Monday, December 31, 2012

Catharsis 2012

October was eye-opening for me. I learned a lot about myself, what I want for my future, and above all I've just started to sort through my confusing/unintelligible feelings. I think I finally feel comfortable addressing the majority of the thoughts, emotions, and occurrences in my life.

First of all, quit my job in downtown Oakland. I admit now I was holding on to the faith that there was a better, more well-structured charter school out there than my previous experience in Richmond. I was hoping that the crazy schedules, the overworked staff, and the underrepresented students would not be seen at this new endeavor I was pursuing, but -- I was wrong, and I'm a person who hates to be wrong! In the four short years that I was teaching at West County Community High School, I enjoyed teaching and bonding with the students and families who all shared a common goal. When I started seeing things fall apart from the inside, I responded to my instincts to flee and accepted the first job I was offered: Envision Academy, one of five Envision charter schools. I believed that my demo lesson was exceptional, my interview was concise, and I came across as a strong candidate and that I would, indeed, be successful. What I did not foresee or ask about was classroom management, the background of the student population I agreed to be teaching, or specific guidelines on how strict I would have to be in the classroom. Most of what I remember are direct quotes from EA teachers for whom I hold a high degree of respect and who did what they could to help me out during episodes of trauma I experienced while there; at least once a week I left the classroom after calling for back-up so I could compose myself, I never left work early but I cried more in those 2 1/2 months than I remember crying during some of the most difficult times in my life. At least during a death in the family, or a bad breakup, you know what has happened is for the best -- but when doing what you love is bringing more emotional damage than repair, it's heart-wrenching to acknowledge that you need to quit.

When it all boils down in my mind, the toughest thing I've had to deal with is this feeling of failure. I quit something that I know I'm good at -- teaching -- because I'd failed to control a classroom that was used to people being mean to them. I tried being mean, I tried acting like I'd seen other teachers and educators yelling and shouting and "putting them in their place," and it just didn't groove with me. What granted me solace was when I was able to peel back the layers of frustration and anger and fantasize about that magical fifth year of teaching I'd sworn I would take off to go back to school.

In the same week I quit my job, even more realizations came to surface other than returning to school: wanting to settle down with my boyfriend, save money, eventually start a family, etc. I know that I appreciate and love my family and the way they raised me, and I know that planning for one of my own would fill me to the brim with pride and happiness. The weekend before Thanksgiving my boyfriend and I were frantically getting everything together for our trip to the east coast to visit his family when I told him how I felt:
Me: "I want to have a baby."
Boyfriend: *hugs* "What, right now?"
Me: *giggles* "No, silly, we've got a cab to catch!"

Such good stuff life is made of. Nevertheless, the holidays were fun but I swear I never want to take another redeye flight again (though I probably will).

Currently I'm working part-time at a tutoring center and my worker-bee brain is taking a break, for better or for worse. I include "for worse" here because I realize I have grown accustomed to working with [un]reasonable deadlines, no budget, and high expectations from myself and my bosses. To be honest I can tutor math in my sleep and if I can make $17/hr doing it, then more power to me, right? This time in my life should just be considered my "hibernation" period because I know I'll find something and I know that a right fit will come when it's time.

I'm still waiting for a letter back from CSU Hayward to see if they've accepted me or not, and I've decided that I'm going to keep my chin up even if I need to wait to re-apply. Life goes on, I love school and learning and I don't think that will change inside of me, ever. I'm waiting to get interviewed as a substitute teacher so I can survey the student population here on the "other side of the tunnel" (as I referred to it when I lived in Berkeley/Oakland), and ensure that the next educator job I take is the right one, despite its imperfections. I feel very fortunate to have worked at WCCHS for four years -- it helped shape me as an educator, my personality as a teacher and leader, and put me in a position where I had to acknowledge my responsibility as a young adult with a college degree in a professional workplace. (I know that sounds cheesy, but when by the time I decided to move on from WCCHS I knew what I wanted out of life and love, and knew that I would get it.)

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