Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Living in fear

Q: What did one kindergartener say to the other kindergartener?
A: "F**k you!"

Oh yes, it's true. And it neatly sums up the kind of day I had.

My fifth graders and I have been studying idioms and proverbs. One of the proverbs we explored was "Don't count your chickens before they hatch." Oh, how I should have taken Aesop's advice. See, the kindergarten was supposed to go on a field trip today. So when I headed over there this morning, I fully expected to see just one class for about twenty minutes before they headed off. I brought one book to read them and one pitiful little stack of paper to write on in case they were leaving later than expected. I thought I was all set.

Except that the field trip, of course, had been canceled, and I was caught totally off guard. I faked it -- er, "improvised" -- quite nicely, if I do say so myself; we read my book and then we wrote about one thing we had learned from it, and the kids actually did an awesome job drawing beautiful pictures and writing fairly sophisticated sentences. Everything was going swimmingly!

Until...dum dum DUUUMMMM -- my assistant principal turned up to do some observations. She came into a classroom I was in expecting to see another teacher, but I thought she was there to see me, and I literally -- literally -- stopped breathing for a few seconds. The one time in my entire teaching career I had been caught unprepared...! I had counted my chickens! Now I would pay for it! I wasn't sure whether to fall on my sword with excuses -- "The field trip, I didn't know" -- or just go for it and pretend I was blissfully ignorant of the fact that my mini lesson was neither mini nor a real lesson.

Anyway, it turned out that she wasn't there to see me anyway, but I went totally gonzo bonkers nuts during my lunch period because I was absolutely convinced that she was coming back for me after lunch, which she didn't, which almost virtually guarantees that she's coming for me tomorrow, unless she doesn't, in which case I will be holding my breath for the rest of my teaching life. The surprise observation thing? SO UNFAIR. When I thought I was about to be observed, I literally almost cried thinking of the dozens of beautiful, fantastic lessons I'd done that had gone over so well, and now I was about to be judged on this? Plus, the kids were absolutely bonkers all day, and can you blame them? They were supposed to be on a field trip! Why make the decision to observe teachers on a day they weren't even supposed to have planned lessons for?! To surprise them out of spite? The week after everyone went freaking insane over the Quality Review? It just seems so counter-productive and -- dare I say it? -- mean-spirited. Like, "Don't forget, we're watching you at every minute."

And, get this, one of the kindergarten teachers asked my AP if the kids could watch a movie since they were disappointed that they didn't get to go on a field trip...and she responded by telling the teacher that the kids have to learn to live with disappointment. Um...they're five? And their lives consist of a very teeny tiny bubble in a run-down neighborhood? And many of them live with people who hit them and use language like the F word so frequently that they've picked it up and think it's okay to say it to their classmates in school? I'd say they've already learned to live with disappointment. And, like so many things at my school, that makes me a little bit angry and a little bit sad.


ms. v. said...

hey, wait a minute... you said yourself that a) the trip was canceled and you weren't warned and b) your lesson went well even tho improvised... you're a good teacher. if your principal doesn't know that or refuses to see that or is running some kinda reign of terror, then screw her, you'll be fine, as long as you get an S rating in your real observation you have nothing to worry about. and if your principal is intelligent and a good leader and judge of people, then she sees that you are a good teacher, can understand context (like a canceled trip), and would give you the benefit of the doubt anyway. relax. you're doing great.

Anonymous said...

I read your blog regularly...I teach at an innercity school in the south and our kids have some remarkable similarities. Your first line today made me think of an Incident from my classroom last week that went like this:

Me: "Rainbow table, go get your math packets and crayons!"
Little Girl: *heavy dramatic sigh and smacking of lips* "F*** this s****."

Luckily, my parapro is wonderful. By the time I had turned around, she already had Little Girl by the arm and was taking her out into the hallway for a talking-to. My math lesson, needless to say, lost a little bit of its enthusiasm.

Hang in there...unannounced observations are not fun...I think every teacher's heart skips a beat when the principal appears in the doorway.

Anonymous said...

Observations can be so unfair. I had a principal that seemed to enjoy watching teachers squirm and was never positive. Sometimes when he would enter the room, my voice wouldn't work. Some of my vacations were ruined fretting about upcoming observations. I also agree that it's not fair to little kids to expect them to face hardships and disappointments like adults.

17 (really 15) more years said...

Last observation I had (and this is my 10th year of teaching) my kids decided to go braindead on me. It was as if I hadn't taught them a damn thing all year.

My AP, who was just as frustrated by the kids as I was, left before the lesson was over, stating, "I'm going to go out in the hall now and slam my head against a wall."
I was beside myself with angst until the post-ob- she actually really liked the lesson.

Bottom line- you are clearly a more than competent teacher. Just relax.