In which I inspire

This was a really fucking rough day. I got through my third and fourth hour basically by deciding that I was blind on the left side of my body. I have been keeping track of the swear words I hear for the last few days, and I’m averaging around fifty a day, and generally half of those or so will be the N-word. It’s still not impossible that I end up back in a classroom again next year, but it’s getting less and less likely with every passing day. I’m just completely exhausted with all of them at this point, and I don’t want to do this any longer. If that means I need to ignore fully half of one of my classes so that I can concentrate on the group of them who still have a modicum of interest in receiving an education, well, fuck it, that’s what I’m going to do, and I’m well beyond feeling bad about it.

And then as I was walking out of the building, our social studies teacher stopped me and asked me how one of our … more troublesome students had done in my room today, and by “troublesome,” I mean “has 74 office referrals so far this year, and is somehow still allowed to be attending school despite having not the slightest shred of an academic agenda.” I thought about it for a moment and realized that not only had I not had to put him out– I’d had to speak to him a couple of times, but not especially seriously– and that he’d actually turned in his work, which given his current 11% class average (and that’s his third-highest grade) is not a common occurence.

She has a student teacher this semester– and, God, of all the years to be student teaching, you couldn’t have chosen a worse one than this one– and he’d had to put this kid out of class himself today, and he was having a really hard time with it. Ed school fills your head with all sorts of nonsense about how it’s always the teacher’s fault if you can’t “reach” any of your students, and the notion that for one reason or another certain students might be unreachable is simply treated as heresy. I don’t even know this guy all that well and I could tell he was beating himself up over it.

And fuck me dead if I didn’t spend the next fifteen minutes talking this poor guy off of a ledge and trying to make him feel better about himself and his future as a teacher. He was always going to have a hard time with middle school– he’s got a prominent lisp among a couple of other, uh, prominent physical characteristics– and he was one of those guys where it’s difficult for one’s first impression to not be “the kids are going to eat you alive.” But he’s putting in the work and he’s doing his Goddamned best and I’ll be damned if I’m going to let a kid who easily ranks in the bottom five percent of students I’ve taught in my career fuck up this guy’s day. And I think by the time I left I had him feeling better, and on the one hand, yay me, and on the other hand I really don’t think anyone should be going into teaching until we have a serious societal reckoning with what we actually want our teachers to be and what we want from our schools, and that reckoning needs to firmly eliminate the word “babysitter” from our job descriptions. Because that’s what we’re doing with this kid, and with a higher percentage of my students this year than I’ve ever seen before. These kids have no interest and no business being in school other than fucking up the educations of the kids who want to be there, and any vestiges of patience I might have ever had with it are simply gone at this point. A completely honest accounting would have involved telling this guy that things weren’t going to get better because in the last twenty years nothing has ever gotten better in education. That trend isn’t reversing anytime soon.

But hey, I got him off the ledge. And if I go to work tomorrow, it’ll be five days in a row. Baby steps, I guess.

Okay, I can do this

I have a day of professional development on Wednesday, so this is how the next couple of weeks are going to go:

  • Two days of work, one of which was today and is therefore done
  • A day at home on Zoom, away from children
  • Two days of work; the second day is payday
  • A weekend
  • Three days of work, one of which is the PSAT and then “Shut up, leave me alone, and finish your missing work”
  • A teacher record day
  • Our four-day Fall Break

That should be manageable, right? I make it through tomorrow and, no matter what happens tomorrow, I don’t have to see any of the kids on Wednesday– not the ones I like or the ones I don’t. Sure.

In other news, I spent the day being smug about having nuked my presence on Facebook while everyone else freaked out about the outage, and … well, everything else is misery and despair, mostly.

Okay, maybe not everything. I like this video game a lot, and it looks like a Pixar movie, so you should go watch me play it:

That’s what I’ve got. Gonna go curl up with a cat and a book.

In which I am defeated

There’s no other way to describe it: the kids won today, and by “the kids” I mean the worst elements among them, as I continue to genuinely believe that most of my kids want to be in school and want to learn; I just can’t get to them because of the number of kids standing in the way and spending all of their energy on trying to trip me up.

I am tired and angry and beaten and I need to get up tomorrow and do it all over again, and I’m going to, but right now … fuck it, I’m done.

On scheduling and mental health

Have I mentioned how much I love my schedule this year? My district changed the timing of our day again this year, moving the start of the school day to an obscenely late 9:30 AM and the end of the day until 4:30, which … okay, I know lots of people work later than that, and I know about the research suggesting that a later start time is better for adolescent kids, but what I can also tell you is that still being in school at 4:30 is pretty clearly not an ideal situation for these kids. The middle schools have the latest schedule, which has led to some problems lately as the high school students have time to leave school and make it to the middle schools to start trouble before we dismiss our kids.

I have kids with me straight from 9:30 until 3:00, excepting only my half hour for lunch, which is more like 20 minutes once I get the kids there and wait for the cafeteria to be open and get my food and get back upstairs and maybe get a bathroom break, which … well, isn’t that bad, actually, as two groups and then lunch is perfectly manageable and after 18 years of teaching I’m used to eating lunch with a quickness. But that’s not why I bring this up; I bring this up because being done with teaching two class periods before the end of the day means that whatever bullshit I have to deal with is dealt with before I get home. Any frustration and stress that accumulates through the day has more than enough time to bleed off– most of the time, at least– before I go home. I have a team meeting 8th hour every day, which gives me 7th to get my head back on straight so that I can be useful during our meeting.

It’s great. It’s amazing how much less visibly exhausted I am than the other teachers at the end of the day, and it’s not because of my sunny fuckin’ disposition or my can-do attitude, it’s because I’m missing the students when they’re collectively at their worst and I have time to decompress and become human again before I go home and lock myself in my office to play video games interact with my wife and son. This has not been a bad year so far, all told, although it’s had its moments so far– more on that later this weekend, maybe– and part of that is that I’m not bringing it home. And all of that is based basically on a roll of the dice, since it’s not like the counselor consulted with me before she set everything up.

More stories from the second week of school

1c96f3844Today started and ended rather poorly, with some not-bad shoved in the middle.  I had a moment of pure assholery from one of my anger management cases when the simple act of saying “good morning” less than a minute after walking into the building earned me an eye-roll and preadolescent stomping away.  They try to train us to not take this personally when it happens, and I do my damnedest, but fuck it’s 7:30 in the Goddamn AM and I don’t need this shit this early in the morning.

I had a similar moment with another kid earlier this week when I was supposed to escort a line of them somewhere else in the building.  I didn’t know most of them, and I asked the first kid in the line what his name was, intending to segue directly into Okay, Jimmy, I need you to walk to this corner and stop, and the motherfucker told me he didn’t know his name.

I blinked at him a couple of times and repeated the question, trying to assume he hadn’t heard the question.

“I ain’t got one.”

Goddamnit I am neither in the mood nor do I have the time for this shit.  I asked you a simple and friendly question, you little fuck, and it’s a goddamn crime that I’m not allowed to resolve this situation by just punching you in your stupid throat and then asking the second kid what his name is, assuming that your crumpled, gasping body would give him some evidence as to whether he should answer the fucking question or not.

This; this is the shit that makes me not want anything to do with this job anymore.  I know intellectually that this kid’s life has got to be fucked in some way because no one is this goddamned noncompliant and aggressive over simple shit for no fucking reason.  My problem is that it’s not even September and I’m already not even close to the point where I can care any more.  I’ve been in the trenches for fourteen fucking years.  That’s enough.  I need one kid who has a shitty home life and awful parents and needs someone with some compassion around him and instead I have hundreds, and I just can’t fucking deal with it any longer.

Thank fuckin’ God my homeroom is so nice.  It ensures I still have some patience left when my much more problematic afternoon class comes along, because that’s the class with the special ed kids and the behavior problems.  I found out today that one of my afternoon girls is the second child of the lunatic at the end of this post, a fact that does not surprise me at all given her behavior, because Mom has absolutely no ability to deal with anything in any way other than swearing and cursing and screeching at the top of her lungs.  She’s been issued a restraining order by the school I worked at in that story, in fact.  The very first time she tries this shit with me will be the last, one way or another.

(I mean, Christ, does this shit actually ever work for you?  What the hell kind of life do you live when swearing and screaming like a lunatic at life’s every setback is your only way to cope?  Does getting arrested and kicked out of/banned from ever reentering places all the goddamn time appeal to you?  Because I know this nonsense isn’t getting you what you want.)

I’m glad it’s the weekend, is what I’m saying.