A Series of Impressions (some unfortunate but mostly pretty darn fortunate)
Welcome to my new life. I jumped ship, moved to a whole new city, and sort of randomly got whole new job in a ritzy private school.
Are you grumbling deep in your throat? I would be. In fact, I fully recognize my selling out. In the midst of the most fascinatingly good first weeks, I often, really often, feel pretty guilty.
I didn't plan to go private by the way. It just sort of happened. They called me back, created a brand-new-position-of-my-dreams just for me. Asked me, if I could do anything, what would I do. None of the public schools called.
So here was exactly what I wanted. I teach two tiny classes of flower-like 9th graders, and, drumroll please, am starting a writing center for the whole high school. Dreamy.
I constantly compare the new with the old. Trying to understand my total culture shock. Feeling like this is the way things should be—how good the hard-working teachers from my old, beloved department should have it, but don’t. I’m almost afraid to be happy in this place. But it’s new. It’s a process.
Here’s random bits from the last few days in order of their composition:
1. Seeing the fine distinctions between students will be challenging. I am used to seeing grades and home information and making assumptions about their possible success or need for extra help in my class. Are they from the “good” part of town, or are they from the “ghetto”? Do they have a long string of As or Fs on their transcript? Do they live with grandmothers, aunts or “cousins”? Have they had thirty-seven different addresses in the past ten years? Does the student have an arrest record or a parole officer? Will I have to file grades with the court? Do they have no records at all that anyone can find?
I have had great students and terrible students, but few regular, average, B/C-type students. Now I look at the same sort grade and home information about my new group of 9th grade advisees, and I can tell very little.
Here’s what I do know about my advisees and the school in general (so far):
They have money. They “do” school. They’ve been exposed to art, music and technology in a big way--think animation classes, smart boards and projectors coming out their ears, constant traveling back and forth to New York. Their parents have a penchant for family names (many, many II, III, and IVs). Some of them have names that suggest Asian ethnicity. None have names that suggest “ghetto” ethnicity. As and Bs are the norm—only one F and a couple C on the transcripts from middle school.
The handbook contains a different set of rules. Boys have to tuck in shirts. No “unnatural” hair color. Boys must be clean shaven and have hair above the ears.
No bells ring. Taking attendance is a “new idea” this year. Another teacher, who the other teachers all call “The Hobbit,” bemoans discipline problems in the classroom because of “the girls and their giggling.”
Howard Garner is coming to do a professional development day. Right.
I am coaching a JV quiz bowl team. There are enough interested students to form a JV team. This feels semi-ridiculous.
The copier has no operating code. There is a supply closet roughly the size of my classroom. You wander in and take whatever you need without record-keeping of any kind. The lab got a slew of the brand-new Mac Pro Quad Xeons on the day they came out. And they gave me a couple for a new student publication which I am, apparently, going to sponsor.
Students willingly eat lunch with teachers on occasion.
I’m either in heaven or totally out of my element. Perhaps a bit of both. I need a firm pinch and a rah-rah speech all at once. Yes I know. Poor, poor me. As my momma would say, “Do we need to have a little pity party?”
What is the latitude and longitude of heaven?
2. I teach in a teen movie. When the assembly ended, the students in the control booth cut on the trendy music as everyone filed out of the auditorium. It felt good. And then I thought of Beverly Hills 90210.
3. They don’t say much, my students. But they do take a lot of notes—even when I am totally rambling. I gave them a lecture about thinking for themselves instead of buying into my every syllable. I felt all Mr. Keating.
And every single child turned in a set of summer reading essays. I stared at them in disbelief as they carefully laid stacks of paper in my outstretched hand, as they said, “Thank you, Ms. Hipteacher. See you tomorrow.”
4. I sent an e-card to my old department today. The card read,” You have received the Golden Apple Award. To the most marvelous, superlative, magnificent, dedicated, caring, outstanding, Teacher in the Universe. You deserve it.
Have a great year!
You deserve to be treated like the royalty of the teaching profession. I wish for you a year of supportive administrators who always have your back, colleagues who respect and encourage you, and students who treat you like a Queen/King of English.
Ok, I realize that this may be unrealistic. But it should be that way, and you all deserve that kind of treatment. You all work so hard and care so much. And, frankly, I know you don't hear good things or thank yous too often.
Therefore, I hereby appoint myself your official English Department cheerleader-at-large.
Take good care of yourselves. My thoughts are with you.
For the first time, I realize how it should be. Everywhere. All the time.
5. Um, they brought me cookies. And a card. Parents did, I mean. And an umbrella. I really hate umbrellas, but that was really freaking nice.
And then a child called me. To check to make sure he was doing his assignment correctly.
I keep pinching myself, but I’m not waking up.