of expectations.

Posted on March 25, 2009

1


It’s 11:30 pm.

I’ve been awake for almost 20 hours.

I woke up this morning at 5 – about an hour earlier than I normally wake for teaching at a school across the street. Today? I was driving to a school in a different city for an interview.

I left the house around 5:45 – plenty of time to reach my destination AND grab something substantial to eat on the way there. Our local grocery store was closed (that’s when I knew I was up too early) so I opted for some nutritious & delicious Shipley’s. I wasn’t sure what I would be doing for lunch – my contact at the school hadn’t said much other than asking me to come for a visit/sample lesson/interview, & I obliged.

I got there early. Like, 20 minutes before the kids were served breakfast. I was shown around the school – it took a total of five minutes compared to the 20 (at least) it would have taken for the school I teach at now. There are six classrooms. Six. These six classrooms will morph into ten next year – with the addition of four core teachers.

Sophomore teachers.

I’m not one of them.

First let me say this. The school is pretty innovative in terms of building community within the student body. And the teachers, for that matter. The few who worked there were obviously really close – and during lunch break, as I was going over my lesson one more time, the teachers spoke candidly with each other about their own lessons and what they needed to do to change. One teacher walked in asking if any of them had a certain kid – warning them about a possible attitude problem because of something that had happened in her class. Nothing too different from what I see on a day-to-day basis.

But they had music. Between passing periods. Instead of bells, Come on Eileen would start filtering through the halls and the kids would walk/dance/sing to their next class. I liked it – a lot.

I also liked the kids. Respect has definitely been built into the curriculum. Every time I spoke to a student, he or she looked me in the eye. Every time I asked a question, they answered confidently. It was wonderful. I was there for most of the day and I didn’t witness any discipline problems outside of the “eyes forward, please” and “Mr. Jose would you please stand in the back of the classroom?” (The kid was sleeping)

I did my sample lesson on tone. Keep in mind I taught freshmen. I’ve never taught freshmen. I’ve had three years of experience with sophomores, and this year moved up to juniors. For the past four years, I’ve taught some level of advanced placement course.

Apparently, I’m too advanced.

No really. This is what I was told today.

Let me backtrack. My first year of teaching I taught middle school. 6-8 grade literature. I LOVED it. I adored my 7th grade – 8th graders were definitely feeling the “top dog” mentality and the 6th graders? Well – those precious kids were still trying to leave their elementary habits behind. But I LOVED these kids. We connected on a deep level and because it was a private school and not sanctioned under any TEKS objectives or standards, I was able to do as I pleased as long as the kids were learning.

By the time the school year was over, my 8th graders were writing 10 page papers on poetry and the cultural influence on the poet…you know, standard stuff for middle school. Or not. Regardless – I really feel they improved so much because no matter how high my standards were, my kids always reached for them. Always.

So today, as I stood in front of these freshmen (most of them ELL), I wasn’t worried. I know students will rise to your lowest expectation of them, and these kids didn’t disappoint.

I am a bit disappointed in the school.

I never even received feedback about my lesson. The interview, scheduled as a two day, was shortened to less than a full day. Rejection? Oh yeah. I felt it. But I have never considered myself too advanced for any student. How can a teacher be too advanced? It’s the equivalent of being “over-qualified” for a job, in my opinion. And, what doesn’t make sense about this whole thing is that this specific school is looking for teachers with their Master degrees.

And another thing – I had the privilege of observing the history teacher who spoke of the six levels of motivation. Heavy stuff. The kids, after discussing the levels, read excerpts from classical literature and determined the motivation of each character. At some point in the lecture, this teacher mentioned the importance of shooting higher than you are able. For instance, as middle school students, administration typically gets them to abide by rules by promising punishment or reward. As high school students, these kids were offered nothing because they should have enough maturity to begin to start doing things simply because it’s the right thing to do. The students & teacher started discussing how annoying it is when people fail to realize your ability to reach certain expectations.

Hmmmm

Do I wonder if there were other reasons? Definitely. Am I torn up about it? Honestly? No. The job I have no – albeit in another city than where Russ & I will be living – is incredible. Supportive administration, creative collaboration, great students. I love it. And as I was driving home, I began to thank God from saving me from a position where I wouldn’t be able to work to my potential. Because, as much as I love to push my students, I love to push myself.

I pulled out of the parking lot around 2:15. Bruised ego, splitting headache & ravenous appetite all screaming at me for attention. (I hadn’t eaten anything since the haphazard Shipley’s run before 6 this morning) By the time I got home, tears had been shed, personal pep-talk had been given, and prayers had been whispered. I was back to normal & ready for the rest of the year. I have 46 more days left with the kids who walked in MY door at the beginning of the year. Kids who rise to my lowest standard for them & continually amaze me with their creativity & drive & purpose. Kids who start talking to me on facebook just to ask where I was and to tell me they missed me & share funny stories about numerous subs who have walked through my door.

True. Today was a bit unexpected and even though it felt like a slap in the face to be rejected, the visit served a much deeper purpose.

Right now, this minute? I couldn’t have a better job than teaching the kids I have been blessed with this year. I hope by the end of the year, my kids realize the deep impact they have had on me. Until then, I will try my hardest to finish the year out strong where I am at. I’m still not sure where I will be next year, and that’s fine. Wherever I am I will love the kids to the best of my ability and will do the same thing I always do – reach higher than what they expect.

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Posted in: Education, Teaching