Recently Sherry Sherry posed an interesting question to me, and my response would have been so long that I decided to make it into it’s own blog. Here’s what she asked me:
If you were given the opportunity to go to a better school, in a better school district, would you leave your current one?
The simple answer is yes and no.
Right now, I would not leave this job for a "better" district if given the choice. My principal sets a no-nonsense tone, and students are aware of it the minute they walk in the door. I feel safe and needed. I know the kids better and the kids get to know me better. I see a difference when I take just a few minutes out of my day to tutor, or wish someone "happy birthday." These kids take it to heart when I tell them I’m watching them, and that I expect more. These kids won’t jump through hoops for me for an A, a B, or even a C; an F is nothing new to them. They participate in class because it’s interesting, because they want to know–they learn for the instrinsic value of being a little smarter.
You won’t find many kids like that in a middle class school. In a middle class school you’ll have children who want the A–but have no interest in the material. In a middle class school you’ll have fewer discipline problems, but your responsibility to the parents will be greater. Your grading practices will be scrutinized, and you can expect to argue with parents if their child gets a C. A private school would be even worse with regards to parents. They’ll be paying for this education, so they’ll expect their child to earn certain grades. I’ve heard stories where students have told teachers, "do you know who my father is? I could have you fired." I’ve had a friend who worked in a middle class school be threatened by a parent (adn school board member) when she caught a child cheating on an exam. In private schools you can also expect less pay, and more responsibility.
The thing about my current job is that it makes me proud. Even I wasn’t sure that I could teach in this kind of school. When I first left college, I wouldn’t even apply in the urban district that I lived in–I just didn’t think I could handle it. But I can do it, and I feel good about the kinds of kids I teach, the obstacles I have overcome, and the fact that I got a view of life that’s different than my own. I’ve grown as teacher and as a person, and that is invaluable.
But would I leave in the future? Maybe. If I ever felt unsafe my two weeks would be in the principal’s box–I know that for sure. But I’ve never felt unsafe. I may want a different challenge one day, though–I may want to figure out a different kind of school, and a different kind of student. I’m rarely satisfied with the status quo–I push myself as far as I think I can go.
So, for now, no–you can keep your middle class school. For the future–that’s anybody’s guess.