I was forced to retire from my career as a teacher by ill health, caused by years of juggling the chaos of a classroom (24 years of it in the middle-school monkey house. Aargh! Seventh graders!) I went into a school in 1981 as a rookie teacher for $11,000 a year. I was expected to take over a class that chased the previous teacher out of teaching permanently with firecrackers under her chair and nearly destroyed the school. The principal and half the teachers were new that year at Frank Newman Junior High. And I was on my own with discipline that year as everybody was scrambling to do their own jobs. The other English teacher was also a rookie.
As a group, we organized an effective faculty. Most of us were there for years as we stabilized the chaos. I personally broke up more than 35 fist fights in my teaching career, more than half of them at that middle school, and more than half of those by myself. I got punched in the back of the head twice, faced down a kid with actual razor-sharp throwing stars as a concealed weapon, and had my car tires slashed twice and car window broken once all because I was a teacher who wanted them to learn how to read and write better.
I built the English department, writing curriculum for three different grade levels to respond to three different State Tests. I was the department head for eight years, in charge of the gifted and talented program, and I helped us achieve a commendation for writing skills on the TAAS Test in the late 90’s. Of course, what I built was torn down and rebuilt more than twice because, well, Education is all about managing chaos.
People often say that teachers don”t really earn their pay.because all they do is talk to kids all day and then get three months off in the summer. But I never heard a fellow teacher make that claim.
So, what am I supposed to do to recover from the chaos?
Maybe stuff hollyhocks in my checkerboard baggy pants. Or maybe just be satisfied with fictional worlds and living in my head.