I’ve had one week with my new class of 4th grade students at Nizhoni Elementary School. I haven’t worked on the Navajo Reservation in about 5 years and decided this morning might be a good time to reflect on the pros and cons of working on the Navajo Nation.
My classroom is still somewhat in disarray. I have stacks of textbooks which may be used or not, certifications to hang, and general- getting my desk cleared- to make the setting effective and efficient. While I could take the blame for my own laziness, the long commute and locked gate on weekends makes getting everything spiffy a little challenging.
I have 30 students with a mix of less-typical names which are both traditional and creative in spelling. The kids are fairly respectful and good at following my lead. In all honesty, I feel like I have achieved more learning in one week than I did in an entire year in my off-reservation and severely dysfunctional teaching setting of last year (still I made some difference during the 13-14 year, which I need to focus on…along with forgiving). All in all, my students are a great group of kids!
My coworkers have been very helpful. I am especially thankful for my new supervisor; she is honest, focused and effective in running a school. I have been helped by a number of other teachers. Supplies and furniture has been given with an understanding we are all part of a team. I’ve only met a couple of parents, but they seem to be very supportive of the school’ efforts. So, this is all very good!
I do have to mention cons. You cannot work on a reservation without hearing about “Indian Time”; things happen at their own pace. While I mention this as a con (such as my trying to get classroom supplies which are needed immediately), it can also be of benefit. I certainly feel less stressed when I know I am not expected to always be under stress and in a rush (this works well for an introvert such as myself). The commute is also a challenge. So far it is going well, but I know in a couple of months it’ll feel old. I have a couple of coworkers to carpool with and this is good. Driving with good conversation makes the 45 minute ride go quickly. Comparing it my walking distance teaching position of last year, so far I am not carrying the stress of teaching (last year was far too stressful and resulted in my not sleeping well most of the year) and, at least so far, the district does not place absurd expectations of weekend and evening work unending (last year I was averaging 60+ hour weeks at the school).
I am certain there are a number of reason I’m drawn to working on the reservation setting. I’m happy to have my current job and look forward to an exceptional school year. Hey, I guess that’s all I have to say.
Happy trails, Joe