So I talk a good game. I thrive on change and do not tend to do most of anything for more than a few years. I like changing houses and hobbies and usually jobs. But this is no usual job.
I’ve been working at my school for nine years now, five as a teacher and four as an administrator. In that time, I have had the distinct honor of getting to know some of the most amazing middle school kids on the planet. Most people hate the idea of middle school, based both on their own experiences at that age and interactions with kids who are that age. I get it. I used to say that middle school is an acquired taste, but the truth is it’s a calling. And the urban middle school is its own particular kind of fun. It is not for the faint of heart. It requires a sense of humor.
If just the words urban middle school make you want to run screaming, don’t let the door hit you on the way out. I’ll be walking in, ever against the current, sitting down next to some very angry boy and getting him to process through and beyond that anger. I am really good at it. I can get most kids from total denial of any culpability in a situation to admitting that this pattern behavior is an obstacle to their fulfilling their potential in a matter of minutes. My seeing them differently allows them to see themselves differently, and therein lies my source of power with kids.
It’s hard to think about walking away from that.
I have every intention of returning to the world of education in some capacity when I’m in a place in my life when putting in those necessary extra hours at work does not inspire resentment in me. I know for a fact and without a doubt that I don’t have this in me right now, and while I will certainly miss the colleagues I have worked with for almost a decade, I am really going to miss my kids. All 551 of them. And probably the pain-in-the-ass kids the most – they’re the ones I spend the most time with anyway.
We as a society have a tendency to make things into anecdotes, oversimplifying them and thus not really doing them justice. I could tell stories about all the urban school crap – fights, drug busts, weapons, etc., etc., etc. I have experienced all that and more.
But if you asked me to summarize my experience at my school, none of those urban school cliches would even make it in. The story is one of the resilience of kids, many of whom are faced with all-too-adult issues as kids. I think that is true more and more of all kids in all schools, which is one of many reasons that I feel that being present as my own kids get older is imperative. But my stomach hurts when I think about quitting, and it feels like I’m quitting kids and not just my job. There’s really no quitting your calling – and no easy walking away from it either.