Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Sixth Grade Is Hard. And I'm In Mourning.

OK. My mother-in-law died today, I found out after school, so this is a day that will live in memory, but before that...

My sixth graders, who I have for English, religion and social studies, are in revolt. I started using the vocabulary book that was given to me by the school, which is rigorous but good.

They can't pass the tests. They do lousy on them. After the third one with too many Fs and no As, I decided, OK, we have to adapt. So I told them, and read them a note saying, that we would keep using the book, but we would do a unit over two weeks instead of one, taking the spelling test one week and the vocabulary the next. We would make flashcards, do word studies, more in-depth stuff. I just came from high school, where even my freshmen would look at a list, sort of shrug, and learn it. So, I tell the kids, we'll do it slow, with more care and more activities, and they WILL get better grades, and they WILL learn more.

And they exploded. Some of what came out of our impromptu class meeting:

There is not enough homework. And the homework is too hard.
Can't we go on doing a vocabulary test every week?
It's my fault for not teaching it right.
I don't make learning fun.
Ms. Fifth Grade gave them donuts for getting As on spelling tests. They need motivation. How come no donuts?
I take too long to give directions.
I don't take long enough giving directions.
They don't like the kid they're sitting next to.
If I gave examples, like about money, or fashion, they'd learn.

Then, they complained that it was the way I grade that made them get bad grades. I take off TWO points for every thing they get wrong. If I only took off one point, they'd get good grades!

I showed them the percentages on the board, and explained that I give two points for each correct answer as well, so this is having no impact on their overall grade.

A couple of them came in to talk after school as well. They're mad at the math teacher too, because he says the highest grade in the group is a C-plus, and if he gave them more time, they'd get better grades, also he canceled the test because the people who weren't ready asked for more time. And everyone is saying that they're going to have bad grades at the progress reports, and they're MAD!!!

I tried to treat their concerns with respect, and a little humor. I felt like running away and never coming back.

And then after this, while I'm brainstorming tech projects with the computer guy, my husband walks in, and I know as soon as I see his face that Tante S. is gone.

I'll feel better after I eat a lot of carbs and get a good night's sleep, and cry some more. But DAMN.

And the grief, the real grief, hasn't quite gotten through yet. And my heart is breaking for my husband, and I don't know what in God's name I can do for him.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

Me, Without Paxil

So, I'm off the Paxil, and I'm off the Prozac I took to get off the Paxil, and this is me, typing unmedicated for the first time in about five years.

I took the Paxil to get through the horrible time at the first school I taught at, and, as it happens, to get through horrible times at the next two schools I taught at. I never planned to be on it for five years. I never planned to spend nearly that much of my life on antidepressants.

I feel OK.

I'm starting a new year of work. I've done a week and a half with the sixth graders at St. Attracta School, and I think it's going OK--but it's hard, it's always hard, to start off in a new setting. And on a deep, deep level, I am not convinced I can teach successfully, even going into my seventh year of it.

That said, this weekend has been a great success so far. Last night was Niamh's bachelorette party, complete with burlesque dancers, halal barbecue and champagne, and despite my terrible fears about it (the bridal shower was high stress), it went off beautifully, I think. Niamh was lovely, wearing a Statue-of-Liberty-like crown of glow-sticks, and we had a really lovely party.

On family front, stress. The Husband's Tante S., his mom's parter, is in the hospital and the doctors don't think she's coming out. It's hard. The Husband is sad, and stressed. Me too.

I don't feel depressed. I feel different. But I'm going to go on without the Paxil, and I'm going to contact my NP Ob-Gyn to get my Tay-Sachs screening done.