Stuff Students Say

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Apr 06 2012

A certain level of chaos

Of all the mindset changes that I’ve made in the past 7 months, both intentional and unintentional, I think the most important by far has been accepting that along with every day at school comes a certain level of chaos.  It doesn’t matter how long I spend micro-planning my instructional day and problem-solving classroom management issues, things will happen that I can’t control.

Now, during my short teaching career I’ve only been privileged enough to work at a low-income charter school that operates under the “change-things-first-deal-with-consequences-later” administrative school of thought.  (Also, sometimes, “change-things-just-for-the-hell-of-it” and, more often that not, “change-things-and-don’t-tell-anyone-and-see-what-happens!!”)  Chaos is definitely the norm here, but I’d bet that it worms it way into just about any school.  Because regardless of your administrative situation, when you work with kids, you can never predict what’s going to come out of their mouths and/or backpacks.

So, embracing this chaos has been an important step in making my job at least SEEM more manageable.  I think TFA would have us believe that if we just spend that extra hour, minute, Sunday morning, prep period, etc.,  researching or observing or planning or generally not sleeping, we could get the chaos under control.  Because, ultimately, the chaos is our responsibility.

But, let’s be real:  I can’t possibly activate prior knowledge and delicately scaffold learning when my toughest kid, the uncontested Mr. Popular of the sixth grade and the source of many frustrating power struggles, comes into my classroom in the middle of science class yesterday, sits down at his desk and starts quietly sobbing.  If you think that we’re going to stay on track with the lesson at this point, you’re nuts. I’m going to let his friends pat him on the back and bring him a Kleenex and eventually get him to explain that our school director said it’s the last straw this time, he’s probably going to get expelled for his ridiculous behavior.  I would never have expected the kid who tells me every day that he couldn’t care less about school to react this way, and I would never expect everyone else in my class to react the way they did.  But, chaos strikes again.

Keeping with this mindset, I came into work on Monday, the first day back from spring break, fully expecting something crazy to happen.  I knew behavior would be a challenge, but more than that, it had been awhile since our administration had pulled something truly nuts on us, and it just felt like it was time for another curveball.  And, so far this week:  all state testing dates have been moved (no explanation), next week’s early release was cancelled (but possibly now rescheduled?), the last day of school has been moved up a day (they don’t want to pay us for some old professional development hours, so instead they’re cancelling the last day of work!).  Also, a pretty scary brawl in the lunchroom today, and then a meeting after school where I was accused of “plagiarizing” the state standards in my write-up for next year’s STEM curriculum.  Because really, why would I think to use the language from the state standards when I’m deciding what to teach next year?!


All rants aside, the end of TFA:  Year One is in sight and I’m actually very excited for all the fun chaos that end of May/early June will bring (post-state testing, of course). We have at least 4 field trips coming up, plus a middle school Field Day.  This means that during the last few weeks of school, I will be responsible for children who are roller skating, fishing, canoeing and running themselves silly. Bring. It. On.

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    I used to be a journalist. Now I just quote students.

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