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Friday, June 25, 2010

Year Two, Done.

Oh, boy.

My goal is to pick this thing back up.

I'm no longer a second-year teacher. I'm on my way to being a third year teacher, which is absolutely bizarre.

I survived this year, but just barely.

My class was lovely.

My students were incredible. They had their challenges, of course. There was the child who spent the first semester barking under desks and humping the floor, and the second semester making noises so random that I can't reproduce them, and so frequent that when others came in and marveled at the noises, I hadn't even realized they were being made. There was the child who was being a bully, and knew he was being a bully, but couldn't quite figure out how to stop. There was the child who finally, come May, began doing work she should have been able to do in November of her kinder year. There was the child who had compulsive behaviors that greatly interfered with her learning, yet despite many conversations with administrators, I was unable to convince them that these behaviors were serious and detrimental to her own and her peers classroom experiences. Yet, despite the challenges and oddities, the children were just fabulous. The students (even the occasional bullies) were kind to one another. They helped one another. They supported one another. They helped and supported ME. They internalized my love for reading, for writing, for learning. They did fabulous teamwork. They loved to sing songs about math and reading. They believed me when I told them that freshly sharpened pencils were "brain pencils" and would help them access all the knowledge they already had in their brains. They let me read and reread my favorite stories to them. They made excellent text-to-text and text-to-self connections. They LISTENED to each other when they spoke. They responded to each other, to their classmates' comments and stories. They liked listening to one another read. They knew how to gently support classmates who struggled in reading. They internalized my prompts to "think about what you know about the word," to "look for little words you know in the bigger word," to "look at the picture to give ideas about the word," to "think about blends you know to sound out the word." There were moments when I felt like I was an ancillary member of the class. They didn't need me anymore - they could do it all on their own.

They were excellent.

Of course, this is in hindsight. There were moments, days, weeks, that things weren't working. I remember one week, one group of weeks when nothing was working. Nothing was going right. I emailed a teaching coach and told her I needed help. I didn't know why, but I needed help. She came in that day during writing, looked at me, asked what was wrong, and I almost burst out crying in the middle of class. Nothing in particular was wrong. The kids weren't being mean to each other. My lessons weren't bombing. The students were learning. Just...nothing was quite right. We talked that afternoon. We worked it out. I felt a little better. Then my administration pulled a new curve-ball and everything I had planned that long afternoon had to be thrown out.

I struggled with some coworkers. I never felt accepted. I felt like my knowledge and experience wasn't valued. I felt like some people didn't care what I had to say. It hurt. A lot. I had come from a school where, even though I was a first year teacher, I was valued. The other teachers had valued me for my youthful enthusiasm, for my up-to-date pedagogical knowledge. For my passion. At this new school, I felt that people resented every comment I made alluding to something I had done the previous year. They didn't care about my previous experiences. They didn't want me there. Eventually, things got a little better. The zillionth time I mentioned a successful activity/procedure/lesson I had done the previous year, my new coworkers sort of listened. I began to feel a little bit accepted. Then something else happened, and all the team-bonding, the acceptance, it deteriorated. It was gone. I felt hated again.

I struggled with my administrators. This, I can't describe. I don't understand it. I never felt comfortable. That's all. Never felt accepted. Never felt able to understand their motives or thought processes. Never felt the intense connection I had to my previous administrators who, from day one, I could tell would support me no matter what. It was a different leadership style. Different people. A different relationship. No comparison.

I interviewed at a different school, and was offered the position. I debated the merits of moving verse staying. I didn't know which would be better. Everyone not directly involved told me to do whatever was best for me, long term. I didn't know what that was. I wanted to be in two places at once and knew that wasn't possible. I didn't know what to do. I emailed that same teaching coach again. Told her I needed her help. She wasn't at school that day, but I needed the help immediately - time to make my decision was running out. I couldn't tell anyone else at school about this - I couldn't tell them I might be leaving - so I couldn't ask for their advice. This teaching coach, though, I knew I could trust her. And she came. She wasn't at school that day, but after school let out for the day, she came. She could tell something was wrong. That time, I did burst out crying. I didn't know what to do. We talked. We talked and talked. I showed her my lists. Tried to explain my conflict. She told me it looked liked I had made my decision, and she would miss me. I started crying again. I'm not a crier. Never, in my entire life had I cried in front of anyone except my parents. And that hadn't happened since I was young, in middle school, maybe, and in trouble. That's different. I cried. I called my teacher-friend, and cried again. That made two people I had cried in front of that day. The next morning, I made my decision to go. I had was sad to be leaving, but was looking forward to a new adventure. I was about to call and accept the new position. Then something happened. Something big. I got new information about the situation. I wasn't going to move. I mourned that - the loss of something I never had. The loss of a potential new beginning. It had been my decision, and I could have gone, but I didn't. I felt very sad, nauseous, worried.

It was an emotional year. It was probably the most emotional year of my life. I got layed off, again. I updated my resume. Asked for letters of reference. Filled out job applications. I got un-layed off again. Breathed a sigh of relief. But already, I'm worried for next year. I don't think I can survive another potential lay-off. Some people thought it was easier the second time. It was harder for me. It was so much harder the second time. If I get layed off again next year, I don't know what I'm going to do. I don't think I'm going to wait. If this district lays me off again, I'm done. I can't deal with the stress, the emotion.

Aside from my own stress this year, I felt a lot for my students. I live in that state, where all the stuff is happening. Where all my students are having to live in fear of being arrested for who they are, or who their parents are. For what they may not have. Or, perhaps worse, for what they do have, but their parents do not. I had students' parents have to abruptly leave the country. Sometimes the kids knew why. Sometimes they didn't. Sometimes they learned to live with it, making due with phone calls or letters. Sometimes they struggled. They were pulled out of school early once a week to go visit a counselor. They were depressed, unable to understand why one of their parents had been ripped away from them, for a piece of paper they did not have. My students were strong, though. They wrote about it in their journals. They shared their experiences with one-another. They commiserated about the confusion, the pain. They talked about the things they had heard on the news, the whispers they heard from the adults around them. They talked about it in such a mature way. I stayed out of these conversations - I don't have to live with that fear. I'm lucky. I listened to my seven-year-old students talk about mature, life-changing issues. I hurt for them, and was proud of them for being so strong. I worried for them.

It was a long year. I learned a lot. I grew a lot professionally. I changed, too. I also stayed the same. My favorite word is "wonderful." That hasn't changed. I love to teach guided reading. That hasn't changed, either. I'm more cautious now, with what I say. I've learned to do first, and ask for forgiveness later, instead of asking for permission up front. It's counter-intuitive, but that's the way things work around here. I still mourn for what could have been. I mourn for what could have been had my first school not shut down. I mourn for what could have been had I accepted the position at the new school. I worry for continued conflict with coworkers and administrators next year. But that's life, right? Everything is unknown. I can't worry about what could have been. I need to look forward to what will be. And what will be? I don't know.


Blogger luckeyfrog said...

Sounds like a crazy year!

I think it takes as much courage to stay where you are as it does to start somewhere new. You've saved having to move your classroom, and you know what you are dealing with (even if it's not positive- the devil you know...).

Good luck! Enjoy your summer :)

3:12 PM  
Blogger Not Quite Grown Up... said...

If only staying meant I didn't have to move my classroom... (I was forced to move classrooms even though I'm not changing schools or grade levels. So, I didn't even get out of a classroom move.)

But, you're right. I decided to stay with what I know, instead of risking something new. At least I know what to expect next year, sort of.

3:42 PM  
Anonymous Pam B said...

You sound couragous and full of love for your students and your profession. I'm not quite certain of all the circumstances surrounding your students and their families, but it sounds like they need you and your strength. You are a blessing to them, good luck next year! Teachers are sometimes the only consistency a student receives.

8:55 PM  
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