Summary: Heather Daye wasn't doing very well as a new school teacher. She was doing so poorly in fact that she decided to get another job just in case her current one tanked. Too bad she didn't know that she was actually signing up to be a member of one of the world's newest terrorist organizations!
Old Dreams Die Hard
Heather sat nervously in the principal's office, twiddling her fingers and unconsciously displaying a guilty look as she tried to hide how intimidated she was. The principal just stared back at her with a stern expression.
"Our test scores have not improved since you've been teaching here, Miss Daye," the principal said.
"I know. I'm sorry. I'll try harder..." Heather stammered.
"I better see good results! I never would have hired you if I knew you were so incompetent!" the principal said.
Heather stifled tears as she left the principal's office. Of course she felt a lot more like a disobedient student being scolded than the proud school teacher she thought she would be after finishing college.
"Next!" the principal yelled
"Mr. Willis, Mrs. Daye gave me detention, and she didn't even tell me why!" the student whined.
Heather Daye attempted to hide her face as she crept away from the principal's door.
She looked at the stares the front office clerks were giving her, silently imagining their disappointment. Her professors said that her job prospects would be different after she finished college, but the conversation she had with the principal told her that they lied. She wasn't any more capable than that time she tried to work at a fast food restaurant and failed because she couldn't keep up with the orders. They probably weren't going to renew her contract and she would be lucky if she could finish out the year with her track record.
On her way out of the office, she bumped into one of her students.
"Watch where you're going!" the angry student yelped.
"Sorry..." Heather's apology was sincere. She didn't want to cause any pain, physical, emotional, or otherwise, yet, for some reason, she felt like many of the students, parents, and coworkers were more than ready to treat her like a criminal and blame her when things went wrong. Yes, she did feel unprepared for the job. That much was true, and her guess was that most people would probably share the same opinion; if you don't think you're qualified for a job, you shouldn't have that job at all.
Heather knew, though, that if she lived by that assumption she probably wouldn't be employed at all, because it seemed like the only thing she did well was go to school. She had no idea what her strengths were outside of that and naively assumed college would teach her everything she needed to know.
She crossed the threshold from the main building to the outside and slowly made her way to her classroom. On her way, she heard students giggling and, for a brief moment, wondered if it was about her.
The young teacher was no stranger to harsh ridicule, but she never really understood it. She genuinely wanted to be a good teacher, and she wondered why she wasn't being treated like the eager learner she was. There were very few people who learned without being taught, after all, so why was everyone she asked for advice acting like they had understood teaching forever? It didn't make any sense to her.
Defeated, she sat down with her heavy teacher's edition textbook and tried to map out a lesson for that day. Although she understood the material itself, she was clueless on how to present it and often found herself aimlessly stumbling through the lessons and going off on tangents. She knew it was terrible practice, and she promised herself she would get better, but she never really knew how to improve. She started silently whimpering with frustration.
The bell rang.
Her twelve-year-old students filed in, sat down, and started talking loudly. She repeated her expectations and handed out the assignments. The talking continued and got even louder. She almost couldn't take it. She scanned the room.
Why are thy doing this? Don't they know my expectations? Didn't I repeat the rules to them already? She thought.
It was unacceptable. She tried not to take it personally, but what else was this? They were deliberately trying to make her look less capable than she already felt. She scowled at one of the students who was playing at his desk, hoping that would get his attention. When it failed, she went straight for her detention slips.
I know the principal doesn't like me using these so often, but...I don't know what else to do! The teacher thought. She was terribly frustrated. These little brats weren't even allowing her to start the lesson! They weren't even giving her a chance.
The student received the write up and rolled his eyes at the teacher as he walked out of the classroom.
Heather knew that she would probably get disciplined for her actions, but had she let that student continue, she never would have gotten the class to be quiet. She walked behind the lectern and scowled at her remaining students.
"Let's get to work now, okay?" Heather said.
None of the students said anything else, which was good.
Heather sighed, angry at just about everything. This job was nothing like what she had hoped when she was in college. The children were rude obnoxious and disobedient for no real reason. Disputes weren't easily solved, and almost everything was a power struggle. Plus, she felt like she didn't have anyone to go to for help or real advice.
Sure, there were people on her hall that said to "let me know if you need anything," but she was pretty sure they were just being polite. After all, they couldn't possibly understand this.
No, if that conversation with the principal proved anything to her, it was that she was on her own.
She eyed her students as they dully copied from their textbooks. It certainly wasn't ideal, but since no one was helping her create the ideal or even do something adequate, it would have to do.
Again, she paced back to her desk and sighed in frustration.
How do real teachers keep up with all of this? She thought.
Mercifully, the school day finally ended, and she was ready to go back home. She had no idea what she was doing, but she still tried not to let her students or their parents get the best of her. She dutifully punished students she felt were disobedient and rude, tried to enforce her classroom rules, and generally just tried to keep order. She even resorted to calling parents when she felt like it was necessary.
The lesson planning, though, that was really hurting her performance. She didn't know what to teach or how to teach it. Most of what was presented in the textbook was just common sense to her, but when she tried to explain it to the students her way, they were often confused. A few students challenged her and tried to make fun of her behind her back. She had no idea how to respond to all of this, so she just ignored it and tried to go on with her lesson.
Her job left her feeling beaten and drained. She felt like she wasn't really an "adult" even though she was the right age to be one.
She returned home to find her roommate Tom fixing dinner. Tom was at least twenty years older than Heather, and she normally appreciated his experience and wisdom, but she felt like he didn't have a clue how to advise her this time. She sat the papers on the table and then took a seat in a huff.
"I'd clear that table if I was you. You don't want to get spaghetti sauce on the students' papers, do ye?"
Heather sighed, lifted the pile of papers, and carried them to her room.
Over dinner, the two had a chat about the day's events. Heather confided in him that she felt like the school that hired her left her absolutely clueless.
"If I were ye, I'd talk to the principal. Tell him how ye're feeling," Tom said.
"I tried; I feel like it's all worse than before," Heather said.
"Is that so? Have ye maybe had a chat with'n ye teacher friends? Have ye made any?" Tom asked.
Heather shook her head.
I'm too busy trying to hide how incompetent I am. If they knew that I didn't know what I was doing, they would probably fire me on the spot. Heather thought.
"Do ye even like ye're job?" Tom asked.
Heather stared at her plate, sighed, and shook her head.
"Well, if'n ye don't like working there, why don't ye just quit?" Tom suggested.
Because some of us actually have to work for a living. Heather thought.
"I don't know," Heather replied as she got up from the table.
"I think ye should quit. It's not good for ye to be this worried," Tom said.
"Maybe you're right," Heather agreed flatly as she went to the sink to rinse her plate.
As someone who received a disability check and other kinds of help from the government, Tom wasn't going to understand. She understood that he couldn't physically work and that he needed the support he was getting, but, at the same time, she knew he couldn't possibly relate to the plight of a working person, let alone teachers, who, it seemed were held to unrealistically high standards. It was fair for the schools to hold their teachers to those standards if they could help them meet them, but Heather's experience as an educator were telling her that it was more or less sink or swim.
Heather sighed as she looked at the huge pile of papers she still needed to grade. The work was more or less busywork, or at least that was how to students viewed it. She picked up the first paper and frowned. There was nothing on it but a huge frowning face with a caption reading "Ms. Daye sucks." She looked through other papers and found that many of the students didn't bother to complete the work. The ones who did were way off target, even though she thought she explained it.
It's just commas. All they had to do was follow the example at the top of the worksheet. Heather thought.
She collapsed her head on another full pile of papers and groaned. She couldn't put these scores in the grade book because only a small handful of students actually bothered to do the work. It was going to look like they were failing. It was going to look like she was failing. Heather sighed, shook her head, and stopped trying to grade the papers. She silently cursed herself for taking such a nerve wracking job in the first place.
Irritated, she opened the teacher's edition of the textbook. It was incomprehensible to her. There were hundreds of pages of what might as well have been gibberish. There were also instructions to go to "part A on the CD" and there were no CD's, at least none that worked properly! She understood that she was going to have to just do the best she could with what she had, try not to look like a novice, maybe someone would try to help her if they saw her struggling enough. Maybe. She sighed again, thinking of the teachers on her hall who were accomplishing this feat and doing it with ease! She envied them and hated the teacher education program she attended. Surely she had to have attended an inferior program if she couldn't figure out the basics. It was the only training she was going to get, though, outside of the non-existent helping hand.
Heather looked at the clock. It was 1:00 AM. She had spent the whole night worrying about the next day, staring at the teacher's edition textbook, trying to piece together some kind of lesson that wouldn't clue everyone in to the fact that she was clueless. They wouldn't accept clueless. She knew that; she knew it from past experience. They always expected her to already know. They expected teacher preparation to be some kind of magical experience that prepared her for everything, not some mess of red tape, overly demanding mentors who didn't really teach her any of what she needed to know, and plenty of people who already expected her to be the expert based on her test scores, even though they knew you were a beginner.
Why do I have to be so good at taking tests and so terrible at actually putting things into practice? Heather asked herself. It was nothing for her to make at least an A on a paper without even trying. Most things came to her naturally. Academics were "common sense," but people, they were a small mystery.
She hated her students' immaturity. If she would have had all these opportunities handed to her on a silver platter, of course she would have taken advantage of it. She sighed and tried to convince herself there was no reason for her to be angry at them, but she continued to think about the blatant disrespect, the way kids would leave her line and walk beside their friends even though they knew she could get in trouble for it, the way they acted clueless about something as simple as the placement of a comma, or even the way they expected her to be the expert and were unforgiving when she got things wrong.
If I can't do this job that I was supposedly prepared for in college, I probably can't do other jobs either. I'm just a failure. My problem wasn't lack of training or lack of credentials, my problem is just me. I can't fix myself. I'm going to be who I am, even if I don't want to. Heather thought.
Heather lay on her pillow angry with the world and how it worked. She did everything right. Why was she still suffering? She went to college and landed a job she was supposedly already trained for. Why was she still struggling. She envied her fellow teachers and those awful kids.
She tensed up and tossed and turned, lost in her own thoughts, until exhaustion finally took hold of her.