Saturday, September 06, 2014
7 Year Itch
I'm two weeks into my 7th full year as a middle school teacher in Baltimore City public schools. This will be my 5th full year at our amazing hippie dippie progressive school in Pigtown. I work with the best people ever, the smartest, the most genuine, the most creative, compassionate, supporting, selfless, innovative...OK, you get the picture. I'll not inflict any more adjectives upon you. (well, one more: they are also all sexy). Over the past seven years I've morphed from a Language Arts teacher to a Humanities Teacher, meaning I mostly teach Social Studies and History now. I think I'm getting the hang of it. I think my first two weeks of school were my strongest start yet. And judging by the ideas swirling around my brain I think this entire trimester may be my strongest yet! Now if I could actually get the plans down on paper, LOL.... I started the year in a dark place. I felt drained and detached, and that feeling had hit hard last January. I was BURNED OUT and summer did nothing to change that feeling. I've never had a job for more than 7 years, and I wonder if I'm experiencing that cycle again, the need to move on and try something new. Just in case, I've applied for a position teaching deployment kids in Europe for the Department of Defense. This is just a shot in the dark--but it would be nice to take a couple years off from Baltimore and teach in Belgium, Germany, or Portugal. But I would be an idiot to leave my school. It really is the best school in Baltimore City, and my wife often claims it is the best school in the state of Maryland. (She has been in LOTS of schools in Maryland, and she's an expert at what makes a good school.) The professional and personal relationship I have with my current supervisor has been the most fruitful and challenging and rewarding of my career. I know our kids and have taught little brothers and sisters of brothers and sisters I successfully got to high school. I was pretty instrumental in building the middle school, and I have a certain status in the building as a result. I can be very unorthodox and loose in a way that public school administrators find galling, and yet my bosses tolerate my quirks, foibles, and insanities because I find a way to deliver the goods, the goods being challenging, exciting content delivered in a way that gets the kids fired up and thinking deeply about issues. If I work anywhere else it'll be: "Follow the curriculum, update your Word Wall, have a detailed scripted plan hanging on your board for us to access when we do a compliance audit." That change would be difficult, to say the least! Other reasons I'd be a nut to leave: I can sit down with teachers struggling with an Expedition plan and just off the top of my head give them an angle or a barrage of potential objectives and connections regardless of the topic, and this school is the exact sort of environment where a weirdo like me can help the most. I have very strong emotional, personal, and professional bonds to my coworkers. I really love these people. We not only teach the kids, we continuously teach each other, and we always fill in for others and support each other through the rocky challenges of 180 days of hard core urban education. I feel in many ways that my best students at this school have been the administrators and other teachers I've worked closely with over the past half-decade, and I hope I was their best student as well. But I also never wanted to teach middle school--I was assigned to it by Baltimore City and became typecast as a middle school teacher over time. I would like to teach high school for a while. I also would love to live in Europe for a while (before I'm too old to adjust and enjoy it). So if DOD offers me a gig in Italy it would be really hard to say no. Perhaps I won't make the grade, and I won't have to make a decision at all?