I would rather go into a messy, non-ideal, difficult job and try to do my best, knowing the odds are not great that I’ll be able to accomplish the great things I’m aiming for, than get that ideal job in a place where everything is slick and professional and handled a certain way. In that scenario I’d feel like a fraud, like I didn’t belong, because I don’t have it all down as far as curriculum and protocol and the paper train, I only have heart, the will to learn and grow, a year or two of teaching in various places, and some parenting experience.
The principal keeps including in his “informal chats” with me the fact that I came into this job under the worst possible circumstances, and it wouldn’t be easy for anyone. So I feel that there’s a lot of grace for me, a lot of room to be creative and try different things, to make mistakes, while at the same time I have a great deal of support, as do my students, as we work things out. As he shared with me some feedback he’s been getting from students, and listened to me respond, I felt I was in a conversation rather than a checkup or evaluation. I realize what a privilege and blessing it is to have that support, knowing not every principal gives it like that. Maybe that’s why he works here too, because the focus is on helping the students make it rather than winning awards and being picture perfect.
It was also encouraging to hear the principal comment that it was funny how three years ago he’d had pretty much the same conversation with the math teacher, who still there and still not coasting. “It’s a journey,” he said, several times. I feel that as I listen to the other staff, who are struggling and stressed and frustrated in their turn, too, trying to keep reasonable expectations, care for students, get everything done, and keep things in balance. No glib advice there.
So here I am, learning to teach to multiple abilities and learning styles, how to build relationships with those who have turned inward, those who have short fuses, those who have wounds and emotional baggage. Learning how to provide scaffolding for new concepts, deal with sass and resistance, pass on a vision, encourage and love. Learning to take care of myself too, and soak in all the wisdom of others’ experience. And in many ways, I’m feeling the care and support of a good number of students, those empathetic and perceptive ones who think of others–not a universal characteristics among 14-18 year olds at school or at home.
Holidays and teacher work days come just in time, too, for a little recharge, a chance to get caught up on home duties, to think ahead a bit to possible special activities. MLK Day tomorrow will be a quiet at school day for that. The grading is done, now I have to plan the final review before the end of semester assessments and final grade posting. I’ll order the compost worms for next semester, assemble some gardening tools to dig up the dead trees over by the dumpster so we can plant potatoes, negotiate a bit more garden area for peas and garlic, plan the class walk down to the creek, and figure out how to measure cricket respiration.