I've been pondering a lot of questions lately regarding my career-status. And I think I've reached a definite crossroads. Something has got to change, and I see the following three possibilities:
1. Stay in my job, but take steps to further my professional development specifically in the area of teaching low income students.
2. Leave my current job to teach in a different school, not in a predominantly low income area.
3. Leave teaching altogether for a different career.
I can not continue to stay the same and expect myself to live a fulfilling, happy, and healthy lifestyle. I think I've done a pretty kick-ass job of coping so far, but obviously it took some cancer to make me realize: I am not invincible. I need to put my needs first. I've devoted 4 years of my life to this job, and gave them this much of my hide along with it. There was a time, although hard, I was cleaning up. The evidence that I was making a difference and having a positive impact on my students was indisputable. Now that I've created my queendom, I've realized: this is it. My impact has plateaued. The issues I'm facing with my students right now, I will be facing forever. I have everything I could ever want to be the teacher I want to be, but the fight against Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is too great. (and I provide a graphic that is meant to be funny, but it is however the cold hard truth...)
I came across this article:
Teachers at Low-Income Schools Deserve Respect
A couple things that stuck out to me:
1. The most highly skilled and qualified teachers should be purposely placed in low income schools
2. There should be special training, and in fact a specific credential for teachers in low income schools.
3. Being a teacher in a low income school should be a badge of honor and be compensated as such, instead of assumed that they couldn't find a "better" job.
It has become clear to me that if I am to stay in my current job for much longer, I need the following things for my personal professional development:
-further my techniques in motivating students
-learn how to increase my resiliency
-learn how to fulfill my needs as a teacher in other ways that do not include student feedback
Is there a university program that specializes in these things? Or is it limited to people that write professional development articles on edutopia about them? (Like this one: Boost Your Resilience By Managing Emotional Triggers) These are real issues that teachers face. We can't go on pretending that all teachers should receive the same training. Just like every subject area has its unique needs, low income schools have their own unique needs as well. Special training should be required. Lets put a special place on the teaching license: you specialize in low-income education.
The majority of my students are smart, caring, funny, and wonderful people and are from equally wonderful families. Humans, but they have special needs when it comes to their education. And there is the minority, that on top of their special needs, are misguided, struggle emotionally/cognitively, are lacking nutritious food, warmth and safety, constantly lash out with negative behavior with complaining and arguing, because that is what they have learned in their homes. It has nothing to do with me or my classroom, but unfortunately it manifests itself there. And because I'm a highly sensitive, non-confrontational, super empath, not a single sigh, smacking of the lips, or eye roll goes unnoticed in my room. On the spectrum of resiliency and thick-skinned teachers, I am at the very bottom. And if I'm going to continue on this career path, I'm going to have to find a way to cope with that. (or suffer further consequences.)
I chose this job. Its not something that I was forced to do, or was the only thing left, or anything like that. I gravitated toward this situation because of my belief that the skilled, committed, and passionate teachers should be here. I was attracted to my job because of the incredible music teachers that work here and I collaborate with, and I have the best bosses in the region: my principals, my fine arts coordinator, my superintendent. They are the absolute BEST there is. I have a fantastic room. I have great equipment and resources. If I need anything, all I have to do is ask and 99% of the time, I receive.
Someone said to me recently, "They need you."
And my mind screamed "But what about my needs!" My professional needs include: seeing evidence that I'm making a difference, walking into a room and feeling respected and liked, being able to create and maintain an atmosphere of positivity, productivity, pride, and fulfillment. Right now, none of these needs are being met.
Again, the majority of my students are wonderful young people, but they are also the non-disruptive and compliant ones. The rest of them argue with me, CONSTANTLY. They complain about EVERYTHING. They give nothing but negative feedback. Every day, an interaction with a student happens that would make many teacher's jaws drop on the floor, and I just continue with my day and have to accept the situation. This is my life. This is what I've chosen. There isn't a single thing I can do to change it. Nothing surprises me anymore. I've been called more names than you can imagine. I've been flipped off. I am laughed at. I am made fun of. I am mocked. I am whispered about. I am bullied by 13 year olds everyday. And that's just the way it is. Eyerolls. Lip smacks. Shaking of the heads. Ignoring directions. Turning and walking the other way. There's a point when I can't just brush it off anymore. And my psyche suffers. My morale and commitment to the cause falters. How much longer am I going to force this upon myself? My life is my choice. I don't have to stay in this situation if I don't want to. Is it worth it? I'm not a quitter. But it takes great wisdom to realize when its time to move on.