Sunday, September 5, 2010

Teaching Update--Week 2

As promised, here is a real post updating on my teaching life. I'll post another update later about my life aside from work.

The first two weeks of school are over, and it has been a rollercoaster ride for sure! There are days that I'm absolutely loving my job, the kids, my coworkers, and life in general. And then there are days when I question what I'm doing here and if I can actually make it through the next 9 months. This year will truly be me relying on God for strength, patience, and support every single day to actually get through it all.

*The Kids*
First of all, my students are wonderful. Some of them are pretty rough around the edges, and a few of them have told me stories about their lives that make my heart break for what they have been through, but all of them have so much potential to be amazing as long as they actually stay focused on having a positive future. My classes are smaller than I had anticipated, firstly because I'm a Title 1 teacher (so all of my students have to have already attempted to pass the class in the past and have failed) and secondly because attendance and enrollment are low right now. On average for my day school, I have about 10 kids on my roster per class and about 4 that show up (some classes only have 1 or 2 that are there on a regular basis). The only class that isn't like that is my 6th period class, which is almost full every day. During night school, I usually have between 5 and 10 students who show up per period, but that's pretty normal for nigh school.

On the one hand, that can make planning for group projects and things hard because I never know how many kids to expect, and if it's a class that is usually only 2 or 3 students, then I can't do group projects at all. It's also hard because students who are only there a few days a week always want me to help the catch up on missing work. After spending Friday as a professional development day and talking with the head of my department, I think I've got a plan worked out for the latter issue. On the other hand, having small classes is great; I can spend more time really working one-on-one with students and giving the the focus that they need to really comprehend the material.

I've got students who I'm already building a great rapport with, and some students who are still trying to push the boundaries and see how far they can take it/how much they can get away with. Some of these kids really have no concept of basic ideas and principals behind the material that we're covering, and I'm having a hard time with that because I have to figure out new ways to approach and present material so they can grasp it. But they're generally good kids who just need someone who truly cares about being with them and who isn't going to just write the off or give up on them. I hope I can be that.

*The Coworkers*
My coworkers are phenomenal. It's a great group of people who are all around my age, who have the same sense of humor that I have, and who make working 11 1/2 hours a day somewhat bearable. Even after only a month of being with these people, I would already consider a few of them to be friends outside of the workplace. It's also nice that the head of my department has taken me in to be a kind of mentor to me in more ways than one: not only is she giving me so many useful resources and helping me figure out ways to balance day school and night school, she's also acting as my mentor to get me through the residence program so that I can apply for my 5-year license at the end of this year. It's great to be working with these people, not just because they are fun but because they are feeling as frustrated about some particular things within the school as I am.

*The Frustrations*
Okay, at this point there are a few things that I could put into this category. But we'll try to keep it short.

First of all, when I was offered the position I was painted a much different picture than what's actually going on. I was told that since I was teaching night school I could come in around 7:45am instead of 7:15am and that night school would be over around 5:30pm. In reality, I'm expected to be there at 7:15am and I don't get out of night school until 6:30pm. So I'm doing 11 1/2 hours of work each day. That's a lot more than I was anticipating, and it's an extremely long and exhausting day. By the time I get home at 7pm, I basically have no energy left to do anything--clean, do laundry, cook dinner, even grade papers and prepare for the next day of teaching. If it wasn't for the fact that I need the extra money for loans, I probably would have quit teaching night school and just moved back to day school only. But since I owe the banks the equivalent of a large luxury car in loan repayments, I continue to teach night school too.

I also feel like the motive behind some of the people who work there is totally off. I know I'm there 70% because I love teaching, 20% because I want to be in an inner-city school, and 10% because I need the money. My number one motivation for being there is because I truly have a heart for working in this particular setting with this demographic of students. However, this isn't the case with some people, which is heartbreaking--this is the kind of situation where you need to truly have a heart for these kids if you are going to be there, otherwise all you are doing is hurting the kids and their potential to grow. It's so aggravating when you know you're there because you genuinely care about these kids and other people are there solely to get data for a report or for the money; it's doing nothing but an injustice to these kids and their future. I guess that just means I need to step up my own game and really focus on making sure my heart is in the right place with this job to make up for where others aren't.

Overall, while I've got my frustrations and the days are so long that I can barely get anything done during the week, this is going to be a good first year of teaching. I need to figure out how to balance my work life and my social life right now, and I need to make sure that I'm organized and focused to help me get through the week. And most importantly, I need to remember that God put me here for a reason, and I need to see what He has in store for me and trust His plan.

As Mrs. Rose Brown (my favorite English teacher in high school, and the true inspiration for what I want to be as a teacher) told me: "remember your passion"


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