• 12 Armadillos

The Trenches

photos from http://www.leewardlaw.com/101ways_teacher.htm

I taught middle school and high school social studies for twelve years. I know that a lot of my teacher friends have taught a lot longer than that but after twelve years, I was done. Why do I call it “in the trenches?” Because being a teacher is one of the hardest and most rewarding jobs you can have. There were times that I would wake up and think “I have the best job ever.” However, the times of me waking up and thinking “I can’t do this anymore” started to happen more and more. I feel that teaching is a special club that unless you have done it, you cannot really understand what it is like.

Part of my problem is that I am type A personality. I am happiest with structure. I believe in rules, order, consequences, and fairness. I would say that the world of education is definitely more structured for a type B personality. I get that students are all different so there should not be a “one fit for all” type of structure. However, I believe in high standards and consequences.

My first teaching job was teaching 10th grade geometry in Rayne, Louisiana(a rural town outside of Lafayette). Social Studies jobs were hard to come by and the principal was desperate for a math teacher (this was before No Child Left Behind….when you could teach things you were not certified to teach). The principal told me the Social Studies teacher was retiring in a year so if I could teach Geometry for a year, I would get the Social Studies opening once it became available. I was a single mom of a one year old so I didn’t have the luxury of being picky.

My first year teaching was a complete train wreck. I had no classroom management and my answer to every disrespectful kid was to just write a referral. I think I wrote about 100 referrals that year. The kids did not show any respect for me at all. I was 21 years old but looked like I was 12 or 13.

I had this one student who was twenty years old. He was about 6ft 5 and probably 300 pounds. He did not want to do anything. I would not ever let my students do nothing so one day he got mad at me. This man….I mean kid told me “I’m going to kill you.” I was shocked. I went to my principal who assured me that the kid was not going to kill me. I was not convinced. I went to the local police department to file a report “just in case” I ended up dead, they would know where to look. The local police officers were very mad. I think they saw this small little blonde teacher and were not ok with some man….I mean kid…. threatening her. I have no idea what they did, but they paid him a visit and things were completely different for the rest of the year.

While teaching, I was always trying to find different ways to make my class more interactive and fun. One semester while teaching Government, I decided to create a Government blog where students would have to post on different topics as part of their grade. The students were instructed to use their first name and last initial so that I would know for grading purposes and their privacy would be protected. I was at a parent report card pick up when one of my student’s mothers came up to me to complain about the blog. She felt that the student’s identities would be compromised. I assured her that last names were not going to be posted on the blog. She continued to try and argue with me about the blog. I couldn’t understand why a parent would not be excited about a teacher trying to start a dialog with students about the government and politics. It was different than a traditional worksheet/test type of activity. The mother finally looked at me and said “I just want to go across this table and slap you right now.”

At this moment I thought, I seriously can not deal with this crap anymore. Not only do I work a million hours a week (home, weekends) and make hardly any money, I am not having a parent say she wants to slap me.

I had one student who was a bully and a mean girl toward me. She would make weird faces at me all of the time and talk to me like a dog. One day I returned papers and she didn’t get one back. She told me “I turned it in.” As a teacher, things happen. There were times in twelve years where I may have accidently had a paper slip in the bottom of my bag and would find it hidden there later on. I told the student that I was sorry for misplacing it. I asked her to please print it out again and turn it in. I had a weird feeling about it. A few weeks later, my students had to turn in another paper. I made sure when the student’s class left to gather the papers carefully and record who turned one in and who didn’t. The next class period, the same student said “I turned my paper in and you didn’t return it.” Then it hit me. Not only did she talk to me like a dog, she tried to pretend that I was incompetent and “lost two of her papers.”

As a teacher, I felt that ultimately kids were really not the problems.  It was the adults.  Kids will always try to push their limits but it is up to the adults to not allow this.

I had several co-teachers throughout my twelve years. What is a co-teacher? It is another teacher in the classroom that supports you (the primary teacher). Usually if you have several kids that need extra help (special ed, ESL..English as a Second Language) you would provide another teacher to support the primary teacher. One year I had a co-teacher who hardly ever showed up to the class period where he was supposed to assist me. When he did show up, he would stay for a few minutes and then leave. One day he took a few students in the back of my class and began playing a game of cards with them. I had enough of this man. I didn’t like that he was a teacher (not a para professional) and was wasting the tax payer’s money. What a joke. I had a couple really good co-teachers who worked really hard to assist the students. Most of them, though, were lazy and just wanting to be on their phone in the back of the class.

Ultimately, my type A personality got the best of me and I decided that I don’t have the personality to handle the parents and the lack of standards.

Nothing is worse than a student who talks to you like garbage, does not put in effort, and his or her parent is ATTACKING you in a parent/ student meeting. You can see the smile on the kid’s face because they are used to their parent having their back for their bad behavior. I cannot deal with this.

Hats were not allowed in one of the schools where I taught. I had a student come every day with an LSU cap and walk into my class. Obviously the rules didn’t apply to him and he felt entitled to wear the LSU baseball cap. Everyday I would take the hat and give it back to him at the end of class. I would tell him it was against the rules and to stop wearing it. One day I stopped him as he was walking into my class with the hat and I said “you obviously don’t think the rules apply to you.” I took the hat and put it in my cabinet. The next day, I received an email from the mom blasting me. She could not believe that I embarrassed her son in front of other kids and other teachers. I was the bad guy. At this point, I was so over it.

Another reason that teaching is not for me is that I don’t believe in the policies that you HAVE to take late work. Gone are the days where you can set a deadline and if the students don’t turn things in on that date, you can give them a zero.

The state of Texaspassed a law where you have to allow kids to retake tests. I would pass out tests and students who had not studied would say “when is the retake?”

We are preparing our kids to have no accountability. I remember hearing a story about a kid who graduated from high school and had a job at a grocery store. He came in late all of the time. Finally, the manager fired him because of multiple infractions. He looked at the manager and said “You can’t fire me, I haven’t had my ARD” (An ARD is a meeting for special education students where different accommodations are discussed/implemented).

Parents would rather defend their kid’s bad behavior than deal with the problems of their kids directly. It is a lot easier to attack the teacher than to actually deal with the real problem, their child.

Advice to parents:

GET REAL: If you get a call or email from your child’s teacher, please know that this was not the first time your little angel misbehaved. It probably isn’t even the second, third, or fourth time. Teachers today are expected to do a million things (paperwork, lesson plans, grading, training, tutorials, etc). They don’t have time to look up your phone number or email and then find time to call or email you. If you do get a call or email, know that they have had enough and they are making the time because they are over it.

Please STOP thinking your kid’s teacher is “picking on them.” Like I said before, teachers have a million things going on. Do you really think they have the extra time to “have it in for your kid for no reason?” The chances of your kid’s teacher “picking on your sweet child for no reason” is almost zero. Teachers are too busy to have the time to pick on your kid.

Don’t get mad at the teacher for YOURlaziness. Most of the schools where I taught made teachers call parents of kids who were failing. I can’t tell you how many times the parents got mad at me because they were “just finding out” their kids were failing. I’m sorry but in this day of technology, if you don’t know your kids are failing, it is because YOU are the lazy one. Parents are able to go online and check their student’s grades every day. Stop blaming the teachers because YOU are too lazy to keep track of your child’s grades.

Stop making EXCUSES for your child. When kids get to college, they will not have their mommys or daddys being able to bully the schools into accepting late work or retesting. Let your child fail. You are not preparing them for the real world by trying to fix everything and for your child to have no consequences. I knew within five seconds of talking to a parent if they would “have their child’s back no matter what” or if they would support me.

I’m going to end this post with a picture that has been circulating on the internet.  This completely sums up this post.

So my question for you is this:  Who is ready to support your child’s teachers and not play into your children’s manipulation?

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