The Life of Bon: A story of unbalance

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A story of unbalance

I don't know what's going on with this school year.  It's absolutely bonkers.

I guess I've felt a bit "off" working every other day.  Don't get me wrong, the part time gig is amazing.  I am so grateful that I can work one day and then be at home one day.  I get to still teach and be involved in these kids' lives without completely losing my head.  (Some people can work full time while they have kids and, gosh, I respect that. I cannot. I think I would pull out my hair and have a mental breakdown and then probably shoot my husband because the dishwasher hasn't been emptied in a week and the Gatsby tests still aren't graded.)

That being said, I can't quite figure out how to master the balance of school days with home days.  Take yesterday for example.  Greg didn't have rehearsal after school so we drove to school together which already kind of upset what little routine there was.  One block away from the school I had one of those awful, gasping, "oh my gosh I forgot the breast milk at home!" realizations.  (Which has now happened to me three times. It's great! I drive all the way to school to realize I have no food to leave June with at daycare and I certainly can't run down in the middle of class to feed her.)  Greg has his prep second period so he said he would go get the milk then.  But in the meantime I needed to top June off to make sure she wasn't hungry before he could bring the milk.  Which is a really weird thing to say, don't you think?  That you are going to top off a baby?

That meant my morning time to grade the notebooks was shot and instead I sat in the daycare and tried to feed a baby who had just eaten an hour ago.  I ran up to my classroom where first period started in a blaze of glory and ended with me telling a student he was not welcome to enter my class again until he had a guardian with him to discuss his behavior. This year I have had more discipline problems then I ever have in teaching. I don't know if kids are getting worse each year, if I'm getting stricter, or if it's just a particularly rebellious group of kids that I got this year.  (Or maybe some kind of perfect storm combination of all three?)  I am teaching the same subject I have taught for five years so my lesson planning is a freaking cake walk.  That leaves all my spare energy to handle kids who sluff class, kids who copy each other's tests, kids who bring their parents in with them to beg for an extra week to hand their stuff in.  I'm at my wit's end with the kids!

I've said it before and I still believe that the trick to "surviving" teaching is to focus your energy on the good kids.  The ones who want you there. To let the kids who want to fail, fail.  If you put all your energy toward the rebellious, the apathetic, the helicopter parents (or worse, the administrative policies, the evaluation systems, the "next big thing" in education) you will lose your stamina quickly and be one of the many teacher  burn outs.

But this year it seems harder than ever to focus my energy on the good kids because the rebellious apathetic helicopters are so insistently demanding my time. And that's one thing about good kids- they don't demand. So they don't get my energy. The others do.  What is a good teacher to do?!

The day continued in a blur of craziness.  Greg went home to get the milk.  I tried to pump during my third period prep to hold June off in the afternoon only to discover that I had also left key breast pump parts at home.  So no pumping for me!  It had been over four hours since I had fed June and it was starting to get  uncomfortable painful so I ran down to the daycare hoping June would relieve me.  Well, June had taken the bottle an hour ago that Greg had gone to get her so she wasn't a bit hungry. (ARE YOU STILL FOLLOWING THIS MADNESS?!)  But I couldn't carry on this way so I pretty much forced June to take any milk she could from me to which she reacted by spitting it up all over me!  Touche, June!  The whole "relief- from- my- full- of- milk- breasts" didn't really happen but I was hoping it was enough to last me until 3:00 when I could get home and properly feed.

When I got back to my classroom for what was left of my prep period the vice principal was waiting for me to talk about the first period situation.  I have documented every time I have had a problem with this student, just like I should. (Seven different incidents into our school discipline system from me.  SEVEN.)  I have emailed and called guardians.  I have followed all the proper procedures and now I want the student out of my class.  I have tried!  I really have!  But he is not going to change, he's not going to respect the classroom rules, and he is disrupting the learning of everyone around him.  Like my principal says, I'm not Jesus.  I'm not going to leave the 99 to reach out to the 1.  I am going to sacrifice the 1 to help the 99 because right now the 99 are suffering because the 1 is taking all my time and energy.  The 1 needs to go.

The weirdest thing is that the kid desperately wants to stay in the class.  He likes it and he says he likes me.  But then he blatantly refuses to follow classroom rules and when I try to make him he storms out of class and doesn't come back.  Then he shows up the next day like everything is as perfect as a summer morning.  One of my teacher friend said yesterday during lunch that all discipline problems are solved as soon as students accept that you are the alpha.  There is no power struggle.  You have the power.  Stop fighting for it.  I think she's right.  The main reason I have so many problems with this kid is that he is constantly fighting for control of the class.  Just accept that I am the alpha, kid!

My VP essentially told me that I can't get the student out of my class.  That is just dumping the problem on someone else.  I understand that.  But then why should the student be allowed in class at all?  He's 17- why are we forcing him to come to classes for which he refuses to obey rules and follow the procedures?  I know education is supposed to be available to everyone, but do we really need to force students who refuse to follow any of the school rules?  Education is a privilege and if you can't follow the rules like the rest of the students then shouldn't you lose that privilege?  Are there no real consequences?  The consequence should be that he can't be in my class and he can't be in any English class and so he has to pay for English packets to get his credits and do those at home because he's not welcome at the school because he can't follow any rules.

The day ended in a whirlwind of me chewing out fourth period students who 1) never come to class on time and 2) come to class every damn day wearing hats even though I ask them every damn day to take off their hats.  Seriously, what is with the power struggle this year?  FOLLOW THE RULES YOU FOOLS.  Then suddenly the bell rang, Greg was up in my room with a hungry baby ready to go home, and I was released from school until after Thanksgiving.  Hip Hip Hooray!

And of course, the burning question... will I make it to Christmas?!


+ I read this stunning birth story one night this week when I was feeling frustrated and lonely and completely overwhelmed. I cried and cried and I felt the beauty of birth all over again.  It almost makes me want to try a home birth.  Almost.

+ Is it time to get our holiday cook on yet?  I can't wait to try these peppermint oreo balls.  It's live heaven.  In a ball.

+ I love these 103 random acts of kindness.  This week I am going to try the "compliment strangers" and the "bring in snacks for coworkers.

+ This post on "living with giants" humbled and strengthened me. "Maybe it’s not doubt. Maybe it’s comparison. I look around at all of these women who have their partner, who come home to their forever, and I wonder what they have that I don’t?" 

+ And lastly, Time Magazine thinks teachers are a bunch of rotten apples.  Do you agree?  And should I take offense?

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