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2004-09-28 - 11:44 a.m.

Things are going well at work. I continually think of work as “school” and call it school, even though I’m employed, not enrolled, there. It leads to some confusion, as people want to know where I go to school and if what I’m studying.

Of course, I am studying things: my students, who are very sweet, mostly. My homeroom of seventh graders is made of good solid kids who do their work and want to get it right. But they’re a bit broken, and other than sticking around, there isn’t much I can do to fix it.

My school was in turmoil last year. The parents, principal, teachers, and pastor were battling for the soul of the school. In the end, the principal was fired, the entire middle school team left either through retirement or moving away, and several students left the school. The parents that were left were very nervous about the whole thing; afraid that the new regime would destroy whatever knowledge their kids had managed to gain over the past few years.

Back to school night calmed some of those fears, and many parents expressed their gratitude that the middle school team was enthusiastic and bright. A few remained concerned because “they’re so young.” This is actually entirely unfair. Yes, SocialStudies is young, she’s just out of college, but she’s certified, and quite smart. I am not just out of college, and while younger than the parents, have three years of experience. Language Arts and Mathematics are no younger than most of the parents, as both of them have children in middle school. While we are younger than the previous team (indeed, SS has only been alive for half as long as the previous teacher was working), we are not teenagers culled from the local juvenile hall to do public service.

There are still some issues in the school, as there are anywhere. On of the parents, emboldened by his ability to get rid of the principal, decided it was time to revamp the after-school care program, starting with the director, who also teaches here. The pastor said no, we won’t fire the woman because you have a problem. The result was that the parent pulled his children, including one of my 7th graders, from the school.

This all happened last week, and in the aftermath, my students are confused and tentative. One of them said “I want to learn physical science stuff.” Since physical science is 8th grade work, I told him he could learn it next year if he didn’t leave us. He looked at me and said “Don’t you leave us.”

The next day, one of my students was leaving early to go out of town for the weekend, and in the confusion of homeroom, the students thought I said that the girl was leaving forever. There was chaos for a minute, until I had calmed them all down and explained that neither the student nor the social studies teacher (who was the other half of the conversation) was going to abandon them.

By June they’ll all be settled and safe and happy. I just hope I won’t have to leave them.

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