Despite the fact that I slept maybe two hours last night (and what is more maddening than insomnia, especially at a time when you really need and want to sleep?) I am glad to be back, even though my office is absurdly full of boxes. I don’t even want to see what my classroom looks like, because I think the semi-annual floor polishing rites happened last week. The desks are stacked and shoved every which way, but not put back.
In addition to teaching a sixth grade class, I am also the literacy coach. I hate being the literacy coach, even though it’s only part time. When I first accepted the position in the fall of 2004, I really thought that I’d get to share what I learned about literacy in my last master’s program. I learned so much and it was a great experience. When balanced literacy became the new way of life here in NYC, I already had a few graduate courses under my belt, and that awareness of the research made me much more open than many of my fellow teachers. It also made me more critical of the way the city was going about the process. And unfortunately, “literacy coach” means “another Region mouthpiece”, as far as I am concerned. My agenda is based entirely on their agenda, not my observations of what OUR students and teachers need. That’s frustrating. I have worked with two different “lead” coaches, better known as ReBots (Region Robots) who have had very different styles but came in with the same tired, ineffective ideas.
Last year, I began grinding my teeth in my sleep and it got worse whenever the ReBot was going to visit. The teeth grinding was a first for me. Even working full time and taking ten grad school credits while trying to sustain a still-budding relationship with my now-husband was less stressful. Last year’s ReBot thought that it would be effective coaching for me to go up to the teacher while she was teaching, and whisper to the teacher all the things she was doing wrong. At one point, ReBot’s hand was literally on my back, nudging me to the front of the room. I hadn't even felt so stupid on my first day of student teaching, and I was utterly furious as well. Later on I apologized to the teacher and told the ReBot that I would not coach the teachers in that manner. She insisted that it was the best way to coach the teachers, but since she believed in figurative pushing and shoving, she wouldn’t consider other ways of affecting change.
And that moment, I think, was truly indicative of my Region’s strategy towards doing things. Push, shove, and when that fails, push and shove more and throw in a few ounces of meanness for good measure and "this is for the CHILDREN, don't you care about the CHILDREN?". (Never mind that if THEY cared about the children there would not be 35 of them in one room.)
It truly makes me wonder how some of these people behaved as teachers, how they treated their students, if they had that same hard attitude of “do it and shut up.” It makes me wonder what a little power can really do to a person. This year’s ReBot is at the other end of the spectrum; she is content to come here and sit and when I pointedly ask if she wants to visit classrooms she grudgingly agrees. Then she offers up all sorts of criticism, and suggests that I model lessons. The last feedback log she sent me via e-mail was almost laughable; the issues she had were carefully detailed, but then the only suggestion for improvement was “model lessons for teachers.” Yeah, that helps.
This wasn’t supposed to be whiny, grating, bitchy. I hate those qualities in others but I feel like I’ve just put up and shut up for so long. As soon as I have an opportunity I am going to tell my principal that I want to be in the classroom full time next year.
Funny, I have never really quit anything. I didn't quit waitressing after dumping half dozen huge sodas onto a group of people. I didn't quit my college newspaper job after making a hugely embarrassing blunder that I don't want to go into. I didn't quit my first teaching job at Intermediate School 666 after children threw things at me whenever I turned around and the bitch of an AP berated me regularly, but never offered to help. (She got hers later, thank you Daily News.) But now, I am quitting.
I was going to write about the unit I’m writing, on art history. I am so excited for it. Over the weekend I bought a huge book in Borders. It was $9.99 and it’s huge, and I bought it for the express purpose of cutting it up, to have samples of art to show the kids. The best thing about teaching language arts is that I feel like I can do anything with them, as long as they are reading and writing. Maybe another time.