The Cartwright School District is very short on teachers this school year. My teaching partners, Sue and Julie, and I were given the choice of have extra kids in our class or having a permanent sub. We were told we were at the “bottom of the barrel” for subs as frightening memories of bad subs flashed through my brain I convinced my partners that we couldn’t do that to our students. I gave them a pep talk and assured them that with all our capabilities that we could jump this hurdle together. RAH! RAH! SIS-BOOM-BAH! After three and a half weeks of forty-seven 7th graders crammed into a room larger enough for twenty-five, my RAH! RAH! SIS-BOOM-BAH! has turned into OMG! WHAT-WAS-I-THINKING!
This group of students is the best. I had half of them in fifth grade and they went on to have wonderful sixth grade teachers, and the other half had two amazing teachers that looped with them in the fifth and sixth grade. They are well trained and well behaved (well . . . most of them). I think that is why we didn’t want someone that was there just because. I wanted our fourth partner to be as dedicated as Sue, Julie and myself. I wanted our fourth member of our team to love these kids as much as we do. I felt we were doing these students a great service by making sure that they didn’t have to spend any part of 7th grade with a substitute teacher that was just “phoning it in”.
I thought we could do it, and I was sure I could do it. I thought wrong! I am not a miracle worker. Forty-seven students in one room is tough. First, there is not enough room for everyone and my wheelchair. I’m thinking of building a second story. Then students can’t work in groups because it just gets too loud. When I get observed my Kagan structures score is going to be zero. Also, all day long it’s crowd-control. It’s hard for 7th graders to self-monitor when they’re almost sitting in someone else’s lap. Finally, we are stacking them deep and teaching them very cheap because nothing ever works in our rooms. I try to show a video for social studies and the sound quits working, or the Smart Board dies ONE MORE TIME or the internet is too slow and we’re streaming and streaming and streaming. There goes my score on my observation for multi-media use. I give up! I can’t do it!
You know you’ve made a huge mistake when:
- You can top anybody’s bad day at happy hour.
- You spend eight hours on the weekend grading one set of writing papers.
- You practically French kiss the tech guy for fixing your Smart Board one more time.
- A student sadly tells you this is their last and you cheer quietly in your head while trying to keep a sad face.
- You don’t vigilantly pursue an absentee student because you are thankful you have a chair for the kid that has to wait and see where there is a seat available.
- You giggle when teachers complain that they had to split a class due to no sub and now they have 34 students in their class FOR ONE DAY!
- You are actually pondering about asking your administrator to hire “that” sub that makes you shudder whenever you see “that” sub lumbering down the hallway toward your grade level.
- Three grown women are quietly sobbing together while trying to write lesson plans, restructure a schedule (one more time), and dig up artifacts for a district meeting that they have to be at in twenty minutes because they feel like nobody cares.
I think the hardest part is that feeling that nobody cares. Last year I wrote a blog, No One Has Come, about the lack of district support with our 7th grade students and their lack of teachers. I know there are no teachers available. I hope the district is doing everything possible to solve the problem, but I feel like if Sue, Julie and I continue to trudge along and stay silent that the district will think that It’s okay to leave forty-seven students in a classroom, and that the district will continue to allow big numbers in classrooms in the future. It would be nice to know that the Human Resources department is doing everything they possible can. It would be nice to know that they are using ALL AVAILABLE personnel to fill all the open teaching positions across the district. It would be nice to know that the ‘big wigs’ care. Actually, it would be nice to know that anybody cares.
Labor Day is coming! After Labor Day there is always an influx of new students. I guess I better go to Home Depot for lumber and get started on that loft for my classroom.
Suck it up, Cathy. You can do this. I have faith in Sue, Julie and you.
The Flip Side
Wow! You have more kids in your class than we have bunnies in the yard. Hey, there goes another one now! Gotta go!