What Am I Supposed to Learn?

I’m not entirely sure why my attitude runs this way, but whenever something doesn’t go “my way” or is “problematic”, I tend to wonder what lesson I’m supposed to learn from it.

As I’ve written in this blog, there are some hiccups and growing pains happening right now professionally.  As much as I want to fully defend myself and point fingers, I recognize that my own attitude and judgements are most likely contributing to the process.  I recognize the complete irony which comes from the fact that I feel compelled to micromanage so many minute details (Do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do!) when I tend to be quite socially liberal. The implication being that I’m actually a conservative in liberal sheep’s clothing.  Probably.

Each year I’ve taught, I’ve generally learned more than the year before.  My first (return) year in 6th grade, I needed to learn that I was TOO focused on curriculum (and in the wrong ways) and not enough on the students.  By the time I’d figured it out, I’d damn-neared sunk the ship!  Seriously.  The curriculum was less than mediocre (which kills my ego to admit), and I’d barely turned around the trend of the students really hating me (Yes, they’ve been kind enough to tell me this, but only lately, and with the understanding that, “Everyone thinks you’re really cool now –except when you’re on them for something.”) to having a relationship with 60% of them.  It’s true, I didn’t capture even a good 80%.

Last year, I had my “own” class, a different program model, and more challenges.  I learned to love and be accepted by a good 80% of the class.  Unfortunately I had one student with whom I could NEVER connect.  I own that a large part of this is my attitude and deeply ingrained belief that the sh*t-stirrer has NO RIGHT TO CRY WHEN PEOPLE RETURN IN KIND.  I always feel manipulated by criers whose sole job, it seems, is to garner my pity.  A VERY GOOD, patient, and understanding colleague pushed this very question, “How are you going to make this work?”  Of course I stomped my feet and rallied that I didn’t want to.  I did try her ideas, but neither the student nor I had follow through.  Perhaps I failed the assignment or we weren’t meant for each other.  I realize that I didn’t learn how to connect with him — despite our early, easy understanding with each other.  [Sigh]  Which means, you know, that I will have “his kind” again.  That said, I was SO incredibly relieved when he didn’t return.

Yet, my curriculum STILL wasn’t there.  I’d bridged the gap of creating community, but I hadn’t managed to effectively pull together all my materials.  I liked what I saw my colleagues doing, but I didn’t incorporate them or really realize how to incorporate them.  I need to bump up the language effectiveness in the room.  I have a direction, but my map is not drawn.  I need to do this.  I need help.  But sometimes I’m resistant to help.  It’s that ego again.  However, while writing this, I did hatch a small plan.  I will need to begin implementation and see where it leads us.

This same question goes for my interactions with adult people in my life.  While I should be pushing the building of community, I’ve become difficult and petulant. I want things my way.  I’m not as open to others’ reasoning.  I’m viewing the actions or inactions of others in a completely judgmental fashion.  I recognize that I’m using loaded language when I refer to these interactions — in large part because these are politically charged incidents — but perhaps to garner support to my side.  Generally I pride myself in putting myself last (as evidenced by the fact that I’ve always opted for the worst prep time, allowed new people first choice, and sacrificed my own team because I thought it would be good for the school) for the good of the program.  However, this time I don’t want to.  Perhaps I need to relearn that selflessness is a necessary component in schools.  It’s not at all about me.  It really is about the school, the school community (of which I am a small part) and the students.  In fighting does not necessarily benefit the students.

Obviously I need to figure out what else I’m supposed to learn.  There are many areas open for growth: colleagues, working styles, tolerance, program expectations, listening, bending to someone else’s will, or compromise.  I need to have some empathy for the fact that people are dealing with culture changes and paradigm shifts.  I need to recognize that accepting a job doesn’t mean accepting lock, stock and two smoking barrels everything that comes from the job.  Marriage is hard, and it’s only two people.  Marrying 7 different personalities and teaching styles is less a ballet and more of a mosh pit.  Yet, could we become beautifully balanced, graceful, and seemingly effortless in our “marriage”.  Can we get there?  If not, what do we do differently?

If I’m serious about wanting this program to do more than “succeed”, but to be the R&D training ground for excellent middle school teaching and academic growth, I need to get off my high-horse, humble myself, and make some changes.  Perhaps I need to learn to “be the change I want to see”.

[growling noise] Is that not the most annoying platitude in the world.  Yet, I suspect it’s true.  [swear words deleted]


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