February 19, 2014

Musings of a Newbie Teacher

It's true; I've completely put off writing a post about the latest events in the realm of teaching. The reason for that is simply because SO much has happened in such a short period of time! Two months  ago, I said goodbye to my precious 10th graders (yes, sophomores can definitely be precious, despite popular opinion; it was a new idea to me, too) and graduated with my bachelor's degree, becoming a fully certified teacher.

Oh my land. I could not have asked for a better student teaching experience. I want to post all of the pictures of my kids and their sweet goodbye notes so I can brag brag brag on them for days and days and days, but alas.


After finally accepting the fact that I wouldn't be teaching my wonderful sophomores or spending each day with my amazing mentor teacher, time seemed to pick up pace once again. Within the span of eight days, I applied for, interviewed for, accepted, and began a position teaching 6th and 8th grade English Language Arts at an inner-city middle school (and to be honest, five of those days were spent simply waiting for the district to get its act together and call me after I had accepted the job). Then, on January 15, I went into the district's main offices for my "on-boarding" session, meaning that they threw a bunch of information at me for about two hours. After that, I went to my school around lunchtime in order to "meet my students" and "see my classroom." Lo and behold, I actually started teaching that day! This was the view from my desk after my crazy 6th graders sprinted from the building...


This past month of teaching has been a complete whirlwind.

Let me give you a very quick summary of my job specifics:
  • I have two hours of 8th graders, and three hours of 6th graders. I said that I would never teach below 8th grade... I was wrong, but I was oh, so right that I should not do so, sweet as they are.
  • I'm the third teacher this year for my kids... that adds a lot of issues. 
  • My room is ghetto; it gets broken into and tagged (vandalized with gang signs) semi-frequently, although I have yet to experience this personally. I'm in the oldest portable in the school.
  • I have 8 windows in my room: two have been busted, two are covered with broken blinds, one is covered with the only curtain remaining after vandalism. I've covered the bottom half of 4 of the windows that face the school in order to minimize distractions.
  • I have no technology in my room (aside from a loaned laptop that only sometimes gets internet access), and very limited supplies. The fight for ANY kind of paper is a constant battle.
  • The majority of my students don't bring a backpack to class... or paper... or a pencil.  
  • I have 4 white kids, 2 black kids, and the rest of my kids are Hispanic.They are a very talkative culture by nature, and community is a big deal.
  • I have A TON of ELL (English Language Learner) students. A lot. I can't even keep track of who they are... there are so so many.
  • My 8th graders ran off their last teacher by personally attacking her items and making threats against her.
  • My name is "Miss." My name is very rarely "Mrs. Womack."
  • I love love love my principals, and there are some wonderful teachers that I get to call coworkers.
  • In School Suspension, Out of School Suspension, and Long Term Suspension are all very common. At one point last week, I had 14 students out of class because they fell into one of the above camps. Today, I filled out Education Plans for 5 students - AKA I gave work to students who will be out for 10 or more days. One of those students won't be back this year.
  • Some students adore me (including many who are not in my classes). Some students loathe me. Polar opposites.







The Lord above blessed me with nearly a week of no students; between snow days, cold days, and parent teacher conference days, I only saw my students ONE day that week. It was frustrating, especially with testing coming up, but good gracious I needed that break to catch up! I wasn't complaining one iota.

This week has been difficult for a lot of reasons. Really difficult. Lordy, it's only Wednesday. I've had some good moments, but I mostly feel like I'm drowning in classroom management issues, mostly with my 6th graders. Add the amount I've worried about my students' welfare on various fronts this week, and I'm ready to throw in the towel. Teaching can be so heavy.

To be honest, I'm ready to crawl into my bed and stay there until my (two week) spring break.

Maybe the emotions of teaching go in cycles. I started out excited, quickly became completely overwhelmed and stressed, eventually mellowed out again and regained my positive attitude, and have come full circle to the point of being overwhelmed and exhausted again.

I miss my mentor teacher. I miss my former students. I miss my former school. I miss not having to fight for paper. I miss not having a 1000 copies/month limit. I miss having the ability to play a YouTube video to introduce a subject. I miss being able to use PowerPoint to present my lesson. I miss not losing internet access every 2 minutes (that is not an exaggeration). I miss not having to walk outside every time I need to go to the office, restroom, library, copy machine, etc. I miss a lot of things.

I know that I'm just going through the growing pains of being a new teacher. I know that it will get better. I know that the students will most likely get better and more accustomed to what is expected of them in my classroom as time goes on. That being said, these growing pains are still really painful.

Alright, alright. That's enough whining. Time for a chuckle. I'll leave you with this happy moment from Monday (which I put on my Facebook):

Scene - 
I was covering another class during my plan period, and I had to wrangle a few of my 6th grade boys into behaving.
I gave a "look" to one of them, meaning that they better get crackin' and do as I say by raising an eyebrow (I can't remember if I had a smirk on my face or not).
Said student used his fingers to raise his eyebrow back at me.
I'm sure this says something about my teacher "look" and other things, but I'd rather mark it as jesting between student and teacher... and leave it at that!