Saturday, July 28, 2012

My Teacher Story Linky–Part 4

Tales of Frogs and Cupcakes is having a linky party on the story of how you became a teacher. My Teacher Story
Click here to read Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3
This is part 4 of how I got to where I am…
Lesson 7: Greener Pastures Are Not Always Greener
I looked for another job at the end of that year. I dearly wanted to go back to the classroom. This was caused by the stress level of the reading position, but also by seeing my class with their new teacher every day and thinking about how much I wanted to be with them. I sat through their poetry reading choking back tears because I wished I was their teacher. It was a great group!
Teaching reading is my passion, but when you only teach reading, the job loses some of it’s appeal – at least for me. I didn’t get to know my students and I missed teaching science and social studies (math, not so much). I knew I could make more of a difference every day with 22 students than I could 25 minutes four days a week with 82 kids I hardly knew.
To be honest, pay was also an issue. Everyone gasps when a teacher mentions pay! I could move to
a district the same distance from my house and make $12,000 more. I’m not even kidding. So, I did. I was hired in a small city district that had an amazing reputation for guided reading. HAD is the important word here.
Okay! So I was hired as a k/1 multiage teacher in a teaming teaching classroom. There were two of these types of classroom and both of the teams had an open classroom setup. I had 22 students in my “homeroom”, but taught all the kindergarteners combined for math and first graders for language arts. We taught science and social studies to ALL 46 kids at once. Yikes! Does that make sense?
Sounds okay, but here’s the real story – and there always seems to be one in my life! The teacher I was teaming with and her former partner teacher had developed the program and worked together for like 15 years. The other teacher was done waiting for retirement and decided to leave. There were reasons the other one wasn’t retiring, but I won’t go there. So, I was the young replacement who had some really strong experience, but was no match for the other teacher and how she wanted the program to run. I was basically an aide in the room. I couldn’t change anything on my side of the room (including the color kittens that had been up since I was in first grade!), create behavior plans, or even follow the prescribed curriculum. Since we were our own program, we had our own thematic thing going, but I was still expected to cover everything I couldn’t.
BTW, my mentor was my partner teacher’s former student teacher and she had all 3 of my mentors kids. Not exactly a situation where I could talk openly and honestly! There were many awkward and just plain awful situations that year. I actively worked in both k and 1, so I had 14 colleagues in each grade level and double the meetings. We were also part of a Reading First Grant that year, which meant that we were working from a prescribed basal, and basically taught phonics all day long. I actually received negative feedback on an observation because I did not read all the blue words in the basal during my lesson, I only read three of the five example words. Too bad my kids had it and were ready to move on to actual learning! Forget reading actual books and writing actual stories. I cried over how I taught reading that year – literally sobbed. I was trained to teach reading and had the instinct to do it well. I did not need the blue words in a reading series to tell me how to teach my kids.
This grant took an amazing and high achieving program and destroyed it, all for a couple million dollars that could not be used with the flexibility that was anticipated. The parents were tough, the teaching was heartbreaking and the adult interactions were disheartening. I talked to my husband quite a bit about how maybe teaching wasn’t for me. I still loved education, but I didn’t love teaching. Not a single thing about it. Now, looking back, I am very angry about that. How could that institution take a teacher who was good at her job, experienced, and confident, and completely break her? I actually started to think the reading the blue words and teaching kids to read non-sense words was okay. (I’m sorry if that is part of your reading program or philosophy, but it is the antithesis of mine. I was trained at a college where basals viewed with moderate distaste. I am fairly whole language in my personal philosophy.) To think that maybe I should get rid of my boxes and boxes of trade books because they were not being read and that not doing ANY art with kids was okay because there wasn’t time. It makes me furious that I was preparing to give up 6 years of college and my 6 years of experience because of that place. I was desolate and had no idea what my future was. I vowed that, if I were to ever teach again, I would only teach somewhere that met with my philosophy. Even then I knew this was crazy, but I knew I would be miserable if I didn’t.
My grandmother passed away that June after 4 years of kidney dialysis. She was my best friend. We actually graduated from the same high school and college, and taught kindergarten 60 years apart. She was my foundation and if I can be even a fraction of the person and teacher she was, I will have lived a good life. I would come in every day, waiting for the call that she had passed, to two co-workers who were plainly manipulating me and enjoying watching me try to extricate myself from uncomfortable situations. I secretly think that I was hired because they thought I would challenge and push the teacher I was working with. Little did they know that I am not a person who chooses to punish my-self and, rather than be used as a bulldozer, I would just find another job. Astoundingly, I orchestrated my acceptance of a new position right under their noses and left without saying a word at the end of the year.
When I came to pick up the last of my boxes, my partner teacher had the audacity to say “You could have talked to me.” As if to say I hadn’t tried all along and she was clearly being wronged in all this…she enjoyed drama and the world wasn’t right without it. I thought of so many things I wished I had said days and even weeks later. It was better that I just left.
find out where I am now! Click here: My Teacher Story Linky–Part 5 (yes, 5!)

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