|Poor school choice, or poor career choice?
||[Jan. 14th, 2008|07:47 pm]
Hey all. I teach math at a high school in South Central LA, but maybe not for long. I'm not looking for a pep talk (or a guilt trip) but I'm honestly exploring my options and looking for some opinions.
My school is a mess. Its accreditation is constantly at risk and we're probably either going to be taken over soon, one way or another [politics deleted]. There is constant violence here, between students (fights every day, several times a day, in hallways, yards, and in classrooms) and also assaults on staff that result in big punishments like 2-day suspensions. The majority of our students don't live with either biological parent. The transiency rate is high and attendance is low: in some periods, I have less than half a dozen of the kids I had in September and it's not unusual to have fewer than 10 kids in class period during period 6. The administration can't enforce its own policies and the counselors' poor excuse for scheduling AND counseling helps nothing. My supposed mentor teacher is also burnt out and couldn't care less, and my department chair's best advice so far is that I need to have more sex.
Everyone tells me this school isn't so different from any other inner-city school but I know that's not true. I worked in another extremely low-performing (statewide API 1, many English learners, Title 1, super-high gang population) school for 3 years. Granted, I was a paraprofessional and not a teacher but I felt safe in that school and found the student issues to be much more about low skills and low motivation than aggression and off-the-chain behavior. I liked the students and only the most lax, apathetic teachers had serious classroom management problems. Fights in the street were common, but fights on campus were rare.
In the Los Angeles Unified School district, it's not uncommon (or not as uncommon as it should be) to transfer midyear. At least 5 teachers have left my school this year already, and they didn't wait until the end of a semester like I have. So I am putting in for a transfer because I feel that the situation at this school is hopeless for an inexperienced teacher. Plus, the students don't respect me and the school is small enough (less than 2000) that word is out. Also, it's no secret that the staff has formed its own reputation for me ("has issues," "dresses like a man," etc.) I feel like I have learned a lot about classroom management and school politics this semester and may do fine with a fresh start. Please don't make me feel guilty about leaving the kids because as I said most of the kids will be gone in a few months anyway if this year keeps up the way it's been going.
On the other hand, I worry that taking over another classroom midyear may be equally challenging. I'm also wondering if teaching isn't for me. I like instruction, but not discipline. I can do it, but I hate it and the best I will ever be at it is "effective," not awesome. None of the classroom management training I've received or reading I've done bears any resemblance to my situation, which probably doesn't help.
So, did I pick the wrong school, the wrong district (the LAUSD is notoriously broken) or the wrong career? I am crying several times a day and I don't even cry at funerals. I have never been so miserable and I find it hard to believe teaching will ever be more than tolerable. But I can't survive working two jobs making $11/hour as a paraprofessional anymore even though I loved that and hated this.
Can you ever recover from burnout like this? For the record, I'm 33 and this is my second career. I've had a lot of life experience including, as I said, 3 years working with kids in another "tough" school but I've never before felt this sh*tty about myself or the world.