Friday, July 13, 2012

A letter to myself for February 2013

Dear MizNilknarf,

By the time you read this, it will be February 2013.  Things are rough for you right now.  I know, I's winter, the weather sucks and you are tired of getting up in the dark.  Spring Break is months away.  You have been furiously prepping your kids for the SOL and you daily shake your head and think, "They are going to fail and I am going to be fired."  You are frustrated because you feel like you are putting your heart and soul into teaching them and they don't care.  You want it more than they do. The SOL is just a few weeks away and they still don't get that a thesis is only one sentence or how to write a decent introductory paragraph. Their spelling and grammar is deplorable.  I mean come on, this is 10th grade--surely they should know by now that writing a paper is different from a text message!  Why are they spelling "you" as "u" and using a "&" for "and"! This is your tenure year and you are thinking that for sure, you are going to apply for a transfer to another school.   You fantasize about a classroom where students come prepared every day, the students are motivated, they function at a higher level, their parents actually care, they have goals for the future and they realize they have to work for them.  You fantasize about working at a school where Admin is consistent, where students are held accountable instead of it all being the teachers' fault, where you can actually expect repercussions for some of the stuff that you have decided to just ignore because you are tired of filling out referrals with no real result.  In short, you feel like you are totally wasting your time.

You are so wrong. 

The first thing you need to do is call your sister because she is your cheerleader and is very good at getting you back on track.

Still not convinced?

Consider the following:

  • The last two years, you have beaten yourself up about pending SOL scores and they have been really good.  So just chill out.  No one expects you to be Annie Sullivan, for God's sake.
  • Progress isn't about grades or the SOL.  Remember the borderline MR kid who got a B in your class last year and worked so hard? Think of all the kids who started the year not being able to write a decent sentence, who now are writing good paragraphs. What about the many kids who have told you they hated English until they took your class?
  • For all their challenges, these kids are funny.  As "July 2012 MizNilknarf", I am here to remind you that you were kind of bored teaching the mid to upper class kids in SAT prep.  They don't find you as funny...
  •  You have the dorkiest sense of humor and only your kids truly appreciate it.  Remember how hilarious they they think it is when you sing Biggie for them?  Yeah, you will only get looks of disgust at the white, rich kids' school for that nonsense. 
  • Your kids need you.  They seek you out to  make connections that other kids do not need.  You are mom/big sister/mentor to so many.  Remember the girl who wrote an essay at the start of the year who said she would never trust any adult because of how she had been treated by her mother and foster parents?  She wrote you a letter at the end of the year saying how much she loved and trusted you.  You think you are going to get that kind of validation at one of the other schools?
  • Remember that even though you think they all hate you, they really don't.  Remember how of the Teacher Appreciation Week letters you received, many came from students you thought despised you?  Remember how when you come back from summer vacation, all your kids hug you like you are their long lost best friend?  Stop taking everything so personally!
  • Remember how when the school year ended last year, you missed your students?
  • Remember how whenever you saw them over the summer, they treated you like a rock star?  What about the one who came running to you, yelling "Mama!"....Come on!  That's good stuff!
  • Remember how by August, you were bored with summer and excited to go back to school?
  • Remember not everyone gets to be Ron Clark, LouAnneJohnson, or Erin Gruwell. But then, do you really do this job for the accolades?  Be content knowing that you are one of the many overworked, underpaid teachers who are trying to make a difference and you are making a difference
  • Finally, remember how your stories and the things she has witnessed, inspired your daughter to want to be a teacher for the very same population you teach (God bless her, poor thing).  
 Now, go get a pedicure, take a long nap, and then go back to school refreshed and knowing that you are right where you are supposed to be. If nothing else helps, remember this:  Yes, you are up early at the butt crack of dawn, but you are home by 3:00 most days.  You are there when your kids get home.  You have time to run errands or sometimes, relax, before the hectivity of dinner and homework starts.  You get two weeks off at Christmas, a week off for Spring Break, and almost three glorious months over the summer.  In fact, right now it is 10:30 a.m. and I am still in my pajamas drinking coffee!


July 2012 MizNilknarf

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