The story of how I set myself up to fail before I had even had my first day in the classroom as a full time teacher.
This is the third part of the story of how a military veteran, failed rock and roller, and single dad became a successful inner-city schoolteacher.
This is a reboot of my third entry of my inner-city teaching series. This will become a book in the near future and I hope Steemit will help me strengthen this and prepare it for my co-writer and editor. Please comment if there is something you think I can elaborate on more, or if you think I am missing the mark, or if you have a question.
I Got the Job, Next School Year
The following Tuesday, I met with the Mr. Solomon the assistant principal. He explained that Eastend School was going to offer me a contract. He was not sure whether I would be a history teacher, teach another subject area or whether I would be a school based substitute, but they wanted to give me a job. In many ways I took a lot of peace from that. While I was not employed “right then,” I knew a job was coming. In the meantime, the school would try to give me as many substituting opportunities as possible so I could learn the school culture and so the students would get to know me. In a lot of ways it worked. I was at Eastend a lot. I also worked at a handful of other schools and could see differences between Eastend and other schools.
In ways substituting at Eastend set me up. I thought I was doing great. I was a respected substitute and students were treating me well. It was all a self-induced con. I knew little about teaching or delivering lessons. I could get students to behave if that was my sole focus. Teaching while encouraging them to learn, and delivering material was a whole different thing. That would come back to haunt me later.
I also got jobs at other schools. One of my favorite experiences to this day was a two-week job in an inclusive classroom for special education students. Most special education students attend standard classes, but there are some classes specifically for special education students. I was working in a classroom where those classes were taught. I told the students that it was my first day teaching in a special education classroom. Pretty close to dismissal one of the students sat next to me. Johnny was a giant of a young man, but very quiet and respectful. He asked me what I thought about teaching “special ed kids.” I told him I enjoyed it a lot and had fun. He looked at me and said, “yeah, special ed kids are pretty regular ed, and regular ed kids can be kind of special ed, and you teachers … you’re all special ed.” I laughed at that one. It was a good day.
Teacher Appreciation Celebration
I taught every day until the end of the school year. Oftentimes I was at Eastend, but when I was not my absence was noted and I always welcomed back. The students always asked me where I had been and then would ask me if I missed them. I always told them I did. The school celebrated teacher appreciation day on a Wednesday (a half day for students) in the middle of the teacher doldrums (that time between spring break and the end of the year). At the end of the day I was in hurry to get to my car because my sons were coming to visit me. One of the teachers, Ms. Yellow raced up behind me and asked where I was going. I told her I was headed home. She asked me to please attend their staff meeting. I walked into the auditorium and saw it was a dinner celebration for all of the adults on staff. I was really honored that the staff wanted me included. When you are a substitute, even if you are in the school everyday you never really feel like you fit in.
The first thing at the meal that caught my attention was that a staff member led a prayer ask for God to bless their meal. I kept reminding myself that I was working in a public school. There was music and gifts for everyone in attendance. My sons were visiting and several of the people on staff asked if they could “make a plate for [my] boys?” The staff started dancing and I told one of the female teachers, Mrs. Thomas that if she would dance, I would dance with her, we hit the floor. It was the Cha-Cha Slide, and I assure you I am no dancer. But I had fun and really enjoyed myself. I remember leaving and wondering if this was one of the few places that really was a family.
A Path To Certification
The end of the year was rapidly approaching and it was looking like I had to get enrolled in classes in order to attain certification. One day Mr. Job called me to his office. He told me the school system had an alternative licensure program for professionals who wanted to transition to teaching. It had previously only been open to people teaching mathematics and science, but that year it was open to all content areas for secondary school teachers. Since there were two history vacancies available and I had been offered a contract for the next school year, all I had to do was apply and I was in the program. I applied and was accepted. Since Eastend was a year round school they were in session one week later than the rest of the schools. The year ended in the third week of June. They also reconvened the first week in August. It was going to be a short summer. But I was looking forward to getting my certification and was very positive.
How I Met My Wife
There was another good development for me personally. I was at the end of a tumultuous personal relationship in my life. One day a lady named Mrs. Smyth saw me in the hall and started talking to me, she introduced herself. We chatted for a while and then she asked me about my relationship status. We spoke about my goals and hopes. It was a really positive and affirming conversation. As she walked away she said, “You need to know there is someone here that is very interested in you.” I kind of shrugged it off and did not give it a second thought.
About a month later I remembered the conversation and started doing research. There was a staff directory in the hallway with pictures of all of the teachers by grade and classroom. I figured out that Mrs. Smyth was a classroom assistant and looked to see whom she worked with. The picture of the teacher was okay but it was not a great photo, so I casually walked down the hallway and peeked into the classroom. If the person in that classroom was interested in me, I had hit the jackpot. I was hopeful she had the personality to go with the looks. Since I had just come out of a disastrous relationship I was nervous and noncommittal. Later I was speaking with Mrs. Thomas about it. She told me the teacher’s name and informed me that Megan was single. She encouraged me to ask her out, and she said, “You never know you might end up marrying Megan.” Later that day, as I was walking my students back from lunch, I saw Megan at her classroom door. I pulled a business card out of my pocket and as I walked by her I shook her hand, palming her the business card. I said, “Call me.” She assured me she would. After dismissal, I walked down to Megan’s classroom and we started to talk. We are still talking all these years latter, I married her 16 months after handing her my card. Mrs. Thomas (who sadly died of cancer a couple years later) was correct. I had met my wife.
Bless Your Ignorant Little Heart
I left the school that year thinking I was going to teach 7th grade history. A few weeks later Mr. Solomon called me and told me I was being moved to 6th grade. I really did not know the students, but I was game. Eastend was a year round extended day school, my contract started on August 01, 2004, that meant I was supposed to report for work in late July. Little did I know that I had just gotten on one of the toughest professional roller coasters in the world of education. I was not prepared for the storm I had stepped into.
Peace, love, and rock and roll,
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Hello! I am Mike K. I am an educator, lifelong student, military vet and wannabe musician. I have a love of history, economics, philosophy and motorcycles. I am quickly moving from minarchy to Christian anarchy philosophically and want people to stop meddling. My debut CD should be out soon!
Riding in Tennessee with my son on the Green Eyed Snake