Tuesday, February 17, 2009
On Bad Timing for a Good Thing
So - if you've been reading this blog (somewhat) regularly, you know that I'm pretty frustrated with the education system these days. I find it misguided, often irrelevant, and completely unequal in the opportunities it offers kids based on class and race (and gender, I should add).
As a result, I've been pondering a break. With this frustration on me, with my seeming inability to do some inspired math teaching, it seemed like a good time to make a move. I've known for a long time that I need to spend some real time in China to finally figure out what that side of my blood all means to me, but things keep coming up. So I decided that - next Fall/Winter - no matter what, I was going to make that trip, and I wasn't about to let anything get in my way.
Which seemed perfect, since I was feeling a little burnt, anyway. So I gave word to my boss and my co-workers, and I started making plans. For the last few months, I've been slowly setting up my departure from this country, and it seemed like everything was falling into place to make that the best choice.
And then, today, something happened. I sat down with my boss (we have scheduled one-on-one meetings every two weeks or so) and started talking about improvements we could make to our school's structure and way of doing things to best meet our kids' (and our staffs', really) needs. I talked - again - about my frustration with the State math standards. How I felt they kept me from doing my best teaching. How my elective classes (Psychology and Music Production) have been so damn FUN and educational and positive for the kids (and me). How I wished there was a way I could do the same for my math classes.
And none of that was new, really. I've had this conversation before. And, basically, they ended up with me and my boss agreeing that I just wasn't as passionate about math, and so I didn't spend the time making it as dynamic and empowering as my elective classes. That's where it would have ended any other today.
But today . . . I don't know what happened. But right when I would have normally hit that wall I've hit so often this year (of "f-ing system sucks, no way around it, f--- math"), I kept right on going to a SOLUTION. Inspiration struck me right between the eyes, and I couldn't stop talking. I started talking about how I could totally restructure the math curriculum to stop even looking like a math class. How I could basically turn it all into faux-electives that just so happened to teach all the hard math skills I've been trying to teach - but in a more hands-on, relevant way to the kids.
My boss mentioned me not coming back, and I said, "yeah . . ."
But I couldn't stop. The meeting ended, and I ran to my room, sat down at my desk with a pencil and the state math standards, and I drew out an outline of my restructured math curriculum. Suddenly, "Math" had turned into a year-long project divided into three large pieces - from start to finish, the kids were going to come up with a new product to market, test "public interest" through surveys, design a corporate office building and product, budget and make projections on earnings and market shares . . . And I incorporated almost every damn state standard into the whole deal.
The kids were going to take control over their learning, be creative, while learning hard math skills and how to apply them to real problems. Holy sh--!!! It's the freaking Holy Grail of middle school math teachers. And it just came to me like a bolt from the blue . . .
A few months before I've decided to leave the teaching field for a while.
A few months before I've decided to leave the teaching field for a while. Not enough time to implement anything at all.
And, suddenly, I'm thinking about coming back for "one more year."
But I can't - because I promised myself I wouldn't let anything stop me from making this trip. Because I know there will always be some reason to delay it for another year. Every year will bring me closer to one commitment or another that will keep me from ever being able to go. So I have to go now.
But I just came up with something so beautiful . . . And what if I never end up implementing it? What if my trip to China changes the trajectory of my life and this inspiration and (possibly) brilliant idea never makes it out to the world? Because that's how things work - I know too well.
Why did this have to happen now!? Why not a year ago? Why not in two years?
So exciting and yet so disheartening at the same time. I'm going to have to do some serious soul-searching now, and I'd rather not.
I honestly believe "everything happens for a reason," so I'll find the reason in all of this, and it should all end up how it ought to - but that doesn't make it any less beautifully frustrating right now. Not at all.
Such bad timing for such a good thing to happen . . .