen more of the world than I have. He’s fluent in Italian, French, and English. He’s got a trust fund that’s bigger than Chicago Public School’s Administrators’ pensions and lives in a house that I can only DREAM of being hired to clean someday. His ‘trouble’ in school is simply that he doesn’t like doing homework. As he told me last night, “Yeah there’s just too much of it & its pretty easy. So I have 16 math problems to do, so I’ll do like 8 then I’ll stop.’ Sweet wealthy woman – your adorable Italian-speaking child is lazy, not stupid. My own mother would have beat me senseless for even implying that finishing my homework was optional. I vididly remember her checking my homework, telling me the answers were right but that it wasn’t neat enough – tearing it up and making me RE-DO it. This kid has it made.

The thing that I find most distrubing about this private tutoring thing though – is not the overwhelming wealth of the families. It’s not that all of their houses look like this:

The most disturbing thing is that the parents hire me, a professional with 2 degrees – to do something that they could easily do. None of these kids are really struggling with school or with homework. Most of them just need someone to validate what they’re doing and/or double check their school work. They need someone to ask how their school day was and what their homework is. If they want to pay me money to sit and hang out with their kid – I’ll gladly take their money. But the fact of the matter is – all they need is for their parent to ask them questions once in a while. I could never imagine hiring someone to do something that I can do myself. Its the equivalent of hiring a repair man to change your light bulb. All it takes is a couple of minutes. I get it – that they want a ‘professional’ opinion. They want a teacher to ‘diagnose’ what they perceive as their child’s trouble in school. When you want the best answers you ask the best people. But when the answer is simply, ‘your child needs someone to check up on them and show they care once in a while’ – there isn’t much you can say other than, “I’ll see you on Thursday. I told him to bring his math book home so we can do the homework together.” No parent wants to hear that they’re not only wasting money, but are basically letting me do their job. So I smile, tell them how great their kid is progressing now that they have help – and take the cheque to the bank. Maybe after another 8 months of this shenanigans I’ll finally have enough saved up to move to an apartment with a dishwasher and perhaps air conditioning and replace my 15-year old mattress.