Sunday, September 11, 2005

I've Just Had an Apostrophe!

I think you mean an epiphany. - Hook

Several days ago, while walking along the hallway toward my classroom, I had an apostrophe. I actually stopped in my tracks as an overwhelming feeling of rightness took over my body. I'm surprised that the whole school didn't hear the bells ringing, or notice the way suddenly everything was clearer, brighter, sharper. I knew at that moment, sure as the sky is blue and the earth is round, that being a teacher is what was meant for me all along. I am doing what I am supposed to be doing. I am actually living what I once dreamed about doing. It is at once awe-inspiring and humbling. And is probably why I haven't written much about my teaching experience so far. It doesn't feel new to me. It just feels incredibly normal. And by normal I do not mean boring or tedious. It a glove. It's right.

Here in Florida we start the school year insanely early - teachers reported for work August 2nd. Don't ask me why - I know why - but don't ask me. It will only start me on a rant. Students start on the 9th. So I have officially been teaching for a month now. Everyone warned me that the first year is the hardest, and everyone was right. There is so much to learn! State mandates. County laws. School rules. Administration policies. Names of kids. Names of teachers. Names of secretaries, lunch ladies, teacher's aides. And none of that has anything to do with the actual job I was hired for - teaching! I have been lucky in that I have been assigned a fabulous mentor, have a great team of teachers to work with, and have a principal that loves me (she was one of my college professors - I had a 105 average in her class).

I am also team teaching, which means I share a room with another teacher and we split the duties. We have 31 kids in our first grade class. 16 are officially "mine", 15 "hers". We teach as one class, but for some activities the class separates. It's working out well - though it is crowded and a bit noisy. We take turns teaching whole class, and when one is teaching, the other is either monitoring the room or doing paperwork. We do all our lesson planning from home and email each other back and forth until it's complete. If you think this means we do half the work in half the time, then you would be correct. We are so organized - it's possible my partner is more anal than I am - that we are actually the envy of the other teachers. Our room is always neat. Our discipline plan is simple, direct, and extremely strict. Our kids love us and fear us all at once. It seems the stricter we are, the more they love us. Go figure.

Although I'm very strict, and even can be "mean" sometimes, I'm really a soft touch. The other day I took a test away from one of my girls when she tried to cheat. She put her head down on the desk and a few minutes later I realized she was sobbing. It absolutely killed me that I made a little girl cry like that. You have to realize that I teach at a very poor inner-city school. Most of these kids are living below poverty level. They have it rough enough as it, they don't need to be sobbing in school. And may I add that this particular little girl also has sickle-cell anemia. I felt like a shit. I hugged her and dried her tears, and we talked about why she tried to cheat. She actually knew the answer to the question on the test, she just didn't want to get it wrong - because she didn't want to disappoint me. Did I say I felt like a shit? I meant to say I felt like a gargantuan, super-sized, steaming pile of shit. I gave her test back, she finished it, and got a 100. Later she drew me a picture that said "I lov u Ms Rose".

I didn't feel so bad when I brought one of my boys to the principal's office later that day (my first time sending a kid to the principal!), considering he hit another boy in the face. This particular student drives me bonkers. If corporal punishment were still allowed he'd be in a full body cast from not only me but from all of his activity teachers as well. He walks into a classroom and the teacher groans. He has no self-control whatsoever. He is up out of his chair constantly, he talks non-stop, he shouts, he dances, he pushes and shoves. He is a walking/talking headache. After a particularly bad day recently - where both my partner and I and his activity teachers had reprimanded him numerous times - I found him walking through the cafeteria carrying his lunch with tears pouring down his face. Holy moly, is that remorse I see?! Is he actually feeling sorry for his behavior, for once?? I quickly went up to him and told him it would be ok, we all have rough days, his will get better. He looked up at me with his little tear-stained face and cried, "They don't have any pickles left!!!!", and then started wailing. I wanted to throw him into oncoming traffic. May I take this opportunity to thank the administration for giving this boy to me my first year teaching. Worst part is, he's the smartest kid in my class. Best part, he's got a doll for a mom. We have gotten to know each other quite well already, believe me.

They do, they do!I could go on about every student, but that would test the limits of my blog friends' patience. Simply put, I love them all, even the one mentioned above. I love that they hug me and want to succeed for me. I love the looks on their faces when I tell them I expect greatness from them. I love their gasps when I tell them I expect them all to go to college someday, and to become doctors and scientists and of course - teachers. I love that they think that I am right about everything, so I must be right about this too.

I get paid crap for doing this. And yet I can't help but feel sorry for everyone in the world who isn't a teacher.


Knitty Kitty said...

I'm starting for training in January to teach high school and I can't wait!!!

Neil said...

You need to have one of us send this post into the Florida Teacher's Association (can I?) -- or some place like that. Your enthusiasm made me both want to become a teacher and be a student in your class. I promise, Brooke, I wonn't cheat! But then, again, I probably wouldn't complain if you hit me with that ruler.

We love you, Ms. Rose!

And maybe you and Modigli and a few other of you wonderful teachers should start your own school.

MoDigli said...

AWWWWWWWwwww!!! .... That was so fantastic! I loved reading every word. And your principal and teachers sound just as AMAZING as you do, Brooke! What a nice family you've got going in that building. :))

I hope we get to hear more.
I'm so happy your dreams have come true and you've found that special place that just feels right! Those little 1st graders are the luckiest ones in the whole state of Florida... even that crazy pickle boy! ha!


You Can't Afford Me said...

i probably missed it, what grade do you teach? i wish my daughter's teacher was a great as you. i like him, but he gave me his 'plan/rules' at the beginning of the year and he doesn't even follow them. these aren't school rules, it's classroom stuff and so i would expect him to follow through with his own instructions. as much as she likes her school, she is going back to a private school next year. at least the teachers there communicate with me.

Anonymous said...

Yayyy! This is the post I have been waiting and hoping to read. I love happy teacher stories because it makes up for all the times people asked me if I was crazy when I decided to go into teaching.

I love teaching and though I grumble at times about the drawbacks, I honestly wouldn't go back to any of my previous professions.

As for the pay, I know I may be the lone voice of dissent here, but I maintain that considering the generous amount of holidays and two months off every summer, it's a sweet deal salary wise. But then not all districts pay as much as others.

Also, in Florida, you can considerably boost your salary by going for national board certification when you hit your three-year mark in teaching. That's what I plan to do next year. The state gives you something like an extra $10k per year for the life of the certificate, which is 10 years, or approx. $100k.

And if you choose not to stay in Florida, well, hell, if you're a teacher you can find a job anywhere! Or even teach overseas for a year (another one of my plans for the future).

Happy day!!! Congrats on your new career!!

Brookelina said...

LMK - woohoo! Good for you going for the big kids!

Neil - I don't know if they would like my statements about full body casts and throwing a child into traffic, but thanks for the thought!

MoMo - thanks! It's possible Pickles may be moved to another class - his infatuation with one of the girls in class is causing a lot of problems. I'll keep you posted!

Sandra - 1st grade! And you are right, consistency is very important. I don't blame you a bit.

Suuny - I'm not complaining about the pay, but I do think teachers deserve more than they are getting - and I thought this before I became a teacher. I plan on getting my master's, going for board certification, and maybe even moving to Jersey to get the highest pay I can get! Look forward to reading your teacher stories!

Neil said...

Are you kidding, teachers would be the ones who would most appreciate the urge to break one of their student's arms! Thy know you are too much of a sweetie to actually do it, but at least you are honest in your thoughts.
(to play it safe... maybe we should just sent the post in the teachers-only newsletter)

yournamehere said...

I know about the epiphany, about doing what you're supposed to be doing. I was once a bouncer and dressing room attendant at a strip club in Louisville, and I had an epiphany about every night. I'd still be there if Cinnamon and Niagra weren't such liars.

Kris said...

I love to hear about people who have found their niche. How beautiful is it that you get up looking forward to your workdays? There are so few people who have that experience - this makes me so happy for you!

Maybe I should be teaching? Oh right. Kids make me nervous. Maybe not. :)

Anonymous said...

I'd much rather here about your apostrophe's and exclamations than your periods

Anonymous said...

The kid you caught cheating has amazing game for her age. I wish I had thought to say " I didn't want to dissapoint you" whenever I got caught doing something wrong.

Nick said...

I used to want to be a teacher. a history teacher, specifically. Then I went to high school and realized that I would probably, at some point, have a student like me and I would have to shoot him.

But you sound like a wonderful teacher. i only remember three or four of my teachers, but I can say that they are the reason I stayed in school at all.

I think we should get YNH his own TV show.

Übermilf said...

I remember reading about a teacher in a poor neighborhood in Baltimore.

It seems that these students defied every expectation (and stereotype, for that matter) and had something close to a 90 percent of students graduate high school, and close to 80 attending college.

The students were interviewed and all cited "Mrs. X" as their motivating force. When they asked Mrs. X the source of her success, she was mystified and said, "I don't know. I loved them, is all."

Miss Browneyedgirlie said...

Reading a post like this makes me even more impatient than I already am to be DONE with my Masters program already and teaching in a classroom. Thank you for reminding me why I want (so much) to be a teacher. I can only hope that I get to teach in a school that sounds as great as yours!

Anonymous said...

You go girl!

Brookelina said...

Neil - Let's just keep this one between us, and leave the teachers that can get me fired out of it.

YNH - Niagra? Close relation to Viagra?

Kris - I am amazed that the woman who uses that picture is nervous around kids!

MQ - bravo! Clever boy!

Ruben - she is a 6 year old with sickle cell anemia - she does not have "game". You need to be smacked.

Nick - I hope that someday a student says that about me. And I agree about YNH, he's a funny fucker.

Ubie- I love those kinds of stories! The best advice I got from a teacher was "just love them to death". And I do. Which is probably why I am the recipient of so many daily hugs, even though I'm the "mean" teacher.

BEG - I wish I had my Masters! I'm so jealous! I should have that by the time I'm .....50. Soon enough you'll be teaching and we'll be swapping stories.

Anonymous - thank you!

BamaGirl said...

Good for you!! I'm so happy that you love what you do! I definitely have moments when I wonder why I'm a teacher, but there are so many moments when I know that I would hate doing anything else. What other job lets you run your own little kingdom?

The Dummy said...

Wow, Brooke. I can tell just by how you write that this IS what you were meant to do!

Shan'Chelle said...

I have felt that same epiphany as if I am in the right place at the right time doing what I'm supposed to do but your description of teaching was great! My best friend Christina is a teacher and has had similar experiences in the past. Way to go Ms. Rose for your fantastic outlook on life and bringing these children a much needed positive influence!

Marel Lecone said...

What a great post! Contentment and satisfaction in one's work is a beautiful thing.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you're enjoying teaching so much, it's something I could never do - no patience. All I know this that my wife worked as a teaching assitant at a local school and had to help the ones that were struggling. Most of them were trouble because their parents were trouble.

I think teachers don't get enough respect (or pay) in western society and that's a big problem.

thephoenixnyc said...

Joseph Campbell calls it "following your bliss" and the discovery of that path is often the seminal moment in a person's life.

JJ said...

That kid you described, the one who hit another kid and can't stay in his seat? Imagine a class full of kids like him and you'll have some idea what MLA does for a living.

I don't know about Florida, but in Texas parents are allowed to "mainstream" their children if they are only learning disabled (LD) so most parents mainstream the emotionally disabled kids as LD. That's MLA's class.

She's been doing it for 15 years and still loves it even though it's trying sometimes. And when I'm not complaining about money, I'm glad one of us does something noble.

Cactus Prick said...

Apostrophes are nice. I gave myself a conclusion once, so I feel your pain.

bapkck = boring and plain kids cook kale.

Brookelina said...

Bama - I love that! My own little kingdom....with my little miniature sized subjects.

DD, Shan, and Marel - thanks!!

WBB - I agree. I'm pretty much on the bottom rung of the food chain.

Phoenix - as usual, so eloquent.

JJ - that is true throughout the country. If parents want their chil in a regular classroom - no matter what the disability - that child is in the classroom. Amazing though, that teachers get paid the way they do. As I said - bottom rung.

Prick - tell me more about this conclusion of yours....

Egan said...

Hmmm... great story. Of the teachers I know, 5 or so, they all absolutely love what they do. Of the 600 or so co-workers I have, you would be hard pressed to find 5 that love what they do.

Teachers are heroes in my eyes. They are so important in shaping the lives of our youth. I look back at my teacher's fondly. I had a fantastic childhood and I believe much of that is attributable to my teachers. I toy with the idea of being a teacher myself, but not sure I could hack it.

Sunshine: not sure how many teachers I know that only work 8 hours a day though. Two months off isn't that long all things considering. Happy month of teaching Brooke.

-ulelf (a Christmas elf)

Megan said...

What a great post. We are lucky, aren't we, to be teachers? As tiresome as I may get sometimes, I feel like the luckiest person in the world to be doing something that I not only love, but is helping to make a difference in the lives of others.

I can't wait to hear more about your teaching experience!

Melanie was here said...

What an awesome post. How fortunate to have a job that you simply adore. I remember teachers like you as well. The strict but loving ones. They were my fave classes. The always let me know I was a good person even though I was totally getting busted for passing notes or whispering during class!

Keep up the great work, Ms. Rose!

Melliferous Pants said...

I am both happy for you and totally jealous.

gone said...

Brooke - I can;t wait to read about your first year. Hopefully, next year will be MY first year. I hope I get the same moment of apostrophe as you did here. Great news from the front.

Lo Lo Lova said...

Brookie, congrats on finding such inner peace. Your students are so lucky to you as their teacher. You are an inspiration!

Brian said...

I know a great deal of teachers, and I must say that I commend you all! I just couldn't deal with it. I have no patience. God Bless underpaid, overworked American Teachers!!!

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