(80) Floating in the Back of My Brain

I have no energy today. I have done very little besides read and nap. Floating in the back of my brain was the need to get this blog written. Since it has been “random week,” I knew a random idea would show up.  Here it is:

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I knew this message was for me because I think there are things I need to let go in order to find wisdom.

When I decided to become a teacher, I thought that would be it.  I’d have a wonderful career and maybe eventually retire. Now in my eleventh year, I question that vision over and over again.

Today I read an article that is currently in the New York Times about people well over the age of 60 that have done amazing things: publish poetry, write children’s books, get masters degrees, start organizations. The point is there is no age limit to living the dream.

I  have contended for quite some time my hidden dream was to be a teacher.  It was a dream that took 42 years to surface into words, and even longer to manifest. But I am finding that the way education is right now is not the place I want to be teaching.

That was a hard sentence to write.

Yesterday I was talking to another teacher friend.  She is feeling much the same way. Totally exhausted. Only looking forward to more and more of the undesirable being poured upon us. Never feeling like we are doing what we set out to do. She asked the question: A  few years ago we were doing a lot more. Why, now that we are doing less (in the school, such as committees, etc.) are we so tired all the time?

I know for me there have been a couple of things floating around in my mind that are drilling little holes of unhappiness.  One is that every time I plan a fabulous lesson, something to really help my students understand something in the literature we’re studying, I can barely find a Common Core…uh, er…..Florida State Standard to support what I want to do. That has been annoying. The standards are dull and lifeless.

The other is knowing that sooner or later an administrator is going to show up with a narrowly defined concept of what I am supposed to be doing the minute she comes into the classroom.  In this case, it has to do with questioning. But if I am not doing the questioning in JUST THE RIGHT WAY, I will be marked down. The prospect of her walking in at any given moment with the iPad is enough to make me want to throw in the towel.

It isn’t that I don’t want to be evaluated. At my previous school, admin came in all the time. But it wasn’t with a little set of boxes to check off.  It was to find what I was doing well.  I’d find a walk-through report in my mailbox with all kinds of little praises and maybe a small suggestion. There is a distinct difference here.

These are just two of the annoyances. Truly, they both can be handled.

But there is something else bugging me.

Back when I was a substitute teacher in the school district I live in here in Florida, I witnessed a phenomenon at the local high school that bugged me.  I noticed during a class change that all the young people of color went one way, all the white kids another.  What was the difference?  The first way was to the classes like learning to cook and balance a checkbook. The other direction was to the chemistry and Advanced Placement classes and such. As a sub at this school, I faced the fact that a caste system was at work in our schools.  Something that the No Child Left Behind act was to eradicate.

Well, guess what?  Today my classroom sits at the end of the hallway.  Next to me, across from me, and kitty cornered from me are all intensive reading teachers. I can look down the hall and know which kids will be coming all the way down, and which will stop off at the advanced English class up the hall.

These kids travel around together all day, always made to feel the lowest and the stupidest. It causes issues because if there are personality conflicts, they are revisited every class period throughout the day. Two of my students came to blows this week on an issue that had building up for weeks.  Fortunately, it wasn’t in my class, but it could have been.  They duked it out literally 5 minutes before they would have been in my classroom.

So, I’m tired. I have been pumping myself up with new ideas and trying to be more real with my students — but that is only going so far.

Floating around in the back of my brain is the question: Is this it? Do I really have to stay?

And if not, what the hell else do I do?

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