Aug. 23, 2009 @ 8:32 a.m.
I've been teaching English in Southeast San Diego for seven years: five at an alternative high school and two years at Lincoln. Finlayson's piece is the kind of article about teaching I would've liked to write had I the insight, talent, and (most of all) time to do it. Bravo, Alex! Her comments about the importance of peer and administrator support were accurate. As for Finlayson's "worst moments"--I've been there, sister. Her new-teacher experiences are, unfortunately, typical: inferior facilities, overcrowded classes, and stress. I appreciate both the courage it took to write about them and the self-restraint needed not to sensationalize. It was clean and honest prose.
One caveat, though: the stats on new teacher attrition are probably misleading because it's most graduates' first job out of college, and seldom do people stick with their first job out of college. That said, I can't think of a more traumatic entree into the adult working world than first-year teaching. Not only does one have to teach the kids and manage the myriad demands of content and curriculum, but learn to work in a lumbering district culture that rewards inefficiency over creativity. It takes getting used to. A good principal and a good "venting buddy" close at hand can make all the difference. Had I not come to teaching from an even more bizarre, high-pressure field (advertising and marketing) I don't think I would've had the perspective to make it through my first five years.
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