Thursday, October 25, 2012

Learning Curve

Taking a new position at a new job is no joke. Especially after having a baby.

The beginning of this school year has been a challenge for me. I knew at the end of last year that most likely it would be my last year at the school where I taught the past five years. The district was increasingly unstable and the inner city rough kids didn't have the controls in place anymore to keep them from imploding on themselves at our campus- in five years I'd never been scared at my job- much to the astonishment of some of my family and friends. They're really good kids for the most part, I'd say. And they really were. But the last year of teaching there (while I was pregnant) my mind shifted from not ever thinking about the "what ifs" for me, to thinking about the "what ifs" for my baby. And I had some close enough calls that last year, so I decided it was probably time for a change. The door opened, I walked through it.

I changed schools and most importantly, changed districts. It's a whole new world. It has its good parts and its challenges. The students are a lot the same with a few less really rough ones. On a classroom level the kids academic levels and abilities are remarkably similar to my students at my old school. But the campus and district environment is completely different- more structured, more organized in some aspects. Less structured, less organized in other aspects. On a campus of 5,000 students and over 300 teachers, you always get plenty of notice when a deadline is approaching. It's the only way to manage the beast. In my new school, they're quick to say, This needs to be done by noon tomorrow. So that's an adjustment I'm having to make- dodging the email bullets, making sure they all get on my calendar and nothing gets missed. 

The ethos is different on the new campus- in the new district as a whole. Going from the city to the burbs is apparently completely ideologically different. I wasn't prepared for that. In every educational environment I've ever been in- college, non-profit work, then on campus- I've always been surrounded by people who had very thorough understandings of social justice and a passion for seeing the world through the eyes of those who have been somehow "othered" in our communities- whether it was through providing social services for them or teaching inner city children how to read and write in a high school classroom. I always felt like I was in a pretty progressive environment when it came to how we viewed the world around us and how we went along functioning and helping others function in it.

The burbs seem different. And I don't want to portray it as a particularly bad thing, because it's not. It's just another adjustment I'm making. Feeling out my surroundings. Things seem to be less socially acceptable in the new place- certain topics of discussion, ways of life. Things seem a little more sectioned off. While my last school certainly had its lonely moments- how could it not in such a massive place, the new school seems like it has a few more walls to work around socially. I guess when you're not fighting tooth and nail to help a sixteen year old learn the alphabet (I had one of these once), it's easier to let other more superficial obstacles creep into your daily routine.

I know it's just going to take time to adjust. I know I need to come out of my shell more at school and make friends. It took me two or three years to do that at the last school too. That's a lifelong habit for me- I know this. I'm in a good place- a very good place. And I think it's true that the older you get, the harder it is to go with the flow of change. But I'm learning. I'll get there!