So, it’s over.


Okay, just so you can see the manic depressiveness of my job, I had a great day today. Not with the class mind you, but with one of my students after school. It’s a long story and it’s already midnight so I am going to go to bed but the choice to quit, for me, is nor here yet. It comes and goes. One moment, I am completely prepared to quit and the next I want to be there for the kids. I love the kids. More coming really soon, I promise.

To those of you who’ve been commenting, I just want you to know that I am reading them and they mean the world to me and they are affecting my day to day life and my moment to moment thoughts. I will respond to the comments and I am so glad you are taking the time to give me your thoughts, opinions, and empathy. Thank you. 🙂

Teaching I

I must admit I am the type of person who thinks a million times before she makes a decision. I’ll go to a store, try the clothing on literally four times and then walk out. Think about it for a week, go back and try it on and then think about it for another week and then I won’t buy it. There are lots of reasons for that nonsense but one of them is that I like to be sure. Whatever that means.

That is not to say I haven’t made any instant decisions in my life. Actually most of the really big ones seem to have been made in a moment. But I tend to chew on it for way too long before I let it go.

I could look at that as insane and insecure or I could look at it as persistent and analytical and committed. Cause when it comes to this job, the only reason I haven’t walked away is because I am committed. So the not-making-decisions-lightly can also mean I don’t walk away.

What is comes down to, however, is that I’ve been eating my brain out for over a month now trying to find out what the right thing to do is. Obviosuly, there is no right thing. But there’s something that I can live with. And it’s not this. This state of being is a nightmare. It’s driving me insane and I need it to go away.

I guess the key is figuring out how.

Teaching II

Wow, talk about a bad day! I am amazed at the optimism that seems to surround me all weekend when I plan my lessons and just assume they will work. And then I get up and go to school and the kids show up and then reality hits me. I am amazed at the kindness I want to give my students but yet the meanness I spew out in the middle of frustration and resentment. I am mostly amazed at how much I really suck at this. Just didn’t think it was possible to be this bad.

And then there’s this CNN article which I could say so much about but I won’t because my bed time has come and gone.

Teaching III

My friend, Ed, sent me this link about someone else’s teaching experience and I must tell you that while my situation is quite a bit better and I have what I consider to be a much more supportive principal and other really helpful people in my school, I have had days where my students were really acting up in ways I never thought possible. And, man, am I in over my head!

Remember This

It’s been a long time. When I decided to do this job, I knew that I would no longer realistically be able to write this site every single day like I used to be able to. While I had absolutely no idea of the insanity that my life would become, I did know that time would become a more precious commodity than it had been in the last two years when I was working part time.

The sad thing is, now I need to journal more than ever. This site used to be a way I could think about my thoughts. It was a way I got to reflect regularly. I kept diaries for over ten years as a child but for some reason, I haven’t been able to get into it the way I really want to. If there’s one thing I know about this teaching experience, it’s that I’m going to want to remember my thoughts and feelings as I experience this. While I am confident that some things are best forgotten, I don’t want to rely on my shaken memory of these two years. I’m not going to want to forget this.

On a more practical note, I find that reflecting gives me a way to improve and perfect my thoughts on a subject. While it might lead me down the path of wallowing on what I could have done and what I should have done, that’s something I’m simply going to learn to get over because without quality reflection time, my life just becomes about making through each day, which is not an efficient way to make an impact.

So I am not really sure how to make this work. As of next week, I have class on Wednesdays, Thursdays until after 9:30pm. I also will most likely be teaching after school on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays and Saturdays. All this tightens my already crammed schedule. However, I need to make time for this. So any ideas on how I can make that happen?

The good news is that I’ve found a way to make peace with doing this job and not hating my life and myself. The bad news is that I don’t feel like I’m necessarily a better teacher. I just show up to work everyday and don’t want to kill myself at the end of the day. (Though, one of my students wrote the nicest thing on his math journal today, “Dear Ms.— When I was in 4th grade and down. Math was really boring. Now you make it fun to learn.” Isn’t that nice?)

Most importantly, I still need to find a way to get them to shut the fuck up. Any advice? 🙂

Not Getting Much Done

Another day with little work done. My students took the PAM test today. A diagnostic test on math. The test is for me to see how much my fifth graders know. here are some glimpses I took while my students wrote: 1/2 + 1/3 = 2/5 (fractions) thankfully, we haven’t covered fractions yet and when we do, I will cry if I still see this. One of my students upon reading about a question that talked about a parking meter, decided to draw a car and a parking meter. He spent 7 minutes of the 45-minute test drawing. We had ten teachers absent today. First snow day in New York City. I wonder if that means this will be a cold winter. I still haven’t figured out what to do with my students talking in line. They are too close to each other. It’s too enticing to talk, to push each other around; there are too few incentives to behave. Still overwhelmed and wondering what I was thinking when I decided to do this for a living.

Double Preps

Double-preps rock! Today was a better day. Not because I was able to teach better. Not because I didn’t have kids throwing stuff in my room. But only because I didn’t want to feel angry. I wanted to be happy today. And I didn’t let anything change that decision. I guess my teacher’s comments about controling what you can control stuck with me. I can control my mood. It is mine afterall, right?

Easier? Not Really.

People have been telling me that it would get easier after November. I must say that hasn’t proven true for me. I’ve noticed a few patterns, though. If I give lined paper with a heading and a place for name, my students are more likely to write than if they were to write in their notebooks. Thinking isn’t a talent you’re born with; it’s learned. Kids notice a lot more than adults give them credit for. There’s always too much paper to grade and never enough time to grade it. My classroom will never look the way I want it to. One good day always precedes an awful day. Just when I lose hope, something inspiring happens and just when I get cocky, something humbling occurs. I can never think of a good assembly idea or a good bulletin board idea. I don’t like either. I do like class trips, tho. Three weeks to Christmas break. If only I could stop the conversations in my head, I might be able to survive this. All my students individually chose blue as their favorite color, with the exception of one, who likes brown. Almost all would ban littering if they ruled the world. Girls feel sad if they have a fight with their best friend, while the boys feel mad.


Memory is selective.

There’s a reason we forget things. Human resilience has been tested millions of times in history. Tons of women have told me that if we didn’t forget, no one would have more than one child. Well, I haven’t had any babies yet and can’t tell you what labor pain feels like or how quickly I might forget it. But I do know that I’ve been known to distort the past as things change or as time passes.

The last few weeks have been so difficult that I decided, this time, I want to keep a record so that I can’t fool myself when I choose to look back upon these memories. Think of this as a time capsule. Something for me to lock up and put away, only to be opened when I begin to forget. Something for my friends to show me when I start saying things like, “Oh, it wasn’t that bad.”

The fact is, it is that bad. It’s hard. It’s frustrating. At times, it’s heart-wrenching. It’s infuriating. Sometimes it’s funny. But it’s constantly overwhelming.

When I decided to quit my six-year job and change career paths, I knew that my life wouldn’t be the same. I knew that teaching would eat more of my free time than investment banking ever did. I also knew that I’d feel it was worth it. So I assume the big question now would be: Is it?

Is it worth it?

Honestly? I can’t tell you yet. All I can say so far is that I underestimated how difficult this is. Getting up at the crack of dawn, grading on the train to school, climbing 98 steps eleven times a day, four to six of which includes leading a class of 28. Spending every moment on my feet. Having to think about what I’m saying all the time. Having my incompetence stare me so squarely in the face.

My life has changed alright: I get up when it’s dark, go to school, teach, stay after school to grade, come home when it’s dark, prepare for the next day’s lessons, call parents, eat dinner and crash in bed. Every single day. I dream about my students. I dream about photocopying onto overhead paper. I dream about lizards eating me. I spend my weekends planning for the week. Preparing charts for my room. Writing papers for my graduate classes. Buying prizes for my students. Photocopying. And sleeping.

My only moments of peace come on Sunday mornings where my amazing husband and I go to the local bagel shop at 8:30 and read the New York Times for two hours. Two hours of heaven. Two hours of not thinking about all the things that go wrong in my room. Two hours of not worrying about how the next day’s lessons will go. Two hours of not feeling so incredibly incompetent.

I do love my students. Even the most mischievous ones. I can’t help but care about them. I want to laugh at their ingenuity even when it disrupts my class. But my tolerance and patience has dwindled almost to nothing. It’s gotten so bad that when I see people chewing gum anywhere, I have to work extra hard to suppress the urge to yell, “spit it out!” I fix everyone’s grammar constantly. I can’t stand it when people are being disrespectful at a meeting by having their own side conversation. I have heard every excuse and more as to why homework is not complete. I have listened to parents hollering at their children in front of my eyes. Much to my despair, I have made students cry.

But I have also made them smile. The magic of a student understanding something I’ve taught is immeasurable. Just like the drain when a student refuses to stop calling out loud in class or refuses to stop being disruptive.

So many things happen each day. I always come home with the urge to write, knowing I’m going to want to remember these days.

But I don’t write.

Days pass, I forget. My memory knows I won’t survive it if I keep remembering, so it helps me out. Maybe it’s better that way.

Maybe some things are best forgotten.


Seven weeks and at least nineteen hours of diversity conversations later, I still don’t know what wording to use.

I was born and raised in Istanbul, Turkey, a place that lacks the racial diversity of the United States. So I apologize ahead of time if this issue is plan as day for others but it’s gotten to be extremely complicated for me.

I know that this is a sensitive issue for many, which is exactly why I need help. I apologize ahead of time if anything I write is insensitive or plain offensive. I can assure you it’s not meant to be that way. If anything it stems from lack of experience or knowledge. Not that it’s an excuse, but it is the truth.

Ok, with that disclaimer I’ll explain my dilemma. I am about to start teaching in a school where I am racially in the minority, and people seem to claim that the reference issue will come up quite often. As in, how do I refer to each racial group?

If I say African American, I’m assuming the person’s family originated in Africa. What if they are not from there? The same goes for European American. Let’s not forget Latin American or Asian American. What if the student’s not even American, like me?

I’ve been told black is offensive but white is not. Caucasian sounds way too odd to me. Latino also assumes Latin American roots. I’m not sure if Hispanic is offensive or not. Don’t even get me started on the word colored. White is the sum of all colors and black is that lack of any, so I can’t even figure out how that terminology began.

I genuinely don’t know what to do and would be open to any and all advice on this issue. I am extremely concerned that in my lack of knowledge I’m going to offend someone and that’s the last thing I want to do. I am obviously not going to refer to my students or their parents by their skin color, so that’s not the context in which I fear the issue will come up. I am thinking of a case where we’re reading a book or talking about a third party and his or her race becomes a part of conversation. I don’t want to avoid the issue because I don’t know what the right words to use, but I also don’t want to offend anyone.

So I am open to suggestions. What wording is the best? Which one would be least likely to offend anyone? What’s my safest bet?

Back In Business

My friend Jenn has just resigned from Teach For America.

Jenn and I spent countless hours of the last forty days together. I probably, scratch that, I certainly spent more time with her than I did with Jake, my husband. We planned and replanned lesson plans. She gave me amazing ideas and copies of her materials. She helped me write up numerous directions, poems, and lists on chart paper (my handwriting still needs considerable work). She’s the reason we started our Thursday night dessert runs (even though I’m concerned about my next weight watcher’s weigh in, it was totally worth it). She spent hours talking to me when I was crying so much that my words were more like babbling mumbles. She made me laugh and helped preserved my sanity.

This might not seem like much to you, but try putting it in context of all this:

Seventeen summer school students who had one teacher on the first week of summer school, only to find out that they had three more the next week.

Fist fighting between two girls at 11:20am on our first day at school.

Changing the seating plans at least eleven times in the course of four weeks.

A girl on the first row who incessantly raised her hand, knew the answers but made loud disappointment noises each time she wasn’t called on.

A boy who raised his hand before we even asked a question because he wanted to participate so badly, but rarely answered correctly.

A really intelligent boy who had no patience for our simple assignments, would lose patience quickly and start walking around the classroom or belittle the other students.

A small boy who hit every girl taller than he any second we looked away and would deny any wrongdoing vehemently.

A quiet, sweet girl who couldn’t read at all.

A boy who continually walked in late and proceeded to sit at his desk and do nothing. As time progressed, he’s tap or bang on his desk. He also made fun of the other students.

A boy who never listened in class but responded thankfully and with interest during one-on-ones.

A quiet boy who didn’t get much attention as he deserved.

A boy who could never physically sit in his chair.

Two girls who chatted incessantly no matter how far apart we seated them.

A boy who got moved around no less than eight times because he’d behave no matter where we seated him and thus got the default leftover seat.

A boy who came to school tired everyday and couldn’t hold his head up.

A boy who cared, listened and shared.

A girl who slept or felt sick every day.

A class that knew how to use the three inexperienced teachers against each other. A class who has incredible potential. A class that made me cry several times this summer. A class where we felt like we tired everything but succeeded at nothing. A class where each student was special.

This summer was incredibly rough for me. I could explain but I don’t think it’s possible to understand unless one has been through it personally. After all how difficult can it be to manage a bunch of third graders?

I don’t think there are enough words.

Which is exactly why Jenn made a significant difference in my life in the first month I’ve known her. Which is why I feel traumatized knowing she won’t be there with me in the next two years. Which is why I miss her already.

Especially since I got my new job yesterday.

South Bronx, here I come.

Third grade, here I come.