I know teachers aren’t supposed to care about being liked.
But when an entire classroom full of children tells their teacher that they don’t like your class, you wonder what you are doing wrong.
You can give 110% and sometimes it still isn’t enough.
And it hurts.7
In October, we had our first practice assessment. 2 days.
In December, we had our second practice assessment. 2 days.
We are currently doing Mock MSA. 2 days.
MSA is coming up. 3 days including science.
Then we have a post-assessment assessment (I’m not kidding) in Mayish. 2 more days.
I’ve also been hearing we’re going to do some of the PARC assessment, so who knows how many days that will add.
In total, that is 11 days of testing. That is OVER two full weeks of school that we lose due to testing.
And they respond by making Maryland schools go back to school a week or even two weeks before schools in other states and make them stay a week after everyone lets out (and this is without snow days).
For example, Last year, my brother had almost a full week of snow days and we didn’t have any. My school year ended a day AFTER his.0
Laws give students the right to be violent against teachers
Turns out, where I teach, teachers have basically no protection from student violence.
I don’t know who did it, but someone made the most horrible, anti-teacher laws ever.
If you “impede a student’s forward motion” and they hit you, it is your fault!
What does that mean, exactly?
Well, a teacher at my man’s school was in the way of a student going to his locker. She told him that he couldn’t go to his locker. He literally shoved her out of his way. When she took him to the principal, he said that he couldn’t do anything because she “impeded his forward motion”.
Which means a kid can walk around your room whenever they want, go wherever they, and walk out your door whenever they want and if you get in their way they are ALLOWED TO HIT YOU. If you press charges the police WILL DO NOTHING.
If you get in the way of students fighting aka. try to break it out, help out, just get too close, etc, and you get hit, it is YOUR FAULT. BAD TEACHER. If you complain, they will DO NOTHING because it is somehow your fault!
If a student has an IEP for ANY reason, they can only be suspended for 10 days. This INCLUDES violence against a teacher. A student leaned down and punched me in the foot one day. He only went home for half a day. He kicked two other teachers and was back in class in FIVE MINUTES. I’ve heard of IEP kids sexually harassing girls and teachers, spitting on teachers, flipping desks, refusing to go to class, etc. and only getting in trouble when they are caught with a weapon or smoking.
And they wonder why urban schools have high turnover. They wonder why urban schools are going to shit. They wonder why there is violence in the classroom.
THERE IS VIOLENCE BECAUSE IT IS ALLOWED!!!!!
I need a new job.2
Sometimes the kiddos prove to me that they know more than I thought
First graders were doing a worksheet I made practicing their note-writing skills. They were being good so I put some music on. I told them that we were going to listen to music from different cultures.
I put on some West African drumming. Immediately, one of the students who is from the Ivory Coast and is still learning English (her parents are super cool and buy her lots of books to help her learn the language) runs up to me, taps me, and says, “That’s from where I’m from!” with a big smile. Which was cool.
We listened to some Samba (we had to quit because they kept dancing lol) and some Native American drumming, and then I put on some Scottish bagpipe music. I put it on and then I hear some voices going, “Ohhhhhh I know this!” Of course, I didn’t believe them so I asked. One little girl goes “Yeah they dance like this!” and stands up and starts tapping her feet really fast on the floor. Another girl joins her “Yeah it’s like this with the feet!”
They were Riverdancing.
I was so shocked I almost hugged them.31
Fantasia Day in music class!
The kids love the Sorcerer’s Apprentice and the Steadfast Tin Soldier best. The little ones will actually gasp and point and laugh and cheer along with it. They don’t realize until the end that there aren’t any words!
One of the big things about being an urban music teacher is exposure. These kids are exposed to so little, culturally and musically. They don’t know a lot about anything that isn’t right in their yard basically. So part of my job is to just let them listen or watch or explore things they aren’t used to hearing or seeing. They actually surprised me at how much they enjoyed the Nutcracker.
I notice often that if a non-musical administrator came into my room, they would have no idea what I was doing. My principal is starting to figure it out but other people look confused, since a lot of them see singing, dancing, moving, watching, and listening as “not work”. The just need some enlightenment.3
Dear Mr President:
How DARE you commend Race to the Top and say how great it is but then say that students are not a test score on a Scan-tron? Do you not understand that Race to the Top is ALL about test scores and schools with lower schools don’t get the funding? How can you blatantly lie about that right on the TV? Are people really that uninformed about what goes on in their own children’s schools?
All of these idiots in our government only care about numbers and money. The talk on and on about kids being individuals and not being test scores but then they keep making legislation about test scores! There is no “raising expectations”. It’s, “We don’t think your scores are good enough so you better make them better or we’ll take your funding or shut down your school!”
Mr President, if you are so concerned with the African American people and their advancement, then why do you turn your back on majority-black urban schools and their teachers? You talk about immigration reform, but you ignore the students that are thrown into our buildings that can’t speak a word of English and how they have to adjust. Your politics ignore reality.
Nobody gives a shit about poverty and the culture that surrounds it. Nobody cares that students buy into this idea of easy money and drugs instead of school. Nobody cares that the kids don’t get food at home or are homeless. They don’t care that CPS won’t investigate unless there are very bad physical marks on a kid, and even then they still might not ever investigate. They don’t care that kids are pushed through grades because it is SO hard to get them held back. They don’t care that violent children are in our rooms because too many suspensions make the school “look bad”. They make the kids lose weeks of education to take tests, and tack on more weeks of school into the summer to “make up for it”.
When the kids do badly, it can’t possible be their homes or their culture or poverty! Oh no, it must be us bad evil teachers! So they create more hoops for teachers to jump through. Now we have to do extra data and goals called SLOs that are 35% of our yearly evaluations! If your kids struggle to make the goal, you must be a bad teacher! OH WAIT. And now they have the kids take a SURVEY about you and it counts toward your evaluation! So if you are tough and make the kids work hard, they can lie and bash you and nobody will question!
Teaching jobs all over have been cut. The arts have been destroyed. New teachers and fighting with experienced teachers for jobs, so we’re stuck in the urban schools. The kids and the administration and the culture burn us out and we quit. 50% of teachers quit before their 5th year. Does that make you proud, Mr. President? We endure verbal and sometimes physical harassment, administration that doesn’t care, and rules and laws that protect violent children and not us. We endure parents that don’t give a shit. We endure parents who will threaten you. We can’t even live in the neighborhoods we teach in because they are so dangerous. Are you proud of what I do, Mr. President? Do you support the 20-something teachers who come in ready to change the world and leave broken and cynical? Do you care about us?
So Mr, President, instead of going to the Costco that was near my school yesterday, you should have visited one of the hundreds of schools in my county. Maybe then you could open your eyes to see what is going on and what we are dealing with.
But you don’t care. None of you do.0
How our country designs urban schools and their children to fail
- Massive stress is placed on standardized testing
- Teachers are forced to teach to the test because if the kids don’t do well, it makes the school and teacher “fail”
- In many states, including Maryland, student’s “growth” (aka test scores) determine 50% of a teacher’s observation. So if you are a great teacher but your students have behavioral problems or are chronically absent or are too tired or too hungry or have a special need or are ESL and don’t test well, then you are seen as inadequate and can be fired for it.
- When they have to teach to the tests, students lose out on social studies, health, and science until grade 5 or higher
- The arts and technology are being cut for budget and because they “don’t help with testing” even though it’s proven, for example, that music class helps students score better on reading and math
- Students who are ESL and special needs have to take the same test and their scores are counted with the other students, which makes the overall scores go down
- A student with an IEP is legally NOT allowed to held back for ANY reason, so kids who can’t even spell their own name have to take these standardized tests once they hit grade three.
- ESL and special needs students can excel in music and art but there is so much pressure put on testing that it makes them feel like failures when they can’t keep up
- There are 3 pre-tests and a post test AFTER the actual test, which takes away almost a month of instruction in the mornings. This makes the students very irritable and tired and increases behavioral issues.
- New tests are created constantly so that the testing companies make more and more money and force teachers to buy more materials from them. They also keep making tests harder so that urban schools will have to spend more money and take more time to figure them out.
- Urban schools are incredibly under-funded so that students who need an aide or a psychologist or some other help either won’t get it or they’ll get it once or twice a week because that aide/professional/counselor/special ed person has to shared with a bunch of other schools.
- Schools have resorted to adding extra weeks or hours onto the school day. This makes it hard for parents to get babysitters or take them to school so the kids just end up staying home. The earlier weeks and the longer days make the students more frustrated and more tired and, when they are older, more likely to drop out. They also do not pay the teachers any extra for this time or these weeks.
- New rules have changed suspensions. Suspensions make schools “look bad”, so they will do whatever they can to keep a student in school. In my fiance’s middle school, a student can cuss out a teacher and threaten them and they will only get a slap on the wrist and will be back in the teacher’s room the next day unless they have a weapon. While other means of punishment should be looked at, there are students with severe enough actions that they need to be kept away for the safety of their peers and teachers.
- Many urban schools under a certain number of students do not have a nurse
- Class sizes are monstrous because the schools don’t have enough money to employ enough teachers, so the teachers that are there have classes of 30-40 students and are expected to be able to give each child individualized attention, which is not possible.
- Teachers are stuck using out of date materials and many have to buy their own pencils, paper, and other supplies for their children.
And finally, when all of these things happen and a school is “failing”, the media and the government turn and blame everything on teachers and the union and tenure and they brainwash the public to go along with it so that nobody finds out the truth.1
Some things i have discovered while urban teaching music
Fifth graders do not like Metallica. First graders do, especially “Enter Sandman”.
Bluegrass > country
Fifth graders like Verdi’s “Dies Irae”
You will be begged to watch Annie
Boys are more open to the Nutcracker if you show them sections where the male is lifting the female a lot (ex. The Arabian Dance)
If you talk about how ballet dancers dance on their toes, be prepared for half the class (mostly boys) to try it and fall on the ground.
Students will whine about doing rhythm cards until you put a backbeat to it.
Students like to show off; bring in an audience (principal/teacher/secretary/ etc) and they will automatically use their best effort. PS It’s not just you; they will do it to everyone
If you have a dreidel in your hand, their listening skills multiply X3
Young children will dance to anything
Turn it into a game and they will learn it much faster
Kids can pronounce my name easily and will correct adults
You will want to scoop a few kids up and take them home instead of giving them back to their parents
The child has been molded by the parent; children are not “bad” by default
Instruments are a good bribing method
Hugs will make your day
Sometime all kids need is someone who will listen
And the stories they have will break your heart
With music, sometimes the best way to teach is just through exposure
Play is often a greater teaching tool than you gabbing
Seeing children teach each other while you simply monitor makes you feel like Superman
Seeing other teachers as exasperated as you are makes you feel a heck of a lot better
Children can have two faces; one with their peers, and one with you. The second one is the more honest one.
If you play/sing for your kids, it will probably blow their minds
Not every day will be productive, especially during testing or right before a break. That’s okay.
Lesson plans are not set in stone. Not even close.
I stutter a lot and the kids either don’t notice or don’t care
Utilize student helpers; make it something to be earned rather than something given for a favorite
IF you feel crappy, remember how you felt your first day and realize how far you have come.
One of my students said she wanted to go to high school online instead of regular school.
I asked her why.
She said, “Because kids in high school get shot”.
Remember this when you want to complain about high school and be thankful that this wasn’t your reality (and if it was, I am very sorry. I wish things were better).0