My Cousin Vicky

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Oct 20 2012

Free Falling?

I finally feel a little settled in here. I’m teaching seventh grade science at a middle school.

When I see my friends write about how “hard” college is. I just want to laugh, laugh, laugh. Every single day, I wake up a 6, teach all day, deal with 156 12 year-old’s weird cuts, weird digestive problems, mouth breathing, mess making, and general insanity. Oh and my “break”? I get to each lunch with 12 year olds too. Every day. Lunch with 12 year olds. Think about it for like one second, then say your thanks to the lord.

The first nine weeks have been impossibly hard. There were entire weeks where I was so anxious that I could not sleep. There were many mornings of dreading going into work. I remember too many times sitting at my desk before the homeroom bell rang and thinking, oh please no. But things are manageable. I see my self getting better every weeks.

This week had some monumental lows and some pretty nice highs. Grades were due this week and so I spent two nights frantically trying to figure out how to organize, grade, and turn in grades for my 156 students. Hectic to say the least. Then on Tuesday a second fight almost broke out in my fourth period. The principle came in to talk to my class afterwards and was clearly upset. She also called all of my students racist. Not in a beat around the bush kind of way, but in a “You all are racist” kind of way.

That afternoon she called me into her office. If you think it was scary to be called to the principle’s office as a student, just wait until you are a first year teacher. She told me I was being “too nice” and I should write kids up more. Which caused me to get very, very angry. When the meeting was over, I was seeing red like I had never seen red before. I had been asking for referral forms, to write kids up, for weeks. I asked every person in the office – no, I asked other teachers if they had extras – no, I even threw two kids out and when I called the security guard to get them, asked him if he could please get me some referral forms – no. So to have the principle say I wasn’t writing kids up enough, I lost it. I HAD NO FORMS!

When that meeting was over I was in such a crazy destructive anger. You know in movies when someone gets so angry they rip down things and just throw things and break all this stuff. You watch it and wonder why anyone would do that. You wonder if anyone actually does that. I was THAT angry. With out anything to break I just screamed a lot. Which actually calmed me down.

The rest of the week, went amazingly. Which was shocking due to my lack of sleep. With my new stack of referral forms and a new attitude about my classroom. Less “Lets all work together. Yay!” And more “HOW DARE YOU ACT LIKE THIS IN MY CLASSROOM.” Things went much better. I spent more time teaching the kids who wanted to learn and ignoring/ removing the students who were not ready to learn with the class. Frequently I would kick students out, only for them to ask if they could come back in. I still had a lot of trouble this week though, kids in my advanced class got into a SERIOUS screaming match over my review game on Friday, but I felt like I knew what I should be doing.

Mr. Taylor the teacher next door (ex-military 40 something guy) did not have to come into my class once this whole week to tell everyone to quiet down. This is a major victory both for my classroom and my own ego. Last week he came in about 3 times…

The true icing on the cake was my 7th period on Friday. I finally called home for one of my most disrespectful girls in that class and on Friday she just put her head down. Granted, this is frowned upon in the TFA world, but seeing that the day before she came in thirty minutes late and then got such attitude with me that she riled up three other girls all who had to sit in the hallway with the security officer for the rest of class, this was a win. I also called home for one of my boys last night in that class and I know he was not happy with me for it (I will write about that hilarious/ terrifying parent teacher conference later). So right as class was starting I called him to the back of the class in a really stern “Let have some real talk,” kind of way. When he got back there, I poured on the compliments about his behavior so far in my class. Asked him if he knew why I called home last night. Poured on more compliments about how well he was acting and told him to keep it up. He looked really surprised and then really pleased with himself. He was quiet and on task the rest of the day.*happy dance*

My last period class was excited and engaged they followed my directions and I even had some students come to my classroom to hang out until 4:00 as I packed up and cleaned! It was surreal.

This first nine weeks have not been easy. My students still don’t really trust me and there is still a lot of work that needs to be done, but now I actually believe it can be done. These first nine weeks I felt like I was in free fall. Flying towards the end of the year, feeling totally out of control. But this week the fall slowed. People had been telling me there was a way it could be done, but I didn’t believe them. They told me my free fall could be stopped I just need to trust there was a parachute on my back and pull really hard on the string. This week I  found my parachute. I’ve slowed my fall. I’m still free falling like crazy but at least I know there is a way it can be stopped. Maybe I can actually do this!

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TFA in Alabama.

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