Miserable Teaching with 20 boys & the Toothless Wonder

20 boys and the toothless wonder. story of my first week of teaching

***This post is part of the Real Army Wives series, which runs every Monday on storiesofourboys.com. For last week’s chapter click here.***

Sunday, Aug. 17, 2003

Oh, Alan,

I missed you the MOST today!

We had “Back to School” night, where we meet the parents. Everything was fine except instead of 22, I now have 25, and also this grandparent with two children in my class stayed after and basically threatened me.

Yeah. This ignorant, toothless wonder, with a strong cigarette odor about her, told me, in a menacing tone, that her kids will break all my rules, and if I get on to them too much or hurt their feelings, she will come down to the school and yell at me, and she assured me she will yell so loudly that everyone will hear. (Yes, I only wish I were kidding.)

Well, I didn’t say anything in response to that. I dryly and quietly said, “Well, hopefully we won’t have any problems. Did you see their homework folders?”

I drove away from school bawling, not just because of that one parent, but also from so many emotions. After coming home and talking to both of our mothers on the phone, I started feeling better. Then I actually got a lot of work done.

But I’m so exhausted, and I have to get up at 5:30 tomorrow. It’s 11 already, so I’m going to bed. I wish you could give me a massage tonight! I need you! I love you.

Love, April

 

Tues., Aug. 19, 2003

Alan,

Hey! This was the 2nd day of school, and I survived! It wasn’t even torture! It was fine. Yay!!!

I’m so exhausted though.

Today was SO much better. The administration has just been incredibly supportive. I had my kids write about their first day of school today, and that was very interesting. They thought they just had a fun day of school. No one said that I had no idea what I was doing or anything.

But Alan, out of 25 students, I have 20 BOYS!

I wonder if God is preparing me to have lots of sons! Oh, dear! But you know what? Out of 20 boys & 5 girls, I have already seen THREE kids cry, and they were ALL boys.

Andrew cried because he’s just whiny. Michael cried because he didn’t have his breakfast money..Oh!.. Make that 4! Chris cried because he didn’t know if he was supposed to ride the bus or not, and Matthew cried because I gave him a “warning.”

The student that really breaks my heart is my reading L.D. student, Tyler, who sits quietly in my class everyday and when asked what he wants to learn this year, he will tell you the same answer every time:

“I want to learn how to read.”

He tries so hard. Oh, it just breaks my heart. He needs one-on-one help so badly, and no one will give it to him. He is a fourth grader, the age of a fifth grader, and I wish he were spending a reading hour each day with the special ed teacher. That is what he needs, but she seems to have no plans to work with him at all.

Meanwhile, Alan, my friends and family are all being so supportive, and I’m thankful.

Most of all, I’m thankful for the prayers that you and others were saying for me. Let me tell you, God was all over my class today–all over. I have never felt such sincere gratitude towards my Heavenly Father as I do today.

And to you, Alan. Your phone call last night was on my mind all day long. You are just like one of my angels, no matter how far away you may be. I love you so much.

But it’s 10:50 pm, so I HAVE to get to bed. I love you!

Your silly wife,

April

 

I had little time to spend with my Army Wife pals during this phase, but Sarah would often show up in my classroom after school and help me get everything ready for the next day. I don’t know what I would have done without her!!

That First Week

It seemed like I couldn’t get anything right that first week. I had about three boys who were so unruly, I did not know how to keep them under control. All day I felt like I was having miniature heart attacks. I would get all worked up, my heart would pound wildly, and I’d have these adrenaline surges, but there was nothing I could do with all that energy, which left me just wanting to scream.

This was probably the beginning of my heart problem, but I did not know that then, so life without beta blockers went on..

There were two AmeriCorps workers put in my classroom to observe, or maybe to help, but I had no clue as to how to utilize their help because I was only figuring things out myself. AmeriCorps is an organization much like Peace Corps, only they work here in the U.S.

The sweet AmeriCorps lady, probably in her late 30s, reassured me day after day.

“I feel so bad for you. I know you’re struggling, but you are so nice to them. They need this. Many of them don’t have anyone like you, who is sweet to them. Don’t be discouraged.”

That was true, and it should have been encouraging, but instead I felt like I was drowning in this job. I only had the AmeriCorps workers that first week. After that, they moved on to help in the high school.

There was no planning period, so I was with the children all day long. They didn’t even leave the classroom for lunch. Trays were brought to them, and they ate at their desks.

Alan had been right when he’d said I had not actually spent much time with children.

I enjoyed reading to them and even teaching wasn’t bad, but keeping order felt impossible.

From the very beginning, every single day was a countdown until summer and freedom from this misery. Why had I ever thought I wanted to teach???

Each night I’d stay at school until 6:45 or so, trying to get caught up. Then when the weekend came, I still needed to grade papers and work on lesson plans.

That first week my washing machine also quit working and flooded my kitchen completely. With my work schedule, it took me 14 hours to get it completely cleaned up.

Are there really people who love teaching? I wondered.

I was literally a square peg trying to shove myself into a round hole.

But it was only the first week. Surely things would improve, right?

When it rains, it pours.

My teacher gig did not improve much as the weeks went by. The toothless wonder turned out to not be too big of a problem since half the time she didn’t even bother to send her children to school. Naturally, their grades were suffering.

Another parent kept grilling me with questions about “the curriculum”. Gracious, I barely even knew what curriculum meant. I was making up my lesson plans as I went, which is definitely not what I figured I should tell her…This was my student teaching year! Only because Texas had a teacher shortage, I was a student teacher with no overseer, other than the assistant principal.

The Second Week

The second week of school, Mrs. Brown started sitting with my class during lunch. I was so ecstatic for this 30 minute break from the classroom!! I practically leaped into my Grand Am and sped off to the Dairy Queen for a cheeseburger, feeling like a convict being let out of prison.

Meanwhile, the phone calls from Iraq slid to a screeching halt. Casualty rates were rising, and something was going on with the phones. Almost every time Alan tried to call me, he was cut off after “Hello.” It was heart-breaking.

My neighbor, Shelby, must have been going through something too because she was screaming and cussing people out on the phone even more than usual, so I got to go to bed to the sound of that coming through my paper-thin master bedroom wall each night.

I rarely had any time to spend with my friends anymore. It felt like the lights had gone out on me, and I was suffocating and losing 5 pounds/week, when I was already considered “underweight.”

When you find a job that is your calling in life, or you’ve always known it was something you wanted to do, or you have a knack for it and enjoy the challenge, I think you are better able to handle the negatives of that job. Part of my problem was that I had no true desire to even be a teacher. I knew going into this that trying to control other people stresses me out. Managing people is not my gift.

The truth was that I never actually wanted this career in the first place.

Teaching doesn’t bother me, it’s the crowd control that was killing me, but that’s a big part of being a successful classroom teacher. I wrestled with this in my heart. I hated my job and missed my husband so much, but I had no idea what to do about it.

 

Come back next week to see how I handled this!

Click here to read last week’s chapter of this story.

 

 

 

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True Stories of Real Army Wives: My First Teaching Job

my very first teaching job. True Stories of Real Army Wives during deployment

Sun., Aug. 10, 2003

Alan,

Hey Babe! Tomorrow is my first day of work. In case you haven’t yet gotten my previous letter, I got hired by Graham Elementary School downtown yesterday! Yay!!

I’ll be making $32,000 this year. It’s a state charter school serving mostly low-income students, but it’s located in a church. Yeah, it’s different, but I’m excited about it. I’ll be teaching 3rd and 4th grade in one classroom, all subjects.

It’s going to be tough. School starts the 18th, but teachers start tomorrow. I have to be there at 9:15 am, and from now on, I have a full-time job! It’s exciting and yet terrifying at the same time.

Last night, I cooked dinner for 8, mostly our neighbors: Elsie, Cloe, Annie, Kayla, Katherine, Jay, Phan, and myself. After dinner, Jay left and all the girls stayed and talked while I cleaned up, joining them occasionally in the living room.

I’m glad you met Kayla’s husband. She’s a real sweet girl. She’s enrolled at Central Texas College.

I got those three cameras developed today. I cannot believe you managed to use up 3 cameras in 1 month. And almost all of them are landscapes! Take pics of you and your friends, geez. Just do the method we use to take pics of ourselves, hold the camera in your right hand and click. I do it.

 

my very first teaching job. True Stories of Real Army Wives during deployment

Not all of Alan’s “landscape photos” were uninteresting. This one is of the Tikrit Palace Compound, which became 4th ID Headquarters during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Alan!! I’m so nervous!! How can I be a teacher??

I’m so scared! But it did hurt my feelings in one of your letters when you said you didn’t know how I’d be with kids because you’ve never seen me with children. Hello! Kid’s Klub! And did you ever notice Laura Ellen and Matthew like me? I know you didn’t mean to hurt my feelings, but I couldn’t help it.

It’s so weird that I’m starting a new job tomorrow, and you don’t even know about it. I hope you call or email soon so I can tell you. I love you so much, and I hate not being able to share stuff with you. But I’ll deal.

I keep having these dreams that we’ve lost touch, and in them I’m always sad because you never call or visit.

In the dream, I’m all confused, and I don’t understand why we aren’t together. Dream April doesn’t know that you’re in Iraq. Many times you’re just in another state, but always we’ve lost touch, and I’m so hurt.

Depressing, huh? I guess my subconscious knows you’re gone, misses you, and feels abandoned, like a cat in a box on the side of the road. Ok. Ok. Sorry. I’ll stop.

I MISS YOU! I miss you so much I just want to cry! And if I keep thinking about it, I will cry, so I better move on to another topic.

Your family has been really helpful with the teaching job. Your mom and Ellen gave me lots of good ideas, which will help. I’m glad there are lots of teachers in the family.

I love you so much, Alan. Keep praying for me. The first year of teaching is super hard, but add that to the stress of a year-long deployment, and the thought is foreboding. I’m just thankful I’m a Christian. I couldn’t do anything on my strength alone. All credit is due Him.

Thank you for marrying me, Alan. If you were here, I would climb up in your lap and hug you so close and just have a good cry, while you tucked my hair behind my ears and told me everything will be okay. How I wish you were here. I know you do too.

I love you, you big stud muffin.

Forever Yours,

April

 

************

Was it a bad sign that I hadn’t even started my job yet, and already I wanted to cry?

Starting a full-time job like teaching was exhausting, and I was still trying to be a good housekeeper and a faithful friend. The funny thing is that once you have a full-time job, whether you are a man or a woman, something has to give.

No one can do ALL the things. Even without kids, we have to delegate things to give ourselves space to breathe.

When I was in high school and college, I worked, but I had certainly never been a school teacher before. To this day, I will tell you that all teachers are underpaid, and I have all the respect in the world for them!

 

***********

Tues., Aug. 12, 2003

10:48 pm

Dear Alan,

I just have too much to do to get to bed early! And I’m sleepy! But I guess you know what that’s like.

I had in-service training from 9-3. I stayed after and talked to Mrs. W. I can’t remember her name, but it starts with a W. There were so many questions I still had unanswered. Mrs. W. was very helpful, and she will be extremely easy to work for.

After work, Annie needed me to drive her to the PX so she could buy a phone card to call her fiancée, Drew, in Germany.

Then I had to drive to Copperas Cove and fill out my “I have a job” form. By the time I got home it was 4:45. I came in and changed, vacuumed the house, tidied up, and collapsed on the sofa at 5:30 or so for a brief break in which I consumed like literally 20 ounces of blue Gatorade in 2 minutes flat.

I was exhausted!

So I made myself dinner, and I was all excited about watching the Miss Teen USA pageant, but I didn’t even really get to watch it because the phone rang. It was your mom, and the call was helpful because I got some good ideas from her. Then my mom called, which was good, but they were both very long calls.

Then I had to get online and submit my application for certifications, and I got that done, and that brings me to now.

I don’t have any idea how full-time workers keep a clean house!

There is delicate laundry hanging to dry all over the place, dirty dishes in the sink, clean, unfolded laundry and school supplies everywhere! I could get much more done if the phone didn’t ring so much, but I know that it is good for me that so many people love me and want to talk to me. Even still, I did ignore three other phone calls.

Oh, Alan! I CAN’T WAIT ’til you get back! I need you! That would help my busy-ness because you can take over the laundry. You’re better at it than me anyway.

 

my very first teaching job. True Stories of Real Army Wives during deployment

Me, in teacher classes. Yes, I used to be tiny, but I promise I do have a right arm. That was an odd angle.

 

I also learned more about the school and my room today. This school is fine arts oriented. Many children miss out on opportunities for piano, dance, those types of lessons because their parents can’t afford it, like when I was little. I wanted to take dance but couldn’t because it was too expensive.

This school has several fine arts teachers to provide those services. They have chorus, piano, violin, ballet, etc. Really! Pretty cool, huh?

Yet they have no media center…not so cool…But I think it’s a good school, and I’m excited about working here.

I love you, Alan, and I miss you so much. I get letters from you constantly, almost everyday. It means so much to me! You know that though because I’m sure you feel the same way about me.

I know I’m complaining about getting too many phone calls, so allow me to clarify. I am thankful that I am loved. It is a blessing. Calls from you MAKE my day. I love it.

So you just call ANYTIME.  I love you so much, and I always will. Hang in there. It’ll be winter, or at least fall, before you know it!

I love you,

April

*************

I didn’t even get to go into my classroom until the third day of training, and there was such an overwhelming amount of cleaning, decorating, organizing, and planning to do in there.

My friend Sarah was a life-saver. She rescued me day after day, organizing my things, filing my papers, helping me move desks. I couldn’t have done it without her.

We poured ourselves into setting up that classroom, which left little time for planning the actual lessons! I was left furiously scouring the internet for good first-day-of-school ideas the very night before school was to start.

And I’ll tell you all about the first week of school, and the mother I called “the Toothless Wonder” — Don’t worry. Only in my head I called her that– next week!  😉

 

Want to catch up? Click here for last week’s post and here for the very first post in this series.

 

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Letters to War June 24, 2003: The Teaching Test Troubles

******This post is part of the Real Army Wives series which runs every Monday on storiesofourboys.com. The series follows our journey through the 1st year of the Iraq war, 2003-2004. **********

 

June 24, 2003

Dear Alan,

……Operation Iraq is getting more news time now. The big issue is the mounting amount of coalition troop deaths since the official end of the war. Just this week there were at least 6 British troops killed, and American lives are constantly lost. » Read more

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