23 February 2006

If that's moving up...

So over the past few weeks I have been sending out resumes and looking for teaching jobs on LI, and one job in the city. I have mixed feelings about this. I do love living and working in the city. I love the kids at the school where I am, but I am a little weary of the system in which the school exists. And the systems the school has created to manage the kids' educations.

My school is small – there are 400 kids in, 7-12. Many of them apply to get in to the school in 6th grade and stay until graduation. Some opt to leave and go to other HS – including all the fancy highly-sought specialty high schools in Manhattan. My chief frustration comes from kids who come to the school and do not know how to read – these are the infamous NCLB kids. Sent from failing schools to not-failing schools to get some help. That would be great if we had a proper resource room and a special-ed program. We do have a teacher, and English teacher, who volunteered to work with kids with extra-needs, but that's not enough. At best it's a Band-Aid, and at worst it's ineffective.

And then there's the kids who come to the school but quit class and spend a lot of time in the halls. This is the equivalent of kids hanging out on the corner. Except that they are not on a corner – they are safe, at least. The thinking is that eventually they will wisen up and go to class and get their work done and graduate. And if they don't, and they quit school, well, at least we kept them from getting hurt, killed, or arrested until they did. But it's very difficult to maintain motivation in the kids who are on the line between Fing off and working hard. We rarely leave kids behind, making them repeat a grade because this increases the chances they will drop out.

And we have no dean, so that makes everything else very difficult. But even if we did, the traditional consequences, detention, ISS, and out-of-school suspension, do not exist. The joke is that if a kid screws up he gets a hug and a coke from the principal and sent back to class. In reality, the principal, the teacher, and the kid will get together and discuss why each is unhappy with the other. Sometimes this does not happen right away, but it always happens behind closed doors – so some kids will perceive that Lisa got away with telling me to go F myself. And she did, if you perceive "getting away with something" as not getting a suspension or detention.

These aren't exactly the reasons I am leaving, but they do contribute.

And I do have lots of freedom at my school. I can come in tomorrow and teach whatever I want. Literally. Last week we watched 5 full episodes of West Wing and next week in the same class we are going to play Diplomacy. I get to pick all my own books. I read Earth Abides last summer, emailed the book ordering guy/AP and the book was there for the first day of school. This is something I will miss. We do not take the Regents exams so I spend zero time doing (fake) test prep (fake because it teaches no valuable skills).

I know someone who works at a school in the city that has a boatbuilding and sailing program and I have spoken, via email, with the principal. I feel like I have a good shot at a HS English teaching position.

Though I feel myself being drawn toward LI or Westchester. I grew up in the 'burbs, so I know what I am getting into. I also desire much more order and structure. I do not want to continue to find out that I have to go to a staff development the day before the meeting, I do not want to find out about parent-teacher conferences a week before, I do not want to find out about picture make-up day on the day of the pictures, I do not want to not have books in time, I do not want to have kids get promoted if they did zero work and do not have the skills to be successful in the next grade. I want computers that work, a library, and a desk with a telephone in a quiet place to call parents. Or email them without a billion interruptions from an inefficient system.

I don't pretend to myself that a suburban school is going to be any better – just different.

I am conflicted though. I'm not looking for an affirmation from you, dear readers, that's it is OK for me to go to a suburban HS. I'm just explaining my conflict, which is this: Am I selling out by leaving NYC? Certainly there are kids who are in deep need here, but also the same in the 'burbs. Kids out there have problems – my stereotypical LI kid spends the evening listening to loud music by himself, pissed off, in his room, or is out with his friends drinking and doing Ecstasy and/or meth, wishing his wine-soaked parents would please shutthefuckup. Or they are super-duper-mega-over-achievers and they spend their evenings pissed off in their rooms working on applications for special camps and summer internships so their wine-soaked parents will finally, please shutthefuckup.

The lifestyle will be vastly different. I enjoy and want to do more outdoor activities. Should I get a job on LI I will go mt biking, hiking, camping, sailing, overnight sailing, night sailing, long and short distance sailing, and just generally messing with boats much much more often. I think I will have more fun.

And I do think teaching out there will be easier – the systems around me will be more organized (but perhaps not efficient either), my schedule will be lighter, and my extra-duties will be fewer and more manageable. So is seeking something easier selling out?

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