Saturday, September 24, 2016

Another View on Why Teachers are Leaving the Profession

As most of you know, we started the school year at The School, with two unfilled teaching positions.  We are nearly finished with our first nine weeks grading period and we just, finally, filled one of the positions (a special education slot dealing with our kids with emotional and behavior issues) but the seventh grade science position is still open.  Rumor has it there may be a candidate for it, but nothing concrete at this point.

So, I got to wondering if it was just my district (my building isn't the only one with open teaching positions) or the State, or what.  So I started cruising some of the educational blogs and websites I read and stumbled across this gem.

You must read these.

I basically want to find this woman and hug her and scream, "Yes!  What she said!" because she freaking NAILED IT.

Read these.  Read them now.

Full Circle - Or When Your Big Brother Kicks Your Ass

About ten years ago I had a kid who just tore my room apart with his behavior.  He was a mess.  Smart as hell, but mouthy, and lazy and just off the chart disruptive.  He spent a lot of time in ISS and suspended and generally broke my heart because I knew he had it in him to be more than he was.

And then he went to high school, joined JROTC and it changed his life.  His sophomore year he came back and apologized to me and his other teachers for being such a jerk when we had him (and that, my friends, in 14 years, is the only kid who has done that).  We've kept in touch, mainly through FaceBook, and now he's in the military, engaged to a nice girl, and is doing great.  The turnaround was remarkable.

In any case, last week, I got a call from Principal Cool that an 8th grader was coming my way for the day and I recognized the last name and realized it was my former student's little brother.  When I opened the door and took one look at him, there was no doubt.  They are dead ringers for each other.

"So you must be Former Brat's little brother," I say when I introduce myself.  "I had him about ten years ago when I was teaching science."

"Oh he was horrid, wasn't he?" Little Brother said.  "I remember my parents always getting on him for stuff in school.  He's in New York now,  He's in the Army" he volunteered.

So I get Little Brother processed, get him to his station, he gets out his work (a much better student than his big brother was, I noted) and he gets to work after we talk a bit about why he was there and how his grades were doing.

And then I sent Former Brat a message telling him that his little brother had landed in my room.  I figured he was at work, but thought he'd read it at lunch or something.

Ten minutes later, my phone dings.  I look at the screen.  "What's your phone number?" was what it said.

Oh boy.  Someone is gonna get a phone call.  I texted it back and five minutes later the phone rings.

"Hey, Mrs. Bluebird, it's Former Brat," he says. (It still cracks my up how my boys voices change so much after seventh grade).

"Well, gosh, it's nice to hear from you.  Just wish it hadn't been under these circumstances," I respond.

"Can I talk to Little Brother please?" he says.

"Of course," I say, and I hand Little Brother the phone.

The look on his face was priceless.  The look on the other kids' faces was nearly as good as you could almost read their minds.  (Crap!  She knows his older brother?  Wonder if she knows mine?)

Little Brother then spent about ten minutes on the phone getting his ass chewed out by his big brother (whom it was quite apparent he idolizes).  He was not enjoying the conversation at all.  At the end he handed it back to me.

"He wants to talk to you," he said.

So we chatted a bit, he wanted me to text him a report at the end of the day about Little Brother, and said our goodbyes.

I looked at Little Brother.

"Got your butt chewed, eh?" I said.

"Yeah," he responded.  "You didn't hear that did you?  Because if you did, I'm sorry.  He drops the F-bomb a lot,"

"No, we didn't hear that," I assured him.

"Are you gonna tell him I was good?" he asked.

"Maybe.  Depends on if you are or not."

"I'm gonna be," he said.  "He's gonna call Dad tonight, too."

Little Brother was awesome.  Former Brat got a text.  I even told Little Brother, on his way out the door at the end of the day, that he was a lot better than Former Brat ever had been.

That earned me a smile, and dang, if he didn't look just like his older brother with that big toothy grin!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Why No One Wants to Teach

So Yellow Rose posted a comment (Hi there! Yellow Rose!) about my previous post about substitute teaching, money, testing and silliness in general.   And her comment was right on target:

"So is Awesome Sub not interested in the full-time job, or does she not have the paper qualifications to get on full-time?  She sounds ideal."

The answer is....both.

Awesome Sub was pretty much offered the job as long as she took the Praxis and passed.  It was her's for the taking.

Except she really didn't want it.

Awesome Sub and I talked quite a bit over the few weeks she was here, and she really was awesome.  But she felt completely overwhelmed.   She had a Fifth Period Class From the Very Depths of Hell Itself (if I know most of the kids in the class from their stints in ISS as sixth graders, then you know it's a tough bunch).  And it was a class of 36.  And it was an inclusion class.  And even with an aide in there, They Would Not Be Quiet and Behave.  She told me the only time they got quiet was when I was in there and threatened to haul the lot of them off to ISS for several days.

And that was just the beginning.  She was overwhelmed by the time spent planning, and in meetings, and grading papers, and prepping for labs, and generally just all the things that go into being a teacher these days.  And she has her own middle school son and felt that she wasn't being the Mother to her own kid that she wanted, and he was being short-changed because of all the time she put into her job.

So she's actually applied for an Aide position, which is a lot less stress, and would still give her a steady paycheck and benefits.  And she can leave at 2:30 and take her own kid to his soccer games, and out to dinner after when they suffer a loss and he's upset, and help him do his homework.

I have noticed a trend the past few years with some of our staff - and I don't think our school is unique in this by any measure. Many teachers are leaving because the cost to stay is just too high in terms of emotional well-being.

One of our best sixth grade language arts teachers, who had rock star test scores, decided she had had enough and quit to stay home and being a mom to her kids.  She and her husband realize that money will be significantly tighter than when she was working, but now, instead of grading papers all night, she's spending time with her own kids.

Another rising star math teacher quit a few years ago and is now installing fencing.  He blames the hours and time put into his teaching job as a contributing factor in the break up of his marriage.  Now he has half the stress, makes about the same amount of money, and is able to spend a lot of time with his little girls.

I even had some serious thoughts about leaving myself a few years ago.  I was leaving school every day at 6:00 pm, spending all day Saturday grading and prepping, and was constantly being told it wasn't enough.  When I started teaching, lesson plans were written in a 3" square block in a lesson plan book.  Now we not only need weekly plans, typed, but daily plans, also typed,  which are so scripted they explain exactly what you're going to do and say during every minute of class - and can run to two pages long.  The hours, the stress, the pressure to get those almighty test scores was tremendous.

And along the way we forgot that these were kids, and not test scores.

If I hadn't been given the gift of ISS, I probably would be out of the profession by now.  I have a degree in business, and can run an office with one hand tied behind my back, so finding a job outside of the profession was feasible.  I was at the point where something had to give.

And then I was given ISS and decided to stay.  At least for a while.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Is It About the Kids or About Saving Money?

As you may have read, we currently have an opening for a seventh grade science position.  We are also heading into our fifth week of school and this position is unfilled.  This is a pretty big district, and they recruit heavily throughout the state and even go to job fairs Up North and elsewhere, but we still do not have a single applicant in the pool who is qualified and/or wants the job.

Which means, we've been skipping along using substitute teachers.  And yes, that's plural.

Our substitute program was brought in-house a few years ago, so the subs are now employees of the District.  Employees, yes, but without benefits.  And that's the way the District wants to keep it.  And since we have Obama Care, which would require the District to pay for their health insurance should they be considered full-time, the District has decided that substitutes can only work for 20 days before they have to take some time off.  I'm not sure how long they have to take off, however. 

So, at the beginning of the year, we had Mrs. Awesome Sub in for the seventh grade science position and man, she busted her tail and did a great job.  I would go and help her when I could, especially those first few days when I didn't have kids, and she was a gem.

And she had to leave after 20 days.

So then they got another sub.  I've never seen this man in the building before, but bless his heart, he should be home enjoying retirement and not dealing with obnoxious seventh graders.  He appeared to be in his 80's.  And as soon as I saw him, I knew that the kids on that team (who have been frequent flyers with me already) would chew him up and spit him out.  Which they did. I think he made it through one day.  

And now we're on to our third sub who actually retired from our building a few years ago because of the stress,  He's a great guy, a veteran, and he doesn't take any crap from the kids.  But like he said, if the stress gets too bad, he'll have to leave too.

So it begs the question...since school districts live, eat and breathe on test scores (as stupid as it is, that's the reality), wouldn't it make sense to have a good, qualified, substitute in there for the long haul, as opposed to changing them up every 20 days?  

But apparently that's not important.  Saving money is.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Kicking and Screaming

So one of my three readers asked me how I liked ISS and if I thought I'd go back to the regular classroom anytime soon.

Let me put it this way....we have a an opening, still, for a seventh grade science teacher.  It is currently being filled by substitutes because we cannot find anyone who is either qualified or who wants the job (I am so not kidding here).

I live in absolute fear that they will want me to go back to teaching seventh grade science and leave our Happy Little Portable.

So far, I don't think that's going to happen because I've got ISS running like a well-oiled machine and I'm actually pretty good at what I do.  And not everyone has the temperament to put up with the kids that tear apart other people's classrooms.  But still, a little part of me is praying every night that they find a teacher for that position and they never ask me to leave ISS.

I got into teaching to work with kids, and it's a lot easier to do that when there aren't 35 of them trying to get your attention.,  And when you're stuck with them for an entire day (or two, or three, or...).  And I do good with the kids that are less than perfect.  Not sure why that is, but maybe it's because I'm a bit of a snarky bitch and I have a pretty infantile sense of humor.

Regardless.  I love ISS.  I don't want to leave.  It's a great gig.  Sure, there are things that can be annoying.  Like teachers who don't send work, kids who don't get with my program, and air conditioners that don't work, but I also don't have to grade papers or do lesson plans.

Let's face it, I get to hang out with some pretty entertaining kids all day long.  And that's kinda fun.

So if they ask me to go back to seventh grade science, I will, because I'm a good soldier.  But believe me, I'll be kicking and screaming when I do.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Another Little Bird for My Nest

So last week the Enforcer came into our Happy Little Portable along with a little seventh grade girl.  What was odd was that he was simply showing her around the portable, acting like a tour guide,.  Usually when an administrator brings a kid out, they're madder than hell, and then they're dropped off.  The Enforcer introduced me to her and she was all sweet and bubbly and they left.

Okay that was weird.

About a half hour later the Enforcer called and filled me in what that little visit was about.  Apparently the young lady suffers from some major debilitating migraines to the point that she missed over 50 days of school last year and was eventually home bound.  She wants to be in school however (I mean, heck, she's a seventh grade's their social milieu) but we needed a plan.  Middle school noise is too much for her and the florescent lights aren't much better.  And she needs a place to catch up on work when she manages to make it back.

And so, the idea was to take her out to my room, which is usually pretty quiet, and to see if that was an environment she could deal with.  It was apparently, so they asked if I wouldn't mind having her come to my room during during homeroom, 1st and 2nd periods, and whenever she felt a headache coming on.  Considering she's quiet, a straight A student, and perfect, she's a nice little addition to our Happy Little Portable.  The best part is I put her in a station I NEVER put kids.  It's dark, in the corner, and the way the cubbies are built, it's impossible to see who is there without standing up and actually looking.  She can be there with her head down (which she sometimes has to do due to the headaches) or working and none of my regular customers are none the wiser.

So now I have a Sweet Little Bird as an addition to the nest.

I only hope she can manage to work in there when my regular customers start acting like idiots.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Hatchling Shows His True Feathers

Well, I may not be seeing the Hatchling again.  Which is fine with me.  Yet another example of why I should keep my mouth closed and not volunteer for anything.

He did pretty well this week until today.  Well if you can discount the battle over gum, kicking his desk, not doing work, and lying.  My favorite was when he decided he wanted to move his desk so i couldn't see him behind a partition.  Not going to work buddy. He didn't want me watching him and by golly I was going to watch him.

Today was yet another day.  Came in with gum.  Told him to spit it out.  He didn't (he faked it) and then I busted him out and he lied and FINALLY spit it out.  (I'm usually not such a gum freak but it was a wad that made him look like he had chewing tobacco in and he snapped it which is aggravating.  And I have carpet.)  Said he didn't have any work.  Had him show me his agenda where he had written "nothing" for all his classes.  Sadly he apparently is one of those kids who don't seem to think that teachers actually talk with each other and I mentioned that I happened to know for a fact that he had science and social students homework.

"No I don't," he said.

"Really?  That's not what your teachers said when they emailed me earlier."

"But it's done."

"Show me."

He brought it up and it was, of course, not finished.  Not even started.  Told him he needed to do it.  He didn't have a book.  One of my regular kids was using my copy of the book so I sent him in the building to his locker to get his social studies book.  So he got his science book.  (This kid isn't stupid by any means...sneaky and very capable of doing things so he doesn't have to do what you want him to.)

So since he brought his science, he worked on that.  But instead of that, he decided to mess with the globe on the shelf above his desk.  Then he kicked at his desk.  And then he carved the word "savage" into the wall of the cubicle next to him.

"Well that's interesting," I said when I saw the vandalism.  "Did you do that?"  

"Yes," he admitted.  

"Oh good, well, let's get a picture," I said as I took out my phone.  At that point, once I was photographing it, he decided that maybe he didn't do it.  By this time I was done playing his games, had my own kids to deal with, and just walked away and wrote him up for vandalism.  He kicked at his desk for the remaining 15 minutes.  The other kids ignored him best they could.  

I did tell the Guidance Goober and Coach Cool that I was done.  I didn't want him back.  He is too high maintenance for me to deal with him every second of the time he's there to make sure he's not into something he shouldn't be, talking back, engaging my own kids, whatever.  And even though he's supposed to act as an aide, I don't trust him unsupervised in the building.  He lies too much.  And after spending quite a few hours this summer repainting the cubicles, I didn't appreciate the vandalism.  My busiest times of the day are in the morning and in the afternoon when I'm processing kids and their work in and out of ISS.  I don't have an aide this year in the afternoon to help me, and I just don't need the additional aggravation.

Not sure what the final result will be, but Coach Cool pulled him off the bus and was marching him to the front office last I saw.

So this is what happens when you open your mouth in a meeting.  I think I'm done volunteering for a while.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

When Your Behavior Defies Logic

So T, my kid who can't say his own name, was in my class for disrespect.Which isn't all that unusual with our population.  There are some mouthy, rude kids out there.

But you have to wonder about a brand new sixth grader who decides to get lippy with Coach Mean, all 6'5", 300 lbs of him.  Seriously, this guy is huge and he never, ever cracks a smile. And this was the teacher T decided to get rude with.

Makes you wonder about T's common sense or lack thereof.  He obviously doesn't have a strong sense of survival.

Anyhow, T was in there this week with my group of 7th grade trouble makers and had a real difficult time following directions.  He did fine the first day, but by the second day, every time I told him to do something I got the eye roll, the "Ohmygod", and back talk. This wasn't going to fly.  And I noticed he didn't have his contract turned in so I decided to pull out the big guns.

I called Momma.

In front of everyone.

So I got Momma on the phone and asked about the contract, which she claimed to have never seen.  I informed her that it needed to be signed and returned so he could get out of ISS and she asked me to send another one.  I then casually mentioned that I was having a problem with T's rudeness and disrespect and was considering adding an additional day to his time in ISS.

Stunned silence out of every other kid in the portable as they were all listening and you could almost see the thought bubbles above their heads..."Oh shit, she's called his mom and now she may be adding extra days!"

Momma wanted me to put T on the phone, which I gladly did.  And then I could hear her yelling at him for about five minutes.  The rest of the kids pretended not to be listening and acted like they were doing work, but you know what they were focused on!

He finally gave me the phone back.  Momma told me to expect an apology and she wanted me to text her at the end of the day to ensure I got it and to let me know how he behaved.

I got my apology, he shut up, and was perfect.  The other kids spent the rest of the day acting a little nervous, wondering when their mother wasn't going to get called.

Gotta love it.

P. S.  Since I was asked...T and Hatchling, although both sixth graders, are two different boys.

The Hatchling Pops an Attitude

So my little Hatchling had a pretty good week until Wednesday.  He'd been coming to our class sixth period, ran the very few errands I had for him, and showed me a completed agenda with his work complete.  No attitude, was fairly quiet, did his thing.  However, I was starting to worry a bit that this kid never seemed to have work so emailed his teachers to find out if he was missing anything.

He did have some incomplete work from School Dad (who runs our in house alternative school and who is big and bald and scary and coaches football and is a fantastic math teacher).  School Dad is doing a related arts class for our top behavior problems in all three grades to teach them how to "do School" and my Hatchling, with his record, is in one.  Hatchling is NOT happy about this.

On Thursday, Hatching came and brought his attitude with him.  By this time I was starting to get my Seventh grade trouble makers and it was a bit more chaotic in there than the Hatchling was used to.  So of course he wanted to talk to them, and then got snippy when I told him he couldn't.

He then got to work on a word search for School Dad, and wasn't happy when I gave him some incomplete work School Dad had put in my box.

"I did that," Hatchling said.

"Oh really?  Then why was it given back to me?  It doesn't look done?"  I asked.

"I did that.  They're lying if they said I didn't."  He replied.

Oh great.  He's having one of THOSE days.

And it went on from there.  He insisted that he technically wasn't in ISS (I silently said "yet") so he didn't have to follow ISS rules.  This was his study hall so he could do what he wanted.  He also hated being here and wanted to be back in regular study hall with the aide that he clashed with the 2nd day of school.  (Yeah, right, lets see how that works, kid).  He was going to start skipping and didn't care if that means he got a write up and got sent to alternative school.  And it went on from there.

I basically ignored him, especially as he wasn't loud about it, and let him keep whining and complaining.  Whatever.  I sent a message to Guidance Goober and was asked to document all of this, which I did.  I was thrilled when the bell rang and the Hatchling went back to his homeroom to annoy them.

So imagine my surprise at Open House when there's a knock on my door and I answer it to see the Hatchling and his dad on my doorstep.

Seriously.  Hatching was perfect.  Dad said he'd heard from all the other teachers that I'd offered to help him out and wanted to meet me and thank me.  Had a nice visit.  I showed Hatching his new desk which he claimed to like a lot better (in the far reaches of my room where I can still keep an eye on him, but he won't bother anyone, I hope).  Dad was happy.

I didn't see Hatchling on Friday because he got dismissed, but I ran into School Dad who informed me that Hatchling is being HORRID in his class so he was setting up a parent meeting with all involved for Friday.  I can't wait.

Call Me T

So the other day I got my very first sixth grader, a boy with a first name that held 17 letters, and I couldn't for the life of me figure out how to say it.  Seriously.  I've seen some crazy names over the years, but this one defied all laws of phonics.

So, I sat down with my newcomer and went through my orientation to ISS with him, and asked him what he went by (because I was thinking no way kids could say this name).

"Call me T," he said.

"Okay, good, I can do that.  But out of curiosity, just how do you say your name?" I asked.

He giggled.  "I don't know," he said.


You can't make this shit up.

The Insanity of Seventh Grade Boys

We managed to finally get back to Our Happy Little Portable after about the fifth time the district AC guys came down and FINALLY fixed our AC.  They also finally fixed the AC in the core part of the building.  Not sure what the hold up was (I have my suspicions but I will be nice) but it's nice that it's finally done.

And I didn't even get the stupid mobile hung up yet.

In any case, I've been busier than I expected with seventh graders.  Oddly, I haven't had a single 8th grader yet (and the 8th grade teachers are exclaiming with much joy about how awesome this group of 8th graders is which is beyond strange considering their horrible behavior as 7th graders).  And I have one 6th grader which, considering how they are clamping down on the Sixth Grade Class From the Very Depths of Hell Itself, is not surprising.  They aren't giving them much time to get in trouble.

Seventh grade however, is in rare form.

I have had not one, not two, but three pairs of boys who apparently can't behave at lunch and try to start fights with each other.  So it's a juggling act remembering who can't be by who and who got in a fight with who and so forth.  But being boys, after about a day or two they're okay with each other.  If it were girls, that would be another story.  But still, apparently there's something going on with seventh grade lunch, and in particular, with this team of kids.  Mr. Math has his hands full with this bunch because all of them have come from his team.

And they're a high maintenance, squirmy, bunch, and shock of shocks, I know most of them because they landed with me in sixth grade.

I have them with me through Monday.  And then they'll be off, back to their classes.  But I have a feeling I'll be seeing all of them again. Soon.