Saturday, January 22, 2011

Soul crushing

I am a firm believer that what I do is a necessary public service, to be filled by those most capable, and to be supported by society as a civic duty. The tone of government and media lately has been anything but. We had our Superintendent visit us at school and told us we should feel lucky, having summers off, vacation, and good benefits. In addition, we were lazy for not taking on the extra illegal responsibilities he was proposing. Those were expected ramblings out of the mouth of an inexperienced mental midget. He makes over half a million dollars a year, and has the gall to stand in front of public servants and tell them not to complain, and that we don't care about the students. Last year the man tried to teach a class, but was chased off by the students. Like every amateur educational 'reformer' the man was all talk, and no credentials.

On top of that, a 51 year old teacher in my department announced he was leaving. He worked in schools for years, and left his high paying law career to teach at our school. His reasons for leaving were simple, "I have never been treated this poorly in my life. People ask 'how do you deal with the kids' and I say, 'it's not the kids, it's the other adults.'"

Those are attacks we are used to. As a teacher you must have thick skin from students, parents, and administration otherwise you will not survive. Yesterday I had two experiences that made me realize how thin my skin still is.

I had run out of lunch foods, and decided to walk up the street to buy a sandwich. On my way up the street I came across a father, pregnant mother, and child in a stroller. As I neared, I noticed the father was smoking, and passed it off to the pregnant mother. As she smoked I realized it wasn't a cigarette but a joint. That kind of recklessness and ignorance left me dumbstruck. I could not believe the brazen disregard for life and cavalier attitude to engage in such acts so openly. I couldn't help but think that in 15 years I would be held accountable for that kid's standardized test scores. Strange how my mind immediately thought of that.

The second, and more disturbing story happened after school with a group of teachers. Every Friday a bunch of us go out for some much needed libatious revelry. As we were sitting at a table a high school aged kid walked up and said to Mary "Excuse me Miss, but I just wanted to say that you're a giant bitch in the hallways." He walked back to a table to join his mother, who laughed, pointed, and jeered at us. What a remarkable specimen.

Unlike private schools, public schools must take everyone. What kind of culture supports the mocking and marginalization of teachers? What kind of example are those parents setting for their children? I knew these things happen, but for them to happen so flagrantly in the open I think is what may have shocked me the most. I feel like I ride a bipolar roller coaster, days of tremendous success, and days that crush the soul. Sometimes you really have do dig down deep to find those reasons that keep you going.

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