Reflecting back on this past year, I've really been put in my place. I have never in my life been met with so much failure in such a short period of time. So far in life, I'd have to say that I've had a lot of positive successes and have never really had to truly fight tooth and nail for anything that I've wanted, be it at college, work, or education. But this past year I struggled, met with failures, and have had to fight for myself in ways I hadn't truly thought possible.
The failures began early this year when I began to find myself not fitting into the mold at my school. This high-performance charter has very high expectations of staff and a very (often times) rigid system of instruction and discipline. My school provides teaching coaches to all first year teachers at the charter and I found early on in the year that I was struggled to fit into the mold of my charter. My first failure came when I didn't pass my close-out metrics for my coaching cycle.
Moving on from the coaching plan, I could tell my instruction was improving and I was becoming a better teacher, but having been in my first year, there was still much to learn. My school then put me onto an improvement plan to work on fitting the mold and tightening up my teaching. However, the close-out metrics were extremely high for a first year teacher to attain and I found myself failing again to meet them. And this time, the price for failure was not obtaining a contract at the school for a second year. This came as a blow to me, as I felt I had made significant improvements throughout the year and I was just started to get my feet wet with teaching.
Having not been rehired at my school, I then found myself on the chopping block (and still remain) at Teach for America. Policy states that all corps members need to retain their two-year placements, or else Teach for America has the right to dismiss. Once again I found myself needing to fight to keep my position within the program, and I found my whole character and persona as a teacher being inspected.
Teach for America ambushed me last week with dismissal, a move that came relatively out of the blue. I left the dismissal meeting distraught and without a clear picture of just why they had chosen that course for me, after there had been talk with staff about re-placing me at a new school site.
The next day, more failure: because I was dismissed from Teach for America, I would also be dismissed from the Penn program I had put so much time, effort, and worst of all, money into. I couldn't handle this and sought to fight the dismissal within the program due to lack of evidence and ambiguous terms.
Last night my dismissal grievance hearing took place and for one hour I found myself arguing in favor of my character, my teaching, my ability to serve, and my very core and personality. The meeting was tempered and civil, and I felt that I voiced all that I had inside, and the meeting went where I wanted it to go. However, once again I left the meeting with no clear picture, and the decision of my dismissal (whether it sticks or not) is still to be determined within the coming days.
All in all, I've not only been met with a slew of failures this year, but it's been trying on my very being. I've noticed that a lot of grey hairs have recently found home in my hair, and I don't doubt that the stress and anxiety from this year has brought this on. While my decision with Teach for America is still being determined, I am trying to be realistic and I'm not holding my breath. Perhaps it would just be more enjoyable to return to Boston, a city I WANT to be in, with people I love around me, and concentrate on finishing my Master's in Education at a different school and find a job that won't make me fight and defend my very being, let along a school that actually knows how to developmentally teach children.
My only solace is to know that by this time next week, my first year of teaching will be behind me, and on my own terms I believe it went very well. I taught my students and served them well. I loved my kids and enjoyed all my moments with them. I will never forget the times I had this year and the enjoyment that came from my school (even when it also brought pains).
This Friday I'll be going on a day-long field trip with my students to an amusement park in Jersey to celebrate the end of the year - which should be very exciting, and then on Saturday I'm going to the Jersey shore with some friends - hoping to spot some guidos and guidettes. Send positive energy my way, please - I really need it!