The English Teacher

September 24, 2007, 5:08 pm
Filed under: Daily Life, Damn it!, Future

I got an email today informing me that an aide in one of my classes requested to be removed because he felt “uncomfortable” working with me.  That was indeed a surprise to me; however, I shouldn’t have been so shocked since it was pretty inevitable.  I have been having trouble with this aide since he showed up to class.  Basically, he didn’t really do anything and when he did, he either gave students the wrong answers or got them in trouble.  Even worse, he would lie about what he did and try to cover it up by saying that it was all a part of his “method.”

Frankly, I thought we were working better since the meeting we had last week.  We actually met with an adminstrator as an objective mediator and I believed that we had worked out our problems.  Apparently, I was mistaken.  I believe that the aide became offended when I asked him to stop giving answers to the students.  For some reason, he became incredibly offended by that and stormed off.  It’s all very ridiculous, really.  However, I stand by my request.  I normally don’t give my students the answers to problems.  Instead, I teach them how they can get to the answers on their own.  It’s like the story about the man and the fish:  You give a man a fish, you feed him for a day.  You teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.  What really annoyed me about the aide is that there are two distinct instances when he gave students the wrong answers.  One time I tried to cover up for him because I didn’t want him to look foolish in front of the students.  The second time, he felt the need to tell a student that she had chosen the wrong answer on a QUIZ.  As a student with specific accomodations, this is a student who isn’t particularly confident in her abilities so she, understandably, became flustered.  She changed her answers and ended up getting two wrong (the second one was connected to the first one so if the first one was wrong, then the second one was, as well).  When she got the quiz back, she was a bit upset because she had been right the first time but she changed it because of what he had said.  I looked over her quiz and it was apparent that she was telling the truth.  First of all, I don’t understand why he was walking around and telling the students what was wrong and what was right on a QUIZ.  Secondly, it was a simple vocabulary quiz.  An aide in an English class ought to have some basic knowledge of vocabulary.  If you don’t, you don’t go around telling students to change their answers.

The good thing about all of this is that I’m getting a new aide in the classroom and I’ve heard that the new one is quite good.  I do feel bad for whoever gets stuck with my old one.  However, I am worried about how this is going to reflect on me.  I know this is purely selfish, but I feel as if I’m gaining a pretty bad reputation as someone who has trouble with her students and colleagues.  While I do feel perfectly justified in this matter, what matters is how my supervisors perceive it.  I don’t want to be called in at the end of the year and told to look for another position for the following year.

September 15, 2007, 3:07 pm
Filed under: Daily Life, Reflection

I had a pretty demoralizing debriefing after being observed by my supervisor.  In short, I was asked if I enjoyed being a teacher or if I liked my students.  When I heard those questions, I was taken aback.  I didn’t think I hated the kids, but something in my demeanor must have made it seem like it.  Quite frankly, I was a bit upset.  When my supervisor observed me, I thought I was doing a pretty good job and that the lesson was rather entertaining.  However, I was told that I jumped from a really high-level of thought, to a very low-level activity.  Upon reflection, I can see that she is correct.  This doesn’t mean that I feel better about myself.  I’m not particularly upset about the fact that my lesson was criticized.  After all, I’m pretty new at teaching.  I am, however, rather agitated at the thought that I look as if I don’t want to be in my classroom with my students.  I won’t lie.  Even if I dislike the students, I can’t show it.  Despite everything, I need to be encouraging and kind.  But, and you knew there was a but, it’s SO HARD.  Even when I come in with good expectations, these students destroy them with their behavior.  I remember being told to always be positive or think optimistically, “This day, this class will do well,” but I’m not an optimist by nature.  It’s only September.  There’s no way I can survive the rest of the school year if I can’t think of some way to get around these kids.  Unfortunately, this is a team-taught class so there’s another teacher in the class with me.  While this is usually a pretty good thing, the other teacher (OT) has taken a strict disciplinarian (authoritarian, rather than authoritative) route with the kids.  Because of the kids’ horrible behavior at the very beginning of school, I initally didn’t mind, but now, I wonder if the OT isn’t being too persnickety about some of the things that are being punished.  Because we’re both teachers, I know the students can’t help but group us together as one unit, but I’m a bit worried that this is actually hindering us from building relationships with one another.  By relationships, I don’t mean friendships, but some sort of a connection which causes the students to want to succeed, if only for my sake and goodwill.  I must admit, this whole situation is very worrisome.

The first week; or, thank God for the Labor Day weekend
September 2, 2007, 7:12 pm
Filed under: Daily Life, Reflection

I won’t lie.  This really was a difficult week for me.  Part of the problem is due to the fact that I am at a new school this year.  In a way, I feel as if this my first year all over again.  Another problem is that I am coming from a school with block scheduling to a school that is on a regular bell schedule.   Now I understand what my instructors and lecturers meant when they said that it was more difficult to adjust from planning for a block period to a regular period than vice versa.  Thirdly, the student climate and population is very different from what I experienced last year.  The socio-economic status of most of the students in my school last year was relatively low.  The students mostly came from working-class families (and yet, they still managed to afford the latest game systems and Air Jordans).  This year, my students are mostly from the upper-class.  One look at the student parking lot immediately reveals the disparity between their lives and the lives of the teachers.  Whereas the students drive BMW’s and Hummers, we drive Corollas and Civics.  One of the assignments I gave out to my students was to plan a short introductory speech, just so I could learn a bit more about them.  Well, I learned that they are much more cosmopolitan than I can ever hope to be.  During my summer vacations in high school, I just lolled around at home or worked.  These kids travel, and they travel well.  Those who did not travel went to sleepaway camps.  In Colorado.  Is it strange to be jealous of kids who are 11 years younger than I am?

Aside from this feeling of insecurity, I have a rather difficult prep.  This year, I have three sections of 9th grade and two sections of Honors 10.  The latter classes are a nice group, if rather chatty.  I’m anticipating very little problem from them this year.  However, the 9th graders are already problematic.  Two of the sections are actually not bad, except for the fact that they are also a little chatty.  However, the third section is chatty and rather arrogant.  I don’t know if it’s a cultural thing or if they’re just trying to hide their own insecurities, but I have never come across a group as obnoxious and disrespectful as this before.  They feel the need to quibble over everything.  When I told them that I expected all of them in class on time, one student, who obviously has a great sense of entitlement, decided that that was unacceptable and proceeded to argue about it.  This is just absolutely ridiculous. 

I’m hoping that they will get all of that arrogance out of their system quickly.  I haven’t been here long so I don’t know how much involvement the upperclassmen have with their younger peers, but I hope that the older students will be able to straighten out the younger ones.