Sunday, September 28, 2014

A Letter to the Teacher Who Quit

Dear Mr. Unqualified,

Let's preface this by saying, we all know it isn't easy. We work for a low income, inner city school. The conditions aren't easy to manage, the pay isn't great, the workload is horrendous, support is limited. But, this letter isn't to complain about all the hardships of teaching that get overlooked. Most of us who went into teaching, went into it for the right reasons. We went into it with the belief that we have the ability to make an impact. You know, like what Ghandi said, "be the change you wish to see in the world."

I'm not perturbed by the fact that you quit your classroom, or that you quit the paperwork, or that you quit the resources you were never given. I'm mad that you quit your kids. That's right, I said YOUR KIDS, because at the end of the day, that's what they are. They are your kids. They spend more time with you each day than they do in the presence of their own parents and guardians. You are the most critical part of their day. For most of our kids, the day starts and ends with us. That's right, I said OUR KIDS, because we are a community and how we work as a team decides what our school climate will be. We take ownership for our students when they walk through the door in the morning and even when they leave in the evening.

You created a monster so unmanageable that even you yourself couldn't stick it out. Your classroom was so atrocious, it should have been on an episode of Extreme Home Make Over, Classroom edition. How in the world did you expect students to learn in an environment where it looked like Mt. Saint Helens had just erupted? Now, the kids might have added to the mess but, guess what? You set the precedent. "I am a child, where you lead, I will follow." Ever heard that one?

Don't worry, as your team leader and someone who believes in the success of our school and students, I took it upon myself to completely revamp your classroom with the help of all of your students. Now they can take ownership and have pride in their classroom. Where were MY students while I was cleaning up your mess? Next door, LEARNING, and meeting the expectations I've set for them since day one. They're pretty great actually. Today, at the end of the day, after they finally saw me outside, they hugged me and said "Yay, you're back, FINALLY!" Little do they know, tomorrow they'll be without me again,   I'll STILL be busy cleaning up after you. Thanks to you, they will be missing out on the hands-on, meaningful instruction I've planned. Instead, I will have to give them some "busy work" to do while I'm out of the room trying to help pick up the pieces you left scattered everywhere. Oh, and remember those 8 page legal documents that were supposed to be done on each student by September 9th? Then ones I asked if you needed any help with? Now that you're gone, it's been discovered that you, in fact, did not do them... Or maybe they were lost somewhere in your rubble. That adds yet ANOTHER day that I will be pulled away from my kids and asked to fix your mistakes.

I'm pretty angry with you, but also, thank you. You have empowered me. This means WAY more work for me, and I believe with every ounce of my being that I can take it on. My passion and drive is immense. Our principal has informed us that we will be splitting your kids into our classrooms next week. For me, that makes nearly 40 students. My response, "that's fine, but I get to pick the kids I want." You know which ones I picked? The ones who gave you the MOST trouble. The ones you used to send to me to "take care," of. The ones who didn't respect you. The ones who I believe have the greatest potential. The ones you REALLY gave up on.

So, I leave you with this. As I've previously stated, I get it. I get all the downfalls of the job but there's one REALLY great thing about it. These kids won't remember a lot of things. They might forget their math facts overnight. There is one thing they won't forget, however, and that is who invested in them and never gave up. It isn't about yelling to make them behave, it isn't about making them sit still and be quiet, it isn't even about their math facts. It's about instilling in them the idea that we believe they are powerful, smart, and intelligent beings. It's about teaching them kindness, respect, will, and perseverance. It's about letting them know that we have set expectations for them that we KNOW they can and will meet. It's about saying, "I'm here to help you make the right choices and I'm here to help you to reach your greatest potential." If that wasn't your mindset when you walked through those doors on the first day, then that was your first and worst mistake. This is not just a job and it will never be just a job. It's about being selfless, investing in others, and believing in positive outcomes. I guess that is what separates those of us who are cut out for inner city education and those of us aren't.

The saddest part of it all is that you will never get to have the heart swelling, satisfying pleasure of seeing a kid walk through your door just to say thank you, tell you that they love you, or share their accomplishments with you. You won't ever be able to see, in their faces or words, the difference you've made in their lives. That is the best and MOST wonderful part of our job. We get to see the good we put into the world go out and flourish. THAT is why you don't give up. That is why you don't quit.

                                                                         Sorry for you, not for them.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

What's a fleeting heart, anyway?

   While I was abroad, blogging was a way for me to relive my experiences, share them with others, and find some sort of release.  It's a part of myself that really came to life in Korea. I've always loved writing, in fact it was my second choice at a future. If I hadn't become a teacher, I surely would have been a writer. I've found that a piece of paper with a degree doesn't make me or break me as a writer... my love for the art, however, does.  In a way, I suppose, I have the best of both worlds.  As a teacher, I can teach my students to express themselves through writing, and instead of writing being a career for me, it's a hobby. It's much more freeing to be able to do it for myself.

   My latest blog was a tribute to my life abroad and my travels.  Appealing? I'd say so. If you don't think so, I don't care. I share what I write, yes, but mostly my writing is a way for me to relive my moments, and elaborate on the things I encounter in life and HOW they make ME feel.  And so now... I wonder. What will I write about ? Well, I'm not quite sure.  I can't bring myself to write a daily run down of my life, "Yesterday I ate an apple, today I dropped my phone in the toilet: oops, tomorrow I'll buy a new one and learn how to sew." So instead, I think, I'll write freely... perhaps often, and perhaps not.  I enjoy most writing about my experiences, about people, about adventures.

   Why "My Fleeting Heart," you might wonder? Well, below I've shared the song Featherstone by The Paper Kites.  It's a song that speaks to me, to say the least. I've always used the term "restless" to describe this beating device racing in my chest, but when I heard the song Featherstone, "fleeting" seemed so much more appealing.  I remember graduating University and hearing my heart screaming in my chest for something MORE... something bigger. Later, came Korea.  My heart isn't cut out for the ordinary.  It's cut out for great adventures, for outlandish places and people, for an overwhelming love for special people, excitement, and fate-filled encounters.  Having a fleeting heart can be that of a curse, being that it always wants more... it struggles with regularity, and encourages spontaneity (that which is not always feasible).  However, I feel blessed to have this heart because it leads me to wonderful things.    And so, it goes, I will write from and for my heart... and about all the wonderful things.