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A little magic needed, if you please

August 27, 2010

Hello everyone.

I am exhausted and I am not exactly sure where to begin.

It has been a long week.  LONG.  I am glad it is Friday, and I didn’t have to go back to school today.  That is a weird attitude.  I don’t ever remember being a TGIF kind of teacher.  I remember it being hard when I started teaching, but I thought maybe I would slide right back in, you know like riding a bike.  Well, it is sort of like that, except the bike is a unicycle instead.  I keep falling down.  I certainly haven’t found my rhythm yet.  Yesterday was better, but there were still some bumps along the way.  I haven’t cried yet though, so there is that.

So, Monday.  Monday went really well.  I only had 19 students show up, which was a great number to have.  I was a good-natured hard-ass, and joked my way through the syllabus.  I gave a lot of homework, and felt like I did okay.  I had one student come in very late, maybe half an hour late–and it is a 50 minute class.  I pointedly reminded him that the class began at NOON.  I had another guy falling asleep in the last row.  I asked him if he missed his morning nap time, and then I told him not to fall asleep in MY class because it hurts my feelings.  They seemed to get it, and I felt like I had been firm, but not bitchy.  I came home thinking that this job was going to be easy.  HA!

Tuesday we had a pre-test.  It is mandatory for all of my students because if they get 90% or above they get to drop my class and register for the next level of non-credit reading classes.  That saves them a whole class, both financially and time wise.  If they don’t get 90% then they are stuck in the class I teach for the whole semester (which they MUST pass) and then they have to go into the next level non-credit reading class.  Only then can they register for the normal Freshman Composition class that will fulfill part of their English requirement for graduation.  It is a 50 minute timed standardized test.

I was super organized.  I had given them all numbers on Monday, just for my own organizational things, so I matched their number to the test booklet number and stuffed their folders with their answer sheets (we had filled them in the day before) and the test booklet.  I had a whole class set of sharpened pencils and I had my homework bin out and waiting for homework to fill it.  I thought I had it all covered.  Not so much.

The six people who didn’t bother showing up the day before, walked in on day two.  I didn’t have test booklets ready for them, because I assumed that they weren’t going to be in my class.  I still had things pretty organized, but I FELT like I was fumbling around.  I hate that.  Then, I had a girl ask if she could listen to music during the test.  Um.  No.  I had three or four people come in 15 minutes late, which was really disruptive.  I also had to wake up two different guys during the test.  That still boggles my mind.  How do you fall asleep DURING a timed test?  At the end of the test the people who came in late said, “It is a 50-minute test, but I haven’t been here for 50 minutes.”  I told them it was 50 minutes by my watch not theirs.

That night I had an incredible amount of homework for myself.  I had to grade their Reading Inventory and their All About You sheets and I had to compile all of their pre-test information.  This on top of parenting and soccer practice.  I was so glad that there was left-overs in the fridge so I didn’t have to cook.  I really enjoyed reading their inventories.  When I taught in Elementary School, I had my students for 6 hours a day.  If we ran out of time, we could always finish up a little while later.  Fifty minutes go by so fast.  I want to get to know my students, so this is really the only way I can.  Many of them were funny, and some were just plain weird.  I had one student write, “I am a thumb sucker.”  under the question, “Anything else you think I should know?”  And another student’s answer to “What places do you like to go?” was “THE BAR!”  Nice.  I was a bit flustered, but I attributed it to having the pretest and not knowing how that worked, and figured that Wednesday’s class would go better.

It began okay.  I took the pretest so I could have a conversation with them about it.  None of them came close to passing it.  The most anyone got right was 27 out of 40.  We had a good conversation, and then I talked about the Reading Inventories and explained how I replied to them, but kept the surveys for my reference.  Part of their homework was to follow a link to an article, print it out and read it, making notes in the margins, so they were ready to discuss it in class.  So they took a quiz that related to the article, and then got into groups to compare answers on the quiz and discuss the article.  Their group was to come up with three of the most important things to know when trying to pass a college course.  They all did it, most had their articles and they came up with good things.  But, that is when two guys came in late.  It was probably 12:25 or 12:30.  I told them to join a group.  When we were done compiling a list of things that is when another guy came in, no pencils or books or paper.  I didn’t know what to do.  We put BE ON TIME  on our list of important things to pass a college course.  It really bothered me.  After that I knew I didn’t have time but I tried to push through another activity.  It was bad teaching all around.  I was hurrying them and rushing through explanations, bad.  It would have been better to let them go early.  I was discouraged.

Yesterday, I decided to scrap the “lessons” that I hadn’t gotten to the day before, and that I had planned for the day and slow down.  I reserved a room in the library and the librarians pulled poem books on a cart for me.  I brought a bunch of my own poem books as well.  I began by talking a little bit about their paper that had been handed in the day before, and then I read them some poems.  We talked about background knowledge and connecting to a text.  Then they were to browse the poem books to find a poem that they connected to and that described them in some way.  Part of the project is copying the poem and giving it the proper citation.  They will also be writing a response paper telling how they connected to the poem and why it describes them.  On Monday, they will share their poem and their papers with their groups.  Everything was going just fine, until the same guy who came in late the day before came in at 12:35.  I told him it was unacceptable  and that this could not go on.  Then I went up to him and told him that it was disrespectful to me and to the rest of the students to come in so late and to look at the clock next time and if he was late not to bother coming at all.

Obviously this rattled me.  I was pissed.  But I got over it and went on with the rest of class.  At the end of class, I wanted to read a poem from Nikki Giovonni’s book Ego Tripping.  Someone had it because it was not with the rest of my books, so I just called out, “I need my book by Nikki Giovonni called Ego Tripping.  Everyone was silent.  I went and checked again, this time checking behind the other books and checking the library cart.  No book.  I asked again.  No response.  I said, “Is someone trying to steal my book?  That is really sad.”  Then I sat down to wait until the end of class.  That is when another guy said, “Ohhhhh, here it is….it must have been her the whole time…”  People snickered, and I got the book and read the poem.  I know that it is possible that the book was just hidden under something, but it felt like it was purposeful.  That he was letting me squirm.  But, I can’t prove anything.  I believe with my whole heart that he knew damn well he had that book all along.

So.  I am struggling.  I am struggling with the content that I have to teach, because I don’t know it well yet.  I usually write my lesson plans after I teach the lessons, because I never know what the student will need.  I have a general idea what I want to accomplish, but I follow the students.  I am way over planned which is making me tend to rush through activities because I need to get done with everything.  If I were to be told that I had to teach kindergarten tomorrow, I could walk in and do it.  I wouldn’t like being unprepared, but I know the material so well, that I could walk in and teach.  I can’t do that with this job.  I am too clueless.  I hate that.  And I am struggling with the students.  Why am I focusing on the three or four students who are giving me a hard time?  I have 25 students.  Most want to be there, and are working hard.  How do I ignore those who don’t care and teach those who do?  It is really hard for me.  In public K-12 school it is exactly the opposite.  The students who get it, don’t get the attention.  The ones who don’t get a lot of attention.  I have to flip that upside down.

I knew this wouldn’t be easy.  (When I was being realistic.)  I knew that I had been home for nine years.  I knew that I wouldn’t be teaching five-year-olds who say things like, “I love you teacher.”  I knew I didn’t know the material as well as I would like.  But, I think I couldn’t go there.  I needed to be excited,  and in order for that reality, I had to let go of the actual reality.

I need a little magic and a whole lot of divine intervention.

**Sorry, no photos today.  Too tired to find one.  xo!

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9 Comments
  1. August 28, 2010 11:50 am

    Usch, tough crowd. …I guess the only thing I can say is that most likely things will have settled down a bit by week 2 and you’ll start feeling more comfortable as you start getting to know them better. It IS a totally different thing from teaching the little ones, though, I can certainly understand that. If you don’t follow thehula on LJ, I can highly recommend her. She teaches university level science and she doesn’t put up with any crap. She might even lock her door when class starts! :D Don’t let them get your goat and if they do get it, don’t let them know! Chin up!

    • September 2, 2010 2:11 pm

      I tried to go read thehula and her site is locked unless you are an LJ friend. Thanks for that though, I think I just need to be myself a little more than I have been.

      • September 3, 2010 3:31 pm

        You should totally get an LJ just for commenting :) I have other friends who do that. They don’t write on the LJ blog, they only use it for friends-only people or commenting.

  2. August 29, 2010 11:07 am

    Wow. I am SO GLAD to read about your week. I was totally thinking of you all week, and knew you were completely exhausted at the end of every day. So much energy expended!

    Yeah, it sounds like you need to be a super hard ass on people walking in late. Good for you for telling the latecomer how rude he was! Like, if you come after the first fifteen minutes, you’re counted absent, or something. I don’t know if you can do that at your school, but I know in my college, I would have NEVER shown up late into class. I mean, 5 minutes late is one thing, but it’s just plain rude to show up halfway to class. These kids need to feel the fear of God about that! I know there were some professors for whom you didn’t dare walk in late – oh, the scorn they would heap upon you!

    I am sure it will get easier. You are incredibly smart and you care so much, you’ll learn how to deal with smart-aleck college kids. So many of them are probably totally freaked out! College is scary. Fun, but scary all the same.

    I am proud of you! You made it through the first week! Now please tell me you’ve had plenty of wine and a heaping of chocolate and are being VERY gentle with yourself. Sending you an immense hug. Wish I could send a casserole to make things easier!

    • September 2, 2010 2:14 pm

      Oh, Sam. I read this last week and it was such a relief to read. Thank you. And thank you for the virtual casserole as well, so delicious! I have had a few cocktails and the chocolate has helped as well :)

  3. August 31, 2010 2:25 am

    Oof, that sounds like A Week. I’m remembering my senior year of university when a new professor took over one of my required courses. None of us chose her class voluntarily simply because she was a “newbie,” and we didn’t have much confidence in her. But within a few days, she was my favorite professor. She was somehow both warm and tough. She treated us like adults, and if any of the students didn’t act like adults — showing up late, sleeping during class, mouthing off — she told them firmly they could leave her class. If they weren’t there to learn, she wasn’t going to teach them. (I have to wonder if she ever broke down in the privacy of her office afterward.) It sounds a lot like the approach you’re taking, and in my opinion, it’s a great one. And just think — it will only get easier from here on out! (I wish I could send you a casserole too. Maybe this is a good month to stock up on frozen suppers guilt-free…)

    • September 2, 2010 2:16 pm

      Thanks Bethany! I am still working on it, and I think I will be for the rest of the semester, and probably for the rest of my career. Thank you for the dinner wishes as well. It really is the thought that counts!

  4. August 31, 2010 5:28 pm

    “I haven’t cried yet though, so there is that.”
    That, I believe, is going to be my new mantra. Oh Meg, you’ll find your stride and be utterly amazing, I have NO DOUBT. You are the kind of person who inspires. Who encourages. Who ignites. You make people feel special and capable and amazing. At least, that is how you always make me feel with your comments.
    xoxo!

    • September 2, 2010 2:18 pm

      Well, I have cried now. But it was a whole week before I did! That is pretty good, right? Thank you for your kind words. I hope I can figure out how to be that person you have described. Now I have something to strive for :)

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