Bonus Reads Titled”Ms. Doran Month ?” & “Ms. Doran Year 1.5”
I decided to include these too because they’re also somewhat amusing.
“MS. DORAN MONTH ?” (It was the 5th month. Must’ve been too many to count.)
Emailed: May 26, 2010
(Positive Disclaimer: This is shorter than the last one. I heard I lost many readers after paragraph one.)
Well I think I have officially lost track of time. This is a good thing, I think, considering I previously was counting when I made it to one month as a teacher, two months as a teacher, and now…I think I am just a teacher.
March through May has been a giant blur of office referrals, the occasional hug, some true laughs, and many surprising yet encouraging words from co-workers. I am still belittled by being called “so little and cute” by my colleagues but I guess that’s better than “giant and ugly.” Every time I meet a parent there is a detectable one to two-second pause in which he or she realizes that I am not the child’s 7th-grade friend, I am the child’s Language Arts teacher. I’ve gotten really good at writing parent emails and if I’m feel especially grown-up on a particular day, I will sign it “Best, Amanda Doran.”
As for the office referrals, it really took me a couple of months to feel like I have enough power to write an after school detention and a few months to feel like I have the authority to write a referral. My power has arrived. My authority has arrived. I can throw a mean look as evil as that of the Wicked Witch of the West (and I guess you could call me that considering Pikesville’s location in Baltimore.).
I feel like I am finally able to grin and bear it when I hear comments such as, “Somebody has an attitude today. If Ms. Doran has her period, I don’t think she should take it out on us.” Yes….these are the things I must leave lingering in the air for if I address such a comment surely the child will know my wrath no matter what time of the month it happens to be.
One thing I need to keep reminding myself is that their minds are ALWAYS in the gutter and asking them to assemble into “threesomes” will only result in severe behavior management issues. I teach somewhere near 130 kids and I think most of the time I love 128 of them. The crazy hormones of a 12 or 13 year old are preposterous but these hormones make my days interesting and my paychecks well earned. My favorite way of comforting myself is saying in head, “You have to rationalize with irrational beings.” This helps me know that I am the sane one….although I did have a kid in my homeroom scream, literally scream, to the class “I’m not the crazy one, she’s the crazy one! I am normalllllllllllll.” Right. He made that reallllllllly obvious by randomly belting this out when I asked him to spit out his gum.
I have learned some valuable things such as the fact that a good day with the kids is nearly ALWAYS followed by a terrible day with them. Exercise helps more than anything with sanity. Not all children like me to shorten their first names even if they lend themselves to shortening (I called Satchel “Satch” one day and I thought he was going to cry due to the ridicule). Lastly, I have learned that with enough confidence you can really make others at least think you know what you’re doing…and I think that if you have that confidence (fake, real, semi-genuine) somewhere along the way, you find that you actually DO know what you’re doing. Have I told you they’re giving me a student teacher in the Fall?
MS. DORAN YEAR 1.5
Emailed: June 29, 2012
I just high-fived a stranger sitting behind me because in my casual (nay, overt) eavesdropping I heard her say she works in a school and has a few weeks off. Trading in the typical school year commiseration, I’ve fallen into the steps of my fellow educators by co-celebrating the summer time. Those who teach summer school like to pipe in that it’s “only a few hours per day and only a month long.” I am reveling in these “few hours” and this “one lone month.”
And just minutes later as I stare out of this airplane window, gazing at the ground lying seven miles below my seat, I wish I could take back that high five. I should not value my job for the time I spend not doing it and I don’t want others to think that’s why I teach but even more importantly, I don’t want myself to think that’s why I teach. So as my eyes dance on land belonging to a state I cannot accurately identify, I’m actually thinking about how many students I’ve taught who have never seen a view from this high and even more sadly (to me) how many of them never will. Additionally, I am convinced that I can see the curve of the earth in the distance.
Last August I began my first full school year with my own room, my own students, my own afterschool clubs, and my own stress. Written English cannot express the difference between being thrust violently into the middle of the year (as a class of 29’s sixth homeroom teacher) and gracefully commencing at the beginning. I think to explain the ocean that lies between these two experiences I would need a long hailstorm on a mountaintop in Antarctica and a performance by professional ballet company.
Day one I came into my room to greet my homeroom with my nicely packaged lesson I had made for a “standard” class. As my questions remained lingering in mid-air, unanswered except with blank stares, I soon realized this lesson was not going to be easily portrayed with my new “normal” group. When a para-educator entered the room, I was downright confused. Was I teaching inclusion and not told? But would they really do that to someone? I already had the first two weeks mapped out…was I just supposed to start over and adjust for an inclusion class I was never told I was teaching? The answer to all of these questions was obviously a resounding, “Yes,” and a “times two!” It was one of those yeses that no one wants to admit so it’s never actually spoken out loud. “They” just expect you to understand. When the same para-educator entered my 4th period class as well, the shock had already worn off. I, without ever being told, had become an inclusion teacher. (Inclusion is a dumb PC term for a class that has some students with learning disabilities and some without who are usually “lower.”)
My para, Debbie, is one of the most fabulous people I have ever met. Had she not been there this year to support me, the members of my homeroom may have killed me not by poisoning me to emulate last year but just by being themselves and slowly chipping away at my excuse for a soul. Debbie became like a mother and a coach to me even though she probably doesn’t fully realize it. At the end of the year she wrote the principal a commendation form about me stating that she learned a lot from my class and how hard I worked for my kids. I’ve been meaning to get over to Target for a frame for this note because there’s really nothing like getting a compliment from someone you yourself constantly compliment. Anyway, Debbie should be a millionaire somewhere not making half of my salary as a para-educator. From what I’ve heard about some of the other para-educators at our school, Pikesville doesn’t even deserve her and I’m still not even sure I did.
The fantastic thing about my schedule was its diversity. By the end of the year, my homeroom contained 30 children, (no, I’m not rounding up; I did not have a single spare desk) 14 of which had an IEP: Individualized Education Plan, meaning they required some type of service for some type(s) of learning disability(ies). I’m almost certain that 14 in one classroom is illegal according to laws of special ed.
Also, despite my end of the year request from my first schedule of “I’ll take anything but 2nd and 3rd periods as my planning mods!,” I was (of course) given 2nd and 3rd periods as my planning mods. This was explained to me as a mistake but I still firmly believe “they” do not want to give you everything you want…not even 50% of the time. If these types of wishes were granted, “they” might risk the general you becoming overzealous, content, and maybe not quite on your toes. Believe me, my calf muscles prove I spent those 10 months on my toes. I followed that up with another inclusion class of lovelies, then a sweet but very annoying standard seventh grade class, one section of tear-your-hair-out chatty gifted and talented sixth graders, and one group of 24 angelic, gifted and talented sixth graders each donning a halo above his or her head. Only teachers can appreciate the value of having cherubs for the last period of the day when your own halo, if it was ever there, is long-gone and most children start to look like they’re sprouting two devil horns a-piece.
On top of my diverse schedule, I moderated the literary magazine, co-directed “High School Musical Jr.,” mentored an intern from Stevenson University (might I add she was 10 years my senior), was paid to travel to New Jersey to help write the Middle School Language Arts Praxis, and was observed four times as a not-yet-tenured teacher.
Around November, I thought my intestines might just fall out due to stress, lack of sound sleep, an abundance of scary work dreams, and my first very mean and completely unwarranted parent email. I soon considered all organs safely intact after a series of emails from my boss one afternoon. My principal wrote us cancelling data initiatives that were newly implemented by the middle school dictator…oh I totally meant, superintendent not dictator. This irrational, self-seeking, children-second coward had us implementing FOUR extra assignments every week to all of our students (in my case 145), grading each item, entering them into our gradebooks, and maintaining a spreadsheet to examine the data. We then had to write a few pages of BS about what the data indicated for each of our classes. Even just typing this and remembering it, I’m scowling at the overwhelming bureaucracy I endured.
“The Day the Data Died,” as I fondly call it in my head, was more joyous than Christmas or Hanukah (need to include that at Pikesville). Teachers were running through the halls, skipping, yelling, rejoicing! We could be ourselves again! We could keep our intestines! We could live again! While I still remember this day with a sincere grin, I’m told we “never know what’s coming next.” And this past year, I’ve learned just how much teachers are threatened into submission, that as a whole we can be easily made to look like villains, and that there are a handful that are threat-deserving villains. So falling into place with the rest of my liberal views, I do what I’m told and do it enthusiastically to abide by the laws the dingdong-loser teachers have forced people far too powerful to create.
What I’ve also taken away from this year or at least solidified something I learned in my waitressing days is that if you work hard, people really really do appreciate you. I gleefully received a slew of parent emails this year telling me things I never dreamed I’d hear. I have a drawer full of notes from students, parents, and colleagues telling me that I am appreciated. I have finally starting crying more for good reasons than bad. I don’t want to gloat. I just want to make it clear that I really do love my job. And I love it more for the time I am there than the time I am not there. In the words of Deonta H. whom I deeply miss as he was sent to juvenile hall in April, “Ms. Dorin is my favoritt teacher ‘cause she cute and you know how I feel, sweetheart. Love, Deonta #52.” It’s that type of repeatedly-abandoned, obstinate (he once went off on me calling me repeatedly an “n***** b*****), personality-of-a-see-saw-type of child who for some reason clicks with YOU that makes it worth getting up in the morning…just not during the summer months. Yes, I know how you feel, sweetheart.