Saturday, June 12, 2010

When You're Going Through Hell, Keep Going........

Change is the only constant
Life is change. Growth is optional. Choose wisely.
The key to success is often the ability to adapt
 Any change, even a change for the better, is always accompanied by drawbacks and discomforts.

There are all kinds of great quotes about change. I've googled them this week, trying to find SOME words of wisdom I can cling to. Often, I find a good quote to be just the inspiration I need in whatever situation I find myself, good or bad.  Unfortunately, none of the quotes I've found have been helpful, because these are all about changes that are more, I don't know, positive? Inevitable? What if you don't WANT the change? What if everything in your being is railing AGAINST the change? What if you don't want to BE changed?  What if the change doesn't HAVE to happen, but someone is making it happen anyway? Maybe I'm just being too stubborn about the situation to grasp that those messages ARE for me, but right now, I just want to come up with a new quote that fits my situation. Unfortunately, it would be something like, "Change sucks, and I'd rather not have any more of them, thanks very much."

I think I remember mentioning back in September last year when I went BACK to school, that I don't react to change well. Ever. SOMETIMES not even to GOOD changes. I guess the best that can be said is that I usually am able to resign myself to them, if I don't necessarily accept them. But I also have become such a passive version of my former self (thank you, Paxil) (unless I am pms'ing and screaming obscenities at bullies...but then, THAT story's already been told...) that I sometimes wonder if resigning myself to change that I don't want isn't maybe a factor in why so many changes happen to me. Maybe people figure, "oh she'll bluster and blow, but eventually she'll settle down and just do what we want her to do."  How do I know when TO fight back, for real?

My teaching position is being changed again, for next year.  It's a long story. My teaching career has literally spanned every grade from preschool to freshmen in college. Some grades, ages, levels, subjects, I have liked better than others. But I have spent most of my life doing Remedial - in one form or another.  When I left the high school level remedial, I switched to elementary classroom teaching at the third and fourth grade levels. I really enjoyed classroom teaching, when it was a self-contained classroom of my own students.  When our school student population started to decline, fairly drastically, and our classrooms were cut from, for example, 1 3rd grade classroom, 1 4th grade classroom (both self-contained) to 3 teachers per two gradelevels, with three multiage (3rd and 4th mixed) classrooms, I began to hate it. I had to work with other teachers as part of a team. Now, before you think "Oh, she's not a team player" - i AM. And I can be. And I don't MIND being a team player. But, it makes my weaknesses SO much more visible. I am pretty severely ADD. I have a hard time keeping track of papers all in one place. I don't get correcting done on a regular

schedule, but instead, tend to spend a couple Saturdays or Sundays with a pot of coffee, curled up in my chair, correcting all day. These kinds of things tend to drive other, more organized, teachers, crazy. They want grades a week EARLIER than they are due? Well, in my world, I still have a weekend between me and grades, and so mine won't be done until the last minute. Yep, they'll be done and in on time, if I have to stay up half the night doing it. It's the price I pay for ADD, and I'm ok with that. And it WAS ok when I was on my own. But becoming part of a team demanded too much more of me, stresswise, so I wasn't enjoying it like I was when it was just my classroom and my kids. And I knew my habits and characteristics, although they don't affect the kids and make me a spontaneous, good, teacher in so many ways, were driving the other teachers, who are also my friends as well as colleagues, nuts. So, when a remedial position opened up a few years back, it seemed like a good time to return to that. The pace is slower, the groups small, I enjoy the work, and the kids. I'm good at it. Remedial tends to be a bit boring, at times, as it is much repetition of the basics, and I do thrive on NOT being bored, but it seemed a good trade off. After a few years of too much "excitement" in classroom teaching to not have EVER been bored, going back to remedial just seemed right. And I've grown SO much. I've learned SO much more about Dyslexia, and have been a key player in getting a new program in our school for dyslexic students. It's been a good few years. BUT, the population at our school just keeps dwindling. Most classes (as in, the whole GRADE level) tend to now have about 25 students in them. My 6th grade class this year is down to a total of 17 kids. And thus, things continue to change. Classroom teaching needs change. I was asked to teach a couple of sections of 6th grade reading and ELA last year, in addition to the remedial the rest of the day. It was ok. I was on my own, so my paper issues didn't really bother anyone, and we did fine. This year, I was asked to teach 3 classes of 5th AND 6th grade Reading..... well, ok. One more class than last year. The other half of the day remedial.

NOW, next year, they want me to teach:  Social Studies via reading. Really? I'm going to be able to cover an entire year's social studies curriculum by teaching historical novels? I'm going to teach the deep structures of reading while covering the content of ancient Egypt? Well, ok, I suppose, if you say so. Oh, and immediately following THOSE 40 minutes, I will be teaching ELA to one HALF of the 6th graders (while one of the other teachers across the hall is teaching the same stuff to the OTHER half of the 6th graders. There are 23 of them all together- we seriously can not put them in ONE CLASS??? I understand the benefits of small class sizes, but while that is critical at K and 1, and maybe 2, when kids are learning to read, I don't think a class of 12 students is all that necessary at 6th grade. Buck up, teachers and administrators. It is not impossible, not even a BAD idea, to teach a class of 23 students.) Oh, and did I mention that following THOSE 80 minutes of class, they now insist that I teach 6th grade SCIENCE. And then come back upstairs for another period in the afternoon to teach the OTHER class of 6th grade SCIENCE. Yeah, because THAT's my forte, all right. Two degrees in English, and elementary, and I'm supposed to be thrilled to be required to teach SCIENCE? It isn't even LIFE science, for crying out loud. Yes, I CAN do it. I'm not stupid. I can. But I don't WANT to.

Not only is this going to go back to being a disaster for me, as organizationally challenged as I am, but it is going to be a nightmare for the other two 5/6 team members to work with me. AND, I'm not exaggerating when I say NO ONE wants to work with them. They have chased the past three teachers out of there, well, one of them has, because of their personality. I don't want to fight. I don't want to move upstairs. I don't want to go back to being a classroom teacher. Especially not of science. AND - the kicker is, because our State decided to change the cut off levels for State Testing this year, we are expecting an influx of remedial students who are not really remedial, but will now be required to get remedial services. When I asked what the plan was for servicing them, since I was being pretty much taken out of the mix, I was told, "I don't really know yet. I don't really have a plan yet. I'll have to wait and see."  So this is what I get by being GOOD at what I do, even when I don't like it?  This is what I get for having been the one person who has survived two years "upstairs" with "those teachers" that no one else can work with? I don't WANT to leave my classroom downstairs. I love my little corner of the room. I've got big windowsills with flowers growing. Upstairs, there are no windowsills, and the windows open out onto the roof where the vents from the cafeteria and the boiler room make noise and smells all day. I don't want to leave the students I am finally able to teach to read. I don't WANT to teach about the solar system. I HATE the solar system. I like reading, and books, and writing, and laid back days with laid back students, and minimal grading and minimal lesson plans, and no stress at grade times. I like not pissing other teachers off because I'm scatterbrained, and spontaneous, and not quiet, and sedate, and organized. I LIKE my desk area. I LIKE not having to climb to the second floor every day. I LIKE the teachers in my hallway I work with now. If I go up there, I will be alone, and lonely, and I will hate it again.

CAN I do it? Sure. Will I be good at it? Yep. But do I want to put all that effort and time into it that it will take? Not really. I've been doing this for many years. I'm not done yet. I'm not one of those teachers who SHOULD have retired by now (I'm only 47, for heaven's sake) but hasn't, and is just getting by. But I have found where my strenths lie, and where my stress levls are at their lowest, and classroom teaching is so not it.
I don't WANT this change. There are others who could be put up there in that position besides me. I will admit in a small school our size, the options are limited, and I know that I should be grateful that I still have a job, when many others in nearby schools have been let go this year. And I am. I'm just tired of change. I don't WANT to change again. Want to know a secret? I don't LOVE teaching. It was never my dream job. I don't honestly know what would have been, all those years ago. I do know, now, that something with animals instead of people and paperwork, would have been a better fit for me, personally. I like kids. I like having a tool, finally, whereby I can teach ANYONE how to read, even kids with severe dyslexia. That's a good feeling. But still - it's an awkward fit for me. I've been the square peg in the round hole for many years, and only have 9 left before I can become a Veterinary Technician for 9 dollars and hour, and feel like a round peg in a round hole, at long last, money and retirement system be damned. I feel like I could make it IF they left me where I was. I promise not to stagnate. I promise to keep learning new things. I promise to be cheerful and relatively ungrumbly and plant sunflowers on my windowsill, if only they would not force this change on me. I CAN"T retire for at least 9 more years - I just would prefer that they not be 9 years of paperwork misery.
When in Rome.....
I don't know what it is the Romans DO, though, so I guess the next best thing is the other quote, "When you're going through hell.....
Teaching 5/6, upstairs, with THEM, and those subjects, well, maybe it's not hell. But it sure isn't Rome, either.


fireweedroots said...

My situation is a bit different, but I sure understand how you feel. In order to get a full-time for next year, I'll be doing remedial English and Swedish with three different groups for a total of 9 hours a week. On top of that I'll be teaching SocSci in a Grade 7...
My teacher's degree is in English with a minor in Swedish, but with declining numbers of students this is thought to be the best idea.

Karen Sue said...

yeah, in our WNY town, Amish have taken the lead with more than 50% population. My kids' classes are half the size mine were 30 years ago in the same school. Teachers are retiring and not being replaced. I had wanted to return to college to teach and my friend, the teacher, suggested I not do it. In our area, where I need to stay, jobs are way to scarce to spend the money on an education you can't use. FB posting of a teacher listing the things we would go without next year, and others talking of homeschool... Surely there has to be a better way. sorry,Not a big union fan either, as I've seen so many hide behind it's protection. We argue with my teacher friend, our school's union rep, about this all the time.