For seven years I've spun the bits and bytes, marshaling the tiny computer elves, guiding them as they arrayed the luminous pixels into appropriate and meaningful forms. Which is to say, I've been a programmer. It served me well, taught me a lot, kept my brain busy. And it put food on the table while Sarah stayed home with the kids.
But now Sarah's back at work. And now it's time for the next thing. So I'm plunging from the gilded cubicle of software engineering into the roiling, tumultuous waters of the New Orleans public school system. Which is to say, I'm going to be a teacher, specifically a middle-ish-school* math teacher in a (to be determined) "high needs" New Orleans public school. ("High needs", in this context, encompasses all but a handful of the city's schools.)
The notion has been simmering for some time (I dig kids; I dig math; I dig explaining math to kids; our schools desperately need math teachers), but now it's boiled over. It's the right moment for me, and it's a critical moment for New Orleans as our historically failing school system undergoes the most radical education reform ever undertaken in any American city.
I'll be making the transition with the help of these fine folks. They'll train me up real good over the summer,** help match me with a school, and send me, this fall, as an ever-so-slightly-less-clueless lamb-to-the-slaughter, a bright-eyed, ripe-for-the-disillusioning teacher-newbie. (I won't claim to be a teacher-proper until I've made my generous allotment of newbie-blunders before a classroom full of merciless kids eager to pounce on my every mistake.)
Onward and upward. Wish me luck. I'll need it. (And stay tuned for more exciting adventures and misadventures in our nascent saga, The Mr. O Chronicles.)
* Middle-ish-school: I'm inclined to teach kids at the earlier end of their mathematical studies. That could mean middle school. It could mean a bit earlier. (When I mention middle-school, most teachers I know look at me with horror—or just shake their heads and laugh.) My eyes and ears remain open. We'll see where I land.
** I gave notice at work on Monday, but before doing so—just to make for sure for sure—I went and visited the elementary school where my neighbor-buddy Wheeler teaches, Martin Luther King, the only school open down in the Lower Ninth Ward. It was fantastic. The school is just a few blocks from the breach that decimated the community, and the surrounding neighborhood remains something close to a lifeless wasteland. But the school has been beautifully restored, and inside was brimming with glorious, rambunctious, wonderful kids. I loved every moment of it, but there were some particularly memorable highlights
- During a Student of the Month award ceremony in the "cafetorium", a young black ob/gyn (standing in front of a huge portrait of Martin Luther King, Jr.) talked about how she'd become a doctor and encouraged the kids to strive for similarly lofty goals. But when she opened the floor to questions, the assembly took a decidedly more biological turn. "How do you deliver babies?" She hesitated, then gave a vague answer about making sure the mother and baby were healthy. Not good enough. "Where do they come out?" She laughed nervously, glanced at the principal with pleading eyes, then muttered something about "either the tummy or the [inaudible]" before quickly moving on to the next question.
- Before lunch, Wheeler asked his kids to show me the dance routine they had performed at the school pageant the previous week, an eight-minute elaborately-choreographed groove-bust set to "Rapper's Delight". When the music started, they fell into place, criss-crossing in interwoven rows, backing out into circles, facing off in flash-footed pairs, dropping to the floor and twirling in perfect break-spins (they'd watched 80s breakdancing movies for research), cartwheeling and alligator-flopping across the room... (For the pageant, itself, they'd performed the routine in full 80s regalia.)