The only way I can describe my life as a teacher is frantic. I’m a pretty chill girl most of the time, but teaching has given me panic attacks and sucked up an impressive amount of time, energy, prayer, wisdom, etc… and it’s been that way since the beginning.
Usually, student teachers observe for the first couple of weeks of school, then take over a new class every two weeks until they’re teaching the full load. They stick with that for about 5 weeks, then slowly phase out.
My experience wasn’t like that at all.
I taught one class on the first day of school and picked up a second one by the end of the week. I taught for a total of 17 weeks out of the 18-week semester, planning four full units rather than the one my peers were expected to plan. My cooperating teacher didn’t do any guiding or supporting… but she got mad at me when I didn’t do things her way. She asked me to plan and teach an additional novel unit on top the the four I was already doing and to take over her speech and debate class that I wasn’t qualified to teach. When I said no to those two things, she didn’t act upset. Instead, she passive-aggressively wrote a long, angry letter to my adviser about how I wasn’t doing enough work. My adviser sat me down and scolded me until I showed her all of the work I’d done, at which point, we brainstormed ways for me to make it through the rest of the semester without my cooperating teacher ruining my grade.
My first year of teaching in my own classroom, the state changed its laws about how much time English Language Learners spend in Sheltered English Immersion (SEI) classrooms. For some of them this was a huge problem because if they spent more than one period in my class, they wouldn’t graduate on time. Additionally, the students I was expected to spend four hours a day with had a penchant for being suspended from school for slapping teachers, smoking in the bathrooms, being in possession of illegal substances, and beating up their peers – pretty much that first year was a small-scale version of Dangerous Minds. Most of the kids in my class had intentionally failed the language test they needed to pass to get out of my class because they wanted to hang out with each other rather than be with those other kids who they called racist.
My solution to this problem? Make them hate me and hate my class.
That first year, I worked really hard to give my students a reason to test out of my class. I yelled at them a lot, gave lots of homework, and displayed a generally unfriendly disposition.
Now, remember how I said that the state had changed the law and that it was delaying graduation for some of my students? Well, my solution to this was to spend hours pouring over ADE (Arizona Department of Education) documents looking for a loop-hole… that I eventually found. There was some beautiful fine print that allowed for schools with low populations of ELLs to do things differently than everyone else. I took the loophole to my administrator, but he needed my boss at the district-level to okay my plan. Unfortunately my boss hadn’t actually read the law and had no intent of reading it anytime soon. Instead, she kept telling me to do the thing I wanted to do, while also telling my administrator that what I was proposing was illegal. So basically, I threw a fit and got her to come to my site and sit in a room with me and the administrator for a meeting. She talked in circles and acted like it wasn’t her fault that she hadn’t read the law… and finally gave me the green-light to do the thing I wanted to do.
Last year was my second year of teaching, so naturally I decided it was a good idea to teach an extra class, coach softball, sponsor a club, and volunteer for anything and everything involving students.
This year has been really easy. I haven’t had to spend much time planning because I’ve got a handle on the curriculum. My grading has been under control. I haven’t taken on extra duties. It’s been a calm easy year, but you know what’s weird?
This is the first year that I haven’t loved teaching.
I’ve felt an awful lot like a sluggard this year. I certainly haven’t been a sluggard, and crazy stuff has been happening to stress me out in life outside of work, but I think I’ve actually been bored at work lately.
I didn’t notice it until today, but I don’t like how easy work has been this year – and the reason I noticed it today?
Something went wrong… and it was glorious!
It was the first time anything’s really gone wrong (at least anything that was even remotely within my realm of fixing) this entire school year. And it was a pretty big problem, so I got to email my principal. Most of the time, I avoid him because he seems to like me well-enough and I don’t want to ruin it. I get really good evaluations. Parents rarely call to complain about me and every time they have, I’ve had a nice paper trail to back myself up. He’s fought for my job every year (and gotten it back for me every time). And while he probably thinks I’m shy, that’s a small price to pay for staying off his radar. So writing him an email was pretty awesome because it was challenge – a really fun challenge. I left work happy. I felt like I’d accomplished something. So now I’m cautiously hoping a few more things will wrong before the semester is over. WEIRD!