I am not a failure. I am a survivor.
Sometimes your work is not a good fit. Sometimes you think it is a big challenge. How do you recognize the difference? Now, I know the secret.
I had been working in an elite private school in Nicaragua for a decade. There was one computer lab and no other technology. No promethean board and no internet. I returned to the U.S. knowing I had a large learning curve and needing employment.
I applied to the local school board office. I was informed that my application had been accepted, however, there was a hiring freeze. Fortunately, I was asked to teach as a fifth grade substitute until a decision had been made to open another fifth grade class. This position did develop into full time. I was filled with enthusiasm. I was so grateful to be employed. I knew the worst students from each class would be assigned to me. What I did not know was that 3 of them were from the behavioral adjustment school and five of them were between the ages of 12 and 15.
I stayed at my teaching position in the public school for three years. It contained students from the lower economic status. I was amazed at the 27 passwords for all of the computer programs that I collected at the first faculty meeting. I had plenty to learn about technology. I also had much to learn about what happens at a public school. I had no idea of the possible problems looming ahead until I saw that some of the students were taking razors out of their pencil sharpeners to “get” other students. My eyes were further opened as I watched a student take a sharpened pencil and puncture his own arm so that he could tell his mom I committed the action. Luckily, I had met the mom several times and she did not believe him. I was undaunted. I do not fail.
It was a serious struggle, but I was very determined. At the end of my third year, two people approached me to ask how I could stay so positive. I was crumbling inside, but there was no way I was going to sink into the depths of negativity. At the end of the year, I was called into the principal’s office and told to prepare a packet containing my reading methods. I was to present them at the first faculty meeting of the following year. At the same time, I was told that I would not be receiving any daily support from the reading specialist as my scores were so high. It was an interesting meeting. I did not quite know what to think.
Do I stay or do I go? I live in a small town where available teaching positions in private schools are very limited. I decided that I would continue at the public school. How much worse could it possibly be? The first week of the new school year resulted in a new decision. Not one student sent to me had received an IEP (plan of intervention). It was obvious this group of students trumped every other class I had ever received. I resigned within a week. I later found out that 12 out of 18 of the students were given an IEP. That would have meant months of documentation and tons of emotional turmoil as I tried to help them.
I now work at a school that is … words cannot describe the pleasure and joy I feel everyday as I prepare for work. Every day is filled with joy and celebration. Every day I wake to play. Now, I know that I cannot save the world. I am not invincible. I am beginning to learn the difference between a challenge and an unattainable goal. Now, I do understand that I am not a failure. I am a survivor.