Thursday, February 19, 2015

Middle v High

When I first imagined becoming a teacher, I saw me in a high school. I saw only English lovers in my class, all engaged, competent, and sharing, laughing and loving each other. (I suppose this was a lot like my English class, part of the reason I wanted to teach high school English to begin with.)

I was first hired for middle school history. I was surprised at how funny the kids are, how they don't hold grudges, how fervent and affectionate and loyal and adorable they are. I liked them so much I decided to stay. And then I was "declared in excess," "pink slipped." That is the public school version of being fired. It happens either because there really are too many teachers and the one with the least seniority goes, or because the administration wants to get rid of a teacher but because of seniority, has to dig deep in order to do so, "declaring in excess" all the teachers up to the target. I was last hired and there was a teacher high above me whom they wanted out. It was inevitable.

I ended up being picked up by a high school. My English class was filled with English lovers...AND:
     English haters-
     English apathetics-
     silent kids-
     eye-rollers-
     the chronically bored-
     those too cool for school-
     shruggers.
Their ability levels ran the gamut. They sat slumped in their chairs, sleep heavy on their eyes. Some kids had writing that was positively hieroglyphic. I lasted one year there before my mom talked me into taking some time off to explore other career options.

I'm back in a middle school and oh so glad. But after a decade or so, a person can get curious and want to check out the color of other people's lawns. So today I checked out a high school. I liked it...a  lot. I liked the kids and that it looked like the teachers' efforts were directed toward helping students understand, not just repeating/reprimanding/redirecting. Yes, there was a ton of passivity, but after 16 years in Middle School Land,  also known as Squirrel Country, it was almost refreshing.

But then we noticed the conditions. The school is huuuuuge. There are so many teachers that they don't really know each other. There is competition for juniors and seniors. The toughest kids? Good luck. Stakes are super high. There is little collaboration. There is a ton of politics.

I head back to my little middle school tomorrow. Z will hail me with a happy smile. I'll have to tell O. to settle down. I'll likely have to interrupt some silent cross-room mouthed conversations between S. and J. BUT....I'll wave to every colleague, ask specific questions about their family, be blessed to know that everyone loves all the kids, eat lunch with good people. I will be home. I am not settling. The grass is always greener where you water it, and we positively have sprinklers at our school.

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