Sunday, June 24, 2007

It is much more difficult to write this “success story” than it was to write my more recent “failure story.” I don’t think I’ve really had the chance to be a success yet; all of my possible successes are works in progress. As I was telling a curious first-year earlier this week, what makes teaching so difficult (along with other social service-oriented occupations) is that immediate gratification is almost nowhere to be found. Particularly as a first year teacher, my possible successes will not come to fruition for a number of years, perhaps even decades.

The only success I can claim from this past school year is the success of opening myself to other successes, that is, not quitting teaching or the Teacher Corps program. I was very close to quitting two separate times during the year, once in the time right before November break and another time during January and into early February. I voiced numerous complaints to parents and friends, began looking at other jobs, and even had an interview. For awhile there, I wanted out of Mississippi and out of teaching as soon as possible.

But I felt I owed it to myself, my students, and the Teacher Corps program to take at least one more shot at enjoying teaching. I redoubled my efforts in the classroom. I began to listen more to my students and not take their affronts so personally. I spent less time in front of the television and the internet and more time with books in my hands. I focused more on what I could do to improve my students’ lives through their education and began to ignore the requirements of my school and the Teacher Corps program. I focused on what was important to me and fulfilled obligations that I knew were pointless with the least amount of effort necessary to earn a ‘passing grade.’

To get to this point, I had numerous discussions with my family and friends, trying to work out exactly where my problems lay. However, the only way I could truly alter my existence down here was by communing with myself. I had to reach deep inside and consider what I valued and how far I was willing to go to fulfill my original goals. And I am actually quite proud of myself for being able to do that level of soul-searching.

My classroom didn’t really turn around, if anything it may have gotten worse as far as management is concerned. The change was in my attitude and how I approached my daily duties. I also started to see my students outside of the classroom more often and spend more time with the people in Mississippi that I love. And, slowly but surely, I began to enjoy myself once again. I will not be a high school teacher for the rest of my life, but at least I now know that I can look a difficult issue in the face, stare it down, and come out on top.

And so, in the boundaries of this program, it was a success to remain in Mississippi as a teacher. I am still unsure if it was the right decision. To me, it stands as a success because it is an example of perseverance. I could have very easily bagged this program, teaching, and Mississippi and gone back to what I see as a much more logical existence in New England, but I stuck to my commitment. That idea of committing to something and then following through on it has become very important to me. As a close friend remarked to me once, my generation seems to have a major problem with consistency, commitment, and professionalism, and I wholeheartedly agree. Perhaps this is because we are part of the “clicker” generation. We have always been told we can do anything whenever we want, whether that be watch a different television show right this moment or pursue any career we choose, regardless of how absurd it may be (I fear that the next generation, those that have never not known the internet and have everything “on demand,” will be even worse that my generation is currently).


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