Teachin' For America

Thoughts and otherwise on one particular Teach for America experience.

Wednesday, August 31, 2005

SpEd = In-School Suspension

     Yesterday was really, really rough.  Discipline, despite my best efforts, became virtually nonexistent.  There were a number of very heated, occasionally mildly violent disagreements, far too many classroom disruptions to count, and one student who had to be removed if I was going to get any teaching done whatsoever.  So I counseled those in conflicts, broke up the fights, patiently waited out the disruptions, and sent “Jermaine” on his way.  By the end of the day I was fully into the “survival” phase of my first-year teacher cycle and wanted badly to go home and regroup.  Unfortunately, I managed to corral the A-1 assignment of end-of-the-day outside bus monitor cum cat herder.
     After dismissing my class so late that they actually made an announcement over the intercom for me to do so (I couldn’t believe that shit either), I escorted the varmints on down to wherever they needed to be in order to head home in whatever manner they were prescribed to do so.  I put “Dontrell” and “Delila” in their taxi-cab and assumed my position just outside the school’s fence.  My job at while manning that post is to maintain order by rearranging deck chairs on our school’s sinking ship, search for a needle in a three-story haystack, and make sure each of child exits the school grounds by GOING DOWN THE STAIRS GO BACK UP AND DO IT AGAIN PLEASE YOU KNOW BETTER THAN THAT!- all at the same time.  I also make sure all children- even those who are not presently nor ever have been aware of what bus they ride- make it onto the appropriate bus before it drives off, its busier-than-thou driver unable to wait the additional 2 minutes to make sure everybody has made it.  Then I get sweaty, hoarse, and frustrated.  Then it is time, after most teachers have left for the day, to go deal with whatever work I need to get done back in my room.  Yesterday I thought briefly that my students and I would both be best served if I were to open my third-floor rooms creaky windows and leap out to my death/ severe maiming and hopeful incapacitation.  But I stayed the course, electing to clean up and get home as quickly as possible.
     This morning I arrived for a fresh new day feeling as discouraged as I had the night before.  I was to have a meeting with Jermaine and his mom at 8:30.  Things were not shaping up to go well.  Somehow, though, they got better.  Sort of.
     Jermaine’s mom was helpful and understanding.  She made it clear to her son that she would be no more tolerant of his behavior than I was.  It was a worthwhile conference and I must admit- gladly- that I noticed a significant in Jermaine’s behavior today.  While he still had poor impulse control and tended toward the occasional disruptive outburst, this was really no different than any of my other students.  The big difference with Jermaine was the fact that suddenly today when I reprimanded him as I do all of my students for disruptive or otherwise inappropriate behavior, I could actually see him listening to what I said, taking it seriously, and doing his best (or at least trying a little bit) to implement it.  This was an excellent and encouraging development.  Until today Jermaine had done little but laugh and roll his eyes in response to my many attempts to stop his disruptive behavior.  Jermaine just might be trying to show the respect I so constantly emphasize to him and each of my other students.
     Behavior was better today and things were looking up in Mr. M’s room.  Then a knock came on the door.  It was my assistant principal and a young man with a large belt buckle with the letters “MR”.  “This is “Simon,” she told me.  “We just got out of an IEP meeting,” (I think she said IEP) “and he’s gonna be in here for the rest of the week instead of being suspended.”  
I think my jaw may have hung agape for a few seconds before I muttered a non-committal “Okay.”  She went on to explain to me that if there were any problems with Simon’s behavior that I should notify the office.  I did my best to cheerfully welcome my new student, feeling more than slightly false since he had been sent to my room not to learn but to be punished.  Then Simon started acting up and I started thinking.
What message does this send to the children who are in my class all day every day?  How can a team of educators- who are responsible for the welfare of each and every child in their school- emerge from a conference and decide the only course of action to take in order to discipline a given student is to dump him in the special ed classroom?  I really imagine that their conversation couldn’t have possibly have been far from this: “What the hell are we gonna do with this kid?  His teacher doesn’t want him.”  “Can we send him home?” “No.” “Okay, let’s dump him with the retards for a few days.” Yeah, that’ll teach him.”
I’m so upset with this situation that I must proceed to bed forthwith.

Blast from the Past

I'm back. Here's a post I started a long time ago and never really finished. More amazing posts to come, I hope.

It's really too bad that I haven't managed to make a decent post since the middle of institute. Of the end of institute I'll just say that those 5 weeks were probably the toughest I've gone through. If for no other reason than the sleep deprivation, institute was just plain hard. However, I also learned a lot, met a lot of great people, and even found time to have a little fun. Someday I'll write some sort of account of my time at institute.This week I started my job at Columbia Elementary. Monday morning I showed up bright and way-t00-early, my OCD getting the best of me yet again. I drove by the school at shorty after 7:00 AM, but there was only one car in the parking lot, making me feel like I was just a little early. So I drove around the neighborhood, filled up my gas tank, and generally killed time for about half an hour, until, on my next pass at the school, I saw Ms. "Dunbar," our principal, getting out of her car and heading toward the building. I figured this meant I was okay to enter as well, so I parked, got out of the car, and entered my new, full-time, gotta-go-and-do-work-every-day job. Weird.Monday morning we started off with a brief meeting in the library that inclued a "team-builder" activity in which we all stood in a circle and gave our names and an alliterative adjective to go along with it. We also did the activity where you have to name all of the people who came before you before saying your piece. I was early on in the game, so my job was easy. But my alliterative adjective was so... distinctive... that no one missed it or my name for the rest of the game. I guess that's a good thing, even if the adjective was a bit questionable.
On Monday morning I found out that I will have a self-contained 3rd thru 6th grade special ed classroom. I learned this by looking over the room assignment sheet that was being circulated to the staff. It felt weird to get excited over a logistical document being passed out at a boring meeting, but I certainly did. I had no idea when I would find out what kind of class I would have (or if I would even have one) and it didn't matter what form it came to me in. I was ebullient and could barely keep quiet for the rest of the meeting, wanting to talk to someone about this great information I had just learned. Instead I fidgeted in my seat and waited for something cool to happen. Nothing did, the meeting ended, and we were released to work in our classrooms for the rest of the day.Being totally unprepared for this course of action, I spent the rest of the day organizing the large piles of stuff I found in my classroom. All kinds of old worksheets, picture book, large books of graphic organizers, that sort of thing. It was a mess when I entered but organized when I left. Considering I didn't have any materials to be used in classroom set up, I was happy with the progress I had made by the end of the day.The rest of the week seemed to pass by without anything really being accomplished. My time was wasted in a number of ways by a number of different people, who inefficiently taught me unimportant things.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Stupid freakin...

I just lost a huge, long post about my first day on the job. Shit. Y'all will just have to wait.