They Call Me Teacher could be a model for many of the young idealistic teachers flooding into the system, the heroic teachers who are expected to throw their lives into the job, to feel guilt and work harder no matter how kids or parents behave.
You see, all it takes is hard work and high expectations for all the kids and there will be no achievement gap. Don't even mention class size or think about it. That's just an excuse for failure. Keep your head down and just teach and don't let the socio-economic distractions or behavior issues (your fault) or lack of parent interest or their own helplessness (you don't call them enough) get in your way.
When you are ready to have a family or just burn out, you'll be cast aside and replaced by the next batch. Sort of reminds you of those war movies when the young recruits come up to the front lines to face the carnage.
I believe I met They Call Me Teacher at a blogger's social and couldn't be more impressed. Another blogger at that social went through her own hell and is now out of teaching and much happier. This just shouldn't be happening.
I know this will sound weird to some people, but I believe the answer and career saver is to get involved in the growing teacher/social justice movement where you get perspective on the bullshit being thrown at you and find compadres you will not find in your schools. I know it worked for me when I found such a group in 1970 in my 4th year of teaching. We met almost every week for over 10 years and it saved me as a teacher. (Many of the people from that group help found ICE 5 years ago).
Who needs meetings after school when you are exhausted? Ask some of the people we've been meeting with, who leave these meetings more energized than they came in, ready to go back to the fray with a better political idea of the how social forces shape education. No, the answer is not to just keep your heads down and teach. The fight to improve the lives of the kids lies just as much outside the classroom as in it.
In these excerpts from TCMT, I extracted the parts that indicate the toll high class size takes and the relief when it drops with a few kids out. I have no doubt that a concerted effort to reduce class size would save many of these teachers. The talk about finding a quality teacher first is a red herring. TCMT was a higher quality teacher on March 13 than on March 12. Also note the growing frustration with kids who just won't do the work and parents who seem helpless. The ed deformers say it is due to TCMT's not being a good enough teacher. Remember to keep your head down and not think of the parents. Focus man.
Make sure to read the entire posts.
March 12, 2009
i'm miserable. beyond miserable. i've never felt so miserable.
this job is slowly torturing me to my death... and medication may be needed in my near future.
i just couldn't zone out the hell that surrounded me today.
my stomach has been in knots more often this school year than in my whole past life combined.
my class size increased by 25% because of changes in the grade level. the students are pissed off about being put in my room and therefore defiant and miserable and sharing it with the rest of the class. not only do they bring us down in the room, but we also are officially packed in tighter than sardines.
recently, i was grabbed, jerked to a stop, and yelled at by another teacher in front of students. i couldn't believe the situation and the true disrespect that was actually shown. i'm furious that people like this even work in a school around children. i'm not used to this. i've never seen this before. it shocks me at the way some people act. i only hope i don't turn into them. i only hope i haven't alraedy turned into them.
i have two students who are completely capable of learning. they just don't care. they don't do their homework, Ever. their parents don't do anything about it
i asked them both what they did instead of doing homework... what could be so important in a 10 year old's life that they have no time for homework, ever. ... television. i told them that i forbid them from watching tv anymore. yah... because i can say that. but again, whatever. something the parents should be saying.
i'm just frustrated by the laziness of some of these kids. they don't even care. i feel like we try so hard, of course, my teaching here in this school doesn't look like teaching i know i can do... there is something about this place that holds me back (probably the behaviors... the outbreaks, the yelling, the chaos, the disruptions)
i've learned my limitations. i cannot push myself too far. i cannot let this place ruin my spirit. lucky for me there is another teacher to help, even if we are both in shambles about to fall to pieces. at least i'm not alone, suffering.
days like today make me want to move home.
i'm scared i'll forget what teaching actually looks like.
i'm scared i'll forget how to teach those willing to be taught. those willing to listen, to behave. i'm scared i'll forget how much i love teaching. i already want to go back to school, to find something different. i won't though. i won't let this school kill my dream.
three and a half weeks until spring break. god help me survive.
Friday, March 13, 2009
The only way to go is up. Yesterday was as close to the bottom as I'd ever like to go. Yesterday ranks up there on the list of as one of the worst days of my life, especially in my teaching career. I was dragging, depressed, angry, upset. I was insanely mad that this place is taking teaching and turning it into something I hate, something I dread... which is Not a feeling I've felt before New York.
Today was better. As I forced myself into positive thinking this morning all the way to work... I prayed it couldn't get worse. I prayed it'd be better. I needed better. I got it. There were quite a few students gone today, not really many behavior problem students but just downsizing the number of people cramped in our room made that much of a difference. We taught. We tried some new things. Our students were learning, involved, answering questions, discussing in their groups.