The OF Blog: Tomorrow I am going to teach the hardest lesson I've taught since 2000

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Tomorrow I am going to teach the hardest lesson I've taught since 2000

Tomorrow shall be a difficult work day.  After school ended today, word leaked out that a major provider was pulling their support (and residents) at the treatment center where I have worked for the past 14 months.  By the end of the month, the majority of the students that I have (some of whom I've taught for the past eight months or so) will be gone.  There will be resistance to doing school work; after all, they will be gone regardless of their behavior. 

Yet many will be shocked at these changes.  After all, most of the staff will be leaving then as well.  I do not know if I will have a job (although I'm set up as the last man standing and there are other,  smaller providers) come next month.  I've been through this path before:  three times since September 2005 have I seen treatment facilities and/or programs shut down, with me being laid off each time.  It is difficult to face, even now, but the word "perseverance," which a student earlier today asked me what it meant (I said it was, among other things, "sticking with it until the end"), will be the main lesson tomorrow.

I doubt I'll focus much on grammar, literature, history, mathematics, foreign languages, or the sciences (yes, I teach them all at this job).  What I think I shall do is have a discussion with them, followed by showing one of my all-time favorite movies, Chariots of Fire.  They might not understand why that movie is so meaningful to me, but I think it might give some solace to those who might be upset at the sudden changes in their daily routines.

The teachers where I work are encouraged to teach "life skills" to the residents/students.  It is one thing to talk about how to fill out job applications or how to calculate rent as a percentage of income; totally different to try and model how to deal with devastating turns of events.  Too often these students in the past have turned to substance abuse as a coping mechanism; perhaps I can help them see that some can cope in different ways.  The last time I ever had to deal with anything so difficult in class was in April 2000, when a student of mine drowned over Easter weekend.  I was too young, perhaps, to handle it well (if anyone can ever handle such things well), but I like to believe that undergoing such a traumatic event will help me with this situation.  It's not like I will leave teaching if the worst happens (I'm going to be applying for an adjunct history position at a few local community colleges and perhaps a combination of sub teaching, tutoring, and ESL assistance), or so I'm telling myself at the moment, but it does make for a very trying and difficult period ahead.  Maybe one day my cup shall overflow.  One can only pray that might come to pass, no?


Si said...

Larry, I don't envy your position in this situation, nor the student's. So I'm curious.... How did it go?

Larry said...

Due to a few events largely out of my control, I had to change a few plans (mainly the movie was put off until I was gone), but the students were very well-behaved, considering the situation. I had a few come up and tell me that they were going to miss me and that I was the best teacher that they had and that they hoped I would be able to stay on when the facility changes the adolescent program (if they keep it, I've already been assured of a position). It was an emotional day, but I let the students feel like it was a moment of celebration (most were going to be leaving in the next few weeks anyways due to the amount of progress made in their treatments) rather than something about which to feel sorry towards the adults. I have been blessed with wonderful students during my time here and I think some at least will learn to fight against their addictions and their impulse choices that include recreational drug use.

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