My classroom set-up went smoothly and I was ready when the children arrived yesterday. I had no last minute roster additions, no confusion, nothing. None of my students even arrived late. Everyone was on time and ready to be back at school. Some of the students were a bit spacey as is expected after a 2 month hiatus from school, but they knew the rules and routines. They all used the non-verbal cues for bathroom, water, and ideas they had learned in Kindergarten and understood the concept of a "thinking chair" (non-punitive time out). All transitions and procedures went smoothly. Dismissal was a dream with all parents smiling and shaking my hand. After day one I didn't feel any stress at all, just a sense of wanting to know the children more and wanting to reach the ones who struggle with academics.
It was a strange feeling coming from my last school where everything was an uphill battle and I felt courageous for being there and for protecting my students from the evils of "the system." I found myself missing the chaos of the rosters and the preps and the copy machine that never worked. I missed the smell of the dirty staircase that never even got cleaned over the summer, the heat and the sweat, the mean secretaries who scowled and registered children for the wrong grade and with their names misspelled. I missed the flustered administrators who alternated roaming the building putting out fires and locking themselves in their offices to escape their own incompetence. I missed the noise from the inside yard at lunch with decibel levels high enough to damage even an adult's ear drum. I missed the chaos of dismissal. I missed the grittiness of the whole experience.
This is what I wanted, a drastic change, but somehow it doesn't feel like my own yet. It feels like I'm working at a temporary cushy job or something, but I'm not. I'm still a New York City public school teacher with 27 first graders on my roster.
I called one of my former colleagues to talk about my old school and to ask about her day. When I told her I missed it, she said, "well you'll get over that really quickly when I tell you what happened today..." and she was right. The stuff she was telling me was what was killing me inside, ripping me apart, challenging my moral character. I do not even feel like I can divulge the things that are apparently still going on at that school but I can tell you it is criminal and disgusting and I just couldn't fight the battle anymore. She told me that the class I would have had was downright out of control, like running out of the classroom and screaming and playing around in the stairs. I think my administrators thought it was easy for me because I had things under control, but it was so hard. They thought I was expendable. Maybe I wasn't. It wasn't just me, there were a lot of people who dedicated their lives and themselves to those children, to that school, and 9 of us left not because we didn't care, but because we just couldn't do it anymore. I left some of the best teachers I will ever have the privilege to work with. I am so thankful for everything they taught me and for the children of that school. Maybe that's what I really miss.