Monday, March 28, 2011


I have this set of parents that excuse their child's behavior. They are the worst I have ever seen in that regard. Today, she brought a note home back and said, "My mom said these don't matter and she doesn't care." Lovely.

I informed her mom and she explained to me how all the things her daughter does are typical behaviors for this age.

She is an excellent defense attorney for her daughter. The irony is that I predict if she doesn't quit being her daughter's lawyer and start being a parent, then she will one day have to pay for a defense attorney to represent her daughter.

They Say That I'm a Dreamer

"They say that I'm a dreamer, but I'm not."

Did anyone else find that line in Dinner for Schmucks hilarious? I did.

Anyway, I really am a dreamer. I have really vivid dreams every single night. Sometimes I can remember two or three. Only very recently, am I beginning to realize that not everyone is like this. I don't know if something is wrong with my sleep cycle or I spend a lot of time stressed, but sometimes I wish I could not have dreams.

Last night I was having a pleasant dream. I was coming home from traveling Europe with my mom and we were going through the local airport with all of our luggage. It was all very pleasant. Then I thought, "How can I just be in the airport with my mom when we went to Europe four years ago?" I realized it was a dream.

Then bad things started to happen, and we had to fight off people until I woke myself up. All day this dream bugged me because I am very present in all of my dreams. I think it is hard to explain to someone who doesn't remember dreams, but sometimes I don't like that I have a whole crazy subconscious life every night.

Saturday, March 26, 2011


Have you ever played the game minesweeper? It is this game where you are diffusing a field of landmines by clicking on safe squares which reveal how many landmines you are touching. For example, if you click on an "3" then that square has three landmines touching it.

Making a seating chart for my class is exactly like playing minesweeper. You have to place all of the landmines so they are touching only safe squares. If you fail, there will be a catastrophic explosion!!!!

Anyway, it is the Crazy Eight that are making this difficult. I have to give the other students a break from the particular brand of crazy they were sitting by last quarter, but rest assured I will have to place them by a different issue.

It is hard work!

Today, dear readers, I will introduce you to the types of behaviors I encounter on a daily basis. Another day I will describe the personalities and gifts of each student with more depth, but for today I will share only behaviors that are typical. This will give you a snapshot of why all the answers are not in the Teacher's Manual.

1.) The Hulk

Sometimes the Hulk is not the Hulk. Sometimes he is just a sweet kid who can get along with anyone. However, when he gets a little bit angry or frustrated or sad; he then gets more angry and frustrated and sad. All of his emotions become one super emotion and he turns green. He rips holes in my walls. He is ready to throw down with anyone who crosses his path. He literally heaves breaths in and out when he is in this state. He will throw things. The Hulk has to have a seat by mild mannered children with a quick exit strategy. He is definitely a landmine in my game of minesweeper.

2.) The Taz

The Taz is a tornado. He doesn't do anything quietly. He actually ripped part of the floor up when he was sitting on the carpet one day. He grabs anything within reach--especially other students. He rocks in his chair. He breaks pencils. He chews on his shirt. He is completely disorganized. He loses his own pencil while he is holding it.

3.) Angelica

Angelica is a bully. She has had three different parents call the office at the school regarding her bullying (in the one year she has been here). She will steal out of kids desks. She is defiant. She was actually walked back to the school office by her bus driver one day because of her defiance. She gets other students angry faster than any other student I've ever had (even really even tempered kids).

4-6.) The Lost Boys
The lost boys are just wild. They can sit still for only short amounts of time. They all have tempers, although not to the degree of the hulk. They rarely turn in homework. They are generally disorganized and loud.

7-8.)Mean Girls
This group is a little click. They fight with each other and every other girl on campus all the time. Each and every day there are tears and drama. These are the girls who will actively say, "I don't want to be friends with you." I've had mean girls in my fifth grade classes before, but this year is the first time I have seen a tendency to be mean so young. Yowzer, I told the fifth grade teachers to retire before these girls get there because they are drama, drama, drama.

So, you can see how it is hard to seat these kids in a way that minimizes issues. Put a Mean Girl next to Angelica and you get a cat fight. Put the Taz near the Hulk and the Hulk will be in a constant Hulk state. Let the Lost Boys be near each other and you form a little gang.

Again, I will remind you, I am talking about behaviors not the students themselves. All of the kids have wonderful, redeeming qualities; most have difficult circumstances which feed their issues, but this year is a challenge--especially when it comes to seating!

Friday, March 25, 2011


Today was my evaluation. It went well. Captain Principal said he sees growth in my use of data to impact student achievement and my confidence over all.

That is true. I've improved a lot over the last two years. Partly because I have so much more experience teaching. A lot because Captain Principal gave me so much room to be the teacher I can be.

There's a Psalm that says, "Fathers, don't exasperate your children." Well, maybe a Proverb??? My scripture knowledge is a little rusty these days.

Anyway, I think that it applies to all types of authority. Bosses don't exasperate your employees. Teachers don't exasperate your students.

During my evaluation, my students had a sub for one half hour. Unfortunately, the only sub we could get was really passive. She came in to do Math as the kids were coming back from lunch. She couldn't get them settled down. They were talking back, running around, and apparently generally out of control. She actually had to call the V.P. to restore order.

I have a student this year that I have nicknamed the Taz (as in Tasmanian Devil). He's one of the crazy eight. He is always making noises and messes. He destroys anything around him. If he doesn't have anything to destroy, he actually chews his own shirt until it soak all the way to the hem. The behavior intervention specialist got him this chew toy he has to chew on to stop him from licking his lips raw and chewing on his shirt. During the course of the year, he has turned around his behavior and improved his grades; but since break he has been just terrible.

The sub singled the Taz out as one of the worst, so I gave him a behavior reflection to fill out, take home, and have signed by his parents. He did fill it out, but he wrote in large letters across the bottom: ROCK ON.

I was pretty mad when I saw that, so I said, "Walk to the V.P.'s office and wait for me until I send the other kids to Music."

After the other children went to Music, I went to meet with the Taz and the V.P. in the V.P.'s office. "Taz," I said, "I don't understand. Before break, you were doing amazing. You improved your Math grades. You improved your behavior. You were doing amazing. Since break, we've had a problem every day, and today when you had to reflect you decided to celebrate your bad behavior by writing 'rock on.' It seems to me that you don't care about your Reading or your Math or school at all anymore."

The Taz is used to ending up in the principal's office for a variety of things, so he didn't break down, but he did soften. "I do care about my reading and my math. On break, I went and visited some family and it made me sad."

He didn't tell all of the details, and I knew some anyway, but he opened up. "Well," I said, "We want to help you make better choices. I want the Taz back who is so smart and so helpful, that was here before break."

After our little talk, he was back on. Well, on as much as the Taz ever is. All week, I've been moving him to seats by himself. I've been making him complete assignments on his break. Yet, the supportive talk was the answer.

I believe in discipline and accountability. I do. Most of the time there should be more. But, fathers should not exasperate their children. Those who follow you have to believe that you believe in them. Teachers have to believe that principals believe in them to succeed. Students have to believe that teachers believe in them to succeed.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Confession: I Might Be Naive

Dear Readers,

I did start this blog three years ago, knowing a few things about myself. I knew that I was young. I was twenty-three, at the time. Actually this blog was originally titled Chronicle of a Young Teacher. I knew I was green. I didn't know a lot about education. I was honestly just trying to keep my head above water. I knew I was naive. I wanted to save the world like everyone else, but it hurt as realities hit me all the time.

I like to think that now I am a little wiser in the ways of the world. If you are thinking that I am still pretty young, I agree; but this job makes you grow up fast. I like to think that I have learned a thing or two about education. It takes a lifetime to be an expert, but at least I know how to properly do my job now.

This weekend, though, I did something I said I wouldn't do. I had declared that I wouldn't watch Waiting for Superman because I didn't think it would be an accurate picture of the state of public education.

I know enough to know that if Waiting for Superman were taken as a light shining and revealing the truth then it would be a gross misrepresentation of American public schools. My school is nothing like the ones portrayed in that movie. Frankly, we do a better job than most of the charter schools portrayed in that movie.

It was surprising to me, though, what it is like in failing public schools. The district I teach for is then highest performing district of its size in my state. I did a little research on my district and every single one of the schools in my district is in the top 20% of schools (that includes private, public, and charter) in this state. Is it because of the demographic? Partially, but we do have a mixed demographic. Our school actually qualified under title one until last year.

My point is that I actually went to elementary school in the same public school district I now teach in. This district is one of the best. That's made me naive about how serious problems in education are.

I guess I always knew that a failing school is fundamentally different from where I work. I always thought of my district as the norm. I'm coming to realize that it is far above that. We're the district that realtors in the area advertise first and makes property value go up. We're the district that people drive to from other districts. We are the exception.

Now, lest you think I am bragging, I don't believe my district outperforms others because of hiring good teachers. There is another district within ten minutes of us that is probably the lowest performing district in the state. Is the key difference the teachers? I don't believe it is. My district hires good teachers and the district down the road hires good teachers. If staffs were switched out entirely, I don't believe the performance would be consistently or profoundly improved in the lower performing district.

The key difference is the demographic. Don't misunderstand me. My district deals with our fair share of issues. We have a high non-English speaking population, we have a large number of students living in poverty, we actually bus kids off of the reservation and the reality is those kids come to us with educational deficits if they've attended school on the reservation at all. We still don't have anything that compares to the district down the road. Those teachers did not cause the issues those schools have. Those kids at those schools did not get a fair deal. "Waiting for Superman" can claim the schools caused the neighborhoods all they want. If my school were switched with that one, we would encounter the same problems.

I guess I do have to realize that public schools are not always as good as or better than private schools.

The other thing I was shocked by is tenure. We don't actually have tenure in this state at all. I've seen a lot of underperforming teachers get fired. The only "bad teachers" I have ever seen (and I am including colleagues and the teachers I had as a student) were novice teachers. What I've noticed is that they are either weeded out and let go or they learn. I have no question in my mind about what would happen if I didn't do my job well--I would be fired. All I've ever seen our unions do is handle frivolous lawsuits and personality disputes between administrators and teachers. I don't honestly know if it is different in other states, but I am starting to believe it might be.

What I can say about Waiting for Superman is this: It was a new and valid perspective. That's how I believe it should be looked at--as one view of a very complex issue. Here's my confession about my blog, though--it's one valid view of a complex issue. Sometimes I think that I have the truth light to reveal how public education really is. That's not the case though. I can reveal a perspective that you haven't experienced at all if you are outside the classroom and that might be very different than your inside perspective. My perspective might lead me to a different conclusion than a parent in an impoverished school district, it might lead me somewhere different than a principal of a private school in a wealthy neighborhood, it might lead me somewhere different than the politicians; but it is important. How are we ever going to work together to answer the issues we have if we can't value the other points of view?

So, in conclusion, readers, thanks for listening. Thanks also for commenting. Thanks also for writing, those of you who write your own blog. Recently, I've realized that there are readers who don't live in Education World, as I affectionately call it. I appreciate your reading what it is like from this side. I appreciate your comments, too. I might see things differently, but I know we're on the same side.

Yours Sincerely,

Miss Understood

As a side note, I want to welcome any suggestions on other education blogs. What do you read? I would like to read more of what people are saying. I am trying to widen my perspective a little.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Of Flora and Fauna

I want to build a little background for this post. It's educational after all, and that is what I do. So, I am going to build some background about where I live.

On the one hand, I would classify my location is urban. It's a ten minute drive to three professional sports arenas. There are three Starbucks within a mile of my house. We don't have any one lane roads. In fact, the four lane road just outside my neighborhood is always packed with traffic, to the point that you can't make a left out of this neighborhood.

On the other hand, I have lived in a really urban setting before and this is different. I don't hear sirens or people yelling outside my window at night. People mostly drive, not walk or take subways to where they are going. Everywhere has parking lots. In that regard, I guess this area is more suburban.

All this to say that I live in a house, actually a duplex, in a rather populated area. We're not surrounded by nature. We're surrounded by concrete and stores and other houses.

I will also say that our house is surrounded by a jungle. We live in the desert, but for some reason we have a banana tree and vines growing up the outside of our house and rose bushes and citrus trees. You might be thinking, "Wow, Ms. Understood, you must have a large yard." No, no I don't; we have a lot of plants in a tiny space. You can imagine that the "urban wildlife" love the oasis of our yard. Now, if you've ever lived somewhere at all urban, you know that urban wildlife is not at all desirable. It is rodents and insects and neighboring pets.

Generally, I try to avoid the flora that is all around the outside of the house. Generally, I try to avoid any fauna that finds its way inside. Over break, however, our duplex mates decided to remove the stone tile in the entry way and kitchen of their home with jack hammers. They gave us ear plugs as a consolation prize. I left them sitting on the counter and they vibrated to the floor as a result of the jackhammering.

All this work has also stirred up the wildlife. I haven't seen a roach in our house for over a year. This week I have found one every day. I sprayed everything with Raid today, but I think the jackhammering is stirring everything up.

I tried to pacify myself with some arranging of fake flowers, the kind bugs do not like. I like the decoration, but it does not compensate for the jackhammering.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Well

My nephew came over today. He's almost two weeks old now. I was holding him and it was fun and sweet until he started to get mad. I definitely handed him off as soon as he started to get upset because I don't know how to deal with babies. Babies are takers by nature. Seriously, they need you to do everything for them and I don't know where to begin. I have a lot of respect for parents, but I know I will be terrified if and when I am one.

As a teacher it's all about giving. Working with kids is kind of like volunteering for a life of being the giving one. Seriously, it's you versus twenty-five takers. I knew that getting into it. In spite of that, I am often sucked into the vortex of self-pity. There are those times, like last week, for example, that leave me feeling like I have nothing left to give.

Thursday night, for example, after the final parent teacher conference. I felt like I had nothing left. I had been talking and talking, and teaching and teaching. Yet, I felt empty on the inside. I got into my car and pulled out of the parking lot. Immediately tears were streaming down my face.

It was exhaustion and it was grief. The moment passed and I feel better. Yet, it got me to thinking about why I went down this path in the first place.

The reason I got into teaching is because I have a lot to give. The reason that I have a lot to give is because when I was a taker much was given to me. I'm like a well; my strength and agility and goodness runs deep. Even on bad days, like last week, I have so much to draw from. My God and my family have given so much. To whom much is given, much is required.

If even a little bit of the people who raised me rubbed off, I hope I can pay it forward.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Spring Break

It's here.

I didn't realize how much I needed it just to recover.

For a few months, I've been living with a consistently high stress level. For the last week, I've been living with an unsettled sadness.

I know that I still have a lot of work to do. I still feel for all that my family is going through. I feel better though.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Mascara Break Resumed

Sunday is my family day. It is church day, too--when I go, but every Sunday my family, my grandparents, my aunt and uncle and two cousins who live in town go to lunch or at least eat together.

You know, I have been feeling better, but they say grief comes in waves. I didn't get to go to the funeral because it was in Dallas, but most of my family did. They returned to town today and we had our usual lunch. Somehow, when I see the loss written all over their faces it gets a little more real.

We have all been planning a family reunion this summer. I hadn't thought about B being missing. At our last family reunion, he and I invented crazy songs that rhymed about everyone else.

My Granddad said that hopefully this family trip will be a healing time for everyone, but I hadn't thought of how hard it would be until today. I guess I haven't even seen as much of my family as I usually do because they were at the funeral and I've been working non-stop. So, I've been back to wearing mascara and going about business as usual. There's going to be a few more hard days, though. There just is.

The Whole Enchilada

Preface: I haven't written anything about Japan, not because I haven't been thinking about it, but because I don't know what to say. The tragedy hasn't been in my blog, but it's been in my prayers.

I turned twenty-six on Friday. I went to Happy Hour with a bunch of friends from work to celebrate my birthday and Spring Break. As usual, it turned into a discussion on "finding me a man" (their words; not mine). They wanted to know what are my non-negotiables.

As I get older, this idea of non-negotiables comes up more and more. My roommate told me her non-negotiables are not cheating and a stable job. Her non-negotiables have led her down this path where she is on the track to marriage. Only she can know what is truly in her heart, but I sometimes wonder if love was a "non-negotiable."

Now, I am not a relationship expert. I have spent far more time single than in relationships. I have learned something from being on my own, though. I have learned that I don't need someone to take care of me. I can do it.

It's just that I listen to a lot of my friends talk about relationships and they think of it sooo differently than I do. They talk about the house that they want and they see the men in their lives in terms of what he does and where he is going.

I think about my little dating frenzy last summer and I know that I can't fall in love with the whole package. Everyone thought that I should continue to date PreLawGuy. He has the bright future, he would treat me well. He really was the whole package.

I don't want the whole package, though. Down here in the Southwest we talk about something called the whole enchilada. By it, we mean, we want the good, the bad and everything else because enchiladas are so good.

I didn't want to be with someone that if he lost his job then it would change things. I guess my non-negotiable is sort of intangible. I just want to end up with someone who is who he is no matter what. I want to be with someone who thinks I am who I am no matter what. I don't know. I mean, I might not always be a skinny blonde. Certainly I won't always be young and fashionable. I might not always be a teacher. It has to be something on the inside that makes you want to be with someone.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Marathon Day 5

What is a marathon about? It's about finishing what you started. It might be about finishing strong, but I didn't so much do that, so I am going to leave it at this: the marathon is all about finishing.

I can't really say I was an awesome teacher today, but I was there. Let's look at it objectively, though. We don't have time cards, so I can't give you my exact hours, but let's look at time spent in the building. On Sunday, I went in to finish lesson planning and conference folders. I put in almost exactly five hours.

Monday, I got to school at 6:30am and left by about 4:30. Tuesday I worked about 6:30-3:30. Wednesday I worked from 6:15am-7:00pm. Thursday again I worked from about 6:15am-7:30pm. That means that including Sunday I walked into Friday with 50 hours under my belt--not including any of the papers I graded at home...

So, I arrived at the building at 6:30 and when the kids left at 2:30, I was working my 58th hour of the week. I really should have made the kids do this as an elapsed time problem, so they could properly understand why I was not in the mood for their tattling or bickering.

So, it's been a difficult race, but it is over, and I have been rewarded with Spring Break.

Addendum: Yes, I realize that my choice of song is ridiculous. I am tired. I can't really finish my marathon of blogging about my marathon strongly either.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Marathon Day 4

Today was better. It felt good to finish the bulk of my conferences. It feels good that tomorrow I am going home after school and it will be break. My work stress is fizzling out, and a break, a much needed break is coming.

I am feeling better about the loss too. I'm still sad, and I worry about my family, but it's not so painful as it was earlier this week. Now, I feel more for my family who is closer to him and whose grief will be hard and long lasting.

My life feels a little more normal and so do I.

You know, I prayed that God would take it easy on me today and He did. I felt better. It's good because tomorrow is my birthday. I will be tired, but at least I won't be exhausted and sad.

Today one of my students brought me a present. It was a potted flower. His card said, "I wanted to get you Suns tickets, but my mom said 'no'," it was very sweet.

One more day of this marathon. One more day...

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Marathon Day 3

I couldn't sleep last night. I was making it worse for myself because I was getting stressed out about not being asleep which makes it harder to sleep in the first place.

I kept thinking about how I would feel by this point in the parent/teacher conference marathon: tired. I was right about that. Exhausted... I'm beyond that now.

I was so sad during my morning commute. I cried about B's funeral being today. Then, I walked into the building at 6:15am. It was like a big hug. I had to forget about my family troubles. I had a meeting in an hour. I had to teach and then I had an endless line of meetings. I walked out at 7:05pm.

I just feel tired and hollow. I never realized it until this week, but my happy family is my anchor. I can go about my life in this world, I can work thirteen hour days, I can do it because I know that all is happy and right in my family world.

When all is wrong, it is hard.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

The Marathon Day 2

I'm just sad. The cloud of grief is hanging over me.

And the exhaustion is coming. I have eleven conferences tomorrow. I have to teach tomorrow.

Tomorrow is B's funeral.

I can fight the sad and keep on doing my job, but the sad will be there waiting for me tomorrow at seven when I finally get to go home.

Then, I'll close my eyes. It will be Thursday and I will work fourteen more hours.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Marathon Begins

This morning I put my keys in the ignition when the first wave of sadness hit me. I just knew at the same time 24 hours earlier my cousin put the keys in the ignition to go to work and it was one of the last things he did. When the morning was peaceful and quiet, I thought of him.

As I pulled into the parking lot, I took a deep breath. As soon as I got out of the car, the day would be nonstop.

At seven fifteen, I was supposed to have the first parent teacher conference. I was supposed to meet with the parent who demanded a new teacher when she saw how young I am. She didn't show. I tried to pick up the debris left all over my classroom when I left early to go to the hospital on Friday. At seven forty-five, the kids shot into the room like out of a cannon. The parent who didn't show up sent a note requesting a reschedule for Wednesday. I took another deep breath as this was her third reschedule and sent after the scheduled meeting.

The day was both slow and fast. I thought the reading lesson with these kids would never end, but somehow it doesn't seem that long ago, now, when the sun is setting, that I put my keys in the ignition.

This week I have an additional 11.5 hours of parent/teacher conferences. That is twenty-three half hour meetings. I also have to teach all week. The kids all have spring fever.

If I make it til Friday, I'll turn twenty-six. The last four years have been the slowest and fastest of my life. Now, though, when it is quiet again for a little (very little) while, I feel another wave of sadness; but also a wave of gratitude. Every day is a gift.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Goodbye B

The writer in me is a romantic. Maybe I'm a cynic, but at the end of the day, I want to write in a way that shows the rainbow at the end of the storm and the silver lining. Life just makes more sense when you see it that way.

Today, though, there is no silver lining. There's no rainbow. It's just a door slammed in your face. It's just a screen gone black in the middle of a movie. It's one shoe dropping when the other never will.

This morning at five o'clock in the morning my cousin was driving to work and was in a car accident. He was killed.

My heart can't fathom that. He was twenty-two. He'll never see twenty-three.

It's not like I see this cousin all the time. I see him maybe once or twice a year. It's just that the injustice of it is like a slap in the face. You shouldn't have a funeral where your grandparents and parents are there. You shouldn't miss your college graduation because you were killed. You shouldn't have your life ended before it begins.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

The Day You Were Born

Dear Nephew,

The day that you were born I was teaching a room full of 9 year olds. My phone rang and I thought you were here, but you weren't here yet. You and your mother were rushed to the hospital because your little heart was beating more and more slowly.

Your heart beat must have been faint in that hospital. I was in a school all the way across town, but somehow I could hear it. That's the way it is with family. Maybe someday if your sister, who's almost two now, has a child of her own you could understand why.

So, I left the school, in the middle of the day, to go and be with your sister and your Grammy while you were being born. We thought you would never get here! You did get here, though, and you were a big boy!

Everyone was so happy. Your Dad scared you with the flash on his camera and we all laughed. Your heart beat is still a little slow, but the doctor says he thinks you will be just fine in a few days.

So, nephew, I guess you didn't come into the world so easy. Literary experts tell us, though, that this is how heroes come into the world. So, if you ever feel like things are not going so well, just remember: you came into this world like a hero. So, whatever comes up, you can deal with it.


Aunt Understood=).

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Power Struggle


There are some things on this blog I have to really filter what I say. Oh, I'm an open book when it comes to what I really think about education, politics, and all things related to my work; but there are some things that I keep tight-lipped about.

One of the things that is tricky to address publicly without crossing a line are topics in Special Education. I can never mention something I've actually seen written in an IEP. I cannot talk directly about specific issues that could be traced back to specific kids. I can't talk about any legal issues, and in special education, any sizable public school district has legal issues in special education. It is a highly litigated field.

So, I am going to address some Special Education issues today, but in the interest of journalistic integrity; I am merging details, changing details, and making my real life experience murky and unrecognizable. That being said I will speak only based on things I have observed directly.

I also always refrain from talking about family secrets. By family secrets I mean those issues within the district that we all know are going on, but we are not allowed to discuss publicly. So, today I will talk about a problem many teachers in my district face with curriculums and accountability. Again, I am merging, changing, and obscuring.

My moral education is strongly based in Hollywood, so today please turn with me to the book of Spiderman. Peter Parker got it right, but incomplete when he learned that "with great power comes great responsibility." With great power does come great responsibility, but the reverse should also be true: with great responsibility should come great (or at least sufficient) power.

I think that a lot of my frustration with my field comes from the power struggle. No, I'm not talking about when you get annoyed with Johnny-Talksbackalot. No, I'm not talking about when you have an administrator who feels the need to correct the way you hand someone a stack of papers. I am talking about the BIG POWER STRUGGLE. The push for total, no-excuses, accountability with the simultaneous push for controlled classrooms and teaching practices. I am going to share two examples of this.

1.) In my district, we are required to use a Math curriculum that doesn't work, but we are totally responsible for the performance of our students in Math.

I saw this video on Joan Jacob's blog. It depicts a girl using strategies found in the required Math curriculum. I can hardly even do a lot of these strategies.

What do we do? A lot of us use the curriculum to subsidize and teach strategies that work, but in schools where it is a more micromanaged environment, their test scores suffer and teachers are directly accountable. We have the great responsibility to improve Math scores, but we don't have the power to do what works.

2.) Sometimes inclusion creates an unsafe and poor learning environment, but schools lack the power to rectify these situations.

Here's where I have to be careful what I say, but just know that I am changing details.

There is a student in another class at my school who has grown very violent. She punched the glasses off the face of the music teacher Monday. She punched the assistant principal in the nose. She tried to stab her teacher with a plastic knife from the cafeteria and has hit her third grade teacher and every other teacher she has had. I don't know how many students She has punched, kicked or hit. She does have a disability and she does these things with a smile on her face.

Today she punched my little nonreader in his face giving him a black eye. She did this with no warning and for no reason. She just walked across the playground and punched him in the face.

All of her teachers cry all the time. I think everyone in our school knows that this child belongs in a self-contained environment, but the parents believe general ed is the least restrictive environment. The laws make it so hard for us to force the issue. You really can't imagine how hard. We have great responsibility to provide a safe, positive learning environment, but we don't have power to put this child in a more appropriate setting.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

How Do You Fight Stress about Parent Issues???

I am sorry if I am annoying anyone who is used to my anecdotal writing, but lately I'm in a mood to get advice. My job is hard this year, and I am doing the best that I can, but I want to get better, truly, I do.

I spend a lot of time flirting with the idea of quitting teaching. My favorite analogy for teaching is that it is like a bad boyfriend. You can be in love with him, but he is always threatening to break up with you, mistreats you, and constantly tells you you're not good enough for him. You love him, but he's bad for you. It's breaks the hearts of your loved ones to see you in a long term relationship with teaching, but they're not quite sure how to talk to you about it because you love him.

Seriously, I could bitch about this all day, but it is not getting me anywhere. Either I want to continue teaching or I don't. So, recently, I am trying on the idea that I will keep teaching for my entire career.

That is a tough thing for me to believe. I worry, frankly, that teaching will just suck the life out of me and destroy who I am before I notice what it has done to me. I try to remember what my life was like before teaching was my full time job. It's only been four years, but I can barely remember. I liked to read a lot more. I was more social. Was I happier?

I sometimes wonder what would be different if I wasn't teaching. Would I be in a long-term relationship. Honestly, I am so tired that it makes me not want to meet new people. I think about work when I'm not at work. I don't know if I would still be like that without teaching or not.

One of the things that makes me think I don't want to keep teaching forever is my reaction to unreasonable adults. I get twisted up inside anytime a parent has an issue. I am jealous of people who shake it off and forget about it. I would enjoy my job more if I could not worry about parent issues. I know that they come up for everyone, but not everyone loses sleep over it.

So, I want to know, what do you do to let go of anxiety or never have anxiety about issues with parents? If you are like me and you can't figure it out, I'd like to know that too. Misery loves company. Seriously, though, a part of me wants to stick this gig out, but there are things that have to change about me before I will be able to sustain a long term teaching career. Help me change, blogging friends.