Thursday, October 20, 2011

(Un)Luck of the Draw

There is so much more I could add about my experience in the KC,MO School District. I do, however feel as if I've given a good summary of what it was like. I do have one more thing I want to share, though.

There was a group of KC Corps Members who taught in the same "LA summer school" (actually a TFA training school) during institute. A group of us had the amazing benefit of being placed in KCMO schools that are somewhat functional. One guy, a big guy who wrestled in college and also earned a high school teaching degree, is in one of the few elementary schools who are proficient in their tests scores. This guy has 15 kids in his classroom. And if that isn't amazing enough, his kids actually listen to him. And to top it off, his principal is even effective at her job. Seriously, that is just mind-blowing compared to what I experienced. Another friend says her biggest challenge is that the kids (16 of them) in her classroom is getting her kids to raise their hands and not just call out. She told this problem to another friend who continually had fights breaking out in her classroom and even had a student molest another student in the hallway. That teacher, who is an incredibly sharp and talented person who became a close friend of mine, also quit last week. She just couldn't handle it the emotional and physical deterioration brought about by the stress of being in charge of wild kids she couldn't manage.

One of the TFA directors, who herself taught in an elementary school in Harlem, said that of the 30 some regions TFA is in, classroom management is the worst in Detroit and Kansas City. Think about that, it's worse in KC than in Harlem and Compton. A combination of corrupt politics, insufficient public transportation, school boundaries breaking up neighborhoods and a School District with a nationally known reputation for dysfunction and ineptitude work together to create a hell-hole for the poor kids of the Kansas City. An entire city ignoring (at best) and exploiting (at worst) their own poor.

Even with the insane environment of the KC schools, this director told me that the elementary schools in KC tend to be somewhat functional. She then added, "there are two exceptions, though." Guess which two schools in which the bulk of the TFA Corps Members whom are quitting were placed?

So why did this happen? Why was I assigned middle school and then pressure into signing an elementary contract that was thrust under my nose in front of the entire KC Corps and the KCMSD School Board? I'm not sure. I could've been put in a functional school with at least a chance of survival or even success but I was placed in one of the worst schools in one of the worst districts in the US. It's possible that it was just an unfortunate event, that I got the raw deal in a random process of placement, just bad luck. It's also possible that this was the answer to my two year prayer of, "if you don't want me to go into teaching, please stop me." It's possible that I wasn't able to fulfill the calling God gave me or that the calling changed in response to human decisions. Wherever God's hand is to be seen in this unfolding of events, I know that this isn't the end. That failure (if it really is a failure) isn't final with God and that faithfully answering God's calling isn't a one-shot deal.

So while working the new job that I start tomorrow, I'll have plenty of time to sort stuff out. I'm glad I'll be able to do the sorting-out while also earning a paycheck.

On that note...

I've been pleasantly surprised by all the support and affirmation I've received since leaving that terrible situation. I was at my parents' last weekend and a friend of my mom said, "I'm so glad you're not working there anymore, for your health's sake." A friend who is a principal at a rural school with 54% reduced lunch was even shocked at my stories and could understand my reasoning. He said that he actually works less as a principal than as a teacher and coach. To all of those affirming comments, however I always add that I hate that I was compelled to walk away from those kids. There is always some response meant to take away some false guilt and to affirm my commitment to my family.

Maybe the best affirmation however, is that I start a new job tomorrow morning. I'll be a Claims Rep for Farmer's Insurance. Basically, I'll be sitting at a cubicle and working the phones to determine fault in car accidents and the amount of insurance pay-outs. I'll be working - get this - 40 hours a week. While getting paid exactly the same as the teaching job! The fear that I was also hurting my family by quitting a job during a recession turned out to be over-dramatic as I spent only three weeks in the ranks of the unemployed. And what a great three weeks it was!

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