Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Settling In

So, today was my first full day in my new placement. I got my parking pass, I got my staff ID, and I witnessed my first student fight. I already love it.

I'm trying very hard not to be over-enthusiastic (see how well I'm doing?). I mean, I was sabotaged in my last school by being too open and too eager and too honest. I feel very different here, though I'm trying not to get "all jumpy inny" as Kizz put it, because I don't want to make the same mistakes. Still, I can already tell that I'm in a much better place where I am now, and I can actually FEEL the difference in my body. I'm more relaxed. I'm breathing on a regular basis. I can feel my confidence returning.

I spent today pretty much in observation mode. I followed my CT around (I haven't thought up a good pseudonym for her yet) and saw all of her classes. She is genuinely pleased to have me with her, and I'm telling you that it's wonderful for me. I don't feel at all like an imposition, and I'm looking forward to tomorrow (and the next day...). She loaded me up with the staff handbook, her class rosters and a copy of the bell schedule and took great delight in announcing to her (our) students that she was my teacher TWENTY YEARS ago. I'm pretty sure that impresses the kids, though I'm not sure if it's a "good" impressed. I don't mind being thought of as "old", though. At least, not by high school students.

My job for tonight is to think about the concept of forgiveness so I can lead a discussion in the Advanced Placement Language and Composition class tomorrow morning.

The students are supposed to be reading The Sunflower by Simon Weisenthal (though CT highly suspects they're not reading at all). The story is that of a particular experience Weisenthal had as a prisoner in a concentration camp. Once, while on a work detail, he was called into the hospital room of a young SS officer who was very close to death. This officer felt the need to confess his atrocities to a Jew so that he could die with a clear conscience, and expected Weisenthall to hear his story and offer him some kind of forgiveness. When the officer finished his confession, Weisenthal left the room without uttering a word.

The incident haunted Weisenthal for decades, so he wrote a book about the experience and the reaction of his friends in the concentration camp at the time. In this book, he continues to wonder if he should have offered the young Nazi absolution, or at the very least a kind word. He submitted his story to noted humanitarians and thinkers for comment, and the book contains responses from the likes of Desmond Tutu and the Dahli Lama, among others with whom I'm less familar. Each writer approaches the question from a different set of moral standards and religous beliefs, and I'm fascinated by all of them.

What I really want to talk to the kids about is the very IDEA of forgiveness. What is it, really? What does it mean to "forgive" someone? Is it something we are even fully capable of? What happens if we withhold our forgiveness? Does our capacity for forgiveness depend upon circumstance? What does it all mean?

I'm very much looking forward to tomorrow. I feel welcomed by my CT, I'm enthusiastic about getting back in front of a classroom, and I'm excited about the work again. I can feel the immediate past getting less and less relevant, and for that I am grateful.

I've Got a TON to Tell You...

...but right now, it's ten past six and I need to get in the shower. Writing here is on my agenda for the day, though, because I've got a lot to say (and damned near all of it is good. IMAGINE?!).

Friday, January 27, 2006

Like I Said...FLYING

So, I just got off the phone with a lovely lady from the administration office in my new school district.

She's home from work with a sinus infection, but she called me anyway (and has retained a quick sense of humor, despite what I'm sure is a monumental headache). I'm going in to meet her on Monday to fill out paperwork, prove that I'm not an alien ("we come in peace. Na-nu-na-nu") and to be fingerprinted, yet again, to prove that I'm not a deviant (well, at least that I'm not a deviant with a record).

The point, people? I'M IN!!!

After Weeks of (seemingly) No Movement...

...things are FLYING now.

I had a meeting with the principal this morning. I think it went well, and it seems I was right - I just got a call from one of the assistant principals telling me to expect a call from someone in the administrative office this afternoon. There is a bunch of paperwork-type stuff that I'll need to do, including being fingerprinted (again), and I'm really hoping to be able to start in the school on Monday (that is, of course, if the Nor'easter the Weather Channel people are talking about goes somewhere else).

It was a very interesting interview this morning, and I think I got a taste of what it would be like to actually interview for a job. The question I was worried about answering never came up, but I was asked things about my grading and discipline philosophy and how confident I am in talking to parents. I spoke about my comfort and confidence in the classroom and was honest about the things I feel I still need work in.

Then he asked if this was a "career change" for me.

That stopped me short.

I mean, I understand that I'm not 22 anymore. I also understand that a lot of the people that he interviews for teaching jobs ARE 22, fresh out of college with a new bachelor's degree.

Still, the question caught me off guard.

I don't think of myself as being "old": I'm 37 and proud of it. Yes, I'm coming to this particular party a little late, but told him that I got married right out of college and immediately started a family. I also made a strong point of saying that I'd spent the last eight years raising my girls and that there was nothing more important that I could have done with that time. Once I could, I went back to school to earn my Master's degree, which brings me here fifteen years later than most of the other people looking for teaching jobs.

I'm hoping that my "maturity" works in my favor when I AM looking for work, though. I have a lot of experience, maybe not in the workplace, but certainly in the real world of teaching and learning. I have a good grasp on classroom management and the idea of discipline as a framework for behaviour rather than a system of punishment. I barely survived my teenage years, and am not so old that I've forgotten how hard it was; I have something to offer to teens to help them make it through. I have the confidence of a mother who's raising two thoughtful, responsible girls and understand that my job, both as a parent and a teacher, is to teach my kids to learn how to get along in the world on their own.

I think about this stuff, I CARE about this stuff - it's more to me than just a job.

Ready or Not...

...here I go.

I printed out what I suppose counts as a resume last night. I have a copy of (most of) my transcripts (note to self; call the business office of University and demand my five bucks back: "expedited service" my ass). I'm professionally dressed, put on a little make-up, and smell pretty. I'm trying to decide whether to try to down some cereal before I leave in about ten minutes.

I'll let you know how it goes when it's all over.

Watch this space.

Monday, January 23, 2006

Friday, 8 A.M.

That's when I have my meeting/interview with the principal of the school where I'm hoping to finish my internship.

I'm not quite fraught with anxiety, but I'm not all smooth hot cocoa about it, either. I mean, there's the whole "why do you need another internship" question that will need to be answered, and I'm already behind schedule as it is - the university started classes last week and I'm missing valuable classroom time. I understand that there's nothing to be done about that - everything has to happen in its own time and it will all work out in the end - but that doesn't stop me from looking nervously at the calendar.

I know I'm looking at at least a couple of extra weeks tacked on to the end of the university school year to make up for this - time that everyone else will be using to finish their research projects. I'm working on getting the research project started while I'm sitting here waiting, but there's really not a whole lot I can do at this point because I'm not in a classroom working with students. I'll finish the research proposal this week and get a decent bibliography started, but that's about all I can do outside of the classroom.

Still, it's progress. Forward motion. Checking items off to-do lists. I'll take it and run with it.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Still No Word

I've still not heard anything about what I'll be doing this coming semester (which begins, by the way, on Tuesday). Today was kind of interesting, though, so I thought I'd share.

It turns out that I managed to piss people in my former school off SO WELL that I wasn't even welcomed back into the building to retrieve my things. Okay. Whatever. My supervisor, Sam, was kind enough to go there and get the stuff for me. I went to an extension office of the university today to pick it up.

Sam was very genial and kind to me - just like he ALWAYS has been. He didn't make any overt mention of anything specific that happened, and agreed with Chief MM that it wasn't worth getting into anymore. I think he's kind of relieved that the entire situation has been dissolved; I could tell he was getting pretty damned tired of it.

As we loaded my stuff into the back of my car, he mentioned seeing me again at seminar on Thursday. I had asked the powers that be if I could keep working with Sam, and he is obviously agreeable to it, seeing as though he went to his bosses and asked if was okay for me to join my classmates for the weekly meeting despite the fact that I'm kind of a woman without a country at the moment. He also said that, if the university accepts the teacher who's offered to finish the year with me, he's going to need directions to my new school. That, to me, says that he's willing to stay with me, too - which is something I wasn't sure about until this afternoon - I'd been feeling like damned near everyone had cut me off, and his overtures to me were comforting in an almost visceral way. I'm really hoping that I can continue to work with Sam. I'd like SOME continuity through all this.

Oh, and one last thing that I found both sad and amusing at the same time? Before I left, one of my CTs had given me a scarf as a holiday gift. I had left it in the box of my things on my desk - the same box that Sam went to collect on Monday.

Guess what's not in the box now...

Monday, January 09, 2006

Moving On

I just returned from my meeting with Chief Mucky-Muck. It went better than I had expected it would.

He told me that all he'd heard (and all he really wanted to hear) was that there had been an interpersonal problem at the school, and that it had escalated to the point where the school wasn't going to invite me back. He offered me an opportunity to tell my side of the story, confirmed that several of the things that I said had already been told to him by my supervisor (God bless him!), and offered that it wasn't really worth going in and investigating further because "everyone's a little bit right and everyone's a little bit wrong." I talked about how I've learned some very valuable lessons through all of this, how I've been almost obsessively introspective about the experience, and how it hasn't (yet) dissuaded me from continuing in the profession. He seemed pleased to hear that.

I spoke about my frustration at being unable to handle all of this, about how I didn't feel I was adequately prepared for having to deal with all this nonacademic stuff, and he said something strangely affirming for me. Every year, at least one or two (sometimes more) internships implode, and of those, almost 99.9% of them fail because of situations like mine; bad personality matches. He handled all of this very well because he's had to handle this before with other interns. He wasn't shocked or upset or judgmental. "It happens," he said. "It's not fun, but it's not surprising, either. It's just too bad it had to be you."

We talked a little bit about what might happen next. He seemed very positive about being able to re-place me, and we spoke about my possibly being able to keep working with my supervisor - I'd like at least a little consistency in this experience. I mentioned that I've been in touch with one of my former high school teachers through all of this, and that she'd told me she'd be happy to take me for next semester. She got her Ph.D. from the Ed. department at this very university, she's been a cooperating teacher AND an intern supervisor before, and she still teaches every year in the summer Literacy Institutes at the university. I left him with the contact information for her and her principal; I'm hoping that the person whose job it is to place me will seriously look into that.

All in all, it was a very good meeting. I didn't feel that I was treated unfairly (which was a big concern of mine, given how blown out of proportion all of this has become), and I'm feeling pretty confident that I can move on with a new placement and a clean slate when the semester starts up again. I won't know when or where that's going to happen for at least another week, though.

Until then, I'm going to continue breathing in and out.

What I Can See From Here...

This afternoon, at one o'clock, I'm going to the University to meet with Chief Mucky-Muck to determine my immediate professional future.

I have no confirmation, at this point, about what the hell happened over the semester break. I haven't even been in the school for three weeks, but I got a phone call from my supervisor on Friday telling me that the CT had completely flipped out about something she decided I'd done and was refusing to accept me back for next semester (I was supposed to start back up today).

I have a lot of suspicions about what happened. I'm hesitant to put them down here, though, because speculating very often gets me in trouble. I know for sure that my CT had run hot and cold all semester with me, that she's got more stress in her personal life than anyone should have, that she has some pretty significant communication issues, and that I caught her in a lie.

MY fault in all this is pretty straightforward:

*I lacked the savvy to deal with the internal politics of the workplace.

I've been a SAHM for eight years and have been (blissfully, it turns out) shielded from the abject stupidity that is the everyday working environment that most people are forced to endure. I didn't yet know how to function in that kind of, well, disfunction. Believe me, though, I learned a lot about THAT this past semester!

*I trusted too many people too quickly.

I tend to have very strong, open, trusting relationships. I've been told, by MeadMaker, that I'm kind of a freak of nature that way - I attract, and tend to maintain, very deep, strong friendships and I have a hard time getting my head around the fact that most people just don't do that. I wanted to be friends with the people I worked with. THAT was a HUGE mistake. One that, I assure you, I will NOT be repeating.

*I assumed that I would be taught, supported and encouraged.

Yeah, well, almost none of those things happened. I figured that I was going to be put in a situation where I would be treated like a student (isn't that kind of the definition of an intern?). I thought I'd get assigned lessons - that someone would teach me about all the things that I needed to know to function in a classroom. I thought that someone would be there to guide me, that I'd get constructive feedback about what I was doing (or not doing) and that there would be a collaborative relationship with the people charged to watch over my development. That really only happened with one-third of my team, and from the one person who WASN'T with me day-to-day. My supervisor, God love him, did the best he could.

*I thought that the learning process would be similar to that of the college environment.

MAN! Was I wrong on THIS one! Public education, at least as I saw it, is decidedly NOT a cooperative thing. See, in college, we get together and talk about ideas. We share information, we make suggestions to make people's ideas more comprehensive, we ask for feedback on our own thinking so that we can expand our edges and be better thinkers. I naively thought that this would be the case in high school - at least among the teachers - but it's really, really not. As a matter of fact, I'm pretty sure that the straw that broke the CT's back is the fact that I was seeking input from sources other than her. Who knew that was a bootable offense? Certainly not me.

So, the upshot? I've learned a LOT of profoundly valuable lessons this past semester, though almost NONE of them has to do with the reason I'm trying to get into education in the first place - THE KIDS. This is something I plan to point out to Chief Mucky-Muck when I see him this afternoon.

Please wish me luck.

A Second Try


If you stumbled here by accident, I hope you come back to read again. I'm using this space to write and think as I journey through the rest of an internship for a Master's degree in secondary school education, and I'm interested in getting feedback from my readers. I believe that having a lot of different perspectives on a situation helps me to expand my thinking and makes me a better teacher, thinker, and person in general.

If you're here because I brought you here, that means you're one of the few people I trust enough to share this with - it also means you know that I was previously burned to a damned-near unrecognizable crisp the last time I blogged about my experiences as an intern.

Even though there were several people who couldn't handle the kind of honesty I tried for in my previous blog - and it got me into more trouble than even I imagined possible - I found that writing about my experiences, and being able to share that writing with people who could offer thoughtful comments and insight, was a profoundly important part of the learning I did over the last four months. I'm hoping to be able to continue that kind of processing here, though the rules have changed significantly.

So, here's the new home of the internal workings of an intern. To those of you continuing on in this journey with me - THANK YOU. I'm not sure I can adequately express the gratitude I have for your friendship, your insight, and your support.