I’ve been a teacher for five years. I really enjoy the act of teaching; I like imparting information and knowledge to young people, I like watching them learn how to ask questions and think critically (and since I’m a history teacher, critical thinking is basically the gig), and I like getting to do something different every day. I’m not fond of the procedural side of things; I hate paperwork, I hate grading, I’m not fond of writing lesson plans, and I wish I didn’t have to be involved in so many meetings. It’s a tricky balance to strike; while the procedural stuff is necessary and has to happen (especially in special education, where you have to have meetings and documentation of everything), you don’t want it to interfere with your ability to get into the classroom and teach the kids (which should always be the focus). And, of course, there’s the damn standardized tests that have become the bane of every teacher’s existence since No Child Left Behind came into effect (“teaching to the test” is a concern administrators have, but everyone basically teaches the students what they need to pass the standardized tests because that’s just what you have to do). But, despite all that bull, I still like teaching.
I’ve spent my teaching career working with students in special education. For four years, I worked at a school for students with learning disabilities. I loved my time there, enjoyed that student population immensely, and really only left because it wasn’t possible to continue surviving on the pittance the school paid. The sad fact of the matter was, I needed to make more money. I switched this past school year to a different private school, one that works with students who have emotional disabilities. It’s a different environment, one that is more restrictive than what I was used to. That in and of itself wasn’t a problem. Sure, I had more rules I had to know and enforce, but that’s a minor thing. I had to learn how to do restraints (or “therapeutic physical interventions,” as they’re called), and I’m only teaching one history class (which is my area of expertise; I’m not real good at math, yet that’s what I spend most of my day teaching), but I still rather enjoy my time in the classroom (even the math classes). Actually, teaching things outside of my area of specialty has been a benefit; I’ve gotten better at planning and thinking about how I actually teach, which is great.
What I don’t like is the attitude of the administration at my school. There’s a negativity there about the students and about the job we do that wasn’t present at my first school. It drags me down, makes me feel negative myself, and generally casts a pall over my time there.
So I’m looking for a new job. I’m sticking to small private schools, primarily in the special education area because that’s what I’ve got experience with and it’s what I’m comfortable with. I used part of my spring break this week to craft cover letters and send them and my resume off to a few schools, and I’ll send a few more before the week is up, I’ll wager. We’ll just have to wait and see what the effort yields.