I haven’t written much about my class this fall. And part of that is because I haven’t written much of anything this fall, but also because I’ve known since before my class started that I would be giving it up, and I’ve been struggling with that.
I’m not leaving my class for all the reasons you might imagine I should leave: it’s a lot of hours away from my actual job; it leaves me exhausted because I stay up so late at night working on lesson plans; it really needs to be taught by someone who has the time to really do the good job my students deserve … No. I’m giving up my class because I’m taking on a new project at work, and I can’t possibly do that new work, teach this class and still do my current job. Just. not. possible. So, while there are plenty of other responsibilities I need to take off my plate, my class is the lowest hanging fruit, so it’s going first.
And this is a good thing for my students. Really. It means their class will go back to its full schedule, rather than the abbreviated schedule we created when I took over the class two+ years ago. They’ll have an extra five hours of class a week, which will be wonderful — more time for math, more time for writing … more time, period. They’ll grow closer as a group and move more quickly toward their goals.
Just … you know … without me.
At orientation I announced that I wouldn’t be their teacher for the whole year … but of course, I sounded very much like a certain boy crying wolf, because I’ve said that at the start of each school year. So when I went into class at the start of the month and told them I was placing the ad for a GED teacher, they were shocked and unhappy. We had a long talk about why I couldn’t keep teaching. They get it, but it was still unpleasant for all of us. Even the students who spend a lot of time being annoyed with me (and there are a handful of those — it’s not all sweetness and light in my classroom) seemed discomfited by the thought of my leaving.
They were interested, however, in the idea of being part of the hiring process and really got into the brainstorming for the evaluation form they would use to critque the teacher candidates. They totally ran with the idea of the power the process gave them: if they panned every applicant, I wouldn’t be able to leave!
I saw that concept play out on Wednesday when we had a great applicant come in and teach a math lesson. I really loved the work she prepared and the way she introduced herself and the lesson. I had a few small criticisms, but nothing major, and I was already so sure of how well she would respond to constructive feedback. Clearly, I thought, they’re loving her as much as I am.
Um … Yeah, well … no, not exactly. I got the evals back after she left, and there were quite a few negative comments, most of which didn’t make any sense to me:
- She is too nice. We need a man.
- She’s very small, I’m not sure she could handle our class.
- She was nervous.
- She should talk louder
- I didn’t think she was well organized.
Let me offer a little perspective. Not well organized? Oh. You mean, coming to class with each piece of your carefully-laid-out lesson in a separate section of your accordian file isn’t organized? Or did you mean that taking the time to make manipulatives and place each set in a separate sandwich bag to give to the different groups wasn’t organized enough for you? Really? Trust me, people, this woman was only abut 10,000 times more organized than I am.
I agree that she was very nice … but I’m fairly notorious among my students for being nice. (I’m not even going to address the whole, “We need a man” nonsense!) And she was definitely nervous at the beginning. Who wouldn’t be? She’s auditioning in front of twenty half-surly students and the woman who’s already teaching the class. Of course she’s nervous!
On her way out of class, Diane said: “This is all your fault, you know. We might like someone if you hadn’t set the bar so high.” Yes, flattering, but we still need to find a teacher. So far we’ve only seen the extremely well-organized and wonderful young woman who was my clear choice even before we saw the shockingly horrific Howard. We have two and possibly three more applicants coming in, and then it will be decision time.
And the fabulous, mind-expanding pleasure that is teaching will, like all good things, come to an end.¹ I’m having a hard time reconciling myself to the fact that I won’t be teaching, to the fact that I’ll be leaving adult ed almost entirely for this new project — a project which I was instrumental in bringing to the Center and which I’m taking on because I want it, because it’s huge and exciting and will be such an incredible growth experience for me and will connect our agency with the community in new and really wonderful ways. I can be good with change, and this one is challenging me to remember that.
¹ (For now … that has to be a “for now.”)