I always wanted to be a teacher. I wanted to be that teacher that connected with the students that were “rough around the edges”, “at-risk”, the students that most teachers said were “troubled”. I wanted to save those kids, make a positive connection, and help them be the best version of themselves. I wanted to make a difference.
My first two years of teaching went relatively well. There were (of course) many struggles for first year teachers. I taught 8th grade, which has it’s own set of challenges! However, what always kept me going was the students I was connecting with.
The students that would come in and have lunch with me so I could look over their homework in other classes. The ones that would run up to me and ask me my opinion on their formal dress the wanted that they had cut out of a magazine. The ones that would write me the most heart-wrenching letters of what they had to endure in their home lives because they needed someone to listen, to help. these kids were the reason i taught.
Of course there were challenges, 11-13 hour days, I had three preps, there were students that were defiant and disrespectful, I was also coaching, I was exhausted! I had little to no time for me. But those connections I had made with my students is what drove me to work even harder.
After two years teaching, I relocated to a new state. I was very skeptical on whether or not I would find a new teaching job, but I applied like crazy! Those applitrack applications…. so time consuming! In a few weeks I had my first teaching interview in my new state. I was offered the position THAT day! I was so excited I couldn’t believe it! I was going to be teaching 6th grade language arts! I had been with 8th graders the past two years so I welcomed the change. I thought, “sixth-graders! They will be so little and young! Some of them may actually *like* school. I can’t wait to teach them!” . . . .
My first few days went well. It was a little bit of a culture shock for me. As 90% of my students were born in Mexico and 99% of them speak Spanish as a first language at home. My Spanish is decent, but not fluent! Every student received free breakfast and lunch.
After about a week, things changed. Drastically. I was teaching in a portable with some classes of 32 students. My students began to refuse to speak English to me, and in class. I would ask the class a question, and they would only respond in Spanish. “A little prank”, I thought to myself. If my teacher didn’t know the language that my friends and I all know, we would surely speak it a few times to push her buttons.
So I began learning Spanish, as quickly as I could! But I couldn’t pick up the slang that they were using.
In the third week, the students started to get rowdy, disrespectful and defiant. When I say students, I don’t mean that there were two or three bad seeds, I mean at least 75% refused to do work. They refused to take notes. I took them to the library, they refused to check out books.
I asked other teachers, administrators, support staff for help. I often got the same answer, “That’s how these kids are” and “I’m surprised it took this long for them to show their true colors” or “You’ll get used to it after a while”, I was shocked. This type of behavior was known and accepted?!
That same week, in my last period class a student stabbed a pencil into another student’s stomach. These two boys were not friends, this wasn’t done to be funny. The little boy was bleeding and I sent him to the nurse as he was in tears. I wrote a referral and contacted my administrator. The boy that stabbed the other was given, “a talking to”. WHAT?! The next day the mother of the little boy that was hurt came in to my classroom and demanded (in Spanish) to know why I didn’t keep her son safe. Reasonable question for any mother to have. I explained what I did, I followed protocol, etc. She wanted to know why the other boy wasn’t disciplined and why he was in class the next day…. and that was a question I couldn’t answer.
The fourth week, things got worse. They refused to do work, so they were bored. They spoke over me, they played on their cell phones, they threw things at the ceiling and on the floor, they refused to take quizzes and tests. I spoke to them about how I was concerned with their grades.. they responded , “it doesn’t matter, everyone in this school moves on to the next grade, even if you have all F’s” and sadly.. it was the truth.
My last class was especially rowdy. I had a student refuse to sit down in his chair. I asked him three times, “Please take a seat in your chair”. He responded, “You are an ugly dog and I’m going to rape you.” I was shocked. I was sick. Did he really say that?! I called the campus police and he was removed immediately. I informed the administrators and they called him mother to come in. We discussed what had happened. The mom wanted him expelled or arrested. He was given two days out of school suspension, and a schedule change. I see him every morning and every afternoon.
The fifth week a student next door threatened that he was going to stab a teacher on the last week of school.
The next day a student brought a knife to school. He was given two days out of school, then he returned.
A student called me a bitch in class, I wrote the referral, called home, sent it to admin.. no consequence.
I had a substitute for an all day PD training. When I returned, my posters were ripped and torn, my dry erase markers stolen, my stapler and colored pencils stolen. I had bought my students a three pound bag of Jolly Ranchers that I kept hidden in my bottom drawer of desk.. the entire bag was stolen. The substitute left a note “very bad children, they wouldn’t stop throwing pencils at me”. I was so angry. I was even more disappointed. I marched to the administrators office and asked if she knew what had happened yesterday in my class. She said, “it’s all been taken care of”. Zero kids were disciplined. Zero.
That’s when I realized I had no power. The kids knew they could do anything, anything. There were no consequences and they would be passed to the next grade.
I felt unsafe and sadly, I wasn’t doing the two things I loved most: teaching and connecting with kids.
I turned in my letter of resignation. I’m done. Of course I’m very sad, this was my dream. I wanted to help kids. I wanted to make a difference.
It’s a bittersweet feeling, because as sad as I am about it, I’m happy that I put myself first. I need to be safe. I also deserve to be happy. I grew tired of everyone asking me, “Why do you look so sad all the time?” or “You look exhausted!”
So….What am I going to do next?
That part I don’t know, and I’m okay with that. I have a degree and a lot of valuable skills.
I’ll find something.
No, I’m not looking for a new teaching job. I need some time away.
That 9-5 office job, where you can leave work-at-work, doesn’t sound so bad.