Saturday, July 17, 2004

The Calling

I began my career in teaching in the Bronx at a high school that I literally mistook for a factory on the day I went to interview for the position that would later become mine.  Feeling every bit like J.Lo as I was "on the 6" after all, I stepped off the subway, followed the directions that were given to me and thought "there is no way that building is a school, I must be going in the wrong direction", so I turned and walked the other way.  Stopping into a Foot Locker to ask directions, I was told, "that's it" as the sales associate lifted a skinny, mocha colored arm to point in the direction of "the Factory".  So back toward the "factory" I went in hopes of winning a chance to teach in "Da Bronx".
Climbing to the 4th floor (and the building only had 4 floors), I reached the AP's office and the interview quickly began.  I must have answered everything right because the next thing I knew, I was doing a demo in a real live classroom full of summer school students and I had nothing prepared. I wasn't told to bring a lesson, you said, "Interview" I-n-t-e-r-v-i-e-w, to me that means one person not a class full of kids you've never seen before.
After what I thought was a devastating attempt at teaching, I went back home and waited for the phone call. Good or bad, I waited and in the meantime took a job at a bookstore.
I got the call in October, yes October, one month after the school year had begun and was asked "are you still interested, the teacher we hired never showed up, never called, nothing and we need a teacher".  Well, hell yes I was interested, is the Pope Catholic? Is a bullfrog waterproof?  "When do I start?" "Tomorrow, bring what you have", the voice said "and report to room 441".  I was elated and petrified at the same time. Tomorrow???? I slept with both eyes wide open the whole night.
Tomorrow came, I got to room 441, I was handed a list of students, a list of rooms and told, "you're new, you don't have your own room, you have to move from place to place".  This of course also meant, I'd be schlepping all my materials with me from the 4th floor to the 2nd floor back to the 4th floor until the end of the year.  I didn't just get thrown in the deep end of the pool, I got dropped like a ton of bricks into the deepest part of the ocean.
But (take a deep breath), I made it(exhale).  My first year in the Bronx, I cried everyday for 4 months but I got up every morning to battle with those kids. Some battles were bigger than others but at the end, we both won. I taught them something, they learned something and in the end taught me something as well.
I left teaching after teaching for one year in Georgia as the administration and I didn't quite agree on certain matters and well "we don't care how they do it in NY" to which I replied, "that may be true, but at least NY isn't 50th in the nation".  Don't worry, dear reader, it was my last day.  So, I decided I needed a break and went into the wonderful world of web work and project management. I'm smarter than the average bear and my interests don't stop outside the classroom.  I'm doing okay for myself in that line of work but then I got an email from a student that went something like this:
 Dear Miss ( I was always Miss, no last name)
        I finally graduated, not that it wasn't hard and not that I hated it, but thanks for believing in me, it meant alot.
I was speechless and it takes quite a bit to make me speechless.  So, I've decided to go back to teaching. Yes, it's hard, yes it gives me migraines on a daily basis, but it's rewarding and you're appreciated.  Sure, I won't be rolling in the dough and at times, my life may be at risk, but being a teacher is a pretty powerful job.  You laugh, you scoff, but I alone can make or break your child.  Chances are, during the school year, I see them more in one day than you, the parent does. I can build them up and make them believe in themselves, or I can tear them down. All of this in the blink of an eye.  I am a mother, father, caregiver, fashion critic, romance advisor, psychologist and friend.
But above all, I AM a teacher


Blogger From Grits to Gringa said...

Wow! I should have made more of an effort to meet you the night of the CP cookout. I lived in da Bronx for a year... on Fordham Road. I don't know if you know where that is but it is the g-h-e-t-t-o. I loved it... more than any place I've ever lived! I cried harder and felt more broken than I ever have in my life when I had to leave to come back to Georgia. I always wanted to teach there. If I wasn't married and planning a family soon I would go back so quickly. I'm envious of that crazy experience... you will never truly know what a difference you made. I start my new teaching job in one week... 10th/11th grade English at Central Gwinnett High. Eventually I would like to be at Grady or somewhere in Atlanta Public so that I can have those same kinds of "Bronx" kids. I will have to say that I don't think you can do it every year without burning out and that's why I decided to go to a "not-in-trouble" school for my first year. However, I was informed a few days ago that most first year teachers at my new school are "floaters"... uuuhh because of lack of space. I didn't know if I even wanted the job anymore. They didn't tell me that in the interview or when they offered me the position. I will also be coaching the swim team. I'm excited about that... so yes, I'm glad you are rejoining us poor work-aholics that change the world one kid at a time. My wife is getting tired of Advertising and she is brilliant in Math.... passed the Praxis II with flying colors and hadn't had a math class in ten years. So, I think she will end up in the classroom in another year or two as well. You can't be around teachers and not see what an amazing impact they can make on the world. I hope I will see you again. But, if not, I'm glad you are blogging. I am planning to have my students make blogs and write in them weekly... it will be 20% of their grade. I know they will love it if I can get the idea past administration. Take care, AJ

9:34 PM  
Blogger From Grits to Gringa said...

PS. You haven't blogged today! Do you like privacy? I was going to add your blog to mine and give you some traffic if you want readers. Don't worry I won't post anything about you, especially no pictures...:) I guess you never know who is going to read your blog or how gigantic the ripples from your writing can become.

Oh, and Pam has grey hair so what was up with dat? I meant to write back on that comment. I was saying that I shouldn't feel like 95 at 29... my back just makes me feel like shit sometimes. But, thanks for the comment. At least you are reading and blogging.

9:43 PM  

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