Sometimes I think I know a lot about education. Other times conversations with colleagues and other in the field leave me humbled and wondering if I really know a damn thing about this job. Generally I'm somewhere in between, but this weekend I experienced a lot of the latter.
I went to retreat this weekend with my principal, an ancient learning specialist (special education teacher), our parent coordinator, and two other teachers from our school- a magnificent English teacher and a third year math teacher who is brilliant, but is sometimes not well-received by our staff because he speaks so candidly. The invitation to attend the retreat was extended to the whole staff, but the three of us were asked specifically to attend. That fact went to my head a bit, so I used the opportunity to bring up issues that I've been thinking about lately. In reality I was probably only invited because they knew I'd be interested in attending, while the vast majority of the staff wouldn't be down for it, which means it probably wasn't the most appropriate place to blwo a lot of hot air about the major ed issues that have been bothering me.
Friday we sat around a table brain-storming ideas of what to do with the many hours we would spend together over the course of the weekend. Because our parent coordinator was there, I figured I would bring up my frustration with parents in the community and ask what could be done to help them help us to help their children in the school. Apparently I came off as wanting to save the Bronx and personally make all the parents in the Bronx better. Because of the way I came off, the principal, learning specialist, and the parent coordinator shut me down, saying that there is no way to affect the parents who might benefit from some extra support and ideas on how to engage their students.
From that point forward I was pretty hesitant to offer my opinion on the work at hand. I regressed a bit to sitting and listening, feeling like I don't have enough experience to really offer a valid opinion on how to run any part of the school. Perhaps it was just me being stubborn as well.
After speaking frankly with my girlfriend about the matter (she works in my school and hears some of the gossip I don't), it's gotten around that I have kind of an attitude when I discuss ed issues and matters about the school with my colleagues. I kind of addressed this an earlier post and thought that I'd fixed the problem. Apparently that is not the case. What I thought was my cutting-out-the-crap to speak candidly has left me coming off as condescending and insensitive.
Perhaps my second year is not only going to be about learning a great deal about actually teaching students in the South Bronx (rather than holding on for dear life), it's also going to be about learning to be a positive part of my particular staff. It may be time for a while to take a step or two back and listen more carefully instead of barging in with my opinion.
Today's Wines: On Saturday I went to a wine bar and then to a regular bar. I had wine at both places that were remarkably different. At Cavatappo I had something referred to as a Super Tuscan which was really good (Bruni Poggio d'Elsa 2008) and off the medium-bodied section of the list. After that we just split a glass of something more "robust" (Rosso di Montepulciano - Il Seniero 2006). It was more expensive, but definitely seemed to have more bang for the buck. From there we went to a bar next door and had some generic wine from behind the bar, which, because we'd spent money on some good wine with some well-paired appetizers, had that thick grape-juice taste that comes from the big jugs of wine.