Labeling A School
Joe’s comment to my last post is a perfect intro as I continue the story of my metamorphosis. If any of you are of my generation and remember the cartoon Mighty Mouse, you will understand I came to my school with the Mighty Mouse attitude, “Here I come to save the day!” This created much resentment for my being there in spite of what I could bring to the school because I really did not have a clue about what it meant to work in a school labeled failure and the teachers knew it.
My first reality check came the day I had to attend a meeting of schools labeled Tier I. Previously this label had been High Priority School and before that Low Performing. When I was sitting in this room with the others from the area schools, I had several reactions. First, I was embarrassed to be there. I wanted to stand up and say, “This is my first year at this school, I did not do this!” Then I felt this great sense of frustration and I realized this how the teachers in my school have felt for so long. I do not know how they have survived. I felt ashamed of what I expected from the teachers because I do not know if I could have continued to work with this burden on me. Labeling a school as failing is devastating to one’s soul and creates such a depressed climate that I began to feel like I was drowning. I realized this is the culture the students and teachers at Brighton have worked in while trying to make significant gains in achievement. I began to understand this negative climate takes its toll on you physically as I started to have constant headaches, fever blisters, and sleepless nights. I have discovered these physical symptoms are shared by many of our faculty members. This anxiety and stress is increased by the overwhelming sense of urgency for the academic needs of the students. In my journal I wrote, “My sense of frustration and failure is killing me. It is overpowering.”
One gray morning as I was driving to work, I realized I was the only one on my side of the road everyone else was going in the opposite direction into town. I asked myself, “Am I going the wrong way?” Daily, I question myself, “Am I the right person to work at this school? Can I really help and have impact? Do I have what it takes? Can teachers who have been recognized for their work be accepted in hard to staff schools?” I do not know the answers to the questions, I just know that I want to be in this school. I want to help create a positive culture that will enable the students and teachers to overcome this label of failure. I also have learned the key to this change of climate lies within the teachers at my school, not me.
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