Saturday, May 26, 2012

The Year in Review

Yesterday I finished my first year of teaching middle school.  I should say I SURVIVED my first year of teaching that age group...

Middle schoolers are interesting because they have a lot going on in their lives, and they really want to involve you in it.  Really, whether you want to be involved or not, they kind of suck you in.  I guess I was a terribly boring teenager.  I don't remember dealing with a lot of this drama.  Then again, I also know that I had awesome parents and an incredibly supportive environment.  I was a confident young person, and didn't really get caught up in the antics that happen today.

I did want to give a review, and talk about my last day of school.  Something happened on the final day that really brought together all of my thoughts on change in the school environment.  I had waited for this event to occur for a few weeks, but I guess things happen exactly when they need to (and I need to chill).

On the final day of school, students come to pick up their report cards.  They are only in the building for two hours at the most, and many come around to say goodbye to teachers.  I told many kids goodbye, and to have an incredibly eventful summer. Some of them believed me, and some worried that I had lost it.  I told them I wanted them to have adventures, and come back to tell me all of these great stories in August.  My name was called over the intercom while I was in the middle of a conversation, and I was summoned to the main office.

There was a phone call on hold, and the secretary gave me a stare as I entered the office.  She told me it was a parent, and this parent claimed the secretary was incredibly rude.  Great... I am already in for a delightful conversation when the sweet woman that answers the phones was accused of being rude...

I answered the phone, and was met with a hefty dose of hostility.  The mother on the other end had been MIA for the past ten months, but decided to contact me about her son's educational plan on the last day.  I guess there might have been some confusion about paperwork and not answering messages.  I know there are only so many times I can contact a parent without bordering on harassment.  Eh, it really doesn't matter now how it happened...

I told the mother I would get my notes together, and call her back from my classroom.  I did not have time to meet with her in person, because school would be ending in one hour and I had to fly off the premises to start work at my summer job.  Still, I wanted to touch base with this parent since I finally had her on the line.

I called her back, and was once again met with a few tense words.  I am a parent, and I understand how people can get defensive when their children don't succeed.  I can understand how parents have to deal with work, taking care of homes and family, and sometimes have to take on the extra responsibility of caring for a child with learning problems.  It's a tough job to care for a child with any special needs, and apathy can be one of the worst ailments a teenager can have.

I told her that I understood that her child was a capable being, but that he seemed to be apathetic.  I told her that I talked with him often, and didn't see that he had any goals.  He had moved here from another area, and clearly didn't fit into the rural life of hunting, fishing and farming.  He liked farming, computers, and was incredibly introverted.  A kid like that faces a hard time when plopped into Green Acres living.

As I talked, I could hear her soften over the phone.  I won't regurgitate the whole conversation, but in the end we were both laughing and chatting.  The phone call lasted over 30 minutes, and that was probably the best way I could have spent 30 minutes on my last day of school.  I was talking with a parent about incredibly big changes that could be made with her child, was making plans to help him set goals, and was getting incredibly constructive feedback.  I couldn't have been more thrilled!

I told her about the idea to create a mentoring program, as well as an after-school program to work on social ties and leadership among the students.  She told me she wished there was a community center that would provide programs for the kids.  She, like any parent, worries about drugs, trouble, teen pregnancy, etc.  This is probably the tenth parent I have talked to that mentioned the idea of a place for all of this to happen.  Kind of makes the wheels turn in my head...

I have quite a task for the summer.  Yes, I will be making plans for curriculum and testing and such.  I will have even bigger plans in developing a plan to motivate and empower these students.  These young voices are crying out for power, responsibility, and a future.  I am more than excited to help them along the way. :-)

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