Teacher in Baltimore City (school district, living in, most dangerous)
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I was wondering if there are any BCPSS teachers out there that could share their experiences with me. This is my 2nd year of teaching in Bmore. Everyone says that all urban teachers all over the country have the same strife, but thats not my experience. I have taught in E Los Angeles and NY middle school for 7 years, but never have I become so depressed by my job.
I could stand to hear about other experiences as right now quitting and getting a desk job somewhere is quite appealing.
I feel like it is a losing battle. I can't compete with street mentality or the playas in the game of the entertainment industry. (I don't have a Bently or 4 kt earrings and I drive a 6 year old car that has scratches on it.) I certainly am having a hard time selling the fact that finding the main idea of paragraph #3 in the passage about Lions in the Seregeti is the key to success. (BCPSS selects the reading passages, not me) Though I fake it and approach each day with optomism and encouragement for the sake of my students, but I am growing weary of faking it. Maybe that means I should get out.
Most parents don't call back when I try to get them involved, and school adminstrators have tied hands. The few serious behavior children cause at least 20 minutes of instructional time per day to be devoted toward dealing with them. Its not that they are rotten kids though, they just are products of their experiences, growing up tough and being exposed to much more than a 12 year old should. Its not that they don't like me, its just they are used to getting away with these behaviors year after year, as per their former teachers. Their hands have been tied too.
Many of the children are "hardened" by living in the 2nd most dangerous city, being exposed to seediness, social ills and an astronomical dropout rate, few male role models in their lives besides Young Buck, Lil Wayne, Rich Boy, Ocho Cinco...etc... Quite frankly when the media promotes music and sport figures so much the kids really believe that this is what they will be, they don't realize that less than 2% of those who try actually make $ from these careers.
I seek advice from collegues, books, parents, students, adminstrators alike, but no one seems to have the answer. Those close to retirement tell me they dont see the schools getting any better, those younger teachers tell me they are just putting in their time or feel like I do and a few...a small few...have an optimism that I want.
I could stand to hear about other experiences as right now quitting and getting a desk job somewhere is quite appealing.
Laurus75, I'm moved to hear of your commitment to and empathy for your students. Your presence everyday must be something nourishing for them given the lives they return to out of school. But if you're feeling that your commitment to teaching is diminishing, then you could do nothing better than taking care of yourself by doing something else for a while. This might serve to recharge the batteries as well as helping you to see more clearly what kind of difference you had been making as a teacher.
In the meantime, maybe you could help the rest of us by sharing your experiences and thoughts about solutions.
Thanks for responding to my post. You echoed the sentiment of others with whom I spoke and whose advice/guidance I trust. Its not an easy job at all, but one that is necessary and we never know who is in our classes that really needs a caring teacher to show up everyday. It may not be all or most, but certainly there is at least one kid whose life will be impacted by a teacher who truly cares.
Laurus, hats off to you for your willingness to make a difference in the lives of our children. I wish I had something positive or encouraging to tell you so that you'd hang in there, but you have to follow your heart. And above all, you MUST take care of yourself and do what's best for you. If you find yourself burned out, you will not be giving your best to the children, and that won't do them any good either.
Sorry it has taken me this long to get back to you. I read your post a couple of weeks ago...and had accidentally forgotten about it.
I am extremely sorry to hear that you are not enjoying your teaching experience here in Baltimore. I understand how frustrating it can be. Let me address each of your points...and add some of my own.
****I feel like it is a losing battle. I can't compete with street mentality or the playas in the game of the entertainment industry. (I don't have a Bently or 4 kt earrings and I drive a 6 year old car that has scratches on it.) I certainly am having a hard time selling the fact that finding the main idea of paragraph #3 in the passage about Lions in the Seregeti is the key to success. (BCPSS selects the reading passages, not me) Though I fake it and approach each day with optomism and encouragement for the sake of my students, but I am growing weary of faking it. Maybe that means I should get out.
Adhering to the BCPSS curriculum can be nauseating. How about stating your objectives on the board, as well? Have you ever seen another school district do that? I have not. Guess what? I don't do it. They can come in each day..and I won't put it up. There are countless other ways of learning the objective than that. ( I teach 5th ..and I was supposed to put one up for each subject.) I finally chose to work at a charter school. I have enjoyed every second of working there. Its funny......working with the same type of population....but getting much better results by teaching the way I KNEW would work all along. A variety of books....some direct instruction..some project based learning...and A TON of field trips based on what we are learning in the classroom. A happy balance in the classroom with real life application.
***Most parents don't call back when I try to get them involved, and school adminstrators have tied hands. The few serious behavior children cause at least 20 minutes of instructional time per day to be devoted toward dealing with them. Its not that they are rotten kids though, they just are products of their experiences, growing up tough and being exposed to much more than a 12 year old should. Its not that they don't like me, its just they are used to getting away with these behaviors year after year, as per their former teachers. Their hands have been tied too.
Here is my issue with this. IF a parent has not called you..hasn't answered emails or letters home....do you REALLY think this parent is going to help? Its a new day and age and many of the kids are their own parents. They need guidance on how to do things correctly....and thats where you come in. Don't waste your time worrying about parents. In fact, finding that parent might bring on a bigger headache. It sounds like you have learned the hard way, like me, and don't take the students' outbursts personal.
***Many of the children are "hardened" by living in the 2nd most dangerous city, being exposed to seediness, social ills and an astronomical dropout rate, few male role models in their lives besides Young Buck, Lil Wayne, Rich Boy, Ocho Cinco...etc... Quite frankly when the media promotes music and sport figures so much the kids really believe that this is what they will be, they don't realize that less than 2% of those who try actually make $ from these careers.
Just like my parents' parents hated them listening to Elvis..and my parents hated me listening to Beastie Boyz...life will go on. (by the way I have Ocho Cinco on my fantasy team so don't be so hard on him ) But I do understand what you are saying. Here is some advice......be extremely "up to date" with the latest in pop culture, sports stars, etc..... Like you said ..make sure they understand how tough it is to "MAKE IT" like the famous ones did.
I am not sure where you are teaching. There are some tough schools out there..with some equally as tough administrators. My advice to you is this: 1) Find a school that fits you. For me..it was a school that allowed me to take my students on extensive field trips. FOR THE FIRST TIME I have taught....my kids made AYP. Not only did they make AYP, they kicked its ass. Improving 43% in Math and 10% in Reading. I KNOW it was due to the real life application of what I taught in the classroom. 2) If you don't find something that fits you...don't tease yourself. Move on to a different job or a different district. Baltimore is challenging....but at the same time the city offers SO MUCH in the way of Science and History..making learning come alive unlike anywhere else in the state. I hope you find something that is what you are looking for. If you want, feel free to PM me and I can talk more in depth with you. I would love to give you a tour of school, too.
Hi. Thanks for taking the time to respond to the post. When I wrote the original, I just felt saddened by the seemingly hopelessness of the schools. (lack of effort of the majority, lack of positive goals, constant put downs, crab mentality, violent neighhoods, strong influence of the media and pop culture) It helps to hear from others too. It isn't at all that I don't love what I do, I truly do and am at an excellent school with a supportive principal.
Oh and I happen to love Ocho Cinco, I didn't intend to come across as being hard on him. He just approached rules, discipline and structure with the non chalant defiance that is so apparent in today's pop culture. I enjoy Ludacris,Terrel Owens and even 50 cent. But let's be real, they perpetuate that defiant attitude that is apparent in schools. I was commenting on the fact that they are very hard to compete with, because they do come across as much more hip and successful then their hardworking teachers. I happen to have good behavior management, but it comes out in other ways, such as nearly every boy in the room wanting to be a rapper or basketball player, and girls who want to literally slice each other's throats during lunch... literally. They idolize the women from Charm School and Miss New York. The media makes it seem like there is room for everyone in those industries. I follow a lot of pop culture also because that is a lot of my personal interests.
And you're right most of the parents remain uninvolved for many reasons (this is the 2nd city I have taught in, yet the social ills and poverty in Baltimore seem to contribute in a immense way)
I guess I just really want the kids to have more than they have and my heart has a hard time accepting that the road ahead of them is a difficult one. I wish they didn't have so much to deal with outside of school that causes apathy to education. Sometimes it does feel like a losing battle, but that doesn't mean I don't go everyday and give it my all. Most veteran (I have taught for 6 years) who have taught for many more years often say to focus on the 3 or 4 students who give effort and let the other fail if they want to, I just can't do that so much. I don't know how long I will stay in the classroom, but it is definitely where I want to be right now.
I had a very good friend who taught at Harlem Park Middle School. A very driven, smart, funny guy. Loved kids. Very much up to challenges. But he quit after two years even though they were about to give him a raise. Kids would start fighting in the middle of class, would curse him every day, etc. He had one kid stop coming to school, and when he told the administration, they did nothing. So he looked into it on his own -- turned out the kid's mother "sold" him to a crack dealer: in exchange for the kid working as a lookout & drug delivery boy nine hours a day, the mother got free crack. But that meant no school, of course. He reported this to the administration and was chastised for trying to be a "white knight." The stories of violence, malnourishment, and general neglect were daily. The whole thug BS was unbearable -- any discipline would be met with threats and sometimes violent acting out.
He quit and became a BMW motorcycle mechanic for a few years. Better pay, more intellectual stimulation, more rewarding. Then he went back to school, got a degree in Special Ed and a job NOT in Baltimore City, and remembered why he loved teaching so much.
I really hate to say this, because Baltimore needs as many dedicated teachers as it can get, but at some point you really have to think about self-preservation. To be honest, it sounds like you've already decided in the back of your mind to get out. It's a sane and understandable decision. Don't feel guilty about it. You've contributed way more to these kids than most people (including many of their parents) ever will.
Laurus....... don't listen those veteran teachers. They are a major part of why the city has failing schools. Just teach the 3 to 4? And let the rest of the kids rot? No wonder their kids hate them. I have seen this attitude, too.....and not just with the veterans, and it disgusts me. Its crazy to find young teachers with the same mindset...always complaining about what the kids bring to the class, instead of what they themselves, as teachers, can bring to the class. The teacher sets the culture..and the kids will love it if you create a fun/learning environment. Unfortunately....most teachers don't get this.
Laurus, I would say the exact opposite of the above poster. Do listen to the teachers that have been there the longest and take what you can from that. There are plenty of great teachers in the city who have been working for many years trying to improve their student's chances. Thank God for them. Who else stepped up to the plate to help???? I would bet that along with every other profession, there are folks who should probably retire and hang it up because they are wiped out. But to say that the teachers who have stuck with it are he problem with the schools today is absurd. The problem with the schools today is the same problem 20 years ago: parents not defending the schools and promoting education and insisting their children give it their best. I went to school in
Detroit and believe me--it was no picnic. But thank God my parents insisted on me getting as much as I could out of it and being positive.
jonjj....so you are saying the veteran teachers that stick around to teach 4 kids and leave the rest to rot are the ones to listen to? I am not sure that is the best source to get tips from for a teacher. JMO
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