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So, if you read my last post, you know that I switched schools. The transition has been interesting, though, according to my reviewing administrator, painless compared to the transition of most teachers new to my current urban school.

However, I feel like I’ve hit the proverbial teaching wall…you know, that one that most teachers hit when they decide to leave the profession. Usually this happens within the first five years. This year is my sixth.

So, why am I just now hitting the wall?

I suppose that there are a number of reasons. First and foremost, all of my years teaching have been in high-poverty, low-income, under-funded schools. That means that not only are my students affectively needy, they are needy in the educational sense too. They have various - and significant - learning gaps. They need an incredible amount of support - in both senses - to move them from their current level of achievement to, well, not where they should be, but somewhere better. Why not where they should be? Because I am human. Because I cannot, no matter what the storybooks say, increase a student's achievement level more than one grade level in one year.

At this point, someone might say, "Well, if you were a good teacher, you could." No. I am a good teacher. In my last school, over half of my Diploma Programme Language A (English) students scored high enough to earn college credit on the exam. Granted, they had been with me for two years. I'd had two solid years to develop their writing, analysis, and critical thinking skills. I was helped, and this is very important - by the fact that they wanted the score, and they worked hard for that they wanted.

Now, though, I have two classes of AP Language students who were essentially forced into the class. They didn't want to take it. Many of them tried to get out of it at the beginning of the school year. In the history of the school, only one student has passed the AP Lang exam. One. To give you a better perspective, here is a short summation of the characteristics of my current AP students:

1) Generally, they don't like to read.
2) 90% of them don't even want to be in the class.
3) I've won them over and they work hard, but their ability levels are, in some cases, extremely debilitating.
4) Some of them pay more attention to and remember more about "Sharkeisha" (apparently a Facebook phenomenon for teenagers) than they do their homework (if they even do their homework).
Compounding the student ability and effort problem is the struggle we face, in general, as teachers. In education classes, one constantly hears instructors say teachers should not work harder than their students. However, here is a comment from a colleague at a  department meeting today (we have one every day):
“As teachers we’re doing it all. And we’ve never been more trained or working harder, and I know it looks great on all the [checklists], but what are we doing to make sure our kids are doing SOMETHING. If we don’t get them to do it, it’s not going to work.”
The funny thing about this is that my colleague managed to say exactly what I was thinking without him even knowing I was thinking it. What was heartbreakingly sad, though, was our administrator's response:
“Yeah, I hear you about the rigor…maybe at our next meeting we can do some mapping of that in preparation for next year. What I also want to bring up is the ACT practice data. We have a few kids busting into 20s but there are still some students scoring 10 and 11."
I wish I was making that up. I really do. Instead of actually responding to the teacher, the administrator brought up data. DATA. That's all it's about anymore. How much can we move students? How can we make sure we're meeting all of the aspects of the proverbial teaching checklist? Oh, that's right, we track the data.

My husband and I constantly have the conversation these days about whether or not I am going to stay in teaching. His perspective is that, if I do, I need to teach more affluent kids; in other words, kids that are on grade level and receive consistent support and reinforcement from home.

But do I even want to fight this fight anymore? Do I want to work so hard at planning lessons and differentiating them and providing language and other supports, just to have students ask me, "Miss! Why didn't you watch Sharkeisha last night?!" Yes, I do joke with my students, and that is part of why they work hard for me - but that relationship only goes so far in situations like this.

I'm not sure what I need at this point - better students? better school? better ideas? I look at my Twitter feed sometimes and am even more disheartened by the technology accessible to other schools in more affluent communities, districts, and states. They have 1-1 iPad access; they use the iPads to enhance instruction. They have ready access to laptops for typing papers and research. They have, well options that I don't.

So of course the next question I have to ask myself is, "What other skills do I have?" and "Am I really done?" This, to me, is worse than the usual teacher "October slump" that we all experience. After all, it is December, and we just got back from Thanksgiving break (for which, mind you, I am extremely grateful).

The conversation keeps coming up. I keep thinking about it. I keep having doubts about whether I am where I'm supposed to be, and whether I have the stamina to work so hard to make up for student learning and ability deficits.

And so, really, maybe I'm just done. In the hallway today, another teacher - who was not at our department meeting - looked at me and said, "I'm tired of wanting [their education] more." Maybe I'm not the only one.

Originally posted to Shakespeares Sister on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 12:35 PM PST.

Also republished by "Progressive Politics:Tennessee Style" (PPTS), Teachers Lounge, Education Alternatives, and Community Spotlight.

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  •  Tip Jar (140+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    IB JOHN, coquiero, dsb, Ree Zen, bibble, jennyp, annieli, boadicea, Penny GC, salmo, Catte Nappe, Amber6541, Pam from Calif, Laura Wnderer, viral, la urracca, dizzydean, hazey, YellerDog, Simplify, Diana in NoVa, old wobbly, Smoh, Alice Venturi, Vatexia, vahana, ratcityreprobate, Bud Fields, BachFan, Matt Z, Susan Gardner, paradox, gizmo59, wader, Teiresias70, Bill W, DSC on the Plateau, Brooke In Seattle, OldJackPine, MsGrin, Militarytracy, roses, greycat, FishOutofWater, virginwoolf, BlueDragon, puzzled, kkkkate, Steven D, Regina in a Sears Kit House, tobendaro, willyr, DRo, Chaddiwicker, Joe Hill PDX, slowbutsure, dmhlt 66, mommyof3, jguzman17, CA Nana, Buckeye Nut Schell, zerelda, dotsright, seabos84, linkage, marathon, Seitanist, begone, rb137, kathny, peachcreek, OrdinaryIowan, Lujane, magicsister, chimene, Gustogirl, Matilda, Ninepatch, slatsg, Debby, Habitat Vic, Phoenix Woman, ladybug53, here4tehbeer, Rolfyboy6, fumie, Assaf, liberte, BruceMcF, edrie, mauricehall, denise b, chantedor, hulagirl, RiveroftheWest, Black Mare, outragedinSF, riverlover, GAS, radarlady, ChuckInReno, hwy70scientist, kurt, shortgirl, leftykook, ferment, WhizKid331, sidnora, nailbender, coppercelt, GreenMother, geekydee, No Exit, marina, Audio Guy, flowerfarmer, jeebie, Oh Mary Oh, Anthony Page aka SecondComing, BRog, coral, Sun Tzu, gardenkitty, lunacat, theunreasonableHUman, Catkin, native, prfb, ems97206, grape crush, lgmcp, Tea Party Necropsy, Brecht, dotdash2u, Sean Robertson, JanL, shesaid, Anne was here, jexter, pixxer

    "There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them." - Joseph Brodsky

    by Shakespeares Sister on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 12:35:11 PM PST

  •  My two cents (53+ / 0-)

    think carefully before hopping into the "affluent" pool.

    It's a whole different can of worms, with corresponding awfulness.  My guess is you would just be replacing one set of complaints with a whole other set of equally awful ones.  And the parents...sheesh.  Parents in high achieving schools are a nightmare.

    I personally love middle school.  Kids are so funny at that age, and the academic expectations aren't quite so high.  There's still something to work with there, since they're not fully "cooked", so to speak.  But they're not crazy monkeys like elementary can be.

    Good luck.  Teaching is a tough gig these days.  You'll get plenty of sympathy here.

    I blog about my daughter with autism at her website

    by coquiero on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 12:44:57 PM PST

  •  My sister was so disgusted by lawyering (23+ / 0-)

    she went back to school and now enjoys her work as a Speech Language Pathologist.

  •  Coming from a money poor area, (62+ / 0-)

    the schools I attended weren't the best. But I will tell, teachers that cared made all the difference for me. I learned how to express my ideas on paper. I learned how to solve quadratic equations. I learned about our history. Teachers made the difference. Do what you have to. I just want to thank you.

    "I'm gonna dance between the raindrops"

    by IB JOHN on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 12:46:33 PM PST

  •  A world of difference (37+ / 0-)

    I teach at the university level for several reasons, but mostly because the students want to be there. They may not want to be in my English class, but they do want to be in school and pass my class.

    I have taught at a private Jesuit university, at state universities, and at some community colleges. Honestly, I most enjoy teaching the students who are excited about learning. Who wouldn't?

    I also enjoy teaching at community colleges, but there is a word of difference between students who come to class ready and willing to learn and students who sometimes come to class, reluctantly, and resentful that they have to be there. I've taught students who were barely literate, but they want to learn and they can make remarkable progress. Other students starting at that same minimal skill level who don't want to learn (they just want the diploma) can make life a living hell for everyone in the class, especially the teacher.

    At the university level, once teachers get tenure, they get a sabbatical every 6-7 years or so. Maybe that's what you need: a change to recharge, study, reflect, grow. I would think that K-12 teachers need a paid sabbatical even more than university professors. But I also know that in this economy, such options just aren't financially practical for most of us. I have often thought about leaving the profession myself, but I can't think of any other job that would bring me as much joy.

    I don't know what the answer is for you. It may take time to find it. That's ok. Maybe you want to try a different school, or a different grade. Maybe it's time to get out and do something else. Education is under assault now, and I don't expect the professional climate to get much better in the near future, although there are always pockets of progress. Just know that there are other teachers out there who understand what you are going through, and know that whatever you decide, we've got your back.

    Zen is "infinite respect for all things past; infinite service to all things present; infinite responsibility for all things future."--Huston Smith's Zen Master

    by Ree Zen on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 01:14:51 PM PST

  •  Are there better options? (30+ / 0-)

    Retired now, I spent many years teaching in the Chicago Public Schools, everything from grades 3 through 12, and I spent many other years chasing low-paying, no-benefit part time college teaching jobs, both at community colleges and online.  But those years were not consecutive nor in any way stable.  The good public school years were ones where the administrators were supportive of creativity and provided a setting that encouraged students to work. The bad years were unspeakably so and actually physically dangerous, with doors locked against the gang kids roaming the halls during classes.  All of the years were in poor and low achieving areas.

    Administrators changed, schools closed or cut staff, or moved them around a lot, and when things were not good, I tried other schools and other jobs or went back to school. I was divorced but mostly supporting three daughters myself, and when all other options failed, time and again I had to go back and sub in the Chicago schools until somebody quit and a job opened up, usually one where the teacher had been going through hell.  And the whole cycle would begin again, only with an out-of-control situation to work on before I could even teach.

    I'm not saying this to warn you against leaving, for I don't know anything about what other options you have.  And it sounds as though you have a supportive husband.  What I would recommend is what you are apparently doing, trying to figure out exactly what you want to do before you leave, hopefully including the certainty that you could actually get the work you would like.  One thing I discovered when I applied for jobs at better schools--I was seen as responsible for my students' low achievement and was therefore not somebody it would be good to hire. Having taught at a bad school was a stigma, as if any students I taught would not do well, no matter what. It would have been better to have no teaching at all on my resume.

    Good luck to you, whatever you decide to do.

  •  change venues, burnout doesn't have to take (12+ / 0-)

    20 years, although that's what the summers are for...sober reflection and recharging due to the stress of what non-teachers think is an easy job. OTOH, teaching teachers may be your thing as well if you care enough about the profession - not everyone who runs the DoD needs to have been career military or even a Republican

    And so, really, maybe I'm just done. In the hallway today, another teacher - who was not at our department meeting - looked at me and said, "I'm tired of wanting [their education] more." Maybe I'm not the only one.

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013

    by annieli on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 01:48:33 PM PST

  •  30+ years of teaching here (73+ / 0-)

    ....all of it in high-risk environments. The easiest gig by far was the tenured one I was lucky enough to land at a community college, where I am still plugging along, teaching English--mostly developmental comp-- of all damned things.

    I know your frustration. I hit that wall in 1982, quit teaching and waited tables a couple of years, and then was drawn back into classroom because, to my surprise, I missed it. And I knew I was needed there--as you are. I can tell from your writing....

    Over the years, I developed survival techniques. I try very hard to keep my focus on the ones who are working hard and learning while making it clear to the others that I'm happy to meet them half-way, but they have to put forth some effort.

    I fail students who don't do passing work. I never enjoy it, but I do it every semester. Sometimes, failure is the lesson they must learn, hard as it is.

    Just this semester, I have four students who are failing because they didn't do the necessary work. They had no idea, despite my warnings, that requirements are not suggestions. I feel bad for them, cried with one, but I do them an injustice by passing them on--and a worse one to those students who DID do the work and met the standards.

    I have high standards. I think most American students are bored out of their minds because school does not challenge them. I make them read hard stuff and insist that they support their assertions with good information and organize their essays so that their readers can follow their thoughts. Grammar, spelling, and punctuation matter quite a lot. (I come from a working class background. My parents did not finish high school. My father did not speak standard English and that limited him in his working life, though he was a bright man. I know personally how important it is to learn how communicate in edited American English.)

    So I set the bar high and do everything in my power to show my students how to meet it. Those who put in the time and effort are pleased with their own work. They learn the sense of satisfaction that comes with working hard to produce a revised essay that they can be proud of. And one of my favorite comments to be able to put on an essay is "you should be proud of this." I don't get to do that all the time.

    Some days, lots of days, I have to psyche myself to walk into the classroom with some degree of enthusiasm, knowing full well that the majority will be interested in other things. To successfully psyche myself up, I think of the girl with the intent expression who produces six pages when I ask for three. I think of the boy who actually wants to learn how to write a better essay. I try to block from my awareness the guy who plays with his phone all class. And I try not to take long faces personally. I try to remember that they may not hate my class but they may be going through something awful, may be struggling with depression, may not have slept enough, may be hungry.....

    And I learned years ago that I have to be their teacher, not their mom, not their social worker, not their friend. I have to be the one who knows what they need to learn and who has a plan for helping them do that. That's it. That's enough. If I focus laser-like on the ideas I want them to master, the rest takes care of itself.

    Or it doesn't and I have to fail some....But in my long career, I have been humbled by former students who contact me to thank me for giving them the preparation they needed to do well in a four-year college--and by those I had to fail who I pass in the halls the next semester, and who smile at me because they know their failure was not personal; instead it was all about the standards that they did not meet. They know I wanted them to pass just as much as they did....Eventually, most grow and figure out how to manage time, plan ahead, cut ties with bad influences, do whatever they must do to meet those standards. The failure was a beginning of needed change.

    For others, not so much. And I hate that. I hate that there are some people who are, for whatever reason, ineducable. But there are. And it's not because of low intelligence. I have seen students with below average IQs surprise the hell out of me in one semester because they WORK so hard once they know what they need to do.

    Some just don't care about academics right now. Maybe they will later.

    All we can do is set our sights on what our students need to learn and do whatever we can to help them learn it. The learning is up to them.

    The responsibility is awesome. I still feel it after all these years. But it occurred to me many years ago that I was actually a decent teacher: I was pretty good at showing students how to do what they needed to know how to do. So I stuck with it.

    Thirty-something years later, I am tired as hell, but I feel like I have done a bit to help a lot of people in their journeys. I wouldn't take anything for that (though I will be glad when I can retire, read what I want to, and not have to mark stacks of essays!)

    Hang in there. Or take a little break if you need to. Figure out your own version of the serenity prayer--know what you can and cannot do to make a difference in their lives--and be a teacher. I have a feeling you're a good one.

    "This is a center-left country. Democrats can act that way and win. In fact, they must." -- Markos

    by cassandraX on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 02:06:09 PM PST

  •  First let me thank you for your years of service (30+ / 0-)

    to our country as the person who helps the next generation, at what ever stage they are at.
    Second, as the daughter of a Community College Professor, you are not going through anything that a million other teachers have gone through.
    I do NOT mean to trivialize your plight, just letting you know you are not walking that particular path by yourself. I can assure you, your colleagues are right beside you, in front leading and behind following the bread crumbs.
    Third, did I remember to thank you?! Because the profession you have chosen is one to be truly prized, I know it does not feel that way today, but I know for a fact that your students do appreciate you. They probably cannot express this or may not even know it now, but some day, they will.
    My father lost almost all his hair one year after it turned shocking white. I was (and still am) sure that it was from raising three teenage girls, but he will tell you it was from his work. He also would never call himself a professor, a teacher is what he was.
    I would like to suggest that you look into the possibility of teaching abroad for a year or two to change the scenery, recharge the batteries or even to just take the time off. I can almost assure you , you will return, the truly great ones always do, and you seem to be cut from the great cloth, the cloth that has more to teach, that has a different way to try and get through.
    I don't think I would be a good teacher, my sister is, but I don't think I have the right mind-set, too angry and then I get all wishy-washy.
    Just a little food for thought.
    Peace and Blessings!

    United we the people stand, divided we the people fall.

    by Penny GC on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 02:27:48 PM PST

  •  The most important question a teacher can ask (25+ / 0-)

    him- or herself is "why do I do THIS?".  Of all the things we do, as over-educated and underpaid individuals, why do we still teach?  I think we all have different reasons, but for me, I come back to something I read and my pre-teacher experiences.  

    I'm a vet and served in combat.  I'm on Year 12 of teaching (Year 7 at my current place of employment).  Like every teacher, I have the same types of complaints.  But, whenever I get down, I come back to that basic question--why do I do this?  

    For me, I tie in my own experience with a tough-to-read book:   Erich Maria Remarque's The Road Back.  I rarely reread a book (which gets my wife to ask why we have so many around the house), but this one I reread at least once per year.  The book is a loose sequel to All Quiet on the Western Front--pretty standard stuff one might say.  However, my inspiration from it comes towards the end, where the main character has a nervous breakdown after a traumatic PTSD episode.  He comes back and reflects on his existence, especially given that another of the main characters had committed suicide.  What is it that we should do in life?  What, given the horrors that exist in the world (not to mention war), should we do?

    His answer was simply to be useful.  Use or utility in this sense means that we do whatever we can to make the world a better place, even if it is in a small way.  For me, I can think of no better way to do that than to teach.  

    Over my teaching career, I have had in front of me maybe close to 2000 young people.  Even if only one took in the lessons on life I had to offer, became a better person for having had my classes or remembers down the road something I put into their heads, then it it has been worth it.  

    I have to remind myself of that from time to time, but it works for me.  I guess I would ask you what your answer to that question is.  If you can't find an answer that is satisfactory to you, then maybe it is time to move on.  

    As for the technology thing--it's just bells and whistles.  One of my favorite teaching experiences has been in Haiti, where I had no electricity, an ancient chalkboard  and a bat that liked to fly around the classroom in the mornings.  But teaching and learning happened.....

    To be free and just depends on us. Victor Hugo.

    by dizzydean on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 03:48:46 PM PST

  •  I have no answers for your dilemma ... (10+ / 0-)

    But I do know, from reading your thoughtfulness and agonizing over your future and that of your students, that there would be a terrible loss to your profession (and to future kids) if you leave it.

    You seem to have a nature that needs to make a difference in individual lives. Perhaps there is another stream for you to enter? Another way you can offer your talent and gifts to the same end?

    Although I'm not a teacher, I've drifted in and out of different venues of journalism—another profession with a high burnout rate—most of my life ... I leave, I come back, I leave, I come back to another place, a different place.

    The love of a profession you're truly called to never leaves, it seems. So perhaps it's time to find another path (not just a different school or a different classroom), maybe an altogether alternative way or place to teach?

  •  I'm teaching well into my fourth decade. Privately (11+ / 0-)

    And online.

    One of the important aspects of these decisions came when I learned that I actually could dictate standards for myself, find agreeing colleagues from around the world who not only agreed with my standards, but felt free to create additional (not replacement) standards for themselves and their charges.

    No bureaucracy to speak of, past the development groups these passionate and innovative educators populate. We understand the responsibilities of both education and educating, as well as the responsibilities of learning.

    I do not generally recommend this course for most, because it is more difficult by orders of magnitude than public or even conventional private education. And, we are losing our greatest heroes at far too fast a rate.  There are, there must be accommodation at some point between the betrayal of non-supportive administrators and those students who are hungering from an absent regular meal of learning, feeding their imagination, creativity, and self value.

    No, you are by no means alone, even as it feels so often that you are. You are simply by yourself too often. It sounds like there are allies available to you, if only to support through their understanding of your dilemmas. I hope that, together you can positively affect the educational environment where you work, and that this rare accomplishment will be manna for your soul.

    Nurse Kelley says my writing is brilliant and my soul is shiny - who am I to argue?
    Left/Right: -7.75
    Social Libertarian/Authoritarian: -4.51

    by Bud Fields on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 05:10:04 PM PST

  •  I feel your pain (13+ / 0-)

    I'm in year 20, and I have never thought more about leaving the profession. Your words echo mine and those of my colleagues on a nearly daily basis.
    I've thought about what is different. In some ways it is the kids, as you so eloquently pointed out, but I've taught plenty of students who didn't want to be there. That's not a new phenomenon. What IS new is the focus on data, data, data and ignoring the root causes for the data, good and bad. As an educator, I have been forced to follow one fad after another these past few years (UBD! LFS! High stakes testing! SmarterBalance!) without any regard from the powers that be about the impact on the students.
     I have no advice, really. Just know you are not alone.

    "If they give you ruled paper, write the other way" Juan Ramon Jimnez

    by Teiresias70 on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 05:24:08 PM PST

  •  It's hard (6+ / 0-)

    When I teach, I want students to learn more than the students want to learn. I give them access to many resources and they fail to utilize resources that are available. Students want to take short cuts or make up their own rules.

  •  The national and state (7+ / 0-)

    educational policies--"reform" efforts that are corporate, anti-teachers' union, privatizing, and test-centric, certainly do nothing to help matters.

    "I was not born for myself alone, but for my neighbor as well as myself."--Richard Overton, leader of the Levellers, a17th C. movement for democracy and equality during the English Civil War. for healthcare coverage in Kentucky

    by SouthernLeveller on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 05:35:55 PM PST

  •  I feel negligent (6+ / 0-)

    Yet I'm not sure what to do either.  I have lived middle class and I have also struggled as a single mom.  That was before smart phones though.  My child had school and study incentivization pouring out of her mum at all times.  Is it cultural now?  Have those who are driving the buses just stopped giving a shit so much that as a culture there is no incentive for our poor and underclass to become better educated?  That concept of educating ourselves to betterment used to be a part of who we were as Americans.

    I have no advice to give, just wondering what needs to happen.  What can I do?  And one human being is only capable of so much, you must take care of you or you become broken and have nothing to share...not enough to give to those who it will benefit.

  •  Good teachers are a breed apart (7+ / 0-)

    I am the son and son-in-law of a teachers and am married to one. I have seen your frustrations in the faces of people that I dearly love.

    I desperately wish I knew the pearl of wisdom that I could offer that would make the path forward clear for you. What you do and what you've done for kids who start out at a disadvantage is so important. I hope that all those kids get to experience a teacher like you who cares so deeply. They need it. We need it.

    But burnout is a reality that even excellent teachers must confront - maybe especially so.

    I hope you find a decision that brings you peace.

    Peace, Love, and Canoes!!!

    by OldJackPine on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 05:49:18 PM PST

  •  You sound like you still want to be an educator... (6+ / 0-)

    Perhaps a stint in adult education, either in a public position or for a business, could help you regain YOUR center.

    I did a career shift only to shift back. In my case I just didn't enjoy law enforcement, I don't like to control others even when needed. I went back to blue collar labor.

    There are no easy answers. You have to make a living. You need to enjoy what you do. That doesn't mean you enjoy everything or even every day at work. I wish you all the best and finding balance.

    A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs who, however, has never learned how to walk forward. Franklin D. Roosevelt

    by notrouble on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 06:08:15 PM PST

  •  Could you, maybe, consider watching Sharkeisha (5+ / 0-)

    To surprise them and find out what they like about it?

    •  That might be interesting (7+ / 0-)

      Since the Sharkeisha video shows one girl assaulting another girl.  It is disgusting how so many kids enjoy that type of thing and find it funny.  

      Be well, ~*-:¦:-jennybravo-:¦:-*~

      by jennybravo on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 07:07:48 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  agreed, jennybravo (4+ / 0-)

        I told them I find their amusement at fights appalling, and that they could find much more constructive things (like their homework) to do with their time.

        "There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them." - Joseph Brodsky

        by Shakespeares Sister on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 07:34:47 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Perhaps their enjoyment is born out of a constant (5+ / 0-)

          stress and frustration that comes from living as a poor child of poor parents.

          Really think about why on a deeper level, that video series might appeal to them and perhaps there is a way to draw that out.

          What is it on face value? Violence.

          What does it symbolize to them?

          Sharkeisha--Shark? Is that name a pun? Is it an accident that her name contains the term for a powerful predator?

          When people feel powerless, sometimes it feels good to find ways of recapturing that feeling of being independent.

          If you have to live in a dangerous place that is known to facilitate violence, who wouldn't want to be a shark? Or something like?  It must feel like every day, these kids are going into battle of some sort.

          When you live in that state, it is better to be feared than loved. Have you ever asked them about that?

          What could be more independent than a shark?

          The girls in the other fights--do they represent other archetypes? Or symbolize other concepts or situations?

          Maybe their test scores will never be high. Maybe the admins will always complain and regurgitate data. But you have the unique opportunity to actually teach these children to THINK.

          If you teach them to lead an examined life, if you teach them how to be curious, then no "low test score" or "Data" can hold them back forever.

          They might never embody the conventional notion of success in our society, but perhaps when they mature, and after using these other skills, they might become a voice in the wilderness, someone to lead others not to material wealth, but to a better life, a more curious life, a voice that can astutely question authority and really shake things up.

          Maybe you just need a fresh perspective.

          Don't let the idiots set you up for failure. Perhaps it's time to redefine what success is.

          You can teach children to regurgitate all day long and it might up their test scores maybe. But if you teach a child how to teach themselves--you will have released a genuine power into this world.

          Gentlemen, congratulations. You're everything we've come to expect from years of government training (Zed, MIB).

          by GreenMother on Wed Dec 04, 2013 at 06:07:06 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

    •  I already know (5+ / 0-)

      what they like - Sharkeisha is a girl popular on facebook for "hitting people really hard" and having "awesome fights."

      So, really, no, I wouldn't want to watch it.

      "There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them." - Joseph Brodsky

      by Shakespeares Sister on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 07:33:53 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Do you think your students might enjoy (4+ / 0-)

        and learn from reading or writing about a girl - in literature or history - who hits people really hard and has awesome fights?

        Like these real women, f'r instance... Stagecoach Mary, Nancy Wake, Lydia Litvyak, Anna Yegorova, Julie D'Aubigny, Albert D. J. Cashier

        Or fictional women

        •  perhaps. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          ladybug53, kurt

          I'm at my best when I'm honest with my students - when I tell them what I'm really thinking, and maybe I should do that. let them know that I'm discouraged, and I need them to show me that I shouldn't be.

          I can bring those women up for sure - I often make references to things that pique their curiosity, and at least get them to say, "What's/Who's that?" so I can say, "google it."

          do they? not always. but the seed is there.

          thanks for the suggestions. in my mired state, I hadn't even thought of that idea.

          "There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them." - Joseph Brodsky

          by Shakespeares Sister on Wed Dec 04, 2013 at 06:53:31 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

      •  Watch it - you will jump and gasp (4+ / 0-)

        It's perhaps 90 seconds long. Sharkeisha and her friend are talking for approximately 20 seconds, too low to hear. Sharkeisha - the shorter, stouter girl - hauls off and sucker-punches the other in the face. That girl goes down, and Sharkeisha starts punching her. Suddenly, Sharkeisha hits her hard in the abdomen. That's when the watching girls, about 6 of them, start yelling, "Sharkeisha, no! You can't kick her!" and pull her off the bleeding victim.

        Sharkeisha is restrained, yelling, 'What you got to say to me now, fool?" and obscenities.

        This was the biggest tweet of Thanksgiving.

        In order to understand what your students are referring to in conversatons, I suggest the Know Your Meme site

        One way to deal with this horrible video is by using it as a teachable moment. Find out what makes them enjoy it. Do they like the violence, and, if so, why? I found it compelling because it is so shocking. The violent response is completely unexpected, and the video literally smashes our narrative expectations.

        You can also ask them what to imagine what it would be like to be the various subjects in the video: Shaarkeisha, the victim, the bystanders, as well as Sharkeisha's teachers, parents and other friends and acquaintances. She can't be an easy girl to know. How did she get so angry? What sort of upbringing did she apparently receive? Any parent who names their baby girl "Sharkeisha" isn't exactly setting them up for success outside of her milieu. What do your students imagine her life will be?

        I foresee a term in juvenile for assault, with that video as Exhibit 1. Her life can rapidly go into a severe tailspin til she crashes and burns.

        They say "cut back" - we say "fight back"!

        by Louise on Wed Dec 04, 2013 at 10:20:46 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Relatability? (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Shakespeares Sister

          I'm sure these kids feel powerless a lot of the time. This is true of all kids anyway, but especially so for those who are at the whim of economic circumstance and how well their parents are able to access available benefits.  I think it's a normal urge to want to just haul off and punch someone for teenagers, even if they personally have better coping skills. Something about watching a person just stop caring about consequences and lash out is an understandable fantasy, especially for people who lack a fully developed pre-frontal cortex. As long as this is accompanied by an adult explaining the cause and effect of the consequences of becoming physically violent and how easy it is to become desensitized to the pain of victims in such situations, I don't necessarily think getting excited about this video is a sign of moral decay.

          It could also be a good segue into the need for "performing whiteness" and having cultural capital in our society, and how physical fighting is seen to be a class identifier. If Sharkeisha had other, more accepted outlets for expressing her aggression and anger, what might that look like? How is watching a girl named Sharkeisha brawl a reinforcement of separating and making a spectacle of "ghetto behavior?" What part in perpetuating this do viewers play when they watch and share the video? What is agency, and how do students feel about their own personal agency?

          Is fheàrr fheuchainn na bhith san dùil

          by bull8807 on Thu Dec 05, 2013 at 08:13:56 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  You can talk about character, motivation, etc (6+ / 0-)

    just as well in the context of Sharkesisha as you can in Jane Austen or  Shakespeare. A little of that could go a long way.

    If you are really a good teacher, you should teach where you are because these kids need you more.

  •  May I offer an unprofessional opinion (POV)? (7+ / 0-)

    I am not a teacher but my daughter is in college studying to become a special education teacher.  I am constantly reading about the latest and greatest.  In fact, it has always been a dream of mine to be a teacher.  I have to say, I admire you for your dedication and you deserve much more than I am sure you are receiving in both financial rewards and support from your administration and the parents of the students.  I almost went back to school a few years ago to get a degree in teaching until I found out that I would have to work as one for twenty years with a master's degree to earn a twenty thousand dollar pay cut.  But I digress...

    Sometimes, when you are in the midst of the forest, it is hard to see the trees.  You are doing something very special with your life and as futile as it may seem, you are making a difference.  When measured by arbitrary standards, it may not seem like it but just getting these kids to graduate (even if they do get a 10 or an 11 on their ACT) is an accomplishment.  Getting them to take the test at all is an accomplishment.  It is not as much where they are as opposed to where they have been that is important.  One of my favorite quotes is from Albert Einstein where he says something to the effect of, "If you measure a fish's worth by his ability to climb a tree, it will go through life thinking that it is a failure."  We tend to measure everyone by the same standard and then seemed surprised that everyone is not excelling to the same level.  You will never teach that fish to climb a tree but that doesn't mean that you will not make a positive influence on them for the rest of their lives.  

    I have read some amazing articles about the rethinking of classroom education lately.  I love the concept of reverse homework where lectures are put on youtube or on disks and the student learns the lecture at home and then does (what used to be called) homework in the classroom where they have assistance and can ask questions.  I love the concept of whole brain learning where everything is taught in multiple methods that activate the whole brain using hand gestures and singing and repetition and teachback and acting out and many other techniques.  There is a lot of new strategies that have absolutely nothing to do with the NCLB requirements that are really breaking through to kids.  I hope you can find a way that you can re-energize yourself to have fun with teaching believe in what you are doing again because believe it or not, I would bet that you are having a much bigger impact on these kid's lives than you probably realize and you probably are not seeing it because you are probably grading yourself on how well you are teaching these fish to climb trees.

    Good luck, God bless and thank you for everything you do everyday to help the next generation.

    "Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not YET sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favour..."

    by Buckeye Nut Schell on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 08:17:52 PM PST

  •  What two things that you really want them to get? (5+ / 0-)

    To never stop asking questions - of themselves and the world? To have curiosity about every natural and cultural thing? To see beyond the everyday?

    Or just something like "Reading is the key to breaking free" or "Math is a form of freedom"?

    Whatever it is, write the sentences on the blackboard. Then you and your students recite them out loud every morning.

    They say "cut back" - we say "fight back"!

    by Louise on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 08:55:35 PM PST

  •  It's a tough decision (9+ / 0-)

    My self examination crisis came in my seventh year. I actually attempted to discourage an excellent student from entering the profession. (Thankfully she ignored my advise and is now an excellent teacher.)

    I will simply say that what I considered a significant success helped dissuade me from leaving teaching.

    One thing I will tell you is that many of your successes are not readily evident until years later. Having been in education for 41 years, it is rare that I can attend a reunion, wedding or other community event without some former student or parent coming up and thanking me for being a significant influence or for changing their life for the better. It can get a bit embarrassing at times. I doubt I was that influential but I probably did have some impact.

    You are quite young and have yet to see the impact of your efforts. You wrote that you are a good teacher. You are influencing kids and you are having an impact.

    A final thought: Don't let the obsession with testing and data drive you out. When I became an administrator, I did my best to protect my staff from the idiocy of NCLB and Race to the Top. What we emphasized was making learning a joyful experience for all students.

    Regardless of your decision, good luck.

    A proud member of the Professional Left since 1967.

    by slatsg on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 09:20:16 PM PST

  •  I'm lower-middle class and teach kids (3+ / 0-)

    who tend to be either poor or affluent, one way or another.

    All of my classes are great! I teach at the college level although mainly (but not all) freshmen. Some work with language learners as well.

    I can't imagine what would lead me to quit teaching, ever, and I am literally dealing with an ongoing problem of a student who has called me sexist names and has continuously screamed at me for many days now. He doesn't dampen my enthusiasm one bit: the other 80-odd students are doing well.

    It's a profession to always have a long-game viewpoint in. I oppose any laptops and technology in my classrooms. Many have chalkboards and a transparency device that I use occasionally. Good teaching is about figuring out what is preventing an individual student from doing well, and then coming up with a plan to help them do well.

    I've only ever flunked two students in many years now. That's all I've had to. And I work 7 days a week, often all day long; my husband, who is a tenured professor, also does.

    Click the ♥ to join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news & views written from a black pov - everyone is welcome.

    by mahakali overdrive on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 09:21:45 PM PST

    •  Maybe it's time for that student to write a paper (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Shakespeares Sister

      about the history of those words he keeps throwing around.

      Gentlemen, congratulations. You're everything we've come to expect from years of government training (Zed, MIB).

      by GreenMother on Wed Dec 04, 2013 at 06:09:31 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Garbage (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Shakespeares Sister

      Your situation does not reflect the reality that many teachers experience. Your statement "good teaching is about figuring out what is preventing an individual student from doing well", sounds like something Michelle Rhee would say- it's nonsense.

      Some of the things that prevent students from doing well are: poverty, hunger, lack of parental involvement, poor work ethic, language barriers, developmental issues- etc. You do not solve many of these issues by simply changing a lesson plan, which is very difficult to do with thirty plus kids in a classroom. Your experience is not reflected by many outspoken teachers regarding this issue, some of them past Teachers of the Year. I could provide you links, but if you are as good as you say you are, I'm sure you can find them.

    •  I will counter (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Louise, JanL, ladybug53, kurt

      your argument and say that I don't spend seven days working because no one should.

      also, I have two children, and I have more of a responsibility to them than I do my students, something that I have learned all too well.

      I love my students. I respect that they work for what they get. However, I know that I am not a miracle worker and that I cannot save them all, as I said, no matter what the storybooks say.

      "There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them." - Joseph Brodsky

      by Shakespeares Sister on Wed Dec 04, 2013 at 10:00:13 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  many years ago i spent a year as the head (10+ / 0-)

    teacher of a day care center in hell's kitchen in new york city.

    7-12 yr olds - hard lives.  

    one young girl - 11 yrs old going on 12 - spoke in a high falsetto voice - she was the oldest of five (?) children and was helping her mom take care of them while she worked.

    one day she was upset - told me that her mom treated her like a little girl and she didn't FEEL like a little girl.  i asked her  when her mom asked her to do something if she objected or did she smile and say "okay" - then i told her that while she SOUNDED like a "little girl", that's how her mom would react.

    i worked with her for about ten minutes and taught her how to lower her voice - relax and let the natural register come out.

    everyone, including the other kids, her mom, other teachers - were amazed at how "grown up" she sounded!  only once did her voice start to climb upward and i softly said in falsetto "sarah..." - she smiled and dropped it again and never returned to her "child voice".

    the point of this story with what you have written?

    seven years later, a very tall girl with a familiar face came running up to me on the sidewalk, threw her arms around my neck and exclaimed "YOU CHANGED MY LIFE!" - it was sarah!

    THAT is why we do this - for the one child we may NEVER know whose life is changed forever.  if we are VERY VERY lucky - we will find out.

    it is for that one student - and that one alone that you do this.

    keep that in mind - when you teach, you give the give of growing - the gift of curiosity - the gift of life.

    thank you for teaching - i no longer teach in a classroom but everything i do is "teaching" - the moral is there - the underlying message that life is about learning and how exciting it is to find something brand new to explore!

    it sounds like that is what you are doing, too - and will continue to do no matter where you are!

    EdriesShop Is it kind? is it true? is it necessary?

    by edrie on Tue Dec 03, 2013 at 11:22:35 PM PST

  •  As someone who loves reading (5+ / 0-)

    I'd not be where I am today without teachers who cared enough to nurture my passion for books. Thank you for the work you do. I wasn't a good student (at least in subjects that weren't english related), but there were teachers who helped me along the way. Thanks for your hard work.

  •  I would recommend a sabbatical of sorts. (4+ / 0-)

    Any chance you can teach overseas for a year or two? See new things, meet new people, and then see how you feel.

    Of course, not everyone has the freedom to do that.

    We're living in Ecuador right now and the American Embassy offers Ecuadorian teachers who qualify a free trip to the US to learn more about teaching. I wonder if any other countries offer similar programs for teachers who would like to travel abroad for a time?

    And then on a different note - I come to teaching in a very odd direction. I chose not to head to the classroom and I started working with kids in the outdoors. Then I had my own and we chose to homeschool. I find that kids that are encouraged to follow their interests when very young (3 to 6 years old) have a much easier time learning and I truly believe the solutions for kids in poverty need to come at very early ages. By the time they are in junior high or high school, they have learned so many bad habits about how to learn that it can be painfully difficult to change track. Kids are so capable but once the adults around them don't believe in them it is a heartbreaking process to change track.

    I hope you are able to make a decision that is right for you and enables you to grow as person while still being true to yourself.

  •  Why? (4+ / 0-)

    "Now, though, I have two classes of AP Language students who were essentially forced into the class. They didn't want to take it."

    Why are these students in your AP class if they don't want to be there?

    •  It's a school policy (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Oh Mary Oh, ladybug53, kurt

      that those students that are somewhat capable should at least attempt the class and the test at the end of the year.

      the theory is (at least what I tell them) that even if they don't pass the test, they will have skills to help them think, write, and read better in other HS classes and in college.

      "There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them." - Joseph Brodsky

      by Shakespeares Sister on Wed Dec 04, 2013 at 06:24:21 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  It doesn't (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Shakespeares Sister, ladybug53

        sound like they have been screened to be the "somewhat capable" students.

        And it's a dumb policy anyway. What a waste.

        Is there some reason you can't just teach a regular English class? It sounds like your school needs one. What has your admin said about this "everyone who can sit at a desk shall take an AP class" policy?

        Is this a public school?

        •  I have (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Buckeye Nut Schell, ladybug53, kurt

          two AP Lang classes, and to be fair, the second of the two are capable - though they still have to work extremely hard, and most of them lack confidence in their abilities.

          I also teach a "regular" world literature class (which I wrote about in my previous post about learned helplessness, and there is one other 11th grade world lit class taught by another teacher.

          It is an "innovation" school - so "somewhat" public. also, it used to be what you said, that "everyone who can sit at a desk shall take an AP class." they realized the futility - and frankly idiocy - of the policy and changed it. so, what happens is, really, all of the ELL students and students with IEPs end up in the "regular" classes, and all of the students without end up in AP. that is not 100% the case, but overall the truth of the situation.

          it's sad, really. my IB students (at my old school) had to pass a screening process to get into the IB program/IB classes, and they had to sign a contract once in that said if they weren't maintaining at least a C, they were removed from the class at semester. no such contracting here. maybe I should institute it.

          thanks for commenting.

          "There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them." - Joseph Brodsky

          by Shakespeares Sister on Wed Dec 04, 2013 at 08:38:52 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  The contract idea (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Shakespeares Sister, ladybug53

            might be a fine one for students who are prepared to do AP work. But that doesn't sound like the students you are working with. It would be like putting the ELL kids in the AP class and insisting it is good for them to fail. These kids are just being set up to fail.

            But you know that.

            What does somewhat public mean? Is it a charter school?

            •  yes. (2+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              ladybug53, kurt

              I do know that.

              I do also have a lot of ELL students in my AP classes, though they are at the point of testing out of ELL services. so, the challenge is academic/AP-level vocabulary. the 12th grade AP Lit teacher and I are working intensively on helping develop their strategies for accessing academic vocabulary.

              and the school is Innovation/Charter.

              "There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them." - Joseph Brodsky

              by Shakespeares Sister on Wed Dec 04, 2013 at 11:29:39 AM PST

              [ Parent ]

              •  So has the charter (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                Shakespeares Sister, ladybug53

                school sold itself to parents as offering these AP classes or otherwise preparing students for college? What is the reason they have adopted this insane plan?

                And aside from shoveling sand against the tide, what can you and your teacher friends do about it?

                •  well, (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  Buckeye Nut Schell, ladybug53

                  the overall goal is to have all students prepared for college without "remediation." I'm paraphrasing, but you get the idea.

                  also, AP itself has come out with an equity statement about how students should have equitable access to the AP program, that it shouldn't be just for the "elite" kids anymore.

                  obviously, the reality is different than the ideal.

                  "There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them." - Joseph Brodsky

                  by Shakespeares Sister on Wed Dec 04, 2013 at 01:20:14 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  Yes, reality is different from marketing. (2+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:
                    Shakespeares Sister, ladybug53

                    But you are in the classroom every day doing your best, I'm sure. Unfortunately, it sounds like you are doing harm. As part of your job. Which was surely never your intention when you became a teacher.

                    So what are you going to do? Keep teaching inappropriate lessons to students who are not prepared for them and will, for the most part, fail. Or rabble-rouse to get some sort of improvement at your school? Or move on to a different job?

                    I know a few teachers who have hung in there -- first through the NCLB and now CC -- because they are just a year or two away from retirement.

                    But you have better options.

  •  Very interesting diary. (5+ / 0-)

    My kids are grown, but when they were in school, I saw a wide range of parental support.  And I'm just talking about the white population of the school.  Some parents would helicopter, some would help their kids along, and others would rely on the teacher for all the learning.  As my kids got older, I saw a lot less helicoptering and support.  The kids were expected by their parents to get it done...regardless of the knowledge they had retained.  If they couldn't read too well...then Bobby was just not a good reader.  If they failed at math, then Suzy was just not into math.  It was a problem of acceptance.  I can't imagine living in poverty or close to it, and having these skill set problems.  Being hungry, homeless, stressed, shamed, and who knows what else, leaves the kids with little to move forward with.  It brings a different kind of acceptance from the parents and the children.  Zero mobility.  
    However, your kids like to be entertained, and they tell you about it.  So I would eek some time out of the day and talk about Sharkeisha.  Have them talk about it, but turn it into a lesson about content, grammar, and whatever else you can thinking of.  It can be a short discussion...a treat for working hard.  Talk about music, sports, movies...but make the kids understand that you need them to have clarity and be expansive or you aren't going to listen.  Use what they love, if only for a little bit of the day.  I hate that schools squash brains by using narrow lanes to teach in.  I feel sorry for all teachers, but zigging and zagging a little might help.  Good luck.  

    •  we do tangents (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      a lot.

      however, the Sharkeisha thing troubles me, and I will not endorse it, because the girl is popular for fighting. they like to watch fights, and I tell them that it is not a good pastime for them...and I try to explain why. but they reason that it's funny and entertaining.

      fighting is a big "deal" with this population of kids. they see it as a way to solve problems and save face. and, unfortunately, as entertaining.

      "There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them." - Joseph Brodsky

      by Shakespeares Sister on Wed Dec 04, 2013 at 06:26:32 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  You don't have to endorse it.... (3+ / 0-)

        I see where you can use it....good and bad. Debate it, and expand on it where ever you can.  There is a tendency to view our classic literature as sacred text, but there is plenty of violence to be found there.  Link all of that...and use it as a tool to show how much hypocrisy is out there.  Talk about why violence in literature or film is sometimes necessary, it is timeless, but doesn't need to be played out in real life to solve problems.   You have a ton to work with, if you can engage their minds in different ways.  You can't change them...enlighten them a bit.  Again...good luck.  

        P.S.  I'm not trying to simplify the problems of violence in schools riddled with poverty.  I live in South Florida, and I know that a lot of the parenting in poor households is.... hit or smack first.  So in my opinion, the violence is learned in the home first at a very early age....and I'm talking black, brown, and white.  

        •  agreed. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Buckeye Nut Schell, ladybug53, kurt

          we are working on argument right now in AP...and I could have them argue the merits of internet phenomenon like Sharkeisha and the negative example it sets for younger kids.

          and you're right. many of my students are afraid to have me call their parents because of the potential fallout.

          "There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them." - Joseph Brodsky

          by Shakespeares Sister on Wed Dec 04, 2013 at 06:55:13 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I would argue the hell out of it... (3+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Shakespeares Sister, ladybug53, kurt

            and keep it up.  Another argument could be how many steps are we away from the past violence inflicted, and how does it affect civilization going forward.  Do we slide back into the past?  Do we accept that we can't do better?  Are you kids, minorities and girls especially, seriously going to use what's been inflicted on you for centuries as a tool for problem solving?  Really?  

            I think fighting the inevitable is the key for those kids.  Are they going to accept their lot in life, or are they willing to use all that energy to "fight" for themselves in positive ways.  So many avenues with this to explore....using literature and entertainment that they can relate to....and that you can relate to.  EXCITING!!!  

            I used to coach, and I think the kids got sick of hearing lectures and truths from me.  But now that I'm older and they're grown, they definitely throw stuff I've said back at me.  Kids know when you care too....don't forget that part of you that's making a huge difference that you can't see.  

      •  so I had to google Sharkeisha (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Shakespeares Sister

        This short article at tells what happened. Here's the video.

        Yeah, I totally see that Sharkeisha is not entertainment, not a role model, and not to be endorsed.

        Also I see why anyone who has seen the video probably wants to talk with friends about it.

        Maybe the kids who laugh are not really sure how to process this disturbing incident. Do they imagine something like this could happen in their lives? Has something like this already happened to a friend or family member, or could it happen? Are they internally debating what they would do, and which person they identify with?  

        The girl who was hit, up to that moment, had thought Sharkeisha was her "close, close friend." How could she make a mistake like that? Was there a genuine friendship at one time? Who changed; where did it go sour? Who can you trust? What kind of future awaits a person who behaves the way Sharkeisha does?

        This video might put some students in mind of something that they might encounter any day after school. No wonder it grabs their attention.

        There ought to be any number of ways that the English curriculum is directly relevant to Sharkeisha and her problems. At the most basic would be the challenge to clearly set forth the facts of the incident. Next, to make a well-supported argument for a point of view. Or delve into literature dealing with betrayal, loyalty, vengeance, justice, redemption.

  •  You need the resources, time and freedom to (5+ / 0-)

    whatever is necessary to help them, but you won't get those things and you know it.

    Their parents probably work all the time ALL THE TIME and you and their other teachers have to fill in in the absence of these parents trying to put food on the table.

    You deal with a population that doesn't care enough to break through it's outrage exhaustion and fix any external aspect of this.

    All your fellow teachers are in similar straights

    That's why you are tired. That's why you feel hopeless. You can see the potential within them, but you do not have the resources to adequately nurture that, and so you swim upstream daily, against a barrage of social media, parental absence, social apathy, and poverty.

    That would make anyone profoundly, emotionally, and physically exhausted.

    Gentlemen, congratulations. You're everything we've come to expect from years of government training (Zed, MIB).

    by GreenMother on Wed Dec 04, 2013 at 05:51:41 AM PST

    •  But there's one more piece (4+ / 0-)

      that is the cherry on top of all the adverse circumstances you mention:  the desire.   As a culture our anti-intellectualism has grown so pervasive that "elite" or "intellectual" or even "educated" has become a sort of insult.  Kids are taught that book-learning is a tedious obligation of limitied utility, not a precious key to personal and financial enrichment.    

      "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

      by lgmcp on Wed Dec 04, 2013 at 12:38:49 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Great diary. The education deform movement (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Shakespeares Sister, JanL, ladybug53

    was never really about education, or addressing the issues that teachers face on a day to day basis, it was about MONEY. How to privatize a public resource to get to the MONEY. Our false conversation about teaching is identical to the false conversations about our economy. Conversations built on lies and elite corruption.

    •  no, it wasn't. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ladybug53, kurt

      and more troubling about the "data" piece is that I spent my planning period today filling out data documents, instead of planning effective lessons (which I will now have to find other time to do).

      the focus on RoI of students vs. them as humans and future movers and shakers is one of the most despicable flaws of the so-called education reform movement.

      "There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them." - Joseph Brodsky

      by Shakespeares Sister on Wed Dec 04, 2013 at 10:02:14 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  I Admire You (4+ / 0-)

    Service learning and pedagogy classes were required in my English Lit major, and I spent a semester helping to teach a class of remedial English to inner city 10th graders once a week. Even that limited exposure turned me off of teaching.  I admit the kids were endearing and I wanted to help them succeed. But seeing how much teachers have to do with so little, and how many obstacles the students overcome just to go to school (no food at home, domestic violence, teenage parenthood, "antisocial behavior issues") left me frustrated, especially because getting to school was half the battle. The overcrowding leads to students not getting much personal attention, and the boys especially start to act out. Dealing with the behavior issues takes even more time out of the actual instruction. I was lucky to read aloud a whole chapter of Animal Farm in a single class period to my third of the students (we separated them into 3 groups so we could give them more individual attention). We couldn't expect them to read to themselves because at least half the class wasn't up to the reading level of the book. The kids were very self-conscious about their reading and writing abilities and wouldn't share their projects with us for the first few weeks. We constantly used positive reinforcement and they did start to open up. This allowed me to see just how great the variation of ability was. Tailoring instruction to everyone's pace in a class of 45 students is near impossible. How do you decide what to do with your time in that case? Challenge the kids who want more, or help the kids who  are struggling to learn how to really read and write? And how do you balance that with what the administration wants? I could see immediately how frustrating this could become to deal with on a daily basis.

    Far be it from me to tell you to stay. You have 5 years under your belt and surely made a difference for those kids. You are not a failure for thinking about exploring opportunities outside of teaching. Trying something else doesn't mean you won't go back to it once this "teach to the test" obsession fades out. It's ok to take a break from it and do something that re-energizes you.

    Is fheàrr fheuchainn na bhith san dùil

    by bull8807 on Wed Dec 04, 2013 at 09:20:58 AM PST

  •  The kids have to want to be there... (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Shakespeares Sister, lgmcp, ladybug53

    ...and even more than that, they have to want to excel.

    Sure, affluent areas have all the toys, but it's the students' own expectations for themselves (egged on by parents) that really make the difference.

    Take this list of "America's Most Challenging High Schools" and you'll see that several of the top schools have sizable percentage of students who come from families that qualify for lunch subsidies. It's not just about resources.

    One of my kids goes to a school in the top 40 on that list...the process for getting accepted into that program wasn't just having the right grades, but being able to prove that she wanted to put in the effort and time to do well in an advanced program.

    I don't have a solution for you, though. You come off like you're good at what you do and can say that kids need professionals such as yourself in order to get the most from their education...but I really don't blame you for wanting to throw in the towel.

    "Believe nothing, no matter where you read it or who has said it, even if I have said it, unless it agrees with your own reason and your own common sense."

    by grape crush on Wed Dec 04, 2013 at 12:15:18 PM PST

  •  It's a hard row to hoe (4+ / 0-)

    and harder still to give up on one's notion that THIS is your designated way to make the world a better place.  

    But, to your specific question

    "I'm not sure what I need at this point - better students? better school? better ideas?"  ...
    ... the answer I found was that I needed SELF-MOTIVATED students.  I could deal with low skills.  I could deal with limited resources.  I could deal with institutional paralysis.  I could deal with creating rich and creative lesson plans.   What I couldn't deal with was trying to make students who didn't care, care.  I know many will say that's the real skill they expect teachers to display, but dangnabbit, that is an unfair and unreasonable expectation.  The learner must bring a curiousity and a desire with them, or the whole enterprise will be fraught with frustration for all concerned.

    At the elementary and secondary level, self-motivated students are hard to come by, because of the nature of our compulsory education system.   You can get a small taste of it in specialty programs like optional enrichment summer school classes.   Some magnet schools and arts schools have enough appeal to create the necessary condition.  Absent that, you may have to look to the junior-college level, where students CHOOSE to pay tuition and attend.  (I found this to be a very rewarding educational setting.)  

    But even in ordinary compulsory public schools, usually  AP classes are OPTIONAL challenge classes  with the majority of students taking a non-AP option.  To make it compulsory is unreasonable.

    "The extinction of the human race will come from its inability to EMOTIONALLY comprehend the exponential function." -- Edward Teller

    by lgmcp on Wed Dec 04, 2013 at 12:31:17 PM PST

  •  willingness to learn (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Shakespeares Sister, Nance, ladybug53

    I don't have answers for you, but am posting to say that I hope you continue to honor your knowledge that willingness to learn is crucial.

    I also feel like formal educational systems in the US are, at their core, designed to assimilate students into a very sick system. Willingness to learn in such a hostile environment can be very dangerous because it requires an open-ness that may not be warranted by the institutional context. Some of your students might get that at the gut level, whether or not they would ever be willing or able to articulate it in words.

    (And no matter how wonderful you are as a teacher, you can't make up for an entire institutional context and expecting yourself to do so - if you ever have - is IMO a recipe for spiritual burnout).

    Best wishes to you in your decision. I'm an introvert and generally don't hug strangers, but if I wasn't I'd also offer a hug :)

  •  It's not just you (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Shakespeares Sister, kurt

    Even in the well-heeled districts, there are regulations handed down from On High by people and politicians who have never set foot in a classroom that are burning out even the best of our teachers. My oldest niece has been an elementary school teacher for over 20 years, and at a recent family function expressed dismay that she's still got about 20 years to go before even thinking of retirement. (She started teaching right out of college and hasn't done anything else -- she even won an award this year for creative use of technology in her classroom.)

    Do schools still offer sabbaticals? Maybe stepping back for a year would give you a chance to recharge your batteries and evaluate your options.

    There's only one rule that I know of, babies -- goddammit, you've got to be kind. -- Kurt Vonnegut

    by Cali Scribe on Wed Dec 04, 2013 at 01:00:35 PM PST

    •  Yes but it depends how the school district is run (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Shakespeares Sister, kurt

      as for instance in some states, like Georgia for instance, the school districts are organized and run by county.
      MY sister was eligible for a sabbatical for the past 15 plus years but she refused to take one. She was told she would risk being assigned to another high school within the county. She loves her current high school where she has been for the past 20 out of 30 yrs of teaching.  So she could not risk taking a sabbatical and taking the chance when it was over that she would have a longer commute and go to a new school within the county.

      In PA, friends of mine who are teachers do take sabbaticals as the school districts are run separately so say I was teaching at Hershey High School, if I took a sabbatical, afterwards I am back at Hershey High School. That is not a guarantee for county run school districts in some states

      Keystone Liberals on Twitter @ KeystoneLibs , Join PA Liberals at

      by wishingwell on Wed Dec 04, 2013 at 02:33:45 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  My sister just reached 30 yrs as a teacher and (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Shakespeares Sister, ladybug53, kurt

    before she retires, she wants to start a Mentoring/Support Group for New Teachers.  
    She is concerned that many newer teachers are leaving the teaching profession before they reach the 5 year mark or shortly after.

    Her school has experienced new teachers leaving after one to two years.  She is very concerned about this and she wants to start a program where veteran teachers help, encourage, support, and mentor newer teachers.
    Do you think programs like this nationwide in public schools especially would be beneficial?

    Keystone Liberals on Twitter @ KeystoneLibs , Join PA Liberals at

    by wishingwell on Wed Dec 04, 2013 at 02:29:38 PM PST

  •  If you do like teaching, but the schools are (3+ / 0-)

    Getting you down, consider tutoring. You have to live in, or have access to an affluent area. And I strongly advise renting an office, as working out of a child's home is disruptive.

    People have been known to make six figures, if they have the ability to teach a subject or skill that is needed for HS youth to get into college.

    But you have to be able to self-promote.

  •  "1) Generally, they don't like to read." (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    kurt, Shakespeares Sister

    This is just an observation from someone (me) who loves to read, has an advanced degree in a science field, and has long held a suspicion that "likes to read" is perhaps a critical aspect of an educated persons makeup.

    I trained at an institution and later worked in a biotech field that historically chose from the best and brightest young scientists (not me).  Much social interaction ensued, and the non-science dialog often revolved around current cinema, where one would almost always hear "the book was better than the movie." The general feeling I came away with was that even if someone in the group hadn't read the book, it was because they hadn't had the time or the opportunity. It never occurred to me that they didn't like to read.

    One day I was telling our chief science officer about a book I'd read related to a sport he was very involved with, and offered to loan it to him. he declined, saying, "No thanks, I don't like to read." I thought he was kidding. He was a close enough friend to say he didn't often say that because of the reaction he got, but that it was true, he really didn't get pleasure out of just reading for reading's sake. He read journal articles because they related to something he was working on, but he didn't enjoy it. What he liked was talking to people about it. His reading was a discipline. He learned early on that reading could give him information useful in conversations that he would enjoy having, so he read what he felt would be enough to get into conversations, and he used conversations more than reading as a significant source for learning.

    I started picking up clues from some other colleagues that were not readers, and asked them about it. It's no scientific study, but my feeling is that there's at least two groups: book learners and talk learners. And it does seem that teaching in general seems to accommodate the former, but not the latter.

    Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration. -Abraham Lincoln

    by jexter on Thu Dec 05, 2013 at 12:35:33 AM PST

    •  true. (0+ / 0-)

      but reading does open many doors that talking just doesn't. See this speech by Neil Gaiman (that I actually used in class), though you don't need convincing.

      Also, lately, education places a lot of emphasis on learning through talking; especially with second language learners, conversations are sometimes a better and more effective way for them to access ideas and information than reading a textbook.

      For my AP class, we have a textbook but I provide the students with hard copies that they must annotate and discuss as they read so that they can come to a better understanding of the text.

      For my World Lit class, I have students work in groups constantly when they are analyzing various literature (poetry, short stories), after, of course, I have extensively modeled and provided extensive directions.

      There are people, for better or (IMHO) worse, who just don't like to read. I think there's something missing there...imagination, ingenuity, whatever it is I'm not sure. Really, I suppose it takes all kinds, though, as I said, I much prefer those who like to read - most of the time, they're far more interesting and far more educated overall.

      thanks for the comment.

      "There are worse crimes than burning books. One of them is not reading them." - Joseph Brodsky

      by Shakespeares Sister on Thu Dec 05, 2013 at 06:07:00 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

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