Last Friday, I was going to a friend’s house in Berkeley. But as I glimpsed the Campanile, I couldn’t stop… I found myself veering down Telegraph towards my alma mater. As I walked my favorite haunts, I met up randomly with my supervisor from college. He’s from the area where I teach, and he gave me some pat advice. I mentioned some of my work circumstances and he said, “There’s a difference between hard work and being exploited.” Then he went on to say, “It sounds like you’re being a martyr, and yeah, some people like that, but these days, martyrs don’t get much play.”
He told me the need is always there. And that I’m on the fast track to burn-out, which would be no good for anybody. I know this. Of course I do. But it was good to have someone let me know.
The need is always there. And risks are scary. But the most amazing things (are supposed to) happen from taking them.
Today was an awful day. I was at school from 7:45am until 6:45pm. I get there early because now it’s starting to get cold, so kids like to wait inside before school starts. Then, a teacher was sick so the PE teacher substituted so I had to cover during that period… basically I lost my one prep. This happened yesterday too. I am also in charge of detention and penalty box. Then just today, Tuesday and Thursday, I tutored a group of kids who bombed their interim assessments from 4:30-6:30pm.
Wait, when did I eat lunch? Oh, during a science quiz at 2:30pm – 30 minutes before school let out. What did I eat before that? Nothing. My stomach was literally growling.
Then during detention, I had a problem with some of the kids. And it was the first time where I realized they were.. it was like staring into the eyes of dumb animals. They can’t get beyond just “I don’t want to get in trouble” and “I must say “insert pat school mantra here””.
Halfway through my frustration and concern, I just realized it was pointless. Nobody holds dumb animals up to standards for humans, right? And at the same time, it was dawning on me how horrible this was. At first, I was just so hurt and angry at the kids – I’ve never been so blatantly disrespected. At first, I was trying to appeal to reason – but they literally began laughing. Not necessarily at me – just.. laughing? I don’t know! Then interrupting me. Just being complete…I mean.. in my head, I was seriously fighting the urge to just agree with myself that, “These kids are trash.” And I hated myself for that.
Then, I began to think, is it their fault? I was about to lose it. But now that I’m here, if I were at a school with functioning support systems, where I could send the kid to a therapist. OR where some of the kids could get extra personalized academic help (which is what they need). Then, maybe I wouldn’t hate them. Maybe I wouldn’t want to lose it on them.
I appreciate my students so much, but honestly, they didn’t start that well either. They could have easily been pushed to start acting like those other kids. I can’t say it was all me, but I can say that my environment was as protective as I could make it. I didn’t just have kids go outside or just curb behavior– even when other teachers and even my old principal said stuff to me like, “Oh, so-and-so is a F***-Up – you won’t get them all.” Or “You’re lucky X dropped, she would’ve gotten pregnant for sure.” Or “How can you stand Y? He’s just so.. … ”
Maybe it’s the idealistic “young” teacher spirit in me.. but today, I realized, that part of the reason why I try to keep this positive spin is because my only option is to leave. But if I did, my students would suffer. And you know, they are students. They try to learn. They try to work. We’re getting somewhere. So as long as they’re doing that, I’m here. And I guess as long as I’m here, I have to convince myself that I want to be here and it’s worth it.
Even if that means I have to update my pacing guides to the Common Core by this Friday.
Even if that means I have to get to school half an hour before my contracted day begins 3 days a week to supervise the blacktop.
Even if that means I don’t get time to prep.
I guess all I’m going to do, is continue to do DonorsChoose, and leave behind as many resources as I can. After that, I’m out. I really have to go. I do.