Hitting November…

I’ve hit November.

Like almost every teacher I know, I’ve hit the wall which is November… it’s a wall of exhaustion, a wall of over-exertion, a wall of self-doubt, and this year in-particular it is a wall of both solidarity and bemusement. It’s a wall that beckons with the elusive promise of Christmas and the barbed wire challenge of report cards, and while I hit it running, hoping to scale it with grace and determination, it seems to have knocked me off my feet.

Again.

Like it does every year.

I arrive at school at 6:50 am every morning and leave usually around 3:30 pm, (our school runs from 8 am-2 pm) although last week I didn’t get home until almost five every day because of meetings and Art Club and Dinner Theater rehearsals. I’ve spent several Saturday mornings at school, preparing for lessons, marking, plugging marks into the computer. I’ve spent Sunday mornings at school running play rehearsals. We have 30 minutes for lunch, and I usually spend at least 10 minutes with one kid or another who needs one thing or another… and the other 10 minutes moaning with my teacher friend while we inhale whatever carbohydrates we can scavenge at the end of the cafeteria line, about having to pee and needing a coffee and why isn’t there more chocolate? I know that only adds up to 20 minutes, because I do math right good, you. I lose those other minutes trying to figure out where I left my glasses and where is the photocopying I know I did this morning?

I wake up at 5am and do prep, and I do prep after supper, and on the weekends.

What is prep?

Everything.

You know how they say that public speaking is, like, the number one fear for most people, even above fear of heights, clowns and spiders? As a teacher, I do that all day, every day. The public speaking. And honey, you better believe that you gotta plan what you’re gonna say or 25 teenagers are gonna tune out and log in and swipe left and then what you gonna do about the Provincial Exam, or the common assessment, or the survey, or Powerschool, or the angry parent…?

Prep means linking outcomes to action.

It means questing in perpetuity to find engaging methods to excite them… videos, podcasts, stories, images, new materials… and preparing those lessons, editing them, arranging them, delivering them… and make no mistake, these kids aren’t the kids I taught ten years ago. They aren’t the kids I taught five years ago. These aren’t the kids we were, when we were kids. Remember how exciting it was when the teacher rolled in the movie projector because you were going to watch an educational video about plate tectonics?

Yeah.

No.

Teaching nowadays is like comparing the Cirque du Soleil to earthworm races. If there isn’t a trapeze and a flaming hoop somewhere in the lesson plan, forget it!

…all while making sure that the eight kids with adaptations can follow you and the three kids with autism can feel involved and the five kids with behavioral adaptations won’t lose interest and the kids who can’t take notes have what they need and the kids who have auditory processing delays can keep up and the kids who haven’t had breakfast are awake and the kids who might have gotten stoned at recess are hopefully not stoned and the assessment piece is in order and you’ve filled in the forms on Tienet and you’ve planned your CLT meeting and you’ve photocopied your Literacy strategy handouts and you’ve emailed back the parent with the absent kid and you’ve tried to find the ipad charger (and failed) and you’ve pissed off another teacher because you planned an event when they have a test and if Stanley drops the f-bomb one more time in class…

And that’s only for one class.

And then there are the things you can’t prep for.

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So far this year I have talked with lovely wonderful adorable kids, all of whom I want to take home and wrap in blankets and feed hot chocolate to… a kid whose mum has cancer, a kid who’s being bullied by older kids, a kid who is terrified of going into debt if she goes to university, a kid whose drug use is crippling, a kid who is trying to come out but is scared and can’t tell her parents, a kid who is hungry every day, a kid with absent parents, a kid with an abusive boyfriend, a kid trying to hide a learning disability, a kid who won’t take off his hoodie because then he might be visible, a kid… and a kid… and a kid…

And I have twenty-three in one class, and my neighbor has twenty-eight, and his neighbor has thirty-four, and her neighbor has thirty-seven…

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I love them all.

Yes. Even the jerks.

“I know what that gesture means, young man. Stop it. Now.”

“You called her a what? Oh dear. Oh no, dear, that’s not a nice word.”

“I don’t care if your boyfriend is an a**hole, you do not need to text him right now.”

I am responsible for them all.

Do we do this job for the money? Of course we do… teachers are human beings with bills and families and responsibilities… but is it only about the money?

It is not.

It is so emphatically NOT about the money… the $500 I spent of my own money last year for classroom supplies… the cakes I buy every time one of my kids has a birthday… the hours and hours my colleagues spend coaching… the tutoring they offer after school… the program planning for individual students… the support and love and kindness offered outside of the classroom… it is NOT about the money.

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It’s about the kids.

That’s why we’re here.

And… they are your kids. They are my kids. They are Nova Scotia’s kids.

I’d like to survive November.

I’d like to have all my reporting, marking, inputting, adapting, accounting for, documenting, meeting, debriefing and analyzing completed so that I can…

Just teach the kids.

We all, just wanna teach the kids.

Now,  where did I put my trapeze…?

PicMonkey Collage

 

 

 

 

Yea or Nay? That is the question

I feel very nervous. I feel like I’ve just passed a note to a friend, right under the teacher’s nose, and I’m gonna get my knuckles rapped. I’m going to get in trouble for daring to speak when it probably isn’t my turn, and I didn’t raise my hand, and I might be wrong, and I know I’ve misspelled something.

Today, I’m kind of nervous because… well… because I’ve written a soliloquy.

In iambic pentameter (mostly).

Syllabically identical to the original.

Yes… I am a rebel.

This week, the teaching world has been abuzz with debate about our upcoming vote for our contract. Many of us feel bullied, many of us feel oppressed, many of us wonder why we’re even bothering to hold a vote when the result seems a forgone conclusion. Many of us feel exactly like other public servants who are facing similar negotiations with the same sense of being bullied, oppressed, and bewildered (What a fun word, negotiations. The implication of mutual satisfaction is so quaint.)

Yet again, it feels like we’re being told we aren’t good enough, we aren’t working hard enough, and we don’t know what we’re doing. Financial issues aside… several of the items that were on the table have been removed, (but maybe they’ll come back if the table is shifted slightly closer to the door and three crows speak the alphabet backwards at dawn and if we vote NAY…) seem to imply that a solution to our educational woes is having teachers and students spend more time at school. Especially teachers. We should, apparently, never leave the building and thank goodness that there’s an app, or ten, to continually link us to our students so we can respond to their queries at 9pm on a Sunday night… because thrusting a device in every wee hand is surely the answer to our literacy and numeracy concerns… never mind our issues with social skills, empathy, bullying, cell phone addiction

I digress.

OBVIOUSLY all we need is a new snow day policy and these problems will get better.

So.

I wrote a soliloquy.

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I recently attended a speaking competition with a group of lovely young women from local schools. One very clever girl spoke eloquently about our addiction to technology. She said (I am paraphrasing here) that if Robert Frost would have had a cell phone he wouldn’t have written The Road Not Taken because he would have been distracted by a quiz on Buzzfeed to determine what his Spirit Animal may be. I love that young woman and want to feed her chocolate and literature and give her a feather quill to write with. She has inspired me to write this soliloquy, because if we have a Shakespeare in our classrooms we may never find him if he’s hiding behind an ipad. We are up in arms about our contract, rightly so, but we have bigger issues throbbing on our doorstep.

I fear we are replacing our children’s natural drive to learn and question and seek answers with the click of a button and an educational standard which allows them to hand in their assignments… whenever they want. We are removing their accountability, responsibility, and sense of accomplishment. We are crippling them for the rigor of University and the demands of the work force. Because, um, we still do expect our students to get jobs eventually, don’t we? Isn’t that still, kinda, like… a thing?

I am nervous in posting this because I am not usually one to stir the pot. I hesitate to offend, and quite frankly, I’m afraid of getting trouble.

But I think we’re already there.

In trouble.

The issues of our contract debate are real and important, but I fear we may be missing a concern that is much more vital. Policies are failing our students, and our contract… yea or nay… will not address that problem. As teachers dress in pink on Tuesday in protest over a disappointing contract, I will choose to wear… red? Maybe blue.

I have a limited wardrobe of protest clothes.

I choose to call Tuesday’s vote our Contract of Blame, because it seems to me that the issues being waved in the air are pointing fingers at the failure of teachers, without questioning the failure of policy. And that deserves some dialogue.

Thank goodness there is Shakespeare, to soothe my jangled soul. Needless to say, these opinions are my own, and I don’t think one can get fired for having opinions…

 

Yea or Nay – That is the Question

A re-imagining of Hamlet’s Quandary

To vote for Yea or Nay – that is the question:

Whether ‘tis preferable to acquiesce

To the slings and arrows of bully tactics,

Or to stand in a sea of uncertainty

And by opposing end them. Vote Nay – or Yea –

Which one? And by voting Nay is to say

We risk the heavy hand of legislation

That denial is heir to. ‘Tis a quandary

Which opposing, shames us. To Yea, to Nay —

To vote — perchance to grieve: ay, there’s the rub,

For in that vote lies fear of what may come.

Our teachers are not schooling’s fatal flaw,

Policy is. And with respect,

We aren’t the calamity of school life.

For we could bear the whips and scorns of those

Who say more time in school is the solution.

Our contract, Yea or Nay, won’t fix what’s wrong.

   ( Students can hand in their work… whenever?

   Students can attend their classes… or not?

   An ipad in every hand… are you kidding me? )

What insolence to suggest: the real

Issues might merit some investigation.

Ask us what we really want? Let. Us. TEACH.

Kids need consequence. Somehow we must bear

Poor policies that thwart our weary lives.

To grunt and sweat under a mantle of

Impotent political correctness,

The undiscovered reasoning: from whose brain

Did these policies spring? It puzzles the will,

And makes us look like failures when we have

No recourse to encourage kids to learn.

Thus policy does make monkeys of us all,

And thus the native eagerness of children

Is sicklied o’er with excuses galore,

And learning of great meaning and import is

Negated by a contract of blame: no more snow days,

That’ll fix what’s wrong… but there’s an app for that…

— Soft you now,

O fair pedagogy – It’s those damn teachers,

And I fear we are outnumbered…

PicMonkey Collage