with love and squalor

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Sep 07 2011

teaching pre-k for america

i haven’t really had time to come home and write an update here or anywhere else about my life for the past few weeks.  school started for students last week, after hurricane irene interfered for a few days.  i started off with about 16 kids or so.  i’m up to 24.  anyone versed on legal requirements for pre-k in maryland (why would you be?) will recognize that that number is 4 over the legal limit for a pre-k 4 classroom.  oh well, this isn’t the proper medium to complain about that, i realize.  but it’s had a huge impact on my ability to conduct my classroom.  i have received at least two new students a day every day of school which has meant that we are basically starting from the bottom with procedures every day.  the sheer volume of kids is unreal.  my school doesn’t do staggered arrival, so by the second day we had enough kids to overwhelm each other (and me).  i am literally, just, plain and simple, unprepared for 24 students.  at institute, my 3-person collab had 15 students total if they all showed up which–SPOILER ALERT–they don’t.  we had 19 on the roster, 4 who never once showed up, 15 who showed up at all, and about 12 or 13 who regularly attended, and yes, even that felt like a lot.  yes, i do have a para.  she is wonderful but i feel terrible for the amount of stress i, as a new teacher with an unprecedentedly large class, have put her under.  things are pretty crazy.  it doesn’t feel great.

to be honest, i actually think i have a good class.  i like my kids and they seem to like me.  we haven’t gotten to do much academically yet, although i have done my own assessments on about half the class and just got my school assessments today.  some of the kids are very advanced for pre-k, others are already way behind.  some of my parents are already very involved; some i’ve barely met.  (note, in pre-k, an adult picks up and drops off the children every day unless they have much older siblings, so it’s unusual for me to have not met at least one parent or guardian per child yet.  this doesn’t, however, necessarily mean that parent participation is easier or more prevalent than it is in higher grades.)  things have been so crazy due to our unpreparedness for such a big class (my para told me she has NEVER, in her 15 years, had a class that was 20 or over this early into the year, so it’s not just me who’s in shock about it) that we haven’t even opened up centers yet.  opening centers is something i am dreading because it’s taken us 2 days to master putting books back at the library.  what are housekeeping, blocks, puzzles, art, sand table, etc., going to look like?  that’s right, i don’t know, because we didn’t do centers at institute and i have no teaching experience.  sorry for the negativity, i guess, but i am really bitter about how centers was handled at institute.  ece friends, amirite?

how do i feel? i feel pretty bad.  i don’t feel qualified to be teaching my students at the moment.  i feel like i yell a lot.  i feel like “mean miss _” comes out a lot more than she should.  i feel like my kids aren’t learning.  maybe i’m too hard on myself.  after the hurricane and with labor day, we haven’t even had a full week’s equivalent yet.  but i feel bad.  i know it will get better.  it’s not even THAT bad now, compared to some of the stories i’ve heard from my friends.  but i feel pretty bad.  am i depressed? probably, definitely yes.  is it the worst i’ve ever felt?  no.  is it all related directly to my job at my school?  no.  is it all related to my struggles with my class?  definitely not.  but am i depressed?  yes.  is it affecting my classroom?  probably more than i realize.  what do i do after school? i come home and i go to sleep, which is partially how i can tell that i am depressed.  i have never been someone who “naps.”  i didn’t do it much as a child once i got past early childhood age, and it’s just not something i did into adulthood.  i am a total caffeine ADDICT which means that napping has never really been an option for me.  i know there is something seriously wrong if i come home and get into bed.  i haven’t been exercising very much because i’ve been too tired or haven’t made time, or because chasing around 24 4-year-olds all day feels like enough exercise.  i haven’t been exploring my awesome neighborhood or my charming city because i’ve been too tired or sad or i just haven’t had time because i’ve needed to run around doing school-related things.  i’ve been going home to see my parents, dog, and boyfriend a lot, which helps.  but it doesn’t change the fact i come home to my room during the week and i am sad and tired.  i live with my brother, who is a law student at a baltimore-area university and he has the same look on his face as i do: sheer exhaustion.  we are overworked.  and, right now, there’s not a lot of payback.  so, what’s going well? well, like i said, i have a very strong para who has helped me a lot.  i also, overall, LIKE my students.  i don’t LOVE them yet.  that is easier with a smaller class, i think/assume, when you have more of an opportunity to see each child in varied contexts that allow you to see how sweet, smart, kind, generous, and funny little children can be.  i feel like i don’t get any of those opportunities with my students because there are too many of them, and because i just haven’t figured out how yet.  what else is bothering you? i don’t know, lots of things, stuff maybe not appropriate for my internal dialogue here on my teach for america blog.  i will say, though, that i miss my college.  i miss my friends.  i miss western massachusetts.  i miss learning interesting things that weren’t all related to 4-year-olds and classroom management.  i miss reading real books for enjoyment.  i really, really, really miss college.  i know, what a petty problem, blah blah people get older and say goodbye to the ivory tower and that’s just how it is and it has nothing to do with tfa, pre-k, baltimore, or anything else and i need to get over it.  i know that.  but i do miss college.  i went from having basically no responsibilities (my only ones pretty much being getting up in the morning/afternoon and going to class, which weren’t even responsibilities because i loved all of my classes, pretty much always) to having this.  so many responsibilities i can barely breathe.

i know this post has been a big load of negativity and venting and complaining, but i see no need to sugarcoat myself on this blog.  this is what my teach for america experience so fas has been like.  definitely not all negative, but certain aspects have been incredibly difficult, disheartening, and frustrating.  i am still waiting for the golden moments or even days.  i really hope they come.

One Response

  1. Miss O

    hang in there!

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