Class Notes #3: Second Thoughts

The third week has been a bit rocky and has given me second thoughts about whether or not I’m right for the school and it for me.

A couple of teachers serve as instructional coaches and pop in to observe classes, taking notes and then arrange a meeting with the teacher. I’m fine with all that, having worked as a consultant, I’m used to people coming and going. While a distraction to the students, I usually  can ignore visitors. What they see, they see.

On Monday, I met with the principal to review use of the computer. Since we are former colleagues, she asked me also how things were going. She’s worked hard to provide instructional support for my two classes—paraprofessionals who assist in keeping students on task and with management, time keeping, etc. Frankly I believe no teacher from pre-K to college, should be alone in a classroom. We’re too litigious as a society. With middle schoolers, who are physically strong and emotionally volatile, I believe two adults can keep order better than one and keep everyone safer.

The principal asked me if I’d heard about the son of another former colleague, who I’ve kept in touch with and consider a friend. I knew immediately that bad news ensued as this young man had struggled with alcohol for years. He had died the previous Friday. I burst into tears, shocked and saddened for my friend and her husband who had worked so hard to help their son.

Regardless, I pulled myself together and managed to work the computer and begin my class with the 8th graders, yet this news didn’t stray from my thoughts.

A few minutes after class began, one of the coaches appeared, clipboard in hand and sat in the back to observe and take notes. And she returned again the next day.

I had students engaged in a small group activity using literature books to find examples of narrative leads, or story hooks. They were chatting yet on task and eager to share the leads they found with the class. Apparently in the coach’s eyes, the class was out of hand and she called in the curriculum director. Neither of them interfered with class activities and the coach emailed me to arrange a time to meet later in the week. I suggested Thursday after my 2nd class ended, at 12:30.

I took Wednesday off for Yom Kippur and visited my parents.

I left a lesson for the substitute that involved imitating list writing using commas and a colon and suggested students could do it alphabetically. From what I could tell in their notebooks, the assignment went well.

On Thursday, prior to my 8th grade class, a woman unknown to me appears and informs me she’s an English/Language Arts consultant and will be observing my class. I hadn’t been informed about her and while annoyed that yet another person would be causing a distraction, I figured go along with it. The students line up outside the class and are supposed to be at what the school calls Level 0, completely silent. They take their seats, a couple students distribute the notebooks and they’re expected to write the “Do Now” that’s written on the board. That is the ideal scenario. In reality, the students are chatty, don’t take their seats directly, and fool around. I refuse to yell or clap my hands to get attention so stand silently and wait, noting on my clipboard behaviors. They eventually settle in and focus.

However this consultant didn’t like it and decided to redirect them, telling them to leave and re-enter. This made the students angry and off-task, and undermined my authority in the classroom as the teacher. I decided then and there that I was leaving.

I made it through the period and the next. While the majority of the 7th graders are working and sweet kids, a few are disrespectful and lazy. And being young teens, they tease each other. One girl’s notebook was missing, I think hidden by another student and eventually given to her later in the class. This poor girl became so enraged, at one point, she stood, came to the front of the class and screamed as loud as she could and ran from the room. I had to call the office for someone to find her.

I packed up my things and found the principal, head of school, and curriculum director together in a meeting. The door was open so I went in and relayed the day’s experiences, particularly my frustration with the consultant, and notified them I was resigning, citing my misgivings about the strict rules and the unprofessional and humiliating cycle of observations so early in the school year.

I never made the meeting with the instructional coach.

The curriculum director apologized for not informing me about the visit, saying she must have forgotten to send the email. The principal and head of school appreciated that I brought things to their attention and requested I stay.

I agreed to give it another couple weeks and then will meet to assess.

 

 

 

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About cyclingrandma

I was a journalist (Danbury News-Times, Ct), before becoming a teacher, and continue to write for professional journals. I have written several study guides for Penguin Books and write for Education Update, a newspaper based in New York City. (www.educationupdate.com). I’ve interviewed many authors, college presidents, and scientists. I wrote “The Kentucky Derby’s Forgotten Jockeys” for Smithsonian Magazine's website, www.smithsonian.com. (April, 2009). Two essays have been published in book anthologies; one for Wisdom of Our Mothers, (Familia Books) and the other in “College Search and Parent Rescue: Essay for Parents by Parents of College-Going Students.” (St. Martin’s Press). I was a middle school Language Arts teacher for more than 10 years and have just completed a five year grant position under No Child Left Behind in Newark, NJ public schools. I have three children, two daughters-in law, and six grandchildren. I'm an avid cyclist, knitter, cook, and reader. I love theater, museums, and yoga.
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18 Responses to Class Notes #3: Second Thoughts

  1. I think that zero chatter is unrealistic and ‘old school’. I’m glad they convinced you to stay and I hope the next couple of weeks are better Lisa. ❤
    Diana xo

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow — they really want the kids to stand silently? Seems unrealistic and draconian to me! Your ability to work through it and see things clearly is impressive! Good luck Lisa. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  3. nhw0187@gmail.com says:

    Sounds like a very rough experience. I hope things improve with time. Nathan Winkler347-868-7398Sent from my BlackBerry 10 smartphone. From: cyclingrandmaSent: Friday, September 25, 2015 7:54 AMTo: nhw0187@gmail.comReply To: cyclingrandmaSubject: [New post] Class Notes #3: Second Thoughts

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    cyclingrandma posted: “The third week has been a bit rocky and has given me second thoughts about whether or not I’m right for the school and it for me.

    A couple of teachers serve as instructional coaches and pop in to observe classes, taking notes and then arrange a meeting”

    Like

  4. Lisa – I am not a school teacher. I can only speak with the authority of a very active parent in my kids’ schools (some years ago). I can imagine all that you’ve described.

    The kids will come and go. Many will look back on their school years with regret about one thing or the other, and few or none can claim that they are applying themselves to their fullest capability. Teaching is a very difficult job. The oversight (and meddling?) from other adults in the school is hopefully coming with the right intentions. Far too often however, too many adults never figured out how to work together effectively. In your case, nobody with any skill with kids would undermine another by inserting themselves with instructions to leave the room and start over. What possible upside could that have? There were so many other ways that person could have supported you and showed the kids the right way to get the most out of another day in their little world called school.

    Get what you need out of this and keep on smiling.

    Like

    • Trying to, thanks, Bruce.
      In urban ed, I think there’s a tendency to overdo to make up for deficiencies of students, facilities, neighborhoods, parents, etc. I’ll see how it goes. Trying to keep an open mind but a lot of damage has already been done to shake my faith in the school’s mission and my role there.

      Like

  5. ShimonZ says:

    Sounds like a very difficult framework in which to work. I doubt that I could stand it for very long. What is your motivation to stay?

    Like

    • Pride? Not wanting to quit. I sought it out– thought it would be rewarding… and nice to have a paycheck, albeit small– which I’ve mostly spent already on some creative projects– will see.

      Like

  6. Hi Lisa, I’m sorry for the troubles there. It sounds like you need to set some boundaries. Which you have by stating your concerns about their observations so early in the year and the way the consultant undermined you. And good for you for threatening to resign. That’s awful. Ugh. So arrogant. I would hate that! My school has some kids who don’t want to be there and let me know it but they are all girls so it’s apples and oranges. But they communicate. In your school they need to hear your style and let you know if that works for the culture of the school. A big buzz word these days is “culture” I’m slowly learning the culture of my new school and I don’t agree with all of it but I would not tolerate the lack of respect they showed to you, an experienced teacher and educator. Good luck. If you end up quitting then at least you know it was because the management wasn’t up your alley. I don’t believe they “forgot” to email you they were popping in to observe. Love Miriam

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Lisa, after reading all the comments here, I’m back to share a story – please bear with me. Once, in a previous job, I did a lot of speaking at schools about the work we did in my organization and ways they could help, anti-bullying workshops and addiction prevention workshops as well. Young people are a passion of mine, I loved speaking at schools and inspiring students.

    I remember one school in particular. It was in the poor part of town. I was invited to speak to the entire school body in the gymnasium. Every teacher attended. Not because they were interested in the subject matter, but because they expected the students to misbehave and they wanted to be on hand to discipline them.

    When I was escorted to the gymnasium, teacher after teacher warned me that the kids would not listen and urged me not to take it personally when they acted out.

    When I was introduced, I took my place at the mic and said something like, “It’s Friday afternoon. I know you all want to go home to enjoy your weekend. I get it. So in order for that to happen. I am asking you to please respectfully listen to what I have to say and then I want to respectfully listen to your thoughts and questions on the matter when I am done, because what you think is important to me and your feedback will make my next school presentation better. And also we’ll all get out earlier. Deal?”

    Lisa, you could have heard a pin drop in that gymnasium while I was sharing stories and talking about what we each could do to make the world a better place. At the end, the principal told me that they had never experienced such a respectful response from their 700 students – ever – and she asked me what my secret was. I simply answered Respect.

    I think you exhibit that in the way you handle your students. ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Thanks for sharing your story. Yes, young adults know when someone doesn’t respect them and treats them like children.

    Like

  9. Good move! You have to address grievances to bring about change

    Liked by 1 person

  10. You showed them that they could not cow you into agreeing with their rude practices. You are playing from a position of power, Lisa. Good for you!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Leah Singer says:

    What a frustrating situation! In my current teaching work, I had a similar situation – a woman who would come in and observe and then make you sit with her while she recited back her observations. This whole exercise is so pointless considering the person is only there for a set time frame. It’s good you expressed how you felt and you’re giving it a chance to improve. It sounds like the students are lucky to have you as a teacher, so hopefully it will continue!

    Like

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