Naive

20160324_061844It’s not one of my happier days but it’ll pass. I’ll feel much better in the morning. I left school early feeling crushed.

I’m not a perfect person by any stretch of the imagination but I try my hardest to be a good person. I’m happy-go-lucky at the core. I’m inclined to be trusting towards people and see the good. This gets me burned now and then but I can’t help it. I have to look for the good in the world. 

Yesterday, I had lunch with a guest staff member and the subject of my boss came up, along with gratitude. We both concluded that my boss probably doesn’t hear enough gratitude for all the hard work he does. Heck, I’m indebted to him for helping me get my foot in the door of the education world. Despite the dead weight in my chest today, I’m still thankful.

To express that, I took a chunk of time yesterday to compose a handwritten thank you letter to my boss and handed it to him in person this morning. I told him what it was. He said, “Well, I have a not-so-nice letter for you. I was going to wait until the end of the day but…”

I can’t remember how the sentence ended. My memory has expunged them. All I remember next is my boss setting two pieces of paper on the table before us, and “Notice of Intention to Non-Renew” printed in bold at the beginning of letter. The letter in short: I’m probably not going to be rehired but there is still a chance I could be back next year.

What a slap in the face. I left the office with zero wind in my sails. I even told my boss I still meant what I said in the letter, despite receiving the notice. I’m not good at sticking up for myself in situations like that, for letting people know when they’ve done something to me that I find rude or hurtful. I don’t know if I’ll ever learn how to do that.

My vision blurred on the way back to the high school, and I dropped into my computer chair, stunned, breathing stinging like there was a knife in my throat, and I cried. Thankfully, I have about the first 20 minutes of my day to myself before students start trickling in but it wasn’t enough time to absorb the news. Within the next hour, I decided to go home to recuperate for the rest of the day.

I’m hugely thankful for two staff members who leant me their support and optimism. It’s nice to know I’ve made two good friends where I work, friends who have my back and can offer a realistic view of what I’ve been through.

I’ve been hearing since the beginning of the year that I’ve been “thrown to the wolves.” Brand new teachers are supposed to have an indoctrination period and proper guidance. I’ve been mostly left to my own devices, all alone in the high school, and then corrected AFTER I make mistakes. My naiveness and inexperience explained the situation away with getting hired a month after school started, so there was no time, everyone was busy so they didn’t have the time to sit down and teach me or let me shadow them.

All year, my fellow staff have been telling me how first-year teachers should be helped and supported, and what they were doing was setting me up to fail. Looking how far I’ve come as a teacher, along with the fact that I want to go back and teach for a second year, I don’t see myself as a failure. Instead, I have done the best I can to make the school a better place. And what do I get for it? A letter saying my efforts were inadequate.

I dived head-first into a high school classroom knowing nothing about classroom management, or how teenagers act like they’re allergic to doing work. I’d only heard the name Harry Wong but knew nothing about his practices. I could help students with their schoolwork but didn’t know I had to teach them work ethic. I had teenagers testing the limits of my patience but didn’t know how to execute firm but fair discipline. I saw youths struggling with confidence issues and all sorts of life problems, yet didn’t know how to make the school feel like a safe haven. I had to teach offline classes that weren’t English had never done high-school-level curriculum in my life. I knew sports but not how to run a middle school P.E. class. I knew what I wanted out of my students but not how to bring it out or clearly convey my expectations. I didn’t know how to run a basketball team but I took on the role of head coach. I know Track & Field and how to motivate athletes to keep trying to do better, but not how to run an entire team, yet here I am at present with my first track meet on April 7.

On top of all that, I’m doing the yearbook even though I’ve never done that before, and I’m helming six different offline classes while helping students with their online work. Have I complained or said the workload is too much? No. Have I done my best to rise to the challenge? Yes. Have I done a great job? In some places, yes; in others, no. I’m not going to win Rookie Teacher of the Year but I’ve sure earned Workhorse of the Year (not that that award exists but that’s moot).

I don’t intend to burn any bridges with this post; however, if the school does decide to keep me, I doubt I’ll take their offer, nor will I take the letter of recommendation. I already have four recommendation letters to work with and could quite easily get a fifth elsewhere.

Thank you for your time. *drops mic, walks away*

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About Angela Macala-Guajardo

Author, teacher, soon-to-be full time writer for two companies. Also a lover life in the Arizona desert, puppy butt wiggles, and kitties purring away on my shoulder.
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2 Responses to Naive

  1. Polly underwood says:

    Hi Angela. I’m Dwaina’s mom and a retired teacher. Yes, you were set up. You started late, you have too many new things to learn, too many extra responsibilities. The school didn’t do right by you. You were probably hired on a temp contract. That’s what you do for late hires. This letter has been coming all year; you just didn’t realize it. Take their letter of recommendation. If you don’t like it, don’t use it in your packets. But take it as a badge of survival. You have almost made it through one of the hardest jobs you will ever do: first year teaching. Things do get better. Really….. They do. But limit what you take on. Your job right now is to learn how to teach. That means discipline, curriculum, politics, how to find joy in every day. You can’t do that if you are the workhorse. The school doesn’t appreciate work horses. They just work them harder. Take the time to perfect the craft of teaching before you start all that extra stuff. Value yourself. You have to value yourself before you can teach students to value themselves. Teach by example. You show promise and a willingness to improve. Make this year a learning experience. Start applying to other districts within the next 2 weeks. Be the early hire. You can do it!

    • Angela Macala-Guajardo says:

      Thank you for your kind words. It means a lot. I’m going to be careful with who hires me next and do exactly as you said: hone the skills I need.

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