Let’s assume I have two choices. I have White Kids’ Unified, a mostly wealthy suburban district within spitting distance of my college and hasn’t yet offered me a contract. I also have BFE-Podunk Joint Unified, a very poor rural district that the administration in charge advertises as 95 percent Hispanic, and a district which has offered me a contract.

My master teacher has told me outright on several occasions that I am or may not be good at anything but a middle-class-white-kids’ school. This isn’t a compliment — she probably hates White Kids’ Unified with of the rest of the teachers here, masking her feelings with utter contempt.

I can’t help but think that I really do want to teach at White Kids’ Unified, anyway. Interviewer whoever-she-was was very clear:

Administrators will take care of teachers’ needs. We’re working on putting in projectors in every classroom.

White Kids’ Unified is genuinely interested in putting me in a journalism class, or a real history class. White Kids’ Unified will give me the best chance to teach my AP US History, and the way I want to.

And yet.

Something about Podunk-BFE Joint Unified makes me want that 40-minute commute each way. Something about making a real difference, a real influence. I don’t care even if I am being played for the fool — I could really teach something.

All that stuff about getting into education for the kids isn’t a lie in Podunk. Sure, the mantra of teachers in White Kids’ Unified is, after all: “For the kids.” On the other hand, teachers at Podunk-BFE Joint Unified live that motto.

If they’re working there, they have to.


  1. Believe it or not I have been following your blog waiting for this question to come up…dude, I have premonitions…

    I spent ten years at Podunck Middle School before coming to White Kid Middle school. The Podunck School was at th ebottom of the bottom of the barrel of schools….so bad that they just blew up the thirty year old building two years ago to start fresh. It was a long rocket ride between the two, they are on totally different planets. No one can even begin to understand the difference unless you have taught at both. So I have a little bit on insight into both worlds.

    Here are four questions before I give you an answer:

    1: Do you believe all kids can learn and are worthy of your time?(You better answer correctly and not lie because you actually already answered this in a previous post)

    2: When you explain something for the tenth time and the kids still don’t get it, who do you blame?

    3: Who is responsible for helping you become a better teacher?

    4: How do you deal with failure?

  2. dkzody

    I love Paul’s questions, especially number 4. He has hit it right on the nailhead. How do you deal, and can you deal? I could for many years, but the last two have taken their toll.

    I often wonder what it would be like to teach at White Kid High School, especially East or North, with all the new gadgets and the kids who want to be in school. I think I could have some real fun. But, they aren’t into career tech ed at these schools, so probably no chance. Unless they let me do yearbook.

  3. Dude…your time will come for White Kids Unified. If you start at a wicked hard school when you are young and energetic, you will do great at any school. That is what I did and I think that it is much easier for me now to teach to whatever kids I need to. Paul rocks. He is a smart guy, I have seen comments from him on a number of posts, and his questions are right now. Through that making-a-difference stuff out the window and think about you as a teacher. If your sole goal is to make a “real” difference, you are going to be burnt out in the standard five years. For now, just think about going to Podunk and surviving. If you can teach there and survive, you can teach anywhere. Go Podunk. Beat White Kids! (What?)

  4. Thanks for following the blog, Mr. Bogush. Makes me feel like I’m doing something worthwhile. Heh. I’ll answer your four questions in a blog post.

    Mrs. Zody: Another good reason for Podunk: The likelihood of them not having a journalism teacher, or an AP U.S. History teacher, is a lot higher. Good thing, too — those are the courses I really want to end up teaching.

    Mr. Jones: That White Kids’ Unified isn’t going anywhere is probably the biggest reason I want to stick with Podunk. As a teacher at my current school had notied: I’ll learn how to teach there.

    I think of it as resistance training.

  5. There’s a classic audio program by Jim Fay that talks a bit about this entitled “Helicopters, Drill Sergeants, and Consultants” http://tinyurl.com/5dx2yr.

    Jim compares the level of responsibility and self-reliance between two very different districts. The rich kids usually relied heavily on Mom to bail them out in a pinch, while the less well off kids usually have to take care of themselves.

    Of course the CD is much more about parenting (and teaching) styles than about answering your question, but it came immediately to mind when I read this post. If you haven’t heard it, it’s worth a listen because it’s funny and full of good ideas.

    Personally, I haven’t had the luxury of comparing the two choices. All of my teaching has been in higher education, at middle-class institutions. But I live in a very rural area by choice, and if I were a K-12 teacher I’m sure I’d be teaching here as well.

  6. Glad to have your insight, and I’m checking out the program now.

  7. Tim

    Several of the replies given were good. Others were garbage. Listen, I have been teaching in an inner-city school district of close to ten years now. For the first four or five years I always told myself, “I am better than this”, and “I DESERVE to be in a rich white kids school!”. You know what, I have changed 180%. Any job offer that may magically appear from rich white kids school would be used to blow my nose.
    You seem like the kind of guy who really is a different kind of teacher. In a good way. Not in a cheesy way in that they will make a movie out of you in 30 years.
    The number one reason I love being in a large inner city school district is that you don’t have to deal with the bullcrap you deal with in the suburbs. Sure, no matter where you go you will have douchebag administrators, crazy colleagues, and wacko parents. However, you get so much more freedom in the city. For me, it is the little things. I can wear whatever I want to work in the inner city. Yesterday, I had a tie on and was dressed-to-impress. That was the first day in about two years in that I wore a tie. A colleague asked if I had an interview at another district. Many days, I wear jeans and short sleeve shirt or sweater with sneakers on. For the first three years I didn’t have to worry about “tenure”. In the inner city, nobody ever talks about tenure. In the burbs, from what I hear, you have to kiss butt for the first three years and then pray you get tenure.
    Also, the unions are mostly stronger in the city. While those douchebag administrators can kick you around anywhere, in the city…not so much. Inner city teachers run the gamant. You have the young, the old, the ugly, the good looking, the black, white, gay, straight, whatever. You have teachers that dress like bag ladies and those that dress like Vogue and QG cover models. You can be who you are. The burbs? Cookie cutter central!
    I could go on for another 30 minutes of typing (and I type quickly), but DON’T TEACH RICH BEHIND WHITE KIDS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    P.S. Notice how I never talked about “making a difference”? I’m keeping it real. One dude to another.

  8. Are you really saying this?

  1. 1 Choosing Field Workers’ Kids Over Posh City « On the Tenure Track

    […] problem, questions, right, speak, teaching, time, waste Paul Bogush knows whether I should choose the rich kid or the field worker district, but asks that I first answer his questions. As a courtesy to the pagan deities of depth and […]

  2. 2 My Curse of Knowledge for BFE-Podunk « On the Tenure Track

    […] Bogush had some thoughts about the essential differences on the role of intelligence in each BFE-Podunk Joint Unified and White Kids’ Unified. He shared them in his […]

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