Recently my students have begun yelling "Unbelievable!" anytime something annoying happens. Usually they mean it as a joke, but most of the time they say it, I agree entirely. The conditions in which I work are truly unbelievable. I don't really have time for a decent post tonight, but, at the least, I wanted to post a list of unbelievable things that happened to me today - very much in line with two other posts I've done this year - here and here.
- On my commute to work this morning, the six train wasn't going past Hunts Point because there was "a problem with the switches." So, in addition to my walk across a snowy Harlem, I also had a twenty minute walk from the Hunts Point metro station to my school.
- When school began, about a third of our staff had not arrived (mostly due to the train). Breakfast wasn't distributed on time, and as I sat down to do some planning, I was called for a coverage. I babysat a Spanish class for fifteen minutes until the teacher arrived and then went back to the teachers' room. On my way back, breakfast was being carted out from classroom to classroom. Kids in classrooms who saw the breakfast cart go by their rooms without stopping left their classes to follow it. I had to to help our poor office secretary fight off hungry kids left and right as we tried to follow some sort of procedure.
- When I arrived late to my fourth-period class (late because I had to stop kids from going into the bathroom that had its radiators urinated on the previous day - and therefore was smoking burnt urine into the hallways), I discovered that there was no chalk, white board markers, or tape to hang up chart paper (but there was chart paper) in the room I was assigned for that period. Since my lesson demanded the ability to write on some sort of surface, I spent the first ten minutes of class looking for one of those things. In my frenzy, I asked one of my students to go ask one of the administrators if she had any or all of the materials I needed. Five minutes later, the student came back and told me the answer was yes, but the administrator wouldn't give any of them to her without a pass from me verifying that she was telling the truth. Finally, one of my students pulled out a small roll of tape he found in his backpack. We posted a piece of chart paper on the wall and began to practice a DBQ essay. Five minutes into my DBQ lesson, the radiator began making loud clanging noises, like someone was hitting a pipe with a hammer. I spent the next twenty minutes yelling at my students so they could hear me. I watched in amazement as they worked on their essays with the distraction. They deal with that all the time.
- At lunch we had a conversation about a fight that hospitalized a student the previous day. Most of us agreed the student arrested for the assault should never have been placed, by anyone, in anything other than a self-contained environment. (Update: the student arrested was back in school on Monday.)
- During my planning period I sat at a computer in the teachers' room while other teachers talked about the oppressive work environment for teachers in NYC because there is not a single quiet place in the building where a person could actually get any meaningful planning done. One of the teachers mentioned that she knew of a school where the administrator had told teachers explicitly not to have union meetings, declared the assistant principal "chapter leader" (which I guess means that the AP is responsible for interpreting the contract), and invited E4E in for lunch.
- At the end of the day, a scheduling disaster created a situation for the last class of the day in which all of the 11th-grade teachers aside from myself were scheduled to attend PDs, attend college classes, or had called in sick. As a result, I ended up with the 11th grade in my classroom. After five minutes of trying to get their attention, I just began removing the ones who weren't interested in an education. At that point in the day, I'm not sure I could have handled any other strategy.
- During the last class of the day, I gave my students a DBQ from the global regents to practice. Those who finished took nearly three hours, and the DBQ is only a third of the entire test.
- After school I went to take care of some clerical work and was reminded that there's a good chance that I haven't been paid for a number of per session hours.
- Before I left school at 7pm, I made copies of the Spanish Regents exams in preparation for a mock Regents exam we're giving next Tuesday. Four copies in, the machine ran out of paper. My administrator didn't know where any paper was, so I foraged the school for about fifteen minutes before I found a single ream in the main office, which I probably wasn't supposed to take anyway because it's for attendance staff.
The kids are right.