My [redacted] Journey

A teacher's search for inner peace.

Modify and Adjust: There’s a Peace Missing

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August 22, 2014

Dear Readers,

Teachers are forever assessing and reassessing.  We assess our students’ skills, our lesson plans, and at times, even our own effectiveness.  We do this on a daily basis and mostly while on auto pilot (after years of practice, it’s second nature to us).  We even have a phrase for this assessing and re-assessing:  modify and adjust.

As a teacher, I must modify my plans so as to teach to the majority of my students.  Then, I further adjust if not everyone in class “gets” the concept I am teaching.  My days are in a constant state of flux.  However, it seems I rarely expend that kind of energy in assessing my life.  And certainly I do not modify and adjust anything in my world.  It’s kind of like what I don’t know can’t hurt me.  Too bad after all these years, I still haven’t learned that the opposite is true.

After teaching for the past 14 years, I can honestly say that this school year, 2014-2015, has been the best start for me in recent memory.  I believe that is is because of my great start, that I have failed to acknowledge the little unsettled feeling that keeps tap, tapping on my soul.  Given that I write to get my feelings out, I went through my past blog posts to see if I had written anything in the past year that would indicate that I was aware of this twinge of something I can’t quite put my finger on.  Boy! was I ever surprised.  A year ago August 18, I wrote a post entitled “My Dichotomy”.  It remains the same, one year and four days later, it remains the same.

I have been teaching at my new school now for a little over a year, and I seem to be enjoying it.  There were certain realities present in my previous two teaching jobs that have thankfully, been removed.  The last two places I taught include a boys’ prison in the middle of the Sonoran Desert and a girls’ school in the middle of the Arabian Desert.  Both environments were equally restrictive, yet equally rewarding.  On the surface, they appeared to be polar opposites.  However, upon closer inspection, I realized that the two couldn’t be more alike.

Although I have always dreamed of becoming a high school teacher, the thought of teaching boys behind bars never once crossed my mind, until it did.  And then, when it did, I was only too willing to go along.  Well, most of me was willing to go along.  And the most of me that was willing to go along, was always waging war with the some of me that was not.

Some of me usually whispered through clenched teeth, “Are you kidding me?!  Get us out of here!  It’s a prison for Christ’s sake!”

To which most of me would usually respond, “But, we’re making a difference.”

And we were; making a difference, that is.

By the same token, teaching in the Middle East had never crossed my mind either.  As a matter of fact, some of me and most of me had the same conversation as when I was at my previous job.

Some of me would say, “Are you kidding me?!  Get us out of here!  It’s the Middle East for Christ’s sake!”

To which most of me would usually respond, “But, we’re making a difference.”

And we were; making a difference, that is.

Here’s the laundry list of similarities:

Both schools are located in the middle of a desert – At least I didn’t have to get used to the weather!

Both required me to dress ultra-conservatively – Not a bad thing, I just prefer to choose my own dress.

Both were far away from me, culturally – I couldn’t understand the gang mentality that was prevalent in the boys’ prison, nor could I relate to the overwhelming patriarchal society prevalent in the Middle East.

Students at both schools called me something other than Ms. Kunzmann – the girls in the Middle East called me Miss Victoria because my last name was too difficult for them to pronounce, and  the boys in the “pen” called me Fucking Bitch because, well, they could.

Students at both schools thought I couldn’t teach them anything – Students at both schools were wrong.  I was able to teach the boys a modicum of English so that many of my students earned their GED while locked up.  Additionally, I was able to teach the girls that they could affect change in the world, and I am happy to report that they have graduated high school and they are changing the world..

Students at both schools had very limited freedoms – Understandably so for the boys, they relinquished their rights once they were adjudicated (sentenced).  However, the girls’ rights were stripped from them once they were born.

Students at both schools saw me as an anomaly.  Subsequently, students from both schools really, really, really wanted to know the real me.

Students at both schools needed all of me.  Subsequently, teaching at both schools was mentally taxing.

Now however, I am back where I started.  I am teaching at a traditional public school.  The students are traditional public school students.  I am a traditional public school teacher and I seem to be enjoying it.  Right?  Right.  So then tell me, dear Readers, why do I feel like something is missing?  Peace, ~v.


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