Fresh start/Fresh stop

Sitting at my desk, in my denuded Edison High School, Minneapolis classroom, at the end of the school year, reflecting on the past year. This year has been bad and good. Perhaps not the worst year; that would be 2002-2003 when I worked as the alternative compensation plan coordinator, a bureaucrat. Certainly not my best year; that would probably be one of the years at Sanford, maybe 1983-84, or Ramsey, 1988-89, or Seward 1996-97 or 1997-98. But these were all good for the students I had and classes I taught. If I calculate in administration and colleagues, the picture becomes more mixed. It becomes hard to say what are the best really, and it’s a pointless exercise.

The bad this year: As a school that has been “fresh started”, as in reconstituted, Edison was a wounded bird trying to rise. The damage was not as severe here for the remaining staff as at Washburn, but it was bad enough. “Most” is most in one’s perception, and for the survivors, this was probably the most painful experience. Whether that damage carried over into classrooms and to kids, I can’t really know, but if the relationships among teachers does impact the classroom and kids, it did have an impact.

Most pronounced in the relationships was the stationary front lingering between the high pressure zone of new faculty to Edison and the low pressure zone of remaining teachers. Certainly there were crossovers and even whole areas where the productive blending took effect, in the English department for sure and the social studies department apparently and perhaps in others. Between departments was a wholly different matter. I asked, suggested, advised and all but begged through the second half of the year for meetings between the English and social studies departments to discuss novels and other readings thus avoiding duplications. To date, no joint meeting. The physical education department’s passive/aggressive complaint about using a rarely used gym half way through the fourth day of our use of it. Walking up to a group of established teachers to ask a question and being invisible. The barrier becomes a little more solid.

The good this year: As a school that has been “fresh started”, Edison found many new teachers and a hopeful attitude among its students. That students at Washburn had walked out and demonstrated over the loss of teachers last year, I was probably leery and certainly unprepared when students complained about their teachers from last year. It didn’t help that they tried to paint me, as a declining returnee to Washburn, with the lousy teacher brush. Yet, by the end of the year, I liked even the most difficult of them, they seemed to like me, and many made good gains by the middle or end of the year.

I like kids, and I pull hard for the disadvantaged, marginalized and disenfranchised. I know that they may be ungrateful, unsuccessful and obnoxious, but I have to try and I don’t need much success feel rewarded. Not the best year, it was a pretty good year for caring about kids; they needed it. I am no less amazed at the love kids are capable of and their clumsiness in expressing it. Maybe I’m as bad. I am not at all amazed that the thing that makes teaching good is spending my time with kids. I am getting old though. I just don’t have the energy for it any more. I think it is only the kids that will bring me back here. The adults are too busy being about being adults together. Maybe I’ll just dub my room the Hermitage. Kids won’t get it; so they’ll come in. Adults…no they probably won’t get it either, but they don’t come in now.

None of this should be taken too seriously, you know.

About Jay C Ritterson
The only failure is the failure to try.

One Response to Fresh start/Fresh stop

  1. Marj. Broward says:

    I enjoyed reading your blogs and especially appreciated your comments on NCLB – you have expressed the feelings of many.

    By chance are you the Jay who graduated from CU – always pushing at the edges – looking for accountability in himself and others


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