Tuesday, August 19, 2008

So fire me

A few days ago I went to our local teachers' supply store to get some things for the playroom.

I heart the teacher supply store. So many fun shiny things!! This cool chart and oooo, look at these flashcards! And this groovy poster of the ten commandments! And this book! And that word wall! And those manipulatives! And the cute nametags for their desks!

I had the biggest urge to laminate, I just can't even explain.

Followed in intensity by my urge to write my name with a Sharpie on anything within arm's reach.

I used to love the beginning of the year when I was a teacher. Such excitement about new, crisp smelling workbooks, and new kids, and a new refreshed and tanned me with a thousand new ideas of how to teach reading and math and science and such resolve that this year I would use all those ideas to be the best. teacher. ever.

So for a few moments, gazing at the wooden hall passes, listening to two teacher friends gasp to each other as they filled their carts, I actually got a little bit nostalgic.

I wanted to go put up some bulletin boards with fall leaf borders and plan my All About Me unit. Soon to be followed by my Apple unit. And, oooo! It's an election year! There's my social studies. Election will get us almost all the way to Christmas Around the World.

I thought of my kiddos, sweet little kids, who cut out hearts for me and gave me a hundred hugs a day and who were still small enough to let me hold them when they cried. Kids who wrote absolutely amazing stories, at the ages of four or eight. Kids who made me laugh out loud every day. Kids whose faces lit up when I taught them about Jesus. Other's people's children, loaned to me for the better part of each day, whom I know I could teach so, so much better now that I am a mom myself.

But, soon, more memories returned. Baaaaaad memories.

Memories of teachers tattling on each other. Oh, the cattiness that goes on in the teachers' lounge! Now there's a reality show dying to happen. Memories of being told by my principal not to do anything but pass out standardized testing practice worksheets from January until April - so much for all those creative teaching ideas I had.

But most of my bad memories are of the parents. I taught my first year in a low-income public school where I never even met half of my parents. It was sad, but I know now it was a bittersweet blessing for a first year teacher.

Then I taught at a private Christian school. When I taught Pre-K, most of my parents were wonderful. Except for the occasional dads who would try and ask me out (note to dads: hitting on your kids' younger, single teacher - especially in front of your child - makes that teacher throw up in her mouth a little.) Then I taught second grade. I only had twelve kids, but wow. I certainly got my payback for those easy parent years.

I think next fall I should round up all the bloggers who are former teachers, and we could do a "Don't Be That Parent" carnival where we tell our worst stories and give advice to moms. Because we've all got some stories.

So, here is one that came to mind and burst my teacher supply store bubble.

Don't be this mom.

Long story short. I had a little girl, we'll call her Amanda. Amanda had Brownies on Monday nights. Therefore Amanda's mommy told me to not expect Amanda's (maximum of 20 minutes of) homework to be completed on Tuesdays. When I informed Amanda's mommy that missing a day of homework every week would certainly hurt Amanda's grade, Amanda's mommy got very unhappy. When I suggested that Amanda do her homework in after school care when all the other kids did their homework, Amanda's mommy said little Amanda wanted to play on the playground in after school, not do homework. And Amanda's mommy couldn't understand why I couldn't completely break the rules I had just explained to every child and sent home to every parent and make an exception for her child. What a bad mean teacher I was.

I blinked a lot during this conversation and waited for Ashton Kutcher to show up. I told Amanda's mommy sorry, but, No, and she walked away very, very unhappy with Amanda's teacher.

Later that day I was at the Xerox machine when the conversation came up with my principal. She chuckled and told me well, just go along with it.

What? Did my principal really just tell me to excuse a child's homework so that she could play on the playground? And not excuse the other eleven children in my class, all of whom also were involved in Scouts and sports and everything else?

More blinking. More scanning the room for Ashton. In vain.

Well, I told my principal, I already told her no.

So then I was in a conundrum. What if Amanda's mommy asked again? What if my principal ordered me to excuse her homework? What on earth would I do then? Completely compromise my ethics, my values, and my sense of fairness?

I decided right then that, no way in hades would I excuse Amanda's homework on Tuesdays. And if I got fired over it, then I would be proud to be fired over it. Some things are worth getting fired over, and my integrity as a fair teacher was one of them.

As I remembered this event, the euphoria from the pretty new alphabet lines faded into oblivion.

I am so, so glad not to be in teacher in-service this week!

But something else happened, as I recalled my reaction. I had a huge revelation:

I am just like my daughter.

And I am going to blog more about that later. I think I'm gonna be blogging a lot, a lot more about this.

And if you, too, have a strong willed child, please tune in.
I think it's gonna be good.

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