Thursday, September 9, 2010

Do I love teaching?

Yes, I do.  In fact, it has been a part of my identity for the past twelve years, one-third of my life on this planet.  When I meet someone new, I looked forward to telling them that I am a teacher.  Not only that, but I teach public school.  I particularly like to emphasize that I teach public school in Oakland.  In the world of social justice, what you do is important.  All of us soldiers of change want to be recognized for serving the community and serving it in the right ways.

Part of my desire to teach in Oakland Unified School District was exactly because it had such a reputation for being under-resourced and difficult.  I was living out my own little Dangerous Minds type fantasy.  (For a hilarious spoof on this, check out Mad TV's "nice white lady" skit) Being a public school teacher was an ego boost, even as it shattered my ego on other days when I felt totally incompetent.  In contrast to my idealism, it was hard to reconcile the fact that 50% of my students were regularly turning in homework or that despite my best efforts helping them develop a habit of studying for tests often felt fruitless.

Then in the middle of last year I gave notice.  I was emotionally spent, and moreover, I felt that I was no longer learning in my profession.  I needed to shift some things in my life and seek new challenges.  I was scared.  From January to June I was mostly too busy to be scared, but when summer vacation hit, the reality of the transition began to set in.  During the summer I tried on new identities.  Well, half of the time, I told people that I still was a teacher at MetWest High School in Oakland.  This felt comforting but a bit false.  Even though I was technically on summer vacation, I knew that come September I would not be in my usual role in the classroom.  Still, I attended conferences and introduced myself as a teacher.  Other ways I described this period of my life included: early retirement, a transition, setting priorities, seeking new challenges, figuring out what's most important in my life...

It is and continues to be all of those things, AND I still am a teacher at MetWest High School.  I have excised those parts of the work that were dreadful - calling the same parents every week to report little to no progress or effort in their child, feeling awful when I looked at the homework that only some of my students turned in, and sensing impending doom every Sunday evening even though my rationale mind knew that all would be okay.  In my new part-time role as a contractor, I get to teach without all of that.  I am sure that there will be other opportunities to experience frustration and anxiety, but in the meantime, I am enjoying my new role as a teacher of mindfulness and conflict resolution at our school. Bottom line is... I can still say that I love teaching.


  1. This sounds like a perfect compromise. I an relate to the angst and the dread, and the pride and love for the profession. I do the social emotional health and peacemaking curriculum at my school. There are often cool, free and cheap conferences put on by the county office. I will forward them your way. I would also love to hear more about the new program.. Eve told me a bit, but I would love to hear more. All my love to you YW! Keep on keeping on.. and, congrats on the blog.. speak it!!

  2. Wonderful thank you for sharing your deepest hopes and struggles with us. You really capture some of the joys and pain of service.

  3. Thanks, Dana Dane. Miss you and wish we had connected back when I flaked this past spring! Well, no regrets in the present moment. I would be excited to hear about those conferences. peace out, YW.