Wednesday, March 19, 2008


Today my supervisor came in again after a few weeks of absence (he told me he would stay away so I wouldn't be stressed by his visits). I was in the middle of a chaotic, noisy, not-so-great math lesson (although I think the kids did learn something) and near the end he pulled me out of the room while my co-op took over the station I was working with.

He thinks we've hit a wall. I agree, and I know my co-op agreed too. Yesterday, she seemed very frustrated with my messy math lesson (they're always messy, but this one was really awful) and asked me what else she could possibly do to help me. She has done a lot. She is a wonderful person, and I really am grateful for all the help she's given me over and over again this semester. But she can't really get me any further, and I can't even get myself over this one little issue.

It's called motivation. See, last semester I decided I didn't really want to teach in a classroom; I'd rather play a support role like being an aide or a building/district specialist or... a librarian. Which, coincidentally, is how I applied to grad school. I'm hoping for a degree in Information Science, maybe with a School Library Media concentration. I think what my supervisor calls "nontraditional" teaching is what I like best. Of course, that does nothing for my enjoyment and daily improvement in a real classroom, no matter how much I have told myself to just get through it and get my degree. And so I've stopped improving, and my biggest issue now is "situational awareness" - seeing the whole big classroom picture. I'm too detail-oriented (another reason I'd rather hover and pick at one or two kids - I'm great with one-on-one!). And since I've stopped improving, they are taking me out of the classroom.

"Oh no!" you say. "What about your grade? Will you fail? Will you graduate? Do you have plans?"

For once, I just might have plans. I'll be hearing back from my advisor soon (I took the afternoon off of teaching to meet with her and my supervisor on campus, after his observation) and she has two options in mind for me. One: I can undergo an "Intervention" working one-on-one with a faculty member to improve my classroom teaching and we'll try for another 6 credits (since I'm already over halfway through the 12-credit teaching I signed up for). This will mean staying an extra summer and fall to get things done, possibly even into next spring depending on when the intervention can be done. It also means I'd be a part-time student during that time, which supposedly won't hurt my financial aid since I'm so close to my degree, but I don't like the idea anyway. It would mean I would have to find another part-time job while I was in class. Ick.

The other idea is to call off student teaching and forget about an Elementary Education degree. I could still probably get my Spanish minor, but my major would be in "General Studies" (which is the term they use when you can't figure out what you want to do, but have enough credits for graduation anyway, or for when you do something like drop out of student teaching halfway - which is surprisingly common and I am not the first this semester to do so). I would have to take one or two more classes in the summer or fall for that, most likely, but I'd have a degree without facing a classroom again (which sounds heavenly right now, even as much as I love the kids), and I could still make it into grad school in the spring semester.

I am past caring about appearances at this point and since my supervisor and my advisor both know I'm not going to get motivated overnight (although they have praised my smarts and self-reflection skills up and down the block), I think the best option is to just get the weak-looking General Studies degree, and boost it with a good graduate school degree, which is the important one anyway. Hardly anyone actually follows up on their undergraduate degree with an exact matching one in grad school, and a Master's says a lot more than a bachelor's degree, or so I'm told. But I haven't heard back from my advisor yet. So for now, I guess I'll go clean my room. I've been so busy and stressed this semester it hasn't gotten done, and now I feel like a lot of weight has been lifted. Plus, even if they take my midterm grade and use that for this semester, a 6 credit C is a lot better than a 12-credit D and a re-take next semester. I am lucky to have smart people watching over me who spotted my problems and know where to go to fix them.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Ow, ow, ow.

This week didn't go so well, either for me or the kids. They were noisy, disrespectful, mean to each other, they cried when they didn't get their way, they broke the soap dispenser and jammed the pencil sharpener (again, and they're lucky they also fixed it this time), smeared feces on the bathroom walls, threw toilet paper all over the bathroom floor a few days later, did it again the very next day, freaked out at a spider (which I had to kill, because it was one of the ickygrosshugeblack ones with a fat body that I refused to get close enough to catch and dispose of humanely outside), spilled milk and yogurt on the classroom floor, were lectured for over an hour in the course of the week, and were yelled at and cajoled and threatened with loss of recess time every 10-20 minutes.

I was told I couldn't go to McKeever to escape this den of chaos because I "need improvement" in my teaching* and apparently despite 3 years of experience with kids outdoors, it'll be "harder" there than here and I'll most certainly fail student teaching if I go. I got a C on my Midterm Evaluation, which means almost definitely that an A is not achievable by final grading time and even if it was my average would be a B. So much for graduating with honors, because Student Teaching is worth 12 credits (as much as a full semester of "regular" classes). I'm epically far behind with my work, which naturally only makes me want to start in on the pile less and less. And we're getting a new student on Monday. 22 children is too many. 23 will be 5 times worse.

So I ended Friday afternoon with a combined sinus/tension headache after my coop had just spent 4 days complaining about how badly HER neck hurt (of course the student teacher isn't supposed to complain), and my lower back had started hurting rather suddenly and oddly. I didn't think anything of it, knowing I carry my backpack with one strap and that sometimes causes dull back pain (and yes, I should quit doing it, but putting both straps on makes me feel like an overdressed 3rd grader, so I try not to wear it like that around grown adults). Friday night it got worse. I tossed and turned and couldn't sleep, woke up at the amazingly early hour of 8am Saturday morning, tossed and turned some more and finally cried because it HURT and I couldn't figure out how or why or even exactly where. Heat pads work except that we don't ahve any proper heating pads and towels wrapped around dry white rice are only acceptable for so long before you get sick of spilling rice everywhere when you move (plastic baggies with rice in them melt because it gets too warm in the microwave). Ibuprofen also helps, but I have to be careful not to take it too often. Simple movement like filling the washing machine and cleaning the litter box made it hurt again. And it still hurts as of tonight, Sunday night, and I've lost an hour on top of everything else because of the damn clock change, so I'm sitting here looking at my computer clock (which, being Win2k, isn't set to change its time for another few weeks) saying 8:15, knowing it's actually 9:15 and feeling like I've been hit by a bus.

I do not want to go to school tomorrow. I'm not really prepared because I've spent all weekend either wishing the pain would go away or celebrating that it had gone away for a few hours and not doing any work in an attempt to "relax" and make it go away for good. I will probably go anyway, and end up drugging myself in the hallway between classes so that the kids don't see me popping Ibuprofen every 3 hours. If I had insurance, I'd be in the hospital, but the pain hasn't totally incapacitated me yet, and I'd hate to go in only to be told it's from stress, handed a prescription for muscle relaxant and charged $6k for the privilege of meeting with a doctor. The way I see it, if it gets worse, then I'll know there's something else wrong without having to ask a doctor, and THEN I can go in. If it goes away, I saved money... even if it did mean dealing with the pain.

*(I'm not progressing at the rate they think I should, I'm not 'creative' enough in my lesson planning (15/16ths of which has been handed to me straight out of a curriculum that doesn't really allow creativity), and I apparently don't do enough to differentiate instruction to fit the needs of our 5 kids who still can't even read at a beginning 2nd grade level along with the 1 confirmed and 2 suspected gifted kids all while following what the book says I HAVE to teach *headdesk*)