Tuesday, June 5, 2007

What I might not miss about my job...

...nine straight hours of grading--and barely making a dent in the pile(s)
...petty arguments with small-minded administrators hopped up on their own self-importance who insult my professionalism and reading comprehension (which, if I do say so myself, are impeccable!)
...fretting about the fact that a certain young man has someone at home writing his essays for him and still can't read, but knowing I can't help him because he won't be honest with me about his problems
...reading news articles about members of my school district's BOE acting inappropriately
...disappointing my students because there are too many of them and not enough of me to give them the kind of assistance I would like to offer
...realizing (after grading papers) how many of them just gave up this year (it looks like five or six... three of whom are theoretically "honors" students)
...feeling guilty every second I'm not grading papers
...working twice as many hours as contracted, completely uncompensated
...getting crap about every single little mistake in the yearbook
...not having enough time to properly look after my health (working out, eating right, etc.)

I will miss my students, my colleagues, my department chair, and my successes (with yearbook and teaching English--the kids never even know how much better they are at writing now than they were 9 months ago). I love teaching high school English, but the public school system makes it all but impossible for you to do it effectively without sacrificing some piece of yourself. We make movies about selfless, giving teachers whose marriages suffer or who lead lives of lonely desperation entirely centered around a bunch of hard-assed teens who grow to love them, but the truth about teaching is that you cannot base your ego and your identity in the hands of teenagers. It is not a healthy way to live.

I love Roosevelt. I love the people who teach there and the students who attend. I love Old Greenbelt--the last holdout of hippie-esque communist thinking in an increasingly commercial world. I love AP Lang. I love working on the yearbook. But I hate how much of myself I keep giving away to do this job that I love so much.

I suppose I'm hoping that teaching in Korea will help me to finally filter out what thoughts/ambitions/activities come from within and which come from the community in which I am so thoroughly entrenched at the moment. I want to know if I really want to pursue graduate studies or a romantic relationship or writing. I want to get to know the me that is and is not defined by my culture and my work and my relationships... It is important to know what questions to ask.


  1. that's kinda gross about the poor kid who can't read and is being undermined by someone at home.

    you could probably figure out a way to flunk him, or at least flag him. but would that be more trouble than it's worth?

    a college prof could bring the student into office hours or whatever, mention a particular piece of work, and see if they can recreate the thought process that went into it.

    or, a teacher could ask them to do a simple assignment in a controlled situation. if they fail, further action (by someone) is warranted.

    but if that's a no-go, for whatever reason... then that really stinks.

    he'll be socially promoted, i guess? what happens when someone finds it out? Who's going to stop failing this kid, and start FAILING this kid?

  2. I did a lot of those things--two or three controlled test situations, calling him out on not getting it, conferencing with parents, etc. I tried to FORCE the parents to get the kid tested, but never would allow it. Eventually, they did take him to some kind of afterschool tutoring program where his tutor e-mailed me and I wrote her an honest assessment based on the tests/observations I conducted. (Whoa boy, the conference that followed that doozy was fun... but at least now everyone except mom, dad, and son sees there is a HUGE problem).

    At some point, with this particular kid, I gave up. I will admit this. I have enough students willing to acknowledge that they have a problem and eager to receive my assistance with overcoming it. He puts far too much effort into cheating for me to worry about him. I stopped writing comments on any of his papers--grades only.

    Ugh... it's the kind of problem that could be addressed more successfully if I had fewer than 150 students. Again... things I "might not miss"... Ha ha!



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