I'm new to this blogging thing, but I really want to document my journey into education, especially during such a historic time. My mom asked me why I am continuing with my decision to teach during such a chaotic and unprecedented time. I've always known my purpose to be about impacting the youth and that feeling doesn't go away because we're in a pandemic.
I know teaching is hard and I'm certain it's harder in a pandemic, but since I have no reference to compare it to, I'm moving forward in it. Don't we still need teachers in a pandemic? From my observations, parents aren't really trying to keep being "home-school teachers."
I remember how ecstatic I was to receive Mr. Franklin's voicemail: "Hello, this message is for Ms. Tamra Kay. My name is Walter T. Franklin, and I was wondering if you were still interested in the 7th grade reading position you applied for over the summer. A vacancy has become available." I couldn't believe it! I was like, Hell yeah, I'm still interested! From that moment, I felt validated and ready to become the best teacher for my students.
On the first day, I made sure all the desks were 6 feet apart and that hand sanitizer and extra masks were available. During my interview, Mr. Franklin informed me that I was only going to teach to the in-person 7th grade reading students. So imagine my surprise when Mr. Franklin comes into my classroom and says that I will have to also teach the remote students until further notice. Apparently, the remote teacher resigned unexpectedly. Now mind you, Mr. Franklin told me this 20 MINUTES before class started.
Of course, I didn't want to freak out in front of my boss, so I remained composed although my insides felt like I needed to take a shit. How the hell am I supposed to simultaneously teach on such short notice? By the way, do I need to remind you that it's April? Yes, I was just hired! Our school year ends in June. I literally have less than 2 months to figure this out.
As my students shuffled into my class for the first time, I was trying to set up the projector and start my Zoom. It was clear that my seating chart was null and void at this point as students just sat where they wanted to. I managed to remember my Zoom password, but I had no idea how I'd share the link with my remote students. I didn't even realize how loud my class had gotten until I heard Mr. Franklin clear his throat. I looked up from my computer to see him standing at my door.
"Excuse me, class! I hope the loudness coming from this room is because you're excited to recite the pledges. And with that, the secretary came on over the loud speaker and began saying the Pledge of Allegiance. After that, the students recited the Paledo Student Pledge:
"I pledge to be Respectful each day.
To be Open-minded in everything I do. And be Accountable for my own learning
and Responsible for my actions. I am a Paledo Lion; hear me ROAR!"
At that the end of the student pledge, a handful of students including Mr. Franklin roared! Like literally, they roared, like I'm talking full blown onomatopoeia in the class. I was so startled and taken aback by that. It took me a while to gather my thoughts. Before leaving, Mr. Franklin walked over to me and told me to see him in his office during my conference period. All I could think was, Oh God, am I going to get fired?
As my students sat back down, I introduced myself.
"Hello class, I'm Ms. Kay, and I realize this may be hard to have a new teacher at such a late stage in the school year, but I promise that I will do my best to get to know you and create a safe space for our classroom. I prepared to take attendance. Little did I know that the seemingly simple task of taking roll would become an attack on my character and religious views. It all started with Mr. Burns.
"Jesus Burns," I called out. "Jesus Burns." The class started to giggle. "Is he absent?" I inquired. "No, he's here," said the girl seated closet to my desk. "Oh, ok, and what is your name?" I figured since she spoke up, this was my chance to establish a rapport with her. "My name is Isabella, and he's right there." Isabella pointed in the direction of a Hispanic young man seated in the second row, second seat. I walked over to greet him. "Hello, Mr. Burns. Why didn't you respond when I called your name?"
Mr. Franklin did tell me that I had a large amount of ESL students, so I assumed that maybe Mr. Burns was having a hard time understanding English or maybe my mask was muffling my voice. I repeated myself again speaking this time with a slower speed. "Hola, Mr. Burns." The Hispanic student, in the same slow speed, replied, "I un der stand En ga lish. I didn't answer you because I'm not Mr. Burns. Me llamo, Carlos, he said sacrastically."
The entire class, almost in unison, erupted into laughter. I gave Isabella a quick glance as if to say, You pointed me to him. Isabella, clearly reading my desperation, pointed again, this time to the young man in front of Carlos. "I'm sorry, are you Jesus Burns?" I said. The black student in front of Carlos replied, "Yep, and you're a racist because you clearly expected me to be Hispanic." Almost stuttering, I managed to say, "No, I just don't understand why you didn't speak up when I called your name."
"Because that's not my name. You pronounced it wrong. My name is GEE-SUS, not HEY-SOOS, he replied."
"I'm sorry, your name is Jesus, like the Son of God? I can't call you that."
"Why can't you call me by my name? So it would be only be okay if I was Hispanic, but because I'm Black, now it's not? You're a racist." The class chanted, "Racist, racist!" as they pounded their desks. Mr. Franklin came running into my room. "Ms. Kay, what is going on in here?!"
GEE-SUS proceeded to make his argument and explain to Mr. Franklin that I refused to call him by his name.
"Is this true, Ms. Kay?"
"Sir, I am very uncomfortable with it. I believe it may even be against my religion."
Mr. Franklin gave me a dumbfounded look. "Ms. Kay, I am shocked that someone with so much literary knowledge would not know the difference between GEE-SUS and HEY-SOOS. Clearly, this is just a simple example of a homophone."
Seeing how shook up I was about the situation, Mr. Franklin told me to go home for the day and that he'd call me later. When I got home, I received a targeted observation to my email, which stated:
TEACHER LACKS CONTENT KNOWLEDGE
TEACHER LACKS KNOWLEDGE OF STUDENTS