Thursday, June 2, 2011

I Never Expected

As I've been reflecting on the purpose of my blog, I've realized that since I left my job in DC, I've seen this blog, at times, as an open letter to my former self - the eager, idealistic college graduate who thought he could change the world in an inner-city classroom. In that vein, and in a very short post, I'd like to take a little time to document a few experiences I was utterly unprepared for when I entered the classroom.

I never expected that I would be responsible for keeping records of everything I did in order to prove that I was competent at my job. From logs detailing calls I've made to parents to lesson plans to behavioral interventions, I've been immensely frustrated with the amount of valuable time record keeping has stolen from me.

I never expected that students I had years ago would contact me out of the blue and tell me how important I was in their life. I'd always hoped I would prepare them for college, and they might thank me for that, but never did I expect a student to tell me that I made all the difference.

I never expected to be on the verge of tears as a result of the sheer happiness I've gleaned from working with my students. I am utterly enamored with the people I work with. To say that their strength and determination in the face of challenges (the likes of which I will never know) is inspiring would be a dreadful understatement.

I never expected that I would be the first person to console a student upon their learning of a tremendously tragic event in their life. Awful.

I never expected that teaching in many schools means waging two very difficult battles: one against student apathy, behavioral problems, and knowledge/skills gaps; and the other against incompetent/misguided administrators/policies. I'm depressed that the much more disparaging fight is the latter, the unnecessary one born out of political and economic games played by people who often lack real experience in schools.

I never expected that excellent teaching involved much more than owning a dynamic personality. I used to think that excellent classroom management, creativity, and lots of energy were the sole essential ingredients to great teaching. I was very wrong. More on that here and here.

I never expected that a school, of all places, could create an Orwellian atmosphere. I am devastated that this is such a common occurrence. More on that in these posts documenting a typical day on my job in DC, and also here.

I never expected that I could work with so many dedicated people. And I never expected working with a population of all English language learners would teach me so much about the world, myself, and excellent teaching.

One thing I did expect: I would love teaching. And I do. I love this job. I love this job. I love this job.

4 comments:

  1. Great post - thanks for sharing! I love when former students contact you out of the blue....always a "warm and fuzzy" moment :)

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  2. I thought you were leaving, but you love your job? How does this work? What's the thinking here?

    I'd like to hear how you feel (from a standpoint of challenge and fulfillment...) about teaching in NYC or DC as opposed to TN.

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  3. Me too!!! It's the best job there is.

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  4. I loved the job too. You guys make me miss it - almost given 9 years of retirement. And certainly not miss working under Tweedledees. I hope you find the "right" place where all the teachers are strong, all the administrators are good (looking), and all challenged students turn into 3s and 4s.

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