For teachers in low-performing, high-risk schools, (dubbed ETO in South Florida, falling under the ominous cloud of the Education Transformation Office) we are tired. It used to be that a fresh, dewy-eyed teacher came into the classroom half-anxious, half-excited, in equal parts. This was true even when a room full of sullen teens returned your goofy smile with ill-concealed apathy. Yet the overriding emotion was motivation, or better stated, idealism. A rose-colored naïveté. But now, veteran and neophyte teachers alike all congregate around the watering hole and complain. Topics vary: the caliber of the student body (oddly endearing despite their shortcomings), the latest testing bouts, or an entirely incompetent administration. (Can anyone say CYA ticker tape parade?)
And you know what, it’s fun. I rather like the cynicism. We come together in a way that teachers in a “better” school don’t, commiserating in our mutual suffering and self-pity. The gravity of any situation is usually mitigated with a ringing laughter that rivals the kids’.
At least that’s how I’m feeling today. The feeling of complacency is just a hair breadth away from panic after yet another harassing classroom visit. There’s only so much you can take lightly. But for the new teachers, the ones who have not become proficient in shrugging things off, the turnover is staggering. How can anyone get better at a job with an overwhelming amount of stress and accountability, when your support system (administration) is built upon, as Coldplay so aptly put it, “pillars of sand?” Every year there are new faces. Improvement? Not so much. The trouble is, many are less than knowledgeable or even humbly responsive to your needs, but oh, they’ll put on the dog-and-pony show like a mother######. How can anyone with a shred of self-respect, respect that?