Posts Tagged ‘Teacher’


Trans Girl with a Lesson Plan II

13 May, 2016
Have you ever wondered what it is like to be a trans woman trying to teach in a public high school? If so, read on and learn about my day.
     It started before I got in the building. The principal meet me outside and said that (we’ll call him) “K’s” guardian “isn’t going to let his grade stand. They’re gonna fight this.” I told him, “K has missed 29 days of school and was tardy 42 times on the days he was present. HIs grade is a 48% and he needs a 73% to pass.” The principal said, “I know, and I’ve got you 100%, but they’re gonna fight it.” So, a lovely opening to my day, but that’s not all that will happen.
     Because the seniors are no longer required to come to school, I have been substituting for other teachers. I start the day off with a teacher’s credit recovery class. I’m not in there for thirty seconds when the first of the kids comes in. He takes one look at me and says, “Oh, hell no. I’m not sittin’ in no room with an it.” They walked out and the three students behind him followed suit. In the end, I had one student in the classroom.
     Halfway through this first period, I get called down to the guidance office to talk to a student about his grades. Oh, surprise, it’s K. I explained to him exactly what I told the principal and tell him the choices he made during the school year have lead him to a point of no return. There is no recovery for fourth quarter. He will have to do summer school. Then I’m sent to sub another class.
     Twenty-minutes later I get called in to meet with a different student and his mother. When the mother enters the room she looks at me, winces, and averts her eyes. I’ve seen this before, you can’t be a trans woman and not recoginise this look. She is so disturbed or offended by what she sees when she looks at me that she cannot bring herself to look at me. My HR person had the same reaction when I came out at work; after that he never looked directly at me again. So, we all stand up to shake mom’s hand. I offer my hand and she will not shake it. I’m standing there like a dope with my hand out, as everyone looks at us feeling awkward, but not near as awkward as I felt or even awkward enough to justify not saying something about this situation. She slowly take a deep breath, holds it, loosely places her hand in mine for about two seconds, then wipes it off on her jeans while expelling her held breath so she doesn’t catch whatever disease I have. She avoids looking at me the whole time, even when I was speaking to her directly. Oh, and it is my fault her whole family is coming to see her son not graduate.
     Then it’s K again. We have to call his mom to talk about his grade. It’s a conference call with the principal and vice principal included. Mom doesn’t acknowledge my presence except to ask what work I will give him so he can graduate. I explain everything all over again. She refuses to acknowledge what I have said. I explain about the summer school program. She says, “I hope you won’t be teaching it.” That’s all I get out of her the whole meeting.
     Then it’s back to my room for thirty minutes. Five of which are taken up by K emailing me pleading me to give him some work that will raise his 48 to a 73. The next twenty-five are taken up by a student who was part of the group I sponsored. He spent his time trying to guilt trip, whine, threaten, and cry his way out of the 60% he earned. Mind you, he’s still graduating because he earned 90+ over the required percentage for the year. When that fails he tells me, “I’m disappointed in you You think that you fight for equality but you don’t. If you can’t see I’m a good kid and deserve a better grade then you don’t stand for equality.” I told him the conversation was over and he had to leave. He sat there arguing for ten minutes, refusing to leave the room, despite my asking and telling him to leave no less than seven times. He finally left when I went to page security to the room. He left saying, “I’m gonna pray for you because you need it. God bless you and thank you for the service you rendered.” I locked my door so he couldn’t come back.
     Then I dealt with another email from K. This one tells me he will be homeless if I don’t change his grade and I will have personally ruined his future.
     Now it is fourth period. I have had no lunch and no planning (which is supposed to be third period.) Instead, I go to a science classroom to sub for a ninth grade teacher. It is acknowledged by the administrator that this is a very poorly behaved class. He used the words “out of control,” Why he thought I was a good fit for that is beyond me. It takes ten minutes to get them out of the hall and seated. I have to shut and lock the door because there is a different group of ninth graders in the hall mocking the “man in the dress.” They begin banging on the door. The students ignore me, ignore the instructions, ignore the school rules, and ingnore everything except their phones. Well, all except one student, who we will call “H.” H gets on his FaceTime and begins telling a student at another school that some “he-she is supposed to be watching us.” H then tries to let the students from the hallway into the classroom. I stand in front of the door and block him. He says, “Hey, SIR, I wanna let them in.” I stand there and say nothing. He goes to sit back down saying “He looked like he wants to knock my ass.” I call for the administrator; when he arrives he takes over the class and tells me to write the boy up. I do, but I also realise that nothing will actually be done about it.
     Then it’s back to my room. I answer one more email from K who tells me I should have been telling him everyday that he was failing because the failed papers, failed tests, failed grades in the system, and the failed grades on his progress report weren’t enough to for him to know that he was failing.
     The phone rings. It’s the credit recovery teacher letting me know I’ll be teaching the seniors who failed . . . starting Monday . . . for the next month.
     I turn off the lights, curl into my desk chair, and hide in the dark for the next fifty minutes. Hoping no one else will call or knock before I can leave for the day.
That is what it is like to be a trans woman teaching in the public education system.

This is Public Opinion

15 March, 2012


I suspect I know who posted this to me. I think it is interesting that they should have such a violent reaction to my decrying of violence against another human being. Clearly they have had some difficult experiences in the education system.

I would like to state for the record that the teacher who was beaten was a fifty-six year-old woman with an unblemished record. She has been teaching for thirty years. She is a sweet lady who bends backwards to help her students. The thing she did wrong? She told the student to put her phone away during class. That’s all. She didn’t try to take it, she didn’t hang it up or power it down, which I know some teachers do. She just said, you need to put the phone away.

The student who attacked her was kicked out of two other schools in the county for disruptive and violent behaviour and was on probation for assaulting a police officer while being disciplined at her previous school.

Anyone who has the guts to say a person deserves being beaten to the point of hospitalisation, is in serious need of therapy. Clearly, there are unresolved issues that need to be addressed. Further, this mentality that teachers “deserve it” is part of the problem with the American education system. It is never the fault of administration for a failure to support teachers, parents for failing to instil an appreciation of hard work and moral behaviour, or—goddess forbid—the student’s failure to own their behaviour and accept responsibility for their actions.

This “Anon’s” response is further proof of the degradation of personal responsibility and the general lack of autonomy and morality that is plaguing our culture.


Caitlin on American Education

27 July, 2011

3:00 am
Alexandria, Virginia

Let’s examine teaching for a moment. When I was a young man in college, still nauseatingly optimistic about my ability to change the world and not yet beat into a cynical middle-aged woman by the life lessons that begin when we turn nineteen and never stop, I told my advisor that I was not going to go into the ministry. My reasoning, there was too much politicizing and back biting among the congregation toward each other and the pastor, between the pastor toward the congregation, other pastors, and the synod, and between the denomination toward itself, other denominations, and the world in general (and when I say world I am not using that term with its colloquial understanding of humankind, I mean the whole bleeding world). I also thought the average pastor was bug-shit nuts and spent more time preaching against Christ than for him. I told my advisor as much and he agreed. Then he asked me a single question that haunts me in the three am hour, and every other hour also: If you leave who is left to teach my children? Bloody hell. Such a manipulative question. But also a legitimate one. The answer, of course, is the numb nuts I was trying to escape. (This is why the few good pastors I know, such as Mr. Hunter, are a God-send. Literally.)

I’ll come back to that question in a bit.

As I examine the last three years of my career, I find myself at a crossroads. (Hopefully not the kind Robert Johnson sings of where you bury you a hodo, deal-makin’-demon summonin’ box in the dirt.) Do I continue to teach or do I start looking for another career and, if so, what?

Teaching is boring me. Granted, with any career path there will be boredom. That’s why it’s called work and not Caitlin Song’s Funtime Hour and Polka Revue. I think, if it were just the boredom, I could handle the longterm career aspects of teaching, but it’s so much more than that.

It starts with the opposing dichotomy that is the American attitude toward education that consists of a snooty devaluing of education in general and the classroom instructor in particular as effective and socially relevant components in a utilitarian society, which leads to cutbacks, over crowding, shell game transfers of reduced but un-fireable staff, outdated and inadequate resources, and furlough days. This then leads into the other completely accepted and just as inaccurate belief about educators that they are solely responsible for the mass of illiterate, undereducated morons that our children have become. After all, if that lazy, incompetent, no-good, very bad, horrible teacher had just tried to do their job the children would have magically advanced from know-nothing puddinheads to brilliant scholars curing AIDS, cancer, and crows feet and inventing a truly viable alternative to the facebook. Am I the only one who sees the complete irrationality it takes to cling firmly to both of these exaggerated beliefs as social gospel.

The pressure on teachers to create the perfect American Scholar through sheer tenacity and sixty to eighty hour work weeks, without expecting help from outside sources like parents, administrators, local, state, and federal programs and government structures, or even the know-nothing know-it-all American Christian (we are working our way back to that manipulative question), has mounted to ridiculous proportions. For example, the FIRST program that offers a monetary incentive to teachers to perform better in the classroom and raise test scores, but actually punishes good teachers by requiring them to be a failing teacher who turns things around and becomes brilliant in order to get the money. If you are already succeeding there is no money for you. Like society, the programs designed to enhance education are all founded on the misconception that all teachers suck the sweat off a donkey’s balls when it comes to commitment and qualifications. I cry bullshit. Pick the cards up and try again.

(To be fair, some parents, administrators, politicians, and, yes, even Christians are intelligent human doings capable of original, sane, and by current standards, radical thought. These human doings are rare in a country full of human demandings who expect the silver platter package without even a thought to putting in the work that we, as entitled and sodded-up as our generation was, recognized had to be put in before that tray would be handed over.)

It’s time to get out of education because we are about one step from mutiny. And to be perfectly honest I’m not sure which side will be the ones with the blindfolds and which with the rifles. Though it isn’t looking promising for the educated human. (Hell, if we could all just become human learnings we would find ourselves in a position to succeed and maybe even grow as a culture.)

Which brings us back to that manipulative question. If I and others like me abandon the field as an unwinnable war, who does that leave to do the job of educating? I shudder even as I purchase my one-way ticket to Australia—an American-like country that will surpass America because they value education and support their teachers.

How do you spell screwed? T-E-A-C-H-E-R.