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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