Stuff Students Say

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Oct 04 2012

Comparatively awesome.

I just read a post by another second year about how year 2 of TFA is just so much more “even.”  That captured my feelings about the past 6 weeks so perfectly that I finally worked up the motivation to write a decent-length post about Year 2 so far.

Ridiculous things are still happening at my school, yes, but I have enough experience now to smile knowingly and move on with my day. I don’t know if I’d go far enough to say I feel competent at my job, but I don’t dread going to school anymore, and that in itself is a pleasant change.

I don’t sit in my car early in the morning and wait as long as possible before walking into the building (unless there’ s a really, really good song on the radio!).  I don’t feel stressed out and sick on Sunday nights.  I don’t panic about what I’m teaching tomorrow and stay up late throwing together lessons, or sacrifice sleep to throw something resembling an academic paper together for grad school classes.  I don’t panic when a student throws a completely new challenge my way. When the principal comes into my classroom unannounced, the schedule changes for the millionth time, when my prep period gets taken away or when -surprise!- I have another new student, I suck it up and move on.

For the most part, I sucked it up and moved on last year, because I didn’t have much of a choice.  But I wasn’t coping very well. And I wasn’t sleeping, or eating very much. And even though I loved my kids, I really, really hated my job.

I vividly remember thinking last fall that I was spending every last ounce of my mental and physical energy just trying to survive my job, and that if the tiniest little thing happened to go wrong in my personal life (or god forbid, a less-than-tiny thing), that would probably be the last straw.

Luckily, I made it through last year without any major crises, so I never had the chance to test my theory.  Last Sunday night my car window was smashed and I was up half the night dealing with the police, but I was still at school Monday and got through the day just fine.

I don’t know if that’s really a victory worth bragging about, but I’ll take it.  Not to mention that now I’m always prepped for the next day, usually ahead of schedule, or at least I know specifically what I need to accomplish during my prep period and after school.  My to-do list is long and never gets quite finished, but it’s realistic.  I even occasionally do the reading assignments for my grad class. (Emphasis on occasionally).

What hasn’t changed?  Like always, I love my kids.  It’s amazing how quickly you can get attached to a room full of 22 eleven-year-olds, despite their clashing personalities and raging hormones.  Yep, I have some difficult ones, and some new behavior challenges that I haven’t quite figured out yet. I’ve already given several super-serious lectures and had to lay down some serious consequences (no locker privileges, gasp!).  But for the most part, students do the work that I ask them to. They’re kinda-sorta invested and I’d bet most of them wouldn’t even tell you that they hate me.

So yeah, second year is just in general a lot better.  My work/life balance is still far from sustainable, but I’m good with this for now.  And yeah, I know I’m probably terribly jinxing myself and something atrocious will happen at school tomorrow.

I think I’ll also take this opportunity to introduce the cast of characters you’ll likely be hearing a lot about in this space:

  • H. wrote his “Best Day of Summer” essay about egging houses and almost getting arrested. (Best line- “I never knew before that it was wrong to throw eggs at houses!’)
  • A., who’s moved on to 7th grade, but caught my attention earlier this week by screaming profanities about somebody’s momma on the gym bus.  (“But Ms. S, what was I supposed to do when he said something about my mom? Just sit down and be quiet?!?”)
  • A., who asked a great clarifying question after I made it exceedingly clear that I don’t want to hear your momma jokes in my classroom (“What if I say ‘Jo momma?’”)
  • I., who cried when I told her that stealing Skittles from my desk was just as bad as breaking into a car and stealing stuff (ok yeah, I get a little dramatic sometimes…)
  • M., who dramatically confessed to me that he has never learned long division, and has also informed me that he’s never learned more than in my class :)
  • More to come.

One Response

  1. Ms. Math

    I SO used to wait in my car in the parking lot not wanting to go into school. I was actually afraid of what the day would bring. I would always wait until the end of the song, even if I didn’t like it. Year two I stopped doing that-it was one small sign of success :)

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

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