Friday, December 05, 2008

The Bad and the Good

Sorry I've been lax in blogging the past couple of weeks. I've been so tired and have been working on Christmas crafts (that's a separate, upcoming post). This baby can show up at any time, and I want all my Christmas decorations done before then. I don't know why this is so important to me, but it is. Part of my nesting instinct, I suppose.

At any rate, school is as chaotic as ever. I came to work yesterday and collected my substitute folder. I had to spend Wednesday at another school for a professional development session, so I had a sub. It's always scary trying to figure out what the sub did and how the students may have treated the sub. My sub wrote me a note saying that most of the students were pretty quiet, although none did any work.

She didn't have any trouble until 9th period. A student came to class at 2:50. 9th period ends at 2:55. The sub told the kid that she could not mark him as present when he is that late. This made the kid irate -- he started yelling racist comments to her about white power and slavery and whatnot (the sub is white; the student is black).

I wrote up that student and took the form to the assistant principal, who said she would put him in in-school-suspension for the day. At least I would not have to put up with him for the day.

I made it to my lunch period, which is 7th period. I was just getting settled to eat my lunch when some student pulled the fire alarm. On the coldest day of the school year thus far. It used to be that when the fire alarm was pulled, the fire department showed up in a couple of trucks and inspected the building, but it would appear that the connection to the fire department has been severed, so when the alarm goes off, no one from the fire department shows up. I'm pretty sure this is illegal, and if we ever have a real fire, we are screwed.

But every time the fire department would show up, our school would get a hefty fine. So this is the solution they came up with. Neat, huh?

The alarm went off, the building was evacuated, and the kids had a big fight. We were just about to go back in the building when the alarm was pulled again. So we stood outside in the cold a bit longer. I was smart and got my coat and scarf before I left the building.

They finally let us back in and there were about four minutes of my lunch period left. I had eaten a salad and my yogurt, but nothing else. I managed to cram my cupcake in my mouth before the bell rang. I'd been thinking about that damn cupcake all day long!

The day ended at last, and I made my way to my car. Parking at my school is always an issue, because the lot the teachers use is also used by students. A disgruntled student broke my car window two years ago, and after that, I do not like parking there. Plus when it snows, they don't bother to clear the lot. Twice this week I've had to park in the lot, because you can't park on the street when it snows. Walking across the layer of ice is never fun, but it's even less fun when you are 34 weeks pregnant.

Yesterday I was able to park on the street, right in front of the school. I get in my car, and hear loud thumping noises. Students are throwing frozen snowballs at my car. While I am in it. One of these students is yelling at me. I look over at him (I don't know him) and he is asking me if I want some weed. He then shows me the joint he is smoking. Awesome.

I've been trying to think of good things that happen at work. Just to attempt to balance out some of the bad. I have two examples of positive interactions I've had recently, just so you won't feel too sorry for me!

I have a student in my sixth period class who is a good kid. He doesn't say much, but he's always on time and he is always respectful. He does his work, and he has an A in my class. At report card pickup, he and his mom came to talk to me. His mom was almost in tears, because this kid had never passed English before. She told me that he has spent the last two summers in summer school making up the English credit he had failed. I would have had no idea he had this trouble -- in my class he is great. So the fact that he is successful with me made me feel really good. I don't know if I should get any credit for his success, but I'm going to feel good about it, anyway.

My other success story is a student I'll call Dee. I had her last year in my 9th period sophomore English class. She was terrible in that class -- rarely came to class and when she did come, she was really late and would sit there listening to her headphones. Never did any assignments.

One afternoon I had had enough. I made her stay after class to discuss her grade and performance with me. She sat down with me and I asked her if she lived with her mom. She said she did. I asked her what her mom did for a living. She told me her mom cleaned hotel rooms for a hotel downtown.

I said, "Dee, this is not meant in any way to disparage your mom. But do you think that when your mom was a little girl, that she dreamed of cleaning hotel rooms? Do you think that's what she imagined she would be doing for a living?"

At that question, Dee started to cry. Which made me feel really bad. I got teary, too. I told her that kids are supposed to be tributes to their parents. And her mom wants a better life for Dee. That Dee owes it to her mom to make her mom's work and sacrifices worthwhile.

Dee just looked at me and kept crying. It was pretty intense. I again tried to make sure she understood that I was not insulting her mom -- that I just wanted her to think about the situation. I said that cleaning hotel rooms is an honest job, but it's the kind of job you take because you need a job to feed your kids. That Dee has a chance to have get an education that can allow her to get a job that she truly wants.

Then I asked her what she wanted to do when she grows up. She said she wanted to be a teacher. I told her that was a terrible idea, and we both laughed. It helped alleviate some of the tension. Then we talked about what she needed to do to get caught up in my class, and the goals she needs to work towards to get through high school so she can go to college and become a teacher.

The next day, she cut my class. But the next day after that, she came, and has come ever since. She got all of her work made up and ended up with a B, I think. I was so proud of her. I gave her my email address, and she'll email me occasionally. Nothing about school -- she'll just ask me how I'm doing or how the baby is doing, or will remind me to not let the kids get me stressed out.

She's in my 5th period junior class this year. And she's still coming to class and doing all her work. Her birthday is January 22, and she was hoping that I would have my baby on her birthday. I told her that was not going to happen -- sorry. That she should have had a December birthday and that I better have had this baby before January 22nd!

When I'm having a terrifically bad day (and there have been many lately) I do three things. I look at pictures of my daughter online. I rub my huge belly. And I think about students like Dee. I have had some amazing students in my career. I just have to remember that. It is so easy to dwell on the bad ones. But I need to dwell on the good ones.

The other good news is that I have made it through week 34 of this pregnancy, and I'm still pregnant. My daughter was born at 34 weeks to the day. So this baby won't be a preemie, or at least not as much a preemie as Emiko was. Yay! I'm hoping this baby boy can make it to December 19th at least. That's my goal. That's the day winter break starts, and he would be considered just about full term. I'm crossing my fingers and thinking happy thoughts.


d.i. said...

Your post made me cry. You are a fantastic teacher, if you only got through to those 2 kids. : )

AMY said...

Oh Donna, you are giving me too much credit! But thank you anyway. I hope to be a fantastic teacher one day, but I am definitely not there yet. I just have to focus on the kids and not the other craziness.

d.i. said...

I think a fantastic teacher is one who focuses on the kids. Period. And then teaches them whatever it is they can, under whatever circumstances exist. : ) Lucky ducky...10 days. I should consider having another baby.