Today I spent my day at a nearby school with the intention of shadowing the principal – a wonderful woman who used to be my boss several years ago, and I am ever grateful because she took a chance on hiring me for my first teaching job. I’ve been to her school several times, but never during the school day because I am busy teaching myself.
She was not there when I arrived, and after being there less than ten minutes, I was suddenly told that the principal had a serious emergency and I was in charge. Ok, I thought, now it gets interesting. I knew the names of virtually no one (staff and students), had no clue which rooms belonged to which teachers, when lunch started or ended…not even where to go to the bathroom.
But I’m not a panicky kind of person; if anything, these kinds of situations are what I like. At the end of the day I was sitting next to the resident police officer for the neighborhood (he was just visiting, thank god) and he said, “Sooooo you want to be a principal someday, eh? You like putting out fires?” And I replied, “Actually…yeah…that’s exactly what I like.”
I’m convinced that is why I have stayed at my current school for so long. It is a high poverty school that never seems to catch a break. It is the most diverse school in Oregon, with over 35 languages spoken, which is pretty amazing since we are the whitest metropolitan city in the country. Every year my classroom has kids who are homeless; some of the kids have never sat at a desk all day because they are refugees from other countries; many have parents that never graduated high school. But that’s what makes it fun, believe it or not.
Many teachers leave after one or two years because they can’t handle the untamed energy (I’ve now been there long enough to watch this cycle). I don’t blame them a bit, but I don’t envy them either. We joke that those of us who have stayed must crave dysfunction in our lives, because who the hell would stay in a school where the kids swear at the teachers and fight with each other and steal from the school that literally feeds them everyday? So yes, I like to put out fires.
Pretty much every job I’ve ever had required me to problem solve at mach speed (waitress, customer service, etc). When I first graduated college, I thought grant writing would be a great career, but then when I got the job I realized sitting on my ass in a cubicle waiting for someone to make conversation at the water cooler was just NOT MY JAM. I like to run around, fix things, placate people, yell directions…and then kick back a beer with like-minded individuals at the end of the day.
Today was a good day because the staff was terribly friendly and the kids were excited to see a new face, and I knew that I could have handled about a dozen more fires than they threw at me.