Since I finished college I have lived overseas for two years in two very different places. I’ve trained and finished 2 marathons. I had minor surgery in a foreign hospital. I worked multiple summers at a camp where I had one 24-hour day off a week. I’ve had a very eventful, stressful, blessed life.
But the last 6 months have been something uniquely different.
I got married which obviously is a huge deal and is a part of this story but I’ll save that story for another entry. The thing that made the last six months so memorable was my job. Back in December I wrote an entry about how excited I was about this new (and first in the states!) teaching job. Finally I would be teaching, everyday, in my own classroom. Fantastic.
Of course, I had to google the town before I applied because I had never heard of it. Of course, it was 50 miles away, 65 miles after I got married. Of course, classes started promptly at 7:30 which meant a wake-up time between 5:15 and 5:30 AM. Of course, all I had to organize my lessons was 10 year old text book that was simply intolerable to use by itself. Of course, the teachers I was replacing while meaning well had had almost zero control or respect from the majority of the students. Of course, I’m mildly narcoleptic with a full 8 hours of sleep but downright zombie-like with less than 7. And of course, I was planning a wedding for the first 3 months.
It was an interesting 6 months.
I’ll start with the positive. I am overall very happy with the teaching I did get done in the 6 months. I had the students do real history. They studied primary sources, they analyzed maps, they wrote a paper, they created awesome posters and they often were delightful to spend time with. Best of all some of the students really appreciated the fact I was there and that I knew what I was doing. I did right by these students and my colleagues and principal were uniformly great to me.
Now the negative. This might have been the most stressful, frustrating, difficult six months I have ever had. While many students enjoyed my style and efforts many students did not. For many reasons they were not tuned into school and did not have the support or motivation to become so. A number of my students were consistently disruptive, disrespectful, loud and did almost no work. The most frustrating manifestation of these attitudes and behaviors was the inability in three of my four classes for the entire class to stop talking long enough for me to give directions, have a class discussion, or really do anything meaningful. Understand that before this year I’ve worked with young people in many different situations, ages and group sizes. I have always been able to get the attention of a group no matter how rowdy or chaotic they had been. My inability to get them to listen was probably the most challenging aspect of the past six months.
The school year ended this past Friday and it is difficult to evaluate. I (and the school) know I came in mid-year to a very difficult situation with a very challenging group of students. But even with that I still feel responsible for the times when I was short with students and even lost my temper. It’s hard to balance the fact that I worked so hard with the idea that I could have done things even better. I won’t be returning to the school because they don’t have enough money for my position and are reorganizing for next year and so now I’m back in the job search. This is both stressful and a relief.
I suppose the way I’ll sum things up is this. I’m extraordinarily grateful I had this experience. I’m thankful a school district hired me and gave me a chance. I’m thankful for all the students I met. It almost goes without saying but Jocelyn and I will have these last 6 months emblazoned in our memories the rest of our lives and I do not think that is a bad thing.