Wednesday, October 24, 2007

I wish I knew how to quit you

Nudity, nosebleed, no voice, and news of teachers quitting -- whew! It was an eventful day.

My wasting virus of last week disintegrated into a cough and laryngitis, so I sounded like the Bride of Frankenstein today. I was with the kindergarteners all day, and they were full of questions about it. Some of them were merely curious: "Why does your voice sound different?" Others were more forward: "Why is your voice all funny?" Still others were full of helpful advice: "You got to drink water to make your voice come back!" I tried to explain that even though I sounded different, I was still Miss Brave, and that meant they still had to listen to can imagine how well that went over with 27 4- and 5-year-olds.

On to nudity! Today Alejandro asked -- nay, begged -- to use the restroom. I was reluctant to let him because he tends to disappear for quite some time. But he insisted, several times, that he had to "do #2," so off he went.

The end of the period arrived, and Alejandro still hadn't returned, so his classroom teacher went off to the bathroom to bust him. But there she found him au naturel, as apparently the laws of doing #2 dictate...taking off all one's clothes?

So I was already pretty fried by the time a little voice piped up from the rug in the afternoon: "Miss Brave, I'm bleeding!" Fortunately it was only a standard-issue nosebleed, all over the hands, face and shirt of Julian (why, oh why are those school uniforms white?!). I sent him off to the restroom to get cleaned up, but while he was gone, Jake had some strange and graphic questions. "What happened to Julian? He's bleeding all over? He had a knife?" Of course, when Julian returned, he had to show off his bloody shirt to everyone at his table.

And last: Two new teachers (one with a self-contained special ed class, the other with a notoriously challenging bunch of kids) quit today.

I'm not quite sure how to react. On the one hand, every day I want to quit my job about as badly as I've ever wanted anything, and I haven't yet. I don't for a second think that makes me superior to either of those teachers, both of whom were in much more challenging situations than I am, but it does give me a tiny bit of pride that I'm sticking it out.

On the other hand, I'm a little envious that they've done what I desperately want to do but haven't. And on the other other hand...I just feel sad. I service one of those classes, and every time I've passed the teacher in the hallway, I think that the look on her face must mirror my own: It says "I'm smiling at you to be polite and friendly, but inwardly I'm falling apart." So I feel disappointed that there are other people in the building who are struggling as much as I am, but no one's talking about it for fear of -- reprecussions? Looking weak or whiny?

When I went to the DOE orientations and workshops over the summer, every single veteran teacher who spoke made sure to tell us about how back in the old days, they didn't have anything of the sort, and we were so lucky to get the introduction to the DOE that they never got. But what I know for sure is that those orientations were four hundred different kinds of worthless -- and I'm saddened by the fact that these new teachers obviously felt that they lacked the support or the motivation to continue.

Some part of me wants to be a crusader of sorts who gathers up all the new teachers (and there are a lot of us) and says, "We're all having struggles -- let's support each other!" But another part of me, like all the other new teachers, is too stressed out, too tired, too busy with my own issues.

Then, after school, I signed on to our computer and the DOE homepage came up. It informed me that there are five people who apply for every one person who gets hired to teach in a New York City public school. Oh, the irony: I worked really, really hard to get my job, and now I would hand it over to those four rejected applicants in a New York minute.

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