The department I work in is loud. Most of the people that staff this department have been allotted a space to work in room 666 of the building. I don’t know how anyone manages to get work done in that room filled with teacher’s desks, students, and educators. I use a satellite office that is a few hallways removed from all of the chaos that is in room 341. There are only 5 of us that occupy that space and it’s a slice of heaven in the otherwise hellish building. I have been forced to utilize space in 666 for a few days because the school decided that the satellite office should be used for testing – a practice that I despise in its current state. I only needed one day back in that space to be reminded why I decided to remove myself from it at the beginning of this school year.
One cannot help but listen to the incessant ramblings of those gathered around the common area where food is exchanged along with stories and, often times, unsolicited advice. There was a discussion happening that caught my ear yesterday. It centered on a topic that I like to gain another’s perspective on. The insights from outsiders (and by outsiders, I mean people not in my head – mainly me) is something I really contemplate when I leave these conversations. What intrigues me most are the opinions of seasoned vets. These people have been teaching since I was in high school. Hell, some of them were my teachers. Anytime one of them says something that deals with the current state of their classrooms and the students that make up their rosters my ears perk up. They always go back to the year that the downfall in the caliber of student came. It’s talked about like a day of reckoning. Interestingly, they always say that 2005 was the first year they began to notice this change. This is the year after I graduated from high school.
The shift in the shared characteristics within the student pool has caused many of us to question what is happening with kids. What’s going on at home? What are they thinking? How will things turn out for them in the future? And then, there’s my ultimate question, how can I continue this job when I no longer enjoy the act of imparting knowledge?
You often hear older people make comments about how things were better years ago, and I always ask myself if I have just fallen into the pattern of comparison and diminishing. Do I have that distorted “old-foggie” syndrome that I once thought was inherent to anyone who was old (like over 50 years-old old)? To check myself and my world view, I talk to students to gauge whether or not I have aged out. There is still a connection I can make with quite a few of them. I have asked if they notice that their peers are disconnected. I even talk about specific behaviors – like mindless web browsing to find answers. I have been assured many times over that it’s not just an observation I have made with no merit. They have noticed it too. Sometimes when I make an observation about a behavior or an attitude I am bewildered by, the other students give me a stare as if they are in a trance, and then there’s that spark in their eye. They think about it and can point to friend that does the same thing or they admit to carrying themselves in the same manner I have called attention to.