Sunday, November 14, 2010

I'm out.

The few followers/readers of this blog may already know this, but for those that do not, I'm done with IPS. I will finish out the year--I determined enough and stubborn enough to not let the frustrations these kids are throwing at me drive me out mid-year. But this year has taught me a few things that deep down, I think I already knew.

1) I am NOT Michelle Pfeiffer nor Robin Williams.

I just don't know how to teach these kids. I don't know how to reach them, how to get to their level to see where the problems truly lie, how to inspire them to have confidence in what they can do... I don't know how to get them to learn.

2) I do not know how to write lesson plans.

At least, not "good" ones that are standards-based and use Vygotsky's Model on a daily basis... I still struggle, too, to get any plans out of my head and onto paper for the principal to evaluate. It just seems so time consuming and frustrating... It is one of my least favorite things to do.

3) I'm still a terrible procrastinator (actually, since I still do it so frequently, would that make me a great procrastinator? Whatever the case, I still have the terrible habit of procrastinating many things).

4) I have little-to-no classroom management skills.

At least, what few skills I may have, they are not effective in these IPS classrooms in which I'm teaching this year.

5) There are not enough hours in the day for all the referrals and phone calls that really need to be made.

With as many discipline issues as I have on a daily basis, there simply isn't enough time to do all the write-ups and make all the phone calls home that really should be made because there are other things that also have to be done. And it's doubly frustrating when nothing seems to happen anyway, when students with referral lists over a page long are still walking around like they own the school with apparently no consequences for their disruptive behavior.

6) I need some form of year-to-year consistency.

In conjunction with #2, I have realized that my struggle with lesson plans comes in part, at least, because I haven't really taught the same thing two years in a row. Every year, I've been asked to teach something different. I hate writing lesson plans because every year, it's like I have to re-invent the wheel. That's why it's so exhausting. I don't really have lesson plans from previous years from which to draw. I can't just tweak activities/projects from the past to improve them. I have to go back to the beginning every time, having to guess what might work and what might not work, having no real experience to guide my guesses. And because I usually don't find out until the last minute what I'll be teaching, it's not like I can even really spend any summer vacation time planning. (Though, as mentioned in #3, I still might not do it, even then...)

I need a school district with a little less transience.

7) I am not a reading teacher.

My license is in Language Arts and Spanish. I taught one semester of reading with my emergency permit (and I didn't do very well with it then, either). I have never been formally trained/taught on how to reach struggling readers. Having always been a good reader, their struggles are ones I don't often understand because I never had that problem. Small wonder, then, that I feel like I am failing at teaching this year.


This isn't really any new revelation. But here's yet another reason why it continues to be a thorn in my side (sorry for the cliche): in a generation of students who are already being raised with an attitude of entitlement--acting like they deserve to have everything handed to them on a silver platter simply because they are alive and breathing--NCLB takes much of their accountability away from them and puts it all on the teachers. In all the effort to hold teachers accountable for student performance, they seem to be neglecting the crucial fact that students need to have a reason to invest in their own education. THEY need to decide they want to learn. THEY need to decide they care. If we are mandating their success by law, but only holding teachers accountable when they fail, why should they bother taking a serious interest? That is why they, like everyone else, blame the teachers instead of themselves when they get failing grades.

As one colleague pointed out, governments can't legislate parenting. I may not entirely agree, but I can accept that it is much more difficult to do, and much more controversial, and when politicians are more concerned with re-election than they are with doing what is right, of course they aren't going to try to tell their constituents how to raise their kids. BUT I still think there has to be a way to hold the students accountable (as well as the teachers insofar as it is applicable) for their own failures. THAT should still be legislatable.

9) I need my sanity.

This year, in particular, has been draining. I'm still trying to hold onto things like the Indianapolis Symphonic Choir and the handbell choir--things that develop talents I enjoy--to keep me sane. But I have little/no time to write, to exercise any of my creativity. I have little time to read. Because this is my job that is paying my bills, far too often it pushes spiritual growth/development to the back burner. I am feeling mentally/emotionally/spiritually drained. I can't live like that anymore. I will not allow myself to wither away inside, no matter what bills need to be paid.

10) IPS is not a good fit for me. It is time to move on.

I feel badly about this because I know students in urban school districts so often get the shaft--they need (and in many ways, deserve) dedicated teachers who are determined to make a difference in their lives. And I feel like I still have good, quality teaching capabilities within me. But I apparently cannot make an effective difference in these kids' lives because, even after four years, I have not been able to learn how. So I leave it to others more capable than I, others who seem to know how to reach these kids. I'm out.


Julina said...

I told you this in person, but I want to give it to you in writing.

It may be tempting to feel like a failure - but it is absolutely not a question of failure, it is a question of FIT - and IPS is not the right fit (just as long term care was not the right fit for me).
You are NOT a failure - you have NOT given up.

I'm proud of you for choosing to pursue something better, for having the courage to make a change, for being honest enough to share the journey and your feelings. I like having you close by, but I would rather see you happy.

Write your own story and be well.

Love you, sis

Beckie said...

Juli makes some excellent points...discovering something is not right for you does not equal failure. I'm glad that you know yourself well enough to know what will work for you and what won't, and I respect your commitment to seeing the year out. That must be Lambson stubbornness coming out and keeping you there.

Also, I've only heard negative things about NCLB from both teachers and administrators and social workers. A classic example of something that seems to work on paper but doesn't in practice due to the lofty assumptions held by those who haven't worked in the trenches in YEARS (if ever). It makes me think of the restaurant business and the dumb new corporate policies that would come down and make the job ridiculous and hard, and not at all effective, but according to the corporate thinkers and their models, they still enforced them.

anyways, hang in there. Start looking forward to your finish line.

Stephen Monteith said...

So, what are you going to do?

Kirsti said...

I agree with all previous comments, but I'm not even going to attempt to be all motivational and stuff because I'm in a dark pit myself and I don't think I have motivation in me. Just keep looking forward to "Psych" episodes or random holidays and the *possible* snow days in the future. I don't even get snow days!
Call me anytime and I'll listen.

Jeanne, the mom and grandmom said...

Thank you for sharing. I am just sad that you have had to keep all this bottled up for so long. You are always in our prayers....

Amy said...

It sounds like you know what you want and it's good you're going for it. Your job sounds crazy! There's a great discipline philosophy called "Love and Logic" and they have one specifically written for teachers. Your classes sound out of the ordinary, so maybe it wouldn't work, but maybe it would.

ps-I also very much enjoyed the HG. I liked the first one best.

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