Wednesday, March 10, 2021

My New Job

My first year as a teacher was my worst. I did a lot of on-the-job learning. One thing I learned was that my supervisor was out of her freaking mind. I had no experience. She promised to help me with grading, failed to do so, and then managed to hate me and everything I stood for when I didn't get grades in on time. This resulted in things like not getting enough books when I needed them and having a kid named Frankie steal them out of the bookroom for me. 

I had students who made me crazy, but some who were helpful. One, after I told him I was going crazy keeping up with all the mail in my box, kindly arrived every morning before I did and tossed it all into the trash. While I missed meetings and such as a result, I could always say I was never notified, and no one was able to prove otherwise. During my second year, I was in a new school with a new supervisor who was actually supportive, and I started to grow into the job a little.

Every year was a little better, until this one. I'm doing the best I can, and I'm not getting into any particular trouble beyond that of being chapter leader. That's perpetual, and I've grown used to it. I'll go so far as to say helping people is very rewarding and despite my complaints, I ultimately love doing it.

But man, this year is my second worst.  Online learning thing is just not what I signed up for. I would never have lasted in a job that entailed sitting at a desk, and that's the job I have now. While we may open wider next year, I don't think we're going back to doing what we actually do. 

In our school, we had until March 8th to negotiate with students to resolve NX grades. I had a few on the borderline, pushed them a little, and managed to get them to pass before the semester even ended. I had a few others who had done nothing all year who emailed me, asking what they could do to pass. They were surprised when I said they had to make up all the work. I think they expected me to give them some sort of magic formula to pass while doing nothing whatsoever. Most didn't do anything at all, as per usual, and are still sitting on those NX grades.

One surprised me. All of a sudden I was getting notice that assignments were being made up. Look, there's a composition, 168 days late, from last semester, and there it is. And there are a dozen more. Wow, this guy is really working very hard, What determination. So I open the assignment, and it's blank. I give him a zero, to replace the zero he already had. I open another, with the same result. I decided not to open any more, as life is short.

But look, now he's making up the assignments for this semester as well. And they're blank too. This is remarkable, because I've been concerned about my students getting too much homework, Most of my homework assignments, lately, have been done collectively, in class. All students needed to do was write down the answers upon which we'd agreed and submit them. Still, this guy handed me blank papers.

I gave another zero. I wrote him a note, saying please don't hand me blank assignments. I told him I look at every assignment, and that I would give a grade of zero to any assignments that were blank. And yet I got another. I wrote him a DM in class, asking him why he kept handing me blank assignments. But I got no response. 

Some of my failing students attend after school tutoring. One student, who did little work, told me his tutor told him to ask what he could do to pass. My answer was the same. I wonder what value there is in hiring a tutor who doesn't urge students to do current assignments, yet urges them to find out what they can do to make up for those they missed. 

I had one student who emailed me multiple times asking for the Zoom code. I gave it to him each and every time. Then he posted his question as a message in Google Classroom. I told him this was the fourth time I was giving it to him, that it was the same, and here it is. To my surprise, he actually showed up twice so far, albeit late and unprepared. Maybe he'll turn around and pass, but having failed everything last semester, and having participated not at all in my class, I'm not holding my breath. 

I call parents and they tell me their kids don't want to attend online classes. I'm not sure exactly how that's different from saying they don't want to go to physical school buildings, but I haven't got a great retort.

I have other students who have genuine issues. I understand when they're unable to go to class. I stay in touch with them, and have thus far avoided NX with them. 

What I keep coming back to is this isn't the job I signed up for. It's not the job I grew to love. There are bright spots, with irrepressible kids I've gotten to know, or kids I knew previously, but this is the longest teaching year of my life. I'm glad not to travel in and out by car, but I'd much rather be doing my real job. I know this isn't it.

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