Posted in Teaching, Uncategorized

And So It Goes

Normally I try to keep my posts about work upbeat and happy. I’m afraid this isn’t one of those posts.

Let me preface this story by saying that I absolutely love what I do. I may not have always thought it was the best, and there are days that I’d much rather be at home with my son than with a raving mad bunch of teenagers. But, all in all, it is a worthwhile job. One that I find rather fulfilling.

That being said, I think it may be time for a change. Maybe it wasn’t the time I was ready for, but perhaps it is the time that a higher power thinks I need. Time will tell.

I began teaching the fall after I graduated with my Bachelor’s degree in English. I actually had no idea what I wanted to do with my degree until I ran into my high school French teacher. She told me of a program that the local school system had that would send you to some classes over the summer, put you in the classroom in the fall, and eventually give you a free Master’s degree. I didn’t have anything else to do, and kismet lead me down this path. I had nothing to lose and everything to gain. So I applied, and was accepted. Looking back, part of me feels that it was probably a little bit because of my own teachers. My former French teacher was one of the mentors. My former calculus teacher, she was the lady in charge. If I had been someone else, I may not have gotten in at all. But they knew me, and I ended up joining the program, a bit more on track with a plan for my future.

I can’t say that my first year of teaching was anything but difficult. Not having any student teaching made the work even more complicated, but I persevered. Sure, my evaluations weren’t the greatest, but I was still learning, and I had a strong desire to learn. I wanted to get my whole body wet, not just my feet, and I ended up probably taking on more than I should have. I taught 9th grade English, both average and honors classes. One of my average classes was a collaborative class, which means that I had a large number of students with Individualized Education Plans, or IEPs, and that didn’t make the job any easier.

I remember having two kids almost get into a fight in my room that year. I remember being scared as the boy instead attacked one of my filing cabinets with his fist. The dents in that cabinet are still there, as is my memory of that student. There was much to learn about his situation in later years, and it still amazes me to this day that he was able to accomplish so much with his life. He’s currently in the military, and I keep up with him from time to time on facebook.

The next three years, I worked on my Master’s degree curriculum at night, and finished that degree work. My salary went up, and my responsibilities at work changed. I moved from 9th grade to 10th, and with the new curriculum came new challenges. But each year was more rewarding than the last. My students sometimes “hated” me, I always loved them, and we more or less ended the school years on a positive note. I had a few elective classes thrown in there as well, which helped to break up the monotony.

But then, in the 2011-2012 school year, I was thrown for a loop. I remember getting a phone call the Monday before I needed to be back at work…basically two full weeks before students were to show up. I wasn’t going to be teaching 9th grade, nor was I going to be teaching my 10th grade classes, or my electives. Instead, I was going to be teaching Creative Writing. Four sections of it. Each one different. The woman who had taught those classes the year before retired, and it was now my duty to take the program over from her.

I was scared. I scrambled that entire time I was back at work. I wondered what I was going to do. I had no idea how to teach Creative Writing. In fact, during my degree work, I had never even taken a class on Creative Writing. I had no idea what I was doing. On top of it all, the woman who retired left next to nothing to help me, and when I reached out, I got the minimum help back.

My classes that year were a struggle. I had three classes which had only known the other woman as their teacher. One class was completely new, but a vast majority of them had no interest in writing whatsoever. There were plenty of days that I went home crying that first year. I struggled to make it work, I worried that my teaching career was going to be over so soon. But struggle through I did, and I made it out the other side.

Years passed, and I finally got the hang of it all. I love my program more than anything else that I have ever done as an educator. I feel as if I finally make a difference. My students come back and tell me about the impact I have had on their lives. I see my same students every year…it’s no longer an “unknown” filled with fear. My classes are my home away from home, and they are my little school family. Before I had my own son, these kids were my children, my babies. It’s so much more than I ever thought it could be.

And that’s where it goes, itsn’t it? You get comfortable. You feel that you are finally doing the thing you are supposed to be doing, and then things get shaken up.

Last week, I was told that the classe that I had grown to love, were no longer going to be mine. I hadn’t done a good enough job with recruiting new students to the program, so a new teacher would be taking it over in my stead. Someone who has ideas. Someone who is good with PR.

And I broke down.

I knew that it wasn’t going to be a good meeting as soon as I got the email. I was a bundle of nerves, planning for the worst. And the worst wasn’t far from what happened.

No, I still get to teach, but I will be back to my old classes, teaching English once again. The students that I’ve grown to know and love won’t be my babies anymore. They’ll be with someone else while I watch from the sidelines.

And it hurts so much. And it scares me.

Because I believe, in some part, about fate. Perhaps I got too comfortable. Perhaps I loved something a little too much. And now, it is being torn from my arms.

Whither shall I go from here? I don’t know. Will I stay? Will I teach somewhere else, do something new? Perhaps I will find something else to take the burden of this memory from me.

Whatever I do, I will carry my love for this program with me every day. I will continue to seek out my former students. Continue to make the connections that were ever so important to me. And I will remember what it was like to once love what you do with ever fibre of your being.

I will miss all of my babies. I will mourn over my loss. But I will remember that it is never the end. The road keeps going ever onward. And I will keep on trudging along.

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Posted in Motherhood, Random Thoughts, Teaching, Uncategorized

The Trials and Tribulations of Teaching

How’d you like that use of alliteration? Beautiful wasn’t it? I’m not an English teacher…nope. Not at all.

Anywho, I figure since I’ve written at length lately about my own child, it’s time that I wrote about something that isn’t R but my other children. My students.

In the spring of 2005, I graduated from college with a B.A. in English.

And much like our character, Princeton, I had no idea what I was going to do with my life. It really did seem like a useless degree…and for the most part it was. I had gone into English because it was the one major that wasn’t going to take me an extra year to finish when I transferred majors from Theatre Education (Yes, I use the British spelling. Sue me). I suppose that deep down I always knew I was going to be a teacher in one way or another. But at that moment, I didn’t know how to get started…didn’t know what I needed to do, what classes I still needed to take, nothing. I was lost.

So I went to a job fair, and there I ran into an old teacher of mine. My old French teacher, actually. And I can’t continue this story without thanking her. Because at that job fair, she gave me the guidance that I so very needed, guidance that has enabled me to have the career that I have had for the past 11 years. Without her, who knows where I would be right now. Madame T told me about a program that the school system had, one where I would take some classes over the summer, get a job in the fall, and have a free Masters degree by the end of three years. I signed up, was accepted, and began my journey as a teacher.

And a long journey it has been. In my eleven years, I have learned so much, not only about myself, but about the people in the community I serve, about the strength of students. Things that you don’t ever think about until you see them with your own eyes.

I started out teaching English to 9th grade high school students. It was not the easiest place in the world to reach kids. I was also 21, and students saw me more as a peer than as an authority figure, so it made things even more difficult. But as time went on, I developed my own style of teaching and discipline, and I’ve managed to make it through eleven years without too much of a fuss.

I currently teach Creative Writing instead of English, and that was a task in and of itself. I had never taken a Creative Writing class, much less taught it before I was given this program. I have never had to learn something so quick! But these past four years have been the best four years of my teaching career.

Where was I going with this? I don’t even remember. I just know that thinking about my students and the career that I’ve had so far fills me with a sort of nostalgia that almost makes me cry.

I ran into a former student two nights ago at Walmart. I couldn’t remember his name, but I remembered his face, and he definitely remembered me. He told me how he and his high school girlfriend were still together, how they had a son, and how he remembered me and my class. I don’t think much about the impact I leave. Sometimes I doubt that I leave much of an impact at all. But gosh darnit, if he didn’t look so happy to see me, and the way that he spoke about my class…it was one of those moments that I suppose every teacher gets. Where they realize that even though they don’t always realize it, they’ve made a difference to someone.

I talk about being a mother as if it’s this wholly new experience for me. But I suppose it’s not. I’ve had over a thousand children. None of them were mine by blood or birth, but they’ve all been mine for the short period of time that I knew them. And even if I can’t remember names any more, I still remember faces. I remember that once upon a time, they were no more than a fifteen year old with wide eyes, and maybe an attitude problem. And years later, they have grown into adults and remember me too.

If I ever have a bad day at work, at least I can sit back and think about those moments and be thankful that I have them. Because some jobs don’t have that. Even when my teaching time is done, there will be some part of me that lives on through the lives of my students. And that thought is comforting.

 

~Aly, aka The Mommy Gamer