Saturday, May 31, 2008

Tell Me Something Good

I went shopping to return some shoes and ended up shopping for more shoes. I ran into one of my students.

Miss D! I heard my name called from across the shoe department. One of my students, Gina, sat in a chair with her legs crossed. She is delicate like a cat. Her mom was trying on shoes. I love shoes.

My daughter really likes you. She thinks you're funny. She was just telling me how much fun choir practice was today.

Wow. It was so great to hear the good when there has been so much bad.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Nasty Little Rumors

One student came to me and said, Miss D, I heard they fired you and that they are going to find a real piano teacher for next year.

MissD: Really? Is that what you heard? I've done really well at teaching you guys piano. Where did you hear that?

I have done well at that. I wasn't exactly fired it's just that, well...I was offered the opportunity to resign.

That's not the only rumor though. The other rumor is worse in some ways.

Gossip: I heard something from a reliable source about this job.
MissD: What did you hear?
Gossip: You can't tell anyone. The person told me not to tell you.
MissD: Sure, whatever. Who would I tell?
Gossip: I heard they're going to hire the old teacher back.
MissD: Really? Are you serious?
Gossip: Yeah, and she's friends with people in the district office.
MissD: If that's true, I could have done without being here at all. I mean, seriously, why did I even come.
Gossip: It has to be for some reason. I mean, you've got to be a stronger person for what you've been through. Have faith.

It's hard to have faith that a supreme being of any kind would put anyone through so much. I'm going to check up on what he said. It won't be hard to find out if it's true.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Advice in the Teachers Lounge

I had a short conversation with teachers in the lounge about all the stuff that has been going on. I've tried a variety of instructional strategies and I guess I suck.

MissD: If I had known half of what I know now about my job, I never would have taken the job.
MrsL: If you don't stop running through all of this, you're going to drive yourself crazy.
MissD: I'm already crazy.
MrsL: Well, there's good crazy and crazy crazy.
MissD: It's just been so tough.
MrsL: What have you learned in all of this?
MissD: I guess to ask more questions in the interview.
MrsL: Just tell them that you want to make sure that you're a fit for each other.
MissD: All I could think last time around was GET THE JOB.
Cool: You could always shrug and say budget cuts. It's not completely honest, but hey...
MissD: I guess. Or I could be honest about everything. What drama!
Cool: They aren't going to want to hear all of that.
MrsL: Your best option is to make sure you ask enough questions and say you want to make sure you're a good fit.
MissD: You'd think they would have asked me some more questions.
MrsL: When it comes to the hiring process, it's a joke. They don't know anything about the arts. It's up to you.
MissD: You're right, you're right. I know you're right.

Maybe I should look into real estate when the market starts picking up. I like architecture. I'm into looking at houses. I'm good at sales.

Tough Cookies

I have a student who has been suffering from a severe case of apathy in one of my choir classes. She hasn't sung a note in a least a month. I gave out a letter reminding them about the concert.

Keisha: What if my parents don't care?
MissD: That's really sad.
Keisha: They usually just throw this stuff away in the trash.
MissD: Really? Well, then it's a letter for you.
Keisha: What if I don't care?
MissD: Tough cookies. You're still responsible.

I walked away. What can you do as a teacher when some students won't be taught?

That Nigerian guy told us that one time it rained so hard he didn't know how he would get to school--it meant that he would be either swimming in puddles or dragging himself through mud for two miles to get to school. His teacher showed up that day and carried him. He WANTED to go to school. He wanted to go so much that he would have dragged his crumpled body over two miles of puddles and mud to get to school.

You can lead horse to water, but you can't make it drink.

Some students are more like mules. You can neither lead them to water or make them drink.

Falling Apart

My chamber singers don't seem to care if I fail them. In fact, they seemed to love the idea if it means defying me. They don't wnat to perform because they think they sound terrible. The thing is, they do sound pretty bad because they won't let me teach them. They won't try the things that I ask them to do. I can't let them perform the way they sound now. My chamber class is mostly seniors and they've been ditching alot.

It's really sad. It made me cry today because maybe I'm just a bad teacher. However a guy I used to date was a music teacher for awhile. He is a brilliant musician with an amazing voice. He said his problem was that he just couldn't tell the kids what to do. He does well for himself today. So I could have a perfectly happy life not teaching.

Maybe I should be a performer or a writer--or both. Teaching is really difficult these days. I heard a motivational speaker from Nigeria who is a wheelchair Olympian. But he used to drag himself--literally--drag himself on his hands and knees across dirt roads for 2 miles each way to get to school. Imagine that! And I can't even get kids to sing. One girl wouldn't walk 1 mile to sing at a performance. WALK! It makes me wonder if it is really me that is the problem. I have a hard time imagining any of these kids having that much determination. I wish that guy would come talk to my classes.

The problem is that I like teaching when it's working. I like helping kids learn. I love to sing. I love to teach singing. I've even liked teaching piano. I only don't like it when kids give up. Maybe I will conference with them tomorrow and see what they say.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

10 Things I Hate About You

A letter to the Former Choir Teacher

1. I hate you for taking a full time choir position and dismantling it to teach piano so you didn’t have to perform as much.

2. I hate you for taking all of your piano music. You left me in a panic right before school started. I had to go through a lot of hoops to get books.

3. I hate you for taking keyboards with you. I’m sure they were yours and all, but I didn’t have enough to start the year.

4. I hate you for using parents and children as messengers to the school and the district to try to get your job back.

5. I hate you for writing letters to the newspaper to make all your woes public.

6. I hate you for messing with kids’ minds by posting your salary on the wall in your office and telling them that you were leaving for money. They feel abandoned.

7. I hate you because the mess you left made it impossible for me to make things work.

8. I hate you because the kids all decided they couldn’t sing when you left. I didn’t have the choir program I heard about.

9. I hate you because the community was still on your side. Nothing I did was good enough.

10. I hate you because the accompanist you had for years retired when you left. I’ve ended up with a rotator cuff tear from all the practice I had to do to keep up.

11. I hate you for not leaving a list of performances or community contacts. The district told me you said you would. (oops, I hate you more than I thought!)

I hate because you’re so manipulative and just plain hateful. This whole year has been unfair to me. I’m a good teacher and didn’t have a chance to let that show because of all you did. I’m sorry you didn’t get everything you wanted and that you ended up not being as happy as you thought you would be, but did you have to tear my life apart in the process? Or did you forget that there might be a real human being at the other end of your war with the district? I’m just starting out in my career, hoping to make a difference in kids’ lives. Just like you, I wanted to work near where I grew up. Did you stop and think that you might really be hurting someone like me? I hate you because it’s so obvious you didn’t! (Is that 13?)

I think you’re too selfish to care. I’ve kept my mouth shut and tried to be polite, but I really, really hate you. And you can have your job back if you can get it. I don’t think the district will hire you back because you’ve put people there through a lot of grief. They hate you too.

Hatefully Yours,
Miss D

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Student Incident

By law, we must make faculty aware of any student that attempts an assualt or battery on a teacher. ----------------- has been suspended, and will be put up for an expulsion hearing for a battery on a teacher.

If you have any questions please let me know.

I think I have that kid's brother. DANG!! Glad it wasn't me, but it shouldn't be ANYBODY!!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Revenge of the Gum Chewers

This morning I was about to open my car door when I realized that there was a blob of pink gum inside the door handle. Wow. Someone must have put it there yesterday. It was hard by now. I wouldn't have stuck my finger in it though becuase I never use that part ofthe handle. In some ways, it's a little bit amusing.

I make kids throw out their gum in my class. I don't want to deal with what happens--gum stuck everywhere. I also want them to realize that they have to use their mouths to sing--and you can't do that very well while you're smacking gum.

I always think of the streets and subway platforms of New York littered with hundred year old gum. It makes the concret sticky, bumpy and black. It's gross.

Sometimes I wish I could do what they did in the 1950s--make kids put it on their nose and wear it for the rest of class. That would be cool.

Instead, I told them if I caught them chewing gum at the concert, their grade would drop by one letter.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Cortisone Shot

I went to the doctor today to look at the MRI. The bright white spots are the ones that show where there is a problem. there is definitely a tear of some kind in one of the my rotator cuff muscles. I've been hurting for so long that I didn't know what to do when he told me that he was going to ask for more physical therapy through work comp. Work comp takes forever and there is no guarantee that it will even be approved. Great!
I need something now.
Doc: Well, we'll see what happens with the PT, did it help?
D: Yes, but I have three weeks left of school, then I can rest. I hurt now. They were going to give me a cortisone shot two months ago, but then they referred me to you instead because they thought something was wrong.
Doc: Well, if you don't get approved, we'll do it then.
D: Can't we do it now?
Doc: Well, if you really want a shot, I guess we can give it to you.
D: Thanks. I think it will really help.

It hurt sooooo much!! It still hurts. The needle was sooooo long. But it actually has started helping.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Wits End

It's no secret that it's hard to replace a choir teacher that was there for 10 years, even if they weren't very popular. But the teacher I replaced was very popular... and that makes it way worse.

Today's classes were really awful. I decided to talk to the pricipal because I was at the point of tears. The position I have now isn't the position I was sold and things have been going on a downhill slide. My accompanist is, quite frankly, a major source of discouragement to me. She said, I can tell you right now, if I were the teacher, they wouldn't be acting like this. Well, that's interesting, she's perfectly capapble of writing a referral or disciplining the kids and they still act the same way in front of her.

I told the pricipal at the high school that the way things are going right now, I don't think that we will be able to have a concert. I have no support from the community. Every time I have called home people tell me there wasn't a problem until I came along. If i can suspend kids from class and get to the ones that really do want to work, we might still be able to have a concert. But quite frankly, the counselors have torn this program to shreds by putting kids in the class that don't want it for the sake of numbers. Why would you give me kids that don't want to sing and don't want to be there and then blame me that it's not going well? I tried to kick kids out, but I wasn't allowed to. Now I've got them saying they have their quinceanera or other family opbligations or work and they won't be there. I need major support to make this concert happen, but its not fair to me to have to put on crap in front of the community. I'm a good teacher, but I haven't had a chance to let that show.

Then I found out what that other teacher had really done. He had slowly dismantled the full time choir program to the point where he was mainly teaching piano so that he wouldn't have so many performances. I wasnt' ready to teach piano. I've done it, but it's been so hard. He wrote nasty letters saying he was forced out of his job that were published in community newspapers. He burned every bridge there was to burn. He wanted more money--more of a stipend than anyone else plus a salary increase. He let the superintendent of schools have it. He took all of his piano music with him. He didn't leave me a list of community contacts or upcoming concerts. He's used parents and students as messengers to let the administration know that he wanted his job back in November. Most people don't do these kinds of things when they leave a job.

I've been keeping it all in and trying to stay out of trouble as much as possible. But I've been getting all of the blame. I've had to sit through bad reviews that sent me home crying and wondering if I should even continue teaching. Everyone else is going to be fine. The principal is retiring, the community will move on, the school will still be there next year, the Board of Education will still be there.

I'm the one who has been hit the hardest. I'mthe one who had gone home crying after bad reviews. I'm the one with a torn rotator cuff. I'm the one who has to look for a new job next year and I have nothing I can show for that. I'm the one wondering if I should even teach anymore.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Creepy Kid

I had to throw one of my students out because his behavior was out of control. I suspended him from class three times. I also gave him "chances" by letting him wait outside until he calmed down. This kid has serious problems with anger.

The thing he did that was the weirdest and most disturbing before I kicked him out was that he found out what my address and phone number were and then asked me what they were in front of the whole class. He wanted to to throw me off.

I called a parent meeting because of all the other things he was doing--singing out of tune on purpose, making up his own melodies at innappropriate times, annoying his classmates by singing while he played piano when he wasn't supposed to. I knew he was trouble on the first day he had my class. He called another girl a bitch coming up from the sewer or something like that. Like I said, serious problems.

After a parent meeting, him spitting on my car and additional antics, I finally got a schedule change. Usually by the time I have to have a parent meeting, the kid should be pulled out of the class.

For some odd reason he showed up at my door.
Kid: Hi Miss D.
D: Hello.
Kid: I just came by to say hi.
D: Whatever for?
Kid: Nothing in particular. I just wanted to say hi.

I watched him leave. I have run into as I walk through the office. I don't even look at him. There's something bizarre about that kid. I told the counselor and the union rep that he dropped by my class. He's not supposed to do that. If he stops by again, I'm calling security.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Preventing Shoulder Injuries--A Robot For Conductors

I can totally use one of these ASIMO robots. I don't know if my students will respond all that well to it, but it's worth a shot. It turns out that I have a torn rotator cuff from all my conducting and playing piano. I had an MRI just last week. Next week the doctor will let me know if he thinks I should have surgery.

All I know is that I feel like I have sacrificed alot for this job. I wish I had kept looking instead of taking the first job offer I got. If I hadn't had to practice piano so much for teaching my piano classes, maybe I wouldn't be in such bad shape.

What Honda doesn't realize is that orchestras know how to compensate for bad conductors. They've been doing it for hundreds of years! The real test is whether or not a bunch of teenaged kids can follow it, not a bunch of professional musicians.

In any case, where do I get one?

read the original CNN article | digg story

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Annual Day of the Teacher!

The district where I work declared a day The Day of the Teacher. Every year that day rolls around, they will celebrate teachers. Isn't that wonderful??

Whatever. I'm getting so cynical already. So, one day out of the year--and late in the year at that--they will stop everything, bring a cake to the teacher's lounge and someone who works on the board will come by and shake everyone's hand. They will make some stupid letter that the board signed, make multiple color copies on resume quality paper, fold them, put them in envelopes and drop it off in your box.

Thank you for the meaningless crap. What a waste of time and money. No, I'm not bitter about how things have gone this year. No not at all. I rolled my eyes as I walked out of the teacher's lounge. Who are they kidding? When I got back to my office, I ate the cake and tore the letter into tiny shreds. The cake was delicious.

It's Not Me, It's YOU!

Have you ever got involved in a relationship and once you were commited it just wasn't working? I'm in just such a situation now and, well, it's not working. Only it isn't a romantic relationship, it's a job!

I know where I have gone wrong, but I have to shift the blame alot to them. I walked into the situation naively thinking things would all work out in the end. I had no books, no accompanist, no list of performances, no list of expectations, no list of prior repertoire, didn't have the same kids because most quit choir as soon as the other teacher said he was leaving, and there wasn't anyone holding my hand to make sure everything went OK.

How messed up is it? Well, I never would have gone into it if the job description had been accurate--and I told them this in my letter of recommendation. Well, apparently they haven't and won't learn anything anytime soon. They really think I'm the problem. But the problem I have is that they asked me to teach a class that I wasn't expecting to teach--piano. Why didn't they SAY they were looking for a choir and piano teacher?

Well, wouldn't you know it, this time around the flyer says the same thing, choral music teacher. Some people never learn--but I've learned something. It's not always my fault, and that's important to know. Sometimes you can walk into a sick system that isn't going to get better anytime soon. They want to think I'm the problem, well let them.

I have to admit, it was really discouraging to find the job posting flyer in my box today. Soon everyone will know. It will leak to the kids and that will be it. Some might be happy about me moving on. Some are going to be devastated. Sure, they were bad, but maybe they were so bad because they thought I woud always be there, kind of like they do with their parents.

Part of me wants to storm into the office and ask them if they are crazy. But the other part of me is making sure I take all my stuff with me and making sure I hide all the piano books so the next person does just as much freaking out as I did, tearing through all the filing cabinets looking for all the stuff, just like I did. It's not so much doing that to the person, but doing that to the district. I will also be sure to let them leave lots of messages for me. I'm really horrible at calling people back, Lord knows! Oopsy! I swear it's all there in the office. I didn't take a thing. ;)

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

I Like Your Bell Bottoms

Yesterday during choir, some of the girls started laughing hysterically.
MissD: What's so funny?
Gina: It's just's just that...hahahaha
Izzy: It's that your bell bottoms are so big that they cover your whole foot! haha
Gina: Are you gonna go disco? haha
MissD: What? I wore these jeans for your guys! You always tell me that I should wear jeans.
Izzy: Yeah, but not BELL BOTTOMS, Miss D!
MissD: I'm not gonna wear no skinny jeans.
Gina: You don't have to wear skinny jeans but at LEAST straight leg, not BELL BOTTOMS. I mean ding dong, time for church! hahaha
MissD: I like them. I don't care. Do you think I'm going to be really upset?
Mary: Wow, MissD, you're alot stronger than I am. I would be crying by now.
MissD: I guess I'll be crying in my bell bottoms--not! I like them. Now lets get over it and sing.


The next morning as I went about my business preparing for my day, one of my piano students came up to me and said something.
Lissa: Miss D, I like your bell bottoms.
MissD: Oh you heard about that? I started laughing. I'm surprised they even talked about it, but I do have her sister in my class.
Lissa: Yes. I like them. I thought the were cute on you.
MissD: Well, thanks, you awfully sweet. I didn't really care what they thought. I like my flares. Skinny jeans look really bad--even if you're really skinny. They did even way back when they were in when I was a kid. Makes your thighs look huuuge. But thanks, you were sweet to say something.

Even though I didn't care on most levels, it was still sweet that a kid cared enough to come up to me and show that she cared about my feelings. I mean, after all, anything goes with jeans these days. If you can buy it, it must be in. Besides I kind of got those flares to go over the boot I've been wearing for my sprained ankle.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

The Smell of the Whiteboard

I wonder if someday schools will be sued over whiteboard use? It's not so much the whiteboards, but the Dry Erase pens. The latest thing in education is directed instruction. All that means is that you have to make sure that the kids are actively engaged at all times and you are constantly checking their work through each of them having a small whiteboard and using it to show you answers. There is just one flaw in the system.

My first day using whiteboards for the students I had a room full of kids with dry erase pens. They really smell. But not only do they smell, after an hour, I honestly couldn't hardly breath. I had two students with asthma who asked to wait outside, meaning that they couldn't participate in the lesson. I was suffering with them, but felt I had to continue the lesson I had planned. It would have been one thing if students wrote their answers and closed the pens. But everyone started drawing, swapping colors, writing cute messages to me and their friends, all the while with the pens open, infesting the air with chemicals.

I can see the future lawsuits from children who swear they got lung cancer as a child--not from smoking cigarettes, weed, second hand smoke or breathing smog--but from hours of breathing the chemicals from dry erase pens for the sake of direct instruction.

We could go back to small chalkboards or slates as they were using in the pioneer days before mass produced paper. There's just one problem. I'm allergic to chalk.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Most Injured Teacher of the Year

I have now racked up 5 industrial accidents. Crazy huh? I have people scratching their heads over this.I was going to watch my JV softball girls play since I have so many in choir and then a foul ball got hit out of bound right in front of me, so I went down into a ditch to get the all thinking I would be nice. I like sports. Wouldn't you know it, when I went into the ditch to get the ball, I sprained my ankle. The Asst. Principal who is in charge of the industrial accidents at the high school said I should have spoken to him so I could get the paper work. I had to go see the Vice Principal in his office during my prep period.

MissD: Wow, in high school, I never got in trouble. I got Saturday school only once and I was terrified. I'm sitting here and I feel like I'm in trouble.
VPrin: That's funny. No, you certainly aren't in trouble.
MissD: Well, do I win an award for most injured employee?
VPrin: Well, I don't think I have ever had anyone be injured as much as you have been. So, what were you wearing? Dress shoes or tennis shoes?
MissD: Um...dressy shoes. I would actually say dressy casual. And black pants--capri pants actually. I looked really cute.
VPrin: And your shirt?
MissD: Oh yes, it was a cotton peasant shirt--DKNY. Are you going to write that on the form?
VPrin: Um, I'll put that in parenthesis. He seemed amused though.
MissD: I'm glad you're sort of laughing.
VPrin: Why didn't you come talk to me at the softball game?
MissD: Well, when I sprained my ankle right before the concert in December, I got chewed out by the superintendent and he said it looked like I was walking just fine, but I had a concert to do. I did the whole concert standing on one leg. And I feel bad that I've gotten hurt so much at work. I thought also they would count it as a recurrence since my file is still open with the the prior injury.

VPrin: Well, you got hurt and I feel bad that you were hurt. Next time tell me right away.
He was actually sympathetic. And be careful. No getting balls in ditches anymore.
MissD: I guess I forget that I'm not 17 anymore.

And while I thought he was a sympathetic soul who was on my side, he then changed his tone.

VPrin:  I thought about it, and I'm denying your claim.  You weren't technically working because it was after school.
MissD:  Yes, but don't you encourage teachers to support students in their activities?  I was trying to make a bridge to my students and show them that I care.
VPrin:  It was after school hours and you weren't required to be there.

There's something wrong with this.  Oh, well.  Back to the boot.  Pretty sure that's what they'll have me do.