The end of the school year…and my teaching career
by Sara Febles
I’ve always thought that teaching was the best job in the world. I love seeing a child’s face light up when he finally understands something, and to be the person who facilitated that, well there’s no better feeling. But as I look at my student’s writing, perhaps there are other jobs I should start to consider.
It’s the end of another school year and no one can tell you how happy I am that it’s finally over. I’m not the teacher that’s just in it for the summers. Though, I can tell you that this year, I’m looking forward to it than most others.
My year started with such passion. I had the gifted and ACE, accelerated learning, students, who were eager to learn. As soon as I received my assignment, 4th grade ACE, my head began to plan the amazing lessons I would teach. I thought of the rigors of the year, the FCAT writing test that was ahead. But my excitement was undeniable.
Six weeks into the school year, I climbed up the steps, tired from having spent another night editing and revising student papers. I slept very little, having gone to bed at almost two in the morning. It’s all worth it I thought. I was going to turn these students into writers.
Upon reaching the last step, I looked up to see one of my student’s mother. A woman who looked like a linebacker. She asked to meet with me, and did I have a choice? No, so we walked in. I turned on the light and put my bags down.
“I want to see my son’s grades and why he has a C.” I remembered that last night I entered grades from this past week and indeed his writing was that of a C. I reached into my bag and pulled out the stacks of graded papers full of edited marks. “You don’t file those?” she remarked in such a way I knew this wasn’t going to end well. I showed her his writing and began to explain the improvements it needed to turn into an A. She demanded I show her all his past writing samples and demanded I tell her how I teach my writing class because her son was not excelling and it obviously was my fault.
I began to show her how students write at their own pace, while all are very gifted, writing is an art form that takes practice to take shape. I showed her the student clips that they pulled down to show me their progress from brainstorming, to first draft, to meet with the teacher in a conference one-on-one. At this she laughed, asking how it was possible that I meet with all twenty six students on an individual basis. I am a writing teacher, I know how to get them to where they need to be, I replied and continued.
The students moved their clips from editing to revision with the help of my purple pen they learned to look on how to tweak them. To final draft and to publishing. Students sat in circles every Friday and read their stories to get feedback. To this she laughed and asked again how it was possible that all twenty six read their stories out loud. I am a writing teacher, I know how to get them where they need to be, I replied and continued. To which she told me she didn’t need this pony show, she just wanted to know why her son had failed so.
I told her, this is only one assignment, it was only one C. He had plenty of opportunities to grow if he continued to practice and focus on his work. Unfortunately, our time was up and I had to pick up the students from the gym. She told me she wasn’t leaving my classroom until she was pleased with me. I repeated again, lady, I’m sorry, it’s time for me to teach. She pushed herself off the chair, yelling curses, saying she didn’t care. She wasn’t leaving my room until I changed that grade.
My heart began to race. I trembled and froze just the same. This woman charged her body at me and spit curses at my face. This was only one assignment I said. Yet she lunged just the same, reaching for his papers or maybe was it to slap my face? I grabbed my bag and left to get someone to help me. I was scared half to death and the threats she glared and yelled behind me and I ran downstairs.
I hurried and explained what happened to the vice principal. Who came to calm this mother who had by now called her son into the classroom. In front of him she called his work shit and told me I wasn’t a teacher worth a damn thing. The child cried and the rest of my class now sat in the hallway for first period as we fought. I stood up, and told him he wasn’t “shit” and his work wasn’t “shit” like his mom was having him believe. I told him I was proud of his accomplishment and the effort he put in. The vice principal took the mother to her office and later I learned it took three hours for her to leave that office.
From then on, every step I took upstairs left a knot in my stomach I couldn’t bear. I feared another outburst, another threatening move. I feared for the first time coming to work and teaching the way I knew how to teach. As the year dragged on, the parent demanded through the vice principal that every assignment and every grade be given to her at the end of the week. Each one was disputed, but why was it a B? I then felt the pressure from the vice principal to pass the kid, her exact words were, “this kid better pass.” So he got As after that. The instructional coach got in the bandwagon too and began to bully me and insisted perhaps I needed to be taught how to teach. I was sat down in my classroom and told to watch her teach. She gave such a pitiful lesson, I felt bad for my kids.
I swallowed my pride week after week. And tried to make myself not care about the work that he produced, when the A wasn’t there, but I typed it in anyway because I felt threatened and bullied by that trio, the parent, the vice principal, and the instructional coach. They walked and talked behind my back, and from one of those afternoon meetings when I was accused again of not doing my best teaching, they reached the doorway and I overhead the instructional coach tell the vice principal, “wow, your best friend’s kinda a bitch.” They both laughed and walked away from me. I sat there shocked at the way they were treating me.
I received threatening emails and more threatening talks by that parent and my administration to the point I cried almost every night. But last week the scores were finally in, and I looked nervously at each student’s waiting to scroll down to see his. He passed the FCAT with a 4.0 an achievement I knew I pushed him to pull through. Despite what the mother did and what administration said, I was the teacher in the classroom, who taught him in my own way, how to be a writer who could respond to any prompt. I turned him into a writer. I made that happen in the four walls of my room, the room that that mother and administration defiled with every threat they threw at me.
At the end, this is just one kid, one parent, one year that just passes. But for me, this was the year that I was bullied by both parents and my bosses and the year that made me realize I’d rather quit teaching than live in fear. Who knows what people are capable of, had this woman had a gun or malicious intentions to hurt me with more than words. I was afraid of putting in his true grades and afraid of seeing that mother, and even of walking up those steps. My life forever has changed after this year of teaching, because no one appreciated the way I taught those children.
Because now all that matters are numbers I will only add that, 80% of my students passed the FCAT. However, all 100% became writers because I taught them all I had.