Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A day in the life

Since today happened to feel like a ridiculous day, but since it was also completely representative of my life as a reading teacher, I thought I would enlighten my readers with a blow-by-blow account! Let's call it "A Day in the Life of a New York City Public Schoolteacher (or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Enjoy the Chaos)."

5:45 am Wake up. Watch NY1. Alternate side of the street parking? Still in effect. Darn.

6:18 am Leave for work (I know the time down to the minute, thanks to NY1).

6:35 am Arrive at school. Begin long, arduous search for a parking spot.

6:40 am Parking spot! Score! Park and prepare to sit in car until school building opens at 7:00 am.

6:41 am Realize that car is actually parked at pump. Resignedly pull out of parking spot and reverse car down the block to other available parking spot.

6:55 am Get out of car and walk to school (yes, I sit in my car for up to twenty minutes each morning because we are actually made to wait outside the school building in the cold until it is officially "open").

7:00 am Move time card, check mailbox, and grab keys. My day has begun! I am always the first one in my office (which I share with five other out-of-classroom teachers), so I use the hour before the school day begins to prepare for the day.

7:35 am Head upstairs to check in with Ms. A, who was absent yesterday, about how we plan to launch our new unit today.

7:40 am Arrive back in my office and am immediately paged over the loudspeaker. Call office and ask, "What did I do?" to secretary who picks up the phone. She asks me to come downstairs and speak to the parent of one of Ms. L's students, because Ms. L is absent.

7:40 am Arrive downstairs to meet with Shawna's mother, who starts telling me how frustrated she is with Shawna's lack of progress in reading and how Shawna is uninterested and unmotivated and doesn't want to do her work at home. As she is telling me about how smart her older daughter is and how she doesn't know what to do anymore with Shawna, she starts to cry right there in the hallway. I promise to speak to Shawna and Ms. L and work on a plan for Shawna's progress.

7:55 am As soon as I walk back into my office, the phone rings. It's for me. "Tenir's mother is here to see you." As I know absolutely nothing about this meeting, I panic and run down the hall to Ms. J's room: "Why is Tenir's mother here to see me?" According to Ms. J, Tenir's mother speaks no English and I should just go downstairs and assure her that he needs to practice reading more.

7:56 am Ms. J is right: Tenir's mother speaks no English. I try to explain that he needs to do more reading. Tenir reluctantly translates.

8:10 am First period! Normally during first period on Tuesdays, four of my students get pulled out of the room, so I plan around them. But today, no one showed up to take them. Which means I can do the guided reading I had planned to put off! So I run back to my office to grab the book that I need.

8:40 am My four students inexplicably get pulled halfway through the period.

8:45 am I ask my remaining students to jot down one thing they already know about their topics. One little girl, who will be reading about the solar system, writes, "Pluto used to be a planet but now it's not." Hee!

8:50 am During a strategy lesson, I realize that Arielle is crying, presumably because she does not want to wear her glasses. In the course of our discussion, Arielle claims that she does not actually need glasses, but lied to the doctor in order to get them! (This is not true. Arielle totally needs glasses.) Arielle is very overweight and has horrendously low self-esteem, so we have a talk about how I like wearing my glasses and how I think she is beautiful with or without her glasses, after which I think she feels a tiny bit better.

9:05 am Fernando asks if I miss having him in my reading group. I do!

10:00 am Third period. I head downstairs to cover the suspension room, except no one is actually suspended. "Yeah, he didn't show up today," someone tells me, despite the fact that this morning's announcements stated very clearly that the suspension room was in effect. Since there's no suspension to cover, I might as well go to class! Except first I have to run back and forth to my office a few times to gather all the things I thought I wouldn't need since I wasn't supposed to see that class today.

10:55 am Lunchtime! I scarf down some carrots, a cup of coffee and a sandwich while simultaneously re-organizing my morning materials and planning for the afternoon. I also compose a lengthy note to Ms. L about my meeting with Shawna's mother.

11:50 am Since Ms. L is still absent, I am winging our non-fiction unit with her whole class. I also meet with Shawna, who claims that she doesn't do what she's supposed to be doing at home because her mom curses at her all the time. Hmm. Mom didn't mention that in our talk.

12:45 pm I only have five students in my sixth-period class, because the rest of them have been pulled out of the room. In trying to get Neel to write down something, anything, he knows about his topic (land animals), I have the following maddening conversation with him:

Miss Brave: "What's one thing you already know about animals?"
Neel: [long silence]
Miss Brave: "What's your favorite animal?"
Neel: "Alligators?"
Miss Brave: "OK, and what do you know about alligators?"
Neel: "They live in the water?"
Miss Brave: "OK, but remember, your topic is land animals, so you need to think about an animal that lives on the land. What's an animal that lives on the land?"
Neel: "Alligator?"
Miss Brave: "Remember, you just told me an alligator lives in the water. What's something you know about an animal that lives on the land, not in the water?"
Neel: "Alligators have sharp teeth."
Miss Brave: "That's true, but we can't think about alligators, because they live in the water. What animals do you know that do not live in the water? They live on the land, out of the water?"
Neel: "A crab?"
Miss Brave: "Where does a crab live?"
Neel: "In the water?"

OH. MY. GOODNESS. Meanwhile, Lukas (who barely speaks English) is sitting next to Neel shouting out things like, "Lion! Monkey! Lion lives in the jungle! Monkeys eat bananas!"

12:50 pm Barbra tells me she likes my hair. Other students chime their agreement. Lukas pipes up, "I don't!", because lately Lukas likes to exercise his burgeoning English skills by vocalizing his disagreement with everyone else, usually while I'm asking some rhetorical question to which the answer should always be yes.

1:25 pm Since we mix our groups together during non-fiction reading, one of Ms. N's highest readers is in a group with three of my lowest readers. During share time, I overhear her say importantly to the rest of her group: "This is the book I read. As you can see, it has dolphins..." I didn't hear the rest of what she said because I was still boggling over the "as you can see..." Ms. N and I agree that we should probably put another high achiever in her group. Because I love Ms. N's kids, but Lord, they are spacey (see Neel, above).

1:30 pm Blessedly, my prep! I run over to the book room and grab piles of non-fiction books like a mad woman. I also fold up my rolling cart so I can take it home and load it up with more non-fiction books I took out from the public library yesterday (please don't let the children lose them).

2:20 pm Time to pick up my afterschool kids from three different classrooms on two different floors (first I have to retrieve one errant student from the bathroom).

2:23 pm Alexandra lifts up my scarf, which is dragging on the floor as I am carrying my coat, my bag, my rolling cart, a binder and a clipboard. I love Alexandra.

2:25 pm We arrive in our room, dump our backpacks and coats, and start setting up computers. Of course some of them don't turn on, some of them aren't charged, and hardly any of the headphones work, and of course my usual afterschool colleague is absent. I very nearly lose my cool when Tenir yells out, "I need headphones!" as he does every single day when he can very clearly see that I am doing my best to (a) untangle all the cords and (b) figure out which ones work and which ones don't while (c) simultaneously trying to get Lukas a computer that actually turns on, but luckily I have been blessed with a reserve of patience today!

2:40 pm I remember to send Josephine downstairs early to catch her bus. Naturally, as soon as she leaves, the office calls upstairs looking for her.

2:55 pm Even though it's been snowing all day and it's obviously going to be an indoor dismissal, the school waits until now to announce over the loudspeaker that we need to bring our classes down by 3:05, which means we have to start packing up...now.

2:59 pm There is too much talking on line by the door, so I send everyone back to their seats to try again. Barbra (who likes my hair) protests, "But I wasn't talking!" and earns herself a lecture on not making it worse by speaking out.

3:00 pm Our line is at last nice and quiet. Unfortunately, as we are attempting to leave the room, we get stuck in a traffic jam of other groups blocking the door as their teachers have a conversation. Normally I would wait, but we're running late as it is and we need to retrieve all our stuff from the hallway. So I sneak my line past the logjam.

3:03 pm Someone is loudly squeaking his hand along the banister as we walk downstairs.

3:06 pm Someone else is not facing forward as he walks and holding up the whole line.

3:07 pm We've made it! Return attendance folders and keys, move timecard, trudge back to car.

3:15 pm Wet feet (I hate that). Brush snow off car (this already looks like 3 inches). Drive to gym.

4:10 pm Run on treadmill and ruminate on doing it all again tomorrow!


J said...

PHEW! what a day! bless you for working so damn hard every day--i hope the school and kids know what an amazing teacher they have in you. :)

17 (really 15) more years said...

Clearly, you don't realize how good you have it :o)

Seriously- all the naysayers who think we have a cushy job should walk for one day in our shoes.