25 October 2007

Floundering

I’ve been having such a hard time this year. While some of the difficulty can be traced to being a new mom and, to a lesser extent, having a long commute, most of my challenges are a result of how things are being done, or not done, this year.

Ironically, last month I was actually patting myself on the back, because I had things under control. When I came back from maternity leave last May, the kids were already in end-of-the-year mode. I was taking my class back over from a replacement whose style was very different from mine, and not for the better. So instead of dealing with the dual challenge of getting them used to me again and dealing with end of the year chaos, I chose to focus on this year. I was able to write a pretty detailed unit, complete with pacing chart, for September. Thus I at least started off the year with a lot of structure and organization.

Now, I have nothing. To use a tired cliché, I’m flying by the seat of my pants and I hate it. We don’t have a clearly defined curriculum, in fact we don’t really have any curriculum, and while we have the flexibility of being an Empowerment school, we’re not maximizing it. I have so many ideas and there are so many things I’d like to do. But trying to do it alone is daunting. That was one of my personal truths uncovered during the time I was a coach. And now, when I get home, I just want to be with the baby. By the time I get her into bed, I don’t have a lot of mental or physical energy left. If I'm able to get a few things graded, it's noteable.

My struggles are really indicative of so many things that need improving in my school, and in the system overall. The issues with the curriculum are one thing, and short of sitting down by myself for many hours to write out units for the rest of the year, I don’t know what else to do. On the one hand, the current coach is probably overworked an overwhelmed. But on the other hand, the other teachers and I are also overworked and overwhelmed. It seems like a lot of these positions (as well as my own) are not structured in a way that will allow us to be successful.

When BloomKlein took over and Balanced Literacy became the law, our literature anthologies and class sets of novels were taken away. The training we got never really took hold, in part because it wasn’t based in reality and in part because, well, it wasn’t based in reality. This year I decided to try trusting myself again (because my confidence took a beating during the time I was a coach, and prior to that we had a megabitch administrator who specialized in making me doubt myself.) I know that I have a strong knowledge base, but I’m tired of having to devote my energy to figuring out how to teach 32 kids with 24 novels, and readjust things when the copies I requested aren’t ready.

I’ve begun to ask myself how much longer I can do this. I suspect that the more frustrated I get, the less effective I am as a teacher. After more than ten years in the city, I’ve finally started to ask myself if it’s worth shelling out a small fortune in gas money to come here. Mr. Malarkey and I have decided to move back to Long Island, and I don’t think I want to start spending money on tolls either. And even though I have to work, the fact that my job takes me away from my baby all day makes me want to ensure that the job is really, really worth it.

I try so hard to be a better teacher, but I can’t do it alone. I need support and supplies and the expertise of others, and I don’t think those things exist here. Mediocrity is embraced because of a dearth of motivation, organization, and true concern.

4 comments:

Schoolgal said...

This must have been a difficult post to write. I think I questioned my teaching because of the pressure to prepare these kids for the January and November Social Studies tests. So much to cover in so little time. On top of that are the ridiculous school mandates that only added stress rather than support.

Jules newest post is so similar to yours that you would think the DoE and our union would take note of it when really dedicated teachers want to leave. But then again, this union wants new teachers to give up 5% of their ten-year salary for pension. On top of that BloomWeingarten want teachers to burn out so principals can hire newbies and save on their budget.

I suppose teachers can always move to the UFT Village in the Bronx and be happy there surrounded by other teachers and principals 24/7.

Teaching on the island does offer better pay, benefits and support. You just have to deal with over-bearing parents. But you may be happier.

17 (really 15) more years said...

Why are so many teachers writing such depressing posts? (trust me, this is a rhetorical question). I have never been so thoroughly disgusted so early as I am this year.

I took the day off yesterday to have a tooth extracted, and considered it a glorious day- so much better than going to work. There's something wrong in that.
The only thing that cheered me was my students e-mailing me to see how I was feeling.

Dave Shearon said...

I've been surfing teacher blogs tonight. That's something I don't do as much as I used to, but tonight it just sort of happened. Couldn't comment on all, but I wanted to post a note of encouragement. You're important. Your work matters. Your colleagues are important and their work matters. I don't have all the answers, but I know those things are right. As my classmate from Scotland says, "Best 'aye!"

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