I Was A Failed School Teacher
The lessons learned were plentiful, thoroughly soul-crushing, and ultimately meaningful
Chapter 1: A Search For Books
In the summer before the school year was to begin, my elation at being offered a teaching job was tinged with pesky anxiety.
I’d become privy to stories describing the first year of teaching, as unbearable rookie years were supposed to be the norm. Of course, I wanted to be the exception to the rule, especially since I’d spent eighteen months training to be an elementary school teacher at the University of Colorado in Denver.
I was already a special teacher in a very compelling way: a thirty-two-year-old black male elementary school teacher. A very rare occurrence in my state.
Intuitively, I knew that I should perform beyond what was expected of the first-year teacher, or risk very adverse repercussions.
Those existential concerns aside, I approached the oncoming school year with a mission: to become the best teacher I could be. I could not abide failure because my students would also fail — a consequence that I was unprepared to live with.
Two weeks before the school doors were set to open in late July 2009, I began the search for school supplies, gaining insight into my relative inexperience in that area. It was not because I was at a complete loss for what I needed.
My Ivory Tower Education — derisively dismissed by one of my teacher instructors — had provided me with a foundation to build upon.
I needed to purchase the essentials: books, pencils, notebooks, and eye-catching materials to post on my classroom wall. Fifth-grade students were sophisticated about what needed to be posted. And I’d spent significant time in three classrooms while performing my duties as a teaching intern, observing the walls and students, learning techniques, creating a curriculum, and delivering the curriculum to the kiddos.
I’d learned a lesson or two, retaining a significant amount of knowledge. But while on my first run to that warehouse to shop for the books I needed, I couldn’t help but feel somewhat overwhelmed.