The first post for the school year is to all the teachers (first year and otherwise) who are approaching Thanksgiving with their tanks pushing perilously close to empty. These are just a few of the things I wish I knew when I first started classroom teaching, or might even help those who are well into their professional career.
I last taught in a high school classroom in June 2007. I knew it was my last few days at the school where I taught, but I didn’t anticipate it would be the end of my public school teaching career. In my third year of a PhD program in urban education, I am nostalgic about not being in a high school classroom and miss teaching something fierce. I am currently teaching a Youth Cultures course in General Education, but even that doesn’t seem akin to what my peers do in K-12.
First, I have a saying, “never let a kid f*** up your day.” It sounds simple, but with over 150 live, smelly, plugged in, growing bodies coming through my door from 8am to 3:08 pm, it’s easy to let their lives and their stories become your own. As much as we want to be mentor, older brother (sister), father (mother), psychologist, social worker and of course, teacher, we have to leave their problems for them to solve. This is especially true in teaching high school and when we teach in low socioeconomic areas. We have to remember that many of the feelings they experience we went through back when we were their age. As such, we can be sympathetic, helpful and lend an ear, but we cannot live their lives.
For many, just navigating their way to and from school through a “war zone” is a challenge, not to mention all the other ills currently plaguing both inner cities and rural communities in
. We have to honor their lives and respect their cultural mores. We also have to learn how to both push our students through adversity while at the same time love them and assist them when they reach out for help. America
Second, your colleagues are not always your friends. Teaching is oftentimes an isolated, lonely profession. My first year at the huge comprehensive high school where I taught was spent alone in the bungalows (trailers used to reduce overcrowding in the main building) far far away from the main building, from the department chair and from the Principal and Assistant Principals. It seemed like the only visit I would get from any of them wasn’t for academic problems or for a social visit “how are things going Stuart?”, but rather the mundane – your door is broken, you shouldn’t let kids in class after the bell rings, you failed to turn in your attendance rosters in a timely manner, you forgot to sign in/out in the main office…It seemed as if I could do no right even though as a initially as a long term sub I was never introduced to anyone, much less someone to help guide me through the every day systems that are so necessary and “important” for a large school to function.
Continued on Monday...