The school year begins

As is usually the case after a post of mine gets a lot of attention, I revert to form and start watching reruns. This time it was Quantum Leap, which just showed up on Netflix.

Meanwhile. I got a job. Yay. It was a stressful summer. I don’t know what I would have done had this job not come through, but I’d given some thought to taking a year off and just doing some writing, with some sort of part-time instruction job for insurance. That would have involved deferring my loans, rather than forgiving them, but maybe that would happen later. I make this sound very rational, don’t I? As any of my friends can attest, I was curled up in the fetal position for half of August. Those Target singing commercials for back to school, I’d mute them and hyperventilate.

I held to my standards: no charters, no continuations, no urban schools (I’m fine with suburban poor, but urban low income kids are a whole nother level of madness), nothing more than 20 miles away unless it was a straight freeway shot, and then 35 was my limit. And as I predicted, things started picking up in August. I really like the school that hired me; I admire the administrators and would have accepted a job offer from them last year had it not come after my current school’s year had started.

Starting a new school year is one of the most exhausting periods of the job. It’s a 6-7 hour performance, 5 days a week, with ruthlessly scheduled and inflexible bathroom breaks. It’s a breeze once I acclimate, but for the first few weeks of the year I often find myself crashing at 7 pm, and then waking up at 1 or 2, because I rarely sleep for more than 6 hours at a time. All jobs are a performance of some sort, but the connection between acting and teaching is overt. Teachers who want to find an “authentic” means of “reaching” their students are, to put it mildly, overemphasizing their roles in each student’s own personal movie of his life, in which we are no more than bit players. Plus, no barrier. Bad. I need a barrier behind which to operate, when a kid insults me, or challenges me, or simply acts like an ass. But the effort of finding the part I’m going to play that year and holding it for hours on end is tiring at first.

The year starts late at this school, so I’m enjoying a last few days of freedom. I’ll go check out my room today, and dump off some things. But I don’t waste my time anticipating rules or procedures or even planning curriculum until I know the kids I’m handed. Each year has been wildly different.

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10 responses to “The school year begins

  • MJ Conner

    My daughter started school this morning, and I have many friends who are school teachers. I don’t plan any evening or weekend events with any of them until school has been in session for at least a month! They are all so tired and, to be quite frank, a little snarky… Sorry. 🙂

  • educationrealist

    Not sure why they’d be snarky.

  • Mind Margins/Run Nature

    Yep, urban poor IS a whole nother level of madness. I did it for 20 years and wondered why I stuck it out so long. The kids were challenging, but it was the district BS that wore me down the most. Good luck in your new job!

    • educationrealist


      The first year I taught, I worked in a declining attendance district (suburban) that took a large number of expelled kids from other districts, including that of a big city to the north. It gave me just enough sense of what urban low income/low incentive kids were to know that I was totally not in that game.

      I’m not sure why. Suburban poor kids are just as poor, in just as concentrated an area. But there’s a difference.

  • Bostonian

    Congratulations on finding a job, and good luck in the coming year.
    I didn’t know what “continuations” meant but found a Wikipedia article on “continuation high school”.

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  • surfer

    Why wouldn’t you do a charter school? Aren’t they supposed to be more disciplined there? Or is that just for on demo and as a whole the school is less disciplined than a comprehensive school? Pay difference? [I hope it is not the “unfair that charters can eject kids”.]

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