Having done the job search rather haphazardly and half-heartedly for too long, I am suddenly in the position of having to make up my mind fast. I have to choose between accepting an offer from a parochial school that acted remarkably quickly, or else declining it in order to wait, probably for weeks, while the public school district processes my application. This year as last year, I applied to a very few non-public schools as a backup plan. Last year the only private school I applied to contacted me, scheduled an interview and offered a position all within a few days. I declined in order to work in a public school. This year a parochial school has completed the whole process in two days, and now I have to make up my mind in a hurry.
Ideologically I am committed to the public school system and to the schools that have the most difficulty with attracting qualified teachers. I have also gained a year of hard-won experience with the peculiar challenges of such schools, and it would seem a waste not to seek an opportunity to apply this learning. I am not terribly well cut out for such jobs, however. A colleague charitably described my performance as running hard with short legs. I am knowledgeable and hard-working and care a lot about the students, and they notice all of this. I am also absent-minded and distractible, and my voice does not carry well. A lack of confidence and an inclination to feel guilty without much reason makes things worse. Predictably, classroom management is an issue.
A judgment of my ability to educate students in high-poverty areas can be tempered by the fact that the school I worked in this year is particularly dysfunctional. Many classes have had attendance rates below 50-60%, and so the composition of these classes has changed from day to day. A complete lack of access to student records has complicated planning and appropriate student placement. There has been no school-wide discipline system. The principal would reprimand teachers in front of the students for mistakes they had not made. The school will probably either be closed or under new management when August comes around, due to legal irregularities. While schools in high-poverty areas are frequently plagued with worse administrations and less structure than other schools, I have reason to believe that this one is worse than is usual even for this area. Creating a safe, productive learning environment inside the classrooms would be correspondingly harder.
Even so, a number of teachers at my school certainly were much more successful than I at establishing normalcy, routine and involvement in their classes. In contemplating the alternative to accepting the job offer I have, I am deterred not only be the prospect of waiting for weeks without knowing anything, but also by the possibility of undertaking too difficult a job. I am certainly willing to work hard and to face up to my weaknesses, but there is nothing noble about going to battle without appropriate arms. I have some hours left to make up my mind.