Retractable Hammocks for Each Teachers Lounge - The Jose Vilson

Retractable Hammocks for Each Teachers Lounge

January 6, 2009

“What did you do for your vacation, Mr. Vilson?”

“Eat, sleep, and eat, and sleep some more.”

I must have look rested since I had just gotten into class, smiling and boisterous.

A few classes later …

“Mr. Vilson, you look old.”

“Thanks. Honest.”

I kid you not; it was almost as if 12 days of rest did absolutely nothing to help me convalesce from the stress induced sicknesses I had. I’m still balding in the upper regions of my cranium, and have acne like I’m a Black Benjamin Button. I thought it was just me until I went on my Facebook and read through many of my fellow teachers’ status messages. They read something like this:

“Well, back to the ol’ coal mine.” *

“I blinked one minute, and the next, I was back in school. Where’d the time go?” *

“I don’t want to go back to school. WAAAA!” *

“I went to heaven for 12 days, and St. Peter kicked my ass back into school.” *

And I’d love to sit here and tell you that your later years get easier as time goes on, because it’s the truth. What they don’t tell you is that how the stages that new teachers go through throughout the year doesn’t necessarily flatten out per se. Let’s take a look at a graph I posted about a year or so ago:

First Year Teacher Chart

First Year Teacher Chart

In all seriousness, last year, I kinda stayed in that bottom phase for a little too long because of all my personal issues, but under normal circumstances (i.e. my 2nd year), I’d still go through all these phases, but to a lesser degree. You’ll also notice that it really looks like the local peak at the end of July seems to dip lower, with a (maybe rational) assumption that you can never get back that anticipation and excitement you have your first year.

Maybe that’s how this downward curve flattens. As the yearly anticipation, the disillusionment decreases, and thus, the longer you last, the closer you approach this constant feeling of reflection and fatalism, doing the job to the best of their abilities, but not trying to go any further. This is at least true for many of the teachers who I’ve seen reach past 10 years or so (if that long).

So for the first proposal I’d like to make as part of our contract (please, no givebacks for this one) is simple: hammocks in every teachers lounge. It sounds ludicrous, but by the looks of things: it looks more necessary than ever.

* all status messages changes to protect the weary.

Jose, who wonders how your first weeks have gone so far …

This post was written by...

José Luis Vilson is a math educator, blogger, speaker, and activist. For more of my writing, buy my book This Is Not A Test: A New Narrative on Race, Class, and Education, on sale now.

For more about me, read here.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Angela January 7, 2009 at 9:58 am

“As the yearly anticipation, the disillusionment decreases, and thus, the longer you last, the closer you approach this constant feeling of reflection and fatalism, doing the job to the best of their abilities, but not trying to go any further.”

I’ve been reflecting on this a lot myself lately. It’s my tenth year and the curve has definitely flattened. I think the key ingredient that’s missing in veteran teachers is idealism. Without it, it’s hard to reach those peaks of anticipation, or to be as emotionally vested in reflection on teaching practice.

I miss my idealism.

Reply

Jose January 11, 2009 at 1:19 am

I’ve had a lot to reflect on too in this process. I know very few teachers where that line doesn’t flatten for them. I haven’t quite reached flat either, but if I’m not careful it could become that. I also reflected a little, and realized that “flat” could mean very different things for different people. Most people become flat in curriculum and school as a whole, but some people may simply become flat in school business but not curriculum and teaching. It’s interesting. Yet, being jaded or even disinterested shows up in different ways.

Idealism is certainly great, but it needs a strong backbone of rigor. Hmm …

Reply

tom January 12, 2009 at 11:27 pm

This is why I love the internet. I have just started searching for teachers sites, and have come across a bunch that are really phony. Jose, you are real. I loved the curve. In my case, being back in the classroom since ’89 after a few years in private work, the curve is like two kids holding a jumprope… waving it up and down. Seldom have I reached the very low, and like the curve shows, by the end of the summer, the anticipation grows. I can retire this year, but probably won’t since at 60, I’d still have to work full time somewhere, and I’d be a dumb ass to try to start over. And there is always the wonder of what a new school year will bring.
I wrote a novel about the fun adventures of a veteran middle school teacher. It should be published soon. I posted the first chapter on my site, http://www.tomsboomertimes.blogspot. I invite you and your readers to check it out.
I will definitely be back to your site. Take care.

Reply

Pat January 14, 2009 at 4:14 pm

I think the best way to fight the disillusionment phase is to ask your students what veteran teachers they like the best and why. Then ask that teacher if you can observe them. Find out if they ever feel this way and if so, how they fight this phase. You will find yourself inspired and motivated after you see some of these people. It is alright during these times for new teachers or struggling teachers to reach out to others for support.

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