29 July, 2008

"Why are you just a teacher?"

Yesterday was a perfect stereotypical day in a "high-need" school in the city. 
I forced myself to go in to student teaching despite having been in the hospital all weekend so I was planning on just observing the whole day. 
5 minutes into 1st period half of the girls in class jumped out of their seats screaming because a dead mouse fell out of the wall. I am not sure what to do in the face of a dead mouse, so I went in the hall and dragged in the assistant principal from the social studies department. 

The teacher I'm working with never arrived so I started making up a lesson with the material we would need to play a Spanish version of MASH. No one came to inform me that the teacher wouldn't be coming to school so I had to leave the class alone to go find out. A sub came after the 2 hour 1st period ended. The regular teacher had left no work to do and the sub knew no Spanish so I was on my own for the entire morning, trying not to get sick or have my students running all over the building. These first 2 hours, by the way, were illegal since I am not yet certified to teach. 

Lack of communication and support for teachers (and inexperienced student teachers!) is a huge problem in a lot of schools here. Sometimes it can be helpful to have the freedom that comes with a principal who doesn't monitor you too much. But when all kinds of things are happening and you have no idea what to do, it is distressing to say the least. The mice? Gross and probably a health hazard, especially in the non-air-conditioned building in summer heat. But also pretty common in schools (in Brooklyn at least).  There was a shooting about 2 blocks from the school, involving an 18 year-old, over the weekend, so mice probably don't seem like a big problem. 

I wanted to cry for pretty much the entire time I was teaching yesterday. But I survived, in one piece, and things went well in class today, so whatever I did yesterday didn't do any permanent damage. And at the end of the day (today at least) I love the students I work with, I love the language I'm teaching, and I love the city I live in. I can't fix all of the problems at my school. I'm ok with not saving the world, which is not something I ever expected to say. But there are things I can do and after 7 weeks of training I'm figuring out what they are. 

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