The past few weeks have been very rough on me. I’m on a few hundred medications or so, and by Friday, if nothing seems to be working, I need to consider surgery and get parts of my intestines cut out. Ulcerative colitis is terrible–make sure you take your probiotics if you’re on several amounts of antibiotics. I never knew, and so I’m in this mess.
Several students are suspended, mostly in thanks to me and one of the new history teachers. Some kids were saying unusual comments, we brought them to New Headmaster, an investigation was conducted, and thus the punishment was meted out.
I’ve been given the rest of the week off. Or rather, I’ve been forced to take it. My health is so deteriorated I might as well not really even be alive, much less drive out to school and teach. Surprisingly, my teaching ability hasn’t diminished. I think it largely has to do with my focus towards all the new changes this year and my motivations for the year.
The environment here is upsetting as usual. Too many parents have absolutely no faith in their kids’ abilities, nor do they have any real motivation to push them. I don’t understand why they’d pay money for private school other than to make sure their kids go to an all-white school. I’m already looking for employment elsewhere; I deal with kids who don’t wanna learn all the time. I can’t deal with a community that actively destroys learning. What do I mean by that?
Religious as we are, most people take very heavily into consideration what their preachers tell them. Upwards of eight (EIGHT!!!) preachers are running around telling kids they don’t really need to worry about school, that God will sort it all out, and they should just focus on having fun. Any adult can look into those words and find some semblance of responsibility; however, that is not something you tell a hormonally charged teenager who has little desire to do anything except have fun and goof off. It’s a mess. I don’t even believe this is typical of religious communities. This is just a giant disaster, and it disgusts me. Anyway, you can imagine the results of that. We’re a bit up in arms since we found out. They’re not interested in apologizing (something about pride and vanity…).
The kids are taking well to these new books (and so am I, which is probably influencing my teaching). The topics are nicely paced with nonsense thrown out, unlike in the other book where nonsense was rampant. As a result, all these kids are doing significantly better. They’re fitting into a better mold, and as a result they’re pushing themselves a bit more. It’s a situation of “If I think I can, then I can, and so I want to,” which is a great attitude. Only one class is resistant, but its little rebels are diminishing fast as they discover that Geometry actually isn’t terribly awful.
A student who I thought didn’t really care for me at all came to tell me she got accepted into my own alma mater. I was thrilled for her. She is a fantastic student, and I gave her the congratulations she deserved. Now if only we could get her ACT score up a few more points to get her the award she rightly deserves. I think I was surprised more than anything else when she told me. ….Hopefully she doesn’t just go there because her boyfriend will be going there. That would be silly, and he has more reason to go there than she because it is an engineering and agricultural school, and he’s doing engineering. She wants to get into psychology, and there are two other universities I know of whose psychology programs are better than mine. I talked to her about graduate school, and she can fix things from there. She’s not naive, at least, and that’s good.
Finally, I was forced into a meeting. Or rather, push came to shove, and all the ripples I’d caused last year in the “math education” community of the entire region was put on as I was asked to give a lecture on the state of math education in our community. Where are we lacking, how we can improve, etc. I was given all the numbers I needed to form a hard, coherent argument.
I had two options. I could either detail the technological limitations and math education spending as well as ACT changes and textbook NON changes and how outdated we all were, or I could be a blunt jerk.
I opted for a combination of both. It is certainly a big deal that our area is using outdated textbooks for ACT purposes, and, ultimately, within the context of the state of math education period. But I wanted to stress this idea of “pat idiots on the back” and how wrong that was. I get it; schools everywhere bend over backwards for particular students they shouldn’t. But I’ve done my research; our area does it significantly more so in that we’re a lot worse about it. I didn’t just prattle on about abstract What Ifs, though; I called several teachers out and shared their stories with me and challenged them to accuse me of lying if I was.
They didn’t. For the most part, everyone was agreeable. I was talking to math teachers and administrators from about 9 different schools. However, I’m not a fool; I wasn’t there to be on a soap box and preach to them.
A boss once told me that there were three kinds of people:
3) Wise men
An idiot will tell you there’s a problem. Any idiot can point out problems, after all. An intelligent person will point out a problem and then offer a solution. A wise man deals with the problem on his own such that before anyone finds out about it, it’s no longer a problem. I’m no wise man, but I think of myself intelligent, so I offered solutions. The first of which was a textbook upheaval.
The second solution was a very carefully mapped out set of changes to middle and high school math curriculum. Every school should see some standardization within itself; there is no reason the Pre-Algebra of 2008 should cover 3 more chapters than the Pre-Algebra of 2009. That’s too significant. One chapter? Sure. Several sections? Definitely. But 3 whole chapters? Not at all.
The third solution had more to do with my own school, but noticing nods and looks from other administrators, it seems they have a similar issue. We had to stop bunching groups together. I used my own firsthand experience: 10th grade Geometry has been with each other for so long, and they’re so unmotivated, that they grew up “not caring” together for a long time and now there’s probably no real of fixing them. A few of them are finding more motivation, but that’s an uphill battle that will ultimately be lost. That spark just isn’t there. Groups must be mixed and mingled, and that translates to what has been called to me as a “logistics headache.”
They must mix grades. We’re finally doing it here, and it’s a logistics headache, apparently. But it must be done.
I then met with teachers one on one for about 3 hours total trying to detail things that correspond to their own schools. I’m well researched in all the schools around here because people for some reason want to meet me. I don’t know why; I’ve never been interesting to them.
In summary of the meeting: I hated it.
I hated being put forth as this paragon of knowledge. When I’M the person they all turn to, with as little experience as I have and naive, hopeful gestures I can offer, we must be in a really sorry state. I hate that I have no experienced math education leaders to actually talk to; they’ve all retired or fled (or both!). Every single teacher that sat before me as I spoke, I can comfortably say that only a small few of them are “above average.” It’s mean of me to say, but for Christ’s sake, one of them was a HISTORY TEACHER before he was just forced into teaching math because the other guy quit, and then since he’d taught it for three years they just kept him at it.
I also hated the fact that I know, I know that my concrete ideas are ultimately going to be dismissed because it’s not a light switch that will fix everything in one year. And it irritates me. I feel like everything would have best been done over a small private meeting done multiple times to genuinely interested parties, but even then I still hate this idea of putting me on a pedestal.
What the hell do I know about education management? I don’t have a clue. I don’t have a group of people to converse with about new math programs or tested math programs. I’m basically doing all the research on my own, I have no way of seeing how things stack up for our community (some of these programs just won’t work with our limitations), and while it’s interesting to me to see how I can modify some programs, ultimately it’s all a lot of stress I feel was unfairly placed on me. I need to have a group of colleagues to discuss with, not shoulder the burden of math education for all these schools.
It’s stressful. But it is what it is. Here’s hoping something works out the way it should.