Sunday, July 23, 2006

Wings, Wingnuts, and the Politics of the Left(-behind)

Almost twenty years ago, when I struggled to get a teaching position in Miami, I received some advice from people already in the system. They told me to get an answering machine, and screen the interviews and job offers--never to speak with a representative of a school. If I made contact, and rejected a job offer, my name would be sent to the bottom of the list. If I rejected an offer after that, I would be blackballed from the system for a year. I didn't have the luxury of sitting around waiting for somebody to die or retire from a cushy school, nor was it likely that a string of people would turn down the position so that I could have a shot at it, so I dutifuly did as I was told.

As luck would have it, when I checked my messages one Friday afternoon, I went into panic mode. The middle school with the worst reputation at the time offered me a position. Yikes! The school was located in a very poor, very crime-ridden part of town. It was considered a failing school on many levels, and that's where they were going to place me, a very green, very inexperienced, very naive little girl. As a further indication of my extreme naivete in the situation, the part that most appalled me was teaching middle school--somehow I wasn't phased by the implications of working in a ghetto that hadn't quite recovered from the race riots in the early 80's.

I immediately started calling around town, looking for any contact any where that would grant me an interview Monday morning before I had to return Friday's call. The exercise was a complete bust, and then I remembered that my former trigonometry teacher was the assistant principal at a high school near me. Monday morning, I was sitting outside her office at 7 am, begging to see her. Thankfully, she listened to my pleas between the tardy bell and the Pledge of Allegiance, and within minutes placed a phone call to a friend, another assistant principal, with the directive that I was going over right now and she was to hire me on the spot.

That's how it worked out, too. My lucky kid comes by it honestly--maybe that kind of luck is in the gene pool.

While I had my choice of teaching in a high school, God seemed to have had the plan that I was to work with a troubled population in spite of the machinations I went through to avoid it. My assignment at the high school was to teach the "unteachables." I believe my rather antiquated department chair referred to them as "ruffians." Does anybody use that term anymore? They were delinquents. Gangsters. Drug-dealers.

I had made my bed, and now I was going to have to lie in it.

to be continued

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