Thursday, September 2, 2010

They call it the “trenches.”

That just reminds me of war that word “trenches.” Now, I’ve never fought in a war, but I do have a sister who was in the Iraqi war. I think if she set foot in my classroom, she might liken the DC Public Schools to Iraq. I think the only thing the school system has that Iraq doesn’t, might be running water. But not all schools had that at all times. So, the Iraqis might have been better off than the poor kids in DC.

You must be wondering by now, who the hell cares about the achievement gap? Go back home! Save yourself from this wretched place. Save your sanity! This teaching, it was like a drug. The more I took, the more I wanted and I just couldn’t kick the habit. They should have rehab for Type A personality types who decide to teach in the ghetto. I’m serious. Or at least a support group.

My fiancĂ© hated coming to happy hours with me during those two years teaching in DC. He said all my teacher friends did was bitch. I guess that was our support group. Those happy hours where we all drowned ourselves in cheap beer and food that was on special. “Do you have a teacher discount?” This became a favorite phrase of ours, as we were poor as hell. If you added all of the hours I worked and divided them by my pay, I think I made about $3.00 an hour. I should have gone into day labor at that point, if I had any sense at all. Obviously, as you can see, I do not.

In warfare, there’s usually a plan of attack, you see, this is why working in the so-called trenches was so hard for me. I had no commanding officer. I suppose that should have been my role, but if you counted my aides as my soldiers, you might as well have been counting severely disabled and cognitively impaired persons as a part of my squad. I always said that all I ever needed in my classroom were clones of me. Like that Michael Keaton movie, “Duplicity.” I would have more of myself to get the work done that needed to be completed. Needless to say, there was no plan of attack. I was winging it every single day.

You don’t usually get clones of yourself in the public sector. This is because anyone with a pulse can get a job and pretty much keep it until they die. Actually, I think if they die, they probably still get paid. I never could understand why I didn’t get to choose the people who worked in my classroom. It’s as though I was charged with the task of being a boss, but I didn’t get to choose my minions.

This is what is wrong with public education. The bureaucracy. What sense does it make to let a principal make the hiring decisions for a classroom teacher? No sense at all. More likely than not, that principal has been out of the classroom for years and can’t remember all of the nuances of the day-to-day classroom operations. Or, in my case, she might have never taught special education, particularly, kids with a diagnosis of the autism spectrum disorder. In any event, it was ludicrous.

So, if teaching can be likened to war, you soldiers should count your blessing for the VA hospitals. At least the government pretends to care about you when you get back from fighting. What does the government do for teachers? Oh, they pay them over the summer. I love when I hear people say things like, “It must be great to have the summers off.” No, it’s not great to have the summers off. I can barely pay my bills as is. I had to take a summer job after my first year teaching because I was so broke from living in the city. But what kind of services did I get for my PTSD that I acquired for working in the DC Public School System? That would be absolutely nothing.

You know, our dear chancellor, Michelle Rhee, hates veteran teachers. She doesn’t say that, but you can feel it in the way she talks. She’d love nothing more than to bring in folks like me every year (the Teach for America type, the DC Teaching Fellows type), teach for awhile, and then move on. Her model is unsustainable. She’s a moron if you ask me. In any case, I brought up the veteran teachers because I’ve seen some really great ones. Teachers who have taught in the DC Public Schools for most of their lives. They dedicate themselves to a system that doesn’t give two shits about their wellbeing. And they keep coming back, year after year, to educate.

Why do they do it? I couldn’t tell you. After two years of an abusive system, I threw in the towel and decided to teach in a not-for-profit school. I commend veteran teachers much in the same way I commend veteran soldiers. I honestly don’t know how they do it, but I admire that they keep doing it. Someone has to uphold and maintain a system when it’s crumbling and it’s those teachers. I believe those are the ones who “do it for the kids.” I salute you, good fighters! God speed and God bless.

**If I seem a little all over the place in this entry, it's because I'm a little nervous. My wedding is today. I know, most girls would be applying their makeup and showering like 6 times. Me, I blog.

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