Saturday, September 26, 2009

Carmen Crankypants has left the building

Turns out I was just hungry and tired. Ha!

Seriously, I've been starving all week. I swear I eat snacks during the day when I can, and some days I eat a real-ish dinner, though it's late. But I often have that gnawing, hollow hunger feeling. Like right now.

Earlier this week, I wore some Ann Taylor trousers that I bought earlier in the summer. Did I mention the summer job I got at the last minute? It took place at a college campus and eating at a dining hall proved to be as way-too-easy as it was ten years ago when I was actually a college student. So I definitely felt my waistlines tighten that month, but when I bought these pants they just perfectly fit. This week, they were a teeny bit loose in the waist. However, on Friday I wore another pair of Ann Taylor pants, and they were a little snug. Harrumph.

Incomprehensibly, I stayed up til midnight last night, and then slept for what felt like half a day, but was in reality eight hours or so (and don't worry, I stayed in bed for another hour just resting). Goodness me, I love weekend lie-ins!

I posted on Wednesday about having not such an awesome day, but on Thursday I looked back and thought about each period that I taught and saw that those parts of the day were actually fine or good. It was the staying for three hours after school that made me so grumpy and angry and irritated. Which I think is completely understandable, right? :)

I have noticed that my endless patience is finding some ends after all. I find myself snapping like the middle school teacher I used to be. The nice thing is that since they hadn't heard that tone from me before, it startled them and made them stop and pay attention. I know it's not what the school wants, but that's not really such a big deal to me (after trying to conform to a school was such a disaster last year). I just want to find the right balance in dealing with the kids and making them stay on track.

I have a second Kid that I need to mention. There have been some positive developments in Chatty Chad, so we don't have to deal with him for a little bit. But there is another boy who I need to discuss who is also chatty but not in that Special Reasons way. I shall call him...Loud Leo. Because he always has something to say. Always. And only has one volume. He just doesn't appear to have an Inside Voice, because then the rest of the class couldn't hear him and he wouldn't have an audience. He's actually a really good kid sometimes; he's always generous, he can be really helpful, and he's a good writer. Naturally, he participates a lot too.

I have to remind him all the time about raising his hand to speak. Usually, after a few reminders he does start raising his hand. But he's one of those that will say loudly during a class discussion, "I'm raising my hand and she's not calling on me!" He can also be really mean, calling people names either to their faces or behind their backs. He is very opinionated and has no hesitation in speaking exactly what is on his mind. This can be really trying when that information is not appropriate.

Also, the last hour of the day, pretty much every day, he loses all control. Does no work, doesn't stop playing and talking and giggling, and ignoring repeated reminders and redirects. It's something I'm planning on talking to him about, during a calmer time, to come up with some kind of system to keep him on track.

Speaking of systems. I mentioned that I started a consequence scale, which is going pretty well. It's not always very useful for Loud Leo, but for the other kids it's okay. I just move their name silently. Or sometimes I'll stalk over there and say, "Unfortunately I have to move some names because I keep having to speak to them." My sticker chart is trickier, because I can't go overboard stickering the good kids, because they have two or three times the stickers that the other kids do.

Under suggestion, I started yet another system for individuals. And someone wants me to start ANOTHER system for the class.

See, here's the thing. I love rewards and positive systems. I love having things for individuals, groups, and the whole class. What I don't love is having even more shit to keep track of, to carry around, to remember to reinforce, to hear questions about from the kids. My mind is just about past capacity already and I often don't have pockets. I lose my clipboard five times a day because I put it down all over the classroom. I have to make myself a list of things to remember to do, and I have to literally talk myself through it. I can't even complete one task at a time; I start doing one thing and then get distracted with another task, and then have to loudly and firmly tell myself to go finish the first thing.

I like getting feedback and suggestions. I need the suggestors to understand that while I might really like their idea, I can't do everything they want. And that needs to be okay with them.

Let's see. What else? Oh. I have a small class right now. And while the kids individually are all pretty sweet, and there is a group of really good, hardworking kids in there, overall my grasp on them feels a bit tenuous. With Chatty Chad and Loud Leo as examples, more kids are trying to play around and not work during class. But since the class is small, you and I and everyone else all know that it won't last, because they'll want to cram any and all kids into the class. The unknown and new, when it comes to groups of kids, is pretty much never a good thing. This happened to me the last year at First Middle School, and it definitely ruined the pleasant intimacy of the class. So I'm girding myself for even more difficulties. The bf rolls his eyes and tells me not to think about it, and to think about what's going well right now, but come on. Who knows what I'll walk into next week!

In general I guess things have been going okay. The actual teaching parts of the day are the best parts. It's the in-between things that give chance for difficulties, as always. Some of our transitions are getting better, though. I started doing the counting thing to move them from one place to another, and like the last five years, it's a great trick. "In five seconds, find your place on the carpet. Go. Five..."

Tomorrow I have to buckle down and try to get some work done. I have some ideas already written down for next week, and I will try to finish plans for the entire week. That would make me feel incredible! I'm getting closer to not feeling like I'm desperately flailing to keep up and on top of things. Unhappily I have a big thing of paperwork to complete. I HATE that. I really hate that the school requires us to do it but gives us ZERO time to do it in school, meaning we have to work on our own (very limited) time. It's supposed to keep us being good teachers, but if I'm spending all this time working on paperwork, then that's a lot less time I'm actually trying to prepare for the children, and a lot less energy I have to work with them.

Can I just say that I'm starting to get really bitter that I'm at school for at least eleven hours a day trying to do the basics, and they want to require all this EXTRA stuff from us, but not give us ANY time during the day to do it? Every time I think about it, I can feel the rage rising along with my blood pressure. Argh.

However, in general, I'm still in a calmer place mentally than I was last year. When I took this job, it was with the mindset that it's a job, and I will do my best, and see what happens. I'm trying not to get overinvolved mentally. But...that has wavered lately as the stress sets in. :)

Boy, this has turned into a ramble, hasn't it? I'm going to try to be better about recording actual things that I do or want to work on. We'll see how the time works out in the evenings.

For now, thank GOODNESS it's the weekend, and thank extra goodness that we have an extra day! Hallelujah!!


Schoolgal said...

You sound like you are really liking this assignment. That's great. I agree with you about the paperwork. Look for shortcuts.

Have you check Loud Leo's record card? I would get feedback from his previous teachers or the guidance counselor because he sounds OCD. You will have to contact the parents soon, so be prepared with background info.

Dr. G said...

After years of trying to do paperwork in a careful meaningful way, I decided that it was all pretty much cover your ass stuff that no one ever read. It was filed away so the higher ups could report that all their underlings had done all this meaningful analysis. I started being a lot more general, writing vague educational sounding jargon, similar to the crap the administrators wrote about me on evaluations. And I saved everything so when the paperwork rolled around the next year, I dropped in the exact same text. That was a big help.

You have to go home earlier or you are going to blow up. Teaching a new grade is basically like starting over on your first year of teaching so it is hard, but if you think you can work 11 hours a day all year and not have it take a serious toll on your health and life, you are mistaken. Everything doesn't have to be perfect all at once. Basically you have to go home or die. For starters try making 10 hours your drop dead line. Put everything down and walk out. Then plan some days when you just walk out when your paid time is over. 4:00? 4:30? Walk out the door. Go to the park with BF.

Well that's my 2 cents anyway, because I've been there and done what you are doing and it was bad for me.

I'm glad you are teaching again. It's a great calling. Several of my students are doing teach for America this year. I'm proud of them.