Something’s not right – this is too easy.

12 Jun

It’s not about the hours in preparing lessons for ten different subjects, crafting new interactive assignments on paper and in my mind. Not about grading piles of papers, or the challenge of appropriately customizing assignments for those that need that. Not about calling parents or attending meetings, dealing with a down WiFi network or stuffy, windowless classroom with too few electrical outlets. That sort of thing would be a given no matter where I’d teach.

What’s not quite right is that these students make me feel like I’m good at this, when really, it’s just that they are extraordinarily non-diverse and conformist, unusually trusting, loved, and supported by their families and community. So all I have to do is be reasonably creative, cheerful, energetic and organized, and things come off pretty much without a hitch. What a good teacher I am. They even give me birthday cards and presents, and a giant teacher appreciation poster at the end of the year. At the close of each class, at least two students say thank you. The principal leaves little treats in our mailboxes and brings muffins and fruit to staff meetings, and parents believe what I tell them about their kids and thank me for all my efforts.

It’s not natural.

After my year at the alternative school (having survived to want to fight on), I was exhausted, but also fired up to get out there and use what I’d learned. I wanted to get out there and make a difference, share the incredible burden teachers take on of trying to meet the educational needs of a diverse, broken culture whose youth are experiencing loss, racism, abuse, the reverberations of childhood trauma, culture shock, mental health issues, and family dysfunction. AN in addition to all that, the worst thing of all, a sense of not being visible or valued. I

All the staff and most of the parents at my school are nice Christian people. Even the guy who I would say isn’t part of that culture must have mentioned God eight times in the graduation speech, because he knew that was how to relate best to these grads and their families. There was also a giant “Jesus” sign behind him only partially hidden by green and gold balloons. A prop of the congregation whose building we rent, but at any other school, it would have been covered up in case anyone complained that one religion was being emphasized in a school event. In this town, it’s covering it up that would cause problems.

Other than three Latino kids, who are adopted, one or two of slight Asian lineage, and a good number of (white, Christian) Russian families, the students are pretty much Dutch Reform Evangelical stock. Two of the female staff do have husbands of color, most likely they got aquainted out of town. Which just goes to show, one can’t make a lot of assumptions about viewpoints, only about demographics and related cultural norms.

I like an easy job as much as the next person, don’t long to be in an uphill battle all the time, but I want to have the wind in my face sometimes, to have someone to stick up for, and against, to feel useful in a bigger way. I gravitate toward the students who struggle, who irritate others, who resist, don’t fit in, need something more.

I told myself, and my family, I’d give it three years. By that time I’ll have set down some good routines and organizational strategies, become more efficient with my time and energy, and accumulated some good lesson and project plans in three levels of math and at least three sciences, as well as teaching experience from elementary up to twelfth grade. Then we’ll see. I’ll probably run out of room for the cute little presents that will come my way all that time. I just hope I haven’t got stuck in my groove, and forgotten why I’m in this profession.



Posted by on June 12, 2017 in Education, Places & Experiences


Tags: ,

3 responses to “Something’s not right – this is too easy.

  1. jdawgsrunningblog

    June 17, 2017 at 5:10 am

    two things come to my mind–first and foremost–you deserve to be appreciated–and heartens me so to see this happening—and thank you for just letting it go enough to write about that—the other is that you can find the wind no matter what the situation is–by now focusing on manifesting and ever-more comprehensive vision–keep demanding more out of yourself–and keep striving to make your expectations and required work contain more and more weaves to it—-but not at the expense of overworking you or the kids–if that makes sense. In other words–don’t judge your work by that metric of it ‘being too easy’ that way–for that’s using the category you got pounded into you by your previous teaching experience–does this make sense?

    • toesinthedirt

      June 21, 2017 at 9:36 pm

      I think I see what you mean. I will have new challenges next year in any case, with teaching some new courses. I’m glad I have some margin, though so I can push further demand more of myself. I want to strive for a balance in how I lead, challenging and encouraging students, providing opportunities for meaningful learning–sounds cliche, I know. And I really want to try to do better in customizing learning arrangements for different students and facilitating lots of teamwork.
      I hope you have a refreshing summer.

      • jdawgsrunningblog

        June 22, 2017 at 6:06 am

        Not cliche at all–keep putting it out there–in all its vague generalities and down-and-dirty specifics–love and admire your vision–and of course, the integrity and deep intelligence around it. I applaud your students for recognizing a gem in their midst. Thank you for the kind wishes.


Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: