Wednesday, June 05, 2013

break down

No car today.  The starter was showing signs of giving out and then it actually did yesterday, on literally the last stop before I was going to bring it over to the shop to have it looked at.

So now I'm stuck in the house all day, which I suppose is good because I have better odds now of actually cleaning out those closets.

Summer vacation, for the kids, means staying up late and sleeping in.  Its' 10:42 and I haven't heard a peep from any of them, but that's OK because we're not doing anything these days.  I may wake them up, I may let them sleep.  I think DS2 has grown three inches in the past month (an exaggeration, but he does seem huge now), and he certainly needs the sleep. 

For me, so far, vacation has meant a lot of running around.  My Mom would say "like a chicken with its head cut off," and that's sort of how I feel.  I don't know what I'm doing.  My school year ended on a significant up note (my students' AIMS scores improved, third year in a row!), but the changes planned for my campus and the behavior of  one cohort of my students remain concerns. 

The plan for next year is for me to teach seventh grade (mostly earth science) and biology (probably 9th graders).  While I am excited to teach biology, I'm not excited about having to develop an entirely new curriculum.  I'm not starting from scratch but in reality, I am, because while I have the last bio teacher's curriculum map, etc, I'm not sure how useful that's going to be.  Our administration is leaning heavily on us to have more hands-on, experiential learning, and I honestly don't know how to do that with many of the concepts I'm dealing with.  

I'm also sad that my 8th grade curriculum, which has shown good results the last 3 years, is being shelved.  I hadn't really thought about that when the new teaching assignment was proposed to me, but I really love that curriculum and I really loved teaching it.  I hope that I will grow to love biology just as much if not more (that was my first area of certification, after all), but I've invested three years there and it makes me sad to just see it set aside. 

So the plan for me involves a huge change.  There are also huge changes planned for the administration (existing principal moving to another school in our charter district, two different "principals" sharing duties on different days at our campus...) that it's hard to imagine how they will be implemented so that they actually work.  One of our biggest challenges in the past three years has been absentee administration. As in, you call or go up to the office, and there's literally no one there to help you with whatever you need help with, for students or for teachers.  So while we're going to have a full-time vice principal and a full-time dean of students, I have concerns about having two part-time principals.  It seems as if there isn't any one person in charge, and therefore responsible, ever.  I'm trying to reign in my negativity with minimal success.

One of the reasons it's hard for me to remain positive about these plans is my last group of seventh graders.  I've been complaining consistently about them, documenting their classroom behaviors and putting them into the discipline system all year long, and a significant number of them have made absolutely no progress.  Back in August, these students would rip little pieces of pencil erasers off and then throw them at each other whenever my back was turned.  OK, that was the beginning of the year, and they were essentially glorified 6th graders.  But a whole school year has passed, and during our last project of the year (model an ecosystem), these same students were breaking crayons and throwing them around the room at each other. 

Worst of all?  On the last day of school, my "thing" is to bring in watermelon for all my classes.  I have now served watermelon to 21 different classes over 3 years at this school, and only in my last class of the day this year have I ever seen students throwing watermelon at each other. It wasn't just one or two pieces, it was all over the place, smashed on the walls and in the corners.  I was so disturbed by their behavior, it still upsets me to think about it, a week later.  I told them, "If I don't come back next year, it's because of you."

And I have been looking. I'm well aware that the grass is always greener.... I'm comparing commuting times, and so far there are jobs out there I could do, but I haven't applied.  I probably won't because I'm lazy and because at least where I am I know what I'll be dealing with, but I feel so beaten down right now.  I am grateful that my eighth graders made so much progress, but my seventh graders were so difficult that any positive feelings about last year are easily outweighed by the negatives.

The thing is, I don't even know if that's a valid perspective, or if I'm just over-reacting.  I can't help beating myself up over this -- what could I have done differently?  What did I do or not do that allowed all this to continue?  I have no way to assess how much responsibility to take, but my starting point is, I'm responsible for what goes on in my classroom.  I believe that, but is it really true when I've got a dozen sociopaths to manage and no administrative support?

About a third of new teachers leave the profession after three years, and by five years, more than half will have left.  I'm in that zone now.  I don't have any doubts about teaching, but I do have doubts about teaching where I am.  I thought it would be getting easier by now.  In many ways, and for my eighth graders, it was.  But as for the rest? It's hard to see any relief.

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