There You Go...

I'm a huge fan of The Wire, a show that's been called the best on television, and I wholeheartedly agree. The show's five seasons chronicle the Baltimore drug war primarily through the eyes of the city's police, but with diversions through the lives and work of the city's longshoremen, politicians, educators and journalists. The Wire paints a heart wrenching picture of a city beset by not just by crime, but more so by corruption, ineptitude and apathy in large forms and small. One of the recurring lines is from Detective Bunk who often says, "There you go, giving a f**k, when it ain't your turn to give a f**k."

My experiences this past year of course pale in comparison to the horrors, fictionalized and otherwise, of Baltimore's worst neighborhoods. Still, I've found that refrain echoing in my head lately. It seems as a first year teacher I'm constantly being told to pick my battles, and more often than not, to back down from the ones I've chosen.

It might be fighting to have a student who's reading at a 1st grade level held back rather than be promoted to 5th. It might mean confronting a school aide who's been working at the school 20+ years and has been imbued with some sort of carte blanche to curse at and [wo]manhandle students. Recently I was told to "let it go" when I heard a vicious and untrue rumor circulating about me.

Where's the balance? To what extent should I be saying, "I'm a newcomer to this environment. It's not my place to fight these battles until I've earned that right." Or worse still, give into the widespread apathy and say: "This is just the way things are. Nothing I can say or do is going to change them." Is it possible to maintain my sanity and integrity when I'm constantly backing down from problems that truly outrage me?

I know my first job above all is to keep my classroom in order and help my kids succeed. If picking the wrong battles means inviting hostility from my peers or administration and therefore jeopardizing my position as a teacher, then I don't want to do that. But still, The Wire's Bunk only half means it when he chides his partners about caring out of turn. Deep down he knows that if the good, hardworking people didn't give a f**k, then it's more than likely nobody would. So, maybe there's something to giving a f**k even when it's not my turn.


Ryan said…
obligatory "wire" reference shoutout.

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