Monday, January 6, 2014

Teaching in the South Bronx

This is absolutely true.

Whoever said teaching was an easy job because you got so many vacations, was a complete idiot.

Teaching is not an easy job.

In fact, it is one of the hardest, most stressful, and time consuming jobs I have ever had in my entire life.

Not only do I have to be at work at 7am and don't leave work until 4:45, but then I go home or on the weekend and I write lesson plans, I grade papers, and I have to enter grades in. Or do whatever crazy thing my administration needs me to do.

I have the privilege of teaching 5th grade ELA and Social Studies in the South Bronx. Don't get me wrong; I am completely grateful for getting this teacher job. When people say in the teaching world, the only way you will get a job is if you know someone, and they are ABSOLUTELY 100% correct. I would have never found this school if I hadn't went to college with one of the administrators. I lucked out. That is for sure.

But then step into my classroom and take the crazy children that are in it, and every day I wonder, did I really luck out? Or am I totally insane for trying to teach these kids anything. 

Some of them are incredibly smart; I was even surprised. And sometimes, with the attitudes that come out of these 5th grade kids, I truly forget that they are 9 and 10 years old and are in 5th grade. Their smart ass comments can drive someone completely insane. But then again, in the South Bronx, you have to take it with a grain of salt.

These kids lives are like no other school I have worked at. I am used to the rich white kids in upper Westchester. And if you have never heard of Westchester before, it's a ritzy area that has money. Switch over to the South Bronx, it is like a completely different environment.

I can say my first week starting there was the hardest week of my life. I was newly pregnant and my stress level was on 100. I was fighting for respect with 42 5th graders and they absolutely did not want to give to me. The teacher before me I found out was a straight up evil woman and she would make fun of them in front of the whole class and make them feel bad. I was not about that life. So now trying to win over these kids and get them to listen and stop talking was very, very, verrrry difficult.

At times I was so overwhelmed not knowing the ways of the class, not knowing their names, or their habits, or what we were teaching (which I have to create the whole history curriculum --- no big deal! --- and then time manage correctly so I am not doing work until 8pm at night, and then make sure that when the principal walked in the room these kids weren't going psycho. 

So, you can say I my plate FULL! I never thought it was easy, but in grad school, they don't tell you or teach you these kind of things. No one can prepare you for what you will deal with in the South Bronx. I don't actually think my school or my kids are dangerous, but getting out early on Halloween because its gang initiation day...... that's pretty new to me.

Or kids coming in with strange cuts on their arms or faces... also new to me. 

In my opinion, they are in school for too long. Our charter school hours are way too long and by 9th period at 4:00, these kids are checked out. They are also in a school with high schoolers! I think 5th graders should be still in elementary school - not with seniors who are 18!! It just really changes how they act and making them grow up fast.

On the other side of that, these kids are taking public transportation like city buses and subways to get to the school, all by themselves. They are 9 and 10 years old walking alone early in the morning and at night being with strange people on the buses and subways and at that age, forcing them to be grown up.

These kids needs to know what's happening at all times and they have to worry about getting jumped on the way home or shot! Those are things that kids at the ages of 9 and 10 shouldn't have to worry about. Ever.

This is just the beginning of my stories coming out of the South Bronx. Overall, as much as I hate my kids, I like them too. They frustrate the hell out of me, but I want to give them a fighting chance. I have a lot of knowledge to share, and even if in their other schools before me they haven't learned shit, at least I know that coming out of my classroom, they will know how to write an essay, and they will know the 50 states in the US, and they CAN spell words and they CAN be responsible. 

I will not fail them. 

This is my chance to change lives. 

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