A Mosaic In Progress

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Feb 11 2013

I Wanted to Quit

To assuage any worries out there, I have no intention of quitting. I am committed to this job and I really do love my kids. If you read the TeachForUs blogs often, you’ll probably come to the conclusion that this job is very difficult. I guess the one thing that I haven’t gotten use to yet is how to deal with getting kicked when you’re down.

Yes, the workload is quite heavy but I was already forewarned of that. In fact, that’s probably the least challenging part of the job. However, the verbal barbs and arguments have just been unrelenting. The most harmless request for correction is met with loud outbursts, frustration, and tears. I’ve had a student throw staples down the hallway and come to my classroom making folders and folders on a computer desktop only to cuss at me when I call him out for it. New lessons prepared are only opportunities for students to complain. Then there’s the occasional 10 PM and lunch time phone calls from parents about how I don’t explain something well enough.

Today was by far one of the worst days I’ve had as a teacher. Mondays are always tricky but I was definitely not prepared. I am just exhausted mentally and way behind on grading. Of course, it results in a number of complaints because my lesson sucked … yeah I’ll admit it. Way too boring, way too technical, and no connection to the real-world. All things that are suppose to be eliminated in project-based learning! It’s not a disruption if someone complains; in fact, I welcome them. But it doesn’t mean it stings any less.

I guess the thing that has been most frustrating is I feel like I’m still failing even though it is my second semester here. Sure, I’m a first-year teacher but I guess I had the expectation that things would be better after the break. It really hasn’t been and the only thing that has really changed about me is now I act pissed off all the time. No, I don’t yell and bash kids but I’m just a lot shorter. And the most frustrating part? I tell myself that things will get better in the next class and it really doesn’t. Case in point my last period of today.

I had to make a call to a family friend just for a quick sigh of relief. I felt a lot better during that time and told myself, “Just need to get through the next period.” Nothing could’ve prepared me for it though. I have a student named CR who has gotten in trouble in my class over and over again. She believes I’m targeting her. Of course, she continues to talk over me and ignore me during instruction. Next thing I know, she throws staples towards the front of my room. Three classes in a row that I’ve had to do something to her and she knows that too. Here we go with the complaints … “Mr. L always gotta put me in trouble” “20 other people in this room and he takes mine” Then this remark was the one that I had to take some time to get over … “No, Mr. L is gettin on my case ‘cuz I’m black.” At that point, I pulled her aside to talk but she continues on this rant and ignores the fact that I wanted to even talk to her. I couldn’t deal with it anymore … I had to kick her out.

I thought that was at least a small reprieve and then I see a student fall out of his chair. I approach the student who knocked him over and he denies doing anything. I stood my ground and ask to hand over his student card that grants him privileges in school. He yanks it off his neck and blurts out, “That Chinese –” and before I even let him finish I stare right into his eyes and say, “OK so being Chinese is something negative is it?! You might see it as something to make fun of but I don’t. I’m proud of being Chinese and it makes me sick that you can make fun of me for it!” Instant silence. And it was at that point that I wanted to quit.

I stepped out to grab some disciplinary forms choking back some tears. BH sees me in the office and just whispers, “What’s wrong?” I just answer, “It just stinks when someone makes fun of me for something I have no control over.” I come back to my classroom and three of my students ask to know what happened. One already knew but in an attempt to show empathy she only responds with, “Am I allowed to say, Mr. L?” All I said was, “It’s ok. I’ll just say that I know that I am Asian but I don’t need a person to point it out to me in his or her anger.” At any point in time, I could brush off that comment with no problem. Heck, I had a lot worse during institute. But it was today … and I did what all of my coaches told me that I shouldn’t ever do. I wiped away some tears.

I’ll conclude this post with an e-mail from the student who made the Chinese remark. It’s a small reminder of why I shouldn’t quit.

“i am truly sorry about what i have done. I know that it was not right and that i should be very ashamed of what i did. I am. i am very ashamed at what i have done and do not find one bit of it funny. You do not know how bad i feel and will feel every time i see you for what i said. I will never do it again i can assure you that much i am very sorry i feel terrible. This is not a letter to get me out of trouble this is just a letter from the heart and how i feel about the whole thing. I DID NOT touch [the student who fell out of his chair] though i promise you that he fell out his self trying to get me in trouble i am so sorry for the way i acted and the way i handled thing. All i ask is for you to not hate me and to please not think that i am racist because i am not at all i just do not think before i say things and that is my problem that always gets me in trouble and that is what got me in trouble today i am really sorry and i apologize for what i did please just don’t expel me or suspend me i can not get in any more trouble or i will get killed literately killed. I am sorry and i hope that you will forgive me for the wrong thing that i have done.”

One Response

  1. Lindsay'

    Hi ,
    My name is Lindsay Schoenig. I am a former Delta teacher and current grad student writing my masters thesis on identifying the barriers to the adoption of the community school model in Mississippi Delta public schools. I have created an anonymous online survey that I am looking to have ms delta public school teachers fill out. I would really appreciate it if you could take a few minutes to complete the survey and maybe pass along the link to your colleagues and other teachers you know in the region. Here is the link to the survey:
    Thanks so much!

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Midwesterner being thankful for every written experience … even when it hurts =)

Mississippi Delta
High School

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