mathinaz

Closing the Teach For America Blogging Gap
Sep 21 2011

Uphill both ways

In my first year, I remember regularly having my classroom compared to a teacher in a charter school. I taught in a school that had the worst discipline record in an already infamous district, and this other corps member taught in a charter that expelled kids for talking out in class too frequently. He was supposed to send kids to the office for the smallest classroom infraction, and all I could do was send kids to the back of the classroom when they started threatening to shank one another while I was teaching. They held back kids who couldn’t pass the grade, and I had eighth graders in math class who couldn’t add using their fingers. Yet in the world of TFA, our situations were the same. That meant his classroom management and his kids’ achievement would always be considered better than mine, regardless of where we started.

That always irritated me a little, but never enough to even say out loud until I started working at this school. Even though my new situation is far from that crazy Arizona charter (we don’t expel kids, I can’t send them to the office for just talking, and we got our kids in a school takeover where no one got held back), I can still recognize how ridiculously much easier my current job is compared to my old job. Just the fact that the school is tightly managed, discipline is constant, and expectations are high means that I don’t fight 80% of the battles I fought last year. Any challenge I have feels like a walk in the park after what I’ve dealt with before. I’m lapping it all up, maybe mostly because I know how much worse things could be.

All of that makes it really hard for me to listen to new teachers complain at schools like mine. Yes, teaching is always hard. Yes, there is always too much work. Yes, kids will always take advantage of teachers’ inexperience. Yes, people’s problems are relative and new teachers won’t complain less just because something worse potentially exists somewhere else. But still. It’s all I can do to not shake people sometimes. Don’t you know how good you have it? I keep my mouth shut, but only because I know I’m going to sound like the cliche old person if I bother to open it. “Back in my day, we had to walk fifteen miles to school. Barefoot. In the snow. Uphill both ways!” That would be me. Walking uphill both ways sucked.

2 Responses

  1. William

    Good point.

    I always shake my head when I hear new corps members in easy schools or charter schools talk about how difficult their job is, and I get especially upset when they go on and on about how it’s emotionally and physically taxing (though nothing upsets me as much as when they write sappy “this is why I teach for America” stories about students who they believe are behavior problems but actually seem like angels compared to my former students).

    Fortunately, however, going through hell and back is an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything.

    • mathinaz

      Amen.

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