Category Archives: Friendship

Last Ins, First Outs

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Well, the inevitable thing has happened. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I hoped that it might not happen to me, that I was good enough to be overlooked or that maybe, just maybe, I’m high enough on the seniority list. But I wasn’t. High on the seniority list, I mean.

I’ve been RIFed. The three-letter acronym every teacher fears. Reduction In Force. I have so many feelings about it. Not one of which is a good one. I know that it’s common for teachers to be recalled through the summer, I know that there will inevitably be some jobs out there later on. I know that there are other things out there, and that I am meant to do some wonderful ones. But I have to confess that I am heartbroken.

My place in the teaching world isn’t perfect. There are personal conflicts sometimes, students aren’t always perfect, things don’t always go the way I want them to. But it’s my place. It’s where I have nestled myself into, and I have come to love my niche there. I know the people, I learn them more every day. I know my kids. They are happy to see me and they talk to me, and they come visit me in my classroom all of the time. I like that. I like them.

And now, I find myself thinking that I had better savor the moments I have left. I’m counting moments and weeks and days. I look around my classroom and think to myself, “Where will I find space for all of this stuff in my house?”

Most of all, I am so sad that Patti and I will be splitting up. I have never worked with anyone so symbiotic to me. We think so much the same, we work the same, and more than that, she has been my mentor when I have most needed one. I would not have survived this year without her. I know we will always stay friends, and I think we always will, but I also hope we have the opportunity to work together again in the future. Maybe if we’re lucky, they will find a way to keep us together where we are. I really hope so, because I just don’t see myself feeling at home anywhere else.

This is such a new, strange feeling for me. I feel like I’m on a precipice, like everything is coming apart at the seams, and like nothing is permanent. I really hope I stop feeling like this soon. I need something to feel concrete underneath my feet again.

Collaboration and the New Teacher

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I believe that it should be mandatory for every new teacher to collaborate with a more seasoned one. Honestly, I believe that every department should work together and collaborate as a unit. This is not always a feasibility, unfortunately. But this post is not about department learning communities. It’s about collaborating with another teacher successfully.

When I first began the year, I felt overwhelmed, underachieved, and that I was largely failing as a teacher. Often, I didn’t know what to say, how to present it, or what activities might engage students the most with the material. Upon reading this comment, I’m sure you are saying yourself, “Shouldn’t she have learned that in college?” Well, to a certain extent, I did. But teaching is not something you do one time and then you know it.

Like every art, teaching takes practice–and mentoring, modeling, and apprenticeship. Now, this is something that is not necessarily easy to come by. A lot of districts have a first-year mentoring program, but the one I work in cut that last year due to budget shortfalls. At the beginning of the year, I felt that I could have really used that program. I tried to compensate by trying to find help within my department, but nothing seemed to stick. Everyone else is busy with their own classes. They needed work time to work on what they needed to be doing, not hand-holding the new kid.

I floundered for several weeks, trying my best, feeling like I couldn’t ever get the material I was teaching across the way I should be. I did have some help here and there from a couple of other teachers, and also from the curriculum specialist, but I also knew I needed to find a style that felt right to me.

I began to talk to the other teacher in my department who had been hired the same time I had. She had an interesting take on the material we were working with, and did things much the way I knew I wanted to do them but never really knew quite how. So I began watching her. And then emulating. And then we began to work together in our lesson planning. Honestly, I feel for the first time like I have found my stride. I am lucky to have found someone so compatible with me, but compatibility is not the only factor here.

My experience thus far tells me that this is something every new teacher should get. Without the help of this teacher, I would feel like a colossal failure right now, but I don’t. I wouldn’t say I feel completely successful yet, either. But I definitely think I have more of a handle on teaching, classroom management, and just generally being at ease more because of the support I’ve gotten from this one teacher. It’s a feeling every new teacher should have.

What do I mean by collaboration? Well, my new friend (we will call her P, for the sake of anonymity) and I have been planning out our classes together. This saves us more time, because we put our heads together and only have to plan one class instead of two. It also saves money, since we are sharing a lot of materials. Collaborative planning makes it easier as well. Because there are two minds looking at something, mistakes that might have been made by just one of us are avoided because we have a built-in proofreading system! Another important aspect is that we know what our students will have learned across the board when they come to us next year (at least I will, since I also teach seniors). Not to mention the fact that it is so much more enjoyable to work with a friend than by yourself.

Why would you not want to collaborate with your peers? Some find that collaboration takes away the autonomy some teachers like to have in planning. Some feel that having to cultivate a collegial relationship is just too much effort, and some don’t like to have to have regular meetings. Collaboration can be tricky when you don’t have a meeting of the minds. But there are so many benefits that outweigh the negative aspects that it seems silly not to want to work in a collaborative manner with the other teachers in your department.

The Lowdown

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OK, so it’s been months. Last time I left you, dear reader(s), I had just gotten a new job with the Bethel School District. I was set to go to Orientation, and ready to begin my first week of school.

Since then, five months have passed, and I have learned A LOT. A lot about teaching, about teenagers, my peers, and most of all, about myself. So, I’ve been teaching 3 classes of Communication Arts (English) 11 and 2 classes of Communication Arts 12. Two preps, but a lot of work! So far in my CA11 class this year, I’ve taught units on The Crucible, Frederick Douglass, narrative writing, and Edgar Allan Poe. I loved teaching The Crucible and the narrative writing unit, but I would have to say that Poe was not my favorite. Luckily, it’s been discontinued for next year. It was meant to be the summer required reading for all juniors, but none of them really read it. So, I ended up teaching it the first few weeks of school. Douglass was interesting, since I have been working with another teacher. She gave me an amazing project to use as we learned about slave perspectives using Douglass, Sojourner Truth, the Underground Railroad, and slave music. My students really liked the culminating project we did.

In my CA12 class, we have worked on The Importance of Being Earnest, Much Ado About Nothing, Macbeth, Things Fall Apart, and A Modest Proposal/Gulliver’s Travels. Earnest was another instance of summer required reading where the students didn’t do the work and we ended up having to teach the entire text. I’ll have to do that again in the coming semester. Much Ado was a complete disaster. My first foray into teaching Shakespeare was not what I had hoped for, that’s for certain. I started with an introductory piece to teach them about Shakespeare’s life. They were bored. Then, I had them work in groups and rewrite scenes from the play. This might have been alright, except I think I jumped the gun. We probably should have finished reading the play first. Macbeth wasn’t much better. Mostly because I misjudged my time and ended up having to just show the film. I hate that. Things Fall Apart was ok, I guess, but I really hate that book. I mean, really.

I think that the thing that made this past semester the most challenging was the behavior issues I experienced with one of my senior classes. First, there were about 12 kids in the same class who had no business being together. Putting all of them in the same class created a difficult situation. And I felt very unequipped to deal with the attitudes, smart mouths, and apathy. There is one particular girl who made my life over the last few months a living hell. I never realized that one kid could have the capability of doing that. And what amazes me is that I allowed her to try my patience that way. I’ve never let a kid get to me like that before!  I feel as if I definitely earned my stripes this semester.

So, looking ahead. I am so thankful for this job. Even after the stress of last semester, I have an administration that really looks out for me and backs me up when I need it and a couple of good friends at work to vent to when the need arises. I am excited about this coming semester especially because of some great work my friend Patti and I are doing. We are working on teaching our junior classes together, and we even ended up with the same plan period! She has been a godsend to me this year, I don’t know that I could still be sane without her help.

Anyway, that is about all my brain can handle for the moment. I will try to be a lot better about updating, and explaining more about what’s going on. I have so much more to talk about, just not tonight.

Debate tournament in the morning at PLU. Fun times, teaching. 🙂

Apprehension

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The beginning of the school year is fast approaching. While I am really enjoying the break from college classes and school in general and have been doing a lot of things I enjoy, I am really anxious about the new year.

I have so many questions. I have so many worries. What if the kids hate me? What if I am not as authoritative as I need to be? What if it completely shows that I have no idea what I’m doing? What if I don’t know as much about my content area as I thought I did?What if my cooperating teacher doesn’t end up liking me? What if the rest of the teachers hate me?

It’s funny, because my daughter is going into junior high this year, and she’s been asking me all these same sorts of questions. It just serves as a reminder that no matter how old we get, we always have anxieties and insecurities. I told my daughter that she just has to be herself and to wait and see how everything goes. I should probably tell myself the same thing, I guess.

After hearing some horror stories from students that were in the past cohort before mine, I guess I’m a bit overly-sensitive about school relationships right now.

This week is going to be a busy one, though. Monday I have a class on grading. It’s generally only attended by certificated staff, but I was offered the opportunity to go, and I think it might be beneficial. Then Tuesday is the district convocation, a staff meeting, and Open House (my first chance to meet some of my students!). Then Wednesday is District Day. I know that all of the teachers in the district go to it, but I’m not sure what else happens there. I’m excited for it, though. Finally, Thursday is Building Day. It will be my first chance to meet some of the other teachers in the building that aren’t in the humanities department. Friday is a day off, but the following Tuesday, school begins!

Although I’m really apprehensive, I’m excited about what is coming. It’s the first wave of realization of my lifelong dream. It’s so close and I really feel like I’m ready.