Punched in the Mouth

If I had to explain what it feels like to be a teacher I would say it feels like getting punched in the mouth 94 times in a row and you know that it’s only going to happen 86 more times. The first few weeks you still think you can take it because you’ve got all this adrenaline and you were excited to get into the fight and show what you are made of. It never seems to ease up though. 

After being punched 94 times you just start to feel numb. I think your brain must be a powerful thing if it can shut out how awful you truly feel without you having to tell it to. So eventually, you just feel numb and you wander around all dizzy and fuzzy and you try by gosh but ultimately you are left at the end of each day more fuzzy and dizzy than before. 

I once compared it to trying to put out multiple fires with a Dixie cup but it goes further than that. Putting out fires can be accomplished. You see when one fire goes out. You can see the difference. With punches you never know what side it’s coming from and it leaves you aching and empty. Fuzzy and dizzy. There’s always another one coming and it doesn’t take much effort to throw a punch. Starting a fire takes time and materials. Throwing a punch takes neither. 

It isn’t just sitting at desk, grading papers, and teaching lessons. It’s never sitting down, forgetting to eat lunch, grading papers, writing lessons, posting the lessons, having to justify teaching those lessons, making groups, rearranging those groups, looking at test scores and re-rearranging those groups, calling parents, meeting with parents, having to improvise, changing the lessons every evening before you leave and changing them again once you get to school in the morning, walking on eggshells, keeping track of 26 iPads, making sure every student turns in every paper even when you complete seven papers throughout the day (that’s 182 pages I have to sort through to make sure that one student turned one of them in), keeping track of how many times each student has used the restroom today. It’s coming in to school at 7:00, staying until 4:00, and going home to do work until you go to bed. It’s waking up at 2:43 every morning and panicking over lesson plans, data, testing, consequences, are you really doing what’s best, is what’s best for this one best for the group, are you going to have a job in five months because of budget cuts or student test scores, is one of your students going to injure another today, will the parent you emailed show up at school unannounced the next day and shout at you in front of your class, will they even care? What happens if it really is my fault that everything is going wrong? What should I be doing better? Who can I trust that will tell me the truth? Where did I go wrong today? What if the students don’t improve at all and I have wasted a year of thier education? 

The terrible sad truth is that you can’t just stop thinking these things or doing too much work. You have no choice. What will happen to the kids if you stop? Clearly there are very few people fighting for this one. How can I give up on them too? 

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A Kid in a Trash Can 

My struggle as a teacher continued today as one of my students managed to get herself stuck in the trash can in our classroom. She claimed to have fallen in but being honest, this is not Mean Girls and people don’t just fall into trash cans. 

It was incredibly frustrating that my students might beat each other up and call each other names constantly but the second someone makes a big deal about falling in the trash they suddenly care. They all wanted to try to help her out. Well pulling her out is not going to work. This is something you have to get yourself out of. 

The other students were making such a huge deal about pulling her out she was enjoying the attention and I was about to loose it on her. Well, I didn’t have to because low and behold here is the principal standing in the door way. Way to go, Miss Haley… 

Then, this afternoon the principal came by for a surprise observation. Whether this was planned on her part or spurred by my inability to keep my students off the floor and out of the trash can. I do not know how the results of my observation will be expressed to me but my guess is it will be on the following scale-

A- Aw shoot, this girl stinks 

B- bad… Just bad…

C- crap she has no idea what she’s doing 

D- darn, we should not have hir d this one

F- the f- word… 

I imagine somewhere on that scale will be where I fall. I am not looking forward to that conference. Not one bit… 

An Indoor Outdoor-Recess 

Mistakes were made today… We decided to let the students play in the gym for recess because it rained all morning and we assumed that at least one student from every class would try to swim in the bid puddle on the blacktop. Letting them run around in the gym was trouble though. 

Basically, it was like taking a jar of bees and shaking it. We stuffed the entire fourth grade into half of the gym and gave them dodgeballs… They just beat the crap out of each other for 30 minutes and then came up to the other teacher and I and complained about how everyone was playing unfairly… 

There is not a lot I can do about an uneven game of dodgeball, hon. It kind of just is what it is. 

Mud Pie with Sprinkles On It 

Today was like a mud pie with sprinkles on it. The whole day the kids were there, they were aweful. They didn’t stop talking all day long! No matter what I did they just kept doing whatever they wanted. They were running around the room  during inside recess, pushing each other at the pencil sharpener, shouting across the room while I was teaching. I sent 6 notes home. They would just not stop. I even spent 10 minutes talking to them about their behavior. It was outrageous! Mean Miss Haley definitely showed up but even her methods proved not to work on this particular day. To be completely honest, I have nearly started thinking of myself as Mean Miss Haley all the time. I guess I am fine with it. I am not going to loose sleep over being mean all the time. 

I hope that this is the final push and after this they will realize I mean what I say and they are not going to get away with nonsense like that. I doubt it but I hope. So over all, the day was about as great as getting a great big mud pie instead of a cake. 

Then after school there was a situation on the bus with one of my students and two other teachers, whom I like very much, told me about it. I asked if I ought to go in the office and help deal with it and they basically told me that it happened on the bus so it was not my responsibility. As a joke, they told me to run. So, I turned and pretended to walk away. After a minute, we all ended up in one of the teacher’s rooms and talked about all the crazy stuff going on in our rooms and parents we all knew. It was really nice to talk with everyone. I know teaching is a pretty isolated job if you don’t consider mediating arguments between ten year olds stimulating and meaningful conversation.  

Turns out the teacher next to me is good friends with a couple of my high school friends. We talked about them and how in the past our paths have crossed because she came and saw a few of the shows I was in while I was in school. It made me feel a whole lot better about my day to hear form everyone else. Little steps toward belonging in this new and strange place like this conversation put a colorful coating on a pretty ick day. 

At least it had some sprinkles and wasn’t just a big pile of wet dirt!