May 6, 2010

Teaching Bell to Bell Sucks

The principal pulls me into her office one particularly balmy afternoon after the second period bell. Her office is spacious and decently accommodated. I gravitate towards the plush leather couch, but take my seat in the leather chair instead.

"You know," she says, tossing her head to one side to show that she is about to explain to me something rather important, "we pay you until the last day of school to do your job. It upsets me when an administrator comes to me and says, 'Greig has checked out. I can understand if it is a coach, but when an academic teacher checks out, I get upset. You're a better teacher than that, Greig. I walked into your class today and one student was blatantly doing Math homework and when I ask him the student tells me, 'He told us we could do what we wanted.' There was still fifteen minutes left of class. That's just not acceptable."

I felt chastened by her words. I wanted to say something to defend myself but what came out of me was more like apology. "I've been preoccupied lately. I'm not on my game."

The truth is I have been on my game. I've been at it with such intensity that I feel my body shutting down. The students are too familiar. They feel they know me. Yesterday I wrestled a pen from a student's hand because he would not give it back to another student.

At the end of the year I feel raw. I feel less powerful. As if the class - and I hate that I think of them as a unit - see my weaknesses. One boy unbuttoned his collared shirt and beat his chest, to show us all the class is more powerful. I told him to button his shirt up.

This week I have taught A, C, and D periods in succession. A period this year has been my weakest class in terms of focus - C period is in-between - and D period is the honors class, not necessarily passionate but dutiful. But, to save me a little, one student, who is probably the most dutiful of all my students told me she had fun writing her essay. One boy dedicated his portfolio of selected works to me. Ahhh.

I realize something. Maybe it is self-promoting, but I realize while administrators admonish me for not teaching "bell to bell" that I had started the year gung ho. I was on top of things academically. I had lesson plans posted. I had my class's page replete with information, PDF files of handouts, study guides, example tests; I had intricately detailed lesson plans. But, even with all of that organization and planning, I received negative feedback from parents mostly. "You're taking away my child's childhood," one said.

I am watching Woody Allen's Whatever Works. Larry David can teach my class and I want Woody Allen to be my teacher colleague. That WOULD be awesome! 


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