Mississippi Teacher Corps

Thursday, November 23, 2006

"You can back out of it"

Almost all the schools around here had the whole week off for Thanksgiving, but mine was still in session on Monday and Tuesday (though I can't complain because we had a whole week off in October, when everyone really needed it). I've been going through a rough time the past few days and have been feeling very down for personal reasons completely unrelated to anything at my school. I called in sick on Monday because I couldn't pull myself together enough to face a day of school, and returned on Tuesday out of a sense of obligation but still feeling very upset. During first period, my planning period, I was talking to the guidance counselor about some of my problem students, and just before I left her office, she asked me if I was OK. I shook my head. In typical guidance-counselor fashion, she started to empathize with what she assumed was the problem. "I know the first year is hard. My first year, when I was at that school with the fourth grade boys, was the toughest year for me. And it's hard for you especially when this is a different culture, and this is such a rough group of kids that you have. You know, middle school is the toughest age group of all, it really is. And in this school, you don't have supportive parents, and these kids are really rough, and we don't have the support of the district- ahem, I didn't say that but you must have noticed it by now- and it's just a really hard place for you to come into. And I know that you committed two years, but listen to me, you can back out of it!"
As soon as she said those words, I snapped out of my nodding-and-agreeing mode and immediately responded, "I don't want to. I want to be here." (On a side note, I've been vaguely considering the possibility of switching school districts next year, but I am far from certain that I will even try, and I will be in the Delta, regardless). She seemed almost surprised to hear such a strong statement and began to pep-talk me about how I couldn't let the kids get to me. At that point, I mentioned that right then, I was feeling distressed for personal reasons, not because of the school or the kids. That got her off the subject of our school's troubles, but it made me reflect on the sadness of the interaction that had just taken place. With the exception of a couple of teachers, the guidance counselor probably understands where I'm coming from, and why I'm teaching at our school, better than anyone else in the school. I'm sure she's aware that my school is, by Delta standards, one of the better schools. And yet she reacted to my sadness that day by encouraging me to take advantage of the escape hatch! I'm not sure whether she was suggesting I quit after the end of the year or that I commit the exponentially worse act of quitting mid-year, but either way, it makes me sad to know that such an influential person at my school has so little faith in what the school is doing for these kids that she would actually suggest that I bail. It's not just the guidance counselor, either. More and more, I'm seeing signs that the other adults in the school have given up on the kids, and that makes me feel even more strongly that I need to be there and care about them. A few days ago, I was asking another teacher if I could use some textbooks for my class, and she responded, "Sure, take 'em all, I'm not even gonna bother trying to get my kids to use them because doesn't matter what I do, none of these kids do a darned thing in class any more anyway so it doesn't even matter what I try and teach." The same teacher reacted to my distressed state on Tuesday by assuming, just as the guidance counselor did, that I was upset about school, and commented, "So, teaching wasn't what you thought it would be, huh?" I'm starting to wonder how many of the people at my school assume that I won't last. Even though I frequently become frustrated with the school, my students, and the way that my own teaching often seems not to reach my students, I still maintain a hope that I will be able to make some small difference in the life of one of those kids. Though I don't seem to be helping the majority of my kids, especially given how many are failing my class right now and not making the minimal efforts needed to find out what work they are missing and make it up, there are the small moments that count. The girl who told me that she likes me because I'm different from her other teachers and I do cool demonstrations, the kid who's mom told me that I'm his favorite teacher, the girl who didn't do well in school and didn't focus on her work before this year but is making 100% in my class? They're reason enough to stick around here.
Now playing: Gillian Welch- Wayside/Back in Time


  • At 6:33 PM, Blogger Lily said…

    It's sad to think that such a beautiful girl who writes such touching things is so blue. I hope your long weekend offered a bit of comfort. Take care of yourself.

    P.S. I like your choice in music :-)


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