Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Big Things

So I broke down and gave into the man. I trimmed my beard. I thought about it long and hard and I decided that this job interview was bigger than my need to be a bearded master. I know I shouldn't give in on this but school is a game. A big stupid game that gets in the way of the real issue, teaching kids how to figure shit out. If I have to trim my beard so that I can get one step closer to a permanent place in this crazy Tacoma world and a shot at a real career where I can help kids to my fullest capacity then I should do it.

Tomorrow I have an interview for a job that seems perfectly tailored to me. I have to be on point, I have to be sharp, and I have to let the confident part inside of me that reminds me I am a great teacher, come striding out. I have a nice shirt and pants and a dashing tie, my hair finally feels like me again after the big cut last year up in Alaska. All I have to do now is answer the interview questions with a glow and wisdom that I truly feel I have.

Its been a long journey in my short teaching career. Most of it has been documented on this blog. I started out as a student teacher at Tacoma School of the Arts and learned more about the sheer possibility of what school could actually grow into. School can be a place where kids like to come, it can be a place where people can come together and actually build up others. Art, science, self motivation and responsibility.

Then I made a whacky turn in the road of life and moved to a tiny Eskimo village in Alaska. The people, the culture, the elements all taught me one very simple thing, one very very valuable lesson. I can adapt, learn, analyze and flourish in any environment if I just follow the same morals I was raised on by my family: Work HARD, be a good person, and do your very best at everything you do.

Then I came home. At the time I had to. There wasn't any other option in my mind at the time. Looking back I could have easily stayed in the Kuskokwim Delta for a long time, hell I could have been a bush teaching nutbar with a fur hat and a total disconnect from reality. But I like reality too much. I wanted to be home. And I think I am.

While I was up there something happened though. I taught all subjects you see...ALL subjects. I served as principal a time or too. I helped with scheduling and budgets and staff management. I learned how to write IEP and went to the Alaska Statewide Special Education conference two years in a row and opened myself to the true heart of American education, you see everything we learn about teaching special needs students eventually gets adapted to every other student. I saw the idea of "school" and "education" from outer space, I saw the equator.

Once I got back home to make ends meet and support myself in my new home I took a job in the middle of an impoverished school in the heart of a drastic time of change in the Tacoma School District. Schools being closed, entire staffs being torn apart based on all sorts of factors basically boiling down to really poor test scores and national averages. I live in the "restructured" world now.

And I worked this new job. I didn't just work there, I worked it. I made myself a place at a school that really couldn't epitomize the national paradox of American school any more if it tried. I let people see who I was, what I was about, and then I listened to my kids, I figured out what was actually going on and I adapted. I helped them, guided them, and did my best to leave them better than I found them. I flipped a couple kids over to the good side along the way too.

All the while I tutored the spectrum of kids privately after school. I worked with a rich private school kid to help him find a deeper understanding of the quadratic equation. I tutored an unmotivated Native American kid and tried to help him understand the crazy white man's world. I helped a shy intelligent kid come out of his shell and learn how to take care of himself a little. And I helped a newly enrolled freshman in community college figure out an introductory biology class in about 4 days.

And tomorrow I have to go and some up all the things I've learned along the way. I have to some how get a panel of people that don't know me and my beard from a bum on the street to realize that when they hire me they are going to get way more than a science teacher. I am tapped in, I am here in the trenches, I get school, all the way, from every angle, and if I don't get the angle you can bet your ass I'll figure it out by the end of the day and own it.

Yeah I'll trim the beard, yeah I'll put on the tie, yeah I'll answer the questions, but if you really want to know what kind of teacher I am, see me in my element, see me in my classroom, see me in jeans and a t-shirt, with a long beard, seated next to a kid tapped in that just figured out he/she doesn't have to suck at life, and that school is a place he or she can make it.

You want to know what kind of teacher I am? Ask my kids.

I'd say wish me luck but I think you know I don't reaaaaally believe in that. I do believe in evidence though, and I got that on my side.

Also, listen to Band of Horses because I am pretty sure that you need to if you don't.

I'll keep ya posted on the outcome.


Anonymous said...

If your future entails more interviews past tomorrow (and I hope for your sake, it won't) - have you ever considered asking your former students for some kind of recommendation letter? I've thought about it myself, but with 3rd graders it wouldn't be effective or appropriate. With high school kids, it might be a better idea. I'm still not sure if it would be appropriate I guess - just a thought to give your interview or portfolio a different, memorable element.

Best of luck tomorrow. May it be your last interview for a long time to come!

Angie Abel

The Diceman said...

If you say in your interview what you just said in your post, I think you'll be fine. I'm sure that you'd explain to some student that, unfortunately, sometimes you have to trim your beard to comply with some societal ideal, even when you know that beardedness (or any other physical characteristic) has zero bearing on one's ability to teach. Your blog has been inspiring to me! Thanks!

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