Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Is it me?

There is something seriously wrong with some of the teachers I work with. Or......maybe its me. Am I an idealistic fool to think that there is something redeeming in every child? Now....don't get me wrong. I am not a saint. I have students that I detest. Kids that I truly wish would transfer to another district, students that I have to continually remind myself that "Someone, somewhere loves this child. You may NOT toss him out the window". However...... I genuinely love my students. I feel for them, I listen to them, I teach them. It's my job. It's what I spent 7 years and $60,000+ on. It's something that I am passionate about, it's what makes me laugh, and what makes me so frustrated I come home and race for the corkscrew and the crystal at night. It's what keeps me up till 3am trying to figure out why a student wrote what he did, and how I can help make it better. It's what makes me climb out of bed in the middle of the night because I just had a thought of another way to explain a scene in Shakespeare to my students and I have to write it down right that second or I will forget. I teach because I hope to inspire some kids to go to college, or to love Hamlet, or even just to think that "reading ain't that bad Ms. W".

So when my peers, my colleagues, other PROFESSIONALS.... come to me in the course of my day to chastise me for being so young, or to complain about their students or to assume I don't know what I am doing because I look 18....I get irate. I get furious. I want to demand an apology. I want to know what their philosophy on education is. Because mine is so much different than many, many of the teachers I interact with on a daily basis.

I have a student who comes to me during his free periods because he doesn't understand the way his English teacher explains what is expected of him. He spends his lunch, study hall and after school in my classroom pouring over his notes, scribbling away in his note book and asking questions so that he can finish his senior research project and go on the senior trip without having it on his mind. He's not my student, he's not on my roster, and I am not accountable for his successes or failures..... but he's a child, and he has asked for my help. His teacher approached me in the faculty room last week to question why he comes to me for help. Telling me that she would love to send him to me during her class time with him because she's "known him since the 7th grade and he is a real ass".....and....."good luck with that kid Molly, I gave up on him a long time ago. He's not going anywhere, don't waste your energy." Well..... I told her that I don't give up on students and smiled politely while I walked away from her so as not to hit her. This student is a clown, and is easily distracted. But, with a little patience and a quiet atmosphere he's a hard worker who knows his limitations and asks for help when necessary. There's not much more we can ask for. But really......... I'm an educator and he is a student. It is my responsibility to teach. A doctor cannot drive by the scene of an accident without stopping to see if their is anything they can do to help, should a teacher be allowed to so easily shrug off her responsibilities and write a student off for lost?

I am so disenchanted with...... not my profession, but with the "professionals" in it. Is it just because I am so new that I haven't become jaded yet? Teachers come up to me in the hallway and say things like "How's it going ready to run screaming from the building yet? We have some really terrible students here." IN FRONT OF THE KIDS! Or they will poke their heads in my classroom in the middle of my lessons to say things like "Oh! I'm sorry. Is there learning going on in here today? I thought Miss Willis was every one's favorite teacher just because shes so ___________________" (insert word of the day here: fun, hot, easy going, young, etc) and yes......this has happened more than once in the few weeks I have been working at my current job.

...And when students come to me and say "Miss Willis can you help me on my math (science, social studies, Spanish) homework because Mr/Mrs So-and-So said I would never be able to learn how." It breaks my heart. There is hope for each child that wants to learn, and turning away a child that has a question or an idea is horrible. I don't think that every person can do well in school, I do NOT believe that every kid is going to graduate, I think that we should fail kids that fail to do their work, I think that there should indeed be children "left behind"......but I think it's a crime to stop trying. I think that when we stop feeling empathy and stop striving for successes for all our students then we stop being educators. I think that tenure and unions are ruining the education system and that we need to be able to fire teachers that no longer do their jobs.

Is it me? Am I alone in feeling this way? Am I really too ________________ (young, naive, inexperienced, idealistic, hopeful, caring, etc) to become a successful and good teacher? Or....are there any good teachers left out there?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Oh.... dear.

Me: OK guys so Shakespeare was from England, and he spent most of his adult life in London. Where's London?

Random kids: "Canada?" "France" "Is it that place in Australia that they always show on TV with the weird white theater thingy with all the pointy parts?"

Me: Are you serious? Who's your social studies teacher?

Student B: It's in France I know it is. London is in France!

Student A: No it's not. It's in England.

B: Whatever same thing.

A: yeah, that they're both in Europe.

B: I thought you said London was in England. Now you're saying its in Europe.

Me: Stop! London is a city, on the island which is England, on the continent of Europe, on planet Earth, stuck in the milky way, in a universe that we cannot measure.

B: Wait. What's a continent?


Needless to say, when I came home from school, and poured myself a glass of wine, and sat down to watch tv only to hear the president say: We need to raise standards and raise graduation rates. I wanted to get him on the phone and give him a piece of my mind.....

Those 2 things are completely contradictory. 100%. If we raise standards then gradutation rates will drop. AND THEY SHOULD. Children are getting passed along and not learning ANYTHING.

Thats like..... Lets say that there was a new rule saying that in order to eat dinner tonight you had to run a 10 minute mile. Many, many people would be able to eat dinner. Now lets raise the standards a little. In order to eat dinner tomorrow, you have to run a 4 minute mile. How many people do you think will be eating dinner tomorrow?

If you cannot meet standards you will fail. If you cannot lift 10 lbs and someone tells you to pick up your car. You will fail. And thats ok. Only those really huge, ugly guys on TV are supposed to lift cars.

I feel like we are making a joke of the education system. A certain suburban school district near Rochester boasts a 100% graduation rate.....well, I taught there....and lets just say that all their sutdents are not rocket scientists. How is this possible? Why do we just let kids float along through life? What are we teaching them? That mediocre is ok? That things will always just be handed to them? That life is easy?

It just seems like such a disservice. To kids, to society, to our country. It makes me sad and angry at the same time.

I need more wine.