Hard Beginning, Harder Ending?

Bloomberg giving a speech.
Image via Wikipedia

This has not been the best start to the school year and definitely not the beginning I Imagined.

First, the teacher whose room I was to move into, let’s call her Z, refused to move out.

Back in June I suggested that she box her stuff and I would come in and move it to her new room before we were due to report to work for the new term.

I arrived a week early on wheels. The wheels were on my hand truck and mover’s dolly. I was ready to work, but the room wasn’t.

Nothing was packed.

Meanwhile, the new teacher moving into my room from last year was also in the building ready to start fixing up the room for her students.

I had to take all my things out of the closets and move them to the front of the room where they sat for a week until all teachers had to report to work on Tuesday.

I was sure Z would start moving her stuff.  I was wrong.

At two PM, just three hours before the building would close on the day before students arrived she finally came to the room where I was doing my best to set-up around her stuff.

When she said, “I guess I should go find some boxes,” I just growled.

Needless to say, my room was not ready for students when they arrived on Wednesday. Or Thursday.  Finally on Friday I had students in my room.

But I had no desk and no bookcases.

Eventually desks and chairs arrived, but still no bookcases.

The school was out of bookcases.

Imagine, a reading program with no bookcases.

Also on Friday the room’s computer arrived, but without a keyboard or mouse.

The school was out of them, too.

In addition to teaching reading to special education students I teach social studies to general education 6th and 8th grade students in a different room.

The sixth graders fit into the room. There are 28 desks and chairs and there are 28 sixth graders in the classroom.

There are 35 eighth graders and when they came into the room they were sitting on the bookcases (yes, that room has them), on the windowsills (not allowed, but what could I say, the only alternative was the floor), and leaning against a wall.

There are 35 desks in their homeroom just down the hall, but that room’s teacher was giving the seventh grade students ELA instruction. There were seven empty desks because there are only 28 of them, but it is too difficult to move desks and chairs from room to room every period change.

It is especially difficult because in the process of moving the dozens of boxes of books from my old room to my bookcase-less new one, I pulled muscles in my groin and abdomen, which set off back spasms.

Like I said, not the best of starts.

Now I’m not a complainer, but I was frustrated and posted about it to Twitter. My Personal Learning Network responded. My PLN includes classroom teachers, tech specialists, principals, librarians and university professors from around the world, and they have taught me more in my year on Twitter than all my years of college and grad school did combined.

Ironically, my first responder was former NYC policeman Ira Socol, now a doctoral student at Michigan State University

tweetdeck 5

Mike Bloomberg, the billionaire mayor of NYC, insisted that if he got control of the schools they would run better and he’s been loudly and consistently claiming success ever since.

Ira doesn’t vote in NYC anymore, so he set his sights a little higher in trying to get me what I need.

ira #1

This was quickly followed by…


Retweets spread news and ideas like ripples around a stone dropped in a pond. Each retweet is a new stone.

tweetdeck #3tweetdeck #2tweetdeck #1

A little time passed, then a second wave began…

secondwave #1

And so on.

I haven’t heard from the White House yet, but I understand the President’s been busy trying to get health care straightened out.

Maybe when he gets done with that I’ll get some bookcases, a keyboard and a mouse.

Don’t hold your breath.

Unless you have really good health insurance, that is.

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7 Responses to Hard Beginning, Harder Ending?

  1. HoosierGirl says:

    Excellent post. I wonder why so often special education programs are the last to get everything? This year they took my classroom for a “regular” class and put me with 2 other special ed. teachers in a room half the size of a regular room. It’s kinda cozy…ha, ha.

    I hope you hear from The White House. I would like to know why NCLB doesn’t translate into teachers actually having the resources to keep kids from falling behind.

    Good luck!


    • Deven Black says:

      Thanks for the comment HoosierGirl. While inequity is still the rule, special education teaching and the resources afforded it have come a long way from my early experience, when I was in elementary school 45 years ago, of seeing students with any kind of visible disability hidden away in basements and barely being taught at all. Of course, at the same time, many students with learning disabilities or less-debilitating forms of autism were in general education classes where they, at best, were considered kind of strange and socially isolated.

  2. Michael J says:

    As you said, Team Obama is busy with this health care, so I added @nytimes. Maybe we can really get this done?

    I’ll leave it to others to add their newspaper of choice.

  3. Lauren says:

    Wow. That is so completely different from anything at my school. But Wow again at the response on Twitter. Social networking is amazing.

    Hope this week is better, with more furniture.

    • Deven Black says:

      Lauren is a tremendous teacher turned teacher-trainer who is doing some amazing things at the Belmont Day school in Massachusetts. Find out about it by checking out her blog. I hope to be able to partner with her on some projects this year.

  4. Mary Beth Hertz says:

    What’s amazing is that we, as teachers, are expected to raise test scores and differentiate instruction, etc…. without the basics like desks and bookshelves.

    Who really loses out are the kids. If we didn’t work in urban schools, this kind of stuff wouldn’t happen. Parents would be up in arms in the suburbs if their kid came home and said ‘I didn’t have a chair in class today.’ Something is seriously wrong.

    Then there’s that whole performance pay thing. You can be the best teacher in the world, but without desks……who are they kidding?

    Keep your head up, Deven, we’re all here for you!

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