Down in the Trenches

Originally posted on January 12, 2005.

In every district there is some sort of formal training for new teachers just before school starts. My district also interviews and hires you, then decides which school you are best suited for. All but one of us during training week were totally thrilled to be where we are. We have a high ELL population, mostly Spanish-speaking, and we have a high poverty population. It’s the kind of stuff young, green, idealistic teachers like me live for, right? Well, not exactly.

One young woman in our group was about as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. In a nutshell, she didn’t want to work with low functioning poor kids with little or no English skills. She said she wanted something easier. Whatever. So they swapped her with another woman who is absolutely FAB and a much better fit for our school anyway.

Fast forward to January and we had training at my building last night, and for whatever reason, this girl decided to do hers at our school, rather than her own. While gracing us with her presence, she asked how it was going. All of us look and feel like shit at the end of the day. It isn’t a war zone or anything like that, it just takes a lot out of us, though none of us would trade it for anything. Naturally, we all said “WONDERFUL, how’s it going for you?” I should mention she’s at a school where the parents’ cars in the p-lot after school are all Beamers and Lexuses and such. She went on and on about how great it is and how the trainer brags about her and her use of technology. I’m lucky if my kids can actually pronounce the word technology.

Then she wanted a tour of our school. As we were walking, she had some questions. She asked, “Um….so….the kids here are pretty poor huh?” I was thinking well, I’ve given away 3 coats, 2 christmas presents and a pair of shoes, but all I could muster was, “Well some kids are, some kids aren’t.” Her next inquiry was, “So do you use a lot of spanish in here?” The truth that ran through my head was I have to because 4 of my kids speak no English, and two of them forget their English when something is going on at home, which means I use Spanish with them 85% of the time. What I told her was all of my kids are either learning or using English. She wanted to know about parent volunteers. I told her I have a pretty good turn out. Truthfully, I get 4 and those are parents who had to transfer from another school because of a boundary change. In my school, 4 is a lot. Most of my parents either work double or night shifts or are too illiterate or methed out to volunteer.

My point is that teaching is a HUGE challenge. There is so much more to it than what the general public is aware of. Things like when our kids take their standardized test that tells Bushie-boy whether I’m doing my job we’re only allowed to report 3 non-English speaking kids, even though I have 4, plus 3 who are still learning it (thankfully, my kids won’t be tested for another year). Things like there are  parents who don’t bring their kids to school for nearly half the school year because the kid doesn’t want to and the parent is afraid the kid will hate him/her if she forces the issue. Why bother doing it if you aren’t up for the challenge? I just wanted to smack her phony-baloney, perfectly-coifed ass to the floor. That’s all I’ve got to say on that one, ya hear? I’m packing up my soapbox and putting it in the closet. For now.


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