This posting was done by my guest blogger, Dr. Donna Graham. Dr. Graham is a veteran technology teacher who retired from the District of Columbia Public Schools a few years ago. Since her retirement she has been busy consulting for various educational organizations, playing tennis and taking Tai Kwon Do! Enjoy this humorous look back on her experiences as a public school teacher….
Diary of a Mad Black Teacher
As we wind down another school year, I decided to reflect on some of my experiences as a teacher. Over 30 years ago, a fellow teacher and very good friend (running buddy) decided we would write a book about our experiences as teachers. At that time, the book, “Up the Down staircase” had just been published. The book talked about a teacher’s experiences. Of course, we have not as yet written our book. I decided I needed to share my feelings, thoughts and experiences to my teaching and non-teaching friends.
My name professional name is Dr. Donna Graham. However, for some reason or another, the students would call me “Ms. Dr. Graham”. At the end of the day someone would always ask me “What hospital are you going to?” I would tell them St. Elizabeth’s. For those of you who don’t know, it’s the mental hospital in DC. There’s also the Cafeteria Manager who asked me, “If Dr. was my first name.” At that point I decided that you could call me anything but “bitch.”
Remembering the times
- I couldn’t pick the best students for my class. The parents sent the best they had. The good ones were home in the closet.
- I couldn’t have the best room assignment. You were lucky if you had heat in the winter. Not located on the 3rd floor without an elevator. Don’t think about air-conditioning and windows that didn’t open.
- I couldn’t take off from work because the school would fall apart. I see now that’s not true.
- I remember the students who always needed a hug. But had to remember you might be labeled as a sexual abuser, lesbian and/or a pedophile.
- I remember the student who I loved so much that I invited him to meet my family (he had been adopted by a gay couple after his mother, their housekeeper was steadily killed) during Spring break. Unfortunately, the student was stabbed to death 2 days before at a Carry-out because someone thought he was “taking his girlfriend”.
- I remember a fellow teacher who died in his sleep at the age of 40 and was found died by his blind mother and a 5 year son.
- I remember the time when we had at least 9 or more administrators in a year and a half. The joke was “we changed administrators more than some people changed their underwear”.
- I remember when the Principal asked that I and another teacher never seat together at a faculty meeting because we caused such a disruption at every meeting. After that I would find a corner and sit with no one. However, I discovered a teacher who knew sign language and that also caused a disruption. So I sat on my hands.
- One day I asked my 2nd grade class what was a “margin” and a student said, “that’s what you put on bread”.
Grade 5 student definitions for Geography
Plain – something that flies in the air.
Bank – where you put money.
Damn – a bad word.
All and all, I miss my students greatly. They taught me about life, love and compassion. I have no regrets in taking this path and would gladly do it again. I would gladly do this again because if I could take my experiences as a teacher and a retired person, I would be a “Hell of a Teacher.” Bringing more experiences to my students about life and academics; bringing more to the parents who need understanding and resources and bringing more to administrators who don’t realize we have done these programs in the past, they just changed the name.