Thursday, August 25, 2011

Working at a Secondary School —
Being an Introvert; Adolescents

I took a "mental health day" last week. I stayed home to be alone, to catch up on household stuff, and to take a needed break from being at our school. This year has not been a positive time for me. The past few weeks in particular I have been cranky and irritable at work.

It's been very demanding for me to teach and to work at a secondary school. I'd like to describe a few of the ways.

Let's begin with the fact that there is a mismatch between my personality and my position. I am basically an introvert. Always have been. Always will be. That doesn't mean that I dislike people ("introvert" does not equal "misanthrope"). It means that being with people is a draw on my batteries.

That's one very good reason why being a software developer has suited me so well. There is a lot of time spent in solitary work. Not all, but really quite a bit. It's a good balance for me. In contrast I am currently with students an average of close to three hours a day, either conducting class or supervising the computer lab. This is intense for me. And much of the remaining time I am at my desk in a large office shared with a dozen other teachers. I have very little time being truly alone.

If I were teaching adults it would be different. But I don't. I teach adolescents ranging in age from thirteen to nineteen and twenty. Not only are they struggling with the unavoidable process of becoming adults, they also have to deal with health problems, persistent poverty, and, God help them, exposure to Western popular culture and, for a few, the Internet. Moreover, in our part of this country education is not well-rooted as a value. So even at a small, private, Catholic school like ours there are serious problems with student motivation, focus, and academic performance.

I find that I don't really have the requisite patience and caring to be in such close proximity to so much adolescent energy for so much of the time. I now have the utmost respect, admiration, and gratitude for those teachers who do, and who do this essential work day after day, year after year.

If I were to start this gig over again I would ask for less front-line classroom work and to be in more of a support role. In addition to the endless tasks of maintaining the aging computers, I think that being a teaching aide of some sort, rather than being the teacher, would be much more suitable given what I'm writing about in this post and for other reasons as well.

More later. -Earl

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