Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Wherein I expose the soft underbelly of failure

Every time I'm absent from here I come back and talk about how crazy and hectic things have been. Things haven't been crazy and hectic.  But I have 24 hours in the day, and none of them have involved scrapbooking for a long time and since that's the focus of this blog, I haven't written.  But ultimately, I scroll back through this blog and the snippets that aren't scrapbooking are the ones that I end up cherishing the most.

This fall has been interesting.  Working at the big T, and doing lots and lots of tutoring.  I love tutoring.  It keeps me sane, gives me purpose and hope, makes me feel like I'm giving a little back...and of course, Nissan Motors Acceptance Corporation just loves it when I make my payment on time, so there's that, too.  I love tutoring.  

And as much as I love tutoring, I've been strangely unmotivated to move on the teaching front. I have a hundred reasons why, but honestly, I don't know what's holding me back.  Unless it's the fear of failure.  

But a funny thing happened two weeks ago.  I got a phone call from the principal of a religious school in the area.  He was looking to replace a math teacher who was leaving at the Christmas break and he had gotten my name from the school where I did my education coursework.  Would I be interested?  Well, YES.  And then, "well...yes..."  You see, I had done some research and came to realize that the school was very urban in nature.  But I submitted a resume and wrote a cover letter and went for an interview.  The school was filled with students escaping the failing public schools in the area.  The students arrived in a state of behavioral and educational challenge.  They'd never been held accountable for homework.  They'd never been expected to sit quietly while the teacher spoke.  Many lacked the fundamentals.   Despite all of this, I found myself wanting something I had not wanted.

You see, if I were to tell the truth, I'd say that I want to teach honors students in public school.  I don't want to be in (the typical) private school setting, catering to children of the wealthy class.  They have so many advantages already, they don't get me and my passion for math, too.  But honors, because I want to share my passion and enthusiasm with students who want to be there.   The Ohio Department of Education (and many state education departments) have decided that students should have 4 years of math at the high school level, and I couldn't disagree more.  But they don't care what I think.  So classes are filled with students treading water - showing up and doing the bare minimum in a class that doesn't interest them and they don't see the value in.  I could write volumes on the subject, but the abbreviated version of my opinion is that students need to get to (and pass) Algebra II and should be allowed to go beyond that if they chose, but should not be forced.  Because honestly, no one is actually going to use properties of similar triangles to determine the height of a tree using the shadow length of the tree and a 6 foot man.  And the honors student won't do that in real life either, but they might actually think that it's cool that you can do that.  And they might want to take physics or engineering classes or just enjoy math for math's sake (like I do).  And I'd love to be there for them.

But I started thinking about these students whose only options were this school or the failing public schools that they were assigned to by geography and economy.  They deserved more than they were getting and I started thinking about The White Shadow, and Stand and Deliver and The Freedom Writers and teachers who made a difference and changed the course of children's lives because they were willing to be there and care enough to set limits, and expect, and persevere. 

And, honestly, I started thinking about how it was only 5 months, and if were too hard at least I'd have a great experience and a foot in the door.  I thought about not getting up at 2:45 in the morning (or 12:45 in the morning this month) and not being physically exhausted at the end of every work day. And weekends off. And Spring Break.  And a non-minimum wage paycheck.  And skirts. 

You see, there are never pat answers.  It was a combination of truly wanting to do good...and pure selfishness.  And I wanted it, but I was also afraid of it.  What if I stink?  What if I can't control a classroom full of students who know there's more of them than me? What if I can't teach the truly basic concepts that I would be asked to teach?  

So I wanted something that I was afraid of,  but maybe I didn't want it 100%.  And of course, it's not as though I pursued this.  They came to me.  So I was actively NOT working on becoming a teacher, but suddenly I wanted it.  There is a disconnect here and don't think I'm missing it.  

The long and short of it is: I was one of two people who made it to the final set of interviews and I did not get the position.  And I am saddened that I didn't get something that I didn't know I wanted, and yet sort of relieved because there were a million doubts about me, my abilities as a teacher, as a classroom manager, and as a person of God (because this is a religious school, and I don't know if my faith is the kind of faith that belongs in the front of the classroom in a religious school).  

And all of this would be a little easier to bear if I were operating on with sleep in my system.  But last night was a 3 hour kind of night and tonight will not be much better.  And instead of napping now, I'm trying to process the idea of being rejected from something that I wasn't even interested in 3 weeks ago.  

So today I will mourn the loss of something that didn't even exist last month and tonight I will sleep and tomorrow I will move on.  And maybe, after Christmas, I will think about becoming a teacher again.


Despite today's news and a profound exhaustion, I am filled with the Christmas spirit.  I hope that you are as well.

And to my Jewish readers: Happy Hanukkah!