Earlier this year I took on some part time work as a Teacher Aide in my son’s elementary school.
This in itself will be the subject of a number of posts – but to start with, I am “anonymously” sharing my concerns for a school of so much potential & such a supportive community…. and from my experience potentially on the cusp of great growth….I hope.
I “returned” to work (not my original profession strictly speaking) for a number of reasons… Once upon a time, I was a High School teacher – a job I loved, felt passionate about, gained great professional & personal reward from. I have absolutely felt the loss of teaching in my life.
For a long time, it was like I’d lost a part of myself – a huge component of my identity.
I also felt like some extra cash would not go astray given we’ve had no income for a considerable period as we “self-fund” our start-up (sounds sooooo much more glamorous than it is by the way).
In addition to this, the school was in need of a teaching assistant fast & I thought that trying this for the final 3 months of the school year was a great means of seeing how I felt about returning to work; seeing how we all juggled it (& right there you have the topic of my next post!)
Until now I’ve not worked due to either having small children home full time; having Kevin traveling for work almost full time & then of course having no documentation to allow me to work. Now I have one kiddo in elementary; one in pre-school 3 days; a husband in the same country AND more flexible & a green card.
Not at all.
Apparently, being assistant teacher in a Kindergarten class is NOTHING like being a High School History teacher. Go figure.
I have to admit, I loved the feeling of space & “self” I gained just being at work itself.
I LOVED the teachers I assisted & I quickly loved the kids.
I loved the job in itself & have been enlightened to the incredible load both elementary teachers AND TA’s carry as well as the strengths, skills & most of all, compassion & kindness they offer to our children.
I didn’t love however, the way I felt like a second class staff member by being an assistant rather than a teacher.
I didn’t love the way every minute of my time was clocked & felt no sense of professional independence nor respect.
I didn’t love how this environment meant I was struggling to find a means of contributing skills I’ve acquired through both working & parenting. I felt I could offer so much more yet the political atmosphere within the school District was so suffocating & controlling it didn’t encourage growth, a sense of autonomy or any means of opportunity to contribute in any meaningful way.
While my direct peers, the teachers & support staff were absolutely phenomenal people – so dedicated, hard working, intrinsically motivated & also supportive of my newbie status….The overall experience was both frustrating & in truth quite degrading.
Had I not taught in a past life, had I not spent a brief period as a Head of Department; had I not been mentored, encouraged to speak up, to try new initiatives, to take risks, to lead as well as be led, to be a part of something bigger than myself & to be proud of what I was achieving & supported in my own visions…. would I still have felt frustrated & degraded?
But this got me thinking….
Did these feelings really stem from the school/District or from me?
Have I spent too long in the CEO role at home? Spent too long making most of the decisions, most of the mistakes & hopefully then most of the positive changes?
And am I, as a result, overly critical of a school culture & system of which I really know nothing – I mean I was only privy to the tiniest sliver of the place, who am I to judge?
Did I find the role challenging because now in my late 30’s, I’m arrogant enough to think I’ve learnt enough that I can add value to a place full of people with more experience?
I would like to say that my anxiety over the direction of this school is all about them & the result of my “insider’s” experience… but perhaps it is a lot more about me & my frustration at my own lack of professional development these past years. Fear & frustration that perhaps without having worked since the kids, I cannot actually add value & they do actually know what they’re doing?
Why is the way they run the school & treat their staff necessarily a reflection of the quality of education?
In my mind the two go hand in hand – it is a reflective value system that I would like to see in every crevice of the school….
But perhaps this is wishful thinking? Too optimistic or unrealistic? Perhaps I am too quick to judge?
This year ahead sees great change in the school & I have already been impressed with the dynamics of the new leadership, some significant changes implemented ….so, I very much hope that we see this potential grow..& filter down.
For the time being I’ve decided the experience has shown me a number of things:
- I want to be more involved on the parental side. I have no right to sit back & criticize when I could easily become more involved & be supportive rather than a destructive device.
- Sometimes (yes, only sometimes, let’s not get too carried away) it’s not actually all about me & I need to spend time reflecting on where my judgements come from – are they the result of my issues or the actual situations.
- And then, sometimes it really isn’t me – organizations, institutions, leadership, management – whomever it is, well, they just need to get it together. Lead up.
Is this case, time will tell.