The lost art of gratitude

I’m finding myself surprisingly sentimental about the approaching two-year anniversary of the day I began work at SA, right after Presidents’ Day weekend in 2008.  It’s turned out to be a great place for me to work.  I’m shockingly cheerful most days; I am constantly amused and amazed by my students, and fond of them, too.  I can see them progress over the course of a year, even if not all of them progress as fast or as smoothly as I could wish.  I like a lot of my colleagues, and usually manage to keep my sense of humor about the ones I don’t like so much.  (And even those, I tend to think are probably fairly good, or even really good, at what they do.)

My teaching style and skills have developed in accordance (I hope) with what these students need and with this setting.  I’ve become a better planner in terms of objectives, pacing, and assessment, but I’ve also become more flexible within that planning.  Seeing students three or four times a week from September through May,  I can afford to deviate from my plans sometimes.  (If one-third of the class disappears because of a basketball tournament and an additional one-fourth is out sick, maybe I toss out that day’s plans and we read and discuss a poem together instead.)  

And another thing: it was just utterly serendipitous that I ended up with this job.  I didn’t decide to look for a high-school teaching job; I didn’t even apply for this job, really; I didn’t sign up with the placement agency that everyone seems to use to get jobs in independent schools.  I spoke to a group of students at the suggestion of one of my relatives; said relative told the division head that I might be interested in talking about teaching at a school like SA; and at the same time (unbeknownst to me or my relative) a position was about to come open midyear.  I came in a few days later for what was meant to be an informal conversation, and suddenly “Maybe you would come in and teach a sample class sometime” became “Could you possibly go into Dr. Tea’s class at eleven-thirty?”  I remember thinking that it was just as well that the teaching demo came as a surprise, because surely my observers would cut me some slack for that, and I wouldn’t be tempted to overprepare and get all rigid about following my exact plan. 

The only possible fly in this very sweet ointment right now is that occasionally I fret that SA might not admit the Snork Maiden.   The process is competitive and this is an area full of overachieving parents whose overachieving children play oboe in the youth symphony, start charitable foundations and earn black belts in tae kwon do.  The Snork Maiden reads, cooks, plays soccer and just learned to turn a corner on a skateboard–these are the excitements in our world.  Her grades are excellent, and her scores on the ISEE look okay to me; though the percentiles are lower than on her usual standardized test scores, the insert that arrived with the score report (clearly meant to soothe agitated parents) explained that this is typical because the pool is much more competitive.  Anyway, I think she would do fine at SA, and I also think that they try to admit faculty children unless they have real reservations about the child flourishing at SA, but sometimes (because my mind works this way) I think: Well, if they were to not admit her, she’d be fine–she would be glad to stay with some of her friends, since that’s her biggest reservation about leaving the public school system for middle school–but  my feelings about the place would probably change. 

This weekend, though, I’ve been feeling pretty good about SA, as I usually do.  What doesn’t feel so good is that I have what is realistically only about two hours of administrative work for NLNRU and one hour of planning for SA to wade through–and I don’t mind the planning but I’ve been putting off the other things and now I can’t put them off any more.  Grumble.  Oh well, I will do them and they’ll be done.  One thing that TimeTracker has shown me is that frequently I overestimate the amount of time required for tasks I don’t want to do.  They feel like they take longer because I think about them too much before I do them–especially grading, but other things, too.

2 responses to this post.

  1. What a lovely post, and how delightful that you’re so happy at SA! (And I can’t imagine that they wouldn’t accept Snork Maiden; my sense is that schools really do try to accept faculty kids.)

    And I love this: frequently I overestimate the amount of time required for tasks I don’t want to do. I remember New Kid on the Hallway once timing how long it took her to empty the dishwasher, since it always seemed so onerous. I had a similar revelation in the last couple of weeks when I managed to grade my three sets of in-class essays on three subsequent days during my free periods, without taking any of them home. I’m not sure I had realized that would be possible until I did it!

    Reply

  2. Posted by meansomething on February 16, 2010 at 6:13 am

    A while ago, I realized that it never really took more than 10 minutes to wash a sinkful of dishes, and since then, I’m less likely to let them accumulate. However, today I estimated wrongly, and I’m about to write a cranky post about it! 🙂

    It’s really fun to compare experiences in the independent-school world with you, WN?.

    Reply

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