The good prevails

It’s during times like these that I wonder what my life is about. I work. I come home. I walk, I watch tv, I listen to music, I cook (sometimes), I play mindless games on my phone, or I read. Occasionally I go out with friends. But mostly, I feel like I just exist.

Tonight I got a text from a former student. One of my favorites. I have so many, really. But this one … he has continued to make me proud from nearly the day I met him. He makes me feel grateful.

Grateful to have an impact on the lives of young people. Their success is my success. I receive so much joy from watching them grow and stretch and become who they want to be. If I can play any infinitesimally small part in that growth, I am immeasurably happy. These are the moments I need to hold on to.

Throughout my career in education, people have told me time and again that it is a thankless job. That you rarely, if ever, get to see the seeds you plant grow & thrive. I have never felt that way. I have always felt loved, appreciated, and valued by my kids. I have so many “smile file” memories and moments. At least monthly, even though I haven’t been working in a school in four years.

There have been tragedies and unspeakable things, and always the routine frustrations and bureaucracy of a school and the American education system. But even in the trenches, you have a family. A cadre of educators who are all fighting together for the collective good. Some better than others. But for me? I always felt like I mattered.

Outside of my work, I can scarcely remember a time, maybe with the exception of my parents, when I have felt that same level of value, of importance, of significance. Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all do that for each other, in all contexts?

That’s a world I want to live and love in. Where good always prevails.

Mood music: Times Like These – Foo Fighters (acoustic)

Here we go … Getting real

I get it. Honestly, I do. I’m not living in the worst neighborhood, I am healthy, I own a home, and I have an amazing family and, most times, amazing friends. I am privileged. I have more blessings than I deserve. I fully and completely understand why my strife does not compare relative to that around the world, a few miles across the river or even just a breath away, sitting across from me in my office. It does not, however, change the way I feel deep, deep down and, some days, even on the surface. Today is one of the latter.

Today was my last day at a high school where I have shed literal blood, sweat and tears over the past four years. I have been a high school counselor for 12 years and, while I have received the highest “teacher” rating every year of those 12 years, have worked my ass off to earn it and, even beyond the paper, am pretty fucking fantastic in that role, live & breathe it as my primary identity, I find myself without a job after next Tuesday. I was excessed as part of the budget next year.

Our current principal cut many positions, including one of four counselors. Because my kids graduated he said, “it would be least disruptive to the student body” if I were the one to go. Even though I am the only one of the four who lives within the city of DC (allegedly worth “preference” points, am 3rd in seniority, sponsor multiple extracurricular activities, and am the NCAA person for the entirety of DC Public Schools). It makes no sense.

I made today my last day because 1) my kids are gone 2) the school is empty and unwelcoming without them 3) the only things I have left to do rely on central office and they are profoundly incompetent 4) I do not have a job in this school system next year so there is no reason to save my 11 days of leave for 6 remaining days of my current contract 5) walking into that building now makes me want to fall to my knees every morning, and 6) fuck the principal of that school. He made this decision. I do not kiss ass. It’s anathema to me. Plenty of people do and they have their jobs. Maybe they are better than me after all.

I am a school counselor in the very soul of me; you cannot separate me from that role even outside of the building, especially now, twelve years later. I have loved, loved, loved getting to know thousands of young people over these years in education, including two amazing graduating classes (the most recent of which was three days ago, this past Saturday). I simply yet profoundly don’t know what to do next.

I find myself rudderless and more than a bit flabbergasted at the notion that I cannot sit indefinitely in this fugue state. A huge part of me does not want to stay in education. I don’t know how to give any less of myself but that’s what it takes to make a difference for these kids. If I give less, it’s not fair to the kids. If I keep giving this much, it’s not fair to me. It obviously doesn’t behoove me to continue to give — no one has my back but me. That’s now painfully, painfully clear.

I am devastated to lose my job. I wanted the personnel committee, who included people I considered personal and professional allies, to take a stand against a truly terrible and vindictive woman who holds a sickening degree of perceived power over students, parents and fellow colleagues alike. But she keeps her job as a counselor and, because I had the bad luck of having seniors this year, I was the one cut? I don’t understand it at all.

I did my best. I gave everything. It wasn’t enough.

So what do I do now?