Sunday, November 3, 2013

11 Weeks In

(warning: if you are a seasoned teacher person, you'll probably find this boring and annoying, new teachers please head my warnings and read)

Here I am at 11 weeks into the school year. The fact that I am doing what I went to college for is still a little surreal. I have learned many things from my very very short teaching experience thus far. I came into this year thinking that one of two things would happen:
1. I would rock the school, district, state, country and maybe world with my crazy teaching methods and wild information (think Miss Squirrel from Bad Teacher). Kids and teachers alike would love me. I would basically eat from the golden apple and crowds would follow me like the new messiah. 
2. I would crash and burn like a bad blimp into an oil rig. I have heard so many horror stories of students threatening, abusing, breaking and harassing first year teachers. They go home every night crying. They are so overwhelmed they can't eat or sleep. They hit rock bottom before they either climb back out of the depths of booger wiping and fire extinguishing hell or they drop their job like a curly mullet in 2013 and run for their lives. 

I am happy say I am somewhere right in the middle. (probably closer to the crashing and burning because the first option is ridiculous)
I enjoy my co workers most of the time, for the most part, my students are excellent and bright. I haven't been extremely overwhelmed yet, and I've not cried for anything at this point other than pride in them for doing something amazing. Here's the breakdown on what I've learned in these short and fast weeks:

1: Bullying 
Bullying is not the literal shoving and swirly giving that we see on so many shows. Bullying in my classroom has been displayed in my 8th graders ganging up on one person (a different person often times as the day or minute or milisecond before). It is hard to explain without watching it in action, but it is heartbreaking. They break their peers down in the most personal ways. They have the ability to do so because the school and community is so small they know everything about each other. The bullied are not always the ones who tell their parents about it. They are not usually the kids who go to the principal's office every day for being harassed or made fun of. They are the ones who don't say anything and think that this is just their life and it will always be this way. I want them to know this is not how life will always be. I didn't have the greatest high school experience (it wasn't horrible or anything) but I never really felt like I always belonged to a group. So pay attention to the kids who try to help you out and identify when you are having a hard day. They will sit a little closer, come up to your desk or ask you a million questions. These are the ones who need to lean on you, don't be afraid to lean on them a little, too. Kids love to feel needed, just like teachers.

2: Teachers Bullying 
This does happen, probably not shockingly. I have a co worker that my students have filled me in on how she bullies them. Nothing makes me more upset than when someone who is meant to protect these kids is the one administering the hurt. Shame on them. All I can say about this is Karma. I'm a firm believer. 
Some teachers will try to knock you down and downplay your ideas and feelings because you are a first year. Don't ever let this get you down. You were chose over other applicants and the education panel saw something in you that they didn't see in the others. Everyone started out where you are. Screw them for not remembering that. 

3: Not all lessons learned in the classroom are academic 
I know what this sounds like. I am a CTE teacher so of course my subject is not "academic" in the way that math and English are. This is the good ole' cheerleaders are not athletes argument. I have had people tell me that I teach home ec, therefore I am not a REAL teacher. People have had the audacity to tell my husband that about me. I went to school for the same amount of time. I worked hard. 
Not to mention, we CTE teachers are teaching life skills. I still remember the things I learned in HS FCS and AG. Most things, actually. I'm not saying you don't need math. Each subject is part of a well-rounded individual of society, which is what we are trying to produce.
The other aspect of this is: I try to teach my kids about character. Honesty, friendship, acceptance, forgiveness, trustworthiness, hard work, and love. I don't mean in the pillars of character way we do state wide. I mean real life situations. You said something rude to your neighbor? Write them a letter apologizing. You did something you're not proud of? Learn to forgive yourself. You can never give too much. Always keep your word. These are the things I want my kids to leave with. If they don't remember that high density lipoprotein  is the "good" cholesterol in a year, that's ok. I want them to remember how they were taught to be open minded people.

4: Homework and other things
I am still not convinced I am doing this right. Do I assign enough? Too much? Do I know the content as well as I should? Am I asking them to do things I wouldn't do myself? Am I always as fair as I could be? Do I talk like the other teachers? Am I always as "teachery" as I should be? Am I too personal? Am I not personal enough? Am I organized enough? Does my classroom look weird? Am I balancing tests, assignments, labs etc. evenly? 
I don't know.
Probably not. 
I am human. Teachers are human. Acceptance is something I teach my students, so I think it is time I practice what I preach. I won't be perfect this year, or any year. But we aren't born knowing how to walk and talk, all things come in time. 

5: Special Education
If you would have told me a year ago that I would be standing outside of a bathroom holding a timer and reminding a kid to flush I would have not believed you. I took an aide position a few afternoons a week to supplement the fact that I am part time. I'll be honest. The first day was awful. I was terrified and dreaded the next day. But every day has fulfilled my life more than I could have ever imagined. My student that I aide has taught me so many life lessons it never stops amazing me. I am lucky enough to see his progress and education every single day.   I will never forget this chapter of my life and the importance of it. I know God did this on purpose, and I am forever thankful.  Nothing fixes a bad day like him needing to hold my hand because he is feeling nervous or needs to be comforted. 

Overall, I love this job so far. I think that's pretty evident. 
Note: I am aware that catastrophes could still take place. I pray they are not knife, sewing machine or fire related.