Saturday, October 25, 2008

Team Lazer Explosion

My friend Rita and I have decided to start our own movement. A revolution, if you will. A philosophy of teaching, even.

It's called: Team Lazer Explosion and we want to do what's best for kids, no matter what. We believe that everyone can get along amicably with everyone if we all focus on the positives in our lives, love our jobs, do our jobs well, and treat others with respect (including the students).

We believe.

We've only got one question for you: are you in, or are you out?

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Cannibalism in the Schools

My sincerest apologies for not posting anything in awhile. I am unfortunately going to have to rely on the same 'ol excuses everyone else in the world uses: I am just too darn busy. I am busy teaching an extra class. Busy taking a course at USF. Busy training for the Miami marathon. Busy coaching volleyball. I am busy and I love every minute of it, but it can be rather exhausting at times.

I am disappointed to admit that I haven't been too busy to notice how teachers are treating each other at school. It is very disappointing for me to see this noble profession reduce to "only the meanest survive." I know that there are the usual suspects for this type of behavior, one of them being the sagging economy and the stress it puts on our profession. Yes, I know we don't get paid THAT much, but we kinda knew that going in, right? I know it's difficult for teachers to be able to afford a house here, but that's Sarasota (my husband and I just went through a short sale - it was not a pleasant experience). Most teachers I know aren't married to another teacher (only a few come to mind, like Doug and Jennifer), so those whose spouses work elsewhere have the odds stacked with them in that they are potentially pulling in more money than my husband and I.

I also know there are the things people carry with them everyday to their job. Trouble at home, parents are getting old and/or sick, spouse has lost their job, college is expensive for the kids, etc. I get that, I really do. I am amazed my parents were able to do what they did and I admire them for doing so. I understand how difficult life can seem and the added pressure of standardized tests, principles breathing down your neck for your lesson plans and misbehaving kids only adds to the already elevated stress level.

But I feel like it's gotten to the point where experienced teachers (some of whom I once looked up to and respected) do nothing but complain. They complain about the kids, how they don't know anything and how their parents don't do a good job raising them. And they criticize other teachers on campus because they don't teach the same way, because they are lazy or because they simply just don't like them. Let me tell you something my mother always said to me that might help you get out of this vicious cycle - YOU are the only person YOU should be concerned with. YOU. Not others, YOU. You can't change how others teach and you can't control other people - the only person you can change is yourself. So, instead of blaming other teachers on campus for not preparing the kids correctly for your class, why don't you prepare the kids - that why the kids need you. Worry about your own classroom and your kids. .

I also feel like some of the older, wiser and more experienced teachers do nothing but complain about some of us "younguns." They bitch and moan about our teaching styles, how we don't use the textbook enough and how we need to be teaching to the FCAT. Or that we are there only to be "friends" with the students. (No offense, but the day I am concerned with being friends with 13 and 14 yr olds is the day that I need to be admitted to a mental institute. My happiness does not depend on the friendship of these kids, contrary to what you might believe.) Apparently their philosophy is this: if the kids enjoy your class and like you, then you must do something to get them to like you, so you are only doing you job simply to get satisfaction in knowing kids are your friends. Well, here's another one of my hairbrained ideas - how about instead of complaining about us, you help us! The young teachers on campus that I know do not walk around like "cock of the walk" and we do not claim to know everything. We know we are not perfect. We know we have a lot of learning to do. But we also have a lot to offer too. We were in college not that long ago and have been taught some news ways to reach kids - that doesn't make us experts, but believe it or not, you might even learn a thing or two from us as well. So instead of trying to make our lives miserable and by acting like we are back in high school and shunning us because you feel like we just aren't good enough to eat at the same table as you, take us in and work with us, not against us. We are on the same team! We both want what is best for kids! It's not "us vs you"! We're not trying to make "you" look bad! When we lesson plan, we plan with our kids in mind, not how we are going to show all of the old fossils on campus how much better we are than you!

I also have a difficult time looking up to and respecting the more experienced teachers when they themselves do not behave professionally either. And no, I am not talking about what they do on the weekends, because that is their business; I am referring to their actions while in school. For instance, there is a teacher who I have apparently pissed off, and, ironically enough, I am not sure exactly how I managed to do this. I actually liked the teacher a lot last year and felt like they were someone I could go to for ideas and/or suggestions. Unfortunately, this teacher has not told me what I did wrong, like a professional and grown-up adult should, to ensure that I wouldn't do it again. Instead, this individual complains to their students. Yep, you read it right, their 13 yr old students. I went through the gamete of emotions when I found this out - shocked, surprised, upset and then the "oh well, I don't live my life to make her happy" feeling. This person has gone so far as to criticize me for not wearing my helmet every time I ride my scooter (sorry Mom) but why is that any their business what I do with my life? I am not running for a political office - I am a middle school science teacher! What does not wearing my helmet have to do with me being a decent educator? No offense, I could do much worse than by not wearing my brain bucket (i.e. helmet), but honestly, why would someone be thinking about me that much... does this person lie awake at night and think of this crap?! There are many more important things to be concerning yourself with instead of me. Don't be pathetic and don't waste your time and energy being pissed off at me. Think think about what you can for your own children or your own students. Think about how lucky you are to have a loving family and a job that pays you decently. Be grateful you even have a job right now as I am sure there are hundreds of people out there who would love to trade places with you for they have lost their own jobs. Be grateful you even have a roof over your head or a fridge full of food, for that matter.

The other day, my friend Debbie asked me what is was like to be 29, because she loved it when she was 30. She liked feeling more responsible and liked that people didn't coddle her like they might have when she was younger. I actually thought about her question for the rest of the day and I think I finally have an answer. I enjoy it, because I feel like I am looked at like a real adult. But what I miss about my early 20's was that I was naive. I thought teaching was one of the best professions to be in. I thought everyone was in education for the right reasons. I thought teachers treated each other with respect and kindness and were open-minded enough to accept those of us who are different. And I thought the kids were always put first. I know that all of these things just aren't true for the most part and I wish I could go back to believing that they were. I wish the experienced teachers would embrace the inexperienced teachers just as the newbies would embrace the wiser, more experienced veterans. I wish we would all do what's best for kids. I wish we could all just get along. I know this life and this profession is not perfect, but I can only worry about myself and my kids and my classroom. I can only do the best that I can to provide the type of education I wished some of my former teachers had provided me. And I am also aware that sometimes, your best just isn't good enough. But at least I try.