One week ago, students that I had never previously met walked into a classroom that I had never previously taught in and a new era was born. I am so humbled and blessed that God provided me with a full time teaching job in my new city. It has been a whirlwind and a very close call but I landed it and thats all that matters.
The tale of the tape
I have taught high school social studies for 10 years. I have taught at three different schools and two of them have been outside the United States. I thought I was pretty much prepared for any and all learning environments. That is until I stepped inside the halls of my new school. This was a whole new world; the world of urban, poverty stricken, gang affiliated youth. The kids that come into my classroom are not applying to Ivy League schools, they will be fortunate to get into college. The graduation rate last year was an all time high for the school at around 70%. That would be the lowest ever at the previous schools where I have taught. There is strict protocol in place for any student that wears gang colors at school, gets into a fight on campus, curses out a teacher, carries a weapon and the list goes on. All of these scenarios are absolutely a foreign concept for me and something I have only seen on TV shows and movies such as Dangerous Minds. The test scores are far below average, so much so that the school is considered a priority school and that is precisely why I have a job there. They gained the funding from the district necessary to add one more social studies position. I was literally the last teacher to be hired and my first day to work was two days before students arrived. Craziness.
A reminder of what being a teacher is all about
But among the chaos of our halls is a peace. The peace that says, “You are right where you belong.” The last week has not been easy and at times has been down right overwhelming. But after each day I cannot help but smile and thank God for putting me here, putting me into these kids’ lives and putting me into theirs. These kids are bringing a lot of baggage into school and little do they know so am I. Many are suffering through the pain of losing friends over the summer due to shootings. Many bring the pain of enduring an abusive parent. Many are victims of rape. The first pregnant girl I saw I did a double take then a triple to make sure she didn’t catch me staring. These kids in a lot of ways are not kids, they are bypassing their childhood and their emotional development is suffering because of it. I want to be the best teacher I can be for them. They desperately need something positive in their life and I could be that spark that ignites a fire within them. I could make a profound impact that could literally change their life. I could help that kid improve his ACT score a few points so he gets into a quality university. But I could also just be another teacher that they hate. Realistically I know that I can’t motivate all of them. But I will try every day.
The term “Never a dull moment” comes to mind when I think of a typical day of teaching at my school. Full of ups and downs and full of minds that whether they would admit it or not are eager to learn. I hope and pray that I am up for the task this year and regardless I will have some stories to tell! Stay tuned.