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Orca

A bad school is not like the movies

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Orca    1

So I am a student teacher, studying to become a high school teacher. I have been studying for six years. I have a BA in pysch, a certificate in commerce and now I am doing a one year course to become a qualified teacher. As part of the requirement to become a qualified teacher you need to work for a certain amount of time in a school. Doing all the things a qualified teacher would do, without getting paid. It's called work integrated learning or something like that and in any normal circumstances I would be okay with it. You're supposed to have a mentor teacher, this teacher's classes and duties will become your classes and duties. In return they are supposed to give you advice and help you learn as much as you can. It's a fair deal, I take over someone's job for seven weeks and in return they coach and guide me.

 

Now that you have the background info lets get into the actual story.

 

I was supposed to go to School A, I signed up to go to that school for my practical almost four months before the practical started. Once you sign up its the university's job to organise with the school. Turns out the university forgot about this school. They didn't let us know we were coming at all and so on and so forth. Luckily a friend and I decided we should try to get a hold of the school beforehand to find out some information about the school before we arrived (Like the teacher's dress code...etc.) and that was when we found this out. After frantically calling the university and trying to fix the problem I was placed at one of the worst schools in the area. When called and given a list of options of where I would like to go I stated School M, instead they placed me in School B.

 

Now I have no experience with this school, I have no friends who went to it and the only information I have is from rumours (most of it not good). So I was like okay great, I'm at a bad school but ya know lemons and lemonade I can make this work.

 

Turns out I couldn't. I have two weeks left of my seven weeks and I pretty much want to quite the profession. It's not just the kids at the school who are terrible... it's the teachers, the management and even my mentor. I have had the worst experience of my life so far. (Okay not the worst, that may be exaggerating a little bit, but still terrible).

 

My first week

Now your first week is supposed to be a week of observation, you're supposed to get acquainted with the school and the learners. Go through the policies and whatnot. Nope, not for me. While all the other student teachers were calmly sitting in their classrooms observing their mentors teacher and deal with their class I got thrown into the deep end. My mentor bailed the second day in, suddenly I had four classes to teach and was nowhere near prepared. I didn't even know where on the syllabus they were. But I got through that, I figured things out and taught as well as I could. Granted it was only one day, but it was my second day there, and it was not that bad at the time. But now looking back at it I'm quite annoyed. So this proceeded, my mentor would randomly disappear for a day or two at a time. I ended up taking over all the classes (as I was supposed to), yet getting no advice from it. It became a purely learn on the job by yourself sort of thing.

 

Now I do need to mention a few things, I have had learners enter the classroom with glossy red eyes (I'm sure we can all guess what that means), in one week 65 learners were suspended because of reasons that range from fighting to stealing teacher's laptops to dealing with drugs. The learners bunk by the bucket-load, you'd think it was always break. With all of this going on, nothing is done about it from a management perspective. They are very quick to moan at the teachers, but their way of dealing with the discipline issues is to simply ignore it or delay it for another day. The only issues that are dealt with are the ones that could and will make a bad name for the school. Like the little girl who is now blind in one eye because an older boy threw something at her. Or a fight that ended up on youtube. So you can kind of understand the kinds of kids we are dealing with.

Anyways moving on, with my mentor not there I would have to leave the classroom unlocked. I would have to lug around all my stuff all day. If the kids had PE, I sat on the side of the field coaching them with a projector, laptop and many files next to me (Because the university marks you down if you don't use a projector so I had to borrow a friend's, because the university expects you to lug around your professional file with you wherever you go...etc.). Someone managed to get into the classroom and used a permanent marker to deface the whiteboard.

 

I then taught and extremely unruly class where I ended up having a kid shove me because I told him to pack his things and move to the front of the class because he was being exceptionally unruly. And there's more.

 

If I had to go on this post would never end and to be honest Im struggling to stay motivated to stay in this profession. I absolutely love it and the previous schools I have been to have not been nearly this bad. But ya know when you're in a bad situation and you cannot seem to see the end of it. Yeah that's how I feel. I'm worried that I get a job at a school like this. Where nothing I do makes the kids want to better themselves, its not like it is in the movies. No matter how hard you try they do not care, they would much rather screw you over and spread rumours about you than get anywhere with their lives. I'm just tired and unmotivated and sad.

 

On one side I know that not all schools are like this, but on the other side I still have to deal with this everyday and its breaking my spirit.

 

But yes, there's my vent. If anyone has any advice on classroom management or ways to deal with this situation I would gladly accept it.

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My only advice? You've only got two weeks left of your practicum, I know it's tough and I know it's wearing you down but try to stick it out. Use this experience to learn and to grow as a teacher. Your career will not always be sunshine and rainbows. Teaching is hard.

 

It's a difficult situation but this is an opportunity to use what you've gained from school, an opportunity to learn how to deflect, redirect and defuse a situation. And no. Not all schools or teachers or management or students are that bad. Some are yes, but not all. 

 

From the sounds of it, these are students that were given an inch and took roughly 1000 miles. They've been allowed to caper on without so much as a by your leave and to walk all over the people in authority. The management in this school has done their students and employees an extreme disservice. I would honestly bring this to the attention of someone who can fix it or beginning the process.

 

It sucks but it's only two more weeks and I have faith you will survive and come out of the experience a much better teacher than you were going in.

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Orca    1

You're right, it isn't always sunshine and rainbows. But the extent to which these kids go is a little bit disturbing. I'm actually scared to go in some days. I mean one of the kids in my class stabbed a teacher a couple of years back. So its dealing with their attitude, misbehaviour and fearing for my own life as well. I get that there will always be bad days; there will always come a time when kids don't listen and don't want to co-operate but when it comes to a point where its every single day it becomes somewhat disheartening.

 

On a side note though, yesterday was a bad day. I took a break, stopped thinking about school...etc. Yeah know all the stuff you're supposed to do so that you don't burn out and I feel much better for it. I'm ready to go back on monday. And you're right, this is a good opportunity even if it is a bit scary and overwhelming. To be honest when I am at my lowest I cannot see the good that is coming from it. I am getting better at keeping my cool in frustrating situations.

 

The unfortunate problem is that the school management knows what they are doing and they honestly do not care. I mentioned something to the principle the other day. I made a suggestion that instead of letting the students stand wherever they want during morning assemblies she gets them to line up in their classes. That way the home teachers can take the register during the assembly and two birds are killed with one stone. She simply looked at me and said it would never work and the kids wouldn't co-operate. Because in the mornings, the assembly combined with the register period takes away about an hour of teaching time which I find a bit ridiculous. So unfortunately the management knows about the things going on but they refuse to put anything in place to try and rectify the problems. 

 

I don't know if its because they have given up of if its because they simply do not care anymore. At the end of the day this is also causing trouble between the teachers. Not a week goes by where there isn't a fight between teachers in the staff room (Not they way the kids fight, more shouting across the staffroom at each other). 

 

But you're right. Two more weeks, I'm just going to bite the bullet until I can get out of the place. 

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More than likely they've given up. I'm glad you're going to stick it out because it sounds like this is what you want to do with your life and these kinds of careers can be extremely rewarding in the end. 

 

Self care is very, very important whether it's a situation like this or a bad day at home. Taking a step back and letting yourself breath can help with all manner of things. I know all this and often forget to take my own advice :). Good of luck on your endeavors Orca, I think you'll do just fine. 

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xexes    283

I'm sure you aren't the only teacher-to-be doing your practical right now! Talk to your friends and colleauges, get some advice and mentoring from there. Don't forget about your own education course instructors, they have a wealth of experience and knowledge to share.

 

I agree with you that the school is just treading water and merely trying to make  it by, day to day.

 

Remember that life is what you make of it, okay? You can take in all this negativity and be frightened and easily swayed, or you can decide to keep positive, to keep looking for the good things.

 

Even though you like School A or M, there's never any guaranteed position, no matter what the job. You may very well end up working at this school, School B. I went to university for computer programming, and in my courses, we never started out with the nice computer languages that were easier to learn, made lots of sense, and did a lot of things for us, like Java, Ruby, Python. No, they started us out on the most painful, most low-level languages like C, or Assembly, which is even more excruciating. The most basic tasks took forever to learn and write and take out the bugs, and we did all the stuff that computers did for us. It was hard. But after passing this crucible, those of us who were left were dedicated to our craft, all the wiser for knowing the underpinnings of how computers worked behind the scenes, and most of all, very appreciative of these easy languages like Java, Ruby, Python. Years later, many of us who had started with the hard stuff got inter-mingled with those who only knew the easy, and the difference to us was startling. The easy-only folk didn't fully understand what was happening, were baffled at many things that we knew all to well, and gave up the fastest.

 

You really got a hard practical, but stick with it, and learn all you can, even if from different sources. It may not be pretty right now, but it's going to make you stronger, wiser, better later.

 

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