The English Teacher

July 8, 2007, 4:30 pm
Filed under: Daily Life, Reflection

Even though it has been almost a month since school was let out for summer vacation, I really couldn’t sit down and write about this past year until now.  It’s not that I was incredibly busy, but it was more that I wasn’t sure what I wanted to write about.   Since I was so unsure, it would have been easier to not write anything at all, but, despite my writer’s block, I really wanted to put my reflections down on paper-so to speak-in order to make this past year more real.

To be honest, the school wasn’t quite what I had expected.  When I accepted the job, I had one idea of what the school was like but later on, I learned that the caliber was a bit lower than I expected.  Maybe I’m being harsh, but this school’s climate was pretty bad.  The level of respect the students had for their teachers was -10.  Most of the students weren’t even expected to graduate.  In the beginning of the year, I had to fight with a couple of students in each class just to get them to turn their work in.  Though I had mostly freshmen, about one or two of the students in each class were already planning on dropping out of school.  Needless to say, this was a pretty discouraging start.

As the year progressed, however, I felt that my students and I developed a tolerant relationship.  Some relationships were better than others, though.

The end of the year, unfortunately, had more low points than high points.  That’s when I learned that I would have to transfer to another school (this actually worked out to my advantage) and I had a pretty bad review from an adminstrator which I felt was unfair.  Basically, this adminstrator had never spent an entire class period observing me and when we met, I was told that I needed to develop more of a rapport with one class.  At the same time, the high failure rate in this class was attributed solely to me, which I felt was incredibly unfair considering that this was a class for students who had failed the very same class the previous semester.  It was, and still is, my opinion that this adminstrator, who had been offered an administrative position at another school, was out to settle old grievances (which most likely happened to a colleague of mine) and/or hurriedly finish doing the things that were supposed to have been completed months ago.  I think my incident fits in the latter category.  The last time my administrator had visited my classroom for that particular class was around February, March at the latest.  The last time this adminstrator visited another classroom was in the first semester.  Somehow, these 10-15 minutes of observation gave the adminstrator enough fodder to accuse me, in June, of contributing to the high failure rate of my one class.  I voiced my discontent with the review to the adminstrator and my direct supervisor and I signed the form.  I just wish that my supervisor, who I believe is a fantastic teacher, had enough backbone to stick up for the teachers who get lambasted unfairly.

My experience with the other teachers was, on the whole, excellent.  I definitely relied greatly on my House leader who provided me with a lot of guidance and assignment ideas even though it wasn’t really his job to do so.  At the same time, as a first year teacher, I was fortunate enough to have a Consulting Teacher who also came in an observed me at least once a month.  Her observations and debriefings were much more informative and much more valued than my adminstrator’s since my CT actually stayed for the entire class lessons and she saw me progress through the school year.  I think I was incredibly lucky since I know that there were other teachers who had horrible CT’s who did not provide any guidance or help.

Though this past year was spent in an unfamiliar environment, I think I am the better for it.  In this profession, it’s necessary to gain as much experience as possible.  For a person like me, who tends to get very comfortable in one place, there couldn’t have been a better place for me to start my career than in this school.  On my own, in my home state, I would never have knowingly applied for a job in a similar school.  However, because I was forced to apply outside of my state, I got the job in a completely new environment with a student population I have never worked with before.

This is not to say that I am not looking forward to my new school next year.  My new school is completely different from my old one.  The students are very motivated learners and were even the subject of a book about overachievers.  So, rather than forcing kids to do their homework and bring their grades up, I’ll have to force kids to back off.  I’ll be looking forward to these new set of challenges and experiences next year.