Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Oakland Reschedules the Fourth of July

Apparently someone up high in Oakland city government forgot about the Fourth of July. So, since they weren't prepared, they had to move the Fourth of July to the 28th of July. And we wonder why our city/schools/school district is in crisis?

Friday, June 22, 2007

Seriously, Can't You Just Be Nice??

The pictures below are of my bruises from the IVs I got in the emergency room. Just to prove I was really sick.

Now an administrator at my school says that I need to come take the trash from my room to the dumpster "for the kids." I hate it when they pull this manipulative guilt trip. Why not just say "I understand that you're really sick, but it would really help me if you came to throw away all the trash." Why use the "if you loved the kids, you would do this" card?

Administrators around me have a habit of this. A co-worker of mine was out for two weeks because her mother-in-law was dying in the burn unit. The co-worker says that an administrator was really supportive at first, then when said administrator realized she was out for a while, he/she started sending her emails asking her to do model lessons for a new school hiring process. When she said no, he/she apparently retaliated by scheduling her official observation on the day she returned - from a family tragedy - THIRTY MINUTES after she got there. How hard is it to have a little compassion, understand that someone has just been through a very traumatic family death, and give her a couple of days to get herself back together?

Another co-worker was a brand new teacher this year, and got a really really difficult first grade class. At first, the administrators were very supportive - "Oh, any support you need, let me know... blah blah blah..." But the support never really materialized. Out of the three administrators, two of them couldn't control the class either. To my knowledge, no one ever gave her ideas on how to control them, no one did a model lesson, no one got her the kind of support a new teacher needs. She left halfway through the year after being reduced to tears in her classroom many many times.

It's sad how many principals are the same way. When I started in January, 2000, the principal directed me to the room, told me it wasn't my room because I was a roving teacher, that i had to move all of my stuff into a closet and another room that wasn't really mine, and left. She didn't give me any clues as to what I was supposed to teach, where my curriculum materials were, how to get supplies, where I could find my class list, nothing. Apparently we subscribe to the "sink or swim" school of thought.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Is it THAT Hard to Be Nice? (Or: Somewhat of a Rant)

I mentioned that I ended the school year very ill. The weekend before the last week of school, I basically threw up until I was completely dehydrated, and had to go to the ER to get fluids and anti-nausea medication. (6 hours, I think?) My roommate and boyfriend came with me, and brought a big bucket for me to throw up in (too much information?) We had 3 doctors and 2 nurses so no one was communicating. We finally let Warren go home at 1:30 am because he had to work - we took a cab home at 3 am.

When I stopped throwing up, I started shaking/shivering. The nurse said it was probably just because the IV fluids were cold. Well, I got home, went to sleep, and woke up shaking like I never have before. My teeth were chattering, and I wasn't so much shivering as convulsing or almost seizing. We called the advice nurse twice; she didn't seem worried. I sweated through about 6 changes of sheets and several changes of clothing and never really stopped shaking. I tried to drink Gatorade, but all the fluid I was ingesting was lost in sweating. Finally, Warren came over and said it was time to go back to the ER, no matter what the advice nurse said.

So, back to the ER we went (I saw one of my kids' step-moms in there; she thought she was miscarrying her baby, which was very sad) for another 6 hours. This time we had 2 nurses and only one doctor, who was very thorough and did every test possible, as well as hooking me up to more IVs. He never found out what was wrong and ended up just giving me sedatives. (although now I've been told I may have had a sodium deficiency from being dehydrated. Apparently a sodium deficiency can cause one to convulse, have seizures, and eventually go into a coma. Yuck.)

So, now it's early Tuesday morning and I'm on sedatives. I don't remember Tuesday and I barely remember Wednesday. Warren went into my classroom on Tuesday to get the gecko and tell the kids that I was really sorry I wasn't there. Wednesday was the last day of school and my friend Amanda drove me to school just to say goodbye to kids (I couldn't get out of the car; they had to come to the car window). Meanwhile, my roommate was in contact with one of my administrators via phone to tell this administrator how sick I was and how sorry I was that I was missing the last week of school (very sad for me). She/He told her that it was fine, that I needed to do whatever I had to in order to recover, and that he hoped I got well soon. She/He also wrote me a nice email.

What does this have to do with not being nice? I'm getting to that.

The previous week, the kids and I had started getting the room ready, taking stuff down, switching books because next year a first grade will be in that room, etc. I had already taken a lot of my stuff home. On Thursday, Coleen drove me to school to get the rest of my stuff and turn in my keys. I had to go then because there was someone to drive me and I wasn't sure when I would be able to drive myself (I hadn't eaten in 4 or 5 days and was still feeling really woozy). We went to school, packed up all my personal stuff, threw away as much trash as we could, and stopped when I apparently started turning green. It took me most of the next two days to recover from that trip. I saw the administrator on that trip and she/he said to go home and rest. It was obvious, I think, how ill I was. And in case it wasn't, I had nice big bruises on my hands from the IVs. She/He said don't worry about anything, just get well.

I thought I was done.

Yesterday, I got an email from this administrator, cc'd to the two other administrators, the executive director, and (for some unknown reason) the woman in charge of tracking our test data. She/He said, very formally, probably for everyone else's benefit, that my room was not signed off, that I needed to have the room cleaned by Friday, that I needed to trade the books for first grade books, dump all the trash in the dumpster, and turn in my doctor's notes. She/He emphasized that this all needed to be done by Friday (I got the email on Wednesday night) and that if I wasn't well enough to do it, I needed to have someone else come in and do it.

Well, first of all, I don't have someone else who will come clean my classroom, as there is currently a shortage of manservants at my house. Also, I did trade the books, which she/he very well knows, and I got all my stuff out of the room. I threw away as much as I could and almost passed out because I was doing that. (and since when is taking trash to the dumpsters in my job description?) The room, although it has a lot of trash to take out and the floor needs cleaning, neither of which are my job, is in much better shape than when I got it. When I got it two years ago, there was moldy food, old clothes, and years of files. All I left were office supplies, and art supplies, which will be used by the next teacher.

In addition, my stomach still does not feel right, even right now, and I have been frantically working on my editing job this week, trying to catch up from a week of being really ill. I'm not coming back to school after the year is over to clean the room. Neither I nor the people with me in the ER thought about doctors' notes as we were too worried about the convulsing, so I have to go back and get those from Kaiser, which could take a while. However, I am not required to have a doctors' note for the period of time that I was out, according to my contract.

So, this is my question. Why can't people just be nice? Why can't I just get a "Wow, you were here longer than anyone, you had to move rooms three times [each time there was moldy food], it really stinks that your time here is ending with you being so ill. Do what you can." Or even a nice, "If you're well, could you please stop in and see if there is anything else you need to take care of?" The whole email was so pissy and snippy, probably for the benefit of her/his boss (the administrator has turned out to be quite a politician) that now I am determined to not walk in there, even for anything legitimate.

It reminds me of the co-worker who had to deal with my evaluator when she had $100 stolen. Basic human decency, people. It's not that hard. Treat people the way you want to be treated, and all that junk. Have some concern about their well-being, and their feelings. Quit using people just as tools to further your career. This crap is what makes people leave my district. Who can blame them for wanting to go to another district where they actually get treated like people? The ones who don't leave internalize all this junk and take it out on the kids. They don't mean to, but what do you do with it all?

I choose to not get treated like crap any more.

Teacher Turnover

Someone did a study about how much money it costs to deal with the crazy amount of teacher turnover in many districts. It's here: http://www.nctaf.org/resources/demonstration_projects/turnover/TeacherTurnoverCostStudy.htm and it's sad. You can also calculate the cost of teacher turnover in your particular school or district here: http://www.nctaf.org/resources/teacher_cost_calculator/teacher_turnover.html

One might wonder - if it costs SO MUCH to replace the teachers who leave, why wouldn't you just treat the teachers you have better so they wouldn't leave?? Then you could spend the money on something useful, AND you'd keep experienced teachers. Does it really take rocket scientists to figure that out? Maybe, because the administrations in school districts really really don't get it.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Job Security

It strikes me (in the middle of the night) that I am leaving I am leaving an incredibly difficult, often emotionally abusive, poorly supported, under-appreciated and under-respected job with incredible job security (ever tried to get a tenured teacher fired? Short of hurting a child, it's almost impossible. And it may even be difficult then) and good benefits for a job I love where no one is mean to me and I get appreciated but is part-time, has no benefits, and zero job security.

Is there a reason that all of the good things couldn't go together??

The Stories Go On

Many people have asked me if I'll keep writing the blog now that I'm no longer working at my school. I didn't know that so many people were reading it. That's encouraging. Anyway, I will keep writing it, in part because I still have so many stories that I haven't shared and I need to get out - about lockdowns and jaded police officers who don't care about kids any more and principals who have turned into politicians and wonderful children who see hope in the middle of the ghetto. And the gecko, of course the gecko.

Another reason is because many of my friends think it is really good for me and thatI actually have some important things to say.

However, the main reason I need to keep writing this is because the kids need someone to have a voice for them, no matter how small or ineffective that voice is. No one listens, and they deserve so much better than to be ignored.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

It's Over.

The school year is over. I celebrated (?) by getting very dramatically ill and not being able to go to school for the last three days of it because I was too busy going to the emergency room over and over. Now there's all sorts of mixed feelings about what I wasn't able to do and how things ended. Many, many, very mixed feelings. But I'll have more time to blog this summer. And - although I'm very much looking forward to a break from teaching - less money. Anyone hiring?

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Last Report Cards

The last set of report cards are due today - whether or not I'll actually have them finished today is a whole other story. Besides, after last time, I'm not likely to take my evaluator's comments that seriously anyway. For that to happen, she'd have to 1)let me tell the truth, 2)not just cross out entire sections without telling me why or how to make it better. Unlikely. So, I'll probably get lectured again about how I don't reflect on my teaching, which would make me a better teacher, and probably a better person.

That's my problem. I don't reflect on my teaching!

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Getting Ready for a Substitute

Some of the kids wrote notes to me about how they were going to behave when there was a sub the following day:

"I'm going to try to get along with the sub."

"I'm going to be good so when you get back you don't have to waste your brath on us being bad."

"I'm nurvse about the sub because I don't know is it going to be good."

"I don't want a sub because they mean and not take us to computer"

"I am sad because you are not going to be hear but I am happy because you are going to be back. But I am going to be good for the sub."

"I am mad because we would have subsututues that weak. I am a little happy because you are here today. So I am a little mad and I am a little happy to see you today."

"I am happy because I'm not going to be here next year. And I'm happy because I'm going to have more fun there." [A little off topic, but apparently what was on his mind!]

"Im going to controll myself by remembering what you said I was good before so I could do it again."

"I will fill sad when you not here and I will be on a good behayer [behavior] and I will call you to tell you how we doing."

"I am neavors because when we have "subs" chrildren are bad when "subs" are here. I'm neavors because I want the teacher to be able to come back and tell everyone how good we are. Also because when maybe one child or a secound child acts up it's concacitions [consequences] for everybody. I try to be good a lot when subs are here. I try to be helpful, thankful, good, nice, and I also try to listen to whoeva the subs is derections."