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...