Yesterday was the last day of the fall semester and the completion of my first 5 months of teaching at an inner city school. For the first 6 years of my teaching career, I taught at a middle class suburban school that largely flew under the radar. Sure, there were a few problems, but for the most part, working out in the burbs was a pretty cushy job. The kids came to school fed, the clothes they wore were new and most came from families that were supportive and still together. Our PTA was awash in money, the teaching staff was top notch and our principal was as good as they come. I was actually very lucky to land my first teaching assignment at such a great school. In a large urban district like this one, new teachers tend to start out at some of the tougher schools. I got lucky and figured that I would never leave, spending all of my 30 or so years of teaching at that one school.
Alas, it didn't quite work out that way as my gender transition forced me to leave at the end of the 2006-2007 school year. I spent last year working as a resource teacher at Central Office before moving back into the classroom this year as a new person with a new gender. The plan was to find me a position that would allow me the best chance to succeed and I was hoping for a brand new unit at a brand new school. That too didn't happen and instead at found myself at a new special education unit at an old, inner city elementary school. When I found out which school I was headed to, I cried like you couldn't believe. It didn't seem fair that in return for giving up a job I loved at a school I adored I would be placed at this school that everyone told me I would hate.
Still, I gave it a chance and went in with the best attitude I could muster. I spent a great deal of time this past summer working in my new classroom, getting it ready for the new school year. When the first day arrived, I was so nervous that it was all I could do to just survive the day. As it turned out, my students were wonderful and my two assistants were amazing. I liked it instantly, at least when I was in my classroom. Leaving the safe confines of my room was a whole different story. I saw things that I had never seen before, heard stories that shocked me and was the butt of jokes, stares and comments from kids that I didn't know from a hole in the wall. After a month, I was already thinking about transfering at the end of the year and my attitude got worse and worse.
A few months later, I'm glad I didn't let it beat me down and get the best of me. The kids have now moved on to far more interesting things, most of the kids seem to like me and I've grown to love the place. You see, it's now occured to me that most anyone can be a successful teacher at the school I was out, but excelling at my new home, well, that was a whole new challenge and it's one that I not only have met, but have exceeded. It takes skill, talent, creativity, compassion and a lot of love to make it in a school like mine. The kids are screaming for attention, most only eat when they are at school and the stories they tell just make you break down and cry. But, despite all that is stacked up against them, they are still yearning to learn and make the most of their lives.
We are doing some amazing things and I'm very proud to be a part of something very exciting. I've found a new home and I can't imagine teachign any place else. I work for a wonderful principal, the teaching staff is tremendously dedicated and our whole staff is focused on one thing, making the lives of these children better. I love my kids, they touch my heart in ways that I didn't know could be touched, and I'm so looking forward to watching them grow up.
I'll enjoy these two weeks off, I need the rest and relaxation, but come January 5th, I'll be more than ready to go back to work. I'm a teacher and I teach at a school I love. It's what I do and I thank God for that every single day.