Determined to succeed - #8

[MenTeach Note: We've asked a man who just finished his teaching program to write about his teaching job. This was the last post we received of The New Kids e-mails. He said that he was leaving the school and was going to look for another teaching job in another state. We hope we'll hear from him again to find out what happened.]

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Wow, what a two weeks! The past two weeks were utterly crazy and very challenging.

Thursday, after school I had a nice long talk with the lead Kindergarten teacher. She's helped me out a lot this year, but she basically told me that I need to get my butt in gear when it comes to teaching the letters. She told me that I'd probably get in ‘deep trouble' for this. I went home and made a curriculum map as a means of being ready for when my principal questioned me about this.

At my school, I guess the expectation is that us kindergarten teachers will be done teaching the alphabet by Christmas (which is a 2 letter a week pace). Well, up until this point, I have taught one letter a week because I was really concerned about how well my kids would retain it. A few weeks ago, my principal suggested that I pick up the pace, but we had a couple weird weeks which made it difficult for me to pick up the pace.

Ironically enough, the next morning my principal called me into her office (shocker eh?!?) and she voiced her displeasure over the fact that I'm not moving quickly enough with the letters. She was also upset that I veered out of order that we're supposed to teach the alphabet a couple times. I had a good reason (at least in my mind) about why I did it, but she didn't buy them. She accused me of ‘altering the curriculum', which is a very bad thing. She also didn't like how vague my lesson plans were (which I admit weren't the greatest). We are required to turn in our lesson plans (in the form of our weekly plan book, which has very little room to write) at the end of the week.

I usually go over them Thursday nites to code them with the benchmarks that I hit on. I'm a very creative teacher who will think of things on the fly, so my lesson plans for the week change quite a bit as the week evolves.

My lesson plans were garbage, I'll admit.

My students have learned quite a bit and my documentation of it (my lesson plans) didn't do a very good job of proving this. Also, my principal complained that I was not giving one of my students (who is at a first grade level in most subjects) instruction that is meeting her individual needs. I told my principal that she was getting sent to the first grade room for math, but that I would devise an instructional program plan for her. Obviously, this meeting rattled me big time. I was so scared. I barely said anything in the meeting, I just kinda sat there and took it, thinking ‘I hope that she isn't building a case to fire me.'

I went home and instead of sitting around and relaxing like I typically do on a Friday nite, I worked and I worked and I worked. I didn't stop until around midnight. I got up the next morning and made a huge list of everything that I needed to get done. I wrote everything that I could possibly think of. There were things that I was thinking about starting for awhile, but I hadn't yet, such as putting up a word wall (what a concept), starting the day with a poem or two, and other little things like that.

I was determined to do it all.

I went up to school at around 9 am. When I got there, there was an e-mail from my boss, which was CC'd to the human resources person at our main office. This scared the crap out of me even more. The e-mail documented what we talked about. There was one sentence in the e-mail that really made me upset/lit a fire underneath me. It basically said that based on what she's seeing, she believes that there is little in the way of actual learning taking place in my classroom.

This totally set me off. There's a lot of bad things that you can say about me, but to say that my students aren't learning anything offends me more than anything that anyone could possibly say. I cannot remember a time where I was more offended than I was at that point.

This hurt really badly. I WAS FURIOUS! It also made me that much more motivated to ‘do a better job' in her mind. I seriously don't think that I have ever been as motivated as I am, since I read this.

In my mind, this is her doubting me and my ability. I'm a very determined person, whenever someone's told me that I can't do something in my life, I do whatever I can to prove them wrong. Not only was I worried about my job, but I also felt challenged to show this lady that my students are learning a lot and that her negative impression of me is totally wrong.

This may sound bad, but I told myself "I want to do such a good job that this lady will be crying, the day that I walk into her office and tell her that I've taken a job at another school." (whether it's at the end of this school year, five years from now, or 20 years from now).

I spent a good five or six hours at school that day. I went home and did more school stuff. I was up until midnight on Saturday getting stuff done. I went to sleep angry and upset. I didn't sleep much at all Saturday night. I got up Sunday morning and went to school again for another five or six hours. I went home and did school stuff and watched the football game. I walked into school on Monday a lot more confident in what I was doing.

I still had a chip on my shoulder the size of the state of Texas. I got up at 5 and arrived at school at 6, a full hour before the other teachers got there. I did this everyday last week. I crafted the instructional program plan for my ultra-smart student, I fixed my lesson plans, I made rough drafts of curriculum maps for every subject (which I should have done all along), I added the daily poem and a few other things to my calendar routine, I put up the word wall (although it's still a work in progress), and I completed the myriad of other tasks that I put on my list Friday nite.

I also realized that sitting behind my desk on e-mail while my kids work at their centers isn't the greatest thing, so I've decided to stop hiding and get out. I realized that I'm doing my students very little good sitting behind that desk while they work. Even if they don't need my help, I should be surveying the class, doing some informal assessment and whatnot. I can e-mail and do that other stuff on my own time.

By the time Friday rolled around, I was utterly exhausted, mentally and physically. I was supposed to have a follow up meeting with my principal Thursday and then Friday, but both days she was busy so it didn't happen. I spoke with the head Kindergarten teacher on Monday and asked her point blank that if she thought that I was doing a really bad job/about to get fired, if she'd be on my butt a lot more than she currently is/was. She said that yes, if I was doing a bad job that she'd be on my butt big time. This relieved me. She said that being a rookie teacher is very difficult and that I am taking my lumps (NO KIDDIN').

I made it a point this past weekend to not go to school at all. I did everything at home, then I got to school by 6:30 on Monday and gathered all of my materials for the week. I like this a lot better than going to school on a Saturday and/or Sunday. I went out on Sunday and had an amazing time. I went to bed way too late Sunday night, but I went to bed in a really good mood thanks to a certain someone.

Despite only being on 6 hours of sleep, Monday was awesome. My kids fed off my good mood.... I might have to go out with a certain someone more often, if my kids are going to be this productive/behave this well the nite after I spend time with that person.

LOL.... I suppose only if she's lucky.

I really feel like I've improved my teaching considerably over the last two weeks. My class runs more efficiently, I am better serving my students, and just in general, things are getting better.

It's funny how in life you have to be totally knocked down before you can continue to build further. I suppose this is the essence of being a rookie teacher. You do some really great things and then they fall apart or blow up on you or you discover a cool new way to do things, you then pick yourself up and re-build with your new found knowledge knowing full well that it's just a matter of time before you get knocked down again and are forced to re-build.

Once you start to get good, I'm thinking that you don't have to re-build nearly as much, you can get away with altering a few things here and there. I was tore up and feeling like I was a terrible teacher just a week ago and now I picked myself up, improved what I needed to improve and am a lot better off than I was prior to ‘when I got in trouble'.

‘Re-building' sucks, but I suppose that it is a necessary part of the process that I am currently in, as I work towards becoming the amazing teacher that I know that I am certainly capable of becoming.

The Kid Teacher