Getting Better All the Ti-ime

Although things are not materially different in my classroom, I'm not letting stuff bother me as much so I feel less angry and edgy and so am probably being slightly more effective, although--as I said--things don't seem that different. What I mean is--they feel different to me, but I'm not sure that anything really different (particularly, anything better) is happening.

Today, a girl was in tears because it's picture day and some boys (friends of hers) had purposely held her down and messed up her hair. Later, but before we went to have our pictures taken, there was nearly a fight in my classroom. Fortunately, the more aggressive boy is quite small and I could physically hold him back from the other one (which I could not have done if it had been the other guy aggressing). Also fortunately, a third boy--slender but tall--coaxed/guided the angrier fellow out into the hallway. Eventually, things were resolved, but it took some doing. I was glad that I stayed calm and didn't freak out.

My sweetie is in Berlin for a few days, at a conference. We've been house-hunting lately, which is nerve-wracking. Put in one offer that was rejected. Are considering putting a low offer on a house that needs a lot of work, wishing we were more confident about home repairs. I think I need a little more stress in my life. Maybe I should start a club at school... Well, that's taken care of as I've already told students I would start an Environmental Action Club. A student asked me about it today: When are we starting? Oh, boy.

Life is full, full, full to bursting with lifeyness, isn't it?

Got out of town!

We spent the morning along the Richmond shoreline, picking up trash along with many others, including four students from my school.

We worked along the edge of the marsh, where the garbage was dense and tiny--hundreds of small pieces of styrofoam and plastic, tiny ziplock bags that I think fishhooks might come in, plus lots of the usual straws, plastic bottle caps, cigarette filters, and plastic bags (especially the kind chips come in).

The tide came up quickly and as we watched a young woman found herself suddenly nearly to her knees in the mud. She was wearing waders, and even with lots of help, could not get one foot out without abandoning the wader. My students and I had just been joking around about one of them getting lost in the quicksand.

After a productive (albeit somewhat depressing) session on the beach, we enjoyed a free lunch at the park for all the clean-up volunteers.

Next, we drove to central Marin County and visited my friend Jenny. She and I are getting together weekly to spend time together writing. It is nice to have dedicated work time and someone else also doing the same thing. Justin enjoyed a nap and some reading at that time.

After a quick stop at a grocery store, we headed to Muir Beach. There we enjoyed a beach fire and shared meal and bbq with folks from my work. Good people, beautiful location.

A lovely full but not stressful day. Feeling refreshed, though I have plenty of work to do tomorrow.

Thanks to all those who've called or emailed to express their sympathy/support about my work situation. Just so you know, I had a better day on Friday. I was able to maintain my own perspective (plus a couple of students were absent, and that helped re-set the tone). Hopefully we'll keep moving in a positive direction from here.

A Shinier Day, somehow

Slightly better day today. Not because things were really better, but because I talked to colleagues, attended a good p.d. session, had a useful phone conference with other teachers and our CEO, and got a ride home from a colleague who talked about Week-Without-Walls, a cool thing that our school does every spring.

Also... more than half the students got either 7 or 8 out of 8 on their spelling tests. Hurray! Small successes.

Remember spitballs and rubberbands?

Not sure why I keep trying to be a teacher. I think it's something to do with the facts that (a) I like people, including young people, and (b) I like teaching, in the sense that I like helping someone learn something new, or see a new perspective, or experience something new. I'm interested in the processes of people's minds, so I don't get impatient when a person is struggling to learn something; I find it interesting to figure out how to explain or teach something.

However, I really don't like dragging anyone anywhere (obviously I'm speaking figuratively here, though I wouldn't enjoy literally dragging anyone, either). I don't like feeling invisible, and I really don't like feeling like an impediment to other people's fun. In other words, I hate classroom management. I also hate chaotic classrooms. Preventing chaos and entropy and wholesale abandonment of any educational objectives is extremely exhausting, at least with my current group of 14 and 15 year old.

I was going to say that it's just the age of the students, but then I remember my classes in the Solomon Islands, where I don't remember having any classroom management issues.

I feel pissed off at society for creating an anti-educational atmosphere among the poor and working classes. I feel pissed off at the parents for not raising their children to have the manners I expect. I feel pissed off at the dads who haven't been there to raise their sons. I feel pissed off at the moms whose ideas of strict parenting involves physical and verbal abuse. I feel pissed off at all the elementary teachers who didn't quash students' inappropriate classroom behavior. I'm horrified at myself for using the word 'quash' about what is really liveliness and spirit. I'm pissed off at myself for letting myself get into the situation I'm in. I'm also pissed off at myself for not having more fortitude and more persistence (I am already fantasizing about how I could honorably escape from my job). However, I do know (or think I know) that it'll get better and that I'll be sad at the end of the year to leave my students for the summer. If I think about them individually, I love them and even understand and can sympathize with what they do. Still, I cry.

I'd like to teach. I'd like to feel like I was offering them something besides an obstacle to get around, an object to laugh at, an authority to rebel against.

Not today, apparently. Maybe tomorrow.