When I left the public schools and went to a Catholic School, I thought it was divine intervention. I was THRILLED to be where I was. They apologized for the class sizes being more than 25, all of my classes had laptops, parents actually came to conferences, I could teach - without having to deal with much in the way of classroom discipline. It was heavenly, for that first year.
The second year, I took a peak behind the curtain and was not so happy with what I saw. There were definite inequalities. And personal responsibility lessons were lost to the fact that the student might not get into Harvard, with that A- in my Morality class. Plagiarism was rampant. Personal expression was muted if it did not fit within the box. Money talks. 6th graders in tears because of the fear of the wrath that the B+ in Introduction to Computers would bring was such a heartbreaking. What in the heck was I doing?
I did not fit into that box. I had to buy a whole new wardrobe - skirts and blouses and dress pants; heels and dress shoes. My tights were not necessarily embraced - they were too red, too purple, too argyle. I am a Chuck Taylor and stolen husband button down shirt type of a teacher. I literally looked at myself in the mirror and asked what the heck I was doing. What happened to "To thine own self be true." I needed a jeans pass to feel comfortable in my own skin.
I had become a hypocrite.
The third year, I confessed to my husband that I was miserable. I wanted to stick it out until the kids were done with high school - but that 14 years away. What kind of person would I be?? Miserable old lady, lost within the confines of my box. I started looking right away in September for a new home. Kids were not allowed to go on a trip for their Social Justice class because they would be spending the night in the inner city - locked in a beautiful church - and would be working with the homeless and hungry. And I shook my head. I don't need to air dirty laundry, but I was unhappy.
Clearly, there was a message here, whether divinely originating or not. That school was not my home and I needed to move on.
So, I enjoyed a spring time recovery and found myself back in the public schools. Taking all the technological ideas that I was graced with in the Catholic schools followed me into my classroom full of broken teenagers, just looking for someone to love them and guide them. The service I was looking to carry out was right in front me all along. It was here! In my classroom.
Anyone who says this is the easy path and we are overpaid and underworked, is completely full of crap. We work non-stop. I work through my lunch hour and after school. At home. In my sleep. I live and breathe education - public education.
For a while, I thought the grass would be greener if I did not have to fight the effects of poverty in my classroom. It wasn't. I just saw how much fertilizer was spread around to make that grass so pretty and I wasn't a fan. I am back to where I am needed most. My guilt has been abated. Perhaps that is why I felt so guilty, it was not meant to be my place in this world.
Now, this is not a bash on Catholic Education. There are amazing things happening in those schools, just like there are here. It just wasn't for me. And for the first time, my oldest was happy and THRIVING in school. After trying charter schools and Catholic education, where he just wasn't blossoming. Here, in a plain old boring, amazing neighborhood K-8 public school, he is thriving. The stories the teachers share with me about my muppets, leaves no doubt in my mind, they are where they need to be. As am I. I am a product of public education - Continuous Progress and Arts based Education. That made me who I am. My teachers had a major hand in molding me.
And now it is my turn.