I’ve spent a good part of the last two days in meetings with the 6th grade team from my new middle school. Yesterday, we worked with all of the 6th grade humanities teachers in the district (there were surprisingly fewer than I had anticipated). In that meeting, I felt like the very inexperienced teacher that I am. I was certainly in over my head, but tried to contribute where I could. I ended up being the scribe on the white board for their brainstorming session, which worked well for me. I was able to be involved but not say something stupid where I otherwise might have. Well, that’s not entirely true. I made a suggestion in regards to the social studies curriculum, and they all looked at me as if I was speaking out of turn. I suppose that will teach me not to speak up until I have a little more time under my belt.
That meeting was not all bad, though. In fact, it was actually really good. It was a great opportunity to see what a collaborative team does in action. It is a new idea to me to see a district-wide collaborative team, however. I’m already having an interesting time learning what a school-wide collaborative team looks like, and it’s certainly a new concept for me to see what a district wide one does. I think it’s really a great thing that the district language arts teachers are working to teach a curriculum that is mostly on par with all of their colleagues. I’m not sure if that is something that is mandated, or if it’s something they do of their own volition, but they all seem to work well together without a lot of disagreement.
Then today, I had a meeting with the 6th grade language arts/social studies team for the school. It was a completely different dynamic! First off, I felt more comfortable right off, but I think that had a lot to do with the fact that they are actively trying to include me. The other thing that made the meeting different was the amount of gossip that occurred. As a new teacher, I have been warned extensively about gossip, and have been strongly cautioned to avoid it. I knew it was an inevitability, I just didn’t think I would have to be so aware of it even before the school year starts. I chose to listen without response while they were talking about their cohorts from other schools, filing away the things being said. I did notice some of the teachers (there are 4 in the school besides myself) were more opinionated regarding their colleagues than others.
(I want to state that I don’t want to speak badly about these people I have yet to really know and understand, I am making observations here. I have tried to remain as neutral in this situation as possible.)
As humans we seem to be naturally predisposed to observing and commenting on others. Gossip is one of those fascinating parts of social psychology that I don’t really understand. I do know that I don’t want to be a part of “office intrigue.” Having been in several careers before coming to teaching, I have had the opportunity to make and learn from pitfalls that I might not otherwise see. I think not falling into a pattern of gossip could certainly be one of those. It’s difficult to do! It’s a very natural thing to jump in and become a part of whatever people around you are discussing. I’m making it my mission, however, to refuse to become part of the politics that come with being in a job. I think that until now I didn’t really put it together that teaching would be like other jobs in some ways. Maybe that was an obvious leap, but I’ve been so caught up in the theories and culture of becoming a teacher that I never thought about it.
Anyway, back to the meeting. We discussed the way the first semester would go and I got a better look at what teaching in a 6th grade language arts class looks like at this school. I feel better after leaving the meeting about what I’m getting into. I like knowing what is to come, and I appreciate having some semblance of an idea about what I will be teaching come Spring. I’m still anxious about so many more aspects, but at least there is one thing of which I can be a bit more sure.