8 Alternatives to Committing Arson When the Copier Jams for the 40 Zillionth Time

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

There's something wrong with me.

Actually, there's an alarming number of things wrong with me, but today I will be talking about my rage issue directed at copy machines.

Just the worst.



It all began at my first school, where our resources like textbooks and technology were so limited that virtually every lesson required printing and making copies. The dependence on these copies, combined with the unreliability of the teacher copy machine, created a situation in my psyche I'll refer to as the Danger Zone. 

I can’t tell you how many hours I must have wasted at that school trying to clear paper from the hot, plasticky, inky grip of that machine. (There was a good copier in the front office, but administration put a password on it to prevent teachers from using it. I am not kidding.) My first year, I would sometimes spend half an hour after school trying to get the copier to work, only to leave in tears and take my copies to an office supply store, where I’d be charged thirty dollars and reasonably lose faith in the whole world.

But with a semi-sincere thanks to my first school, I got really good at fixing the copier. After a while, I could remove paper from Areas A through X in record time. I could tell just by listening which tray the copier liked or didn’t like. Lulled into a false sense of security, I began to think that I actually had power over the copier; that it could no longer undo me.

But just a few days ago, at my new school, where my stress levels are at a five-year low, I went to the copy room thirty minutes before class started for a packet I needed. After loading the paper and making my selections, I heard the aggressive whirring sound that I knew signaled a jam. No big deal. Opened it up, removed fourteen pieces of paper from the various sections of the copier’s bowels, closed it, chose a different tray. Another jam. And another. And another. The machine jammed round after round as if the stacks of innocent paper were prey in the maw of some great and terrible megafauna. 

There’s a reason matches aren’t allowed at school, and it’s this: if I had matches, I would have set that copy machine on fire.

I went to the Danger Zone*.

Because of how deeply I want to make sure you don’t follow in my footsteps, I created the following list after lots of meditation and centering prayer:


8 Alternatives to Committing Arson When the Copier James for the 40 Zillionth Time 

1. Give the copier a name. Personifying the copier may create less hostility in you. It’s much easier to roundhouse kick a copier when it doesn’t have a name. Would you roundhouse kick Gladys? Or Nelson? Or Mabel? (Some names might not work. For instance, I would totally roundhouse kick a copier named Derek, but that’s for personal reasons. Make sure you choose a name that connotes no feelings of animosity.)

2. Think about brighter things. Front row parking spaces! Unexpected snacks at department meetings! Jon Snow! Students actually returning your pencils! The idea of literally anyone beating Donald Trump for the presidency!

3. Pretend a Rastafarian next to you just pointed at the copier and shouted, “WE BE JAMMIN’!” If that doesn’t make you smile, you should probably just go home. Tell your administrator that a blogger on the Internet told you to leave. I’m sure that won’t create any further questions.

4. Use this time as a chance to be reflective about your own shortcomings. Think about times when you’ve done something stupid over and over and over.  My list is endless. Keeping a bag of trail mix in my desk**. Putting huge glasses of water on the corner of coffee tables. Choosing weird passwords I can never remember. Giving students candy at the beginning of class instead of the end. See? Copiers aren’t the only ones who commit the same mistakes over and over, always with the expectation of a different outcome.   

5. Have at least one back-up lesson plan ready to go that doesn’t require copies so the next time the copier jams you can be like, “No worries, Gladys, we all have bad days!” and stroll out of the copy room, leaving your nearby coworkers befuddled as to how you ever passed for Highly Qualified.

6. Go to your mind palace. You don’t have to do anything there. Just take a few deep breaths and for a few moments live in a place that is quiet, pristine, and totally under control. My mind palace is on the edge of the sea at Land’s End in southern England, and if I look hard enough I can see lambs grazing in the meadow from my window just beyond the Diet Coke fountain. Ah.

7. Ask your administrator if he/she would be willing to consider a system in which every time the copier jams, it sends a message to deliver a small electrical shock to your administrator via a special collar around his/her neck.  Asking might get you a newer, more reliable copier! Or it might get you fired. But then you could find a job where you don’t have to make copies.

8. Visualize the paper forming a little punk rock band and actually jamming inside the copier. This won’t make your copies magically appear, but it may make you smile when you think about little pieces of paper with stapled lips or eyebrows jamming out on their tiny guitars and electric keyboards.


There. That feels better.


What's in your mind palace?


Love and deep breaths and Zen thinking towards copiers,


Teach


*Until literally ten minutes ago when I Googled it, I thought that Kenny Loggins song was "I Went to the Danger Zone." Did anyone else think it was "I went to the danger zone?" Welp, now that joke's lost.

**For some reason, right after my first handful of trail mix, I completely black out and when I come to I'm scraping the last sunflower seeds off the bottom of the bag. It's frightening, actually.

26 Things That Would Happen If I Ran a School

Monday, January 18, 2016



The full title of this post is, “26 Things That Would Happen If I Ran a School and Also Had a Trillion Dollars and If Safety Weren’t an Issue And Magic Existed” but the shorter one was more Internet-friendly.

Before I had an awesome principal, I used to think A LOT about how I would run a school. Sometimes I would come up with very serious things I’d do differently, like, “Wow, I would not spend my Teacher’s Appreciation Week banquet speech passive-aggressively calling my teachers lazy and untalented,” which were my actual thoughts during the Teacher's Appreciation Week banquet my first year. Other times I'd invent unrealistic ways I’d run a school, like, “I would totally have a cereal bar installed in the teacher’s lounge along with a milk fountain where the milk comes out of a bucket held by a cat who is standing on its hind legs and smiling."

This post is full of the type of reasons in that latter realm of thinking.

I should also clarify that I’m writing this post late at night after consuming an alarming amount of sugary treats sent to me from a friend in Scotland.

Also, be aware that this post features the use of “they" as a singular pronoun because I love it and because it’s a thing now

Here we go.



26 Things That Would Happen If I Ran a School and Also Had a Trillion Dollars and If Safety Weren’t an Issue And Magic Existed

1. Teachers would have a bank of five additional vacation days called Nope, Not Going to Happen Today Days for those times when you get to school and realize you’re wearing two different shoes, or that you forgot your laptop, or that all your students are inexplicably savage and might set you on fire in the near future. You’d just email your supervisor and go home, no questions asked.

2. At back-to-school professional development I’d pretend that teachers are actually NFL players. I'd  rent one of those inflatable gates for them to run through to enter the school. There would also be a pyrotechnic display and I’d make students come to school for that day on their summer break and cheer maniacally and paint their faces and stuff. It’d be part of their service hours graduation requirement.

3.  We’d watch Whiplash during professional development as an example of how not to run your classroom followed by Mr. Holland’s Opus for morale. 

4. The whole school would follow a midday routine of 40 minute lunch à 30 minute recess à hour-long mandatory quiet time (no talking or technology; reading or napping or staring only).

5. There would be these giant, six by six-foot soundproof Plexiglas cubbies installed on all classroom walls called pods. The pods are big enough to fit a kid and their desk. If a student wanted to work by themselves or needed to make up a test or quiz they could just go in a pod and have total silence.

6. I’d have like eight therapists on staff, and every student has to meet with a therapist at minimum once a year even if they don’t think they need to. If they insist that they have absolutely no emotional conflict whatsoever in their lives, they can just talk to their assigned therapist about Netflix or something.

7. I’d have another free therapist on staff just for teachers, and there would be a small cookie oven in their office.

8. Students would take a Career Exploration class where they choose nine careers to shadow over the course of their sophomore year. (Obviously some nefarious careers would be banned, like writers of education policy.) Some career experts would be there at school to provide free services to teachers (e.g. chef, barista) and would also offer technical training to students. 

9. There would be a school garden and the chef would teach students how to grow food and prepare it.

10.  Instead of in or out-of-school suspension, students who broke major rules would have to come work in the school garden for eight hours on Saturday and then have to write a poem comparing their inner transformation to that of a plant.

11. The library would be an exact replica of the one in the castle in Beauty and the Beast.

12. The cafeteria would be an exact replica of the dining hall at Hogwarts.

13. There would be a doggy day-care on campus where faculty and staff could leave their dogs so they’re not alone for ten hours every day. There would be a vet on staff that oversees the day-care and also is part of the Career Exploration class, so students could shadow him or her. And then if you’re sad during your conference period you could go play with a bunch of dogs.

14. The substitutes are all super awesome undergraduate education majors from a local university. We get free substitutes, they get observation/classroom hours. Win-win.

15. In addition to stairs there are slides and rock walls to travel between floors.

16. Teachers would go on a surprise mystery international all-expenses paid vacation every year for Teacher Appreciation Week.

17. Teachers would be given a school debit card and an excitingly large budget to use on student supplies.

18. Each teacher would be assigned a professional assistant. The professional assistant’s job is to make and field phone calls, input grades, respond to emails, schedule meetings, fill out forms and hall passes, make new supply requests, inventory and organize current supplies, create and rotate work on bulletin boards, run errands related to teaching for supplies and resources, keep track of teacher’s academic budget, run correspondence with parents and administration, keep track of important school calendar dates such as school events, standardized testing, district initiatives, deadlines, etc. Oh and also answer the teacher’s personal phone calls, text messages, and emails. This way, teachers can focus their energy on their students, and on planning, teaching, professional training, and giving feedback to meet the needs of each child. Just like in the old days!

19. The scary red exclamation point on urgent emails in Microsoft Outlook would be replaced with the unicorn emoji. 

20.  Student desks could be converted to standing desks, lap trays, or rocking chairs.

21. Special robots would monitor standardized tests, not teachers or staff, because no human should have to do that job except for the people who design them.

22. The IT technician would be a wizard. Not figuratively. An actual wizard.

23. All students would be required to take a class senior year called Really Important Things where they are taught a rolling curriculum of information teachers deem students need to know but doesn’t necessarily fit in a traditional course subject. E.g. how to invest wisely in the stock market, knowing which side of the sidewalk to walk on, developing emotional intelligence, which direction the toilet paper should be facing when you replace it, using your turn signal, and other random bits of knowledge teachers want to impart to children before they graduate.

24. Snuggies would be not only permitted in the dress code but encouraged.

25. Fluorescent lighting is outlawed. Ambient lighting only. Also candles are allowed, but nothing that smells like real food (cupcakes, caramel, cookies, etc.) because that’s unconstitutional*.

26. Every year in June just before summer break, there is an end-of-year concert that is required attendance by the whole school. Between the two groups of students and faculty, whichever group has the lower average number of unexcused absences during the school year gets to choose the band/artist. So if students have fewer unexcused absences, they could vote on Rebecca Black and faculty would be forced to listen. But if faculty have fewer unexcused absences, they could vote to bring in ALANIS MORISETTE and life would be awesome and students’ heads would kind of explode.



I’m going to stop now because it’s 11:45 P.M., but not because I can’t think of 800 more things to add to this list, because I can.

Love and dreams,

Teach



*See the 8th Amendment

This December: #TeachingIsWishing

Tuesday, December 1, 2015



In To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus tells Scout, “You can never really understand a person… until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”* I’d say this is true not only for understanding people but also for understanding experiences. Think about things that you only understood as a participant. A magical moment while traveling in another country. What it’s like to lose a loved one. The first year of parenthood. We have ideas and expectations of what these experience will be like based on what we know from our own lives or have observed from the lives of others. We think, “This is how I would feel,” or “I would do it this way,” or “I would never react the way so-and-so did.” And sometimes, the reality of an experience is pretty close to our expectations of it. But other times, the only way you can understand the depth of emotions that come with an experience is to be there first-hand, to live it yourself.

Teaching is this way, too.

I went into teaching thinking I already had it figured out. I wasn’t an education major in college, but figured I knew enough about teaching to be fine. I went through public school K-12 and naively assumed that meant I understood the public ed system. I knew from camp counseling, babysitting, and volunteering that kids liked me and assumed this meant I could run a classroom. Learning new things had always come easy to me, so I assumed this meant teaching would, too. I had this gig in the bag.

Within three weeks of my first year I had begun to understand what I would realize over the course of that first year: teaching was nothing like I thought it would be.

I learned that first year that teaching is grueling—physically, emotionally, mentally. It was rewarding, too, of course, but not in the way that I expected it to just magically outweigh any obstacles I faced. More times than I was able to keep track of, I ended a day by putting my head on my desk and sobbing. Sometimes I was just tired, sometimes it was because I felt ineffective, but most times it was because of the recognition of the way various systems were keeping my students down. (To read more on that topic, read my post from earlier this year.) 

People assume and say a lot of awful things about teachers, but I don’t believe it’s because they’re awful people. I think they just have no idea. They are, much like I was prior to teaching, holding assumptions about public ed based on their experiences as a student or what they know from hearsay. They don't know that our anger comes from a place of love; that we see our students suffering under a system that doesn't work, and are worried about them. So then we have a situation where they can’t understand because they’re not here with us, we feel ignored (and angry) because they don’t understand, and suddenly all of us are caught in this terrible cycle of misunderstanding.

So here’s my idea: let’s start a conversation.

For the month of December, let people know your wishes for your students using the hashtag #teachingiswishing. Ask yourself, what is an advantage or opportunity I wish my students had? Here are some guidelines I’d like us to consider.

  • Keep it short. Though I know any of us teachers could probably write a 19-book novel series about what we want for our students, try to keep it to-the-point as possible. Think Twitter-length (140 characters). But certainly feel free to post more than once!
  •  Try to keep it student-focused. Though teacher pay and teacher workloads are absolutely things that need changing, the ultimate reason that we want change is on behalf of our students.
  • Be specific. Using a specific example that shows your students’ needs is way more effective and personal than generalizations about the state of public ed. People have heard all the generalizations; they might not have heard the specific situation unique to you.
  • Be factual. It’s harder to ignore a fact than it is an emotionally-charged personal opinion.
  •  Use the hashtag! If someone interested in knowing more about teachers’ needs clicks on the hashtag, they’ll see that teachers across the world have legitimate concerns about their students and the broken system in which we are trying to teach and learn.
  • Tag your state and national leaders in the message on Facebook or Twitter. If you can’t fit all the people you want to tag in one message, create more than one!



Here are some examples of what I mean:

" I wish my eighth-grade students didn’t have 18 days of state and district testing this year. #teachingiswishing"
"I wish my students had a better student-to-counselor ratio better than 810:1. #teachingiswishing"
"I wish my students were in smaller classes where I could effectively address their needs. #teachingiswishing"
"I wish my fourth-graders had their recess back instead of study hall. #teachingiswishing"
"I wish my students had access to class sets of novels we could read together. #teachingiswishing"
"I wish the kids on the other side of town had the same access to resources and field trips as the kids I teach. #teachingiswishing"

Feel free to include pictures or videos in your posts (but make sure to not use any student names or photos). Remember, this is to make the non-teaching world aware of what is going in our schools, not to place blame or tell people what to think. Show, don’t tell ;)

Maybe I’m just being overly positive, but I really think that if the people who don’t know what it’s like saw how much we love students and how hard we work to see that they succeed plus the scale of the obstacles we all face as educators, they’d join us in wanting things to improve.

(Maybe not. But it's at least worth a shot, right?)

Join me this December with #teachingiswishing! 

Love,

Teach

*I cannot read this quote without visualizing it literally.

How I'm Doing, More Specifically What I'm Doing About This Boot Over My Head

Sunday, November 29, 2015

This is Vermin Supreme, a man running for president on the platform that everyone has to brush their teeth and everyone gets a pony. I'm being serious when I say I think he would make a better president than at least one of the candidates out there.



In my Thanksgiving post, I referred to an update I’m writing on how I’m doing. Here it is!

Long story short, I’m doing well… I think.

Here’s the long story long.

***

If you’re just tuning in, I’m in my sixth year of teaching. I spent my first five in Title I, high-needs schools teaching English and ESL. I eventually decided I needed to leave, mostly for mental health reasons, since my stress and anxiety levels were beginning to affect my personality and overall health. I discussed these reasons more in-depth in a post back inApril.

This August, I began teaching at a non-Title I public school in a fairly wealthy neighborhood, not because I was necessarily seeking out wealthy schools, but because I knew a friend at this school who had come from my former school and was very happy. She said the administration was fantastic, and that everything was not easier, necessarily, but just a lot more manageable.

She was right.

My principal is so kind and wonderful that I often suspect she is a robot. The environment is happy and helpful, not even in a weird, fake way but in an honest way that environments get when employees are supported and valued and not pushed beyond their (and students’) limits. I can put all of my energy into teaching and loving my students instead of being forced to divide that energy among things that either a) aren’t a part of my job or are beyond my area of expertise, or b) don’t matter in the long run. Of course there are schools that are doing it right, and there are teachers who manage to do it all and do it well, but I wasn’t there, and that wasn’t me.

I’m sleeping better. I’m taking care of myself again. My old personality is starting to come back. I feel like an effective teacher for the first time. By no means is it “easier” at my new school—teachers everywhere are struggling, and I know that even at my non-Title I school I lucked out big time on administration—but the difference is that now the pressure is manageable instead of crippling.

But even though things are great at my new school, things aren’t great in my heart.

You know when you accidentally forget to cut out those giant, stiff tags in your new shirt that say “Please remove before wearing,” and how most of the time it’s fine, but every few hours it feels like someone’s crusty old fingernail is scraping against your side? That’s what it feels like at my new school when I remember where I came from. When I look around at the hundreds of parents in the PTA at my new school, at all the events and money and time spent on making sure teachers are supported and kids have everything they need, at the top-notch administration, I can’t help but think,

Why can’t the kids on the other side of town have that?

I’m happy, but it’s killing me knowing that thousands of teachers and students in my city—and millions of teachers and students in this country—aren’t given the same opportunities to teach and learn in schools like mine that pose very, very few obstacles to teaching and learning.

I’ve felt stuck for a while. I’ve wanted to write about it, but I don’t know what to write. I’ve written letters to my senator and congressmen, to my mayor, even the president, but have only gotten those automated “Dear angry teacher” pre-written responses. I want to do something to change what I see around me, but the more I look, the more I realize this is not simply about money or individual schools. It’s a much bigger beast than that. This is about a very carefully arranged network of systems in this country—education, housing, justice, etc.—that makes it nearly impossible to break the cycle of poverty, and that keeps the gap between those with more than enough and those without wide.

Part of why I’ve felt stuck is because I feel like any fighting I might do to change things is pointless. I hear the rhetoric of elected leaders like Chris Christie. I see popular magazine covers slamming teachers. I hear of more and more ed policies and legislation being written by people who have spent as much time in the classroom as I have in outer space*.  It’s hard to want to make things different when the system has its boot over your head.

Here’s the good news.

I’m just not the type of gal that likes a boot over her head.

On Tuesday I’m going to publish a post about an idea I have. It’s a very small idea. And it might not even be a good idea. But it’s better than feeling stuck, and maybe it’s the first step in lifting this boot off of the heads of teachers everywhere.

Here’s to boot-lifting, to action plans, to shirts free of “Please remove before wearing” tags, and to (hopefully) change.

Stay tuned!

Love,

Teach


*that is, none

14 Things For Which I'm Thankful (?)

Wednesday, November 25, 2015



A post is coming soon updating you on my teaching/personal/virtual life, but in the meantime I thought we should talk about things I’m thankful for. Things for which I’m thankful. Whatever.

As always, my students, awesome parents. This year, I’m thankful for those things and also so thankful for a supportive new school environment and to have energy and my normal enthusiasm back. 

But here's a list of things that I (and maybe you, too) are thankful for that you might not find on other edublogs that are better and more professional than mine:


The Thankful List, 2015

1. For unexpectedly finding what you need in the supply closet. Most of the time it’s not, and I have to buy it. But sometimes, as if my teaching supplies fairy godmother has heard my plea for three pale yellow poster boards, I walk in and there they are, like giant planks of gold. 

2. When a student actually remembers to wait before sharpening his/her pencil while you’re talking to the class. Every time I want to give them a Congressional Medal of Honor.

3. Orthopedic shoes. 

4. Coffee. And for people who bring me coffee. And for coffee gift cards. And coffee, conceptually. Amen.

5. Cardigans. Warmth without the bulk. Also they make me more like a Puritan, whom I admire*. I love them so much I wrote a whole post on them, which is part of a conglomeration of reasons I’m single.

6. When someone on the announcements trips up their words and then tries to recover. I die every time. I did an announcement after school once and said, “Ms. Teach, please report to (student)’s room. Wait. Nope. I’m Ms. Teach. Hahahahaha,” and hung up.

7. When you overhear students saying nice things they don’t think you can hear. Then my heart cracks into a thousand pieces because it can’t handle the joy.

8. The email saying a meeting has been cancelled. 

9. Watching an inter-student friendship blossom right in front of your eyes. CAN’T. EVEN. HANDLE.

10. When you come up with a game you think may be marginally fun and your kids end up treating it like the Olympics. My favorite is the Easter egg hunt with questions in half the eggs and answers in the other. Whether you have second graders or high school seniors be prepared for shriek-inducing insanity.

11. When you have colored paper to make copies. My favorite is salmon.

12. Finding snacks or candy in your desk drawer you totally forgot about. Rarely do I forget about snacks/candy, but when it happens it’s great, amiright? 

13. When a student accidentally calls you Mom. This was the first year I got called “Mommy.” I almost cried. (It was during DEVOLSON.)

14. How teaching has made me a better person.  I know that sounds real eye-rolly, but hear me out. There have been some pretty bleak times in my life as a teacher, but ultimately I think it has changed me for the better. I don’t see people as unredeemable anymore. It takes a lot to hurt my feelings or get me riled up. I can think pretty well on my feet (as long as I’m not on the phone. When I pick up a phone my communication skills always break down). I embrace change. There are very few things that scare me anymore**. I have a lot of feelings right now in this transitional period of my life, but mostly I’m just so grateful that the past six years have changed me more toward love. And that I know now that you come out of things that are difficult with a bigger heart, a better set of eyeballs, and much stronger love muscles.

And with that, go forth and eat all the turkey, my friends. And make this caramel apple pie and eat that, too.

I love you.

Love,


Teach



*Not for their persecution of others. Just their neutral-toned, concealing clothes. 

**only static electricity, air travel, ice fishing, and any headache I get

10 Things They Should Teach You in Teacher Training But Totally Don’t

Saturday, October 24, 2015



This week I had a bad day at my new school. I was embarrassed because I wasn’t following a certain grading policy I didn’t know was there (which is my fault for not having read the district handbook closely). I cried at school, which is always a terribly feeling. Then, when I got in my car, as if I activated some magic switch with my butt, I realized these things:
  •  During the last five years, I never once made it until late October without crying. In fact, in past years, I would have cried several times by now from school-related frustration.
  •   The administrator who pointed it out to me was so unbelievably kind. She took full responsibility (even though she shouldn’t have) for not reminding me, and she followed it up with like five minutes about how much students and parents love me and how much she values me.
  •  This “bad day” was nothing near like what my bad days used to be like, when something would break me that was out of my control.
  •   Even at the end of this “bad day,” I still felt happy, valued, and hopeful. I never felt that on my bad days before.

And then I went home and went to the gym, which I also wouldn't have done before (or, let's be real, even on my good days before).

In many ways I feel like it’s my first year all over again at my new school, but with nowhere near the level or kind of negative feelings I experienced before. Which got me thinking:

Why back then did I have to learn so many things on my own?

It's partly because I didn’t major in education in college. I majored in English because all my teachers from K-12 said FOLLOW YOUR DREAMS! THE WORLD IS YOUR OYSTER! YOU CAN DO ANYTHING YOU PUT YOUR MIND TO!, and I wanted to be a writer, so I majored in English. I knew all I needed to do was graduate and start cranking out bestsellers and live off the profit from all the movies and theme parks based on my novels!!!!

HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. Hahaha. Ahahaha. Haha. Ha.

(That didn’t happen.)

I ended up getting my alternative certification through a program in my area. Apparently, as alt-cert programs go it was one of the more reputable ones (there are programs that give out teaching certification in as little as 6 weeks), but even so, my first year felt like a complete and total learning curve.  

I’ve heard it said that nothing can prepare you for teaching except for teaching, but I don’t think that’s true. Here are some of the things I really needed to know that the teaching books left out that would have made my first few years not entirely un-horrible, but a little less horrible.

1. How to perform copier machine surgery. I will estimate that approximately 50% of my tears during my first year were due to the copier jamming and me not being able to fix it. I can’t tell you how many total hours I wasted trying to fix jams or trekking over to another part of the school to find a non-jammed copier. Now, I’m like Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman or Cesar Milan with the copy machine. “Yeah, I think it doesn’t like Tray 1,” I found myself saying to a newbie the other day, as if it were a wild mustang I was taming.

2. Expo Marker Management. Store them upright, cap-end down. Game-changer.

3. What to do when your administration is the worst. I remember reading a chapter in a professional development book about conflict with the administration. Looking back, the examples in the book were laughable, like what to say if the principal wanted to trim the budget for a club you sponsor or get rid of the bulletin board outside your door. Did the writers of these books teach in Disneyland or something?
Where was my class on what to do when your principal tells you to forge application essays for an Ivy League principal program for her? Or when your assistant principal threatens your colleagues and students on a regular basis? Or when your principal refers to the history department as “a bunch of skinny white bitches” in an unintentionally forwarded email and goes on to win district awards for outstanding leadership? When your principal is best friends with her boss, so there’s actually nothing you can do?
I think I’ve toughened up enough since then that I would be better at handling those administrators than I was my first two years. But still, a course in What To Do When Your Administration is the Worst should be requisite for teacher training.

4. How to give a serious, stern talk without beginning to ramble, stumble, or spout nonsense. The worst is when a colleague or administrator walks up while you’re giving a serious talk and you mess up just a little part, which then makes you hyperaware of the fact that you’re speaking words, and then you find yourself talking about a documentary about an Irish mafia leader.

5. De-escalation techniques.

Teacher training: Here’s a tiny chapter on how to deal with a student who is disrespectful or even (*gasp*) refuses to do work.

Reality: Here, deal with this student who is crossing the room to literally rip out the hair of another student. Oh, and you can’t send the student to the office because your administration said nobody was allowed to write an office referral for the rest of the year. And students aren’t allowed to leave your class. Good luck!

6. Medical care. No Band-Aids unless you’re bleeding, the nurse can’t fix your headache, if your stomach still hurts in 15 minutes let me know, OR you can go to the nurse, but after you’ve turned in your test.

7. How to teach a class of 30 in which half of your students are Special Ed or Emotionally Disturbed, you have no co-teacher, and an administrator who expects you to advance all students 2-3 grade levels in 9 months.

Still beats me.

8. What DEVOLSON is and how to cope with it. If I’d known about the Dark, Evil Vortex of Late September, October, and November before I started teaching, it might not have been easier, but having a diagnosis would have made life way more manageable.

9. How to redo an entire lesson plan in your head and on the spot. In teacher training, they made it sound like you might have to modify part of a lesson as you’re teaching it if you see it’s not working. But what about when your school’s electricity goes off in the middle of class and you’re given specific instructions over the intercom to keep teaching? Or when you realize on book preview day that ALL the students have read the novel you just spent five weeks planning? Or when you reserve the one computer cart for 75 classrooms in your school and find that none of the laptops are charged, or that another teacher took the laptops and TOTALLY DIDN’T EVEN USE THE GOOGLE DOC TO RESERVE IT.

Sorry. Touchy subject.

It took me years to be able to quickly transition over to a new activity confidently and without a student saying, “Uh, did you just make that up right now?”

10. Managing your budget on a teacher salary while having a savings account with actual dollars in it.  Um. I still need someone to teach me this.


When I start my Love Teach Teacher Training Program To Teach Teachers How To Teach Good And To Do Other Stuff Good Too, all of these will be courses. Or maybe we should crowd-source-write a book or something (but only if it could be made into a theme park).

What have you learned from teaching that your teacher training could have never prepared you for?*

Love,

Teach


*What’s the grammatically correct version of this sentence? “For what could your teaching training have never prepared you?” Dumb. Can we just agree to dangle certain prepositions?
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