I am unhappy in my current position. There are a lot of reasons for that – some of which I’m trying to change, though I’m pessimistic about my chances – and the general tenor of my experience has not been positive.
That’s not to say that there aren’t some really great things about my job. For starters, some of my coworkers are really frickin’ awesome (some of them are really, really not, but we’re trying to be positive here, so work with me). Seriously; of this super-small group, probably half of them are some of the most dedicated, flexible, caring professionals I’ve ever been privileged to work with, and I don’t take a moment of that for granted.
Some of the kids are super, too. Really, this work is all about the kids, and a few of the kids manage to be genuine, inquisitive, and energetic even though there are some astonishingly serious problems with the way the culture is established and maintained by the adults in power. I’ve managed to reach a fair number of students (though the ones I can’t reach are the ones who break my heart) and their energy and enthusiasm feeds my soul.
On balance, though? I don’t belong there. The things I think are important are not supported in the environment, and I have already talked to Mr. Chili about not going back next year. It’s highly likely that he’s going to be looking for new work, anyway, and that will likely mean we’ll be relocating, but even if that weren’t the case…
Every once in a while, though, I start thinking that – MAYBE – I can stick it out for one more year. I talk myself into believing that it’s not as bad as I think it is, and that I’m strong and persistent enough to overcome the things that trip me up about the place.
Every single time I start thinking this way, though – EVERY SINGLE TIME – something happens to slap me back into reality.
So, today, right? I’ve got a new class of students, and I’ve got one girl in particular who’s going to be trouble. She’s a walking attitude – you know the kind – and she’s done nothing but challenge me from the moment she walked into my room. I’ve not budged with her, though; I’ve set down reasonable and attainable rules, and I expect her and everyone else in the room to follow them.
One of those rules concerns cell phones. The stated policy in the school (well, in the most recent version of the handbook that I can find, which was last year) is that cell phones and other devices are to be powered down and put away in a bag or pocket for the duration of class time. No one, as far as I can tell, enforces that rule with any regularity, so the kids have gotten used to being able to have their phones out (and their earbuds in.. what’s up with that?!) during classes. I’m saying no, and she’s pushing back.
This afternoon, I gave the powers that be a heads-up that they’re going to be seeing this student on my behalf sometime soon over this cell phone fight, and that I expect to be supported. One of those powers – let’s call him Stan – asked me, point blank, whether “this is a fight [I] wanted to have,” implying that it wasn’t worth arguing with the kid over. I answered with an unequivocal “yes, this is a fight I’m willing to have. We’re not doing these students any favors by not holding them accountable to any standards of polite behavior, and I think this is an important line to hold.”
Stan was not pleased with me.
I left today re-convinced that I don’t belong in this school. It’s bad enough that the academic standards are anemic at best; the fact that I can expect no support from my administration for simple classroom policy is really beyond what I am able to look past. If I can’t teach them content, and I can’t teach them character, then what the hell am I supposed to teach them?