Hey y’all, hope you had a great first week of the new year. For me, it’s just about that time to get back to school/work and, while I’m a little concerned that my stress levels will be shooting up, I’m excited to move forward and work with my students. I think about the amazing young minds that I interact with on a regular basis and I can’t help but think that for right now, this is exactly where I need to be.
However, that’s really it. For right now. After entertaining thoughts of longevity or even just longer tenure in the school system as a teacher, I realized fairly recently that it’s really not for me. Even though I am way more confident and comfortable with the job itself, physically I feel more taxed, mentally I feel more undervalued and overworked, and emotionally…well emotionally I feel pretty good honestly. Nevertheless, just consider me a little less than content to spend more than 18 more months at my placement school and as a teacher in Dade county.
I’ve realized that it really just isn’t for me. I see its limitations everywhere at this point and while I did catch a solid recharge over my break through the Posse Foundation, I realize that those recharge moments are too few and are too weak in order to get me through a longer career in this field. The long haul-short haul aspect of public schooling, especially at this level is enough to drive me crazy, or at least raise my blood pressure(Quite literally, even though I’m hypertensive, my blood pressure is only mildly high right now…during longer periods of schooling, it’s gotten really crazy). Some people might call that overkill, but when I think about the amount of impact that I’m having and the amount of personal strain I’m experiencing, the costs don’t really balance out. Why?
The “long haul-short haul” aspect of the job. When I say that, I just mean how the “returns” and the “productivity” of the job can be measured, both in terms of standardized assessment and in terms of personal growth and qualitative measures. It’s long haul because every single student is at least a year’s project. You invest your time and energy working for these students for a very long period of time relatively. In block scheduling, you spend about 8000 hours working “directly” with each student, plus an unknowable number of hours working with them indirectly. You manage them in the classroom in order to get them to complete work and challenge themselves for their own benefit (if you’re doing it “right”). Yet while you’re managing these, generally wonderful children, you’re being “managed”. But this is from a distance…and there’s never really a time where you can adequately present the work that you’ve done. At least in my experience so far, the “deliverables” are collected, observed, and then judged with very little input or conversation with the teacher. There might be conversation about them at times, but it’s too large and too distant of a system to work fluidly and then the positions for advancement or responsibility are limited. That in many ways is the short haul. Additionally, when you’ve made a great deal of progress with your students, the people who you work with for again about 8000 hours, then they go away for the summer and return, generally to be with different teachers. While the year was long and there were a great deal of changes you made in the long haul process, when that year is over, you’re done. You’ve felt like you’ve had short haul impacts, and, the thing that gets me the hardest, the school year ends anti-climatically. Even parties don’t do it. Again, that is based on my experience at my school.
I know that I couldn’t maintain myself solely off of this “long haul-short haul” structure for a lifetime. I do love teaching, but when the only thing I’m being paid for (hahaha what a simplification) is instructing and grading for the students in the room, the structures don’t fulfill my personal needs. And I’m seeing more and more that there are systems that can work better; maybe not in low-income and low-performing schools, but at least in other realms and avenues. I’m not going to go into too much depth about my dream job, but I will talk about what inspired this.
Today my family and I went to see the phenomenal new movie “Hidden Figures”, which to briefly summarize the film is about the Black women who worked at NASA and were instrumental to the success of the earliest and groundbreaking space launches. I loved the movie, but the part that resonated with me the very most was the structure of that organization. While the work itself could be very tedious, in each department there was a clear goal and objective which was broken down for the individual employees and then brought together. Each and every person could feel like their work was a part of something greater and could celebrate in that moment with a successful launch (or some other project). I’ve worked corporate, and one of the biggest issues I had with corporate structure was how disjointed my work felt from everyone else’s. While that might happen in any job, I recognize that I need a job where there is a “shining moment”, a “performing moment”. And as much as I do love working with my students, we can build a team, but they’re assessed and acknowledged individually. There’s no opening curtain, there’s no successful launch and landing, there’s no premiere, screening, or release date. There’s very few moments where multiple students, in class, can see just how integral they are to each other, and there are very few moments where I can get that feeling.
I can simulate it. I’ve read enough teaching theory books to form simulations and do it short form. But I’m not at the stage where I can really create it in a marvelous way. A former colleague of mine did something at her middle school, which was amazing. It was a “shining moment” for her students, but in a sense I don’t want to focus so much on constructing these moments.
In a sense, the more time I spend masterminding the perfect moment for my students and myself to shine, the less any of us spend actually shining. And the less we can spend shining together. My dream job is a job where I have the agency and approval to work and develop projects and work that will allow me to truly shine and that won’t fizzle out in the long haul of a school year. Things that have permanence. However, I’m not all about me. My dream job will also push me to create those moments for my students. Even if they’re shorter lived, they’ll have much more impact. And that’s a major reason why I’m not fully abandoning teaching. I just need to find a career where I can teach, build platforms, and make work. Where there are more rises and falls between those moments so I can live and listen and learn.
Thanks as always for letting me rant, if you have comments or questions, feel free to let me know,
Have a wonderful week,