Tuesday, October 23, 2007

New Blood?

We have a ton of new people in the building this year. New admin, new office folk, new teachers.

Normally, I suppose it's kind of exciting to get new staff members. You know, lots of potential for friends and great teachers.

However, the turnover this summer was too big for that. Instead of looking forward to meeting new folks, I dreaded it. There were too many of them, I had lost too many friends and trusted colleagues, and the thought of learning new faces and names (of grownups) was tiring. Would I like them? Would they like me? Would they be good teachers? Friendly additions to the school community? Would we even have a community with so many different faces?

I am the only returning member of my grade department. One person is basically brand new, two have some experience but not at this level, and the other one is out injured or sick right now. They're all nice enough women, but I don't feel any kind of connection with them. Zero cohesiveness as a department. I'm hearing and seeing things from students and other teachers that make me a little skeptical about what's going on.

The worst part is the not-PD, not common planning. There's never been any actual planning in the last couple years, but I had foolishly hoped that might change. Silly me! Who says English teachers should work together on units and lessons? It's not like we have textbooks or real curricula or anything structural like that. Instead of meeting as professionals, our meetings consist of getting a memo of things we have to do, or things we're not supposed to do, or things we'll be doing soon.

However, unbelievably, the meetings this year have been even worse and more ridiculous. Since everyone is new, we now get the memos and talk about HOW to do things. Like what kinds of testing to do, what report cards will require, stupid shit like that.
(Oh, and this week, only two of us were present.)

I remain optimistic about the potential of professional development and common planning; I know that it CAN work and it CAN help people grow. However, I have not participated in any helpful activities in many many months. I am now completely extraneous in my own department. There is zero reason for me to be at these meetings. I have learned nothing, I really don't need memos explained to me (seeing as how I am an intelligent and responsible adult), and I don't feel a kinship with my colleagues. I sit at the table, silent, trying not to look sullen or impatient. Even though I am.

This is my fourth year teaching. I should still be a newbie. I should definitely still be learning. I should NOT be the senior member of my grade and one of the senior members of my whole department. I find it ridiculous that my needs as a professional are being completely ignored, even more than normal. Instead of growing and further improving as a teacher, I am stagnating.

This year I have retreated into my own world. If my room is empty, I'm in it. When another teacher has my room, I put on my iPod and grade my papers in the faculty room. It's quite relaxing, because I can drown out the complainy whiny people (I'm sure that sounds ironic, but it's not) and relax a bit while I get my work done. (The couches are quite certainly older than I am, but covered with new sofa covers that feel kind of suedy, with matching soft pillows. Also they are out of the path of the AC that the militantly overheated people insist on running all day.) Then I go right back to my classroom.

I have no friends at school, I have no trusted colleagues to talk to about my teaching, I don't feel like I'm a valued member of the department, I don't feel like I am an important part of the school community. Oh, except for when people want things from the book room.

I've been pondering next year for weeks already. This good year with the kids is encouraging, but I'm exhausted by all the internal change at my school--everything has changed, yet things remain the same. And I think it's going to be time for me to be the new blood. The West is calling...


17 (really 15) more years said...

Unfortunately, it's not going to get better, it's going to get worse. I don't know where your colleagues went (other city schools, the Island, quit teaching), but the turnover is going to get more pronounced every year. I started working in my school 10 years ago- none of the original middle school staff is left (except me), and more than half of the total staff has moved on. The few people left that I trust have become increasingly insulated. We hide in our rooms all the time. Today, I bought a microwave for my classroom so I never have to go into the teachers' room.

As far as PD- it's awful, and a total waste of my time. They're trying to get us to go to training on that new ARIS system- do I really want to stay in school til 5:30 to do this?

You have your boyfriend here, but if he's willing to go west with you, I say run while you can.

jonathan said...

For those of us who stay, the rapid turnover is demoralizing and disorganizing and deprofessionalizing. It makes our jobs harder.

If you do stay (and I hope you do) there really needs to be much more serious discussion of how we can keep new teachers on the job.

And in the meantime, all of us can be kind to them, and help them out here and there. Anything we do to help give them a better chance is a good thing.

boyfriend said...

The thing is, if you want to keep teaching, it doesn't matter quite as much where you go as what particular school you go to. You can find schools with the kind of collaborative environment you're looking for right here (albeit with great difficulty), and you could quite easily end up at a school with a crappy environment a long way from New York. Which is not to say you shouldn't go to the west coast - although I might be biased on that issue ;) - just that the west coast alone won't solve your problem.

Schoolgal said...

Our common prep is sent with the principal telling us mandates and what other mundane things we should be doing with our time. Last week she wasn't able to make it to the meeting, and guess what?
Teachers actually planned and talked about what was on their minds and how best to approach lessons. It was the best meeting ever. Unfortunately, she's baaack!

You may be one of those teachers who would do well in a charter school. Union issues were never really that important to you, and since the union is not supporting the issues you bring up with action instead of talk, you may not have to go far away from Boyfriend.

He seems like a wonderful guy, and I hope you weigh your life choices before you decide to move away.

Ms M. said...

I am fortunate to be at a school where I have a good connection with many teachers and I feel very supported at the moment. However, mnay of those people have been planning to leave next year (most moving out of state) and I fear that I will be in your situation very soon.

Teaching is hard already, it's harder when you are alone. I hope that you figure out a plan that works for you (whether that is moving away or just moving schools)!

Jose said...

I hate PDs because nothing ever happens in them. We just get talked to and talked to once more. We never discuss anything anymore. That's what we used to do my first year, and it was wonderful. That's where I learned how to lesson plan. Now we're much more isolated, and we're not on the same page. We don't even check out each other's classrooms.

So I really hope you do get that time to bond with your staff. People undermine those little things, and that is leading to the destruction of the public school system. It has lots of potential, but we're not doing it right.

Good post, and I'll definitely be on a similar topic tonight. Peace.