A Teacher complains. That’s new…

Dammit. Not only do I have to co-teach this year, but ALL my 9th grade classes are co-taught Special Ed inclusion classes (which I can’t stand teaching in the first place).

I don’t like co-teaching even when I like the teacher working with me. It makes it feel like I’m not in my own classroom and in charge of my own students, and I can already see my prep period being taken up by this person (she just loves to talk and talk and talk) when I have other work to do for my other classes.  Edit: The teacher and I eventually became friends; she turned out to be way less annoying than I’d thought she’d be, and when she left I was actually sad.

I had a co-taught class the year before last. I made my opposition to it clear, and I asked not to have to teach Inclusion classes again. I do not care what the SpEd teachers say, in my classes it has NEVER worked well for the students. What I end up with are half SpEd kids who are normally difficult–they won’t do their work, they often have severe behavior problems–and half non-SpEd kids who try to survive what is an often hostile class.  Even the year I worked with a GREAT co-teacher who did her absolute best, it was a nightmare. She agreed with me, by the way, and felt that most of the SpEd students in that class were not ready for Inclusion–but the head of her department wouldn’t listen.

Anyway. This isn’t about teaching SpEd kids. I’ve had those kids in my regular classes every year since I began teaching, usually supported by a Resource Professional who occasionally came to class with them, but primarily worked with them outside my classroom and supported me in teaching them in the class. That, in my opinion, works better. No, I’m upset about having to share my professional space with someone who doesn’t mesh well with me. I don’t play well with others; that’s one reason I like my job–what I do is largely on my own, and while I collaborate with and consult my colleagues, I don’t like giving up my autonomy.

How’m I doing? Well, lemme tell ya…

Let’s let the title of the blog guide this update.

Writing

It’s going.  Being accepted to Viable Paradise gave me some faith in myself, but that only really boosted me for a week or so, then it came back to forcing myself to work when I’d rather be in the hammock reading, or playing video games, or going to movies.  But I’m writing.

Yesterday I worked all day and came up with only 300 words, partly because I just couldn’t get the words to flow, but also because I had to take some time off for business–setting appointments for my daughter with the doctor, buying groceries, cleaning the disaster in the kitchen.  Later, when my wife and daughter went out shopping, and then after daughter went to bed and wife went to a friend’s place, I wrote an additional 1200 words.  So in all, my total for the day was about 1500 words.  Not quite my preferred quota, but nothing to sneeze at, either.  I just wish it hadn’t effectively taken all day.  Those dragons in Skyrim won’t stop themselves, you know.

Looking forward to having my brain ripped apart and my ego crushed and (hopefully) rebuilt at VP in October.

Fiddling

Not happening.  I keep telling myself I need to practice more, as my skills have atrophied to the point that I’m probably worse than I was back in May.  It’s not that I don’t want to practice, and I realize this sounds like an excuse, but it’s difficult when I’m almost never alone.  My daughter is not really very good yet at giving me time, so practice is frustrating beyond all reason as she interrupts every thirty seconds.  So I try to practice when I’m alone–which is about two days a week.  Still, I need to make the time.  I lost the ability I had as a kid, and if I want to get it back, I need to practice.  But knowing it, and doing it, are two different things for me right now.

Teaching

I’m both excited and scared of my classes this year.  I was given a pretty hefty schedule teaching four preps, which is messy and ought to be avoided.

For those among you who don’t know teacher jargon, a “prep” can mean either a break–a class period in which you don’t teach a class–or a subject you’re teaching.  So when I say that my Prep period is 6th, that’s the latter meaning, but when I say I’m teaching four preps, that’s the latter.   Usually teachers aren’t supposed to have more than three preps, which is already pushing things in my opinion, as each prep is a separate task of planning, support, and teaching.  But, to be honest, it’s better than teaching four sections of one class in a row–that can be sapping on one’s nerves, especially when all four classes are reading the same thing at the same time.

This year I’m teaching Journalism, Advanced English 10 (sophomores), English 12 (yay!), and three sections of English 9.  I love teaching English 12, even with the Senior Project requirement.  I wish I had another section or two of that, but ah well.   This year’s seniors–well, 150 of them, at least–were also my Freshmen, so I’m looking forward to this year’s graduation, but that’s practically forever away, so I try not to think about it too much.

All in all, I think I’m doing pretty well.  How’re you?

Thank the Nine! And the One!

Nothing like a little gratuitous geek reference.

Well, my admin finally ironed out the issue with my fifth period class, and now it’s a much more manageable 35 kids.  Mind you, I’d prefer it was more like 25, but we can’t have everything, and small classes are a rarity these days.  But the kids seem pretty good, and even after lunch they got right to work for me, so all is well, in the end. 

I’m hoping I can get some writing done tonight.  We’ll see.

First Week: Almost Over

First week has gone pretty well.  I enjoy my classes, except for one.  It’s not the class’ fault–it’s the administrations.  You see, I have 52 students registered in the class, in a classroom with only 35 desks.  It’s a fire hazard, and illegal.  They’re trying to fix it, but these things can take time, and part of it is getting a teacher hired, which takes a while, sadly.  Hopefully it’ll get ironed out before the week is over. 

I think the War for Earth plot is getting adjusted.  It started out as a trilogy starring Teren Hunt (Name may change, of course).  Now it looks like it might be a book starring Teren, with a trilogy set a few decades later starring someone else.  Not sure. If that does work best, then I’d probably shelf this novel once it’s done until I’ve got the others written, as I’m not sure most publishers would publish a prequel novel when the main sequence is unpublished.  But, again, that’s getting ahead of myself; I need to finish this book first.  Hell, I might change my mind and make the whole series about Teren again. Or maybe his niece… hmm…

Why I like The Emperor’s Club

Most “teacher” movies are about how a teacher, usually young, usually in their first year, idealistic, bucks “the system” and inspires a group of kids.  They’re usually inspiring and cool… and total bullshit.

Even the ones based on a true story are usually 9/10ths hogwash.  Jaime Escalante didn’t succeed with all his students, just one group–and when he came from LA to Sacramento, he failed, and claimed that he couldn’t work well with anyone but the latino students.  Erin Gruwell did a great job with the students portrayed in her movie, but she isn’t teaching high school anymore; she left to teach at University and then founded the Freedom Writers Foundation, which has laudable goals, but isn’t really that big a force in Education at all.

These movies always portray the older teachers as burned-out, obstructionist, jerks who want the new teacher to fail and want to just ride a cushy wave of “good kids” until they retire.  While there may in fact be teachers like that, I don’t know any.  I know good teachers, and I know bad teachers, but I’ve never seen an older teacher act like as big a jerk as the movies make them seem.  I think these films do more to destroy the public’s attitude towards teachers than even the politicians.

Which is why I love The Emperor’s Club.  Kevin Kline’s Mr. Hundert doesn’t change the world.  He doesn’t turn a ne’er-do-well into a class act (in fact, he fails utterly in the attempt to do so, and hurts another along the way).  What he does is his job–teaching, and by doing that, inspiring, his charges.  He is lost when he resigns in a fit of pique, and only really finds himself again when he realizes he made a mistake and goes back to the classroom.

Now, granted, Mr. Hundert teaches the creme de le creme of students, rich kids whose parents pay a lot to send them to a boarding school.  Most teachers don’t work in that kind of rarefied environment, and the somewhat patriarchal tone of the school Mr. Hundert teaches in is alien to most of us.  But he’s still the epitome of a teacher–a man who does the best he can, and tries to inspire his students’ moral development, not just fill them with information.  And while we rarely see anything approaching modern teaching methods (which is a whole other post/rant I may engage in some day), we do see him interacting with his students, and not always in an authoritarian way.  He is inspiring, to his students and to me, as well.