Saturday, September 08, 2007

The New Job

My new job is as the humanities teacher at a very small, new, Bay Area charter high school. We just finished the first week--and I have yet to teach a class in my content area. Monday.

We spent the week doing orientation--long, slow, orientation. We did a get-to-know-you anti-bullying all-day program to kick off on Tuesday, which was pretty good, but about which I have mixed feelings. (OK, here's a thing I disliked--the part where people were asked to pair up, lock arms back to back and then do the 'booty dance'. Have you ever been back-to-back with a teenage boy, young enough to be your son, and asked to 'shake your booty'? People get ARRESTED for things like this. My God. We also did the exercise where you cross the line if you're of a particular ethnicity, or have had a particular experience...for some reason, this always feels slightly canned to me, and I don't know quite why...I went up as a 'Middle Easterner', although what she meant was 'Muslim'--there's no other reason to include Pakistanis in a description of 'Middle Eastern'--then went up again as a Jew--then thought that for many Muslims and Jews, the extensive intergender touching demanded by the program would be totally impossible, and thought about cultural assumptions made by people who think they're educating others out of their cultural assumptions...)

The kids liked it well enough, although they had some issues too, mainly that I think many of them were unconvinced that this one emotion-filled day was enough to totally change the way teenagers act toward one another. Ah well, I suppose it's a good Elul activity.

The rest of the week, pretty good. The kids seem like very nice young people. They hang out together very happily, and we've had almost no real problems, and they are generally so far polite and willing to roll with the weirdness of our start-up days. They look like the neighborhood--African-American and Latino, a scattering of white kids. A lot of them have apparently struggled academically elsewhere, or been 'bad kids' at other schools, and I assume they haven't left all their problems behind, but they are mostly here because they have very supportive families, and I think that will help. They're incredibly interesting. I have one boy who raises reptiles, another who's into archery. Lots of them go to the same churches, and have relatives in common--this is something I noted at St. Colmcille, too.

I'm still struggling to learn names. Some of them look distinct, much younger than the others, or short, or very tall, zaftig or skinny, or with a particularly effusive personality, or in the case of one girl, with bright blue extensions in her braids, or another with blond and violet streaks in her hair, or our only redhead, and they are pretty easy to learn. There are others, though, that I'm going to have to learn quickly, who I've only sorted out into a general physical type--for example, there's a whole group of seven or eight girls who are African-American, about five-seven, slim, wearing jeans and printed tops, with straightened hair or braids worn long, and pretty faces. I need to stop addressing them all as 'honey'and thinking of them as 'kid with long hair' and learn names.

I'm struggling not let old failures and insecurities keep me from doing a good job. Right now, I'm a little freaked out, because there's a woman at our 'parent' school I'm supposed to be getting in touch with, and haven't, and our ed director is getting gently concerned. Will deal with.

I hope this works out. I hope. Oh, wow, how I hope.

No comments: