Monday, June 19, 2006

The Other Side

Poof! It's finally over!
But it was really just the beginning

After all the brouhaha of the last year and a half, things are strangely silent. I have my teaching credential, I'm done with a year of teaching, and I'm unemployed. Thus the picture of the astronaut drifting in space!

After a few years at part-time substitute teaching, I entered the Secondary Education Credential program at San Francisco State University in the Spring of 2005. In the first semester, only one of my professors was older than I was.

For a while, I split my time between trying to stay on top of my school work, observing classes at a local high school, and putting in time at my office, trying to keep it going by fits and starts.

Not that I had a lot of choices of what to do, but it was definitely the pattern for the next year and a half: mediocrity in all things. I was burning my candle at at least three ends!

All the while, it's been hard on my family too, which should be kind of obvious. I'm making a career change, which in the long run should be a better move, but in the short run has added enormously to my stress levels.

After the first semester, someone at San Francisco Unified asked one of my professors to recommend science and math student teachers who might be interested in getting paid to teach, instead of the normal unpaid student teacher semester, and I, along with many of my classmates gave her our names.

I ended up taking a part-time job at a 'dream school,' against the better judgment of SFSU, and my normally one-year program was turned into a 3 semester program. I taught one class of chemistry, which I was technically qualified to teach, and one class of 9th grade Earth Science, which I was initially unqualified to teach. I eventually passed the required subject matter competency test, but basically tried to stay one step ahead of the students all year. Mediocre indeed!

In my Dream School, it was very racially segregated. 70-80% Latino, maybe 15% African-American, and almost no whites or Asians. Over forty years ago, I read Up the Down Staircase, and was hooked on the romantic idea of 'saving' kids, and turning them on to education. I'm not saying I don't still believe it's possible, but the forces that keep kids away from academics are far bigger than just what the teacher dishes out. Like I've been saying, I feel I've been mediocre this last year, and look forward to next year, when I know I will be a much better teacher, but I doubt I will be able to 'save them all.' But you never know where you might have some influence, so you have to keep planting seeds, and hope they will find fruitful soil.

I stumbled through my first semester, then on into my second semester, where I had to finish this gawdawful thing called a 'Candidate Assessment Portfolio' (CAP) where I showed how I reached all 13 of these 'Teaching Performance Expectations' (TPE's) which seemed to be written by committee. I had a formal supervisor from SFSU, and an in-house observer appointed at the school. I tried to please them all, but probably none, and probably less than pleased at that! The politics of school is something I am quite naive about, and put my foot in it several times. I took sick days just to finish this CAP thing (I've never drunk so much coffee in all my life!) and straggled to the finish line. I was very emotional at the end, and doing things like make my normally rude 9th graders pose for an end of year picture with me:

After our last SFSU class, we just hung out for awhile, chatting with each other. We were almost in a state of shock, knowing that there were no more classes to attend. We would all be off to our separate schools and such.

Here's a pic of me and Brandon, my best buddy through it all, that afternoon. He's less than half my age, but we were a good team when we worked on projects together.

It kind of reminds me of childbirth. Not that I have the same memories as Martha of course, but it was very intense for me too. Those memories tend to fade, and get replaced by all that life offers and takes from you. This has been one of the most intense, and painful periods of my life, but hopefully, this too shall be covered up by future sedimentary memories to come.
What we call the beginning is often the end
And to make and end is to make a beginning.
The end is where we start from.


MB said...

Congratulations on your accomplishment! You have survived the initiation! You have been brave to take this on. You teaching completely tracks with my recollections of you in college: your high intelligence, your compassion, your patience, and your practicality...not to mention your love of learning!

I've cycled back around to where I'm feeling like I need to finish my education, myself. I'm thinking Transpersonal Psychology/counseling, myself. In the meantime, I've been working for the Fremont Unified School District as a school secretary and it has been an eye-opener. I don't think chaos like I have found in my school's office exists anywhere else; it is very unique. I came on board with no experience other than volunteering in the classroom with my three girls, and battling administrations over situations that I felt were unfair. Well, those battles have served me well in my present job. I was not trained in most of what I have to do and have had to ferret out how to do things on my own. This means finding the person who can tell me. My principal and vice-principal are new to the District, as well, so we are useless for each other except for moral support. It's been more than frustrating and very chaotic. I had been on the road to healing after my husband's death. I was exercising, meditating, eating healthy foods, feeling pretty good, in fact. Then I got this job and my whole world has almost come undone. Thankfully I have the summer off, which I shall use to good advantage.

The most recent idiocy I've had to deal with is purchasing new copiers. I researched, heard proposals, made a decision, and have been battling for the copiers that I feel will suit our needs best with district's head of purchasing. The sales rep for the company that did not receive the order went to her to complain and for some reason (that I'm sure is morally if not legally questionable) she is trying to block the purchase. I have done all I can do to make this happen but have run into something I can't seem to budge! This is nothing new in our school system and I'm, frankly, disgusted. No wonder we are in such a pickle! My purchasing manager wants to lease machines that cost more, have fewer features we need, and are bigger, being a tight fit in the space we have. Go figure!

So I'm just trying to make it through this final four days of school so I can regroup and make another beginning...or is it an ending? Maybe there's no difference!

“Ah, yes We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of our exploring
Shall be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time”
T.S. Eliot

Peace and blessings,

Anonymous said...

"this too shall be covered up by future sedimentary memories to come."

You've been reading too many earth science texts.

i can't wait to hear about next year. Until then...enjoy your summer.

peace and one love,

Geoff Gould said...

My sediments exactly!

Jack Tipple said...

I am reminded of the words of the foundry, founder of Morescience High: Ukipa Heap who pressed the first bricks with his own hands. "Knowledge for the few, uh, for the people," he said -- "give them a light and they'll follow it anywhere". And we think that is a good and a wise guy, uh -- rule to be guided by and we're not afraid of it are we?

That's the kind of spirits we have here!

Joyce Henson said...

Teaching is a state of heart.