One Quarter Down….

     Well it’s now been almost a full Quarter of the school year.  I’ve been avoiding posting anything here for fear of being too negative.  The school year started as they all do – so stressful that speaking is barely possible.  Then it sort of calmed down as I got into a flow.  But I’m exponentially more exhausted this year than I have ever been in the past.  Who would have thought that having 50 minutes less of planning time, teaching a 3rd subject, and not having any help would be so exhausting?  I’ve really had some ups and downs this year.  One day I’m super proud of my 12th graders and pulling my hair out over my 6th graders, and then other days it’s vice versa.  Today I was just disgusted with them both.  I know that teachers are supposed to be these saintly, patient people – but the longer I teach, the less patience I have with what I like to call – Baby Stuff.  When a child tells me that they don’t want to write their notes because, “My finger hurts”, or someone screaming in my face that I am unfair because giving chewing gum demerits is “petty” it just gets my goat.  I was by no means a perfect child.  I got yelled at by my mother, I bombed the occassional test, got a couple of dress code infractions, and got in trouble for insulting a school fundraiser.  Sure – kids will be kids.  But I do NOT understand what has happened to kids having a respect for adults.  I would have NEVER raised my voice at an adult.  EVER.  And I knew that if I was so stupid as to do so – I would be feeling the back of my mother’s hand when I got home that night.  I don’t understand why parents allow their children to be so disrespectful – not just to teachers – but to THEM.  I’ve seen children straight up TELL their parent what will be happening, what they will be doing, and how they will be doing it – and the parent saying, “Ok”.  I had to work for things.  I had to get on the honor roll before I got the new expensive jeans that I wanted.  I had to raise my math grade before I got the new toy, etc. that I was begging for.  I didn’t get to bargain with my mom.  If I broke the rules I was punished – my mom didn’t tell me how the rule was unfair so therefore I’m allowed to break it.  What will happen when these parents teach their children to drive?  “Well I think the rule about not turning left on red is stupid, so go on ahead and do so if you feel like it.  If you get caught feel free to yell at the cop that pulls you over and refuse to pay the ticket”.  Say hello to losing your lisence.

Ugh.  I’m overworked and stressed as Hell.  I haven’t gotten home before 8 in 3 weeks.  I pack 2 meals to take to work on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursdays.  So I can eat dinner at 4 pm before I leave my first job to get to my second.  I’m really trying my best to juggle it all – but this year I just feel like a totally shitty teacher.  I have no time to accurately plan my lessons, no time to get papers graded & returned with any valuable feedback in a timely fashion, no time to contact parents, no time to get paperwork done, and basically no time to ever do anything.  The only time that I used to guaranteed to work on those things & get them all done was on Friday afternoons after the kids had a half day, but that time has been taken from me too now.  I don’t want to be a shitty teacher.  I’m actually a pretty awesome teacher – but I’m being denied the things that I need to make my teaching be awesome again.  There’s no functional printers, there’s no planning time, there’s no parental support, there’s no money for supplies to do differentiated instruction, there’s just not enough of anything.

I’ve tried everything to try to keep my stress under control.  I’ve become exceedingly depressed at what I consider to be lack-luster job performance.  I’ve grown exceedingly depressed that I still have to work a second job because I got a really crappy raise last year.  I’ve tried working out every morning (but its nearly impossible for me to get up at 4 am more than 2 or 3 days a week to do this before work), I’ve tried meditation, I’ve tried calling my mother, crying to friends, etc.  But the stress just keeps building.  I’m working harder than I ever have in my entire career – and yet feel like i’m failing miserably.  I just want to do what’s best for my students, but the current economic situation and the schedule situation make that impossible.  So in the meantime – I guess everyone has to suffer.

What I really need is a vacation.  Thank goodness I booked my Spring Break trip this past weekend.  Despite not really being able to afford it – I need a break from this city, my job, my life (well I mean my job has become my life in the past 2 months – so I guess I just need a break from my job).  So New York City here I come!  (In like 5 months!)  In the meantime – I’m going to keep playing the lottery, wishing for my days of being an award-winning teacher back, and crying to my boyfriend daily.  Maybe someday soon I won’t be so exhausted that I pass out on him & bore the heck out of him by falling asleep at 7 pm.  The morale in my building is so low it’s horrible.  There’s like a black cloud over the building.  I don’t want to let it affect the kids – I try so hard not to – but when you feel like crap all the time it has to show at least once in a while.  I’m going to the doctor for my yearly physical in about 4 weeks.  I plan to ask for the maximum dosage of the anti-depressants that I was on while I was in college & my house burned down.  Sadly – I’m serious.  Because when the impossible is expected of you everyday – sometimes it leads to drastic measures.  (Side effects may include muscle tremors, constipation, headaches, loss of sex drive, and vomiting)  But at least you don’t mind that you can’t poor or sleep.  My happy place used to laying in bed on Saturday for like 3 hours in the afternoon listening to my beach waves noise machine – now I spend those hours doing paperwork.   Only 16 more days until Veteran’s Day, 25 until Thanksgiving, and 45 until Christmas.  But hey, who’s counting?

Awesome things that students say:

In response to the question, “What does the word peace mean?”  “Peace is when there is only a calm, spiritual feeling in the air.  It basically means there is only good juju in the room.”

In response to the question, “Who is your role model?”  “God is my role model because he never makes mistakes and knows what’s up”

In response to the question, “What are you doing that’s making so much noise?”  “Your mom.”

In refrence to going to the washroom while we are on lockdown, “Why can’t I go?  I have a bathroom problem.  Can I just show my note to whoever is being the problem out there?”

While being handed a homework assignment, “What’s this crap.  This is bullshit.”  “And these are profanity demerits.”

Most hilarious thing ever this month – catching a kid lying and forging with another teacher – and then watching him run from us crying, sliding down the wall like he was in a Lifetime Movie, and crying on the floor – while we just stood there looking foolishly at each other.  Maybe you had to be there to realize that it was hilarious to see a tough little boy run into a corner & throw himself down on the ground freaking out about what really was not that big of a deal in the first place.  First stop, detention – next stop Lifetime movie….

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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.

Now for the 7th graders. HOLY ASSHOLES IN A HANDBASKET BATMAN – THEY ARE THE BIGGEST PRICKS I’VE EVER TAUGHT – IN MY ENTIRE 10 YEARS!!!!!

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.

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.

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:

Me:  “NOW IS NOT THE TIME TO BE ACTING SILLY AND TALKING AND LAUGHING ABOUT STUPID STUFF!!!  EVERYONE LIKES TO ACT SILLY – BUT NOW IS NOT THE TIME.  I LIKE TO ACT SILLY TOO!!!”

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.