New School Year, New Beginings

As many of you know, I recently began teaching at a new high school, in a small suburban town west of Boston. It is one of the many once sleepy little towns that has undergone a residential transformation and has been growing at a breakneck rate, like so many suburban towns across America. At least for now it remain nameless here, but I have to tell you, if initial impressions are any indicator at all, I think I found a place to stay for a little while.

At the moment, my current job is so outstanding I keep looking over my shoulder, for fear that Instant Karma is lying in wait ready to “hit [me] right in the face.” I really cannot believe how good I feel about the new place.

I mean, I am a teacher, I don’t expect that will ever change. The topic, level, and material may change, but I am pretty confident that I found my calling as a person, finally. I may have been on to it for awhile and waited, but teaching is the best job I have ever had. I love the kids. I love ideas. I love language. When asked by a new student recently, “Why do you teach?” My response was simply, “It is better than working,” and I believe that. Other than acting, which also still holds an enormously powerful draw (yet sooner or later you have to be able to make a real living and acting really challenges that prospect for all but an extraordinarily small few) I have had no other job where I am willing to put in the kind of hours that I do. Just ask Ali sometime and see what her response is! She recently commented, “So now that the school year started, I don’t get to see you until June, right?” And while that might seem a little exaggerated, you certainly get the idea.

So, after toiling away last year in a place where I was not terribly happy at all and finally was able to reconcile that fact, I really quite stunned at how great I feel at the new place. Of course, I absolutely loved nearly all my students last year, and there is a large group of junior students that burrowed there way so deep in my heart that they are unlikely to ever be removed or forgotten. That is what made it so hard to finally conclude how unhappy I was. But in education, the kids are almost never the problem. It is almost always the other stuff, the environment, the availability of tools and opportunity, but a lot of it comes down to the adults.

Yet in the new school, everyday is a beautiful day. No lie. For starters the environment is absolutely second to none. I work in a building that is practically new. It certainly looks and feels that way, despite being only five years old. The tools that are available to me are also completely first class. For starters, I have more shelving and storage space than I have ever had. I have a brand new Dell computer, complete with flat screen monitor, and a pretty solid set of speakers, all on a mobile cart-like desk that also holds a VCR. All of this is tied into the wall for network access, but more than that so I can display it all on monitor suspended from the ceiling, which I believe to be about a 29” or thereabouts. I even have my own printer on that table that rolls! I also have another normal desk that is completely separate, buy the way, so all that tech gear doesn’t crowd up the work space. I mean, seriously, in terms of hardware, the only thing I don’t have is a permanently mounted LCD projector, and I am certainly not about to lament that fact. Oh, did I forget to mention, the large overhead monitor also has cable. I am seriously considering the purchase of a used La-Z-Boy and dropping it off in the room!

Then there are the adults. And I have to say everyone I have met has been warm and welcoming. There is a level of friendly professionalism that confidently demonstrates that this is an elite high school, as it also made the Newsweek list of America’s Best, but there is none of the smugness or elitism that such recognition can result. All indications, at least right now, are that people know what they are doing and are doing it well, but are still continuing to look for ways that they can do things better, make the school better, serve the kids better. Too often a lot of the things I just mentioned quickly become little more than lip service. So, to be in place where there seems to be such a genuine team atmosphere among the staff seems luxurious, to say the least.

We’ll see what I have to say in six months or so, but as for now I am not sure I couldn’t be happier. Plus, after being forced to surrender my head coaching position with my young group of Jewish lads at the private school (due to the commute), I have had quite an exciting time with my first time coaching an all girl’s soccer team. I took over a team of freshmen girls and it has been quite a change, but more on that another time.

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